We’re somewhere south of Pinchot pass. Another beautiful day. Coyotes serenaded us as the sun went down over an incredibly steep and jagged ridge. Many red mountains around here–unlike anywhere previously. I got a big burst of energy at the end of the day and powered past many possible camp sites. I feel a little guilty that I did that, but if we had stopped earlier we wouldn’t have heard the coyotes singing.
This morning we met a Czech man walking toward Mather Pass. We stopped to talk, as hikers often do, and he told us that he had been traveling all over the world for four and a half years, and the Sierra is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen. More beautiful than Patagonia. He was in awe, with a beatific smile plastered across his face. It made me feel even more happy to be here, if that’s possible.
In contrast, we saw a woman on the trail in the morning who was the most unhappy person we’ve seen. Betty thinks she’s trying to set a speed record and has no time to chit-chat. She seemed to be in pain, besides, with a taped-up knee. We passed her later on while she was retaping, and then she zoomed past us again a little later.
Climbing toward Pinchot Pass, I met a woman taking shelter from the powerful sun in the meager shade of a stunted lodgepole pine. I stopped to talk for a bit, and was struck by her lovely southern accent. She’s from Alabama, 68 years old, and a veteran hiker who had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in segments. Kenny by name. She said she was hiking with a friend, but that she was much slower and her friend was maybe 6 hours ahead of her by then. She was having a hard time with the passes, and told me that climbing Mather was particularly difficult for her. A young man had accompanied her for awhile, and then went on ahead. After he reached the pass, he came back down to where she was and offered to carry her pack for her. She declined the offer, so he walked slowly up the trail with her, and when she got down the far side and to the tree line, he was waiting for her again and helped her hang her hammock for the night. She said she was so grateful that she cried. Of course, after hearing this story, I wanted to keep an eye on her. When Betty and I got to the pass, I dropped my pack and went back down to Kenny, to see if I could carry her pack. Of course, she declined, and said, “Oh, you’re just trying to make me cry all over again!” I walked with her to the top, we talked and rested awhile, and she started down the other side ahead of us. Turns out that Kenny is a banjo player! I passed her awhile later, when I was in the midst of my end-of-day burst of energy. I waited for Betty, and we made camp among the lodgepoles. Kenny continued on.
We camped tonight where the Clark’s Nutcrackers live. They were making their usual racket, but all is quiet now. Time to eat dinner. I’ve been trying to get in a lake every day to at least rinse off the sweat and dust. They’re cold, but I credit them with helping me make it up these afternoon passes. I am bone-weary, but in a good way. Looking forward to a day of nowhere to go at Rae Lakes, the day after tomorrow.