Nature’s Version of New York City

Last weekend I journeyed outside of Angeles Forest to Sequoia with Scott Turner.  Scott is the author of the blog 1000 Miles and has already written excellently about our hike on the Marble Falls Trail from our campsite at Potwisha, our snowshoeing trek through Giant Forest, and on Giant Sequoia trees.

As I was snowshoeing through Giant Forest I became aware that my reactions to the trees and forest were similar in some ways to my reactions to the buildings and urbanism of New York City.  Like the skyscrapers of New York, I was in awe of the size of the trees and found them just as difficult to photograph for the same reasons.  I couldn’t get far enough away from a tree to angle the camera in a way that didn’t yield large distortions because other trees got in the way.  Even when the forest opened up a bit allowing a reasonable photo of an individual tree, other trees around it were close enough to falsely appear to dramatically angle inward.  The distortions remain even after cropping out about half of an image that was already in portrait mode to begin with as shown in the cropped photo below.

Scott Turner next to a Giant Sequoia along the Crescent Trail.

Scott Turner next to a Giant Sequoia along the Crescent Trail (click on image to see it shrunk down to fit your screen).

It was during my early attempts to photograph individual trees that I realized that the spatial composition of Giant Forest is proportionally similar to New York City.  So, I started looking for other similarities.  Skyscrapers typically have a ground floor that is articulated differently than the floors above.  The ground floor usually emphasizes the entryway and often has display windows, views into a lobby, or other features to give the building a more human scaled street presence.  Similarly, the transition from the trunk to the root system in the Giant Sequoias is so large as to be proportionately the same scale as the entryway of a skyscraper.  In the snow where the tapering out of the trunk at the base creates a surface for the snow to rest upon, the tree has an even more clearly articulated human scaled trail level presence.

Kyle Kuns at the base of a Giant Sequoia taking in the scale of the tree's connection to the ground.  Photo by Scott Turner.

Kyle Kuns at the base of a Giant Sequoia taking in the scale of the tree’s connection to the ground. Photo by Scott Turner.

I’m told that New Yorkers can easily spot tourists by noticing them stopping frequently to look up, often in a jaw dropped daze as they marvel at the skyline, at times dangerously oblivious to what is taking place at the street level around them.  Residents, on the other hand, are accustomed to the massive non-human scale of the skyscrapers.  On my three visits to New York City, I also looked upward frequently as I was often awestruck by the skyscrapers height and interested to see the tops of the towers and how they met the sky.  In the Giant Forest, I found myself stopping just as frequently along the trail, jaw dropped, and looking up to marvel at the impressive height of the trees for the same reasons.

Looking up from inside as small cluster of Giant Sequoias

Looking up from inside as small cluster of Giant Sequoias.

For brief periods of time the awe inspiring verticality of the environment becomes somewhat peripheral to the immediate ground level focus required to move through the environment.  I say peripheral because there is always an awareness of the skyline even when one is looking straight ahead.  In both places there is a rich and varied texture to the ground level experience.  The skyscrapers in New York City come in various shapes, heights, materials, architectural styles, and functions.  There is a long history of their construction where things like technology and materials evolved allowing for more extraordinary projects to be realized.  The trees in Giant Forest also come in different heights, trunk thicknesses, shapes of their branches, and species.  Some trees have lived thousands of years, some are just taking root.  Both places are full of fascinating juxtapositions.

Trail level texture of Giant Forest.

Trail level texture of Giant Forest (click to enlarge).

In both places there are wonderful surprises.  A good example from New York City is the base of the Citicorp Building.  My favorite one from this trip to Giant Forest was seeing a young Giant Sequoia (taller than me) growing out of a fallen one.

Young Giant Sequoia growing out of a fallen one.

Young Giant Sequoia growing out of a fallen one.

Both places are densely packed with tall structures covering large areas.  They are places of verticality.  Moving through them yields few opportunities for a long view that isn’t simply a view down a street or trail.  There are stretches (usually not very long)  where the buildings or trees that surround while spectacular in another context are average for these places.

Densely packed verticality along the Alta Trail.

Densely packed verticality along the Alta Trail.

Those stretches are important and make any horizontal opening up of the ground level special.  In New York City there are small parks (by NY standards) like Bryant Park and plazas like that of the Seagram Building.  In the Giant Forest there are clearings that provide the horizontal space to bask in more sunlight (when it’s not cloudy or snowing) and  be far enough away from the trees to better take in their splendor (and take less distorted photos).

