I wish we were on the trail, this late October day, and  memorializing this last section of our summer PCT hike is bittersweet.  Bitter because I want to be there NOW and sweet because the memories are fondly held.

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The gang of four, got a ride from our Kennedy Meadow’s neighbor, Steve,  to the top of Sonora Pass so we could pick up the PCT again.   This saved us about 9 miles and a four thousand foot climb.  It was a welcome lift and we were all really happy to be back on the trail.

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You could see the expectation of a really good time ahead on our faces and in our body language. 432 I led out and felt the pressure of being the weakest hiker and took off too fast and was soon gasping for breath from the climb and the elevation.

431Big  sweeping views were our trail-side friends.  From the pass it was- thankfully- down, down, down.

433Into a world that has  lava formations and some granite. 

440Fields of flowers,

443gave our avid photographer a reason to crawl around.

449These shrubs look like they are turning yellow for autumn, but on closer inspection we discovered they were covered in some small organism.

450It was another day of turquoise skys, billowy clouds, red rocks, wildfowers and babbling brooks.  10 miles had us camped on the east fork of the Carson River amidst the forest and under a ghoulish carving in a tree that I didn’t photograph.  It creeped me out!  Mapster had this location chosen from the information he had acquired online, but we overshot it and Mark acquired his nickname of ‘Apster’ when he pulled out his iphone and opened his Halfmile’s PCT AP and pinpointed our location.   (Great AP, highly recommend it to those hiking along the PCT).

456Day 2 dawned clear, but soon clouds blew in and thunder chased us along the trail.

460We entered cattle country and were serenaded by their bells.  This was the first time we saw cattle along the trail and it brought sweet smells of home.

465 I love cows! I think this one was embarrassed by her bell.  I know our cattle at home would have been.  😉

464It threatened rain all day and spit on us off and on.   I kept putting on my rain gear and then taking it off again.  We’ve gotten caught in downpours before and it is hard for me to recover warmth after a drenching, so I try to be safe.

This day was lazy and meandering and fairly easy. Some of the trail wound through forests, other along brush covered ridges and by rock jumbled points, lava as well as granite.  We saw two huge mounds that were very similar to Devil’s Postpile.

the ThinkersEnd of day 2 had us at Wolf Creek were we sat around our stoves and talking.  Conversation fell to  marriage.  We shared that the secret of our 32 years was, ‘lowered expectations’.  We always get a laugh out of that, but acceptance is key to a happy marriage; we know that sometimes we will each fail to do our best, and that’s OK.    We have high expectations for ourselves, but don’t expect too much from each other.  We do what we do for each other out of love, and not out of a need to get something in return.  At least on a good day.

471Day 3 started out beautiful and we had high hopes of doing some swimming.  We got to this little lake too early in the morning and decided to wait for the next lake.

474The terrain opened up, became more bare and we could see smoke in the distance.  A lot of smoke.

478The sky turned dark.  Our afternoon swim vanished in a pool of smoke.  The bitter taste burned my throat.  I put on a mask to protect my asthmatic lungs.  It was very eerie.

strange rock formations loom in the smokeI invented elaborate stories in my head to entertain myself.  We were fleeing a volcano.  It was after the Apocalypse and we were the last humans on earth.

483As ash fell like snow, disappointment wove itself into all our hearts.  We began to get a sinking realization that this was a big fire event and probably the end of our hike.

486And it was. While our plan was to hike to Lake Tahoe, Ebbett’s Pass was the end of our trail.   Naked Dave’s sister picked us up (thank You!) and we learned that the Rim Fire was huge and the smoke not expected to blow the other way.  Another case where an ability to lower your expectations comes in handy.

It is strange too how these things can turn out for good, if you have eyes to see.  My mom,  who had Alzheimers,  had fallen and had a cerebral bleed.  Because we exited at this time, Mark and I got to be with her for the last four days of her life.  She held my hand, she smiled.  We could tell she was comforted with us there.  It was good, just as our hike was too.  Even the smoke.  I will never forget that smoke!

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