a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 826.3 to 843.3. Palisade Creek Camp to Evolution Lake Camp
Muir Pass Day! This pass is known to be the hardest one and the first 12 miles of the day will be a steady uphill climb. But we look forward to reaching the top and have a good rest at the Muir shelter there.
We still have to finish the descent from Mather Pass, but then quickly reach the bottom and start to climb again. We overtake a lot of day/section/JMT hikers right in the start, but then take an extended breakfast break next to a raging river and end up seeing all the other hikers again. The first part of the climb isn't too bad, and actually so beautiful. We even see a deer grazing right next to us, it isn't bothered by us at all. Then the trail gains more elevation, becoming steeper. Here are the other hikers again, who we quickly pass one by one. In direct comparison with other people we always realize that in fact we have become quite the fast hikers. Yay! But then, another creek crossing. It sure looks easy enough, there are a few rocks, and the creek is maybe 3 meters wide. I step on the first rock and the next thing I know I am lying in the creek, completely wet. Luckily I didn't hurt myself very badly, just got a lovely bruise on my upper leg. But I still need to dry because my shoes are soaking wet. We find a spot in the sun and dry my stuff, and myself. Of course everyone else now passes us again. :-) After 30 minutes we continue hiking, soon passing everyone else - again. We think we are getting closer but when chatting to southbound hikers we find out it's gonna be a while until we will reach the top. So we pick up our pace and up up up we go. We pass beautiful glacier lakes in shades of green and blue, surrounded by white snow fields. The terrain is quite rocky and we only need to cross a few snow patches. About 15 minutes before we reach the top Dario's gets nature's call and goes off to find a place to dig a hole while I wait. This guy! He always feels the need to find a suitable place about 10 minutes away from the trail!
After what feels like an eternity we finally reach the top. Muir Pass - they didn't exagerate - it was tough but is so pretty up here! We take a few pictures, chdck out the hut, eat some snacks and then start heading down. This descent surprises us with the most amazing scenery. All these lakes, green meadows, creeks and pointy mountains, it's so serene! I can't help it, I need to stop for picture every couple minutes! Then Evolution Creek followed by Evolution Lake. Evolution Creek is so wide, and there are rocks there to cross it safely. We are tired by now and decide to set up camp at Evolution Lake. We find a lovely spot to pitch our tent, then jump into the lake to clean ourselves and then prepare dinner. Tomorrow we will reach the Muir Trail Ranch, a little piece of civilization! Since we are running a little short on food we are hoping to do a little resupply there, with food that JMT hikers have left behind.
Miles 808.6 to 826.3. Lake Marjorie Camp to Palisade Creek Camp.
We start at approx 7am and realize, we are not the last ones to leave. In fact everyone is just about to crawl out of their tents.
Today is another pass on the schedule, Mather pass.
At first it is 2 miles down where we have breakfast. After that the climbing starts again. After about 4 exhaustive hours we stand in front of another very steep rocky wall. Slowly we start climbing and soon reach the pass. On the other side another beautiful valley spreads out with lakes, rivers and trees.
For lunch we stop at Palisade Lake, take a quick bath in the ice cold water, wash our dirty clothes and dry our moist tent and try to survive the numerous mosquito attacks.
From Palisade Lake it is a steep downhill path along a very rocky wall. It takes us more than two hours and our knees start hurting a bit. We keep meeting hikers hiking south and feel sympathetic with them as they have such a steep uphill climb ahead of them and they all keep asking whether they are soon at the top. We encourage them by lying to them. :-)
Down in the valley we follow the Palisade River coming from the lake where we had lunch, for another hour and set up camp next to it. Tomorrow the next pass is already on our schedule, the famous Muir Pass. It will be about a 20 mile climb and is supposedly one of the hardest passes on the whole PCT!
Miles 794.3 to 808.6. Rae Lake Camp to Lake Marjorie Camp
We sleep in a little bit today and get up at 7am. What a nice spot we found to camp at! Now in the morning light the Ray lakes and the surrounding mountains look even more gorgeous than the day before.
From our campsite the trail leads another 5 miles all slowly downhill to the valley where we encounter another raging river and a suspension bridge crossing it. Apparently there are one or even two bears living next to the bridge. That is at least what we read on several comments in our PCT App. So we carefully watch for them - but no bears today…
We make a short stop next to the bridge to get some fresh water out of the river and take some pictures of the two of us crossing it.
What comes next is a long climb to another 12’000 feet high pass, Pinchot pass.
So we start climbing it and come across a impressive water slide. And then - finally - the 800 mile sign! Unbelievable - we‘ve just walked 800 miles with our own two feet!
