So, maybe I was being overly optimistic.
We began to climb quickly upon waking. It was a mellow 900 ft. ascent. Maybe half way up I began to meditate for the first time in a very long time. I had entertained the notion that the high mountains precluded our inner desire to do so. Part thinking about why it had been so long and part not trying to think about anything, that is the point, I ran into the answer. A small, yet steep, drift crossed the trail. Stepping up, over, and down its early morning ice crust broke my rhythm and broke my concentration.
It seems that for much of today, and tomorrow, and the next day, we will hover right at the snow line. Here is where the conditions are most depressing. Sun cups are deep and the trail is just visible enough to attempt to frustratingly follow it. It could be this way all the way to the Belden Ravine hundreds of miles to the north.
Quickly we lost the erratically winding trail in a maze of gullies. We slogged along west, its general direction, and eventually crossed a beaten path. It led us to Boulder Lake described in the book as a great side trip. Leaving behind what was, ironically, to become our longest stretch of dry trail for the day, we fought brush and scrambled on rocks up Boulder Creek back to the PCT. We quickly lost it again. I was in a foul mood. Both Dyl and I openly cursed the snow today.
Trail schmail is a term born our of frustration or hopelessness. When the trail vanishes you must find your way. When the trail is exceedingly painful to locate and relocate, it is often abandoned for a general direction. To “commando” is different. This term applies when one knows where the trail is and knows their own route to be better. A fine example of this technique was our method of crossing Sonora Pass yesterday. A more universal example, one every hiker knows, is the express route glissade to the valley as opposed to the meandering traverse descent.
Tomorrow we have agreed to set out on our longest commando yet. Hopefully its intent will be realized. Cut distance and stay out of snow. We will be missing some terrain the guide describes as beautiful. Dyl said, “It all looks the same under snow.” We are both feeling frustrated and are hurriedly pushing north.
There is something to be said for the traditional backpacker creed. Stay on the trail and minimize human impact on the land. There is, however, something to be said for being able, and willing to go anywhere on the land. Trail-less hiking forms an intimate relationship between the walker and the walked. Much much more is learned about the wild and secrets hidden in the curves and gullies. It is a relationship certainly lacking in the hikers whose trash and refuse we occasionally, and disappointedly, encounter trail side. So, wake-up thirty should find us topping the ridge to our west and descending into a land, on the map, of squiggle lines and elevation numbers. Dyl’s confidence with the map and compass is high. I am the follower. We both tread lightly.