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Ansel Adams Wilderness 14 June 2021


2254 :

After a shaky start, we slept well, and were beginning to feel acclimated, and brave enough to try the walk to Rainbow Falls. I’d never been able to nail down the distance or the elevation change, so it was as a matter of faith that we began walking at the trailhead. Rochelle was being a good sport, but the trail led steadily down, and at one point she told me she didn’t plan to die here, but that getting back up wasn’t a sure thing. 

 

Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River

2255 :

2256 :

Along the way, the evidences of a high mountain environment were everywhere ...but you’ll understand if I tell you that we really didn’t notice until we were on our way back up from the falls, where the busy Middle Fork plunges 101 feet with great enthusiasm.

This is not an easy place to make a living. Even the rocks show signs of glacial polish, and the grain in the woods is contorted from wind and snow loads. Even so, all along the walk we were regarded by Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks, Blue Belly Lizards, and even a Tiger Swallowtail.

2257 :

2258 :

A theme encountered in the Coast Redwoods but visible here, too: the way the trees are shaped by the weather, that is in its turn shaped by the spin of the planet.

The trail passes along the edge of the Rainbow Fire, that took 8,000 acres in 1992, back when the Forest Service was just putting into practice the idea that fire is a natural phenomenon. Now, almost 30 years later, stands of young trees thrive under the protection of the surviving elders.

2259 :

Except for the designated wildernesses, National Forests are “working forests,” and with thoughts of what that means in mind, I can easily see how the timber industry, and the builders that rely on it, yearns to take these tall, straight trees. Even in June, it’s easy to see that they’re under stress. Last year, a much larger fire took 379,895 acres just down the canyon a ways, and insect damage has killed large stands of just these trees elsewhere in the range.


2260 :

The trail from the trailhead to the Falls, we learned about two thirds of the way down, is 1.2 miles, with (at a guess) 500 feet of elevation change, a good enough challenge for a couple of septuagenarians on their first day at altitude. We looked for shaded places to sit on our way back up, and made the climb in only six pitches.

Along the way Rochelle admitted that she had recovered her optimism, that we would make it to the trailhead. A little later, however, she told me that her future travels should be closer to sea level.

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