Shortly after we spot someone hiking down the mountains towards us and realize that it is Mugshot, an elderly woman we met a couple of times before but then she hitched from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows and we didn’t see her again since. So we are a bit surprised as she is clearly walking in the wrong direction. She also recognizes us and begins to tell us that she just decided some minutes ago to leave the trail as she is so afraid of the river crossings and suddenly bursts out in tears. Apparently there is a bigger crossing just coming up a few minutes ahead, which made her come to that decision. We try to calm her and offer to help her with the crossing and after giving it some more thougts she finally agrees to try it that way. When we reach the crossing we have to admit that it is actually a hard one. After studying the river for a while we figure out a doable way. So I go first and make it to the other side, take off my pack, return to the other side, take Mugshot’s pack and bring it safely to the other side. No it is her turn to cross the river. So Maya and I both give her exact instructions on which rock to put which foot and after a short time she also makes it! Maya for her turn jumps like a jung deer over all those rocks and also arrives safe and sound on the other side. At that point we leave Mugshot and tell her to ask anybody for assistance if she should encounter another hard crossing.
We continue our climbing for another 1.5 hours and find a nice campsite for lunch in a smaller forest section. To our surprise there is already a guy sitting there having a campfire. He looks kind of special as he is just wearing normal sneakers which are in a rather terrible state. Also his shirt and pants look like they have already seen a lot things. It turns out the guy’s name is Dzim, actually Dzimitri (not to confuse with Simon’s Dimitris) and is from good old Russia. He is a really nice guy and offers us some black tea he has just boiled over the fire. We start chatting with him and soon start to get the impression that he is a kind of Bear Grills guy. Apparently he is only doing two weeks on the JMT, heading south, so he already did all the passes that are coming up next for us. We start to ask him, if they are hard, and he just starts to tell us in a funny way that it is “all easy, not like Russia, not much snow”. We also ask him if he had had a bear encounter so far and he replies with a kind of sad voice: “No bears here, no wild here. In Russia nature is wild, I see 1000 times brown bear and fight with fox to get duck he hunted for eating”. He continues to tell us stories about crazy Russia and I quickly begin to like the guy. Crazy dude walking here with his broken shoes and sleeping on something looking like packaging plastic. But he insists that his “mattress” is good, very good, because can also make rope of it and even a belt when the bag is too heavy!
He is really one hell of a guy, as he also offers us some of his lunch, which consists of mushrooms and onions he found somewhere next to the trail, and some bread. I am a bit curious if he knows what kind of mushrooms these are but he just says “we have same in Russia”. Ok we both think, it is probably not the first time he eats these mushrooms on the trail and he is still alive (yet).. His meal is actually really tasty. To say thank you, we give him some cheese and salami and with a voice of joy and surprise he says: “crazy, you bring cheese to forest!” and eats it. We also give him a snickers bar, which makes him even happier. After spending another 30 minutes we say goodbye to Dzim and he hands us over a paper sheet with all his contact information. He is also planning to travel through South America as we do, so we all agree to maybe meet again somewhere there.
After leaving our lunch spot, the actual climbing begins. Unfortunately it is not as easy as Dzim told us before but still doable. The trees trees start to get less after maybe 2 hours and soon we are on a plateau again and can spot the pass in the back. It is again a steep, massive granit wall we have to climb. As we approach the pass step by step I start to sound more and more like a steem machine. Zig-zag it is again and exhausting as well. But as always we somehow make it to the top. It is another gorgeous view we encounter on top, below us lies a big valley containing three dark blue lakes. We begin our descent and soon reach Lake Marjorie. There we pitch our tent, have some dinner and fall asleep quickly after this exhausting day!
Miles 788.5 to 794.3 (7.5 on Kearsarge Trail Pass and 5.8 on PCT. Gilbert Lake Camp to Rae Lakes Camp.
Today is Simon’s birthday and sadly, also the day we have to say goodbye to him. After we’ve packed up all our stuff we settle on a large rock overlooking Gilbert Lake and have our breakfast there. Again, first breakfast after town is always a good thing because we still carry fresh food such as tomatoes, avocado etc. After about an hour we decide it’s time to go and start climbing Kearsarge Pass. Again. This time, and from this side, it’s worse. The about 3 miles are taking forever and after a while we can’t spot Simon anywhere. Poor fella, he probably got lost again somewhere. ;-)
We reach Kearsarge Pass and still no Simon in sight. He shows up after about 20 minutes and true story – he did get lost again and followed another trail for about 2 miles. How? Why? Simon!!! Anyway, we are glad he’s here and lend him Dario’s phone to make some calls to his family since his phone isn’t working up here. While he runs around the top looking for the best reception and shouting “Mum, Mum, can you hear me. Yes, yes, I can hear you, can you hear me?” in the phone, we play with the little chipmunks who try to get bits and pieces of our snacks. Because, yes, we are already snacking again. Hiker hunger. It’s a thing.
