Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 62-High Expectations

Ridge top at ? to mile 1032

I saw the stars a lot last night. It was too cold to sleep and too windy. The wind cut through my sleeping bag like it wasn't there. I tried to hide behind my pack like I did for a couple of nights in the desert, but this wind out blew all the night time wind in the desert.  Around 11 p.m. I dug my tent out of my pack and used it as a blanket. I weighed it down with rocks to keep the flapping noise down, but it was still really loud.  It was a long night.

It was also a long morning before the sun reached where I was. I was relieved to know I wasn't the only one that hadn't slept. We were a pretty sorry bunch packing up. Once I was out of my sleeping bag I didn't fool around-it was in the 30's and the only way to be warm was to hike.

The trail was in shadow for a few miles so that made warming up much more difficult.  The trail went past some shrubby trees that completely blocked the wind-they would have made for also tenting (the view wasn't as good though).

There was some snow which I hadn't been expecting.  It was nothing I would have used traction aid for even if I still had my spikes. The snow was at that perfect not hard or soft point. Even still, Opus and I waited for Nightingale just to make sure we all crossed without issues.  There were only two patches that we couldn't walk around and only a couple of steps that had a little bit of ice. 

The trail went through several small passes before it started to loose elevation. It was so beautiful-the landscape seemed painted. The mountains had stripes almost-large patches of red rocks next to black rocks next to gray. It was cold and windy enough that my camera refused to work. Perhaps I have enough pictures of high alpine lakes with mountains in the background, but I don't think so. 

We could see the road at Sonera Pass for miles. This was the first time since Walker Pass (back around mile 600) that I've hiked the trail down to a pass-it was a nice change from the hiking up to passes. We weren't even going into town from the pass, but we were absurdly excited to reach the pass. We had high expectations:  a pit toilet, trash cans, and a sunny spot to take naps in (we were desperately tired).
After watching the road slowly grow larger for over an hour we finally reached the road crossing. I was dragging by the time I got there-second breakfast had all been used up. On the back of a trail info sign there was a computer print out about the Senora Pass Cafe-Open only three days a year!  Opus and I looked at each other while thinking the same thing:  there was trail magic and we missed it.

We crossed the road and passed another flier. It looked so new; so unweathered.  There was a third flier directing us to the picnic area. In the corner of that flier some one had scribbled a note saying it was real...on the 21st. Would it happen two days in a row?  I was no longer dragging.

Hikers are easy to spot and I saw Portrait and Oodie sitting at a picnic table (with a table cloth!) with a man who had a large and rich looking chocolate cake in front of him. I had the goofiest grin on my face at the sight of the cake and then bowls of fresh fruit. The goofiest and widest grin.

The Owl keeping a close eye on the chocolate cake
The Owl has been operating his cafe for hikers for seven years and knew what we liked to eat at this point. He cut the four of us (me, Opus, Nightingale, and King Nutella) large slices of cake and put whip cream on each one.  He even had the Sunday Times-because a cafe must have a newspaper. 

We stayed for a few hours (nap time not forgotten, but not needed so much with all that sugar).  The Owl had a banner made for the hikers proclaiming we'd walk 1,000 miles on the PCT. We all did a Kodak Moment photo with the banner-it was kind of awesome.

Portrait joined us as we hiked up out of the pass. We were going up to 10,000 feet for the last time on the trail. The trail made its way up another beautifully painted ridge. The view felt endless from the top of the false saddle. We actually did bonus hiking and walked the few minutes to the top of the little peak above the false saddle for a 360 view.

Somehow I was in the lead since leaving the Cafe and I continued to be in the lead on the way to the real saddle. It was a beautiful place, but the wind was actually pushing us onward. It didn't die down much even as we lost elevation. The clouds above were running across the sky they were moving so fast. We figured we may be in for a storm.

We hiked for three hours after leaving the Cafe before stopping to eat some more. We found and almost sheltered spot for first lunch. Portrait, who had gone into town from the Pass and had waited for us to catch up, pulled out a bag of peach ring gummies and gave them to me. My day's snack bag went from sad to fantastic in mere moments. We braked quickly-we were worried about the weather.

I stayed in the lead as the trail continued downhill with Portrait behind-we caught each other up on hiking life. According to the guides the rest of our day was going to be easy-and it really was.  There were miles of downhill and then flat trail that wound through dark green forest. It felt rich in the forest-like it had just rained. I think it was a glimpse of what is waiting much farther north (although it may actually be raining then).

Portrait and I took a break at the base of a small climb-only 700 feet up and the last one of the day.  We all made a camping plan-just a few more miles-and upward we went.

The trail was a little steeper than I thought as it followed a small waterfall up. It felt almost like the AT with the directness of the route. Then I was up and the trail was back to the lovely meandering PCT style trail I'm coming to love so much.

We breezed along for 80 minutes before stopping to check our location. Portrait and I had walked right past camp one and a half miles ago. While debating what to do (and what the others would do) Opus hiked up. We decided to hike 1.5 miles further north to water and camping. We left a note for Nightingale and King Nutella and went onward.

My sugar high wore off fast-suddenly hiking was hard as a followed the trail up what was supposed to be the next day's climb. We passed flat spot after flat spot, but Opus and I were didn't have enough water to dry camp so we were forced to go on. The wind was really picking up, the clouds were darker, and the temp was falling fast. I wanted camp badly.

Finally the trail crossed a small trickling stream with sheltered flattish spots insight. I took two liters and followed Portrait into a gully. We were sort of out of the wind and we found three sort of flat spots for tents. While the other two set up their tents I just stood there wishing I had a porter to make camp for me. I felt like a wind-up doll that had wound down. Portrait gave me a cookie and that seemed to restart my gears. The tent went up and dinner was made.


  1. Don't really know what a pass is either. Can you explain? Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your amusing, wonderful write-up about the Café. Was really a pleasure meeting all the hikers. Good luck on your journey. -- The Owl