Day 50 794.3 – 811.3
Elevation: ascent 3,764 ft, descent 4,260 ft
What an incredible morning we had. We woke up to blue skies with some high clouds making for some picturesque photos of Rae Lakes. It is definitely one of our favorites lakes in the Sierra. We got packed up and hit the trail at 7:15, with the big goal of getting over Pinchot Pass today. Pants and Mantis were just finishing packing up so we figured they would catch up later.
From our previous trips of the Rae Lakes Loop we knew we would probably have two stream crossings in the first 3 miles so we were prepared to get our feet wet. Right before the first stream we ran into 3 deer grazing in the meadow. We are really enjoying the early morning hiking as we definitely get to see more wildlife. When we got to the stream it turned out to be fairly easy. In the past the water was at least thigh deep. Today we got only one foot wet as we were able to cross on a log and rocks. The second crossing was Baxter Creek but again the water level was much lower than our previous trips allowing us to rock hop, keeping our feet dry.
Now we were heading towards Woods Creek, and a very cool suspension bridge. About one mile right before the bridge Double Down was in front and leading the way when we saw a gorgeous black bear (with a beautiful brown coat) come out of the tree line and was only about 100 feet away. We both came to a halt and locked eyes with the Bear. He took one look at us and then bolted back into the woods. He was gone before I could even reach for my camera. We both were glad to see he was afraid of humans, keeps the bears and hikers safe!! Just as we were getting over that, Double Down turned a corner and we both were startled as a deer sprang from the bushes about 10 feet in front of us. Again way to fast for either of us to grab a camera. We couldn’t believe how much wildlife we have been seeing today.
We reached the suspension bridge at 10:00 and took off up the trail toward Pinchot Pass. Right after getting on the trail for Pinchot we hit the 800 mile mark of the trail. Crazy to think we have completed just less than 1/3 of the trail.
Now we had a 7.5 mile climb to Pinchot Pass. This trail and pass turned out to be the biggest butt kicker of all the days we have had hiking. We generally look at an elevation profile of the climbs to get a sense of how bad things will be. We have found that we can comfortably maintain a steady pace with climbs that gain between 300-450 feet per mile. Today we were climbing an average of 550 feet per mile. This may not have been bad if it wasn’t 7.5 miles of this. On top of that many of the steps going up were about a two feet high making those stair-steppers at the gym seem like child’s play.
We got to a stream for what was going to be our lunch, around 1:00. As soon as we stopped a squadron of mosquitoes swarmed us. No matter how many we killed they just kept coming so we had to just scoop up some water and move to a drier spot hoping we could evade those blood suckers. We did find some nice rocks to sit on but the skeeters were still around. So needless to say we didn’t have a very long or relaxing lunch.
We started to encounter snow around 10,000 feet and still had 3 miles to go. The navigation with the trail disappearing under snow slowed us greatly. When we started the Pinchot trail at 10:15 we thought we would reach the pass by 2:00 based on our prior 49 days of hiking. So when we didn’t reach the pass until 3:30, we knew it had been SLOW going!! Both Double Down and I were pretty exhausted and knew we still had to descend the north face which had much more snow. Before doing that we made sure to take a break, looking down into the beautiful snow covered valley where we came from, and allowing our legs to rest.
With the low number of hikers out here this year there isn’t much of a path to follow through the snow. On the way down from Pinchot Pass we found few tracks in the snow and the ones that were there, were already fading away. Also, being later in the day and the snow softening there was much more post holing, which only added to our leg fatigue. We passed by Lake Majorie, which was huge and still 90% frozen. We ended up having to wade through 3 more streams before we finally made it to camp. The last 4 miles were tough as we were both exhausted from the day. As we finished up dinner and were putting things away an evening thunderstorm decided to greet us. We had to quickly get things into our vestibules and finish brushing our teeth before getting pelted by the hail that was now falling.
It’s crazy how this trail will provide you with so much beauty and amazing memories but will also test you both physically and mentally at times. We will definitely be sleeping well tonight. Thanks for following along. Link