The sun slowly warmed our camp and dried our frosty tents. But once on the trail we disappeared into the tree cover. Hidden from the sun, our fingers and toes again felt the morning chill.
We passed Miller Lake (9,490 ft), and switchbacked through the trees down to Matterhorn Creek (8,510 ft). Reluctant to wade through the frigid waters, Kevin hiked downstream to investigate a promising log crossing. While we waited, Carson slowly stepped across, balancing on wet, slippery rocks. Sierra followed Carson, and soon we were all across.
We climbed to Benson Pass (10,140 ft), stopping to collect water from a pure mountain stream along the way. Dropping down to Smedberg Lake, we found a relatively big free granite slab by the water. Carson, Sierra, and I cooled our feet in the chilly water while Kevin joined the Polar Bear Club and took a swim.
Below Smedberg Lake we once again encountered the downed trees that have plagued us for hundreds of miles. As our pace slowed to climb over and around the trees, we developed a new theory that the downed trees had been placed there by the swarms of mosquitoes who were taking advantage of our slower pace to feast on our flesh. The mosquitoes continued to plague us as we passed by Benson Lake and climbed to the top of Seavey Pass. There a beautiful lakelet (read: mosquito infested swamp) reflected granite mountains glowing with the golden light of the afternoon sun.
Having already donated blood, we decided to continue down the trail to Kerrick Canyon (7,960), hoping for a less buggy camp. But after hiking a few miles down the steep, narrow canyon, we found ourselves hoping for any camp at all. Eventually the canyon widened, and we found camp near the creek. A fire (our second on this trip) kept the mosquitoes at bay while we ate dinner, and by the time we went to bed, the mosquitoes had too.