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No. 10- Onion Valley to Reds Meadows, 2014

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Onion Valley Trailhead: 36.771323, -118.340097
Reds Meadows: 37.613013, -119.074731
Vermillion Valley Resort: 37.252645, -119.174188

 

 

June 3rd- 9 miles, camping below Glen Pass

I’m camping with twelve other hikers tonight (a German couple called Princess and Mr. Sandals, Moxi, Glitter, Fence, Acron and Estero, and Lingo and Sugar Pine). It’s kind of overwhelming. There was so much discussion about how to fit everyone on the few campsites here. They’re all really nice and seem to have been hiking together since the early days. I’ve squeezed into a cozy spot between trees, but there isn’t enough space for my tent, so I am cow boy camping. I hope I’ll be warm enough with my REI bag and extra long johns. I’m wearing three pairs of socks and a neck gaiter, plus I’ve got my hot water bottle under my feet.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass

Cowboy camping below Glen Pass

Earlier today, I was still in town working on my blog and getting organized. At the hostel, I met the missing hiker from a few days ago, Paul Turner. We talked for about an hour because he was such an interesting man! He was out hiking because he’s doing a documentary on John Muir and is trying to follow his footsteps. Unfortunately, he had a really bad map and got lost. He ran out of food and water; it’s amazing he made it to safety!

Paul Turner, 78, missing hiker

Paul Turner, 78

While working at the cafe in Lone Pine, the creepy hiker that I had met before Horseshoe Meadow, the one that talked too much, came up to me. I hadn’t wanted to mention I had thought he was creepy because I didn’t want to be rude to him on my blog. However, I don’t care now. This man, an older hiker named Periwinkle, is a disabled veteran. He came up and sat down next to me as if he had a secret. He said to me, “You’re a dirty girl, howd you like to make some cash for a private massage?” I was horrified and enraged. In fact, the F-bomb went off like an explosive all over the walls of the cafe. Everyone turned and stared to see what was happening. The cafe owner’s wife asked what was going on and I told her what he said. She immediately told him to leave and not come back.

I was so shook up I had to go wash my face in the restroom. He did leave and I refocused on my work, but I couldn’t get over what just happened. I’ve never had anyone speak to me like that before in my life. It made me so glad I took self defense.

I made sure to tell people about his behavior so that other hikers could be aware of him. I even put a message in to the PCTA so they can also be aware of any kind of harassment on the trail. Talking with other trail folk, I learned that this year there seems to be more problems of harassment than in the past. It’s so heartbreaking to see a trail like this and the type of journey it should be spoiled by a few rotten eggs.

I quickly got a ride from a new friend in Lone Pine to the trailhead at Onion Valley. I was so excited to see Lorax and T-Fox just coming off the trail! We chatted for a while because I just didn’t feel like jumping on the trail yet. Their blog is called DanTerraPCT. I also met a hiker named Homework who’s got a blog, too: SoleToSoil

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Onion Valley Campground

Onion Valley with T-Fox and Lorax

The hike out of Onion Valley was beautiful. It seemed so much easier than the last time I had come down it. I made sure to leave a note in the snow for my favorite bear family at the top of the pass.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Trekkin' 3D

A message to my favorite bear family, Trekkin’ 3D

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Kersarge Pass

View from Kersarge Pass

 

June 4th- 14.5 miles, camping below Pinchot Pass

All day today I was completely captivated by my surroundings. The icy blue lakes and snow covered mountains, roaring rivers and babbling brooks, rich forests and views that only seemed to get better and better we’re all around me.

