Miles today: 3 (on Kearsarge Pass) + 11 (on PCT) = 14
Total PCT miles: 800
This morning was freezing; we slept until 7:30 and then trucked our way through the final three miles of the pass. As soon as we rejoined the PCT we began climbing uphill to our next destination: Glen Pass. Once again we began running into JMT hikers going southbound. After so long hiking alone in the desert, it's a strange thing to see so many section hikers in the Sierras. As usual they were burdened by huge packs and curiosity about our journey, and asked us the obligatory questions that we've gotten to know so well. Since we've heard the questions so many times, it's difficult not to tease them:
JMT hikers: "Where are you guys headed?"
Us: "Canada, eventually. Today we're going up Glen Pass."
JMT: "Canada?! Oh, are you part of that group that came from Mexico??"
Us: "Uh.... yeah."
JMT: "We saw some more of your group just ahead."
Us: "Yeah, and there are lots more coming up behind, too..."
JMT: "How many people are you hiking with?"
Us: "About 1,000 of our closest friends."
JMT: "Whoa... really? And how long have you been out?"
Us: "Fifty six days."
JMT: "How much longer do you have?"
Us: "About 3.5 months."
JMT: "Wow, and you carry your stuff that whole way? How do you get food?"
Us: "Oh, we forage for berries... shoot deer... catch fish..."
Us: "We stop in town every week or so to resupply."
At this point I whip around and stare at Sansei, Rotisserie and Katie with wide eyes.
"You've been resupplying in town?!" I shriek. "I've been carrying my food since Mexico!! Damn!!"
The section hikers laugh, but sometimes I wonder if they realize we're kidding. Thru-hiking is not as difficult as they assume it is, especially where food is concerned. (It's amazing how many people think we hunt/forage for food.)
The other nice thing about seeing so many southbounders is that we get a good idea of what is ahead of us. We can ask questions about the weather, the snow, and the upcoming mountain passes. We can also send messages to our fellow thru-hikers much more easily this way, without having to leave notes on trail signs and beneath piles of rocks.
Before our final ascent of the pass, we stopped for second breakfast with Games, Reason, Sunset and Lighthouse. Games and Reason had recently "adopted" the redheaded hiker Lighthouse, and Games liked to joke that he was her son, though they were probably not far apart in age. Her favorite running joke was to groan when Lighthouse introduced himself as Scottish, and she would say: "he was born in Chicago, guys. Chicago. Stop acting like you're cool, Lighthouse." They were a funny group and we had fun laughing and swapping sugary treats.
With Skittles in our system, we began the climb. There were a lot of switchbacks, and though Glen Pass was lower in elevation than Forrester, it felt harder. Maybe I was just tired, but it took me a long time to get to the top. We passed a beautiful alpine lake along the way, with water so turquoise-blue that it didn't seem real. Sansei told us that he had gotten up very early this morning and put food coloring in it for us, and wasn't it beautiful?
At the top of Glen Pass we met up with Starfox and his crew. They had taken a break to admire the view of Rae Lakes below us and were now gearing up to descend. We joined them, picking through the snowy patches on the north side of the pass. It wasn't too terrible, but I could only imagine how terrifying these passes would be in a high snow year.
On the way down we passed a man who was hiking with two mules. I had been hearing about him since Mexico but had yet to meet him on trail. His name was Pascal and he was from France, hiking the PCT north with two pack mules. He was having a hard time on the passes; apparently one of his mules had fallen in the snow and they were moving more slowly as a result.
When we got to the bottom of the pass, we entered into a series of beautiful connected waterways known as Rae Lakes. They were calling to us to spend the afternoon on their shores in the green meadows. I told Rotisserie, "let's find the prettiest one to take a lunch break beside. And if they're all ugly, well... we're out of luck."
"And if they're all pretty, we'll take lots of breaks!" she replied.
We did find the perfect spot, just off trail, to relax. The water was so clear and beautiful that we had to go in, but it was icy cold so we didn't stay in long. We took naps in the sun and said hello to the Chain Gang when they caught up with us.
As it turned out, we had stopped at a confusing junction to the PCT, and so we were witness to several groups of hikers taking the wrong path past us and then having to backtrack. We soon began warning the hikers that passed, pointing out the water crossing that they needed to take, instead. We cheered for everyone who made it across the water in one piece, since it seemed to be a balancing act.
"This is like dinner and a movie!" Sansei said, after we cheered for another group.
We stayed for an hour (if only siestas in the Sierras could be as long as those in the desert! But we'd never make any mileage that way) and then continued hiking through the beautiful lake country.
At 5:00 we stopped for dinner near a suspension bridge and considered doing another few miles, since we had only covered 14 so far today. But as we were eating, Starfox and Chik-Chak joined us and noted that Papa Bear wasn't too far behind. We were elated: we hadn't seen Papa Bear since before Kennedy Meadows, and we wanted to share our joys about the Sierras with him.
The next to arrive at the bridge was Dog, and Katie asked him, "where's Papa Bear??"
"About two people behind me," Dog said.
Katie squealed really loudly at this, which made Starfox say to Dog, "we're happy to see you, too, Dog."
Pretty soon the rest of the Chain Gang showed up: Boulder, Scooter, Sunshine, Dance Party, and Buffalo, and then Papa Bear, not far behind. Everyone wanted to stay at the campground beside the suspension bridge, and since all our friends were here, we decided to stay, too. It was wonderful being around so many of them, a big clump of tents and people and bear vaults in a circle. We finished dinner, watched the deer milling around the campsite and enjoyed each other's company before bed.