Day 63 – I almost drowned today… Miles 766 – 771 June 19 ,2017

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We woke up to the shrills of ppl crossing the creek in cold water. We packed up our tent and pack but didn’t put on any pants so that we could cross in just our underwear and sandals. While the lower part of the creek is a raging waterfall, the upper part we are crossing is very calm. From there we went straight up the mountain . Thankfully it was still early, 7:30am, without the hotter sun, but it was an intense climb. This morning, we really started to feel the difference of hiking in the Sierras. The trail was completely covered in snow and we were following other peoples snowy steps through sun cups while checking the map to make sure we were actually on trail. It was taking forever to make miles. Fortunately, there have been cute little chipmunks running around the past few days while we hike that make us both smile. As we were following tracks and trail, we noticed that the people in front of us started glissading down the steeper snowy parts and we didn’t hesitate to do it either. Sitting on our butts with our packs on we slid down the mountain and gained some mileage. We were already exhausted by 10am when we got to Wallace Creek. I told DG I needed a break so we had some tortillas and peanut butter and I began to realize, at this early part of the day, that doing another 8 miles would take us all day in these conditions. Daddie Gizmo forded the creek first and then me. The water was fast and up to my waist, but we both made it through just fine. We climbed straight up the mountain another half mile to cross Wright Creek. As we approached Wright Creek it looked just as fierce and unwelcoming as it sounded when we descended that side of the mountain. The water was rushing so fast in the section near the trail that we needed to go up and down the creek for a while to find what appeared to be a suitable place to cross. Even here, the water was fast but it appeared to be shallow enough with slightly calmer water to be a safe crossing. We were wrong. Daddie Gizmo forded the creek and made it across safely to the other side. I started my crossing and hit a spot where the water had so much pressure I was struggling to keep my poles in the rocks at the bottom of the creek as I sidestepped across. I could feel one of my poles repeatedly slipping back which was in turn pulling my arm and that side of my body back that direction from the force of the water. Suddenly I was swept away by the water and caught on a nest of young trees in the middle of the creek. I still had both poles in my hands but I couldn’t stand because the force of the water was pushing so hard on me. I could barely move an inch. Plus I now had the weight of a soaking wet pack on my back as I am plastered to the little trees holding on for dear life to their branches. I had worn my hat while crossing the creek and now it was blocking my vision. DG, on the other side of the creek, wanted to come get me but there was no way. I was stuck in the middle of a fiercely rushing creek and he couldn’t make it to me. My hands were slipping on the branches. I was still holding my poles because I knew I needed them to have any chance of making it out of this. I was becoming really scared because if I lost my grip I knew I was heading down the raging white water creek with no definitive safe way out. Even as I held on, i couldn’t move. I was stuck! I yelled to DG that I was scared. Really scared. He looked scared. The water was so much more powerful than I could fight against. Finally my fingers let go of the branches and I was swept away down the creek. I was terrified and literally fighting to survive as I was tossed and turned upside down in the narrow, rushing, tumbling white water area of the creek. I kept waiting for my body to be thrown against the rocks and each time they did and it didn’t take me completely down I bought another second. Another moment to keep my hands up and reaching for anything to grab or hold on to stop me from being pulled down the creek and against more rocks. My head was being forced under and I thought I might drown. I kept reaching out for anything to grasp onto to save myself from drowning or hitting my head. Somewhere between 200 and 300 feet down the creek I managed to grab some branches on the bank. In a complete and utter state of shock that I have never before experienced, I pulled myself to a standing position and saw Rob on the other side. Looking down, I saw that my shirt was completely torn open. Rob ran down the creek bank, scared as hell, and was so relieved to see me safe. I had no energy to move and barely mustered what was left to lay my body on the snow shelf on the edge of the creek, legs still in the water. DG was yelling for me to get out, take my wet clothes off and get warm. The shock wore off right then and there and I started to bawl, standing in the creek. I was so scared. I thought I was going to die in that creek today. I had to move, though. Tapping into whatever energy and survival instinct I had left, I dragged my body up the snow and onto dry ground beyond it. It was so difficult because my pack was also soaking wet. Shivering, I removed my wet clothes and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the damage that the creek had done to nearly every part of my body. Foot to wrist, chest to back, I am covered in massive bruises and lacerations. My right thigh is incredibly swollen and hard to walk on. Both knees banged and bleeding. Up and down my arms I’m scraped. DG still had to cross the creek back to me so I managed to pull my mostly dry sleeping bag out out of my soaking wet pack as I fought through hypothermia and wrapped it around my naked body. I lay there shivering until DG made it back safely. He immediately set to getting me warm, drying everything in my pack, tending to my wounds, giving me his dry clothes and sleeping bag to use to come back to a normal temperature. I was still crying a lot, recounting to him what happened and telling him I really truly thought I was going to die in that creek. My hiking pole, Whippet, hat, silicone wedding ring and thermarest seat were all washed away down the creek. A small price to pay to have survived. My whole body hurts. I’m concerned about getting off this trail with the pain and without my poles. But, thank God I am here with my husband right now. He is taking such good care of me after having one of, if not the most, scariest moment of my life.

