Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28 - Buck's Lake

End: Buck's Lake - the Williams'
Daily: 19.0
Total: 1259.5

We'd been hearing about the Williams for a while, so we decided to push here for the evening. So awesome!

We climbed out of the Feather River Canyon, which was a looong climb. The whole time we had to watch out for the mountains of poison oak around us. It was mentally tiring. But then!! We ran into a trail crew who made the trail look so beautiful! The tread was wide and there was no poison oak. So nice.

The last few miles of the day were brutal. Turns out doing so many miles in a row on old shoes really hurts. We were all feeling it.

But then we got to the road and Terry Williams picked us up and brought us to his cabin on Bucks Lake and gave us a double cheeseburger as an appetizer. Yes. I think this will work.

July 27

End: Middle Fork Feather River
Daily: 26.6
Total: 1250.5

Happy three months on trail, and longest day yet. We walked more than a marathon!

My knee hasn't hurt for a week. I've been taking glucosamine for about a month, so I guess it's finally kicked in, cuz God knows I haven't been giving it a break.

The first half of today was all up again. At one point, we were contouring on the side of a ridge, slowly making our way to the top, and I could have SWORN we got to the top of the ridge, and then the trail made 2 1/2 90 degree right turns and I started having visions of MC Escher drawings. The ones where people keep climbing endless staircases that just go in circles. But then we went off to the left and down. There's a ton of forest around here, but it all looks like it hasn't seen a fire in decades. It's really unhealthy and cluttered looking.

The mountains around here look really small. Everything looks completely different from the drama of the Sierra. I like the change, though I will miss the knock-down beauty of the sheer granite cliffs and snow.

There's a snowy peak off in the distance - Lassen? Shasta? We think it's Lassen.

We heard a bear, probably, today. Just some crashing in the bushes.

Now we're camped by this gorgeous river. Seriously - a cool bridge over a deep rocky canyon. So pretty. Lots of no-see-ums, but they've all gone to bed now. I think I'll follow their lead.

July 26

End: West Branch Nelson Creek
Daily: 23.4
Total: 1223.9

Today felt long. Part of that was because it was ALL UP. I swear. Even the downs felt like ups. That was partly because we had to deal with snow again. It will be so nice to be able to cruise again.

We woke up and climbed and climbed up Sierra Buttes. This area is really pretty because of the Buttes and because there are lots of sparkling blue lakes (far, far below us - we stayed on a ridge most of today).

One thing that was less than desirable was the crazy amount of roads around here. I can navigate on snow, because we just look for unnaturally straight lines - the bench of the trail, the circle of a cut log, a row of rocks, or a cut notch in a tree. But when we come to an intersection of roads, there are too many straight lines to choose from.

We met tons of people today - one guy from the county mental health department who was taking a bunch of kids out on a 12 day backpacking trip. Wow! Also a few dirtbikers and then an awesome family who immediately gave us beer! Chilidog and I had been talking about how we would drink any kind of beer, we just really wanted one, and lo and behold, a beer appears, as does a really cool family to talk to. They were from the Bay Area. I wish they'd stayed longer.

We cooked where that family was, then walked on another 4 miles. It was steep, snowy and dangerous. I'm glad we made it down, although the camping leaves a little to be desired.

Oh! We saw Dan and Sunshine (the elder) who were hiking southbound. They said there were only 80 people ahead of us. Out of 300-400, that's pretty good.

July 25 - Sierra City

End: on a ridge outside of Sierra City
Daily: 23.8
Total: 1200.5

I wrote the greatest haiku about butter last night as I was falling asleep. When I woke up, I couldn't remember it. So this isn't the greatest haiku about butter, this is just a tribute.

Delicious butter
My tastebuds explode with flavor
Very worth the weight

Anyway, this is the biggest day since before Kennedy Meadows south. It helped that all but the first 3 or 4 miles were completely snow free. We walked so fast! It feels so good to walk!

We also got down to about 4500 feet in elevation and started seeing plants I haven't seen since last year - Doug firs for example, and that pathfinder plant that turns its arrow shaped leaves upside down when you swipe it.

The best part of today was getting into Sierra City before the PO closed and getting 3 care packages! One from my mom (once again thanks for being our support, Mom!) with my maps, which we were worried about having to wait for. It also had homemade cookies which are DELICIOUS. Another from Chris's mom, which had homemade bread and brownies and dried fruits and vegetables and spaghetti sauce (we ate it for dinner that night, it was also DELICIOUS). And a package from our friend Kevin Farron in Bend. He went all out too! Fancy chocolates, rice-a-roni, Velveeta mac 'n' cheese, Starbucks VIA (which will be especially needed now that we'll be trying to push bigger days) and best of all - homemade cookies and dried morels! And the nicest card ever.

So all of these packages were really nice too because everything at the store was really, really expensive. So we were able to use a lot of the cookies and brownies as snacks so we didn't have to pay $2 for a granola bar. We're slowly catching back up to our budget.

Speaking of budget, after a couple hours rest, eating chocolates and delicious cookies, we pushed a few more miles to just get them done and not spend more money and time in town. I'm glad we did. We cut our huge climb into two parts and it was way cooler at night. Today was hot.

