Day 99 18.06.18 14 Miles / 23km
Trying out my new shoe insoles bought in South Lake Tahoe I immediately feel an improvement. My first few steps for the morning didn’t hurt, especially surprising considering the weight of my bag. My next few miles didn’t hurt either, now feeling support under my arches with each step. Usually at lunch I have to take off my shoes and massage out the pains in my feet. Not today. Why didn’t I try this 700miles ago??
After walking through many snowdrifts and short snow covered sections the trail became a steady flow of up and down for the day. Come lunchtime I passed the Forestries information centre and stopped in seeing Four Eyes there, secretly hoping they sold ice cream and soft drinks. They didn’t, but instead they had trail magic of coke and cookies for hikers. Aaaamazing! Chatting with the volunteers I decide to take lunch while stopped, even though I wasn’t yet half way for our planned mileage for the day.
We eventually get moving again after spending too long chatting and continue with the up and down terrain. I was deep in my audio book when I came across Four Eyes sitting at a stream. “Feel like stopping here? I know it’s only 4pm and it’s a short day, but I’m tired and not feeling it and here looks good”. Hell yes I’m down! It was only today I had thought it’d be great to have more rest time here to soak up the scenery and do some writing.
We set up our tents, I wash some laundry in the stream and settle in for a relaxing afternoon of me time. Me time may have involved eating a whole block of chocolate.
Day 100 19.06.18 23.5 Miles / 38km
Met with icy snow first thing in the morning I was too lazy to put on my microspikes. The gamble paid off with only small easy sections, leaving me cheery as I zipped through the first few miles of the day.
Today marks 100 days since I first set foot on the trail, making a fairly significant milestone. As I walked I reflected on the trip so far, noticing how everything has fallen into place; this life seems normal now, and I’ve managed to answer a lot of questions I had about my path for when I return home. With so much time to think I’ve been able to dream, and by doing something so big out here I’ll be returning with an “anything is possible” attitude. I feel amazing.
Topping off a great morning I turn a corner and almost walk straight into Ray. RAYYYY!!! We sit down to chat for a good 30mins catching up on our last few weeks through laughing fits and excited chatter. I’ve missed Ray a lot since we flipped and had been anticipated seeing him soon though thought we still had another day till we’d cross paths. After our catch up he left with the parting words “Bye – Enjoy the Sierras, they’ll kick your butt”. Hopefully we’ll see each other again when I flip back, but Ray is so fast he might get ahead. Take it slow Ray!
Stopping at a creek I refill my water bottle and think to myself “this is lunch” but while filtering my water I find myself swarmed by mosquitoes and immediately change my mind. Half a mile later I find a spot with a breeze so stop. I’m so hungry again. Counting my wraps I realise I have two spare. Great that’s a third for today and tomorrow. With not enough salami and cheese to add I eat the wrap plain and start hiking again.
The uphill climb after lunch kicked my butt. It took me two hours to get to the top and once I reached it I was totally exhausted and my feet were hurting again. I was barley at the halfway point for the day and not sure I was going to make the campsite I’d agreed to meet Four Eyes at. I checked Guthook for my options, there were two sites in between my current location and where Four Eyes will camp. Taking it site by site I see how I feel, and as I get closer the terrain gets easier. I end up rolling into our campsite at 8pm, living up to the slogan that’s called every time I’m late “River always makes it”.
While camping by a lake sounds lovely they don’t warn you that it’s a mosquito breading ground. Swarms hovered while I set up the tent and collected water, then I took refuge in my tent, watching my water boil through the mesh.
Day 101 20.06.18 20.5 Miles / 33km
In last nights push to camp I think I tapped into this mornings energy. From the moment my alarm went off at 5am I woke up feeling tired. Moving slower than usual I sat up and ate my overnight soaked oats before my body could realise what was happening and fall back asleep again. Once hiking I was off to a steady crawl. Two hours passed and I was still slow. I stop for a bar and some water, facing a decent hill and with a stroke of luck my legs finally woke up and I was off with momentum. Making an effort to appreciate the day instead of wallow in self pity that I’m *still* climbing this hill changed everything. Every climb after that felt easier and I felt less stressed about getting to camp in good time. Slowing down to appreciate why I’m here is just what I’ve needed. Hiking for the sake of hiking gets tiring.
