DAY 69: MAMMOTH PASS Junction (903.3) TO CAMPSITE (915.9)
12.6 miles plus a few extra back to trail up Mammoth pass.
Woken up early by Canadians, Joe and One 11 (did they sleep? We’re not sure). Packed up right away and waited for Jade and Q to pick us up. Went to post office to mail our ice axes and my microspikes to Seattle- they wouldn’t fit in a regular mail box so we packaged them up in a frankenstein of two large boxes and an entire roll of tape.
Drove back to trailhead with the squad, although we’re swapping out Cody (ankle injury) for Greg (recovered from hip injury). Instead of going back up 6 miles at Duck Pass we’re jumping up a few miles to Mammoth Pass, which is an easier climb back to trail. Said bye to Q. Really tired from all the questionable Mammoth sleeps, we partied a little too hard and I’m low energy.
The hike went uphill right away through a burn zone, Mammoth pass is much less scenic than where we came down at Duck Lake and I kind of wish we had gone back to see the lakes again today. Lots of day hikers at the start of trail but their numbers lessened further we went into Ansel Adams wilderness, saw no one else after lunch. Near Devil's postpile, stopped for an early lunch and watched Lukas & Cy drive pinecones with a whippet.
After lunch, stayed behind to hike alone, passed a trail crew which is the first I’ve seen so far. Really appreciate the work that goes into maintaining the trail.
Uphill climb, but pleasant with lots of pine trees and wildflowers. Listening to podcast Serial and lost in my own world, almost walked by squad at a campsite at the top of a cliff. Very scenic, but smoky and mosquitos came out in full force after the sun set. Watched a smoky sunset and then sardined with the squad.
DAY 70: CAMPSITE (915.9) TO (932.4)
16.5 miles. Donahue Pass.
Bad sleep due to endless attacks from mosquitos and cowboy camping. Woken AGAIN by a loud hiker walking by. Puff and Chia and Six Toes came across us at breakfast and hung out for a while, it’s funny how often our trail fam sub-groups keep leapfrogging.
Mosquitos drove us back to trail pretty quickly, started with a slight uphill with nice views of meadows on one side and mountains on other. Lots of beautiful wildflowers growing beside the trail especially around streams, most are yellow, purple and red. Kind of low energy due to bad sleeps the last four nights but powered through until lunch.
After that back into snow and frozen lakes, did a mini pass (Island pass?) which I didn’t even realize was a pass until I checked guthooks. Downhill and then up Donahue pass which also wasn't too bad but a lot of snow to slide through on the way up. I was caught behind a pack of JMTers, but they gave me a couple extra snickers while stopping for a break. Win!
Caught up with the squad at the top of Donahue pass. Had some gummy worms to power me through and then headed back down. Snow is getting pretty sketchy for postholing, especially hitting the pass so late in the day. You can hear rivers flowing underneath the snow you’re walking on which freaks me out, but thankfully the thinner snow is a bright, light blue which is easily identified and avoided. Marmots everywhere today.
After getting below the snow line, there were steep, rough, steps on the downhill and a river crossing to end the day with wet shoes. Knee was getting sore, thankfully we stopped at a large campsite pretty early in the evening.
Lots of tent sites at this spot, and a fire pit. Set up tent so I can get a sleep worry free from mosquitos. Greg caught up with us and we're joined by a PCT hiker that got split from her group, Emma from New Hampshire. Squad shares everything now-candy, solar charger, sriracha, camp shoes, boiled water, herbs & spices etc. In bed pretty early, ready for a good sleep. Next few days should be pretty relaxed elevation-wise compared to the last two weeks so hopefully can get some big miles in. Coming up on 1000 miles soon.
Camped currently with the squad of six and Emma. Austrians are ahead, Chia and Six Toes behind. Feeling a little stiff, should really be stretching more
About 5:30 am groggily heard something rummaging around our bear canisters (which were beside the log I'm sitting on in the above picture). Figured it was one of the squad getting early breakfast and ignored it in favour of sleep. Next thing I know, Jade's pot (with heavy ass fuel canister and stove inside) hit me right in the temple...hard. Sat up and turned around to start bitching at whoever thought that was a funny way to wake me up and was face to face with a bear, he was pretty good size for a black bear.