IMG_6513IMG_6514IMG_6372IMG_6515Daddie Gizmo:

I forded our third creek of the day and it was harder than either of the other 2 but still doable. We had walk a half mile up from the regular trail crossing of Wright Creek to find a spot because it was absolutely a raging white water torrent until that point. It was still very strong but it was in an area where the creek was just simply wider than before so it spread the force out further. After I made it across, I turned to see Figure 8 already in the water coming up the ford area. She made it through the upstream crossing area well but as she begin to sidestep I watched her lose her balance and roll sideways and backwards 20 ft into a pile of brush and trees. Half of me was freaking out, but the other half was calm for some reason. I don’t know why but I just went into crisis thinking mode. We tried yelling back-and-forth but the creek drowned out most of our words. After a few minutes of jostling around she began to slip further towards the deep and powerful rushing area of the creek in the center. I could hear her say she was scared and I’m certain she was also freezing cold in the ice-water. Much much colder than my stomach had gone in about the last three minutes. I rushed down the bank and jumped in the edge of the creek on my side and waded out to where the water was splashing up on my chest. I was using a rock for leverage to keep me from going down stream but I was still 10 feet away from her and no way she could reach the pole I had in my hand. I lost my own balance once and barely put myself back into the shallow area. Without even a sound she was immediately 20 than 40 then 80 feet down the creek. I saw her blue legging, then white water, her pink shirt, then nothing. I climbed over snow banks and ran as far and as fast as I could. All I saw was water. Finally a glimpse of her pink shirt and then she passed around the bend where I couldn’t see her at all anymore. I thrashed my way through the brushes on the other side and climbed a few more snowbanks in a mad scramble to try and keep my eyes on her. I saw her tumble once more and she was gone again from my view. She was in the fiercest and most white water area of the creek and it took no time at all for her to get out of my line of sight. The current was deep, strong and easily enough to whisk her downstream faster than I could keep up even with my eyes. It took me two or three more minutes to get down far enough to see her finally clinging to a sapling Pinetree coming out of a snowbank on the far side of the creek. We were easily 200 or maybe 300 feet down through some of the worst and most raging area of the creek. I was scared again for her but so happy to see her upright and clinging to the tree. I yelled and she could hear me now. She seemed frozen but thankfully clinging to the little sapling. It took her another three or four minutes to gain composure and begin to pull her self up the other side. It was a sharp drop of a snowbank but she was now attempting to pull herself up. I could see so much fear, pain and fright in her face. She must’ve used all of her strength and willpower to get herself up and out of the water. I had some relief knowing that she knew how to take care of herself when she got up and over the snow. I was thankful we had talked about what to do in situations like this before. I began to race back to where I had dropped my pack maybe 100 or so yards up the creek. There was really no way I could ford back across the creek to her at that point because it was an upstream diagonal crossing. To go backwards at that point would have been too dangerous. Just above that turn the creek narrowed again and was raging as I ran climbed and push through trees to find a new spot to get back across the creek. It took me over a mile and every moment I was thinking of my dear sweet beautiful wife who was freezing cold on the other side of the bank nearly a mile and a half away from me now. I finally crossed at another wide spot but now had to make my way back through a very large field of snow that was soft and nothing but sun cups. It felt like forever to go track back down the other side of the creek now to get to her. I finally reached her and saw nothing but a bloody sleeping bag and her pack open and clothes strewn everywhere. She was still shivering very strongly and crying. I think we were both still very scared at that moment but glad that I had reached her and we could start working on getting her warm. She’s already done everything correctly by stripping her clothes and getting into her down sleeping bag. When she came out of the bag to put on some of my warm clothes all I saw was serious road rash and bruises all over her body with spots on her hips, legs knees, ankles and wrists bleeding. We tried to cover those spots up with big bandages as best we could so the clothes wouldn’t stick to the open wounds. She had my thermals, fuzzy socks and thick shirt on as she climbed into my dry down bag. We got her into the sun but she was still shivering quite a lot. I got out some Advil and she took that with a lot of water to rehydrate. I steadied my nerves and my emotions by going through everything wet and getting it out in the sun to dry. She had fallen asleep from exhaustion in the sun but had also stopped shaking for the first time. I set up camp so she could be more comfortable. She is battered and bruised all over but I’m so thankful and grateful she wasn’t hurt much much worse tumbling so far down the rocky rapids. I went to sleep as the rain started to fall and finally cried, hiding it from her as best as I could.

