Total Miles: 317.6
For such a pleasantly warm summer afternoon, it sure didn’t begin that way. Shoving off down the trail this morning, the air was as still as it had been when the sun had set and the moon had begun to rise the night before. In fact, it was comfortable enough not even to need a wind shirt, or so I thought. Down and down we went on a gently sloping grade, and with each passing minute came the abject lesson that yes, cold air does, in fact, sink.
At last bottoming out in a beautiful, but completely shaded vale my hands were now frozen with the slowed circulation starting to work its way into my forearms, like a car whose oil had suddenly grown too thick. Dexterity be damned. Knowing that the sun was overhead, but that it had not yet awakened the small valley we were in was the only thing that prevented me from stopping to put on a layer and some mittens. Watching the sun creep its way down the slope next to us, my brain just pretended that the same sun was already creeping it’s way down my arms and bringing life back to my hands. It’s a fine line between the power of the mind and sheer delusion, I guess.
Most of the day was centered around a single large climb, not unlike yesterday, with almost identical weather. Shade, courtesy of our cloud companions, was a welcome relief for the climb up to a beautiful pass where a man out for a day hike greeted us. Apparently we’d missed out on some bighorn sheep that had been at the pass only an hour earlier.
Gazing out across our own little corner of the Never Summer Wilderness, it was tempting to ponder the seeming irony of the name. Save for the small lingering patches of snow, there were signs of summer everywhere you looked—from the tiny pops of color courtesy of small clusters of wildflowers, to the tiny rivulets cascading down the sheer slopes of the basin. There, too, was the summer afternoon tumult in the sky, growing darker until it was time to continue on and descend into the safety of the trees.
Unlike yesterday, the thunder seemed to follow as we descended, like uninvited houseguests being shooed to the exit. When the rain went from a light patter to something slightly more insistent, we decided to pitch a tarp across the trail and hang out for a bit while the weather passed over us. To pass the time, we had our own “movie night in the afternoon”, with all four of us crowded around my iPhone to watch the first 30 minutes of Jeremiah Johnson—the story of a mountain man making his way in the mountain West. What could be more fitting?