We sleep without the tent fly and wake up to the sun peeking over the mountains at 7AM. The hiking day starts with a monumental climb during which we get a bit loopy and start improvising lyrics to “Shallow” from A Star is Born but about grocery shopping. (“In the shallot, shallot aisle…”)
Uphill speed today is 10% physical ability, 60% mental effort, and 30% steady ingestion of snacks. We catch a glimpse of what we think is a coyote and see a huge marmot with white shoulders.
Finally making it to the top is rewarded with short glissades down snowfields on the other side.
And then we find the crowds. Panhandle Gap is a popular destination for dayhikers, where everyone eats their lunch and takes their selfies before heading back to their cars. There are rangers out and about, coordinating the rescue of a dazed, sunburned backpacker who got separated from his group and spent the night alone on the Panhandle. He is walked out to the trailhead, dehydrated but ok.
From there it’s a long descent across snow and stretches of bare dirt and rocks, then fragile alpine meadows and finally switchbacks and long stairsteps through forest and wildflowers. We’re happy to see that the White River bridge is freshly reinstalled, saving us from backtracking to a road walk detour.
We find the backpacker corner of the huge developed campground and retrieve resupply bucket #2. The ranger station has a hiker box full of abandoned food, and we grab a tin of sardines to pair with Pringles and tortillas for some hikertrash fish & chips.
Friday, July 23, 2021
11.4 miles: 2,525′ up, 3,458′ down
Indian Bar Camp to White River Backpacker Camp