I awoke pleasantly surprised to not be freezing! I guess my REI bag and extra long johns are working! Cowboy camping is great when the conditions are right- it’s spectacularly beautiful and so easy.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass

Approaching Glen Pass

Glen Pass was only a mile away, but I was slow to reach it. At first I ran into French Toast and Alpine Start, who were just sticking their heads out of their tent. After catching up with them, I was mesmerized by the beautiful snow and frozen lakes along the ascent to Glen Pass.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass frozen dirt

Dirt-sicles

The view from the top was incredible. It seemed to reach miles and miles in all directions. The descent was by far the most challenging I’ve ever done. The amount of snow on the north slope and steepness of the mountain make Glen Pass one of the most dangerous. Luckily, I had the microspikes loaned to me from my new friend at the hostel in Lone Pine.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass Joker Cracker Keeper

Joker and Cracker Keeper, Glen Pass

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass

Glen Pass

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Glen Pass

Glen Pass

The switchbacks were completely buried in snow and we had to follow cuts made by previous, braver hikers Slipping on this slope could mean death, broken bones, or just a really fun glissade, but that’s not a chance most of us wanted to take. As we crept lower down the slope, glissading was safer and a few of us did it. I forgot to tie up my skirt into pants and got hard, icy snow burns all up to my cheeks. OUCH! I’m still feeling that one! It was good we did the past in the morning because the snow with harder and easier to walk on.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Woods Creek footbridge

Woods Creek

For the entire rest of the day, I dilly dallied, oogling the sites and smells of the land. I hiked alone for most of the day, but picked up speed toward the end so I could camp below Pinchot Pass with the hikers I’d met last night. It was a long uphill, though. I think I need to do a better job eating in the second half of the day. My energy wanes, but as soon as I eat a bar or fruit I can fly up these mountains.

Our campsite is near a small, nameless lake. After setting up my gear, I went down to collect water and wash up. Washing my ice burns hurt so much- I hope they go away soon!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Pinchot Pass

Camping below Pinchot Pass

 

June 5th- ~20 miles, camping near Palisades Creek

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Pinchot Pass

Approaching Pinchot Pass

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Pinchot Pass grouse

Pinchot Pass and an adolescent grouse

 

We’re calling this Double Pass Thursday. We conquered Pinchot first and then Mather. Pinchot Pass was beautiful, but uneventful- a relatively easy climb up and over with little snow trouble. We met a ranger on the north side who took our names for permit checking. It was then on to Mather Pass.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Pinchot Pass

(L->R) Glitter, Moxi, Princess, and Mr. Sandals on Pinchot Pass

 

I almost fell into the river during one of the crossings. It’s good I didn’t because I hadn’t put my electronics into a ziplock first. Bad, lazy hiker…

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park creek crossing

Creek crossing

I finally met Mr. Cup, the Japanese hiker with a giant pack and a flag coming out the top. He doesn’t speak any English, but he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite hikers.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Mr. Cup Japanese Hiker

Mr. Cup, the Japanese hiker

 

I wonder if he’s ever lonely here in an English-dominated wilderness adventure. Even hikers who come out seeking solitude converse other hikers to get information on trail conditions. Also, town stops and hitchhiking would be harder for him. He has a great of humor, though. In his limited English and with some sign language, he’s already cracked a lot of jokes.

Climbing Mather was breath taking. All these high passes are just so other- worldly with their barren landscapes, snow fields, icy blue lakes, towering peaks and the vast sky above.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Mather Pass

Mather Pass

The north side of Mather was extremely dodgy. There was so much snow and it was all soft by the time we reached it in the afternoon. We postholed all the way down and it was pretty scary in some places. Besides the possibility of glissading hundreds of feet into rocks, a posthole can twist your ankle or knee. I almost lost my shoe three times and Fence postholed up to his chest in one place. Since the trail was completely covered in snow, we all just followed various footprints left by previous hikers. Unfortunately, the previous hikers hadn’t gone the right way to follow the trail. We lead ourselves to a steep rocky cliff, which towered above the trail. Everyone took different paths scrambling down the cliff towards the trail below. It took us about three hours to go only a couple miles over Mather Pass.

