I’m up early, looking to make miles after yesterday’s half-day. I’m starting to get nervous – it’s the middle of July, and we’re not even through the Sierra. We’re not necessarily behind in terms of timing – but we’re not necessarily in a good spot either. I’m ready to go, ready to walk, but the others are enjoying the morning. Eventually, Homegrown and Sprinkles are ready to go, and the three of us make our way off up the hill.
I get out ahead a bit, make my way down towards the grouping of ponds around Miller Lake; everything’s quiet and still this morning, reflections in the glassy water creating optical illusions where the water ends and the trees begin.
I get a bit of meandering before I head down again, and some nice views to boot:
The down doesn’t last too long before it’s back up, up again, towards Benson Pass.
The landmark reminds me of a friend of mine, and I reminisce about him for a bit, listen to Radiolab to distract me from the strain of going up. Outro passes me on the way up; Homegrown and Sprinkles catch up to me, pass me, and then we all summit the pass. Evac and U-Turn are pretty much right behind us, and we all enjoy lunch on the pass.
It’s nice to relax for a bit, but I’m still antsy from this morning, just an itch in my feet that I can’t relieve. I’m off again soon enough, down the hill, taking in the view.
Homegrown and Sprinkles catch back up to me close to the next water, and Powder catches us shortly after. We walk along, down switchbacks headed down that, I swear to god, actually go up. It’s the strangest phenomenon, and we grump about it all the way down the first bit of down.
We talk about sitting, but decide not to – we’ve got miles to make, and the trail takes us back up just a wee bit. Then, it’s down down down, over cobblestones that make my feet ache. I remind myself that Southbounders have to do all of this in an upward fashion – how? How do they manage? But for us, it’s all downhill from here.
I manage to lose Homegrown, Sprinkles, and Powder somewhere along the line; Smiles comes along and passes me, though I catch her most of the way down the hill. She’s trying to make Seavey Pass tonight, but I at least want to check out Benson Lake. I’d heard from a guide I chatted with at VVR that it was pretty spectacular, and it’s only four-tenths off the trail. I might as well check it out.
When I get to the side trail, I discover the side trail is flat. A flat four-tenths – that’s barely ten minutes, I think. Why would anyone skip this?
It’s a beach in the middle of the mountains, crystal clear water surrounded by stunning mountains, sand to dig your toes into. I’m stunned by the beauty into even internal silence that only the bald eagle that flies by breaks. It’s 4pm, and I know I’m not going anywhere tonight.
The others join me one by one, and we sit in awe in the “surf” as wind-pushed waves lap up on the sand. We’re giggling in awe; where the bald eagle has gone, an osprey has come to surf the winds. This place is magic, and I feel like I’ll never want to leave.
Of course, the urge to leave hits me hard a couple of hours later – I shouldn’t be here, I should be hiking, there are miles to make – but Sprinkles talks me down. We’ll be alright. And this is what we’re here for – being together, getting to know each other, being in beautiful places like this.
We make a fire and huddle around it, laughing and sharing stories. Evac is focused, though – she does the math, and we need to average 21.5 miles a day to make it before October 1st. No neros, no zeros. Even through the rest of the Sierra. Well. It’s a bit of a damper on the evening, but we try to be positive. We’re planning on making 24 miles tomorrow to make up for it, from here to Dorothy Lake. Powder turns in first, and I’m right behind her – I’ve looked at the profile, and it’ll be an intense day of ups and downs. As I snuggle into my sleeping bag, laid out on my tyvek under the stars, surrounded by the Pack, I hope that we’ll make it – tomorrow, and to Canada.
Start: 957.3 • End: 972.7 • Day: 15.2
Notable Accomplishments: Survived the cobblestones • Mostly didn’t let my worry stand in the way of a good time • Got in my first(/last?) alpine lake