Day 57-60: High Passes of the Sierras
Day 57: Crabtree Meadow (Mile 766)-South of Forester Pass (Mile 777.5); 11.5 miles
The cold, frosty night made it difficult to leave our warm sleeping bags, but we had ground to cover. About a mile into the day, the Pacific Crest Trail joined with the famously stunning John Muir Trail (JMT). The JMT showed its beauty early as we walked out of a sparse pine forest into an open exposed area. There we found an intense blue seasonal lake in a meadow covered with yellow wildflowers. Rugged mountains rose behind.
Although our eyes were excited, our legs told us they needed a break from the intense climbing we had done the previous five days, with heavy packs and little rest. After consulting maps and surveying our remaining food, we elected to camp early. We’ve learned to be flexible on the trail, and we’ve come to enjoy responding creatively to whatever occurs.
We set up the tent in an amazing spot by a lake at 12200 feet, the highest we had ever camped. We saw clear sky and sunset below us, dense textured clouds in the middle distance, and fog cascading over the peaks above us. We heard distant thunder roll through the mountains. Just as we finished dinner, it started hailing! We were amused and quickly retreated to our tent to look at maps and sleep.
Day 58: South of Forester Pass (Mile 777.5)-Upper Rae Lake (Mile 793); 15.5 miles
We awoke to complete calm, a clear sky, and slight frost. North Star filled our water containers from a snowmelt creek, and we began climbing.
After many rock steps and switchbacks, we reached the top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT at 13200 feet.
There were beautiful views on both sides of the pass. As we crossed over, we moved from Sequoia National Park to Kings Canyon National Park.
After crossing the pass, we encountered snow on the north side as we descended. The snow covered the trail at times, in 200 foot stretches.
We enjoyed views of sapphire blue lakes on the long downhill walk, then dropped below the tree line into a forest. The sequoias were lovely and the smell was perfect.
The relaxing downhill walk ended after lunch, when we began climbing up to Glen Pass, our second pass of the day. The trail was steep with many high rock steps, but not snowy.
From the top there were stunning views of lakes, streams, and mountains on both sides of Glen Pass.
We finished our roller coaster of a day with a steep descent to Rae Lakes. We pitched the tent in a beautiful spot at upper Rae Lake near a colorful peak called Painted Lady.
Day 59: Upper Rae Lake (Mile 793)-Lake Marjorie (Mile 808.5); 15.5 miles
Today we again experienced many big ups and downs, this time both vertically and mentally.
Though fatigued from the strenuous climbing yesterday, North Star didn’t sleep well. Last week’s nighttime bear visit continued to haunt her each night and to rob her of sleep. This lack of sleep was making each day harder. We got a slow start and discussed ways she could get more sleep: daytime power naps, thinking about statistics, and campsite selection.
A few miles into the day we passed the Dollar Lake inlet, where last year Shutterbug took a photo that later appeared in the Wall Street Journal. This visit we found stronger water flow, and a wider stream. It was good to see a familiar spot and note how it had changed with time.
Next we embarked on a heavy duty climb up to Pinchot Pass. The views were amazing, as were the mosquitos. We wore our jackets and covered all our skin except faces and hands to avoid bites.
We completed our ascent of Pinchot Pass in the early afternoon. Thru hikers Cueball and Beardo arrived at the top soon after. We had fun chatting with them. They are fast hikers. It must be the beards.
Shutterbug then enjoyed a spirited descent of Pinchot, but one of his fancy carbon fiber trekking poles got stuck in a rock crevice and snapped in two. What a bummer!
At night we camped between two lakes, on a rocky ledge. Yet another nice spot! The day ended well.
Day 60: Lake Marjorie (Mile 808.5)-Palisade Creek (Mile 826.5); 18 miles
North Star slept relatively well, and was refreshed. The morning walk was lovely as we meandered through an alpine meadow with creeks and lakes, then down into a pine forest. We spotted a couple marmots. We always laugh watching their furry butts waddle away as we approach. Their attempts to escape seem halfhearted.
The mosquitos in the forest were numerous and vicious, the worst we had encountered yet! But the many creek crossings today were beautiful and fun.
As we climbed up out of the pine forest we entered more alpine meadows along the south fork of the Kings River. We only had 2000 feet of climbing today instead of 3500 — good, we needed a rest! North Star enjoyed an additional rest, a midday nap to refresh her energy for the remainder of the climb up Mather Pass.
The climb was laid back, passing through meadows, until the very end, which consisted of rocky switchbacks. From the top, our aerial view of the deep blue lakes below was amazing, with meadows and dramatic mountains all around.
In late afternoon we descended to a meadow with burned trees and downed trees across the trail. Many of the trees which had not yet fallen appeared likely to go at any moment. Eventually we entered a more vibrant forest and found a good campsite under a healthy tree by the creek.
We were especially excited by the landscapes we saw today. Those views made all the hard work worth it, and we will treasure our memories of being here.