“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir


June 2014

Day 62: Nearly a Nearo

Miles: 16.73
Camping: PCT mile 907.34 (inside Devil’s Postpile National Monument…shhh)

At some point in the night I woke up to the sensation of a wet sleeping bag. I jolted up afraid the rain had returned. Looking out the mesh of my tent though, all I could see were millions of stars twinkling back at me. I realized I was dealing with some major condensation, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up many times slightly concerned, but tired enough to keep sleeping for patches of time.

When the sun finally started lightening the sky, I knew sleeping further would be futile. I wanted to get to Red’s Meadow for lunch, and would have to stop long enough to dry out my wet tent and sleeping bag. I reluctantly began to unzip my bag when I realized that the moisture had frozen. My sleeping bag and tent had turned to ice in the night! On the plus side, I can attest to the temperature rating of my bag, as I was kept warm all night.

I went over to my bear canister, which itself was frozen shut. With nothing standing between myself and breakfast, I managed to get it open with little fuss. I made my morning coffee and had a Clif Bar before packing up camp. The other 3 girls at camp didn’t start rising until I was about ready to leave, but we all had the same goal today and I knew I’d see them at Red’s Meadow.

I hiked until I came upon an exposed rock ledge just a tad off trail. I laid out my sleeping bag and tent to dry while I enjoyed second breakfast. They both dried out pretty fast, and in was back on trail in no time. The hiking was mostly wooded, so I let my mind wander as I made my way to yet another hot meal. I did pass mile marker 900 today! I can’t believe I am on my way to 1,000 miles soon, something unside of me is a little surprised I’ve made it this far…though I have no doubt I will finish this from sheer determination alone. 900 miles!

The last section before the “resort” was an old burn area. There was a lot of new growth everywhere, contrasting with the giant dead trees in the landscape. It was actually quite pretty, seeing a new forest being born. Arriving at Red’s Meadow was an entirely different story. There were people everywhere! Being a Saturday, the place was swarming with tourists. Many of them were doing short day hikes to Rainbow Falls or the Devil’s Postpile, then taking the bus back to Mammoth. I had been outside of civilization for about 8 days and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was the first of my group to arrive, so I grabbed an orange creamsicle from the store and enjoyed having a cell phone signal for the first time in a week by texting friends and uploading blogs/photos.

A few tourists took an interest in me so I spent some time answering their questions. I didn’t really want to answer the same questions over and over, but people are nice and genuinely interested. It’s all new to them, but I get asked the same things everywhere I go. We joke about making a shirt with all of the answers on it so we can just point.

A couple of hours later, I still hadn’t seen any sign of my friends. Food motivation is pretty powerful stuff, so I couldn’t imagine what could be keeping them. I decided to grab a beer from the store and ended up running into old pal Goldmine. I hadn’t seen him since Ziggy and The Bear’s house about 700 miles ago. We caught up a bit, and then Pockets arrived, complaining of more pain in her Achilles. She didn’t think she could hike much farther, but we still didn’t want to spend the time/money going into town.

We went into the cafe to go over our options. I had a turkey club and a root beer float, and we were invited to share a hotel room with Christine and Elaine in the town of Mammoth Lakes. We thought about it, as Pockets didn’t feel as if she could hike the 5 miles we had previously planned to do. In the end we decided to forego a trip to town and hike just 1 mile to camp. I liked this option best, as my goal is to get to Tuolumne by Monday.

We are now camped above the San Joaquin river, just a little over a mile from the Devil’s Postpile. I plan to do 19 miles tomorrow in order to shorten my hike into Tuolumne. We shall see what tomorrow holds.

Day 61: No More Pancakes Before Hiking

Miles: 14.89
Camping: Lake Victoria PCT mile 891.7

Breakfast was a sure thing at VVR, as I was told the pancakes are killer. We signed up for the 9am ferry across the lake and joined friends in the cafe. We all proceeded to do some damage to the menu, I think collectively ordering every possible thing. I got pancakes and sausage, which turned out to be less than stellar. I ate the plate clean regardless and went to pack up for the ferry.

The ride across the lake was a lot nicer than the previous day. The sun was shining and the mountains weren’t hiding behind dark, threatening clouds. Pockets and I got a quick start to the trail from shore, but just as quickly learned that our breakfast was going to prevent any designs we had on speedy hiking today. We accepted this fate, trudging along with bricks in our bellies, uphill for miles. We were ascending Silver Pass with hopes of making it to Purple Lake 17 miles up trail.