After meeting a few people who Ray had mentioned I have many conversations with passing North bounders then arrive at camp at 7pm, making good time considering all my chats and a long lunch.
Day 102 21.06.18 13.5 Miles / 22km
The day started with a 8km (5mile) uphill climb towards Senora Pass which Four Eyes and I were dreading. It ended up not being so bad, but the top half was snowy making it easier to put on spikes and climb straight up than to follow the switchbacks.
Once at the top the muddy track slowly disappeared and was replaced with lots of confused footprints. Checking Guthook I was 200m off track, separated by a small cliff line between me and the trail. Through a combination of backtracking and rock scrambling I found the trail again, comforted to later learn Four Eyes AND other South bounders all did the same thing. The only con with walking the trail backwards, sometimes the trail just seems to disappear as we miss a turn which is technically behind us.
Carrying on back down the gravel trail I slip grazing my right forearm and butt cheek. Now I was really unimpressed – and it’s always the smallest things that hurt the most, so grumpily I walk to the highway with a stinging arm.
At the highway I find the car park buzzing with hikers and Four Eyes thrusts a cold can of Mountain Dew and granola bars into my hands saying “I saved some trail magic for you!”. As it turns out the couple handing out trail magic were hikers who came off trail from injury, so were handing out their pre-made resupply boxes. They also happened to be heading to Kennedy Meadows North so squeezed us in for a ride to the small town.
The term town is used generously for Kennedy Meadows North. It’s a store and a restaurant at a campground, but it had all the services we needed. Chatting with the Northbound hikers there we look at photos and take their best advice to ship away our ice axes since they won’t be needed. We gladly shipped the weight away, making DIY boxes out of old cartons from the store. Mine turned out very tidy and rectangle while Four Eyes’s looked like a piece of abstract art.
I’ve now developed the appetite of a growing teenage boy, finding myself often angsty, hungry every hour and devouring huge portions. After living off cheap processed meals (cough, ramen) I’m probably also malnutritioned or deficient of some kind. I’ve started adding a nutritional shake (instant breakfast) to my oats each morning, and swapped some more of my cheap bars to cliff bars which contain more natural nutritious ingredients. After sharing my craving for Thai, Four Eyes asked her friend Meredith back home to dehydrate some Pad Thai and send it in this resupply. In addition to this she went “Jewish grandmother” and sent a whoooole lot of snacks. So needless to say we ate extremely well as Four Eyes tried to squeeze everything into her bear canister, and we “ahhhhh’d” over for Pad Thai for dinner.
Using hiker box shampoo we made the most of hot showers, taking socks and undies to do shower laundry while we were at it. Befriending a ranch worker we got a lift on his buggy the mile to the campground where we shared beers and talked about travel well into the night.
Day 103 22.06.18 11 Miles / 18km
Knowing we had to hitch back to the trail we treated ourselves to a sleep in. 6am hitches are generally nonexistent so this valuable time was spent in our sleeping bags having mocha coffees out of our pots.
We eventually walked down to the highway and saw a hiker trying to hitch, so offered him some female companionship to assist with his efforts. There’s something about having girls around that really does make it easier, and the three of us were picked up by the third car, driven back up the valley to the trailhead.
As soon as we got back on trail we were met with steep snowfields to cross. Taking it slow and easy the steps had been well established across and it was early enough that the snow was holding together well. For miles the conditions switched between snow and ryalite (rocks).
Four Eyes in her element collected rocks and inspected them during lunch. Finding crystal she went to crack it open and totally smashed all the quartz inside sending pretty little shards everywhere. I’m amazed she even knew to do it, though next time will have to be a little gentler.
