I left Lone Pine and arrived back on the trail by 1330, exactly where I had left off. During the long 22 mile drive up the steep hill to Horseshoe Meadow, gaining 9000 ft elevation, I thought about my friend Bradford who will be running the revised route, gnarly Badwater 135 mile ultra marathon in july and certainly gained an extreme appreciation for how difficult this race will be!
Some people wonder why others do activities which take you so far out of your comfort zone, but it is here that you are able to tap into those deep, not frequently used parts of yourself and discover unknown qualities about yourself that you never knew you had. It steers you towards greater satisfaction of the opportunity you have for being alive on this planet. When you are comfortably numb and not maximizing your capabilities, whether they be physical or mental, your feeling of fulfillment in life is minimized. When you have to dig deep to overcome or get through something it enables you to "live deep and suck out the marrow of life" ( Henry David Thoreau)
It was very pleasant, undulating hiking until I reached Chicken Spring Lake high up on the mountain at 11,260 ft elevation.
What a beautiful sight! I cooked my dinner here on the beach with my jetboil stove. It was incredibly tranquil and gorgeous with the crystal clear, cold lake water sparkling in the late afternoon light and the sound of happy birds ( Clark's Nutcrackers) filling the air.
The peak of the ridge above the lake still had little patches of packed snow on it making it all picture perfect.
I continued walking until 7:45 pm and randomly camped where I could find a suitable space.
1) Kindness from Victor, driving me 22 miles back to Horseshoe Meadow.
2) Feeling rejuvenated from my zero in Lone Pine
3) Pleasant hiking (not too many awful ascents)!
4) Stunning Chicken Spring Lake
5) Purple Monster did not feel too bad today...
Today I really experienced being in the high Sierras.
One could equate it to nirvana. Being able to live it is worth the pain of all the climbing with a heavy back pack at high altitude, which certainly leaves me breathless and exhausted.
Flowing and abundant water in the form of bubbling creeks and rivers is a beautiful thing anytime, but especially after spending 700 miles on foot on the desert! I spent most of the day at 10,000 ft where the water is clear and sweet. It is so enjoyable watching the little woodland creatures at work and play, like the chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies, hares and marmots.
It's slow going with the heavy pack but I managed to get a fair amount of distance covered today. The 20 mile days are being reduced to 15 mile days due to the nature of the terrain.
I reached Crabtree Meadow, a most magnificent place, in the early evening. It is a large, grassy meadow situated at 10,445 ft and nestled between the peaks of various large mountains all reaching over 14,000 ft. As I prepared my dinner by the riverside, I made the decision to camp here for the evening due to the sheer beauty of the place.
Tomorrow I have to decide whether to summit Mnt Whitney or not which would be a side excursion and not part of the PCT and it would take up an entire day. As I sat there I heard the sound of horses hooves and soon a mule train carrying supplies for a remote Ranger Station appeared.
What a splendid sight! Three rangers on horse back, each with three mules in their train stopped at the river to allow these beautiful beasts to tank up with water.
The rangers warned of bad weather approaching in the form of a storm, so this information made me lean towards the decision of pressing on along the PCT. I still had some high elevation passes to cross in the next couple of days which would be dangerous in stormy weather.
The evening at Crabtree Meadow was spectacular with the surrounding mountains lighting up as many large mule deer grazed in the meadow.
Today I am thankful for:
1) Abundant sweet, flowing water.
2) Forests with their wonderful creatures.
3) An awesome camp at Crabtree Meadow.
4) Being able to observe deer grazing and marmots frolicking.
5) The wonderful world we live in.
Today's trail lesson:
" Hike your own hike" is equivalent to "live your own authentic life". Don't sacrifice your true self to live up to other peoples expectations of you. Be your best possible self!
Wow! 50 days since I left Campo, it's hard to believe that I've been on this journey for that long already!
It's chilly at night in the high Sierra, I have to sleep with multiple layers of clothing on i.e my ninja outfit, fleece, down jacket, 2 pairs of socks and beanie, inside my silk sleeping sack and down sleeping bag.
Today I decided to press on to Forrester Pass and not do any detour hikes. After saying farewell to the friendly section hikers at camp I set off. At this part of the trail, the PCT and John Muir Trail join up and are one and the same for awhile.
Not far along, I met Gator who I had first met at Warner Springs and then Idyllwild. What a surprise! He had just been up Mnt Whitney with "the Hobbits", Pippen and Pickleback.
