DAY 59: ONION VALLEY TO WOODS CREEK BRIDGE SITE (799.8)
10.7 trail miles plus the 7-8 to get back to trail. Glen Pass.
Woke up later than planned but got ready quickly, knocked back a 5 hour energy in anticipation of the climb up and over Kearsarge. Rob’s not hiking due to a posthole injury, stayed behind with Q. Said bye to them and dogs, started hiking with Cody, Jess, Jade, Sara, Cy and Lukas. Chia and Six Toes were out of camp before we were up, as usual.
Feeling okay on the uphill back to trail, not as dreadful as I imagined it would be yesterday. Took a different junction back to the PCT, lots of good views and kept more elevation than the trail we took coming into town.
Back on the PCT everyone regrouped for snack break, and then started up Glen Pass with Sara. Hard and steep, lots of snow and a couple times it was tricky to get around all the exposed rock due to the unstable snow that had melted away from the rock edges, leaving pretty sizeable gaps to navigate around. At the top of the pass we put on the microspikes and went down a steep north face. Had a short glissade, tore my wind pants right on the ass cheek darnit. (They’ve patched up nicely with a bit of duct tape)
When we got to Rae Lakes we ran into One 11 having a snack break, had coffee and candy and watched the ice moving around the lake below. Another ideal place for an on trail zero, I may need to do the JMT next summer. We waited there for Cy, Lukas, Cody and Jade, Jess turned back to Bishop.
The trail was snowy and slushy all downhill but I don’t even notice the wet socks anymore, it’s almost nice to step in a new stream and “refresh” the feeling. Had the coldest stream crossing so far, it was almost waist-high and it was so cold it actually felt like burning. Had to go slow anyways though and make sure each step was planted firmly before taking the next.
Got to a campsite with a suspension bridge over Woods creek, lots of JMT? hikers camped here but found a secluded spot. There was a fire ring and bear boxes, made fire to dry socks and shoes, had mac and cheese for dinner. My shoulder is really tight from heavy bag(?), need to readjust tomorrow since I can’t lift my arm above my head right now. Cowboy camped, I’m going to be out like a light in about a minute.
While waiting to start hiking this morning, Sara chopped off most of my hair, it’s been too much to handle lately. Hopefully it doesn’t look terrible, feels amazing to have short hair again.
DAY 60: WOODS CREEK BRIDGE (799.8) TO KINGS RIVER JUNCTION (811.3)
11.5 miles, Pinchot pass
Slept pretty well but woke up a few times during the night due to stiffness, moon being too bright, and Cy elbowing me in the spine. Made coffee and breakfast essentials combo and also made maple oatmeal for first time on trail-delicious. Hit 800 mile marker right away.
Started uphill, Jade was hurting too so we had a sad, slow morning together. Had a river crossing during first mile, so there was no point in drying out shoes by the fire last night. The river was ICY. Feet going numb during long crossings and my skin was burning after getting out.
7 mile gradual but steady uphill towards Pinchot pass. I lost the trail a couple times on the snow but footprints would always help get me back on track. It’s pretty funny that I easily recognize shoeprints from my squad, guess I’ve spent enough time being the last one up the passes. Caught up to group taking a break at a stream, had snack and picked up a knee brace from Cody, mines been bugging me and I’m worried I’m pushing it a little too much. More uphill. Couple miles away from pass had lots of snow crossing and the final push up Pinchot. Sara Jade, Cy and Lukas at top so we had a lunch break and watched Cody, Chia and Six Toes climb the pass below us.
Headed down-snowy and steep but I’m a lot quicker when not going uphill. Beautiful scenery, more river crossing. (My notes are so repetitive…beautiful scenery, uphill, downhill, water crossing….)
