Category Archives: PCT2015

Photos: PCT Days 69-73

PCT Days 69-71: Mile 845.9 to 874.4, Vermillion Valley Resort

PCT Days 72-73: Mile 878.7 to 906.5, Red’s Meadow

(All photos are on Flickr)

PCT Days 69-73: The Rest of the 800s

Day 69 took us through our last, beautiful stretch of Kings Canyon, along a rocky river chasm where we hiked past huge cedars and stands of aspen.

IMG_4141.JPG

On Day 70 we went over Selden Pass—a less dramatic climb, but the view on the north side was breathtaking.

IMG_4894.JPG

We took the Bear Ridge Trail from the PCT down to Lake Edison, where we walked across the dam above the almost empty lake to get to Vermilion Valley Resort.

IMG_4174.JPG

We’d stayed at VVR as JMT hikers three years ago, so it was nice to be back at another familiar spot. We spent a zero day at VVR, racking up a tab in the restaurant, and learning from a guidebook that the huge tadpoles we’d seen in a lake on way to Muir Pass could have been 4 years old.

IMG_4057.JPG

We hiked out of VVR on Day 72, taking the trail around the west side of Lake Edison to maintain our continuous footpath from Mexico—rather than taking the small “ferry” boat across the lake to the north side of the dry lakebed.

IMG_4195.JPG

We had our second permit check of the trip at Mile 878—our first was four days earlier on the hike up to Muir Pass. After carrying that piece of paper for over 800 miles, it’s nice to be able to show it off.

Next up was Silver Pass, which I had no memory of from the JMT hike but which was very pretty. On the hike down from the pass we hit the 1/3 mark of the trip: 883.36 miles.

IMG_4208.JPG

I’m not sure if it’s time of the year or the location or some combination, but the mosquitoes have become truly terrible near any form of water… or in the woods… or in a meadow… anywhere, really. Setting up camp has become a frantic, flailing race to get the tarp and net tent up before being eaten alive.

On Day 73 we met up on the trail with Fancypants’ friend Peter and his friend Rich, who had come out for a long weekend of hiking. It was nice to have company—and new conversation—as we made our way to Red’s Meadow, a resort slightly off the trail where there’s a restaurant and a campground. We passed the 900 mile marker on the way.

Day 69, June 15: 18 miles, 845.9 to 863.9, Sallie Keyes Lakes overlook
Day 70, June 16: 18 miles, PCT Mile 863.9 to 874.4 + 7.5 miles on Bear Ridge Trail to VVR
Day 71, June 17: Zero miles!
Day 72, June 18: 14.5 miles, 6 miles around Lake Edison + PCT Mile 878.7 to 887.2
Day 73, June 19: 19.8 miles, Mile 887.2 to 906.5 + 0.5 miles to Red’s Meadow Campground

Photos: PCT Days 61-68

PCT Days 61-65: Independence + PCT Miles 789.4 to 794.5; Kearsarge and Glen Passes

PCT Day 66: Mile 794.5 to 809, including Pinchot Pass

PCT Day 67: Mile Mile 809 to 827.3, including Mather Pass

PCT Day 68: Mile 827.3 to 845.9, including Muir Pass

(Many more Day 68 photos and all other photos are on Flickr)

PCT Day 68: Muir Pass, or Why You Should Hike Kings Canyon NP

Kings Canyon is the best national park that you’ve never been to—maybe never even heard of. Yosemite has stunning landmarks, all easily accessible by roads; Glacier has (had?) ice fields and rugged peaks, also easy to access; Yellowstone has a giant supervolcano that will one day kill us all. But Kings Canyon is kinda out of the way, is kinda hard to get to, and doesn’t have a lot of roads and visitor centers and gift shops. The road it does have is stunning—a drive through the eponymous canyon, which in some places is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon.

But the real treasure of Kings Canyon is the backcountry. Green valleys filled with wildflowers and bordered by jagged peaks. Raging rivers pouring down rocky cascades. It’s the Sierra Nevada at its most dramatic. And all of it only accessible by trail.