The pass was beautiful, and we were very relieved to be done climbing for the day. Pockets ate lunch, but I still wasn’t that hungry yet, so I simply snacked before we headed down the other side of the pass. I was still moving slow with a strange aching in my feet. It wasn’t that painful, but I paid close attention in case I needed to take rest early. I was moving slow either way. I listened to some podcasts to make the time pass, and we made it to Lake Victoria, almost a 15 mile day, after what seemed like an eternity. I usually leave for the day at 7am, so today’s late start was really noticeable with a late arrival to the lake.

We decided not to hike the extra 2 miles to Purple Lake, and made camp here at Lake Victoria. I soaked my feet in the cold mountain water until they went numb, and that helped the aching subside. Christine and Elaine, 2 girls we met at VVR joined us, and we all ate dinner beneath the mountains and next to the lake. I was really hungry by dinner time, so I made a big meal of cheesy rice with broccoli and tuna, and peanut M&M’s for dessert. It was a nice day, if not hard. I now lay in my tent vowing to never eat pancakes before a big hike again. Take note!

Day 60: Give Me a Motive and I’ll Give You a Nearo

Miles: 7.06
Camping: Vermilion Valley Resort

It took a while after opening my eyes to realize that the sky was grey and dark heavy clouds sat on every horizon. Faint drops of water collected in the mesh of my tent walls, and a few dark spots were present on my sleeping bag. Rain? This isn’t something I’d even considered, and I immediately began to hustle as I got my things together. The one thing I knew for certain was that I was headed for VVR with or without my friend. There was no way I was going over a pass with those ominous clouds hanging about, and it was pretty much the only other option outside of hanging out in my tent all day.

I asked Yvonne to pass word to Pockets if she passed her on the trail, and I didn’t waste any time moving on. The hike started uphill for roughly 2 miles, and I hadn’t eaten anything yet. I felt my energy ebb a bit, but I was driven by sheer determination to make it in time for the ferry. The rain began to fall harder, so I had to stop and throw on my poncho, which was a bit of a comedy show. I had only had to wear it once before, and that seemed like eons ago. There was some trick to getting it to cover me and my pack, and in my haste I found that I’d stuck my head through the arm hole. I shrugged at this minor problem as it was functional,and I was on the move with little time to spare. I flew through beautiful green space, ferns and wildflowers abundant and sometimes overgrown onto the trail. I loved the damp air, the smell of damp earth, the droplets of water that would transfer to my cool skin from nearby plants. It was a lovely morning. I am a gal of the Pacific Northwest after all.

I reached the turnoff for the VVR trail in great time. I’d been hoofing it at a pace nearly 3mph, which bode well for my catching the 9am ferry across the lake. Just as I began the final 1.4 mile push, I heard a loud scratching sound. It sounded like perhaps a raccoon climbing a tree, but when I located the source of the sound it was a bear! A small black bear was climbing a tree, and it stopped on the smallest of dead branches staring back at me. I stood there dumbfounded at first, and then snapped a picture before moving on. I had a sharp awareness for a potential mama bear lurking nearby but saw nothing more afterwards. I thought it kind of silly how scared that bear was of me, when it is the object of great fear out here. I did look like a giant jellyfish in my poncho, so maybe that worked to my advantage. Better bears are scared of humans in the long run (and jellyfish).

I arrived at the beach with no further incident. It was a long walk across the sand that used to be the bottom of Lake Edison. The water level was so low that we had to walk an extra quarter mile or so before reaching water. I wasn’t sure when the next ferry would arrive, so I sat on the windy shore contemplating how long I would wait before just walking. I got up and paced the beach, deciding I was too cold to sit still when I saw a boat moving towards me. I was relieved to not have to walk the apparently rough 4.5 miles around the lake. I had just managed 7 miles in 2.5 hours, and was ready for pancakes!

The boat ride was chilly, and I was the only passenger headed to the resort. I was dropped on shore where I ran into some fellow hikers headed back to the trail. I don’t know why they would choose to hike on in this rain if they didn’t have to but hey, hike your own hike. Just as I got in the warm jeep, and they into the cold boat, the rain began again. I was so happy with my choice to come here, it seemed meant to be. If only Pockets got my message!

