Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 41 - 54

Day 41: PCT miles (0)

Lori and I had a great day together. After a leisurely morning we explored the Alabama Hills where many movies (especially westerns) have been filmed. It was hot, getting into the 90's, so we were relieved to drive up to Horseshoe Meadows, where it was much cooler. We spent the night there, sleeping in our car.

Mobius Arch

Day 42: PCT miles 745 to 766

It was hard to say goodbye, Lori and I will not see each other for three months. She has her adventures in India while I have the PCT. But we will both be very busy so I think the time will go quickly.

Started the climb out of Horseshoe Meadow with a very full pack. Eight days of food plus the bear canister to hold it in. But the new pack seems to be handling it well. Seemed like quite a bit of climbing but it could just be that the thin air makes moving more difficult. Just have to slow it down a bit. Made my way to Crabtree Meadows where I ran into a bunch of thru-hikers. Most had climbed Mt Whitney and were resting up after. I plan to climb it tomorrow. It is 16 miles out of my way but this may be my only chance to do it. At 14,500 feet it is the highest point in the Continental US. Need to sleep well tonight.

Crabtree Meadow

Day 43: PCT miles 766 to 770 (+ Whitney side trip)

Woke up early, although not as early as those who wanted to see the sunrise on top of Mt. Whitney. I camped at around 10,000 feet so I had 4000 more to climb over 7 miles. The walk was pleasant if a bit cold, the water kept freezing in my water bottle. Because of the altitude I had to go slow but I made it to the top by 10 am. There was some snow but no need for crampons or ice axe. Views were great, I had heard that it is possible to get cell reception there but I had no luck.

Whitney Hut

The way down was much faster and I was back for lunch. After a nap, I packed up and hiked another four miles to be closer to Forester Pass.

View going down from Whitney

Day 44: PCT miles 770 to 790

The first half of the day was climbing. Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet. So its all downhill from there! I wasn't sure how much snow there would be but I heard that it wasn't too bad. Hiking up the south side of the pass is very steep and not for those who fear heights. But it went much faster than I expected. After enjoying the view I headed down, being careful on the steep snow slope. The trail was buried under snow so I just followed the track of those that went before me.

It went fast and the snow was starting to get slushy by the time I got into the valley. Water everywhere and absolutely wonderful, didn't mind the wet feet, just so happy to see so much water. Spending the night at around 11,000 feet just below Glen Pass. Not sure what to expect tomorrow, the north side of Glen Pass is very steep and will have a lot of snow.

North Side of Forester Pass

I think this one got lost

Day 45: PCT miles 790 to 808

Toughest 18 miles of the trail so far. I made it to the summit of Glen pass (11947 ft.) by 7:00 am. Going up wasn't too difficult but going down was. The north side of Glen pass is very steep and covered in snow. The snow was frozen hard and slippery, I very carefully followed the footprints down the slope. It was a bit sketchy and the first time I wished I had crampons. But I made it down without mishap.

Looking up to Glen Pass

The next six miles were pleasant enough with snow and water everywhere. My feet were soaked from the many stream crossings as well as the snow but it was all so beautiful that I didn't mind. After lunch the climb began as the trail wound back up 3500 feet. A couple miles from Pinchot pass (12139 ft.) the trail disappeared under snow. I navigated with map and guesswork. The going was slow as I kept postholing in the sun warmed snow. Sometimes I would sink to my hip. This was frustrating and tedious but as I neared the top of the pass, the snow gave way to rock.

Snow Travel

Needless to say, I was really happy to be at the top. Fortunately, the north side of Pinchot was not as steep nor did it have as much snow as the south side. There was a stiff breeze and my wet feet were cols so I quickly hiked down a couple more miles to a small campsite. I think it might be a chilly night.
Super happy to have made it to the top

Day 46: PCT miles 808 to 832

It was hard to get out of the warm sleeping bag, temperature 24 degrees. I made coffee and breakfast wrapped in my bag. I met up with Red as I started out and we hiked together for a while. We were able to keep our feet dry for the first couple of water crossings bit at Kings river we had to give up and wade through. Feet are not dry for long at this time of year.

Marmot eating breakfast

Looking up to Mather Pass

The ascent to Mather pass ( 12096 ft.) was not too bad until the steep switchbacks up the top. I had to do a lot of scrambling as parts of the trail were under slick snow. Once again I wished I had some traction for my shoes. The north side of the pass was completely covered in snow. I moved very slowly and carefully down, on the steeper parts I slid on my butt too as the footsteps were slick. I don't normally say this but I did not particularly like this pass. It is probably fine when clear of snow but as it was today, a little too sketchy for my taste.

North side of Mather Pass

After that it was all downhill and beautiful waterfalls. I was really impressed with this section of trail. I am camped next to the middle fork of the Kings river. The mosquitoes are finally out, I expect they will get worse in the coming weeks but for now they are manageable.

