Chapter 15: PCT Week 13: “Viking Vibes”

Chapter 15: Week 13: “Viking Vibes”
Days 85-91, 5/29-6/4/2022
Total Trail Miles: 74.40
Total GPS Recorded Miles: 76.00
Cumulative Trail Miles: 1016.90
From: Yosemite Valley to Sonora Pass and Kennedy Meadows North


Day 85 // May 29, 2022 // Trail Miles: 0.00 / GPS Recorded Miles: 0.00 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 942.50

~Destination // Zero in Yosemite Valley~

There was no urgent need to wake up early. Despite being in our tent, we were waking up to a zero day in Yosemite Valley. We were still the first to unzip our tent and crawl out, but Amber and Ryan followed shortly after to help make coffee. Amber was quite the coffee connoisseur, so we let her work her magic. The smell of lightly roasted grounds permeated the air before she added boiling water to them in a carafe for precisely 5 minutes. It was a science.

After a pancake breakfast, we all left for a hike. We stated it would be a “small” hike, around six miles, but our version of short versus the rest of the crew didn’t align. It took several hours to finish, but the views had been worth it. Weaving around hordes of other people walking the same trail (many were slowly sauntering, so we had to whip around there), we ended up in a meadow, bisected by a creek, all towered over by Yosemite giants. For lunch we disrespectfully ravaged our pre-wrapped “masubi”: a sticky rice bed topped with a slice of Spam and bound with a seaweed rapper.

On the return, Basecamp and I split from the other four taking a different route to camp. I grabbed a large log on the way and planned for it to be a mainstay in our campfire that night. When we made it to camp, everyone was in their respective tent taking a nap. I guessed they were pretty wiped from the hike, but Amber and Ryan emerged after a few minutes. Julie and her husband were fast asleep.

While Amber and Basecamp drove off to have some sister-to-sister bonding time, Ryan and I started working on the fire. The daily fire allowance time was upon us. With beers in hand, we sparked a small flame, and then a larger one, and then a full fire. Once the embers were hot enough, I placed the large one I’d collected, in the middle. Smoke began to fill the large piece of slightly damp wood. Then smoke began to pour out of its crevices and tiny holes, followed by something else, something black. Large black ants were crawling out of the log. I had no idea it had been home to an ant colony! Not one had crawled out the 10 minutes I was walking to camp with it. I was horrified, but the log had already caught fire. There was nothing left to do but let it burn away and out.

We’d gone to resupply at the Yosemite Market the day before, so I worked on repackaging a bit. The volume of people there buying meats, snacks, and souvenirs had been suffocating. Even then in our own campsite, we were surrounded by thousands of other people. It was draining.

Trying to focus on our tiny sphere away from everyone else, I sat and talked with Ryan by the fire for a while before we started dinner. Basecamp and Amber showed up just as the sun started to set. Julie was working on dinner. Everyone sat around the warm, orange glow eating sausage dogs. Stars sparkled brightly in the sky above despite the lights and fires all around us.





Day 86 // May 30, 2022 // Trail Miles: 7.80 / GPS Recorded Miles: 7.96 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 950.30

~Destination // Tuolumne Falls and MM 950.30~

We enjoyed our time with Amber, Ryan, and Julie. They were little reminders of all the people and things we’d left behind. I felt a tinge of longing for what they had, certainty. They were certain of where they’d go back to, what was there, how they’d get from point A to B, stocked refrigerators, and even jobs that funded all of the above. Yes, I’d wanted a good long break from work and the hustle of normal life, but a small part of me also missed it. The life we’d lived and would live on the rest of the trail was full of unknowns and uncertainties. We had plans for town stops, showers, where we’d be at the end of each day, and where our next meal would be, but everything was surrounded by uncertain variables which meant each thing we had planned either could or could not happen if something went wrong. Of course, plans change in the “cotton world” of real life as well, but you’re in a different sort of control even when it does change. On trail, you’re a bit more “at the mercy of” everything. The beautiful thing about Basecamp and I, however, is that we don’t give up, so even if our plans changed, we’d just power through with the grace (and annoyance) of our guardian angels.

Camp was packed up. Breakfast had been delightful but overshadowed by that weird anxiety I usually got before heading back on trail from a zero. As soon as we stepped foot on trail, it would be fine, but it was the buildup and drive back that poked at me. Julie was off home. Amber and Ryan packed the last of their items into the car, and we all filled what spaces were left once coolers, bags, and clothes filled the once void areas.

“Thank you so much you guys! What a great time, and the food was wonderful!” Basecamp said in the car looking towards Amber and Ryan.

