KCHBR Day 9: Out of the valley, back to the cool mtns

4 miles
94 miles hiked total

I wake at six and make gf df mac n’ cheese on the tile floor of the motel shower, because it’s the only place in the room where I can use my alcohol stove without setting anything on fire. I eat the entire pot and, thus stuffed with 900 calories of goodness, I walk down the street to the Hampton Inn with Kodak because not only is there a seven dollar shuttle from Vasalia back up into Sequoia Kings Canyon Park (!!!) but it stops just down the street from our motel. The shuttle, which also has free wifi, scoops us up at ten a.m. and is supposed to reach Lodgepole at 12:30. There’s construction on the winding narrow highway up into the mountains, however, as well as a few spots where emergency vehicles are blocking the road, so we keep stopping and idling in the bright sunshine. The high today in the valley is 107 degrees, and the shuttle driver turns off the AC in an attempt to keep the bus from overheating, and we open the tiny rectangular windows above the seats and suck in air and sweat runs down our faces. The shuttle overheats anyway, and we pull off the road for a long time and I sit hugging my pack in my lap and watching the construction-slowed traffic creep past. When we finally reach Lodgepole at 3pm I’m so carsick I feel like I could vomit.

Today is Saturday, the first day of labor day weekend, and there are thousands, thousands of people at Lodgepole. The feeling is of being at a very, very crowded amusement park that is also sometimes a mall. I buy a bowl of chili and a can of diet pepsi and we sit at one of the dirty snackbar tables for a bit, spacing out and charging our phones in the outlet next to the trashcan. Then, it’s time to hike.

Kodak’s pack, with eight days of food and six pounds of camera gear, is very heavy. My pack, suspiciously, is only a little bit heavy. We switchback up out of the hot smoky crowded paved lodgepole and within a mile we’re in the cool cool forest and there is nobody, absolutely no-one. We see a bear, clawing up grubs on a slope below the trail and watch it for a bit, but it ignores us. Shortly after, we leave the good trail to hike on use trail up Silliman creek- we’re back on the route!! Wooo!! The use trail is steep, crumbled and rocky but straightforward to follow and it feels good to be climbing again, climbing until the trees start to thin and there are good granite slabs to scramble up and above us are some austere, jagged ridgelines. As we climb the hot busride fades away, the sprawl of Vasalia. It feels like home up here. Like the land that we know.

when yr waiting for yr hikin partner to put down his camera so you can use him as the subject in the photo, but he’s waitin for the same thing

A few hours later thunder claps and rain begins to fall, but it’s not too cold. It’s still gentle summmertime in the Sierras; the weather hasn’t turned yet. We find a sheltered campsite in the trees below Silliman peak and Kodak pitches the tarp in storm mode. We drift off to the patter of rain on cuben fiber, the dark night holding us.