Wednesday, August 8, 2018
We wake up in the dim light. We eat, sip tea, and fill our packs. It’s chilly, let’s move. We leave camp at 7:04 am.
We are machines, hiking machines. We’re fueled by nature’s beauty, with nuts and fruit as supplement.
The trail immediately starts climbing. We have about 2,000 ft to the top of Colby pass. I quickly overheat, and peel off my green homemade jacket. The air is brisk upon my skin, just a single layer to shield my torso. But as long as I keep moving, the friction within my body will continue to create heat.
For a full summary and map, check out our guide to The Big SEKI Loop.
We continue climbing through the trees, turn a corner and emerge into a sparse alpine meadow.
I admire the skyline that circles around us.
We silently walk through the morning air, the trail etched into the fragile soil. The trail all of a sudden disappears. We examine our surroundings then trace our steps backward to where a cairn sits above a creek. We follow it and drop into a creek bed, then pop to the other side.
If I look too far ahead, I lose where the trail will lead. So I keep my eyes on the ground that’s immediately approaching. I watch my feet as they pass through short brown grass that fades to stone as we continue our climb up.
We stop upon a tabletop, and look back to the south. We nibble on snacks, and suck down gulps of water. A party of two passes by, and we say hello goodbye.
The approach to Colby Pass is like nothing we’ve seen so far. It’s a quiet, simple place, rugged and wonderful. We meld into the trail.
So this is what Zen feels like.
Before our last series of switchbacks, we stop near an alpine pond to listen to the silence. Dark green grass borders the water, and the trail cuts along the edge. It’s the only sign of humanity.
I focus on the stones cradling the pond water. They look just like a reflection.
At 9:30 am we reach the top. A marker notes our return to Kings Canyon National Park.
I drop my bag and look back to my love as she approaches behind me. Her arms lift in the air, celebrating her arrival. The trail extends behind her, every step we can see from our morning.
We snap a selfie before we snack.
To say the view is incredible is nothing short of absurd. Rachel sits on a stone and snacks as I scurry around snapping pictures.
Once we feel satiated and content, we decide to continue our walk north. We see Colby lake miles beyond us, and gasp at the amount of stone. It feels good to be alive on the Great Western Divide.
The Descent to Colby Lake
We step along the trail, looking at the path winding down below us. That’s what we go down? All we see is rubble. We had heard there was a rock slide in last couple of days. And now we meet it in person.
We hobbled our way down over cobbles of loose rock. This is not a trail. It’s a huge loose pile of chossy rock. We take out time, as not to stumble, yet move with intent and haste. Eyeing the terrain I envision a rock tumbling and turning our path to turn into a river of boulders.
I look up to see a car size boulder, wedged in place by fist sized stone.
“What would happen if that stone shifted” I think to myself. “Let’s get down from here.”
Finally we make it the bottom, and we examine the terrain we walked. We see no trail just a wall of rubble.
I journal in a small meadow as we drink water and soak our hats. We don’t stay put for long, and soon return to walking.
Colby Lake grows as we get closer. I imagine paddle boarding on the glassy water.
As we reach the edge of the lake, tiny brooks begin to appear and wildflowers surround Rachel.
At the lake I snack and hem and haw tallying the temperature. I want to swim but it’s kind of cold. I wade in over my knee. My feet sink into the mud. I step onto a submerged log, and my feet slide me a little deeper. Tiny fish flash in front of me, jolted by my movements. I jump into the water then quickly emerge gasping. An icy chill feels like it grabs me, pinching me at my clavicles as I hustle to the shore.
Rachel laughs and smiles, then hands me a cup of lentils.
I lie in the sun, reaching for dried mango.
We still have a ways to go today. We’re trying to make it to Roaring River. So once I’m dry again we rise, and continue our march in Zen.
The trail is a kaleidoscope of beauty. I feel like a bystander watching a slideshow.
Tufts of grass grow from a stream.
Islands emerge for napping.
Water slides over rock pooling in the forest.
The backcountry holds the beauty, resorts and theme parks can only covet.
Hours slip away as our legs lower us over boulders. We lose the trail then turn around. Down we go, repeat. Junipers sprout from nowhere.
Finally a green meadow welcomes our weary legs. But we know we have miles to go.
Slowly now the miles pass. Our stomachs gurgle in discontent. In due time my friend I’ll feed you.
The trail turns. Another log. Another stream. I’m burnt out with the beauty. Sand now guides my feet.
Finally ahead we spot a bridge. We’ve made it to roaring river. This day was so long and memorable. I’m happy to make our camp.
We quickly make our dinner, sitting around a camp circle.
“Are you taking pictures of me eating?” Rachel exclaims.
“No, why would I do that?”
We finish our meals then make a packaged key lime pie. We’ve kept this for today. We eat it on the bridge overlooking Roaring River. We lick our spoons in delight.
“We should have brought two of these” I say, ferociously digging in the corners of the packet.
We retreat back to our campsite, and stare into the trees.