Day 86:(21 miles)
mile 1117 – 1138
Before we even exited our tent at least two thru-hikers passed and said “good morning”, and we were up and going early this morning. More and more solo hikers are catching and passing us. We miss the familiar faces of the people we had hiked with and/or leapfrogged with earlier. We feel kind of isolated, almost disconnected from the PCT hiker community. They are all in such a hurry it seems…and it’s not just because there’s a thunderstorm coming. We hike through familiar territory. It’s not as strenuous as we remembered. We reach Barker Pass, and of course in keeping with all of our pass approaches and ascents, the wind is gusting. Unlike last year, the lot is nearly full with vehicles…a perfect recipe for some trail magic, but no such luck. We park at a picnic table and have lunch and a short nap.
Several other thru hikers arrive…all youngsters. Two of them started at the end of May and plan on only taking 100 days to complete the PCT. They are averaging 30+ miles a day…from the beginning! We feel really old. We notice that when they drop their packs, a few of them dig out a pack of cigarettes and lite up. We don’t get this. It’s obvious they don’t think smoking leads to cancer and or emphysema, ‘we’re young…we can stop anytime…it won’t happen to me…we are indestructible.’ Youth is wasted on the young.
The clouds have begun to grow to the northwest which is what the weather report said would happen. Strong winds and rain are forecasted for the evening/night. We pack up and get back to walking. For now the weather is warm and sunny, but in the mountains the weather changes quickly so we walk along discussing how best to set up the tent in the rain. The TRT and PCT split. The TRT heads toward Tahoe City and the PCT heads toward Donner Pass. The trail is soft and our feet are happy. The trail roams through tall lime green moss covered trees.
This however changes quickly once the trees part and the trail begins to traverse an open mountainside. Exposed now, we realize the wind is blowing stronger than ever and the temperature is dropping.
We can see the trail stretched out ahead of us for several miles. There is no escape. We will be hammered by the wind for some time. The wind pushes us into the hillside (more like sheer rock cliff), on our right, which is better than the other option we suppose. We lean to the left to offset the force of the wind and stagger often when gusts blow. Two SOBO hikers pass, we yell hello but that’s it, no one wants to stop and exchange pleasantries in this wind. The clouds overhead have morphed into one big dark gray moisture filled mass. We walk a top the ski boundary of Alpine Meadows. We are at “Wolverine Run”, and the 100 yard wooden wind fence makes this crest virtually wind free. I shot a video of it but can’t figure how to load it onto the blog.
The temperature drops further. This is summer? After several miles we see the tree line and rejoice in the shelter of trees. Our timing is perfect, for as we reach the shelter of the trees it begins to sprinkle. Our goal is to reach a campsite and stream in three miles before the sky opens up, and frankly there is no place to set up camp for the trail is now on a steep descent. We have to break for a bit so that my left eardrum can thaw out and I can regain my balance. Once equilibrium has returned, downhill we hurry on increasingly sore feet, which is how our feet feel at the end of most days. In the valley to the west we see the rain coming down in a fog. It’s only a matter of time before it reaches us. We walk faster, cutting the trail where we can to get down faster. Fortunately, we reach the campsite before the down pour and set up. Inside our tent we make dinner and eat, dry and warm. Tonight will be the first time we have used this tent in the rain. We cross our fingers and fall asleep to the popping sound of rain drops above our heads.