Friday, January 30, 2015

High Sierra Trail Part 5 - Kern Hot Springs To Wallace Creek Junction

Day 5: Kern Hot Springs to (almost) Wallace Creek Junction; 12.1 miles and 3,525 feet elevation gain

Wondering why there's an "almost" on that little sub-heading? We didn't think we were going to make it to our Wallace Creek junction stop. This post would have been "Kern Hot Springs to somewhere in between Junction Meadow and Wallace Creek Junction". That would've meant we stayed somewhere along a 4 mile trail LOL. But it turns out we ended the day just on the other side of the river from it.

The following morning we woke up still dazed from losing all those elevation the previous day. We stumbled out of our tents to fumble between making a quick breakfast and hurrying to make it to the hot springs tub.

As was expected, the tub was empty on this glorious morning! However, Joe was but the only one to brave the morning cold, stripped and jumped right in the tub. I just sat at the edge and soaked my lower limbs. But it was nice to feel like it was our own private hot tub in the middle of nowhere! We had it all to ourselves.

The tub was built along side the river. The hot spring is being directed towards the cemented tub by a pipe. It's a continuous flow of hot water and there's a stopper at the bottom of the tub to keep the water in. You can unplug and plug it back in, as you see fit to change the water. It drains out onto the ground (no plumbing out here!), hence the sign: No soap! The tub is pretty cozy, enough to fit 2 people sitting inside or 4 sitting on the edge with legs soaking (5 if you're feeling extremely close to each other).

We could've stayed longer, but things needed to be wrapped up back at our camp and we have a big climb to do today. In our minds we knew those numbers in feet we lost joyously gliding down the day before, it was gonna bite us back today.

Our minds were in so much denial that we subconsciously procrastinated the morning away and had welcomed with open arms the El Vortex while breaking camp. She talked.. we talked and packed. She was staying another night at the hot springs while we needed to inch our way back up to 10,000 feet.

It was late-morning by the time we left. The sun was in its full beam. We followed the trail that passed through the camp and maneuvered our first water crossing for the day, just beyond the camps. Then the trail did not waste time kicking our butts. The incline started.

We climbed up and out of the river. The sun was hot and the trail had little to no shade. Tried to stop in the shadow of some trees when we'd find one. It became a game of chasing shadows, helping to forget the climb we're doing. One foot in front and higher than the other.

We crossed another tributary and eventually entered a wooded, more shaded area and enjoyed a momentary relief from what seemed like a 10000% grade. We've been traipsing on mostly flat trail.

The trail of relief is now interrupted by the most challenging water crossing we've yet encountered. Our legs (at least some of us hehe) were already wobbly from fatigue. There were two log options to cross with, couldn't find a shallow part of the river to wade in and not enough rocks to play hopscotch on.

The guys chose one log to get across and us girls rode the other one that was a bit more down stream. Yes, we rode it. Haha. Sat on that log and scooted our way to the other side. Unconventional. But fun! Mechanical bull ride practice anyone? Where one mistake throws you onto a raging river! LOL.

It wasn't long after that crossing that the trail eventually led to Junction Meadow. The area is good spot to pitch a camp, flat with lots of trees. A bear box/ food locker is also available for use.

It was inviting to stay here, but the day was still a long ways to its end. There's still lots of daylight to consume mileage with. After a quick look up to the direction where the trail headed to, we trudged on. Still roughly another 2,000 feet up to Wallace Creek and 4 more miles. But 4 less miles to Whitney though!

The trail started going up again.  A little over a mile of just incline, we reached another trail junction.

And we continued our one foot in front and higher than the other. It was a good thing the clouds started covering the sun. The trail was mostly exposed. I could smell the makings of rain but no signs of thunder and lightning. We're in the clear.

That last climb got the best of us. After a beautiful water crossing (Dunno why, but I really liked this water crossing!), we exhaustively stumbled on our camp site for the night. A good, flat and cushion-y clearing with water access. Traces of previous campers were evident. Fallen logs surrounded the small clearing in a square form with an already built fire pit in the middle. And it was all ours.

Pitched up just before dusk. We were just less than a mile short of Wallace Creek junction, the intended destination. That last push of a mile? Yeah. Out the window. We're done. 3,500 feet later, we're throwing in the towel. We're willing to throw that extra mile for tomorrow's journey. At least we're back at 10K feet now.. or so our altimeter says.

We're ready for dinner.

But it was a good call. We'd find out the following morning.

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