Friday, July 30, 2010

Mile 1270.2: Buck's Summit, Chester, Lake Almanor, and vacation

We hiked 15 miles by 1 pm to Buck's Summit to beat Sweet 16's mom there. We chilled on the side of the road like bums until she arrived with snacks and clothes and whisked us off to Chester. Her family has a cabin and a house on Lake Almanor, and Microburst's parents met us in Chester.

We've been chilling there for three full days, eating, drinking, reading, boating, etc. It has been nice. Now we start again at 6, time to push, hard, toward Canada. I admit, I'm feeling less than enthused. I hike now less of the joy of hiking, more to get further toward done.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1255.0: Motorcycle magic

I've started dragging again. I want to blame it on my feet: my left shoe gave me a blister, and my busted right Chaco cinches down uncomfortably fast. I think the actual problem is psychological though. I know that I can hike 3 miles an hour, I know that it feels good to hike 3 miles an hour. So why, when I start feeling tired or like a burden, must my hiking pace reflect that and stay at 2 miles an hour for days or weeks?

I'm getting so used to hiking alone that hiking within conversational distance of anyone else for more than an hour becomes tiring. Maybe just tiresome. Mentally, I can handle the stimulation, but I've reverted to the maturity level of a six year old, get bored, and selfishly want to return to my own thoughts. Mine aren't even very interesting.

At a road crossing, Microburst and I ran into a guy on a motorcycle who gave us soda, and all of his snacks and ibuprofen. We talked for a while, and it turned out he'd done some bicycle touring in his days. One day, a French guy stopped him to give him refreshments, and so Arthur's altruism for the road-weary (or trail-weary) began. He even came back to check up on us, just to be sure that our water source down the way was flowing. I definitely feel inspired by all the trail angels we've met along the way, I truly do hope to continue the spirit of magic.

There was some nice rolling terrain for a while, so lovely and d easy, and then switchbacks down, down, down to the Middle Fork of Feather River. I unfortunately missed the "delicious spring" and had to clamber down rocks to get to the river's edge for water.

We camped on Bear Creek bridge, the only flat spot guaranteed for miles. The flatness was nice, the vibrations were not. I slept in the middle of the bridge, and every time somebody turned over, the bridge would shake, and I would sit bolt upright, convinced that there was a bear on the bridge. At 4:30, nature and promise of her mother's food called Sweet 16, so she started getting up. The unzipping noise sounded like a growl to me, I responded with a deep, loud, "Hey!" which scared 16 almost as much as she scared me. I had been lying awake since three, and decided it was a good time for me to get up too. So much for catching up on sleep: 8 hours in two nights.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1228.5: long day

Long day. Started with a desperate hike to trees, we could see them for an hour before we reached them. Oh, how they taunted our bowels. Saw a sign that read:


Turns out it was referring to the "A-tree" which is a dead, grey, gnarled tree along the trail, and I could find no traces of any distinguishable qualities.

That night, after a long ass day of hiking, I made a very bad JC (judgment call): my terribly written, simple plot Scottish smutty historic romance novel, "Border Lass," got a little bit interesting. I stayed up til 1 am to finish it.

Mile 1202ish: Sierra City, music, and bear safety

This morning, I set out with two goals: get to Sierra City, and drain my iPod battery while listening to music. I haven't listened to music in so long because I stepped on my earphones a long time ago, and when I finally replaced them I forgot to turn it off or at least to "Airplane Mode," so I'd been conserving battery ever since. Music is awesome! It makes me feel so good (or at least so much, I've been known to listen to sad songs every once in a while)! 'Kids' by MGMT has a perfect beat for hiking.

In Sierra City, a spit-on-the-road town with folks even nicer and more generous than those in Wrightwood, we ate breakfast, resupplied, ate lunch, and loitered until 6 hours after our departure goal. It was ok, I ordered a replacement hat for the stupid visor that I thought I had been lucky enough to finally lose, and Uri and Barack (the Israeli Gears?) taught me how to say "I love you" and "I love food" in Hebrew.

The general store had a t-shirt about bears, the general gist was:
"Both black bears and brown bears are known to frequent this area. Outdoorsman are advised to carry annoying little bears and pepper spray. It is also important to be able to tell the difference between black bear shi and brown bear shit. Black bear shit is dark with twigs and berries, while brown bear shit has little bells in it and smells like pepper."

Awaiting us after our resupply was seven miles of hot climbing, switchback city. Stoked that I had a full battery and warned about bears in the brushy upcoming terrain, I decided to take a new tack on bear safety. Bears can hear me better than I can hear them, right? I listened to music while I hiked, but made sure I was singing/humming/beatboxing along to it, at least every few gasps of air. As I huffed and puffed and tunelessly sung along, I wondered which was more annoying: those little bells, or off-key, off-time me, yelling out random snippets of song but not all the words in between. "Summer....cleavage!"

I of course was doing this when I was by myself, and conversed while I was with Micro and 16. Only once on the switchbacks did they hear me singing. It reminded me of when I thought I was going to learn the harmonica and bring it along, I told my Danish friend "I'm going to bring a harmonica to play on the trail," meaning "at campsites along the long-ass PCT, but he said, "That sounds fun, but don't you think the other people hiking will want to hike in silence sometimes?" That, too, reminds me of when Microburst and I would joke about wheezing up the hills with harmonicas clamped between our lips. "Maybe every switchback or so, we'll move our mouths to another hole so we can play two new notes with each inhale and exhale!"

- Typoed on my iPhone

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mile 1193ish: half naked ladies


I've been slowing down, and as my cruising speed dropped, so has my morale. I've felt like the permanent caboose to our party, and a liability rather than a teammember. Yesterday, I managed to book it once I was pissed off. Today, I was determined to maintain that pace while detaching from the emotions that allowed it. It worked! Mind over matter, I set and mostly maintained my pace at a good clip today. I'm just as sore and tired as usual now; but in much better mental health. I'm crossing my fingers that I can maintain tomorrow, and so on and so forth until it is natural habit.

We ate lunch at a stream in a deep ravine. To get down required mad skills that neither Sweet 16 or I have when carrying water bottles; we both ended up sliding down the mud on our butts. While I was down there, my feet singing the praises of freedom and cold water, I tried to wash the mud off. As it kept flaking off of me, I just kept stripping more layers off. Micro looked down to see me completely topless and splashing around. As I tried to clamber up the steep muddy walls, I ended up holding my water bladder (now dubbed "the dead baby" due to how awkward it is to hold and carry) between my teeth so I could get muddy all over again on all fours, in shorts and a sports bra. I felt like a barbaric wildwoman, but in a good way.

Later, crossing a bridge on a short road walk near a reservoir and campground (with FLUSHING toilets, so worth the walk), I peered over the edge to see Pika and Catch-Up taking a river bath. "I was washing my feet, and then my legs, and as I worked my way up, suddenly the shorts and panties came off too!" she later described to me. "Hi!" awkward wave.

Now we're camped five miles from Sierra City with Paparazzi, Pika, and Catch-Up. Tomorrow: early hike, breakfast, post office, resupply, maybe laundry and showers, lunch, and ten miles to camp. We turn and burn!

