June 18, 2015
Tentsite near Woods Creek (801.7) to Tentsite near Palisade Creek (824.6)
23.9 PCT miles today
868.7 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,365 ft, – 6,049 ft
What’s better than hiking over one High Sierra pass? Hiking over two High Sierra passes! Today was a very long day, but the views were once again out of this world and both Pickles and I got to camp with big smiles on our faces and way too many photos on our camera.
We woke early again this morning. We’ve decided that we don’t just like hiking in the early morning, we love it. In order to get the very most out of our favorite time of day, we hit the trail by 5:45am. The plan for today was hike 5 miles up to Pinchot Pass, 4 miles down, then 6 miles up Mather Pass, and 7 miles down from there. We started up Pinchot and seemed to have the whole cirque of mountains and a big wide valley all to ourselves. The climb was a little tougher than we expected, but we made it to the top before 9am and had a nice rest and a snack. We hiked hard after that in order to get to lunch at the top of Mather. For miles we searched the surrounding mountains for signs of which one might be Mather Pass, and eventually got nearer to one wall than all the others. The climb up Mather was nice and gentle for over 5 miles, but the 10 switchbacks to the top were exhausting. We were starving by the time we got there so we had lunch and chatted with Robert, another PCT hiker whom we just met today.
By the time we started our descent down Mather we were burnt to a crisp, a bit dehydrated, and desperate to get back to tree cover. The first few miles off the pass weren’t all that exceptional, but then things began to change for the better. First we passed the Upper Palisade Lake, which was pretty, but as we neared the Lower Palisade Lake, we started to get really excited. This was just as beautiful as Rae Lakes! Pickles actually pointed out that it was a toss-up between the two. The closer the trail got to the lake, the more stunning the landscape became. Waterfalls, streams, grassy meadows, wildflowers, and a lake that ranged in color from light gold to deep cobalt blue. We rounded a bend and watched a creek cascade down from the lake into the most beautiful valley I’ve ever hiked upon.
The last couple hours of the day left me speechless. I would love to say more, but there just aren’t the words. We dropped in elevation quickly and found our campsite alongside the Palisade Creek surrounded by a forest of pines. Other than some sore feet we feel great and are looking forward to what Muir Pass has in store for us tomorrow.
Backpacking Gear of the Week:
Optimus Crux Lite Camp Stove
There are some ultralight thru-hikers who go stoveless on the trail to save weight. We are not those people. We dream about our hot cooked dinner and tasty oatmeal all day long and truly believe that it gives us the energy we need to get in our miles. Our stove is a simple, lightweight canister stove that packs down to the size of a shot glass and takes a simple spark to light (we use a striker). The thing that really sets this stove apart from others is the pot that comes with it. Again, it is a simple lightweight lot with a handle, but it has flux rings on the bottom that help disperse heat and help us save fuel. We just eat right out of the stove and often use the lid to heat up water for coffee. It’s a system that works well for us and one that we plan on sticking with for the whole trail.
Backpacking Food of the Week:
Mashers with Ramen
A lot of hikers know about Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes as a good dinner option. But not a lot of people know that adding a packet of ramen noodles takes it to a whole new level. Our favorite mashers flavor is the loaded baked potato and we always go with chicken ramen so we can save the flavor packet and make a tasty cup of chicken broth on cold nights. We also add about 2 tbsp of olive oil for more calories and good flavor.