We were all moving a little slowly on Sunday morning. For the first time on the hike, we were still sore from the day before when we got up in the morning. As I was limping down to get water, I saw a fawn wandering around the campsites, so I sprinted (more like hobbled quickly if the truth be told) up to my pack, got my camera & shot off a couple of snaps. I was even fortunate enough to get it's mother in the shot.
David & Dick cooked a fancy breakfast (pancakes & bacon) & then we shouldered our packs (grudgingly) and hit the trail at about 8:30. After a steep climb out of the camp site back to the main trail, we had a couple of miles of descent to a stream, where we took out first break. After that, the trail rolled, a little up, a little down, with many stream crossings, & great views to the south.
At one of our rest breaks we saw a bird sitting out on a rock about 30 or 40 feet off the trail. We were speculating what kind of bird it was (a turkey? a pheasant? a chicken? Obviously, none of us were avid birdwatchers). Dick asked me to take a picture of the bird & I obliged. I had my telephoto lens packed in the backpack, but I decided to see if I could get closer to the bird to get a better picture. I moved in to about 15 feet. Got it. Then I moved in to about 8 feet. Got it. The bird never even moved. It must have been asleep or something. As we were shouldering our packs to get back on the trail, the bird woke up and waddled across the trail, followed by a couple of chicks.
Bearpaw Meadow & the adjacent High-Sierra Camp are very popular camp sites, so the trail we were on was basically a freeway. Among the hikers we saw were a bunch of people with very light packs (High-Sierra Camp provides tent, food, showers, etc), two pretty girls hiking in bikinis (woo woo!), and a college student who was interviewing people about bear sightings. While he was asking Dick about where we had hiked and stuff, I casually got out my camera & scrolled the display to the right image. When he finally got around to asking if we'd seen a bear, Dave said, "Yeps, we saw one yesterday." and the guy's eyes lit up. I added, "You want to see the picture?" and he just about wet himself with glee.
After about four miles of steady hiking and random encounters, we turned onto a side trail that started a steeper ascent up towards Mehrten Meadow. Now we were doing some hard climbing, but it didn't seem so painful because we knew that it was the last stretch of uphill. As we arrived at the trail intersection to Panther Gap, the relief was palpable. We decided not to rest there at the intersection, but to forge on to Panther gap.
The hike to Panther Gap was quick and painless. The trail was nice, the weather was warm, but not uncomfortable, the angle of descent wasn't very steep, and of course, these were cheeseburger miles (you know, that last part of the hike when your key motivation for getting out quickly is to get away from all the dehydrated food & back to a big greasy cheesburger, or pizza, or whatever). We stopped for a final rest break at Panther Gap, took a couple of pictures, then hoisted our packs and charged down the last 2.7 miles in nothing flat.
Seriously, the last stretch was a blur. I remember forests & a couple of stream crossings, but mostly it was just step-step-step-step-cheese-burger-cheese-burger. David got to the car first, at about 4:00, and I was only a minute or two behind. Dick had decided to take the last stretch a bit slower & enjoy himself, so he finished up the hike 10 minutes behind us. We used the facilities to wash off the first layer of trail dirt, bought a quick soda at Lodgepole & headed out for civilization.
On the road out, I was goin' reasonable speed, but I wasn't really sight-seeing, so most people were pulling out on the turnouts to let me go by. In fact one car going the other direction pulled into a turnout as I passed by (he must have heard about my drive INto the park). One idiot stopped right in the middle of the road on a turn, where I couldn't see him until I was pretty close behind. It seemed like he had stopped to stare at the Sequoias by the side of the road, & I had to hit the brakes pretty hard not to hit him. (That's why they have turnouts & parking lots, moron!!!). As one last animal sighting, we saw a dog peeking over the tailgate of a pickup truck.
wildlife: deer, squirrels, hypno-hen, chicks (with hen), chicks (in bikinis), dog