Endless P Summer

First of all the Hayduke is more of a route than a trail so I’ll do my best to refrain from calling it a trail. It basically goes across southern Utah from Arches to Zion traveling through all of Utah’s national parks and dips down into Arizona and through the Grand Canyon. We’ll be mainly following the route west from Arches and planning to take plenty of alternates. There’s no signed trail. Instead it consists of a blend of cross country travel, jeep roads, trail, canyons, mountains and a 60+ mile section of the Colorado River that we’re planning to raft. In total it will be roughly 800 miles and we expect to take about 2 months(with a couple of pre planned hiatuses). This will be much different than established trails I’ve done in the past as there will be longer water carries, longer food carries, slower foot travel, extreme temperatures, and difficult route finding. Wish us luck!

Sept. 10,11,12 from SLC to Moab

After hiking the Uinta Highline Trail, QB and I spent a night in Park City then made our way to Salt Lake where we spent the day exploring the city. In Salt Lake we stayed with our friends Johnny and Karla aka the Eggs from the PCT in ‘15. The next morning Karla drove us to the train station in Lehi where we took public transit to Spanish Fork before we started hitching. We got 3 rides that brought us all the way to Moab from Alex, Amanda, and Rob with a stop in Helper, Utah to check out the town.

As soon as we got into Moab we ran into Quiet Earp at the grocery store who we first met on the Arizona Trail in ’18. Quiet Earp is working as a rafting guide for an outfit in town and had all kinds of info for us about the section of the Colorado River that we’re planning on rafting. Plus he’s playing music tonight at a local open mic so of course we went to check that out after getting all settled into the Lazy Lizard Hostel.

The following day we got out to the La Sal mountains just south of town and did a little bit of fishing(struck out again)and a fair amount of walking. There’s an alternate start to the Hayduke that starts out here in the La Sals, which we won’t be doing, but we did want to explore this place a little bit as they’ll provide a distant backdrop for lots of views from Arches and Canyonlands.

9/13/19…..Hayduke Day 1…..3 miles

I never planned it this way, it just happened. QB and I woke up this morning camping in the Manti-La Sal National Forest outside of Moab, Utah. From our campsite we walked about 6 miles, mostly on road, until a truck finally came by and we put our thumbs out. Dean lives nearby and was going into town to pick up firewood. He drove us through Castle Valley, along the Colorado River and into Moab. On the way we heard from our buddy Mac who was supposed to start the Hayduke and hiking a section with us. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it and although this is a bummer it did give us an opportunity to rearrange our plans a little bit.

Originally our plan was to start hiking 9/17, walk 2 days through Arches into Moab, then pick up our rafts at the PO and float the Colorado for 3 days into Canyonlands before resuming hiking. For this we got permits for the river from 9/19-21. We also needed to rent a car to cache food and water at a couple of spots for later on during the route(this is a strategic move for sections that have wicked long stretches between water sources and resupply locations). The problem we came across today was that being a Friday, there were no cars available until Monday. We figured no big deal. We’ll start the hike tonight in Arches, which is about 26 trail miles to Moab, walk tomorrow and Sunday morning then take a 2 day road trip to cache food and water and most likely have a little bonus adventure before returning to Moab to start paddling on the 19th.

In town today we ran a couple of errands, spent sometime at the library figuring stuff out and of course ate a bunch of food before making our way to Arches. We got rides from Roy to the park then from Don and Lissa to the Visitor Center. At the VC Ranger Keely took care of us and set us up with a couple of primo backcountry sites. I couldn’t believe they had completely open availability for a Friday and Saturday night(Friday the 13th for that matter, and a full moon!). From the Visitor Center we got picked up by Chris and Anne, a German couple vacationing in the states, who took us all the way to Devil’s Garden. We had about a 3 mile walk to our site through amazing red rock fins and slick rock while checking out a bunch of arches along the way. Around sunset we got to the designated backcountry site and set up on some flat slick rock that was still warm from the day’s sun. As we ate supper the sky changed colors and the stars started to twinkle on.

9/14/19…..Hayduke Day 2…..22 miles

It was a hot one today and we knew it would be. We got up a little bit before sunrise but not too much because we’d have some off trail travel and that would be near impossible in the dark. It was awesome walking early this morning as the full moon was still out competing with the light from the rising sun.

From our campsite we walked along the maintained trail for awhile until we got to the edge of Devil’s Garden. We then descended a series of rock ledges and ramps before doing some cross country travel through Salt Valley to a jeep road. Walking cross country is difficult in the park because it’s imperative to avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil (This is a particular kind of desert soil that takes years to build up and reverts back to nothing if stepped on, often times it’s already all smushed by cows but since there’s no cows in the national parks it’s greatest enemy is humans. Check out the picture below). The jeep roads were a breeze though and we walked along them for a few miles while the temperatures started to rise. We then left the road and picked up a fence line for awhile before dropping into a wash that we walked through until Willow Spring. Good thing we didn’t count on there being any water here because there wasn’t. Nice enough spot to take a lunch break though.

After lunch we continued down this drainage until it was joined by Courthouse Wash. Until this point in the wash it had been just slickrock and sand with a few narrow slot canyons to navigate through. When it became Courthouse Wash water began to appear and then suddenly some of the most vile and disgusting bushwhacking of my life ensued. It was just really dense reeds that we had to maneuver through, I sure could have used a machete but of course neither of us are carrying one. We had to keep crossing over the water also and at one point a beaver had dammed it and we were crossing through waste deep beaver water. At times it opened up and we could walk through sandy washes for awhile but inevitably we’d be right back in the middle of thick vegetation. It was pretty though, as we got lower the tall red canyon walls got higher and provided a nice backdrop to this bushwhacking nightmare.

When we reached the crossing with the main road in the park Tom and Michelle pulled over and set us up with some ice cold water, what a treat! We continued from there down into Lower Courthouse Wash. This had a bit more walkable trail and a little less of the nonsense. After a couple miles we got to a beautiful spot that we had reserved next to a large red rock wall radiating heat that was all stored up from the day.

9/15/19…..Hayduke Day 3…..3 miles

We only had a short distance to get to the road and back into town today but it still wasn’t simple. From our campsite we followed Courthouse Wash for 3 miles until it fed into the Colorado River. For a while there was trail or at least a dry sandy wash to follow then suddenly the canyon would become more narrow, the beavers would have a dam built, the water would back up and thick reeds would be everywhere. So even for a short stretch of hiking today there was still a fair amount of bushwhacking to do. Besides the bushwhacking though, it was awesome, much like yesterday where we walked through a canyon with massive red rock walls.

At the same place the wash reaches the Colorado it also reaches rt 191 which is just a few miles outside of Moab. We got a hitch into town from Josh and Nat then demolished breakfast followed by a couple donuts(we’ve been hiking for over a month now so even though this is the very beginning of a trail our hiker hunger is in full effect.) After breakfast we made our way out to Mill Creek Canyon, a local swimming hole on BLM land. This isn’t your average swimming hole, after about a mile walk into a gigantic red rock canyon there’s a waterfall into a large pool. It’s quite a place. If you’re ever in Moab and looking for a place to cool off I recommend it.

Our next section of the Hayduke involves a little red tape. We’ll be paddling 60 something miles of the Colorado River into Canyonlands NP and we’ll need permits for all but the first 15 of those miles. Our permits start on the 19th so we’ll be getting back on trail(river) on the 18th and camping somewhere before we cross into the park. Starting tomorrow we’re renting a car for a couple days and going out to cache food. @endlesspsummer

@sarahikes

The Wind River High Route is exactly what it sounds like, a high route through Wyoming’s Wind River Range. There are basically 2 well known routes: the arguably more popular route by Alan Dixon or the more aggressive version by Andrew Skurka. The two routes often overlap but have different starting and ending points. We started on Skurka’s route at the Bruce Bridge trailhead outside of Lander hiking south to north with the intention of staying on his route. As we moved along we took different alternates depending on what we thought would be more enjoyable and ended up finishing on Dixon’s route at the Green River Lakes trailhead outside of Pinedale.

8/26/19…..WRHR Day 1…..3 miles

We slept at the Holiday Lodge in Lander, WY last night and slept in just a little because we were in no major hurry today. Our only objective was to get on trail at some point and get a few miles in.

Walking downtown to take care of a few errands we ran into 4 southbound CDTer’s; Whiz, Dad Jokes, Golden, and Sultry Bear. It really felt like the Seinfeld episode when they meet their doppelgängers. While resupplying at the supermarket, a couple of Garbelly and Critter’s friends; Heath and Julie came to pick us up and drive us out to the trailhead. These 2 have been traveling in their van and climbing all over the Winds putting up first ascents. We still had a little hiccup with Budget rent-a-car, so while Critter dealt with that whole situation we hung out in the parking lot.

Heath and Julie dropped us off 10 miles outside of Lander at Bruce Bridge around 4:30. After a couple miles we caught up to this family that was headed to a rock you could slide off into a swimming hole. We took the side trail with them and we all opted to skip the sliding rock and I just went for a swim to see how deep it was (not very). We got back on trail and found a place to camp a mile or so later. Tomorrow we should be getting into the good stuff, today we walked along Po Po Agie River among scrub brush and pinyon pines. Soon we’ll be getting into the alpine areas of the Winds.

8/27/19…..WRHR Day 2…..17 miles

Today could easily be split up into 3 distinct sections. The first dozen miles or so were really cruiser. We gently gained a few thousand feet while while walking through pine trees along the PoPo Agie(pronounced popo zsa) river. Around noon time we reached Deep Creek Lakes, just in time for lunch. We stopped basically right on trail facing the lake and not 100 yards away there was a couple bathing in the buff. They had to have noticed us but that didn’t stop them, they just kept doing what they’re doing. I’m cool with it, and apparently they are too.

