PCT Day 157 – Sunday, September 17
Mile 809.3 to Mile 826.3
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 17
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1696.6
Feet Ascended Today: 2246
Feet Descended Today: 4856
Current Elevation: 8428
I awoke shortly after 5:00 am and my tent was covered in frost again. I packed up my tent by the light of my headlamp and bid goodbye to Mark and Andy before heading out. I hit the trail fast in the morning. I guess 5 months of through-hiking will do that to a girl.
Frost lined the path as I walked downhill in the pre-dawn light. I only walked a couple of miles before I came to the South Fork of the Kings River. I stopped for breakfast while I considered the river. It’s one of the bigger water crossings that I’ve had to face so far and I was extra cautious as I knew that a PCT hiker drowned in this river earlier in the season. But the water level has receded considerably since then. I waded across the river with my shoes on around 8:00 am and it was an easy crossing – the water only reached my calves. But the water was COLD! Definitely my coldest water crossing so far. I could barely feel my toes afterwards.
The trail headed uphill towards the next major pass in the Sierras – Mather Pass. I only had a 2000-foot elevation climb to reach the top and I arrived around noon. The last mile of the trail prior to the pass involved a series of switchbacks that barely clung to the side of the mountain. Probably not the best trail for anyone who is afraid of heights. But, after climbing Mt. Whitney, it didn’t seem that bad in comparison.
After spending a few minutes at the top of the pass, I began the long descent down the other side. After a mile or so of switchbacks, the trail descended by the scenic Palisade Lakes. As I was walking by the lakes, deep in thought, I looked up and was happily surprised to see Cheerful walking towards me! I met Cheerful in the desert and hadn’t seen him in a couple of months. It was really great to see him. We chatted for a few minutes before heading on.
The trail looped around Palisade Lakes and then began the infamously steep descent down what is known as the “Golden Staircase”. I zigzagged down the hill on switchback after switchback for what seemed like forever but really probably only took me a few hours. Whew! I’m glad I didn’t have to walk up the Golden Staircase!
The outlet from Palisade Lake, now called Palisade Creek, cascaded downhill next to the Golden Staircase in a spectacular waterfall. At the end of the staircase, the trail entered the treeline again and continued downhill following Palisade Creek towards the South Fork of the Kings River.