Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 159- Ridgewalk from Sonora Pass

Day 159, 9/14/14
1017 (above Sonora Pass) to 999.8 (near Cascade Creek)
17 miles

One of the most breathtaking days on the trail.  My friend Renee/Pathfinder had raved about the 10 mile ridgewalk between Kennedy Canyon Creek and Sonora Pass, so I'd been really looking forward to it.  But it wasn't an easy start.  Climbing with the bear canister weighted down with 5 days food.  Wobbling at first, unsteadily with the extra weight.  I haven't carried this much for months.  Loose gravel, each step sliding.  Traverses with big drop offs.  I know I used to be able to do this, that I did this through the Sierra in early June.  But that was before the fracture.  I break into a cold sweat.  Where is the oxygen, where is my balance?  Baby steps, don't look down, don't look down, baby steps. 
Climbing in the early morning.
At the top I'm met with bone-chilling wind and technicolor peaks of pink and purple.  The sweat feels like ice and I can't linger.  Sorry my poor feet, I must keep moving.  As the sun comes up and the trail flattens out, I can start to breathe and my body remembers how to carry the bear canister.  And oh it is so worth it and I forget my feet and I forget everything.  I soak it all in.
OMG this is an amazing sunrise.
First rays of light hitting the peaks.
The first light illuminates the rocks.  So many colors.  Breathtaking.  I think about a conversation I had the previous day with some friendly dayhikers.  When I'd asked them about this area, they said this section was sort of empty and stark.  I'd imagined something ugly when they described it, but this landscape has a beauty that captivates me.  Like how I felt out in the desert- I love the starkness.  How life clings out here.  I wonder why some people (like me) find this so beautiful.  I also know I am seeing it in the mesmerizing colors of first light, that most people don't wake up so crazy early to get up here to see it like this.
Light up lichen.
Tiny, unfamiliar flowers are everywhere.  How cool!  Forgetting the cold, my pack is tossed off, and I'm down on hands and knees getting a close look.  I am fascinated by the diversity, by the fact I've never seen some of these plants.  I love how life thrives in such seemingly inhospitable habitats.
Discarded in all the wildflower excitement.
OMG!  What are these pods?  Some sort of legume?
WOW! So tiny and cute (she says not-so scientifically...)
The gentleman that gave me a ride back to the trail the previous day said that the treeline is higher than he's ever seen.  That years ago, there were no trees up so high, that global warming was altering the landscape at an alarming rate.  If these alpine places are shrinking, how long will it take before all of this is gone here?
Unbelievable colors.
Starting the descent to Kennedy Canyon Creek.
Mid-morning, I met a couple that was setting out to hike the High Sierra Route.  I was so excited when I heard this because I've been reading about this cross-country traverse, and have it as a long-term goal.  It requires expert navigation skills because it is largely off-trail, but goes off to some really wild areas.  I asked them a million questions about how to train for doing the High Sierra Route.  I thought of all the boulder scrambling and off-trail travel I've been doing lately and how I want to do more of that, take my skills to a new level.  And soon the dreamin' was taking hold, even though I have no idea how it will happen and I'd be scared to do it alone.  Anyway, I hiked with them a while, and kept meeting them and hiking together and talking about life, the trail, and southbounding.  Fascinating people I hope I run into them again someday.
This couple heading off to do the High Sierra Route.
The couple hiked on, but I stopped early to stay at a lower elevation.  The wind had been blowing all day and I wanted some shelter.  So I found a grove of trees surrounded by willow.  Quiet.  Still.  My head still spinning from the stunningly beautiful ridgewalk, and I fell asleep dreaming of the High Sierra Route, and the places I could go if I left the easy trail, and headed off in my own direction.
Sheltered hang.


  1. My husband the botanist says those podo are an astragalus (sp). Cool!

    1. Thanks so much for the ID! Much appreciated!

  2. We have those pods also. I s going to look the name up for you.

    Keep me in mind re the SHR. I'm interested also and don't think it should be done solo. I've been working on my navigation skills.

    1. YES about the SHR! It'd be fun to do some "training" trips together too of shorter distance to practice navigation. :)

  3. Joan, these photos are amazing! Are you taking them with your iphone? I'm glad to see you are still enjoying your long walk, even after the injury!

    1. Thank you so much! I really enjoyed spending extra time to work on my photography skills. I did take all these with the iphone, and most are with the app called ProHDR. The iphone has some things it can't do well, but I'm learning how to use it to it's limits.