“Of course, Seeeester! It was so great to spend time with you!” replied Amber.

We all talked about the last few days in Yosemite, the food, the fires, the people, and the trail coming up until the wheels of the car slowed to a halt at the parking lot where we’d picked up Basecamp two days before. What looked to be a monstrosity of a boulder stood on the outside of the parking lot; a small mountain with a slab of it carved or sloughed off to produce a seemingly smooth texture. The four of us exited the car, each person’s weight making the body bounce and settle like a ship on the ocean. We exchanged hugs and farewells, before splitting off to go our own paths, them to society and structure, us to the wilderness and unknown.

By the time we’d been walking 10 minutes, I could already feel the rhythm of the hike taking over once again. The path ahead led the way, and all we had to do was walk. Our only job was to follow a path predetermined before we ever stepped foot on it. In that moment, I wondered what part of me was envious for what Amber and Ryan had, for their constants and knowns. In that moment, no part of me was envious, but I was wholly content being in the woods, walking on dirt, and sweating.

I don’t recall exactly what it was, but if I had to guess I’d say it was the fact that we’d gotten a late start hiking and the sun was blistering. Basecamp was not in her happy place, and I said things I thought would make the situation better, to no avail. What did seem to lighten the mood between us was when we reached Tuolumne Falls. The mist sprayed off the falls in a billion droplets of water. A rainbow shone through the mist as if an intentional act from nature to make us appreciate its beauty rather than dwelling on other things in that moment. A group of hikers were setting up camp at a site near the bottom of the falls. It was a stunning campsite, but not where we wanted to camp. We needed miles.

With the roaring of the waterfall quieting behind us, we continued on until sunset. Camp wasn’t near a waterfall, but it was our home for the night. After sleeping in Yosemite for two nights with late night parties, babies crying, and dogs barking at odd hours, we were grateful for the silence of nature.


Saying "goodbye" to Amber and Ryan

Saying “goodbye” to Amber and Ryan


Day 87 // May 31, 2022 // Trail Miles: 11.80 / GPS Recorded Miles: 12.21 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 962.10

~Destination // Matterhorn Creek~

Next day was a succession of knee-deep water crossings where I attempted one barefoot and badly sprained a toe (my fault). The longer we hiked, the more purple my toe turned. It was painful, and even four Ibuprofen had a difficult time numbing the pain and throb it shot up my leg.

Coming to a grassy meadow with a creek (Matterhorn Creek) running through it just a few miles before Bensen Pass, we met two Australian hikers, 17 and Tap Tap. They were looking for a route over the creek crossing, but no such path existed. We all had to go through. Without hesitation I traded my trail runners for water crossing/camp shoes. There would be no more sprained toes.

The two hikers took a lunch break on the other side of the creek and spread out their tent to dry. They had the same exact tent we did, a Nemo Dagger 3P, essentially a mansion. While they packed and took off down trail, we decided to make camp where we were so my foot could have a chance to heal overnight. Was it broken? Maybe. Or just a sprain? I could move it, but barely. We’d see how it was in the morning.


That bad toe, though

That bad toe, though


Day 88 // June 1, 2022 // Trail Miles: 13.60 / GPS Recorded Miles: 14.25 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 975.70

~Destination // Bensen and Seavey Pass~

Bensen wasn’t a difficult pass, but my foot still throbbed. It was worse when we woke up, so I’d taken another load of ibuprofen. But we were in the middle of nowhere, so I just had to make do with what we had.

Seavey was less intimidating than rumored, but we were glad to attempt it with hard morning snow since the ridge dropped straight into a river below. Snow bridged along the ridge, but massive holes had already melted through it exposing tree roots and drops into the water. With a few other hikers, we spent about a half hour slowly watching our footing while making progress. Mama Troll and Big Foot were two of the hikers with us, both middle aged fellas, one Scottish and one from the States.

Just under 14 miles had taken us most of the day. I was definitely moving slow, and the slush didn’t help. We finally reached the top of Seavey near sunset, so decided to camp there. It was protected with boulders and trees, with several lakes to pull water from. There at the top was a green Nemo Dagger 3P tent. 17 and Tap Tap. It was a comfort camping there that night knowing that other hikers were just a few hundred feet away.


Campsite on top of Seavey

Campsite on top of Seavey


Day 89 // June 2, 2022 // Trail Miles: 20.70 / GPS Recorded Miles: 22.15 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 996.40

~Destination // Dorothy Lake~

Dorothy Lake Pass was next, preceded by miles of boggy, mosquito-infested trail. The more we descended, the thicker the mosquitoes became. Puddles and ponds were all around, each one a breeding ground.

