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.