Senora Pass itself had a little snow but all the talk about it I think was actually referring to the snowfields we’d crossed earlier that morning. The scenery change was drastic with rocky landscapes and our switchbacks seen off in the distance.
Arriving at camp at 4pm we decide on an early day as we regain elevation, camping above 9000 feet (3000m). As we arrive we bump into Anvil who we’d met previously before we flipped. Hearing we were stopping for the day he decided to do the same as he was waiting for Special K anyway. Catching up with the two of them was awesome and gradually we created a vortex for other hikers to stop and have an early day too. The mosquitos were out so I sat in my tent mesh to cook and chat while the others all made a big circle outside. I notice Stargazer didn’t eat so asked if she had food. Shyly she said yes but she was out of gas, and before she could say anything else three gas canisters were thrown at her from within the circle. Hiker comradery warms my heart.
Once the circle moved away I put on my fly, which I’m glad I did since it ended up being a cold night.
Day 104 23.06.18 18.5 Miles / 30km
Slowly we packed up and started our day. I had a tummy ache which hated my waist strap done up so slowly I walked off tummy cramps regretting all the food I’d eaten in the last 48hrs. Eventually it passed and I came back to my usual self.
Walking together Four Eyes and I explored our options to cross a stream while keeping our feet dry. Following lots of random trails through shrub where other hikers had also explored we ended up crossing and continuing down the trail. Eventually Four Eyes noticed the trail seemed less worn, meanwhile I followed blinding eating bars. Checking Guthook we were on the complete wrong side of the lake we’d crossed the inlet of. Oops, doubling back and bush walking a little we reconnected with the PCT and concluded the view was better from our side of the Lake.
All passing Northbounders warned us of the mosquitos ahead so we prepared ourselves with deet to enter mosquito HQ. While it wasn’t as bad as we’d expected we still had to set up Four Eyes’s tent to have a peaceful lunch. Looking at the people coming past it was clear the worse was yet to come. People had drapped themselves in full size bug nets, or wrapped their tent footprint around them to cover their skin. It was entertaining and concerning. I wish I’d taken a photo but it would be rude to capture such manic desperation. Our bug nets were useful and totally the trending piece of gear for the Yosemite section of the PCT.
Walking together for a full day is rare, but for a change Four Eyes and I went the day talking about how we’ll prepare our favourite vegetables when we get home, and reminiscing favourite childhood books. It was a really nice change to our usual solo hike and occasional chat up at lunch, and social hour in the evening.
Not being a view person Four Eyes walks straight over Dorothy Lake Pass while I stop to take a photo of the landscape. The water is so blue I’m amazed. And the rocks and trees show another drastic change in landscape as we enter Yosemite National Park.
Camping by a lake we rush to set up while being eaten alive. Taking refuge we dive into our tents and swat any mozzies that made it inside, then unpacking our bags to set up our sleeping bags. I realise I need water so gathered all my courage to run down to the lake with our bottles. Lucky for me there was a slight breeze by the water which kept the mozzies under control.
Day 105 24.06.18 18 Miles / 29km
Looking at the maps I knew I had a tough day ahead, but ohhh Lordy did I underestimate it. We had three big climbs in elevation, meaning also two knee jarring downhill sections. The day still started well, sections of trail were covered in colourful wildflowers splashing pink, orange yellow and purple in amongst the green shrubbery. I was in love.
The climbs seemed steady enough and I even woo hoo’d as I got over the first two. There were multiple river crossings though all except one had either rocks to hop or a fallen tree to cross over meaning I only had to take my shoes off and forde once. Lazily I put my shoes back on semi wet dirty feet.
Come lunchtime I was barley crawling to my pre-decided halfway spot when I saw a patch of shade so stopped early. This will do, I need fuel. Knowing I had to make up time I’m back to hiking 20minutes later.
