Day 82: Of Wildflowers, Green Hills, and Familiar Passes

We don’t leave California for another 640 miles yet, but today it felt like we were in a completely different country. There may be a severe drought in most of the state, but everything we saw today was lush, lush, lush. Ever since we dropped below 10,000 feet soon after leaving Sonora Pass, the hills have been green, streams crisscross the land, and there are so many wildflowers. We’ll hike along, the trees will open up into meadow, and suddenly the hillside looks like a movie — the kind of movie that might make you think, “No place actually looks like that…they just did that for the movie.” Except we’ve been there, and can say yes, it’s real…it’s absolutely real.

This section of trail is less packed with familiar places or even big-name destinations than Yosemite, by far, and yet it’s packed full of beauty. Again, it strikes me as the kind of secret backcountry that I might recommend to a close friend who wanted to get away from it all. We saw very few hikers today, yet a weekend backpacking trip up here would be just incredible. And, better yet, the mosquitoes have dropped off dramatically, making most places far easier to take than some of our recent camping.

We’re also only a mile and a half tonight from Ebbetts Pass, the high point on CA–4. Highway 4 is by far my favorite road through the High Sierra — and, yes, I’ve driven all of them. It’s a two-lane highway that actually drops down to one lane (watch carefully for oncoming traffic!) at points, curving relentlessly through the Sierra, with beautiful vistas around almost every corner. Most significantly to me, I’ve been over Highway 4 many times, and, in recent years, had stopped to look at the PCT marker at the point where the PCT crosses it many times — with dreams of one day doing the entire trail. Now, I’m finally almost there, ready to cross that same road, but on foot this time…and having walked there from Mexico. It’s kinda crazy, and enormously rewarding, to be doing it.

As much as we’re enjoying the hike, we’re also a bit gung-ho these days to get to our next zero. We figure we have two and a half or three days of hiking left to go before we get to South Lake Tahoe, and that motivates us to keep pushing the miles as we go along. As nice as it’s been out here, it’s also been something like two weeks since our last shower, and the idea of spending a day or two indoors is enormously appealing. So we press on, appreciating everything we see…but looking forward to cheeseburgers, showers, and a real bed!

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