Five Passes Five Days #1

Day 59, May 22nd, our group headed out from Upper Vidette Meadow up to Kearsarge Pass to get out for a few zero days and resupply. I had gone through quite a few changes of plans within the adventure at Forester and with SAR, that I had asked my Mom to come and pick me up. I wanted to get settled and nurtured, to be “comforted” and get my bearings while I decided what I was going to do. This was how I felt when I laid in my tent the night we had contacted SAR, but those feelings largely disappated once the wind storm cleared, we had food, and we had a plan. That being said, I still welcomed my Mom to pick me up and take me home with her for a few days, which she did, and which Prince joined me. The drive from Lone Pine back to her house in the Paiute Mountains is about 4 hours, and passes over the mountains through Lake Isabella, and specifically crosses Walker Pass at the PCT. It was the strangest thing, I had this realization that we had traveled backwards in time. PCT time, of course. As we crossed the trail intersection and the campground where we had stayed only 16 days earlier, I noticed that I felt a certain resistance about being there, coupled with a strong sense of feeling disoriented. This “place” in time did not exist anymore. I was done with this section of trail, left behind in the dust, never to be revisited. I was no longer used to hiking in the dirt, I was in the Sierra’s and used to an all white landscape. Yet, people, other hikers, were just getting to Walker, and as a matter of fact, as we crossed the pass at 50 mph, Prince suddenly yells out “Oh my God, stop the car” from the back seat, and as my Mom promptly did so, he jumped out of the car and ploughed straight through a shrub to his hiker friend “Prunes” whom he had not seen for quite some time. It was trail magic at it’s finest, and a beautiful sight to witness.

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Fast forward a few days after a super restful and nourising stay at my Mom’s, uh, I mean Calamity Jane’s, we headed back to Independence to get back on trail. My Mom brought a horsey friend with her, Alena, the pair of them were interested in checking out the Kearsarge Pass trail in hopes that they could ride their horses there someday. The two of them hiked the lower section of the trail while Prince, Overload and I shot around town getting our trail errands accomplishesd. Here is Calamity Jane claiming Victory over the snowy and rocky trail:

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Day 64, was May 27th, we were finallyback on trail at Kearsarge Pass. Overload’s friend “Mountain Man” was kind enough to give us, along with Bobcat, a ride up to the trailhead early that morning.  If my pack was heavy when I left Kennedy Meadows, it was heavier now. I think it must have weiged 55 lbs no joke, including my water. I am truly amazed what the body can tolerate, I remember hiking the JMT a few years ago, and thought my pack was SO heavy at 35 lbs…if only I had a pack that light now!  Regardless of the weight, we made good time over Kearsarge and on the way down, we saw two small figures well below, moving steadily along up the switchbacks. People! It’s always exciting who you might meet on the trail. IN this case, it was non other than Team Emerson! Yay! We were so thrilled to see them, and to know they had made it over Forester safely. We exchanged many hugs and smiles and stories along that rocky slope.

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Team Emerson, I don’t recall if I have written about them, consists of Olivia and her 9 year old son, Emerson, and they are amazing!

Later that day, as we ascended the slopes back into the land of white, just about 2 miles before Glenn Pass, we scouted out, and got creative with, a campsite on the granite. Just as we finished setting up camp, the clouds we had been watching all afternoon finally decided to drop some precipitation on us. I was in my tent already, had entered that stage of consciousness that is neither sleep nor awake. The droplets began to hit my tent, they were clearly not water splatting, and as I could see through the low opening under the rain fly of my tent, there were tiny little balls of hail. Passing back into that dreamy state, the hail came and went, eventually turning into a slushy snow that came down for about an hour. When it was time to rouse myself for dinner, and the sun was just about to duck behind a ridge, I exited the warmth of my tent to find a thick layer of fog enshrouding the peaks around us, and also, I found a layer of white had collected on my tent, and had to sweep it off with the top of my cook pot. Two uses for all items in your pack!

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As I walked around a enjoyed snapping photos of the light and weather that was changing by the minute, Prince reminded me of a quote he loves that goes something like “You were always waiting for this moment to arrive” and my response was to flipit over and I replied with “This moment has always been waiting for you to arrive”….and we both smiled. One dominant theme I began this hike with is the concept of Satori. Without getting too far off on a Satori tangent, I will extract what is meaningful to me in this context. Satori has to do with complete awareness in the moment. I have another favorite qoute written on the front of my PCT Journal, which is “Honor the space between no longer and not yet”. For me,  the moment of “right now” is the most important moment, especially on such a journey as this one. Extending my consciousness to the entirety of vastness on a grand and minute scale in the wilderness is one of the most pleasing things I enjoy doing with my life. As such, in each moment, with full awareness, there is no past, there is no future, only the present, and that present moment is always awaiting my arrival, and yours.