Ditching the sternum strap on my pack seems to help with shoulder pain. Got down to Kings river, the water is really high, moving very fast and too sketchy to cross this late in the day so made camp in woods a little ways off trail. Nice sun through pine trees. Had big potato/ramen dinner followed by more oatmeal and hot chocolate, seems like I can’t eat enough to stay full lately. Six Toes and Chia joined the crew for dinner. Cowboy camped next to river and fire pit, crossing first thing in the morning. Really tired. Jade chafed her leg during the glissade back on Forester and now it looks terrible, it’s bright yellow which is mildly concerning.
DAY 61: KING’S RIVER (811.3) TO CAMPSITE AT GLACIER CREEK (823.5)
12.2 miles. Mather pass.
Got really cold last night, kept waking up to readjust and make sure my quilt was tucked around as snugly as possible. Broke out the gloves, toque and even my rain jacket as an extra blanket around 3am. Seriously considering picking up a warmer quilt, I fucked up ordering such a light quilt knowing that I sleep cold. Was still very chilly when I woke up a little after six thirty, damp socks are miserable on normal days but this morning it was so cold they were painful to put on. The river looked no lower than it did last night and was moving so fast none of us felt comfortable crossing where we were. Chia and Six Toes managed to get across a little ways downstream but Six Toes is like 6 foot something and Chia is built like a brick wall. The rest of us discussed our options and decided to hike upstream to try and find a better place to cross, I have no idea how people got across this in the peak melt time in the last couple weeks.
It warmed up when the sun came up as we hiked down the riverbank. There were rapids upstream from camp and I was getting worried that we were never going to find a place to get across safely but after a couple miles the river thinned, the water was very deep but it became a series of narrow tributaries we were able to jump, although of course I missed the bank and soaked one leg. After getting back on trail we started up towards Mather pass right away. Very open and exposed snowfield, a lot of postholing this morning.
Although we were well above the treeline, a huge buck went walking across our path, completely unbothered by the five of us. We saw Chia and Six Toes as little black specks way at the top of Mathers, it was incredibly steep and the trail was nothing but a set of tracks in the snow that cut sideways along the bowl’s face. Although it would be easy to misstep or slide down the face, there wasn’t any real danger of hitting anything and there were a couple places where it was clear hikers had slid down to a frozen lake far below. Probably not at all life threatening but it would be inconvenient as hell to make the climb straight back up to the track in deep snow.
Jade was a little apprehensive about the steepness and I listened to Sara giving her a crash course in self arresting, hoping that none of us would have to use it. My pole did that annoying thing where the top half pulls off the bottom when stuck in deep snow so ditched them about halfway up and pulled out the axe for the first time on trail. Went “stupid ultralight” with the decision to get the lightest, hollow poles which is the second piece of gear I’ve messed up with, ffs.
Didn't use my micro spikes (still feel more comfortable without them) and I got across the steep pass without issue. The only difficulties were trying to climb up and around some exposed chunks of rock face, but slow and steady did trick and it took us about an hour to collectively make it about 200 feet to the top of the pass. Jade handled it very well, I know the height and steepness made it hard for her. She still was all smiles and high fives at the top, most positive person I know, and it’s really nice to have that on trail, especially on rough days. Napped while the group ate lunch. I'm getting sunburned again despite my desert deep tan-must be the elevation.
Coming off Mather led us into a beautiful downhill section with lots of exposed rock and glacier-blue frozen lakes but it was impossible to find the trail in the snow-we got all split up which I was kind of grateful for, I needed some hiking alone time after staying in a group train all day long. Off trail for a while going in the general direction of down, but back on track just in time to cross the last snow foot paths and find the trail again. I figured I was alone since I’d seen no one in hours and belting out some Springsteen when I got surprised by a SOBO hiker rounding the corner. I thought maybe he’d missed my singing but after we had passed each other with a nod he yelled back “I LOVE BRUCE TOO” before disappearing around the bend.
Got to the "golden staircase” descent-an incredible bit of rock work with possibly the best view on trail of the valley and mountains below. There were lots of waterfalls and in some spots the trail was almost completely flooded, but in a fun splashing way.
