PCT Day 25: Heatwave

A late start today, I was the last one out at 10:00 am. I walked beside Aloha Lake, marveling at the stillness of the water, feeling the heat of the sun. Today would be another scorcher for sure.

Toward the end of the lake, I saw two little boys paddling around the many rock formations in a rubber raft, having the time of their lives. I couldn’t believe someone lugged that thing all the way out here, but what a perfect place for it.

The trail turned down, passing by Heather and Susie Lakes.

I ran into a big group of Boy Scouts from Folsom. They were cleaning up their campsite, which I noted was right next to the trail in an obvious camping spot.

So the camp 100 feet from the trail rule is subservient to the camp in established campsites suggestion? Not judging, just wondering because everyone seems to go for the established sites, no matter how close they are to the trail.

Someone left a lovely green compression bag on the ground. I picked it up and gave it to one of the troop leaders, who found the kid who owned it, a teachable moment for Leave No Trace.

Aloha Lake Still Waters
Lake Aloha, with water so still, it mirrors the rock.
Looking toward the south end of Lake Aloha, where we camped and the tree fell.
Looking at the south end of Lake Aloha. We camped on the upper left, and the tree fell somewhere in the middle.
Looking toward the north end of Lake Aloha, feeling the heat already.
Looking toward the north end of Lake Aloha, feeling the heat already.
Looking south, leaving Lake Aloha.
Leaving Lake Aloha, we passed Icky’s friends’ camp on the way out. They were off to an even later start than us!

Feeling the heat, I stopped for water at Heather Lake. I stripped off my hiking shirt to soak it, recoiling in shock as I put it back on because it was so flippin cold. But soon, I adjusted, and it felt great walking down the trail with my own personal air conditioning system, at least for a while, until it dried out.

I passed by some fisherman angling for lunch.

Parts of the trail were fairly narrow with a steep, rocky slide into deep blue waters below. If I slipped with all this weight on my back, I’d probably drown. Look ahead, I told myself. Pay attention to the trail.

I caught up with Fish Nugget and Squarepants just before lunchtime. We snacked and rested in some scrappy piece of shade sitting on slabs of granite on the ground. I finished off the string cheese and salami I’d packed in from South Lake Tahoe.

Looking toward Heather Lake in the distance.
Looking toward Heather Lake in the distance.
A pretty little meadow on the way to Heather Lake in Desolation Wilderness.
A pretty little meadow on the way down to Heather Lake in Desolation Wilderness.
Mountain spring water by the side of the trail.
Mountain spring water by the side of the trail.

We ran into a second big group of Boy Scouts at the junction to Lily Lake, from the same troop as the others we’d seen. They were doing just a few miles that day, easier mileage than that troop in Yosemite, but even so, some of the boys looked pretty beat.

They rested in the shade, regrouping after dealing with the dog situation.

One of the leaders had brought their dog, a regular participant on troop adventures. But the rocks were so hot underfoot, the poor pup could barely walk, so the owner had to hike out with the dog, arrange for pickup at the nearest trailhead, then meet the troop back at their planned campsite for the night.

The boys had added some of his load to their packs to reduce the burden of extra miles. But let me tell you, these were not lightweight packers to begin with. And they did not look excited about the hot climb ahead.

Where I stopped for water and shirt-dipping on Heather Lake.
Where I stopped for water and shirt-dipping on Heather Lake.
Heading around Heather Lake on a high rocky trail.
Heading around Heather Lake on a high rocky trail.
Fish Nugget and Squarepants take a morning break on the rocks in the shade.
Fish Nugget and Squarepants take a late morning break on the rocks in the shade.

We leapfrogged the Boy Scouts, going up the hill. One was overweight and struggling.

He plopped down on a rock and said he couldn’t go on.

Who could blame him—the heat, the altitude, a heavy pack and blisters on his feet? But a troop leader stepped in, standing next to him in the shade. He encouraged the boy to drink more water, eat a snack and told him it was okay to take a breather.

He acknowledged the challenge but said he could do it and told him about a time in his life where he struggled, but made it through. I think this guy found the right balance between empathy and getting that kid up the mountain.

Other kids encouraged him as they passed by.

Hiking by Susie Lake.
Hiking past Susie Lake.
Boy Scouts taking a breather at the junction to Lily Lake.
Boy Scouts taking a breather at the junction to Lily Lake.
Squarepants and Fish Nugget waiting out the heat near Gilmore Lake.
Squarepants and Fish Nugget waiting out the heat near Gilmore Lake.

We took longer breaks as the heat wore on. At the Gilmore Lake trailhead, I caught up with the girls and unfurled the Zrest to nap for a while.

It was two in the afternoon and probably above ninety. We’d been going up for a while, and the way forward was a lot more up, in the sun, so we needed to rest, hydrate and avoid overheating.

The Boy Scouts ambled by on their way to Gilmore Lake, spirits perking up, knowing that their suffering for the day was almost over. I envied them a little.

The long, hot trail ahead up to Dick's Pass.
The long, hot trail ahead up to Dick’s Pass.
Heather and Susie Lakes below, with all the mountains we walked through in the distance.
Heather and Susie Lakes below, with all the mountains we walked through in the distance.
Half Moon Lake in Desolation Wilderness, looks like a nice place to spend a weekend.
Half Moon Lake in Desolation Wilderness, looks like a nice place to spend a weekend.
Not the top, even though that's Dick's Lake below, where we camped for the night.
Not at the top, even though that’s Dick’s Lake below, where we camped for the night.

We passed the 1100-mile mark without even noticing.

It was a long, slow slog up to Dick’s Pass. Beautiful, but hot. We waited till late afternoon to get started, when the weather cooled a bit, which helped. Of course the trail seemed to go on forever.

Near the top, we asked a girl coming down how much farther to the pass. She said we had a ways to go. Not long after, we reached the top with a gorgeous view of Dick’s Lake below, where we planned to camp for the night.

Then we lost the trail and got a little confused about where to go because there were numerous spurs along the ridge. Looking for the way down, I scouted the area, making my way uphill while the girls waited. Sadly it turned out the way was up, not down.

This view was not the top. It was cruel imposter.

Now that girl’s comment made sense. We had another quarter mile to go before reaching the real top.

Finally made it to the real top of Dick's Pass, wishing I were in camp already.
Finally made it to the real top of Dick’s Pass, wishing I were in camp already.
Fish Nugget at the top of Dick's Pass, with Squarepants behind.
Fish Nugget at the top of Dick’s Pass, with Squarepants behind, looking for cell service?
It was a long hike down to Dick's Lake, so hard on feet, hips, shoulders, back and knees.
It was a long hike down to Dick’s Lake, so hard on feet, hips, shoulders, back and knees.
Approaching Dick's Lake at the end of the day, almost there.
Approaching Dick’s Lake at the end of the day, almost there.

Coming down the mountain, my feet ached, my back throbbed, and my shoulders cried out for mercy. Every step hurt, but I had to keep going. Conversation with the girls helped distract me from the pain.

We arrived late, around 7:30, a 10-mile day. We met this nice old guy at the trail junction, who said there were plenty of campsites at the lake. He seemed well rested and interested in chatting some more, but I was too exhausted to engage.

The mosquitoes came out in force. I had to pee quickly and fan my butt to avoid being eaten alive. But the lake was lovely, despite the bugs.

Tent, dinner, bed—no time for much else.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 25: July 27, mile 1108
Dick's Lake from camp, with faux pass in the middle and real pass on the upper left out of view.
Dick’s Lake from camp, with fake pass in the middle and real pass on the upper left.