On our last trip in September, we wrote about the smoke from the Rough Fire and the challenges that it caused. But one of the real highlights of the trip, and what we really were looking forward to, was climbing to the top of Forester Pass, the highest point of the PCT at 13,200 feet elevation.
On our third day on the trail, we met Shane and Rosie. Most of our conversations with hikers had been very brief, a minute or two. Our conversation with these two was brief as well but more like 20 minutes. These 20 minutes though really affected me. Rosie’s trail name is “Love Actually.” They were thru hiking the JMT southbound. We were heading north. They told us about a resupply place in Muir Ranch. We didn’t plan to take advantage of it because it seemed kind of expensive to ship our supplies there. They told us there’s a hiker box filled with food people put in, mostly snacks. Shane and Rosie stayed there one night in the hotel and hot springs. I did have to admit it sounded like great fun.
What really gave me goose bumps was the story behind her trail name. When she turned 30 she started having “themes” for the year. She did love last year and it was such a positive experience she continued it this year as Love Actually. She picked love because she had a close friend who died suddenly, doing what he loved to do. I don’t know anything more about that story. What she was doing was asking people to participate in a short three question survey. Either by email, in person now, or videoing your answers. I decided to answer on the spot. Lynn wanted to think about it but decided, after I gave my answers, to do his on the spot, too.
The questions were, “Who loves you? What is love? How do you show love?” Within some of the answers, we told her our hiking cancer story. After answering the survey, I felt this intense desire to hug her. She did too, so we hugged, twice.
We were hoping to make it closer to Forester Pass that day but the wall of smoke from the Rough Fire at Tyndall Creek delayed our plans and put an end to any further hiking that day.
The next day, we did as a ranger we met suggested and got up and on the trail early, before 6:15. It was a clear day. The same corner we rounded the day before showed us the beautiful mountains ahead. This was our best day yet on the trail. Forester Pass.
Walking up over the first “hill” we encountered a wide open field, with lots of marmots and a lake in the distance. In fact there were several small lakes we encountered.
The climb to Forester pass was steep, and additional 2134 feet in 4.8 miles. It was rocky. You couldn’t hike and look around you until you stopped because you had to navigate each footstep. Forester Pass is a milestone on the PCT because it’s the highest point on the trail at 13,200 feet elevation. I had not been struggling with altitude and breathing but on this particular stretch, I was. As I climbed up and up, I kept thinking about Love Actually, and love. I thought of my answers, who loves me. I thought of Lynn, my kids, my brother Brian who starts and ends every phone call with “I love you.”
The thoughts of love filled my head, and so did the enormity of the mountain in front of me. It brought me to tears. It was emotional, but in a good way. I tried to stay focused and be in the moment. As we neared the top, we could hear people screaming with joy. It was incentive to go on as the screams got louder and louder. The view from the top did not disappoint.
At the top we met Chris and Megan. Chris was from Wisconsin and Megan from Oregon. They were married and living in Georgia. Our conversation was 20 min but the camaraderie that we were all there at that magical top made us talk like were old friends.
On the way down we ran into a group of about 8 guys from Iowa. One had an Iowa State Cyclone shirt on. As a Hawkeye from University of Iowa, we were rivals. So naturally we struck up a long fun conversation about Iowa and agreed that out of Iowa we could be friends. It always amazes me what a small world we really live in.
That night we stopped at Middle Vidette. This site too did not disappoint. I know this sounds crazy, but we were allowed campfires at this lower elevation. We haven’t had a campfire while backpacking in three years. We were a little chilled. The smoke wasn’t too bad around us so we had a nice little fire. We camped next to a creek. I love the sound of that water when I am trying to doze off. As we ate our dinner, there was a mama deer with twin fawns that came near us and ate their dinner too with us. It was really an awesome end to an awesome day.
Thanks for following along.