CS732.2 to Chicken Spring Lake (732.2 to 750.8)
Daily miles: 18.6
The transition is complete. I’m fully in the Sierra now. Remarkable how moving my feet has carried me from one place to another. First the desert, and now, the mountains. Somehow it doesn’t seem real. There was no car or plane or boat, just legs constantly moving and the rest of the body that goes with them, for over 700 miles. Time has played a role too: it’s continuous passage provides a framework for the land and gives context and meaning to this movement and change. I don’t think it would be the same to walk through the desert, take time off, and begin again weeks later. Something would get lost to the passage of time. This is one reason thru-hiking is so special.
I see the Owens Valley and the adjacent mountains, and feel the knowledge that Death Valley is just over that ridge. A small fire burns on a hillside in the distance, innocently. I see only smoke, no flames. Wind whips up over the smooth rock and cuts easily through the trees. It blows cold and windy and my hands freeze up.
I’ve decided to camp at Chicken Spring Lake, which is the first alpine lake hikers come to. It’s set down in the bowl of a couple 12,000 foot peaks that have been worn down over the eons by the wind. The site is stunning, and I try to find a sheltered spot. No luck though as the wind flattens my pitched tent in a matter of minutes. I readjust the lines, the tension, add more rocks to the piles already weighing down the pegs and crawl inside, hoping it’ll hold for the night. My hands and feet have frozen up, so moving around and making camp is difficult and I do a poor job. It’s disorganized and askew, but I’m too tired to care or enjoy the sunset over the lake and peaks. I just sit in my tent and eat my dinner while I listen to more Harry Potter and try not to think about the gale outside. Nearly 19 miles over these mountains has me exhausted and I watch as the canopy of my tent slowly goes dark.