These were two saving graces on our hike to Palisade Glacier in the John Muir Wilderness. The trail ends before the glacier, so you have boulder the last three-quarters of a mile to reach the top. Other hikers thoughtfully mark the way with cairns; I’d never have found my way without them.
The last training hike we did to get ready for this climb dug a nasty, quarter-sized blister into my right heel and made it impossible to wear a shoe for a week. It was so painful that I thought it would sideline me, but I slapped moleskin over it, cemented it with tincture of benzoin, and thankfully that was enough of a temporary fix.
It was the final weekend of summer 2017, and the meadows were still partially in bloom.
Film star Lon Chaney Sr., the original Quasimodo and Phantom of the Opera, had this cabin built along the trail in 1929. Designed by architect Paul R. Williams, it’s unmarked and unused today, except for hikers who lounge on the deck and survey the stream. When the 12,400 feet nearly felled me with a severe bout of altitude sickness on the third day of our hike, I joked that I needed to ride the ghost of one of Lon Chaney’s burros back down to the trailhead.
Some hardier souls make this roughly 19-mile hike in one day, but we broke it up by camping one night near Black Lake, named for its ebony sheen, and making the rest of the trek the following day.
This view made the very tough hike worth it.
The perfect little ledge perched at the glacier’s edge looks like God decided to put a park bench there.
David and Vernon toasted our accomplishment with a snort of Bushmills over snowfield ice.
We witnessed nature in all her gloriousness, but returned to the sobering specter of all her destructiveness with more earthquakes and hurricanes.