Today part 2: After lunch we left the trail and very steeply climbed up to Wind River Peak. I was all about this climb. It was a steady climb and there were big rocks to climb up and over but they were solid with very little sliding around. The climb from Deep Creek Lakes to Wind River Peak gained something like 2600 feet over 2.5 miles topping out at 13,192. It’s tough to move faster than a mph on that stuff. At the top we had absolutely incredible views of the Winds. We could see the Cirque of the Towers, Gannett Peak, the City of Lander and Frozen Lake which I swam in while on the CDT in ‘17.

Part 3: The Descent. This was by far my least favorite part of the day. We started off by walking down a steep boulder field with stable medium sized talus. This lasted for a half an hour until we got to the West Gully, supposedly one of the most difficult parts of Skurka’s route. It sucked. It was super steep with scree and medium to large loose talus. Surfing on gigantic rocks downhill is no fun. For some reason QB loves this shit, I on the other hand wouldn’t mind if I never walked on loose talus again(I have a feeling I will be though). Garbelly and Critter weren’t fans of it either, Critter said it was the dumbest trail she ever walked down.

There was a section that was a class 3 scramble down some bedrock that wasn’t too bad, and another part that was covered in snow and I was able to shoe ski down it. Other than that the talus seemed to go on forever. Eventually we got to an unnamed lake that we walked around and then the route dropped again for awhile. Finally we got low enough and found a couple spots to put our tents. It’s an incredible campsite, in the shadow of East Temple Peak in a valley with no trails that I bet not too many people make it back here.

8/28/19…..WRHR Day 3…..17 miles

When I got up in the middle of the night to take a leak(per usual) the Milky Way was visible and the stars were absolutely spectacular. This morning the stars were gone of course but the day was still beautiful. We rock hopped down a few hundred feet and walked along a couple of lakes. Critter tied a fly to her trekking pole, threw it in the water and almost caught herself a sizable cutthroat trout. We dropped down again and walked by Big Sandy Lake before starting to climb towards Jackass Pass.

From Jackass Pass we could see down into the Cirque of the Towers. The Cirque Route is a popular alternate off of the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I attempted to get over to it but there was still too much snow on the passes to get there comfortably. We figured we’d just come back in a couple years and do a high route through here. Today we walked right down into the Cirque to Lonesome Lake and it was everything I’d ever dreamed of and more. We ate at the lake and I went for an invigorating swim before the afternoon climb up Texas Pass. The Skurka Route goes over New York Pass that leads to the same valley but that one looked super sketchy, Texas Pass was steep on the way up and steep on the way down but nothing too difficult or scary.

On the other side of the pass we walked by 4 lakes then walked on smooth trail for half a dozen miles along a river. It was pleasant and easy going especially compared to the rock hopping that makes up a lot of this route. We found a campsite next to Maes Lake, there seems to be a fair amount of people over this way but none within earshot which is nice.

8/29/19…..WRHR Day 4…..13 miles

Don’t get hung up on mileage totals, it really doesn’t mean much with this off trail stuff.

This morning we walked along Maes Lake and Pyramid Lake then followed an animal path to the base of Raid Peak Pass where we left the trail and started climbing large talus. It was a nice climb to get the blood going and there were exceptional views from the top. We dropped down a moderately dicey descent to Bonneville Lake and then immediately started climbing up to Sentry Peak Pass. This was a fun climb up with a lot of hand over hand scrambling. At the top we came across an adult Nols Class coming from the other direction that were on a trip that would last 23 days. They were cool but there was 11 of them in a place I didn’t expect to see anybody. It’s a bit overwhelming to see that large of a group out here.

We walked down from Sentry Peak Pass picking our way over large talus and then navigating around thick willows at the bottom by Lee Lake. At the lake we ate and of course swam. From Lee Lake we followed very faint animal trails on some flat tundra until we got to Middle Fork Lake and the bottom of a stiff climb. This was just a very steep traverse up a dirt elk path that didn’t last all that long just enough to work up a post lunch sweat. When it flattened out into a hanging valley there was another lake, Bewmark Lake, and QB and I jumped in real quick. From here we gradually climbed until we topped out for the day on Photo Pass (if you’re planning on doing this route, from Photo Pass until Europe Peak we’ll be within Wind River Reservation and need special Tribal Permits). The descent down this one sucked, it was a super slidy gravel path. It didn’t last forever and we soon found ourselves camping in a really nice forest next to a river.

When we were in Lander I picked up some minimal fishing equipment. While waking I found a good stick and Critter, who’s a fly fishing guide by trade, tied my fly on and we went down to the river. She showed me what to do and where to throw it and within a few minutes I had a decent sized cutthroat trout in my hands. The first fish I ever caught on a dry fly.

8/30/19…..WRHR Day 5…..15 miles

From our campsite this morning we crossed a river and then started climbing uphill searching for some kind of a trail. There were elk trails here and there that got us above treeline where we rockhopped on large talus and scrambled up short sections of bedrock until we got to Europe Col(similar to a pass). I even wore my microspikes for the first time out here to walk up through a small snowfield.

From Europe Col we got a good look at the main feature of the day, Europe Peak. There was a good amount of buildup about this mountain and the route we’re taking up it. Besides the West Gully this was supposedly the other crux of the route. The tricky part of the climb was described in Skurka’s guide as a 15-20 foot slab that had a class 3 scramble up to a Knife’s Edge. This produced a fair amount of anxiety for me. Getting to the slab was no big deal, there were lots of short ramps and ledges with a good amount of vegetation and the rocks were stable. Critter then Garbelly went up the scramble first and were able to identify where the good hand and foot holds were. It really wasn’t that bad but it felt a little too exposed for my liking. After walking across a narrow knife’s edge with long steep drops on either side we walked up over a boulder field to the summit of Europe Peak.

From the summit we walked down along a ridge with rocks and tundra for most of the afternoon until we got to Golden Lakes. We walked along a couple beautiful lakes and then climbed up to a valley where we could see Skurka’s next obstacle, Douglas Peak Pass. The climb up this pass looked obnoxiously difficult and the description in the guide going up and over it sounded ridiculous. The 4 of us decided to skip it. There was a lower route to the east of the pass that adds a couple miles but I’m sure saves time overall. The alternate was very pretty and took us by Camp Lake where we are appropriately camping for the night.

8/31…..WRHR Day 6…..14 miles

What a day! Right away we started climbing from Camp lake, where we slept, to the Alpine Lakes Basin. We climbed uphill across boulders for about an hour until we had to do this gnarly down climb on the side of a cliff next to a lake. It’s supposedly a class 3 or 4 climb (depending on what guide book you look at) but we climbed down the cliff too early and made it harder on ourselves. Garbelly went first and we used an assembly line of passing all the packs down so we could climb without them.

Safely at the bottom of this cliff we slowly started traveling through the alpine lakes. It was all large talus that we had to navigate and a few times where we had to climb up some short cliffs to get around bluffs by the lake. We had to have been traveling at less than a mph. Eventually we got to the bottom Alpine Lakes Pass where we had a nice stiff climb to the top.

Once over Alpine Lakes Pass we had a decision to make; we could either continue on the Skurka Route or take the Dixon Route. We had a team meeting at the top of the pass and made the decision based on what would be the most fun. The Skurka Route is the one we started and seems to be the higher, more aggressive and remote route. I’m sure it’s beautiful but the description made it sound tedious and would probably take longer. The Dixon Route seemed pretty awesome, besides going through some beautiful valleys it would be lower and also included a couple features that I missed while hiking through here on the CDT, we’d also be able to move a little quicker since there was a fair amount of trail.

We chose the Dixon Route and headed left over Knife Point Glacier to Indian Pass. Walking across the glacier was pretty rad, we used micro spikes and contoured along the side of the mountain kicking in steps where we had to. Once up and over the pass we dropped into Indian Basin. This was my favorite part of the WRHR so far, huge sharp mountains everywhere, lots of lakes, wildflowers and there was even trail, something we hadn’t had for awhile. Plus I got to swim in some ice water for the first time in a couple days.

We walked a few miles through Indian Basin and into the incredible Titcomb Basin and found an awesome place to camp on a hill among the rocks.

9/1/19…..WRHR Day 7…..20 miles

This morning we walked along the Titcomb Lakes towards Knapsack Col. The route through Titcomb Basin and over Knapsack Col is a popular alternate for the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I skipped it and elected to stay on the regular route since we had already sent our snow gear home. Glad we were able to get back here for this highlight.

On the way up to the col we were joined by L-Fox, a CDT hiker who recently retired from a career in the Czech special forces and still works part time testing parachutes(sounds like a dangerous job). This dude was a badass, he bombed through a dicey boulder then took the riskiest line possible to the top. The rest of us took our time navigating the boulder field then ascended up a loose scree field until we climbed through a snow cornice at the top while L-Fox waited for us. It was a difficult pass but the way down wasn’t too bad and the views were magnificent. We passed a glacier that forms the headwaters of the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, then followed these waters for the rest of the day.

We ate lunch by Peak Lake, where QB and I swam in some icy cold aquamarine glacier water. After lunch we had one more small pass, Cube Rock, then started the descent out of the Winds. We walked through a narrow rocky valley until that gave way to a pine forest. We dropped a few thousand feet and were back to the CDT walking along the Green River(it actually is green). There were a handful of former thruhikers we came across who were beginning the WRHR, some who were on the PCT in ‘15 just ahead of me.

At our campsite we met a couple, Lewis and Laura(Little Shark), who were friends with our buddy Smiley. They joined us for supper at our spot beside the Green River in the shadow of Squaretop Mountain.

9/2/19…..WRHR Day 8…..6 miles

Essentially we finished the route yesterday but we still had to hike out and catch a ride to town.

This morning as we walked the trail along the Green River we spotted a beefy bull moose and his girlfriend eating breakfast. In ‘17 we had camped nearby and had seen a bull moose in almost the exact same spot. I know what you’re thinking but there’s really no way of knowing if it was the same moose.

