Day 88 – Marble Mountain beauty

June 30, 2016

Sawyers Bar Road (mile 1597.3) to Marble Valley (mile 1621.2)

Miles: 23.9

Andy slept well under the Swiss flag while Laurie wished she could fit in the refrigerator to escape the heat. Eventually we all fell asleep. It was glorious to sleep with an actual pillow and sheets.

The kind folks who run hiker hut do a fabulous job keeping the place clean and ensuring we have everything we need.

Andy and Speed took Jim out to breakfast to thank him for the ride to and from the trailhead. Laurie and Fixie stayed at the hiker hut and ate quesadillas and oatmeal respectively. At 7:30 am we all piled into the truck to drive back up to Etna Summit.

As we pulled up two hikers greeted us. They were So Far and So Good. We met them outside of Belden the second day after our skip. The trail has an amazing way of reconnecting hikers. It seems you just never know who we will see when.

Scenery wise today was one of the best yet. The views and wildflowers were fantastic and got better the further we walked.

The first 10.5 miles were filled with gradual ups and downs. The air was surprisingly cool and our bodies felt rested. We clambored over or walked around some blow downs but not enough to frustrate us.

The four of us reconvened at a stream around 11:30 and decided to push for the campsite 23 miles from Etna Summit. We were feeling good.

We hiked amongst the wildflowers, stopping occasionally to take pictures. The meadows were bright green and water was abundant.

After lunch we started to climb. We walked past small waterfalls and meadows filled with purple, red and yellow wildflowers. Water spilled onto the trail and for a moment it felt like we were back in the Sierras. The sun illuminated each water droplet as they cascaded over rocks and fell into a clear rocky pool below. It was captivating.

We stopped and simply watched the show, trying uncussessfully to capture the show with our cameras.

A mile or so after we resumed walking we crossed two snow banks and switchbacked our way up to a notch in the mountain. As we crested over we had views of beautiful deep blue Man Eater Lake. Snow patches dotted the surrounding mountains, forming a picturesque alpine vista.

We walked in awe, tripping over the rocky trail as our eyes kept moving back to the lake and surrounding mountains.

After this is where the day got long. We dropped down about 1000 ft and then climbed right back up, switchbacking through a burn area. We appreciated the shade and tried to stay positive and appreciative for the view of the lake although the climb and the previous descent felt pointless.

Once back up on the ridge we hiked past many trail junctions, through beautiful meadows, over rocky hills and past many blooming wildflowers. We felt grateful to be here now, when temperatures are a little bit cooler, the majority of the snow has melted and the flowers are at their peak.

Around 5 pm the miles seemed to drag on. The trail was scattered with downed trees, some easier to get around than others. In total we encountered about 30 blow downs today. It was enough.

Walking past slabs of marble, Andy was suprised at its sandpaper like texture.

As the evening light illuminated the marble wall above us, we descended into Marble Valley. We waded through a sea of tall grass and wildflowers down to Marble Meadow.

We found a nice flat spot behind a delapadated ranger cabin. The temperatures were cool and we were all excited to sleep.

These long mileage days are hard but we still smile knowing we wouldn’t want be anywhere else.

Tonight we are grateful for suprise alpine lakes and flat camp sites.

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