Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 70-Castle Pass

Mile 1143 to Peter Grubb Hut at mile 1163

I did not sleep as well as I wanted. I was chilly-the patch of snow next to my tent should have warned me it was not the warmest camp. I actually slept until six, which is very unusual for me out here. Opus was pretty much packed up and Portrait was close to packed up by the time I emerged from my tent.

The trail continued on the way down from last night-a nice way to start the morning. Around mid morning we saw a roof off the trail and above us to our right-it was the ski hut that we had originally wanted to camp at when we left Tahoe, but the mileage didn't work out. A snack at the hut had to be second best.

It was a really cute place:  two stories (with view of Donner Pass), cots, table, and a two story out house near by. The out house had a ladder to climb up to get inside and it had the same great view as the hut (and smelled a thousand times worst). Inside the hut there was a propane two burner stove with fuel so Portrait and I had cheese casadias.  Probably the best first lunch I've had on trail. 

The first hut of the day
I got a message from Nightingale saying she had friends doing mediocre trail magic at Donner's Pass at 12:30. It was 11 o'clock and Donner's Pass was 5.5 miles away, so it seemed unlikely, but we left in a hurry anyways.

I had forgotten it was a weekend, but after leaving the hut we saw more people in those 5.5 miles than we did all week. Day hikers were flocking up the mountain towards the hut.  One group of three women stopped us, and I know we were all thinking the same thing:  I don't want to stop there's trail magic in 5 miles. They were thrilled to meet us and started taking goodies out of their day packs. I added a bag of cherries, an apple, and homemade cookies to my pack. Even if I hadn't been in a hurry I couldn't have eaten that food right then-I was feeling well feed.

About two miles from the pass there was a tricky bit of snow. We went straight over it, but we were some of the only ones that did. It looked like everybody else cut up the mountain to get past it.  It was a steep sidehill patch of snow that felt a little scary to walk across. I was in the lead and took my time kicking in steps and moving carefully. And then it was back to our regular hiking pace.

We didn't make it to the road until 1 o'clock and Nightingale and her friends were gone, but not too bug of a deal because Shadow and Country Mouse were there with their camper and trail magic signs.  They welcomed us with sodas and hot dogs, chips and potato salad, and a place to sit in the shade.  They had hiked the AT last year and were out paying back the kindness they received--I can hardly imagine how much trail magic I owe at this point.  We stayed for two hours--long enough to eat than eat again.  And long enough to see some hikers that we hadn't seen in some time. 
Shadow and Country Mouse cooking

After we left the trail slowly worked its way uphill overlooking some lakes and had granite cliffs above (with a lot of rock climbers climbing).  I could hear the interest three miles away.  It seemed so loud after the peacefulness of the Sierra's.  It was the trail's first huge road crossing since before the Sierra's.  The trail went under the interstate by way of a drainage tunnel--it was the type of place hikers would spend hours in while in the desert.  This day we just walked on through.  On the other side was the new rest area with bathrooms and outlets.  I filled up my water bladder and charged my phone some while eating my trail magic apple.  Oddly enough there is no vending machines there--I don't know if they know how many hiker dollars they are missing out on.

Castle Pass
After leaving the trail went up for two and a half miles.  At the top of the climb was Castle's Pass and a mile off trail was Castle's Peak.  My pass was treed and kind of uneventful and my sign was broken--they obviously didn't know I was coming.  Castle's Peak was pretty awesome looking--very jagged and castle looking.  Maybe I should have, but I didn't do the two mile off trail side trip to the top.  Just took a picture with my peak and moved on to the Grubb Hut.

At the hut we found Frost, who had been there all day, and it was easy to see why.  The hut was lovely.  There was a big table in the main room, a loft, and another room with a table in it.  I plunked myself down and read a Wired magazine while making (and eating) dinner.  I haven't read anything since my double zero day at Kennedy Meadows about four hundred miles ago.  I almost liked the magazine better than my cheese tortellini.  Through dinner time more hikers showed up.  It was probably the most hikers I've camped with in a very long time on trail (there is always a lot of hikers to camp with in town). 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 69-Out Hiked by a 66 Year Old

Richardson Lake at mile 1120 to mile 1143

Apparently the girls were still awake and shrieking at midnight according to Opus and Portrait, but I didn't hear anything after being in my bag for ten minutes. At least one of us was well rested.

I had cowboy camped with no bug issues, but as soon as I was out of my bag they were all over me. I hate putting on deet at anytime in the day, but it's really depressing to do first thing in the morning. It sets a bad tone. But it makes snack break five miles later much nicer. From Tahoe I packed out a little tub of chocolate cream cheese to smear on bagels and it might just be my new favorite second breakfast.

A couple miles later we came to a small road crossing where we met Nancy-a 66 year ole women out for a hike. She was wearing this pretty awesome straw hat decorated with butterflies and birds. She apologised profusely for not having any food to give us and we told her we were well feed and not to worry about us. She talked about how she wish she'd done the PCT when she was younger, but she was too old now with a bad knee.

Nancy left us in her dust on the way up to Baker's Pass. Granted we did stop for water and a snack and to talk to a father out with his daughter (not from the same group as the night before). Nancy was moving and we decided when we saw her again to tell her she could do the PCT if she wanted.

Portrait looking out over Lake Tahoe
We didn't see her again. We took a .1 side trail to a view for another snack break. We sat on some rocks and looked down on Lake Tahoe. I ate a Swiss Roll with a spoon for my snack. We were passed by two thru-hikers while we sat there, but we didn't know who from such a distance.

We went the rest of the way up Baker's Pass with still no sign of Nancy and her hat. I wanted to try yogi-ing a butterfly from her hat for my hat. She wasn't at the top of the pass, but we caught up with the other thru-hikers (two guys I hadn't met before) and two other day hikers. The thru-hikers moved on while we stopped for lunch with the day hikers.

We stayed on the pass for a long time. I'm ahead of schedule so while I try to do at least 20 miles a day I'm okay with not doing more. And besides, it was almost all down hill after lunch (which lasted until 3 p.m.).  It was a lot of down to a small creek that I was very happy to see when I got there. I still had water, but not much, and fresh cold creek water was better. And it was snack time again.

I had a rather large snack, and good thing too, because the last climb of the day was a long one. For some reason, despite knowing camp was on the far side of a ski mountain, I didn't think there would be so much climbing. It probably wasn't that much climbing but I was running on multiple short nights of sleep and I was feeling it.

It was a relief to start on the downhill stretch. The ski area took up a couple ridges and it looked like there was an amazing view of Lake Tahoe from the chair lifts. I'd like to see that view in winter sometime.

Portrait walked right past camp somehow (I think he was looking at his iPhone that was counting down how far to camp).  It had just enough room for our three tents. My spot was wonderfully flat and free of rocks, but it did have a small dirty patch of snow next to it. It also had great phone service so the three of us ignored each other for technology a little bit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 68-Survival Skills

Mile 1097 to mile ? at Richardson Lake

It was not a restful night last night-too windy and too much slope. I was thankful for morning, tired as I was. As we left camp, but before we were back on trail, Portrait, who was in the lead flushed out a grouse and two of her chicks. Nothing gets the heart going like flushing a grouse and than make you laugh at yourself.

Lunch:  bagel with cheddar cheese, sausage and avocado
The trail continued to follow the lake shore to the end of the lake before switchbacking uphill so it could follow the shore of more lakes. It was taking us towards Aloha Lake which may be the biggest lake I've seen on trail (Tahoe would be an exception). Aloha Lake had massive boulders mostly submerged under the water. It looked like a game of Battleship and Aloha was loosing.

