It's a steady, long climb out of the valley floor (the lowest of the CDT in this area). As we gain elevation, I look back at where we came from. Wow! We were on the other side of that (looking at The Window and RGP)? That seems so unbelievable, but I was there so I know it happened! We keep climbing and there are so many willow thickets that it slows our progress quite a bit. They are taller than me. I'm getting very annoyed with them! The thing that made it worse was we kept hitting false summits, like 15 of them! I hate false summits. They can be soul crushing after so many. I start calling this False Summit Ridge (among other, more colorful names).
All day, I've been following some footprints. The pattern of them reminds me of the Death Star from Star Wars. Duh duh duh dun da dun dun da dun, runs through my head over and over. I wonder if I'll get to meet Vader himself? But first, I have to get to this saddle summit! ARGH!
I catch up to a hiker a couple miles up. His name is Brent and he's a Physical Therapist from Missouri. He started at Weminuche Meadows as well. I saw him last night but we didn't speak. He camped just south of me. We talk a little while he laughs at Motown in the snow field doing his battle crawl. He's heading down to Squaw Lake. I'm hoping to continue past that to Squaw Pass about four miles past that trail junction, but the Lake trail is my bail out point if weather starts moving in.
As we finally get to the Squaw Lake Trail, severe weather has moved in. I consider my options and realize that the only one is to get lower quickly. The wind has picked up to what seems like gale force and it's taking a lot of effort to stay upright. Brent and I are hiking as quickly as we possibly can and still be safe on the steep trail. As we get to a steep scree field, it starts to hail. We don't see lightening, but know it's around since we're hearing the thunder. Then the rain starts. We make it to the lake and we both start setting our tents in the rain and wind, not an easy feat.
As we finish setting up, the rain stops, of course, and another couple emerges from their lunch shelter. They are Chris and Karen from Louisville. Super cool people. So glad to meet folks my age that don't even live far from me. I have a lot of friends that like hiking and car camping but not many that like to backpack. Chris and Karen have 11-year-old twin girls that they sent off to camp for a week so they decided to go backpacking. My kind of people! We all sit around for a bit and talk and get to know each other. Great conversation with some great people. All three of these campers have been here before the pine beetle took its toll. I can say it seems about 90% of the lodge pole pine have been taken by this ravenous beetle. Brent allows me to use his battery pack to charge my phone. A small gesture that means the world to me. I now have a camera! Yay!!
You can tell that today's hike took a toll on Motown. He is uncharacteristically subdued. He won't eat and I had to bring water to him. He's shivering from being wet and the temperature drop after the rain. It's about 50 degrees now. I put his blanket on him that I'm so glad I've carried. I'm sure it brings comfort as well as warmth to him. Finally, I give him his meds and send him into the tent to be away from the flies and mosquitoes.
Chris and Karen start to pack up their stuff. They are trying to make it to Granite Lake tomorrow 12 miles away. I hope the weather works in their favor. We exchange info to stay in touch. I hope to hear if they made it
I head to bed and read for a bit. I wake in the night to Motown throwing up in the tent.