Yesterday I mentioned that if things turned out well today I would be camping in the vicinity of Hearts Pass. That would put me in a position where the distance to Rainy Pass, where I camped yesterday, and Manning Park in Canada were comparable. Thus it would be as easy to push ahead as it would be to backtrack if something bad happened as the road to Hearts pass was
closed. Thus, today could be the point of no return.
The start of the day was almost identical to yesterday: I awoke past midnight probably due to the pain and had trouble falling asleep again, though I eventually did. Pulling down camp and starting hiking was also somewhat painful, but I had tried to warm my self up for hiking by walking around while eating breakfast and brushing teeth. That seemed to make things a bit easier.
It had rained intermittently at night, but not a lot and not near the time that I got up, so luckily my tent was completely dry. When it got bright enough that the sky could be seen, it was clear and blue. A strong wind was blowing, through, and less than an hour later it was completely overcast. Well, at least it wasn’t raining.
The trail soon left the forest floor going up to “Glacier Pass”. Having not seen the elevation I assumed that it would then be downhill, but that wasn’t the case at all. We next got into the skies and things turned misty, but the distant mountains still peek-a-booed through holes in the skies from time to time. Staying up at a ridge for a while, the trail next brought us to another valley with fewer clouds and nicely looking yellow orange colored mountains, which, unlike what I had previously seen in Washington didn’t have any grass growing on them. Further along the trail, one could see multitudinous mountains stretching as far as the eye could see.
The hiking went well an painlessly. Well, aside from when I had to get going after a break. That might’ve gotten slightly worse, though. In the morning I saw only one other hiker, so it was quite a solitary experience. As for the weather, it started dripping a bit, but it soon stopped again. It had been warm back in the morning but now the temperature had dropped a lot, and it was too cold for just shorts and a shirt. Being to lazy to put my warm underwear back on, I put on my rain skirt, though it looked quite silly. Past noon, I saw a couple looking like day hikers with smallish backpacks, which didn’t make sense as there was so long to the nearest open trailhead, so maybe they weren’t. Then there was a runner. Well he could’ve come from afar. Then there was a large group of hikers many of whom weren’t carrying anything. Okay, so I had definitely been wrong about Hearts Pass being closed, which they confirmed. It had actually opened at the same time as the new fire detour. So this wasn’t the point of no return after all, and there were in fact quite a few people enjoying their weekend here. There was also trail magic. Yay! It was Ron, whom I had also encountered when he was doing trail magic at Onion Valley Campground below Kearsarge Pass in The Sierras. We talked a bit about this and that and hiking trails in Europe (the GR10 and GR20 in particular, but not that it matters). At first I was the only hiker, but eventually four others turned up. One I thought I recognized from around San Jacinto, and he thought he recognized me from my large camera bag. I had a sandwich with mustard, a slice of turkey and cheese as well as a coke. I told the story about the car pulling up a couple of nights ago, Ron, though, having a wealth of stories up his sleeve, one-upped it with a nightly encounter some years ago at Sonora Pass in the Sierras. He heard someone shouting out a name a couple of times, though he didn’t recall exactly what name, followed by a single gunshot! After some time when he was confident that they had left, he got up from where he was cowboy camping and went looking for a possible body. He didn’t find any, though. After a mostly sleepless night, he went to the police with the story, but never heard back from them. Speaking of missing dead bodies, he then segued into one time he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and wanting to poop dug a cat hole but on the way back saw some plastic that he wanted to pick up in order to later throwing it away, but upon attempting to do so partly uncovered the remains of a human arm. Contacting the police, and it turned out to be the body of a musician, who had gotten lost six years ago and likely died of hypothermia. Ron said that he felt that it had been somewhat a waste of his time and that he was sad that he consequently had missed the opening hours of an all you can eat restaurant nearby. I said that it probably had helped bring some closure to the deceased’s family, which Ron said he hadn’t initially thought of. Hiker hunger!
Some of the other hikers were talking about getting to the monument tomorrow and about upcoming snow in the weather forecast. I couldn’t help but being a bit jealous about them doing that, but there was no way I was going to risk pushing that. Keine Experimente!
After having hung around for some time I got going again. A short while later I got to the Hearts Pass Ranger Station, and pay campground. I asked the ranger, who was an older, welcoming, and a bit rotund man, about the weather forecast. He said that while the mountain peaks could get some light snow as the temperature was dropping, there was not going to be serious snow. That was also my understanding, so the snow talk at the trail magic was just fear mongering. There was a small chance of thunderstorms tonight, though. He also said that there was plenty of campsites along the fire detour once you got down the valley, I wasn’t going to push all that way, though, so I camped at the pay campsite. It had gotten quite cold and windy. Despite wearing most of my clothes, I was unable to keep warm just sitting around, so I got in my sleeping bag. Like yesterday, I was camping already before four pm.
Tomorrow will probably then be the point of no return. Forty two miles to go. That might be two or three days in my current state. I have yet to decide. Thoughts about how it still can go wrong are still flying around in my head from time to time, and I will not be at ease before I stand next to the monument.
One tradition that I had together with my high school friends was to make haiku poems each day when traveling. They would be mostly for laughs and would be describing what we had experienced on the given day. That is not a custom that I’ve honored here on the Pacific Crest Trail, so I tried to somewhat remedy that here:
Walking north for months
In wilderness sweet and harsh
Now it’s the endgame
This day’s miles: 2607-2622