September 26th, 2018
Lake Marjorie mm 809 to mm 789 and then out on a spur trail to Onion Valley Trailhead
Distance: 20 miles plus 7.6 miles on Kearsarge Pass trail.
0615 – 1830
Since we barely had any food left, I joked that we would have to eat passes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But they about ate me!
First up over Pinchot Pass was pretty easy, as we only had about 1000′ of climbing and were feeling fresh in the morning. The early sunlight on the red belt of mountains was fantastic, especially with the full moon over one of the peaks. There have been so many of these dramatic views. We stopped to take some fun pictures.
We continued with the trend of going down a river canyon and then back up one. There were some really pretty slick-rock cascades on the way down. Then we crossed a large suspension bridge overs Woods Creek. Some say this reminds them of the bridges in New Zealand but this bridge was about 10 times more overbuilt. The ones in NZ are usually pretty dainty with a one person capacity (excluding the bridges on the Timber Trail, North Island, which are built for bikes and are ginormous). This bridge did wobble to the extent that it was fun but not scary.
We began a long slog up towards the second pass. We stopped for lunch and I ate quite a bit, given my meager rations. Stellar gave me some Fritos to go with my tuna and the combination was great. After lunch, we started passing a ton of people. There was even a train of about 12 kids and their leaders…maybe an Outward Bound group. I should have tried to beg food from them, as I’m sure they had too much. A lot of people were carrying fishing rods around the popular Rae Lakes. The trail wound all along these many lakes.
Then there was a tough, steep section for the final push to Glen Pass. It was very similar to Mather Pass. There were a few false summits and then we could see a huge wall with switchbacks winding up it. I spied a few little figures of people hanging out at the top. I just bore down and soon it was over.
We stopped at the top to talk to some of the little figures we had seen. Two of them were thru-hikers Ironhorse and Nails, having flipped around a bit but going SOBO. Then we hurried on, as we still had one more pass and about 9.5 miles more to go. It was 3 pm at the top and we were running down the pass once again, trying to beat the darkness. We flew past a bunch of JMT hikers and they must have been bewildered by our speed.
We turned off on the spur trail over Kearsarge Pass and out to the trailhead. Now we were off the PCT and logging an extra 7.6 miles, one way. We only had to ascend about 1000′ to get over this final pass and it was pretty gradual. But I could feel that I was running our of steam. At the top, we got great views down into the desert valley and the range beyond. It was a long long ways down, not all of which did we have to hike, since the trailhead was at 9000′.
We bombed the remaining 5 miles, jogging down a zillion switchbacks. We were hoping to pass many dayhikers and backpackers but there was not a one. Less than a mile out, we had clear views of the parking lot and could see some activity with cars and people. Just a few yards down the trail, there were also 3 guys taking advantage of the cell service. They were trying to arrange a ride.
We pondered if we should call a shuttle service from there, but I felt confident that we could hitch a ride. When we got to the parking lot, all the activity we had seen from above had ceased. There were 2 cars with their trunks open but the people were just getting ready to start hiking. There was no one leaving.
I was bummed but more concerned with eating. I still had some rice and instant mashed potatoes left. I began cooking, while the 3 guys from above rolled in. They had arranged a van from their hotel and it would be arriving in 30 minutes. We would most likely be able to get a ride, too. So that was a big relief!
It was getting dark and cold. I tried to eat my dinner fast but midway through, I started getting dizzy, short of breath, and nauseated. I also started burning up. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I could bet it had to do with too much exertion and not enough calories. I felt absolutely terrible and even frightened, like a dark foreboding entity had jumped on my back and was ready to devour me. The van came and Stellar packed up my stuff while I sat incapacitated on the ground. It was all I could manage just to walk to the van and plop down inside.
Once seated, I started to feel better. I slowly recovered on the ride down. I was relieved to get out of the elevation and cold. For the first time, I definitively knew that I needed to get off the trail, at least for a day. My body was at its limit.
Given that it was late and I wasn’t feeling well, we decided it was best to stay the night in Independence. We split a hotel room at the Winnedumah Country Inn, which is this huge old stately building with lots of historic character. It was the kind of place you felt for sure might be haunted, or maybe the feeling had more to do with my dark mood. I still hadn’t shaken the dark entity entirely. I felt very vulnerable, like had nearly escaped death or something. We quickly ditched out gear and went out to the one restaurant in town for a burger. The calories helped but afterwards I was felling very chilled and still a bit uneasy, so I went back to the room for a long, hot shower and then straight to bed. My body just needed food and rest. It was a hard day but we had made it.