We pitched our tent at lunch just to avoid the nonstop biting. Inside our mesh shell, hundreds of mosquitoes sat in wait for when we unzipped and started hiking again. We didn’t have bug spray with us, but sunscreen seemed to at least deter them, so we kept applying it in regular intervals, and just before emerging from our protective fortress.

About a mile before reaching Dorothy Lake, the snow built up. We were post-holing up to our thighs, but it looked like the area would be snow free in just a few weeks. At the lake, we saw a clearing under a cluster of trees. Cracked islands of ice floated along the length of the water. Exposed blue at the shores reflected mountains in the back. Scanning over the area, the rest was still snow-covered or flooded. It was like a slice of paradise called out to us from under the trees. Realizing our fortune, we walked over and claimed our reward from the day. My best friend, Dee (or Dorothy) came to mind while we set up camp. She’d always been a safe place for me, in both good and bad times. It seemed to me like there, in the middle of the Sierras, she was doing just the same.


Dorothy Lake

Dorothy Lake


Day 90 // June 3, 2022 // Trail Miles: 14.40 / GPS Recorded Miles: 14.26 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 1010.80

~Destination // Ridge by Leavitt Peak MM 1010.80~

Camping 1 mile from the top, we summited Dorothy and strolled down while the morning sun reflected off azure waters. As Dorothy faded in the distance, a part of me wished my friend Dee could have been there to see it all with us.

Sloshy descents and water crossings lead us to the 1000-mile marker. With that, we only had 1,653 miles to go. In the back of our minds, we had the driving force of town, Kennedy Meadows North. We didn’t know if we would take a rest day there or not, but we did know they had a restaurant. That’s all we needed to know.

The day droned on a bit but started to dry out. We were thankful. There was a large climb up and to Sonora Pass, right by Leavitte Peak. We called it the Sonora Ridge. During the day, we ran into Bigfoot and Mama Troll again, the same guys we saw near Seavey Pass. They’d planned to camp up on the ridge before Sonora Pass in a marked campsite. From the looks of it, we’d be camping on rock and stone behind short alpine shrubs.

After climbing up an unexpected ridge completely covered in snow until the top, we made it over to the area where campsites were noted to begin. The ridges were barren, completely exposed to the wind save for a few shrubs and mounds of snow. An abandoned bear can, completely filled with food, and trekking poles were wedged behind a rock along the way. We had no idea who’s it was and didn’t see signs of another hiker nearby. I felt as if we were plunged into a scene from the age of Vikings. Like Vikings traversing a barren landscape, we trudged along in hopes to find Valhalla- each step that much closer to rest. At the final campsite icon along the ridge, we came across Mama Troll, Bigfoot, and another hiker, Mudskipper. They’d all made space amongst the rocks for camp.

The wind began to pick up and we had no desire to be caught on a ridge in it, so we scooted rock around with our Altras to make a flat plot for our huge Nemo tent. That was the only time we’d wished we had a smaller tent, but an hour of excavating and pitching had us settled into our home amongst the shrubs and wind. A storm was blowing in. We could see it in the distance.


Day 91 // June 4, 2022 // Trail Miles: 6.10 / GPS Recorded Miles: 5.17 / Cumulative Trail Miles: 1016.90

~Destination // Sonora Pass and Kennedy Meadows North~

The wind raged all night, waking us up early to a winter storm blowing in. We raced to pack and traverse obsidian fields before things worsened. Snow blew upwards while the clouds grew more and more ominous. We only climbed for the first quarter mile or so until descending along snowy ridges. At first, we hiked with Bigfoot for a mile until we lost him around a bend.

The sun never rose even though it was 9 AM. After 5 miles, I could make out a road. Several cars drove in opposing directions along it. It had to be Sonora Pass. We hiked and glissaded down over the last mile. They were the steepest glissades we’d done, and bar far the most fun! Bigfoot caught up with us. At the bottom I donned the hitchhiking outfit there, a sign with flowery sunglasses. Bigfoot kissed tarmac with gratitude, and we loaded a truck to Kennedy North just as the heavens loosed snow. I guessed the colorful sunglasses had done the trick! A Huge thanks to whoever left the kit there.

Kennedy was/is the geographical end of the High Sierras and a major landmark signifying months of hard work and dedication having paid off. And so, we’d done what at times had seemed impossible. We were the Vikings that had conquered the Sierras, and while that may sound a bit cheesy, that’s exactly how we felt. It was time for us to feast after our victory.


Viking vibes

Viking vibes

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