J-Bone leads the charge up the mountain (actually "The Hump"). Decked in top of the line mountaineering apparel, Jeremy felt confident in his choice of gear, defiantly sporting an alpine wedgie.

The trail was fairly clear the entire time. Nonetheless, it was also well-marked with orange, triangular blazes, affixed high up in the trees so as to remain visible even in deep snow.

"Snow," we thought, "pssshhh..."

Like windmills and waterfalls, mossy trees are irresistible to the camera-wielding schmendrick.

Obligatory poop shot...

...and the culprits, now on their way down. (If I'd'a known there'd be mules cartin' shit up, I would've brought more stuff!)

At first the snow appeared in ambiguous patches, far in the tree-obscured distance. With time, it crept closer. And closer...

Here, an uninterested Sarah turns a cold (get it?!) shoulder to the first patch to breach our upward course.

Not all of the precipitation encountered was so accommodating.

(Read: It rained most of the time, and, as this dampened garbage bag attests, Sarah forgot her "fucking pack cover.")

Did I mention that the mountain we were climbing over was called "The Hump"? In the photo to the right, having recently mounted The Hump, Mount humps The Hump.

His carefully coiffed "do" helped seal the deal.

Lest you think this trip was all fun and games, let me assure you, dear reader, of the ominous gravity of such an undertaking.

Atop the hump, Jeremy happened upon this bone: surely human in origin, and most likely from a finger.

A snow-speckled peak looms distantly in all its stoic majesty.

Sarah steps in the way and does her best impression. Majestic, no?

Further evidence of the trip's precipitation.

Alright, now we're getting into snowy territory. Fortunately for us, the trail was lined with numerous heated rocks.

I don't know how you're supposed to make it through here when there isn't snow.

Mountain Man Jeremy dons some warmer duds—this time in the form of (curiously sock-shaped) mittens.

Heather Lake. Pretty... but not fucking pretty enough! We trudged on.

Huh huh... Wood.

(This joke doesn't work if you think these are rocks.)

Lake Rorschach.

No sock-mittens here, but at least Sarah's pack cover looks thoroughly effective. (By the way, I'm being sarcastic.)

Emerald Lake!

(Note the mysterious, copper-colored cabin roof in the middle of the picture... More on this later.)

 

Later, the next morning...

Andre crept out of his tent on a exploratory mission. What he found was an elaborate infrastructure of cleverly disguised (yet undoubtedly sinister) machinery. Perfectly camouflaged, these devices were obviously the masterpiece of some nefarious villain, whose underground lair surely lay dormant beneath the tranquil waters of Emerald Lake.

Look carefully at the picture to the left. Study the tree in the center of the shot and, with time, the device will reveal itself. A perfect symbiote of plant and machine! (Zounds!)

And what odious purpose could this measuring device serve?

But what a location!

All the snow made for some serious runoff. And, as Andre and Sarah would soon discover (disregarding, for the moment, the ice that was floating in the lake), some icy water!

Crisp air and crisp water add up to some crispy reflections.

High atop a granite outcropping, an imperial probe droid hovers menacingly in the silent Sierra stillness. For whom does it's mechanical eye search? Could the Hoth-like climes of this barren peak even sustain life? The plot thickens! (And with it, Andre's nerd cred.)

Rohn doesn't let women climb his tower.

Dramatic meltwater close-up!

Emerald Lake, freshly fed and looking much larger than it actually is.

Ditto from two pictures ago.

Witness the awesome force of nature as icy waters descend the alpine cliffs! Behold the fury of nature unleashed! This splash of water is about four inches high!

(These things look much more dramatic with a really high shutter speed.)

Almost there, this stream takes a last minute detour before joining its buddies in the lake.

 

I slid down a bank of this kind of snow in King's Canyon once and walked away with a pink butt. Here's the deal: it's actually caused by a type of algae. Chamydomonas nivalis, unlike other freshwater algae, thrives in freezing temperatures. So there!

And it certainly was freezing! A thin layer of ice on top of these puddles suggested (to the suggestible hiker) that temperatures had dipped into the sub-zero (centigrade) zone during the night.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but this poor little mousy is underneath about a foot of frigid water. Poor little mousy...