Day 47: PCT miles 832 to 855

All the days for this past week seem to start the same. Cold mornings, start climbing right away until over a pass and then drop back down into a valley. I felt sluggish this morning and blame the hummous I made. Apparently my body does not like my hummous and it was letting me know all morning.

Heading up to Muir Pass

After a couple of hours I felt better. The way up to Muir pass (11973 ft.) was not too steep, but long and winding. There was no trail for the 3 or 4 miles leading up. I followed footprints and guessed my way up the pass. There is a stone hut built right at the top and it is really cool. I met up with Red there and we hiked the rest of the day together. 

Muir Hut

More snow on the north side of the pass for many miles but it wasn't steep. Once past the snow the trail dropped 4000 feet down into a valley. Waterfalls and streams are everywhere. We crossed Evolution creek which has a reputation of being dangerous but it was only knee deep and the current was manageable.
North of Muir Pass

We are camped next to it for the night. I am so tired and sore it is all I can do to set up camp, eat and write this entry. Most nights I am in bed and asleep by 8:30. Tonight is no different, sweet dreams.


Day 48 PCT miles 855 to 879

The goal today was to get over the next pass and get close to Vermillion Valley Resort, my next resupply. The trail up to Seldon pass (10910 ft.) was not difficult and this has been the most friendly pass yet. Not too steep and without much snow. There were even trees on the pass. Made good time and decided to make a run to VVR. The last 8 miles were mostly downhill and despite sore feet, I went 4 miles per hour to get to VVR and food. Had a shower, did laundry, ate and got my resupply box before bed. 

Red crossing Bear Creek

Day 49: PCT miles 879 to 896

Got out of VVR, certainly a nice place but the costs add up quickly. I got a boat ride across Lake Edison. Pleasant day for a walk, even after the thunderstorm came through. Fortunately I was past Silver Pass by that point and down in the trees. The lightning passed and was followed by rain and hail. Under my umbrella I was as happy as could be and kept walking. Going into Mammoth tomorrow, I am hoping Lori can meet me one last time before her trip. This was an unplanned visit but is possible because I am a week ahead of schedule.

Boat ride!

Day 50: PCT miles 896 to 904

The miles went fast in the morning and by 9 am I was at Horseshoe Lake and on the free trolley into Mammoth. So far I have only seen Mammoth Village and it is very clean and well maintained. Definitely a resort town with good and pricey food options. I ate two lunches, one when I first got into town and one when Lori arrived, it was great! We met up with Red for dinner and had a nice evening.

I am now mostly finished with the high Sierras, and I am both happy and sad about that. It has been the most challenging section of trail so far and also the most rewarding. I will definitely be back some day to visit again. 

I have made a slight change of plans. As I am meeting a friend in Mammoth on the 11th, I have a little free time so I have decided to drive with Lori up to Seattle. Her flight to India is out of there and it will be good to spend a couple more days with her. I will then fly back to Sacramento, get picked up by Dave and we will head back to Mammoth to start our hike to Tuolumne Meadows. I am excited for a little road trip and a chance to rest my feet for a few days. This will put me back to about 2 days ahead of my original schedule.

Day 51: PCT miles (0)

It is a little bit surreal to be back in Davis but still nice. I did not expect to be here for a few more months. It's hot! Lori and I are leaving for Seattle tomorrow and I should be back on the trail by Thursday. Excited for a little road trip.

Day 52:  PCT miles (0)

Lori and I left Davis after a nice big breakfast, where I stuffed myself silly. Good to get out of the heat as we drove north. A quick stop in Ashland and then on the Eugene where we spent the night. Tried some very nice Pinot Noirs at a local tasting room.

Day 53: PCT miles (0)

From Eugene we headed up to Portland for lunch and a look around. Been hearing great things about the city. We hit up Voodoo Donuts and the food trucks before getting back on the road to get to Sienna and Aarons. Great to see them again and their new house, looks like it is getting fixed up nicely. The dogs were fun and full of energy, I miss having dogs in my life!

Aaron and Sienna

Jumping Bean

Day 54: PCT miles (0)

The final goodbye with Lori, it was great to spend a couple of extra days with her before her big trip. I am excited for her and I know she will have a great time and learn a lot. I can't help but worry a little but I know will be fine, she has been very carefully planning. 

I caught a plane back to Sacramento and got picked up at the airport by Dave. We drove back down to Mammoth for the night and stayed at the Davison Guest House, a pretty nice place for hikers and not too expensive. Back on the trail in the morning, I am excited!

Not sure when the next update will be, it depends on when I can get to a computer and they are getting fewer for this next section.

Animals seen so far:
Marmots: greater than 50
Deer: 36
Pika: 2
Random lizards: 3