Day 54 (Tape)

Saturday June 8th. And, we just kind of ah… there’s this little ford, Fish Creek. We are doing kind of an alternate route to the PCT, lower down, out of the snow, because I lost my sunglasses. And we just tried to do this ford. And looking back on it, we might have done it at a harder spot than the regular ford, I don’t know. But it was way harder than it looked, and both Pete and I took a full chest-in dive. (gaspy laugh)

Pete: Full-in.

Yup, I was two feet from the original shore and you were two feet from this shore, right?

Pete: Yeah I was 2 feet from the far shore.

But we both did it. We’re both soaking wet. (laugh) And we have to cross this creek one more time today. Ah, we don’t know if there’s a bridge there or not.

Pete: Or it could be as fun as this time!

It could be. So ah, this is an up-to-date event, we’re soaking wet. That’s what happened to us. We do however have a possible hot springs to look forward to tonight, so perhaps this will all be worth it.

—————-

Okay, it’s still Saturday, June 8th. The end of a very very long day. Um, but I promised that I’d fill you in at some point on the missing part of yesterday. Which ah, was our adventure between, let’s see, Seldon Pass, and, Bear Creek. And it started in ah, the foreshadowing started way back in the San Gabriels when we met, ah, Carl, the same night we met ah Brad and Betsy and Bernard who gave us the gorp. We also met Carl and Gretchen. And ah, we were starving at that point. And Carl ah went off to get some sqeeze butter for us, our first experience with squeeze butter. And when Carl came back he caught me alone, getting ready for bed. And he gave me the sqeeze butter and, and the one piece of advice that he chose to give me was – watch out for the crossing at Bear Creek, on the other side of Seldon Pass. That’s the roughest one. And he proceeded to give me all sorts of techniques he had come up with for roping it up, safety procautions, and this and that. And, really made it sound like a nasty ford.

So ah, that’s what I was thinking about as we were coming down Seldon Pass. And I’d actually been thinking about it the day before. And looking on the map, we see that ah Bear Creek actually is the summation of three separate creeks. And we had been coming down I guess what would be the east one. So there was an east and a middle and a west fork. And ah, the trail… we were coming down on the inside of the fork on the east leg. And the trail crossed to the outside and then forded Bear Creek after all three had come together to form one huge raging river. Well that didn’t look like it made much sense. So we decided that instead of fording to the outside of the fork, we would go right through the middle. And try to cross the three separate branches before they became one big raging torrent. And it all made lots of sense, of course, and…. except for the possibility that maybe we would get stuck in between two rivers, neither of which we could cross. And we would have to climb up and try to ah get across some other way. But it didn’t seem like too much of a risk, so rebel-rousers that we are we took off across ah traversing the landscape without a trail. And traversed through, awhile, and here and there… it was mostly snowy slope. This was coming down from Seldon Pass. And here and there we saw signs or a trail, or a cairn, or something. It was encouraging, like ah, we’re not the only ones who have had this thought. So, soon, sooner or later we come around to one very large, big creek. And ah, we pretty much just right away found a way across it. And ah, I think it was a log crossing. And that was encouraging. So we went traversing along some more, and up over a hump, and down into the next drainage. And we come to an even bigger creek. And this one there’s no immediate obvious way across. But ah, we walked downstream a ways and it divided up. And we found a way across via a couple different logs over the divide. And so on the other side there was a trail that went and met up with the original trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail, later on. And so we headed down it full of joy that we had been the rebel early season hikers and had found our own way to cross and didn’t have to do the Bear Creek cross.

And ah, as we made our way down we kept looking for the spot where the actual trail forded it. And we may or may not have seen it, I don’t know, it wasn’t marked. But anyway, once those three came together the river was big. The guidebook said it was a very difficult and dangerous ford. So I think, I trust that we did the right and ah, got across the easiest way that day.

And, let’s see, I think that was the last ford we had to do yesterday. Yup, we went down Bear Creek and up to Bear Ridge and camped there. And so this morning… oh, man, the reason I didn’t record a journal entry for this last night is that when we got up on Bear Ridge and got ready to go to bed the air was just alive with mosquitos. And, all I could think to do was get away from them. They were so irritating and so annoying, I just ah put on all my heavy clothes, got in my mummy bag, drew it up really tight, put a sweater over my head so the mosquitos couldn’t bite my face through the hole, the breathing hole in the mummy bag. And ah, stayed that way until I fell asleep. Ah, it was, it was just eerie. I could see through the sweater a little bit, and I could see the mosquitos just crawling on top of it, and flying all about. And it was really just distressing. And I was happy when I finally fell asleep.

Um, oh today has been a long day. Hard day. We got up and, off the other side of Bear Ridge we descended down 53 kind of snowy switchbacks to Quail Meadows. Which was also kind of mosquito infested. And the first thing we faced there… it was really actually pretty really, lots of green plants. Cottonwoods even. Aspen, ah, just really lush. And with the morning sun shining on it was kinda magical. But mosquitos started in then.