We crossed another hundred miles off our hike. At the 1100 mile mark we built a carin and a mile marker and had a snack. As we worked we planned a marker for the 1111.11 mile-which I was way more excited for.
lunch was at the top of a pass-a bagel with sausage, cheese, and avocado.  I had been looking forward to eating it all morning and it was as good as I hoped for.  It was really nice up on the pass as well it overlooked lakes on both side of the ridge and the winds were calm. It was the type of place I could have lingered in for longer than lunch. As a bonus, after lunch none of my food hung from a shopping bag. It was still too much food for the stretch.

It was one of those days where lunch made me more tired. I was having a hard time focusing on the hike down. Until we got to a little lake. It looked shallow, so I figured it was warmer than most of the ones we've been walking past. It did seem to be a nice temp when I stuck my hand in so off went the shoes, socks, and pant legs for a little bit of wading. I sunk up to my ankles in the finest pond muck. I perched on a big half submerged rock and debated the merits of braving the muck and going all the way in or joining the guys on the shore. I decided all in. It was the first water I've been in on this trip that did not feel like a kick to the stomach when getting in. It didn't even give me goosebumps.

Back on shore I dried off and we all had snack. The rock we were on was perfect to stretch out on. We all fell into a light doze for a bit. Just those few minutes of sleep made the hiking easier.

We left our little lake to hike along a huge sparkling blue lake that would have been way to cold for swimming. The trail followed it for about a half mile than plunged into the woods just in time for the 1111.11 mile mark. The mosquitoes didn't like our idea and they didn't let us stop for long. It was a pretty lame mile marker that people probably won't see. Hopefully a better one is made at mile 2222.22.

From there it was time to go to camp.  We wanted an early night after last night's after dark arrival and poor night's sleep. And I wanted a campfire. My marshmallows weren't getting any nicer in my pack. We walked a few more miles to Richardson Lake. And what did we see as we approach?  A campfire. And our hope for an early night evaporating.

There was a group of fathers out with their young daughters for a weekend of survival skill training-learning how to use a GPS to a bow and arrow. They welcomed us right into their group with the usual questions and more than the usual amount of awe. Next thing I know I have my cook pot in one hand, a chili dog in the other, and a PBR in the drink-holder of a folding chair. One dad was impressed by me eating two chili dogs and all I could think was he should have seen me at the buffet.

Their fire was too hot for good marshmallows, but I found a decent spot of coals for roasting. I do worry about a survival group that doesn't know two foot high flames are horrible for roasting marshmallows.  We stayed at their fire until 10 then went off to find places to camp and hopefully sleep (but I remember enough sleep overs from when I was the same age as the girls' and sleep seemed unlikely).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 67-Nero out of Tahoe

Lake Tahoe at mile 1094 to mile 1097

It took awhile, but we finally managed a ride out of town in a Vanagon hippie bus-it was totally awesome. He did drop us off right at the one mile to the road crossing sign that had the two liter bottle of soda at it the day before. It was gone now.

The old mile of trail went by quickly (we cheered the Pony Express again). It was past 6:30 when we got to new trail. It was pretty clear that we were not in the Sierra's anymore-there were roads and houses within sight of the trail. It felt like the AT in New England.

We arrived at Echo Lake around Golden Hour and thought it would be a great place for dinner. We asked an employee if there was water somewhere (somewhere beside the lake with all its boat) and she said no. Neither Opus or I had enough water to cook dinner. We settled for drinking our trail magic PBR's from the day before. My pack was way overstuffed (I may have gone a little overboard at the grocery store and may have had a plastic shopping bag of food hanging off my pack) so it was great getting the weight of a beer off my back.

We set off around the lake. There were beautiful cabins ringing the lake. Some had people were there enjoying a summer evening with campfires. The trail had entered a wilderness area which meant no campfires which I found to be highly unfair. I had a bag of marshmallows begging for a good campfire. Portrait tried to talk me into yogi-ing (the art of getting people-usually day hikers-to give you something-usually food-without actually asking for anything) a campfire from the cabin dwellers, but I was feeling a little trail magic'ed out.

We followed the trail halfway around Echo Lake and then left it behind for Upper Echo Lake which looked much more remote with granite cliffs on the far shore and much fewer cabins. We hadn't come across any water, but had to pass up a dozen great camping spots because we didn't have water. We didn't find water until after we lost the light of day.

Not more than ten minutes after getting our water we thought we found a nice little place to camp. Once we got down to the flat grassy area we realized it was neither flat or grassy, but we were calling it good anyway.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 66-Into Lake Tahoe

Mile 1090 to Lake Tahoe at mile 1094

The Casino where we had dinner later that night
Sometime during the night the wind from the past few days finally blew itself out.  It was peaceful out when I climbed out of my tent. I have never packed up before town so unrushed. I still wasn't feeling my hiker hunger and town food wasn't pulling me in. I wouldn't mind more town stops like that one.

The trail was mostly downhill-it was a good thing we stopped to camp when we did because there weren't many other options.

We heard a road then went towards it. I started to think we were there, but then there was a sign saying one more mile.  There's nothing more fun than walking next to a road for a mile.  At the base of the sign was every hiker's dream:  soda.  Instead of cans of Mountain Dew there was one mostly empty two liter bottle. Portrait seemed to think nothing of it.  He picked it up and took a few long drinks while Opus and I looked on in disbelief.
Apparently it was soda. I took the bottle, brought it to my mouth, but started giggling before I could drink and passed it off to Opus who did take a drink. They left some soda for those behind us.

Just before the road crossing we crossed the Pony Express Trail and took a couple of pictures. I'm not sure why we thought the Pony Express was so neat, but we did.

At the road crossing there was a 24 pack of PBR. They were still cold and I tucked mine into my pack for later-second breakfast has to come before nasty beer. We dropped our packs, stashed our poles, and put out our thumbs.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 65-To Not Be Hungry

Carson's Pass at mile 1079 to 1090

It was such a shame that even in that nice big bed in that nice dark room and in that nice quiet house I woke up at 5:30. At least I got some blogging done (I used to be usually one day behind but now I'm usually two days behind). Awake or not it was pretty awesome to be in that bed.

The others in the house started to stir around 7 o'clock. Carol made us breakfast: lots of toast, farm fresh scrambled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, coffee, tea, and apple juice.  It was a pretty hearty meal. It lasted a long time-we ate for hours. Sadly the bacon that Portrait predicted did not appear, but there was more than enough good things to eat for my liking.

We left around 9:15, swung by the grocery store for trail snacks (donuts, sandwich, and chips for me), and then we were off to the trail.  There were no rocks in the road this time and we made it back to the trail at eleven.  Carol and a friend of hers went for a short hike and we decided to have lunch at the visitor's center-all that riding in a car made us hungry. We were hungry, but we also didn't want to pack out the extra trash.

When we did finally start walking I was looking forward to having a short day.  To make Tahoe in the morning we had to hike only a half day.

After leaving the parking lot the trail started to ascend, first through pine forest and then a bald ridge. The wind was ripping over the ridge-it was a hold onto your hat kind of wind. We met a group of day hikers, one of whom had clocked the wind at 32 mph gust with steady wind in the high teens.

For being a Monday there were a surprising number of day hikers out. It was almost enough to make it seem like our stay at Carol's was a dream and it was really still Sunday. 

We stopped at a small cabin that was built in the mid 1800's. I ate a donut leaning up against its weathered shingles. It was in a beautiful spot-sheltered from the wind, stream running behind it-just really peaceful.

We climbed and descended-never very much of either. The trail went halfway around a bright blue lake (too cold for swimming-I check most of the lakes).  The three of us sat on a log looking towards the water. We joked about other thru-hikers seeing us just sitting instead of eating. I felt full. I think that was the first time I felt full on trail since the trail magic at Tuolumne Meadows and before that...not since before the Sierra's.  It was pretty special.
We did move on-we did still want to go to Tahoe. It was strange to be so close to town and not be day dreaming about what to eat when upon getting there. I wouldn't mind more town stops where I don't feel like I'm one candy bar away from going hungry.

