Saturday, June 14, 2008

THIS is why people hike the PCT

After trading Patty for Tarzan and Zelda, we headed into the real High
Sierras. After passing Mt. Whitney (we didn't hike to the top since we
did it in 05), the PCT joins the John Muir Trail up to Tuolomne
Meadows in Yosemite.

The Sierras are some of the most beautiful and breathtaking part of
the trail, and California in general. They are also some of the
hardest. Today's photo is taken from Kearsarge Pass, overlooking the
Kearsarge lakes which reflect the Kearsarge Pinnacles. Mr. Kearsarge
was John Muir's benefactor. No, that's a lie...who knows why
everything is Kearsarge.

The PCT has gotten noticably steeper in climbs, with many big rocks to
step up and down, which is hard on the knees. Because of both the
beauty (which leads to the desire to take pictures at every turn), the
difficulty, and the elevation (almost all of the John Muir portion is
above 10,000 feet) we have slowed down our daily miles a bit, sticking
to about 15-18 a day.

On the third day out we climbed to the highest point on the trail -
Forrester Pass, which stands at 13,200 feet. The climb was gradual,
but there was still quite a bit of snow on the trail. After crossing a
football field sized snow field, we could not see the trail. We knew
it was up, so we scurried straight over boulders and snow to reach
switchbacks above. The final ascent included an icy snow chute above a
high cliff which we had to cross. Steve's pole got stuck in the ice
while crossing and he almost panicked while trying to yank it free.
Once up and over, the north side was far more snow covered, but there
were enough footprints down the mountain to guide us. The excitement
of getting over made this snow fun!

From 13,200 feet we had the pleasure of descending to 9,500 feet
along the glorious Bubbs Creek watershed. It was also our pleasure to
know we'd get to go back up over 11,800 to get to town.

Zelda became possesed with the idea of a hotel room after going over
Forrester, so while Steve and I suffered up a brutal climb and decided
on camping out one more night, she and Tarzan ran up another hill to
get out. The result: they were so tired they needed another day off.
So we enjoyed an unexpected second day in Independence.

One food note: if you're ever on Highway 395, stop at the Still Life
Cafe in Independence. The only restaraunt in town (besides Subway)
turns out to be gourmet French/Mediterranean...but it's the burgers
that amaze the taste buds.

Tomorrow we head back over Kearsarge Pass for many more days of
climbing passes. This will be one of our longest stretches yet, which
means heavy packs of food in bear cannisters. Next stop, Vermillion
Valley Resort for a quick re-supply (and probably no blog update due
to lack of reception) before heading to Mammoth.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Note: Last Post is 4 Days Old

I sort of dropped the iPhone in water while typing the last post. I
thought it was a goner, but it seems to have dried itself out okay.
Keep your fingers crossed.

We are now in Independence and I will post an update of the last few
days soon... along with pictures! But we did make it over Fortester
Pass with no problems, snow and all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Welcome to the Sierras

Population: water!, beautiful trees and 10 billion mosquitos.

Patty did great on her 45 mile stretch - the longest hike she's done.
But as Steve told her, we expect it from her. She's a tough lady.

One bit of excitement, last week there was a fire on the trail a few
miles after Kennedy Meadows. The fire was under control, so we were
good to go through. When we walked through on Saturday, we could see
the smoking trees and watched the helicopter pick up firemen from
their staging area. On Sunday, while we were hiking we turn around and
saw lots of smoke. We think the fire may have re-started, but we
haven't heard. Luckily, we were far past it at that point, but
needless to say, once Patty saw the smoke, that was the fastest she
hiked the whole time.

We are now heading back out with Tarzan and Zelda this morning, and in
this next stretch we will hit the highest point of the trail -
Forrester Pass, which is over 13,000 feet. It's all downhill from
there. Haha, yeah right.

Oh, and the bear canisters are in and it's not a wash with the water -
they are HEAVY.