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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

PCT - Day 47: 6/4/2018 - Forester Pass

Trail miles: 16.7 from 766.3 - 783.0
Miles walked: 18.9

Water and Snow
Hugs are something that people in the city do way less than they should.  Out here, it’s different. Love and camaraderie are ever present and it’s acceptable to show it openly. I hugged each member of my trail family multiple times today.

It started in the morning as Tapeworm, Opera, Peanut Butter, and Chilly Bin were heading out of camp around 7:00 am to go climb Mt. Whitney. HoosierDaddy was also staying in camp so he would be able to hike with this group. We all knew that with Kate, Ziploc, and myself hiking on today that we may not see each other for a while, so hugs were shared and feelings openly communicated. I choked back tears with each person’s embrace. I’m going to miss each one of these great people more than they’ll ever know. I hope we can meet back up again soon.

Leaving much later than normal, Kate, Ziploc, and I hiked a bonus mile back to the PCT not even imagining how our day would turn out.

Morning View
I stopped to capture a close up of a chipmunk since they don’t exist in Germany and Ziploc really wanted a picture for her family back home.

American Chipmunk
After a few miles, our legs were just getting warmed up when we had to ford Wallace Creek. We changed into Crocs and walked across it easily with water only coming up to our knees. Mosquitoes swarmed us and after killing five mosquitoes on one of my legs, I just raced up the hill hiking in my Crocs since stopping to put my shoes back on meant certain death from a thousand mosquito bites.


Less than a mile later we forded Wright Creek, which was also not too bad, but it was cold. At the top of a climb after Wright Creek which was above the tree line, I walked off trail about 1/10 of a mile to wash my shirt in a crystal clear alpine lake. It was simply stunning.

Alpine Lake
Three miles later it was Tyndall Creek which was raging. It was now approaching midday and the snow melt was swelling all the creeks and streams. We scouted upstream and downstream and Ziploc and Kate found a safe spot for us to cross. The water was just over the knee, but it definitely had a powerful current behind it.

Creek Crossing
We took a quick break to put our dry shoes back on, eat, and put on more sunscreen. The sun was very hot and as a result, I was worried about the snow conditions we’d find on Forester Pass which was just five miles further. Normally I wouldn’t even consider hiking up and over a high pass that has a ton of snow late in the day. But, Ziploc and I were very low on food and we needed to get to town via Kersarge Pass which was still ten more miles after Forester Pass, not counting the fact that we still had 7.5 more bonus miles before we’d reach a trail head. Then from there we’d then have to figure out how to hitch 20ish miles into town. So, we had to push over Forester Pass in the afternoon heat, in prime post-holing conditions.


We leapfrogged with a couple hikers named Monster and Cheez-It. They would end up climbing up the Pass with us for the later half of the ascent which got more and more dicey as we gained elevation. Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet. The snow started in small patches around 11,400 feet. By 12,000 feet there was more snow than rock and much of the snow was covering semi-frozen alpine lakes. The trail was hidden for much of the climb. I led the group across rock ribs and across snowfields with the occasional punching through the snow up to my knee, sometimes my thigh.

snow patches
We bounced through talus fields and climbed up some granite. We also navigated tricky snow bridges over raging streams. Our hike had become a mountaineering adventure. I was having so much fun even though I cursed with every post-hole into the snow.

Kate post-holing
Kate and I had hiked through crap like this before in Colorado, albeit with lighter packs. And we’d always had boots, gaiters, and snowshoes, not the trail runners we were all sporting today. Ziploc on the other hand had never even hiked in the snow before. She embraced the suck well and was a quick learner. By the end of the day, she was a pro and had learned a lot.

Talus
Near the top of Forester Pass, there’s a really steep snow chute to cross. It’s a place where a fall likely would result in death. After putting on Microspikes, I led the way across. Ziploc followed while I took a video and pictures and offered encouragement. She made it 90% of the way across and then slipped. She hit rock when trying to stop herself with her ice ax, but fortunately her feet also hit a large boulder where she stopped immediately. I ran over to help her up. She was understandably shaken a bit. It was a hair-raising experience for all of us.

Ziploc on show chute
Kate on snow chute
Kate followed without issue as did Monster and Cheez-It. A few switchbacks more and we were all standing on the highest point on the PCT. It was 3:30 pm.

Ziploc, Kate, Circus Act on Forester Pass

We still had a long descent left, and we had no idea that it would take us just under three hours to cover the next two miles. 
descent
The descent was arduous, post-holing was frequent, shoes sopping wet, feet cold, and the trail mostly invisible. We tried to follow the trail via Guthook GPS, but often snow conditions would dictate an alternate route. I got stuck in the snow twice briefly when post-holing up to my waist. My legs were getting shredded with each plunge into the snow since I was wearing shorts. We down-climbed a face that was way too technical to be doing with full backpacking packs complete with hated bear cans. We took it slow with full concentration on each step and with each plant of a trekking pole.

Kate post-holing
Laughs were still had, mostly at each other post-holing through snow bridges into streams underneath. We also laughed to keep the mood light since the suffering was on full tilt. After what felt like a decade, we finally reached a visible trail. It was a joyous moment and more hugs were shared.

snow bridge

The trail was so full of water from melting snow that it was basically like walking down a creek. My feet were so wet already that I just got to the point where I gave zero fucks. I splashed right down the center of the trail, water reaching my calves.

water from snow melt
Slowly, the water on the trail became less and Ziploc spotted a beautiful campsite with glorious evening views looking back at the mountain we’d just come over.
End of Day view
After setting up tents, we sat together and ate a well deserved dinner. We talked about our memorable day. It’s a day I’ll never forget. We’d survived this crazy day only with help from each other. The three of us bonded forever by Forester Pass on a hot day in early June.

I hope the rest of our trail family hits this pass earlier in the day when the snow is more solid.

Tomorrow we’ll hike six more PCT miles to Kearsarge Pass and then 7.5 bonus miles. There’s a shower, laundry, and hopefully a burger with a pound of bacon awaiting me.

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