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 23

Mile 789 to mile 800 (plus the Kearsarge Trail)
Saturday 23 June (0630-1630)
Distance: PCT: 11 miles; non-PCT: 4.75 miles
Weather: still constant blue skies, but a ridge of low pressure to the
west of us has brought lower temperatures and blustery winds
Number of non-PCT backpackers seen: 18
Number of north-bound PCT backpackers met heading south: 2

When we headed out to town two days ago, the trail seemed to go on
forever as it weaved its way down the hill. Today I was a big fan of
that trail, as it wound its way oh-so gently back up to the pass.

Time was spent chatting on the other side of the pass as that was
where, one-by-one, we kept meeting people we knew, just on their way
to town to resupply. We passed on what knowledge we had gleaned, and
then we were by ourselves for the rest of the day - except for all the
other backpackers beyond Glen Pass. It's a popular area and we've been
seeing a few non-PCTers for a few days, but today there were lots of
people around.

Having come down from our first pass of the day and rejoined the PCT,
we had before us one of the steepest ascents of the section, up to
Glen Pass, where we had been warned there was snow lying. Another game
of 'spot the pass' ensued as we climbed our way into a steep-sided
bowl and couldn't see how the trail could scale any of the scree
slopes surrounding it. Then I caught sight of a bit of path (these
pass paths are perfectly visible from above as you see switch-back
after switch-back below you, but invisible from below) and couldn't
believe where it was taking us. Zigging and zagging, up the steep
scree slope we went, popping out onto a magnificently jagged stoney
ridge at a smidge under 12000'.

There was a bit of snow coming down the other side, but it was about
20 yards and soft enough to be able to stamp a good purchase, so
nothing remotely alarming.

Then the real descent began, as the path zigged and zagged down to the
magnificent greeny-blue lakes we could see from the top of the pass.

Unsurprisingly, everyone heading up was happy to stop to chat,
including the girl who was heading north on the PCT, but had turned
back to return to Independence having realised two days after leaving
there that she'd woefully misjudged the quantity of food required for
this leg. The mind boggles as to how you can misjudge so much on a 5-6
day leg that it becomes worthwhile turning around and walking 2 days
back up the trail.

Rae Lakes, around and along which we walked in the middle of the day
were magnificent, with their clear water showing as a perfect
green-blue and with the towering white peaks all around. They would
have made a good lunch spot, except we overshot the place we had
earmarked for that purpose so found ourselves walking on to the next

There the mosquitoes bothered us (why does the wind disappear the
moment you sit down for lunch?!), and a lack of nearby running water
dictated a dry lunch, so it was a quick affair. Still, the afternoon
was under 5 miles long, so we focussed on the long rest we could have
on arrival.

They weren't the quickest downhill miles ever, as the smooth trail to
which we have become accustomed was here replaced by a stoney path
which wouldn't have been out of place in the Lakes or Scotland. It
slowed us down, as did the man-made steps which had been designed for
someone nine feet tall.

Our campsite for the night finally appeared before us, and there
beyond it was *the* bridge. Think of the bridge on 'I'm a Celebrity
Get Me Out Of Here', and that's what it's like (okay, maybe not quite
as long or as high, but much bigger and more wobbly than your average
suspension bridge over a burn in the Highlands).

I've already been across it once in each direction (just for the fun
of it) and can't say I'm thrilled by the thought of crossing with my
pack on, but I'm certainly not going back south, so across I shall go.

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