September 1, 2017
HWY 108 hitch – Dorothy aka Mosquito Lake
21 miles/7hrs 45’
An easy hitch after ‘sleeping in’to 630am at the Kennedy Meadows North Guest Ranch. Slept through the raging generator right outside the open window to the bunkhouse. Tired but ready to get back on trail.
My my new SOBO flip-flopping ‘lash’er friend Bob obsesses about his stolen phone. It resurfaced but still he questions all the cowboys and staff about the still missing case for said phone. Too much. I suggest he lets it go but it’s now a matter of principle. The nice older lady at the head office eventually tells him to ‘get the fuck off the property’ which makes me imagine my sweet Mom dropping an f-bomb. Oh, Bob.
Big breakfast at a table shared with another new hiker I’ve met named ‘EveryMan’. We end up hitching together and after 7 minutes a young guy stops and let’s us hop in the pickup truck for a ripping ride up the switchbacks back to the PCT. He’s going fishing and we’re going hiking.
EveryMan takes off fast and I go slow. I see Bob and he recounts the ordeal with the phone and case. I listen and he tells me he’s gonna file a police report. Good luck with that, Bob. I like him so much and feel bad he’ll obsess over this for much of his SOBO section to Casa de Luna way down south. Personally, the trail allows me to let go of attachment to material stuff. We are all different, however, and I commend him for his matter of principle.
Within in three hours I see EveryMan on the side of the trail taking a break. We pass and repass and pass again but never walk together. I like that most hikers want to walk alone. I like to walk alone.
Another big climb then long descent. Then climbing climbing up into the rocky areas and lakes appear and finally the stopping point Dorothy Lake where the mosquitos live. They are swarming everywhere. The first time in trail in over two weeks and I’m glad to have my head net.
I go down to the lake and jump in, cleaning off with lake water and scrambling to get clothes on while being eaten by the bugs. Worth it though as I feel rejuvenated and born again through baptism for the hiking soul at the end of a long hot day.
After raiding the hiker boxes at Kennedy Meadows I have a nice dinner of chili Mac cheese with beef, made better with added pasta, olive oil and cheese. Those freeze dried meals taste good when complimentedwith real fatty calories and of course taste even better when they are free.
My pack is so full with the added bear cannister. Don’t care about the weight but it’s so hard to fit it all in the pack. With a $5000 fine threatened there’s no way not to have it in the park boundaries. I’m officially in Yosemite and already the trail is more warn down by pack trains and people are camped about whereas I’m used to solitude. A taste of what’s to come in the Sierra and the John Muir Trail.
I say goodnight to the waxing moon shining beautifully over Dorothy Lake, grateful for the mosquito netting of the tent with bugs buzzing all around.
September 2, 2017
Dorothy Lake – .1 mile north of Smedberg Lake
Can’t quite believe where I am. It’s too damn beautiful to comprehend. The 2/3 full moon rises over a polished granite ridge to the east. The red hot forest fire sky sets the sun to the west. I’m up at 9200 ft above sea level and it feels like I’m on the moon. The tent is wedged on a sandy patch between slabs of polished granite that cover the mellow slope just north of Smedberg Lake. Water flows cold and clear nearby. I’m exhausted but so happy to be here.
What a marvellous place on earth.
September 3, 2017
Smedberg Lake Camp – Tuolomne Meadows Campground
Deep sleep on the moon last night. Dreamt I was in outer space and woke on the PCT. Feels good to walk after the reparation of slumber. Up over Benson Pass into the smoky sunrise. Then down down down, a flat section and the inevitable up up up that follows.
I see only 4 people in the first 7 hours of walking. Then the longest, flattest section of trail in a big meadow valley. So silent. Not even the birds are here. Nor animals. No bugs and not even the steady flow of the wind. I begin to wonder if the current political insanity of this country has done the unthinkable and the end of the world is here.
I think twice and instead of stressing mellow into the silence. Begin to enjoy the silence. Then enter my own insanity, the flow of tourists coming to the falls from Tuolomne Meadows.
So many people. An endless flow. The more people I see the faster I walk. I have no hat because I lost it two mornings ago hiking from Dorothy Lake in the dark. I’m a redhead with a burning scalp but I don’t stop and rest in the shade because I want to hit the Tuolomne Meadows grill before it closes to chow down on multiple burgers fries and beer but also hopefully pick up my maps and guide pages sent on the Sunday it is which happens to be on the Labour Day long wknd. Talk about bad timing. Oh well.
