Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June 6 to June 22 - Mojave, CA to Mammoth Lakes, CA

Day 23 - June 6th - end at mile 582.7. Left Motel 6 at noon and met Chris at the bus stop. Only costs a dollar to go to the trail and I got picked up there too so it's nice and convenient. We started with 5 days of food, 5 liters of wate, and a 5 mile climb from the highway back into the mountains. We were still surrounded by wind turbines, so of course it was really windy too. The wind helped with the heat which is still near 100 degrees but it was so strong it kept blowing me off the trail. I couldn't keep with with Chris and didn't see him after the first couple of miles. The wind was off and on once high up. After about 16 miles it started to get dark so I pitched my tent in a pretty exposed spot. There is a row of turbines on the ridge right behind me. When it gusts my tent shakes a ton, hopefully it fares okay tonight. It's been nice to take some down time, but tomorrow I'll be back to full speed and 30 mile days to Kennedy Meadows.

Day 24 - June 7 - end at mile 612. Had to drop last night due to wind. Tried cowboy but still too cold/hot windy . Moved tent after 4 hrs of no sleep. Cowboy since new spit windy but not as bad. Woke up with a ton of welts from bug bites. Near eye neck arm waist. Swollen over day makes it look like I have black eye. Slow pace today. Pretty mostly forested . Prepping for 42 mile water carry. Hope there are some cashes. Guy gave me bwnwdrill hope it helps swelling around eye. Bed now in poorly pitched tent. Windy again but doesn't seem as bad. Would be better if pitched right.  Saw a deer today... first mammal larger than jackrabbit

Day 25 - June 8 - End at Mile 638.4. Tough day today. Woke up to my alarm from a deep sleep. Not ready to get up nor want to hike but I can't sleep in here because the sun is blistering hot every day by 7 at the latest. Slowly I made it the first 6 miles. Was a little worried about this section because it's a 42 mile desert stretch with no water, but thankfully there was a water cache at a road after these first 6 miles. I took a gallon jug with me to supplement my carrying capacity. They even had Mountain Dew for me to drink! This felt good and I carried on but as the Dew faded away the heat really started to hit. I took a 3 hour lunch break and nap under a joshua tree to try to escape the sun. One guy said it reached 110 degrees today. Slogged on through pretty desert, back in real desert now. Saw some cactus wrens and a sign about the threatened desert tortoise. Ravens apparently eat these. Big uphill slog, dinner, and then an hour of nice hiking in the shade with the setting sun. It's so much nicer hiking at dawn and dusk here. I tried night hiking but feel like it messes up my sleep too much. It's hard to sleep during the day here. Have done sub 30 mile days the passed two days but that's okay cause I'm in good shape to get into KM early on Saturday. I think I'll nero there and head out Sunday morning. The longer it takes me to get there means the less snow I'll have to deal with. Considering I'm planning to do a full 200+ mile traverse of the Sierras without midway resupply, less snow sounds better.

Day 26 - June 9 - End at mile 664.6. Slept in till 6 which is maybe the latest I've slept in so far out here. It was actually cloudy this morning. The only other time there had been any significant overcast was the morning of my first day on this trail at the Mexican border. The clouds weren't thick enough to prevent the sun from poking the through fully but they were still welcome. Felt a little sluggish until another hiker passed me with her umbrella out. Decided to use mine too and keep up with her fast pace. Reached the bottom of the hills at Walker Pass. There there were two separate trail angels set up with food and chairs. First time I've encountered this kind of trail angel setup on the PCT. Spent the midday here in the chairs. Then climbed up and around Mt Jenkins which was pretty and had a good deal of scree in the trail. The PCT never actually summits any mountains which is kind of annoying, it just runs a gentle path up and around them without ever going up to the tops or the ridge. I definitely feel like there is less of a sense of place or meaning of where I am on this trail because I don't know the names of most of the mountains nor do I summit any of them. Earlier today I was in Sequoia National Park and there were lots of baby bunnies and jackrabbits. We could even see the Sierras and the snow on top. Now I'm in a place called Owens Peak wilderness. I've been following the blog of someone I knew on the AT who is on the PCT ahead of me this year. She was at Mt Whitney about a week ago and had to turn back cause there was too much snow. Also she did a good deal of the Sierras but at the first resupply point skipped ahead due to the amount of snow and the big fords and other dangerous trail conditions. I hope once I get there the snow will be less and the fords won't be too dangerous. I wouldn't want to miss Whitney. I historically have enjoyed winter hiking but not so much camping in the cold and snow.