Day 62 – Creek crossings and marmots‼️ Miles 754 – 766 June 18, 2017

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Snowy tracks

IMG_6335Daddie Gizmo:

The first five hours today we were up about 3000+ in elevation. Unlike yesterday, it wasn’t total up elevation but in up-and-down total. I’m now at a mid-height pass in the Sierras and when you climb 1600 hard earned feet from a creek up to a pass, I think it should have a name. Just too many bigger mountains and passes here, I guess.

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Going above 10,000 feet

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A little trail sign to the log

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The uphill took it out of me!

There’s a lot more open trail than snow than we expected but the former snowdrifts are now just obstacles in the way of the trail that you have to climb over or get around. They slow you down, quite a bit, but they are just part of this section of trail especially on the north facing slopes. One more obstacle was a big one. Rock creek was about 15 ft wide and you couldn’t see the bottom or even any rocks to show you how deep it was. Solid raging angry water. The side-by-side logs that made the summer crossing point was totally submerged in the water causing a big wave over them and huge deep eddy behind them. The only way to cross was a tree that had fallen across the creek but was about 15 ft up in the air above the white water creek. It was perched on our side up the bank a bit and had fallen on to a huge boulder on the other side.

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The raging white water in Rock Creek

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The fallen logs to cross Rock Creek

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I was so nervous with the water raging below

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DG crossed like a pro

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Thankfully the top of the tree broke on the boulder and acted just like a ladder to climb down once you braved the height of the log crossing. We both made it across safely and decided that would be a great time for some breakfast tacos. Second breakfast for us Hobbits. Later, and after another climb, Figure 8 and I glissaded down a few snow fields. Basically you sled down on your butt with no sled using your poles like a rudder and feet for brakes.

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Glissading down the mountain

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Snow chunk in my crampons after glissading

We came to a wide part of Whitney Creek crossing and decided to camp. It was next to a large rock and boulder field in the sun. We began watching 2 Marmots play which turned into hours of watching them and their friend pop up, scurry after each other and munching on the brand new grown grass near us.

