In the land of Muir and Pinchot

PCT miles 914.6 to 805 – Agnew Meadows to Sawmill Pass Trail – Total PCT miles 1711.8

We are leaving Mammoth Lakes with new shoes and only a few hiking hours missed. Now it is time for us to make miles, 124.4 trail miles to be exact. About six days worth of solid hiking over the Sierra Passes of Silver (10,958 ft), Selden (10,901 ft), Muir (11,968 ft), Mather (12,100 ft), Pinchot (12,130 ft) and Glen (11,926  ft) and then out over Kearsarge (11,709 ft).

This next stretch of trail led us back to the Sierra High Country we’d yearned for since June. The country of switchbacks up granite basins to sparkling blue lakes, onto high passes for views of jagged ridges and crest after crest of mountains. On the passes we’d linger for lunch or pause for a few minutes-depending on the day’s objective. Always we’d marvel at the landscapes, the distance we’d come and the path ahead. Seeing our route at such scale imparted new familiarity with the country we’d hiked through; by knowing it up close and seeing it afar ingrained a feeling for the topography and how it fit within the larger landscape.

From every pass we’d descend down into granite canyons, through ledges of juniper, sagebrush and aspen, through fir forests, down to lush grassy meadows with meandering streams or powerful creeks. Our crossings of these creeks were uneventful. Wet, numbingly cold on a few instances but not of concern, not the stuff of PCT legend. Nor the conditions that friends had reported weeks before. Our plan of flipping to avoid dangerous creek crossings had worked just as we’d wanted it to.

Our biggest challenge in these last days in the Sierras was that we had to keep walking. The sparkling lakes, flowing rivers, polished granite slabs, the bangle waving aspen, the twisted juniper, the wildflowers all beckoned us to stay and sit or explore some inviting ridge. To linger and live a little longer in this Eden. Our bodies, fatigued from the sinusoidal passes and canyons, wanted us to slow down as well. But such lingering or slowing would impede progress toward our larger goal. The spectacular beauty of the Sierras was both inspiration and siren call.

I clung to the wise words that Justin bestowed when I’d lamented that I wanted to sit in a Yosemite meadow for days. As an experienced thru-hiker he scolded me, “Not this year, Marmot. This year you get to hike the whole trail.” Justin brought back the perspective I’d lost amid the grand mountains. This is the time that we have been given, the gift, this rare opportunity to be on the trail, living the dream. To hike the whole trail. To be a thru-hiker is to be in constant flow, walking from sun up to sunset, to make as many miles as possible.

All around us in the Sierras were JMT hikers on a more lingering, leisurely schedule. One that included books, Crazy Creek chairs and the establishment of new camps in the early afternoons. We’d see them napping under a magnificent juniper or floating a pack raft across a lake and want to do the same. I, particularly, would want to partake in such activities, Gabriel steadfastly was motivated to keep on the move. At such times I’d almost chant to myself that I am a thru-hiker and right now I get to hike the entire trail and I’ll have the rest of my life to come back to inviting spots for a more lingering week-long vacation.

It worked. We kept on the move. And we will be back.

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