Day 27 - June 10 - End at mile 693.6. Cloudy day today. Actually overcast for the whole day which hasn't happened since day 1. Never got too hot either. Morning went by well, big climb. Tried to take a lunchtime nap but flies were getting me. Hiked on in the afternoon for the second big climb of the day. Groggy and kinda slow but went okay. Kinda bored today but got good views of the snowy mountains to come. Good camp with some people here. Tuts got in as I was going to bed. He started day before me and we've crossed paths a few times now. Excited to nero in KM tomorrow.

Day 28 - June 11 - end at mile 707.3. Another cloudy day made for an easy flat 9 miles into the community of Kennedy Meadows. At the general store I picked up my package with a bear can, 10 days of food, ice axe, microspikes, and goodies that Greta prepared for me. I hung out all day on the patio with other hikers drinking bear and eating. Had a pretty good veggie burger with "guac". Outdoor showered and rinsed clothes in there. The actual laundry machine was way too busy with other hikers. Picked up another days worth of food from the hiker boxes. Hoping to make it all the way to Reds Meadow which is over 200 miles away on this section. It was too crowded for my comfort to camp there so I headed out another 5 easy miles into the south sierra wilderness to begin this exciting section. My pack is heavy with all the food and extra gear but hopefully there will be no long water carries in this section. Will I see snow tomorrow?

Day 29 - June 12 - End at mile 728.1. It actually rained last night while I was in my tent for the first time of any significance. Thankfully almost my stuff stayed dried. Easy and scenic day today. Slepted in, hiked 10 miles this morning through meadows and to a river with a bridge crossing. Under the bridge were tons of nesting cliff swallows! Me and a bunch of other hikers had a nice lunch here in the sunshine. Even watched someone raft down the river on their air mattress! It was a 8 mile climb up to 10,000 after that and we were headed into dark clouds. It started to rain a little, then hail, then snow, then hail hard for a couple hours as I reached the top and came down about 3 miles to this campsite by a stream. I wondered if I would see snow today but I didn't think it'd be falling! Was really cold. Set up camp early but I'm done with the miles I need to do today. The sun is already back out now. Tomorrow I will hike to the boundary where a bear can is needed and stop just before it. Then I have 9 days using just the bear can, per the rules of that area, to make it to my next resupply in Mammoth Lakes. It's a long stretch but I only need to do 20 a day and bail out options are possible. Hope I can do it though... should be a good challenge as this is the hardest part of the  trail supposably.

Day 30 - June 13 -end at mile 750.8. Another gorgeous day here in the southern sierras. Pretty easy walking, only 22 miles to the edge of bear can territory. Last night was coldest yet and my tent got covered in frost. Starting to see mounds of snow on the ground but the trail is still 99.9% clear up to 11,000ft. I suppose there will only be significant snow above this altitude which is not frequent except for a few high points. Camping tonight near Chicken Spring lake. An awesome alpine lake. I dipped my feet... very cold.  Camping tonight with Sherpa, a German hiker. I think I'll probably hike with him for a little while. He is getting off for resupply sooner than I am but in the meantime we are both very excited for Mt Whitney.

Day 31 - June 14 - end at PCT mile 766.9 plus 15 miles out and back for Mt Whitney - Sherpa left a little before me in the morning and I didn't catch him until mid day. The morning was a nice walk with two fords. The first moderately easy and the second easy. I need to remember that these are always deeper than they look though. I got to my planned end point near the base of Mt Whitney in early afternoon. Not wanting to end so early I decided to make a run for the summit. I was the last person ascending as most start early in the morning. Almost everyone was already coming down and I didn't pass anyone on the way up. This was a really pretty hike along Whitney creek and several alpine lakes. There were a bunch of cute marmots running around one of them. Eventually there were large switchbacks going up alpine snow started to be on the trail above 13,000ft or so. The trail was well beaten though so it was easy to follow and still about half of it was bare dirt. Climbing at this elevation was hard and my heart was beating really fast despite my low speed. When I reached the top I was the only person there. Just me and Gray-crowned rosy finch at the highest point in the continental USA! I didn't stay up there too long because it was already after 5:30 and had 7 miles to get back to where I could legally camp. The descent was much easier and faster as I didn't need to breathe hard. The altitude didn't affect me much going down although I did develope a bad head ache probably due to a combination of altitude, fatigue, and poor nutrition today. On my way down I came across a beatiful buck drinking from one of the lakes. He saw me and stared, then turned and trotted down the trail. I made it to my camp with just and little light left in the sky. My headache was really bad and I almost felt like vomiting. I took some medication, drank and protein drink, and went to sleep.