The day continued with many ascents and descents over flowing streams, many of which had to be crossed along stepping stones or fallen logs.
The pack mule train passed by me through the woods again on their way back.
I was pushing hard to get the 13,200 ft Forrester Pass behind me.
. It was heavy going having to climb another 3000 ft already at elevation.
I passed many mountain lakes and patches of snow which obscured the path at times.
The steep switchbacks to the top of the pass gave me spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
It was windy and cold once I reached the gap at the top but on the other side appeared a problem that I had not anticipated.
Thick snow and ice were obscuring the path down. At one point I had to posthole my way straight down, slipping and sliding along the way, trying to arrest a fall with my trekking poles. Then more of the path was obscured by icy snow and I tried to make my way around it on the rocks. Clambering about on the boulders and loose gravel on the side of the steep mountain face, I became lost and could not find the trail. A freezing wind was whipping about me and as I shivered uncontrollably and started shouting for help, I realized I was potentially lost and it was getting late. No one could hear me and the feeling of panic started to set in. My life flashed before my eyes as I realized I might not survive if I didn't find the path. My concern was falling down the mountain or dying of exposure and hypothermia if I got stranded there overnight. Eventually some south bound hikers appeared and directed me back to the trail of which I am eternally grateful! The sun was setting and I hiked down the remainder of the switchbacks as fast as I could to find shelter from the icy wind that was becoming stronger. I made it to a semi sheltered campsite as it got dark and set up my tent. To my relief, Gator, Pippen and Pickleback were camping there too. Lying there safe and warm tucked up in my sleeping bag, I was thankful for:
1) Having Forrester Pass behind me.
2) Being alive
3) Being able to find the trail again.
4) Completing good mileage today.
5) Being safe and warm in my tent beside other hikers I knew. What a relief!
Today's trail lesson:
If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don't.
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
( Photos in this section courtesy of Gator)
Strong gale force gusts of wind woke me up early. I had been shaken by them in my tent all night long and had a very broken sleep. It was very cold and when I stuck my head out of my tent and I was horrified to see the big, black thunderclouds forming overhead. Pippen and Pickleback had just woken up and we woke Gator up. Our feeling was to get off the mountain as soon as we could to avoid the storm that was brewing. To do this we had to take a detour route across Kearsage Pass and get down to Onion Valley. I spent the day hiking with Gator and we went as fast as we could, once again crossing multiple rivers and streams and eventually, after some heavy ascent, we got to the Bullfrog Lake detour route to the pass. I felt so fortunate to be hiking this section with Gator because if I had been by myself, trying to out hike a storm it would have been very stressful.
Bullfrog Lake turned out to be a hidden gem, so tranquil and beautiful. After that we passed the Kearsage Lakes set beneath jagged, looming peaks covered in drifts of snow and with the storm clouds swirling about it gave one the feeling of being in a "Lord of the Rings" type of adventure.
It was tough going over Kearsage at 11,200 ft in wind gusts that almost knocked me over and coming down the other side seemed to take forever on the never ending switchbacks. It was however extremely beautiful with Onion Valley at the foot and the town of Independence 13 miles further down the hill. Once at the campsite in Onion Valley we were treated to the most amazing trail magic by angels Uber Bitch and Bristle Cone. They are wonderful and I have no idea how Uber Bitch got her trail name because she is one of the most delightful people I have met. She graciously fed us and gave us a ride to town. I also briefly saw Lady Mac and Gourmet again who were having a zero with their parents. It's wonderful the way we all meet up randomly over the course of our journey.
I then caught a 30 mile bus ride to the bigger town of Bishop for resupply and a much needed zero day.
1) Hiking with Gator
2) Beating the foul weather
3) Making it over Kearsage Pass
4) Taking the most scenic detour route
5) Feeling like I'm living an adventure movie with the most spectacular backdrops.
Lesson from the trail:
"Not all those who wander are lost." J. R. R. Tolkien
Zero day spent in the quaint town of Bishop, rejuvenating and resupplying.
I had to putchase a new plug in phone charger as I had lost my solar panel and charger on Forrester Pass whilst scrambling over the boulders on the mountainside. Laundry, blog, food, foot soaks, reconnecting with people and enjoying the comforts of civilization where the order of the day. Tomorrow I take a bus ride back to Independence and then hitch a ride up to Onion Valley so that I can go back over the steep 7 mile Kearsage Pass and continue the PCT where I left off.... and so the adventure continues!