When I sat up, it started wandering away very slowly and I yelled to the squad. During all my encounters back home, the bears ran away at the slightest movement/noise but this guy was just hanging around on the edge of the campsite...the fact that he was not at all concerned by my yelling or weird waving hop-dance made me pretty nervous. I went to go wake up the boys for backup. Cy didn’t bother to get out of his bag (I don't even think he woke up, thanks bud), but when Lukas and I were both out of the tents, the bear finally booked it away into the woods, pausing occasionally to stop and watch us from behind a tree. Had an adrenaline rush for sure but no panic, proud of myself for not freaking out too badly. We’re very close to Yosemite NP so this could be a common thing in the upcoming days. Tourists=tourist food.
There's now bear drool all over my flip flops and rain jacket and the bump on my head hurts to touch. I'm going back to bed.
DAY 71: Bear capmsite (932.4) TO (951.1)
Big sleep in after the bear incident. Finally hit trail at 8:45, and walked all of 7 minutes until I came down into the most beautiful meadow I've ever seen. A river curved through a flat green meadow with lots of yellow flowers all set in front of the snowcapped mountains we came through yesterday. Chia and Six Toes were napping near the river so I stopped to chill with them. Cy passed by and rolled his eyes at my break so early in the day and carried on but the river was so beautiful I couldn’t not stop there. Six Toes, Jade and I jumped in, really cold but not as bad as guitar lake. The river was bright turquoise in the sun and perfectly clear. There were deep cut outs at the bottom that were darker blue and green. I was only able to go for a short swim, it was freezing and the current was strong, but I enjoyed it none the less. Warmed up a little in the sun and hiked on. COME BACK HERE LATER IN LIFE.
Lots more JMTers, kept getting caught at the back of their hiker trains. I’m still too shy to ask people to let me pass them so I tend to just kind of passive aggressively click my poles around and hope they move for me. Flat ground for almost all of today, the first in a long time. Got to the first road on trail since Kennedy Meadows, 230 miles ago. Since then there hasn’t been any sign of modern life which is pretty incredible when you think how close we are to civilization at most points on this hike.
As we got close to Tuolumne Meadows, passed many day hikers, more people than we’d seen in a long, long time. When we got to the ranger station and parking lot, Q was there with the dogs and Cody and Puff! Cody’s ankle is only lightly sprained so he'll be back on trail soon. Chia and Six toes showed up while we were having break so the full sierras squad was there.
Since everyone was together we had a long break at the picnic tables outside the ranger station and a full cook lunch. Low motivation to keep hiking after eating two ramens and mashed potatoes but the amount of people and cars was a little overwhelming so we hit the trail again. Cody, Chia and Six Toes left with Q to go on an adventure to Yosemite Valley. It’s kind of a shame we aren’t heading down with them, but I can’t imagine how busy it must be down there and I already found the parking lot at Tuolumne to be too crowded. Farther away we got the less people there were.
Soon after, came across the most beautiful waterfall I've ever seen (apparently a common theme today) near Glen Aulin (Tuolumne Falls). There was even a rainbow in the spray and all of it was backdropped by a great view down river to the cliffs across the valley.
Sat with Cy and Lukas and Sara for probably two hours watching the water pool around the rocks below the falls, and then the sunset. Probably would’ve stayed longer if we could but Jade and Greg were up ahead and there was nowhere to camp legally nearby.
Finally got going around 5, then came the mosquitos. So bad, almost as many as Bear Creek. Literally had to run up three miles of uphill to the shittiest campsite we've had in a while, there was no water and nothing to pitch tents on but slanted bare rock, but there weren’t any other options for miles and the mosquitos were driving us crazy. Had a no cook dinner due to lack of water and got into our tents right away. We’re chatting through our screens now and I’ve counted 28 mosquitos on my tent net. Didn't catch up to Greg after the waterfall break, so only five of us tonight. Too bad we have such an awful campsite, the rest of today was spectacular.