 

I descended into Palisades Lakes. Waterfalls came out of the cliffs from every direction and it’s impossible to recapture the beauty. Several of our group, including Princess, Sandals, Glitter and Moxi are staying at the Palisades for the night. I headed down towards Palisade Creek with Fence, Lingo, Sugar Pine, Estero and Acorn to camp with a campfire below the 10,000 foot line. You can check out Sugar Pine and Lingo’s blog at SimplyWanderful.com. It was a long day, but I’m glad we made it lower for a fire!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Palisade creek

Hiker with Sugar Pine and Lingo

 

June 6th- ~12 miles, camping below Muir Pass

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra wildflowers

Wildflowers

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park

I’m calling this day “Happy Little Trees… and Waterfalls and Flowers.” With only twelve miles to hike to the base camp below Muir Pass, I took my time all day checking out the wildflowers and waterfalls. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls in my life! For most of the day, the trail took me through the forest and alongside both Palisade Creek and Kings River. I stopped by Grouse Meadow overcome by its beauty and decided to take an extra long break there.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Grouse Meadow

Grouse meadow

I stripped down and jump in the river- so cold but so refreshing! No one saw me prancing around naked in the meadow because the trail was behind too many trees. I took the time to dig up some wild onions snacked on them. Yum!

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra plant wild onion

Wild onion

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra plants wildflowers

Wildflowers and the JMT

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park rock faces

It’s the Emerald King! #ReturnToOz

 

The end of the hike was all uphill switchbacks, but the campsite is beautiful. A lot of people have trickled into camp here because it’s the last spot before the pass. A couple of hikers went up the pass to camp in the hut at 12,000 feet. I hope it’s comfortable! French Toast and Alpine Start have caught up. Yay! Everyone wanted to try my foam roller after they saw me using it. I have convinced a few people to get one for themselves. Later in the evening, as everyone was counting out their food until their next to resupply. Joker started a food swap. I traded three bars for two Mrs. Fields cookies. I already ate one. 270 calories in one cookie!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra plants wildflowers

Wildflowers

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass hiker trash

(L->R) Lingo, Alpine Start, French Toast, Estero, and Fence

 

June 7th- 20 miles, camping near Piute Creek

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass

Approaching Muir Pass

Muir Pass had two miles of snow before the pass and three miles after. With my burned legs, I absolutely wanted to avoid more postholing today. Unfortunately, the snow must’ve known I was coming and softened up early just for me. I was punching through snow and it was only 7am. For the most part, the snow was hard on the south side of the pass. I followed the tracks of a couple hikers who were 30 minutes ahead of me. That was a mistake. Their tracks lead me straight up the side of the mountian and as I looked back, I could see the trail on the other side of the canyon, clear of snow and easy. My stupid path was ten times more difficult than that trail.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass

Muir Pass

Eventually, at the top of the canyon, I was able to boulder across to the trail and continue up the pass. A lot of other hikers were there, including a couple of my favorites, like French Toast and Alpine. I didn’t stay too long at Muir Hut because I was worried about the snow warming up on the north side.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass Lake Wanda

Lake Wanda

I think it must’ve been a really warm day because that snow softened up quickly. Everyone postholed and slushed down the pass, sometimes we punched through straight into a stream. I hiked most of the way down with Mr. Cup. We had a good time teasing each other every time we postholed. He would yell at me, “Hai! Cohn-sen-TRATE!” He makes me laugh so much.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass trail food hummus lunch

A hummus wrap lunch below Muir Pass

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Muir Pass

I pushed hard for the rest of the day so I could put in 20 miles. Everything was downhill, but my body hurt SO much. My hips hurt on one side from my pack. My shoulders hurt because my pack straps were sitting on them too much, as I was trying to lighten the pressure on my hips. My ankle hurts from so much uneven trail.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra plants wildflowers

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park South Fork San Joaquin River footbridge

So tired…

Alas, I made it to Piute Creek. Setting up camp and washing up was so nice tonight. This is the first night in a while when I wasn’t camping with other people. I found a perfect bathing spot on the side of the roaring creek where the water pooled gently between rocks. It also had a perfectly positioned tree root jutting out over the water which I could put my feet up on. I used my spare toothbrush to scrub my body and nails clean. It was COLD, but so refreshing. I had to climb out when my toes and fingers started turning blue.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Piute Creek

Bathtime at Piute Creek

Things went downhill after bathtime: ants crawling all over my stuff, my MSR dromlite bag got a tiny tear and leaked inside my tent, my repair goo was dried and clogged, and I tripped over my tent and knocked the whole thing down. I tried to make hot coco with my chocolate whey protein powder, but it was so gross I had to dump it out. It’s just been such a long and tiresome day. I’m excited to reach Vermillion Valley Ranch soon!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Piute Creek Camp