When I walked into the store/cafe Pockets was already there! She had hiked an alternate trail, and managed to beat me while I waited for the boat ride. I was so happy to see her, and it turned out we had the same inclination the day before, both nervous the other wouldn’t agree. Alas, here we were, and it felt good. We spent the day eating, doing laundry, etc. We met some new friends, reacquainted with old friends, and generally enjoyed some down time. We all plan to hike out tomorrow and get our move on to Yosemite in just 3.5 days with a stop at Red’s Meadow for dinner in 2 nights. It’s been great to hang out in the Sierra for the last week, but it feels good to experience the other side of things as well. Trail towns are just as much a part of the PCT as the hiking in a way. It’s when we all become somewhat (sometimes barely) civilized for a day or two and get to relax and share our stories. It’s a beautiful time of human connection that balances out the beautiful time of nature connection on the trail. I love it all.

Oregon beer

Day 59: Mosquito Country

Miles: 18.14
Camping: PCT mile 873.64

I suppose nothing is meant to be truly perfect. After walking through more awesome scenery with more awesome lakes up to Selden Pass things changed dramatically. Everything was going well this morning as I made my way through the forest, I stopped on a rock for second breakfast and found some pure white Shooting Stars, a flower I’m quite familiar with but have only seen in purple. I feel as if the white one’s are pretty rare, so that made spotting them pretty cool.

The walking was quite easy all day, and I made it to the top of the pass at noon, which was 10 miles. I had thought about having lunch up there, but decided to go just over half a mile to some lakes instead so there would be water and a potential swim. That was when all hell broke loose. Mosquito hell, that is. I stopped to fill my water bottle and was immediately swarmed by the little suckers. I kept moving, hoping to find a spot with a breeze, but there wasn’t one, and the mosquitoes were relentless. Eventually, I found a spot with an occasional breeze, which meant an occasional break from their incessant buzzing. It had to do as it was well after lunch hour, and my tummy wasn’t going to let that fact go unnoticed. I swatted at mosquitoes while making tortilla soup, and ate quickly. Unfortunately, my rushed lunch kept me ahead of Pockets, but I figured we would catch up later. I had to get away from the blood sucking demons.

There was little chance to stop so I kept a steady pace, not even stopping to take pictures today. This rushed speed was wearing me down, but it was move quick or be eaten. I started to think a break at VVR wouldn’t be a bad idea. Not just to escape mosquitoes, but in general. It became my only thought: VVR tomorrow. I had to see if Pockets saw my logic; stopping there would take less time and be less stressful than Mammoth, and I really want to get to Yosemite (which will take a day and a half less time if we go to VVR instead of Mammoth). We are so close! For those who don’t know, I worked in Yosemite for 3 years starting in 1999, and I haven’t been back for a decade. I’ve been looking forward to it since I decided to do this hike. So, going to VVR would get us there a day and a half sooner, and we would get to eat pancakes tomorrow. Yes, all I had to do was see if Pockets was on board.

I stopped at Bear Creek for a river ford and decided to pee first. Just as I squatted down in the brush I was swarmed by at least 500 mosquitoes! I was basically giving them a meal of my bare bum, but had no choice but to finish the deed I had started. I rushed through it and ran back to my pack, storming through the river, shoes and all. They didn’t let up on the other side either following me straight to the next ford a mile later. I was so thirsty, but didn’t dare stop and let them catch me. I just moved as swiftly as I could, growing more tired and thirsty every minute. Finally, I found myself on an exposed ledge with a breeze. I paused briefly to see if they would attack…and just a few stragglers took advantage of my pause. I immediately sat on a rock and drank my entire water supply and had some snacks. I stayed there for half an hour, still awaiting the arrival of Pockets, but with no sign of her, I chose to push on.

It was only 4 miles from where I figured we would camp, so I made my way slowly, hoping she’d catch up. Arriving at camp, there was still no sign of her, so I got to chatting with a JMT hiker already camped here. Her name is Yvonne, and is from the Bay Area. We talked for an hour or so while I cooked up supper…and still no Pockets. Now I’m a tad worried as it is getting dark. She has an emergency phone that works on satellite, and with an absence of helicopters today, I know there was no real emergency. Her Achilles have been bothering her though, and it seems as if she isn’t going to make the 18 miles today. This concerns me: 1. That doesn’t bode well for us getting to Mammoth in a timely manner 2. I don’t want to take the morning ferry to VVR if she isn’t there, or she won’t be able to go (they only run ferries in the morning). I am concerned about my friend’s well being and am not sure how to execute tomorrow. Do I wait until she gets here before I hike? Do I go to VVR without her? Do I hike on and hope she catches up? I guess I will wait and see how I feel tomorrow and trust that it will all work out…

