It’s so easy to get up this morning after yesterday – cold, but easy, the anticipation that comes with new challenges thrumming through me. Today, we head for Forester Pass – the tallest point on trail – to suss it out, see if we can’t get over it. I’m hoping to do more than the nine miles we’ve got to the approach today, but I’m not assuming anything. We’ll see.
I’m out after Sprinkles and Homegrown this morning, headed back up the side trail’s hill to the PCT proper. So good to be home!
I move along through meadows and shadows, eventually playing How Long Can I Stay Ahead of Outro while I head up a hill. Longer than I thought, turns out, but the woman’s a beast, and when she catches me I’m more than happy to let her pass.
Around and up to Bighorn Plateau and–
Wow. Just wow.
I stand there slackjawed for a while, strike up a conversation with a friendly JMT hiker coming southbound. I tell him to turn around, and he’s as impressed as I am. He’s almost done – Whitney is his southern terminus – and both of us are happy to be here. We part amicably, both of us, hopefully, on our way to success.
Down, down – I’ve got Disney songs stuck in my head, recalibrating Part of Your World to work for thruhikers1 since there are so many of us around, of both the PCT and JMT varieties. Most of the JMTers are still in their camps, large tents and laundry fluttering in the breeze.
I run into Outro near Tyndall Creek; we find our way across, eat while we wait for the others, wash socks in the stream. Yoda, Homegrown, and Sprinkles are all together, and reunited we make our way further up towards Forester Pass.
There are snowfields and missing bits of trail to deal with, but we sort it all out as we go. As we get higher, things get prettier – even the stream crossings get nicer.
There are beautiful, still partly frozen lakes up here – every rise unveils a new sight to see, and, usually, more snowfields to cross. Yoda and I are keeping pace; Outro’s out front, but she waits for us, wanting to share the afternoon with us, and we all wait for Sprinkles and Homegrown together.
We make our way across the last snowfield together, and, out front, I notice that the path that other hikers have cut is turning blue. The blue of the lakes up here. I turn to my right and sure enough, we’re walking on a huge, melting ice bridge. Fuuuuuu. Nothing to be done about it but move now, Outro cursing loudly behind me.
We make it without incident to Pineapple, who’s waiting for us at the approach. We all eat lunch there, before deciding we’re feeling good enough to tackle Forester today. Doesn’t hurt that there’s only a tiny bit of snow on the approach, and most of that on the ice chute that almost never melts. We got this.
It only takes 25 minutes for us to get to the ice chute, and only that because I’m compelled to stop and take pictures all the time. The view is incredible.
We all stop and put on our Microspikes because we’ve carried them all this way, and the 10 yards of the ice chute is a breeze. I even take a picture as I’m crossing.
We cheer and howl as each person crosses – we’re a pack, a team, and it feels so good. We take pictures after, and climb the wee little bit to the actual summit.
Both sides are breathtaking – the gents already up there are smiling knowingly, not only on account of the views. There’s apparently trail magic at the bottom of the down, at Vidette Meadows – one night only. First, though, we have to get down.
Me, I’m terrified, mostly because I know I’m glissading down this thing – the snow is right, and I’m watching Outro, who’s admitted she hates snow, postholing along the side of the pass. No thank you. Homegrown lends me his ice axe, then it’s one, two, tell Spesh I love him, as I go a moderate but controllable speed on my ass down Forester Pass.
I’m whooping and giggling by the time I get to the bottom, thoroughly happy with my decision. It’s a pain to get back to the trail, to my friends – and I almost slide off the pass once – but I manage.
There’s one more snowfield and a choose-your-own-adventure to get back to the trail; Outro blazes on to an overlook, while I try to decide whether to take a lower path. But overlooks overlook stuff, and I want to see, so it’s careful, careful, posthole, all the way over.
We decide to try to make it to the trail magic, which is still about 9 miles off, so it’s a bit of off-roading down, down, back to the trail.
We wind around between lakes and streams large and small, oohing and aahing over every little thing. I’ve never seen so much beauty. We stop to get water and everything is just perfect. Just. Perfect.
Then we’re off in earnest down the hill.
And I’m practically running, and I’ve got actual oxygen in my lungs and my knees are purring exquisitely, and all around me are mountains, glorious mountains, nature-turned-fiddler playing directly on my heartstrings. I don’t need food, I don’t need sleep, I don’t even need air; I need this,
a lifetime of feeling powerful, beautiful, full, feeling the life-fire in my blood and the trail under my feet. Words thoughts feelings come pouring out, strong as any torrent we’ve seen today, and I am stolen away by the current to stop and write.
I look around and feel it in my bones, my flesh, all that is me – I’m ruined, ruined for life, because no matter my worldly passions, my lovers, my social ties, they will only ever have half of my heart. The other half is mine, sweet and secret, and I’ve decided to leave it here for safekeeping, even if that means I may never see if again. It will be happy here, I think, and I happy for it.
I eventually catch back up to Pineapple, and I’m happy to be here in this place with her. And then I catch back up to all the others and then Yoda and I take a second and then Pineapple, Yoda, and I are all moving down the trail towards maybe trail magic.
I figure this feeling can’t last forever, but it lingers, rolling around inside me langorously. I walk without my trekking poles, arms out, hop along rocks and over puddles, feel at peace, for the moment, with myself and all my crazy contradictions. I sing – I can’t help it – and when I slip or misstep in the tune or in hiking, I laugh as I catch myself2.
It’s more miles to the magic than I anticipate, but we arrive, and what magic it is.
After being checked in by border patrol – a man in a mountie costume with whiskey in hand – there are quesadillas and oreos and postcards to be sent out tomorrow, and hikers, so many hikers. We swap stories until the dark approaches, when I go to set up my tent; I’m drawn away by a flute and guitar performance in front of one of the alpenglow-lit Vidette Peaks.
And then more stories, more oreos.
I finish my setup in the dark, settle in convinced this has been the best day of my life. My bag is warm and comforting, and while there are only 10 miles between me and a hitch to town, I’m happy to be right here for now. I’m reluctant to end this amazing day, but the sound of Bubbs Creek lulls me to sleep.
Start: 767.0 • End: 787.0 • Day: 20 on trail + 0.8 side trail = 20.8
Notable Accomplishments: Hung out with Yoda • So many breaks. Perfect number of Sierra breaks. • Set up for Whitney today/tomorrow
 Suffice to say that it included the following lines:
I’m ready to know what the hikers know
Ask ’em my questions and get some answers
What’s an IT band, and why does it
What’s the word– burrrrrrn?
 It’s probably the increase in oxygen, but the feeling is no less real, nor less magical, for all that.