Now sleep after some Velveeta shells and cous cous. I love bedtime.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24

End: on a ridge with a beautiful view
Daily: 20.9
Total: 1176.7

Hotrod being unmotivated

It felt so good to walk today. As someone else wrote in a register in the Peter Grubb Hut: "a much needed day of hiking after a night at Pooh Corner." we stayed there two nights. Although they are really nice people with a gorgeous house, I really didn't want to stay. It just felt really tense all the time and we were always thinking they were pissed at us for some reason. Plus we really need to walk faster if we're going to make it to Canada before too long. We're already hearing that we're late and behind schedule. Unfortunately for everyone behind, we are not the slow hikers. The snow has just pushed everybody back.

Anyway, walking felt great. We hiked with a huge group it felt like - me, Chilidog, Boots and Bubs, Snowblind, Sparrow, and we ran into Jimbrick, Nicole and Chris, and Tum Tum. I thought it thinned out in NoCal.

The terrain is getting a lot less extreme. Our elevation profiles (they tell you what the elevation will look like each mile) is starting to look a lot more like rolling ripples rather than cresting waves or worse, a line on a heart monitor.

A lot more snow today, but we heard from about five people that the last twenty miles into Sierra City are snow free. Looking forward to tomorrow! Hope they have our package!

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22 - Truckee

End: Pooh Corner
Daily: 5.2
Total: 1155.5

Well, we meant to make it to Hwy 80 today, but the rest areas are closed so there's nowhere to pick us up. So we called from Hwy 40 and didn't get an answer, so we hitched from Donner Pass to Truckee to buy groceries. We found out a couple of hours later that Bill and Molly from Pooh Corner were in Reno and would be back in a little bit. They picked us up from the Save-Mart (where we only spent $85 on most of a nine-day resupply!!) and we came back to their house. Their house is awesome! It's on Donner Lake, and there's a freaking CLIMBING WALL IN THEIR LIVING ROOM.

Morning view from the Hut
I got to help cook (I miss cooking) and we all enjoyed a delicious meal and birthday cake for Bubbles (her bday was the 20th). I think we're heading out tomorrow. There's tons of people here, some we haven't seen for two months - like Bottle Rocket. Hooray!

July 21

End: Benson Hut
Daily: 18
Total: 1149.7

We woke up to the sun hitting us in the face. Up on a ridge, the sun hits you early.

Boots and Bubs left an hour before us. So we followed them, down an icy ridge (during which my second microspike broke - now Chris and I each have only one) and upanother ridge. Boots said today was kind of like a mini Yosemite - up a wall and down again, then back up and down. Only this time we hung out on ridges longer.

We did hike trhough Squaw Valley today. We even did some bootskiing. I skied Squaw valley on July 21 for free! :)

Then we climbed back up to Tinker's Knob. We'd heard there was a Sierra Club hut up here that's hard to find, so we went looking for it. We found it, tucked into some trees above the trail near Anderson Peak. It's really nice - two stories, with a Coleman Stove and cooking utensil and a table and awesomeness and a gorgeous view.

Cards in the cupboard, time for some before-bed Euchre by candlelight.

July 20

End: On a gorgeous ridge
Daily: 19.1
Total: 1031.7

Just another another day in the life of Chilihorse... We woke up late (6:50) and left a note for Bubs and Boots, who we'd left at the top of Dick's Pass... only to see their footprints ahead of us. After traipsing through the swamp of a trail, we caught up to them at Richardson Lake, and they said they hadn't even seen our tent, even though we were only 10 feet off the trail in plain sight. Funny.

Anyway, most of today was snow free but buggy. After Barker Pass the snow picked up again. It's funny, we're all really tired from the flat, snow free cruising today. Our bodies aren't used to cruising anymore, they're used to climbing snow boulder after snow boulder.

We would have done a 20 or 21 mile day, except that there is snow everywhere, and here, on the flatteds spot for 5 miles, we're cowboy camping in the trail because there's not enough space for a tent!

Gorgeous night for cowboy camping, though. We're on a ridge with a grea view and a beautiful sunset.

July 19 - South Lake Tahoe again

End: Near Middle Velma Lake
Daily: 19.7
Total: 1112.6

Yesterday we got into Hwy 50 early and found a sign that said go down the road to Mike's house if you need a place to stay. We did and Mike was awesome! He's a really nice guy who lets hikers spend the night in the cabin he's renting and take showers and do laundry. He works for the California Conservation Corps leading trail work crews too.

Anyway, we left our stuff at Mike's and hitched into town for groceries and the all you can eat buffet at Montbleu ($13!).

Then back to Mike's for some hottubbing before bed. My favorite part of the day was the people watching in Tahoe. It's a good place for that.

Both rides into town were awesome. The first was from a student/chef at Squaw, the second was from Brad, a theology student wanting to be a pastor, who was only going to take us to the major intersection in town, but ended up taking us all the way back to Mike's. Thanks, Brad!

Today we hiked to Echo Lake where we got a delicious milkshake and coffee. Then we followed the snow-free trail around the lake, past awesome boat-access-only cabins. I want one so much!

Then into Desolation Wilderness - as Lonely Turtle called it today, "High Sierra Redux." Really redux. Tons of lakes and snow and even a tiny pass. All at a much lower elevation, and we were almost out of it in a day. It was still really pretty.

So, the Sierra is gorgeous and I will always remember how amazed we were at its beauty - but I'm really excited about the new topography we will be getting soon. Volcanos, here we come!