Dark clouds were rolling in pretty quick and it seemed like a bad place to be caught in a thunder storm so booked it down and cruised until a perfect little site just as the rain started. Got tent up in a hurry-Sara, Cy, Jade and Lukas rolled in just as I finished. The rain let up after half an hour and we had dinner together before calling it an early night. Despite the cold start, one of my favourite days.
DAY 62: GLACIER CREEK SITE (823.5) TO EVOLUTION LAKE (843.3)
07/13/17 - Happy two months on trail!
20.5 miles. Muir Pass.
Woke up just before 7, made oatmealx2 with crumbled poptart topping and coffee. Definitely hungrier ALL THE TIME in the Sierra and I’m still noticeably losing weight despite eating more. (I would kill for this metabolism back in regular life).
Had to put on wet shoes and socks but thankfully it was much warmer than yesterday morning. Hit the trail, splashing through endless streams and obstacle coursing over/under fallen logs. Downhill for a while, crushed miles and cruising at desert speeds. Doing 30 mile days in flat Oregon doesn’t sound so crazy to me anymore now that our days consist of so much work going up and down. Lots of gorgeous waterfalls, still not bothering to carry water at all and I haven’t filtered since Whitney due to the fact that my filter was a victim of a glissade, probably on Forester. Also great trail maintenance in this section with some impressive rock stairs, really A+ job trail crews.
We’re passing a lot of JMTers now, most coming from the opposite direction. PCT hikers kind of low-key make fun of them for their larger packs/slow pace but I think it’s pretty impressive they’re tackling the Sierra straight up with no desert to prepare them, I honestly don’t think I could do it. Definitely want to give the JMT a shot in the future, every day since Whitney has been awesome.
Snow field started 5 miles out from Muir pass, wasn't challenging terrain but loooooong slog through snow. It got slushier in the afternoon sun and I kind of ended up doing a half walk/ half cross-country ski minus the skis. Stopped for a late lunch with Lukas on a little patch of bare rock while the Sara, Cy, Cody and Jade caught up, then finished last mile or so to the top together.
Took a few quick pictures at the famous Muir hut (smelled strongly like cigarettes and pee) and headed back down to try and get to a non-snowy campsite before the sun set. 5 more miles of snow, this has been the longest stretch of straight snow so far and my feet were getting a little numb.
Planned to stop at Evolution lake after a chilly crossing at the outlet-you could see a “trail” of higher rocks that I guess are normally above water level but they were completely submerged and the water came to about mid-thigh. It was I C Y and very wide with a strong current, skin was burning trying to go slow and steady. Everyone got across okay and we made camp high above the lake.
Beautiful spot and we caught the tail end of the sunset, but very exposed and still above 10000 feet, so it’s gonna be another cold night. Jumped in lake real quick then changed into base layer cosies. My leg tan is so ridiculous when going barefoot, it looks like I’m wearing a pair of dark brown leggings. Had mac and cheese for dinner and sardined our sleeping bags to try and stay warm.
DAY 63: EVOLUTION LAKE (843.3) TO MUIR TRAIL RANCH (857.7)
14.4 trail miles + 1 off trail
Tried to sleep in, kind of a rough night with our sardine style sleep. Jade yelled good morning at about 6am to passing Chia and Six Toes which the rest of us did not appreciate. I hiked out of camp last, one of the most beautiful mornings and I enjoyed the solitude. Trail went around some reflective lakes that I couldn’t stop taking pictures of, there was no wind and the water was perfectly still. I guarantee I will be back to do the JMT at least once more, I can’t get enough of this place.
Caught up to everyone just before large river crossing across Evolution creek. We’d heard rumours that it was neck deep and there was even a detour this year which we took to an easier spot to cross, where the creek had flooded a meadow. It really wasn’t so bad, the water came to just above the waist but there was almost no current and not nearly as cold as some of the last few have been.
