Believe it or not, I was really good about writing my blog on my phone every night this week. When I got to Northern Kennedy Meadows, however, and tried to upload the page using their Wi Fi, everything disappeared. This is what I can remember:
June 11- 11 miles, camping above Shadow Lake on the JMT
Being clean is such a great feeling, unfortunately, my little baby toenail fell off while I was scrubbing in the shower last night. I couldn’t believe it! It’s not like my shoes are too tight or I’m hiking unreasonably long miles. WHY?!? I remembered another girl hiker complaining about her toenails falling off and her solution was to just paint all the toe stubs so they looked like they had nails. Hm… it’s an idea!
I hung around Reds Meadows all morning updating the blog, checking emails, and making phone calls. Even though my bag had been packed and ready to go since 7am, it wasn’t until 2:45 that I actually headed out on the trail. I decided to take the Devils Postpile and JMT detours instead of the official PCT. When we hiked the JMT in 2011, there had been too many blown down trees along a particular stretch and we’d taken a detour along the PCT instead. Now I’m hiking that stretch of the JMT I missed in 2011, just to see something new. I’m glad I did; it’s been so scenic with all the lakes. This stretch of the JMT has more mosquitos and elevation changes, but has more lakes and is considered to be more scenic. It did not disappoint! Indeed, the mosquitos were awful and the ups and downs were very up and very down, but the lakes were beautiful.
June 12- 25 miles, camping at Tuolomne Meadows Campground
Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park has a small store, post office, and grill. I was determined to make it to the grill today and put in 25 miles to make it happen. Unfortunately, the grill doesn’t stay open until 7:00pm until later in the summer, and they closed at 5:00. I missed the burgers! I hobbled into the Backpacker/Walk-in Campground and began pulling everything out of my pack and spreading it out across a picnic table. I spied another PCT backpacker, Steve, that I’ve met several times on the trail and even shared a cabin with in Reds Meadows. He was sharing a table with two other PCT hikers, Liverpool, from Scotland, and Wilhelm, from Amsterdam. They shared their beer, veggies and dip, and cheese with me- it was regular party!
The 25 mile hike today has really beaten up my feet. It’s not that it was so many miles, but more because so much of the trail in this area is rocky. Dirt has a soft give when your feet hit it and you don’t have to pick your way around uneven rocks. I ♡ dirt.
Donahue Pass had very little snow in comparison to the other high passes. It looked so different from the the last time I passed through, with its colorful July wildflowers. I saw no other PCT hikers the entire day, which was pretty nice. I think I must be between hiker packs right now. So many hikers got off at Mammoth for resupplies and rest.
I was really dragging by the time I reached Lyell Canyon and it’s nine mile long meadow. It was beautiful, but also numbing in a way because my feet were so tired. I pepped up, though, when I saw a golden yellow fuzz ball bounce through the creek, across the meadow and pass before me on the trail. I could swear it was Pooh Bear himself, he was so yellow and cute!
June 13- 15 miles, camping near mile 958
All the hikers were up early and waiting in line at the grill to order the 1060-calorie buckwheat pancakes. I enjoyed mine with Mulberry, an older hiker from LA that I’d leapfrogged with several times through Section H. Most hikers were also waiting for the post office to open so they could collect their resupply boxes. The post master was thirty minutes late and then gave all the hikers a bad time for spreading our stuff out on the picnic tables. He told us those tables were for the grill (even though we’d just purchased food from the grill) and that we needed to move all our stuff to the picnic tables on the other side of the parking lot. We grumbled and moved; he even helped move some of the gear, but he got extra touchy when I told him he should just put up a sign about where to spread out gear. “We had 50 signs-up last year and no one read them, so we took them all down. Get over it already!” Eeeesh… He became a running joke for the next three days among the hikers.
I hiked most of the day with Liverpool, Steve, and Mulberry along the Tuolumne River and deeper into the changing land of Seciton I. I was amazed at how different the rocks and shapes of the mountains were in such a short distance.
My feet were still so bruised from the 25 miles over the rocky trail I hiked yesterday, I didn’t hike as far as I’d planned. I stopped at a lovely campsite next to a creek after only 15 miles. It was nice setting up with plenty of sunshine still in the sky and I mucked about in the creek washing my legs and feet.
Just as I was about to dig into my beef stroganoff dinner, Wilhelm, whom we were all sure had been in front of us, came hurrying around the trail. Turns out he had accidentally taken a wrong trail for 2.5 miles and then had to backtrack to the PCT. He was in pretty good spirits considering. He built a small fire to cook his food because he didn’t have a stove, and we talked into the evening about everything from not getting enough food on the trail to politics in Europe and existential books. It ended up being a freezing cold night and we were both cursing out loud every time we woke up from the cold!
June 14- 20 miles, camping near mile 978
I woke up this morning to find my sneakers, socks, and gaiters frozen solid. There was no way I was even going to try putting them on, so I hiked for half the day in my Tevas and night socks. Every time I had a stream crossing, rather than slosh right through, I had to stop, take off my socks, cross, and then put my socks back on.
