We start our day near Muir Ranch. Last night we crossed the river to check out the Blayney Hot Springs, and camped over here. It’s a wet morning, with dew and condensation on the tent that’s also dampened the outside of my sleeping bag. I hate it when that happens.
My sleeping bad is low on air. It’s been leaking air lately. I had to blow it up 3 times last night. As I lay still in the dewy morning air, I debate wether or not to blow it up again. I then decide not to and flip the valve to let the remaining air out. It’s 7 am and I rise and get started on the day, starting by filtering some water from the river.
Before leaving camp I attempt to dry out our rain fly in the sun atop a boulder. It’s marginally successful, but still slightly damp when I stuff it away. Wet is the theme of the morning, considering we still have to cross the river to get back on trail.
Chef and Sriracha head down to the river and we’re close behind them. We each take our turn crossing the river, steadying ourselves with the rope as our feet fight against the stream, securing their grip on the boulders underwater.
Once we’re across, we begin the climb. We have a steep climb out of Muir Ranch to reconnect to the PCT. From there we also have a steep climb up to Selden Pass which is about 5 miles away. However, it’s one of the lowest passes we’ve done in recent days, at just under 11,000 ft. In the past several days we’ve crossed 5 passes, most of which were near 12,000 ft, or slightly higher. So, the passes are getting lower. It gives us a little comfort to know we won’t be fighting for oxygen as much as we have in previous days.
As usual the climb upward is beautiful as we switchback along the mountains, peering at snow speckled mountains across the valley. Then we wind through a forest, crossing small streams feeding the green grass.
We stop for snacks and Gatorade. I snack on a tortilla with tuna and jalapeno. Lupine combines peanut butter with a tortilla. Before we get too comfortable in the sunshine by this blissful stream, we coax our legs back on trail, and launch forth.
We run into Sriracha about a mile up trail as he’s breaking. He says he was feeling tired and just ate half his peanut butter. Today is day 7 on trail and we are all feeling the grind. We’re tired and hungry. The hiking is beautiful, but it’s been a tough week, and we need some rest and restoration. I feel a sense of guilt. I am so lucky to be here right now. But I am tired, and feel incapable of fully appreciating the scenery.
The trail continues to climb upward, as we cross through pristine meadows, newly thawed with shrinking patches of snow in the shade. We skip across streams that feed into shimmering lakes filled with frolicking rainbow trout. They touch the surface of the water as they swim away, startled by our presence.
As we rise the landscape turns from meadow to stone. The trail becomes steps of granite.
Looking back we admire the alpine lakes and mountain peaks that come into view the higher we climb. Everything is so damn picturesque. I’m annoyed because I cannot fully appreciate all the beauty. I can see the beauty all around, but I cannot give every lake, every river, every summit, every meadow, every cloud the appreciation it deserves. I feel overwhelmed, thankful, and unworthy.
Finally we make it to the top of Selden Pass, and gain a window into another wild landscape. Lakes spread out being fed by snow fed streams. We descend to walk alongside them.
When the trail turns into a stream as it often does we try to skip across stones to keep our feet dry. Then we arrive at a river crossing where it’s obvious our feet will get wet. We pull off our shoes and switch to sandles. The water is cold yet soothing on our trail worn feet. Again we cross paths with Sriracha on the other side and we talk as our feet dry out.
The trail again turns to beauty. Every few minutes I spot another place I’d like to sit and stare. But we rush through the next 5 miles, ready to be done for today. We follow a river I imagine swimming in. I wish I could stop every mile, and camp there to fully absorb the beauty. But instead I’m tired and ready to be done hiking today, so I walk past with speed and determination to soon stop walking, at least just for today.
Our day ends with a steep climb to our campsite, perched upon some rocks, with a view into the mountains. Lupine and I eat dinner watching a bright white cloud expand and morph above the snow capped mountains. Then we go to bed, with dreams of fresh food and still bodies.