Even in the shaded forest, the trail was HOT! We climbed through a forest incense cedar, oak, pine, and fir. I felt the weight of our five day resupply as we slogged up the long, hot climb.
By mid morning, we reached a new milestone: 1,200 miles! We passed the mark without ceremony, continuing our climb. Finally the climb topped out on a brushy, exposed ridge, the rocky, brown Sierra Buttes towering above.
Although we continued to gain elevation, our climb became a gentle traverse of the brush and talus covered hillside. We enjoyed views of the Sierra Buttes, a few snow patches still clinging to their steep sides. From the top of the climb (7,350 ft), the trail followed the ridge through fields of yellow flowering mule's ears, red paintbrush, and other colorful wildflowers.
A haze developed in the afternoon sky. Several hikers thought it indicated coming rain. But as the afternoon progressed, the haze turned into a thick, brown cloud, and I realized it signaled something far more sinister: forest fire. Fire season had officially begun.
We reached the junction to Summit Lake late in the afternoon. Realizing that it would be our last water source for the day, we stopped for water. But we were dismayed to discover that the "lake" was little more than a swampy pond. Even the outlet stream consisted of little more than shallow, stagnant pools connected by the merest trickle of water.
Trying to escape the mosquitoes, we continued down the ridge for another mile or two before setting up a breezy camp for the night.