Later in the day, we were trying to find a campsite and the place we hoped to camp was a pond. Hopping over part of the pond, I fell in the water. Not too bad, just annoying. Now my clothes are wet. Oh well, nothing we haven't dealt with before.

One thing I haven't dealt with is somehow my sleeping bad got wet as well, although not from falling in the pond. Nothing else in my bag is wet, just my bag, which I put on the bottom of my pack. I think it's from falling on snow. I held it near our cooking fire and I think that helped.

Chris's pants ripped a little today. He's sewing them right now. The trail is rough on our stuff!

July 17

End: ehh? 4 miles from Highway 50.
Daily: 20.5
Total: 1089

Today was a long day, and surprisingly cold.

We woke up and actually got out of camp before 7:30. Then we climbed up and over The Nipple - seriously, that's what the map calls it. It didn't look much like a nipple from our vantage point. Anyway, up there it was really windy and cold.

We hauled to get down and caught Rocklocks and Mr. Fox at Lost Lakes, where they had camped. We hiked with them and Cricket pretty much all day. It was mostly rolling climbs today, and the better part of the day was snow-free, so we covered 10 miles by lunch. We made it to Carson pass, where the Volunteer Docents were very nice and gave us fruit and filled up our water bottles. They also talked to us for a long time, had tons of cool stories and suggestions on where to go in the Sierra.

Right when we were about to leave, Hotrod arrived. Noone had seen him since Yosemite, because he went down to see the Valley with Cricket and then hiked slower than Cricket out of the Valley. But he'd gotten lonely (apparently there's noone behind us for a day) so he hiked almost 20 miles to catch up today.

We left, hiked to a meadow with an old homestead of the Meiss family, then up and out into some snow. I have a weird headache that started mid aftrnoon, so these last few miles have been tough, plus my knee hurts really bad. But we made it to our destination, so I'm happy. We may try to get in and out of Tahoe tomorrow to save money and time, but we'll see.

July 16

End: Near the Nipple
Daily: 12.5
Total: 1068.5

We ended up doing fewer miles than we expected to do today, partly because we slept through our alarm and woke up at 7:15 instead of 6, and partly because a couple of day hikers/weekend campers, named Damen and Blakely, made us an offer we couldn't refuse.

We hiked on fairly flat, snow-free trail all morning and were moving fast but feeling tired when we passed B & D the first time. hey were headed to Wet Meadows for lunch and stopped to chat for a couple minutes before we were all on our way.

We stopped for lunch (and coffee since we were feeling tired), and B & D passed again heading back to Tamarack Lake, where they were camped. This time they stopped for longer - asked us questions, etc. After a while, they headed on and we packed up and followed them a few minutes later. After chatting with another day hiking couple (we love day hikers, they're so nice and curious) we ran into B & D again, who invited us down to their camp to camp, have dinner, and maybe get a ride into town. Since the whole resupply/ride back to Tamarack Lake thing probably wouldn't have worked out, we just said we'd come to hand out for a while and head on. We ended up staying for a few hours, sharing some wine and soup and padling around the lake in their inflatable kayak! It was so much fun!

Talking to B & D was tons of fun too, they were out for a get away weekend before their wives both have babies - one in September and one in December (congratulations!). Blakely had run the Tahoe Rim Trail in 65 hours (I think) a few years ago. They were so generous!

After we finally tore ourselves away from the tiny vortex they were creating, we walked another couple of miles (past the Lonely Turtle and Shepherd) and found a sheltered place to camp in the rocks past Blue Lakes Road. Now we'll fall asleep to the sound of frogs and a great horned owl.

Big day tomorrow to make up for our lazier day today. But it shouldn't be too bad, and even if we don't make it 20 miles like we hope, we'll still be in South Lake Tahoe in the morning on Monday like we planned. I'm happy we stopped. Today was fun.

July 15

End: on a knoll between two gullies
Daily: 15
Total: 1056

Today was beautiful in many different ways. First, there was relatively less snow (though by no means does that mean there was little snow), we got to walk through fields of flowers and lakes and meadows and waterfalls and cliffs and weird rock formations. The flowers and constant smell of mint really put me in a good mood.

Then when we got to Ebbetts Pass, where we expected to wait until three to meet Chris's mom and Rich, there was a tent set up and Doug Tow asked me if I wanted eggs and chili. YES! There was tons of magic there, and then Mr. and Mrs. Rockwood pulled up 30 minutes later (we were there at 12:30) with our food and fresh fruit and vegetables, which was the only thing Doug had just a little of. Awesome! I had been happy too because I knew we were going to see them.

We chatted for a couple of hours before they had to go. They took Hikeaholic with them, who had flipped up and was hiking southbound, but was going to South Lake Tahoe to get back to Kennedy Meadows to hike northbound. He said there was less snow north, but still a lot. Not surprising news.

I was a little sad that I didn't get cell service to call and see how my dog has been doing (she'd been sick and she's like 12, so I'm worried). A few more days...

Then we took off at around four, and hiked a few more gorgeous miles. Chris and I are in no hurry to get to South Lake Tahoe, so we stopped before everyone else.

It's a cold night. Hopefully a warm morning and less snow tomorrow.

Today, parts of the scenery looked like what I imagine the Highlands of Scotland look like.

Homemade bread for breakfast tomorrow, from chris's Grandpa. Thanks, Grandpa Remtma.