After a more or less successful call to Simon’s mum we hike our last mile together. And then the time has come to say goodbye to Simon. His company will truly be missed. He really added so much to our hike in the last couple of days and we really hope to see him again in Europe!
So now it’s only the two of us again. We chat all the way back to the PCT and are both excited to finally get back on trail for the probably most physical week yet. In the next 8 days we will be climbing 8 mountain passes. It’s gonna be soooo tough but so beautiful we’re sure. The first pass is coming up right then and there. Glen Pass. It’s 10,544 feet (3,214 m) in altitude and we feel every step we take. It’s quite brutal actually. It seems as though we are no longer used to the thin air up here after having been back down in the desert for 2 days. But eventually we get there and are rewarded with the most terrific view. There are also some clouds – something we are not used to after 2 months of constant sunshine – which make for even better and very dramatic photos. It’s already past noon by now and we want to get back down as far as possible because you never know how the weather can develop up here and to be stuck in a storm up on a pass, hmm, we’d rather not try that out. So back down we go, the terrain is very rocky and it’s not exactly comfortable to walk on. I pity everyone who crosses our paths. These poor hikers have quite a climb ahead of them and I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes now. The landscape around us becomes greener now, many streams are flowing around us and as a consequence, many mozzies are flying around us. This makes us descend faster because the faster we go the harder it is for mozzies to dock themselves onto our skin.
We know that some lakes will come up soon and sure enough, here they are around the next corner. The Rae Lakes. They are absolutely stunning and make me want to jump into the water. We decide on a camp spot and hike there quickly. After we’ve set up our tent, we do get halfway into the water to wash ourselves. It’s freezing cold and again, we have to be quick to not get eaten alive by the insane amount of mosquitoes everywhere.
Dinner consists of Hoernli with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. It deserves a special mention in this blog because in my opinion this was our best dinner yet. I am so lucky to have the best chef doing the PCT with me. I don't know whether we already mentioned it, but Dario know goes by the trail name "Ratatouille". Fits perfectly.
So this was the first pass. It sure was hard. But taking a look at the map in Guthook, it is not gonna get any easier in the next couple of days. But I guess we will get used to it and get better at it. But for now, let’s go to bed and get some rest.
Miles 2 from Onion Valley on Kearsarge Trail Pass. Bishop to Gilbert Lake Camp.
“Oh no, the fairy tale life is already over today”, is the first thought I have when I wake up. But then I remember that a delicious breakfast still waits for us to join/eat it. We agree with Brad and Simon to have breakfast at Jack’s, a popular place in the hiker world.
Just before we leave we get a message from Wizard, telling us that she and Thibaud and the rest of the crew will be here in Bishop soon and will also have breakfast at Jack’s. “Perfect”, we both think, do the hotel check-out and head over to Jack’s. Turns out all the others, including Wizard and Co. are already there! We have an amazing breakfast (the biggest omelets I have ever seen in combination with a massive amount of hashbrowns) and spend like 2 hours with this great round of friends.
But at some point we have to go back to the trail, or rather back to the parking lot at the beginning of Onion Valley Trail (again!!). The night before we and Simon decided to go back there together after breakfast. Unfortunately Simon hasn’t done his resupply yet, so we agree that Maya and I go now and will meet him later that day on the trail.
But now we have to get a hitch again. Remember, to get here it was a rather complicated story, since no one was willing to give hikers a ride. But walking is not an option – it is 40 miles and it's the desert!
So anyway, we place ourselves next to the main road and wait. And wait. And wait. But there, a car is slowing down! Ah no, again just someone turning right the next street. Bloody… But shortly after that someone is actually stopping for us. It is an elderly, retired guy called Mike, who lives in that area and regularly gives rides to hikers. He agrees to drive us all the way to the parking lot. But we have to do him a favor in return and help him find a geocache next to the road in the middle of nowhere. Ok, sounds great, we both agree. On the way there Mike keeps on telling me all about geocaching and that there are about 200 caches here in the area. And yes, by the time we are getting closer to the one he is looking for today, I am informed of nearly 60 caches he owns, he has already found, he is planning to hide or he did not find. Apparently there is also a thing called geo-art, which means that you place your caches in a geometrical form on the map or you write something.
Soon we reach the spot, where the GPS shows him the cache has to be and start searching. Shortly after, we find the cache and after another 20 minutes of geocache talk we reach the parking lot. We say goodbye and thank you so much to Mike and start climbing Kearsarge (again!).
It is a bit harder from this side, as it is now not downhill but uphill. After 1.5 hours we reach one of the pretty lakes and decide it is already enough for today. We want to enjoy this place and also have to meet Simon somewhere. So we pitch our tents next to the lake and I test my newly bought fishing gear I got in Bishop.
