All of our food now has to be carried inside of bear canisters, from now through the next couple hundred miles of mountains.
Bear cans are big, bulky, bear-proof containers that bears cannot break into. They can still smell the food through them, so instead of keeping them in our packs at night we hide them hundreds of feet away from our camp spot so that if any bears are attracted by the food smell they will attack the can instead of ripping our bags and tents apart. We’ve also gotten into the habit of eating our dinner at least a mile before we make camp, again to confuse the bears.
I had to explain all of that because we have 7 days of food stuffed into our bear cans, filling them to the brim. The last two mornings I have found my vanilla almond granola as soon as I open the can’s lid, and thought to myself “Ah this would be so good with a little water and the powdered milk I have!” But alas, the powdered milk is buried under days of food at the bottom of my bear can and will not be eaten for quite some time. This is also the case with my peanut butter, and a few other things. I now know that proper bear can planning is needed. Next time.
After a breakfast of some sort of bars and a poop behind a big rock, we crossed the river Kern and began our first ascent to 10,600 feet. The going was steep, and the elevation kicked our butts. It was a slow go, but it was a beautiful walk. We walked through a green forest of weirdly shaped and twisted pines, cedars, and small sequoias.
A creek crossed our path several times. Near the top of the climb we stopped to gather water from the small creek, the easiest gathering point being a tiny trickle under a big rock. It was a long reach. The water was cold and tasted great.
Not far after leaving the creek did we see our very first marmot! It was much bigger than we expected, sorta like a beaver. It had light tan fur and a big fluffy tail. It ran away quickly before we could take a picture.
The peak of our climb opened a view of the Sierras. They were a sight to behold. Mighty and tall. Though the peaks held some snow, it was much less than we expected. It will make for easy hiking, but California needs the snowmelt. The snowiest and tallest mountain we could see looked to be Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. We’ll be there in a few short days!
Throughout the day we could hear loud jets booming and soaring overhead. At times we could catch them with our eyes as they cut through the mountain passes. Military jets zoomed through, not over, the mountains. It was insane! Another pair of hikers had told us they saw a jet fly not 20 feet over the trees above their heads. The sounds were deafening. We even saw some big military planes float through the mountains. I don’t know how none of them smacked right into the hillsides. Still shocked from it all.
We descended back down into a valley and had a late lunch. The calories were plentiful and we wolfed down our food. Hiker hunger has taken over. I didn’t even mention all the snacks we had between breakfast and lunch. The elevation must be adding to it. Spam and Snickers and pepperoni and crackers and pop tarts oh my.
We then gathered water from a trickle of a spring and met with several other hikers. We each took turns walking to the spring for water and defending each other’s bags from a determined chipmunk. It was definitely not this rodent’s first rodeo. It tried to sneak into our bags the entire time we were there, not at all deterred by our loud noises and projectile attacks. It got into one person’s extra shoes and started pulling at someone else’s bag straps, but it nabbed no food and tore no holes this time around.
Another ascent to over 10k feet begun. We eventually made it to the top and had a spectacular view to the east of the Sierras. Directly below was Owen’s Valley, and what used to be a huge lake until the Los Angeles aqueduct drained the lake and left dust in its place. Beyond were more mountains and behind them was Death Valley. Even though the view was amazing, everyone who stopped here had realized they had cellular service for the first time in a week. Everyone was on their smartphones texting and Facebooking. It’s hard to be separated from society.
A couple more miles in we picked a tentsite under a sequoia with the moon overhead and the sweeping view of the east visible from inside our tent. It’s gonna be a chilly night way up here!