Water: so much water!
Today is the last bit of new-to-me trail for almost two hundred miles, as the PCT and John Muir Trail, which I completed last summer, become one. I decide to spend a lazy morning at Chicken Spring Lake, rather than rush to get somewhere I have been before.
I walk down to the shore to take photos of morning reflections, and see shards of ice. Crunchberry confirms, it is still only 30 degrees way up here above 11,000 feet. Sleeping with my pillow stuff sack filled with water filter and electronics is justified; batteries are still charged and filter still functional despite the temperature.
Just after 8am, the sun reaches over the ridge to warm my tent. I evict myself from my sleeping bag, pack up and start walking. I stop for Lunch at Rock Creek, a fitting end to the water report. The creek bubbles through a too perfect meadow, water clear, cold, abundant. I chat with Waterbed who has joined me for break, as we wait for animals to frolic or even start talking Disney-style. I spend the afternoon walkinh though forests of Foxtail pines, contorted by the harshness of their high home. Red trunks are twisted, three-quarters dead and yet alive. One impossibly resilient tree is burnt and twisted with a hole straight through, still supporting green branches.
Then Crabtree meadow outdoes rock creek, deer are grazing, and Whitney and surrounding spires dominate the skyline. I won’t be going up there today, but I think of friends headed in that direction and hope to see them again soon.
Whatever was going well yesterday is not today. I feel the elevation like super gravity on a strange planet. Each step feels so small. But still they add up, and I make it to Wallace Creek, a sunny late in the day spot I remember from last year.
I walk straight to the crossing wanting to assess the situation with the ford and gauge more generally what to expect of water crossings to come. Too much water is the danger now. Though I could hear the rushing creek from the trail far above, the stepping stones are still dry. I am conflicted by the prospect of a dry shoes on crossing, and what such low levels this early in the season mean for the drought. The creek looks much as it did last September.
The next order of business is getting clean. Before I can think twice, I am sitting naked in the frigid creek, scrubbing and splashing myself back to a reasonable level of dirt and funk as fast as possible. With cold and bugs, I managed to get clean and clothed before any other human passes throgh. The mosquitos are on me as soon as I get out. They are barely a hint of what is to come, I think, but enough to drive me to eat dinner in my tent. Which happens to be pitched in exactly the same site as last time.
I am exhausted today, and have minor headache and sinus irritations, most likely elevation again. I chug water despite the risk of having to get up to pee in the cold darkness. Early sleeping tonight with hopes of being revived for the imposing Forester Pass tomorrow, highest point on the PCT.