September 12, 2019
Rosemarie Meadow to Piute Creek Junction
Day Miles: 12.5 mi
Cumulative Miles: 91.7 mi
I woke up to a frost coating the inside of my tent. It felt warmer than the last two nights, but there were little ice crystals in my water when I poured it into my cookpot and heated water to make 2 coffees. Since I stopped cooking oatmeal for breakfast, I would make enough water for two coffees (Starbucks Via) and drink one out of my cookpot to wash a Clif bar down for breakfast and fill my thermos with a coffee for second breakfast on trail. (My mini thermos is incredibly well insulated and it takes a couple hours for hot liquids to reach drinkable temperature.)
Marie Lake was very busy with hikers. I finally pulled over for second breakfast and some stretching where the trail leaves the shore of the lake and begins to climb up Selden Pass.
On the other side of Selden Pass was a beautiful little meadow crisscrossed with snowmelt streams feeding into Heart Lake. Heart Lake would have been a beautiful place to camp and I wished I could’ve just stayed there. But I was not confident I could hike a 20 mile day to make up such a drastic shift in itinerary.
Then came beautiful Sallie Keyes Lake and soft, duffy trail to walk on. There were lots of trout in Marie Lake, the the little stream below Selden Pass and in the clear blue water of Sallie Keyes Lake. I wish I knew how to fish! (I need a Tenkara backpacking fishing rod.)
Yesterday, I had been feeling discouraged that everyone from VVR seemed faster hikers with more ambitious mileage plans than me, but the scenery around Selden Pass made me happy to go slow and be slow again.
Then came a series of dry, hot switchbacks, down, down, down to the two trail junctions to Florence Lake and Muir Trail Ranch. Despite offloading food at Red’s Meadow and VVR, I still have too much food and no reason to stop at MTR, so I passed up the chance to check out MTR’s legendary hiker bins. The Wenk book neglected to mention this was a long dry stretch, and I finished my last bit of water 2 miles before Piute Creek.
I was so relieved upon reaching the Piute Creek bridge and crossing into Kings Canyon National Park that I decide to just camp at the busy camping area by Piute Creek Junction. The area was very busy. Luckily, Peter and John waved me over because they had an extra tent spot at their site. Ken and Danny from Rosemarie Meadow also camped nearby. After Peter and John went to bed, I joined Ken and Danny at their campfire. They are Santa Barbara County firefighters and Ken had planned and cooked and dehydrated all their meals. He’s a great cook from all his experience cooking firehouse meals. It turned out we had pretty much the the same itinerary to Onion Valley, where they would be completing their hike.
I go back to my tent and find my sleeping pad flat. Strange. I had blown it up when I set up camp. I think it might have deflated a little from the temperature dropping after the sun went down, so I blow it up again… but it goes flat again as soon as I lay on it. I scan the sleeping pad head to toe with my headlamp and find an abraded spot. I patch it with duct tape. I’m too tired to panic. I go to bed thinking, worst case, I have my foam pad and backpack to lay on…