Day 71 (June 17): PCT Mile 788.5 – 788.6

Fare Thee Well

Beginning Elevation = 9,200 (not on PCT)
Peak Elevation = 11,760 (not on PCT)
Ending Elevation = 10,550 (back on PCT)
Weather: Mostly cloudy, hail storm, rain and thunder

I must’ve been pretty tired after my day “off” because I didn’t hear dad get up and take his shower. A little past 6:00am I was up and 10 minutes later we headed down the street to get a McDonald’s breakfast of champions. Had some tasty health treats and also got to talk with Mother Sheryl on the tele again. I also received a text from Jessica, the Lyft driver who had brought us down from the mountain, saying that she would be a half hour later, so 7:30am. I told her no that’s unacceptable! JK lol. 😅

Once back at the super Thunderbird Motel, I chatted with Dad a little more to make sure his plans were all in order. His flight isn’t until tomorrow, so the basic idea is that he’ll hang in Bishop til a 1:15pm bus leaves heading south to Independence. Once there he’s booked a hotel for the night, plus we have some packages at the post office that he’ll pick up and is going to send one out for Snickers too. Early tomorrow he plans to take a bus about 4 hours or so up to Reno, Nevada to catch his flight home.

Snickers, Kool-Aid, and I got picked up in front of the motel at 7:30am and had an hourish drive back up to the trailhead. Calzone and Cheer had gone up to the trailhead last night to acclimate and we planned to meet up with them.

Upon arrival, I turned on my GPS and messaged Cheer that we arrived and would be hiking up to them soon. I haven’t really used my GPS yet on trail, so it was nice to have a use for it. The three of us spent a little time snacking on things we’d brought from town before starting. I went for a classic Bavarian cream donut along with a banana and a Blue Goodness Bolthouse Juice.

We hauled the monster packs over our shoulders and clicked our belt buckles, then slowly began our walk up the trail. I was grateful for the long gradual switchbacks that on the way down I was so frustrated with, wanting just to get there quickly. It took me about a half hour or so of messing around with my straps, but eventually I got things situated pretty good. I was surprised actually at how good it felt carrying so much weight. By several pounds, this was the most my pack has weighed yet

This next stretch of trail covers about 118 miles and is some of the most remote of the PCT. That’s why we have so much food…enough for about 9 days! We hope to make it to a stop called Muir Trail Ranch where Kool-Aid arranged a bucket of food (and maybe a few beers) to be brought up by pack horse or mule. Spread out amongst our group, this should get us another two or three days to Vermillion Valley Resort where we can resupply with food again. Then, we’d hike on and out to the town of Mammoth Lakes. In addition to the many miles, this is one of the toughest sections too with a series of high passes that we’ll have to travel through.

We met up with Calzone and Cheer a little after 10:00am. They had camped at a beautiful lake with two cascading waterfalls draining into it. And, they had company…Shuffles from Auckland, New Zealand decided to join our squad for this next stretch! She hiked the majority of the trail in 2018 and this year is hiking the various sections she missed to piece it all together!

So, we were 6 once again. We set out motivated and confident, but moving slowly. Along the way we ran into many hikers going down headed for town. Many gave us the same warning…the water levels are rising and the river crossings are getting worse by the day. One hiker even told us he was done with the PCT, getting off trail for this year and that he’d return another time. Others talked of flipping north, which is what several folks in town had mentioned to us as well.

Nevertheless, we hiked onward knowing that if things got too intense or there was a river that couldn’t be safely crossed, we’d turn around. We hoped to try and see for ourselves what the conditions were like.

We took lots of breaks getting used to the elevation again and to the weight of our packs. It was all uphill for the first 5.5 miles or so until we reached Kearsarge Pass. Here’s a shot of us going up the last snowy traverse to the pass.

All looks well right? Not long after taking this, a sneaky dark cloud emerged over the mountain behind us and began precipitating on us. First it was sleet-like, but then turned into snow pellets, like Dippin’ dots but maybe three times bigger. They pelted us as we tried to stay focused and get up, over, and down from the pass. We took a quick stop near the top to pull on our rain jackets and about this same time a low thunder growled at us and the snow picked up…

I waited with Snickers as he finished getting his rain stuff on, then we briskly but cautiously made our way to the other side. I saw the others ahead moving down the snow-free switchbacks at a good pace. The whole thing maybe lasted 20-30 minutes or so, but it was pretty wild for a bit there. Once it calmed down, we made our way down to a spot with some rock seats and had our lunch. I think it was around 2:00pm at this point

The rest of the afternoon was spent retracing our path back to the PCT. The lakes were still ice covered with maybe a little more noticeable melt along the edges. Super cool looking.

I think we made it back to the PCT around 4:15pm-ish.  Arriving at the trail junction at the same time as us but heading the opposite direction was another group of thru-hikers. They were all folks we’d met when hiking back in the desert and one of our friends, Songbird, was with them! A joyous reunion took place and several conversations broke out about our various tales.

We probably spent a half hour chatting, but then felt a few raindrops starting. Kool-Aid, Snickers, and I went a little ways up the trail to scout for tenting spots and found some, albeit a little slanted. We quickly set up, grabbed some water from the stream, then retreated to our tents as the rain picked up and thunder began booming. There were a few flashes of lightning too, but we were low in a forested area and it wasn’t ever too crazy.

I cooked my potato soup right in my vestibule and then did a little food organizing. That’s something I didn’t do very well at the hotel was pack the food I needed for the day so that it was accessible. Tonight, I was putting the items I thought smelliest into the bear can. I wasn’t even close this time around at being able to fit everything in, so whatever was left, I put in my dry sack to try hanging in a tree. This isn’t really an accepted method on the PCT I guess, but I’m doing what I can.

It wasn’t done right, but I think it’ll do. I’m just hoping the cord won’t break or my knot won’t slip! I had fun getting the thing up there, but struggled to do so. If anyone was watching my many unsuccessful tosses they would’ve had a good laugh. Afterwards, I saw Snickers setting out to do the same thing and he told me he knows another way that he’ll teach me that doesn’t require the tying off off the cord.

I was pretty tired and was ok with being in my tent early tonight. Tomorrow, should be another exciting day. We’ve got Glen Pass to get over, which we’re actually only about 2.5 miles away from.

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