Camp at Piute Creek

 

June 8th- 26.8 miles, camping at Vermillion Valley Ranch 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park sierra plants wildflowers mushroomsI started hiking at 5:30 am, determined to reach Vermillion Valley Ranch (VVR) that evening. As I past Muir Ranch and began the climb up to Seldon Pass, my knees started to hurt more than ever before on this trip. They must’ve know where they were and remembered how they felt the last time they were here. (When I came down Seldon in 2011 during my JMT hike, I had torn cartilage in both knees.) I gave my knees a pep talk and we made it through the switchbacks. It’s amazing how the mind can trigger pain and remove it, aside from whatever is actually going on with the body.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National ParkI didn’t see another hiker until several hours later when I came upon Mr. Cup sitting peacefully next to a creek crossing. I love seeing him. He has such a great energy. I learned that he’s 62 years old, has two daughters and three granddaughters.

I arrived at Seldon Pass completely alone. It was a great feeling. I’d grown accustomed to hiking around other people and forgotten how much I actually like hiking alone. Arriving at the Pass gave me that feeling of solitude and peace that I had so often during my off-season hikes.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Seldon Pass Marie Lake Mr. Cup Japanese hiker

Seldon Pass with Mr. Cup

Mr. Cup arrived at the pass about fifteen minutes later. I congratulated him in our silly way and tried to chat with him, but he sh-ed me and said only, “Zen” as he gestured to the view before us. I understood perfectly what he meant and sat in silence enjoying the space around us. Before I left him, he joked about me bringing him a coke when he arrived at VVR the next day.

The hike to VVR was equally quiet, but the switchbacks all day up and down and up and down again wore me out. I was in a lot of pain as I hit the 18-mile mark- my ankle and shoulders hurt, my hips and knees ached- but the call of a hot shower was motivation enough. I put in my earbuds and pushed the pain to the back of my mind. Hiking like this, with your eyes glued to the dirt path before you, puts you into a kind of trance.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Bear Creek

Bear Creek

Since the water level in Edison Lake is so low, the evening ferry wasn’t running. I had to hike 8.2 miles around the lake to reach the Ranch. The alternate trail was steeper and buggy-er, even swampy in some places, than I expected. I switched out of my sneakers and into my sandals for the last 2 miles.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Bear Ridge Trail

A very wet Bear Ridge Trail

Vermillion offers hikers showers, laundry, free camping, a computer, a store, and a diner. While sitting in the diner that evening, a familiar face came up to surprise me. It was Beav, who I met on my Campo to Paradise Cafe hike in December. It was a great surprise! We got caught up and he told me that he had to get off the trail because he hurt his knee going over Muir Pass. We decided to hike together until he got off the trail for Mammoth.

I soaked my laundry in a bucket all night so it’d actually come out on the washer clean this time. After sitting around the fire with a few other hikers, I cowboy camped under the trees for the night.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Vermillion Valley Resort

Vermillion Valley Resort

 

June 9th- 13 miles, camping near Fish Creek

VVR gave me one of the best nights sleep I’ve had yet on this trip. I woke up at 5:45 to get my laundry done before everyone else got up, but the power isn’t turned on until 7am. I killed time by sorting out the contents of my resupply box. A few things got tossed into the hiker box. (A hiker box is a large box or can for hikers to toss unwanted, but still usable items, such as gear and food, for other hikers to use.) I threw in my extra Nido milk powder, some nuts and fruit. Pulling out all my goodies, I found a few with doodles from Art. That made my morning!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park oatmeal resupply

Doodles on my oatmeal resupply

There was a big sign outside the store saying, “Dishwasher wanted in exchange for a meal!” Sold! I enjoyed a double breakfast of pancakes and a breakfast burrito before stepping back into the kitchen to wash all the dishes from the morning. It was fun and totally worth it!

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Vermillion Valley Resort

Doing dishes at VVR

While I was still washing dishes, Beav came in to let me know that Mr. Cup had arrived. I quickly grabbed a cold Coke and ran out to meet him, bowing as I presented it. He loved it. I don’t think I’ve seen him smile that big before!

