Ansel Adams Wilderness Part 3
This morning we wake to a golden lake meadow with peaks all around us, shining in the morning light. For breakfast, we make coffee, tea, and hash browns to awake the soul. It’s windy but our campsite is protected, and so we lazily enjoy the unfolding of the day. The bears we were so warned about at the ranger station have still failed to appear. This is our first backpacking trip requiring bear canisters. Though we’re carrying them, we’ve not even seen a trace of a bear. After a few hours of lollygagging around the lake, we pack up and hit the trail.
Like kids at Disneyland, we are dazzled again and again as our magic carpet ride leads us through a forest of sparkling granite peaks, domes, and ridges. Never have I been in awe of such exquisite beauty as this. Even the trail is made of smoothly polished rock. We pass cliffs adorned in rich exotic colors of slate, copper, caramel and chocolate. All worn smooth by slowly moving glaciers that passed by here millions of years ago. How this amount of concentrated natural beauty can exist is simply beyond comprehension.
Over the next ridge is Emerald Lake, sparkling like a precious jewel set in solid stone. The jewelry of Mother Earth herself. Onward we go, through a golden tunnel of rustling aspen trees, singing in the breeze, glowing in the warm September sun. More lakes appear, each more beautiful than the last as we descend the rugged canyon where the headwaters of the San Joaquin River flow. Only here, high up in the Sierras, this mighty river is but a trickling stream, cascading down a series of smoothly polished grooves, slides, cracks, and steps through rock the color of charcoal. Downward we go, 800 feet down until we reach our next canyon, just to start back up again. But that’s just how it goes in terrain like this. We climb and descend all day long on a journey not on, but into the Earth. Here she lies unabashedly naked before us. We are free to adore her every curve with wild abandon until we are left speechless in a drunken state of ecstasy. And so we walk. Silently on down the trail of wonders. This city of dreams.
Finally arriving at our campsite, we set up camp in a protected little meadow beside Summit Lake. This evening, the water is on fire with reflected evening sun. We set up camp and warm ourselves with hot apple cider. Nothing left to do now but bask in the golden rays of the fading evening sun. Tonight we will sleep well, as tired and happy backpackers should.