The first thing we come across in Quail Meadows is a slow, but not very wide, but ah nonetheless unavoidable waist-deep ford. So we just kinda happily got naken below the waist and waded through. Carrying our clothes. And got to the other side and packed back up and went to go leave, I notice I no longer have my sunglasses. Then I remember they’re in the pocket of my pants. They’re no longer in the pocket of my pants. I was carrying them across the river. I went back and looked at the river, they’re on neither shore. And so I concluded they must have fallen out while I was crossing and floated downstream, so.. Sunglasses are gone and this is bad because we’re on our way up to Silver Pass, which is not a high pass, we’re over all those already, but it was nonetheless going to be a couple of miles through the snow. And doing that without sunglasses is definitely risking snow blindness. And I’ve had that happen to me before and it hurts, I don’t want it to, didn’t want it to happen again. So there was nothing I could do but go on. But ah, I did, sitting looking at the guidebook a little further down the trail, notice there was alternate route. Whereas the Pacific Crest Trail after Silver Pass goes back up into the snow a couple of times, and ah, there’s an alternate route about the same distance that ah, doesn’t do that. And goes by some falls and some hot springs too, so I suggested we take that since I had lost my sunglasses. Wasn’t hard to convince Pete that that was the way to go. So ah, we decided we would do that.

But the next big thing we come across is, well let’s see, we go over Mono Creek, over a bridge. And, like every other creek right now in the early season, it’s a huge river. And we see on the trail, on the map, that we cross it on a bridge, and go up it a little ways, and then we have to ford it. Well, we did that, we went up a little ways, and ah, still haven’t had breakfast yet. And we look at it, and it’s, the water is not that ah, not as deep as Evolution. Not waist deep, it’s only thigh-deep. But ah, it’s fast. And we got across that, we just had to start upstream as usual and kinda work our way getting bumped down. And it was, kinda more demanding, mentally, a more demanding ford than Evolution was even I think. Just cause it was really trying hard to push you downstream. But, it didn’t rattle me too bad, I hit it naked below the waste. And ah, came out on the other side, kind of matter-of-factly. And ah sat down, dried off, put some clothes on, and ate breakfast. Then we thought we were pretty bad-ass for gettin all that fordin done so early in the mornin.

Well, so we headed up the river. We were heading up the river towards Silver Pass at this point. And we, we’re going up Mono, creek, I guess, it’s a creek at this point. And, when we get up higher on it we have to cross it back over to the other side again. This time, the guide says, “crossed on rocks”. Well we get to this ford, and there might be rocks there but they’re far under water. And, it’s steep here, and the water’s cascading down through boulders. And we definitely decide we’re not going to try to do the ford that the trail goes through and we start lookin for something else. Ah, going upstream we see one possibility that is a pretty big jump from kind of a steep-faced boulder to just a little ledge on a boulder on the other side. And I went out and looked at it, Pete was going to take a picture of me doing it, and I decided it was just too far to jump with a pack on, and bailed out from it and went further upstream. And I ended up crossing upstream, very slowly, on rocks that were all four to six inches under water. The water’s going fast, and it’s bouncing down. I just very carefully, and resolutely, spotted rocks underneath the surface. Which was hard sometimes, cause it was white and foamy. Put my foot on the rock, and made my way to the next. And I had to use my hands to balance at times, and my feet got wet, but I made it across ok. And ah, meanwhile I sit down on the other side and just start contemplating life, and Pete’s down fiddling with his pack, I don’t really know what he’s doing. The next thing I know, he’s throwing his pack, bit by bit, over to the other side. And he does the leap between the two boulders without the pack. And ah, I thought that was a pretty ingenious way of doing it. Ah, (laugh) and so we got across that ford as well victorious. And by now we’re feeling really bad ass.

So we start up the hill towards Silver Creek, and go up some switchbacks, and pretty soon we have to ford Silver Creek. And the guide kind of gives that one a gloomy foreshadowing by saying it’s ah, difficult and above a fatally high cascade. But it turns out that it’s not difficult at all, it’s just hopping across on a couple, on a long string of rocks. And it’s as easy as any tiny creek crossing we do every hour, every day. But ah, it is at the top of a big high cascade, which kind of gives it an exposure. And makes a little more fun. But anyway it was a piece a cake.