And indeed, it works. After only 30 minutes I have already caught 3 trouts. Unfortunately they are not very big, so I release them back into freedom. After another hour or so we hear AC/DC singing Simon approaching. As he realizes it is me, he joins me fishing and also catches two small trouts.
We all have a nice time at the lake, eat some burgers we bought at Mc Donald’s and soon go to bed.
Miles 0. Zero Day in Bishop.
The night has been awful. I always looks so much forward to spending a night in a real bed and then I can hardly sleep. Hopefully the next night will be better. Luckily we already completed almost all our hiking tasks the day before. We now only need to ship ahead some food and other items to Sierra City, a town near mile 1100 where it is not recommended to shop as it’s quite expensive. For this we need to go to the Post Office to pick up a box. Then we want to hit the library, check our finances and hopefully do some blogging. But first - breakfast at the Looney Bean Café! It is absolutely perfect – we get cappuccinos, orange juices, granola with yogurt, croissants, a burrito and a sandwich, yummy! After our run to the post office we go straight to the library. We only get an hour each and take care of some stuff but don’t have the time to blog. Sorry about that!
We then hurry back to the hotel and do a real shake down. We consider every item carefully. Do we really need it? The Sierras have already been tough, the packs heavy with food and the bear canisters. We really do not want to be carrying anything we don’t really need. So we bid farewell to some things and put them in our resupply box to Sierra City. While Dario walks his new shoes back to the post office to ship the box, I get on the phone to family and friends. We then both nap for a while and then start discussing dinner plans with Simon and Brad who has now made it into town.
We are hanging out by the pool when Brad comes over with Sarah. We wait for Simon to join us and then go over to the Bowling Alley restaurant where we have the most amazing dinner! Some starters, beers and wine, lamb chops for me and a rib-eye steak for Dario. It’s absolutely delicious and we will remember this evening for a long time, it was that good! We should probably keep in mind from now on that while Americans don’t really do Italian the Italian way, they certainly do steaks and stuff the American way. Big portions, tasty BBQ meat and awesome, outgoing, uncomplicated servers. Thank you everyone for an absolute blast at this fantastic dinner, a great ending to our wonderful zero day!
Miles 788.5 (+1.5 on Bullfrog Lake Trail) to Onion Valley (7.5 mile hike). Creek camp to Bishop.
It was so nice to get into camp early yesterday and knowing that today we will finally reach Bishop. Sweet civilization, we do miss you sometimes! We get up extra early in order to get to the Onion Valley trailhead from where we hope to get a ride as soon as possible. When we get up it is still kind of dark, but by the time we leave camp, we can already see the surroundings. It is very quiet, it’s gonna be another beautiful sunny day and the prospect of soon eating a delicious breakfast puts us in the best mood. It’s only 7.5 miles to the trailhead from here. We are currently not on the PCT and in order to leave the Sierras we need to take this 9 mile detour across Kearsarge Pass. Twice. Because when we get back on the PCT after our zero-day in Bishop we will have to climb Kearsarge Pass again. From the other side. 18 miles extra. Oh the things we do for some delicious food, drinks, a shower and laundry! By now we have also run out of food anyway and the resupply we will be doing in Bishop will have to last for 9 days until we reach Mammoth Lakes.
Back to the moment. Kearsarge Pass is ahead of us. It’s another steep climb. It’s beautiful. The landscape is so serence, untouched, it’s so quiet. And suddenly, out of the blue, we see two deer standing less than 5 meters away from us. They stand right by the trail where we have to walk and they don’t budge at all. They look at us curiously when we are less than 2 meters away from them. But they don’t seem bothered by us at all. How special is this! The sun is not yet shining down into the valley, but the peaks around it are already glowing in a warm light and are reflected by the many lakes in the valley. After less than 40 minutes we reach the top of Kearsarge Pass and with that, step into the bright morning light. The other side of any pass is always so great to look at! This feeling of accomplishment, of seeing something new that was always there – I love it! From here we can see all the way down to the desert valley again. There are new lakes that render us speechless. We take it all in. There is also a marmot there having breakfast. We join it and have our own little first breakfast consisting of our last Snickers bars. And we have cell service here! I quickly call up some hotels in Bishop to make a reservation. The Red Roof Inn it is. $139 a night, but the cheapest we could find and at this point we don’t care. We are so excited to be sleeping in a bed tonight and get to have a shower. Oh those little things!
