We woke up in a story book meadow surrounded by granite Gods that blasted glory be thy name. The warm summer heat did not take hint that we over 9,000ft up, the rays kissed our skin. It was “Helen Keller’s” birthday. I unwrapped our last pop tart and pinned a twig through it to make a candle. I sang happy birthday to him in the middle of the Sierra Nevada. We had a whole meadow to ourselves. It seems like a dream thinking back on it now. It couldn’t have been more perfect except that this pop tart was one of our last snacks before we could reach Bishop, CA late the next day. We had some dinner foods, but it was impractical to stop multiple times during the day to cook dinner (however we did do this).
This day we would climb our first big Sierra pass reaching over 13,100ft. Our maps warned us that this was the most dangerous passes on the trail and that we would be able to see it as we approached, sighting where the mountain made a V. We began hiking around 8am. We didn’t want to get up there too late or too early, because it would be unsafe. We had never done shit like this, we really had no idea. The first 4 miles were flat and then gently gained elevation. Mosquitos EVERYWHERE. We wore bug nets. They bit through my pants. I had at least 30 bites already. The sweat made them itch more. They loved my blood. Nothing was ever comfortable on the PCT, you were always giving up some sort of comfort in order to gain the mind strength you would need to finish. The trail knew it must break you to make you.
As we started up to the shelf that met the bottom of the pass, hanger started to over come my mind. Every step I took I could feel my stomach becoming more empty. I need a snack I told Helen. He pushed forward, knowing we couldn’t afford to eat our snacks this early. We would finish them off and have none left for the rest of the day and tomorrow before we could get to town. I was sure that if I went any further I would collapse and die of starvation. My mind reeled, WE ARE GOING TO DIE WE ARE SO HUNGRY. I looked around, where is this “V” anyway. They were everywhere. All of the mountains had a V at some point. I couldn’t tell where the trail was leading us due to the snow coverege, none of the mountains in the distance looked passable. WTF.
When we reached the shelf we finally sat down to eat. Both inhaling a packet of tuna, and a protein bar. With stomachs not satisfied at all, and possibly even more hungry than before we, continued on snackless. This was the first time since being on trail that we were going to run out of food. I continued to point out the Vs in each wall of granite, “I bet that is where we pass over.” We continued towards a wall that looked the least likely to be Forester Pass. There I saw an ant sized human pass across a sliver of snow at the very top of the vertical wall of rock before me. How the fuck do we get up there? I tried to put expectations on Forester Pass just like everything else. Those expectations would float to heaven and hell aka reality would come before me.
In the photo, centerd with the tiny elongated patch of snow, is Forester Pass. We approached the pass by walking over snow and ice covered lakes through with the help of hiker tracks. Then we headed up a trail that had been carved into the side of the rock wall. We crossed the snow at the top with wobbling legs and trekking poles posted far down into the snow for safety. We looked down to our left, staring death in the face then climbed the last steps up and over the pass. To try and explain what it looks like on the other side of Forester Pass, is simple. When I reached the top and saw what we would be hiking through for the next few weeks, I nearly had a heart attack. MOUNTAINS further than the eye could see. HUGE DEATHLY SNOWY MOUNTAINS. There was no fucking way I would make it out of them. They were too big. I had underestimated everything on this trip so far, and I had to say sorry to my mom under my voice. If you have ever seen the Sierras from a plane….put your tiny self down in them and think about how insane that would be. A spec of sand in a world of towering peaks.
“Suds” and “Ultra Lite” sat at the top of Forester when we arrived. A huge glissading slide led down the north other side towards what looked liked the trail miles below. There were two choices, you could either glissade straight down or take the longer walking path to the left. “Ultra Lite” would not let up, “Glissade, yolo, we have to yolo!” This was our first time meeting “Ultra Lite” although you would never know it. It took him talking “Helen” and I into doing it to talk himself into doing it. He went first, none of us had ever glissaded it before. He hooted and hollered the whole way down, it was as if a five year old was hitting the play ground for the first time in his life. “Helen” went second, same thing. I saw the glow of his ora burst out of him ten fold. His laughter echoed loudly in the bowl of peaks and then leapt straight into my heart. I hesitated, almost taking the long route as I watched a girl come over the pass eyes filled with the sting of fear and tears dripping down her cheeks. Fuck it, I sat down and let life take me. I went much faster than the boys, howling with childish bliss. I could not stop laughing, and we all three laughed together uncontrollably when I reached the bottom. We watched “Suds” and the crying girl walk the alternate route, post holing every 10ft. Happy with our choice and glowing with life, we moved on.
“Ultra Lite” sped ahead, it was late afternoon now and “Helen” and I decided to stop and make “dinner” after another short glissade down to a shelf of granite tables. We made 3 dinners. John Muir hikers coming south on trail warned us of the dangerous river crossings and snow fields over the next 200 miles. PCT hikers coming north had either just almost died crossing Forester, or had the time of their lives. There was no in between
We finished our dinners and had two packs of instant potatoes left before we reached town late afternoon the next day. I accepted that I would not eat for the rest of the day and night. We were in Kings Canyon, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We were there. We often took moments to breathe in the now, because right now as I write this, I can close my eyes and remember being there. I can feel the same gratitude in my gut as I felt then. And I cry often. I cry as if I am missing someone who had given everything to me, without ever asking for anything in return. I cry as if I had been to heaven and spoke with God, been cradled in the peace that God is, then put back on Earth to see the differences. I so dearly want to go back, and it is hard not to be bitter at the world for not letting that be an easy reality for us wild ones.
Later that evening with 2 miles before camp we approached an array of flags hung across the trail. A fire was lit and was surrounded by hikers. An angel dressed in an old war uniform greeted us, “thou hath pass do carry cheeses or fruits of any sort?” In the middle of no where in the canyons of the Sierra Nevada, a group of angels granted us magic. They were staying for two nights and had used pack mules to bring in the supplies. We ate spaghetti, “Helen” got another birthday cake made of tortillas, marshmallows, chocolate, and candy bars. We sang him happy birthday and his eyes filled with the glow of fire. We did not go to bed hungry like we planned. The trail provides, and GOD is always with us.