Small clearing along the Crescent Trail.

Small clearing along the Crescent Trail.

With all their verticality, both places also possess magnificently grand horizontal space where the skyline can be seen with little distortion.  These are places of radically different texture than what surrounds them and of a large enough scale to provide a captivating contrast.  Functionally, other things are going on in these places.  Central Park is the obvious example from New York City.  Meadows (which are technically a different ecosystem than the forest they are surrounded by) are what Giant Forest has for grand horizontal space.

Crescent Meadow (click to enlarge).

Crescent Meadow (click to enlarge).

In New York City, there are large projects involving multiple buildings that create a local place unto their own.  The cluster of buildings is recognizable from afar and there is a real sense of being within their domain as a unique place within the city.  Rockefeller Center is a good example.  In Giant forest there are several impressive groups of trees that grew up together forming a clearly defined local inside and outside.

View looking at the outside of the Parker Group.

View looking at the outside of the Parker Group.

View looking up from inside the Founders Group.

View looking up from inside of the Founders Group.

New York City has numerous individual skyscrapers (like the Empire State Building) that are world famous for their size and design and are destinations unto their own.  Similarly, Giant Forest has several trees that are world famous for their phenomenal size and beauty.  The Giant Sequoia known as The President is an excellent example.  National Geographic recently published an article and a video about The President.  It is worth watching the short video because it shows an elaborately created photo without any distortion that gives the best sense of scale of these amazing trees that I’ve seen.  According to National Geographic, this tree is 27 feet in diameter, 247 feet tall, holds nearly 2 billion leaves, is 3,200 years old, and still growing.  So, having learned about The President before going to Giant Forest, I made it a point to visit it and was definitely impressed by its magnificence.

Kyle Kuns in front of The President.  Vertical Panorama photo by Scott Turner

Kyle Kuns in front of The President. Vertical Panorama photo by Scott Turner

It got pretty cold (my car thermometer read 6 degrees when we left the visitor’s center) on this snowshoeing trek.  We even found ourselves trekking through a light snow fall.  Stopping for long made my hands get painfully cold.  The place is so photogenic, I stopped often anyway and took many photos of the Giant Forest, I even got a couple with bears.  I’m looking forward to returning.

Mountain Lion Cubs (Actually Bobcats) on the Burkhart Trail

[After receiving both public and private feedback on this post, I think I actually saw bobcats.  I assumed they were mountain lion cubs because there were warning signs at the trailhead for bears, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions.  I’m going to leave the remainder of this post as originally written because my belief that they were mountain lions impacted my experience and reactions to our encounter.]  

I haven’t been on the Burkhart Trail for well over a decade.  It used to be my “go to” hike which I did numerous times with my brother and many other times with friends and other family.  Last year, when I started hiking again in earnest, I couldn’t hike this trail because it was closed to allow frogs to breed.

Hiking it felt like catching up with an old friend.  My experience was one of instant familiarity combined with the discovery of notable changes. Enjoying my “reunion”, I was hiking slower and more quietly than I normally would stopping often to take pictures or simply pausing a while trying to remember how things were in the past.  While attempting to take a good photo looking up a tree I eventually noticed I was being watched from above.

Mountain lion cubs watching me try to photograph a tree.

Taking my hand off the tree and making about a 90 degree turn around it, I started to look back down.  I then noticed a mountain lion cub looking down on me from its spot on the high point of a rock formation touching the tree I just had my hand on.  It took a few moments for me to process what I was seeing.  We looked at one another and neither of us moved.  Soon I noticed the second cub further down the rock.  Since I still had my camera in my hands, I reflexively and quickly snapped the cropped photo shown above without even looking at the LCD screen as I thought through what I should be doing.

I really did not want to meet their mother who I fortunately never saw.  I knew not to run. From below, I really couldn’t make myself look taller. The cubs were quiet and they didn’t move. Making loud noises and/or banging my trekking poles together to try to scare them didn’t make much sense as it seemed just as likely that would bring their mother.  Still, I was ridiculously close to them and felt precious time slipping away before their mother might arrive.  Our stare down that probably only lasted between one and two minutes felt unending as my mind raced through options.  For all I knew, mom could be right behind me.  I decided to slowly take one step back.  This caused no response from the cubs.  Apparently I need to practice stepping back because my second step back resulted in a trip that landed me on my butt.  Still, no response from the cubs though–phew!  I got up and continued to move back facing the cubs until I was able to turn the corner and no longer be in their view.  I then stared hiking out looking back every few steps to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

