Thursday, June 13, 2013

Days 56-58, June 11-13 -The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go

Trailside Mile 727 to Trailside Meadow Mile 747 to Wallace Creek Mile 770 to Vidette Meadows/Bubbs Creek Mile 786

Our first days in the Sierra have been some seriously high mileage days. After Monday's long day, it took a while to get going Tuesday morning/we never really did. Enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in (no fear of heat to set alarms for 4am!) and then enjoyed a long breakfast while taking in the amazing views from just down the trail. There were a few big climbs and then we took a break at the top - where we were sitting overlooking the desert to the east from 11,000 feet up. The nearby China Lake Naval Air Station was running aircraft drills all day and some of them got up close and personal. It took me back to the rooftop Fleet Week airshow parties at my old apartment in San Francisco, and I felt like we were now getting a private show on top of a mountain as the planes roared by. We'd hoped to make it to mile 750 by days end to Chicken Spring Lake, but due to our sluggish start, only got as far as a lovely little meadow near a spring. Not a bad campsite!

We got an early start the following morning as we hoped to make it to Guitar Lake as a base camp for our ascent of Mt. Whitney. The hiking was unreal - the scenery went from beautiful to just absolutely jaw-dropping. Really, breathtaking. We stopped for lunch with Viking at the bottom of a descent right on a river, with huge trees surrounding the flat campsite in all directions, and a quaint meadow on the other side of the river. As we ate lunch, Brett and I finally actually looked at the mileage and elevation profiles for the section we were still beginning. (We'd forgotten to have our maps sent for this section...oops. Viking let us look at his during lunch.) We realized it was time to hatch a new plan, because our current one was untenable. Sadly, we came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to get to Mammoth in time for the wedding unless we postponed our Mt. Whitney ascent. Not ideal, but it was the only viable option unless we wanted to skip 70 miles of trail and leave the Sierra at Bishop Pass. I was so disappointed, because really, when are you ever at a point in your life when you can just casually climb to the top of the highest point in the contiguous United States?! We're hoping to rent a car later and drive back to climb it. Skipping Whitney meant we'd start crossing the High Sierra passes a day earlier than expected - Forester Pass is the first and highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet. We needed to get at least 4-6 miles more in order to be in good position to tackle the pass the following morning. (It's important to go over the passes in the a.m. when the snow is still frozen enough that you have less chance of postholing all the way down.) By the end of the day, I was so tired I couldn't even appreciate our surroundings. I was also still really bummed about Mt. Whitney, and even though it's not actually part of the trail, I felt guilty skipping it. Barely made it to camp by dark, and passed out quickly!

The following day, we successfully completed Forester Pass! It was pretty darn steep, and there were a few nervous moments, but all in all, it wasn't too bad. We yelped at the top and took a few pictures. Brett also got a call from his former boss asking if he'd be interested in working with her on a project when he returns - not a bad place to get a job offer! We had lunch by an alpine lake and then hiked another 6 miles more through amazing meadows in a huge valley. The views were spectacular and I felt like I was in a dream world - it was so beautiful it didn't feel real. We could have gone another few miles, but decided instead to take the evening off and make camp early. What a treat! Got camp set up by 6ish and enjoyed the Bubbs(ling) Creek and huge trees that we called home for the night, with giant granite walls surrounding us bathed in alpenglow. These are places I can hardly believe exist.

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