John Muir Trail Take Two: Part Six

People seemed amused by Peter’s lumbar pack/lightweight day pack combination.  The day before, it was a group of guys setting up camp above Palisade Lakes.  I was ahead and when Peter passed the group minutes later, there was the usual ‘hey, nice fanny pack, are you out for a day hike?’


Peter stopped to explain the AC joint injury and said to them ‘Did you see a girl pass a few minutes earlier with the big pack?  That’s my wife, she’s got all the weight!’


‘What!  How did you manage that deal and how can I get the same?!?’


Peter mentioned the bike crash he had that caused the injury and the guys, in unison, said ‘I can crash too, no problem!  We can’t even get our wives out here let alone carrying our stuff….’.


Who says hiking is purely recreation?  I say it’s competition from time to time and later that day was a prime example.  We arrived at the summit of Mather Pass and two guys were just leaving.  Peter decided to catch them on the decent.  It went something like this:  ‘Those guys are going down…we’ll catch them within an hour.’


About an hour later we did catch them on the trail.  One guy was having a smoke break.  They looked at us puzzled because I had the massive pack and Peter his little rig.  At that point, almost ten hours of high altitude hiking into the day, I was so rocked I wanted to lay down and cry.  And I did.  Twenty minutes later I was lying on the trail immersed in a meltdown.  Complete mental and physical implosion.  While lying there (and I am serious, I was lying on the trail, still with my pack on, like road kill…) I thought ‘oh man I hope those guys don’t re-pass us because I will look like a weakling !!’


tracking down the guys…


Such is the life of a distance hiker.  I cannot imagine doing the entire Pacific Crest Trail.  I can’t imagine doing six month long hikes like the ones Peter has done.  He has walked thousands of kilometers and I admire this so much in my husband.  All for the sake of the experience.  Nothing like what sport is for me: no spotlight, no sponsors, no prize money….but an incredible experience that pushes the human both physically and mentally to limits unknown to most.


This sixth day we woke at the usual hour, 4:22am or so.  Hot chocolate followed by coffee and then a new tactic: walk before eating.  Each day was a ravenous experience for me because the foods I had to munch on just were not cutting it.  So, we thought, why not try walking a few hours before eating the 1200 calorie breakfast?  Maybe it would go further if eaten a little later in the day.  We shared some perpetuem drink and an energy bar in the first few hours of hiking and it wasn’t that bad.  Not having to shovel down the oats mixed with granola and powdered soy milk in the cold, dark pre-dawn hours was a nice thing to miss when compared with enjoying the meal in the mid-morning sun at Pinchot Pass.


up on Pinchot Pass after our breakfast/brunch


It was three hours before we finally did eat the meal and it was perfect.  Two guys came up and over from the opposite side, heading north.  The had started in Kennedy Meadows and already had two re-supplies.  One of them had planned for fifteen or so years to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011.  That was a year of record snow, so no PCT.  He sounded so sad talking about this missed opportunity.  Now, he was doing it in sections.  How easy it is not to do the things you dream of in life.  Made me realize how lucky I was to realize so many dreams of my own.  To live, eat, sleep, breath and be those dreams becoming reality.  Same for Peter.  The year he did the through hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada, he planned on hiking only a section.  He liked it so much a section turned into a six-month trek.  That year, too, was a massive snow year, making it ‘impossible’ to traverse the high sierra.  But Peter and few other crazy guys did it and made it all the way.  The stories he has from the experience make my Olympic tales seem rather tame.


The day lasted ten hours, eleven minutes and fifty-five seconds of walking time.  Twelve hours total including breaks.  Epic.  Awesome.  Stunning as always.  First, the ‘Sierra Sahara’ that felt indeed like a desert walk, then the valley up to Rae Lakes that reminded us of another valley from the east side of the Sierra we’ve ridden many times called Pine Creek, and then up the climb over Glen Pass at 12,000 feet.  We went from an 11,000 ft camp, down to 10,000 ft then back up to 12,000 ft over Pinchot Pass, back down to 8,500 ft and back up to 12,000 ft at Glen Pass, then the camp at 11,500 ft at Glen Lake, our little oasis we thankfully reached at dusk.  Did I mention the word epic?


At Rae Lakes Peter we met up with two rangers hiking down from Glen Pass.  WE stopped to chat and Peter mentioned to the man that he met him back in 1993, during his PCT thru-hike.  Peter and his buddies were in a bad way having creek crossings, snow and being lost half the time, and arrived at Crabtree Meadows where he was the ranger with another young guy.  Near hypothermic they tried their luck at the Ranger’s Station and they guys let them in.  Not only let them in but made them soup and gave them booze to warm up (wild turkey to be precise).  That day, nineteen years later, Peter had the chance to finally say thanks.  Peter said to me that they even hiked back after a re-supply in one of the towns and replaced the booze they drank (a whole bottle).  And there was the same ranger, in the sierra, loving it.


hiking up from Rae Lakes to Glen Pass

Glen Pass



We still made it to camp with an hour of diminishing light.  Nobody there but us and the alpen glow on the ridges surrounding us at the little lake.  After a cold rinse in the lake, water filtered, camp set, we were sound asleep at 9:03pm.  Asleep under the blanket of stars over the glorious sierra, our mountain home for the week.  I fell asleep with the distinct feeling of gratitude, as tired as I was, to be moving through this landscape with the one I love, my husband, Peter.


Our little lake home for the night, glen lake, at 11,500 ft

tired peter at camp sipping miso soup with the alpen glow on the surrounding granite walls

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