After walking by the Green River Lakes we got to parking lot for the campground and the first car that came by picked us up. Dennis and Marilyn had been camping out here in their trailer for the past two weeks. They had a canoe on top of their pickup, were pulling their camper, and had the truck full of supplies. We were able to move some stuff around and the 4 of us stuffed ourselves in the back. The road from the trailhead to the parking lot is 18 miles of washboard dirt road that gets grated once a year and it hadn’t been recently. That took about an hour and then we went another half hour to Dennis and Marilyn’s house in Pinedale where they offered up their showers to us. We showered and hung out with them on their patio eating popcorn and drinking ginger ales. It turns out they knew John who gave us a ride last week and had actually got a ride from him once when they were in a jam. Small world, but I already knew that.

Two thumbs all the way up for the Wind River High Route. If you’re looking for an off trail backpacking route that will test your abilities and also has intense scenery I highly recommend it. As for us We’ll most likely stay in Pinedale tonight then start making our way down to Northeast Utah tomorrow to start the Uinta Highline Trail in the next few days.

If you like what you read feel free to follow this blog or find us on insta: @endlesspsummer @sarahikes and Garbelly and Critter’s blog trailingthought.com and their insta @ourtrailingthought

8/21/19…..Rock Springs, WY

After we finished up hiking in Colorado’s San Juan mountains we had a few days before we were planning to start the Wind River High Route. We decided to get up to Wyoming sooner than later and check out the Grand Tetons, a place I’ve never been.

This morning Garbelly, Critter, QB and I rented a car in Gunnison, CO and began the 650 mile drive North to Jackson, WY. Basically we followed the Continental Divide and made it as far in a day what would take a month to walk. Our first stop was Monarch Pass where we picked up a few snacks and a hitchhiker, Jersey Mike, who was hiking the CDT. Mike was trying to get down to Salida so we got him off the Pass and most of the way to town.

Our next stop was the iconic trail town, Leadville, for lunch. We got chimichangas and burgers and the rest of this crew picked up a Melanzana fleece, but I couldn’t be peer pressured. I’d rather buy property here. We drove north for awhile by Copper mountain, through Frisco then Silverthorne, and picked up a couple hitchhikers near Steamboat. Gravy and Mouse are hiking the CDT and they were waiting at an intersection that I’d been at before with my thumb out. We all had mutual friends and a similar scent so we stuffed them in the rental and got them where they were going.

Another hour or so and we crossed into Wyoming and shortly after that stopped in Saratoga at the Hobo Hot Springs. We were planning to camp somewhere in the Basin beyond Rawlins but after watching an incredible sunset the thunder, lightning, and winds picked up big time so we turned in our dirt bag cards and opted for a room in Rock Springs.

8/22/19….Jenny Lake CG, Grand Teton NP

There was still 3 more hours to drive this morning from Rock Springs to Jackson where we were scheduled to return the car. So we got up early, made quick work of the Days Inn Continental breakfast (took some to go), then Garbelly got us safely to J-Hole.

In town we had a few errands to run before getting up to the Tetons; post office stuff, supermarket to resupply, I got a new shirt at the thrift store, and a gear shop to pick up a few essentials. Critter figured out there was a little snafu with how Budget Rent-a-Car charged us, not a great situation, hopefully it will get ironed out soon. Of course we also had to check out the town a bit and get pizzas. Jackson Hole isn’t my favorite place. It seems like a super manicured ski town with a cowboy theme. A little rich for my blood.

To start the Teton Crest Trail we had to get up to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for permits and info. Jenny Lake is 20 miles north of town so we took a city bus to the edge of town then got 2 quick hitches, 1st from Kent and then from David. Since we’re completely winging this thing we had zero reservations but Ross the Ranger was very helpful. Tonight we’re able to camp at the hiker/biker walk in site at Jenny Lake(I think most NP campgrounds have these so you almost always have a place to stay as long as you don’t have a car.) Tomorrow there were no backcountry sites along the TCT but fortunately Alaska Basin is 20 miles away and not technically in the park. It’s just over the park boundary in Jedediah Smith Wilderness so we don’t need a permit to camp. The following night we did get a permit at Marion Lake and that’s really all we need since the trail is only about 40 miles. One of the drawbacks of this hike is that we have to carry bear canisters but luckily they’re free to borrow from the ranger station.

After Ross got us all squared away we walked over to the campground, set up, and checked out Jenny Lake. There was a couple down there having a borderline risqué photo shoot but that didn’t stop me from jumping in the water nearby.

8/23/19…..Sunset Lake, Jedediah Smith National Forest…..23.2 miles

Leaving the campground this morning we walked along Jenny Lake for a couple miles and had some sweet views of the mountains reflecting in the water. When we got to the edge of the lake we got to Paintbrush Canyon and began steadily climbing.

It was crowded, as National Parks tend to be, and we came up on a group of about 5 or 6 people with their bear sprays drawn. Apparently there was a cinnamon colored black bear in the bushes just below the trail, no big deal. We walked past and not until a few minutes later looking back did Critter notice there was also 2 cubs up in a tree. Still no need to be alarmed, I’m really glad nobody fired off their bear spray.

We walked uphill for miles and eventually topped out at 10,700 feet on Paintbrush Divide Pass. There was a couple snow patches to walk through but other than that really nice well built trail and good hiking. Up the top the views were spectacular. The Tetons are really quite a site, I mean if you’re into looking at sharp jagged peaks like I am.

We walked down from the pass for a few miles until we got to Solitude Lake for lunch. I wanted to swim so bad but the cloud cover was making it a bit too cold for an alpine lake. When the sun finally came out and looked like it would stay out for a minute, QB said, “Endless this is your chance!” I ran barefoot over to a jumping rock and cracked my foot on the granite. I looked down and had a little trickle of blood but jumped in anyway. When I swam to the edge and climbed out I noticed I lost a toenail on the middle toe of my right foot. It hurt a little but worse than that it was bleeding like a sieve. Luckily some kids at the lake had some gauze and tape and I fixed myself up. I walked a few miles after lunch and there still wasn’t too much pain but I had to re dress my foot because of the blood(I’ll be monitoring this situation).

With 9 toenails I started climbing into the beautiful Cascade Canyon and was surrounded by the Grand Tetons incredible scenery. Eventually we got to the top of Hurricane Pass and then crossed the boundary of the park into Jedediah Smith National Forest. Since there were no permits within the park we’re camping here tonight in the Alaska Basin by Sunset Lake.

8/24/19…..Marion Lake, Grand Teton NP…..17.5 miles

What we’re doing out here isn’t exactly the Teton Crest Trail but more of our own variation of it. If you’re using this blog as a how-to manual for the TCT, don’t. We’re mostly staying on the trail but also doing what we want.

This morning leaving sunset lake we walked up and over Buck Mountain Pass, contoured along the beefy Buck Mountain to Static Peak Divide Pass. The trail was narrow but well built up to the pass with steep drop offs to the side. From there we followed not so much a trail but more of an animal path steeply to the top of Static Peak. The views from up here were simply stunning. From the summit we backtracked down until we were on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass and back in Alaska Basin. We passed a bunch of lakes before stopping at one to eat lunch and swim. My toe is bruised and it was still bleeding so after I swam I cleaned it and redressed it. Other than that it doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.

After lunch we climbed up to Meek Mountain Pass until we got to Death Canyon Shelf. The shelf was really cool, it was flat but on the left was a steep cliff to the canyon floor and on the right were tall cliffs. We walked along this for awhile until we got to the turn off for Marion Lake.

This was an aquamarine alpine lake with a 500 foot granite wall behind it. We all went for a dip and we have permits for sites near here so we camped nearby.

8/25/19…..Lander, WY…..14 miles

It was rather windy overnight, with gusts waking me up every so often. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either.

From Marion Lake we climbed up for a couple miles and rejoined the official Teton Crest Trail then dropped steeply into Death Canyon. Once we got down low we rounded a corner and saw 3 bull moose, 2 of which were some of our bigger boys. Come to think of it one of these moose was the largest moose I’ve ever seen up close and personal. We followed the canyon along a creek as the walls grew higher beside us. Further on we saw a mama moose lying down with her calf.

The canyon became narrower and more crowded as we got closer to Phelps lake and by midday we reached the trailhead. Another mile of walking on the road and we got picked up by a hiker, Peter, who drove us to the Moose Visitor Center and Ranger Station so we could drop off our bear canisters. 2 thumbs all the way up for the Teton Crest Trail even though we didn’t exactly do the official TCT. (Instead of hiking down Death Canyon we could have hiked over to Rendezvous Mountain and taken a $40 gondola down but that was never going to happen). We ended up doing 50+ miles north to south through the Tetons. There was spectacular scenery, a fair amount of wildlife, and some awesome alpine lakes for swimming plus the logistics were relatively easy. I would recommend.

From the ranger station we got a ride from James 20 minutes into Jackson where we pigged out at the supermarket then got on our way hitching. Our plan is to hitch to Lander, WY 4 hours away to start hiking the Wind River High Route tomorrow. Our fist ride was from Elisa who got us to the Hoback Junction, then we got picked up quickly by Sabrina who brought us 20 miles closer. John a contractor from Bondurant drove us well out of his way bringing us down to Pinedale. From Pinedale, John and Cesar were headed back to their jobs in Green River, Utah and they drove us about an hour down 191 to Farson then got ice creams with us.

After our ice creams we had a little over an hour to go to Lander and not much more daylight than that. A cowboy called us over to his horse trailer and said we could ride in that to Lander. “Just don’t mess with my dogs” he said. Ok, why would we do that I thought to myself. The novelty of riding in the back of a horse trailer on a Wyoming Highway with a farting horse and 4 cattle dogs on a horseshit covered floor wore off in just a couple minutes. It was a ride though and it beat trying to stealth camp in the wind outside of Farson, and at least there were coolers to sit on(wasn’t going to check what was in the coolers). follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and @ourtrailingthought

8/14/19…..Zero miles in Pagosa

We took the day off from hiking today and spent it in Pagosa. It was great! Took care of a few errands; doing laundry, buying food for the next section and eating a bunch of food of course. This town is really cool but it isn’t ideal for hikers. The only laundromat is 2 miles away from the downtown where we stayed and the Wal-Mart another mile from there. Instead of walking all over the place on our day off we just hitched around town which made life easier.

