PCT Day 60: Cloudy With a 0% Chance of Cheese

June 17, 2022

Marie Lake at mile 866.3 to campsite at mile 882.4

16.1 miles

It is frigid. It is absolutely Baltic. How can I have been so hot yesterday afternoon and so chilly today in the wind and the clouds? The Sierras do not mess around.

I start to pack up, realize how cold it is, and instead run to my bear can, bring it back, and eat breakfast in my tent. I’m only prolonging the inevitable pain of being out there, I know, but I just can’t stomach the idea of being anywhere but inside my quilt.

Eventually, when I do get out and pack up, I hear that Jumbo has had a rough morning: he went for a cathole and then tripped and fell down the hill, scraping up his hands. Poor Jimjam. At least he didn’t fall IN the cathole.

Just as we’re about to start moving, Qwerty and Trash Balloon come down the trail. I give them back their nail polish, and we talk to them for a long time. They’re going to VVR today, so we won’t see them for a couple of days probably, but hopefully we’ll also catch them in Mammoth when they dip in. We’re all so ready for a town day. It’s been a beautiful but grueling week, and we’re all feeling ready for hot food and showers and a break from rumble rocks and steep uphills.

It’s downhill for a while this morning. At first, the gray skies are a little gloomy, but as the morning goes on, I actually start to enjoy the change. It feels like an October morning in Kentucky, and it makes us start talking about soup. Tortilla soup, potato soup, chili—it all sounds amazing.

We wind our way downhill into a lovely meadow, then further through the trees until we reach Bear Creek. I don’t remember this crossing, and I realize when I look at the Far Out comments that this is because we took the alternate in 2017. It doesn’t look too bad this morning, but the very idea of walking all day in weather like this with wet socks is so depressing that I switch to my camp shoes. (Thank goodness we all got those Tevas in Bishop!) The minute I step in the water, my breath literally catches in my throat. It’s freezing. I don’t know if it’s the weather or an actual difference, but it feels much colder than Evolution did. By the time I’m across the ford, my feet are painful icicles. I take deep breaths and try to calm down as I go farther down the trail, dry off my feet, and put my hiking shoes back on. Thankfully, all the crossings for the rest of the day are rock hops or logs, so my feet stay dry the whole day.

We’re all moving slow today, even Jumbo. We all agree that we are simply out of cheese. No cheese legs for these bois today. We walk together, taking turns being the strongest goose. The trail starts to climb up towards the Bear Ridge Trail junction, and we suffer. The switchbacks aren’t quite as bad as the ones going up to Selden, but they are steep. As we’re trudging vaguely upwards, we notice some clouds rolling in, then we see flakes. It is… snowing! In June? No thanks. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long, and there are only a few little flurries. We book it up the rest of the hill, then find a protected spot to have lunch. Since we’re all pretty good on food now, we can eat a good amount. I go for baby red mashed potatoes and tuna with the rest of my chip drink. Peak gourmet right there.

We don’t stay for long because it’s absolutely freezing. Once we get going again, it’s a short uphill and then a long, long down on switchbacks. I walk most of the way down with Jumbo and we have a series of DMCs about things ranging from our families to health to what is and isn’t great about school. By the time we get to the bottom of the hill, it’s warmed up again and I can take off my rain pants and puffy. We take a break there and meet a guy named Cookie from Switzerland, who tells us that Tribute isn’t far behind. Sure enough, he pops out of the woods a few minutes later. We eat some snacks, I try unsuccessfully to braid Jumbo’s weird little side hairs into a ponytail at the back (we’re close, but we’re just not there yet), and then we resist the urge to nap and instead continue onwards over the bridge that spans Mono Creek.

The trail is gentle, lovely forest for a bit. There are aspens and conifers and the path is soft. Jumbo asks a very Jumbo question: If you could trade your terrible hiker trash smell with another smell, but that other thing would forever smell like hiker trash, what would you choose? He and Tribute discuss the merits of smelling like a sharpie or a root beer scented marker. Just trail things.

There’s a crossing that I remember vividly from 2017. That year, the creek was gushing across the trail in the evening and I didn’t want to deal with it, so we just camped right before it. This time, we easily find the huge log upstream and cross on that. Then, back on the trail, we start the uphill climb towards Silver Pass.

It’s a lovely afternoon. The trail wanders through more forest with towering granite walls in the background. We ford the North Fork of Mono Creek, climb some more, then walk over the rocks at the Silver Pass waterfall. We are all out of cheese. Completely devoid. We finish the climb and wind up near a meadow with a flowing stream. We set up camp when we reach the site we were aiming for—and before 6, no less!

It’s a treat to cook dinner, brush my teeth, and get everything situated well before it starts to get dark. We’ve been getting to camp late recently, which makes it hard to get everything done and feel rested. This feels so luxurious: sitting on a rock in the fading sunlight, planning our next couple of days and enjoying the lovely evening. It’s going to be a cold one tonight. Last I heard, it’ll get below freezing. I’m not stoked for that. But town in two days!

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