Day 36: Either/Or

Mile reached: 775.3 (+28.5 + 0.2 bonus)

High: The scenery was beautiful in every direction. I found myself repeatedly stopping to linger in meadows or to take a photo.

Low: Having to take my shoes off twice to cross rivers.

Embarrassing admission: I’ve been wearing the same running shorts every day for over a month, and I just discovered that they have pockets.

I knew this was potentially going to be a big day, since I was hoping to cross Forester Pass the following day. If I didn’t get close enough, it would be difficult to get to the pass in the morning. As a result, I might be confronted with energy sapping slushy snow. Despite knowing this, I still did a poor job getting up early. There was a tree directly between me and the sun. Even though there was sunlight not 5 feet on either side of my camp, I still struggled to get out of my quilt. Eventually, some other hikers came through and made enough noise that I got up and going.

The morning was spent traversing high on the Sierra Crest through Foxtail Pine forests. Periodically, I would encounter a high alpine lake or tiny meadow. However, after crossing into Sequoia National Park the trail began a steep descent into the Rock Creek basin, which would be the first obstacle of the day. Supposedly, Rock Creek would be the first noteworthy river crossing on the trail. The trail paralleled the river for a stretch, and when I finally got to the designated crossing there didn’t appear to be anyway to do it without getting wet. After hunting around for a bit, I found a logjam 100 yards downstream that was sturdy enough to cross on.

Foxtail Pines, a species of bristlecone. Hard to believe that they can grow so large
Rock Creek where in first encountered it. I probably just should have crossed it there.

On the other side, I decided to stop and eat lunch. While I was eating, “Gandalf” showed up, and I motioned him down toward the crossing. (He, like “Woody”, are one of the few people whom upon seeing you know exactly how they got their names. In his case he has a beard that rivals Gandalf’s.) He stopped too, and while we were eating I learned that “Backtrack” and “Baby Blanket” were on their way. Apparently, he had talked them into going all the way into Bishop rather than bailing for Lone Pine. I waited for a while to say hi and hear how their evening of fishing the other day went but later learned that they had gotten distracted down-trail.

From Rock Creek the trail climbed back up high on the crest and only dipped slightly into various drainages. One of these was Crabtree Meadow, which is just west of Mt. Whitney. Many thru-hikers stop here to climb Whitney, but having been up it before I decided to pass on that lengthy side trip. However, I couldn’t resist taking a break there, which was only marred by a few mosquitos. It also marks the intersection of the John Muir Trail (JMT) and the PCT. For around the next 200 miles, the trails are more or less the same. The PCT markings actually disappear and all signage became JMT.

The first view of Mt. Whitney as I descended into Crabtree Meadow
So beautiful. I could even see all of this fish swimming around in the river.

In the afternoon, I crossed two more rivers, one of which seemed too iffy to try rock hoping. Feeling good, I made it all the way to Tyndall Creek, which drains Forester Pass and the surrounding basin. At 7pm, the river was rushing, and as I approached I passed folks going the other direction, who had given up on crossing until the next day. It was definitely roaring, and fording the river at the trail crossing could very easily end in tragedy. However, the topo indicated that the valley flattened out upstream. So, I went that way, and half a dozen other people followed. There was a decent spot to cross where the river braided, and all of them decided to make that work. I thought I could find something even better and did about a quarter mile upstream. There was a calf-high ford that turned out to be pretty mellow.

Saying goodbye to Whitney
A high alpine pond or puddle?
Where the trail crosses Tyndall Creek
My first marmot encounter on the trail! He’s hiding just at the base of the tree.

Since I was now a little ways off-trail, I hiked cross country through open meadow in the fading light. After some minutes, I rejoined the trail and found a little campsite slightly sheltered by the trees. After setting up, I did discover that there was a peeved marmot that thought I was too close and would randomly bark at me. Despite angry rodents, I placed my hat very close to my camp, put on all my clothes, and cowboy camped at 11,200 feet.

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