Day Forty Nine

Today's miles: 20
Total miles: 742

Hiking in the mountains was a new and strange concept for us. For more than a month we have been wanderers in the desert, defining our days by the sun's rise and fall. Though it was difficult, it, nonetheless, became familiar. We knew to wake up before dawn, hike ten miles before 10:00am, take a long nap midday and hike again at sunset. We knew how to dress for the heat and how to plan our days around water and shade and shelter. It became second nature, this adaptation to the desert, and now that we were free from it, we felt lost. We were suddenly strangers in a strange new world. We were adventurers on our very first day, and we felt like children again, trying to piece together a schedule of normalcy when we didn't know what the rules were.

What time do we wake up in the morning? We wondered. How many miles do we hike? Do we take an afternoon siesta? How will we know where the water is without a water report? Do we wear sunhats or just a bandana? Should we keep warm clothes handy? Do we cowboy camp or set up a tent?

It was as though we were relearning everything we had come to know by heart.

Slowly, though, we began teaching ourselves anew. We didn't have to wake up at 4:00am because it was still very cold at 10,000 feet. So we woke up at 7:00. We were told we wouldn't be able to hike 20 miles a day in the Sierras because the terrain was tougher. Expect closer to 15-17 miles a day. We probably wouldn't need afternoon siestas because it wouldn't be as hot, and the miles would be harder, and slower to hike. We were told we no longer needed a water report because there was supposedly water at each turn. Sunhats might not be necessary because of tree cover. Warm clothes might be necessary because of wind and elevation. Cowboy camping would be colder, and a tent advisable to protect from the elements. We were slowly adapting to this new world.

Still, it was strange to sleep so late and be on trail at 8:00. Even then, the wind was chilly and we found ourselves taking breaks in the sun instead of the shade. One habit we had yet to break was our attachment to our water report. It ended in a mere 40 miles, and after that, we had no hiker-updated report to tell us how big the water sources were, how quickly they were flowing, and how clear. We still carried 4-5 liters of water in our packs, for it had been so engrained in us to protect ourselves from dehydration.

We took a lunch break at a stream eight miles from camp and enjoyed a small nap before moving on. The afternoon was mostly climbing. I was still loving the scenery and the tantalizing vanilla scent of the Ponderosa Pine Trees (it was not uncommon to see a group of hikers with their noses pressed up against the rough bark) but the weight of my pack was slowly wearing on me. We were hiking much slower than normal, which was to be expected, but it was frustrating to see the miles move by so slowly.

During one of our climbs we enjoyed an unexpected show: a squadron of fighter jets came roaring through, and we were so high in elevation at that time that they flew nearly below us, deafening our senses as they flipped and did tricks in the sky. We watched in delighted awe as a half dozen jets roared by, one after the other.

By dinnertime we had put in an impressive 15 miles already, and once we ate, the calories gave us enough energy to pound out another five miles. The four of us hiked in a compact, single-file line, Sansei, then Katie, then Rotisserie, then me. Sansei, unfortunately, has a bad habit of taking photos every five seconds (hence his old trail name "Shutterbug"). He also gets easily distracted and excitedly points out lizards or flowers and stares at them for five minutes. Each time he did so we nearly bumped into him like a line of toppling dominoes. After he stopped our hiking train for the fourth time in ten minutes, I yelled, "Sansei! You're a horrible leader!"
He laughed.
I said, "if you point out a tree stump that looks like a bear one more time I'm sending you to the back of the line!!"
We made it to our next water source and a tentsite by dusk, watching the sun set over the hilltops.