July 3

Here's a picture taken a little before 6am, showing my bedroom.

And a little after 6:30am.

We ate a cold breakfast, and around 6:20am tried calling Daniel and Alan.  Surprisingly we got through!

Here's Alan talking to us on the other end. (DR)

Daniel got this beautiful picture that I somehow missed. (DR)

Another great shot. (DR)

And here's where they were at 9:40am. (DR)

Meanwhile back to our group.  At 7:52am we were a little higher than their picture above.

A beatiful tarn (9:17am).

A little further beyond looking down.

Surprisingly there were some snowfields to cross.  I lent Jim one of my sticks, which he probably didn't need, and Rich went without.  I'm still relatively new to snow travel and was happy to have my pole.  The sun cups provided both help and hindrance to footing.  Here's Rich at 10:16am.

And Jim crossing the same field.

Not too far beyond the snow field, we finally see the sign at the top of the pass!  (10:27am)

Ten minutes later, here I am with both feet in Kings Canyon National Park.  The curse is over!

As advertised, the view on the other side is spectacular.

A closeup of Arrow peak with Bench Lake, our destination for today, in front of it.

Another wide angle view a little further down.

The hike down to the lake was fairly straightforward, although I recall losing the trail once or twice.  Finally at 1:23pm we arrive at the lake.

Jim and Rich had some trouble remembering just where the site they liked was, but they eventually figured it out, and it was a nice site indeed.  We were right across from a beautiful island in the lake, and this picture always reminds me of the opening scene in Kubrik's The Shining.

There were quite a few good flat places for tents, several of which had been cleared and prepared, but all of them lacked shade.  Rich took one spot that seemed ideal with some decent shade, but it would turn out to be hit by sun later in the afternoon.  I spent a lot of time trying to find a good spot for my tent, at least a half hour.  But then I didn't really have anything better to do, so it was good practice.  Every spot seemed to have problems--either no shade, or too small, or too inclined.  Finally I decided on one that while less than ideal (not completely flat, and there were embedded rocks and roots that I would have to put the tent over and even sleep on to some extent) was as good as it seemed I'd find.  It did have reasonable shade from the afternoon sun, which I thought was most important.  As a bonus I had a little bit of a view of Arrow Peak, athough mostly blocked by trees (and hazy in this picture) as you can see.  Here's my new tent pitched and ready.  I never did put up the fly as there was no threat of rain the whole trip.  In some places the ground was too hard to get my stake in, so I used solid sticks (I could have just used stakes) horizontally and held down by rocks.  It was staked out securely and had no problems.

I forget how bad the mosquitoes were this first afternoon, but they were certainly awful from the next day on and the tent was necessary for sanity.  They were just awful and nearly ruined the trip.

We ate dinner and waited for Daniel and Alan who arrived in the early evening; I forget what time.  Li was not with them as he didn't start until late afternoon, but he made it around 9pm or a little later I think after hiking straight from the trailhead in only 5 hours 14 minutes!  I was already in my tent trying to sleep when he arrived so I didn't get a chance to say hello.