Wild flowers by the million.

Day 20, 7/27
Mileage: 14.3
Miles: 252.5 – 266.8

The hostel owner overbooked the place by one bed last night, so Simone and I offered to share a twin bed in exchange for a free ride to the trail in the morning. We didn’t really care about the bed, were both small and can sleep small, and we’re happy about saving 14 bucks- 7 bucks a piece.

I wake in the night only a few times, one arm and a half a leg hanging off the bed. It was actually quite comfortable. By morning I realize I slept great, besides being slightly cold under just a thin little blanket, and now I’m even more happy about saving the money. I pack up my things, bring my stuff downstairs, and the older gentlemen of the hostel are already slaving away in the kitchen making pancakes for everyone. We’d planned to share a mountain house blueberry granola for breakfast, but hey I’ll take the pancakes. And the coffee. COFFEE. That’s actually one if my favorite parts about town stops- drinking real coffee, and lots of it.

I fill up on food, finish gathering my things, John the hostel owner arrives to shuttle us to the trail, we say our goodbyes.

I can tell my pack is much heavier with 5 1/2 days of food loaded into the thing. Add that to my heavy stomach from all the food I gorged on over the last two days, and that makes for a one slower me. It doesn’t take long to get into a rhythm, particularly because we’re on an old dirt road for the first three miles which is relatively flat and super easy to walk on.

The elevation profile in our book shows an almost 9-mile ascent up to 11,900 ft., starting relatively flat and gradually getting steeper as the miles pass by. The first part is easy and super quick.

Official announcement- Simone will hereby be referred to as Squat, her new official trail name. I, Bri, will hereby be referred to as Yard Sale, my new official trail name. -End of announcement.

We reach the end of the road, three miles in, in about an hour, and that’s when we realize we only have 6 miles left to the top of the climb.

“Easy peezy lemon squeezy!” Squat sings. Followed by my song “caaaake waaaalk juuunior!”

“What is cake walk junior?” She asks, looking at me bewildered.

“It’s like a cake walk, but easier.” I reply.

We sign the trail registry, where we find many of our friends’ signatures in the several days leading up to now, and a little note from our friend Zenny! We love trail notes. So fun.

At this point I decide to walk ahead and not stop until the top. The trail starts out still relatively flat, with occasional grades, and it winds it’s way through the forest, then through a meadow, back into the forest, and through another meadow. These meadows aren’t just any old meadow- they are filled with hundreds and thousands of wild flowers. I’m in awe. There are blue flowers and pink flowers, red, yellow, and purple flowers. So many bright beautiful colors are interspersed in the midst of bright green grass and foliage. I take pictures at each meadow, stopping to admire the gorgeous wonderland that I’m in.

I was a bit intimidated by the climb this morning, considering it is almost 9 miles long, but it turns out to be almost a piece of cake- or, a cake walk junior. The last half mile is the only steep part. At the top of the pass I can see a wooden sign. It looks so close to me, that sign that marks my destination. I push myself up the last part of the ascent, passing a few others on the way. I look behind me and there’s a man shortly below me pushing his bike up this last steep climb. How is he doing that? I wonder. He’s walking faster than me, all while pushing his bike up along side him. I don’t let him catch me- my competitive nature comes into play even when others don’t realize it’s there.

The top is absolutely stunning, with mountain views on all sides. In front of me is a mountainous scene that very much reminds me of a view on the JMT, heading up to Mather Pass. Two hills to the left and the right of me leave a gap in between each other, almost like a window, and inside that window is an expanse of mountain peak after mountain peak stretching into the distance, each looking majestic and elegant as they stand tall and firm. Behind me is another unique view of rolling hills and mountains presenting themselves here and there, green grass and trees fill the scene. To my left is a small path shooting straight up one of the peaks near me, inviting one to add another 1-2,000 ft. Elevation gain to one’s journey, for more majestic and awe-striking views at the top.

I don’t take that invitation, instead I pace around at the top, snapping a million pictures with my phone and my camera, tossing some chips into my mouth, drinking water to rejuvenate my body. I pace around and around in circles glancing down below on occasion, hoping for a sign of Squat. It takes her about 40 minutes from the time I arrive to crest the top. I’m shivering at this point, although it’s my own fault as I didn’t want to dig into my bag for more clothes. We snap some pictures of each other and then continue on our way quickly, as the dark clouds are starting to make their noon appearance.

The path takes us down then back up a ridge for a while, more incredible views fill the landscape around me. I walk with my trekking poles in one hand, phone in the other, and I take a picture around each corner as a new majestic view unfolds before me. I love today, I think to myself. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face even if I tried. I have what I like to call a “hiker high”, similar to a “runners high”, but not. My chest is pounding, endorphins are firing, my smile spreads from ear to ear, and I laugh for no reason. I AM SO HAPPY! I keep thinking to myself, over and over again. Life is good, life is good.

We stop for lunch when we get back into the trees. I’m excited about today’s lunch- a CDT thru hiker told us to try Amy’s burritos, so we bough them for lunch for the next several days. A bean and rice burrito, chips, bites out of a block of Dubliner cheese. We eat quick then keep walking. The trail takes us back up above tree line for another mile, so I kick it into high gear and walk fast through an expanse of grass and a few occasional burnt down trees. It looks like every single dead tree in the area has been struck by lightening… What a comforting thought, I think, as I walk up at 11,800 ft., metal in hands, thunder rumbling above me.

I walk, walk, walk, all the way down to the trailhead, the rest of the 4 miles. It doesn’t take long to get there- it’s only 2:30 when I arrive. I’m tired though, even though I only walked for about 6 hours. My pack was heavy, my body weighted from all the food and relaxed from two days off in town. I’m glad we only had a 14 mile day today- A day to get back into hiking mode before more 20 mile days to come.

We spend the afternoon and evening relaxing in the tent, taking a nap, eating, writing, and reading. We are spoiled, getting into camp at 2:30, with so much time to relax. The day passes quickly, though, and by nightfall we drift off to sleep, cozy and comfortable, bundled up in a warm sleeping bag that feels like home.

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