We quickly make our way down to the Onion Valley trailhead. We still have 4.5 miles to go, so it should take us at least 1.5 hours if not more. And then we are finally here. We cross the parking lot which is full of cars even this early in the morning. There is nobody about to leave and we already start wondering how long we are gonna have to wait for a ride down to Independence, or even Bishop directly. But before we can put our thumbs out, a van passes us, slows down and asks if we are interested in a ride down. Yes, of course, we are, and thank you so very much! This lovely couple has camped at the Onion Valley campground and now they are on their way back home to LA. We quickly toss our packs into their already pretty stuffed van and jump in in the backseats. The drive down to the desert floor leaves us astonished. We are back in the desert! Nobody warned us that we were gonna be back in this hot climate and we are not sure if we like it! They drop us off in Independence from where we will now try to get a hitch to Bishop which is still about 40 miles away. But this time we have no luck. We give up after about 40 minutes and decide to wait for the bus that will leave about 1.5 hours later - and then go for breakfast at a nearby coffee shop/store. We have cell service now and just kind of drown in the flood of messages that has reached us in the last couple of days. We are busy replying to texts, reading the paper etc., and head back to the highway 1.5hours later. I try my luck again and put my thumb out – we might not have to wait for the bus after all – and actually do get lucky after about 15 minutes. A really nice Mexican American called Carlos stops for us and off we are to Bishop. It takes almost an hour to get there. The drive through the desert makes us think how we actually managed to hike in these conditions for almost 7 weeks. It’s crazy, but it already feels unimaginable!
When we arrive in Bishop we quickly make our way to the hotel. Luckily our room is ready for us even if it’s only noon. And so our zero begins. Unpacking, showering, doing the dishes, throwing away the trash. Then over to the laundromat to get the laundry done. Check out the mountaineering stores in the meantime. Buy new shorts for me since I lost my last ones in Chicken Spring Lake. Buy new shoes, insoles and braces for Dario because he’s been showing symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis. Poor Dario, he’s really suffered in the last couple of days as his right foot arch has been really painful. With two more shopping bags and about 350$ less on our bank account we make our way back to the laundromat and put our clothes into the dryer. The stuff sacks, tent foot print etc. we take with us and hang them up to dry in a nearby park. We chill there for a while until the rest of the laundry is done and then head to McDonalds. We stuff our faces for 20$ (which is actually a looot of food) and then go back to the hotel to rest for a little while. We’ve made plans with Sirio “Doors” from Switzerland and Simon “BBC Radio” to have dinner later tonight. We crave some authentic Pasta and there is an Italian restaurant nearby. We meet up later, it feels so good to see those guys again, they’re both so awesome! Dinner is good, not as authentic as we’d hoped, but it’s a lovely night with lots of wine and beer and excellent company. When the clocks nears 11pm we leave the restaurant and decide to do our resupply. Yes, Shopping at 11pm – welcome to ‘Murica! In we go to Von’s. We are a little drunk, quite tired, but in a very funny mood. We get the resupply done in less than an hour (for 9 days! Tipsy!) and walk back to the hotel. Everyone complains about the 1 mile walk back to the hotel. Thruhikers are interesting people. Simon and Dario even miss the junction back to the hotel and walk a few extra yards. By 1am we are finally in bed. In bed! Yay! :)
Miles 774.7 to 788.5 (+1.5 on Bullfrog Lake Trail). Creek Camp to Creek Camp.
Today is a big day! Finally we are climbing Forester Pass!
We get up, pack together and off we are again. As it is already end of June, most of the snow should be melted by now. Therefore it is also no longer necessary to get up really early to summit at about sunrise to avoid postholing (basically sinking into the snow while walking).
From the “base camp” it is a not so steep climb of about 4 miles until reaching a plateau. But what is this? There is actually a small snow patch left, something we haven’t seen since winter in Switzerland…
But it is easy to cross it and actually fun. As we get closer to the plateau the vegetation becomes scantier and soon we pass the last tree. But it is still beautiful up here! There is still a lot of green grass and on the other end of the plateau we can see these massive mountains, which are pretty close right now.
We wonder which one would be Forester? Maya checks our Navigation App and finds a picture of Forester taken from about the same distance as we are now. And there we spot him. There is a huge, massive rock wall, almost horizontally leading up to a small gap between two mountains. And right below of the gap is still a patch of snow.
Wow! That looks kind of frightening but simultaneously really amazing and cool! What a challenge! How is it even possible to hike almost horizontally up there, we wonder?
As we approach the pass, we can finally see the trail going up. It is a very steep path, which goes up in a zig-zaggy way. But before we reach it, we pass 3 smaller, but oh so blue lakes. Amazing, the water must be just a few degrees above freezing temperature.
And now we start to climb the zig-zag wall. It is hard, but less hard than we imagined it to be. Slowly we gain on height and after 30 minutes we reach the snowy patch we spotted earlier. It covers the whole trail for about 50 meters and if you look to your left it goes down almost 250 meters. Not the best spot to slip on the snow, we both agree and pass the patch very carefully.