We hadn’t been planning to stop at Muir Trail Ranch, (about 1 mile off trail) but passed a massive group of JMT hikers coming the other direction that told us the hiker boxes at the ranch were insanely full, and they had just dumped tons of their own food, including Mountain House. We changed our minds about MTR, skipped lunch and crushed miles. Mostly downhill, followed the river for a good part of the day. Cy gave us riddle after riddle to pass the time- one I still can't get: man is at work and afraid to go home because there's a masked man waiting for him. Still thinking.
Hiked with Jade and Sara at the PCT junction to Muir trail ranch. We really didn’t need to stop here but it’s where JMT hikers get their first resupply and tend to leave a lot of good food, so there was a ring of PCT hikers (most whom I’ve never seen before) sitting around not-so-patiently waiting for a chance to upgrade their snack inventory. Really cool place, come back here for a vacation sometime? We weren’t allowed to stay overnight on the property but the owners directed us to a camp space with river access a few hundred meters away from the ranch. Cody caught up and Chia and Six Toes were already there, plus lots of other hikers we don’t know but fortunately there’s also a ton of space so we have our own little camp area. There was a fire ring so we took advantage of that luxury and stayed up late talking, it’s past 11 and I’m still sitting here trying to motivate myself to get up to put the embers out and go to bed. Really great day, can’t believe how much I lucked out to have this experience and be hiking with this crew, feels like we’ve known each other for years, not weeks.
DAY 64: MUIR TRAIL RANCH CAMPSITE (859.5) TO CAMPSITE (870.9)
11.4 miles plus 2-3 extra because we’re idiots. Selden Pass.
Slept in until 7 since we were planning to revisit the hiker box at MTR. Lazy morning consisting of oatmeal and a sponge (bandana) bath beside the river. Chia and Six toes left early, the rest of us packed up and went to the ranch around 9 to wait for potential opportunities to get free food. Not many new JMT hikers this morning, but one got his bucket and announced to us that his friend had already quit so he had a ton of extra food... we were circling hard. Felt like a vulture. The prize for waiting was tons of candy and a mountain house chili mac, heck yes.
Hit trail to get back on the PCT, whole crew went about a mile the wrong way which is frustrating and then the actual trail to rejoin PCT was straight uphill for half a mile. Very hot on the way up to Selden Pass. My legs and calves were achy today, and although I’m finding it easier as the days pass, I’m still by far the slowest of our group on the uphill. It’s such a big part of the trail I’m trying to embrace the physical challenge instead of being apprehensive every time the elevation profile on guthooks shoots upwards. Beautiful lakes today, and there wasn’t much snow at all which was unusual, but nice change to have dry feet.
The squad was leaving just as I arrived at the top so skipped lunch in order to keep up with them, which I know makes me grumpy. (Why do I do this?) The views on the North side of Selden were very great coming down, although the trail was less a dirt track and more just exposed rock. Another very icy stream crossing to get around a lake that had flooded across the trail. Way up ahead, I saw Lukas stop to talk to a stranger which I thought was odd since we hadn’t seen anyone else all day. It was Q with the dogs! The squad speculates that we get excited to see him since it means were a couple days from town. (Plus he’s just awesome to have around and sometimes brings small treats.)
Had a few more river crossings back below the tree line, with the sketchiest being Bear Creek. Even though we hike alone, the group waits for everyone to arrive before wide or fast moving water. Went slow and steady and all was fine, although I’m not sure I trust putting my full weight on my hiking poles, I need to get proper heavier ones I can rely on.
While waiting for Q to get the dogs across Bear Creek, the mosquitoes came out in swarms. Fuck. Just so many, more than I’ve ever seen in my life and there was no stopping them from biting every bit of exposed skin. At one point I slapped my arm and skilled 5 bugs in one go. Put on wind pants, jacket and headnet for last few miles to camp, sweating profusely is much preferable to the bug bites.
