The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 1 July 2012

day 20

mile 775 to mile 789 (plus the Bullfrog Lake Trail)
Wednesday 20 June (0640-1350; 1615-1810)
Distance: 14 trail miles plus 2.5 miles off-trail towards a resupply
Number of photos taken today (just by me): >70!

Today we went over Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT which,
according to the sign at the top, stands at 13200' (although we
suspect it's a bit lower than that). It was incredible. Fantastic.
Spectacular. Even 'awesome' wouldn't be too American a word to
describe the experience.

A walk up the valley took us into and through a bowl (playing
leap-frog with Ben and Sprinkles the whole way). Ahead of us lay a
head-wall of bare white, crumbling granite, leading up to a long
jagged ridge. You couldn't believe that there could be a way up that
wall and through one of the notches.

However, some crazy person came up with a plan and around 1930 the
trail was constructed. It's one heck of a feat of trail construction
giving a path of switchbacks which is quite vertiginous at times. Up
and up it takes you, with incredible views back to the south, to a
landscape of scattered lakes and more jagged hills all around, with
forests down in the valleys.

Although from a distance the rock is bare, there is life up there
clumps of pretty yellow flowers, and even prettier (and very fragrant)
purple ones too.

I can't think of a climb that I've enjoyed more (nor one that's made
me gasp more - it made drinking very difficult!), and then with a
final impressive bit of path, we got to the top of the pass.

Well, the view the other side! Awesome!

About an hour was spent up there with Ben and Sprinkles until
eventually we had to conclude that if we were going to walk a
reasonable distance today then we did need to move. Down we all went,
with me snapping pictures the whole way. Every change of view was as
stupendous as the last.

Down into the forest in the valley, suddenly the terrain turned to
dirt. Mud in places, even, as water abounds in these parts. A pleasant
change from sand and grit - although they did make a reappearance
later in the day.

Talking of water, we have been incredibly lucky once again. Usually at
this time of year the High Sierra is covered in snow. In a moderate
snow year just the passes will still be snow-bound, but in a high snow
year (like last year) you can be walking on snow for 300 miles.

This year is almost a record low snow year (the record was back in the
1970s) and it melted early too. That means that we didn't have to get
up at 3am today to avoid post-holing through soft snow, as would
usually be the case. Compared to a normal year, our passage is a
stroll in the park (which makes me glad we didn't hit a normal year,
because it's hard enough as it is!).

So little snow is there that we sent our spikes on ahead when we
received them at Kennedy Meadows. Today we had fewer than 10 yards of
snow to contend with.

Another benefit of the low snow and early melt is that the river
crossings (some of which can be hairy, running fast at chest high)
have, thus far, been benign. In 2010, the crossings we have already
made were apparently the worst of them all - and we haven't even got
our feet wet.

The final benefit of the early melt is that the mosquito season has
already peaked, so we're not getting the swarms that would be expected
at this time of year. They're still a menace, mind, and I've more
bites than I would like. Admittedly, we could break out the deet, but
at the moment I'd rather scratch the dozen or so bites than apply
nasty chemicals to my skin - an opinion that could change as we get
further north!

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