Sunday, August 20, 2000

I awoke early, because I knew without a doubt that the slog ahead of me was to be one of the toughest yet. I was wrong. Though the distance was great, the walk was easy, the views tremendous. I took pictures of these views. A lot of pictures.

My first glimpse of Silver Pass since crossing it.

Looking down toward the Duck Lake drainage.

Another look back at Silver Pass.

Cripes, you'd think Silver Pass was all I cared about.

A composite photo looking down the steep valley wall to the Fish Creek area below.

Just a brief stop at Deer Creek after an almost 8-mile burn. It's not even noon yet. Had my hummus, finished off my crackers, drank some water and consulted Mr. Winnett. It's tempting to stay here. After this morning's high, high traverse along the wall above Cascade Valley, a lush lodgepole setting seems ideal. But it's still 2.2 miles to Crater Meadow and if I tack it on to tomorrow's hike it'll be a ten plus mile day to get to Trinity Lakes. So I'm gonna saddle up and get gone.

Looking back the way I came. around that middle ridge is Purple Lake.

Looking 180 degrees the other way. Trees and rocks and stuff.

A view of The Thumb.

Arrived at Crater Meadow as the clock struck two, or so the kind woman told me. The place is vacant, and to me, it's all the lovelier for it. I don't mind a little company, but Purple Lake was ridiculous. After a bit of cruising around I decided on a spot just up from the river (STREAM would be more accurate) across from the ominous Red Cone. Lodgepoles, firs and hemlocks abound. I washed up, climbed into the fly-less tent and relaxed and scrutinized the map for a spell. More than eleven miles today. By 2:00! That means there was a great deal of downhill. The long section between Duck Creek and Deer Creek wasn't so bad. It was reminiscent of Bear Ridge. Tons of lodgepole. Not too steep a gradient. Breathtaking views. I've been taking lots of pictures, though I'm certain they'll be boring to everyone other than Mom. Just trail pix. "This one looks back at Silver Pass from the approach to Duck Creek.this one looks across the meadow at Cascade Valley.this is me falling flat on my face in the trail." That sort of thing (though who wouldn't find that last one a riot?) I didn't actually fall flat, incidentally, though (perhaps pondering the nature of evil, the psychology of the impossible or Sandra Bullock) I did trip, with a spectacular follow-up pinwheel of the arms and legs. As I righted myself, a clevis pin tumbled to the dusty trail. Luckily, I saw it happen, so I ditched the pack and was able to put it back into the slot from whence it came.

My second glimpse of Banner and Ritter Peaks. Ghosts in the trees.

A heavily processed enlargement of the two peaks.

Nifty view of one of the Red Cones and the back side of Mammoth.

The air here is dead still, a far contrast from yesterday's gustiness. There is still a smattering of sunlight on my tent. My view looks eastward, so the sunset lingers. The pumice outside offers no real comfy sitting place so I'm battened down for the night. I have several pages of Henry Miller to go before I allow sleep to settle in. Since it's warmer here, I'm going to go fly-less tonight and hope against a freak snowstorm. The sun is almost gone. A final, loitering burnish slides off the tent door.and vanishes.

My mind was a million places today. High over the cascade valley I spun The Fields of the Nephilim (that's music, dontcha know) in my head and worked on the vampire western, which is to say I ran scenes through my mind in a repetitive stream and hoped that the would suddenly bunch up and charge off in a direction I hadn't thought of before. That's the nice thing about being a writer. One can work while walking. The actual typing part that comes later is merely proof that this work was taking place and that one wasn't, say, daydreaming about Sandra Bullock. But dreams are important. I rooted through a few of them as I descended the forested ridge, particularly the odd one I had last night where I was one of about five people who attended a YES concert: they were so turned off by the lackluster turnout that they were delivering a decidedly limp performance. Eventually they just stopped playing and hung out with the five of us and ate craft service fare. I chatted with Steve Howe about the show I'd seen previously (that Masterworks thing) and wondered why they hadn't played "South Side of the Sky," to which question he grunted, as if the reason were absurdly obvious. Meanwhile, Jon Anderson was being obnoxious. He couldn't stop it with the wise-ass remarks, which I remember thinking seemed out of character for him. Anyway, that got me thinking about the Yes music again, which seems to have become a staple out here. Like Clif Bars. Perhaps it's because I know it so well.

Two shots of Will in the campsite.

The loneliness has eased somewhat. I was especially energized when I looked across Upper Crater Meadow and caught sight of Banner and Ritter. Looming closer. I feel as if I'm in the home stretch. Red's Meadow, tomorrow, will be the threshold. I get through there, toil up to Trinity Lakes (I think I can see the route from the campsite) and then the next day.Garnet Lake. Which truly is the homestretch. Everything after Tuolumne is merely coda. Corn pasta for dinner tonight. No cheesecake milk (sigh.)

Note: For future reference, if, on a later trip, it seems necessary to camp at Duck Creek, there ARE some decent campsites there. And some very nice possibilities at Deer Creek as well.

Sunset view of Banner and Ritter
I'm being accosted by a spastic squirrel.