In an attempt to hybridize my blog and bring everything current, I am going to try to summarize the rest of the Sierra’s here. Sitting in the space of “this moment” now, it is 90 degrees out and I sit on a patio deck overlooking the North Fork of the Feather River in Belden, CA, PCT mile 1,285. It is difficult to get into the headspace of what happened an entire month ago, yet I enjoy revisiting those adventures. More and more I am living in the present moment, and honoring the space between no longer and not yet. I decided this week, that the PCT “is” the space between. This trail, this living, breathing entity, is the space between our past and our future. For so many hikers, we say to one another “what are you going to do when you get done hiking the PCT?” Well, isn’t that the illusive question? What will any of us do? We will all go our separate ways, start our new, “post PCT” lives, because we will have changed. I have to ask myself, at this point, nearly the half way mileage point, how has the trail changed me so far? To be completely frank, I don’t yet know how to answer that question. For me, the space between is a state of mind that I adopt every day. I prefer to hike in silence, allowing my surroundings to guide my thoughts, or, in most cases, lack thereof. I enjoy emptying my mind. I welcome the absence of cerebral stimulation. I allow my mind to empty out, to become void, and to totally relax. I am not hiking the trail to solve personal issues, to solve the crises in the world, and certainly I am not hiking the trail to talk about the current political situation in America! All of that will still be going on when I am done with this hike. The approach and path that I choose to address any future conundrums, I will bring to the table my fresh clear, still mind. This trail is cleaning out the “junk” that we accumulate in regular day to day life. With every drop of sticky sweat, every brusk wind that almost knocks us over, every clear emerald green pool of water we submerge into, every aching muscle and every breathtaking view purifies me. I am choosing to allow the silence, stillness and vastness to guide me into a place of clarity each moment of each day. This morning, I stopped by a small pond, it was still as stone, it reflected the trees and the clouds in the sky, in the belly of the pond grew lily pads and grasses, and in the distance the dull thumping of a woodpecker hitting a tree with its beak echoed in the forest while just surrounding me was the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes. This is the live forest, the breathing wild, and I am a part of this moment, here, now.
In getting back to what has already past, I pick up at Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR), where we were fortunate enough to arrive the day after they opened for the season. This turned out to be a truly great stop-over, just a few miles walk off trail complete with a general store, restaurant, camping and very hiker-friendly. We had real actual showers (and the facilities were clean to boot) two great restaurant meals, got re-supplies, drank some wine or beer, ate bags of wonderful salty chips, threw away our traash and got all our electronic devices charged! Whew hew! It doesn’t take much to make hikers happy. This is a picture of the bear box hiker boxes which contained many-a-wonderful items for exchange:
And hikers enjoying some lounge time on the patio at VVR:
At this point in the trail, the snow had beome limited to the passes for just a few miles on either side, so we were enjoying a lot more snow-free hiking. This is Three’s Company on top of Selden Pass, note our matching leg tatoos:
We also faced and successfully crossed the last few of the difficult and/or dangerous creek crossings, the last of which came just prior to Silver Pass, Mono Creek. This crossing was not so deep or wide, it went up to the top of my hips, and was only about 20 feet across, but it was fast and strong. Prince, bless him, went in without his pack on to check the depth and strength before we went in. This is a Southbound hiker who went through after we did, at Mono Creek:
Just after Mono Creek, we finally made it to the “waterfall” that we kept hearing about. When we got there, it was like an “a-ha” moment, yes there was absolutely no mistaking this one:
As we crossed the creek that ran underneath it, we got severely sprayed on one side with cool, hair raising droplets of water. I sank my feet in the icy water over jagged rocks, the giant rapids cascading down from hundreds of feet above, thundering in my brain, the breeze picked up and I realized it was a double breeze, one was being generated by the waterfall, the second was just the wind. Once we made it to the other side, we sat and dried off, ate a snack and tried to get warm. We were on dirt trail yes, but the shady places were still a bit cold, espeically when you are wet.