white shooting stars

Day 58: A Brush With Greatness

Miles: 17.12
Camping: PCT mile 855.68

I woke up in the middle of the night to headlamps entering the hut. I had been in a deep enough sleep that the light mostly disoriented me and the voices that accompanied it weren’t real. I pretty much rolled over and assumed Pockets was up doing something, but I didn’t investigate. When first light hit the window, I thought about getting up for sunrise, but I had slept poorly on the stone bench, and I had been strangely woken up in the night. I went back to sleep satisfied with the sunset last night, and woke up an hour later realizing there were two new bodies on the floor. I didn’t recognize them and assumed they were JMTers (those hiking the John Muir Trail…we are currently in a section where it and the PCT overlap, so we see more of them than PCT hikers. I even ran into a guy I dated last summer who is hiking the JMT this year…small world!). It turned out they were PCTers that knew Pockets but I hadn’t met them before. They said that they came in last night with Anish! She only stayed for a 30 minute nap and then left. I was so disappointed to have missed her, but felt slightly elevated that we shared sleeping space, if only briefly.

So, Anish, for those who don’t know is (excuse my language) a true badass. My facts may be slightly skewed here, but I have no way to verify every detail at the moment. Here is what I know: last year she set the record for an unsupported hike of the PCT in around 60 days. Take a minute with that: she hiked 2,660 miles in 60 days.

An unsupported hike means not taking help from people unless offered. It has to be a natural hike, where supported speed hikes have someone designated to follow along with a car and help along the way. Anish did about 50 miles per day, and broke the unsupported speed record last year. Legend has it that when she got to Washington (WARNING: this next part is gross!), she was sitting by the trail when someone asked if she needed anything. She asked for moleskin…this was because her tailbone had broken through her skin where her pack rubbed, and she used moleskin to cover it up in order to finish the hike. Pure badass.

This year she is attempting the speed record for the JMT, unsupported. This means minimal sleep, hence the 30 minute siesta in the hut where I was sleeping. She started on Whitney 2 days ago (I was there a week ago!) and is doing 2-3 passes a day. I continue to be in awe of that kind of dedication.

For me, I was happy to stroll along on my 17.12 mile hike today. It was like all the others-magical. We hiked, swam in the river, ate a lot, talked about eating, forded a river, and ran into old pal Blisster. He is the first PCT hiker we have seen on trail since Rae Lakes. We have a couple more days until we hit town again…it will be a full week by the time we revisit civilization. It’s been a wonderful place to really get lost in nature, and I almost don’t want to go to town. I feel like a spell will be broken as soon as we are back in civilization, but I’ll be ready when we get there I’m sure (food, showers, laundry, beer and more food!) but until then, I will fall asleep amongst the pines, listening to the sound of the rushing river. Life is good.

Here is a TED talk by Anish about her speed record:

Day 57: Wonderland

Miles: 18.07
Camping: Muir Hut on Muir Pass PCT mile 838.55
Elevation: 11,974

I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out of the mesh ceiling of my tent. There were more stars than I could fathom, and I lay there just looking in awe. I really have a hard time getting my head around the infinite beauty in this world and just on this trail. It is awe inspiring.

Upon waking up for the day, I watched the sun go through its morning routine of touching upon the world, inch by inch. I made coffee, ate a trail bar and made my way back to the trail before Pockets was even awake. We wanted to get just below Muir Pass today so we could go over in the morning. The seed had been planted, however, to stay in the hut on the pass to watch the sunset and sunrise. We figured we would see how the day went.

The day started out as magical as ever. I climbed down a steep cliff via switchbacks, as a lush valley opened up below me. Everything was teeming with life, even the mountains as they burst forth in giant waterfalls. The mosquitoes were rather hellish, so I kept moving down lower into the magical world of the Sierra without stopping. There were so many different plants and trees today. I stopped and enjoyed the different varieties, including groves of Quaking Aspen. I learned that if you stand real still amidst the shimmering leaves and close your eyes, the trees will whisper their secrets to you.

