Mile 906.7 Mammoth Lakes, CA to mile 1092.3 Echo Lake, CA
An unintended nero.
Day Forty-five: 16 June 2015
Start: HM 906.7
End: HM 909 + 7.8 JMT Shadow Lake
GPS Point: 37.692111, -119.134978
Day Total: 10.1 miles
Water at mile Mammoth Lakes, mile 909 + 7.8 JMT Shadow Lake
We unintentionally took a nero today. We should have been able to hit the trail by early afternoon but the three bus exchanges, an overcrowded lunch diner, and a bit of trail wandering, our start was delayed until after 4 PM. And more like 5 PM once we finished checking out Devil’s Postpile, an awesome geological point of interest for basalt columns.
This morning was great! After the late night doing chores and laundry, we all slept in. Then we headed to the Looney Bean (yes, the same shop we hung out at in Bishop) for our computer and Internet desires and breakfast needs. After hanging out, we did a few last minute stops at the gear shop, RiteAid, and Post Office, before heading back to the Motel 6 to pack up and check out.
I learned that Silver noted me in his blog. Score! You can check out his adventures at: http://ryanonthepct.com. I am noted under day 36.
Before really setting off, we took a stop at Devil’s Postpile. It is the site of basalt columns that formed perfect hexagonal pillars from the way the basalt fractured. Pretty neat stuff! After that we really hit the trail. Hiked ten miles and are camped by Shadow Lake. We decided to do the JMT Alternate in place of the PCT. The PCT climbs and stays high with views, the JMT follows the adjacent lakes with more up and down climbs.
Camped at Shadow Lake. Super tired.
Silver likely ahead.
Adaptability on the trail.
Day Forty-six: 17 June 2015
Start: HM 909 + 7.8 JMT
End: HM 942.5 Tuolumne Campground
GPS Point: 37.874258, -119.356879
Day Total: 26 miles
Water at mile 926 stream, mile 931.7 stream, mile 942.5 Tuolumne Meadows General Store
The JMT alternate we took replaced 13.9 PCT miles with 14.2 JMT miles. The JMT follows the lakes and rivers and has more ups and downs than the PCT. The PCT, I am told, stays up on a ridge and never really gives good views of the lakes. I am glad we took the JMT.
I met a nice man named Turtle this morning. Also saw Tank (Warrior Hike – Eric Sorensen) at lunch. He was stopped at the lake just passed Donahue Pass. I didn’t realize this before, but his son, Yardsale, who just got off after a bear got into his tent in Yosemite Valley while he occupied the space, had been hiking with him. I thought Tank had only been with the Warrior Hike group. I also met Horn Buckle at the same lunch spot. Tonight we are camped with Par Three, Redwood, and Critter. With Par Three’s sister, Hannah.
Garnet Lake and Thousand Island Lake were beautiful! I can’t believe we wouldn’t even have seen them had we been on the PCT. There was compromise though. The mosquitoes were absolutely dreadful last night. We had a fire for smoke and they attacked the moment we put it out. I am becoming an itchy mess.
After crossing over Donahue Pass, I kept seeing heaps of people. We are running into the next batch of hikers in front of us. Though I am sure there are plenty more further along in front still. Today was also a surprisingly warm day. I have been thinking about the upcoming weather in NorCal and I am not looking forward to hot days again.
Random side note, there have been an extraordinary amount of yellow belly marmots today. I also learned the marmots in this area are the yellow belly ones, versus the other varieties.
This is all out of order, but today was a bit of a fail. The store and grill in Tuolumne Meadows closed at 5 PM. I was the first of our group to arrive, and that was right at 5 PM. Somehow we were all able to get our packages despite the PO closing at 4 PM. The staff were stocking the store and organizing boxes so were still around. I can’t believe we missed everything. Across three boxes for various amounts of days, we have S&M set up to go straight to Echo Lake and home. Endless, Boone, and I can make it to Sonora Pass to resupply at North Kennedy Meadows Resort. We maybe should have accepted a late start tomorrow so Boone could resupply fully and we all go through to Echo Lakes, but no matter now.
Tonight we finished Call of the Wild. We will start a new book tomorrow. While hanging out in front of the store/PO/grill, we met Three Par. He let us crash his camp site with his other two PCT friends and sister. His sister is visiting and driving them around. They’ve had 40 zeros so far. Impressive. I can’t imagine that many days off, especially considering this is only day 46 for me. That would be almost equal on trail as off.
