Day 61: Smokey Mountains?!?

Started: Red’s Meadow Junction (906.7)

Ended: Tentsite (919.9)

Total Miles: 13.2

Late last night, as I took a shower, I was unable to turn off the water at the hotel. The handle just spun. I called the manager, and he said they would call the plumber. So, the water ran all night.

We got on trail by 10 a.m. With a late start, we were lucky to get 13 miles.

There is a fire burning behind us called the Lion’s Fire. That made our entire hike very smokey. I know that there were some excellent views, but they were obscured by smoke.

It was a bit difficult to breathe, and my mouth was gritty and dry.

Today was about escaping the vortex of civilization, and we did that so it was a good day. Tomorrow we will cross two passes. I ate extra calories tonight to get ready for that.

With the day done and some unexpected internet, I’ll enjoy a relaxing evening.

Day 60: Zero in Mammoth Lakes

Today has been a very calm day. I picked up a new air mattress. I will now carry two. I’m really tired of this drama.

This is the end of the long hikes. From now on, I’ll be at a resupply point every three to five days. I’ll also start to have more internet access. Verizon has the best access on the PCT, but no connectivity in the Sierra Mountains.

So, today I made phone calls and updated the blog. It was a relaxing and successful day.

Day 59: I’m Flying. My Feet Never Touch the Ground

Started: Lake Virginia (891.7)

Ended: Red’s Meadow Junction (906.7)

Total Miles: 15.0

My day started like this. This is why I hike.

Motivated by the thought of real food, we moved. We passed a beautiful lake where a father was teaching his son to fish.

Sherpa, a Palestinian Christian hiked with us, and we talked about his challenges becoming an American citizen after 9/11. We walked more like my training hikes. We passed the 900 mile mark.

By 1:30 p.m. we had completed our 15 miles! We took the bus into Mammoth Lakes. There so early, we were able to do much of our chores. That means we get to relax tomorrow.

Day 58: Silver Pass

Started: Vermilion Valley Resort (878.7)

Ended: Lake Virginia (891.7)

Total Miles: 13.0 +1.4 Bonus Miles

Achievements: Silver Pass (10,781 ft.)

The ferry left VVR at nine in the morning. I said goodbye to Fish Tank one last time. My new crew, Bubbles and Nap, promise earlier starts, more miles and less drama. Our discussions along the way make the miles go much faster.

I cannot keep up with them on extended climbs, especially over 10,000 feet, but everywhere else I am fine.

Despite a late start, we crushed our seventh pass in nine days. The last two have been much easier. Our packs are lighter. We are much stronger.

We have positioned ourselves for a 15 mile hike to Red’s Meadow Resort, where we will take a bus into Mammoth Lakes to resupply. I will also be able to talk to my family for the first time in a long time.

Tonight, my tent is pointed towards Lake Virginia and I watched an amazing moonrise over the mountains. It is going to be cold, but I’m ready for that.

Day 57: VVR & Lineup Changes

Started: Tentsite (873.5)

Ended: Vermilion Valley Resort (878.7)

Total Miles: 5.2 + 1.4 Bonus Miles

Exhausted after six passes in seven days, we left the trail to nero in Vermillion Valley Resort for the night. It gave us a chance to recharge.

It is also a chance to make some changes. One fundamental rule of thru-hiking is Hike Your Own Hike. To finish, you need to hike your own speed. If you try to keep up with a faster hiker than you and you can burn out or worse yet injure yourself. Hike with someone too slow and you will run out of time to finish.

Fish Tank is going to stay here in VVR while he waits for Chef and Feinschmecker. Hiking on our own, we have pulled away farther from them the past couple of days. Now that I have my hiker legs back, I want to continue to put up longer miles.

He is also reevaluating his reasons for hiking. He is not enjoying the hike. The Sierra Mountains are mentally difficult. The climbs up the passes are extremely tiring. We are in wett forests from all the snow melt. There will be mosquitoes. Your feet are wet. You miss your family back home. It is the mental part of the hike that gets you.

So, I will hike on with Nap and Bubbles.

Today, I will eat and recharge for one more push to Mammoth Lakes.

Day 56: Selden Pass

Started: Tentsite (855.7)

Ended: Tentsite (873.5)

Total Miles: 17.8

Achievements: Selden Pass (10,912 ft.)

A commenter on Guthooks called Selden Pass exponentially easier than any of the passes we have done so far. That is a fair assessment.

Joining me today were Nap and Bubbles from Switzerland. They have been hiking with us for the past couple of days.

Nap has his doctorate in Molecular Biology. Bubbles is finishing her Master’s in Urban Planning. The conversation is excellent. We’ve discussed politics, ethics, religion, linguistics and history. It makes the miles go quickly.

Today’s hike started with a ten Mile climb to the top of the pass. That was followed by seven miles downhill until the end. The downhill included three river crossings that required effort. They are flowing nicely because of snow melt, but are not the killers of last year.

