The '99 expedition was clearly my most challenging hike ever. When Taboose Pass can be looked back on as the easy part of the trip, that's saying something! Although it took several visits to the chiropractor to realign my ankles and knees, I'm proud of how well I held up.
Two of my best-ever campsites came three days apart. While the spot on Darwin Bench is hard to beat for its snugness, warm sunshine, great views and nearby stream, I'll pick the wild austerity of the site among the Dumbbell Lakes. It came at the end of a tough day with uncertain weather, and it was the most pristine camp I have ever used. It seemed to us that no one was within a day's walk of our spot; the entire valley was ours! That was a great memory to recall later, when we would meet a half-dozen travellers per hour on the Muir Trail.
The most exhilirating moment was probably at 3:30 on day five, when we sat down after crossing Palisade Creek near the Muir Trail. We had just completed three days of tough cross-country travel and were about to rejoin humanity after nearly two days of total solitude. [Come to think of it, I can think of no creatures visible from 8AM on day 3 to that point - no marmots at the passes, no deer at twilight; only a few birds noted our passing.] Scott and I crossed the stream, shook hands, and took our sweet time putting our boots on. We had tested our limits and came through with no damage to speak of, and great memories to look back on.
Other tremendous views come to mind - the young bear across the South Fork Kings, Arrow Peak from the south side of Cartridge Pass, Marion Lake just after sunrise, the nearby Palisades from Cataract Pass, the bone-dry Muir Pass area, and Mts. Darwin and Mendel from Lamarck Col. It was another extra-special trip for a year ending in nine, as I had hoped it would be.
My only regret is that the pace forced us to move so swiftly through a landscape that I will probably not see again. Every year I shake my head and wonder why I didn't schedule a rest day at some point on the trip, do more climbs and two-hour day trips, or just remember how to fly-fish. I expect that my body will force such respites on me soon enough, so I will spend my relative youth seeing as much as possible and shake my head yet again next year. Better to have viewed and run than never to have viewed at all...
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