July 14

End: Wolf Creek
Daily: 16
Total: 1041

Today was pretty much a typical day in the Sierra. The first few miles were snow free, then we climbed a lot and got back into snow. Then it was pretty much trail finding for the rest of today.

We left like an hour after everyone else, and Chris was feeling tired so we took a nap. We were awoken from our nap... by Boots, Bubs, Quake, and Grenade. We were so surprised they were behind us. They had gotten lost and ended up following another trail (Boulder Lakes) back to the PCT.

Later on in the day, Boots and Quake followed Annie, who was hiking following her GPS. I'm really glad we don't have one, because hiking while following the GPS just seems like little better than setting up a Wii in your backyard. I would be bored - I think finding your way is part of the fun. But to each their own.

There are about 10or 12 other people here. To tell the truth, I miss it when Chris and I were hiking alone but we'd just bump into people all day. And we'd camp alone so we could read and not hear everyone at night and in the morning. I like the social aspect, but Chris and I work better as a group than Chris and I and nine other people. Maybe if we could camp with other people like every other day.

July 13

End: Next to the Carson River
Daily: 6.5 ish
Total: 1025ish

We got a ton of errands done today - an expensive (?) resupply, sent off our bear cans, uploaded pictures and blog posts, all with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Rockwood. They had rented a car, so we got to be driven all these places instead of walk.

Then off to Sonora, where they took 3 days of food from us, Grenade, Boots and Bubbles and said they'd meet us at Ebbetts pass. So no bear can, only two days of food... my pack feels like heaven.

Then we climbed up and over the snowy ridge. It was beautiful, but the snow fingers were almost vertical in some places. I was really happy when the terrain started to level out and I could boot ski instead of having to be careful. I could see how someone could get seriously hurt here.

Eventually we made it to a good camping spot and our bellies were so full from lunch (thanks again, Cindy and Rich!) still that we almost didn't want dinner. Hah! We ate it anyway. I'm still trying to fatten Chris up (for Donner Pass, of course).

Now it's sleepytime.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Pictures

Hey all, I uploaded all my pictures to Picasa up to now, and I think this is the public link to those:

Southern California
The Sierra Nevada

A lot will probably be repeats of ones I've already posted, but the Sierra are all new. Enjoy.

July 12 - Bridgeport/South Lake Tahoe

End: Sonora Pass!!
Daily: 16.4
Total: 1018.5

We made it! Another hard day, but doable, obviously.

We woke up and had generally snow free trail for about 5 miles. Every snow free step felt like a freebie. We can definitely see how people can do 30 miles in Oregon now because every snow free mile is so easy.

Then we had to climb up something called the "Elephant's Back" which was part of a ridge that stood out from the rest of the Sierra because of the red, volcanic looking rock (as opposed to the silver granite we've been seeing). That was really hard, and a lot of the traverses were covered in snow and really steep. I had to self arrest twice. It was beautiful, though, and once we got to the top we spent the day hopping from one side of the ridge to another, threading through tiny passes. We could see the road from about 6 miles back but the trail didn't take us there until we crossed the ridge two more times. We finally glissaded about a few hundred feet down the hill and made it out to the road, where we met Made in Japan, who said he hadn't seen anyone around that matched Chris's mom and Rich's description, so we knew we'd beaten them there. Hooray!

We tried to hitch until Rocklocks, Mr. Fox, Annie, and Ramble On walked up and Rocklocks talked a couple who stopped at a turnout into fitting us all in their car. We rode down to the junction of 108 and 395, where they dropped us off and drove off. Two minutes later, they turned around and said they hadn't realized they were going towards Bridgeport too, so we all piled back in and they took us to Bridgeport.

We thought we had screwed up and missed Chris's mom at the junction, but then Chris spotted them in Bridgeport and they came and enjoyed dinner with all of us (6 thru-hikers) and then picked up the whole check. Everyone was so touched. That means a lot to thru hikers on a budget.

Then we rode back to South Lake Tahoe with them and spent the night in their hotel, while they help us out getting our stuff done. And we got to upload all of our pictures to Rich's computer, so I know we'll never lose them at least. I'm glad this week worked out.

July 11

End: next to the trail
Daily: 18.9
Total: 1002.1

We made 1000 miles today! It feels huge to me, especially with how hard today was. I have walked one thousand miles.

Today was supposed to be our easy day. We weren't banking on this much snow.

We woke up, looked at the river, and were delighted to see that the water level had fallen at least two feet overnight. We waited for everyone to cross on the log and then forded the second fork of the river. It was about waist high for me and moving fast. These rivers just keep getting harder.

Next we went up and over a pass to find snow, snow and more snow. Our gentle uphill grade through Jack Main Canyon turned into a slog through muddy meadows and up and over and down and up and over and down piles of snow. The snow was still 3-8 feet thick in many places, and we were never above 9,000 feet.

This made us nervous. We would hate to not be able to see Chris's mom and Rich. We wre supposed to do 20 miles and by the time we made it to 13 we were so tired even going the four more miles to get to 17 (and 1000 total!) seemed nearly impossible.

But we cooked dinner and that, the rest, and the motivation to get to 1000 and be able to meet Mr. and Mrs. Rockwood gave us a boost of energy. We ended up going almost 3 miles past 1000! That felt good.

The other thing that felt good was being followed by Boots, Bubs and Grenade because they were tired of getting lost. Apparently we're really good at sniffing out the trail. That bodes well for possibly doing the CDT.