DAY 72: CAMPSITE (951.1) TO SMEDBERG LAKE CAMPSITE (968.5)
17.4 miles. Benson Pass.
Had an excellent sleep and a triple breakfast essential shake mixed with oatmeal using the last of my water...l really dislike dry camping. The mosquitos were much more bearable once the sun hit our campsite. Started the trail feeling awesome, hiked alone for a while without music which was a nice change, I should be doing that more often. I always get into a rhythm hearing my own footsteps and my mind wanders a lot more than when I have music to focus on.
Went through another meadow that was very nice but had nothing on yesterday. Downhill steeply to McCabe creek (looked like a river) and found Greg there waiting for us. Waited for the rest so we make sure everyone got across safely. After the river, went straight back uphill then downhill then back uphill ffs but arrived at Miller Lake after the second climb.
The lake was clear and cold but very bearable, and it had a little strip of beach next to the water. It was amazing to actually swim and stay in the water without being worried about hypothermia, I didn’t get out for a good 20 minutes. Back on the beach to dry off, made mac and cheese for lunch, probably a high point in my life. Lakes definitely recharge me in terms of energy and mood, and it made me miss getting to swim everyday like I usually do in summer at LOTW.
Napped with squad then got stuff together and headed back uphill to do Benson pass. Slow going uphill and it was pretty steep, but uphill doesn’t cause me the instant misery it used to.
No much snow on Benson pass at all which was a nice change although shoes are still wet always from the snowmelt streams crossing over the path. Watched the sun start to set on top of the pass and then back down for two miles to Smedberg lake for camping. It’s very rocky and exposed but the sunset across the lake was beautiful and Jade surprised us with s'mores stuff that she had packed out from Mammoth. Joined by Kristy, a Sierras section hiker. Mosquitos are bad again this evening so tents are up and hoping it doesn't rain since we're on bare rock and it'll be tricky to stake down the rainfly.
DAY 73: SMEDBERG LAKE (968.5) TO WILMA LAKE (986.9)
18.4 miles. Seavey Pass
Started and ended the day with a swim in the lake and crazy elevation gains and losses in between.
We had to do another midnight scramble to get the rain flys on tents after it started raining around 2 last night. Mosquitos wrecked me during the 3 minutes I was outside. Apart from that, slept really well, almost ten hours total. Upon waking up, everyone was still sleeping so took the opportunity to jump in Smedberg lake. It was really cold so didn't stay in long. Definitely flashed our temporary travel member Kristy, whoops sorry.
All our gear was wet from the rain so laid everything out on the rocks and used the time to make actual hot oatmeal for once. Had another breakfast essential as well, they’re a surprise favourite, especially when mixed with coffee.
Downhill through rough terrain first thing in the morning, my knee was already twinging within an hour of starting. It was hard to keep track of the trail. The downhill continued for a long time, short switchbacks and loose rocks everywhere. Got pretty lost at the bottom in a tangle of rivers and jungle-like plants which was frustrating and put me in a bad mood, especially since I was already behind everyone. I ended up doing an completely unnecessary river crossing and then had to make my way back again once I’d realized my mistake. Would’ve been easy to just check guthooks but my phone was at the bottom of my pack and I was being stubborn as usual about stopping. Tree trunks were fallen everywhere and climbing over them in a hurry scratched up my legs up pretty bad, lots of shallow scrapes that drew blood. In retrospect, it seems so often that my problems could easily be solved by calming down and taking a break. Maybe I’ll learn that by the end of the trail.
After finally finding my way back to the path, there was a steep uphill to Seavey pass, slipped a couple times on icy snow and got a touch of hiker rage near the top. I was still in a stubborn bad mood during lunch and then another tough downhill, it was almost a vertical cliff and the trail was nowhere to be found under the snow. On the way down, came across a very sketchy stretch along the side of a slippery snow bank that slid straight down into a rushing river, but there was no other option to take, caught between rock and river. I was going very slowly and placing each foot exactly in the tracks of the last hiker before me. Had the axe out just in case a self-arrest was needed, thankfully it was not.