We ended up getting to camp early, I think around five, and decided to lounge in what little sun there was and share the chocolate bars Carol gave us as a parting gift. I had originally planned to eat two dinners (I somehow had extra dinners, but not extra anything else) but I didn't need too. It's so unusual to not be hungry that I can't get over it. It was not what I was expecting for four miles outside Tahoe.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 64-The Dreams that You Dare to Dream

Mile 1055 to mile 1079 at Carson's Pass
We had decided to that we could sleep in last night because we weren't going to Tahoe on Monday. That meant there was no rush. Of course I still woke up at 5:30 and I could tell the others we still asleep-not a sound to be heard. I woke feeling much more rested-almost like I could get up and hike 26 miles. Or, saying it was still cold and windy, staying in my bag seemed like a great choice.
We left camp at 7:30 (Buster left before us and we didn't expect to see him until maybe Tahoe). Right away the trail took us into the sun past the rock tower. It was almost as cold as yesterday, but with fewer clouds.
There were a lot of people out on the trail-the best way to tell it's a weekend is by the amount of day hikers out. It felt strange to be crossing roads and seeing people after the seclusion of the Sierra's. A couple of overnighters told us the dorsets at the Carson's Pass Visitor's Center were really hiker friendly (they may have mentioned something about Twinkies and sodas). We asked if they had running water there-I spent most of the morning dreaming about washing my hands and face with hot water and soap-but they said the center only had a pit toilet. Dreams were dashed.
We had lunch at a paved road. We watched every car that went by like vultures. I didn't expect a car to stop and have some one feed us, but I wanted that. I don't think Tahoe ever felt so far away as it did at lunch time.
We had been walking for minutes after lunch when we met one of the volunteers from the visitor's center out for a hike. We chatted with here for a bit-she gave us updates on hikers, including Buster, and we told her where we were from (MA and WA for Portrait and Opus) and when we started the hike. Then she said the magic words: would you like...? She had a nearly full bag of cherries, and apple, and carrot sticks. Opus took the apple, I took the cherries (she gave me the whole bag!), and we both had some carrots. My day's snack bag suddenly looked much better.

We hiked on, not very fast (we knew we wouldn't get to the pass before five when the center closed, so we didn't see the need to rush). I started to day dream about breakfast in South Lake Tahoe and how I could have it on Monday instead of Tuesday. Sometimes numbers run through my head like that classic word problem about two trains and their speed and when they will meet. If we hiked to Carson's Pass that would leave 13 miles to town. If we got there at 7 p.m. had dinner and hiked on until dark that could be 4 miles down and then a nero into town which would mean early lunch in town on Monday. If we hiked an hour past dark and got up early we could do eight miles into town for a mid morning breakfast. I had eaten my last candy bar so did I have enough snacks to hike more after dinner? These thoughts are not my favorite to have chasing each other while I'm hiking through beautiful landscapes. I'd rather dream about French toast.
We stopped for a cherry and snack break around mile 1074 which according to my guide book was right before a secret climb. I don't know what made it a secret, but the guide goes on to say that any hiker who dares climb up the Elephant's Back is risking their life. I don't know if the book tries to breed fear or just make sure you're reading. Or all the warnings just don't apply to the Golden Year class of 2012. At any rate, Elephant's Back was a neat climb up to a pass. There was some snow, and perhaps it could have slowed us down if we hit it at the wrong time of day, but it caused us no problems. It was windy, but it had been windy all day long and we had heard it was supposed to stay that way for a few more days. Near the top of the ridge the view really opened up. On the far said there was a lake that was gleaming silver in the late afternoon sunlight. It was something to look at from way up there.
On the descent down we started to see day hikers reminding us that it was still the weekend and we were getting close to a road. Portrait and I started reminiscing about the few times we had been brought home by strangers for the night. I told him about the family that took me home at the end of my AT hike and he told me about the couple of times it happened to him on the AT. Portrait was like the devil on my shoulder whispering about laundry, showers, comfortable beds, and breakfast (I have a weakness for breakfast). I told him while he was describing bacon sizzling that he was being cruel. Opus had dropped back so he didn't have to listen. Portrait was convinced someone was going to take the three of us home for the night. It's a rare occurrence, but a memorable one when it happens.
We hadn't seen any other thru-hikers for awhile when we spotted Billy Goat (a hiker legend, he's hiked the PCT every year for the past decade) talking to a couple of women out for a day hiker. We stopped to say hi and chatted for a couple of minutes. I think we stole the attention away from Billy Goat because he wasn't out doing a thru hike, just a section. The two women peppered us with questions. I don't know how it came up, but they mentioned an inn with excellent hamburgers just down the road about five miles and they'd be happy to bring us there. I know I lit up at the mention of a ride to food.
At Carson's Pass the visitor's shelter was closed, but there was a pit toilet with trash cans which didn't interest me nearly as much now that I was thinking about hamburgers. And I still had incredibly dirty hands. Opus and I ate cherries while we all decided what to do. We didn't have far to hike until camp for the night and town food sounded great--I know my energy levels were low--and now pack food didn't sound any good knowing there were hamburgers near by. We thought hitching back to the trail could be a problem if it was dark out and we didn't know if we'd be done eating before than. It was like another math problem.
The two day hikers found us just finishing the cherries and they offered to take us to the inn for take-out and drive us back to the trail. It seemed like all problems were solved. We wedge our packs in the trunk of Carol's car and we climbed into the back of her very clean car and away we went. The five of us talked trail the short car ride to the inn. At the inn the three of us went straight to the bar hoping to place our orders and not make our ride wait too long. At this point I was hungry enough that I no longer cared about scrubbing my hands. It wasn't long before Carol and Cheryl came into the Inn and claimed a booth--they had decided to get some food with us and then take us back to the trail.
We kept talking about the trail and our hikes and their hikes while waiting for our food. Carol has been on some grand treks in the past and knew what it was like to be hungry and dirty. Talking lessened right after the food was delivered. I had one of the best tasting pulled pork BBQ sandwiches placed in front of me with fries. I probably could have eaten the sandwich twice over (it was that good and I was that hungry). I did eat most of Carol's fries as well. She surprised us by picking up the check when everybody had cleaned their plates.
In the parking lot walking back to Carol's car she said she should just take us home with her and bring us back in the morning. Cheryl said we'd love Carol's home. Portrait asked if that was a real offer and I started to giggle. Carol said it was a real offer. We could do laundry and take showers. She said she had enough beds for each of us. She said she had a hot tub. Opus, Portrait, and I didn't discuss it--there was no need. We just got into the car and off we went to Carol's home.
Opus changing the tire
We were traveling down a twisty mountain road with wonderful views--the type people pull over to gaze at for awhile. The sun was thinking about setting. It was nearly picturesque until Carol clipped a grapefruit sized rock in the road which flattened her tire. It thumped quietly until she could pull over into a gravel turnout. Opus and Portrait were out of the car as soon as it stopped to inspect the damage while assuring Carol they would change the tire for her. We took our packs out of the trunk and a few other items, put rocks behind the tires, and the guys set about changing the tire. The tire was on tight--Opus had to stand on the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. Portrait jacked the car up. Opus pulled the old tire off. Everybody looked at the hole. Carol said it was lucky for her that she had decided to take us home, but we assured her she was doing us the bigger favor. The new tire was on and everybody was back in the car ready to go in under a half hour.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. Carol told us about her 150 year old farm house. She told me about her claw foot bathtub that I could use. She told us about laundry and the three terry cloth bathrobes she had that we could use while our clothes were in the washer. At the mention of the robes my giggling got out of hand and the guys seemed to notice for the first time that I had a bad case of the giggles. I seemed to giggle harder with each luxury that she described and it didn't help that Portrait was still whispering about food. He was a little smug about how spot on his prediction had been--which he had every right to be so.
Our bed and breakfast in the morning
The sun set and about an hour later we pulled into Carol's driveway. Cheryl said that Carol's home was like a bed and breakfast it was so charming. And indeed it was. Carol had white lights around the huge wrap around porch. The house was blue with white trim with flower pots on the steps. t looked more old New England to me than California. It was hard to believe we had gone from the woods to such a charming home.
We left our (stinking, gross, filthy) packs on the front porch after grabbing our dirty laundry and a few toiletries. We dropped our laundry in the machine and Carol whisked me away upstairs to the claw foot tub. She gave me a fluffy yellow towel and purple bathrobe and a fresh bar of soap. The water was hot as I set about removing a week and a half of trail grime. It was practically perfect.
I dropped the clothes I had been wearing (I tried not to let them touch the bathrobe) in the washer and joined the guys in the hot tub. Carol brought us water and bubbles. We soaked for well over an hour while occasionally expressing how lucky we were. It was closer to actual midnight than hiker midnight when I went upstairs to my bedroom for the night (the guys let me have the largest of the bedrooms with the largest of the beds). Carol and Cheryl are the type of people I hope every thru-hiker is lucky enough to meet, but I know so very few are.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 63-A Wonderful Life Over the Rainbow