Okay, up and out early so we can get to Sonora Pass as early as possible.

July 10

End: on a peninsula in Stubblefield Canyon, between two swollen creeks.
Daily: 14.4
Total: 983.3

So we were the second to last group out of camp this morning (there were 9 other people hiking and camping around us - Boots, Bubbles, Grenade, Shaker, Mowgli, Unload, Quake, Honeybuzz, Noah) and we were the first to every major landmark. It seems everyone had a really hard time with getting lost today. We waited for one hour at a creek crossing, thirty minutes for lunch, another hour for a break and an hour in this canyon and each time one person showed up right when we were about to leave. We were confused, because usually we're the slowest.

Anyway, we did a couple more ups and downs to hop from canyon to canyon. We were hoping to do 17 miles today but the snow was just too much and the creek crossing was impassable. Kerrick Canyon especially - the fords were nothing, but the PCT hugs the north-facing wall of the canyon for 5 miles, which meant solid sidehilling on snow. So discouraging.

Then we got here, where we planned to cook dinner and then push on 2-3 miles. We got across one fork of this creek on a log, but then found another fork which is pretty much impassable. It's wide, fast, and probably 10 feet deep in places. We're camped here, hoping for a cold night so the water level will go down significantly. I don't know what we'll do if it doesn't. Look really far down canyon I guess.

We're trying to do a lot of miles because we're trying to meet Chris's mom and her husband at Sonora Pass. It will be doable, we just might get there a little later than we thought on the 12th.

At least we really did all we could today.

July 9

End: on a tiny snow-free island near Smeburg Lake with about 12 other people
Daily: 20.5
Total: 968.9

First 20 in the Sierra! Crazy, today didn't feel too bad, but there were a ton of ups and downs, a pass, lots of snow, and three or four hard creek crossings. Wow, I didn't realize how awesome we were today until I wrote that down.

We got out of Glen Aulin before the bugs got too insane and without bear incident. Immediately we had to wade to the bridge (the water's so high the bridge only reaches part way across the creek). Then we climbed up into a valley, swatting mosquitos as we went.

Then up and over a 1500 foot canyon wall and down another into Virginia Canyon, where we had to ford one fork of McCabe Creek and two forks of Return Creek. Return Creek has been living up to its name - it's been sending hikers back to Tuolumne because it's been so bad.

It wasn't too bad, really, we just had bad luck. We tried to cross on a big log, but two people fell getting on it and Grenade fell off completely. He caught himself, got back up, and finished crossing. That's brave. He had been smart, and put all his stuff in a trash bag so it didn't get wet.

Then up and over to Matterhorn Canyon, but not before everyone got lost but Chilidog and me. I don't trust boot pack all the time. Often the people in front of me don't know where they're going either, and they end up going the wrong way. Anyway, after everyone found their way back, it was down the canyon wall, down the canyon floor, then up another canyon wall. In this one, we were supposed to cross Wilson Creek three times. We opted for once, since the creek looked at least 6 feet deep at the first crossing and we'd just have to cross back over in 1/2 mile. We instead walked up canyon to the second creek crossing where we found Unload, Quake, Noah, and Honeybuzz. they had tried to cross but the water got up to their chests before they turned back and did the same thing we did. I have no idea why the trail crosses the creek three times. It was easy walking on our side. The last ford had a log.

Then dinner and up and over the pass and to camp. Seriously, this is the only non-snowy spot for at least a mile.

July 8 - Tuolomne Meadows

End: Glen Aulin
Daily: 16.3
Total: 948.4

Yup, today was pretty easy, hiking-wise. A couple switchbacks down the hill we were camped on and then Lyell Canyon, which was basically flat and snow free, for 10 miles. The only annoying part was that since we were in the meadow the whole time, it was really muddy and wet. I almost lost my shoe in the muck a couple times.

We saw tons of animals - groundhoggy looking things, fat marmots, deer (3 does and a velvet buck), and about a billion other hikers. We forgot, we're in Yosemite National Park and it's Friday. Meh. Too many people. No place to pee.

The Tuolumne store opened today, which was nice but also a little annoying, because we called and they said they'd be closed so we carried all our food. Oh well, it was cheaper this way.

Gourmet was there, with beer and burgers. We got in late so we didn't get a burger but that was our own fault. :) It was so good to see him! I wish he'd get back on somewhere where we could hike with him.

Bubbles and Boots were there too. They were apparently tired of hiking alone and wanted us to go down to Yosemite Valley and do Half Dome and then hitch a ride back. But we have to be in Sonora Pass on the 12th to meet Chris's mom and her husband, Rich, so we said we couldn't. Bubbles was bummed. I wasn't - it's even more crowded down there.

Anyway, then we hiked here. We took a dip in the Tuolumne River on the way, at the rock beach. When we got here we were told there was a problem bear. I really miss not being around people. :)

July 7 - Donahue Pass

End: next to the brindge over Lyell Creek.
Daily: 17.2
Total: 932.1

Biggest day in the Sierra! Or at least on the JMT. So we woke up and went to catch the bus back to Agnew Meadow, but it was going to Red's Meadow first. So we rode it back, grabbed some coffee and took it back around to Agnew. Great way to start.