- Typoed on my iPhono

Mile 1168ish: Donner Pass and much confusion


I forgot the absolute best part of yesterday: chocolate mousse! We did a "team dinner" between Microburst, Sweet 16, and I, with lasagna couscous in our big pot and instant mousse in 16's small pot. It was delicious, and two packets made enough that we would have made ourselves super sick if Granite and Terrapin hadn't helped us finish it off.

This morning was a gorgeous, long, mostly waterless ridgewalk from Squaw Valley ski area through Sugarbowl ski area to hwy 40 and I-80 through Donner Pass. There were countless beautiful views, none of which I took phone photos of (sorry).

By the time I got to Hwy 40, it was one and I was hungry. I had hoped Micro and Sweet 16 had waited there for me and were eating lunch, but I saw no sign of them. I'd had a slow morning, so I figured they might have gone four miles further to I-80 before hunger struck, so I pushed on.

By the time I had crossed I-80, it was three, and I could see 16's boot prints going up the trail from a nice lunch spot by a stream. Even though no harm had been done, I got pissed that they'd left me, scarfed my food (including spitefully eating a lot of Nutella sent by Amy without Micro there to share), cleaned up a sunscreen disaster, and kicked it into turbo-angry mode.

I was further annoyed every time I asked dayhikers about them: nobody recalled girls matching my description, so they had to be SUPER far ahead of me. As my legs ate up the miles at an almost respectable pace, and STILL nobody had seen Micro and 16, I began suspecting that they were behind me and I had missed a note or other sign. Still, I was occasionally seeing 16's boot prints and tracks that resembled Micro's new shoes, and I knew that they had wanted to do 25 miles today. If they were in front of me, stopping would do no good, and if they were behind, they'd know it and keep hiking on.

I decided I would finish out the 25 miles tonight, if I didn't see them, do another 5 early in the morning, and if still no sign, sit on my hands and wait there. The farther I went and continued to see tracks-occasionally, the more agitated I became as I imagined the inevitable argument waiting to explode once we rendezvoused, in either scenario. Finally, I started hearing a sound that didn't sound quite as annoying as the mosquitoes trying to find a way through my headnet to my ears. It was Micro, running down the trail after me!

Instead of a huge accusatory argument, we both made explicit expressions of relief at being reunited, and then she explained that they had eaten lunch at hwy 40 in the only shady spot around with excellent visibility and great views of the trail, the highway, and the parking lot I'd have to cross. Somehow we all missed each other, and I was following somebody else with 16's boots. Now we are camped at the top of a knoll with no water but only slightly intolerable mosquitos, after eating a tasty dinner of lukewarm stuffing, soupy mashed potatoes, and not-rehydrated chicken (with the mandatory couscous that exists in all of our meals).

- Typoed on my iPhoneom

Mile 1143.3: Squaw Valley


Microburst saw a chipmunk today. That's about the only interesting thing that happenned. What is there to write about when I walk about twelve hours a day, mostly alone?

We hiked around/through Squaw Valley Ski Resort over half the day, and we may be camping in the middle of it. It was cool to see the chairlifts all over, pick out ski runs, and Lake Tahoe (I think) in the background. I also liked hiking along the boundaries, seeing markers triple black diamond runs, all the "ski boundary area," "no ski patrol or avalanche control beyond boundary," "unmarked cliffs and avalanche chutes below" signs ten to twelve feet in the air, surrounded by yellow and purple wildflowers, and zero fear of killing myself.

My legs hurt, my knees hurt, my ankles hurt, and my feet hurt. I feel more tired and run ragged than I did starting the trail. Did I really set myself that far back by hitching 50 miles and taking a break from physical activity?

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1120.6: Dick's Pass, Mosquitos


As we were getting ready to go to sleep, we heard rocks crunching and bushes shaking. Immediately, both Microburst and I said "Hey!" in our best loud and deep anti-bear voices. We did manage to startle our intruder, but we needn't have: it was Drugstore, literally stumbling drunk into camp. My inability to dedect inebriation had me wondering, "Why is he still talking about all this really stupid stuff when we're clearly ignoring him?" "Is that the sound of Drugstore vomiting or gargling naturopathic something?" He didn't feel too great this morning.

As we hiked up toward Dick's Pass, we saw some gorgeous views of the Desolation Wilderness. I was expecting desolate, stark ugliness, despite all the rumors of beauty. It was beautiful: tons of glacier carved granite, clear alpine lakes, gnarled old trees, jagged mountain peaks, and patches of snow. The coolest and most desolate were the gnarled dead trees sticking up out of the middle of the clear alpine lakes.

We had heard about Dick's Pass being snowy from southbound hikers, but the snow must be melting super fast, there were only a few patches by the time we came through today, barely worth mentioning. The mosquitos, waiting below in the forest, with their probiscii bared and ready, are worth mentioning however. I think I've encountered worse in Alaska, but my brain does it's best to suppress such unpleasant memories as those. In the evening, when they were at their worst, the only skin I left exposed was on my hands, and multiple times I looked down to see at least four or five blood-sucking fiends latched on. I've noticed a phenomenon over the last month or so, and it held true today too: mosquitos seem to prefer my right arm better than my left. My theory is that the mosquitos are worst in the afternoon and evening, and my left side is my west side after 12pm, so the Mosquitos choose my shady right side.

We ate lunch with Granite, Terrapin, and Drugstore at the top of Dick's Pass. Unfortunately, in an effort to be helpful, I added the couscous and dehydrated beans to our lunch while Micro was still cooking. I didn't remember that those things sink to the bottom and immmediateky burn on. In my defense, Micro did remember and didn't say anything when I asked "Shall I add?" before I poured in the offending substances. It was pretty much ruined, but we ate it anyway. I hope that's the worst lunch we have on this whole trip.

We also stopped with the other hikers to swim in Middle Velma lake, which was so refreshing. The water was clear and cool but not cold, and it got deep fast, an excellent trait to those like me who hate anything at all touching, especially feet, when swimming in fresh water.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 1097ish: back on the trail


It was nice to stay with family friends in South Lake Tahoe, we did things like go to the beach, watch movies, cook, and play "Big Booty" with the kids. Of course, resupplying, post-officing, driving, and interracting with kids was far more exhausting than I would ever expect. We each got rid of pounds and pounds of stuff, which feels amazing to my back.

I was hard to leave the comforts of society and our warm and generous hosts this morning; even though we were ready by ten, we weren't done chatting in the kitchen and watching Nickelodeon with the kids until one. Patti dropped us off, we started hiking, my foot didn't hurt very much, and in no time we had covered the mike and a half to Echo Lake resort where we saw Pika, Catchup, Jaybird, Drugstore, Linus Cloudbuster, Terrapin, Granite, Snacks, Live Yeast, and Framboise/Raspberry.

We took a three hour beer-and-milkshake break, during which Cloudbuster put on (and adopted as his own) Sweet 16's dayglo-pink skirt, Microburst and I bought Scottish historical fiction romance novels ("Tamed by a Laird" and "Border Lass"), everybody told Drugstore his mock political correctness makes him more of an asshole, and I got writer's block trying to create another installment of Crest of Desire. Frustrated, I ended the page of Dick-in-a-Box references and 'box'/'package' post office wordplay with a rich South Lake Tahoe vacationer inviting the lady back to his place for showers, food, and sex, "She did. They banged. A lot. The end."

