Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 6: Baldy Lake Junction to Hutchinson-Barnett Cabin

Rat-a-tat-a-tat!  Tap tap tap tap tap!  A pair of woodpeckers took turns tapping out rhythms on neighboring trees, forming an impromptu rhythm band. First a woodpecker tapped out a rhythm with high pitched taps on a tall, skinny tree. Then another woodpecker answered with deeper, more resonant taps on a thicker tree trunk.

Atlas packed up quickly and was on the trail before 6. We finally got on the trail just after 7, still wearing most of our warm gear from the night before. 

The tree canopy was alive with sounds. Squirrels crunched away collecting pine cones and scolded us with a loud chatter whenever we ventured too close. Woodpeckers continued to hammer on dead trunks and limbs. Cheerful birds added the melody. 

We approached Sargent's Mesa, a beautiful alpine meadow with views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, just before 10, already 7 miles into our day. "Mom, have you seen my sunglasses?" Sierra queried. The sunglasses were nowhere to be found. 

Reluctantly, we turned back to look for the glasses, unwilling to continue on the next snowy section without proper eye protection. We walked slowly, constantly scanning the trail and surrounding area for the missing sunglasses. After retracing our steps for almost two miles, we reached a spot where Sierra had stopped to remove her jacket. Sure enough, the sunglasses lay on the ground near where she had set her pack.   We snatched up the glasses and dashed back up the trail. By the time we reached Sargent's Mesa again, we had lost more than a hour of hiking time and added almost 4 extra miles to what was already planned as a 22 mile hiking day. 

Crossing the muddy Mesa, we began to notice numerous tracks in the thick mud. Elk, deer, coyote, possible fox, and an unidentified set of tracks that seemed to belong to a smaller feline such as a bobcat or lynx. Later in the afternoon we spotted larger feline tracks that might belong to a mountain lion. 

We stopped for lunch in a grassy meadow sprinkled with golden yellow dandelions. Taking the opportunity to check my sore ankle, I was alarmed to see that the swelling had increased, with a large egg-shaped swollen lump on the front and extending to the sides. 

The last few miles to Marshall Pass took us in and out of trees over soft, patchy snow. I did my best to follow in Atlas's tracks to minimize painful postholing. Atlas was waiting for us at Marshall Pass, and together the three of us headed over to the Hutchinson-Barnett cabin, a public cabin maintained by the forest service and local snowmobilers. The cabin offers two hard wooden sleeping platforms, a wood stove, and a table inside, and a larger picnic table outside. A stream runs through the nearby meadow. 

The old stove provided more smoke than fire, but the smoke seemed to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We gathered at the picnic table outside for dinner, where we were forced to defend our food from two aggressive birds. The temperature dropped precipitously as soon as the sun went down, and we headed off to bed. 

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