Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 50: First taste of Sierra

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Date: June 18, 2017
Miles: 14.7 miles (23.7km), from mile 709.5 to mile 724.2.
Health: Feeling great. Legs tired from the long climb.

We woke up at 4:30am. The sun wasn't up yet but the air was still warm. Camp Counselor and Poison Ivy were already up but I wasted few minutes in my sleeping bag. Night hiking and early mornings are not a good combination.

The girls left the camp soon and I stayed back. I still needed to get water from the creek close by. Soon I was back on the trail.

The trail kept climbing out of a valley and the views were amazing. I was so happy for the change of scenery.

Soon I caught up with the girls and Crumbs as they were eating breakfast next to the trail. Although I had already eaten while hiking, I stopped, happy for their company. Also, I was in no hurry today.

After a leisurely breakfast we got back on the trail. Soon the grade turned steeper and we really had to climb. Luckily the water was plentiful today, so that made our packs a little lighter.

Climbing with Katie.  

Climbing with Katie.  

I hiked on with Katie (Camp Counselor) and soon we were just the two of us. While climbing I noticed that her hiking style was very energy consuming so I offered to teach her about the "thru-hiker shuffle". As we hiked on I told her about the why's and how's of the shuffle and soon she was easily keeping up with my pace. It was great seeing her go from slow, energy consuming "regular style" to the shuffle, and seeing her get the "wow!" reaction when she nailed it down.

Different views.  

Different views.  

Soon I was able to speed up and we made nice progress shuffling down the trail. After the climb we hiked a bit in a forest and then reached a large meadow between mountains. The views were just amazing. With snow topped mountains at the far end, a river running through the middle, it was like one of those movie meadows. We hiked on with huge smiles on our faces.

It was fun having a new hiking partner. That means you get new, interesting topics to talk about. We talked about relationships, life, and Iron Maiden.

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The miles went fast and soon we reached another meadow. As we got down to the river we saw a large bridge crossing the river. Coming from the desert, and suddenly being on a green meadow with a large, flowing river, and surrounded by magnificent mountains, was just epic.

A bridge over the Kern River.  

A bridge over the Kern River.  

Even though it was still early, the spot was so beautiful that we simply couldn't pass by. We put our packs in the shade and started to look around. There was a huge flock of swallows flying around the bridge, going in every direction. As we stood on the bridge, the swallows just flew all around us and under the bridge, to feed their little ones. We felt like we had arrived to a magical place.

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Getting water.  

Getting water.  

Soon Poison Ivy joined us as well. There was a large sandbank on the river and we went to investigate it. We walked up and down the sandbank, playing with mud and enjoying the nice cold water. We also found two large rocks that you could sit between and have the stream flow over you.

Others started to arrive as well and almost everyone stopped to siesta on this gorgeous spot. The riverside was soon full of hikers enjoying the plentiful water and the end of the desert.

Hikers in the shade by the river.  

Hikers in the shade by the river.  

Nothing can last forever so after an extremely long siesta we started to head out. We had a huge climb ahead of us. We were climbing to over 10,000 feet (3,048m) today. Although the air wasn't as hot here as in the desert, it was still hot.

Katie, Natalie, and I.  

Katie, Natalie, and I.  

On the way out I taught Natalie (Poison Ivy) the thru-hiker shuffle as well and now all three of us were moving fast.

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The climb was long. I hiked with Natalie and between trying to catch our breath from the climb, we had long discussions. I really like hiking with her and I hate that she and Camp Counselor have to leave the trail so soon (they're only section hiking to Lone Pine).

Natalie.  

Natalie.  

We had to take a ton of breaks as the climb was just never ending and steep. Although my legs were screaming from pain, I still enjoyed every moment. I feel like if I can do the Sierra and all the climbing, I'm going to be a monster of a hiker and the rest of the trail is going to be "easy".

Katie taking a drawing break.  

Katie taking a drawing break.  

At around 9,000 feet we started seeing snow and the mosquitoes appeared. I remember that I accidentally packed my repellent in the package going to Lone Pine. Great!

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At the water source the mosquitoes are trying to eat my legs so I have to continue. Natalie stays back and I hike on with Katie. We keep climbing and start seeing more and more snow.

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We've climbed for hours now and it's starting to get dark. If we want to camp after the pass, we're going to get there after dark.

We break out of the trees and see a large meadow, and at the end of the meadow we see the pass. At least we hope it's there. I check the Guthooks app and that's the pass, not far away.

Last climb towards the pass.  

Last climb towards the pass.  

As we finally reach the pass we see KB, Fyre, Dandelion, and Fire Ant already camping there. That's perfect as I'm not sure how much further I would have managed to hike. Soon Natalie also comes to camp.

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As the mosquitoes are out in force, we set up our tents and it's soon a small tent city. We eat and share trail stories. The girls break out into a song again.

I look around and realize that it's just me and six girls, camping on a top of a mountain, looking at the sunset and the snow capped mountains of the Sierra. Life is pretty good right now!

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