- Typoed on my iPhonen

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mile 1049.9: a not so lovely day and an amazing off-trail hitch

When I put my boots on this morning, it hurt my foot, BAD. Walking felt worse. The gorgeous scenery of canyons through volcanic rock, and, um, other pretty stuff like that was destroyed by the pain accompanying every single step. Previously, my foot only hurt if I stepped WRONG on it, so I could just step my way carefully and tediously. Today, it hurt no matter what.

It took me 4 hours to hike 6 miles. At HWY 4, a man named Doug had set up amazing trail magic. Microburst and Sweet 16 were waiting for me there, getting increasingly worried. It was there, over fresh pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, and bananas, accompanied by hot dogs, cheeseburgers, potato salad and beans, that we decided with zero resistance that I should hitch ahead to South Lake Tahoe, where family friends would (hopefully) let me heal while the other two hiked the remaining miles to our next planned resupply. Before I left, Doug told us about his years as a bomb expert for the Postal Service, including working on the Unibomber and a mail bombing case in Anchorage.

I walked down the road to a pullout, ready for an easy hitch, as all of our hitches have been. After 15 entire minutes and multiple cars passing by, I was starting to wonder if our hitching luck was attributable to the other girls, not me. Another string of cars passed by, and I stuck my thumb out again. I smiled bigger and more hopefully as each passed, until I recognized the last was a taxi cab. Confused, I shrank my arm back to my side as the van pulled over. "No, I'm sorry, I can't pay for a ride! Thanks for pulling over though!"
"Don't worry, I'm going this way anyway, hop in."

I was only hoping for a ride down to Markleeville, where I could call the family friends and hitch to 89, hitch to 50, and hitch to South Lake Tahoe, but Jason was going to South Lake Tahoe for a live music-beach bar-gig thing. Lucky me! It ended up being the best hitch I'll probably ever get in my entire life. The conversation was interesting, and introduced me to some bands I'd never heard of but liked. When we got to South Lake Tahoe, I hadn't yet gotten a hold of the family I was hoping to stay with, so I ended up hanging out at the beach bar, people watching and enjoying live covers of some good classic songs. He bought me a beer, and when I had determined a rendezvous point with Patti, he took me out for delicious good sushi and sake and then dropped me off. Voila! The nicest hitch I'll ever have the luck of getting. No awkwardness, no inappropriate requests, just a really good time.

So I'm here, chilling in South Lake Tahoe, trying to stay off my foot as much as possible, purging extra Sierra weight from my pack, and hoping to heal and get back on the trail in a few days, sans one short section. I'm not being "true to the through" but I'd rather sacrifice the purity of my hike than my chances of completing it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mile 1043.0: a lovely day

Something strange happenned today for the first time in a long while: I kept up. I'm starting to feel good again after nearly a month of not really feeling bad, but dragging nonetheless. The terrain helped: the climbs and descents were not very arduous or long, and there were six or so miles after lunch of gently rolling climbing. The views told me we were slowly gaining elevation, but no part of my body was screaming the same. It was nice. Plus the views were gorgeous, the sheer granite cliffs of the high Sierra has been largely replaced with volcanic formations, and they look just as cool to me. My right foot, which I crunched trying to roll my ankle in burly boots going down Silver Pass, miraculously stopped hurting, which made a big difference.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mile 1022.4: roll out

We slept in, and individually rolled out of our sleeping bags to walk the mile back to Kennedy Meadows Resort. We had tried to cowboy camp as far away from the friendly RVers, but we were still within view. I felt a little embarassed at myself when the grogginess had cleared from my head a little: it was so warm that I had slept with hardly any clothes (okay, no clothes, just accessories). Microburst had come over to tell me something, I sat up, and she said, "Well aren't you cute naked in your hat and gloves!" Oops, sorry nice family. Just tell your kids it's wildlife.

We resupplied, and ended up sitting around for hours (Sweet 16 and I wearing our groundcloths) while our laundry washed and dried, eating, eating some more, and using the wi-fi. We finally rolled out after 3, and as we were walking the road that took us back to the highway, we half-heartedly stuck our thumbs out at a truck that was rolling by. They screeched to a halt, and we saw that they had a cooler, firewood, etc in the back. "Oh, no, nevermind, we can walk, we were just hoping we could hop in back to the highway." They gave us a ride on top of everything to the highway, at which point they asked us where we were going, and insisted on taking us there after they made room for us in the back seat, with their dog that loves, Loves, LOVES new people. Thank you, Greg and Linda.

At the trailhead, we met a faux-stralian (been there for the last eight years, strange touch of accent) section-hiking southbound who told us about trail magic very close up the trail in the form of BEER. Oh boy oh boy ohboyohboy! Once we had gotten half a mile and not seen anything, we were convinced we had missed it. Microburst ran all the way back to the trailhead looking for it, but no luck. A tenth of a mile later: beer! In cans! We each took some for our dinner.

Since we wouldn't be hiking for long, we all hiked together, and conversed/goofed off. We have all experienced that on the trail, the barest awareness of needing to attend to bodily functions is very rapidly followed by desperately needing to attend to them RIGHT NOW. There is no holding it until a more convenient time. I was hiking along, and suddenly was running for the woods to pee, yelling an explanation over my shoulder. By the time I returned, Microburst (a 115 lb, 5'1" white girl) was rapping about "Bust a Squat." I can't tell too much, because I'm hoping we see it out to the most ridiculous conclusion possible, but we were quite well entertained. We also ended up in stitches when Micro farted, tried to blame it on 16, and I immediately said, "Honey, I know you well enough to be able to identify YOUR farts by sound." At this point, we all do know each other ridiculously well.

We didn't get all that far before it was 7:30, the sun was threatening to set behind some mountains, Sweet 16 postholed up to her thigh right against a rock, a grassy saddle was in view, and we were yelling to Microburst that we wanted to find a campspot. Trouble was that there were some dark clouds we felt threatened by, and we felt in a bind: sleep in the exposed saddle, or as much as five more miles down into the valley to the next known flat spot? Some group indecision later, complete with my pouting princess, and Microburst's hunger-fueled crabbiness, we found a somewhat sheltered dry nook.

Luckily, the clouds broke up, and we enjoyed fettucine in mashed-potato sauce with our beers as the sun set beautifully. Unfortunately, two beers and hot cocoa let me 'enjoy' the starry night sky against my own wishes buck-nekkid twice in the middle of the night. Bust a squat.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mile 1018.3: Sonora Pass

It was pretty easy to find the trail, though it required some tracking of old melted footprints on a big snow patch/little snowfield, we would never have found it in the dark. Since we had cowboy-camped, I didn't have to deal with waiting for Microburst to wake up or breaking down the tent, and I rolled out first. It was nice to be ahead of the others for once, since I'm ALWAYS lagging behind these days. I didn't get to revel in the false sense of accomplishment though, the bugs were really annoying.

Slowly, the granite and alpine meadow-forest turned to big tall pine forest in a canyon, and our occasional views of the surrounding mountains were filled with volcanic-rock mountains, with cool shapes and no vegetation. We could also see the switchbacks through the snow on the mountain ahead: we would actually be on a jeep road, that snow would be no problem! Well actually it would, but we didn't know it yet.

