Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 49: Kennedy Meadows to Cow Creek

The trail followed the South Fork of the Kern River through a tall pine forest. The forest included many Jeffrey pines, and one hiker had placed the note "Smell Me" at the base of one of the trees. We complied, sniffing the familiar vanilla and butterscotch aroma of the Jeffrey pine bark.

We crossed the river and climbed into a burn area, a dense forest of charred stumps with purple lupine and other wildflowers restoring life to the dead landscape. Just past the burn area, we admired a beautiful meadow filled with all shades of purple, yellow, and white wildflowers and lined with talk pine trees. Granite cliffs towered above.

Reaching the top of the ridge, we dropped into Beck Meadows, a beautiful expanse of grassy meadow surrounded by tall mountains. We climbed along the fringes of the meadow through a pine forest before dropping down to the bridge across the South Fork of the Kern River at Monache Meadows (elevation 7,820).

Lush green grass lined both sides of the sandy bottomed river. We headed for a sandy beach on the far side of the river where we sat and watched the swallows who make their home underneath the bridge. Swallows dove in and out of the hundreds of gourd shaped mud nests clinging to the bridge. We watched as a swallow approached its nest.  Grasping the entrance, wings still fluttering, the bird slowly closed up its wings as it squeezed inside the tiny opening. A while later the bird's head reappeared in the small hole. The bird again squeezed its body through the opening and pushed away from the nest in a sort of free fall. Then the bird's wings opened and the swallow glided for a moment before furiously flapping its wings and heading off in search of food.

Eventually we hiked on through the meadows and into Cow Canyon. There I almost stepped on a black pile littered with partially digested berries, probably bush currants, a local bear favorite. Bear scat.

Happy to be carrying a bear canister, we continued up the long, slow, and somewhat confusing climb up Cow Canyon. Near the top of the canyon, just after crossing the creek for the last time, we located a small tent site on a soft bed of pine needles under a lone pine tree. From the site we looked back toward Monache Meadows and the surrounding mountains, climbing a granite rock outcropping for an even better view. We ate dinner while watching the glow of the setting sun, then headed to bed.

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