Mile 1032 to mile 1055

It was a cold morning-high 30's-and still very windy. After packing up I had trouble deciding how much clothing to wear: two jackets or one?  I started with two and was warm enough within twenty minutes to take off my insulated jacket and keep the rain jacket to block the wind.

The trail went up into a very exposed ridge side meadow right at second breakfast time-horrible timing. There was no way I was stopping for a break in a cold windy meadow-no matter how hungry. The trail crested the ridge and went down the other side which had some trees. It still wasn't sheltered but the three of us made do. Break was quick though.

The trail was easy walking-I actually stowed my trekking poles so I could put my hands in my pockets. After hiking thousands of miles it felt strange to not have them in my hands, but I adjusted quickly.  I only had them put away for about an hour and a half-my hands were very warm and the trail was getting rockier.

Frost and his ukulele
We stopped on the bank of a stream with another hiker, Frost, for snack and water.  Frost pulled out his ukulele upon request and played for us.  He played the Kinks and Over the Rainbow and a few other songs.  As we hiked on we wondered what it would take to get all of the musical hikers together for a trail concert.

The trail went up from the stream and Portrait was in the lead and quickly out of sight. I stopped a couple of times to look at the view:  peaks with snow patches and bright blue lakes at their base. I could also see where the trail was going:  an exposed meadow and a saddle.  I was hoping lunch would be at the saddle.

Right before the meadow Buster snuck up on Opus and stage whispered that he'd pack out more pie; startling Opus. It was pretty funny (Opus thought so, too).  But Buster didn't have any pie, which made it almost mean.

It was clear lunch wasn't on the saddle once we got there-not unless we wanted to be frozen then blown away. Just minutes down the trail was a much more sheltered place for lunch. Frost joined the four of us and we got him to take out his ukulele again so Buster could sign with him. They did the Wonderful Life/ Over the Rainbow song. It was pretty awesome.

After lunch the trail went down.  It felt like I could see a dozen switchbacks leading to the valley floor. I fell behind a little when I took off the layer I put on at lunch time. It was nice to spend some time hiking with no one in sight ahead or behind me.   The trail was made up of loose pebbles that I seemed to slip on a lot so it was nice to go at my own pace.

Over lunch we talked a little bit about upping the day's mileage so we could get into Tahoe on Monday instead of Tuesday morning. The more I hiked the more I didn't like the idea of doing 26 miles and an equally large day tomorrow.  It just didn't seem possible to get to Tahoe early enough on Monday for it to be worth it.  One thing I noticed while hiking early on is that I get cranky if I can't nero (hike less than 10 miles) into town. While hiking alone near the end of the desert I nero'ed into every town and loved it. Tahoe was still a couple of days away and the very idea of a mid afternoon arrival was making me grumpy (or it could have been the cold, the wind, the fact that I hadn't taken my shoes off once during the day, that I had holes in my socks, or that I was hungry).

I caught up with Opus while he was filtering water at a cascading waterfall. I had a snack and Tahoe seemed in reach again, but the idea vanished as soon as we were hiking again. I just didn't have six more miles in me. We caught up with Portrait and Buster at Ebbitt's Pass. We didn't hike long as a group before stopping to discuss the rest of the night. I felt bad, but I told them I couldn't do six more miles. It was already five and I just didn't have it in me-I felt more tired today than after last night's sleepless night.  They were okay about it-even Opus, who was as low on food as me, was fine stopping at our original goal-which meant no town on Monday.

Our camping spot was a lovely one-it had water and some shelter from the relentless wind. After dinner Portrait and Buster decided to go for a hike to a rock tower not far from camp. We could see tiny figures moving up the rock as the sun did its golden hour thing. It was pretty neat. I was more than happy to get in my bag and be warm once they were out of sight on their way back to camp.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 62-High Expectations

Ridge top at ? to mile 1032

I saw the stars a lot last night. It was too cold to sleep and too windy. The wind cut through my sleeping bag like it wasn't there. I tried to hide behind my pack like I did for a couple of nights in the desert, but this wind out blew all the night time wind in the desert.  Around 11 p.m. I dug my tent out of my pack and used it as a blanket. I weighed it down with rocks to keep the flapping noise down, but it was still really loud.  It was a long night.

It was also a long morning before the sun reached where I was. I was relieved to know I wasn't the only one that hadn't slept. We were a pretty sorry bunch packing up. Once I was out of my sleeping bag I didn't fool around-it was in the 30's and the only way to be warm was to hike.

The trail was in shadow for a few miles so that made warming up much more difficult.  The trail went past some shrubby trees that completely blocked the wind-they would have made for also tenting (the view wasn't as good though).

There was some snow which I hadn't been expecting.  It was nothing I would have used traction aid for even if I still had my spikes. The snow was at that perfect not hard or soft point. Even still, Opus and I waited for Nightingale just to make sure we all crossed without issues.  There were only two patches that we couldn't walk around and only a couple of steps that had a little bit of ice. 

The trail went through several small passes before it started to loose elevation. It was so beautiful-the landscape seemed painted. The mountains had stripes almost-large patches of red rocks next to black rocks next to gray. It was cold and windy enough that my camera refused to work. Perhaps I have enough pictures of high alpine lakes with mountains in the background, but I don't think so. 

We could see the road at Sonera Pass for miles. This was the first time since Walker Pass (back around mile 600) that I've hiked the trail down to a pass-it was a nice change from the hiking up to passes. We weren't even going into town from the pass, but we were absurdly excited to reach the pass. We had high expectations:  a pit toilet, trash cans, and a sunny spot to take naps in (we were desperately tired).
After watching the road slowly grow larger for over an hour we finally reached the road crossing. I was dragging by the time I got there-second breakfast had all been used up. On the back of a trail info sign there was a computer print out about the Senora Pass Cafe-Open only three days a year!  Opus and I looked at each other while thinking the same thing:  there was trail magic and we missed it.

We crossed the road and passed another flier. It looked so new; so unweathered.  There was a third flier directing us to the picnic area. In the corner of that flier some one had scribbled a note saying it was real...on the 21st. Would it happen two days in a row?  I was no longer dragging.

Hikers are easy to spot and I saw Portrait and Oodie sitting at a picnic table (with a table cloth!) with a man who had a large and rich looking chocolate cake in front of him. I had the goofiest grin on my face at the sight of the cake and then bowls of fresh fruit. The goofiest and widest grin.

