Mile 852.2-873.4 (21.2)
I slept soundly but felt tired in the morning anyway. I packed up slowly. My clothes were still damp from fording Evolution Creek so I hung them on the outside of my pack to dry and started hiking in my camp clothes.
The first miles of the day were gentle and pleasant, following a river, but I couldn’t shake my sluggishness. Before starting the big climb to Selden Pass, I chugged an instant coffee Spider gave me. I hoped the caffeine would propel me up the mountain but I just kept plodding away.
Much of the climb was shaded, switchbacks weaving around pines and cedars. It smelled good. The sun was out again, blue sky with tiny wispy clouds. At around 10,000 feet the trail flattened out and I lost time finding the trail under blankets of snow. Up a little further and I passed some pretty alpine lakes, still mostly frozen. Further still was Selden Pass. I must have been really tired because I kept slipping and falling in the snow field approaching the pass.
Now on to the descent, the first steep section with the slushy snow, then following footprints around the banks of another beautiful alpine lake, then picking my way through confusing snow banks and not-quite-trail that disorients me. And still so weary! I took a short break and shoved snacks in my mouth. Food is so unappealing to me right now. But I hoped it would give me fuel to go a couple more miles. Mammoth Lakes, just get to Mammoth.
Just as I finished navigating snow banks, the trail brought me to the edge of Bear Creek, another raging monster. No no no, I thought, still spooked by last night’s experience. But there was no alternate, no way around. More sketchy high water river fording, all alone again. I let out a slew of curses and walked along the river to scout the safest crossing. I wanted wide, shallow, and calm. I found a wide spot that looked about hip deep and had fewer rapids. Then I waded in.
My hope was to keep everything dry. My pack sat high on my back and if I was right in my estimation of the river, it wouldn’t get wet. I stepped as quickly as I could across the slippery river bottom. The current was stronger than I guessed and I was relying on my trekking poles for purchase. The water was up to my upper thigh and my legs were freezing. Snowmelt is so cold!
The current picked up toward the opposite bank but luckily the river wasn’t getting much deeper. I lunged across and was pushed a little downstream, but finally made it across. I set my pack down on a sunny rock and squeezed the excess water from my shoes and socks. My legs dried in the sun. I hoped it was the last sketchy high water crossing.
It wasn’t! Just over a mile down the trail was a wide and raging feeder creek. Three more short, intense crossings. The water came up to my mid-thigh and the smoothed rock at the river bottom was treacherous. I was afraid I would slip. I made it across each one and breathed a massive sigh of relief.