We ate lunch at the last creeklet on the foothill before we started climbing above treeline. Two really cute guys who worked for the forest service out surveying campsight impacts stopped and talked to us for a while, as we ogled their muscles, big tools, and Carhartts. We don't see men like that on the trail!

Even though I was worried about the supposed 10 mile waterless stretch ahead, I was pretty sure I saw a stream crossing a switchback near the top, and figured I'd camel up and fill my liter there. Nope. As soon as we hit the solid snow on the jeep-road switchbacks, we could see that all previous hikers before us had taken a social trail below most of the snow that met up with the jeep road at the top. If we took the official trail along the jeep road, we'd be breaking trail the whole way up. Microburst's conscience for cutting switchbacks, erosion, and tearing up vegetation nearly convinced us all to do the right thing, but my laziness coupled with Sweet 16's won out in the end.

Top of ridge:

High Sierra of the past

Low Sierra of the future

Unfortunately, that meant we skipped the water too. No problem, we were above snowline and there's crazy melt-off right now, right? Wrong. We ended up following the very dry side of a ridge for a while, then when there were snow patches, the melt off soaked up directly into the very well-draining volcanic rock gravel. I started worrying. Eventually I did see runoff, but it was such a shallow trickle, I convinced myself that there would be something easier to collect later. A few miles later, I ended up dipping water from other melt-off with my cap, but I felt a whole lot better with some water in me and on my pack.

We had some crazy terrain first. Not hard, just very alien to us. Long, LONG traverses across snow on completely barren, red-black slopes, up through a notch between solid, tall rock walls, and later walking around the rim of what I had to guess was a caldera, based on the steepness of the slopes down to the teeny tiny lake at the bottom, the roundness of the whole affair, but mostly how it looked exactly like the volcanoes the I used to make of paper-maich├ę for baking soda and vinegar experiments we did in elementary school.

At one point, we had a gorgeous view down into a lush, green valley with a road running through it. "That's 108, we're only four easy-cheesy miles from hitching or camping!" Wrong valley. We went up and over a saddle, along some more ridgeline, and then were staring at a big snowy, shadowy bowl with ski and snowboard tracks carved from the top to the bottom, and hiker tracks carved from our side clear across to the other side where it picked the trail up again.

Sweet 16 hates glissading, probably based on her lack of rain pants and winter sports in Santa Cruz. So she set off, kick step by painful kickstep, traversing the snowy bowl. Microburst and I, however, were already drooling over the ski tracks, and spied the trail way down the valley back on our side of the drainage. I decided to try my luck just going straight down the snow until the trail crossed again. Micro seperately decided to head at a diagonal and hopefully pick up the trail off-snow. We glissaded together, though, so we made our own somewhat helter-skelter trail down, diagonal, this way and that. But we were having a great time, trying to boot ski, sliding our way down the snow. At one point, Microburst traversed across a steep chute to a rock outcropping so she could avoid going down the steep. I decided that traversing across a steep chute and then scrambling down rocks was probably not as safe as simply sledding straight down the rock-free middle of the steep chute, to the gently-sloped runout zone. I took some deep breaths and did it, which I am quite proud of. Even though it felt scarier, I think it was the wiser choice.

We giddily made our way down to where the trail crossed the snow-covered creek in the middle of the drainage, beating Sweet-16 there despite our numerous breaks. From there, we traipsed down to where hwy 108 goes over Sonora Pass, and ran into Nonstop and Maybelline taking a trailhead-zero day. Though it was good to chat with them, we decided to try our luck hitching despite the lateness of the evening before we gave in to hanging with trail-buddies for the night.

It took a little longer for Microburst to pack her bag back up, so Sweet 16 and I stepped onto the road. She wore her dayglo pink skirt with no long johns, revealing her long legs, and I unbraided my hair and unzipped my fleece jacket, wearing my spandex hiking shorts. I love our all-girls team. There was hardly any traffic, but we got a ride (the second vehicle we saw) before Micro was finished packing up. And what a ride it was: Scott the professional bike racer pulled up in a Toyota Tacoma after a weekend mountaineering trip in Yosemite, blasting classical cello. Microburst and I were swooning (Sweet 16 was rolling her eyes at us). It was a crazy, steep, windy ride down from the pass, it seemed like a rollercoaster ride with no anticipation time to Sweet 16 and I who were sitting in the back: "Oh, we're going down now, oh, we just turned a corner!"

Once we got to Kennedy Meadows Resort, the "other" or "northern" Kennedy Meadows, we found ourselves immediately talking to an impressed RV family, who invited us to camp in their site if we couldn't find any other (free-er?) spot. First, we had some hunger to attend to. It was a mile walk to the resort, but it was worth it: good burgers, good fries, and free bread pudding.
- Typoed on my iPhone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mile 998.3: Dorothy Lake Pass


We trekked miles and miles through alpine meadows to get to Dorothy Lake Pass. I like alpine meadows, they're very gently graded, with great views of snowy difficult mountains that I do not have to struggle through at the moment. Unfortunately, they are also very buggy and muddy.

The trail should not to through alpine meadows at all. We PCT hikers are hitting them at a terrible time, when the soil is saturated, vegetation is trying to grow, and there's often a thin layer of standing water. A few hikers go through, and POOF, it's a mudhole. As hikers hike parallel to ruts, we create more ruts. When trail crews come through, they pile brush, logs, and logs sporadically through all but one rut to discourage us from hiking through the alterna-ruts. Here's an idea: put the logs and rocks close enough together that we can step from object to object, avoiding mud and grassland destruction. Even better: don't put the trail through alpine meadows!

We got to Dorothy Lake around 7, ate dinner until 8:15ish, and decided to go over Seavey Pass and camp on the other side. The top of the pass was half a mile away and only 100 feet higher, it would be no big deal, and it wasn't. That was how we ended up on top of a pass at 8:30 at night, turning on our dim headlamps and looking down at the snowier, north side of the pass.

A little ways down, after losing and refinding the trail again through patches of snow and rock, I spotted some rock slabs that we could easily cowboy camp on. But there was still a faint hint of light in the sky, and I was shot down. That was how we ended up rock hopping across a flooded creek in the dark, losing the trail at a bigger snowfield with no good campable rocks. We wasted a lot of time trying to find the trail again, while I got more and more irritated at the factthat we were not yet sleeping. Finally, I found a campable crevice, declared I wasn't going to spend any more perfectly sleepable time searching for a trail we'd never find in the dark, and went to bed. Microburst and Sweet 16 soon followed suit.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mile 979.7: Benson and Seavey passes, "wind-free sparkling pond"

The guidebook usually describes landmarks very matter of factly, such as "prominent saddle" or "third crossing of Wilson Creek." Occasionally, the descriptions are much more flowery and subjective (objective? I can never remember which is which). This elicits both curiosity and mockery from us.

After a relatively painless trip over Benson Pass and nearly to Seavey Pass, we hit the "wind-free, sparkling lake." It was breezy, but that kept the bugs away, and indeed sparkling. Microburst and Sweet 16 had found a big slab of a rock jutting out into the lake, and with no sign of boys about, we stripped and jumped in.