Day Forty-seven: 18 June 2015
Start: HM 942.5
End: HM 968.4 Smedberg Lake
GPS Point: 38.012152, -119.485834
Day Total: 25.9 miles
Water at mile 942.5 Tuolumne Meadows General Store, 956.5 Return Creek, 963 Wilson Creek, 968.4 Smedberg Lake
This morning I met Shutterbug, the brother of Daydreamer, who I met in Tehachapi. Shutterbug is joining Daydreamer from Tuolumne to Tahoe. Also met Beer Goddess and Hawaii. There were two section hikers, Custer and April Showers, from two towns over from Endless in Massachusetts. Pretty cool coincidence.
Today I had an 8:15 AM start. I saw Boone leaving when I woke up. Everyone else already gone. I truly didn’t mean to leave so late. I knew we wanted thirty miles today. I have gotten worse at waking up in the morning lately. I caught up to everyone and we ate lunch around mile 956 at Return Creek. It was a short reprieve from the mosquitoes, which were on a mission today. I seriously felt overwhelmed by their ceaseless attempts to bite every available surface area of my body.
S&M’s foot was hurting today. Endless took a 4 mile round trip detour after lunch. And Boone and I waited at the pass to see how delayed we might be. Despite being at the day’s highest elevation and in direct wind contact, the mosquitoes were just as tireless on the pass.
We are camped by Smedberg Lake. Mosquitoes are EVERYWHERE! Ahhhhh!!! They are everywhere! Seriously. I wanted to swim but the bugs were so bad I just washed my legs. I am going crazy. After sitting directly in the smoke of a small fire we built, covering myself in bug spray, and putting on every clothing item available, I was still being swarmed.
Tonight we started reading a new book, My First Summer in the Sierras by John Muir.
Day Forty-eight: 18 June 2015
Start: HM 968.4
End: HM 1002.8 campsite after creek
GPS Point: 38.227706, -119.580908
Day Total: 34.4 miles
Water at mile 968.4 Smedberg Lake, mile 979 Rancheria Creek, mile 987 pond near Bond Pass, mile 993 Falls Creek, 1001 creek near ponds, mile 1002.4 creek
Today was my biggest mileage day yet! I was upset that I didn’t hit the trail until 7:30 AM. Endless and I hiked until just before 9 PM. We wanted to hit a certain point, and we did it. Though next time I will definitely want to start earlier in the morning. Night hiking really isn’t my thing. Though by night hiking I mean we arrived by 9 PM. Haha.
I met Sundown and Nips today. There was also an old man in a blue shirt who was not on the PCT. He made a comment about my bear canister lashed onto my pack. He seemed nice. Just before stopping for lunch, while making a last hard push up a big climb, I met Cayman. She is from Germany but now lives in the Cayman Islands.
The mosquitoes are OBNOXIOUS! I want to kill all mosquitoes. What purpose do they serve? I was covered in bug spray but they bit anyways. I went through an entire bottle of bug spray in the last three days. I am covered in bites and super itchy. This is very miserable. I put my tent up because they are still active despite being dark and cold. I am going crazy.
Today reminded me of Colorado. All the ups and downs. It was beautiful. Despite the miserable state of the mosquito infestation, the trail here is fantastic! I also saw so many PCTers I’ve never met before. I am beginning to question if we are running into people in front of us or just meeting new people in general. So many new faces.
Boone and S&M never showed up to camp tonight. Boone had mentioned stopping at Dorothy Lake, 5 miles back. S&M I haven’t seen since I passed her around 10:30 AM this morning. I know they will make North Kennedy Meadows tomorrow, but I hope they are close.
At lunch, after the climb over the pass, I found Endless and we went swimming. The lake was so nice and warm. It was beautiful out!
Kennedy Meadows again…
Day Forty-nine: 19 June 2015
Start: HM 1002.8
End: HM 1026.2 near stream
GPS Point: 38.411616, -119.666353
Day Total: 23.4 miles
Water at mile 1016.3 Sardine Creek, mile 1026 stream
I saw S&M this morning! She camped maybe 2/10 mile before us at the trail junction after the wooden bridge. She is such a badass! She never saw Boone, so I can only assume he camped at 998 like he said. Endless had hit the trail already and I was trying to do all my packing without getting out of the bug net, when S&M suddenly walked up off the trail. She amazes me in her perseverance.
I felt really good today. I had very little food and knew I needed to pound out as many miles as fast as possible while my food energy lasted. All told, I covered just under 16 miles in five hours. Pretty good considering the amount of photos I stopped for.
Sonora Pass was absolutely stunning. Phenomenal views! One of my favorite passes next to Kearsarge Pass. AND! much to my delight, there were no mosquitoes on the pass!!! I didn’t even realize how beaten they were making me feel until I felt the reprieve of their absence.