This afternoon our friends Garbelly and Critter hitched into town and our joining us for the next few weeks or so. These 2 are currently 850 miles into an Appalachian Trail southbound thru hike. I went out and camped with them a couple weeks ago in NY and told them our upcoming plan. I swear I wasn’t trying to persuade them to join us, but not long after that they took an ‘alternate’ in New Jersey. They rented a car, drove to Buffalo, then to Nashville, then flew to Denver. From Denver they spent a day and a half taking buses and hitchhiking before crawling into Pagosa this afternoon. I know I’ve introduced these 2 in this blog before but in case you forgot; Garbelly and Critter are from Nashville where he works as an arborist and Critter is a fly fishing guide. I first met Garbelly on the PCT in ’15 and then we hiked with both of them in ’17 on the CDT. They are very fun, and very rad. If you don’t believe me check out their blog: trailingthought.com

The 4 of us had a nice soak in the local hippy dip, this is basically a free hot spring along the San Juan River formed from the runoff of the hot water coming from the resort hot springs. We got pizzas then met up with our friend Smiley for ice creams. Smiley has been thru hiking for years and lately has been living in and enjoying Pagosa Springs. He adopted and takes care of a section of trail that we’ve got coming up. We’ll definitely be going over that section with a fine tooth comb and promptly reporting to the CDTC.

8/15…..CDT Mile 882.3…..20.5 miles

First thing this morning we did a decent job on the San Juan Motel continental breakfast. All you can eat Toaster Strudel and I haven’t had one of those since the 90’s and then I was always fighting over them with my siblings.

Since a foursome hitching back up to Wolf Creek Pass would never work, we split up. QB and I got picked up by Jeff, a builder, who moved his family out here 20 years ago for the skiing. We stopped at his house in a neighborhood 6 miles out of town closer to the Pass. He built the house himself out of refurbished antique timber. Critter and Garbelly got picked up by some hikers and met us at the trailhead.

The hiking today was so much fun. Much easier and more relaxing than the last time we came through here. We did get delayed a little bit when a hail storm rolled through so instead of following the trail up and over a ridge the 4 of us quickly set up the fly to our tent and waited out the weather. After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the day. We passed the Creede Cutoff route that we had all taken back in ‘17. For our friends the trail was all new after the cutoff. (The Creede Cutoff is a lower route through the San Juan’s that is often taken in during lousy weather conditions). Unfortunately for me and QB, in ‘17 we carried on past the cutoff before coming to an impasse and having to backtrack costing us multiple days. More on that later.

Because of our late start and the delay waiting out the weather we hiked until sunset to get to where we were going. We found a really pretty campsite on somewhat uneven terrain. Hope it will do.

8/16/19…..CDT Mile 904.8…..22.5 miles

I made over the dastardly Knife’s Edge today. In ‘17 QB and I decided against crossing the narrow trail in the snow and decided the safer thing to do would be to find another way through the San Juan’s. We made a couple of mistakes before cutting our losses and heading south to the Creede Cutoff. I wrote more about it then and you can go back in my blog and check it out. Since then the Knife’s Edge has been the asterisk on my CDT thru hike.

Today we got across it. Granted there was barely any snow and it was much simpler, I’m still glad I wasn’t snowshoeing across it. From here until the Colorado Trail intersection the trail is all new to me and QB.

Besides the pinnacle of the day the rest of the hiking was really good. We seemed to have some big climbs or maybe they felt that way since we’re up over 12,000 feet and we somehow dodged significant rain and thunderstorms all day. In the evening we saw in the distance the biggest herd of elk I’ve ever seen. A conservative guess would be 120 elk but probably more like 150(the number grows every time we talk about them). We’re camping at Squaw Pass tonight which feels more like a valley and we all had nice fat bags of Mac n’ Cheese.

8/17/19…..CDT Mile 919.9…..15.1 miles

We strategically had a shorter day today in order to camp below 11,000 feet, and to prevent us from camping well over 12,000 the next 2 nights. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Squaw Pass was cold last night and there was frost on both tents when we woke up. There was a long climb out of camp and all morning we had incredible views. We saw more elk and for the first time of this trip we saw about a dozen big horn sheep.Critter and Garbelly

This afternoon we walked across a marshy area with a couple of river crossings/jumps and then we were back climbing into the woods. We found a spot to camp in some trees next to a creek in the shadow of a beefy mountain. I was able to sit in the creek and cool off a little but it wasn’t ideal for getting myself fully submerged.

8/18/19…..CDT Mile 938.3…..18.4 miles

First thing this morning we started climbing up a pass to the right of which was the Rio Grande Pyramid, a 13,900 foot peak shaped like a Mayan Pyramid. There’s a long wall on the left shoulder of the mountain and in one spot a massive chunk of the wall is missing creating a big window. We went off trail and climbed up to that, it was awesome.Garbelly inside the Window

After getting back down to the trail we had 5 more passes to climb over 18 miles. It was a lot of climbing for a relatively short mileage day. And it was awesome, packed with some massive mountain views and lots of wildlife. QB and I saw what we really think was a golden eagle (unconfirmed golden eagle sighting), and I definitely saw a hummingbird right after that. We met multiple parties with pack llamas that had actually just met each other. Garbelly said it was a llama meetup group. Then at lunch we stopped at West Ute Lake and the place had cutthroat trout jumping out of it like crazy. We ate and swam at the lake and met a family with 4 kids and 4 dogs out in the mountains for 8 nights. That’s impressive.

From West Ute Lake we climbed up a steep pass that had another lake with a rocky island just a short ways down from the top. Garbelly and I raced down to swim out to the island before the girls got over the pass. Icy cold water never felt so good.

A little further down from the pass we came across the first moose of the trip about 20 feet from trail. An adolescent bull moose with velvet antlers was just chilling out eating bushes and barely paid us any mind at all. We descended a little further before turning and immediately started climbing again. This was Hunchback Pass, the last and beefiest pass of the day. We took our time getting up and over it then found some campsites near Beartown trailhead.

8/19/19…..CDT Mile 961.9…..23.6 miles

Immediately after breaking camp this morning, before we even made it from the campsite to the trail, we saw 3 bull moose eating breakfast. It was quite an impressive sight, to see these massive wild animals up close and personal. Minutes later I saw a couple elk up on a ridge, all before sunrise.

We climbed for about a mile and half and the CDT joined the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail(CT) stretches roughly 500 miles from Waterton Canyon near Denver to Durango, CO. The CT and the CDT coincide for about 300 miles. In 2016, QB and I, as well as a few other friends hiked the Colorado Trail. In the opposite direction though so everything seems new.

All day we were up high above tree line and over 12,000 feet. We saw about 15 southbound CT hikers as well as 7 bike packers as the CT is one of the few long distance trails that allows bikes. It was a good day for animals too. Besides the moose and elk we saw this morning, I saw a weasel(a week ago I saw one of these and mistakenly referred to it as a pine marten), a peregrine falcon, 2 more bull moose and 2 coyotes separately, plus a herd of hundreds of domestic sheep in the distance.

We’re camped up high at 12,300 feet at Carson trailhead. Most likely it will be a cold night and since this is the sight of an old mining camp, with remains and everything, it is undoubtedly haunted.

8/20…..CDT Mile 978.9…..17 miles

Town Day! We cruised all day, barely stopping because for the first time in almost a week we’d have a chance for some burgers, sodas, and a little civilization. The sooner the better.

The trail was mostly up above treeline all morning and we passed the Colorado Trail High Point at 13,271 feet. We saw half a dozen CT hikers traveling south including my friend Lexy who I hiked some of Virginia with on the AT in ‘16. When we got to the road we all had every intention of hitching but a CT hiker, Quincy, had called for a shuttle and when split 5 ways it was pretty cheap. Worth it not to wait around for a car.

In Lake City we picked up packages ate burgers and sodas then came up with a new plan. Originally we thought we’d be getting back on the CDT and traveling north another hundred miles but decided against it. Garbelly and Critter had already done that section and QB and I had hiked it twice in the last 3 years. It’s ok and everything but as far as Colorado goes it’s not the most exciting section of trail between Lake City and Salida. Instead we’re going to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’ll be meeting a friend in Jackson Hole on the 25th anyway to start the Wind River High Route so why not go a few days early and check out the Tetons. To do this we need to get to Gunnison, CO, spend the night, rent a car in the morning and drive all day.

After lunch we split up to make the hitching easier. QB and I got 2 rides; first from Caleb up 149 to Blue Mesa and another from Hunter the rest of the way on Rt 50 into Gunnison. Our friends arrived shortly afterwards and then we found out that it was college move in week for Western Colorado University and there was barely any vacancy in town.

Finally Critter found us a room at the Island Acres Motel on the edge of Gunnison with a kitchenette and everything. We walked to the market, got some groceries to cook for dinner, then walked the mile or so to our room and took some long overdue showers.

To see more pictures follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and our friends insta @ourtrailingthought

For the next month or so Sara(QB) and I are planning to hike a few short trails or sections of trails. Starting with the San Juan mountains, a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. In 2017 we hiked the CDT from Mexico to Canada but due to excessive snow we rerouted through the town of Creede instead of hiking out and around the San Juan’s. From Cumbres Pass outside of Chama, NM we’re planning to hike a few hundred miles. Once we get our fill of Colorado we’re headed to either the Unitas in Northeast Utah and then the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

8/10/19…..CDT Mile 793.3…..1 Mile

So we started traveling yesterday but really didn’t get out west until just about midnight mountain time. We drove from Lynn to Long Island, visited with Sara’s family then flew from JFK to Albuquerque. It was an all day event. Waking up in a Rodeway Inn this morning we still had a long way to go to get on trail.