Well, Microburst and I jumped in, Sweet 16 hemmed and hawed about how gross lakes were and didn't want to go in.
- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 962.5: losing friends

Ran into Anicca on the way out of Glen Aulin: he hurt his knee (somehow) on Halfdome (outside of the cables). He was getting off the trail to rest and recuperate. A couple miles later, we ran into Badger and Sweet Jesus (The Michigan Boys/Yoopers). They had met a backcountry ranger, realized what they wanted to do with their lives, and only had $250 left. As they walked along, they decided, "Hey, maybe we should get off the trail and pursue our dreams." The two flipped a coin as to whether they'd turn around and hike 12 miles back, or 60something miles further and get off at Sonora Pass. It was heads, they headed back. We were really sad to know we wouldn't be running into them on the trail anymore, and jealous at how relaxed they were about life. As they left, they sang, and we attempted as usual to keep up:

"Well it's the second week of Deer Camp,
and all the boys are here.

We drink, play cards, and shoot the bull,
but we never shoot no deer.

The only time we leave Deer Camp is when we go for beer!"

Sweet Jesus, by the way, has a very sweet shirt. The bottom says, "The Hard Life"

We also heard in Tuolemne Meadows that Abby Normal had gotten off the trail. What keeps us on? What keeps us going? Advance planning? Determination? Luck? Lack of anything better to do?

Hearing the Michigan Boys talk about figuring out what they want to do with their lives made me wonder if I was anywhere near as in touch. My goals decided on-trail for when I return:

1. Buy kitchenaid (using it profusely will not be a problem)
2. Study for, take, and pass GREs
3. Run a marathon in less time than it takes me to hike one
4. Get job
5. Live by myself for the first time in my life
6. Ski Susitna 100

We camped with Guthook, Calorie, and two boys from OSU that had started the trail at the beginning of the Sierra. Although reasonably good looking, two things immediately pissed me off:
-They made sure that everyone knew they were hiking 25 mile days through the Sierra. Good for you. We averaged a measly 13 and enjoyed the scenery. Did you want to make us feel inferior?
-They decided they didn't want to carry as much
food as they had mailed to themselves, and they were trying to give away their reject food. If we didn't take it, they were going to dump it in the river. We felt obligated to take food just to keep food from being dumped in the pristine river, and the reject food included a bag of vanilla chips: grosser than white chocolate chips, and made us all feel sick.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Location:Emerald Bay Rd,South Lake Tahoe,United States

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mile 941.6: Donahue Pass and Tuolumne

As we hiked up to Donahue Pass, so were 20-30 boyscouts. We leapfrogged for a while, but that's awkward with a huge group v. one person. I stepped aside to play extra-long with my rainpants and sunscreen, so when I started back up again I was like a wide, smooth highway of no post-holing.

As we got closer and closer to the valley, we saw more and more people: dayhikers, overnighters, JMTers. I was j t overwhelmed. I found out that it IS true: through hikers can smell dayhikers (as I'm sure they can smell us). We smell like sweat and DEET and sunscreen and pee, othey smell like soap. Americans smell like chemically perfumes and TIDE, the Japanese smell amazing.

The terrain was really steep switchbacks down the valley coming down from Donahue, until it hit the Tuolumne River and the accompanying valley. Then it was easy, flat, barely sloped meadow walk until we hit what passed for civilization to us. Microburst and I both got amazing packages from our mothers, we doled out the cookies inside and hung out for hours. We ended up treating ourselves to a dinner of couscous cooked in LIQUID, canned soup, and two bottles of wine that were intended for sharing amongst more people. Oh well, we got drunk instead. Double Check and I talked about music for a little bit, and I was possessed with the idea that getting the nice Christian boy to listen to Immortal Technique was a good idea. He said later, "Well, now I know a lot more about you." Ooops.

The next day, Microburst went down into the valley with Calorie and Doublecheck to be tourists, while Sweet 16 and I, feeling like Yosemite veterans/tourist avoiding misanthropes, had a lazy day of eating followed by easy, downhill miles to Glen Aulin. Unfortunately, I got completely lost there, and ended up looking for her in what seemed to be an old, haunted abandoned stable, while she had set up her tent very conspicuously where the signs, if followed, direct campers. Microburst would catch up the next morning.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mile 925.2: Island Pass and depression

I just have to say, I hate this blogspot app. It does no autosave, and occasionally decides I should not be blogging anymore. POOF! Goners. What's really poorly designed is that I cannot easily save it in landscape typing mode, I have to turn it back to portrait. If I accidentally sleepily drop my phone as I rotate it though, that's right, POOF!

In summary:
Maybelline, Nonstop, Sweet 16, Microburst and I all feel an underlying sense of depression. I think it has to do with the High Sierra bein the crux of this trip, we're almost through but not quite, and we're just a third of the way through the hike: still a lot of work ahead.

It reminds me of the Dan Bern song, "Tiger Woods," the lyrics go on about a friend whose one goal in life was to go down on Madonna. Then, at the age of thirty-something, the friend's dream comes true one night in Rome. After that, his life lacks purpose, direction, and meaning. Went down on Madonna too soon.

The PCT was pretty today, we diverged from the JMT for about 14 or so miles. We went over Thousand Island Pass, which is no big deal at 10,200', but still, there was snow to slide over, post hole through, and lose the trail under. I am now tired and will go to sleep now. Paparazzi, Nonstop, Maybelline, Doublecheck, Sweet Jesus, Mr. Badger, Ying Lee, Sweet 16, Microburst, and I are all here, camped between Donahue and Island. It's a legit party!

Tao of the Day:
Filling to fullness is not as good as stopping at the right moment.
Oversharpening a blade causes it's edge to be lost.
Line your home with treasures and you won't be able to defend it.

Amass possessions, establish positions, display your pride:
Soon enough disaster drives you to your knees.

This is the way of heaven: do your work, then quietly step back.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mile 906.6-910.9: Red's Meadow and Mammoth

7/4/2010: I was reminded back in civilization that normal people think in terms of dates and days, not miles.

Every town a new adventure. We hiked in 10 miles to Red's Meadow on the third, and Slim, a big guy who loses weight every year by hiking the JMT and eating only three Clif bars a day, told us how easy it is to take the bus down to Mammoth and get really good town food. So Microburst, Sweet 16, and I ditched all of the useless weight in our packs (tent, food, stove, sleeping bag) and headed down to the town of Mammoth Lakes to get hamburgers, do laundry, buy snacks, and chill out. Note to self: we never chill out and relax in town. It is always stressful.

It was not so easy, fast, or simple. The first bus left without us because the driver went straight from getting coffee to driving away, no minute of wait time for us to get off our butts, get on the bus, and buy our tickets. Once we did get rolling, it took three buses to get us from Red's Meadow to the ski resort, ski resort to the village, and village to the town.

We ate hamburgers, did laundry (Sweet 16 in a groundcloth-skirt, rain jacket and boots), printed non-scandalous postcards of Naked Hiker Day, scribbled messages on them, ran to the closed Post Office, stopped at the outfitter, bought snacks, and rode an extremely crowded trolley to get back to the village so we could catch the last bike-shuttle to the resort. At this point, Sweet 16 had brains and judgment, and continued back to Red's Meadow where she could relax off-schedule. Armed with a brochure telling us the last bus to Red's Meadow was at 7:30, Microburst and I stayed to write more, use cell service where we had it, and eat tasty overpriced resort food.