By that time my laundry was in the dryer. When I went to pull it out, I found that instead of just tossing my clean laundry on the table, the next hiker, an older man named Grey Wolf, had neatly folded all of my clothes. I was delighted! I love how so many hikers out here really look out for each and do the sweetest things for one another. You can read Grey Wolf’s blog at MyHikingLife.

After taking care of emails and buying a few items (like tortillas for my new favorite PB & jelly snack), Beav and i took a noon ferry across Lake Edison to rejoin the PCT.

 

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Minaret Falls

Minaret Falls

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Silver Pass

 

We hiked for what seemed like forever up and over Silver Pass that afternoon. Either VVR had made us soft or that mountain was really kicking our butts. We hiked until after dark, but the moon was brilliant and bright, perfect for night hiking.

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Silver Pass

Silver Pass

PCT Section H Kings Canyon National Park Silver Pass

Silver Pass

We found an awesome campsite right next to the creek and Beav made a fire to keep away the mosquitoes. I’m getting kind of used to this fire-at-camp thing. Beav made ramen with spam for dinner, which sounded totally gross to me. Of course, I had to taste it and it was DELICIOUS! It was so good, I finished his dinner and then didn’t want any more of my own. I’m definitely going to be making some of that for myself in the future. Spam and ramen, who knew?!

 

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness

 

June 10th- 18 miles, staying at Reds Meadows

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness I awoke to a fire in the firepit this morning.   It made me want to stay in bed and just be cozy!   Beav was packed up and ready really fast because he’s excited to get into Mammoth.  I felt silly trying to pack up so he wasn’t waiting too long.   I have a habit of completely unpacking EVERYTHING at night and that means it takes me a while to pack up in the morning.   I think it must be a girl thing because I’ve heard other guy hikers complaining about their lady companions doing just that!

We had a two-mile climb to warm us up this morning.  For most of the day after that we had alternating small ups and long downs.  Every time we had the ups, however,  we didn’t hesitate to complain very loudly!

 

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness Lake Virginia

Lake Virginia

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness 900 miles

900 miles!

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness Deer Creek

Deer Creek

I said goodbye to Beav at the Mammoth turn off and I headed on to Reds Meadows.   There are some very dark clouds and thunder, so I think I’ll stay here for the night!  I was so excited to see the store and diner were still open. I helped myself to a salad,  burger, and milkshake.   I’m able to use the Wi Fi here and some JMT hikers have invited me and another PCT hiker, Steve, to share their cabin for the night.  Yay!

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness Reds Meadows Resort

Reds Meadows Resort

 

PCT Section H Sierra National Forest John Muir Wilderness Reds Meadows Resort

Mooching off JMT hikers with fellow PCT hiker Steve

 

Links

Installment No. 11- Reds Meadows to Northern Kennedy Meadows

T-fox & Lorax’s Blog

Homework’s Blog

Vermillion Valley Resort

Reds Meadows Resort & Pack Station

5 Thoughts on “Lone Pine to Reds Meadows, June 2014

  1. Jerry on June 11, 2014 at 6:55 pm said:

    Katie…

    You’re wearing me out!!!

    Jerr

  2. You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your incredible journey and making it so personal and fun. It made me feel as if I were your companion on this adventure by reading your words, seeing your pictures and hearing your voice describe such wonderful moments. I’ve just finished reading your most current “Lone Pine to Red Meadows” blog and now can”t wait to read the others. I will also thank my sister for letting me know about your website! Happy trails and mahalo for the inspiration.

  3. Sam Mendenhall on June 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm said:

    Hi Katekins!
    The photo you took of Kearsage Pass was really beautiful!
    I’m glad that Turner turned up, I had wondered if you would hear.
    I’m also glad you have sunglasses for the snow, gotta protect your eyes!
    Oh Babe! Your poor legs, how awful. Gee, I can’t remember ever getting such snow burns when I hiked in the 1/2 snow 1/2 rock areas above the timberline in the spring. I guess I was lucky and super cautious of the pot-holing problems.
    Hugs and more hugs, you mommy!

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