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I’m not as exhausted as I look here, but the mid-day sun and the snow

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Marmots!

This lasted all night as we cooked up some smoked meat, mashed potatoes. We also saw a group of 8 decide how to cross creek. The group included Sauce and Giggles who we met and chatted a lot with while we were in Lone Pine. We all decided to ford through a 25′ wide but 3′ shallow area about 100 ft in front of a double waterfall that had about a 40 foot drop in the morning and settled in the watch a blood red sunset.

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Another wonderful campsite

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The waterfall by the site

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♥️

Day 61 Miles 744.5-755.1 + undetermined amount searching for trail June 17, 2017

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We are officially in the Sierras!!

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beautiful

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Wow!

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Where is the darn trail???

Figure 8:

I’m currently sitting next crystal clear creek running over its small banks from all of the snow melt. We are in a pine forest with many small medium and large snow drifts in every direction. There are lots of little baby pine trees too growing in and around the creek, helping to give it form as well as it’s beautiful and curvy shape. This is a good rest spot because today was exhausting. Good exhausting. The altitude stated to affect me before we even got to the trailhead. As we were driving up the mountain I rolled my window down to get some fresh air. I was getting queasy. The altitude has affected me before on trail, but today the effects hung around all day which was a first. We were both a little nauseous when we started hiking but that passed pretty quickly.

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Starting out for the day!

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Couldn’t agree more

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And we are off!

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In the snow already

What set in later was just a light headedness that is still with both of us, making us both pretty tired. Being 5:45 and having the tent set up and dinner cooking means we should be asleep soon. We could both use it. Today was stunningly beautiful though. There are creeks and streams everywhere which is a welcome change for both drinking and hearing the sounds along the path. And speaking of path, we lost it a lot today in the snow. We are going to need to get better at that because we wasted a lot of time and energy losing the trail. But even when we lost it, we are still wandering around this postcard like scenery. Today was hard, but it was fantastic too.

IMG_6320IMG_6321IMG_6510Daddie Gizmo:
It feels really great to be back out on the trail this morning. Couldn’t get a ride as early as we wanted at 6:30 but we’re still in the cooler part of the day. At least 20° less than it would be if we would’ve left late yesterday afternoon. I write this as we’re hiking up the hill. We should have trees between 8000 and 10,000 feet. That helps a lot with some shade as we gain altitude under bright sunny skies. We climbed up a snowy ridge above Chicken Spring Lake which had just begun to thaw but was still mostly frozen over. The view from the 11,400 ft ridge was our first true sense that we were in the Sierras. For the first time we were looking at snowy valleys from a few thousand feet above. We sealed it with a kiss. Along the way today we managed to have a hiking pole and tent pole malfunction. Duct tape, paracord, and a bobby-pin later we were back to normal. We made lots of rice and lentil curry for dinner. Hiking with a huge bear can full of 7 days of food was lighted a little by eating our heaviest food first. Cookies of course for dessert.IMG_6324IMG_6326

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All this snow is just melting away

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Our campsite by the creek.

Day 60 Another Zero in Lone 🌲 June 16, 2017

Well, there isn’t much to report on today.  The good news is that UPS delivered a brand new sleeping pad! Woo hoo! We planned on hitching out of town late because of the crazy heat wave going on. Temperatures are over 100 degrees from noon to 9p this week.  It’s bizarre that it’ll be 103 degrees on the valley floor tomorrow and still very hot comparatively at 11,000 feet where we are heading. With snow still on the ground! We read some people are skipping forward in the desert because of the heat.  We figured we would hike late in the day to Chicken Spring which is only 6 miles.  However, as we killed time in the hostel lounge playing cards my nerves started to kick in. I want to see the beauty and overcome the challenge of this next part, but the very real dangers were something I couldn’t shake. Wandering over to the bar, we thought playing some shuffle board may be a good mental distraction.  It was momentarily, but in the end I decided I needed one more night to shake these nerves. We arranged a ride for 7a so we can hike till noon and then get to sleep really early and start at 4a tomorrow. IMG_6303