The Owl keeping a close eye on the chocolate cake
The Owl has been operating his cafe for hikers for seven years and knew what we liked to eat at this point. He cut the four of us (me, Opus, Nightingale, and King Nutella) large slices of cake and put whip cream on each one.  He even had the Sunday Times-because a cafe must have a newspaper. 

We stayed for a few hours (nap time not forgotten, but not needed so much with all that sugar).  The Owl had a banner made for the hikers proclaiming we'd walk 1,000 miles on the PCT. We all did a Kodak Moment photo with the banner-it was kind of awesome.

Portrait joined us as we hiked up out of the pass. We were going up to 10,000 feet for the last time on the trail. The trail made its way up another beautifully painted ridge. The view felt endless from the top of the false saddle. We actually did bonus hiking and walked the few minutes to the top of the little peak above the false saddle for a 360 view.

Somehow I was in the lead since leaving the Cafe and I continued to be in the lead on the way to the real saddle. It was a beautiful place, but the wind was actually pushing us onward. It didn't die down much even as we lost elevation. The clouds above were running across the sky they were moving so fast. We figured we may be in for a storm.

We hiked for three hours after leaving the Cafe before stopping to eat some more. We found and almost sheltered spot for first lunch. Portrait, who had gone into town from the Pass and had waited for us to catch up, pulled out a bag of peach ring gummies and gave them to me. My day's snack bag went from sad to fantastic in mere moments. We braked quickly-we were worried about the weather.

I stayed in the lead as the trail continued downhill with Portrait behind-we caught each other up on hiking life. According to the guides the rest of our day was going to be easy-and it really was.  There were miles of downhill and then flat trail that wound through dark green forest. It felt rich in the forest-like it had just rained. I think it was a glimpse of what is waiting much farther north (although it may actually be raining then).

Portrait and I took a break at the base of a small climb-only 700 feet up and the last one of the day.  We all made a camping plan-just a few more miles-and upward we went.

The trail was a little steeper than I thought as it followed a small waterfall up. It felt almost like the AT with the directness of the route. Then I was up and the trail was back to the lovely meandering PCT style trail I'm coming to love so much.

We breezed along for 80 minutes before stopping to check our location. Portrait and I had walked right past camp one and a half miles ago. While debating what to do (and what the others would do) Opus hiked up. We decided to hike 1.5 miles further north to water and camping. We left a note for Nightingale and King Nutella and went onward.

My sugar high wore off fast-suddenly hiking was hard as a followed the trail up what was supposed to be the next day's climb. We passed flat spot after flat spot, but Opus and I were didn't have enough water to dry camp so we were forced to go on. The wind was really picking up, the clouds were darker, and the temp was falling fast. I wanted camp badly.

Finally the trail crossed a small trickling stream with sheltered flattish spots insight. I took two liters and followed Portrait into a gully. We were sort of out of the wind and we found three sort of flat spots for tents. While the other two set up their tents I just stood there wishing I had a porter to make camp for me. I felt like a wind-up doll that had wound down. Portrait gave me a cookie and that seemed to restart my gears. The tent went up and dinner was made.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 61-Summer Begins at Mile 1000

Willma Lake to Ridge top

It was warm last night so the mosquitoes never went away and as soon as I got out of my tent they were all over me.  I packed up as quick as I could and didn't even eat breakfast before leaving camp.  They were just too bad. And in case I didn't have enough of them in camp the trail went halfway around the lake. Then it crossed a wide shallow river-shoes off which meant more mosquitoes (and it was too early for such things). The water was nice and cold.

About an hour into the hiking day the trail crossed some flat rock and I inhaled my breakfast bar standing with my pack resting on a boulder. It wasn't my most enjoyable breakfast spot. Food doesn't last that long any more-I eat and I'm just as hungry. I had second breakfast not too long after first breakfast while Opus was filtering his water.

The trail went through so swamp along the creek. It was a good thing the trail was flat because to go slow meant mosquito bites.  They clung to my head net even when there was a meager breeze.  It was pretty dreadful. Even with flat trail the hiking felt a little hard, but that was because breaks weren't restful, they were actually the opposite.

Around 10:30 the trail followed the shore of Dorothy Lake-beautiful spot with a massive granite peak framing one side of the lake.  I put my hand in the water and it seemed not cold.  We followed the trail around to a sandy point jutting into the water that had a surprising amount of wind.  Opus and I went wading-it was chilly with a strong breeze.  Nightingale and King Nutella joined us once we were sitting on the bank having snack. They both went fully in the water and reported it was steal your breath cold.

Opus and I left while they were still drying off. For the first time in a couple of days I felt rested after a break. There was a little bit of uphill to a pass and the point where the trail exited Yosemite Park. We joked about leaving our bear canisters at the sign post.  The trail on the north side of the pass seemed to be much more groomed than the trail in the park. It even had a strong enough breeze that I took my head net off.
About a half mile before the 1000 mile mark I started to get real excited. I knew there wasn't going to be trail magic or anything, but I couldn't hardly wait to get there.  It felt like a very concrete measure of what I've been doing.  It turned out to be one of the smallest mile markers that I've seen-just four digits made of stones on a rock. I might have gone past it if Train, Memphis, and Oodie weren't sitting there. We joined them and started in on lunch. Then napped a little in the sun. Collector showed up not long after nap time and seemed a little bemused that were weren't more enthusiastic until we told him we'd been there nearly two hours. Shortly after that Nightingale and King Nutella showed up and it was group photo time. We all set our timers and ran to be in the photo then we did individual photos, and then it was time to hike on.

We passed a much larger rock billboard proclaiming mile 1003-which we all got a chuckle from.  After looking at the maps we decided it was closer to mile 1004 and there would be a creek and footbridge coming up.  We got there a few minutes later and took a second lunch break. When I was almost done my summer sausage and cheese wrap Brian from Detroit Rock City (from way back around mile 200) came and sat down. He caught me up on the adventures he and his wife had. They left a few minutes before us knowing my group would pass them soon.
Which we did, but we only went a couple of miles before stopping again. Opus and I cooked dinner at the last water source for ten miles. I chatted with Rock City while cooking and eating. They were staying at the campsite while we were hiking four more miles to dry camp on top of the ridge.

The climb reminded me very much of the desert, but on a grander scale. The trail was taking us over 10,000 feet It was the same type of slow climb where I could see the trail etched into the side of the mountain.   Even the wind was very much like the desert.  We arrived at the top just before seven.
Train in the cooking circle

The mountains were starting to take on that gold color I love so much. Everybody up there seemed in awe of the place.  The mood was infectious.  It was such a perfect place-there was even a little stone circle about three feet high and four feet around to cook in. I made a perfect pot of hot chocolate (that got cold much too quickly).

The view west was perfect for watching the sun set on the longest day of the year. Everybody was in their bags ready to watch the show when Train convinced us to get up and take some silhouette pictures. We were all in a fit of laughter hamming for the camera.

The sun did set-a fiery orange ball. The end of the longest day, two months on trail, and one thousand miles done. It was almost too much for one day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 60-There's Too Much Uphill in My Downhill

 To Willima Lake
It cooled down overnight and sent the mosquitoes where ever they go when it's too cold for them.  Packing up was fine and I was out of camp before 6:30.  The trail to begin with  was a little hard to follow.  It was on rock and I misplaced it a couple of times.  It was more annoying than anything.
I was thinking I was in for a long stretch of downhill so I was a little surprised when the trail started on its way uphill.  We climbed away from the valley just to drop back into it a couple of miles later.  Opus and I stopped for a short snack break. I feel like I don't need to mention the mosquitoes-if I stopped they feasted. 
At the valley floor the trail crossed some creeks.  The first crossing went well enough and the second one did too-although it was another really high log over deep water.  The third crossed into a snarl of blowdowns that were very hard to navigate through.  When the trail crosses water and the other side of the trail can't be seen for twenty yards its hard to know where to go.  We were feeling a little confused when we came across two section hikers.  They were insistent that we were headed towards a lake that wasn't on the PCT.  We were pretty sure they were wrong.  We kind of nodded, smiled, and thanked them for the advice.  When they set off in what we thought was a northbound direction we checked Opus's compass. They had gone north.  We caught them and sent them off the right way.