From downtown Albuquerque we took a train for an hour and a half to Santa Fe($9 each) and landed right next to an REI and a farmer’s market. Perfect! We got a fuel canister, perused the market and got lunch at Tia Sofia’s(both thumbs all the way up). So good! New Mexico is famous for green chilies and sopapillas and this place did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If I’m ever to be executed and given a last meal request I’ll take a never ending parade of sopapilla baskets with honey please. After lunch we went to the supermarket and got our food supply for the first section of trail then started walking towards Rt 84. It’s over a hundred miles but a straight shot from here to Chama so we put our thumbs out.

Within 5 minutes, Leona and Jonathan picked us up and drove us about 40 minutes up past Santa Clara Pueblo and the town of Espanola. Leona is from Yakama Nation and Jonathan Navajo Nation. They gave us a great ride and filled us in on the native lands and Pueblos we passed by.

Outside of Espanola we walked for just a few minutes before getting picked up by Neil, Elizabeth, Lucy and Vador(smallest Pekingese dog in the world). They were coming from buying a house in Taos and headed to Ghost Ranch to go horseback riding. It was a fun ride and they were excited to learn about our hiking trips.

From the Ghost Ranch turnoff we quickly got picked up by Audrina who drove us about a half hour to TA or Tierra Amarilla. She told us about Northern New Mexico, her travels, and warned us about the crazies while listening to Mexican music fading in and out on the radio.

In TA we stopped for a coke and a bathroom break, then waited on the side of the road about 5 minutes before Prentiss turned around and picked us up. Always a good sign when a driver turns around to come back for you. Prentiss is a Seattle transplant who works as an ER nurse in Espanola on his way to Colorado for the weekend. He brought us the rest of the way to Chama and dropped us off outside the Boxcar Cafe, home of the best breakfast burrito I ever had. This time I had a regular burrito smothered with cheese and green chilies and that was good too.

We walked a little bit out of town and got picked up by Luke and Amanda, who also turned around to get us, and they drove us the 10 miles or so up to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. They’re currently on a road trip back to KC, MO where they’re working and saving to finish building their cabin in Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. Currently they’ve got an 8 by 8 foot cabin and looking to expand. Now that sounds awesome.

We got on trail at Cumbres Pass, walked about a mile and set the tent up in a bed of soft pine needles for the night. Ahh, Home Sweet Home!

On a little side note, 24 hours ago we were at sea level and tonight we’re camping over 10,000 feet. I’ll let you know how it affects me.

8/11/19…..CDT Mile 808.7…..15.4 miles

Welp I took an Imodium today. Last night was a bit rough, I tossed and turned, my head was aching a bit, I started getting a sore throat and in the morning my stomach was in knots. Possibly due to altitude but probably due to the multiple smothered New Mexican meals I ate. All day I felt like my energy was a bit sapped and after digging multiple cat holes it was time for some medicine.

The weather didn’t help today either. We woke up to rain on the tent and thunder in the distance so we waited it out for awhile and didn’t get moving until about an hour later than we’d have liked. A few other times the rain came on strong enough to force us under a tree to wait it out. Combining these with a couple emergency bathroom stops added up to a very slow day.

Around 3pm the thunder and lightning came on pretty strong as well as a solid downpour. We were forced to set up the tent in some trees instead of carrying on over a ridge. A few times it felt like the rain would let up long enough to get a few more hours in but eventually we resigned to the fact that this would be an early night. Not very often have I done this. Hoping for nicer weather tomorrow and a stronger gut. Unfortunately though we’re camping even higher tonight at 11,700 feet.

Today wasn’t all bad though. We saw a bunch of deer, a couple elk in the distance and even the elusive porcupine as well as some fresh bear prints. It was also fun to walk this trail and compare it to June of ‘17 when it was covered with snow and we were hampered with snowshoes.

8/12/19…..CDT Mile 833.9…..25.2 miles

Today was a vast improvement over yesterday. I still have a bit of a sore throat and my head is a little foggy but I think my digestive system is on the other side of whatever I had been dealing with.

We woke up to clear skies and started walking around 6:15, just as the sun was rising. Within 5 minutes of walking we spotted a massive elk with a full rack staring back at us. This was the first of dozens of elk we saw today. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s rutting season because all the males were hanging out together and all the females were hanging out together. Pretty sure mating season is the end of August and I sure hope it’s not hunting season(wearing my hi vis orange hat just in case). We also had a rare pine marten sighting, he or she was hanging out inside a rock cairn and kept popping out of different holes to check us out.

Unlike yesterday we saw other people out here. About halfway through the day we saw a couple of hikers contouring around the same valley coming our way. I said to QB, “I wonder if we know them” and we did. Spontaneous and Sky are hiking south on the Continental Divide and QB met Spontaneous on the PCT in ‘15. They’re currently on a 3rd year of their honeymoon, sounds rad!

In ‘17 we bailed off this section due to snow and followed a river valley into the tiny town of Platoro, CO before walking into South Fork, CO. About 20 miles into today we passed the spot where we bailed and from then on everything was new. I don’t regret that decision in ‘17. We were going significantly slower than anticipated and we were running out of food. Plus I really enjoyed our adventure into Platoro. The trail beyond that spot was easy today but had it been covered in snow it would have been dicey at best and definitely slow going.

Five miles later we found a flat spot to camp above the Canejos River. Carrying on a little further would have been nice but we’d be camping higher up. The altitude is definitely affecting both of us more than we expected. Tonight we’re at 11,300 feet.

8/13/19…..CDT Mile 861.8…..27.9 miles

We were on a bit of a mission today. Originally this section would have consisted of a nice and relaxed pace for 3 days into town but because of the storm on Sunday it threw everything out of whack. We got up and moving by 6 am and had all day to do the miles.

Camping beside a river has its drawbacks, like the fly of the tent was soaked with condensation this morning, but enjoying the sunrise in this valley was incredible as we began walking. It was a tough climb up and out of the valley and at the top I quickly went the wrong way and got my feet wet. The elk had an easier time, they were running along ridges and bugling and all hanging out together(forget what I said about rutting season). We saw a herd of about 50 of them. From the ridge above the valley we contoured around a few beefy peaks and had a couple of snow crossings, one of which was pretty scary and another one where we had to do a controlled glissade.

As we got closer to Elwood Pass, we saw a little more life than usual. There were a couple other day hikers out there and two guys from the forest service looking for and counting big horn sheep(tough job, counting sheep will put you to sleep. I so wish I thought of that joke when I saw them). They saw as many as we did; zero.

From Elwood Pass it felt like we were getting away from the big mountains for a bit and the trail became a little faster. We walked through Wolf Creek Ski Area in the evening and then down to Wolf Creek Pass where we put our thumbs out.

Holly was driving the second car to pass us and she pulled over and pushed all her kayak stuff around to make room. She spent the last 5 days kayaking in Buena Vista, CO and told us about her plan to retire young, live mobile, and paddle and ski all over the place. Sounds fun! Holly brought us down to Pagosa Springs where we got a motel room for the night. We’ve got friends, Garbelly and Critter, joining us here tomorrow and we’ll most likely get back on trail with them the following morning.

Since late 2015 I’ve been section hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. This is the original long distance hiking trail in the US and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. It stretches 270 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada. This week, QB and I have a few days off so we’re hiking a 50 mile section from Sherburne Pass to Lincoln Gap.

6/23/19 LT Mile 120.8

Last night we went to my buddy Brett and his wife Erin’s wedding in St. Johnsbury, VT. Afterwards, instead of staying in a hotel nearby like normal people, we drove an hour and a half west and slept in the back of my Subaru at a trailhead parking lot at Lincoln Gap.

This morning we rolled out of bed/car a little later than normal, got packed up, and put our thumbs out. Immediately we got picked up by a nice couple in a pickup truck who were headed down to Killington to mountain bike for the day. We hopped in the back with the bikes and enjoyed a nice sunny ride through Vermont for the next hour. We picked up some last minute necessities(candy bars and chips) at a gas station then quickly got a ride up the hill to Sherburne Pass where we ate lunch at the Inn at the Long Trail (QB says get the Nachos!).

The AT and the LT run concurrently for the southern hundred or so miles of Vermont and this is where they split. We followed the trail north all afternoon and I have to say, it was really nothing special. I mean I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. It was a green tunnel all day, with a fair amount of mud, but I guess that’s why they call it Vermud (that joke never ever gets old). Besides today being a bit boring it was definitely an enjoyable day and it certainly felt good to be back on trail.

We walked into the evening and found a place to camp in a little gap on a snowmobile trail. All day I noticed the bugs but they weren’t anything more than a minor nuisance until we stopped here. All of a sudden they swarmed. We had to put everything else on hold and set up the tent immediately. Hopefully they’re all gone by morning.

6/24/19 LT Mile 141.9

Some of the bugs must have slept in because they weren’t as bad by the time we got up and moving this morning. The trail was a little nicer too. For awhile we followed a nicely graded and wide uphill ski trail that accesses a bunch of backcountry skiing. I’ll have to keep this area in mind come winter.

After we got to Brandon Gap the trail rose steeply up to Horrid Mountain(it wasn’t that horrid). The rest of the day we seemed to be going up and down along the tops of mountains, even though they were all wooded summits and there were hardly any open views. Opposed to yesterday where we were lower in a forest and just contouring all day. Still though, it was muddy and buggy and muggy. Not complaining or anything but these aren’t my favorite hiking conditions.

This afternoon we walked through Middlebury Snow Bowl and within the ski area was Pleiad Lake, an excellent stop for a mid day swim!

We crossed Middlebury Gap, RT 125, and continued hiking up and down on rocky and muddy trail. At one point we walked through a remarkable amount of moose poop. I mean I wouldn’t write it here if it wasn’t worth mentioning, it was just that extraordinary of an amount of moose poop. A couple miles after the communal moose toilet we set up our tent near the Emily Proctor Shelter and called it a day. It might be a bit less buggy here than last night, still buggy though.

6/25 LT Mile 152.6

Today started off nice enough. It was cool and cloudy with a breeze that kept the bugs away. Then, like gangbusters, it started raining cats and dogs. It was absolutely pouring. The trail went from its regular makeup of mud, rocks, and roots to a muddy river with rocks for islands. Luckily we only had to walk through 11 miles of this nonsense and we’d be in a nice warm car. It would have totally sucked to spend all day walking in the rain and then try to camp in it. I felt bad for the other hikers out there today. The trail itself rolled up and down along a ridge and on a clear day I’m sure would have provided some sweet views.