The trial took us up and down thousands of feet over and over today. It was also exceptionally rocky… my favorite. Every time we went through a canyon, mosquitos would swarm, so there was no stopping! Despite the bugs and difficult trail, the new colors and shapes of the rocks and mountains excited my imagination. The dome-like mountains, rock pathways, and perfectly square canyon walls made me think of a crumbling, lost city overtaken by nature. I could easily see palaces and temples in the mountains, balconies and sidewalks, manicured gardens and ponds, even canals and streets. It was great entertainment and took my mind off my feet.
After talking with Liverpool, I’m pretty sure the animal that startled me was a bear. Deer just silently bounce away and don’t actually hide in the bushes. You’ll always see them dashing away, not crouching behind bushes. Bear encounter number two, YAY!
Liverpool built a fire for us that night and we chatted about life back home. He’s such good company. I think we’re both disappointed by not putting more miles in today, even if the trail was hard!
June 15- 22 miles, camping near the 1000 Mile Mark
With the trail having a much gentler grade and soft pack of dirt today, I was able to put in a good amount of miles. I pushed all the way to the 1000 Mile Mark (on Halfmile’s PCT map), just because it feels good to reach some kind of landmark. There’s an excellent campground here, with a fire pit and log benches. I sat around, after setting up my tent, hoping someone else might show up. I was determined to have some kind of celebration tonight because not only was it an important milestone, but because the fire pit is giant! Since no one came for over an hour, I decided to make a fire just for myself. It was my first fire ever, and I was very proud of myself! After staring a the fire for about twenty minutes, I heard a “Halloooo!” from across the stream. Two minutes later, Liverpool came staggering in, his blisters aching, I’m sure. He said he’d been determined to reach the 1000 Mile Mark as well, and I think he was as equally excited as I was to have a celebration fire.
The hike earlier today took me up and over a small pass and then though a very long and gradual uphill climb. Wilma Lake was enchanting and I passed Liverpool taping his blisters and enjoying the mosquito free air. He said that every time he had to cross water, he had to re-tape his blisters. For the rest of that day, every time I forded a stream, I thought of him!
After practically running through mosquito infested miles of meadows, the trail brought me to Dorothy Lake and it’s pass. There was a wooden sign at the pass marking the boundary between Yosemite Wilderness and the Hoover Wilderness in Toiyabi National Forest. It couldn’t have been better place. Looking behind, I could see the snow-covered, grey rocky mountains of Yosemite and in front, were ruddy brown and barren volcanic mountains. It felt like the perfect place to say, “Goodbye” to Yosemite.
June 16- 19.5 miles, staying at Northern Kennedy Meadows
Today was the best day ever. I woke up in a good mood and stayed there all day long. Maybe it was the change in scenery, maybe it was more nice, soft dirt trail rather than rocks, maybe it was the awesome wind that tried to blow me off the mountain, or maybe it was because I was getting into civilization this evening. Even after sleeping in a bit, I was still packed up and heading out before Liverpool.
All I had to do today was hike up and over a mountain pass, then hitch into Norther Kennedy Meadows. Even though I’ve loved the quintessential Sierra scenery, I’ve been itching to see something new. The ruddy brown mountains I’d seen in the distance yesterday became my wilderness overnight. As the land became drier and browner, the trail began winding higher and higher into the mountains north of Kennedy Canyon. Immediately, I could feel the force of the wind along these mountains; it rivaled the wind of Section F near Tehachapi. I was glad the trail was nearly as wide as a dirt road because I was knocked to my feet twice by the wind! A couple of times, as the wind kicked up fiercely, I would just drop myself to the ground to prevent from being knocked over. I felt like Lieutenant Dan atop the fishing boat in Forest Gump, screaming at the storm to “Bring your worst! I can take it!” All the way over the mountain ridge, with the wind screaming and the dark clouds catching on the top of the mountain, I had the time of my life. I think I may actually prefer the “bad” weather on top of these high mountain passes, as long as I have my warm gear! The view from this temperamental mountain ridge was absolutely spectacular. I could see the snowy High Sierras far to the south and the barren, brown mountains to the west. Liverpool took a shortcut on the side of the mountain, avoiding the switchbacks that I’d taken, and caught up with me about half way across the ridge.
Every time we thought we were done with the snow, there’d be another snow field just around the corner. Even though we were crossing the pass in the afternoon, the cold wind kept the snow pretty cold and firm. Since Liverpool’s always got a great sense of humor, we had a good laugh all the way down to Highway 108. Almost the moment we landed on the road, a sedan swilled around the corner and I threw out my thumb.
The two girls in the car had been rock climbing in Bishop and were on their way back to San Francisco; they’d also never picked up a hitchhiker before! They drove me ten miles down the highway to the Kennedy Meadows Resort driveway asking questions all the way about my hike. Thank you Jack & Xen! (or is it Zen?)
Checking into Kennedy Meadows, I decided to get a tiny cabin for myself, since all the lodge rooms were full of Horse Camp kids. As I waited in the general store to pick up my resupply package, I heard the cashier telling someone on the phone, “Well, it says she doesn’t arrive until the 18th. Can you identify her full name?” I could see her pointing at my name on her resupply box list. “That’s me!” I whispered. “Are you talking to my mother?” (because calling my resupply locations sounds just like something my mother would do.) She just smiled and handed the phone over. It was Art trying to arrange a surprise visit on the trail and he had been gauging my arrival time at the resort by watching my GPS dot on SPOT. He drove all night and arrived at 5am with our dog Pepper. It was the best surprise!