Miles 801.2 – 815.0
July 1st, 2017
We crossed the White Fork at 6:30am when the water level and our chances of being swept away were minimized. As much as you don’t want to end the day by crossing a river you also hate to start the day crossing one too, although trudging through freezing cold water is definitely one way of waking yourself up! From mile 801 we had an extremely tough trek through six miles of suncupped snow to the top of the Pass, not easy hiking. If you slip on the suncups you’ll slide into small holes which makes for a real easy way to twist an ankle, so you really have to stay 100% focused at all times. The climb up Pinchot Pass itself wasn’t too difficult, it was just the constant slipping and sliding as we were climbing that made it a rough day. Just to put it into perspective it took us four hours to go only six miles.
We were nearing the end of our day when we arrived to the South Fork Kings River at mile 813.7. For a while now we had been passing southbound John Muir Trail hikers and more than half of them had been warning us of this particular river crossing. We had gotten a few conflicting bits of advice, but the majority of these hikers all said to avoid the South Fork crossing at all cost. The trick was that instead of crossing the river, stay to the right of it and hike a few miles north alongside it where the trail eventually would cross back over again. This seemed like the ONLY possible way to continue, because as we walked up to where the trail crossed over we immediately realized that you would not stand a chance at all if entered. It was scary, like . . seriously terrifying! The rapids where the trail crossed were as high as five feet at some points, and the water seemed to move fast enough to sweep a small vehicle downstream. It kills me to think that only about a week before a young woman from Japan was swept away at this very spot, and as we were passing by she was still only “Missing.” We had no idea, the only thing we knew was that we had to find another way.
We stayed to the right, followed the river a few miles north where we found a flat spot on a large rock just as the sun was setting. We started a fire and did a little research for the following day as we boiled water for dinner. It was another rough day in the Sierra. We were all exhausted, but still very excited and felt lucky to be able to savor the solitude that the Sierra has to offer.
I later read that Rika “Strawberry” Morita, a 32-year-old PCT hiker from Osaka, Japan was found fully submerged downstream from the South Fork Kings River. She had been missing for multiple weeks and was found on July 23rd by other Pacific Crest Trail hikers passing through. My thoughts and prayers go out to her, her family, and anybody that was ever lucky enough to have met her. RIP.