Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 60 (7/16) On the Trail Again!

I was early this morning, pumped up with energy despite the chilly temperature. Pullin' 'Em was already up and pushing, but the other three were still asleep. Pinky woke up while I was packing, and I was out on trail before 7. I was concerned about the snow near the pass, because when we came down it was soft and slushy. As I climbed, I saw a new perspective on this trail since last  time there were huge snow banks and we avoided the trail in favor of bouldering in many places. As I came over the last rise to see the pass, I realized Java had been totally right about the snow melting fast. Where I had over a quarter mile of snow coming down, now I had only 100 meters on snow. What a difference that makes! On the other side things were greener and the trail showed some dry spots where water no longer used it as an overflow creek. I took a 30 minute breakfast break at the 3 mile marker, and then rested for an hour and a half at the trail junction.

Pullin' 'Em caught me during this second break, and we did the next climb together. On the way up we ran into a pair of girls who gave us dire warnings about the conditions ahead. 20 minutes later three JMT hikers told us it wasn't bad at all. We were more inclined to trust the JMTers as they seemed more experienced, so we pressed onward. During a break the rest of the Leisure Crew caught up and we took off to the pass itself. From the map I had a general idea of where the trail went, so I want concerned when the path disappeared under solid snow. We ran into a seasoned veteran hiker on his way down, and he directed us to the easiest route up. The trail switchbacked to the pass, and not only were most of these switchbacks under snow, the rest had been pretty well obliterated due to sliding. We picked the best route across boulders and snow, finally climbing onto solid ground for the last bit of ascent. The top was breathtaking and totally made the climb worth it. After a long break, we decided it was time to descend.

The first bit wasn't too bad because although it was on snow, so many people had walked in the same footsteps that there was now a knee high trench to walk down. You couldn't have fallen if you wanted too... From there we dumped out  onto a boulder field which we scrambled down to regain the trail. Near the 'bottom' the trail leveled out into a huge snow field, and we opted instead to follow the general direction were staying on the rocks. It was here that my focus slipped momentarily, and stepping on a loose rock, I took a nice tumble. I bruised my knee and ankle, but fortunately not the previously injured ankle. As we continued to follow the trail down to Rae Lakes we came across one point where there was a snow bridge over a rushing creek. The other four went across, but I didn't trust it, so I took a detour around to cross the open water downstream.

When we dropped down to Rae Lakes, they were absolutely gorgeous and crystal clear. We sae a bunch of 4" fish along the shore, and if we had a fishing permit I'm sure we could've caught our dinner. The PCT follows a narrow strip of land between Upper and Middle Rae Lakes, but due to all of the snow melt, the two lakes had joined and left us with a nice cold ford for late in the evening. On the other side we decided to go another 2 miles to Arrowhead Lake where wet could artists some of our good in the bear box there. Pullin' 'Em and I were in the lead, and we chere straight past the campsite. Only a quarter mile later did Pinky manage to catch us to turn back. What a depressing feeling to have to walk backwards on the trail... We all set up camp along the lake, quickly made dinner ans called it a night. Despite the low mileage we had done two passes and all that elevation gain and loss really does take it out of you

Miles Today: 11
Trip Mileage: 797

Photo: Kearsarge Lakes

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