DAY 7: We woke early to the sun spraying its rays on the mountains around us. Today was a big day since we were still so far from our next pass, Pinchot Pass. We made the journey over Suspension Bridge, which was actually a little scary! It felt like an obstacle course since its so buoyant, hard to stay balanced, and you can only go on one at a time.
We had quite the elevation gain before Pinchot and after passing so many descending hikers coming our way, we were discouraged. Eventually, our weary bodies made it to the top of Pinchot Pass. We were both feeling tired and hangry. We looked towards the lakes nearby and couldn't wait for our daily lunchtime swim.
The climb down was hot and windless. We took our plunge in Lake Marjorie whilst avoiding pesky bees and eating our tuna, deciding how far to go that day. I wanted to get us as close to the next pass as we could, so we just kept on walking.
I taught Anna one of my favorite games called "where are they now" and we played for miles. All you do is mention someone both of you know or know of and ask the other person where they are. That person then makes up a detailed story based off of details they know of that person and explains what they're doing in that exact moment. It's fun for the brain and lovely to play using people you miss back home.
We found some unchaperoned grazing horses and made it to one of the last creek crossings before tomorrow's pass. The campground was bustling and there weren't any designated sites left. We wandered around for a bit and came across a flat piece of land that seemed fine. Cue: wrath of monster ants. We were tortured by massive ants for the rest of the night climbing all over us, which forced me to get in my tent for the sake of shelter. This is the last time I will ever camp in an undesignated site.
DAY 8: The next day, we escaped the thick thorax creatures in the early morning light. We wandered through beautiful meadows all the way up to Mather Pass. The surroundings were magical and I even saw a woman running around the grass with a butterfly net. I was living in a storybook. From there, the pass was visible and I was ready to take her on.
I found an excerpt in my journal from this day that I wanted to share: "Going over a pass is an emotional, not to mention physical, rollercoaster. When you're nearing the top but still have a ways to go, you begin the downward spiral of despair. At least I do. I somehow wake up with the utmost confidence, only for it to shatter into a million pieces before reaching the top. First comes the self loathing. "I knew I was in over my head." "I'm not strong enough for this!" "I'm tired, weak, and so hot, even though there's wind." I break myself down and hit an all time low. Then I turn a corner and suddenly...only two more switchbacks. The future is nigh! My mind switches gears to "almost there" and "I knew you'd make it!" and I summit. I look down at what I conquered and turn to look at my next conquest. I love that I can see both. Looking forward I see strength, self-reliance, independence. What a strange game climbing a pass puts me through."
The drastic change in the opinion of myself is so lightning fast it becomes exhausting. I've never felt so incapable and unstoppable in the same .3 seconds. This feeling is grueling and addicting.
Once we hit the top of Mather Pass, we began the descent to the Palisade Lakes. It took us a while to get to Lower Palisade Lake as we hiked in the heat, eager to jump in the glistening water. We were literally the only ones there; we had the whole place to ourselves and we took advantage of it. Swimming, cleaning wounds, eating and sunbathing.
Eventually, we began descending down the Golden Staircase. I didn't really know much about this section, but it was epic. Resembling a staircase between two large walls of stone, this section takes you down into the valley, with sweeping views from above. Different wildflowers are poking out of all the cracks in the yellow rocks, so the journey was bustling with color and strong floral scent. Completely exposed to the sun, I can't imagine trekking UP the Golden Staircase; luckily, climbing down was heavenly. The stairs felt almost like ancient ruins and I imagined I was discovering El Dorado. Or some sort of sacred dimension. This was one of my favorite spots on the trail.
Once at the bottom, Anna and I raced against the sun to make it all the way to the Middle Fork Trail Junction. We made it with plenty of sunlight and an empty campground albeit a few deer. We had hit 100 miles on this day, so we pulled out the little whiskey we had left. That and the sound of the rushing water nearby knocked us out immediately. We had a big day tomorrow and were eager to get more than enough sleep.
DAY 9: What a day this was! We set off a bit before 8AM ready to take on Muir Pass, in hopes of making it all the way to Evolution Lake, which was a bit of a stretch. We left notes for Kelly and Jason, figuring they weren't far behind us. I love the ritual of leaving notes on the trail. You see them everywhere! There's something beautiful about this senescent style of communication, not knowing if/when someone will get it but still putting in the effort to make it possible.
We wound up through beautiful granite all the way to Starr Camp. The sun was beating down hard and we had a LONG way up before getting to the Muir Hut; we really pushed our pace these 10 miles.
Eventually, we saw the hut in the distance (it took me a minute to realize that, I thought it was a rock) and sat in the hut for lunch. We ate chocolate and marveled at Muir's getaway from so long ago. I could feel his soul in there.
We took off for Evolution Lake and walked through the Upper Basin, which is painfully perfect. Passing Wanda Lake and Sapphire Lake, we chose to keep on till Evolution. I'm so glad we did. Our descent into this lake-filled land was so enchanting. Anna and I talked about relationships, Chipotle, and convinced ourselves that our trail buddy, Jason, would be in our campsite making pancakes by morning.
Around 6PM, we came upon our own little paradise. Nestled between two tall mountain ranges, Evolution Lake was unlike anything I've ever seen before. Positively UNREAL; we were living in a screensaver. I couldn't get enough of my surroundings and just sat on a rock breathing in the beauty until the bright moon forced me into my tent.