June 23, 2015
PCT Mile 1094.5
I hung around Mammoth for days, eating, enjoying the company of friends Jim, his Aunt Vel, Joan, assorted hiker trash, my sister, Annie, and eating. Annie flew south to hike with me for 3 days to Tuolumne Meadows, a beautiful stretch of the trail. We took the JMT alternative so as not to miss any of the alpine lakes. It was a very happy few days hiking with Dawg Breath (of course I gave her that trail name, can you see a sibling dynamic here? I’m still giggling, what a good sport she is, she let me have my fun introducing her, which made me laugh every time. Catwater and Dawg Breath.) and I think she looks forward to upgrading her gear and doing more backpacking. Success!
After a wonderful dinner and breakfast with 4 great women at Tuolumne Meadows, I headed back on the trail by myself. The trail goes to Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, where I’ve done some volunteer work, (oh how memory can pierce your heart!), after which was all new country. It was a perfect sunny day and the trail wasn’t difficult, but for the first time I felt a little sad and lonely. I missed my sister, and friends Noreen, Joan and Vicky–I felt so warm and cared for in their company. I missed too the JMT, 200 miles I’ve hiked now 4 times in 3 years.
At the end of the day I walked a log across a deep stream and camped up a side trail within eye shot of several other camps. The next morning I went a few miles before checking my GPS app to see where I was. Whoops. Back the way I came, I hiked 7 miles not on the PCT. Feeling annoyed with my sleepwalking, as I got back to the junction, I saw 2 men on rocks next to the stream with what looked like a hiker garage sale spread out in the sun around them. Howdy Doody, clad in navy blue underwear and a gold Star of David, stood next to tall fully dressed Lucas, and told me he slipped off that log crossing and got swept head first down a waterfall, then trapped under a log as he tried to unlatch his pack straps. Lucas, crossing upstream, saw this happen and hustled downriver to pull him out. “He saved my life!” Howdy kept saying, “I would have died.” They retrieved most of his gear and had been drying it out as I merely walked a couple of hours in the wrong direction. It’s all relative. Later on the trail, Lucas caught up with me and I told him, “Lifeguard, your trail name should be Lifeguard.” He smiled and said he liked it. I think it will stick.
I found a perfect campsite, then another the following night in the rocks on a ledge out of bugs with a vast view. The next day was more steep trail until finally, on the fourth day out of Tuolumne, the grade was flatter and I could get back to 20+ mile days. If you can’t keep to your schedule you’re going to run short on food, and that sucks. Food is fuel, food is energy. Sonora Pass is beautiful but I hated the 12 mile climb in the freaking wind. I picked up resupply from Keri at Sonora Pass Resupply (another great business supporting hikers!) and kept going.
The country changes dramatically, with wildflowers and talus mountains like I’ve never seen before. Climbing to Ebbett’s Pass and Hwy 4 was some of the most beautiful territory I’ve seen the whole hike. Across the highway, it all changed again, utterly amazing rock formations. My phone camera can’t do them justice, I just had to stop and look and wonder. I love this trail.
Solstice, June 21, is also Hike Naked Day. Nope, not happening. I’m pleased to note that none of my hiking comrades were inclined to donate their skin for a mosquito feast either. It was a super windy day anyway, we saw a forest fire near Ebbetts Pass blow up and we nearly got blown off several exposed pseudo passes by wind and gusts so strong I leaned into them like a sailboat on tack. Coming down into slighter lower and protected latitudes, the kind volunteers at Carson Pass Visitor Center treated us PCT thru-hikers to watermelon, pineapple, grapes, brownies and Cokes, a great boost for the last 6 or so miles to camp.
What a life hiking the PCT. Dirty, tired, bug bit, exhilarated. Stinky, grimy, wind blown, astonished. Hungry, achy, angry, happy. It’s all relative.