Pinehurst to Montecito Lake, Stony Creek. 19 miles. 4300ft climbing.

We had spent the previous evening cogitating our various options on what to today. Our original plan had been to leave our luggage and cycle down the King’s Canyon and back but 2 major factors mitigated against this – the national park was closed and it was difficult to find out what accommodation/camping was open but more importantly the forecast was for a dramatic change of weather with cold air blowing in a forecast of snow showers. We had decided our best option was to press on – although that did mean climbing over 7500ft before the long descent to Three Rivers. We therefore got up with some trepidation at the climb and the weather and lingering tiredness in our legs.

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The day was cloudy but in fact we climbed really well in the cool air and slightly less steep gradient. As we got to 6000ft we entered the cloud base and fog and the temperature dropped to around freezing. We saw our first giant sequoia as we entered the King’s Canyon National Park but the entry station was closed up. There was a very occasional passing car but everything was eerily quiet in the fog.
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At the junction to Grant’s Grove Village we opted not to turn off route the couple of miles to the store in the vague hope that it might be open. A car stopped and a friendly couple of women told us that Montecito Lodge was open a few miles along the road, as you passed out of the national park into the national forest for a few miles because of the jagged boundary of the park. This was an important distinction because everything in the national park was closed but private lodges in the national forest were allowed to stay open (don’t ask us to explain these odd rules relating to the government shut down – it all depends on whose budget does what but it is all totally unclear!)
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As we continued to climb it started to drizzle, then turn to sleety hail and then to snow. We were wrapped up in waterproofs and remained warm while climbing but feet and hands were cold during the small drops, even with our full waterproof gloves and overshoes. It was possible that the weather would improve as we started to drop altitude but with a forecast for thunderstorms and snow to thicken in the afternoon were had a brief debate about) whether to stop and decided to try to stay at Montecito Lodge if hey hadroom. As we climbed the weather got worse and then, as we descended, the hail hurt our faces. Where was this lodge and, more importantly, would they have room? Eventualyy we passed the sign. We turned off the main road and cycled about a mile to the lakeside lodge. By this stage we could hardly even see that we were by a little lake in the fog.
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The reception staff at Montecito could not have been more friendly as we dripped in to the entrance – ‘get yourselves some hot coffee’ ‘stand by the log fire’ ‘get warm’. They had a room and although only it was midday, they certainly weren’t worried about the normal check in time of 4. The rate included evening meal and breakfast but they also served lunch and after we dried off we feasted on a delicious soup.
The forecast ‘snow showers’ in fact stayed as persistent snow all day. Not settling too much on the road it thickened up on the surrounding trees. An enforced lazy afternoon and evening was therefore had catching up with the blog and reading. It seemed inconceivable that within 24 hours we had gone from sweltering 90 degree heat to sub zero temperatures.
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We met the 2 women who had stopped their car ealier in the day at supper and they expressed their relief that we had got there safely and had been worried about us. We had our supper with them and it turned out to be Jenny’s birthday, compelete with birthday cake.
The forecast is better for tomorrow – we will see what it holds.

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