After crossing the main Arrastra Creek on some convenient logs, I looked up the valley to the pass high above me. No way, that doesn't look passable. It took me a few minutes to realise we don't come down that valley but wind around to the next one. The hard-packed jeep road climbed steeply for a couple of miles until I reached the lower mine site then wound back around to the higher mine site above that. The adjacent lake was usually still frozen at this time of year but it was already thawed and presented as the most brilliant azure pool.
I climbed above it onto single track, now well above tree-line and the view to the pass clear ahead of me. There were patches of snow but only one narrow bank to cross. Finally I was scrambling across the final steep scree slope that leads to the trail onto the pass. Wow, what a view. The sky was vivid blue punctuated only by the thin white streak of icy jetstream as a plane cut through the upper atmosphere. Craggy snow-capped peaks in every direction to the horizon. 13,000ft and the air was crisp. The breeze coming up from Cunningham Gulch on the other side was almost warm. I sat in the sun and ate a snickers bar and soaked in the endless views. Totally content.
Enough rest and I was plummeting back down the trail, sliding down the scree slope, flitting over rocks, slipping on the loose gravel. Hitting the jeep road and I settled into a rhythm that found me back at the river crossing in no time. Back into the forest and my preferred single track and I was in trail nirvana.
5.5 hours for 16 miles.