Meadow with rock to Volunteer Peak
We’ve only just got back on trail when we run into two other PCT hikers taking a break. There’s a third pack next to them – “that’s our buddy’s pack,” they explain. “He forgot his wallet at camp.”
“That’s the smallest pack I’ve ever seen!” I exclaim. “Is his food in there?”
“Yeah, that’s everything. His base weight is six pounds.”
“Yeah. He’s hungry and cold a lot.” They pause. “He doesn’t like it when we tell people that though.”
J and I laugh. Having a tiny pack doesn’t get you any trail cred if you’re miserable all the time.
I have a sneaking suspicion that most super-ultra-lighters are hungry and cold a lot, but will never admit it.
The two hikers we’re talking to do not fall into that category. The dude tells us that his base weight is 33lbs – four of which come from the didgeridoo strapped to his pack. Huh. If I were to give myself a four lb musical instrument allowance, I think I’d pick something with a wider range. But, 6lbs, 33lbs, or 15lbs(my base weight), here we all are, coming up on 1000 miles.
It’s more granite and forest with every mile. I feel like we’re on a slow taper out of Kings Canyon – still beautiful, but easing up on the overwhelming spectacular. The huge ups and downs have turned into small ups and downs, the sheer cliffs only a rocky giant’s playground. Hard walking.
A small lake – Miller’s lake – calls our name. Blue, almost warm, thronged with bright blue damselflies. For once, for a minute, the mosquitoes let us be.
By afternoon, it’s the same ol’, same ol’ behind on miles, hard walking. I can feel myself being increasingly neurotic about miles, and I hustle J all day, hustle myself, walk faster, walk faster, walk faster, walk faster! I can’t walk any faster! I’m exhausted. This section of trail is brutal.
“Why is this section so hard?” I bemoan to J.
“Don’t you remember the Davids telling us that this is probably the hardest section of the entire trail?”
“I think I missed that memo.”
I’ve gotten it now though. Holy smokes.
At three in the afternoon we come out on the ridge over Matterhorn valley. I’ve seen this valley before, I’m sure of it – perhaps in the book of fairytales I read as a child. This is where the Enchanted Kingdom lies… too bad that’s not where we’re going. No time to waste, we should be walking faster.
We pass Smedburg lake in the late afternoon. Lots of hikers setting up camp. “There’s room over here,” calls out a fellow hiker.
“We’re going to do two more miles,” we reply. Two of the worst, hardest, rockiest, steepest miles yet. Why do I always need to do two more miles?
The setting sun shines off the glacier polish, lights up Volunteer Peak, which is behind us now. Only 18 miles today. We’re going to run out of food if we don’t start hiking faster. Maybe tomorrow.
Glacier polished porphyritic granite