It was a restful nights sleep and a much warmer night (41 degrees) than spent at Horseshoe Meadows. Somehow the frogs sounding off came to a complete halt all at once. I guess even frogs have to sleep, but I thought the sound of their ribbeting would fade in cascading numbers rather than turn off like a light switch. Talk about being in sync! All rested and full of vigor, with no lingering signs of altitude sickness or fatigue, we were off.
This was of course after Steve, who has now earned the trail name “Scout” surveyed the area for the best and quickest possible route back to the trail…which of course was the way we came in. Initially the goal was to make an easy 10 miles and camp just past Guyot Creek somewhere on the Guyot Flats, which would set us up for a 7-9 mile hike to Guitar Lake the next day, depending on how far into Guyot Flats we camped.
This plan, as with all plans, was merely a guideline and as such, can change dramatically. Today we crossed paths with many PCT hikers (20+). They step swiftly and effortlessly. I remember those days, but certainly do not resemble them now. We were once well-oiled machines (by this part of the trail), efficient in our movement, packing and chores. Now we feel like a car not firing on all cylinders…a little out of tune. Even so, it feels good to be back on the trail. For this trip I have decided to try out my new HOKA ONE/ONE shoes. They are light and comfortable, and so far at the end of the day and the next morning, my are not as swollen and feet do not hurt. We will see how they do in the event I have to attach Microspikes to them. Today our crew has its first creek crossing, Lower Rock Creek. It is flowing similar to when we crossed it in 2014. All cross with relative ease, with the water nearly thigh level.
The icy cool of the water serves to quell the swelling of our feet, and give some relief to the heat of the day. From Lower Rock Creek, we will climb 1360 feet in 2.8 miles to Guyot Pass (10,880 ft) and then water up at Guyot Creek and walk as far as we can through the Flats before finding a place to camp, having set a goal of 10 miles for the day. This trek, unlike our PCT thru-hike isn’t about crushing miles, but more about the enjoyment of the terrain, in that we do not feel so “hurried” with regard to the number of miles we must progress each day to reach our end destination. After doing our best to reduce the weight of our Bear Canisters (and to get me to open the Maui Onion BBQ Chip bag…it was still safely swollen), we saddle up for the sharp climb to Guyot Pass. Jody (SideKick) and I trail behind the others, using the “shade to shade” method of attacking the elevation gain and numerous switchbacks.
In 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting and hiking a bit with Teddy Boston, the first female to solo hike the PCT. She is in her 80’s now and was finishing a portion that was not there when she did the trail. She told me a secret. “Walk slowly through the shady spots and quickly through the sunny ones.” Today SideKick and I will employ that sage advice, as it is hot and the air is still. When we reach Guyot Creek, it is practically a trickle. Luckily Steve (Scout) is carrying a Katadyn pump water filter. This method of water retrieval and filtering is much more efficient than our Sawyer Squeeze, and has proven to be a helpful, and certainly more efficient method in which to collect 14 liters of water for our group of 7. Halfway through, Scout, having looked at our Topo map of the area believes he sees another water source further up the trail. Rather than carry 2 liters each, the plan now is to filter enough water at the creek to get us to this next possible source, and camp just past there…further reducing the miles for tomorrow’s trek to Guitar Lake. It appears promising, considering all the current snow melt . If he is wrong, however, then we will have to hike another 2 miles to Crabtree Meadow, the next sure site for water. From that point we kick it into “high gear”, as the trail is flat and the tread is soft under our feet. I knew the area that Scout was looking at, and it seemed probable that there would be water, but I vaguely recall us thinking that 2 years ago, and ending up at a damp stream bed, having to hike on to Crabtree Meadow for reliable water. One never knows. Well…The stream bed was bone dry, so 2 more miles it was. It always seems to be 2 more miles.
In short order, we descend into Crabtree Meadow. I do not have fond memories of this particular section of the trail. When we did this I was extremely tired, rolled my ankle, and my knee was sore. Flash forward two years, it’s like deja vu…I am extremely tired, my knee is sore and I miraculously roll my ankle in the same place that I did two years ago. What is it about this stretch? The day finishes with a log crossing of Whitney Creek. Everyone but me practically skips across the wet and slippery logs. I hate log crossings, for fear of slipping and falling, but Scout is there to lend a hand, just as I feel my balance go .
We set up camp in the same place we did two years ago. It is just as we remembered it…a lush green meadow, a babbling brook teaming with golden trout, deer grazing in the near distance, marmots vying for your attention and the spire of Mt. Whitney poking at the horizon. We throw down our bags, exhausted. It may have only been 13 miles, but it felt just like 20 to us, yet no one complains. This is truly a Magnificent 7. Our only solace is that it leaves us with a “short” hike (4.7 miles) tomorrow to Guitar Lake, and thus plenty of time to rest, recuperate and recharge for our assault on Mt. Whitney the day after next. Sadly my chip experiment has come to an end, for the bag is not longer taut like a Mylar balloon. It has lost its perfect seal. “Does that mean we can eat them now?”, asks April. I suspect however, foul play and bring up the topic with the group. All stoically deny having touched the sacred chip bag, yet all are eager to sample its contents. Alas, I will never know the exact cause of the failure of the bag’s seal. Was it foul play, the heat of the day, or the constant pressure it was under that broke the seal? We were hoping for a loud pop, better yet, an explosion of chips, but all we got was the equivalent of a silent fart, and now something more to mix into our tortilla “wraps of wonder”.
We prep our dinners, and as with the night before, we are treated to another tale of John Muir, who in this story left the cover of a perfectly good house with a roof to climb a tall Spruce in the midst of a thunder storm to experience the full force of nature. I am beginning to think, that although he was a great visionary with regard to preserving our open space, that he may have been just a little bonkers. But then maybe so are we.