We made it down to the busstop before 7:30, which came and went with no bus. Finally a bus did come, and the driver gleefully informed us that the last bus to Red's Meadow left at 7, nobody would be going into the park at that hour, and a cab ride would be $150. When we attempted to hitch up anyways, a gondola operator shouted down to us how F'd we were. We were indeed F'd: no tent or sleeping bags, no contacts down in Mammoth, and no way to contact Sweet 16.

Then... magic! Mitch the security guard, Mitch the kind, helpful, and very good-looking security guard pulled up in his security-mobile and asked where he could take us. He took us all the way back into the park and dropped us off at Red's Meadow. I LOVE MY XX CHROMOSOMES! If we were scruffy bearded men, nobody would have picked us up, I doubt Mitch would have taken pity on us and thought of OUR security, he would have busted us several hours later for trying to find someplace warm to sleep on Mammoth Resort property.

Meanwhile, Sweet 16 had overheard a bus radio conversation about two female hikers who had missed the last bus to Red's Meadow. She immediately knew it was her two blonde bimbo compatriates and started to worry about us. Two Brits overheard her worrying, and decided to swoop in to save the day: if we hadn't made it back up by 9 pm, they'd drive down and start looking for us. Since we were there by nine, they instead invited us back to their campsite with them.

They were the support team for 20 or so other military Brits (many nurses) four days into a below-snowline training excercise, which was being called off because they had sustained injuries postholing with eighty pound packs above snowline. A doozy. They had their own campsite to party on Independence Day with the Americans like it was 1774, and had been plying Gnar the Missoula-boy with beers, food, and promises of British girls. They gave us food, gave us beer, gave us more beer, and begged us to drink more beer while keeping the fire raging. I had been unabashedly flirting with first Garreth, the younger, tall stud, and then Billy, the older, stocky Scot, who started kissing me on the cheek and calling me "Love" at every opportunity (often, as he had given me about a butt-cheek and a half's width to sit on the picnic bench pressed against him). Around midnight, they started trying to convince us that we girls should dance around the fire naked in true, American, 4th of July tradition, emphasis on the nudity. We girls instead decided it was time to find some flat spots to cowboy camp and crawl into our sleeping bags. They were impressed at our bravery to sleep out under the stars, and then invited me into their van. I stuck with my sleeping bag outside, but when I told the girls later, they said, "What did he think was going to happen in a van with another dude in a tiny campsite!? You should have said 'yes' just to find out!"

I woke up at 5:45 the next morning, hungover from my glass of wine and two beers, as the Brits were leaving to start schlepping the other Brits to the Grand Canyon. Microburst and Sweet 16 were obviously in the same boat, so we decided to ditch our early start plans and sleep in. We were re-awoken at eight by the campground managers demanding $20 for the site. Did the Brits really not pay? We got out of it, and booked it out of the campground. All in all, a very interesting experience.

As it turned out, Paparazzi, Maybelline, and Nonstop all also had late nights with Brits and a rude morning with campground managers. So we all ended up hanging out in Red's Meadow until the afternoon to hike only four miles to Soda Springs, delaying our Tuolumne arrival date by one day, and recovering and relaxing with other people.

Mile 899ish: Silver Pass

Sllept in way late this morning, didn't get out of the sleeping bag until 7:30. We hiked up to Silver Pass, there was a good bit of snow again, nothing we couldn't handle but aggravatig just the same. There was a really obvious saddle/pass, but when we got on top, we looked to our right, and there was the trail going up to an even higher saddle between the peak to our right and the next one.

There were some really fun glissade chutes. One was exactly like a slip'n'slide with little bumps, we had a really good time on that one. Carmen went down one little slide that banged her right up against a rock, so I went over to a very steep, rock-free chute. The entire plan was to slide down to the flat spot below, and I had chosen the chute because it was rock-free, but when I slipped while walking and couldn't stop myself with hands, heels, butt, pack, and poles on the icy snow for several feet, it freaked me out. I admit that I anchored myself as best possible, and got my ice axe out (I can do it one handed with my pack on) so that I had the ability to stop myself. What I should have done was either facing my fears and letting myself slide down, or else once I got my axe out made use of the excellent opportunity to practice self-arrest technique, and started myself off on my back head first. Oh well.

We hiked. A southbound female JMT hiker got really excited that we were a group of three girls. We got really excited about the two bridges we got to cross. We discussed ways in which we could try to jazz up couscous. We dealt with patches of snow all day long. We fantasized about the showers and burgers we'll be getting in Red's Meadow tomorrow. It was a pretty good day.

We ate dinner right after a shoes-wet river crossing, and found some wild onions to put in our chicken teriyaki couscous. Then we hiked another hour and a half until dark, and we're cowboy camping like sardines in the first flat spot we spied. Now I sleep.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 882ish: What's that story about the little boy and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Kind of like that.

Okay, maybe today wasn't completely terrible, horrible, no good and very bad. But a lot sucked, for all of us.

It started with Bear Creek, which hadn't come down at all overnight (later I theorized that the lakes upstream probably buffer any sort of daily freeze/thaw fluctuations). We crossed at maybe not the most perfect spot, but the best available, with a rope strung from shore to shore.
I went first. It was very cold. It was very fast. It was crotch-deep at the worst. I stumbled several times, and had difficulties righting myself without stumbling more. So glad I had a rope to hold onto!

Then I watched as Sweet 16 struggled across but made it just fine.

As punishment for all the terrible deeds I've done in my life, I then watched micro Microburst go across. Being the smallest, she struggles the hardest. At the point where the current is worst, she got her downstream foot stuck and her lips started turning blue. Double Check ended up going out to her, holding the line taught, and giving her a hand much more stable to hold onto.

The experience put us both in hyper-emotional states. By the time I caught up with Micro at a far chiller x-ing, I had realized I had lost/misplaced a bandana and bugnet, and fallen into the mud, which I burst into tears over because the same thing had happenned yesterday in the same way. Then my Chaco strap broke, and my sandal started fitting really funky and hurting on the one day we had a lot of river fords.

Micro had been waiting for a while, and I told her, "I'm having a bad day, thanks for waiting, but I should probably hike alone this morning." She asked what was wrong, I told her, and she told me that they probably were in my pack somewhere, just in a weird place. At this point I snapped, and told her, "I don't need you to lecture me! I know that I might not have left them behind, you asked what was wrong so I told you!"

At this point, Carmen took off, indeed upset. So spurred emotionally, she pretty much ran up and down the next 5 miles of switchbacks, but not without bursting into tears and scratching into the dirt, "We both feel like shit, if it makes you feel any better!" When I got to the note, I accidentally stepped on the second half, so the best I could make out was "Look who!" with an arrow. Confused at seeing nobody, I continued on, and read, "We both feel like shit!" Completely misinterpreting the tone of the note (for the better), I thought Microburst was commiserating with me, reaching an empathetic hand out from ahead. Overcome with joy, I immediately felt really bad for what I had said, and sped up so that I could apologize and give her a great big hug. But I never did, even though I swear I heard voices ahead of me. Finally, starving, I ate lunch at two in a really bad spot on the switchbacks.

