PCT Day 161, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 80

September 20
Onion Valley over Kearsarge Pass to mile 788.9, then mile 788.9 to mile 782.5, 6.4 PCT miles + 7.3 off-trail miles, 13.7 miles total
PCT miles: 1657.9
Running total: 1811.2
We woke up at 7am and started our mad-dash to pack, clean up the Airbnb, and drop off some extra food, toilet paper, and ziplock bags @ a local hostel that houses a ton of PCT hikers. Yet another small trail moment, a guy in the hostel overheard our names and recognized them as the names of Gigs’ friends! Matt and I kept our small talk rudely brief since we didn’t want to be late for Will, who was meeting us at the Looney Bean to drive us more than 50 miles back to the trailhead!
We ran over to the Looney Bean, waited on the longest line ever, ordered pumpkin chai teas, bagels, and pastries, then went outside to meet Will.
Will was described on Guthooks as a genuinely nice, old man- and boy was that true!! He was SO kind & SO fascinating- he has had a lifetime of adventure, including surfing during his time stationed in Hawaii, skiing, climbing in Yosemite, and backpacking parts of the JMT like 60+ years ago! He was telling us about his son who was visiting from Berkeley for Will’s 84th birthday when it hit me- Will had been the man that dined across from us at Sage the night before!! Bishop is a small town, but not THAT small!

{Total aside: I know that I have said this before, but we are constantly being blown away by the kindness of the strangers/trail angels we have encountered along our journey. There is always a story about how somebody becomes a trail angel, and I love hearing each and every one. Some angels are past hikers, but many are dreamers of the PCT and live vicariously through the hikers they help. Will said that he depends on hikers to get him out of the house and keep him busy in an otherwise sleepy town. Others have told us that trail angeling is a respite from their otherwise incredibly stressful life. And, although nobody has said it and I hate to assume, it seems that some have experienced loss and find happiness and meaning in their encounters with hikers. Some just like smelly hikers & meeting/helping people from a over the world. It’s a sometimes sad and yet beautiful symbiotic relationship that I truly cherish and will forever be grateful for!! I can’t wait to pay it forward!!}

On the 13 mile, nauseatingly windy haul up the mountain to the trailhead, Will mentioned a lady named Vicky, whom he had given a ride to a few days before. He mentioned that this lady was in her 50’s, was doing a 500 mile section of the trail, and used to race motorcycles- Matt recognized the story and we are 99% sure that Will was talking about Veg’s girlfriend’s mom!! Veg was the dude who bought us lunch when we arrived to Independence two days before- Small. Friggin. World!

Although Will dropped us off at the Onion Valley Trailhead before 10, Matt and I didn’t get started until 11.

I felt GREAT as we marched up the 4.5 mile, 2600 foot climb. I kept a steady pace and made it to the top of the pass a little before 1:15, but unfortunately this feeling of invincibility was short-lived. On our climb down, I started to feel like shit again. :/ I am SO over the afternoon slump! Ugh!

All shitty feelings vanished, though, when we ran into sweet Melissa. We hadn’t seen her since we headed up Muir Pass & didn’t think we would see her again until we visited her in Hawaii, so this unexpected reunion was exciting! Melissa was heading up over Kearsarge Pass and calling her hike for the year- she totally kicked ass for some of the most difficult stretches of the JMT & plans to return with a friend to finish the remaining few miles. We are SO impressed by her!

Since Matt and I still had a ways to go, we said our goodbyes and continued on. Just as we were nearing the junction to return to the PCT, we passed a female backcountry ranger; a ranger whose name had been whispered(and sometimes screamed) through the PCT grapevine. We had heard that she’s pretty strict when it comes to permits & had kicked numerous people off of the trail this year, BUT she was nothing but nice to us and didn’t even ask to check our now valid permits! {She may have been off-duty- her season had ended that day and we passed her on her way back into society!!}
We stopped for lunch shortly after returning to the PCT, then continued trekking onward. Right before the start of our LAST big climb of the Sierra, we ran into Tumbleweed & Fable!!! We had leapfrogged with them throughout the desert, then ran into them randomly at Snoqualmie Pass- it was SO fun seeing them again!!! Tumbleweed’s daughter and her friend were also hiking the PCT, but for whatever reason the girls decided to hike south thru the Sierra, while Tumbleweed & Fable were hiking north to Truckee. Should they reach their endpoint, Tumbleweed will be the first above knee amputee to complete the PCT!!! Go, Tumbleweed, go!!!!

After catching up and taking a selfie, Matt and I began our climb up Forester Pass. As planned, we set up camp 3 miles shy of the pass, where we found a beautiful, extremely well-protected site at about 11230 feet. This was our highest campsite yet and dang was it cold!! Thankfully once I crawled into my sleeping bag I was warm and cozy!

Happiness is: another chance run-in with familiar faces!

The trail is full of so many serendipitous and synchronous encounters and experiences that I will never be able to fully comprehend, but I try my hardest to appreciate; it’s so, so magical.

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