Distance: 10.96 Miles/17.64 Km
Time: 9.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 1665 ft/507.5 m
When we last left our heroes, we had just arrived at Colby Pass after some amount of physical effort and sweat. But one thing one learns in hiking: what goes up, has to come down. And so, back down we went.
Perhaps not surprising given the ascent, the descent was not a great deal better: treacherous rocks, big steps, sliding, and in parts the path was not very evident. One of my great fears is losing the path, especially if I cannot see anyone else - or I am being trailed by others counting on me to find the right one.
Sadly, my records do not specifically record what we had for lunch in the meadow where we stopped. My guess is it was something easy and quick, but (apparently) not very memorable.
Just after lunch came the rain.
Guess who had none of these things.
Rain was listed as a potential outcome in the list, but not something I had experienced before. Apparently the packing guide recommended bringing at least a plastic garbage bag to cover the pack, or a pack cover itself - and a rain jacket.
Guess who had none of these things.
D The Guide intervened (probably, honestly, saving my life) by lending me a rain poncho/pack cover he had. It was an extra large and I am small guy and the poncho draped down over me with the strings almost causing me to trip, but it worked. I looked for all the world like a turtle on the march.
The latter part of this hike become one long, sort of wet nightmare. The rain became that sort of drizzle that most of us know is best for reading books from living rooms and drinking tea, not marching through the wilderness. On again and off again, drizzle and then none. We slogged our way up and bit and back down, before hitting the last challenge of the day: Chocolate Ridge.
Chocolate Ridge (no pictures, it was raining) was a steep ascent of about 100 feet or so with steps at least 1.5 to 2 feet tall in places. Add to it a drizzle and wind, and what was at best a challenging hike became a true challenge of weather and endurance and "I sure hope I do not blow over in this".
At the top of ridge, we started down - which was its own adventure.
The path down largely followed a streambed (lots of these trails did; not a problem in Summer overall but probably quite problematic in Winter). In this case the streambed went through brush, sometimes low and sometimes almost chest high to me - brush that had spent the previous hours getting soaked by a grey mantle of rain.
It was awful all the way around. I was soaked, my pants were soaked, the thin material that constituted my poncho was soaked. In some ways I was lucky: those with backpack covers and rain jackets got the full force of the wet on their jackets and pants. We were at least an hour in the dreary, misty trail of rain-tears and tearing brush before we bottomed out in the Kern Valley by the Kern River.
Our campsite for the evening, Junction Meadow, was only some 100's of feet (and three stream crossings) beyond our exit point. The rain let up enough that we could set up in relatively dry conditions - everyone was carefully looking at the ground under trees for where they had blocked the rain. We were all soaked and tired, but soon had some soup and a fire blazing away to warm us (and dry shoes).
Dinner that night was soup - I have failed to mention it, but we had soup every night and it became a welcome first course - followed by broccoli beef with gravy and mashed potatoes - and tortillas. We commiserated about the rain, watch the fire blazed - and then magically disappeared when the rain started falling again.
Never before have I heard rain on a tent at night. It was a magical sound.