We Got Knocked Down
Beginning Elevation = 10,500 (on PCT)
Peak Elevation = 11,500
Ending Elevation = 11,300
The four of us were on time in the morning and were hiking at 6:05am. I slept good. It was a cold night, but I was cozy.
We made the short walk from our camp to the stream crossing in the meadow with no problems other than our packs were likely the heaviest they’ve ever been. Coming up to the stream, we were happy to see the water level had gone down overnight. The peak flow must be in the afternoon/evening after the sun has melted a lot of snow and it’s made it’s way to the stream, whereas overnight things freeze again, so less melt is making its way to the stream in the morning.
We first spent some time trying to make the original log crossing work, where we’d crossed to go into town. Dad wielded the ice axe like a pro with his crouching tiger techniques.
He bashed the remnants of the ice bridge so that we could better access the larger log below, but when I tested it out, found that it was iced up, at odd angles, and just awkward. So, we decided to look upstream for a better crossing. Not too far upstream, dad and I noticed it wasn’t all that wide. We went into the woods and found two long logs to make a bridge across.
Success! After about an hour from when we left camp, we were across and starting our hike to the PCT. We still had about a 2 mile trek up a pretty steep trail to get back. For a lot of it there wasn’t much of a trail, but instead various footprint paths. Dad and I often opted to go our own way and create switchbacks rather than head straight up.
We arrived at the trail junction around 9:00am and had a fifteen minute break or so before continuing on. And just like that, we were once again hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on our way to Canada. The “trail” (hikers ahead of us’ footprints) continued gaining elevation. Not too long in to the hike, we got a glimpse of the meadow below where we’d crossed the stream earlier in the morning (if you zoom way in you can see the trail going through the tan gravelly area)…
Our breakfast spot wasn’t ideal, quite slanted, but in one of the few spots without snow. We’d maybe gone a half hour and already had discovered that this was going to be a struggle. The mood was a bit subdued…I think we were all quite tired already at that point.
Multiple things factor in to making this stretch, and the upcoming section as a whole, more fatigueing. Number one for us this morning, I think, was the effect of the elevation on our breathing. At least dad and I were huffing and puffing. For most of the day we’d be steadily climbing to our new highest point of the trail, 11,500 feet.
Next was the snow. It now covers the landscape and thus, as mentioned before, we weren’t usually on the actual PCT trail. The trail’s that folks tend to make on their own seem to be more difficult to traverse, more up and down to get around boulders rather than a nice smooth path, and often are easy to lose. We found ourselves a few times stopping and having to trudge uphill to catch back up with the trail we’d briefly lost. The snow also tends to drift making for sometimes steep piles to climb over rather than a nice level path. As you can tell, I’ve personally observed and documented this all and it surely makes for lots of energy spent! Add our heavy packs to the mix and we were in for a tough day.
The views were spectacular though and when we got our heads up to look at them, were great motivation to keep going.
And we did still have enough in the tank to do some messing around with some glissading practice, or at least Dave H did.
I did get my chance to practice with my ice axe. It was good to get a feel for the thing…
We had lunch next to a nice stream that shot right out of the snow above. We were still drained and added to it was the feeling that we weren’t getting the miles in that we’d expected. After breakfast, a little ways down the trail, Cheer thought she’d left her sunscreen at our lunch spot, so she went back to look. Dad and I continued on and found ourselves in this magnificent open area! While waiting for the squad to reunite, I had some fun in the snow…
Do you want to build a snowman?
I was attempting a hand stand, but failed at summoning my inner Gabby Douglas. Cheer and PopTop caught up a little later. Sunscreen wasn’t found, but later discovered hidden in the depths of her pack…
Snowy mountains were surrounding us now! We continued going up and made our way to Chicken Spring Lake. Stark and beautiful..
Then, up a little more to our “peak” for the day. A joyous occasion for all.
It was already getting late at this point. We hiked on for another mile and a half before calling it.
After searching for a level spot, we settled for some slanted snow free ones. Cheer and Pop Top camped in a bare spot near the trail and dad and I went downhill a bit to another. We set up quick. Dad tried to do a little Hoekwater Excavating to his spot, but not sure how much of a difference it made. Quick dinners, then sleep. An exhausting day. It was a truly amazing sunset, which capped off the day very nicely, even if we just saw it briefly before taking refuge in our tents.