June 18, 2022
Campsite at mile 882.4 to Deer Creek at mile 901.1
The water outside my tent is frozen. I can see my breath. I pack up begrudgingly, chasing patches of sunlight across the campsite. When we start moving, I have all of my layers on, and I take a few of them off as the hill increases in slope. “This is going to be a slow bitch Saturday,” I declare as we start the ascent towards Silver Pass. I am just not feeling it. Nope. Too cold. It’s going to be a trudge.
I’m wrong, as it turns out. Once I get my layers off and put on some music, I’m feeling great and flying up the hill. There are some icy patches, which I avoid by walking on the rocks beside the trail, and soon the PCT exits the trees and enters a large plateau beneath Silver Pass. I catch up to Jumbo, who is looking around, admiring the mountains.
“I realized that we’re sort of in the last of the High Sierra,” he says. “I’m trying to take it all in.”
I stand there and take it all in with him as we wait for Tribute to catch up. We have a little more climbing, and at one point, Tribute starts walking on the iced over trail as confidently as possible, and then he slips and completely wipes out. It looks painful, but it’s also pretty funny. He almost slides a second time, but manages to catch himself.
At Silver Pass (I can’t see this and not hear it in the tune of “Silver Bells” in my head), we take in the views of the beautiful turquoise blue lake below. Then there’s a bit more climbing, followed by awesome views as we wind down through minor snow patches. There’s a lake that’s frozen over, and we have entirely too much fun throwing huge rocks into it, cracking the ice, making holes, and moving large pieces of ice around. How old are we?
The downhill after that is lush, calm, and forested. I’m alone, no music, just being with the trees. I see Jumbo’s pack at one point, then curse mildly because that was where I was going to pull off for cathole time, but I find another good spot a little ways down. Good timing, it turns out: as I go back to the trail, Tribute and Jumbo come walking around the corner. We take the bridge over the roaring Fish Creek and then have lunch on the other side.
The trail climbs along the creek for a while until it enters the meadow called Tully Hole. I remember this place from last time because there are some gnarly switchbacks working their way out of the valley, and in 2017, there was a PCT hiker that I saw zipping up the section like it was a breeze. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be that hiker some day.” Today I am that hiker. I feel great as we start going one direction, then the other, all the way up the slope. As we get higher, the views get more and more amazing. At the top, the trail levels out and meanders towards lovely Lake Virginia. We cross the outlet of the lake and then finally, mercifully, turn downhill again.
We walk together for awhile until I lose them, then we join back up at a river crossing. We take a snack break on the bank of Purple Lake, then head uphill again, then down. Repeat. On the second to last uphill, I put on some Alt-J, walk slowly, and take in as much of the mountains as I can. How green, how green was my valley? I love this song, “Pleader.” It makes me think of huge vistas and meadows and life. It’s appropriate for this moment.
I walk the last few miles with Jumbo. We take it slow and talk about all kinds of things, but mostly food. He explains to me why he hates sandwiches at restaurants: they’re boring, they usually consist of ingredients he could get himself, and they remind him of secondary school lunches. This is why he was so cranky in Bishop when we went to the bakery for our first lunch! It all makes sense now. I laugh and apologize. “We’ll get real food in Mammoth,” I promise.
We meet back up with Tribute right before the “no fires” sign where we planned to start looking for campsites, but we realize that we didn’t get water, so we’re going all the way to Deer Creek tonight. Before we get there, we pass the 900 mile marker. Nine hundred miles! Is that not insane? We take the requisite photos, then get very, very chilly as we start to go downhill and the daylight fades. Tonight is supposed to be even colder than last night, apparently. I’m wondering if I’ll sleep.
In 2017, Deer Creek was mosquito hell. Today, it’s so cold that when I have my tent set up, I have to put on all my layers, including my rain jacket, just to be comfortable in the ambient air. We cook dinner, I have a cup of hot tea, and then we burrow into our tents for the night. Tomorrow is town. It’s so close! All we have to do is make sure we don’t freeze tonight.