Day 35: Because they can’t all go swimmingly well…

Day: Sunday, July 3rd 2016

Miles: 794.3 – 811.75

Remote Camp 794.3 – Remote Camp 811.75
Today began on a high note, buoyed by yesterday’s fantastical views, I now awoke to the almost impossibly carved shard, jutting like a sharks fin out of the ridge to the west of my encampment. I had my (now) favorite breakfast of Trader Joes mixed berry and flaxseed oatmeal (shameless plug) which I got for free from a JMT hiker who was trying to lose some pack-pounds on their final leg from Mt.Whitney. I have become quite the fan of it, however due to this lake breaking realization, unfortunately none of my resupply boxes can expect to have it waiting for me – just more of the same plain and/or maple flavors which at this point are something between stomach turning and downright indigestible due to overuse. Bad planning on my part, but that’s how resupplies go.

The early part of the day was uneventful. Yesterday’s excitement and inspiration still fresh in my mind, I set a solid pace for the downhill and enjoyed some period of analyzing my options for post trail trips during October. Even with views like these, distractions like what you could be doing seem to invade the mind. Definitely humanities inability to stand still is its biggest single problem.

The sun was high in the sky by the time I reached the beautiful suspension bridge over Woods Creek. This bridge is far less sturdy than it looks, only allowing one person at a time, and so jaunty in the swaying motion that I urgently aborted an attempt to video it about two steps in.

The creek marked the lowest point of today’s activities at 8546ft, I had an intense haul uphill for the remainder of the day to Pinchot Pass at 12106ft, a winding and long approach which was sure to become a troublesome climb, given the intense heat that had emerged early in the day. First I enjoyed a little victory dance after hitting the 800 mile marker.

As I started the climb, a magnificent water slide provided a welcome break to the trail ahead, turquoise waters disturbed for a crashing slide of several hundred feet of Woods Creek, down into pools below. At this point I would have admired any distraction from the climb ahead.

As I ascended the valley further, the tree line seemed to eventually erode to an area of occasional green and well vegetated areas punctuating a rocky landscape, huge flanks to the east and west providing a base for beautiful vistas. I was feeling the effects of the altidude and the length of the climb by 2pm. Not a headache but a serious dose of the trail-grumbles, where even a paunchy marmot barely able (or bothered) to get out of my way didn’t even raise a smirk.

The Pinchot Pass ascent was simply grueling and seemingly never ending, hindered further by the contained winding valley which gave no sense of progress nor advance idea of a destination. By now the walls of the valley became containing and monotonous with little to excite and even less to motivate. By the time I eventually entered the approach plains for Pinchot, I was lethargic to the otherwise pretty snowfields and barren rust colored peaks to the west. Maybe this was the down I had heard of. Not a physical down but a mental down. I was really tired of Pinchot Pass before I even got anywhere close to reaching it, and karma had truly caught up with me – I had used up all of my good vibes, and a day of hardship had surely been overdue!

Most of the day was filled with southbound JMT hikers, one interesting exception was a Lithuanian flip-flop PCT Northbounder who had just hiked from Ashland, OR and was aiming for Kennedy Meadows (South). He lamented the lack of company as he missed the herd (with his strategy he was destined to be alone for much of his thru-hike), now he would aim back north and bounce ahead of them. I suggested he go to Vegas for a week to let them catch up, he wasn’t terrible impressed. Oh well, I tried.

Once I ascended the final flanks of the trail, finally the ridges opened out and some beautiful views of the surrounding high peaks were permitted once again. I think that the cool evening breeze had some motivational effects and that final burst of energy to the top finally led to an incredible vista further north from Pinchot Pass.

The amazing colors of granite and a red rock that colored many peaks was astonishing – many peaks forming perfect pyramid shapes and variations of triangles and other perfectly hewn forms. I hit the pass before 5PM, late in the day, so I couldn’t idle for too long, admiring the view. The valley on the other side was a relatively short one, connecting to the main canyon of the Kings River, with a few smaller river crossings and a short forested section. The forests contained some beautiful colors and an evening light spectacle. The initial river crossings were uneventful but with fatigue showing, on two separate crossings I managed to dunk my left, and then my right shoe into the water. It was time to call it on this day quite clearly!

After a final involved river crossing of the Kings on an old logjam, I furthered the hike a few miles to a well sheltered spot by a cataract of the Kings river. Ample water and cover from the elements of course being as hospitable for me as my mosquito friends. After a day of more downs than ups (in an emotional sense), I made a quick camp and settled in for what would be a damp night of cold temperatures and condensation. Hoping for a better day tomorrow, I’ll let the Sierra have this one, and look ahead to another day, tucked away in my warm quilt.

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