Sierras G

August 19, Friday–22.5 miles–Sierras G Crabtree Meadows

Fri. August 19         Miles today: 22.5      Total so far: 1,680.1         Sierras Section G     Crabtree Meadows

Well, the alarm went off OK this morning, and we were eager to head out so we could discover WHERE we were!  And it didn’t take long before we hit a SIGNED trail junction.  Whew!  It meant that our mileage yesterday wasn’t that great, but we vowed to do our best today.  What a relief to know we were on the PCT and not wandered off somewhere else!

Much of the morning we spent going through foxtail pine forest with lots of gray boulders and an occasional view.  By 10:00 am, we were at 11,700 foot Cottonwood Pass.  Then came more miles of pines and boulders.  The trail alternated between deep sand (like walking on a beach!) and rough rocks, neither of which made for easy going.  I must admit to being a little bit disappointed in the scenery.  The mountains we were going through were basically just big boulder piles–no cliffs, no spires, no peaks.   Even the wildflowers were few, except for some occasional pretty yellow ones.  About the most impressive things I saw were the HUGE boulders. 

As the day went on, though, things got greener and prettier, till finally we reached Rock Creek.  There were lots of nice campsites there, plus a cute little “baby size” bear box.  We crossed the creek on narrow side-by-side logs.  I am getting braver about this, with God’s help!  Then came a KILLER rough uphill to Guyot Creek, where we got some water.  When the elevation is over 10,000 feet, steep uphills with big rocks are tough.   Puff, puff, pant, pant!    It was almost 7:00 pm before we began the downhill into Crabtree Meadows.  Soon we were getting great views of Mt. Whitney!  Almost at the bottom of the trail down is a box canyon where horses can stay, but to keep them from wandering, there’s a wooden pole gate that you open and close by sliding the crossbars.  Once through that gate, we wasted no time in finding a campsite by the meadow with a Whitney view.   There were enough mosquitoes around that we rigged the net tent, and then collapsed into our sleeping bags.  We were both VERY tired.  The trail today was “way tough.”  I looked at our mileage figures and scratched my head, though.  It sure SEEMED like we did more than just 22 miles.  But tomorrow comes the highest point on the PCT–Forester Pass.   We were really looking forward to it!

August 18, Thurs.–19.1 miles–Sierras G

Thurs. August 18            Miles today: 19.1      Total so far: 1,657.6

This was one tough day, starting first thing in the morning.  Everything that could go wrong decided to “go for it.”  Sigh.  The “kickoff” was that either the alarm did not go off at 5:00 am or else I didn’t hear it, so we didn’t wake up until 6:15!  Bill was the one who woke up first, and shook me awake.  “Monty, wake up!  It’s broad daylight already!”  Oh no!  That meant a whole hour of hiking lost already.  We decided to eat breakfast immediately, to save time.  (The reason we usually eat after hiking for awhile is that when we first get up, it’s generally too COLD to be eating a cupful of COLD granola!)

After that, I was finishing the packup chores while Bill headed into the woods to “go to the bathroom.”  As usual, he took his walking stick and the toilet paper.  As soon as he got back, we put our packs on and got ready to go, when Bill said, “Oh no!  Where’s my stick?”  It turned out that he’d accidentally left it “up the hill somewhere” but he couldn’t remember where he’d gone.  So we took off our packs and spent half an hour searching for the stick, because it was precious to both of us.  It’s the one Bill had found by the trail in Oregon, that had a Bible verse on it.  But all our running around and looking was in vain.  We could not find the stick, and had to painfully conclude we would have to just let it go.  All we could hope was that maybe somebody else who needs a good stick would find it someday.  So we began our day’s hike feeling very sad and gloomy.

From where we were camped, it was a nice downhill, but then came what the guidebook nervously called “a killer climb.”  Well, it wasn’t much of a killer.  Sure, it was a 2,000 foot elevation gain, but it was all nice easy switchbacks.  We got some great views of the REALLY HIGH country where we’ll be hiking in a day or so.  Then came another nice downhill to very green Gomez Meadow.  The guidebook said there werer old Basque carvings on some of the trees there.  I wish we could have looked at them, but we were hurrying, trying to make up for all the time we’d lost early this morning. 

There was no water available right beside the trail today; every time we needed to fill water bottles, we had to go a quarter mile or so offtrail to get it.  But the side trails to water were clearly marked with cute little wooden signs, and the water sources were very nice–sort of set up for “horse people”.  My pack still felt horribly heavy and was so uncomfortable that I made some adjustments to the straps so that it would “ride” better.  It can be a bit hard being my own “horse”! 

We continued climbing higher and higher and got fantastic views of valleys below, while the cliffs and rocks got taller and taller.  At one point, the PCT went very close to the eastern edge of the Sierras and we could look WAY down to alkali pink Owens Lake.  We stopped at one of the horse people camps for a nice lunch, and according to my very quick calculations, we were doing very good mileage.  That cheered us up quite a bit.  But around 3:00 pm, something seemed to go very wrong.  The trail we were on no longer seemed to “fit” the maps or guidebook description.  Had we somehow missed a turn and ended up on the wrong trail?  Very puzzled and worried, we turned around and started hiking back, trying to figure out where we were.  But we could not see any “side trails”, and after some time,  we spotted a PCT emblem high up on a tree,  facing in a direction that only a SOBO hiker would see it.  Whew!  At least we knew we were on the PCT after all, but WHERE?  So we sighed, turned around, and headed back the way we had come until the sun went down.  We had seen no more PCT emblems, and could only hope we were doing the right thing.  I was hiking along feeling very miserable.

Since daylight was about to run out on us, we two very confused hikers set up camp on a very pleasant evening, wondering, “Where are we?”  It was a weird ending to a strange day.  All we could do was ask God for His help and wisdom tomorrow, and pray for some way to know where we were!