The campground is packed but thankfully they still maintain a cheap backpacker walk-in campground. I do the desperate water bottle rinse-off in the bathroom stall because it’s impossible to get away from people. Try not to make a mess but what can you do. Desperate times call for silly measures.
The nightly campground entertainment is bluegrass music and storytelling at the outdoor amphitheater of sorts. I walk by just as the musicians have the crowd singing Pete Seeger’s ‘We shall overcome’. This crowd of land-loving-nature-embracing Americans sing about a hopefully different future after enduring the present state of political affairs. I stand and listen in the darkness and am reminded once again that one can’t judge a nation’s citizens but it’s leader. Or at least not generalize many millions of people thinking they are all the same.
September 4, 2017
Tuolomne Meadows Campground – Make Peter Proud Camp 15 miles from Red’s Meadow
20.5 miles/8hrs 25’
It’s not always how much you can do, how far you can go, that’s the test; it’s often of you can stop yourself from pushing pushing pushing that defines and experience. Today is such a day.
I leave campground early without brewing any coffee. Stop after 45 minutes or so at a nice, quiet spot and have a little boil up right on the trail. My late dear friend Duryea would have approved.
Then begin walking up the long and beautiful valley leading to the Donahue Pass approach. I see campers up in the trees everywhere beginning to stir . Up up up over Donahue Pass, the first true SOBO Sierra Pass at over 11,000 feet. On the way up I meet ‘Yosemite Sam’ who’s in his 70’s and still hiking this park and it’s trails/backcountry each and every season. He comments on my lightweight set-up that’s heavier looking than most thru-hikers. Nice to know the pack doesn’t have to weight 15 lbs to be considered light. Haha. I have all I need and don’t even know what it weighs. Less than others and more than some.
On and on I walk. I see many John Muir Trail hikers suffering over the rises. I would not want to hike this trail without some fitness with or without a pack. Still, they’re out here. Many don’t seem to realize some of us are hiking the PCT not just the JMT. Some like me just doing half.
After 5 1/2hrs I stop for my first snack. Some food and a drink mix with electrolytes and I’m ready to roll again.
Banner Peak shows itself in the clear blue Sierra sky. I’ve been waiting to see this beauty. Almost 19yrs ago Peter and I hauled carrot cake + beer up to Thousand Island Lake for my 26th birthday. The next day we hiked up the peak, a bigger mountain I ever thought I could climb. On the way down almost at camp I tripped on a stick in a flat section, falling on my face, almost peeing my pants at the irony of climbing an intimidating mountain without incident then falling on something so small. Peter gave me a beautiful ring soon after with this pretty range. I wear it to this day. Special to think of the many adventures shared since, the years of a shared life and the joys of a life-time partnership. And we are still getting out there together and alone. Growing as people and as a couple, too. I feel to be a better person now than I was then, yet still look back at that time and know how special it was. That it was truly the beginning of a life of adventures that is renewed with hikes like this. How special it is. How lucky I am. How much I miss Peter.
Then some water and chips. Yes, lots and lots of greasy salty chips. How many more miles till camp?The trail will tell. I assume at least 5 more but then hear a gurgling creek, look down and see a flat spot to camp on a ledge above the flowing water, know I’ve only hiked 20.5 miles and it’s only 230pm but what the hell, what’s the rush? I stop, set camp, clean off and know it’s the stopping that counts the most at times. I miss Peter because he’s love this spot, too.
I am happy.
September 5, 2017
Awesome Early Camp – Red’s Meadow Ranch
Butter coffee Mocha (2 via espressos, TBSP butter, hot choc mix + boiling water) and an oatmeal cookie with almond butter spr ad pin top fuel me for 4.5 hrs of walking on a mission to reach Red’s Meadow and the bus to Mammoth Mountain followed by the bus to Mammoth Lkes then the trolley to the post office followed by the yummy food at the health food market. I am on a mission to pound food in town. I have another tiny snack one hour to go and realize I’m lucky when at the bus stop I realize it’s the last day of service to get over the mountain to town.
I text my dear friends the Nelson’s in Bishop and they say we’ll be here in an hour. Which settles my wondering if I zero or not.
Mammoth lakes pig-out
September 6, 2017
A wonderful day of eating not walking and spending quality time with Brian, Kathleen and Kegan. Fun.