Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 9,560 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 17 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 787.3 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 60s 40s
Injuries- sore feet
Pain level- moderate
Days without shower- 7
Hunger/craving- buffet sushi
I don’t think I could have gone further today if someone paid me. It was the most uniquely challenging day of my hiking career thus far.
The beauty was indescribable. I was hiking in a bowl of snow covered mountains, filled with lakes, waterfalls, rivers, runoffs, snow packs, and marmots.
From the get go, I had about 9.5 miles and thousands of feet of climbing to reach Forester Pass, the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, at 13,200 ft. Before I could get there, I had to ford two rapidly flowing rivers, pick my way over rocks, through mud, and over miles of snow pack.
There were marmots everywhere, all day. They look a lot like a woodchuck, but way fluffier. Every single one of them looked like they needed a hug, from me. I absolutely love the marmots. They prance around and stand on rocks, keeping an ever watchful eye on you. They’re cinnamon colored, usually with a caramel colored tail, and caramel colored tufts of fur coming off their hind legs. Watching them run around makes me miss Katana that much more. I need my little fur baby to squeeze and love on!
The most interesting and challenging part of the day was trudging over the snow packs. It was slow going, but so new to me, that I enjoyed it. However, as the day went on, I stopped enjoying it; the novelty wore off.
The altitude was really getting to me today too. My head was swimming, and my sense of balance was thrown off. I had to stop and rest probably every half mile.
Snow covered so much of the area, that the trail was all but invisible. All I could do was follow the footprints of those who’d gone before me, and even then, I’d still get lost, pick a point ahead of me that had footprints, then make for them.
The final one mile climb up to the pass completely wore me out. Half of it was pure snow pack, and no trail. I didn’t have micro spikes, or an ice axe; just my trail runners and staff. It was a climb that words cannot do justice to, and I’m sure my pictures won’t either.
I didn’t see another soul for the last 5 mile trek up the mountain; not in front, and not looking back across the way I came. When I was half a mile from the top, I laid back against a rock to take a break. I don’t know what time I sat down, or for how long, but I guess I fell asleep. I didn’t awake until a foreign section hiker walked past me. I must have been out for nearly an hour, because there was nobody in sight when I sat down.
I finished the final treacherous half mile, had the other hiker snap a picture of me at the summit, then began the 8 mile descent.
The far side of forester pass had about 10 times the amount of snow than the near side. The first several miles were nothing but trudging through snow pack. I can’t even tell you how many times I slipped, tripped, fell, slid, or sunk anywhere from my shin up to my hip in snow. It was grueling, exhausting, and somewhat nerve racking. When I would sink up to my hip in snow, but still couldn’t feel the ground with my foot, it got me wondering…what’s beneath me? How far down is it? What if my whole body just sunk down through? Not being accustomed to any of this, they seemed like valid questions.
Alas, I didn’t break a leg, pull anything, fall off a cliff, or disappear down an abyss; but my shoes were constantly filled with snow, and I did slide about 100 ft down a slope on my ass, after an intense gust of wind pelted my face with ice and grit.
After the last of the snow packs, the rest of the descent was mostly rock, mud, sand, and water crossings.
On the last 4 miles I could see and smell smoke. I have no idea where it’s coming from, but it’s got me on edge. I don’t see or hear any helicopters, so I’m not too worried just yet. Tomorrow I’ll be back to my 25 mile days, but the terrain is nothing but 3-4 thousand foot climbs and descents, one after the other, after the other. I can definitely feel myself wearing down.