Waking up the morning of Day 19 at Wanda Lake, the air was chilly, but the views were beautiful. The morning reflection on the lake was breathtaking! We started hiking, and immediately came across tadpoles around the edge of Wanda Lake.
As we climbed up toward Muir Pass, we passed by a couple more lakes. The trail was frozen with ice and intermittent suncups, but I felt on top of the world. The climb was tough, but I became overwhelmed with joy. The night before, we saw headlamps coming down from the pass, and figured they were PCT hikers. We were all one, and it was a beautiful experience.
Pushing up the last crest, I was overcome with tears of joy and gratitude. Muir hit sat perched perfectly on the pass, and the surrounding snow-patched granite peaks, inspired me with see and wonder. I felt a little cheesy, because no one else seemed as overcome, but I was having my experience. This was what the struggle was for!
We explored the hut, talked with a few people, and one of them was going cross country to bag a peak. I was envious of how in shape he was, but I was pretty badass for getting as far as I had. We took some photos, and started our descent.
The south side of Muir Pass was much snowed than the north. I was struck with fear, and moved much slower than the rest of my group, but I did the deal without putting my microspikes on! Looking back, I should have put on the spikes to increase my security and decrease my tension, but live and learn!
It was cool watching the boys glissade down fearlessly. They were awesome and inspirational! I didn’t do that, but the joy in their eyes made the experience that much more enioyable.
There were snow bridges that terrified me, yet were beautiful. The creek crossings were epic, too. Bobby and the boys charged on ahead after getting through the sketchiest terrain, and again, I felt left behind (later I realized Bobby’s shoes were coming apart, and he just wanted to get moving).
As we got below snowline, I was feeling dehydrated and sluggish again. My muscles were spent from the stress of snow, I felt overheated and I wasn’t a happy camper. Finally, I set up my lunch spot by this waterfall. I couldn’t go any further. But as I got everything unpacked, John and JJ passed by. Maybe I should have taken it slow like them!
They said they were gonna keep walking to find Bobby, and I told them I’d catch up later. Believe it or not, Bobby was just on the other side of the waterfall! So I sorely packed up my gear and lunch and made my way down. They were having lunch with two younger women they had met a few days ago, and my interest was piqued.
The women took off, I got to relax, and then we continued on. Bobby was on a time crunch to get to his mule train resupply the next day on top of the Golden Staircase. This made complete sense, so we continued marching. We had a bunch more elevation to drop before even getting to Deer Meadow, but I would push on!
The descent was very rocky, which was hard on the knees, but it was mind boggling to see the amount of land we were covering. By this time, we were back in the forest, but could still see the granite outcrops of where we were that morning.
The river cutting through was beautiful, and I was overtaken by fatigue and joy all at the same time. I let everyone walk ahead, so I could go my pace, which was probably a good decision. Then, I happened upon the rock monster by accident. I slipped, and John saw me, asking if I was okay. I was, just shook up. To my right, was the rock monster and an oasis of a campsite!
We all took a break, took photos in the monster, and played around. I really wanted to camp there, and was trying to convince the group to, since there were other young people there planning to camp. But we had to press on to be on a decent time table for Bobby to get his resupply.
I guess I didn’t have to stay on his schedule, but he offered to ship some of my mountaineering gear home, and give some extra food. Plus, it was comfortable to camp with the same people every night. So I pushed on.
The last few miles dragged on like hell. There wasn’t much incline or decline, but my body was spent. And when I’m spent, I get vocal, cursing out the gods, cursing out the trail, and begging for camp to be right around the corner.
I struggled because I didn’t know the trail at all, and I didn’t know where Bobby was planning on stopping. I was voluntarily out of control of the situation. I could have camped sooner, we passed by the girls we met earlier, we passed by a bunch of campsites, but I was determined to get to camp with the group I had been with.
Finally, I come around a bend, and see that everyone chose a campsite. Yay! I could finally poop! I dropped my pack hastily, still fuming a little out of anger, but then I relieved myself, hydrated, saw a few deer, and could admire the beauty of the forest. All was right with the world again.
Nightfall was upon us, but we still were able to get a fire going and enjoy dinner together. The mosquitoes were bad in the meadow, but that was just a minor annoyance. We laughed, talked more about our plans after the trail and about the people we met before heading to sleep.
The next morning, Bobby and the boys woke up early to run up the Golden Staircase to catch their resupply. I got up with John and JJ, and was ready to go pretty quickly. John told me to go ahead since they were gonna get a late start. So I did!
The day started off calm. I checked my water refill points, and it looked like I could get more in the middle of the Golden Staircase, so I kept my good clip up, and moved past different tributaries.
Soon enough, I was climbing over fallen trees, and navigating very rough trail. It was minority annoying, but I continued on. When I envisioned the Golden Staircase, I imagined literal steps that were golden. So as I started climbing, I missed my last water point and the heat started cooking me. Damn!
I grew very sluggish again, almost out of water. I saw the creek next to the trail, but it was a waterfall! Whoops! I had myself in a mighty pickle. Denis, from earlier, passed me by, and agreed that the climb was tough. The mythical staircase I thought I was going to see was merely a steep-ass climb up a canyon. From forest to granite in a day!
I passed by a PCT hiker coming down the staircase, and asked him when the next water was. He said it was quite a ways away, but he offered the rest of his water to me. What an awesome guy! Trail magic! I expressed my gratitude and carried on.
Nearing the top, the views were beautiful. But I was overheating again. The best lesson I got from this trip was to pay attention to hydration and energy. I came across Denis again, really struggling this time. He kept charging, and I tried enjoying the beautiful scenery, but the top of the staircase never seemed to come.
I lost my cool, and I’m sure Denis could hear me. The trail kept leveling out, then climbing again. I was over it, and now I realize I have quite a bit of emotional maturity to gain. Life keeps teaching lessons until you learn them, apparently!
Finally, I reached Lower Palisade Lake, and knew that Bobby would be waiting near there. The carved out valley was worth the climb, once again. A beautiful backdrop for such a day of adventure. I found Bobby, and was relieved to be able to relax.
We waited by the lake, as his resupply hadn’t come yet. The mule train probably had trouble with all the downed trees. Sure enough, a couple hours later, the guy arrived! The trees were a burden, but he made it with everything Bobby sent. Success!
Bobby sent so much, that he had extra shirts, tuna, nuts and a bunch of other stuff. The girls stopped by as well, and we got a free partial resupply! I was so grateful, because hiker hunger was setting in. Too bad I didn’t eat candy, but I got my fair share of berries, protein, and nuts 🙂 Plus, Bobby sent back my helmet, crampons, and a few other things. I was losing pack weight, and life was good.
After resupplying, we decided to climb up to Upper Palisade Lake to camp. The climb didn’t look too bad, but it was challenging for an exhausted Doug. We eventually scoped out a site with a fire ring and a waterfall nearby. Prime real estate with views of the lake and deer!
The boys scouted out closer to the lake, but I really didn’t feel like climbing down that far for camp. There were some younger crowds we passed, but there wouldn’t have been enough room for 3 tents. The mosquitoes weren’t bad where we ended up, and I was content. Everyone even had nooks for their tents!
I got my tent up, took a few minutes to myself by then waterfall to recenter, and went back to have dinner. Life was good, I was surrounded by good people, and we were situated well for them climb over Mather Pass them next day!
Thanks for reading! You, my followers are awesome, and I appreciate your continued support. Take a hike and spice up your life!