|The meadows were.... wet.|
Snow free, at least! But wet....
The trail was bad--covered in parts with snow, and the parts that weren't covered in snow you could expect to find thick, shoe-sucking mud. I found a slightly raised area to stop and rest out of the snow and mud for a snack break, and after The Kern, Half Ounce and Neon passed by, I decided to linger a bit longer and create a 1000-mile marker. I hadn't seen any on the trail, but I wasn't completely sure one did not exist. With the trail partially covered in snow, it could have been easy to miss during one of those times I lost the trail.
Another complication was that different hikers used different maps that used slightly different mileage, and at this point, I knew the mileage could have been as much as three or four miles off from other people's sources. There could very well be a 1000-mile marker ahead but I just hadn't reached it. I didn't care, though. I used Eric the Black's PCT Atlas, and as far as I was concerned, that was the official mileage I would use. It was the only mileage I could use.
|Signage could not always be relied upon,|
but this sign is poking out of snow enough to be read!
Just past Dorothy Lake, the trail climbed up to Dorothy Pass where--once again--I lost the trail in the snow. Grrr.... The snow wasn't deep enough to do any significant postholing, but it was mushy enough that it felt like walking on beach sand, insuring I'd continue to loathe the snow with every bone in my body.
At least not until now, I thought, surprised to see The Kern waiting for me.
|At long last, I've hiked one thousand miles of the PCT!|
"Actually," I told him, "I thought they were ahead of me." They passed me by at Dorothy Lake and I hadn't seem them since. "But admittedly, I had lost the trail. It's possible I could have passed them and never knew it."
We chatted a bit, and he told me that he'd wait another five minutes for the other two and continue on again. I continued hiking.
|I forget which lake this one is....|
A look of horror crossed their faces. He's waiting for them? He thinks he's ahead when he's really behind? Once again, in the snows in the High Sierras, the Charmin and Hasty syndrome struck once again. Except unlike those two who were rushing as quickly as possible to catch up with each other, these three were sitting around waiting for each other.
"Don't worry, though," I told them. "He said if you two didn't show up in another five minutes, he'd start hiking again. If he kept to his word, he should only be about five minutes behind me. No need to go backtrack to get him." =)
They seemed relieved at that, and I continued hiking.
|The PCT goes up the snow-covered slope on the left.|
I decided to climb up the (mostly) snow-free slope
on the right.
Later in the afternoon, the trail started climbing uphill again, and near a 10,000-foot pass, the snow returned. I hoped it was just a problem on that one particular slope. The slope was steep, and rather than follow the PCT tread into the snow, I decided to cut straight up the mountain in the loose volcanic rock. The next mile was exhausting, like climbing a sand dune, but it avoided a large section of snow.
|Miles and miles without snow! If you blow up image |
(click on it), you can see the trail along the entire length
of this ridge.
I wanted to stop, but I couldn't. Along these mountain ridges, there were absolutely no creeks or springs. Snow everywhere--I could melt snow for water if I had to, but that was bothersome and the exposed ridges were quite gusty at times anyhow, so I pushed on trying to get to a water source near the highway at Sonora Pass.
Near the end of the day I had to go down a steep snow chute down towards Sonora Pass. Funny to look at the snow chute from up there, I thought. It looked scary as hell. At the beginning of the High Sierras, a chute like that would have terrified me. Now, it seemed nothing more than a bit "hairy." I'll need to be careful, but nothing too bad. Mostly, I was just plain tired and wanted to stop and set up camp before dark. This side of the mountain was already in the shade and there was a good chance I might not see the sun again for the rest of the day. "Official" sunset was still nearly an hour away, but in these deep canyons, actual sunset could be a lot earlier.
|I camped near the bottom of this|
snow chute. The top of this chute
(out of the photo) is steep and
I set up camp on a small clearing free of snow, catching about 20 minutes of sunlight before the sun disappeared behind the mountain for good. The faint sound of vehicles on the highway over Sonora Pass could still be heard, but I loved the campsite. It was protected from wind, and if my estimate was correct, it was one of the last places the evening sun would set, and one of the first places that the morning sun would strike.