Total Miles: 1184.8
By the time I awoke this morning, the chill of the air overnight had mercifully chased the hordes of mosquitoes from the air. As Beardoh, Sweet Pea and I struck out for the first miles of the morning, the trail began to tilt up out of our low lying campsite into the sunlight and the warmth of its early rays. It wasn’t until after a short break to remove our down jackets and wind shells that I realized the consequence of the warming temperature–the mosquito dinner bell had been rung, and I was the buffet. In seconds, I was covered with them like bees covering a beekeeper. Too bad compression sleeves don’t protect you from their bites.
Fortunately, the plague of mosquitoes was short-lived as the ever-present breeze of the exposed mountains provided the antidote to what would otherwise have been a very trying day.
The character of these northern Sierra mountains has gradually shifted into slightly lower elevations of roughly 8000 feet, with grassy ridges covered in fledgling wildflowers and lower slopes that are more heavily wooded than the southern Sierra. The exposed ridges are a faint reminder of the southern balds on the Appalachian Trail while the thickening forests seem like a prelude to the Oregon and Washington timber country that grows nearer by the day.
At our final water stop before settling into camp a half mile up the trail, I noticed a couple of solitary red columbine nodding gently over the trickling stream. My favorite wildflower, I can still remember the first time I’d ever seen them while hiking through Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. What had caught my eye initially was the bright shade of red among a sea of green vegetation along the trail, but it wasn’t until I turned its delicate bloom skyward that I appreciated its full beauty. Five bright yellow chambers under a star of red petals, nodding towards the ground as if uncomfortably shy with its own beauty. That sense of delicate modesty that betrays it’s true splendor is what draws me in every time I see them.