Here and there the rain would let up but by the time we got to Lincoln Gap it reached something of crescendo and was absolutely pissing on us. When we reached the car we stripped out of our muddy soaked clothes on the side of the road, threw all our filthy crap in the rooftop cargo carrier then hopped in, cranked the heat and did our best to dry off. It’s a 3+ hour drive home but warm and dry. Plus we stopped at Cockadoodle Pizza in Bethel, VT and stuffed our faces. I’m not sure I’d recommend this section of the Long Trail but I definitely recommend Cockadoodle Pizza if you’re in the area.

Sept 28 SHR mile 128

I didn’t sleep so well in the Mammoth Lakes Motel 6 last night. Probably the combination of lack of air conditioning, the tractor trailer trucks rolling through the parking lot, or most likely that I’m just not used to sleeping in beds. I ate good though. Sara and I went to Schat’s bakery for breakfast and fueled up on pastries then I went a bit overboard at the Loco Frijole for lunch. I had a chimichanga which I like to think is a not so distant cousin to the Monte Christo sandwich, both usually the most filling item on the menu. Then I finished Sara’s burrito and had about a thousand tortilla chips.

Our pal Golden, the hiker turned trail angel, came by the restaurant around 1:30 and drove us back up to Red’s Meadow picking up a couple other PCT’ers on the way. We were in no hurry to get moving up at Red’s so while we were sitting at the picnic tables out front I recognized this hiker Beardoh. We’d never met before but he, Sara, and I already followed each other on Instagram and knew a bunch of the same people and places. Beardoh is currently wrapping up his season hiking the John Muir Trail and was waiting on a ride down to Mammoth. We talked with him for awhile and as it always happens when I talk to other people that are heavily invested in this lifestyle I start getting all kinds of ideas of other hikes and projects I want to do.

Eventually we got moving. With heavy packs and both trying to digest food babies we were going nowhere fast. We took the Minaret Lake Trail past Devil’s Postpile and skirting Nancy Pass about 8 miles to Minaret Lake. If you’re keeping score at home this is our second easy alternate in a row. Maybe someday I’ll come back and hike over Nancy Pass. Maybe not. Right now I’m cozy in my tent next to this beautiful lake in the shadow of the powerful Minaret spires. And I’m skipping dinner. So full. Soulful.

Sept 29 Independence, CA

The wind was crazy last night. Every night this week it got windy around 8pm but it would usually stop around 10. Not last night. It was something fierce. All night long it would come and go building up steam whipping sand through our tent with a vengeance. We forgot our tent stakes in the car a week ago so Sara’s been rigging up the 2 most important corners of the rain fly with our shit shovels. The wind knocked these things loose half a dozen times over the course of the night and by sunrise both of us had barely slept and had sand in our eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Plus all over everything else. Rolling up the tent felt like flying a kite and we were careful not to lose anything as we packed the rest of our gear. Maybe it would settle down but if it didn’t neither one of us was in the mood to crawl across talus fields in order to stand on top of a pass in this weather. We decided to head back to Red’s Meadow the way we came in and start returning to the car. In essence we did about 60% of the Sierra High Route plus an overnight out and back to Minaret Lake.

When we got to the road by Devil’s Postpile(a national monument and geological wonder) the first car coming by was our buddy Golden. He drove us back into Mammoth where we grabbed breakfast and reserved a rental car from Hertz at the Mammoth Airport. We got a quick hitch from an Oregonian, Maryann, who drove us the 15 minutes out of town to the airport. There was nobody there. Sara called Hertz and a woman told her they don’t have any cars today and they only rent them from the in town location anyway. The woman gave Sara some nonsense about how you can’t book the cars online from the airport and then something about fine print and some other bullshit. No big deal, we’ll just figure something else out. The thing is, as the crow flies the car isn’t too far away, but you can’t get there from here as they say. It’s a 6 hour drive all the way around the mountains. Instead we figured we’d hitch south to Independence then hike 20 miles up and over Kearsarge Pass to the Bubbs Creek Trail and back to our car.

Too bad the airport is a couple of miles from the highway with zero traffic so we had to hoof it. Once we walked got back to 395(the highway through Owen’s Valley east of the Sierras) we got picked up by a French Couple, Ben and Margaux. These two were traveling the US in a camper van and drove us an hour and a half south to Independence. In exchange we helped them with converting the metric system to the wacky way we measure things in the US.

Independence is a tiny little Highway town with just the essentials. We got a room at the Winnedumah Hotel, most likely haunted, then ate burgers at the Still Life Cafe. It’s the only show in town but the food was good, reasonably priced, and the setting was straight out of another era with a piano in the corner and swing music playing.

A few of our buddies; Mac, Appa, and Moist drove up this way from LA to start their own little adventure in the Sierras. They were planning on camping just to the south of us in Lone Pine tonight but drove up to Independence and we ate gas station ice creams across from the hotel.

Sept 30 Convict Flat CG Sequoia NF

I slept decently in the Winnedumah, especially for a haunted hotel, and they put on a pretty good breakfast; homemade quiche, banana bread, and waffles. After breakfast we started walking towards the Onion Valley Trailhead and put our thumbs out. The first car that drove by stopped for us and Dan and Karen, a couple of hikers from Stockton, drove us up the steep winding road to the beginning of the Kearsarge Pass Trail.

It’s about 5 miles up this big beefy pass but the trail is all switchbacked and smooth so it was easy going. On the way up we ran into this kid Vulture that we met back in March in Oracle, AZ at the beginning of the Arizona Trail. He’s had quite a season hiking the AZT now currently southbounding the PCT. Today he was just going over Kearsarge Pass to get into town to resupply. I did the same thing when I hiked the PCT and I remember Kearsarge, even though back and forth it added something like 16 miles, to be a highlight of the Sierras. It still is.

On the way down from the Pass we walked past beautiful Bullfrog lake among others and eventually made it to the Bubbs Creek Trail. For the next 14 miles we walked mostly mellow trail along Bubbs Creek and through a canyon until we got back to Road’s End where we parked 9 days ago. We drove a half hour out of the park and pulled into Convict Flat CG same place we camped before we started this hike.

Oh yeah we saw this massive hawk today right next to the trail. He/she was perched on a dead stump of a tree about eye level 10 feet away from us. We stopped and just watched it for awhile and it barely moved but looked like maybe it had something in it’s mouth. For experiences with birds of prey, it was right up there.

Oct 1 Big Sur, CA

This morning we drove the winding road from our campsite to the General Grant Grove. This is the original National Park that was later on taken over by King’s Canyon NP and consists of a grove of massive sequoia trees. No doubt very impressive. We walked around admiring all these gigantic trees including the General Grant tree itself, the third largest tree in the world by volume.

After our little nature walk we began driving an even windier road all the way through Sequoia National Park and eventually down to the valley.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit frustrating. Last night when I started the car after letting it sit for 8 or 9 days, a bunch of the dashboard lights were on; check engine, brake, eyesight, low air pressure, oil temp, etc. I figure it’s just something electrical and all I needed to do was go to an auto parts store and have them reset it with their code reader. The thing is they don’t do that in California and I need to either go to a shop or go to a dealership. First thing I did was get an oil change(needed to do that anyway) then we drove around going to a couple different auto parts stores, then I disconnected the battery, reconnected it without change, then I tried calling a Subaru dealership but they said I could only get an appointment a few days out. It’s been frustrating and annoying to have all these lights on. Hopefully it’s no big deal. I’ll go to a shop next time I see one. Or when I get home.

Throughout the day we made our way west towards the Pacific and reached the ocean near the town of Cambria. From there we drove north on Highway 1 into the sunset. I’m not sure exactly where Big Sur starts but I think we’re in it now and it’s a beautiful coastal drive. We’re definitely within Los Padres National Forest and we drove up this steep dirt road off Highway 1 and found a spot to park for the night overlooking the ocean.

Oct 2 Bonny Doon, CA

First thing this morning, before I even woke up or actually this is what woke me up, someone in a truck drove by our free campsite from their free campsite blasting their horn. What a dick. That was around 6am and I never got back to sleep.

Whatever. We ate some breakfast at our little campsite pull off then started making our way north along the Big Sur Coast stopping at anything that piqued our interest. At Andrew Molera State Park we went for a run along the bluffs then down to the ocean. The trails were great for running and at the beach there were porpoises or dolphins breaching just off shore.

Traveling up the coast we ate lunch at Cannery Row in Monterey and oddly enough I just happened to have started listening to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row audiobook the other day. From Monterey we drove north along the bay to Santa Cruz and explored the pier and checked out the waves at this surf town. Word is there’s been humpback whales breaching but I didn’t see any.

I got in touch with my friend Walker aka Diatom who lives with his folks up in Bonny Doon which I guess is a ‘census-designated place’ within Santa Cruz county but it’s actually more of a state of mind. Now this is a sweet piece of property. Steve(Walker’s dad)and his wife Gloria, who was out of town tonight, had the house built 20 years ago during which time the family all lived in a fifth wheel trailer and a tent on the property. Now there’s gardens, ponds, dogs, lots of trees, a sweet lawn, a John Steinbeck themed outhouse, and Walker and his and Steve run their own business out of a shop next to the house creating and selling ceramic lanterns. I’m sure you can find it online if you want to check it out: Bonny Doon Designs. It was great to catch up with my buddy Diatom who I hiked hundreds of miles with and get to know his father who’s had his share of adventures. Diatom cooked us dinner and they put us up for the night. I kinda want to move in.

Oct 3 San Francisco, CA

This morning we drove down from Bonny Doon to the Coast. We checked the waves at Cowell’s Beach but nothing was happening so we drove south about 5 miles to Pleasure Point and rented surfboards.