My tent is facing the edge of a cliff. Below me is a raging river. I’m hiding from the mosquitos. There are about a thousand bouncing off my netting. They know I have to come out some time.

Tomorrow, if I’m not sucked dry of blood, we are going into Vermilion Valley Resort for a nero. I’ll do some laundry, take a shower, and enjoy food that has not been reconstituted.

Day 55: What? No Passes?

Started: Muir Shelter (838.6)

Ended: Tentsite (855.7)

Total Miles: 17.1

The night in the Muir Shelter was awesome, even though I slept on stone. We got up early and watched the sunrise. Bubbles from Switzerland made Chai Tea for me. We all huddled in our sleeping bags and quilts.

Fish Tank chose to sleep outside. The noise of six hikers sleeping was too much for him.

Muir has been the most difficult pass to climb and decent because of snow. Postholing in the morning is much easier because the snow is frozen. It took a bit to get down off the pass, but once that was done, it was all downhill.

There were lakes of snow melt on the pass that made for an amazing site.

We did some good Sierra miles as the trail has patches of scree wich is always hard to walk on.

Despite no passes, there were still amazing long distance views.

We camped next to a river. The sound of rushing water was very relaxing.

This is where the story gets complicated. Fish Tank asked me to leave. He says that it is nothing that I did. He is not happy with his hike and wants to make changes. I’m surprised about this change as he was so excited when I returned. He even proposed having me video more on the blog two days ago.

From my prospective, I’m in shock, because up to this point, we had been having fun. He asked me to rejoin with him. As you can suspect from this blog, other than air mattresses, I add no drama to this partnership.

Still, if that is what he wants, then I will hike on.

Day 54: Muir Pass

Started: Middle Fork Trail Junction (827.4)

Ended: Muir Shelter (838.6)

Total Miles: 11.2

Achievements: Muir Pass (11,969 ft.), Sleep’n the Hutt

One aspect of thru-hiking is dealing with when things go wrong. Last night, I woke to a popped air mattress. This is the fourth mattress I’ve popped. Fortunately, I can patch this one.

I woke up at 5 a.m. and I know where the hole is roughly, because I dunked it in the river, but I cannot see it with my eyes which makes it hard to patch.

Our goal today is Muir Pass which will be the most difficult. Unlike the previous hikes where the trail has been mostly snow free, here we will need to trailblaze the last three miles.

Tired and sore, I tried to keep a positive attitude, but the lack of sleep took it’s toll.

For the final approach, we were joined by Nap and Bubbles from Switzerland. The last climb took much longer than expected. We reached the top and stood before the Muir Shelter. It is an icon of the PCT.

Running later than expected and enjoying the view we decided to ignore the no camping sign and sleep there for the night.

We were joined by three other hikers, Moonshine, Sherpa and Shitty Shitty Bang Bang (I didn’t give him the name. I’m only reporting it.)

SSBB earned his name as he was sick on the trail. I carry anti-diarrhea pills and that carried him through.

Six of us had a great time. SSBB fixed my air mattress. By now, my foul mood had changed. We ate. We joked. We watched the sun set.

Unfortunately, Fish Tank didn’t seem to enjoy it. He wanted so badly to sleep here.

It started out a bad day, but ended one of the best.

Day 51: Glen Pass

Date: June 20th

Started: Tentsite (789.8)

Ended: Woods Creek Suspension Bridge (799.8)

Total Miles: 10.0

Achievements: Glen Pass (11,949 ft.)

We are following the PCTA’s recommended “One Pass Per Day” plan. Day One of that plan has us cross Glen Pass and camp at Woods Creek. We made short work climbing up, but things became interesting on the way down.

We had to cross a snow field, like we did on Forester, but this time we were early in the day and postholing was easy. What was difficult was that the entire path was technical. Of the ten miles we hiked, we probably had one mile of simple trail. The rest was bounding from one rock to the next. It was hard to get momentum, and we were both very tired at the end of the day.

There has been bear activity where we are camping, so most of my stuff is in the nearby bear box.

Tomorrow is going to be much of the same. Big climb, technical climb down, exhausted despite few miles. Once we’re done with the Sierra Mountains, we’ll kick it into gear.

The views were amazing. So were the mosquitos, so I don’t have much for photography. I did take a number of great panorama shots, but I’ll need to add a plug-in to show them here and I cannot do that with my phone.

Day 50: Kearsarge Pass Part Two

Started: Bullfrog Lake Trail (788.5)

Ended: Tentsite (789.8)

Total Miles: 1.3 + 9 Bonus Miles

We hitched in from Bishop after an hour of trying. The driver’s name was Fast Eddie, and he took us all the way to the Onion Valley Trail.

The four mile climb with nine days of food made us both very moody.

After three hours, we eventually made it to the top of Kearsarge Pass. There we met an older couple who is slower than we are.

Once we got to the top, we had five miles downhill. Before we knew it, we were on the PCT. We decided to go up to the next campsite. We are 1.3 miles from it, so it looks like we will cross two passes tomorrow and cross the 800 mile mark.