Meanwhile, Sweet 16 had completely blown past a trail marker sign with her head down against the mosquitoes (did I mention that we all forgot bug dope AGAIN?). She stopped at 11 for an early lunch and to wait for us, but since she was off trail, we never showed up. Eventually she continued on, briefly checking her map and confirming that the trail did indeed contour along the river for while. When she started going down switchbacks without ever going up them, she realized her mistake, asked some day hikers if she was even on the trail, and booked it back. When she got to the trail junction and saw how clearly marked it was, she burst into tears.

Eventually, we all regrouped, hugged, made up, and had Calorie and Double-Check tell us how crazy girls are. We all hiked on. Then there were the river fords. There were two that Diuble Check ended up wading out into the water at the sketchiest last little bit to offer a hand at the fastest and deepest bit. The second of those was awful, way worse than Bear Creek. The water was super churned up and white, so it was impossible to see the rocks in the way. Microburst got stuck at one such invisible rock for a while, and Double-Check ended up grabbing her and pretty much pulling her across. I got stuck in the exact same spot, and ended up taking DOuble-Check's hand and leaping into the eddy, where I stumbled and fell backwards into a rock, going waist-deep into the water, and filling up my dry boots on the back of my pack with water. Everybody was suddenly telling me "You'e okay, you're okay, we've got you, you're across!" Annoyed, I thought, "Of course I'm okay, I just leapt across the not-okay part to get to the okay part and I'm sitting right next to where everyone is standing!"

Mile 867.7: Seldom snow on Selden Pass

Today was fantastic. I don't have anything against the higher, bigger, snowier, scarier passes (except for the fact that they're exhausting and I get nauseaus from the adrenaline rush, not exhilerates), they're definitely cool and beautiful and earn bragging rights and good stories. I'm tired though. The high Sierra has had me beat. Selden Pass, at only 10,900' and maybe one mile of snow TOTAL before the pass, if even that, was just so friendly, so chill, so confidence boosting. It made a good day stay good, getting to the top at 5 after 14 miles of hiking, rather than getting to the top at 7 after only 11 miles of hiking like some passes before.

We got to Bear Creek this evening. The original plan was that we'd get as close as possible and then ford first thing in the morning, a plan the Safety Steve in me was all about. Then, as we were feeling good coming down off of Selden, the plan morphed into crossing it tonight, camping on the other side, letting shoes dry overnight and starting warm in the morning. I was not pleased. This is supposed to be the sketchiest ford on the PCT, it made no sense to me to risk everything on the assumption that word of mouth about Bear Creek only going down 1" overnight, when we could just as easily do it in the morning. I tried to bust out a quick sketch of guage-height v. flow rate of water, but was quickly told to put the engineer away and talk hiker instead. So I spoke to my fears, my desire not to have very stupid regrets come tomorrow morning, and I got my way. We are now sleeping on the south bank, and hopefully all will go well in the am.

I wish I was putting my brain to better use while hiking. Daydreaming has a slightly higher mental requirement than having a song stuck on mental repeat, but it's nothing big. Here's a sampling of the topics I keep myself entertained with:
Could I be a cool and fun history teacher?
I want to cook/bake...
I want to eat...
Arts and crafts and presents ideas
Halloween costumes
My dream kitchen...
If I could landscape and remodel, I'd want an outdoor kitchen/patio with a wood fired pizza/bread oven and....
If I lived by myself, I could...
I want a garden, and I want to grow...

If I went to church just so I could sing but not change my views on life, the universe, and everything, would I be a bad person? Would the God that I don't believe in be angry, and would I care?

Nothing deep. Nothing at all related to hiking.

I couldn't remember all of the day's Tao
- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 849.9: Muir Pass and Evolution Creek

Muir Pass was awesome! I was not afraid of falling and dying, not even once. Instead of a long approach over flat snowfields and then a very sudden very steep mountainside with a ton of switchbacks, Muir Pass had us going up and up through snow long before we could see the pass. Suddenly, we crested a little hill and there was the hut!

Then we hiked down down down down down, missed the Evolution Lake inlet crossing. We had to backtrack, cross, and go down down down some more. We crossed Evolution in the high water year alternative crossing: the water was waist-deep on me, but the Mosquitos will be remembered and cursed for longer, however.

When we stopped for lunch, still way above snow line, a blonde black bear came barreling down to the river, crossed the river, and continued in a beeline for us. I was in "situation" mode as soon as the bear was spotted: I shoved my food into my bear vault, closed and locked it ASAP, grabbed my bear spray, and waited on standby. Everybody else just got their cameras. When the bear got close enough for comfort, we yelled, it saw us, and ran like no other up through the snow away from us.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 836.6: Rest and Recuperate

It's 20 miles from Mather to Muir pass, and although that distance would have been no problem at all in the desert, at 10,000 feet with snow and non-equestrian grade steepness, such an idea was inconcievable. So instead we slept in, rushed madly down to treeline (again... we should be familiar with our speedy hiker metabolisms by now), and took our sweet time getting to within 3 miles of Muir Pass. We are camped right below treeline.

The views were pretty, the rivers most definitely flooded, but the two things that struck me most today were:
A. A tiny tree (sapling?) and moss growing out of a huge dead rotting tree in the middle of the river. Maybe the big tree will collect debris and that tiny tree will grow up to be a bit tree on a young island in the middle of the river. Maybe it will get washed away. Nothing is permanent, nothing guaranteed. But that tiny little tree has no choice but to grow it's little hear out and see what happens.

B. A small red bug flying lazily between the huge trunks of the big trees growing in the valley floor. We were in the same spot at the same time, but our worlds and perspectives are vastly different.

I don't know, maybe I'm going kooky.

Tao of the day (8.3)
"Compete with no one, and no one can compete with you."

I can kind of see the wisdom in that. Drugstore is fueled by his competitive spirit, and he's flying through the Sierra as fast as he can. I'm going a whole lot slower than he is, but I'm stopping to admire the views, smell the flowers, and wax philosophically about tiny trees on big trees and tiny bugs. Our experiences are different, and I sure am enjoying mine when I have the energy to. Then again, if I didn't feel competitive, where would I be. I ski better, run faster, hike farther, and bake fancier because of competitiveness. I'm happy about all those self improvements. I'll keep competing if it gets me to do what I want to do.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 820.9: Mather Pass- we're lemmings!

We woke up early, determined to get to the river ford before 11 (we had wanted to get farther last night, but it didn't happen). There was so much snow, and it didn't let up until about a quarter of a mile before the first fork (10,840').

With all the snow comes a lot of snowmelt. These rivers are SWOLLEN. For the biggest crossing, we ended up dividing to scout up and downstream. I took upstream, and I took my phone to show evidence of any possible crossings. I had the best luck.

The wadeable spot

Farther up than I was supposed to scout, I spied with my little eye something stretching all the way across. Since Microburst would have been up to her hip in the one wadeable area, we ended up on the log. Sweet 16 CRAWLED across it, which had both onlookers cringing in fear. Microburst scooted across it, straddling. I followed suit, but once on the log with my poles put away, I regretted not just walking.

Our log: no branches, difficult to get onto.