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Day 65, May 28th we let ourselves sleep in a little bit, as we were only 2 miles away from Glenn Pass. Knowing it was steep on the North side, we thought it would be safer to descend once the snow got a little soft, rather than skating down the ice crust of the very early morning. I had mixed feelings approaching Glenn. Glenn is a steep pass with a narrow, knife like edge top that does not give you much room to sit and relax once you summit. I like this feature about it though, as you can truly enjoy views of both sides of the pass simutaneously. I remember this pass being my favorite of all the passes on the JMT because of the stellar views on either side. So, I was both excited and scared, but more excited. The ascent started out fine enough, traversing the slopes in a steady upward direction, gaining feet with every deliberate step. The snow was nicely consolidated and my crampons iffered ne security. Towards the last 20% of the climb, there was a steeper section, in which I had to really concentrate my efforts on my climbing steps, my footholds, and my balance with my trekking poles. It’s just not cool to slip on this terrain, even a loose foot can send you sliding down 300ft into a frozen lake, so I tend to take this seriously and use all my faculties to concentrate and be steady. This makes me slower, but I am okay with that, totally okay with that. After about 30 minutes of this intensity and scrambling over some rocks and passing by a frozen waterfall, I made it up to the final rocky switchbacks to the pass. I was home free! This is that last section with the frozen water fall up in the distance:

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and here is the view from the top of Glenn Pass at around 11,900 ft:

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and team “Three’s Company” at the top:

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and the traverse on the beginning of the way down, we would cross this slope and then hang a hard left:

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Well below Glenn Pass, to the North, is the Rae Lakes area. I had been eagerly anticipating reaching this point on the trail, as in times past I had to pass through so swiftly, longing to stay there and enjoy the beauty. Last time I was there it was Indian Summer and all I wanted to do was sink my body into the emerald green water. Oh how different it was now! The Rae Lakes are set tightly together and nestled amongst giant scultpures of rock, one of them famously named “The Painted Lady”, a prominent round dome that has a pinkish hue. Another famous piece of rock is known as “Fin Dome” which sets itself nicely in the backdrop of a North lying lake just up the trail, Dollar Lake. In between all of this magestic scenery are creeklets and a plethora of running water overflowing into ponds and water flowing all over the trail. The sharp left turn and ensuing descent from Glenn proved to be a bit of a challenge for me, as it was very steep. There were steps cut by other hikers downslope, but as I have come to find out often enough, steps for people 6 feet tall don’t often work for people who are 5 feet tall. Nevertheless, I used them because my attempt to cut my own steps and heel plunge proved futile and I slipped and had to self arrest. That was enough adrenaline for me, and made my legs shaky. I slowly continued down down down, until I caught up with my team who awaited me at a prominent rock outcropping. The dark, foreboding storm clouds were, at that point, rolling in so we opted to gear up for the oncoming precipitation, which hit only moments later. We continued our descent in the falling snow which gave it a magical quality. Fortunately, we were able to glissade a few times, allowing us to safely drop a few hundred feet in elevation rapidly. Honestly, I Love glissading and am happy to give it a whirl every chance I get. Ned had informed us not to glissade with crampons on, in case they would catch in the front and send you into a dangerous tumble, so I would take them off and on, off and on. One time, gaining some confidence,  I decided to glissade with my crampons draped over my left hand so I wouldn’t have to take off my pack to fasten them on. I could also call this strategy stupid, because when I got to the bottom, I had only one crampon in hand. Where did the other one go? At what point did I let it go? I started to dig in the snow around me, and a slight feeling of panic began to brew. Fortunately, Prince had eagle eyes and he was able to spot it sitting at the very top of the glissade. Yes, I climbed back up to retrieve it, and got to do the great glissade all over again!

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Once we arrived at Rae Lakes the snow had let up and we decided it was a good time to stop for lunch. We were soon joined by a solo female hiker named “Red Cross” who was from, take a guess, Switzerland. Prince just happened to be carrying a small Swiss Flag in his backpack and asked her to have a photo taken, to which she happily agreed. She then proceeded to cook her noodle soup, as the Swiss seem to do at noon, and we ate our lunches enjoying the view over the lakes at the Painted Lady. This is a view of The Painted Lady, and later, Fin Dome, and Dollar Lake:

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After the Lakes, we descended 2,000 feet all the way to Woods Creek. The trail was rocky, technical, and wet. This section of trail was interspersed with snow patches and lots of water trickling right on trail. Wet feet were inevitable. By the time we got down to the 8,000 ft elevation at Woods Creek, were were once gain in the graceful presence of the conifers, my beloved freinds who offer a sigh of relief, comfort, color and shelter. We camped at the sites right near the Woods Creek Suspension Bridge, also known as “The Golden Gate of the Sierra”. I LOVE this bridge, and was happy to be about to cross over the raging creek once again. In times past, I had looked at this bridge crossing as a sort of fantastical “through the looking glass” portal, like crossing into another dimension. This time, however, I was already in another dimension, and the bridge did not change that further. This dimension I was in now, began just North of Kennedy Meadows, and will not shift again until I am North of Tahoe. I was still excited about the bridge crossing though, because it marked time and space, and it was a fun, bouncy bridge high above the water.  But crossing it would have to wait until morning. For now, it was time to set up camp and duck out of the rain. I was beat. I was wet. I was so thankful to have made it over Glenn Pass safely, to be back in the trees, to be warm and getting dry inside my tent, and to be discovering the JMT from a completely new perspective, heading North, in the snow, seeing the landscape from an entirely new angle, and hence, having fond memories of times past as I fused the worlds of two distinctly different seasons. I fell asleep that night, once again, to the sound of the patting rain on my tent, the full rushing water of Woods Creek, and the gentle running creeklet that flowed just below where I rested my weary body on the Earth.

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