From Bishop (via Onion Valley Trailhead) to Rae Lakes
Kearsarge Pass and Glen Pass
An entire extra day of prep should have had us on the move with rocket boosters this morning… alas, procrastination begets more procrastination. Post office, packing, diner breakfasts, re-packing…I’m not sure we’ll ever get out of here.
At the post office, there’s a beautiful old GMC High Sierra. “High Sierra!” says J. “Cool logo,” he adds, and snaps a photo before he goes in. Tess and I are waiting out front when an older gentleman comes up to us, gets in my face, and accusatorily says, “What were you doing taking a photo of my truck!”
“uh, just the logo sir! We’re hiking the High Sierras, and you’re driving a High Sierra! Cool, right? ha ha?” The old man is not placated, but leaves us alone. I didn’t know I was so suspicious. Sheesh.
Packed to the gills with bacon and pancakes, no more chores left to delay us, Tess drives me, J, Bluesman, and Teal up to the trailhead to depart. It’s 1:30pm and we have two passes ahead of us. Our packs sink low on our hips with 8 days of food – the most we’ve ever carried – and we start up the thousands of feet of elevation leading up to Kearsarge Pass. I’m starting off right, with a trip and a stumble and flat on my face. “oof,” I mutter, from underneath my pack.
I bought new shoes in Bishop, and if this is any indication of how they’re going to treat me, things are not looking good. The gear store didn’t have the model of Salomons that I’d been wearing (the XR Mission), so I swapped in the XR Crossmax – it’s similar, but with a thicker foam sole, which seemed like a good idea yesterday. Problem is, the sole is also narrower, and I feel like I’m trying to hike in platforms. The shiny, pink kind. I roll my ankle again and again, cursing more every time.
Despite all that, it feels so good to be back on the trail. I’m starting to feel lost in the trail towns, like a fish in a suit. It’s not my place, and I’m overwhelmed by the stripmalls and food and people and internet. Walking is easy. One step one step one step. We charge up Kearsarge pass, finish the seven miles from the Onion Valley Trailhead, and finally re-join the PCT, leaving the desert and towns safely behind the mountains. I don’t want to see them, I just want the mountains, and the lakes, and the snowpack, and the wild. Forever.
Kearsarge Pass was a bit of a haul. Too bad it’s not our only pass of the day – Glen Pass awaits. My back-on-trail optimism takes a bit of a beating on the switchbacks, but I huff and puff to the top, where I find Bluesmand, surrounded by JMT hikers, where he regales them with PCT battle stories. Teal comes up right after J, and in the late afternoon we descend towards Rae Lakes in the Golden Hour. Bluesman drags us a few more miles and then we set up camp. Taking off my pack feels like getting out of prison, and we set up our tarp facing the Painted Lady Peak, it’s top still lit up like a Christmas Star for one more minute. The lakes are beaten silver, the trees black against darkening peaks, and words cannot do justice to this place. I’m exhausted. Pinchot Pass tomorrow.