PCT 2020 Day 3: Mile 799.7 – 812.4

It’s A Slow Burn

Beginning Elevation = 8,550

Ending Elevation = 10,400

Elevation Range = 8,550 – 12,100

Weather: Sunny with some clouds, super nice once again!

“I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright
If we burn it down and it takes all night”

– Kacey Musgraves

Our main goal for today was to get up and over Pinchot Pass. We had about 8 miles to cover to reach it, which would take us from the low point of the day to the high point, more than 3,500 feet gain in elevation. We got going using the classic 7:40am start time again.

Our first task, crossing the wobbly suspension bridge. I went first, followed by Calzone, and then Cheer. No big deal.

After a short steep section, we came to the Woods Creek water slide. All day we would once again be marveling in the different appearance of the landscape compared to the last time we were here together.

The trail follows along above Woods Creek for a ways and offers up some spectacular views of the river with a magnificent mountain backdrop…

After a little more than 2 miles of trekking, we crossed the White Fork. It was a simple rock hop across and like Baxter Creek the day before, laughably easy when compared to our debacle last year in June. The first time, we had arrived in good spirits, but were quite stumped by crossing the White Fork due to its strong force and steep, narrow characteristics. We were quite thankful not to have to deal with that this go around!

In my head, I remembered this pathway to Pinchot Pass as being open almost the entire way, but that’s not the case. You do get some wide open views, but also travel through some forested areas with an occasional meadow. In one such instance, we spotted our first bears of the hike…a mama bear with two cubs! Fortunately, they were pretty socially distanced from us, and so the three of us formed an ensemble and sang them a song (“Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye…”) to let them know of our presence. After a little while watching, they moseyed down the valley away from us.

There was a point in the day where we all spread out a bit, put on our music, and each found our own space for some solo hiking. Having hiked a lot of miles over lots of days at this point in my life, I know that certain spots on trail and certain instances stick out over others. Some make sense…epic viewpoints, milestones or times meeting up with hikers I hadn’t seen in a while, but other moments sort of come out of nowhere, unexpectedly. I had one of these unexpected moments today…

So far on our 2020 trek, almost unconsciously without really realizing, I hadn’t felt in the moment, or that this was actually happening yet. It’s hard to explain, but it was almost as if my priorities were focused on the actual doing of the thing itself, accomplishing the task of getting over Kearsarge and Glen Passes, and so maybe I wasn’t relaxing enough to soak it all in. I think that’s what changed for me midway up the trail to Pinchot Pass. I was walking along and the song “Your Hand in Mind” by Explosions in the Sky came on my Spotify playlist. Some of you might be familiar with this band’s music, probably most aren’t though. The songs of theirs that I like best are instrumental and build and build throughout, culminating in a crescendo of emotion! Now, you may be thinking, this guy is nuts, but maybe some of you get it. So… that’s what I experienced simultaneously as the terrain around me opened up into vast wide-open mountain viewing. I actually stepped off the trail and stopped, spread my arms open wide, and slowly just turned in a circle taking it all in. All the feels!

Pictures make it look dry and desolate, which it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. Plus, there’s green to be found too!

Here’s looking back at where we’d come from as we make the final push to the top…

We made it to the crest of Pinchot Pass a little after 2:30pm. It was a tough climb today and we were beat! I seemed to have a little more energy in the tank than the girls today (my struggle day would come soon), so I ventured a little higher still for a different view…

While scrambling up higher, I met a new friend…this little pika!

And we continued the tradition of taking a victory celebration photo of the team after conquering the pass…

The views were quite spectacular looking north as we continued onward. Like yesterday though, the skies were becoming dark once again in the later afternoon…

We did get a few raindrops if my memory serves correct…enough for me to get my raincoat out, but it wasn’t bad, and thus we escaped the Sierra storm once again. The day’s events were not over though! Up next on the docket was a special moment for us as we made it to the Taboose Pass Trail junction where we had chosen to bail out together last year, June 2019!

After our photo shoot and reminiscing and laughing at that experience for a while, we kept moving, hoping to get closer to the next pass still tonight to make an easier hike for the next day. Here’s a view looking ahead…the “v”/”u” right below the central craigy-looking peaks is Mather Pass, our goal to reach tomorrow. Leaving this point, the trail would be new for Calzone and Cheer, untraveled by either of them. We’d finally be tackling those remaining PCT miles of theirs!

After the Taboose Trail Junction, we had a pretty short and steep downhill to the South Fork Kings River where we crossed pretty easily. I think Cheer and Calzone chose to get their feet wet and I went downstream a bit and found a series of log crossings.

After reuniting on the other side, we hiked together a little bit all feeling the burn from a long day. We were ready for camp, and soon enough found some spread out spots in an open area. It was buggy, a bit rocky, and there was marmot poop everywhere, but sometimes you just got to take what you can get.

After setting up our tents, we gathered for a quick dinner while trying our best to ward of the mosquitoes. Then, it was into the tents. I did an especially poor job in my transition getting inside and had to kill about 12 invading mosquitoes prior to getting settled.

Late that night, Calzone got up and experimented with her camera taking some dark sky pictures. Simply stunning!

Link to my posts telling of our journey through this stretch last year:

PCT 2019 – Day 73 (June 19)

PCT 2019 – Day 74 (June 20)

3 thoughts on “PCT 2020 Day 3: Mile 799.7 – 812.4

  1. Brian Beach

    So many feels from this one! Specifically, LOVE Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand In Mine! Also, the dark sky pics give me goose pimples 🤗


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