Got the tent up as fast as I could, I’m counting about 50 mosquitos sitting on the mesh right now. Dreading having to get out and go to the bathroom, I’m starting to understand the hikers that carry a jar to go pee inside their tent. 29 miles to Mammoth, probably won't do it all tomorrow but try to arrive early the morning after. Cy and I are discussing taking a snowboard day in Mammoth, the resort is still open since there’s been so much snow this winter.
I have way too much food with the unplanned resupply at MTR but nice to not be worried about rationing and treated myself to double snickers. No idea where everyone else is: Festus, Francis, Tony and Eric ahead, Joe, Chad and Canadian girls behind. Lips are chapped and legs getting really sunburned and dry. Cut on bottom crease of 4th toe not healing due to constant wetness.
3:30am- was awake and saw lightning, felt a couple rain drops. Threw up the rain fly in record time, now raining slightly. Whole squad is up and scrambling about trying to get tents and rainflys set up. The mosquitoes feasted and now there’s 4 buzzing around inside my tent ffs.
DAY 65: Mosquito CAMPSITE (870.9) TO CAMPSITE (890.9)
20 miles. Silver pass.
Highs and lows today, both literally and figuratively.
Double breakfast burrito-egg and potato hiker box special with hot sauce and wraps, plus a coffee/hot chocolate/powdered milk combo. I’m eating more calories during one meal than I normally would all day at home. Uphill to start, but what else is new. Probably in the best shape of my life right now, I only have to stop for breathers like every five minutes now.
Lots of trail junctions with confusing signage and unsure I was going the right way, but committed to it anyways. Still tons of mosquitos but borrowed some DEET from Cody in camp which worked pretty well. At the top of the first climb, the trail went through a pine forest that was eerily quiet, I think it’s the most silent I’ve ever heard in nature. Ran into Cy so figured I had opted to go the right way or we were both lost. I think he was having a moment so cruised on the downhill alone, found Lukas and Sara, we all had lunch near the junction to get to VVR. No need to go there with MTR yesterday and Mammoth tomorrow.
The climb up to Silver pass was the second big climb of the day but I had a great time. Had the coolest water crossing which was really just wading through a stream beside a waterfall and getting hit in the face with spray.
Once I was up on snow, moved a lot quicker, I secretly prefer hiking in the snow to the dirt switchbacks up the passes, my feet are wet all the time anyways. Haven’t really felt like I needed the spikes at all this trip, +1 for living in a city that’s snow covered at least half of the year. Big packs of JMTers coming the other direction which led to a couple traffic jams since we were all trying to use the same track. Also saw the SNOW FROG in the middle of gd nowhere waddling it's way up the pass.
Near the top, I got tricked by a false peak at Silver pass but finally reached the actual top and found a little snow-free space for a lunch break with the squad. Views were great, I think Silver has been my favourite pass so far. Despite all the snow, air temperatures are still hot in the sun, it’s ideal hiking weather for me.
On the way down, we came across a set of three defined glissade tracks so of course we raced, Sara beat Q and I by a long shot. We picked up a dropped ice axe that ended up belonging to Six Toes, he came running back along the trail looking for it. Down some more snow field with more gorgeous views and then dropped a knee shattering two thousand feet. The only thing I dislike more than hiking steeply uphill is hiking steeply downhill (why am I on the pct lol)
We had planned to stop at the bottom of the drop before tackling the next straight up climb tomorrow morning, and I was looking forward to making camp because despite having a great time today, it was a lot of elevation change and feeling pretty sore and tired. When we got to the planned campsite however, it was crowded with what looked like a family camping trip. The next campsite was the same situation so our only option was another climb up a straight hill face with switchbacks, gained 1000ft over 1.1 miles. After already doing two big climbs today, my knee was acting up, feet were aching and I’ve never been so wiped. Had to stop and rest multiple times on the way up and definitely would’ve had hiker rage had I not been so exhausted. Chia powered up like a god damn machine, to quote Lukas, "Our group was collectively at 15% battery life and it was all in chia".