Emerald Lake, in all its early-season glory!

A guy on the way up told us there'd be fish in the lake—a truth to which this brown little bugger can attest. Too bad we didn't have a hook...

...until we were leaving and noticed this on the ground.

Grizzled old fisherman Andre, out of place on top of a mountain.

A much less grizzled, but still out-of-place Sarah (note the proximity of tank top with snowy peak).

Re-dehydrated chunks of Mountain House brand shepherd's pie litter the ground near an unidentified tent. (Leftovers anyone?)

As is usually the case in these kinds of parks, we had to hide our food from the occasional bear in these metal vaults. Some were less than practical, given recent advances in snowfall.

We already knew these varmints liked to eat radiator hoses so, lacking any such automotive parts, we thought we wouldn't have any trouble. Nonetheless, in defense of our camp, I chased this cheeky little bastard for a good twenty minutes.

Actually, chasing marmots turned out to be kinda fun. (Notice how they always manage to be comically airborne in pictures where they're fleeing.)

Sarah chased this one into a small pile of rocks. We tried to hide (our twiggy disguise appears in the blurred foreground) but this marmot wasn't fooled.

Later, whilst basking on a rock, Sarah (whose diagonal leg appears in the lower right) was approached by this skulking cur.

Reflections in glassy Aster Lake.

My poor little lens couldn't fit the whole tree in one shot.

And so it begins...

Not fifteen minutes into the hike, the rain picked up again. (This after a warm morning of bright, cloudless sunshine.)

Not pictured: the pelting hail that would momentarily ensue.

Poor fella had the odds against him from the start. The rain was coming down too hard to give him arms. But still, he smiles...

A demonstration of the purported waterproofness of Andre's boots.

America at it's finest, in the General Sherman (the largest living thing on the planet... though this trailer hitch, were it living, would certainly be a contender) parking lot.

The sticker on the right reads: "Beer, Chicks, & Pickups."

Guy on left: "Sensitive ecosystem be damned! I gotsta get in my daily power walk!"

Guy on right: "These stakes look carefully placed... A little too carefully placed..."

(Andre: bleeding heart environmentalist and stickler for signs.)

It Is There!

This branch fell off of the General Sherman some years back and landed with a dramatic impact on the path around the tree. I guess the park thought that the crater was worth preserving, so they left the branch in situ. Mike, Rob, Nadeth, et al seem unimpressed.

Ditto Sarah, though she took a more affectionate tack.

Jeremy ponders the implications of driving Fat Lucy through a tree in a moment that would have Rodin himself scratching his philosophical chin.

(Eat your heart out, Dobie Gillis!)

Holy fucking shit! A goddamn fucking bear! Right after the drive-thru tree, a medium-sized bear ambled across the road.

Awesome! I love bears!

(Cranium's giant cranium is responsible for the bigfoot-esque blurriness of this hastily snapped photo... I had to wait for Jeremy's melon to clear the foreground.)

That bear didn't look as plump (or content) as this mischievous duo. Poor thing was probably dying for a pic-a-nic basket.

Pshaw!

(Note: Nearly all of these bullet-pointed conditions were present. We pressed onwards with reckless abandon, up Moro Rock to meet our fate.)

The view from Moro Rock. See what I mean about "Dark clouds nearby or overhead"? There was plenty of lightning too.

Fortunately, the winding staircase was lined with built-in lightning rods! Sarah smirks naively (nervously?) while J reveals unfathomable terror.

We didn't stay at the top very long. (I've chosen to set this photograph in black and white to demonstrate the gravity of the situation.)

Like any respectable Sequoia National Park animal citizen, this lizard couldn't have cared less.

Trip stats:

Distance hiked: 9.1 mi.
Elevation gain/loss: ~2070 ft.
(Click here for more route information.)
Weird honking sounds identified: 0 (maybe 1)
Dehydrated meals upchucked: 1/3
Buns frozen in cold, cold lake: 4.0
Marmots thoroughly terrified: 2
Socks worn as mittens: ~2
Trees driven through and contemplated: 1 big one! (obviously)
Fates thwarted: 3