August 7, 2015
9 miles today, 149 total
Grouse Meadow to Upper Palisade Lake
Courtney and I left camp at 7:30am. We were still grumpy and unrested, but we managed to talk and get back to our cheery selves over the next few miles.
The sun was out today and there was no wildfire smoke obscuring the sky! However, at 8,000 feet it was hot and humid and the hiking was tough. We knew we were ascending the dreaded “Golden Staircase” today, which was a long series of switchbacks that would take us back up to 10,000 feet and closer to our next mountain pass. It was five miles to the base of the staircase, and then a grueling two miles up. It was hard to fault the views, however, which looked back down onto the valley and miles in every direction.
After another mile we reached Palisade Lake, where we had lunch. Heather, Jennifer, Courtney and I had just broken out our food when Andrew came over the crest of the climb, singing a Miley Cyrus song very loudly:
There's always gonna be another mountain!
I'm always gonna wanna make it move!
Always gonna be a uphill battle!
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose!
We laughed and bundled up against the cold – though the sun felt wonderful, the wind was chilly at 10,000 feet. Heather and Jennifer broke out a surprise: a few pieces of watermelon! Apparently they had run into a lady on the trail who was bringing watermelon to the local trail maintenance crews working here. We were all befuddled as to how she got out here with a plate of watermelon: after all, we were miles away from the nearest trailhead.
After lunch we only went a mile further to our campsite. It was above Upper Palisade Lake on a granite cliff side. We could see Mather Pass, tomorrow’s climb, dominating the skyline behind us. We had only gone nine miles today, and it was only 1:00pm when we stopped, but we didn’t mind. We had covered the number of miles we needed to, and we had some camp chores to attend to. The five of us walked down to the water’s edge and did “laundry” by rinsing out all of our hiking clothes. I went skinny dipping in the nearby river to scrub some of the dirt out of my skin, but could only stay in a few minutes due to the glacial cold of the water.
When everyone’s clothes were mostly “clean”, we brought them back up to camp and hung them on on clothesline made of some extra guylines. The sun was dipping behind the mountain, so they didn’t dry very quickly. Meanwhile, we were bundled up in our camp clothing: long underwear, jackets, and rain coats to protect against the cold breeze.
We found a patch of sun and played a few rounds of farkle and the card game Love Letter. We cooked dinner on our rock patch at 4:30pm and admired the view. More and more hikers were starting to come into camp; more than we had seen this entire trail!
Pretty soon every available flat spot was taken up with tents and people. It was a surreal experience – where had all these people been for the last two weeks, we wondered? We stayed awake until 8:00pm, watching the sun set and talking together.