Day 73 & 74 – A glimpse of what the PCT is supposed to be like… ie. trail, not snow
Wednesday 10 July 2019
Location: Sallie Keyes Lakes campsite (mile 864.0)
Distance travelled: 15.6 miles
How nice to walk on snow free trail for an entire day! Not only did we manage to walk over 15 miles, but we didn’t need to get up early or arrive at camp late in order to achieve it.
We packed up and left our campsite on Evolution Creek by 7am and headed towards the notorious Evolution Creek crossing about 2 miles further down the trail. We had heard stories of this particular crossing being anywhere between waist and chest deep, so we wanted to hit it first thing in the morning to make sure the water level was as low as possible before any snow melt later in the day.
Not wanting to get our clothes wet so early in the day, we decided to strip down to our undies for the crossing. We joked that it would probably end up only being ankle deep and people would wonder why we were walking around in our undies, and it turned out to be not too far from the truth. The crossing ended up being thigh deep and cold, but not dangerous at all. We must have got it at a good time.
The rest of the morning was spent following the river downstream until it joined up with another river. This made for some spectacular rapids but the walking was easy for once and didn’t require too much energy.
We stopped for lunch at the bottom of the descent. We had dropped below 8,000ft in elevation for the first time since Lone Pine but would be climbing back up to 10,500ft later in the day. By the time we had lunch and dried out our wet shoes and socks in the sun, it was scorching hot. We delayed leaving our lunch spot for as long as possible but the time eventually came for us to get moving again.
The climb was long and hot with only small patches of shade. It was draining but we eventually made it to the top of the climb and had a break near a stream.
The incline mellowed out for the rest of the day as we passed a number of lakes and found a spectacular campsite with lakeside views. Tomorrow morning we’ll tackle one of our last major passes of around 11,000ft, Selden Pass, before dropping down again to lower elevations later in the day.
Thursday 11 July 2019
Location: Mono Creek campsite (mile 880.6)
Distance travelled: 16.6 miles
Our latest morning yet – 8:30am start! No great rush as we have plenty of time and food to get to Reds Meadow later in the week.
It was a beautiful start to the morning from our campsite overlooking Sallie Keyes Lake. The trail then took us up to Hearts Lake which was even more spectacular.
The remainder of the climb to Selden Pass was fairly snow free and relatively gentle – definitely one of our easier passes so far.
The views from the top of the pass were unexpectedly stunning. We took in the views for a while before heading down the snow covered northern side of the pass. The snow went on for a couple of miles, which got annoying as we were now in the slushy part of the day on account of our late start.
We walked along the edge of more frozen lakes before descending down to a meadow. There was even more descending to do though before we reached the notorious Bear Creek.
Upon reaching the crossing, we ran into Fig Bar, who we had first met a couple of days back on our way over Bishop Pass and have been running into daily ever since. Fig Bar had been waiting for someone else to do the crossing with, so the three of us linked up and crossed the thigh deep creek.
We had a short lunch on the other side of the creek while being attacked by mosquitoes, before continuing our descent to the low point on the trail today. We passed a bunch of southbound hikers and stopped to chat with them as long the way.
We got our timing wrong for the big climb of the day again, doing it in the hottest part of the day. The climb itself wasn’t too bad though. Once we reached the top, we found that there was a small amount of phone reception, so we used it to book some accommodation in Mammoth Lakes, our next town stop, to prevent a repeat of the Bishop incident.
It was now mid-afternoon and we followed the switchbacks all the way to the bottom of the mountain. It literally took 2 hours – I’ve never seen so many continuous switchbacks in my life.
Once we reached the bottom, we crossed a raging creek on a massive fallen log, before starting our climb up the other side towards Silver Pass. We hear this pass is also fairly easy, so have camped about 4 miles from the top. We will have a bit of climbing to do first thing in the morning though.