Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Northern Sierra, Day 3: Never Trust a Northbounder

Day 3, Richardson Lake to Aloha Lake, 21 miles

As southbounders, we were relatively rare. We swam against a steady tide of northbounders, some of them thru-hikers, who to our delight asked us if we were actual southbounders, as in, hiking the whole PCT north to south. We finally have gotten our gear to a point where we look like thru hikers! This makes me happy for no apparent reason, maybe because it has taken my whole life to get my gear down to what I need and nothing I don't. (Except for my Kindle. That is my luxury item. Word to the wise: don't read a book by a lightning strike survivor in a lightning storm. Or about a bear attack story in the woods, ever)


Big trees!
Flash is more gregarious than I, and on the trail with other people I typically let my extroverted friends talk. Solo, it is a different story. I talk to everybody! As it is, we pass a steady stream of people, some who want to talk to us, some who don't. Everyone has information; it's just that sometimes it's...wrong.

Just another beautiful vista in the Sierra
Hiking the trail in one direction is very different than the other. We are warned of non-existent steep climbs, peaks we never encounter, a cheerful "it's downhill all the way" and a friendly "it's only a mile!" when instead, "it" is much, much further. "Never trust a northbounder," I mutter as we ascend towards Fontanellis Lake.

So pretty, but such wrong weather for swimming
When I planned this section, I had visions of glorious lake swimming, but so far every lake we have encountered has been wrong time, wrong place. Such is the case at Fontanellis. Threatening clouds hang low over the lake. Day hikers swarm the area. We gaze upward at Dicks Pass, wreathed in darkness. Where is our bailout point? I feel strangely calm. If there is lightning, there will be lightning. We leave the lake and head upward, toward 9,000 feet.

I pop jellybeans and wait for the climb to get hard. After all, northbounders have told us it was. Instead I am flying. Someday I may have to slow down, but today is not that day. Soon we are on top of the pass, a wide, flat expanse raked by wind, staring at our trail far, far below. 9,300 feet!

Older ladies rule!
I feel the elation only possible after a long climb. I love this so much. Even the steep, rocky downhill can't burst my bubble of happiness. We stop to soak our feet in shallow Gillette Lake, and I wish we could stay, but a steady flow of weekend warriors convinces us to move on. Surely there will be camping opportunities coming up at the next few lakes.

Dicks Lake, I think.
Only there aren't. All the spots are filled with backpackers, and we reluctantly move on to reach the shores of Lake Aloha, a vast expanse with tiny islands floating on its surface. The chilly wind dashes my swimming dreams. Again.

So far I have been unable to sleep on this hike, tossing on my Thermarest. Tonight will be no exception. I stare up at the stars. We have come sixty miles in three days. How is that even possible? I am amazed by what we have done.

to be continued...
Good night, Lake Aloha.


  1. wow - 60 miles in three days is awesome! Too bad about the crowds but I suppose that's how it is in August.

    1. At times it got a ltitle tiring for me as I just do better on a continous pace instead of stopping and starting. Also the campsite competition was fierce. But I can see why people are out there, it's beautiful.

  2. Beautiful photos....liked the "older ladies rule" one, too.....doesn't apply when you can be up there and kicking that. That isn't your only pack, is it? We know you "go light" but?????

    1. It's a pretty small pack, and it's covered with a rain cover, so it looks smaller than it is. I think with the bear cans our packs probably weighed in the high 20s or low 30s. Not too bad.

  3. Awesome pics Mary, reminds me of some of the lakes in the Wallowas.
    I would love to hike parts of the Pct but I would not enjoy the crowds!

    1. There are definitely some places more crowded than others. The Sierra, I think, always has people. It wasn't as bad as the Lakes Basin in August, but still, you wouldn't camp alone at a lake. However, Lake Aloha was so huge that we felt alone and didn't realize all the other people were there until the next day!

  4. Just realized (though I'm sure everyone else already knew) that if I click on one of your beautiful photos, I can view it...and all the photos in the larger form and vivid color! Yay!


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