And some minutes later we are there, on Forester Pass on 13’153 feet or 4009 meters. What a stunning view we have from there! We take some pictures and spend about 15 minutes at the summit.
After that we start our descent towards the valley, 8 miles further down. Soon we reach a large snow patch and glissade a few hundred meters down the mountain. It is a fun, but also kind of a wet thing.
Shortly after we encounter another snow patch which blocks the trail. But there seems to be a small path leading down the mountain very steeply and joining the PCT again after about half a mile. Ok, we think and take this path. After an easy beginning of descending, we encounter ourselves in the middle of a terrible steep rock wall. There seems to be no path anymore from here and we are unable to go back and hardly able to go further down. What follows is a rather adventurous mountaineering part over big rocks and brutal elevation. But we make it down to the PCT again and are happy nothing terrible happened. Sorry Mums and Dads, but now that we are safe writing this in a library, we can tell you. :-)
From here the rest of the trail down to the valley is not that challenging and very beautiful. We pass lakes, tons of Sequoia trees, blooming flowers, small creeks and lots of squirrels and chipmunks.
As we reach the valley we decide to do another 2.5 miles but all uphill, until be reach the junction to the Onion Valley Trail, which leads over another pass, called Kearsarge, and ends on a parking lot 4.5 miles later. The Onion Valley Trail is not part of the PCT, but the only way out of the Sierras for now to reach our next town stop in Bishop.
But as it is already later in the afternoon and not that easy to get to Bishop from the mentioned parking lot, we decide to pitch our tent not too far away from Bullfrog Lake, 2.5 miles before Kearsarge Pass.
We look forward to the next day, as we really can’t wait to have a nice shower have some good food and sleep in a comfy bed!
Miles 760.0 to 774.7. Rock Creek Camp to creek camp.
We wake up at 6am, BigBro and the rest of the trail family are still asleep. What a surprise, it is another bright sunshining day. As usually we pack all our stuff together within 35 minutes. I go down to the nearby creek to fill our water bottles - what a relief it is not having to filter the water anymore (some people still do it, bit we are willing to take a risk. The water looks so pristine!). I take some time to look for fish, especially trouts. After a short time I indeed discover a few of them and decide to buy some fishing gear in the next town. So all set and off we go.
After a mile or so we reach the bottom of the valley. Since we checked our PCT App with the maps (Guthooks), we already know what is coming next - a steep climb of about 2 miles.
We start climbing and cross a lot of Sequoia Trees and rocks. We are looking forward to reaching the top and then having breakfast and enjoying the silent scenery.
When we arrive though, we realize we are not alone. A group of about 25 Asian section hikers have had the same idea and are also having breakfast there. Well that is not was we imagined it to be, but nevertheless, we decide to eat there. We find a spot some meters away from the crowd and still enjoy the scenery.
Suddenly we spot a cheeky chipmunk, which does not fear humans at all. We share some peanuts from our trail mix with this little fella and are amused how it eats them with both of its tiny hands.
Soon the Asian group is heading out and so are we a couple of minutes later.
What follows is a fairly easy downhill part where we first meet a few people finishing the John Muir Trail or JMT in hikerish. The John Muir Trail and the PCT share a section of about 180 miles, starting in a few miles.
For lunch we stop at a beautiful meadow, it is actually the junction to the famous Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in Continental Northern America (except of the Denali Mountain in Alaska). Mount Whitney is actually not part of the PCT, although a lot of PCT hikers climb it anyways. We already decided a few weeks ago, that we are not doing Whitney as we have a rather tough time schedule to reach Tuolumne Meadows in mid of July, because we will leave the trail for our short trip to Switzerland and France to attend my friend Fabian’s 30th Birthday surprise party and the wedding of our friends Carolina and Maurito (ok it is actually Maurus, but as they are moving to Quito, Ecuador, soon the name fits him even better).
Also Whitney has not the same importance to us than to American people. It is high, but to be honest not very very high. Of course that is something you should never tell Americans…:)
Anyway, as we have lunch we have our first encounters of a) a massive mosquito attack (as Simon would say “those bloody mozzies!”) and b) of a Marmot. It is funny how chubby those animals are and how slowly they move. One would even think they are not the smartest animals on the planet, but still somehow they must have managed to escape the survival of the fittest law…
After lunch we start hiking again and are now officially on the JMT. It is now another steep and long climb on to one of our so called fuckers. But now the landscape starts to change and we feel like having entered the high sierras. We pass two gorgeous green meadows and cross some small creeks and are soon on top of the fucker. Wow, what a scenery! Big mountains in the background, green grass everywhere and a terrific small lake in the middle of the green. We hike a bit off trail to get to this lake and soak our feet in the ice cold water.