I get to the base of my last climb at 5:30pm. I know there’s no way I’ll get it our pre-decided campsite at a reasonable time, but I start climbing anyway. It’s though, and steep, and I can feel the altitude as I force my legs to climb, aiming for a mile at a time passing streams and junctions. I pass some northbounders and they say to me. “Are you hiking with Four Eyes? She said she’s stopping early”. I yippee, knowing I had already decided to do the same.
As the sun sets over the mountains I bask in the golden hour as I walk, feeling grateful to be out in such a beautiful place.
There’s a pebble in my shoe but with the sun setting and it getting late I carry on. I come to the lake at 8:30pm but couldn’t see Four Eyes, asking other hikers I confirm she’s not here and figure she’s a mile up at the next site, but simply didn’t have it in me so stopped and set up my tent.
Looking at my sore foot the pebble had done more damage than I realise. It broke the skin in the arch of my foot, now only adding to my problems. Lesson learnt, it’s always worth getting rocks out of your shoes…especially when you are carrying a pack.
Day 106 25.06.18 20 Miles / 32km
Waking up at 4:30am I get started early to catch Four Eyes and hopefully not delay her too much since I didn’t make it to camp. It turns out she’d only made it half a mile before stopping as she tried to get away from the lake mosquitos. As I roll up to her tent she shrieks “YAY, You weren’t eaten by bears!”. I stop for a chat while Four Eyes packs up her gear then continue on knowing she’ll catch me.
Two hours later I made it to the top of Benson Pass, recording a quick video huffing as I said “Benson Pass kicked my ass”. I snapped a quick pass summit photo showing the small mosquito problem at the top and then legged it to escape the little blood suckers.
As we approach the Sierras and hit steeper terrain our bodies start to feel it. We’re hiking longer days now with less rests and everything is starting to hurt. My body wants a break, with it now being a month since my last day not hiking. My joints are starting to hurt and I can feel myself slowing down as a deeper fatigue sets in.
Climbing my final giant hill for the day I approach Miller Lake, at over 3000m elevation and meet Four Eyes to celebrate officially hitting our halfway point on the PCT. How surreal, I’ve walked 1325miles/2132km and now I need to do it all again. The terrain has been way harder than I expected, but I’ve now found my feet, and after the Sierras the terrain gets much easier and I’ll fly through the second half. Already this experience has provided me with deep friendships, beautiful scenery and massive achievements. We now have 8 more days left in the Sierras… but who’s counting.
Miller Lake was surreal, it had a sandy shoreline, no mosquitoes and a gorgeous backdrop. We set up our mat and relaxed for a moment to reflect on our halfway mark, recording a fun video for Four Eyes.
In a stroke of luck we happened to arrive as a horde of dragonflies were malting from weird crickety things to beautiful creatures. We watched as they let their wings dry and take their first flight, seeming somehow significant for our halfway point.
After crushing another few miles I came to a forde which I crossed in my shoes upstream where it was shallower at knee depth. On the other side we set for lunch letting my shoes dry out while we watched other hikers approach the forde. It was entertaining to say the least. Everyone had a different approach. Some charged through in shoes, surprised to find it thigh deep. Others did the same in bare feet or sandals, and some explored safer upstream options like we did.
Coming into camp we enter Yosemite National Park, a section of trail I’d forever been looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. Classic granite peaks make dramatic skylines in the distance as I walk through green meadows. It’s incredible how much the scenery can change in just half a day.
Day 107 26.06.18 6 Miles / 10km
Iiiiit’s River Day!! After sharing with Four Eyes how much I’d always wanted to see Yosemite Valley we decided to take a shuttle to spend a night there and see the famous landscapes.
Well and truely ready for a break I woke up grumpy, wanting to sleep in and rest. Instead I got up for our walk to Tuolome Meadows where hikers usually resupply, but we planned catching the shuttle. As we walked Four Eyes try’s to cheer me up “look a waterfall, you love waterfalls”. “Screw the stupid waterfall, and the stupid uneven trail, and my stupid sore knees”.
