The day after Mt. Whitney, we woke up on our LEGO brick grass clumps and headed in the direction of Forester Pass. Sitting around 13,200 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point along the Pacific Crest Trail. We’d heard a number a tales about the terrible trek up, but were pleasantly surprised to find it much easier than anticipated.
Descending Forester was beautiful and awful and filled with ladybug death. The trail provided excellent views of Windex-colored pools, but unfortunately at the cost of my wee knees. Nothing like descending five miles of switchbacks on a trail of ankle-breaking rocks. While stopping at one of the Windex-y pools for a drink, we watched hordes of ladybugs floundering in its water, which I found distressing.
Onward we went.
It’d been around five or six days since leaving Kennedy Meadows and our plan was to hike up and over Kersarge Pass in order to hitch into the town of Independence to pick up more food. Food is kind of a big deal on the PCT.
A number of PCT resources push the importance of keeping food separate when hiking as a couple. Not only did Dustin and I completely ignore this, we took it a step farther by literally splitting everything in half. ClifBars in half. Drink powder in half. Trail mix in half. (Honestly, though, I did not feel a pressing need to split the prepackaged Knorr’s Asian Barbeque Rice Sides in half. Those could be 100% Dustin’s.)
Our combined-food plan worked well until Hiker Hunger hit.
Seasoned hikers we met along the trail spoke frequently of Hiker Hunger when your stomach reaches this place of never being full, when everything tastes amazing, when you can just eat and eat and eat. The downside, of course, is that you’re constantly hungry. And the super downside of Hiker Hunger is that, for me, it turned out to usually be along the lines of Hiker Hanger, which is Hunger + Anger.
Hiker Hunger/Hanger takes a while to develop and when it finally hit me, Dustin and I were trudging up Kersarge Pass. I have to admit: Part of me was thrilled to reach such a hiking milestone and finally join this elite club of true hikers.
Mostly, though, I was just really hungry and sort of angry. Dustin, having not quite reached the Hiker Hunger stage, had no idea how to react.
Me: Oh man I’m hungry! How about a snack?
Dustin: Well, let’s hang on and go just a little bit farther. How does that sound?
Me: (pause) How much farther?
Dustin: Oh, let’s hike for another hour and then stop.
Me: (long pause) Is that so?
30 sections later
Me: (abruptly stops) OK that plan’s definitely not going to work.
Dear Readers, Hiker Hunger does not hang on and go just a little bit farther. It is a dire state that requires immediate attention.
I was eventually permitted a wee bit of food and it was there hiking up toward Kersarge Pass that trail mix came between us when Dustin gently hinted that perhaps I was eating more than my half of the trail mix. I handled the situation with as much grace as I could muster, which, admittedly, was not much.
(I might have said the following sentence: “I hope when Hiker Hunger hits you, it kicks you down hard.”)
Not one of my finer moments.
Perhaps it was my spectacular attitude, but we came to a right quick stop for dinner and what a difference did that make! No longer was I weakly dragging myself up the trail using my trekking poles for support and drinking nothing but my own tears. No, now I ran, no flew, up the trail, trekking poles at my side, wind in my hair.
“Thank you Knorr’s Alfredo Broccoli Pasta Side!” I cried jubilantly to the sunset. “Thank you Crunchy Peanut Butter ClifBar! Thank you Gatorade Orange Drink Powder! ”
Through My Headphones
*Drive -Oh Wonder