Endless and I made it to Sonora Pass and caught ride with Ken, a nice man from Livermore, CA, to North Kennedy Meadows Resort. He went extensively into fusion power on the ride in. Interesting fellow. The road down from Sonora Pass was truly stunning. Also would have been a dreadful walk. So glad we got a ride! We went straight to lunch at the resort. Chili cheese burger with fries! So delicious! My appetite is becoming bottomless at town stops.
Met Johnny Walker and Rain Gear at the resort. They were cool. Rain Gear was going through his resupply box and tossed out a lot of delicious food. Johnny Walker completely resupplied off the leftovers and then handed food out to us. There was also this really wonderful old man sitting in a chair near us. He must have been about 85. The epitome of a sweet old man. He was watching our group as we dumped our packs out and went through food to repack, talk gear and resupply strategy, and tell trail stories. Sometimes he would ask questions about gear or how we cooked. He was taking it all in. Then a woman came over at some point to talk to him. She seemed genuinely worried he might try to take off for the trail with us. And he told her that he had left that morning to go take a nap but ended up in that chair, where he had been all day, for several naps and our loitering. So cute. I wanted to talk to him but he was gone by the time I actually had things wrapped up to where I could sit and engage. Missed opportunity.
I mailed home my canister from North KM. They only charged $15. I can’t believe that I would possibly have gotten a box, made it to a post office, and mailed it for much cheaper, not including the convenience of them doing everything for me. North KM was pretty awesome. I was expecting the setup to be similar to Tuolumne, but it was so much better. Though my three day resupply consisted almost solely of sugar: Oreos, chocolate donuts, fruit snacks, jerky strips, cheese sticks, Snickers bars, Pop Tarts, etc. They had a limited supply but fairly reasonable prices. I ate a giant waffle cone of soft serve ice cream twist, chocolate covered pretzels, and a cold Gatorade. Yummmm.
S&M, Endless, and I were full and happy. We decided to head back to the trail. While leaving, we finally saw Boone. His leg apparently cramped up hard the day before. He hadn’t even made it to mile 989 last night. He said he would camp close to the trailhead that night and then catch up to us.
We caught an RV hitch for the ride back to the trail. They were a young couple with two girls: Paige Sonora and Elliot. Paige’s birthday is two days after mine! They were really awesome and the girls were super sweet. What a lucky hitch. They took us all the way to the trailhead.
We made it on trail around 5:45 PM. We walked eight miles and camped near a stream. The trail wasn’t the best. The snow was melting and covering everything in mud, and we post holed on soft snow. Tomorrow will be a big day.
The meadow was super beautiful! I can’t write anymore. I need rest now. Exhausted.
Father’s Day and summer solstice.
Day Fifty: 21 June 2015
Start: HM 1026.2
End: HM 1070.2 campsite
GPS Point: 38.649263, -119.957482
Day Total: 44 miles
Water at mile …today was so long and I was so tired at the end that I failed to write down water sources.
Today was the most beautiful day. Seriously. There was great weather, lots of people, and stunning scenery. The geology of this area is incredible. I cannot describe why, but I thought a lot about Colorado and my time on the Colorado Trail. I spent 17 hours on trail today. That includes all my breaks, lunch, supper, toilet stops, etc., but still a sizable day. We arrived as a group to our stopping point just before midnight. I have never felt so exhausted. As fast as possible we laid out our stuff and went to bed. I think I ate a last round of desserts first and we chatted quickly about our plans the next day. Mostly I went straight to sleep.
Met a cool old man named Colonel something with his dog, Bob Dylan. He is a Nobo who flopped the Sierra section and was on his way south now. He said he was on day 102 or something. Having a dog would be so awesome, but definitely much slower. When they first came up on me, Bob ran straight at me as fast as he could. I think he smelled the bear that Endless saw at the same creek crossing and thought I might be it. He stopped just as he got to me and looked instantly shamed. Colonel scolded him and Bob spent our entire ten minute conversation nuzzling my hand. So adorable! And despite running at me, very well behaved. I never worry about dogs that I meet on the trail. It is rare that an owner is not attached and dogs deserve to run free. I was glad for the interaction. It reminded me of meeting my friend Chris and his dog Sapper on the CT. You can tell a lot about a person by the relationship with their dog.
