Daily Miles: 14 (7 PCT Miles)
Total Miles: 795
We had a nice time in Independence with an afternoon off plus a full zero day. We stayed at the Courthouse Motel which was extremely hiker friendly and welcoming. We had stayed at this same motel two years ago when we hiked the JMT, but the owners at that time were not nearly so welcoming. We were really glad to see the change.
The town of Independence is pretty tiny with not a lot there. Our dining options were pretty slim, but we did eat pizza once at the Co-op Market and then we ate three times at the taco truck in town. We loved the tacos there!
The highlight of our time in Independence was getting to see our friend from the beginning of the trail, Lid. We hadn’t seen him in about a month. He was headed back to the trail our first evening in town, so he stopped by our room for a visit. It was great to see him and to catch up on his hike. It is funny sometimes how someone can feel like a good friend after only knowing them for a short time, but Lid is definitely such a person for us.
We also got to see Gazelle and XC when they got to town yesterday evening. Gazelle wasn’t feeling good again, so they decided to take a zero day today. We are hoping to see them at our next resupply point (Vermillion Valley Resort) and hike with them out from there. We took another look at our original plan of 4.5 days to VVR and realized it didn’t work out so well with mileage between the high passes, so we decided to bring enough food for 5+ days. At that more relaxed pace, Gazelle and XC shouldn’t have a problem catching up to us because they are both really strong and fast hikers.
We decided to try for an early start to the day today. We needed a hitch back up to the trailhead and decided to aim for getting to the road to thumb it around 6:15am. We knew we had two passes to get over today and wanted as much time as possible to get them done. We got out to the road at 6:10 and sadly waited until 8:50 for someone to give us a ride. We have never had to wait so long for a hitch before, but the traffic up to the trailhead was almost non-existent. That meant that we didn’t get started on the trail until almost9:30.
The trail back up to Kearsarge Pass is quite nice. The ascent is gradual with many switchbacks. You pass several lovely alpine lakes along the way and get heat views down to the desert floor. We took the climb at a pretty steady and slow pace, so we still felt good once we got to the top.
On the side trail back to the PCT, SweetPea fell on a snow patch and tweaked her hip a bit. She immediately stopped to stretch and Beardoh rubbed her hip for a bit. It was sore, but we continued on at a slower pace.
After connecting back to the PCT, we started the climb of our second pass of the day, Glen Pass. The guide book says it can be a scary pass because it steep to go down from and can be icy. As we were starting up, we passed two teens who had just come off the pass. When we asked them how it was, they said it was pretty bad, but we didn’t give their opinion a ton of weight, as they seemed to be new to backpacking and these passes can be intimidating.
The climb felt like much longer than the two miles marked on our map. Parts of the trail were covered in snow and we wore our micro-spikes again. Some parts were steep climbs up rock where the trail was bypassed. We made it to the top and watched another hiker descend for a bit to see what route he took. Since the trail is covered in snow, there were some other routes made that we could see. The descent was pretty short and relatively quick, but involved walking across a sloped snow field, climbing down steep rocky sections and a few glissades.
After we got down, the trail leveled off quite a bit. There was still snow on a lot of the trail, but the walking was easier. The trail began meandering through Rae Lakes which is one of the most picturesque areas in the Sierras. The water in the lakes is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake even 15 or more feet from shore. The lakes are encircled with gray snow-capped mountains.
We are camped near the northern end of Rae Lakes. We are in a small cluster of trees which will hopefully prevent any condensation from the lake getting on our gear.
Today we were hiking again with MountainMan, Proton and DreamCatcher. We have really enjoyed hiking with this group. We always seem to have something to talk about and there are always lots of laughs.