We caught Nightingale and King Nutella at the bottom of the next climb.  We had a mini break while they had a head start, and we also started to climb.  We stopped a little ways in to get some water and continued up.  We passed another section hiker-it's feeling more like the AT with more people out hiking.  The climb felt steeper than what the trail did in past sections.  Unlike the desert and the Sierra passes I was sweating. We took a short break at the top-no view, just mosquitoes-and then headed down.

The trail kept flirting with a creek.  First it took me close-almost to the water's edge, then out of sight, the out of hearing range.  Then the trail went up and away from the creek.  Again I thought it was all downhill and I really wanted lunch at the water but the up was stealing my strength.  The trail went up a flight of stone steps and I looked back at Opus and Nightingale that the stairs demoralized me.  Nightingale told me it was a short flight and to get going.  So I went, but Opus and I stopped on a rock out cropping for lunch-the creek would have to wait.

The trail continued its teasing dance with the creek.  I really tried not to be annoyed and impatient, but it was really hot, I felt gross, and I just wanted to go swimming.  I sped up when the river was finally in front of me.  I crossed the creek rock hop to log style, shucked my shoes, socks, pant legs, and shirt and got in the water.  It wasn't even knee deep, but it was cold and clear and felt so great after thinking about it for a couple of hours.   I went all the way under a few times, and so did most of the others.  I also did some hiker laundry (dunk shirt, ring it out, and repeat).  It felt wonderful to be clean-at least for the moment.

Right after leaving the river the trail climbed up. It wasn't as steep as the earlier climbs. It really helped feeling cool and refreshed.  It seemed like no time past before I was following it down the other side.

Waiting at the bottom was a sluggish river that had clouds of mosquitoes waiting for hikers.  It was a shoe off crossing and I tried to move as quick as possible, but a couple mosquitoes got in a few good bites.

Then it was time for the finale climb for the day.  Opus and I had the same plan as yesterday:  climb up to the pass, have dinner, and hike a few more miles.  We started up and probably only got two miles into the climb when we stopped for a break.  Train joined us on a rock slope that only had moderate mosquitoes. 
Regardless we kept break short and right as we were finishing up some kind of military jet flew over us; freaking us out. Once we knew what it was it was neat.

The climb up seemed to go on and on for me.  Eventually I had to let Opus lead because all my strength had seemed to vanish-I hate when snack wares off before I leave the snack spot.  I felt really weak-dinner at the top of the pass was all I could think about which means there was false top after false top. I was sluggish by the time we finally reached the pass only to find two swampy bug breeding ponds so we went a little further.

We climbed to the top of a rocky outcropping with low expectation.  We both put on rain gear and head nets. There wasn't even much of a breeze. Dinner was good though.  I actually made two servings for my meal and had hot chocolate.  It was sadly unsatisfying.

I left my head net on while we hustled through the swampy area going down the ridge.  I can't even begin to guess at how many brown pollen filled ponds the trail went past.  It made me miss the clear waters of the High Sierras.

We arrived at camp:  Willima Lake a buggy lumpy place.  I think the mosquitoes were worst here than last night.  My tent went up, I climbed in, and the group of us talked from our tents.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 59- A Thousand Little Beasts

Glen Aulin at 948 to mile ?

My shoes and socks smelled so bad last night I had to move them from their usual place in my tent by my hips to the foot end of my tent and I could still smell them.  I didn't sleep well-I don't think six miles is enough for me to sleep.  But I felt ready to hike in the morning.

Everybody left camp around the same time, but nobody left camp with anyone-kind of unusual.  The trail started off with a brief level section then went uphill-just enough to get the blood going.  We all grouped up in a meadow right after the climb.  We were all liking the trail thus far-woods trail with a very different feel than what we've been doing.

Opus and I left the meadow together and the trail quickly went back into the forest and with forest comes blow downs.  I was a bit disappointed-I thought we had left the blow downs behind at Red's Meadow.  There was one really bad snarl of trees that completely hid the trail.  I was following the footsteps of others who had bushwhacked around the mess hoping they were leading me back to the trail.  After a bit they did bring me back to the trail and I continued on my merry way to Canada.

After eight miles the trail came to a good sized river.  There were some logs most of the way across that worked well.  While I had two dry feet I kicked off my shoes and washed my stinking socks.  The water was so cold-super glad I didn't get my feet wet while crossing.  While at the river I looked up and saw a beautiful buck looking back at me.  He was the first one I've seen with antlers-he kept a close eye on me while he came closer.  I had to call Opus three times before he heard me over the river's rumble and saw the buck-who ran away.
When there were blow downs they were a snarled mess

I put on my still felt like new socks and hiked onward-for about five minutes before coming to another branch of the same river.  It took a bit of looking, but we found a log crossing the river.  I wasn't about to get my fresh socks all wet.  The log felt really high over the river-maybe three feet high over chest deep water.  It felt a little scary at first, but by the middle it was easy.

After the river the trail went up and it did so rather steeply for a few miles.  At the top of the climb Opus and I had lunch and were soon joined by Nightingale and King Nutella.  It was a short lunch-the mosquitoes decided that they also wanted lunch.

The beginning of the afternoon was spent going up a ways then down a ways.  Neither the ups or downs were very long which was good, but Opus is faster on the up and I'm faster on the down.  I was in the lead and felt like we should switch on and off, but that also felt silly.  Then the trail went down and I didn't have to worry about it any more.

At the bottom was another river.  Nothing looked good for rock hopping, but Opus thought he saw a way and went first.  He made it to the other side with two wet feet.  I changed into my camp shoes.  It was only ankle deep or I would have stayed to play in the water-it felt so nice.  We had a quick snack (and so did the mosquitoes) and then it was time to move on uphill.

The trail climbed up to a 10,000 foot pass.  It started out pretty steep and then mellowed out some near the middle.  We had to cross the river four more times-each time it was noticeable smaller.  They were all dry feet crossings that didn't take any thinking about.  At the last crossing we stopped for water so we could cook dinner at the top of the pass where there would be enough wind to keep the mosquitoes away (we hoped).  The mosquito swarm descended as soon as we stopped-it was almost bad enough to make me not need water (but I really like having dinner).

At the top of the pass we climbed to the top of the ridge above it looking for a bug free dinner spot.  The idea had worked so well the other day for lunch, but not this time.  Those mosquitoes were hardy.  They clung on while the breeze blew.  I had about 20 on my hat-or so Opus told me.  We ate and left in a hurry while laughing about hiding in our tents the rest of the evening.

Two miles after the pass we came across three little tents in a meadow with three people hiding from the mosquitoes.  I don't know if I ever set my tent up so quickly before.  I dove in and dragged my pack in with me.  I feel like there are a thousand little beasts baying at my door.  There's so many it's almost creepy.  I hope they go away at some point so I can brush my teeth in peace.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 58-Magic Makes Short Days

Tuolumne Meadows at mile 942 to Glen Aulin at 948

I had the grand plan to sleep until 8:30-ended up sleeping until 6 a.m.  I got up around 7 to run some town errands before parking myself at a picnic table in front of the general store for the day with a dozen other hikers.

We originally thought we were going to leave around 10 or 11.  We had very good intentions, but then we had to wait to say happy birthday to Nightingale, then eat a little more, and then the three of us packed up.  It was about 1:30 and we were minutes away from leaving when a van pulled up and the driver asked if we wanted any food.  A dozen hikers swarmed to the van.