Now the last time I surfed was in Tofino and while we were up there I felt like I was getting right up on every other wave and riding them all the way in. Today I wasn’t so lucky or maybe my surf skills are just more suited for Canadian waters. I did overhear a serious surfer saying that today was a ‘tough’ day. Either way it was still fun. Sara and I were out there all morning and got up on the boards once in awhile but most of the time I was just getting tossed around by waves.

This afternoon we drove up to San Francisco and began what I think we’ll be a multiple day walking and noodle eating tour. We saw the painted ladies, went to multiple chinatowns for dumplings and found a place to park for the night near the beach along Great Highway, supposedly it’s a good quiet spot to sleep for the night. We’ll see, at least the price is right.

Oct 4 San Francisco, CA

What a city! And not a bad night parked on the Great Highway either, so good we’ll try it again tonight. It’s quiet, dark, and we didn’t have any disturbances last night. The Great Highway goes along the edge of the Outer Sunset District from the SF Zoo past Golden Gate Park and feels more like a city street than an actual Highway. We’re parked across the street from houses and directly next to a thin strip of grass and trees that has a walking path going through it. Parallel to us on the other side of the path is another road, also ‘the Great Highway’ and then it’s beach and then the Pacific Ocean. So essentially what we have here is ocean front property. It’s comfortable but not so comfortable that I’d get outside the car and fire up our camping stove to cook supper, just comfortable enough to sleep inside the car for a couple nights with the curtains drawn.

Today we walked and ate all over the city. Specifically we went to get breakfast nearby in Sunset then took a bus over to SoMa, bought some used clothes, walked from there back to Chinatown, ate lunch then found the fortune cookie factory, walked up the Fillmore steps, were dazzled by the Blue Angels Flight Squad, went up Coit Tower, took an Uber across the city to China Beach, climbed on the rocks, laid eyes on the mighty Golden Gate Bridge, walked through the Presidio, bought a used book in Inner Richmond, walked through Golden Gate Park, up and down Haight-Ashbury then took a bus back to Sunset and back to car. We ate bagels, donuts, noodles, dumplings, pizza, tacos and ice cream. Almost all of the major food groups.

Oct 5 Lake Chabot CG, CA

Well I guess stealth camping along the Great Highway wasn’t so ‘Great’ last night. Around 1:30, while enjoying a deep REM cycle, I woke up to somebody trying to open the doors to the car. I’m assuming he or she must also drive a black Subaru Outback with Massachusetts plates and a cargo carrier on top and was just confused about where they left it. Before Sara or I could even figure out what was going on someone else drove by and the confused person must have remembered where they parked their car and took off. Confused person or burglar, we weren’t getting back to sleep in this location so we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and parked at a rest area just to the north. We probably should have done this in the first place as it was a relatively dark and quiet place to park for the night. The lot did fill up quick with loud tourists this morning though, including ourselves.

We went down to Sausalito, a town within the bay, for breakfast then drove over to the Marin Headlands for a little walking and looking around. The Point Bonita Lighthouse was closed for visitors today but we still got a good look at the bridge and saw tons of seals on the walk out towards it. Driving back along the coast we stopped and walked out a couple hundred yards for some absolutely striking views of the bridge. I guess this is fleet week and we watched as a SF Fire Boat, a Navy aircraft carrier, and a handful of other navy and coast guard ships went under the bridge. A truly impressive sight. A Coast Guard Helicopter even flew under the bridge, I’d like to think the pilot was disobeying his superior just for the sake of showing off but that probably wasn’t the case.

Tomorrow we’re running the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Trail Race(what a name!) in and around Lake Chabot regional park. We had to pick up our race packets today at a running store in Oakland, so we did that then walked around the Rock Ridge neighborhood for awhile. After that we drove over to Berkeley and explored for a couple hours before driving out towards Lake Chabot. We’re sleeping in an actual pay campground tonight. Not just because of the events from last night, I actually thought of this a few days ago, just wanted to give us both the best chances of a decent nights sleep before the race. I’m a bit nervous and anxious about the race, Sara on the other hand, not at all.

Oct 6

Today was the day! We ran and completed the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler. 10 hours 40 something minutes.

It wasn’t easy but it was fun. First of all we had to wake up at 4:45 am then drive over from the campground to be ready to start the race at 6am. Luckily Sara and I both got a decent night’s sleep. The course was dark for the first hour and for whatever reason I didn’t bring a headlamp but was able to get by because just about everybody else had one and kept the place lit up pretty well. During the first 10 miles we faced some of the most severe climbs and descents, and since it was an out and back style course we knew we had these hills to look forward to again. After the hills we reached Lake Chabot which is a major outdoor recreation area in the East Bay and draws lots of people from Oakland and the surrounding towns. Around the lake the course is paved for a handful of miles. I’m not too crazy about running on the pavement, I feel like it just beats up my knees and feet. It didn’t last forever though and after the Lake there were a couple of aid stations relatively close together so it made the miles seem to tick by quickly. We did some more climbs and drops then we got to my favorite part of the course which was a few miles through a redwood canyon(I think it was actually called ‘Redwood Canyon’). It was deep and dark and the footing was soft and pleasant. Because of the style of the course we started seeing the leaders through this section. We had one long steep hill until the turnaround then repeated the whole thing.

Around mile 20 a woman at an aid station told Sara she was the 5th place female. The rest of the day we tried and were successful in at least retaining that position. Not that we were being competitive and racing but it did give us something to shoot for. We actually didn’t lose any ground at all for the rest of the race. After the first hour when everybody was bunched up, the crowd got pretty thin. We leap frogged with 2 different runners for really long stretches of the course with one of them finishing in front and the other behind us. In the section just after the turnaround we got passed by 2 guys but we were able to catch them and another runner 20 miles later going up one of the massive hills near the end. I felt like I was suited quite well for these hills. They were hot and exposed and so steep that they were unrunnable and although these were our slowest miles of the day I was able to climb them pretty quickly. Finishing the race was a great feeling and I’m sure my body will pay the price for a few days. Sara ended up winning her age group and 5th place female. Not bad for her first race, not just first ultra, this was her first organized race outside of a couple Wednesday night runs in Lynn Woods last summer. I finished just after the 5th place female and we came in 21st and 22nd overall. There was a great spread at the finish line so we hung out for a couple hours eating food, talking to runners, and watching people finish. A very fun and successful day! For tonight instead of sleeping in the car I sprung for a hotel room in nearby Hayward, CA. I’ve run these long runs before and I know it’s important to be near a toilet. An actual bed helps too. feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes

Sept 22 SHR Mile 18

The Sierra High Route isn’t so much a trail but more of a route through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It stretches roughly 195 miles from Road’s End in King’s Canyon north to Twin Lakes near Mono Village(or the other way around but we’re going north). Unlike most of the hiking I’ve done, a lot of this route isn’t on trail. There’s lots of route finding, cross country walking, scrambling over talus fields and maneuvering through loose scree, and also some trail. The route parallels a lot of the John Muir Trail(JMT) which also coincides with the PCT and occasionally the route will follow some of this trail for a few miles here and there. This is my first time back to the Sierras since I walked through here on the PCT in ‘15 and I’m very excited. This is a magical place. Hopefully the route goes smoothly, read up to find out.

This morning we drove about a half hour from Convict Flat CG to the wilderness permit station at the very end of Road’s End in King’s Canyon National Park. The ranger there was great. I feel like I’ve had my share of experiences with rangers that try to rain on my parade, they try to shoot down my plans, act like I can’t do what I want to do, or just make matters difficult. This guy was cool though, he just did his job and gave us the permits we needed. We left the car at Road’s End and got started shortly after 9 beginning a steep climb up the Copper Creek Trail. The trail was smooth and was all switchbacks but we climbed over 5000 feet right away and my pack was as heavy as it’s ever been. It will be slow going so we figured 6+ days of food for a 118 mile section from here to Red’s Meadow where we’ll get into Mammoth to resupply. We also are required to carry bear canisters through these parks which add about 2-3 lbs. I’m using the same pack I’ve had for awhile a Hyperlite 2400 and it was maxed out. Sara opted for her bigger ULA Om instead of her tiny Pa’lante pack she used on the PCT and the Om was at full capacity. My only gear switch was a Hawaiian shirt instead of a tank top for better sun protection. We’re carrying heavy and climbing high but we’re in the Sierras and the weather is beautiful so it’s all good. From the top of the Copper Creek Trail we did some cross country walking towards Grouse Lake where I just had to go for a quick swim then climbed up Grouse Lake Pass at over 11,000 feet. Suddenly I felt like we were plopped right down in the middle of the Sierras, which we are. There were beautiful turquoise alpine lakes and granite mountains in every direction, with more craggy peaks in the distance and all different kinds of pine trees everywhere. It was awesome. Quite different from the 95 degree Walmart parking lot in Fresno yesterday.

We walked down then up and over Goat Crest Pass, picking are way around scree fields and then down to another lake. This went on for the rest of the afternoon. We’d find whatever we were supposed to be aiming for; a lake, a low lying saddle or a mountain and then just walk towards it.

For navigation, in case you’re wondering, we’re using a couple different routes on Gaia. One route is from a hiker named Swami that Sara found online and the other is from this maniac Jabba who sent me a very similar route with a few alternates to give us some options. We’ll use both of them and probably add a couple alternates of our own and make decisions accordingly. We also have Steve Roper’s guidebook downloaded to give us descriptions of where we should be going and what to look for.

This evening we did end up joining something of a trail for awhile. We followed that around Horseshoe Lakes and after the trail petered out we climbed up onto a saddle and found a campsite near a small tarn(small lake). Perfect first day on the SHR.

Sept 23 SHR mile 35

Holy Toledo, Ohio what a day! This might take us longer than I anticipated. Right away this morning we did a little climbing then dropped way down then started climbing again way up towards White Pass. Picking our way through big huge boulders. From White Pass we contoured through a talus field to Red Pass then dropped steeply towards Marian Lake maneuvering through an even steeper gully right at the end. Maybe the most perfect turquoise lake I’ve ever seen surrounded by granite. From Marian we climbed up through a basin containing a bunch of lakes and started making our way to Frozen Lake Pass. Keep in mind this whole time we’re traveling around 1 mph and about to slow down.

