September 12, 2015
Seasonal stream past Lemah Meadow trail junction (2424.7) to Junction of Two Creeks past Cathedral Pass (2450.8)
26.1 PCT miles today
2485.4 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 6,137 ft, – 4,582 ft
Today was all about endurance. There’s no other way of putting it….today was downright hard. The whole day was spent climbing up and over two separate passes, Waptus and Cathedral, and my feet hurt the entire time. Today was hard mentally, too. The views were less impressive, and as we dropped down in elevation off our first pass, the trail became dry, dusty, and overgrown with yellowed, brittle plants. Add to this the fact that it was over 90 degrees most of the day, and you get two hikers who felt as though they couldn’t get to Canada soon enough.
We began our first climb of the day immediately after leaving our tentsite. As we trudged our way up switchback after switchback, groups of non-thru backpackers passed us going downhill. Actually, we saw many other backpackers today but the only other thru-hiker we saw was Caveman. Alpine Lakes Wilderness must be a relatively popular place to hike. We still felt pretty good when we reached the top, wove around to the east, and then without warning, began dropping back down the other side. This was where the trail got a little nasty and the heat really kicked it up a notch. By the time we reached our lunch spot at the beautiful Waptus River, we were exhausted from the combined effort of yesterday and this morning, and ready to sleep rather than hike another 15 miles up and over Cathedral Pass. In fact, when we got to the river, Caveman was fast asleep on the rocky shore. He was feeling the struggle as well, and proclaimed aloud that today was going to be a long one before he packed up his things and continued on.
When we left our lunch spot, we began a slow 12 mile ascent up toward Cathedral Pass. At one point Pickles looked up at a crazy rock formation off in the distance and commented that at least we weren’t climbing up that. As it turned out, “that” was Cathedral Rock, and by the time we dragged ourselves to the top of the pass, we might as well have done exactly that. We were eye-level with the massive and beautiful rock and got to view it from every angle as our trail finally began its descent down the other side.
We were only about 5 downhill miles from camp, but my right foot was in agonizing pain with every step. I think the mental struggle, knowing that if I want to complete this thru-hike I am going to be in this kind of pain for over 200 more miles, is even more debilitating than the actual injury. I know I owe an explanation for what is going on with my foot, but the truth is that I don’t really know myself. For one thing, the cortisone shot that I got back in Truckee has worn off, which has brought back the plantar fasciitis pain in my right heel in full force. But I also have a strange swelling on the outside of my right foot, and, perhaps because of my altered gait, my ankles hurt too. Basically, nothing feels right on my right foot. Add to this the fact that even uninjured I’d probably be experiencing some soreness and tiredness after these kinds of days, and it leaves me completely confused about just how bad my foot really is.
Perhaps this explains why we were so thrilled to happen upon a rushing stream 2 miles sooner than we expected. There were campsites all around and without discussing it, we both knew this was where we’d be sleeping. We found this nice flat spot, soaked our feet in the freezing cold water for as long as they’d allow, and then crawled into our tent for a night of rest. After adding up our elevation gain between yesterday and today, our level of pain and exhaustion is beginning to make more sense. One more day of this and we’ll be at Steven’s Pass, with less than 200 miles to go. Right now it feels like if we make it to Canada, it might just be a miracle.