Entering the Sierras has been even more magical than I imagined. From the desert heat with no water to rushing waters in every turn. We were nervous going in because of the stormy weather people had warned us about, but blue skies for us!
The first Sierra town we needed to enter was called, Lone Pine. We had plenty of food to pass this town but we needed to buy micro spikes. The micro spikes were necessary through the snowy cliffs we were going to encounter. We used our phone to try to figure out which side trail to take to get to the road. We saw what looked like an abandoned campground, finally arriving at a very barren looking road. It was early morning and we figured we might as well walk down the road for a better hitching experience. We waited four hours for a ride, only seeing 2 cars pass our way the entire time. As we waited we went through a variety of emotions; from patiently waiting to running around the lot yelling to the empty road.
Finally we saw a shuttle that had picked up 6 hikers already. We convinced him to let me lay on the ground of the van since all the seats were taken and he agreed after we gave him our share of the shuttle fee. Lone Pine was a cool little town with a Pizza Buffet where we stuffed ourselves with as many slices as possible and filled up on salad.
We spent a lot of time at the library as well as the museum with a very friendly volunteer who showed us all the taxidermy done on an array of animals. The next day we waited around two hours for a ride back up the mountain. Finally, we were back on trail!
We made it 7.5 miles after hitting the trail at 2 pm and after all the sounds of town it was so serene to be completely alone in the Sierras. That night even the birds and wind were silent, the world was so still. That morning I was a little cranky as my routine had been switched up due to the bear canister. It took me almost twice as long to pack my things and opening those bear canisters on a cold morning felt nearly impossible. But, after a few miles we stopped and had one of the Mountain House meals we had found in a free hiker box in Lone Pine. The eggs & coffee gave us the smiles and energy we needed. While hiking isn’t always sunshine and fun, every day makes us feel alive. I love that simple things like eggs & coffee can completely turn a day around. It was the start of the ‘real deal’ hiking, uphills, steam crossings, and hiking until at least 7 pm.
We slept amazing that night and our alarm was for 4:30 am. Knowing that we had our first Sierra Pass that day had me filled with excitement. It was 7 miles to the top of Forester Pass and our goal was to be at the top by 9 in hopes to get the perfect crunchy snow. We had heard the dangers about crossing Passes too early or too late. If you hit the snow too early it is still too icy but if you are too late the soft snow will have you post-holing. We encountered these beautiful open fields with the sun rising and gently gleaming upon them.
Then came our first scary river crossing. Despite the cold, I took off all my layers packing them into my waterproof sac. We had to make a big jump right off the bat so Level went first. It took me a few minutes to get the courage up and make my leg stop trembling with fright but Level was so supportive and gave me advice. Level quickly realized that rock hopping was not possible for the rest of the crossing because most rocks were covered with ice.
We stepped in the icy water and stayed strong against the strong current. I was just happy to have made it through and I knew if I hiked hard the next few miles I would warm up quickly. We got to see our first marmot on trail, it was so cute and we stopped to take a video. The snow was perfect, nice and crusty so we were able to walk right across it to the base of Forester with no problem. We had heard you should hike the Passes with other hikers if possible because of the potential danger. We were excited to see Chunky Monkey who had hiked parts of the Sierras last year. As we got to the base of the pass, I couldn’t help but be both excited and intimidated. There was no foreseen path, just random footprints in the snow up a nearly vertical cliff. We put our micro spikes on and took on the challenge.
There was a lot of heavy breathing and sweating but I just focused on not falling down the slippery slope. We made it to a ‘safe’ spot where there was no snow and the trail was visible, thinking we were in the clear. Then we realized up ahead there was a chute, which was all snow covered. I tried not to think about what might happen if my foot slipped. It was a very long way down with some pointy looking rocks that didn’t look like they’d be helpful in breaking your fall.
I followed Level and my stomach dropped as he stopped in the middle of the chute just to look down. Luckily we made it to the other side in one piece.
We watched from the top of the Pass as a group of seven hikers were glisading down the mountain. That is when you slide on your butt down the mountain to get down much faster. The first glisade we did was only about 50 feet down and it was so much fun. I did it in my shorts and it was icy cold but very worth it. The next glisade was a bit scarier, as we peered down to where it lead it was too steep to see. The previous hikers we had seen seemed to all be in one piece so we decided to do it. As I went down I gained so much speed down the 200 feet. Then I saw I was heading towards some rocks, I leaned my body to the left steering clear. I thought I was in the clear until I realized there were more so I quickly veered again but with all my speed I ended up in a rolling tumble rather than a slide. Somehow I got back into sliding position and continued down towards the lake. Luckily I lost momentum before getting to the lake… As I shook the icy snow particles out of my shorts I had so much adrenaline. Level and I were laughing excited to see what else was in store for the day.
We took a break after all the snow and dried out our wet shoes and socks. The rest of the day seemed like a cake walk but we were getting tired from all the excitement that the day had held. Level had twisted his ankle earlier in the day so I suggested we stop a little early that day. We found this perfect camp spot right near these beautiful waterfalls. We were all alone and finally in an area that campfires were allowed! I couldn’t believe no one had snatched the tent site up before us. As we sat by the water relaxing, Level said, ‘April…’ It quickly got my attention as he normally uses my trail name out here. I looked and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was in shock and my first reaction was, ‘Is this real?’ The look in his eyes was so genuine and full of love. Of course I said, ‘Yes!’