Starting Early Was Key To A Fantastic Summit

I didn’t need my alarm to wake me up in time to be ready for our early morning ascent of Mt. Whitney.  The key remaining downside to needing to change my campsite location was that the only viable option at the time was close to the trail.  By around 1:00 am and within most every 30 minutes thereafter, I would awaken to the light of headlamps shining through my tarp, the sound of footsteps, and conversations (some quieter than others) from hikers who were off to an earlier start than me.  Fortunately, when I got out of my sleeping bag and tarp to begin getting ready to meet the rest of the group I discovered that it wasn’t as cold outside as I feared it would be.  By around 3:30 am we were on our way.

The hike up from Trail Camp to Trail Crest in the dark was among the best hiking experiences I’ve had.  While it was cold enough for me to really need my gloves, I was bundled up appropriately to feel comfortable.  The sky was now completely clear of clouds and wonderfully lit up by starlight.  However, without moonlight, it was very dark at ground level.  Initially, the dark blue of the sky was only discernible as blue when juxtaposed with the black forms of the mountains.  Aside from the subtle line delineating the black outline of the mountain tops meeting the dark blue sky; the only thing discernible from Trail Camp looking up or down the mountain was the light shining from the headlamps of hikers making their way upward.  Early on in our ascent of the 99 switchbacks we began crossing a stream of water back and forth as we made our way up the mountain.  For me, that was much better than dealing with ice and it made me hopeful our ascent might not require us to contend with an icy trail.  When the moon came out, it looked like an eclipse.  A tiny sliver of yellowish light shined out from the left edge of the moon (looking as if it were on fire) with the dark remainder of it easily distinguishable as a black circle against the dark blue sky.  We all stopped numerous times on the way up to admire it.

Soon after our first sighting of the moon, we started to see the light shining from headlamps that were coming down the mountain.  As hikers passed us, we learned that they turned back essentially due to it being dark with ice on the trail.  Although this wasn’t a good sign, other bits of information kept me hopeful it would work out for us.  For example, some hikers felt they couldn’t go forward because they didn’t have trekking poles which everyone in our group had.  Some hikers came down while others in their group continued up toward Mt. Whitney.  So, at least some people weren’t turning back.  This was now one set of switchbacks that I wanted to last a long time—at least until the sun was out to hopefully soften up the ice and help me easily see the ground before me.  Our timing was fantastic.  The sun began to rise just as we made the turn onto the last switchback.  Reaching Trail Crest shortly after sunrise was remarkable.  The grandeur of its expansive view was heightened by the previous hours of hiking in darkness (only being about ten minutes without using my headlamp) and most of the journey the day before looking up in anticipation of looking over the crest.

Trail Crest shortly after sunrise.

The journey from Trail Crest to the Mt. Whitney summit approach was stunningly scenic but also slow going.  The slowness was due to the presence of snow and ice on the narrow trail with a huge drop to the west side.  There wasn’t enough snow and ice to require crampons, but there was enough of it to require intense focus to not slip off the trail—at least at my skill level.  Fortunately, I experienced hiking in similarly icy trail conditions earlier in the year and learned what to look for having fallen a few times on far less hazardous terrain. To remain within my comfort zone, I needed to stop in order to take in the incredibly expansive view.  At times dazzled by the splendor; I would stop, take off my gloves, and snap a photo.

Kyle, David (mostly hidden), and Tim cautiously making our way forward near Trail Crest. Photo by Scott Turner

Early on, while the sun was still low to the east; the shadow cast by Mt. Muir, the rock towers, and Mt. Whitney emphasized the height of the mountain range in relation to the grand landscape to the west below—the direct light from the sun shinning on the ground when making contact with the Kaweah Peak Ridge and the Great Western Divide beyond.

Looking down at Hitchcock Lakes and Mt. Hitchcock with the sun shining on the Kaweah Peaks Ridge and the Great Western Divide beyond.

Looking east through one of the “windows.”

Still a bit cold (perhaps colder that the 32 degree reading on the thermometer at Trail Crest), and hiking in shadow made crossing the windows (gaps in the rock allowing fantastic views east) more intense as the brightness and warmth of the sun had an opening to break through.

Any concerns about coming to a spot where the ice and snow would cause me to turn back vanished when the path of the trail transitioned from being on the side of the mountain to on top of it.  The final trek up to the summit—as I described in an earlier post—was spectacular.

