High Sierra Trail - Day Two

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I woke up at our Hamilton Lake campsite feeling like a train ran me over – ever part of my body was sore. The elevation wrecked my appetite and made it difficult to finish just one serving of oatmeal. Nonetheless we packed up and started our only uphill section of the day, but it was a big one – 2500ft to the top of the Great Western Divide! We followed switchbacks above Hamilton Lake, then circled around the lake and through a stone tunnel. Small creeks crossed the trail and fed into the lake below, bunches of wild flowers springing up around them.

We passed an unnamed lake before reaching one of my favorite spots on the entire trail: Precipice Lake! This lake is famous from Ansel Adams photos and is breathtaking in person. The water is a deep turquoise, surrounded by granite walls marred by dark streams of icy water. At such a high elevation the lake is often frozen or surrounded by snow fields.

The scenery continued as we reached the top of the Kaweah Gap and had panoramic views of our next section of trail, Big Arroyo. We descended into the valley surrounded by peaks and lakes on all sides. The trail followed along a river and we chose a nice lunch spot on it. Fortunately for me the trail was mostly downhill along a nice canyon until we reached our second campsite: Moraine Lake. Technically the lake is on a small side trail along the HST which adds about 1 mile to the total distance.

After our first night at Hamilton, Moraine Lake did not disappoint! We picked a large site with a fire ring and views of the lake through the trees. We washed up in the lake, filtered some water, and Jason got out his fishing pole. A little while later a few people from a trail maintenance crew pushed out onto the lake on floaty lounge chairs – I’m pretty sure that is the definition of living the dream. They really crushed Jason’s spirits though when, after an hour of fishing, they told him there was nothing to catch in that lake!

We had a nice dinner around the campfire and I went to bed feeling every so slightly more confident that I could make it to the end of the HST!