Then we pretty much stayed out of snow until the Clark lakes junctions. That was nice. After that, though, we passed around Thousand Island Lakes and up and over Island Pass (not really a pass, more like a general suggestion for the way to go), all in snow. Next was Donahue pass, the real pass. It wasn't technically difficult, just a slog. And then we fell three miles down the hill to this campsite.

We met SO MANY JMTers today. They all start around now, head south, and end on the top of Whitney. Well, then they hike out. But the JMT technically ends at the top of Whitney.

They're all really nice and we exchange information, but it was nice having the trail to ourselves. Now there's tents camped everywhere we want to camp. Ugh.

My knee really hurt today. Back to the routine - ibu's at night, glucosamine and a vitamin. I was bad about all that in town.

Okay, the 1st half of tomorrow should be easy. The elevation profile looks like the aquaduct - flat!

July 6

End: Agnew Meadows (although we're camped at Soda Springs)
Daily: 8.1
Total: 914.9

Short day! We finally got out of Mammoth today at about 1, after getting more food at Von's since we found out resupply at Tuolumne Meadows is a no-go. Apparently the store is still closed.

So back at Red's Meadow we ran into Grenade, Mowgli and Shaker. We all hiked out, thinking there were hot springs at Soda Springs Campground, and that we would walk there, drop our stuff, take the shuttle to Agnew Meadows, slackpack back to Soda Springs, then enjoy dinner and a dip in the hot springs. Well, no hot springs at Soda but we did the rest of the plan anyway. It was nice to have the tent set up and all our stuff protected, since the sky looked like rain and it had been thundering all day. No rain, though. We've been lucky so far.

The hike was nice, too. We saw Minaret Falls, which was awesome. We also met some boy scouts that had fallen in at Minaret Falls and gotten their sleeping bags wet. Yikes.

Anyway, after a fire, a ceremonial burning of Mowgli's favorite, worn-out shirt, and a good dinner, it's time to hit the bed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 4 - 5 - Mammoth

In Mammoth Lakes.

We woke up and caught the shuttle into town, and made our way to the Motel 6, where we knew plenty of other hikers were. We met up with Boots and Bubbles, who ended up sharing a room with us, along with Hotrod and Cricket who came into town on the 4th too.

Town is crazy. There was a parade today and the shuttles stopped working right after we caught ours. I'm glad we got there in time. But we went to Von's and to the Mammoth Lakes Brewing Company to get our free samples, then to happy hour at Whiskey Creek for a $10 plate of steak and potatoes (SO GOOD, we ordered another plate and split it).

Now we're just hanging out in town getting things done. We're spending another night here. I'm really happy about that. Out tomorrow though, and it might be a while until I post again.

July 3 - Red's Meadow

End: Red's Meadow Resort
Daily: 17.1
Total: 906.7

Today was way harder than we thought it would be. We assumed, since the second half of the day would be under 9000 feet, that it would be snow free. Wrong!

We woke up and took off from Tully Hole, and immediately had to climb a giant switchbacky hill of ridiculousness. Then we skirted around Virginia Lake (the trail went right through what is normally a dry patch between two lobes of the lake, but which right now is just more lake... there was ice formed on the surface of the water) and slid down a snow hill to Purple Lake, which was not Purple and also not covered in snow. There we met the CanadiYankees (Broken Record, Lighthouse, Chewie, RockLocks, Mr. Fox) who were fishing and about to have a fish fry. They let me take a few casts and I caught a foot-long golden trout on my third cast! We threw it back, because we had just eaten and didn't want to take the time to cook it. But it was fun!

Then we climbed up and over snow piles while contouring around a hill for a while. After lunch we dropped below 10,000 feet... waited for the snow to stop... 9000 feet... still snowy... then below 9000 feet when the snow was still piled up in 4-5 foot drifts with barely a dry patch of dirt around, we started getting really tired. And then Chris realized his camera was gone. Fell out somewhere in the last 12 miles. That was a blow.

Finally, about 4 miles from the end of today, the snow got patchier and patchier until it was gone. We got to Red's Meadow around 5:30 and ended up splitting a ($20! So expensive!) campsite with some southbounding JMTers, one of which had actually gone to high school with Bubbles. Weird! They were cool, as were some of the other campers there for the fourth of July weekend - they gave us free beers and proscuitto and good conversation too.

It is really good to know that we get a break now, but it's incredibly overwhelming to be around so many people. Town's supposed to be insane too.

July 2 - Silver Pass

End: Tully Hole - it's gorgeous!
Daily: 11.1
Total: 889.6

Today wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. The morning was hard - first we had to ford the scariest creek since Wright Creek (it was white and roiling and moving really fast at one part) and then while climbing a switchbacky hill of ridiculousness about fifteen minutes later, we forded a spot where there was a waterfall on either side. Scary!

But then we climbed the pass, which wasn't too bad, and got to glisade about a mile and a half of trail out of the way. That doesn't mean we glisaded for a mile and a half, but that because the trail, which normally switchbacks down the pass was covered in snow, so instead of zigzagging down the hill on the trail, we just slid down in a straight line on our butts. After that, we were so much closer to camp than we thought we would be by that time that I think we got a little energy boost. Also going down steep hills on snow has gotten so common that we've gotten pretty good at it. You could say we've gotten our snow feet. Up and flat on snow still sucks though.

Anyway, we camped with Thumper, who we shared a site with at kickoff. His wife Stumbling Goat had "hypothermic reactions" (?) to the stream crossings so she left at VVR. Sad.

