Sawmill Pass Trail to Bullfrog Lake Trail
Day: 14.6 Miles
Trip: 193.8 Miles
I have a new friend this morning, a surly fellow named Snarly. Snarly is the enormous sack of serum that’s attached to my left foot. The marvelous thing about this blister is that it’s on the top of my foot, between the big and first toe. I wonder when Snarly will his temper and explodes inside of my sock.
Clearing two passes yesterday was an exhausting accomplishment. I sleep in late and move sluggishly for most of the morning. By the time Snarly and I make the seven-mile hike to Dollar Lake, it’s early afternoon and my stomach is rumbling for attention. I pause for my first lunch of the day and discover that I’m in the presence of two familiar faces. Mark and Allen are standing on the shoreline with their fishing rods, and I’m willing to bet that they’re working on a meal that’s more interesting that my tuna fish and almond pita wrap. “Stopped here a little while ago to take a break and catch some lunch,” Allen tells me, while methodically casting his line into the water. Mark isn’t as calm and collected as his hiking partner. The trail has worn him down, rather than build him up. He wears a mask of lingering fatigue and doesn’t talk very much. “I’m pretty much over it,” Mark tells me. “Tired of not having a shower, sick of sleeping on the ground, I’m ready for it to be over.” It seems unfortunate for someone to be ungrateful for the time that they spend in these mountains. Experiencing this place is a privilege that most will never have. It also seems unfortunate that Mark and Allen never offer to feed my any of the trout that they catch.
I’m sitting in the shade next to South Rae Lake, trying to get Snarly in the mood to climb the last two miles and 1,400 feet of Glen Pass. Since this is the last place to get water before crossing the ridgeline, and the sun is beaming down on me like a flamethrower, I’m taking me sweet time to hydrate extensively. This place is crawling with overnight hikers, who came up a nearby side trail, and a few northbound PCT hikers that have fallen far behind the heard that’s probably in Oregon by now.
There’s peculiar young man playing with an empty juice bottle in the water next to me. He’s lanky, yet fit, and exceptionally tan. The peculiar man says he’s “trying to catch some of the small fish around here.” He is awkward, almost to the point of stuttering, and tells me that there’s supposed to be some bad weather coming into Whitney this weekend. His news is interesting, since my tentative summit date for Whitney is either Saturday or Sunday. “I started on the Mexican border, but probably won’t make it to Canada this year. My friend and I are just going to hang around here for a couple days.” He mentions that they just resupplied in Independence and packed too much food. I feel my eyebrows raise and try to contain my excitement. “That’s too bad,” I tell him. “I’m actually running out of food…” The peculiar man returns his attention to the empty juice bottle that he’s been holding beneath the water. “Well, at least your pack is light.”
The top of Glen Pass is a ten-foot-wide ridgeline that leaves me feeling as precarious as it does humbled.
Facing north, it’s difficult to accept that I just walked through the view that I see.
I’m impressed that Snarly is still with me, after such an intense climb. We share the crest of Glen Pass with two other men, a couple of wise guys that are waiting for another friend to finish scrambling up the south side of the craggy ridgeline. They’re funny, cracking jokes about their “lazy” buddy who is still laboring his way to the top. I show them a picture I took during the final minutes of my accent, a silhouette of their bodies on the ridgeline, and offer to email it to them when I get home.
One of the men writes down his email address in my journal and extends his gratitude with a bottle of whiskey. “Care for a shot?” he asks. It’s one of the most memorable shots of bourbon that I’ve ever had in my life, a burning sensation that fills my stomach with pure ecstasy. I’ll consider this John Muir’s compensation for my previous acquaintances of the day, the ones that wouldn’t feed me.