With the sun high in the sky and the temperature rising, the ice and snow on the trail began to soften and melt making it significantly easier to hike.  Requiring a little less focus to traverse than was the case on the ascent, I was freed up to take in more of the view and snap more photos.

View heading back along the trail towards Trail Crest.

The importance of starting early was underscored further for me on the way down the 99 switchbacks because the trek down was helped by having views unseen in the dark on the way up.  This provided a profoundly different experience.

View of some of the switchbacks heading back down to Trail Camp

As I headed down from Trail Camp, I knew the really intense and new experiences of this trip were behind me.  All that was left to do was retrace my steps of the day before under similar weather conditions.  I was a little anxious to get down the trail as I worried about how tired I would become still needing to make the long drive home.  Not having much sleep the previous two nights, I was more tired than I expected to be and the way down felt much longer than the way up—especially from Lone Pine Lake to the trailhead.  The ride home went faster than I expected because there was so much to reflect upon.  After my year and eight month journey training and getting my weight down, the trip somehow far exceeded my expectations.  By the time I made it home I was already thinking about going back.  Tired as I was, I couldn’t even wait until the next day to look at my photos.  I pulled the book Mt. Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide by Paul Richins off my book shelf and looked at other ways to get to Mt. Whitney.  I’ll definitely be going back!

Hail Storm Provides Some Drama

Our early afternoon arrival at Trail Camp corresponded with the appearance of dark storm clouds.  The pattern the ranger and Scott spoke of for past days was holding true on this day too.  Fortunately, off in the distance were mostly blue skies, so the part about the storm being short was likely to hold true as well.  There were numerous shelters already set up (or in the process of being set up).  Since the terrain was largely granite, there weren’t many places to stake out a tent.  We had to take what we could get.  I had a bit more of a challenge finding a workable spot because I use a two person shaped tarp and inner bug tentwhich has a much larger footprint than two person tents.  I only had a problem setting up one stake that I could only get three quarters of the way into the ground.  After adding a seemingly heavy enough rock to hold down the stake and pulling fairly hard at the connection, it appeared to be solidly in place.  A light rain started soon after I was done setting up and I got under cover to wait out the storm.

Trail Camp

Fortunately, the larger footprint of my tarp system gave me ample room to get things set up inside.  By the time I got myself settled and was laying down to rest I was feeling pretty good about things.  This being only my fifth backpacking trip, I was now dealing with my shelter in the rain for the first time.  For a first rain experience, I was lucky to be able to set up my tarp while the ground was still dry with rain expected to last only an hour or two.  It had been raining for about twenty minutes and my shelter was showing no signs of stress.  Thinking about the amazing scenery on the way up to Trail Camp, I fell asleep.

Thunder and lightning woke me up.  It clearly had gotten colder while I was sleeping.  The light rain had turned into a heavy hail storm with very gusty winds.  Pondering whether or not my tarp would hold didn’t last long.  The wind soon blew on the side of my tarp so hard it pulled the stake support (with rock weight on it) out of the ground and my trekking pole support came down on me.  Water was now getting in through the mesh side of my bug tent.  I quickly held the trekking pole support up to significantly slow down the flow of water getting in.  I couldn’t stop it altogether as I would need to be able to stake the tarp out beyond the bug tent to accomplish that.  Instead, the wind kept the tarp pressed high enough up against the bug tent to allow water to blow in through the mesh near the bottom.  Since I had taken off my hiking shoes to nap, my socks were now wet as was my right leg.  Trying to keep my things dry, I pushed them to the other side of the bug tent.  Now off my air mattress, placing my hand on the solid silicon nylon floor of my bug tent felt like I was pushing down on the top of a very cold water bed.  Though still mostly dry inside, I had a pool of water forming under the bug tent floor and me.  While trying to figure out if I would be better off going outside and re-staking (or similar) my tarp, the hail stopped.  In a few minutes I heard Scott outside asking if I was all right.  Thankfully, he re-staked that side of my tarp (as best as it could be done under the circumstances) which allowed me to get out and keep my stuff on the other side as dry as possible.

