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.