Frozen Lake Pass is a super steep pass up a talus field that at first glance looked impossible. We figured a route would begin to present itself as long as we took it nice and slow. Climbing up the talus field most of the rocks were solid but occasionally there’d be a loose one so as we scrambled up we’d test the rocks before proceeding. At the top of the pass it looked even steeper on the way down beginning we some dastardly loose scree. We descended one at a time, went slowly, and eventually made it down to a snowfield that was a bit easier to traverse. The talus field flattened out for awhile then dropped steeply again for until we got to a little alpine lake. I knew this was the end of the hard section for the day so I went for a quick icy cold swim to celebrate.

From the lake we walked cross country for a mile or so until we joined the JMT/PCT. Ahh! Home sweet home, the PCT. It was a treat to walk along this nicely manicured trail for awhile and we were able to pick up the pace a bit. Even the trail was tough though, it brought us up and down Mather Pass and along Palisades Lakes but this was a cakewalk compared to Frozen Lake Pass. We hadn’t see another person in the 24+ hours that we were off trail but during the 5 miles we were on trail we must have seen 20 people, mostly southbound JMTers.

After the lakes we veered off the trail to the right and began making our way up towards Cirque Pass. Instead of nicely groomed trail we were hopping around boulders and scrambling up little cliffs. We got to the cirque below the pass as the sun was setting and decided to leave the rest of it for the morning.

The full moon came up over the peaks and at 11,400 feet we’re camping next to a tarn in one of my favorite campsites of all time. And I saw a shooting star.

Sept 24 SHR mile 58

Alright I might not need to put myself on extreme food rations just yet, we were able to crank out some miles today and get back on track.

Laying up below Cirque Pass last night proved to be the right move. It took us over an hour to get up and down the pass first thing this morning and would have been dangerous to try that with just headlamps last night. From Cirque Pass we went down to a lake then immediately up and over Potluck Pass. This looked like a formidable wall and unlikely that we would be able to get over it but as we got closer we realized there were all kinds of little ledges and ramps that we could scramble up. From the top of Potluck we could see our next obstacle 2 miles to the north, Knapsack Pass. First we had to drop down off of Potluck and zig zag through a valley going up and down little boulder hills and what not. It’s not difficult or anything it was just tedious and slow walking. These huge valleys in between passes are absolutely incredible though. Because they’re so hard to get to, there’s nobody out here, or almost nobody. I thought we had this gigantic valley to ourselves so I was belting out Phil Collins at the top of my lungs when I saw a couple of figures near the top of Knapsack. We ended up meeting Hurl Goat and Mary Poppins a little later and these are the only other High Route hikers we’ve come across so far. Going up and down Knapsack was a slow process but we were able to take our time and pick safe manageable lines up and down the pass.

For the next hour we dropped down to Dusy Basin where I went for my daily bath. After another mile or so we joined the Bishop Pass trail that led down into LeConte Canyon where once again we picked up the JMT/PCT.

Coming from scrambling across the talus fields of the High Route to walking north on the PCT I felt like a dog with a broken leash. We were able to cruise all afternoon and cover some ground. Even as the PCT climbed up the long and gradual Muir Pass we were able to move quickly. I met a handful of southbounders today on their way to Mexico and really got me thinking about hiking that trail south in the future. Might just be the way to do it. We walked a little bit into the dark tonight but being on actual trail that’s no problem. At the last of Evolution Lakes we found a spot to camp as the moon was coming up.

Sept 25 SHR mile 78

This place is amazing. We started this morning by walking about a half mile on the PCT before taking a right onto a steep faint path up towards Darwin Bench, a beautiful spot with a bunch of little lakes surrounded by mountains.

From Darwin Bench we kept climbing and after a little while we could see our next obstacle, Alpine Col(I think col is just another word for Pass, same with notch, gap, and in Nepal; la. They all seem to mean a low spot in a wall of mountains). Alpine Col is daunting. From a distance there looked like no way up and over it. We walked slowly the next hour rock hopping on big boulders along a couple of lakes while looking up towards the col. This only built nervous anticipation. As we got closer a few routes began to unfold and I knew we’d be able to get up it. For some reason I chose a narrow chute of loose scree which looked better than it was. I managed ok but suggested Sara try something else and she seemed to find an easier way. Descending Alpine Col was no picnic either. We had to maneuver around big huge boulders and were very careful picking our lines in order to not get cliffed out. Then when it did finally flatten out we had about a mile of talus field to get through. Looking back I couldn’t imagine having to go up and over Alpine Col from the north side. And this was the easier option! We could have taken Snow Tongue Pass but the description of this one sounded downright harrowing.

Alpine Col and Snow Tongue Pass are on an 8 mile ridge called the Glacier Divide and I think this is what separates Kings Canyon NP from Muir Wilderness. After we got into Muir Wilderness we took an alternate from the Sierra HR that brought us down along Piute Creek below tree line and then we turned and took a right up French Canyon. This was a relaxing handful of miles compared to what we went through this morning. It wouldn’t last though. From French Canyon we climbed steeply up towards Merriam Lake and then further up to LaSalle Lake where we could see our next challenge; Feather Pass.

Climbing Feather Pass wasn’t as technically difficult as some of the other ones but it was a big beefy pass at over 12,300 feet that still involved some scrambling and we were in a race against the sun. I thought it was important to have enough natural light to find our way down that we weren’t rushing. Good thing we crushed all afternoon so when we got to the top of Feather Pass at 6 we still had an hour of light to navigate the talus field on the north side. The sun was setting as we walked through this valley of lakes and it was absolutely stunning. We reached Bear Paw lake and have an excellent campsite for the night.

Sept 26 SHR mile 97

No easy days out here, and I thought for sure today might be one. From our campsite this morning we made our way up and around a bunch of lakes all with bear names. It’s a very beautiful area and feels so far removed from anything. We had to climb a few steep gullies and over some talus but it was rather easy until we got to the top of White Bear Lake Pass. WBL Pass is actually a low lying pass so getting to the top was no big deal but descending the north side requires some slow and careful route finding around cliffs and through a big talus field. This seemed to go on forever and I was amazed looking back at it that we were able to safely get down.We walked another much flatter mile or so and came to Lake Italy(I guess some cartographer thought this long narrow lake resembled The Boot).

At the lake we ran into our first pair of southbound High Routers, Mike and Steve. I didn’t envy what they were about to climb. 20 minutes after we went our separate ways I came up with the best idea; I should have given those guys the key to my car and then they could have driven it up to the Northern Terminus to pick up their own car and left mine for us, it would have been a win win all the way around! A perfect opportunity like that doesn’t come across often and I blew it, just didn’t think of it at the time. Sara said there were too many variables and chances it wouldn’t work out, but I don’t know.

From the northern end of Lake Italy we blasted up a steep slope to Gabbot Pass. There was nothing tricky about it just good strong hiking to get to the top and it was the last time the route goes over 12,000 feet. On the north side of Gabbot was lots and lots of talus to get through but it never seemed too steep just time consuming. We eventually dropped down a path of loose scree to beautiful Lower Mills Creek Lake and found a rock to jump off into the icy cold turquoise water. We ate lunch at the lake and then followed a faint path steeply through forest down to Second Recess(whatever that is, some kind of geology term). I wasn’t crazy about this particular decline, I was slipping and sliding and struggling to find the trail. Once we got to Second Recess though we had a half hour of quite relaxing trail until we picked up a super steep trail up to Laurel Creek. Sara and I both blasted uphill then walked through a valley to Laurel Lake at the bottom of Bighorn Pass.

Bighorn Pass was quite steep and was much grassier than the other passes which made it unusual. There was nothing technical here and we didn’t take our time ascending because once again daylight was an issue and we still had another major obstacle. From the top of Bighorn we had to contour and climb over to Shout-of-Relief Pass. This was a bit tricky. It wasn’t super far or anything just littered with big huge boulders that we had to work our way around. There were a bunch of little climbs and drops and careful route finding involved before being able to let out a Shout of Relief. From the top of this pass we had a rather gentle and enjoyable walk down about a half mile to the closest tarn where we set up camp in some trees on a cozy pine needle floor.

Sept 27 SHR mile 118

Today was an easy day. The first three miles took forever walking cross country and finding our way downhill through a lake basin and all kinds of cliffs and stuff until we got to the McGee Pass Trail. From there we walked a nice smooth mile until the High Route rejoined the PCT. The trail climbed steadily up some nice switchbacks to Purple Lake Pass(probably not the real name) then we just cruised for half a dozen miles.

The High Route veers off the PCT to go up towards Duck Pass but we elected to walk trail for the next 10-12 miles so we could get to Red’s Meadow then down into Mammoth for the night. It was absolutely delightful to just walk along a peaceful trail all day. We’ve had a long 6 days out here and getting into town was a priority.Red’s Meadow is a mule packing station with a little campground, small restaurant, and small store. It’s not really ideal for resupplying although some hikers mail themselves packages here for a hefty fee. In the past I’ve taken a bus into the town of Mammoth but I guess they only run it on the weekends during September. We heard there was a trail angel running shuttles back and forth so I got his number and gave him a call.

Golden, who just finished the PCT, was spending some time in the area driving hikers around. Thankfully he drove the hour round trip for us and entertained us along the way, telling us about when he used to hang out with John Cazale (Fredo)in Brooklyn back in the 70’s.

When I was in Mammoth in 2015 I went to this place Giovanni’s and had Spicy Thai Pizza then talked about it for a couple thousand miles. Today I had that pizza again. Now I guess it’s a tradition. After pizza, Sara and I did all the town stuff: got our resupply done for the next section, showered, did laundry and got a room for the night. Not all in that order.

We’re hoping to get back on the route tomorrow afternoon and travel 77 miles over the next 4-5 days to the Northern Terminus at Twin Lakes up near Mono Village.

Feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara/QB @sarahikes