From here it is only 3 more miles to our campsite which is next to a raging river and actually something like the base camp to the highest pass on the JMT/PCT - the Forester pass. But this pass is something for the next day, enough hiking for today. We pitch our tent next to approx 2 billions of mosquitoes and hide inside the shelter of our bug save tent as quickly as possible.
Tomorrow we are going to climb our first real pass on the PCT and it is going to be great, no sorry, amazing!
Miles 743.0 to 760.0. Dutch Meadow camp to Rock Creek camp
The next day we sleep in, pack everything up and wake up Wizard with a steaming cup of birthday coffee. We take it really easy in the morning, have breakfast with everyone else who is camped there and right when we are about to head out, Thibaud comes walking around the corner! Oh man this trail! We didn‘t think we would see him anytime soon because he had left KM 24 hours after us. But here he is, doing big miles in order to catch up and be with Wizard on her birthday. Isn‘t he the cutest!! Anyway, we get going, but as the others still need to get water, the two of us hike ahead. We reach the lake first, beautiful Chicken Spring Lake! It was not easy to get here, which makes it even better! The water is ice cold, but nothing can stop us! We dip our feet in the lake, put wine we brought for W‘s birthday inside it to cool it down, and do our laundry. I basically just throw all the dirty clothes inside the lake and give them a good rinse one after the other. Soon everything is hung up to dry on a rock next to the water and by the time we make lunch, the others arrive. Turns out Thibaud also got a bottle of wine for Wizard, and it ends up next to our wine in the lake. When I go to check on the laundry I reliaze that my shirt and shorts are gone. What the !!! Climbing on the rock I had put everything on to dry I soon find my shirt which had fallen back into the water. But where are my shorts??? Soon about 10! hiker friends help me look for my shorts. We get our flashlights to look through the cracks of the rock, search the water to see if they’ve fallen in, but we just can’t find them. Too bad! It’s almost funny though how everyone is searching for them and luckily I have another pair with me that I can wear, so I am not really upset.
When Wizard finally shows up, we all go into the water together, take some funny pictures and then sit down, sing a proper happy birthday, present her with a chocolate muffin and candle which we had carried all the way from KM and drink the 3! (W has also brought one along!) bottles of red wine. Then she reluctantly tells us that she‘s decided to climb Mt. Whitney and will not be hiking on with us tonight. That‘s really a shame, but we can understand her. The reason we are not climbing the highest mountain in the lower 48 states of the US is that we have to stick to a tight schedule in order to exit the Sierras in time for our flight home for the wedding. We then leave pretty soon after the b-day celebrations as we still need to hike 10 more miles. It‘s already 4pm. So off we are, leaving beautiful Chicken Spring Lake and our friends, who are now all doing Mt. Whitney, behind.
And now we truly feel like we‘ve arrived in the High Sierra! It‘s very rocky terrain, some pine trees, a lot of water and mountains as far as the eye can see. It‘s mindblowingly beautiful! We soon reach BigBro, Croc, Pip and Minji and camp next to them at a lovely creek. The guys get a campfire going and we all chat together and eat our „delicious“ dinners. Then off to bed, tomorrow we will reach the base camp of the highest mountain pass of the PCT, Forester Pass!
Miles 725.0 to 743.0. Forestcamp to Dutch Meadow camp
Today we decide to sleep a little longer and give the others a chance to catch up. It‘s Wizard‘s birthday tomorrow and we want to spend it with her. Guess who wakes us up at 6am! It‘s Wizard! She‘s sitting in front of our tent, packed up in warm clothing, but she looks really tired as she tells us that she had hiked until 10pm last night hoping to catch us. And it turns out she only slept a couple of meters away! While we get ready she cooks herself a pasta breakfast and then off we are into another beautiful day! The first part is downhill and easy. Whenever we reach a creek we have to hurry because we are being eaten alive by mozzies. It‘s so cruel! We stop at one of the creeks, immediately put up our mosquito headnets and spray ourselves with 100% deet. Deadly on your skin, deadly for all mozzies. And have breakfast. We seem to be hiking in a small bubble with others hikers we have come to know well and somehow we all gather at this creek. There‘s a hikerfam with Big Bro from Germany, Pip from the UK, Croc from the US and Minji from South Korea. And another trailfamily with Sara from New Zealand, Lionel aka Potluck from Australia and Songbird and Jefe from the US. What an awesome bunch of people!
We will probably see them all again for lunch because there is a viewpoint in the middle of nowhere overlooking Owen‘s Valley with AT&T service! And we haven‘t had reception in ages and are all so excited!!!
Unfortunately now is also the time to say goodbye to Simon who will leave the trail today via Lone Pine and get some wilderness permits. We really hope to meet up with himmin Bishop!