Even though I’m incredibly happy that the climb is over with and we don’t have to do it tomorrow morning as planned, I’m committed to being a bit grumpy and don’t want to admit I’m being stubborn and ridiculous.
Campsite here has no water so had to walk .3 in flip flops to water the squad, should’ve just gone the extra distance but no one wanted to do anymore hiking once we hit the top of the climb. Kicked a stick right on the half regrown toenail I pulled at Mission Creek, and it’s quite bloody, might lose what’s grown back so far. Mosquitos are everywhere so tent is set up again. Mountain house chili mac from the MTR hiker box was a high point of the week for sure.
9 miles out from Duck Lake and the junction to Mammoth. Definitely overdid it on food, could probably go another three days with what I have left. This evening was physically and mentally one of the roughest I’ve had yet, but we’re not doing this because it’s easy.
DAY 66: CAMPSITE (890.0) TO DUCK PASS JUNCTION (895.7)
5.7 trail miles, plus about 5 more to get to the trailhead.
Slept in as the squad does, but woken by the loudest passing hiker with a voice like a foghorn who could clearly see we were sleeping, thanks for that. A quick day into Mammoth for a nero, so no one was rushing and we didn’t make it out of camp until after 9.
Chia and Six Toes left while we breakfasted and tried to ignore the morning mosquitos. Met some new hikers that had done the desert section with Cy and Lukas; a couple from Austria named Val (Needles, for her on trail stick n pokes) and Hendrik, plus their dog Suta whom Hendrik adopted when she was going to be put down at the end of her sled-dog career.
Hiked past beautiful Virginia lake then on to Duck pass. Beautiful area, there’s another exit to Mammoth in another 10 miles but I think this pass was worth taking. It was still quite snow-covered, so the downhill took a while to navigate and there was a lot of postholing on my part. Lots of day hikers as we made our way down the pass. Around lunch, finally arrived at massive car campsite with Cy, Lukas and Sara. It was crazy busy, does no one work on a Monday in Mammoth?
Q and Jade were still on their way down so we got a hitch right away from a lady staying in the camp, she’d hiked the JMT a couple times so lots to talk about on the way into town. Went straight to brewery, beer is hands down my number one craving on trail. Mammoth seems like a cool resort town and so beautiful, I’d love to live here. We’re cramming everyone into a hotel room, the shower seems to have held out successfully. Zero day tomorrow
DAY 67 & 68: DOUBLE ZERO IN MAMMoth
Slept pretty well, woke up decently early. Went for breakfast at The Stove-saw Festis Francis and Tony! They’re hiking out today unfortunately but hopefully catch them down the trail. Delicious breakfast burrito and fruit, all of us were piled into a tiny booth. The place we were staying at had a hot tub and pool so it was a pretty relaxed day and no one got chores done.
Hit the hot springs just outside of Mammoth, well worth the trip. Gorgeous sunset on the drive out and really spectacular views of the mountains. Q shuttled us out in the Trooper and then we had a long walk across flat desert. (God I miss the desert, didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.)
There was no light pollution and the stars were incredible/ At one point there was a meteor that was so bright it was like someone had turned on a headlamp behind us, never seen anything like it, the whole sky was lit up. We stayed in the water for a good four hours which is going to do serious damage to our feet when we get back on trail, but that’s a later problem.
Day 2: Chores day! Mammoth has a free trolley system which makes getting around much easier, this has definitely been one of my favourite stops and I have no issues with the double zero we’re taking. Not much to report, we’re staying at a campsite just outside of town and we found Joe, One 11, Kaylyn and Kristen! We’ve seen almost the entire desert fam at some point in Mammoth. Had hot dogs and smores but called it an early night since back to trail tomorrow.