On another note, we may be the only people who didn't go to VVR. And our wallets are happier for it.

Maybe a restaurant meal tomorrow. 17.1 miles first, though.

July 1 - Selden Pass and Bear Creek

End: near the trail for the Vermillion Valley Resort Ferry
Daily: 15.9
Total: 878.5

We went over Selden this morning (it really was the easiest pass) and then made our way down towards the crossing for Bear Creek, which we heard had been a little scary. When we got there, Grenade, Gnarly, Honeybee and Fox Feathers had just crossed and let us know where they thought it was easiest. it really wasn't too hard. Everyone thought Wright Creek was worse. Han Solo and Rockfish both had no problem, but crossings are always harder for short people, so DOT had a little scare. She made it without falling in though!

Then we took lunch a couple miles down the trail, where there was a deep eddy by the bank. I had to get in. It was cold cold cold, but so refreshing.

Next was a giant hill, which we climbed just so we could descend the other side, it seemed. The downhill was so steep and snow covered, I had a scary fall almost into some rocks. I didn't like it and it went on forever. Finally we got to the bottom, crossed a creek, and I pointed to the first campsite we saw.

While we were cooking, a guy I named Hagrid (he has the hair, he walks like Hagrid, and we met him for the first time in the Muir Hut) came up and asked to share our fire. He came into the Sierra with no shelter, no sunglasses and onely one jacket. He also had very little food and missed the VVR ferry so we gave him some back up food we had. He was so happy!

Anyway, tomorrow's going to be hard - time fore sleep.

June 30 - Evolution Creek

End: At a huge campsite with Rockfish, Han Solo and Wandering DOT.
Daily: 15.1
Total: 862.6

Today was pretty uneventful, for the Sierra. It was snow free for the most part, which was awesome! I felt a little like we were back in SoCal - there was less snow, the mountains weren't as tall, and we saw tons of non-thru-hikers.

We did cross Evolution Creek today - that was really easy. It's been cold, and less snow has been melting, so the water only went up to my upper thigh. Chris didn't even get his rolled up shorts wet. We crossed at the alternate crossing in the meadow, so it was slow and wide with a sandy bottom.

Probably the best thing about today was that we've been hiking with Rockfish and Han Solo and Wandering DOT. They crack me up.

Well, Selden tomorrow. Yogi's guide just says it's "the easiest pass." And we're only 3 miles from the top. Then Bear Creek, which we've been hearing about for a while. It will probably be the hardest part about tomorrow.

One thing that's been getting me through the hard, endless snowy stretches is thinking about little goals. I pick a rock like 50 feet away and tell myself all I have to do is get there. Then we get there and we yell "YAY! we made it!!" It breaks it up so you don't have to think about how far you still have to go... this is working for the Sierra. All I can think about is today. I will get overwhelmed if I think about the fact that I still have so many days before a rest. Just get through tomorrow and then we'll think about the next step.

June 29 - Muir Pass

End: Near Colby Meadow
Daily: 13.3
Total: 847.5

The rain didn't wait until the afternoon to hit. It woke me up at 3 am.

We had a hard time decided to get up and over Muir Pass. At 10,000 feet you're often actually in the clouds on a rainy day, and we didn't know if we could find our way if all of a sudden we lost visibility. We knew Muir pass could be long and confusing, and that there were many bodies of water we had to get around. The visibility was good so far, so we decided to push on.

Then Wandering D.O.T., Han Solo and Rockfish came over a little hill and said they were glad they were going to get to hike with someone! And did we have a GPS? Because they did! Even though we didn't have to use it all day, it still made me feel better to have that safety net in case we did get socked in.

It snowed some and then it was just mostly really windy. Getting up to the Pass wasn't as hard as we thought it was going to be, probably because we were prepared for a long haul. But we ended up cresting a ridge and there was the Muir Hut, this awesome round stone building built in the 30's by the Sierra Club. It was so nice to get out of the wind.

When we started down, the cold and light powder actually made a lot of the walk down a pleasure. Bu the descent from Muir is so gradual that we ended up being on snow for a long, long time. By the end I was so done.

After we found a campsite, it started to snow again. It's stopped for now, but I hope this doesn't make the creek crossings harder. Evolution Creek tomorrow - that's supposed to be hard.

June 28

End: near another waterfall in the best campsite ever.
Daily: 12.2
Total: 834.2

Today was pretty much our best day in the Sierra.

We slept in until 7 (as opposed to 5), didn't get out of bed until the sun hit the tent. It felt SO GOOD to get some extra rest. We knew we could get a late start because most of today was below 9500 feet, so mostly out of snow. It's best to walk on snow early in the morning when it's not all slushy.

Then we walked on real (clear! dirt!) trail for most of the day. It felt great to move at a reasonable pace and not have to calculate each step.

We took a 2 hour lunch near a meadow-turned-lake. There is so much water everywhere. The rivers are like giant fire hoses, they're rushing so fast. And a lot of the time it's overflowing out of its banks and onto the trail. The way we find the trail sometimes is to look where the water's going. Mr. and Mrs. Rockwood, you picked a great year to visit Yosemite. The waterfalls will be amazing!