And we start up Silver Pass, and ah, we start getting into snow. And I have a hard time seing, cause it’s so bright out. And the more snow we get into the more I have to develop this technique of leaving the guiding up to Pete and squinting my eyeballs, my eyelids, just barely open enough to, to let in the light, look at the ground, and see the outline of Pete’s footprints in the snow and follow em. And ah, we did this, started doin it, and ah, I lost Pete cause he went up some rocks. We had to yell, and found each other again, and ah, started up again. And kinda got the hang of it a little bit better. And as the stretches of snow got longer and longer… all I did, I couldn’t look around at the scenery cause it was too bright, all I did was look down and just squint my eyes and look for the outline of those footprints and follow em. For longer and longer periods of time. And I started “seeing” my thoughts. Like the, the footprints following was just such rythmic, automatic, repetetive thing, that I really kind of ceased to see it after a while and I just started seeing my thoughts. And I’d think about a movie and I’d see the movie, or I’d think of Camella and I’d see Camella right in front of me. And it was really interesting. And about as close to ah, a vision, as I think I can say I’ve had. But ah, that’s how I got across without getting blinded. Pete would stop in the shade now and then and I could rest my eyes. And ah, if I wanted to look at the scenery he would lend me his clip-on shades and I could look at the scenery but mostly over Silver Pass I just looked and followed those footprints.

We got to the top of the pass and kinda the trail wiggled down and took a long time to, to get to the drainage that it took to follow down. And we tried to cut some off, and started off down the wrong drainage, and had to cut up over a hill, and ran into some cliffs. And, had just decided to go way around the cliffs and do basically what the trail did anyway. When ah, I decided that my eyes were really startin to hurt, and that we should just take the fast way down. And Pete thought he had spotted a snowfield we could get down, and I thought it was worth a try. The snow was nice and soft, and about the right consistency. Well it turned out, we went back around the cliffs and had to traverse a little bit in order to reach the snowfield behind ah, some big rocks on top of em. And we get to the top of it and it doesn’t look too back, it’s steep, but not terrible. Well it turns out to be the most joyous, fun glacade I’ve ever had in my life! I started down, and just began sliding, and got kind of a little wave of slush going beneath me. And just effortlessly, like an elevator, (sound effect) just descended down what must have been at least 800 feet. It was a long, it was so joyous, so funny, just to be going down… I mean we weren’t going fast, you were able so slow yourself down just by digging in your heels a little bit, but it was so motionless! Your body’s just standing there, and meanwhile you’re watching things go by, it was so easy that I just started laughing halfway down and kept laughing all the way to the bottom. It was just really fun. And we, in order to reward ourselves for that bit of ingenuity we found some shade and had lunch. And I rested my eyes, and they felt alright.

So. The day has already had quite a few events. We’re getting close to ah, taking off on our alternative route now. And, so we kind of a navigate down this drainage and the snow starts to disappear. And ah, we get down to the bottom and we’re pretty much on dry trail again. And we see our new trail taking off. And ah, we don’t have too much information in our guide book about this, we can just see it on the map.

_______ here, due to a mistake I made several times on the trail – flipping the tape over and recording over previous stuff – the account of our Fish Creek Ford was lost. It was the worst ford we had to do. I fell and got dragged over the rocks several times trying it in a bad spot. Finally, really flustered, I took the only possible way, the one Pete discovered. It involved the usual “moon-walk” technique of rocketing downstream while pushing off of anything the feet could find on the bottom to move slowly across the river. The grand finale was the “grab-the-tree-branch-for-dear-life-or-wash-down-the-falls” technique that Pete had engineered. I was all nerves as I set myself up for the maneuver, but due to some of that ardrenaline I had made it upstream of the branch with plenty of time to catch my breath and get ready as I streamed toward it. I gripped it, flipped over in the current, then the only hard part was making my hands let go while Pete helped me ashore. Here’s the rest: _________

…and slowly put on dry clothes and put stuff up, and sat down and cooked dinner. Got some hot food in me and started feeling better. But definitely, we both agreed, if we had known the ford was going to be like that we would’ve crossed on those logs a mile upstream.

But, c’est la vie, we ah still had some daylight left, and who knows how many miles we had done by that point but we notice that we’re not too far from the hot springs and they still sound enticing so we finished our dinner and packed up all our stuff and headed over the ridge for the hot springs. We just covered trail real fast and got to a campsite just before dark. And ah, we’re there now, and it’s very late now, after dark. And we had just time to kinda get our stuff out to dry, and get our beds made. And we did wander up and find one of the hot springs and it was just totally covered in like inch-thick algae. That went all the way to the bottom, and it was just a little bit too gross and was gettin too dark so we came back down again. And that’s the epic day! And in the morning maybe we’ll try for a soak in the hot springs or maybe we’ll just head to Red Meadow where there’s a spring, there’s a hot spring-fed bathhouse that we can use. Red’s Meadow, my guess, is like 12 miles away. So we’ll probably hit it midday sometime. There’s spos’d to be a store there and a cafe, basically a little miniature civilization, so we’ll probably have a field day. And we deserve it! Because we have been workin hard to get through these mountains! And we’re doing it, but it’s taking some, takin some determination. So ah, that’s the day today, we’ll see how we round out the weekend tomorrow.

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