June 28, 2017
Mile 1112.34 – Mile 1127.03
It was cold this morning, so we once again struggled to leave our warm sleeping bags. Within the first few minutes of hiking, we had to cross Phipps Creek, which wasn’t moving very quickly but was awfully deep. For a few minutes it looked like we were just going to have to wade across, but we ended up finding a log to cross on, which was a fun way to start the morning. After that, the obstacle course continued, with snow to traverse, streams to hop across, and hidden trail to navigate.
We stopped to sit on a log and eat breakfast, and after that, a miracle occurred. Dry trail! For an extended period of time! It was the first time in days we’ve been able to just hike unimpeded, and it felt incredible to stretch my legs and build up a good pace. Of course, there were still lots of obstacles to climb over or skirt around (the recently revealed trail was a bit of a hot mess), but it was relatively smooth sailing.
We passed by Richardson Lake, and couldn’t resist stopping for a swim and a snack break. The water was freaking cold (but not freshly-melted-snow cold), but it was super refreshing, and of course it always feels nice to rinse the layer of filth from your body. Shortly afterwards, we had to ford Miller Creek, which was an easy crossing, but did involve wading across and getting our feet wet (after spending the entire morning going to great lengths to keep our shoes dry). We stopped immediately after the crossing to eat lunch and let our stuff dry out in the sun.
The dry trail continued for a while, but soon we started getting back into the thick of the snow. The last mile or so to Barker Pass Trailhead was particularly exhausting, and when we finally arrived I immediately collapsed onto a partially snowed-over picnic table. Hiking over snow is seriously so tiring, especially when you add in the extra obstacles of trees fallen over the trail or streams to hop over. After we left the trailhead, we were pretty much in snow for the rest of the day. We were climbing up to the top of the ridge, and we got some pretty amazing views of the snowy mountains we had left behind, and Lake Tahoe far below. We navigated through the forest across some steep snow slopes, and finally made it up to the top of the ridge, where even more amazing views awaited us. And then the real fun began.
After reaching the ridge top, the trail immediately began to descend the other side. Which would have been fine, if there was actually a trail to follow. Instead, there was an insanely steep slope of snow, on which a fall would send you sliding hundreds of feet into the valley below (provided you didn’t wrap yourself around a tree on the way down). Cougar and Dr. McDirty had gotten there before us, and had already started descending in a direction that looked pretty sketchy and didn’t quite follow the trail. Gummies and I decided to try to follow the trail more closely, hoping we would be able to meet up with them once we reached the bottom.
We carefully started picking our way across the slope, cutting each step into the snow with our microspikes. It was pretty scary, but we didn’t die so now I can say that it was actually pretty fun. We very slowly made our way down into the valley, losing pretty much all of the time we had gained while cruising on the dry trail earlier in the day. After we made it to the open and relatively flat valley floor, we began to slide down the snow towards the trail. We spotted a patch of dry, flat ground across the way, which we just couldn’t pass up, so we made our way over to set up camp.
As we were setting up, I was getting pretty concerned that we would never find Cougar and Dr. McDirty again. Then, I heard a familiar South African accent in the distance. They had found us! Descended insanely steep snow slope without dying, found a great snow-free camp spot, met up with our friends. The day was officially back to being a success. I also had another veggie curry burrito for dinner, which was super delicious (thanks mom and dad!), although I defiled the curry by adding a crap load of mayonnaise (it goes on everything out here, I’m sorry). I’m now cozy in my quilt and ready for bed. Excited to see what tomorrow will bring!