PCT Day 156 – Saturday, September 16
Rae Lakes Mile 793.5 to 809.3
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 15.8
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1679.6
Feet Ascended Today: 3751
Feet Descended Today: 3273
Current Elevation: 11041
I was cold when I awoke this morning. I checked the temperature and it was 31 degrees outside. Wow. No wonder I felt cold. I’m glad I put my water filter in my sleeping bag last night. As I broke camp in the pre-dawn glow, I saw that my tent’s rainfly and my bearcan were both covered in a layer of frost. Brr!! I packed up knowing that I’d have to spread my stuff out in the sun to dry out later.
I was on the trail by 6:30 am. I passed at least 10 or 15 deer grazing in meadows near Rae Lakes as I walked. A couple of miles later I passed Mark and Andy making coffee at their camp near Arrowhead Lake. It was good to see them again as I had last seen them when I got off the trail to head into Independence.
I kept walking downhill all morning until eventually I reached Woods Creek. A suspension bridge crossed the creek which was currently under maintenance by some park employees. They were replacing the rickety wooden boards spanning the bridge with metal grates. I crossed the bridge during one of their breaks otherwise I might have had to wait for a while.
I took a break to spread my wet tent out in the sun to dry, and then started uphill. I had to descend down to 8500 feet to cross Woods Creek, and now I had a steep 3500-foot climb up to the next pass – Pinchot Pass. I hoped to make it up over the Pass today but it depended on the weather. So I started up the hill.
Shortly after starting my ascent I passed what is known as the Woods Creek Waterslide. The water flows in a wide channel downhill over polished granite. It really does look like a waterslide.
I kept slogging uphill, pausing often to catch my breath. I was sweating hard and was definitely getting a good workout. About 3 miles from the top of the pass, I noticed dark clouds coming in and hovering over some nearby mountains. That’s never a good sign. I didn’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm at the top of the pass. It’s always hard to know what the weather’s going to do. So I quickened my pace and hiked faster.
Eventually I came to a set of switchbacks near the timberline. This was my last chance to stop and camp before committing to the pass. The clouds looked even more menacing but they were not over Pinchot Pass, just nearby. So I decided to go for it.
I climbed the last set of switchbacks and made it to the summit, breathing hard. I met Mark and Andy on top. The weather held and we hung out for a while, enjoying the view.
Eventually we hiked down the north side of Pinchot and only had to go a couple of miles until Mark found a great camp spot by Lake Marjorie. I set up camp with Mark and Andy and we ate dinner together. It was nice to have company.
We were still at a pretty high altitude so I settled in for another chilly night.