As has become common, we followed a rushing river for most of the day. It was raging forth in places, placid and serene in others. Sometimes it meandered through a grassy meadow, other times through rugged cliffs and giant boulders. The constant sound of flowing water, along with the songs of the birds and the secrets of the Aspens made up the soundtrack of today. I also spent some time enjoying the company of 3 deer who I periodically found grazing on the trail ahead. It was fast becoming my favorite day on trail.

The day was hot so I sought a spot to take lunch where I could get in the river. There was a great spot about halfway to the pass, so I made myself comfortable there. The water was a bit swift, so I got in thigh deep and washed myself in the cold flow without giving up my footing to the current. This cooled me down tremendously, though temporarily. I made lunch of noodles and veggies with jerky, and lounged a bit with my toes in the river.

After lunch I was surprised I had yet to see Pockets. I walked a bit slower with the idea of making it over the pass today. It was easy walking, and we would save a lot of time if we got some extra miles in today. My idea is to skip VVR (Vermilion Valley Resort) and head straight to Mammoth. This will put us out here for a whole week without the luxuries of town, and I love the idea. The only issue would be food. As I pondered the option of a 3 mile hike to Muir Trail Ranch to raid the hiker box, I came upon some folks out for a 4 day backpacking trip. We got to talking, and wouldn’t you know, they had too much food! They offered to give us some, which would make it possible to stay out here longer. Pockets still hadn’t appeared, so I waited to consult with her. I found a neat campsite with stone chairs and waited in the shade until she arrived. She was fully on board with my plan, and we aquired fresh provisions from our new, wonderful friends. They were happy to give up the weight, and we were happy to save time and money on a side trip to VVR.

We also decided to get to the hut on the pass and stay there tonight. The trail up was by far my favorite hike so far. I’m running out of adjectives to describe it all. It’s simply Wonderland. We hiked through snow, around lakes, across many streams and up boulders to the quaint hut on top of the pass. Here we met Dan, an 80 year old attempting the John Muir Trail, though he is ready to quit, as it is too much for him. He’s competed in Ironman before and looks the part! Good on him for attempting this hike, and especially making it this far! Go Dan!

We watched the sunset over the mountains and are now curled up on stone benches in the hut. Time to sleep in order to catch the sunrise…though I continue to wonder how tomorrow could ever follow today.

Muir Hut

Day 56: Looking Glass Lakes, Boulder Fields and Butterflies

Miles: 14.42
Camping: PCT mile 820.56

When I woke up this morning, I looked around me and admired my surroundings. There were a lot of marmots living there, and I thought of it as a marmot shire; green fields surrounded by picture perfect mountains, streams flowing from every angle into crisp alpine lakes. The marmots sure know where to choose their village.

I got my camp chores done and began fiddling with a new bear can configuration in my pack. This time it would sit vertically instead of horizontally; against my spine instead of leaning out pulling on my shoulders. It probably should have been tried sooner, but I followed the advice of someone with experience, and I trusted him. In the end, I have learned to listen but use my own experience out here. There are simply too many opinions.

I headed out of camp ahead of Pockets who was just waking up, but we knew we would eventually run into each other. The hike today began as a climb as we had stopped just below Pinchot Pass the night before. It was a fairly easy mile before I found myself atop the pass by 8 am. I had the whole place to myself and it was a picture perfect morning, the sun shining warmly, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. I ate some snacks, did some meditation and some yoga stretches while once again sitting on top of the world. The north side of the pass had beautiful lakes reflecting the morning sky and snow streaked mountains, the south side had the trail and mountains we had just passed through yesterday. It’s always an epic 360 degree view from the passes, one worth savoring as much as possible.

The descent headed towards the lakes, clear as looking glass without a ripple from the wind. They reflected the beautiful deep blue of glacial water and sky, and I was enamored with their beauty as I headed down in elevation. The trail found its way by the shore of the second lake where I decided to do a little laundry. I rinsed out some socks and underwear but was soon harassed by a gang of mosquitoes, so I moved on.

I continued through lush green meadows and crossed rushing streams with water cascading from everywhere. This eventually turned to nice cool forest where there were old pine trees, spreads of wildflowers and more rushing water. Water is so abundant here I’ve nearly forgotten about the desert…nearly. I stopped by a deep section of river as the heat grew stronger and began to shed layers. I had every intention of getting in, and started by rinsing off my dirty legs. The water was frigid though, and I chickened out. I’m more likely to take the plunge with someone around to hold me accountable. Otherwise, my dislike of freezing cold water is far too strong. I stayed by the banks and took a bird bath in the ice water when Pockets arrived. We decided to take lunch there, which was an idyllic spot. The trail wound its way through the thick meadow right beside us, the mountains took over the sky and deer grazed across the river. Life is good.

