June 20, 2015
Tentsite past Evolution Lake (845.9) to Tentsite at Bear Creek Ford (869.0)
23.1 PCT miles today
913.1 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,479 ft, – 3,417 ft
Today was not quite what we had in mind. That’s not to say it was bad in any way, but between our inaccurate expectations for Selden Pass, our difference in the day’s timing, and the subtle changes in scenery, it turns out that we had no idea what was actually in store for us when we started out at 5:40 this morning.
These early starts are probably our favorite hiking habit. We absolutely love starting out before everyone else and having the deer, morning birds, and cool crisp sunlight all to ourselves. Everyday we hope that it will last even longer than the day before, but eventually the morning always gives way to the day and as the air around us heats up more hikers fill the trail and the wildlife find cover in out of sight places.
We have a few fun ways to motivate ourselves to get in high mileage while it’s still morning and we’re still fresh. For one, we always look at the elevation chart before starting out and break our hike into smaller sections. For example, we might say, “today we have 4 miles down, 6 up, 2 down, 7 up and 5 flat. Then I’ll have those numbers (4, 6, 2, 7, 5) in my head throughout the day and I’ll eliminate numbers from the list as we complete sections. This way I’m never actually focused on more than maybe a 7 mile section at a time and I don’t start out feeling defeated because I have 24 miles ahead of me. Another tactic that we use is getting in a certain number of miles by the matching time of day. We usually push for 9 miles by 9am to start, but if that doesn’t happen then we’ll work toward 9.5 by 9:30, 10 by 10, or 11 by 11. Usually, as long as we get in 12 by 12, we know we’re on the right track and will complete our mileage for the day. We like to celebrate with a little snack break whenever we meet our mileage/time goal.
So all that being said, today was a 10 by 10 day…which is to say we were doing really great in the morning. It wasn’t that surprising since we got a really early start and the first 13 miles of our day were downhill. Usually with a 10 by 10, the rest of the day should be a piece of cake. Only 11 miles to go and over 7 hours to do it in (we like to get to camp by 5pm). But two things kept it from being as easy as we expected. First of all, we totally underestimated Selden Pass, and secondly, the pass was within the last 2 miles of our day’s mileage, which had never happened before. It turns out that going up and over a pass (even the “easiest” pass) is not so easy when you’ve already hiked 20 miles for the day. We can see how Selden might be the least technical pass (almost our whole day was on dirt and pine needle duff instead of slabs of granite and loose chunks of rock) but it still isn’t easy. We gained over 1,200 feet in one 2 mile section, and climbed for 7 miles altogether.
As I mentioned above, the trail began to change today before our very eyes. The transition was gradual, but significant. Gone were the massive granite peaks and wide open vistas (for the most part) and here to stay was a much denser and more colorful forest and a much more fertile landscape. After so many mind-boggling sights, it was actually nice to just space out and stare at nothing but trees and the dirt trail ahead of me for hours on end.
Of course there is no way to know what lies ahead in the days to come, but we can be sure that the challenges are not all behind us, nor are all the beautiful views and epic days. We’ve learned our lesson, and Selden is the last pass that we’ll ever underestimate.