DAY FOUR: Tuesday, August 2
With renewed energy after a relaxing end of the day in camp yesterday, we are pulling out of camp at 8:20 this morning, heading north---or so we believe.
After about 15 minutes and a half-mile into our hike (along steady uphill switch-backs, by the way), we encounter two day hikers, Larry and a friend, on the trail heading toward our departure point.
Exchanging trail news and our intended directions, it doesn't take long to realize we are going the wrong way.
Somehow, in our departure from camp, we jumped on the only clear exit from camp. In retrospect, our entry into camp the day before had followed sharp diagonals across deep snow fields had actually cut across the true trail into camp, which was lost in the snow. It is purely our good fortune to have run across those two hikers so soon after our departure.
Reversing our course, we are now back on track a half-hour later, in the direction of Twin Peaks. If our initial false pathway had been uphill, our corrected route is also uphill (how can that be?) as we zig-zag our way up, eventually hitting deep snow on north facing slopes. Thankfully, the trail flattens out after about two miles or so near the intersection with the Tahoe Rim Trail around way point 1132.
Finally, we are making good time and at 10:30 we reach Twin Peaks four miles into the day. The more or less flat section of the trail continues along a long ridge at about 8,000 feet elevation above and to the west of Lake Tahoe.
The views are spectacular (again) and we are filling our eyes (and taking lots of photos) of the vistas all around. Wild flowers are popping out everywhere along the trail.
On top of it all, cell phone reception is great when we stop for lunch near way point 1134 at around 12:15. Taking advantage of the unexpectedly clear cell service, I surprise mom and dad in Fort Walton Beach, FL with a call.
Blue skies and full sun with a steady breeze at about 10 mph (ergo no mosquitos) make this stop feel like we are on top of the world---"as good as it gets" comes to mind.
At 1:30, the lunch break is over and we are on the trail again, spirits bouyed by the energy boost and a section of trail that makes hiking feel easy. Even a heavy pack doesn't detract from the moment. Can we just call for a helicopter for a pick up? The 3-1/2 hours to way point WACS1138 pass quickly as most of the trail is flat or "down" and at 4:00 p.m. we stop to pump water sufficient to get us to our campsite at way point CS1140 (elevation 7,600 feet).
The continuing easy "down" of about 400 feet gets us to our campsite by 6:00 p.m. As it turns out, there is a fast flowing creek within about 100 meters of our camp. We hadn't counted on having water so close. That will allow us to top off tomorrow morning after breakfast before heading into a long, dry section of the trail. The only relief will be snow melt streamlets in places where they wouldn't normally be this time of the year.
In camp we make our first (and only) fire on the trail---just large enough to smoke out the mosquitos and remind us of what a campfire in the outdoors is like. Tents are up in no time and dinner is underway.
In the midst of it all, David, a British native now living in Canada, stops by for a short break---he is hiking on from whence we came and is planning on making it to WACS1138 by nightfall. So, he only stays for a few minutes for some company and trail talk. He makes particular note of our "pieces of Scout garb" and tells us he figured we were Scouts. I have the sense that his experience is seeing British Scouts in full uniform, even on the trail. So, our BSA hiking shirts and neckerchiefs are sufficient but only partial evidence of our Scout identities.
David is a lone hiker and he says he is making his way toward Kearsarge Pinnacles where he had last left the trail after a full week in deep snow several weeks ago. He is clearly feeling better about his chances now, even with the snow we describe on the trail ahead of him. That optimism is somewhat hard for us to grasp as he will be fighting the uphills in snow. But contending with snow 100 percent of the time for a week must be enough to make anything else seem tame.
Overall, today has been a very good day---challenges early, then we made good time the rest of the day, putting in 10.5 miles by day's end, the last 2.5 miles of which were down. After a filling dinner and replenished water bottles, we are down for the night by 8:30.
The MCL injury seems to be holding steady with the improvised "sock sleeve" and an ace bandage provided by Mark Matney, one of our Eagle Scouts. A couple Advil gels are my insurance for the night. Tomorrow's objective is to reach as close to way point 1152 as possible. But we already know there are two major "ups" in the way not to mention unknown snow barriers. Sleep calls....