Passing a natural soda spring Four Eyes scoops some into her bottle and we each take a sip. I take a look at her and say “mmm, batteries”, then pour out the rest of the metallic tasting soda water.
Arriving at the Tuolome Meadows ranger station Four Eyes gets the junior rangers workbook for us to learn about the Valley and do find a words on safe hiking. Handing in our completed workbook we get more cool badges and the ranger customises our junior ranger pledge to include eating the vegetables we’re deprived of on trail.
At the store we buy a spread of chips and fruits, sitting outside to eat it all in our usual Hiker trash gutter ways.
After trying our luck to hitch into Yosemite Valley for an hour we give up, watching as full cars drive by giving sorry gestures. The shuttle was due in an hour so we opt to wait in the shade. The shuttle ended up being great as the driver named and pointed out all the peaks and key features. To my surprise El Capitan was the first thing you see arriving in the Valley, and Half Dome was spotted soon after. It was surreal being able to see the size of these iconic places. Forever I’ve seen them featured in adventure films and never considered I’d see it in person as it’s on the other side of the world; but here I am, staring up just like my favourite adventurers have previously.
Overrun with tourists the wilderness centre was very unfriendly towards PCT hikers. They seemed to have an attitude that hikers come in entitled; so weren’t willing to make getting a campsite easy. It’s true we come in lacking park information, but that’s why we go to the wilderness centre, having resurfaced from almost two weeks of no phone service and jumping on a shuttle named “hiker shuttle” into the park, which doesn’t leave again until the next morning. After some negotiating we obtained a hike permit for the next day, allowing us to camp in a backpackers site for the night.
Checking out the grocery and camping store we bump into Kyle who has been in the park for over two weeks now and sounds absolutely in love with the place. We stop and catch up for half an hour in the isle then head back to the deli for some wifi before walking the 2km back to our campsite.
Day 108 27.06.18 zero
Slightly bitter from the unwelcome reception, and lacking the time to properly explore the Valley walks, and desperately needing a break we caught the 8am Shuttle to Tuolome Meadows so we could hitch to our resupply town of Mammoth. Our whirlwind trip to Yosemite Valley has me wanting to return with more time and energy, and I’m still so glad I got to be dwarfed by the amazing place.
Hitching to Mammoth ended up being super easy, 5 minutes after standing by the road an ex thru hiker drove past on a road trip with friends and picked us up for the 40minute ride to the doorstep of our hostel. Immediately we shower, throw on loaner clothes and hit the town bra-less and in oversized tees while we do laundry and shop for our next leg of food.
With Four Eyes’s birthday next week we decide to celebrate early with Gutter Cake in case we are still on trail. Getting 3 pieces of cake we sit outside the laundromat and share while our clothes finish. Leaving some for tomorrow we pack up and head back to the hostel to chill out and repack our bags with 8 days worth of food.
Day 109 28.06.18 zero
Heading to the kitchen I was horrified to find someone had eat my leftover cake. This is the worst way to make friends in a hostel, especially with a hungry hiker. Asking who helped themselves a girl name Serenity (of all names!!!) admitted it to. She later was allocated to our room in the bunk above me… to say I was icy is an understatement, but really I’d expect nothing less if the table was turned.
Still feeling wrecked we decided on a second zero day so we could take our time completing jobs like getting to the post office and shopping to replace gear. At the post office Four Eyes picked up her new boots and I posted a bunch of snow gear no longer required for the Sierras. I also opted to ship my stove to save on weight, which will make for an interesting change.
Having grown attached to the shirt I wear every day, I’m devestated to notice holes wearing through where my pack sits. This green shirt has become my identity so we search all the gear shops looking for something similar. Successful in our mission I find a slightly darker but almost the same version, though am still sad to be parting with this well worn, sun bleached holy shirt. I decide to wear it for one last leg before swapping to the new shirt when we flip and head North again.