The sections just after the High Sierras have been my favorite. Their beauty doesn't come from the sense of austere grandeur through which we had just passed but hold an impressive allure all their own. Through Yosemite we moved through amazing reddish rocky formations. Tiered walls of granite begged to be climbed. Waterfalls cascade all around and along our trail; they were made all the more beautiful by the fact that we did not have to try to cross them, and if we did, there was a bridge. Snow still sometimes slowed our progress, but nothing like what we had just survived.
I reveled in the undulating bowls and mounds of rocks. While some of the ascents surpassed 1400 feet there were plenty of beautiful lakes and meadows to distract the attention. At one point I climbed into a pine blessed pass area and found the trail ahead of me was in use by a bear. At about 300 pounds he lumbered along ahead of me, indifferent to my presence. We meandered into a pretty little meadow. He crossed it and then turned around and looked at me. The look said, "you are off the trail, young lady, come much further and you will be on my nerves." I looked around and realized that in my fixation on this beautiful animal, I had indeed followed him off the trail. I quickly made my way back to human designated turf and moved through the rest of the morning in a sense of elation.
It was incredibly fun to hike with Red Head and Green Mile; their hiking style was much different than what I had become accustomed to. They awoke late and made no hurry of a morning. However, once they were moving, they sure did move! I felt myself pushing my limits and found that I generally ask a lot less of myself than what I can do. We hiked quickly and rested earnestly. Meal and snack schedule was the same, only a few hours later than someone who woke and moved early. At about 7 each evening we chose as mosquito free of an area as possible and cooked supper before hiking another hour or two. We usually ended the days with head lamps on and stars starting to wink awake above us. Not once did we set up our tents, preferring instead to enjoy the clear skies and warm nights (at least, much warmer than 11000 feet had been).
On the morning of July 4th we realized we were 25 miles and only three formidable climbs away from the 1000 mile mark. All enraptured by the idea of hitting 1000 miles on a national holiday, we moved rapidly. As evening fell, we were on the final descent to that mile marker. Through the darkness and trees, I spotted a campfire burning. We rolled up to a gathering of some 10 other thru-hikers and we all sat around the fire-pit, telling stories and sharing our favorite moments thus far. My sense of accomplishment, exhaustion, and joy made it a surreal evening. I have never done anything like this before! And here I was, feeling strong and exactly just right. It was a great event.
The next day granite stone gave way to volcanic rock. Trees gave way to open, wind swept ridge-sides and we moved along the rocks which changed in color from black to red, orange, and purple. Florescent orange and green lichens adorned the rocks and added an almost carnival-esque sense to the unique landscape. An 18 mile day and we came in to Sonora Pass, where a trail angel named The Owl had set up a "hiker coffee house." We snacked hungrily and enjoyed the comfortable chairs he had set out.
The next morning I hitched down to Bridgeport and resupplied in the expensive little grocery store in Bridgeport. Upon my return to the pass I encountered several other hikers who informed me that Frog and Rif-Raf had passed through that morning and were camping some 10 miles out.