Tim showed up within a couple minutes of my exit from my tarp.  It was clear to all of us that I couldn’t stay where I was because my shelter was in a pool of water.  My wet feet and right leg were cold enough to get that freezing sensation I find very uncomfortable.  By the time I got everything ready to move, pretty much everything was now wet.  This was by far the toughest moment of my trip.  Being this cold early in the afternoon, I didn’t know if I could handle being cold and wet at night.  Being above 12,000 feet, would I be at genuine risk of getting hypothermia?  I really didn’t know.  What I felt with almost equally intense feelings was I didn’t want to stay there as I was and I didn’t want to end my trip.  As I thought about it, I didn’t think I could stay there as I was.  My inexperience dealing with bad weather in the mountains was getting the best of me.  I began exploring ending my trip—but my heart wasn’t into it.  I had checked in advance and found out the permit didn’t tether us together in terms of when returned to the trailhead.  Thankfully, if I left early, nobody else needed to.  My friends were willing to make big sacrifices for me to stay.  With more thunderstorms a possibility, Tim’s proposed sacrifice was the most extreme as he offered to give me his spot in his tarp and spend the night cowboy camping in his poncho.  He rationalized that he’d done it in the past on the JMT, and besides he was from Oregon.  I just didn’t like any of my friends’ proposals.  However, I wasn’t ready to go and I didn’t need to leave for at least an hour to make it down the trail before dark.  I walked with Tim across Trail Camp to his tarp to sort things out.  Along the way I noticed a lot of people packing up to leave.  I later learned lots of backpackers had similar bad luck as I did finding themselves soaked in a pool of water.  Some of them had left their stuff at Trail Camp while summiting Mt. Whitney and were planning to leave anyway.  However, many others cut their trip short.

Rainbow above the White Mountains east of Trail Camp

The sun broke through the clouds soon after I arrived at Tim and David’s campsite.  My feet and leg were no longer freezing and the clothes I was wearing had started to dry.  It was also windy.  I remembered my son telling me about a backpacking trip he had once that was tainted a little when all his clothes got wet.  I finally recalled that with his reminder I had decided to pack a change of clothes in a dry bag.  Thus, it didn’t matter that my pack was wet, I could get myself dry.  With the sun out and the wind blowing it became clear I had time to get my tarp, air mattress, and sleeping bag dry.  Problem solved, I left my stuff spread out at Tim and David’s site to dry and went out in search of a site without a pool of water for me.  It took a while (largely because I went for some serious overkill on the weighing down of the tarp stakes with rocks etc) but I got myself set up.  Along the way I noticed that a nice rainbow had formed which felt like an exclamation point on my decision to stay.  I don’t think I would have enjoyed that rainbow much if I was hiking down to my car.  Leaving some things out to dry some more in the wind, I went down to the tarn to filter four liters of water with my Steripen.  At the tarn I met a couple who got caught near the summit when the storm hit.  Being at higher elevation they had to deal with a snow storm with really scary lightening strikes occurring throughout their trek back down to Trail Camp.  It was clearly terrifying and something they never wanted to experience again.

View of tarn in front of Wotans Throne at Trail Camp

I finally made my way to join the others and have dinner.  I was tired and wasn’t emotionally ready to hear that they thought it would be a great idea to wake up and get started by 2:30 am to reach the summit.  This would allow us to easily make it back down to Trail Camp before the next day’s possible storm if the weather continued following the pattern of the last few days.  I already felt that the 4:30 am agreed upon start time was going to be a toughie for me.  I imagined how cold it might be.  With snow on the mountain, there would be a good possibility the trail could be icy near the top.  On a couple training hikes earlier in the year I had slipped and fallen on icy terrain.  I found nothing about the potential of icy terrain in the dark to be appealing.  For some reason (I’m guessing because I had the permit), the guys left the decision of start time up to me.  Summoning up my inner Vulcan side of Mr. Spock, I started asking more questions—especially of Tim who was the only one who had hiked the trail before.  Tim’s description of the terrain from Trail Crest to the summit (which turned out to be accurate) was not a place I’d want to trek in the dark—especially if the trail was icy.  However, thinking about the experience of hikers who got caught in the storm it made sense to try to get to Trail Crest by sunrise.  Still not confident about the potential for icy conditions, I agreed to a 3:30 am start time as long as someone else led the way while it was dark.