Continued on the downhill, not good for my knee but I still cheered up a little bit. (Was probably just hungry, that puts me in a bad mood every time.) Today was a massive vertical zigzag, after coming down Seavey went right back up 700 feet which I found exhausting, moving very slow and then down 1000 feet again. RIP knee, I’m so sorry. Pretty sketchy river crossing (or sketchier than the few we've had lately, the current was strong and the rocks at the bottom were very unstable) and then right back up 1200 feet. On the way up, hit a second wind energy burst that happens after I get absolutely wiped and tore past the entire squad at the top of the climb and was nearly running on the way back down. I love when these energy bursts happen, I feel like I could do anything, and my mind really focuses so it’s easy to navigate down tricky rock scrambles. A nice parallel between the physical ups and downs on trail and my emotional range today.
Got to Wilma lake before everyone else so jumped in which felt amazing after the long day. It was the warmest lake I've swam in yet so stayed in a bit longer than I normally would while being naked, than got out to set up camp. Mosquitos are bad here, but what else is new so we ate a quick dinner (really excellent combo of KD and applewood smoked bacon potatoes) and got into our tents. Traded Jade a package of potatoes for a snickers bar (win) so feeling pretty content food wise. Today felt really good pushing the body on so many up and downs, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow. Kristy camping with us again.
DAY 74: WILMA LAKE (986.9) TO KENNEDY CANYON CREEK (1005.9)
Slept haaaaaard after all the elevation change yesterday. Woke up late and tried to avoid mosquitos while eating breakfast. Left camp after Jade, ran into Lunchbox/Vanessa who stayed with us at the cabin in Wrightwood, haven’t seen her since then. Hiked with Lukas and pushing to keep up, had to keep asking open ended questions so he could talk and I could focus on breathing. The whole trail was mud and water all morning, there was no hope of keeping the shoes dry and I gave up pretty early.
We arrived at Dorothy lake for a lunch break, dove in right away. Pretty cold so didn't stay in long but it was nice to lie in the sun and dry off. Squad swam and lounged for a couple hours since there were no mosquitos, a nice break from the last three days of non-stop biting. Definitely sunburned stomach and tops of feet, I should have sunscreen but it’s a compromise to be able to swim without worrying about getting chemicals in the water. Jade uses a natural homemade sunscreen…I’m not sure how legitimate the actual sun protection is but definitely worth looking into.
Finally got going way later than planned and did another 9 miles to get to camp at the base of a climb to Sonora pass. We passed the 1000 mile marker today, which was a little underwhelming, but proud of myself. Jade insisted on hiking together all day so that we could get a group photo at the marker. The seven of us were hiker train-ing but I dropped behind after a while to get some music time in. Hiked the evening through trees and my favourite golden sunlight but definitely low energy. I think I need to be eating more filling food and relying less on candy bars and sugar spikes for energy.
Not passing as many JMTers and we haven't really seen any other north bounders (other than Kristy) in a couple days. It's weird, sometimes feels like we're the only people out here. There are still a few weekend warriors, and they seem so inexperienced to me now which is odd since I still consider myself inexperienced. I passed a couple guys today throwing their boots and bags across an easy creek crossing, it's definitely satisfying to go splashing through with my tiny pack while they try and figure out how to cross without getting their feet wet. Really light bag right now, finally managed to time the resupply almost perfectly.
Got to camp later than usual due to my slow afternoon, set up tent although could probably cowboy camp since the mosquitos still aren’t that bad, thank god. We were eating dinner together and I saw a couple dogs running through the trees. It's Q! Jade was getting worried he hadn't hiked out to meet us yet. As always, it’s great to see him and have the dogs for company. Lukas speculates that he’s positive reinforcement, since seeing him means we’re getting close to town and town food.
11 miles to Bridgeport tomorrow for a resupply and nero. It's the coldest night we’ve had in a while and feeling quite sore which is odd, we didn’t do anything too strenuous today. In my tent with everyone close by and a nice view of stars. V happy.