That evening I was excited to camp at Silver Pass Lake, one of my favorite camping areas from previous hikes, as the views of the mountains to the South are stunning. We found oursleves walking on top of snow to get to some open slabs of granite to camp on that night, and we fought against the wind. It was not the most peaceful night’s rest, but we were blessed with a stellar sunset:
Up and over Silver Pass the next morning proved to be quite easy. We still had a few miles of snow, but finally linked up to dirt trail once again, leading us down to Virginia Lake, where we once again encountered a frozen lake and more snow. I love Lake Virginia though, and I marveled at how different she looked in her winter garb:
That evening we made it to Purple Lake, which is not purple at all. When we got settled in, Overload and I nearly passed out as soon as we ate dinner, and Prince got set up to play some music, only to find out that Ingrid (his Ukelele) had been injured. “It must have been one of those pirouette’s I did back there in the snow” he commented, half sad and half laughing. Ingrid would survive though, she is tough, and although she was damaged considerably, she is still on the trail with us to this day, and she sounds great!
We were able to collect a weather report with our satellite transmitters and found out there would be rain and snow the next day or two, so we altered out plans to get to Red’s Meadow and took Duck Pass over into Mamoth instead. I was familiar with Duck Pass as well, so I felt confident we could easily get over it in a days time. It was also still frozen and covered in snow just a few miles before the pass and most of the way down the other side. I love the Duck Pass trail though, it traverses high above Duck Lake, with impressive views of the dramatic craggy peaks behind. The last time I hiked over Duck Pass was in the month of September, the waters were turquoise. Now, they were gray, silver, white and unmoving save for some places that had melted enough for the wind to stir up some ripples and the sun to glisten over them. With the incoming storm, we also had some interesting clouds coming and going.
We made it over into Mammoth with a great hitch from a lovely young woman who was a local. She promptly dropped us off at the Brewery where we filled our bellies with what we now call “hot food cooked by other people” courtesy of Overload. Soon after that we decided to check into a hotel and take the next couple days off trail. My Mom was due to meet us in Mammoth a couple days later, and with the rain and snow coming in, it was the perfect time to get some R & R. I spent most of the next day sitting in “The Looney Bean” Coffee shop, doing my laundry and working on my blog. Happiness. Happiness.
After way too many good meals, great company, showers, shopping, blogging and re-organizing of gear, we were ready to hit the trail once again. I switched out my Gortex boots back to trail runners, as my feet had been getting way too hot, and I changed out my three season heavy tent to my ultra light, under one pound, Z-Packs tent to save a little weight. We were still required to carry bear canisters all the way through Sonora, and as there was still quite a bit of snow, I kept my crampons and ice axe too. My pack was slightly lighter, but with a full supply of food, it was still back-aching heavy. By then, I was used to it, but I looked forward to the day when I could loose a few more pounds in my pack and really start to adopt the “light and fast” approach.
My Mom dropped us off back at Duck Pass Trailhead and we headed up to the Reds Meadow and Devil’s Popstpile area.
We arrived at Devil’s Postpile early in the morning, it was lovely. The faint glow of sunlight was just casting over the top side of the spires, and we hiked to the top to examine the hexagonal shaped stones. It is a stunning design of nature these hexagons, same shape as carbon, same shape as honey comb. Nature’s intelligent art before us never ceases to make me stop and marvel.
Our goal for the day was to camp at Thousand Island Lakes, just at the Southern Border of Yosemite National Park. Once again, a place I had camped before and is one of my favorite places on the JMT. As Prince said earlier today regarding a song “it’s one of my top five favorite artists of all time…..and there are about nine people on that list”. Well, same goes for me with places in the Sierra. The first time I arrived at Thousand Island Lake, and saw Banner Peak in the distance I felt like I had arrived in Patagonia, for I knew not that peaks like this existed in California. I was very excited to be back there and hoped to wake in the morning and watch the sunrise on a clear, still lake reflecting Banner like I had befored. Well, the Universe had other plans. For starters, it was windy when we got there. It was also snowy, and wet, and did I mention it was windy? We had to hunker down behind a lovely protective little grove of Lodgepole Pines, and camp in very close quarters. It was “cozy”. Nonetheless, I creeped out of my tent in the wind to catch the sunset, and ended up talking with a super friendly couple out for the weekend. The morning brought a bit of respite from the wind and I took my cup of coffee down to the “beach” to enjoy the sunrise. It was different from the first time, and yet, I loved it even more:
Well, it’s 4:15pm now on Friday July 15th, and I just received my re-supply box, so it’s time to get down to business and pack up my food for the next section. We will be getting back on trail tonight and plan on taking advantage of the cooler temperatures of the evening.
Next up: Yosemite National Park to South Lake Tahoe and beyond.