Then about an hour and two smaller creek fords later, we were back in the snow. It took a long time, but we finally reached the toe of Mather Pass (12,100'), just in time to watch a couple go over while we ate lunch.

As we looked at the pass, we could see switchbacks to looker's right that seemed like a complete waste of time. To lookers left, there was a chute of snow, with snow-switchbacks that met up with the melted out chunks of real trail directly below the pass. The couple and the strongest tracks went mostly up the chute, then traversed up under the pass, switched back under the cornice and finally went over. To looker's left, even with the height of the pass, we saw a horizontal line of snow amongst the rocks. Was that the final trail switchback?

Nome of our maps showed the pass in any more detail than a couple of squiggles to represent the switchbacks and a listed elevation. So we were lemmings and followed the couple, even when it seemed like tha man was motioning something to us. The switchbacks in the chute were just fine, but everything got sketchy near bare rock. The traverse under the pass wasn't too bad other than the rocks, but the switchback up and over the cornice was very steep, unreassuringly slushy, and positively terrifying. I went slow and took my time, just one step at a time (literally), and kept it together until I was successfully over, at which point I screamed, cursed, and started shaking. Looking back down, we saw that our maybe-switchback was a definite switchback, clear and dry except at the edge, and required no cornice climbing. Dammit! And with our tracks reinforcing, even more hikers will make the same choice we did.

On the backside, finally descending at a reasonable hour ofthe afternoon, the sun was scorching hot, coming from above and reflected off the snow below. I ended up wearing both my sets of sunglasses to try to prevent snowblindness and the like.

With the trail buried and tracks branching off every so often, we were soon off the trail, bushwhacking through snow, trees, and boulders. Finally, Sweet 16 and I determined that there was no way the trail could be any igher up on the hillside, so we went down and ran into the trail shortly after. For the next few hours, the trail was either under snow or under water, or both. Now we're in camp, utterly exhausted, and really looking forward to no pass tomorrow.

Lessons Learned Lately:
-your hat and gloves can easily fall out of your side pockets and get lost (me)
-your water bottle can easily fall out of your side pockets and get lost (me)
-your bear spray can easily fall put of your side pockets and get lost (Microburst)
-your socks can easily fall from the straps you shoved them under and get lost (Sweet 16)
-your water bottle cap can easily fall from your hand while refilling and get lost (Sweet 16)
- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 808ish: Pinch it, Pinchot (12,130')!

We got rolling at a reasonable hour this morning, stoked that we'd be able to finally break the cycle of late mornings and evening passes.

We had a couple hairy fords in the way, and an estrogen spat, which ended in Carmen and I laughing and agreeing that we don't hug each other nearly enough. Then there was the climb of a thousand stairs, which were really big step ups and made our butts sore. There was the very cute park ranger who stopped us and asked to see our permit, a 2" wide handwritten slip of paper that I must have lost somewhere between here and Julian.

Then there was the approach. We've heard things about Forester, Glen, Kearsarge, and Sonora, but nothing about Pinchot. We figured there was maybe nothing notable about it. Wrong. We had about 4 miles of snow and scramble to get over, which took forever and we were at the top of the pass around 7:30. Again.

Tonight we camped at the first possible spot we saw, sick of dancing over the snow with occasional hip-deep postholes, watching the sun set. It's nice, actually. We're surrounded by snow and mountains, and that's it. No trees, no trail, no wildflowers. Carmen and I watched the full moon rise while we drank our miso and hot cocoa after dinner. It was nice. We were really stressed out about doing yet another pass in the evening, and wanting to get to tomorrow's big river ford early in the morning, but what we've got right now is nice too.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 794.9: Pass the Garlic

Woke up at 4 am to rain. Carmen and I threw our sleeping bags under the rain fly and set up the tent real fast, and tried to go back to sleep on adrenaline. It was another leave-early type morning: we didn't leave Peanut Eater's trail magic until after 11 am.

With ten days worth of food (which is a lot, by the way) we climbed up and over Kearsarge Pass (11,845'), the prettiest, and then Glen Pass (11,978'), the steepest. The approach felt longer than two miles, and I certainly started feeling a little shaky after losing my footing a few times on steep, serious consequences slopes. It really wasn't that bad though. People overhype.

Backside of Glen Pass.

Unfortunately, my day was tainted by one thing (other than being top-heavy from a very heavy pack): garlic. I refilled our dwindling supplies of garlic salt while in Bishop/Independence. Somehow, the new stuff is so pungent that the smell permeated through it's own plastic baggie, the spice bag ziploc, the stuffsack that was in, and finally my pack. The smell of garlic drove me CRAZY all day long! We kept joking that we were in luck if the bears in these parts are vampire bears.

We got into camp (10,545') right before sunset, and there were some beautiful views of all the lakes, mountains, and colorful sky. It was very pretty. There's also a bear box for my garlic.

I am happy to be back on rhe trail again, where everyone is as socially stunted as I am.

Tao of the day:
In living, choose your ground well.
In thought, stay deep in the heart.
In relationship, be generous.
In speaking, hold to the truth.
In leadership, be organized.
In work, do your best.
In action, be timely.

If you compete with no one,
No one can compete with you."

Seems all like good advice.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 790.2+9: Independence breakdown

(This may be the most boring post I've written yet)

I have been hiking for two months. You may expect that I have gone through a personal awakening, a personal journey, or some other lofty, beneficial transformation. I am becoming civilization-stupid, retrograding in social skills (which I never had much of anyway). Day to day skills like grocery shopping and crossing a street are becoming increasingly difficult.

We are resupplying in Bishop, and it has been the most stressful resupply thus far. We hiked over Kearsarge Pass to the campground outside Independence, got a ride from Terrapin Flyer down the hill to Independence in Peanut Eater's suburban with failing brakes, and stayed in a hotel (the group decision making process for that alone took an hour). In the morning, Peanut Eater showed up at the hotel right when the Post Office opened, so we rushed our package-opening and inventory-taking and headed to Bishop.

In Bishop, we were overwhelmed by the colors, fanciness, cuteness, and expensiveness of everything at the outfitters, and walked out empty-handed. We were then overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and population density in the "really good" "German bakker├┐,"(isn't it spelled "backerei" in German?) and ended up with so-so cheesecake and gelato and no bread. Then we went to a deli-with-attitude
for lunch, and were overwhelmed by the choices, music, television, and traffic. I tried to get a hold of Olympus to figure out how to deal with my busted camera, and was told very nicely how fucked I am. When I got to the post office to send off several pounds worth of town items and the camera, it had just closed. It was the straw that broke the sleep-deprived camel's back; this is how I ended up wandering the streets of Bishop sobbing, and left five minutes of incoherent, high pitched blubbering on Amy's voicemail.

Finally, I got to the huge grocery store, and marveled at the selection they had in brand names, not actual products. They did not have tabouli, quinoa, or chai tea mix. I was told by another hiker that the bus to Independence left fifteen minutes earlier than I thought, and saw the length of the checkout lines. Thankfully, I sprang into action and the bus came at my previously expected time, but now I may have too much food. It definitely won't fit in a bear barrel, I wonder if it would fit in two. And here I was going to have no variety! I'll have to see in the morning.

- Typoed on my iPhone