The days keep getting more glorious. Better enjoy it, for there are only two more days!
I was off by 7:30am, and got to enjoy one of my coffee rations to help get me prepared for the big hike over Forester Pass. One notable item from the night was that I heard a cow bell at 1:30am on the trail near my tent! It freaked me out at first, but I figured there must be some sort of grazing in the area. I ended up seeing a bunch of mules being led down the trail and one had a similar bell, so it must of been them.
The 2,700′ incline over less than 4 miles up Forester Pass ended up not being that bad at all. The trail was very good, with some steep parts, but for the most part, consistent. Additionally, the views were tremendous, especially since 1,000′ of the hike was higher than any other part of the trail so far.
I was able to make it up to Forester Pass in only three hours, which I was thrilled. The top of the pass was really neat in that it was a narrow notch in the ridge as opposed to a longer saddle like most of the passes. Of course, the views were out of this world.
One of the key thoughts driving me on the way up was the ability to talk to Ann. We hadn’t talked since Day 6 (I did send an email on Day 8), and this was thought to be the best opportunity until Mt. Whitney. I was thrilled when I saw a few bars when I was on top, and even some 1X data. However, when trying to connect via every method (call, Face Time, text message, imessage), nothing worked. I even climbed higher above the pass to see if it would help, to no avail. After about 20 minutes of trying, a fellow hiker that had a two-way satellite device offered to send Ann and email, and all of a sudden a Face Time call from Ann came through! I looked down and I had 3G for some reason at that moment! We were able to Face Time for five minutes before being dropped, but it was great being able to connect and see each other!
After the call, I decided to hike down to the basin to the south of the pass for lunch. The view from the basin, of course, was awesome, and I was getting my first views of the very neat Kaweah Range. The views back up to the pass were also really neat given how narrow the pass is. Of course, the day was beautiful.
The hike down to the valley from the pass was not that bad, and it was weird that the low point after the pass was “only” 10,900′. Of course, this made almost the entire hike beautiful. My mind was full of my strategy for the last night of camping (tomorrow night), and I decided that given how well I handled Forester Pass, I would camp at Guitar Lake and make the 2,000′ hike up to Trail Crest before Mt. Whitney instead of trying to camp near Trail Crest.
The target for tonight was Bighorn Plateau. It was known to be barren, however the word of how awesome the 360 views were from the plateau were too much to pass up. I got there around 4pm and after dropping my pack, climbed up a small knob to my east and was treated to an amazing site.
I put together my camp in the middle of the plateau with no shelter and a very windy surrounding! I imagine it might be an interesting night, but I couldn’t pass up camping in such an interesting surrounding.
While I was putting my tent up, Noelle and Leo arrived and set up camp a couple hundred feet away. I ran into them a few times on the trail (Noelle actually picked up a trash bag I dropped a couple days earlier and I was able to get it back). They were newlyweds from Davis (near Sacramento), and were actually doing the JMT as their Honeymoon! They were a very neat couple, big into rock climbing, sleeping under the stars (with not tent), and doing yoga in camp. They camped near me the final night, and also offered filtered water from their Gravity Platypus which was greatly appreciated! While it was windy, we were treated to a phenomenal light show from this location, especially on Mt. Whitney, which was in full view from my tent. This provided a lot of motivation for the last couple of days on the trail and thinking about what it will be like on top of Whitney.