Moments after we agreed on our start time it started to drizzle lightly.  We dispersed to our individual camp sites and by the time I made it to my tarp the rain stopped.  After finishing doing things like setting up my air mattress and changing into my dry clothes, I went outside my tarp and saw that the clouds had mostly gone.  I had a few things I left out hoping to dry in the night’s wind.  I got into my sleeping bag and thought about all the amazing things I saw that day, the drama I experienced due to the hail storm, the pending early morning start time, and then I fell asleep.  Soon I would learn that this kind of intensity is just a normal day in the Sierras—amazing!  To be continued …

Getting to Trail Camp

David, Scott, Kyle, Tim at the summit of Mt. Whitney

A couple weeks prior to our successful ascent of Mt. Whitney, the composition of our group was unforeseeable.  Of the numerous friends and family that indicated an interest in going over the year and eight months I trained (which was largely about generating the side effect of losing lots of weight), only Tim was still thinking about it.  With about two weeks to go it was looking like I was the only one going.  All of us that went had never met at least one person in the final group which made it hard to predict how we would relate to one another.  I’ve been friends with Tim for over a decade.  A couple years ago he solo hiked the John Muir Trail and was very helpful getting me ready.  I met Scott (who turned out to have a lot of great ideas) on an incredibly windy day at the summit of Mt. Baldy.  We kept in touch as he also has a blog which I enjoy reading, but I didn’t know him well.  Dave is a friend of Tim’s who I had never met, but turned out to be a great addition to our group.  So, our collective bond was not as much between one another as it was a common desire to summit Mt. Whitney.

Scott arrived before the rest of us had departed from my house and he was able to do some hiking along the Meysan Lakes Trail and the Alabama Hills to acclimatize before meeting us at our camp site at Whitney Portal.  The rest of us needed to pick up the permit and wag bags in Lone Pine where we learned that there had been thunderstorms starting in the early afternoon for the past week and more were expected in the coming days.  With this information, and Scott’s experience hiking earlier that day; we decided to get an early (for me) start the next morning so that we would be guaranteed to arrive at Trail Camp before the storm hit.  This was the first of a few key decisions we made where logic overrode my initial emotional resistance.

Lone Pine Lake

Surprisingly, I got up before my alarm and had no problem getting ready on schedule.  The trail starts out easy with a more gradual incline than I had anticipated.  However, the terrain already hints at the grandeur that is to come with the presence of mountains with steep rock faces and long views.  Early on trees are a major portion of the landscape—even when looking far up the mountain.  We stopped at Lone Pine Lake to snack and replenish our water supply. Arriving at this small lake (which is easy to walk around), I was initially moved by how intimate it felt.  The view back is blocked by trees, steep mountains enclose the views north and south, and the view east is mostly sky not showing what lies beyond.  However, walking around the lake yields expansive views.  About halfway to the east rim, the view up includes the tip of Mt. Muir.  From the east rim, the view opens downward to the Owens Valley and beyond to the White Mountains.  Not yet into the Whitney Zone, this would have made a wonderful campsite to acclimate the night before.  I was a little jealous of the campers that were there.

Bighorn Park

My favorite area on the trail along the way to Mirror Lake is Bighorn Park.  Still below tree line, this area provides an incredible change in scenery.  This rare large clearing with green living ground cover yields a vibrant contrast with the granite walls that surround.  Lone Pine Creek gently flows along the edge of the trail—which has now flattened making it super easy to traverse.  At first bounded by the massive granite walls of Thor Peak, the trek through the park is long enough that the views change along the way opening up to provide a distant glimpse of Muir Peak beyond.  A short distance up the trail is Outpost Camp.  Mirror Lake is close by and is the last place with a sense of destination along the trail before getting above tree line.  Over the course of close to four short miles there were two beautiful lakes, tall trees, a gorgeous park, a couple small waterfalls seen in the distance, a creek that needed to be crossed a couple times and also meandered in and out of view constantly along the way, and massive granite walls creating relatively intimate spots and then opening up to grand vistas beyond.

Looking down on Lone Pine Springs and Trailside Meadow

Above tree line, granite becomes the dominant feature along the trail.  Going forward, the sky is now the main competing feature that provides contrast with the barren granite landscape.  Shade created by clouds softens the starkness of the granite.  The varied forms of the massive mountain walls and the spaces between them provide a sculptural landscape of tremendous proportions.  There are two marvelously beautiful places along this portion of the trail that are wonderful destinations to break up the essentially monochromatic granite landscape.

Consultation Lake

The first is the long and narrow Trailside Meadow with Lone Pine Creek running through it.  It is refreshing to walk by the flowing water and vibrant green vegetation.  The second is Consultation Lake partially enclosed by Mt McAdie and Mt. Irvine.

Going forward, the approach to Trail Camp provides a spectacular view of Mt. Muir.  We already experienced a lot of varied landscapes with numerous wonderful places to stop in less than seven miles.  As we made it to Trail Camp, the clouds had gotten darker.  Hail was coming.  To be continued …

View of Mt. Muir on the approach to Trail Camp