Then we reached the ghost forest of burned lodgepole pine trees, many of which had fallen on a windstorm over the winter. Looking up the trail we saw a tangled jumble of logs, downed trees, and branches. We climbed over downed trees, hiked around downed trees, and climbed into the pit left by the huge root system of a fallen tree. Progress was slow.
Food dominated my thoughts. I thought about how hungry I was, all the food I wanted to eat, and how limited our food rations are. We stopped for lunch at the confluence of Palisades Creek and the Middle Fork of the Kings River (8,020 ft), but as I started the long climb up LeConte Canyon, I still felt hungry.
We planned to stop in to visit the LeConte Canyon rangers, but were disappointed to see that the ranger station was closed, under construction. But then we noticed a smaller sign inviting PCT hikers back for trail magic. Trail magic? 12 miles from the nearest trailhead? We went to check it out.
There at the construction site was a full camp kitchen delivering amazing food: salad, quesadillas, fruit, Gatorade, and cookies. The construction crew, consisting of former PCT hikers Hot Pants, Reaper, and Dewey, spend their weekdays working on the new backcountry ranger cabin and their weekends serving up magic for hungry PCT hikers. As we left, Dewey slipped me several packages of Pasta Sides to supplement our dwindling rations. I hiked out feeling full for the first time in many days, and very grateful.
We continued climbing LeConte Canyon toward Muir Pass (11,955 ft), stopping at a high camp overlooking the canyon just after twilight.