There was a fire closure today. Last night we could see the smoke as we came down off the north side of Sonora Pass. We slowly hiked towards the billowing smoke clouds all day. At our lunch point, mile 24, we were at the Ebbetts Pass area where it crosses Hwy 4. When I hit the road crossing, there was a hand written note saying the trail ahead had a mandatory closure due to the fire. It gave information for getting a ride around the closure. We talked to a small group of people who were leaving from an overnight trip in that direction. They lead us to believe the fire was still a ways off and we could easily make it through. Since no officials were around and the only precaution was a handwritten note, we decided to hike through it. And I am glad we did for the sheer beauty of that portion of the trail. We did hike right towards the fire for a long time. It felt like we were heading straight at it. Eventually we turned to the north away from the burning forest, but there was a moment when I could see the smoke curling over the ridge just above me and I wondered if we had made a mistake hiking through. Instead, we were rewarded with a horridly beautiful scene later that night. Around 11 PM, after the Lost Lakes spur road, where the topo map suggests some structures called The Nipples, we could see down the valley back to the fire. The bright orange of the fire front creating a line of burning trees. It was like looking down at Mordor from afar. Forest fires are no joking matter, but there is something captivating by it all the same. Mesmerizing. It was beautiful and sad. The fire became a really big deal (link to a story here: http://www.kolotv.com/news/californianews/headlines/Smoke-Plume-Near-Douglas-County-From-Washington-Fire-308745881.html?device=phone&c=y). By the next morning, the fire had gotten over the valley and hikers were turning back from smokiness. I heard of one girl with a photo where the flames reflected on her sunglasses. Crazy!
While going through this last section I met a guy named Bear Snack. He gave me a Starburst. Yum!
So today we hiked 44 miles! Holy shit. We are bad asses! Today was incredible. I seriously have begun to understand challenging myself. Also very glad we hiked from supper to camp as a group. Spirits are definitely lowered when hiking alone, in the dark, for so many miles, when your body wants to lie down and recuperate.
There was crazy wind today. It was trying to blow us off the mountain. So it turned out to be a good thing that we missed the Spring Solstice and never hiked naked. But I sort of wish we had at least one hour of naked hiking time.
This morning I saw my first Sobo hiker. Endless talked to him; I only saw him breeze past on the trail. We are approaching the front of the herd and catching the opposite traveling folk. It is awesome to meet all these new people.
My feet are numb. It’s past midnight and cold. We’re are all snuggled up cowboy camping. Foot rub and bed.
Close call on the fire closure.
Day Fifty-one: 22 June 2015
Start: HM 1070.2
End: HM 1092.3 Echo Lakes/South Lake Tahoe, CA
GPS Point: 38.834584, -120.043836
Day Total: 22.1 miles
Water at mile 1072.4 creek, mile South Lake Tahoe
We had 22 miles into Echo Lakes. We knew that the PO closed at 3 PM. We were on a mission. But after the long day yesterday, none of us had much go power. A short eight miles after hitting the trail, we passed into the Carson Pass trailhead. There were many day hikers and cyclists for a five day race there. The best part was the presence of rangers, who had trail magic for us! Cold soda and cookies!! There was a short supply of fruit too. What a surprise! We haven’t had trail magic in ages!
We stopped at mile 1084.7 for lunch. S&M somehow woke super early to get on trail this morning before I even woke up. She is incredible! I could barely wake up this morning. The three is us ate and continued our plight. I called the PO to confirm that they were willing to let us have our packages later as long as the store was still open.
I met Tom Tit and Bush Tit at the Carson Pass TH. There was a guy named Perogi, or something close, first thing this morning. I met Houdini at the Motel 6, he had been with Boone since before North Kennedy Meadows. There were also two ladies on day hike near Shadows Lake before you reach the Echo Lake area. They were super impressed by my hiking the PCT. One of them said she would write about me in her blog, but I haven’t been able to find it online. She has a blog about women getting out into the outdoors. Then there were two Tahoe Rim Trail hikers that we crossed paths with several times today.
We made it into the Echo Lakes Chalet right at 4 PM. They let us pick up our boxes late. We got two lucky hitches and made it into South Lake Tahoe. The first ride from Echo Lakes to a road was in the back of truck. Then an ex-New Zealander and his dog, Snoop, gave us a ride from that road to Echo Lakes. Pretty cool guy. The generosity of people is still incredible!
S&M decided she would leave from SLT for her home in Auburn. Her best friend Kat just happened to be off trail at the same time and came to pick her up. S&M started the PCT with Kat, or Whiskey Nips, but, to my fortune, they split after Wrightwood to hike at different paces. Whiskey Nips is several hundred miles behind us. S&M and Whiskey Nips have a blog together: https://hellawalking.wordpress.com. Whiskey Nips has an unmatched skill in her blog posts. I definitely recommend their blog.
I ended up at Motel 6 with Endless.
We learned that the fire closure is now official. Boone turned up in SLT after an extensive day of multi-ride hitches and a bus ride. Lots of hikers are being forwarded to SLT from the closure. We truly lucked out in getting through that section before conditions were bad.