Anyway, we slept in, took a 2 hours lunch, and still went farther than we planned. And when we wanted to stop, this campsite appeared with a fire ring and everything, right where I hoped on would be. I think that's the first time that's ever happened in the Sierra

I've been taking glucosamine and and ibuprofen at night, and my knee doesn't hurt hardly at all anymore. Thanks for the advice, Dad.

Um, this place is gorgeous. I can't explain it, nor can I fail to mention it in every entry.

Muir tomorrow. It's supposed to suck. It's also supposed to rain tomorrow (the ranger told us so). Although we could tell something was rolling in, because clouds started to come over the peaks and the air felt weird. Chris checked his barometer, and sure enough, it dropped drastically in a few minutes. Makes me nervous.

June 27 - Mather Pass

End: Near a giant water with views of an amazing valley!! (near Palisade Creek)
Daily: 11.5
Total: 822

I really don't feel like I'm a good enough writer to explain today. It was long, and difficult, and sometimes very frightening. But it was also beautiful beyond anything I've ever seen and it made us feel like we accomplished something.

We woke up, through ourselves down a giant snow hill, and then plunged into an icy river. Kings River, actually - this is the River than formed Kings Canyon. It was scary. We crossed on a tiny wet log. There really was no other way. I looked down at the rushing water once and almost lost my balance.

Then we hiked up forever and made it to Mather Pass. But before we could cross Mather off the list, we had to do some gnarly climbing and traversing an almost vertical snow cliff, and through in some bouldering moves for when the snow had melted away around the cliffs. My foot slipped out almost at the very top and I let out a noise I've never heard myself make before.

Then we pulled ourselves over the snow cornice and we were done! Scary, but fun. I'll take the technical challenges over slow upward slops any day.

Then we literally sledded into heaven. I hope heaven looks like this place, but the snow isn't cold and it tastes like whatever you're craving and you never have to wear a pack and moving doesn't cost you any energy.

Seriously, though. Palisade Lakes and Palisade Creek. I am a fan. Neither words nor a picture can do this place justice. All this snow sure does make it prettier, though. And the waterfalls! Everywhere! I wish I could find a picture online, but all of them are in summer and it is just not the same.

June 26 - Pinchot Pass

End: Near Bench Lake Ranger Station
Daily: 810.5
Total: 15 (big day!)

I felt like Pinchot would never end.

We woke up exhausted at 5:10 and took forever to get going. We finally pulled out at 6:40 am and started on our day.

We had about 5 miles of relatively snow free trail today! That really helped. But what was clear on the way up was really steep. Apparently in King's Canyon National Park they really like to make their trails suited to giants. There were tons of steps, and most of them were one and a half feet tall. I don't know how this is supposed to be a stock trail.

Anyway, bridges were interesting today. First, I just don't get why there can't be more bridges over these non-seasonal creeks we have to ford. National Parks charge like $30 per car, and they're really popular, especially the ones around here. Can't they afford bridges?

Oh, they can. I got wet onto my upper thigh in a ford that didn't have a bridge, and then be come around a bend into a meadow and there's a tiny trickle of a stream with a bridge over it. You could have easily jumped across. We just stood there laughing at it with our feet dripping wet and numb.

Then there was the crazy bridge over Woods Creek. It was a long, tiny suspension bridge that wobbled and buckled when we stepped on it. The sign said only one person at a time.

Anyway, we climbed and climbed and climbed and finally made it over Pinchot pass at 3:30. Once I just accepted that I would always be climbing this pass until the end of time, we were finally there. I also played a game where when climbing a big snowy hill, I couldn't look up until I could feel that I was at the top. That made it go faster too.

By the way, this place is gorgeous. Have I said that enough? Problem is, walking with all this snow is so tiring that I often can't appreciate the beauty because I'm focused on not falling over every which way. Or instead of seeing a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains I see something I have to get around, and what's the fastest way? This really happens more at the end of the day and I'm tired and want to get to camp.

A lot of people are bailing because of the snow. We've only seen one other group since we came back in Kearsarge. We heard one group went over Glen, decided they didn't want to be out for another 6 days, and then turned around and climbed Glen again and Kearsarge to get out. Yuck. Tons of people are heading up to Oregon and southbounding. I'm glad we stayed, although it's really hard.

June 25 - Glen Pass

End: Just before Dollar Lake
Daily: 11.5 (6.5 on the PCT)
Total: 795.5

Back out on the trail, we decided we should have taken another day in town. We're tired and my knee still hurts. Dad told me that I probably have some roughed up cartilage, so I should make sure I'm not too hard on it (hah!), take glucosamine and rest if it hurts bad. I should have rested it more. We probably will spend extra time in Mammoth.

Anyway, we did 2 passes today, Kearsarge (for the 2nd time to get back to the PCT) and Glen Pass. Glen was gorgeous but tough. There were ice-blue lakes below it (in my head they taste like that blue flavor of Gatorade Ice - I think it's called Glacier Ice. They really don't), and tons of lakes on the other side. We had to use our ice axes because part of the switchbacks are covered in snow, so we went straight up a snow finger. This trip is turning out to be way more technical that we expected.

Today took longer than we thought it would too. So we didn't get as far as we wanted to. I was so tired by the time we got to camp. I sick of slipping on snow.

Oh, in Bishop, we bought a book - Look and the Birdie, by Kurt Vonnegut. It's a book of short stories published posthumously. We've read one so far, and it was good so I'm excited.

Sleep. Over Pinchot Pass tomorrow.