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Every good mountain bar should include crampons and beer 😊

Day 59 Zero in Lone Pine 🌲 June 15, 2017

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Daddie Gizmo and I were on the same page this morning. I didn’t sleep great and wasn’t in the mood to run around all morning and then hitch to town. When I mentioned staying one more night in town so that we could do everything leisurely, DG didn’t hesitate to agree.  Great 😊 First thing, we solved the sleeping pad situation. We still couldn’t find the leak today after multiple tedious attempts including when DG submerged the pad in water today to check for air bubbles. Fortunately, we bought it at REI who overnight shipped us a new one that we will get here tomorrow. Phew! The gear shops here didn’t have any 25″ pads to replace the one we had.  In the meantime, we will ship the broken one back for a refund. Good old REI.  We really took our time walking up and down and then up and again through the three blocks of town that make up Lone Pine and checking out all the stores and price comparing items that we needed.

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Food for the next leg. The essentials: beef jerky, cliff bars, boil in a bag rice, instant mashed potatoes. And of course tortillas!

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A little perspective on this bear can

We had the whole day and were in no rush.  It’s always nice to walk a little slower in town than we do on the trail.  Lone Pine is a big hiking and climbing town because of it’s easy access to Mt Whitney. Many hikers use this part of the trail to climb Mt Whitney and then head back on trail, but we are focusing on the task at hand – Sierras. We know we are going to leave town tomorrow afternoon after getting our package, but given how freaking hot it is today we don’t think we are even going to start hiking until 5pm.  It’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow.  We want to go about five miles  which is approx 3k feet straight up with fresh heavy packs. We have 7 days of food which is honestly going to suck when we put our packs on tomorrow. It’s worth it though.  Probably more food than we need but we need to have extra food now in case we need to turn back for a snow storm or creek we can’t cross because the water is too high. You also burn through a lot more calories staying warm in cooler temperature and are guaranteed to be hungrier.  I ran into Dustin who was at the bar last night while I was walking to get a deck of cards. He said there is a group of 20 hikers at his hotel getting a ride to Ashland, Oregon tomorrow. Their plan is to go South from there and hit the Sierras with less snow.  Lots of different plans going on with the insane amount of snow this year. Our motel neighbor said he and his group have a similar plan to ours. Head out into the wilderness and keep going until it feels too dangerous. We are still full speed ahead and hitting that snow tomorrow. We utilized the all you can eat salad bar at Pizza Factory for a late lunch at 3p.  We played some cards, watched a terrible movie and curled up in the air conditioning to get a good nights sleep to get the rest we will need to climb that mountain tomorrow. 💜

PS – 6 years ago today is when Daddie Gizmo and I met ♥️‼️

Day 58 Miles 733 – 744.5 + 1.7 miles off trail June 14, 2017

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Arriving at Horseshoe Meadow

Figure 8:

The day got off to a less than ideal start before we even got out of the tent. Daddie Gizmo was able to catch the sunrise since he was awake and annoyed about his pad losing air all night. Mosquitos were swarming the tent first thing and we knew we were going to get bit while we packed up.  In the rush to get ready I spilled half of our water for the morning. Starting the hike today by rationing  a 1/2 liter each for a 3 mile stretch uphill when the sun is already out started the day off on the wrong foot.

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Sunrise view

Fortunately we survived and after getting properly hydrated began to feel better. The day was getting hot fast and we still had over ten miles to get to Horseshoe Meadow and hitch a ride to Lone Pine.  There was a lot of elevation today in the sun and it was draining.  When we finally made it to Horshshoe Meadow we were very impressed by the view – lush green meadow with a river running through and the tall snowy mountains in the background.  We had to take our shoes off and cross the river.