When we finally reach the cell service spot after a pretty steep uphill climb we get rid of our packs, lie down and check the internet. Call home. Answer texts. Update our blog etc etc etc. Our 2h lunchbreak is soon over and we hurriedly put some snacks in our mouths and get going again. We still have 8 miles to reach our designated tentsite for the night. From there we only have like 7 miles to do in the morning until we reach our first mountain lake for Wizard‘s birthday! Dario and I are the first ones to reach the camp, it‘s near a beautiful meadow and we just sit there and take it all in before we finally set up our tent and make dinner. Right when we are about to drift off to sleep the others arrive. They are making a campfire but we can‘t be bothered to get up again and are soon asleep.
Miles 706.6 to 725. Rivercamp to forestcamp.
The next day we get up early. Brad remains sleeping as he has had a terrible night - he is just not used to sleeping in a tent anymore! The three of us quickly make our way up the first mountains, stopping for breakfast in a beautiful spot overlooking the green valley, enjoying the first rays of sun.
We are hiking fast because we know a river is coming up and we are so excited to go swimming again! When we get there already a lot of hikers are there chilling in the grass. This is only the beginning of the Sierras but oh boy, we are so ready for more of this! Bring on the creeks, rivers and lakes, forests, and mountain passes!
In the afternoon a huge climb is waiting for us. I urge the guys to go ahead because usually I am the slowliest and I don‘t feel comfortable when the others have to slow down because of me. It takes a while to convince them to go ahead but then they go and off into the quiet and steep forest I walk, listening to an audiobook, concentrating on my breathing. About 40 minutes later I find Dario sitting on a log, with a big grin on his face. „I have some good news and I have some bad news. First, we are already half way up - yaaay, second, we lost Simon.“ He went up the wrong way. Apparently Dario yelled after him but Simon was listening to AC/DC on his earphones, his go-to music for serious uphill climbs, so he wasn‘t hearing Dario screaming his name. We figure he will realize his error soon, return to the trail and catch up with us quickly anyway, and start climbing again. Sure enough, there‘s Simon waiting for us at the next water source. No idea how he got up there - such a mountain goat! This would totally be our trail name for him if we hadn‘t already named him BBC Radio. He is the most entertaining person to hike with. You name a subject - he can tell you an elaborate story! I honestly am not much of a talker when the hiking gets tough, so I much enjoy Simon‘s company where he mostly does the talking and I can just listen to his fabulous British accent.
Anyway, we finally reach the top and now only have 2 miles downhill to reach the campsite. We are still walking in the woods, the setting sun is poaking through the leaves and branches of the large Sequoia trees. Life is grand in moments like these! Except for the mozzies, because this is the time of day when they like to greet us greedily. Bloody mozzies! So we quickly set up our tent and hurry inside to „clean“ ourselves and make dinner. It‘s still BBC Radio, Brad, Dario and I at this point. Hopefully Wizard and Thibaud will catch up soon.
We leave Kennedy Meadows on the 23rd of June after meeting Wizard and Thibaud halfway and agreeing to stay till the late afternoon before heading out. This gives them more time to relax and get their chores done. After a nice sleep in and another delicious breakfast at Grumpy‘s we check out Jogi‘s store again (which is only a 5 min walk away) because Dario‘s trekking pole tips are in a bad state and need replacing. I also end up buying another pair of leggings because I fear I might be cold with my shorts when hiking up to 4000m.
We blog for a little while and then take the shuttle back to the General Store. We will now see whether all our stuff will still fit our packs as now the bear canisters take up so much room. And they are seriously heavy. Should be interesting.
Somehow we do manage to get it all inside our packs! It is now 5pm - no sight of Wizard and Thibaud. They haven‘t returned from Grumpy‘s and would still have to pack everything up. We feel a little disappointed but can also understand that they just need some more rest. But Simon and Brad are ready to leave as planned, and off we are!
It actually feels great to be back on the PCT! We are still walking in this beautiful meadow as the evening light puts our whole surrounding in a glorious golden light. Hiking is easy even though our packs are crazy heavy! We soon reach the Kennedy Meadows Campground where we sign into yet another PCT register. After only a couple of miles we reach a beautiful river with a lovely bridge where we decide to set up camp. We are not used to this much water yet and are just loving it! It’s also a good idea to let Brad ease into hiking again after almost a month off. Poor guy, we do tease him all the time about being „only“ a section hiker. But he’s a good sport and even makes fun of himself. Brad, it’s so good to have you back!
After we‘ve set up our tents we all jump into the ice cold water, this is awesome! Soon two hikers we met in KM, Monica from Poland and Chris from Germany, join us in our freezing pool. Then it‘s time for dinner. The first dinners after town are always the best because we can chose from anything we like. Knorr Fusilli with Pesto tonight, yaaaay!