We hiked another 4.5 miles to the top of Mather Pass, where we stopped once again to admire 360 degree views of pure Sierra perfection. It never stops being surreal how beautiful everything is, no matter where you look. It is all straight out of a magazine/calendar/postcard/fantasy. We started our way down the pass through the typical snow field, taking our time to tread lightly on the sun softened snow. It became apparent that it wouldn’t be that easy after a few short steps. The slopes were steep and covered in the slushy snow, so we would have to navigate down boulder fields to get back to the trail. I found it fun and exciting to skip along boulders down the slope, being careful and carefree all at once. It took some time but a mile later, we were back on trail and headed into a beautiful canyon with more lakes.

The trail and views were like Rivendale, water cascading all around us landing in the pristine lakes below, wildflowers swaying in the gentle breeze, hillsides rich with life; marmots, chipmunks, picas, songbirds and even cool silver lizards.  There were stands of willow shrubs along the trail that were full of butterflies and every time we passed one about a hundred of them would fly out of the bush and surround us. It was magical. Sometimes I feel like Alice, and this is Wonderland.

We aimed for the last lake in the valley and followed another idyllic path down the way. Water continued to spill from the mountainside freely, creating countless waterfalls and cascades. We stopped and had supper on a giant boulder overlooking the lake, and admired more of the magical scenery you just can’t describe. Nothing says perfect like the Sierra.

We found our place on the shores of the far lake after supper, setting up camp on the exposed banks. This means a chilly night but it’s worth it to stay in this valley just a while longer. Pockets went off to fish, and I studied maps in my tent. The sun is setting and it is growing cold, time to curl up with my book (Animal Farm by Gorge Orwell). Muir Pass tomorrow. Goodnight.

Day 55: It Ain’t Easy Making Passes

Miles: 12.72
Camping: PCT mile 806.22

We slept in today under the false illusion that we had all the time in the world to make it 15 miles. Typically that is a short day, but in the Sierra 15 miles is a lot of work! I did enjoy the relaxed nature of the morning, sipping coffee and watching the sun break over the mountains, fetching water from the lake as the fish jumped.

When we left camp, neither of us checked the time. It must have been after 9am. I was trying a new method of carrying my bear can inside my pack as opposed to strapping it on the top (which had been suggested to me by a previous year’s hiker). This made my pack feel as if it was even more full of bricks. My shoulders were feeling the weight in a few short miles, though I kept it packed that way until lunch. We stopped at the 800 mile marker after crossing a cool suspension bridge. The bridge made me feel a little bit drunk to cross, as it swayed with each step.

Our lunch was next to a cascading river that was like a giant water slide. If only we could actually ride it, but the water was swift, and large rocks aplenty. Instead we just appreciated it while we ate. For some reason my energy really began to flag after lunch, and I was making painfully slow miles. The air was humid and my breathing became labored as we climbed up above 11,000 ft. I had no problems with Whitney or Forrester, and yet approaching 12,000 ft Pinchot Pass was becoming quite the challenge. It was 7 miles of elevation gain of about 4,000 ft, and I seemed to feel every foot in my lungs. This lack of oxygen translated to lethargic muscles and a frustrated hiker.

After a few miles of lethargic walking, we decided to take advantage of a small grassy area just under a mile from the pass. We were making slow and labored miles, so it seemed best to stop and set up camp early. Otherwise, we would have to clear the pass and possibly more snow and then find camping. Who knew if we could accomplish that before dark. Now we have ourselves set up for another 2 pass day tomorrow, but in only 10.66 miles. We will then try to get as close to Muir Pass as we can for the following day. After that we should be able to catch up on a few miles, with only one more easy pass between us and resupply. This could take 5 more days.

At least the scenery is captivating as we make smaller miles. That, and we are still accomplishing something every day. We will come out of here so much stronger, and we are staying positive. For now, I am ready to close my eyes before the sun goes down…this day wore me out!

Pockets was so fast today!

