Looking across Tully Hole

And yet, for all the physical challenges here, this was no death march. We ate reasonably well (although after much anticipation, Susan never did try her high-country baking experiments with the oven hood for the MSR Whisperlite stove). We were comfortable in camp all the time (with the possible exception of a couple of frosty early mornings between 9,000 and 11,000 feet). And best of all, we had a mid-point resupply at Red's Meadow Resort with a fully-furnished cabin, restaurant food, good (albeit overpriced) beer and the whole East Sierra packer social scene.

All planning aside, we were flat-out lucky on this one:

The weather was perfect, without any of the Sequoia/Kings Canyon forest fire haze that had blanketed the southern Sierra range just a week earlier. Although afternoon thundershowers are very common in the area this time of year, we brought the rain jackets for nothing. (David used his parka as a barely satisfatory pillow.) Highs in high country were in the mid-70s. (This was while the 395 corridor just a few miles east and down 5,000 feet baked in the mid-90s pattern so typical for August.) As we mentioned earlier, our first and last mornings in camp were icy ones, with a significant amount of frost and much cussing about purple fingers, toes, etc.

The creek crossings that had been described as ''treacherous'' and ''deadly'' by other Web authors who'd crossed in early season were downright mild in mid-August. No need to rope up. No need to even put on the Tevas.

Mosquitos, despite the warnings of a second hatch for the season, were light to moderate. We applied that most vile of all lotions -- Deet (in this case REI's Jungle Juice) twice in extreme situations and it worked like a charm. Beyond that, we just did our best to stay covered. The mosquito netting hats we purchased at the surplus store were never used.

Here's something to be truly thankful for: None of the four of us experienced any injury or impairment as serious as a blister during the entire 81.5 miles. We all suffered from basic all-over aches and pains, bug bites and assorted other distractions, but nothing a Motrin or a piece of moleskin couldn't ameliorate. Altitude-related problems (we were consistently at 9,000-12,000 feet for most of the trip) were zero.