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Random trail art

When we got off the trail and to the road where we need to hitch from we saw three guys waiting for a ride.  We became a little discouraged when they said they have been waiting for 4 hours already!  Originally, before the sleeping pad issues we were just going to come into town, resupply and get out the same day.  Now our plan is to stay this night, try to repair the sleeping pad or replace it and get back on trail tomorrow.  It was about 2:30 so we weren’t in a huge rush but we definitely didn’t want to sit around waiting on a ride all afternoon.  Thankfully, Daddie Gizmo found us a ride within 30 minutes and shortly after we arrived at the Timberline Motel. IMG_6288IMG_6287 Today’s hiking was hard and we were exhausted so what else could we do but go grab a beer.   We sat at the back bar of a local restaurant and chatted with a bunch of other hikers who had just completed the 6 day leg we are going to start from here. It includes passing the tallest point on the trail, starts the big snow and includes some big creek crossings. They gave positive feedback which gave us some confidence about the trail coming up. A few cocktails and pasta later we were sleeping in a real bed and hopeful of a good nights sleep.

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The mountains look HUGE here in Lone Pine

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PS- my camera turned on in my bag and killed the battery!!! All my photos from yesterday are inaccessible until we get our bounce box with the charger in Independence in a week. The scenery was SO BEAUTIFUL today so I’m really disappointed I can’t share it with everyone. I’ll post a lost photos update next week. I won’t be able to use my camera for the amazing scenery coming up…and I’m carrying the deadweight of my camera all next week 😦

Day 57 Miles 719-733 June 13, 2017

6174600816_IMG_0725.JPGDaddie Gizmo:
Early start in prep for the Sierras soon to come today. We were packed up and out just before 6. 5:57 to be exact. Still not early enough but pretty early for these 2 sleepy heads.  It had purpose for the hike today too as we had big elevation to climb, descend and climb again. The climb took us from 8200 up to 10,500 back to 8600 and up to our camp spot at 9800. We hit patches of snow at the top and I hit the ground once hard enough to knock the wind out of me. Funny thing though, I looked up at the view from our side of the mountain over the valley and into the big snow covered mountains we will be in just a few days from now and forgot all about the fact that I was sitting sideways on a slick block of ice. 6174600816_IMG_0713IMG_48726174600816_IMG_0716 Throughout the day we could hear fighter jets from the nearby bases out in the desert buzzing around in the valleys between the mountains. Several came actually quite close to us. Then one came suddenly and directly overhead, maybe just a few hundred feet. You could see every detail as if you were standing next to it on the ground.  Several more flew even closer and faster as we stood on the peak of the last ridge we would climb for the day.  A few more decided to perform sharp banks, turns and rolls right overhead as we cheered and waived at the pilots.  It was an amazing private air show for us and the other hikers out on the peaks today.  Just like the huge windmills in the desert, the juxtaposition of man’s most sopphisticated machinery and Mother Nature were great compliments to each other today.

Figure 8:

Today marks 3 months anniversary since we left Dallas to start this adventure and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than climbing a mountain and being able to see these spectacular vistas of snowy mountains, creeks, rivers and pine trees.6174600816_IMG_0719

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Fields of manzanitas and pine trees

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Cow creek

IMG_48656174600816_IMG_0708 We came out on some spectacular views that reminded us why we had the crazy idea to climb 733 miles! We took advantage of a great spot and is where we are camped right now – on the edge of a mountain in the high desert with a 180 degree panorama of the snow peaked mountains.

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The view from our campsite and tent

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Taking in the view from campsite

6174600816_IMG_07316174600816_IMG_0732IMG_6209  We are positioned perfectly to enjoy the sunset as we lay in our sleeping bags and eat Oreos this evening. It would be complete perfection if it wasn’t for the SWARM of mosquitos around our tent. We already lost the battle with them earlier today and have welts and bites all over so as long as they hungrily stay on the other side of our mosquito netted tent all is good.😊IMG_6274.JPG