Le Conte Ranger Station – Lower Palisade Lake
8,720 – 10,615 (+ 1,895) – 10.3 miles
Free Maps Online – Day 18 – Map 7 and 6
We had a nice breakfast with Norma, Marty, and Dewey. As we cleaned up the kitchen and started to break camp, the boys were getting ready to start work on the cabin for the day. Joe used to both build and sell log cabins and was familiar with the process. I love all forms of construction and was interested to see how the thing was made.
Marty explained some of the process to us. This was the second of three planned new Ranger Stations he would build. They learned quite a bit on the first one and the second was going together quickly. We helped move a log, set it in place, and hammer it home. Norma was a camera wizard and took many pictures with three different cameras! Joe received an old hard hat as a memento. Jake found more horseshoes and left Le Conte carrying three. (That guy carries a ton of stuff!)
Then Norma called us over to the kitchen and filled our food sacks! We all got some extra dinners and tons of snack foods. I got a fresh supply of duct tape to keep my feet blister free and Norma gave me some moleskin! Norma topped off our powdered gatorade supply and added some other flavored juice drinks as well. I had very little to share, but I did leave Norma one of my favorite naturally non-caffeinated teas.
It is difficult to recreate how much we shared in that short time and how close we all became. I got to spend a few hours talking with Norma and we bonded over many things. Getting to hear part of her life story was interesting and inspiring. I have been in touch with Norma and Marty and imagine that we will keep in touch – now friends for life. I also bonded with Dewey and hope to reunite with him one day. He spends most every winter in South America and is looking to buy property in Ecuador. I hope to do a South America trip one day and would love to get to see Dewey in Ecuador!
Eventually, the time came and we had to move along. We were sad to leave, but happy to be back on the trail. The rest of the descent was enjoyable, and eventually we started to climb again on our way to The Golden Staircase! This was the last section of the John Muir Trail to be constructed and it is an admirable feat of engineering. But it is also a long climb. I stayed out front and reached the summit first and then started hunting for a campsite near the lower Palisade lake. This was the first time we were going to camp near many folks, and was actually the most crowded area for us on the whole trip. The pickings were slim, but I found an area that would work – though it was far from ideal. When Pappa Joe and Jake joined me, of course we found folks that Joe knew well and set-up near them. Sanjay and Busted Magic.
It got cold quickly and we ate dinner fast and settled into our tents. This was one of the few times that Joe set up his tarp tent instead of cowboy camping. You needed something to help trap your body heat and block the wind!
Up Next: Morning brings a Surprise Guest! We reach a new sort of terrain and different vista than we have seen thus far…