Last night I camped about four miles from Pinchot pass which I intended to, well, you know, pass. Preferably it should be before the snow got too slushy, so I was one of the first out of the bat. My shoes were still rather wet and comd from yesterday’s late fording, but I had a pair of dry socks to put in them, so it wasn’t that bad.
Nearing the pass I ran into LOL, a woman who previously had hiked the Appalachian trail. Her phone had run out of battery and she had ditched her paper maps, so she had gotten up early to be sure that she had someone to follow. She and Oldtimer, an older man in surprisingly good shape the age considered teamed up, and the three of us forded a couple of creeks/rivers together as that made me feel more confident.
First thing today, however, was Pinchot Pass. Shortly after the sun peaked up over the horizon I noticed something red in a pond only to turn around and see two mountain tops beautifully reflected in it. The views leading up it were also nice, and the ascent not too difficult. There were some stretches with snow, but they weren’t steep and the snow was hard enough to not cause post-holing. The views were also very nice from the top of the pass, though Glen Pass still has had the nicest. On the decent there were some more snow, but you could walk around it. I didn’t even put on my microspikes.
Coming down the pass there were some nice lakes before the trail entered more dense vegetation. After that were a couple of creek/river crossing necessitating the sane old routine of packing electronics down and trying to wrench out water of shoes and socks. When fording and having to step fully into the water, I almost instantaneously feel a sharp pain in my foot from the coldness of the water, but it subsides shortly after getting out of the water. I walked the most of the day with wet feet, which wasn’t nice but not as bad as expected. Biggest problem is if the wetness leads to blistering, which it hasn’t yet. The biggest crossing of the day was the South Fork of Kings River, were a through hiker had lost her life last year, so it surely demanded some respect. We only had a fraction of the snow of last year, but there was still some flow there. While it looked okayish to cross right at the trail, one should not forget one of the primary dogmas of fording, which is that you don’t have to ford where the river meets the trail, so we used the snow and fording report (similar to the water report) to see that there should be an easier way down stream. That was true as the river split into four making it more manageable. Worst part was nearly the mosquitoes after the fording so it was time for some DEET again. It was nice to have that crossing behind me.
Some time later I had been looking at the trail for my footing, but then around a corner saw a deer five meters in front of me. It looked at me shortly before jumping slightly off to the side.
Around two pm I reached the foot of Mather Pass, which supposedly still had some snow on it, so I would prefer to do it tomorrow morning even though that meant this would be a rather short day. I thus intended to camp at the only marked camping site near the pass. Where it was supposed to be I saw only snow. Bugger. I walked on and slightly later saw a flat gravel like spot some way of the trail next to some snow and decided that that would probably be my best option. I liked the views from the site but otherwise didn’t like it one bit. I felt quite small being just me alone in with my tiny tent tent surrounded by enormous and hostile mountain walls and not much else. Further, would I have condensation problems from a nearby small lake? Would it be to windy? Would it be too cold? As for the coldness, I put my water filter inside my sleeping bag so it wouldn’t get frozen and thus ruined. I also felt somewhat alone again and was annoyed by my stank of DEET, despite trying to wash it off. After the sun eventually went down behind a mountain and I had gotten in my sleeping bag I did feel a bit better. The Sierras is an extraordinarily beautiful but also harsh and brutal place.