We slept a bit longer as we wanted the sun to be up and shining at us when we were crossing the big river. When I woke up, SpaceJam was already eating breakfast and he had good news: he had found a large log right across the river just a few hundred meters up the stream. Once we were ready we went there to inspect the log. It was all wet and slippery and the raging river flowing right under it. It was yet another one of those full concentration and focus moments to get across, but we made it. We managed to cross the troublesome river without even making our feet wet, which meant that the day had started on a successful note.
Next on the menu was a steep climb over the ridge into the next valley where we would repeat the same procedures – cross a stream and climb over yet another ridge into the next valley.
Once we got down to the valley after the first ridge there was a flat section for a bit until we reached the stream we had to cross. That’s when SpaceJam suddenly started to wave with his hand frantically. For a split second I thought he is having a seizure but then I realized he has spotted something. My gut instantly told me it’s probably a bear and it was. A beautiful black bear that was brown-coloured.
When you experience something for the first time your body sort of doesn’t exactly know how to react so different scenarios run through your mind making you feel slightly weird. Seeing a wild bear just across the stream from you makes your body slightly alarmed as you don’t know how the animal will react when it sees you. So I just did what everyone does these days when they see something awesome: I grabbed my phone and started filming. The bear didn’t see us at all and because of the sound from the stream he also didn’t hear us talking. So we just stood there, watching and documenting the bear. But we had to move on and the bear was right where the path went, across the stream. So SpaceJam just shouted: “Hey Bear!” and clapped his hands. The bear took off like a bullet despite looking bulky they can run with speeds up to 60km/hr (37,2mi/hr) and that’s pretty fast.
After the bear was gone we sat there for a minute to have a snack and review the footage. It was amazing, I couldn’t believe we just saw a bear like that. SpaceJam spotted some fish in the stream and as he had a fishing line and hooks with him he decided to try and catch those fish. He found a big ant to put on the hook as a bait and threw it in the stream. The fish instantly showed interest and went over to inspect. They did bite the ant but not the hook. SpaceJam threw it in a couple of more times and the fish went for it, this he got one out. But as soon as he got it out he took the hook out and let it back in the water. I know an ant died and a fish got hurt but when you are in a complete wilderness doing this really primitive stuff things get a different perspective.
Anyways, we crossed the stream, which was the deepest one so far and also pretty wide and cold. We run out of it screaming from the cold pain but luckily there was the next uphill right away so we got warm pretty fast. Another ridge crossed another valley,m; this one had a lake at the bottom that we had to walk by.
It was lunchtime when we got to the lake so we decided to enjoy the scenery and sat there for some food. SpaceJam tried to fish again but got nothing this time. And the weather as per usual had turned against us: the clouds were blocking the much needed warmth from the Sun. Regardless, we sat there for almost an hour and I still managed to semi-dry my fully wet tent.
The trail then turned into the next valley where we would gradually ascend towards the next pass – Dorothy Lake Pass. As we were approaching yet another stream crossing, suddenly from the tree right in front of us a giant bird took off: it was a Bald Eagle. Again a first-time-in-life experience;what a day for spotting wildlife!
The path went on and gradually got more and more wet. The snowmelt streams from the hillside were running down like there was a water volcano at the top of it. As we ascended higher the snow started appearing more often and soon the whole ground was just a mush. Mud, postholes and simply the trail and the whole area of it was under a pond. After about 3-4 hours of this tiring work we were slowly approaching the pass that was right over the large Dorothy lake, which was still mostly frozen.
Walking on the snowy southern side of the mountain meant that the other side would have at least the same amount of snow, usually more. The wind had picked up quite a bit by that time and the evening sun didn’t give enough warmth to stay warm as I was only wearing shorts and a shirt. But I didn’t want to put on more clothes because that meant stopping, I just wanted to get over with this terrain and moving was the only thing that kept me warm enough so SpaceJam and I just kept going.
