Date: July 11, 2017
Miles: 18.8 miles (30.3km), from mile 951.8 over Benson Pass to mile 970.6.
Health: Feeling great. Right knee is coming along.
Like clockwork we were up at 4:15am and after a breakfast at camp, we were on the trail 5am sharp. This group is really punctual.
While we got off the meadow and to the higher ground, Blis and Airplane Mode still had their tents and sleeping bags all wet from the condensation. They camped out in the open, whereas I setup my shelter under the branches of a large tree and had no problem with condensation. Microclimates.
We hiked along the meadow in the early morning light and watched the fog rise from the river. The views were definitely worth the pain to get here.
Our task for today was to get over about five or six rivers and over the Benson Pass. The pass was barely over 10,000 feet so we weren't too worried about it.
We hit our first river after about an hour of hiking. It looked easy and we crossed it at the PCT crossing. Jack, Indigo's dad, was doing well with us. He only had trouble keeping up in the climbs. Thankfully for him we didn't have any big climbs coming up on this section.
We crossed few more rivers and smaller streams and stopped for a quick second breakfast to dry our wet shoes and socks.
After the break we did more ups and downs and crossed few more streams and then climbed up to Miller Lake. Our shoes and feet were again wet, and the clock was approaching lunch time, so we stopped for a lunch.
The day pretty much followed the same path. We'd walk up, then down, then up again, and cross few rivers in between. The views through out the day were breathtaking and if I didn't need to get to Canada, I could just stay here at any point and relax all day.
After one long downhill we hit another beautiful meadow and had to cross a river. The meadows's tucked between two mountains and the river runs through the middle. We thought it looked like a movie set and stopped for a second lunch. The sun was already up so Blis, Airplane Mode, and Happy Feet dried up their wet gear.
After eating, Indigo, Juniper, Jack, and I jumped into the river and swam with the current some way down stream. The water was cold but so refreshing!
As we were down in a valley, the next thing we did was climb up and out of it. And now we started to approach the pass. There had been barely any snow all day but now we slowly started hitting snow. The closer we got to the pass the more we met snow.
The pass was fairly easy with only little over 1,500 feet of elevation to climb. The snow was already soft but we just made our path through. We stopped for a quick high five session at the top and then started to climb down. On the way down we got to do more glissading and boot skiing which is always fun.
This side of the pass had much more snow and we ended up walking on it, or around it, almost the rest of the day. Happy Feet and I hiked at the front working on trail and route finding. This was easily a two person job as the trail was constantly under the snow. One of us would make sure we were going into the right direction and the other would work around to try to locate the trail. Blis would keep us and the rest of the group connected as they were moving slower on the snow.
At times the trail followed along a really steep climbs and due to the snow and fallen trees we had to be really careful not to loose our footing and fall down the mountain. Eventually we made our way down to the river down below, and the waterfalls that feed it. Everyone was feeling pretty beat down, and as there didn't seem to be any camping coming up for a long time, we decided to call it a day here.
We found a nice flat spot close to the river and a small alpine lake and setup camp. Jack looked so tired. After Indigo and he got his tent up, he went in and fell asleep immediately. Hiking out here is rough. Keeping up with a group of trail hardened PCT hikers while doing this is even harder. I don't envy him at all, there's no way I could have done this on my first few days out on the trail.
While we were having dinner two hikers came down the mountain as well. As they got closer I recognized them, Cannonball and Storyteller. How awesome is this! We all sit around eating, swapping trail stories and laughing until hiker midnight and then it's time to go to bed. I have no trouble getting sleep and I think I'm down before my head hits the pillow.