I spent a long, cold night in pain. The morning was lovely, however. It's hard to explain how just a couple of hours of sleep in a freezing tent can make it possible to just up and hike nearly 20 miles straight uphill. My explanation on the PCT was stubbornness. There's no better explanation that I can offer.
Anticipating a day of climbing, I checked my morning zooming pace and settled into an uphill grind at about 3mph. A diversity of pine and spruce trees began to appear, and new understory as well. Ferns and robust grasses appeared around ancient, huge stands of aspen. The wind was gone and there were trees. I've never walked so easily and quickly uphill in my memory. Such a contrast to the ranch enthralled me, and I didn't notice the elevation or mileage until I began to run into daywalkers and mountain bikers. Steep mountain trails are not a good place to put backpackers and mountain bikers together. One nearly wiped out coming around a blind corner, not expecting to see a hiker.
Heading into an area clearly popular with recreationalists of all types, I ran into a couple coming down as I continued up towards Snowbowl. The woman stopped and asked if I was thru-hiking, and we had a short conversation as mountain bikers grumbled around us. She offered me a place to stay in Flagstaff and told me about a friend of hers who will be giving a talk about her thru-hike on the trail tomorrow night. Like most hiker interactions, a huge amount of information was exchanged in probably 5 minutes, and before I knew it, I was headed back up the trail with a little paper full of information on Deb. This could be an excellent way to easily meet up with T and take a little time to heal my now very swollen knee.
When I reached the end of my 2500' climb, it was nearly 4pm. I really didn't want to camp so high up, given the recent temperatures at night, so I continued on, hoping the trail would begin to dip lower. It didn't. I am camped at 8750' near a beautiful little water tank called Alfa Fia (which was Alfa Romero in my head all day, by the way). It will be cold, but it is really a treat to camp up on Humphreys. The woods are dense and feel less managed than the forest I've seen so far, with its prescribed burns and constant cutting.