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City: Grand Rapids
Begins: May 8, 2017
Date: Fri, Jun 23rd, 2017
Start: Campsite at mile 747.2
End: Chicken Spring at mile 750.8
Daily Distance: 3.6
Trip Distance: 663.1
Entry Visits: 2,637
Journal Visits: 25,846
Guestbook Views: 433
Guestbook Entrys: 36
Day 48 - My Grand Finale (for this year)
Friday, June 23, 2017
Campsite at m.747.2 to Chicken Spring Lake at m.750.8, to Horseshoe Meadows.
I slept long and well, regardless of waking up in the middle of the night
sunken into my mostly deflated air matterres, feeling the ground underneath
me. But It didn't matter... it was my last night on the trail, I was on
soft, forgiving sand, and I eventually found the leak near the fill valve,
so I could easily repair it later. The morning sun was just striking the
top of the mountain where we were camped at almost 11,000 feet, giving
warmth to the frozen surroundings. Dennis was already up, taking sunrise
pictures and starting his morning pack up routine.
Part of me wanted to lay awhile longer, suspending the dualism of this
bittersweet moment, feeling a sense of belonging, wanting to continue being
a part of this larger, more beautiful universe; but knowing that it is my
time to leave the trail and all of the genuine friendships behind, for now.
Another part of me is anxious to get back to society... my family, my dog,
and my good friends. My home, and my trombone, after 7 weeks of buzzing
just a mouthpiece, are also waiting.
But, at this moment it was time to get moving, Dennis had a full day's hike
ahead, so I didn't want to hold him up, and I had cooked up a big plan, to
put a punctuation mark on my final day on the trail. It was 7am when we
left camp, scrambling our way down off the mountain ridge and back to the
trail. The footing was good, the snow crossings were firm, and the severe
run-off of melting snow and mud hadn't yet started.
When hiking through snow it is always safer and easier in the cold morning
temperatures, when there is still a hard crust and before the snow begins
to soften. The hiking term "posthole," refers to the hole left behind when
your foot sinks into deep snow. Imagine taking a step on what you think is
hard-packed snow, only to hit a soft spot and sink straight down into it.
Your leg creates, then immediately occupies a posthole in the snow. When
you are adding the extra weight of a pack and the snow is deep, at worst
you can get yourself stuck, or at the very least significantly slow your
In the absence of a bridge, stream crossings are also much safer and much
preferred in the morning, before the snowmelt run-off from higher on the
mountain has a chance to melt, increasing the depth and force of the water flow, and making the
crossing impassable. This year the Sierra had 200% of normal snowfall, but
it is not the snow that is turning hikers back, it is the extremely
dangerous stream crossings. The decision that I made over a year ago to
hike out at Horseshoe Meadows has turned out to be a good choice. A large
number of this year's PCT thru-hikers are skipping the snowy High Sierra
and hiking out here, taking a bus, or hitching from Lone Pine to Northern
California, and resuming their hike to Canada. Then, if time permits,
returning there in late summer and hike southbound to complete the entirety
of the PCT, ending at Horseshoe Meadows.
Dennis and I were enjoying this beautiful morning hiking along a high ridge
with great views of Horseshoe Meadows far below to the east, and the
tallest mountains of the High Sierra to the north and west, above treeline,
rocky and mostly snow covered. After a couple miles we broke through the
trees, entering Whitney Meadow, with green grass, bright white snow, blue
skys, and running water all around. The trunks of the trees, both dead and
alive added rich brown colors and contrast to the alpine scenery. The
meadow led us to the Cottonwood Pass trail junction and mile 750, the path
that would take me from the PCT. But it was still early, 8:30am, and I had my plan...
In late August of 2014, I hiked north on the PCT from this trail junction,
on my way to Mt. Whitney and the start of the John Muir Trail. I remembered
hiking past Chicken Spring Lake, a beautiful alpine lake at the base of a
huge mountain, with hikers camped near the shore, splashing and swimming in
the aqua colored waters. The lake is at mile 750.8, and I wanted to go out
with a splash... the Coup de Grace, putting an explanation point at the end
of my incredible journey... the Grand Finale! Dennis was totally onboard to
see it through, to be a witness, and also be my cameraman.
When I thought up this grand plan back in hot, dry Kennedy Meadows, I
pictured Chicken Spring Lake as I remembered seeing it in late August of
2014... also forgetting that the lake sits at 11,330 feet above sea level.
As we approached the shores of the lake, now surrounded by snow, and
partially covered with ice, I was feeling a little chicken myself, less
adventurous, and a tinge of regret for my earlier bravado to jump in the
lake... not expecting a polar bear plunge. But, after 750 miles of hiking
from the Mexican border, through the dry, dusty, heat of the desert, to get
here... I stood there on a big rock taking in the scene, feeling all of the
cumulative memories and feelings from the past 7 weeks condensed into this
one moment... with a yell and a scream, I jumped in!
BassBoneBob On The PCT
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