Location- side of trail
Elevation- 9,577 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 18 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,072.7 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, 70s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- in awe
Wildlife encounters- marmots
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 8
I can’t remember a more rewarding day hiking. The Cirque of the Towers lived up to everything I’d ever heard, hoped, or thought of. Being labor day weekend, there was a great deal of traffic on the Cirque, but I must admit it didn’t take anything away from the experience. Nothing could ruin this incredible landscape and the only thing that really surprised me was that there weren’t MORE people out here breathing all of this in.
Honestly I have no idea how I’ve never heard of this stretch of trail/area before this hike. I’ve never seen pictures and I’ve never heard the name. I suppose it’s because it’s not in a National Park, therefore it goes under people’s radar. Another contributing factor is probably that there is no road leading into the Cirque. There is a road and a trailhead not far away, but if you’re going to experience the entire Cirque, then you’re in for some high difficulty hiking to earn it. The extra effort alone is enough to deter some people. In fact, I saw people turning back on some of the passes, afraid to go further or higher.
So I don’t really know what to say about today as a whole. In terms of exciting happenings or dangerous occurrences…there weren’t any. In terms of mesmerizing views and mind bending landscapes…there were plenty. However, describing beauty through writing is hardly exciting, especially when you have pictures to do it for you. So I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this post, and I’ll give a little recap of some of the other little highlights and details of the day.
Over the course of 18 or so miles, we crossed over 3 different passes; Texas Pass, Jackass Pass, and one other pass which had no marked name. These three passes were collectively the steepest, most challenging, and most beautiful passes I have ever traversed consecutively in one day. They weren’t long climbs, but they were steep enough to kill you should you take a bad fall. To give you an idea of the steepness, I’ll provide the elevation gain over distance. For the first climb up Texas Pass, the trail gained nearly 700 feet in only 0.4 miles. That’s a short distance, but the climb was sheer and treacherous over the rocks and scree. This was where I saw people turning back. The next climb wasn’t as bad going up Jackass Pass, and gained only around 600 feet in half a mile. It was the descent down Jackass that was more dicey over some snowpack and slight rock scrambles. The third pass with no name was hands down the most challenging; gaining over 900 feet in 0.6 miles. The crazy aspect of this climb was that you didn’t even have to boulder, you were actually hiking up incredibly steep dirt, sand, and scree. I think bouldering is easier than hiking up nearly vertical dirt. I’d rather distribute the effort and energy between my quads while bouldering, rather than leaning into a steep, smooth climb with my calves taking most the brunt. Doing these passes consecutively made for an exhaustingly rewarding, endorphin filled day. I loved it.
The other highlights of the day included me fly fishing Lonesome Lake, but not catching anything. This wasn’t for lack of fish however, they simply weren’t reacting to the fly. It also seemed like every other person brought their dog out with them, which warmed my heart, but also tugged at it. I wanted Katana out here more so today than any other day so far. She would have loved this area. I also saw a pygmy goat with a pack on who was following its owner like a lost puppy. It was one of the coolest sights I’ve seen, and now I want a goat. I could put a little saddle on it, then it could carry Katana on her bad/stubborn days.
Puma got sick today and unfortunately had to bail out of the Cirque on a side trail to a parking lot about 8 miles in. He was feeling weak, nauseous, and couldn’t eat. That trailhead would be his only way out for the next 40+ miles, so he had to take it. He’s the strongest hiker between all of us, so we knew he had to be feeling out of it to even consider missing part of this stretch.
After the final pass we descended steeply into a Valley and trekked along Little Sandy River for an easy 6 miles or so. We called it a day about half a mile from reconnecting with the CDT after finding a nice stretch of flat, open ground to camp on.
Today was the second full day that I’ve hiked without wearing socks. My feet feel perfectly fine, and they stay drier and cooler inside my shoes. I can’t really tell you how or why my feet do so well without socks, but I’m incredibly thankful for it. I did about a quarter of the PCT last year without socks.
This opinion may be unpopular or controversial, but I don’t think the Sierra Nevada can hold a candle to the Wind River Range. The Sierra Nevada may be bigger, longer, and have more waterfalls; but for singularly magnificent and impressive sights/views…the Winds easily take the cake, in my humble opinion. It’s kind of like the best of what Yosemite has to offer, except better, and without the roads and throngs of people.
We’re 31 miles from the next town marking the end of the Winds and the beginning of the Great Basin. I’m excited for the change, as well as the 24 hour hiking challenge I have planned through the Basin…