Day 32 - June 15th - end at mile 787.3. Felt better this morning. Today I forded a lot of streams and climbed through Forester Pass. My feet were constantly wet but that's okay they are dry now in camp. None of the streams were dangerous thankfully. Forester Pass was awesome. It's the highest point on the PCT. Lots of cool snow but not hard. It was midday and it was soft. Took a lot of pictures. Feeling lonely this afternoon. I'm camping next to this guy who did the AT as well and he also plans to go to Mammoth Lakes. Maybe I should try to buddy up with him for a while. I've been hiking alone for a long time now and reluctant to make friends because I don't want to change my pace. I inventoried my food and I barely have enough to make 6 days to Mammoth. I will eat but I will be hungry. 6 days is 20 miles a day which should be doable. The Sierras is dropping my mileage from 25-30 in the desert. The terrain is harder but it's more so the logistics of not having enough food and elevation concerns. It's been really cold the past few nights. Today I stopped after 20 when I could have done more because I wanted to camp at a lower elevation. It's cold now though but I'm trying some new techniques to stay warm tonight. Lastly we think there is smoke in the air. We can smell it and it's a little hazy. Seems like a fire in the distance but we have no way of knowing. Will sleep on it and assess tomorrow morning. Hope everything is okay.

Day 33 - June 16th - end at mile 811.4. Real hard but rewarding day today. Slept in because it didn't seem like the forest was burning down. Talked to a hiker and he said some lightning caused fires but they always go our quickly. Climbed Glen pass this morning which is nearly 12,000ft. The snow was still crunchy. I covered all exposed skin with sunscreen to help protect myself. The ascent went well and had a great view up top. The descent was challenging and a little scary because the sun had not melted the ice or hard snow yet. I one point I tried sliding down this several hundred food chute made by another hiker on my butt, but the snow was too hard so it hurt and cut up knuckles. Used my ice axe here for the first time. At the bottom where a bunch of cool lakes and I saw a helicopter land to resupply a ranger station. At the lowest elevation of the day I ate a paltry lunch by a cool suspension bridge. When I crossed there was a family on an 8 day hike on the opposite side. They were interested in what I was doing and thought I looked skinny so they gave me and ton of snack food! Highlight of the day! This will definitely help me get to Mammoth Lakes. After that I climbed way up to Pinchot Pass, the 3rd major pass in the Sierras. This was a lesson in route finding on both sides as the trail was not visible with all the snow in this alpine eviroment. A lot of fun and not so scary. On the way down I forded and bunch of streams including the large King river at the end of the day. Now I'm camped on the opposite side warming my feet. Did 24 today so I have a nice 4 mile buffer on my 20 mile day pace on this section.

Day 34 - June 17 - end at mile 835.0. Today is my birthday! I'm 28 now. I'm glad I was able to spend it doing what I love here in the Sierras on the PCT/JMT, although I do miss all my friends and family at home. I woke surprised to find out I had another big pass just a few miles ahead, Mathers Pass. A long snow field led up to the mountain. Then the switch backs started, except they were largely covered in snow so instead of footprints went straight up! Kind of scary when you look around because everything is so huge and remote, even though the terrain isn't all that bad. On the backside there was more snow and I saw someone make the same mistake I made yesterday of trying to slide down a chute on the icy morning snow. He cut up his knuckles like I did but otherwise seemed fine. I was glad to have my ice axe and microspikes again on the descent. Going down after the snow was and huge series of stone steps, very cool. Then I walked through varied forest for some time which kind of reminded me of home. I'm camped now a few miles before Muir Pass and just met two hikers named Double Double and Dozer. Made plans to hike with them tomorrow which will be good for the loneliness I've been having. Now a special story: this afternoon I was walking through some mixed forest when I came to a small meadow. I turn to my left and see a grouse flying straight at me. I scream "AHHHHH! GET AWAY!" and wave my trekking poles wildly at it. I jump back as it is unfazed, stumble and fall on my ass. The grouse flies several feet over my head, turns around and comes at me again! Realizing I am much for afraid of it than it is of me, I run to the other side of the meadow to escape this wild chicken. The grouse returns to what I assume is her nest under a bush next to the trail at the entrance to the meadow. I've very shook up from this terrifying encounter but happy I have a new life bird, Sooty Grouse.