Day 54: Making Passes

Miles: 11.72
Camping: Rae Lakes PCT mile 793.3

I had one thing on my mind when I woke up this morning, and it was shockingly breakfast. I had bought the ingredients to make banana pancakes with real maple syrup and homemade chicken apple sausage. It’s been a while since I have cooked, and the only way to fulfill my cravings is to make them myself. I was the first up in the hostel, so I put on some music and started making breakfast. It felt good to make food, and I made enough to share with the next few people to come downstairs. It was all I had dreamed it would be, and I was able to feed Terrible, Horrible, Tink, Pockets and Will as well. I love feeding people, including myself!

After breakfast, Pockets and I went out to hitch to the trail. It seemed to take a long time, but finally a nice man in a truck pulled over. He took us to the road that leads to the trailhead and we wandered across the street to Subway to grab sandwiches to eat on trail. We then walked back to where we would need to grab our next hitch. No cars drove by for a while, but the first one to pass stopped and let us ride in the bed of his truck. That was super fun, winding up the mountain road, wind in our hair, giggling like school girls.

We rather dreaded the hike today. We had come down Kearsarge Pass two days ago, and it was a steep 2700 ft loss in 4 miles. It was easy with empty rations and the motivation of town treats, but now we had 7 days worth of food, and other refilled items. Our packs were nearly 40 lbs. It’s never so much the hike, as it is a hike with a heavy pack. Without much choice we set up the pass, happy to be headed back to the trail. We were going home.

We passed lots of day hikers, all super enamored with our trek. “You’re hiking from where to where?” Maybe it makes their short journey seem easier to hear what we are up to. Surprisingly, we had a pretty easy time going up. We both had to stop to give our shoulders a rest halfway up, but our bodies are strong and the climb posed little challenge. The altitude gain had us pause to catch our breath periodically, but that’s to be expected.

The hike was beautiful, passing gnarled bristlecone pines, alpine lakes where fish jump freely, cascading waterfalls, and of course giant rock monoliths and mountains. Parts felt like different scenes in Lord of the Rings. We magically landed on top of the pass within 2 hours, where we ate half of our sandwiches and admired the view. It was less windy than 2 days prior, so we were able to really enjoy the top.

We knew there was another pass in 7 miles, which if we cleared it tonight would make tomorrow more productive. We had heard mixed reviews on it’s difficulty but were up to the challenge nonetheless. Glen Pass is said to be the steepest and scariest, rising to 11,979 ft. As a low snow year, we had heard it wasn’t so bad, and were even told Forrester was harder. We both found Forrester to be kind of easy so went on to Glen Pass assuming we would be up and over in a couple of hours.

The hike up was no big deal. As gorgeous as all passes, with the obligatory turquoise alpine lakes, snow fields and epic views. We sat on top, eating more sandwich and looking at the dozen or so lakes, mountain passes and snow. We could see the lakes we hoped to camp at, and watched two other hikers traverse the giant snow field we would have to navigate to get there. We figured we could be at camp in a little over an hour, and took off to finish the day.

The initial approach through the snow immediately set us straight. It was steep and soft with not a lot of set steps to use. Instead we had to sort of slide down on our feet like skiing, and use trekking poles to navigate. Pockets squatted down and took it low, where I stayed upright and relied heavily on my poles to not slide out of control. Fortunately, the path was well worn, so if we fell it wouldn’t be down the mountain but through a sort of chute in the snow. Because the snow fields were so long and steep, there was a new “trail” forged down the mountain, steep and rocky but safer and easier. We had to take our time sliding on loose rock with heavy packs, carefully placing our feet only inches from the previous step. It took an hour to go a mile, and it was turning dusk. The navigation took time, patience and great care to insure our safe arrival at camp tonight. We worried about Pathfinder trying to negotiate the pass in the morning, when the slushy snow would be turned to ice and exponentially more treacherous with no possible traction. There is a reason it is cautioned not to clear that particular pass in the morning. We were happy we did it in the evening.

Arriving at camp was another postcard moment. Large, beautiful lakes etched into granite valleys with fish jumping everywhere. The only downside was the arrival of mosquitoes that would begin to swarm whenever we would stop to take a picture or admire a view. It didn’t stop us from enjoying the beautiful place we had arrived though, and we happily greeted friends who were already there. We watched the sun set red over the lake, putting itself to bed behind the mountains. Tomorrow is Solstice, aka “hike naked day.” We have no designs on hiking naked, but there may be a morning skinny dip if we are feeling brave.

Until tomorrow. Goodnight.

Pockets and I on Kearsarge Pass
The snowy traverse on the north side of Glen Pass
Pockets on the pass
The “chute”
Rae Lakes

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