They unloaded all things hikers love:  cakes, donuts, watermelon, bags of fruit, chips, salsa, lemon aide, orange juice, and beer.  The food filled a table and overflowed to another one.  It became clear very quickly that I wasn't going anywhere very soon.

Around 2:30 Portrait put on his pack.  Opus and I looked at him like he was crazy-there was still food to eat after all. But he took off with plans to go farther than six miles to the next place to camp.  It's hard to know if and when we'll be seeing him again.

Opus, Nightingale, and I left around 4 o'clock-most of the food was gone at this point.  The trail started out on a paved road then a dirt one after a bit.  We sampled the water from Soda Springs-it was a carbonated mineral spring (I thought it tasted bad).

The trail followed a river, crossing it a couple of times.  It was mostly flat, but whenever it went up or down there were stone steps that looked like they would have taken months to build-they were beautiful.  The rest of the time the trail was sand or crossed large smooth rock outcroppings near the river.  In one of the sandy stretches Portrait had written Happy Birthday Nightingale with mini pine cones.  Nightingale loved it.  That was the only sign from Portrait that he was ahead.
Nicest pit toilet on the trail

We made it to camp just before seven-feeding time for the mosquitoes.  They kind of put a damper on such a lovely place to camp.  Lots of people here: thru-hikers and backpackers, but no Portrait.  Some one had a smokey fire going, but it was too much smoke for me to enjoy (and it was still kind of mosquito-y). It will be a good test of my tent tonight to see how well it keeps out mosquitoes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 57- A Thousand Jumping Fish

Mile ? To Tuolumne at mile 942

Last night I was up late-for a hiker-and this morning was on the lazy side.  I packed up and called home while eating breakfast.  We didn't leave camp until just before 7, but we were planning a short day.

The trail went up some, but it skirted Agnew Pass and went to 10,000 Island Lakes instead.  The lake was beautiful, but hard to enjoy with the thousand mosquitoes buzzing around.  The surfaces of the lake was rippling with a thousand fish jumping for mosquitoes.  It was pretty neat.

When we stopped at 9:30 for a snack it became clear it was going to be a day of very short breaks due to mosquitoes.  I put on deet for the first time on this trip and wolfed down a breakfast bar.  About a half hour later we took another short break-my shoulders demanded the break this time (usually the breaks are a demand for food).

There was a lot of water to cross or walk along so no relief from the mosquito, but as long as we kept moving they weren't a problem.

The climb up to Donohue Pass just about did me in-the trail it self wasn't hard, but it felt like a long time to climb up and my snack was completely used up.  Hiking is hard when you bottom out on fuel.  I couldn't really enjoy the climb because I was too hungry, but the mosquitoes weren't going to let me stop, and I was pretty close to the top.

There was a lake at the top of the pass so we climbed to the top of the hill next to the pass hoping for a breeze and bug relief.  And found both.  Collector joined us shortly after we got there.  It was a very pleasant place to have lunch (I had to have a pre-lunch of just a plain wrap before I could take the time to cut up summer sausage and cheese for a wrap) and then I ate all my peach ring gummies even though I meant to only eat a few.  Opus, Portrait, and I all packed up, stood up, and put our packs on at the same time without any discussion.  Collector thought it was pretty funny, but we've shared enough lunches at this point to know when it's time to move on.

There was some snow on the downhill side of the pass, but hardly enough to mention.  We were worried more about the mosquitoes in the valley-we heard they were supposed to be bad.  We followed a stream, crossed a lake outlet, crossed a waterfall, followed more streams and there were not really any mosquitoes.  It was such an unexpected treat, but we still looked down at the valley floor thinking the 10 miles on the valley floor next to a river were going to be horrible.
Crossing the lake outlet after lunch
They weren't. We had decided that we were going to Tuolumne today after all during lunch based on a southbound JMT's warning that the mosquitoes don't stop until the store-after lunch that advice seemed silly.  About 3 miles from the store we stopped for a quick break and I seriously thought about staying stretched out on a rock looking at clouds the rest of the day.  I have never felt so lazy going into a town stop.

Nevertheless the last 3 miles went by quickly.  We got to the Lodge around 6:30-just in time to wait an hour to be seated for our meal.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 56-Devil's Post Pile

Mammoth Lakes at mile 903 to Mile ?

Hitching out of town was easy. We got a ride from a guy who works for Search and Rescue. He told SAR stories almost the whole way to the trail head.  We were dropped off just after 8 a.m. and were back on the PCT (after taking the side trail from the parking lot to the trail) at just after 9 a.m.

We stopped for a quick snack break after getting on trail, but our first real break of the day was the hot springs at Red's Meadow.  Nothing at Red's was open yet because of the wind storm at the end of last year.  The resort looks close to opening-most of the down trees have been taken care of.

The hot spring was in the camp ground behind the bath house.  The water felt hotter than the pools at Deep Creek back around mile 300.  I didn't stay in for long-the hot day and hot water made me feel slightly sick so I sat with my feet in the cold stream nearby instead.
The Devil's Post Pile

About a mile after the hot spring we came to the Devils Post Pile-rock post standing 40 feet tall.  It was very cool looking.  We dropped our packs and took the side trail to the top of the pile.  It was like standing on a massive bee hive-all the post are hexagon shape.
The top of the post pile

The PCT split off from the JMT for 14 miles and we had lunch at the base of some falls right after the split.  The sun was so hot I didn't want to leave our shady spot.  It didn't help that the miles were crawling by.

After lunch the miles seemed to go by a little quicker as we walked along a river.  I kept falling behind-tired and weighed down by my pack.  The trail spent most of the afternoon in the valley-easy walking-thankfully.

Around four it started to climb up.  I kept sipping on my water until I got nothing but air on from my hose.  We took a snack break near the middle of the up where I drank the rest of my water.  In 700 miles of desert I never ran out of water but did in the Sierra's.  It wasn't a big deal like it would have been in the desert-there was a water in a mile.  Turned out to be pond water that tasted like leaves.  I took a little hoping to find something better. 

The trail came across some pit toilets, trash cans and a road-the wilderness of the Sierra's seems to have ended.  Then the trail really went up-switchbacking through a meadow-a very hot meadow and I drank my leaf water happily.

Around 5:30 we stopped by some awesome red rocks for shade and a snack.  We looked at the maps and picked a camping place nearly four miles away, and started walking again.  Halfway there we were treated with one of the best views:  mountains with glaciers, a lake glittering in the late afternoon sunlight, white fluffy clouds-it was stunning.  If we had water we would have stayed and camped.

We walked about a mile and found a beautiful stream and we still had the beautiful view.  For awhile we thought about camping in a rather crummy spot-sandy soil, rocks every where, no flat spots, but great view-but in the end decided to move on to our original destination.

Sunset for dinner

Moving on was the right choice.  It had the wonderful view and nice places to pitch a tent.  While making dinner the sun turned all the clouds pink-my favorite sunset so far, and I can't imagine it can be beat after leaving the Sierra's.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Days 55-Zero Day in Mammoth

Possibably my new favorite thing to eat for breakfast:  French toast with a scoop of ice cream

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 54-Nero to Mammoth

? Mile to Side Trail to Mammoth at mile 903

Opus making his way through one of the many patches of down trees in the miles leading up to Mammoth

Portrait and Opus at the 900 mile marker that they built

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 53- In the Water

Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) at mile 878 to mile ?

The ferry ride back to the trail in the morning felt warmer than yesterday's ride.  We saw Nightingale at the dock and and gave her some snacks (one of the guys had the idea to send food to her with a JMT southbounder, but she was at the dock). The snacks.seemed to really make her happy.  There were also a handful of people that I hadn't seen for awhile so we exchanged quick updates.