Day 35 - June 18 - end at mile 861.6. Woke up early and left the guys I met last night because it was too cold to hang around. Said, "I'll see you up the trail." I started the day by climbing to Muir Pass, which has a gradual climb on each side but it's very long and covered in snow. Thankfully with microspikes and hard morning snow this went pretty easily dispite using a lot of energy.  At the top was a cool stone cabin built by the Sierra club in the 1930's. Then there was a 20 mile decent of various types of alpine then forested eviroment. Then climb back up to the next pass which I will do tomorrow morning. Spent Most of the day worrying about not having enough food and dreaming about eating in Mammoth Lakes but upon inspection of my food reserves and considering the mileage I'm making it looks like I can get into Mammoth on Tuesday morning which means only 2 more days of hiking followed by a few morning miles to the Mammoth access road, Red's Meadow Resort.

Day 36 - June 19 - end at mile 882.5 - Another beatiful day in the Sierra Mountains. The weather during the days here has been sunny and 70s or 80s. Today was probably the hottest it's been since the desert. This morning I climbed Seldon Pass which was fun, pretty, and rather easy. It was smallest so far. Then some downs and ups and fords and such. Big fords today. Nothing too dangerous but up to waist. One was at the base of a waterfall of Silver Creek which is my favorite so far. I definitely need to start eating more food. I've been feeling really weak the past few days. I'm probably not eating much more than 2000 to 2500 calories a day and am burning much more. On pace for my two nights in Mammoth. Tomorrow I will get within 5 miles and then Tuesday morning I'll catch the bus into town. So excited to gorge on food. I made a list of everything I want to eat and need to do...  pizza, sandwiches, ice cream, guacamole, soy milk, laundry..

Day 37 - June 20 - end at mile 906.6. This morning I climbed Silver Pass which is another relatively low pass except the snow was mushy already at 7am. It didn't get that cold last night which was good for sleeping but bad for hiking. So the pass was slow going and I slipped and slide alot. The decent on the other side was short and then I was going back up again. This time I was at Lake Virginia. This was the first time I ever saw a trail go thru a like. I walked to the edge, into the surprisingly warm water, waded out thigh deep to an island, and then waded again to the opposite side. Also there were high altitude seagulls here at 10,000 ft from sea level. Down again, up, then a long down to Reds Meadow. On this 12 mile decent I noticed the trail returning to its smooth and easy tread I hadn't seen since before Mt Whitney. The JMT has been hard unlike the rest of the PCT but this was easy again. I realized I could once again make at least 3mph or better if this tread continued. I thought I could get to Red's Meadow before the store and restaurant closed at 7pm, so I went for it. I hiked fast and ran when I could with my near base weight pack and got to Red's around 5:30. It was nice to eat and drink their food and beer amongst other hikers and not just eat my one last couscous alone. I made it through this long stretch! KM to Reds, over 220 miles with resupply using the required bear can. I'm very thankful to those hikers who gave me extra snacks a few days back. I definitely went a little hungry on this section and not sure if I'd recommend doing what I did but it was a fun challenge and now onto what I think is the easier part of the Sierras, but first some zeroes in Mammoth Lakes starting tomorrow. Tonight I'll camp with some JMTers just outside Red's Meadow Resort on the trail.

Day 38 and Day 39 - June 21 and 22nd -ZERO DAYS. My first zeroes of the trail. I'm over a third of the way thru now and it's my birthday week so I'm happy to take some time off. The Sierras have been tiring and I need to recover. I'm staying at a motel in town and eating as much as I can. Got new shoes ans socks. Popular ones but once I havent used before. Seem comfortable so far. The luxuries of town are a nice treat after being in the woods hiking for days on end. The unnecessary busyness and pointless bickering amongst people is not. Heading back up tomorrow, June 22nd midday, onward to South Lake Tahoe via the Sierra Mountains.

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