In 2015 we hiked from Mexico to Washington, only to be stopped by Wildfires. That said, it’s a bit of a misnomer, as injuries also caused us to miss about 200 miles right in the middle of what is typically considered the best section of the PCT….King’s Canyon NP.  This year, while things certainly went wrong, we didn’t miss a step and the results were glorious (also very wet).

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Guitar Lake @ Sunrise before summiting Mt. Whitney.

2016 was a very different beast.  After the lowest snowpack in 500 years in 2015, we had considerable snow that only got more apparent the further you hiked north through The Sierra. The advantages are a breathtaking landscape, at times an otherworldly quality to the regions you hike through, as well as plenty of solitude.  Disadvantages include chilly, pruned, wet feet at all times, slow/methodical progress, trails posing as mile long streams when not covered by snow, etc. etc.  All of this is another example of how it can seem crazy to hike a trail like this more than once, especially 2 years in a row, but the reality is that every year, in addition to every day, is different on the trail and always provides new and interesting experiences.

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Ridgewalking before entering Sequoia NP.

As some who follow us may know, T-Rex injured herself on Glen Pass, after sliding 40 feet down an ice wall onto some rocks. This caused another injury break at one of the most stunning places on the trail for the second year in a row –  Rae Lakes.

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The Prodigy reflecting on life @ Middle Rae Lake

Once we took some time at Cedar Grove (after T-Rex hiked out 22 miles to get to a road on a bum foot), we returned and immediately launched into the snow and ice.  It’s always impressive to see someone you have been married to for over a decade step up in extremely difficult conditions and still knock out 25 miles over multiple passes. As she recovered, we tried to take breaks when possible, but there are not exactly a lot of amenities in that wilderness.  Part of the draw is the solitude and remoteness, but when injured, it certainly raises the stakes.

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T-Rex trucking through injury as we are about to cross a stream on the way to Muir Pass.  This was a rare break in the snow only to be replaced by that same snow melting over our feet.

While you are in it, you certainly appreciate it, but it’s impossible to truly keep perspective and recognize how much you will miss it when it’s gone.  Especially when you are cold, wet, tired, etc. Places like Evolution Valley could be the rare exception, despite 7 miles of postholing through snow and other discomfort, it blows your mind all the same.  This trend continues, but of all the areas in The Sierra, Evolution Valley makes you feel like an adventurer with smart phone.

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Looking back as we leave Evolution Valley and head on…

In Tuolumne (Yosemite NP) we met up with a great friend from the 2015 hike, hung out for a while and then trekked through the backcountry of Yosemite.  Amazing that so many million can visit every year, but despite the majesty of it’s backcountry, no one bothers to walk beyond the valley.

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T-Rex livin’ the dream in the Yosemite National Park.

Heading north out of Yosemite, you start to see the geological shift again.  This time, things appear to become more volcanic gradually as you head towards South Lake Tahoe through Sonora Pass. Sonora Pass itself may have been the most difficult day for me personally, we did 30 miles across steep snow slopes only to end with a very steep descent through snow that led to a very long.angry slide into rock if you slipped up. I find that kind of stress fun, but after a few weeks of it, it can wear you down.

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Looking back towards Sonora Pass, notice the lava rock all around us suddenly.

You start to realize, despite the relative beauty around you, that it’s time for a new phase of the hike as you near Tahoe.  Luckily, it will still be beautiful, but simply not quite a rugged or epic. The highs and lows even out a bit and let you start to get into more of a standard thru-hiking rhythm.  Especially if this is your first thru-hike, you will either realize you can handle anything this trail throws at you by now, or you are ready to sail into Tahoe and call it a hike.

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Just shy of Ebbet’s Pass, you start to see the final glimpses of where you just journeyed through.  We also saw two pointy-horned antelope bound up the mountain to our right, but I was too mesmerized to break out the camera again after taking this shot. Also, this is the first man-made lake we’ve seen for quite some time…

Bottom line, The Sierra in June is an experience not for the faintest of hearts, but if this sort of thing interests you, it doesn’t get much better.  While I certainly don’t dream happily of walking on wet stumps for days, now that I’ve had some time to consider, that I would gladly pull on those soaking wet socks and slide on those water-logged shoes over and again to get back to this place one more time.  Soon.

Sierra Stats

  • Average Daily Mileage (Counting Zeroes)
    • 13.2
  • Average Daily Mileage (Hiking Days Only)
    • 21.7
  • Number of Zeroes
    • 11
  • Total Days
    • 28
  • Resupply Stops
    • 6
      • Bishop, Cedar Grove, Vermillion Valley Resort, Mammoth, Tuolumne (on-trail), Sonora Pass (on-trail)
  • Major Injuries
    • 1 (T-Rex’s Foot)
  • Days With Significant Precipitation
    • 3
  • Hiking Partners
    • 1
      • The Prodigy (first 100 miles)