DAY 75: KENNEDY CANYON CREEK (1005.9) TO HWY 108/BRIDGEPORT (1016.9)
11 miles. Sonora Pass
Out of camp decently early for once to try and get to Bridgeport before the post office closed this afternoon, although our decently early would still be very late for most PCT hikers. The uphill out of camp was long and exhausting (do I ever have anything else to say?) and my calves burned the whole time but it warmed me up and legs felt good as long as I didn’t push too fast.
Really different scenery once we reached the top of the climb, lots of black granite(?), no trees at all. Beautiful views in all directions, but really windy and chilly. The group stopped for a quick round of pictures with the background looking the way it did.
Two miles out from town on our last pass and Sierras are still getting us… we thought the 11 miles today would be quick and easy but going down Sonora was the scariest time for me so far on trail and ended up taking us hours longer than expected. The face felt steeper than Mathers and the soft snow was hard to walk on, very unstable and slushy. There were muddy runoffs crossing the foot trail that gave way under your feet and cause me to start sliding downhill a couple times. I think I’m probably the most confidant of us on the snow and I still wished that I had my ice axe, although it may have been too soft for that to be an option anyways. We were moving very, very slow and going one at a time, making sure no one was underneath anyone else at any point in case of a fall.
Despite the slow moving, Cy slipped and slid down the face until hitting an exposed rock face and shortly after that Vanessa had a terrifying slide over top of an exposed space where snow had melted away from the rock. She didn’t fall into the crevasse but still slid down fast and hit some exposed rock hard. I couldn’t watch. I know there was nothing I could do but I’m still really disappointed in myself for turning away.
Thankfully they’re both fine, just a little scratched up. We went even slower the rest of the way, probably took us an hour to get down about 100 feet, but we eventually made it across the face to an established glissade track and slid down without any trouble. During that time, Kristy and another section hiker got caught in a different spot and were having a hard time getting down. We waited for them to get to a safer spot and then once we figured they’d be okay, went to the highway where Q had parked the trooper. Vanessa had been planning to hike on but after her fall I think she was shaken up and came to town with us.
Squished 8 hikers, packs and two dogs into car and made the 45 minute drive to Bridgeport. Love this town-cool little western style buildings on the main strip, drove through fields of cattle and pasture with mountains in the back. Went to post office to mail away bear canisters, good riddance!
Got burgers at local bar, really good service and the waitress wrote us each a little encouragement note which is now in my ziplock bag wallet. Stayed at a little family resort outside town, split two cabins between all of us. Vanessa, Jade and Q went to a local hot spring, Greg, Sara, Cy and Lukas and I stayed behind doing laundry and playing beer pong on a picnic table. We developed an interesting drink of beer mixed with some grape flavoured Mio, it was surprisingly tasty although Greg hates it. There’s no wifi or service here, had to use a payphone to call home. I’d love to come here as a vacation. Go Bridgeport!
DAY 76: HIGHWAY 108/BRIDGEPORT (1016.9) TO CAMPSITE (1017.9)
1 mile wow
Up around 8, packed up and crammed back into the car. Waited for Greg to finish taking the longest shower of all time and then went back to same restaurant in Bridgeport for breakfast, another amazing waitress, heck yeah Bridgeport, I’m moving here and getting a ranch or something.
Went to a little coffee shop called 1881 for wifi to do some resupply planning. Kate here is amazing, we had great smoothies and she's driving us back to trail once they close. Catching up now on social media and downloaded a ton of new music. Any PCT hikers planning to make a stop in Bridgeport should make a stop at 1881!!!
Kate drove us back to the trail around 3:30, the winding road and hangover combo wasn't pleasant for the squad. We ended up lying around for an hour at the trailhead eating watermelon that Q had brought along. I was strongly against hiking at all today but we finally started at about 6pm and went a whopping 1 mile to a beautiful campsite for an early dinner.
Cowboy camping for the first time in a while. This is for sure one of my favourite campsites on trail so far, amazing view of Sonora pass and surrounding mountains, could see our sketchy glissade path in the snow from across the valley. Great sunset and beautiful clouds.
Time to get back to schedule and hoping to do bigger miles now that we're out of the "real" Sierras. On to NorCal!