PCT Day 147 : Oh Hey, Real Mountains!

August 29 (~08:00 – ~19:15)
Sonora Pass – Dorothy Lake (19.5 mi / Total: 996.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2358.2
Weather: Sunny with lots of wind up high.

I decide not to set my alarm and wait for the light to wake me. The more I sleep the better I feel during the day, so I guess there’s something to say for getting enough rest to recover.

The morning turns into a steep ascend with widespread views. I follow the vast, dark landscape and walk up towards the exposed crest. It’s otherworldly. I’m above timberline and there’s just so much space, I’m revelling in it. First the views back towards Sonora Pass to the east, airy with dots of green, and then the plethora of rock formations to the west.

Then the trail itself turns a rocky red and black. I pass snowy peaks and an unexpected lake and after the high point I hug the ridge and bask in the enormous panoramic. I watch over a smattering of blue alpine lakes and move into snow. This is the snow I worried about, and I’m still carrying the microspikes I got way back in the desert, in Idyllwild, just in case. I logged so many miles in these spikes that I was unsure I was ever going to be able to do without. And here’s the snow I feared would be present forever. Some of it is still here.

There are several routes linking up to the remnants of snow, all formed during different stages of the snow melt. I take the lowest route, and find a clear track through the patch of snow, and get through without any problems. Of course, there’s no need for my microspikes. I should’ve sent them home along with the other cold gear I replaced in Ashland. Still, it’s comforting to know I have them – the snow has traumatised me.

There are a few more small patches in the colourless fields of rock, the minimalist view that sweeps ahead. I push through and I feel like I’m on top of the world now, I’m surrounded by mountains, real mountains, pinnacles and peaks and snow and everything is at high elevation here, everything is grand. This is the High Sierra. This is what I came for.

I find a collection of bushes next to the trail and I sit down for a while, and I wait for Red Feather to catch up. I saw a figure nearing me, and assumed it was her. I’m right. When she passes she tells me she had a difficult time getting out of Kennedy Meadows North this morning as well. Even more difficult than me – she waited two hours for a hitch, and had begun to fear she’d end up on the 3 pm shuttle back to the trail. She was lucky someone cared to take her to the trailhead in the end. But the best is yet to come – she saw a big black bear where we just came from. It bolted across the snow towards the peak in a powerful movement, and I’m surprised because I’d never thought bears would come to such a high, exposed place like this, but Red Feather reckons they migrate to places with food, and hence cross these mountains just like we do. Just as she leaves she adds that she’s seen so many redheads on the trail this year, and then she exclaims, We’re taking over the world! And I concur, because we are. And I watch my fellow redhead friend disappear in the distance, and I truly hope I’ll get to see her again.

The path doesn’t descend until I pass by the junction to Leavitt Lake, and from there the trail sweeps away from the wide ridge line and curves gloriously towards the forest below, in several majestic switchbacks. It’s a sight that somehow beckons me greatly, and I sit down at the bottom and breathe in the vastness of it all, and I’m just so deeply happy to be here, right now.

My euphoria continues as I move through the lush forest, and slowly it all gets more rocky, the trail a game of balance and the grade a slow upwards, indistinct visually, but tiresome over time. The tracks become difficult to follow in places, and a small but veracious creek flows beside me. I wade through several times as the the trail changes from side to side, until I miss the last crossing – concealed by overgrowth and instead I follow the trail to Lake Harriet, where I don’t realise I’ve gone wrong until the tracks fade away at the far end of the lake.

Frustrated, I’m forced to backtrack and take a few moments to locate the PCT on the other side of the creek which is temporarily indiscernible as it randomly crosses small patches of dirt and rock, and I get thrown into another maze of rock where I keep losing the trail. I’m tempted to just set up around Stella Lake and call it a day, but I make myself continue – I’m barely doing enough as it is.

It seems to take an eternity of moving through the early evening light to reach Dorothy Pass, after which I quickly head down to the eponymous lake, my destination of the day. I find Red Feather camped close to the trail and overlooking the marvellous body of water, and I keep on going until I find a spot lower down. I’m happy to reach a flat spot a little removed from the water, with the mosquitoes mostly gone. I wash myself in the lake, warmed up from the long days of sun, my favourite way to refresh at the end of a day. By the time I crawl into my tent most of the light has gone.

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