The PCT enters Kings Canyon at the top of Forester Pass and continues through the park for about 75 miles, over four more passes. It’s all beautiful country, but the ten miles leading up to Muir Pass from the south are outrageously, epically stunning. It was easily the most beautiful hiking of the trip so far—quite possibly of my life.

Behold:

When we got to Helen Lake and paused for pictures, our friends Dilly, Dally, Sarge, and Stump caught up to us—the first time we’d seen them since Kennedy Meadows, 140 miles earlier. They of course beat us to the pass—the last two miles to the top were brutal—but it was great to see everyone again.

The hike down was more gorgeousness. Sloshing straight down the mountain through snowfields; walking along the edge of Lake Wanda with its teal water, tinkling ice, and frogs(!); Evolution Lake in the evening light.

And we wrapped it all up with good friends and a campfire. Great success.

Day 68, June 14: 18.6 miles, Mile 827.3 to 845.9

So here’s the thing. 

Walking is hard. More specifically: walking ten to twelve hours a day, up and down mountains, carrying a pack, every day, day after day—is exhausting. I am very tired. My feet hurt. A lot.

Make no mistake: the big picture, when I lurch back to look at it, is phenomenal. As I write, on July 30th, I’m sitting at Mile 1,607 on the Pacific Crest Trail. I have traveled across almost the entire state of California, south to north, in an unbroken line, USING MY FEET. Four days from now, I will have walked to Oregon. From Mexico. (As one hiker put it: “We’ve already hiked more miles than from The Shire to Mordor and back!”) That’s crazy and awesome and I’m extremely proud.

But holy shit, y’all, the days are tough. Every single one has beauty—the morning sun in the trees, or views of mountains layered beyond mountains stretching to the horizon, or hummingbirds chasing each other across hillsides of wildflowers. But each day also has a long hot uphill trudge, or a steep rocky descent, or even just those last three miles of the day when all I want is to stop hiking and take off my pack.

When we finally do stop after walking 23 miles—or whatever’s necessary that day to keep us on track to beat the snow to Canada—it’s all about doing camp chores as quickly as possible in order to crawl into our sleeping bags as quickly as possible. Set up the tarp and net tent, blow up the air mattresses, filter water, boil water and make dinner, try to wipe some of the dirt and smell off, eat, secure the food from mice and bears, and then hopefully pass out. I definitely get satisfaction from the routine, from using the tarp that I made myself, from having a place for every piece of gear and keeping everything in its place. But every moment is filled. Fancypants gets out his folding Bluetooth keyboard each night and types up an entry for the day, but I can rarely summon the willpower to do the same. I just want to sleep before it’s time to get up and walk again.

Time. I recognize that it probably sounds crazy to complain about a lack of time when I have taken six months off from work to hike through the woods. I’m not stuck in traffic, not standing in line at a store, not slogging through the workday wishing for the weekend. In that sense, hiking this trail is a luxury, time-wise. I am lucky and grateful and enjoying myself very, very much.

When planning for this trip, I imagined there would be breaks during the day or downtime at night that I would need to fill. I got the new Neal Stephenson book for my Kindle app. I loaded my phone with movies and TV shows and footage from the documentary I’m working on.

I haven’t started the novel. I haven’t watched a single minute of doc footage. Turns out, walking the PCT from Mexico to Canada during the window of theoretically decent weather is a full-time job. I’ve been listening to podcasts and audiobooks almost every afternoon, which is a lot of fun and helps with getting through the miles, but time spent hiking requires the full attention of my eyeballs and time spent not hiking is, again, time I mostly just want to sleep.

So while I make notes every day of notable moments or places or feelings and record our daily mileage, I’ve been falling increasingly far behind on turning those notes into blog posts. Right now I’m trying to write about the hike up Muir Pass—something that happened 45 days and 770 miles ago.

Yup.

So I suppose this is a mea culpa—to my mother, if no one else, because she both worries about me and also wants to know why the heck I’m not keeping this updated. And to myself, to perhaps release myself from the frustration and guilt of falling behind in writing. Anyway, we’re on schedule with the hiking, which is of course the whole point, so I’m going to congratulate myself on that and then do some summary posts to catch the blog back up to the present(ish).

Thanks for reading. Onward.