The Red Badge of Courage & Brown Bear Etiquette
JULY 2 – 17 miles Bench Lk to Rae Lakes
Some days are for taking in all the splendor nature provides and appreciating every sacred moment…and some days you make a cold brew, turn on a hardcore EDM hype playlist and get your ass over the pass. Today was one of those days.
We’d lost some miles due to storms and we learned that Whitney Portal was reopened with the fire 100% contained, so we made up for time today. 17 miles over Pinchot Pass and then 2k feet of climb to Rae Lakes, which is magnificent.
Having a trail fam is really growing on me, it’s a lot of fun to get to know this crew. Tonight we had a dip and laughed a ton over dinner. The conversation turns to plotting these last 3 days, when to get out, how to hitch into Lone Pine if we get out early, the first thing people want to eat back in town. The quest continues.
JULY 3 – 11 miles Rae Lakes to before Forrester Pass
The horse can officially smell the barn. We’re all mapping the last 2 days in our heads, calculating the food left, the energy remaining, and the pure joy of just turning on a tap to get water. There’s also an unofficial mental whiteboard of chip sandwich ideas. We’re not the only hungry ones out here. Tonight, as we sat eating dinner, our neighbors were yelling at a brown bear who seemed completely underwhelmed by their shouting and waving. We all walked over and made noise (except for Mike, who had the foresight not to leave our open bear locker and remaining dinners open at the flank), throwing stones around it in an attempt to scare it away. It just kind of looked confused (and also adorable, but let nature be nature). It looked young, so again, we had the thought that yikes maybe Mom’s around.
Since it just went up 100 yards and laid down to wait for us to fall asleep, Joe picked up a trekking pole and walked towards it shouting to move it along. Needless to say, we all did a sweep of our packs to put every possible thing that could tantalize a bear into the locker. Awhile back at the suspension bridge, a bear walked off with a guy’s pack entirely, so we wanted to take precautions…
JULY 4 – 18 miles Forrester to Crabtree Meadow
…so later that night when Teddy Ruxpin came back and my period decided, “Today’s the DAY, KATE!” I woke up to headlamps flashing through my tent and I hear the guy who’d posted up 50 yards from my tent saying, “Hey bear….hey bear….” but kind of in a nonchalant I’m-chasing-away-this-bear-but-trying-to-be-real-polite-about-it kinda way. I snapped awake and I’m laying in my sleeping bag fully menstruating in a stream of consciousness of rapid-fire thoughts:
- Do I get out and help this guy because more humans can generally shoo bears away?
- Can this bear smell me? Good Lord, *I* can smell me.
- Well, I’m not wearing any pants, so that’s going to be awkward for this guy.
- Of course I just started my period the NIGHT this bear has the munchies.
- Jacob’s camped behind me…can I outrun Jacob?
Ultimately, I decided to let chivalry win the day and let the guys handle it. Happy 4th of July everybody!!
I peaced out so fast the next morning. On Forrester Pass, Mike and I struck up a conversation with a physician who did human rights work with victims of torture (!!!) in his retirement. He and his hiking buddy, Nikki, must have seen the desperation on our faces about our dwindling snack supply and they helped us out with some extra food. We soaked up the calorie bliss while we sat in the sunshine amongst the sky pilot, a wildflower that grows at high altitudes right out of the talus.
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