We didn't get back to the PCT until 10:15-a late start for a hopefully a high mile day.  And even though it was early it was already hot out.  The day started out slow-with an uphill.  My breakfast stuck with me for all of the uphill-which was pretty awesome.

We did stop next to Mono Creek for a break.  The water was clearer than any piece of glass and the bottom was sandy-very inviting.  While Portrait and Opus had snack on the bank I wadded into the water.  It wasn't too cold.  I did the slow torture way of getting into cold water (deeper inch by inch), but I did get all the way in.  I went under and quickly made my way to the shore to dry off and warm back up.

I started hiking before the others but they caught me minutes later at the next river crossing. I had dry shoes and socks, but for some reason I splashed on through like a kid in a puddle.  It was great and really helped me stay cool on the way up.

The trail crossed the creek a few more times and eventually it lead to the bottom of a cascade.  It was beautiful.  It wasn't a lot of water, but thin white ribbons slipping down smooth rocks.  The trail was on a little shelf where the water pooled and then plunged off the shelf.  I splashed through-totally enjoying myself.

The trail went up to the top of the waterfall and we tossed in baby pine cones and twigs to see who had the best ride over the falls.  None of this was getting us any closer to Mammoth, but it was fun.
Once we left the river we did get a little more serious about the hiking, but only until the 1/3 of the way done marker that Portrait made (Opus and I had snack while being eaten by  mosquitoes). 

We hiked for aways without stopping-made it to the top of the ridge and then we had a snack break-a quick one of course because the mosquitoes also wanted a snack.  The trail was on a side hill after our break overlooking a lake in a valley.  I was at the front, Portrait behind me, and Opus last. We hadn't been going ten minutes when we heard cursing from Opus and I turned and saw him limping around on one foot.  He'd rolled his bad ankle while looking at the lake.  He sat a minute, rubbed it, and got out his ankle brace.  While he was putting it on we heard whistling and Buster came around the bend.

He said he was happy to see us-he had packed out a whole pie from VVR that he needed help eating.  Opus said he'd be happy to help, but Portrait and I don't eat pie.  We went down to one of the many lakes and oddly enough it wasn't too buggy.  Buster ate pie, I ate pudding, Portrait ate candy, and Opus had beef jerky and pie.  Two southbound JMT hikers helped finish the pie.

After dinner we had a couple more miles planned.  Portrait and Buster took off down the trail. I stuck with Opus who was walking slow and careful.  We weren't going too much farther-just to the next lake.  It wasn't the long day that I would have liked, but it was fun.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 52- A Ferry Ride

Mile 862 to Vermilion Valley Resort at mile 878

At 5:30 Opus woke us up.  Town days are special which usually means early wake-up calls to maximize time in town.  Typically I wake up before 6 if I'm alone and usually earlier when camped with others.  I was still sound asleep when Opus called my trail name-I didn't sleep that well and may have been a little reluctant about waking.  Once I was up I was packed quickly.  I had cold oatmeal for breakfast and then we left camp to hike up Selden Pass.

With most of the climb done the night before it made for an easy climb to the top of the pass.  The guide book calls this the easiest of the passes and I thought it was quaint while hiking up-it had trees, it was smaller than the others, it just seemed nice.

It did have a patch of snow at the top that took about three steps to cross-we almost had to put on our micro spikes.  the view was wonderful.  It might be my favorite view from any of the passes so far.  On the north side looking out there were so many lakes in the valley.  There is a rock up there that looks like it's on the edge of the pass-we all stood on it for pictures with the lakes behind us.

After second breakfast it was time to head on down.  The trail went along the lakes we had looked down on.  They were still lovely close up, but the mosquitoes were hungry so there was no lingering (not that we wanted to anyways with a 4:30 ferry to catch to the resort).

After a few miles of downhill Bear Creek was waiting.  This was supposed to be our other most challenging ford.  There were some mosquitoes to swat at while I took off my shoes and zipped off my pant legs.  I crossed in my camp shoes-not really supposed to do that, but the water was low, and the crossing was easy.  We left the creek before the bugs could make too much of a snack on us.

The trail followed the creek for awhile, and we cruised right along.  We stopped for a short lunch before we started the five mile descent down to the trail junction for the resort.  The beginning of the downhill was on hot exposed switchbacks-I don't know why I thought the Sierra's were going to be 70 degrees every day, but they are much hotter.  It was a relief to get into some big pines. Although it seemed like half of those pines had blown down during last year's wind event and they hadn't been cleared yet.  It was slow going around and over them-it was a little taste of what might be waiting up ahead.

We arrived at the trail junction around 3 p.m. and set off on the 1.3 side trail to the ferry boat landing.  That 1.3 seemed to take longer than the rest of the day-side trails are usually like that.  But eventually the lake came into view and it dashed my hopes of going for a dip.  The water was choppy and the landing was right next to the outlet and seemed to have a good current and there wasn't a beachy area near by-just really deep water.  It felt nice to rise off with my bandanna though.

At 4:45 Opus, a JMT southbounder and I boarded the boat to the resort and dinner.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 51-Evolution Creek


The rock outcropping was surprisingly comfortable, but I was pretty cold.  Around 3:30 I put on my rain jacket and then felt warm.  I slept with my hat over my eyes and peeked out when I hard movement from Opus.  It was seven o'clock and we had decided the night before to sleep in and get up slowly.  I made oatmeal and hot chocolate before packing up (usually I eat a cold breakfast once I'm packed and ready to hike).  It was a nice leisurely start to the day.

We left camp at 8:30 and hiked down.  I could get really used to not having to hike up something first thing in the morning-although it's harder to warm up when going downhill.  The trail was following Evolution Creek down to where we would eventually ford the creek.

There were miles of walking next to the creek.  Sometimes the creek was thundering next to the three of us (Buster had hiked ahead) and sometimes it slowed and looked lazy as it drifted through a meadow.  This was supposed to be one of the two hardest fords, but based on the low snow year and the Southbounds' info, the ford didn't sound like a problem at all.

And it wasn't:  I zipped off my pant legs, put my phone and camera in a Ziploc, and with my hiking shoes on and hipbelt unbuckled I waded into the water.  It wasn't even really cold-usually its cold enough to numb feet before reaching the far side.  At its deepest it wasn't even knee deep.  After crossing I left my pack on shore and went back in to rinse off a little.

Mosquitoes were bad on the banks so we quickly left the area in search of a mosquito-free place to have lunch.  We found a place ten minutes up the trail next to the creek where it thundered over some falls.  It wasn't a good place for talking, but it was a pleasant place to eat at.  I hoped my shoes and socks would dry while I ate-I started to miss the dry desert when it became clear I was going to have wet feet.

By three p.m. my feet where hurting from being wet all afternoon.  It was really hot-I had never imagined the Sierra's to be hot before, but they've been hot nearly every day.  It was a strenght sucking heat that made me want to stop and hide in the shade for the rest of the afternoon.  We stopped briefly for a snack and shoe off break.  My feet were pasty white and waterlogged.  Twenty minutes without shoes on did wonders for them.

After break we had five miles left to our day-most of them up.  It felt like we were stopping on every switchback and making no progress.  I was minutes behind the guys-within sight, but not stepping on Opus' heels-so I didn't understand why we kept stopping.  It really started to bother me, and then we were at the top.  We grabbed some water, had a snack while watching three deer eat their dinner, and then went on two miles.

I was just starting to feel done with the day when we reached our campsite.  It was the largest flat spot that wasn't a meadow that I've seen out here.  It was sandy and had about a thousand anthills. We set up our sleeping areas (I cowboyed; the guys were in tents) near the back of the flat area where the ground was covered in pine needles and not anthills.