Initially we only planned to get over the pass and camp at the first tentsite but because it was really windy we decided to push a bit further, until we found a less windy spot, preferably without any snow.
As we went on there was one more large creek to cross at which we succeeded pretty well by finding a log. At least over the biggest fork of it. And about a mile and a half later we reached the 1000 MILE (1600km) marker! It was the prettiest of the milestone markers made by someone so far. All we had to do was to walk one more mile to get to the desired tentsite. Another awesome day was behind us, many miles done and we had had some very lucky amazing animal encounters. Tomorrow: into town for the resupply!
The town day: 16 miles (26km) to get to the Sonora Pass, which had a road on it on which we could then hitch a ride to a small town called Bridgeport. We started hiking at around 6:30 and the wind from yesterday, unfortunately, still hadn’t died down. We knew that most of the hike would be on top of the mountain ridges, which meant that we would be fighting the strong cold winds for most of the distance.
First the trail still went down for around 3 miles (5km), which we surprisingly reached in under an hour. We were moving swiftly as it was easy terrain but as soon as the trail started going back up we got considerably slower. However, we decided that instead of walking all the way up to the ridge over a fully snow-covered face with many switchbacks we would just cut straight up to the ridge across the face, which was snow free. It meant that we would go up a much much steeper ground; that was definitely more demanding for our muscles and the loose rocks in some places made it even more difficult.
As soon as we made it to the top the already cold wind started to blow with much greater force, cooling us down rapidly. So we just snapped a few photos and started hiking as fast as we could in order to get away from the wind and keep ourselves warm. At one point we even ran for 5 minutes and despite the cold it was fun!
The trail went along the mountain for quite a bit until it turned right over a saddle and then continued on more or less the same elevation, but now on the eastern face of the next mountain. The wind there was not any better plus now there were also very steep snowy slopes that we had to cross.
That’s where we caught up with a couple of other hikers, Indie and Viking (from Norway – there are a few Vikings on the trail). A quick chat and I passed them and a minute later some hikers coming from the opposite direction greeted me. So we had another chat with Gazelle and SenSei, but slightly longer this time, and the earlier couple passed our trio while we still chatted. SpaceJam also managed to catch up and now the two of us were trying to catch up with Indie and Viking because SpaceJam was sure that he knows his trail friend Indie.
We managed to catch up with them when Indie turned around and confronted me about not using microspikes or ice axe on these treacherous slopes. I didn’t really have a good answer to that so I just told him that I am feeling over-confident and took out my ice axe; I didn’t have my crampons anymore though. I didn’t get upset about his confrontation as it was kind of true what he was saying anyways.
We continued the hike together with the two guys and apparently Indie’s dad was waiting at the trail-head at the pass and would give us all a ride to Bridgeport. Awesome!
The trail continued on the ridges for a while until we reached a saddle but on the other side of it was a very very steep snow-covered face. The snow was all soft and slushy but there was plenty of it so that you could slide down it on your butt (glissade), which is what we did. Equipped with an ice axe you simply throw yourself down the steep slope and when the slide gets too wild you use the ice axe to self-arrest or just slow down a bit.
Another kilometer on and we were on the Sonora Pass with a ride to town already waiting for us! The best part: it was still only 12:15 which meant thatwe had gotten there pretty fast considering the difficult terrain.
The ride into town took about 40-45 minutes and we were still not sure whether we should get back on the trail the same evening or not. When we got to the town we right away went to the laundromat where we spent the next hour to sort out all our things and resupply; the laundromat was like our headquarters in Bridgeport. The contact with the outside world allowed me to find out that Stiina is all good and is going to be ready to get back on trail as soon as I get to South Lake Tahoe. And other good news were that the missing Bilble was found and is also doing well and gonna get back on trail soon.
As the laundry was getting done Yogabae and Ron randomly came in and convinced us to stay at the Bridgeport Inn, which was right across the street. We checked in and went out to eat right away. Now all we had to do was to rest our tired bodies. Another successful day was behind us!