Pacific Crest: Mile 817

The Palisades rise across the valley. They are steep rocky peaks jutting skyward from a smooth granite slope. Below them, tossed like a pair of sapphires, sit their namesake lakes, glowing a hundred shades of blue.

Across from them and forever their companions, a bony spine of rock cuts into the sky. It frames the valley’s west side, waiting for the setting sun to light them on fire.

But that’s only what’s to come, the North. Spinning around, I can almost see Pinchot Pass hidden away to the south. In my mind, I trace my path through the valleys until I see the faint line of the trail snaking towards me in the Upper Basin, a giant amphitheater filled with jewel-like lakes and ringed with jagged peaks.

No peak is more stunning than Split Mountain. A fin of dark red and black rock racing skyward, laced with fine white lines that remind you of lightning cutting through a stormy sky.

I sit between it all, cradled in the mountains of Mather Pass.

Forester, Glen, Pinchot, and now Mather. Each pass is beautiful. Each is a gateway to the next wonderland, a portal to another world.

That’s what it feels like to peer over a pass, like you’ve found a window to a different land. You stop and stare, both forward and back, where you came from and where you’re going. It is the future meeting the past for a brief, beautiful instant.

Just like it always is, I suppose, but here you can see it.

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