Finishing the Sierras!
I’m so happy I was able to finish the Sierras! It was weird to be a flip-flopper for a moment. But thankfully I did it this way, because a few days after I got out at Bishop Pass it snowed in Mammoth Lakes and in the Mountains. Now, on to Mexico!
I woke up to Guinness making bacon and eggs for breakfast. What a great way to wake up! Mousetrap, Guinness, and I then took the YARTS bus from Mammoth Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows. When we got there they were taking the store down and repaving the parking lot.
A few miles into the hike we caught Mudskipper going NOBO!! He was also finishing the Sierras!
There’s a wall of trees and rocks to my left, in the blistering heat, and a mountain with snow on it in front of me. Nothing makes sense to me out here.
The pass had stairs all the way up, and I’m really not sure if I prefer the steps or not. They are kind of terrible, but I have no idea how much work it takes to build them. So at the very least, I can appreciate them.
I arrived at the campsite with Guinness basically asleep, and Mousetrap was setting up his tent. There was a really beautiful view of the mountain with snow and a huge lake that I did not go in.
When I woke up Guinness was already gone. I figured he’d be wanting to hit bigger miles while my goal is to still take my time and spend as much time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as I can. After these 124 miles, I’ll be done with the Sierras. I’m definitely bittersweet about it all. I missed 700 miles and then after this, I’ll only have 700 to go. There was so much time gone from figuring out the closures and waiting a bit before going into the parks that I do not think I’ll be able to make up any of the 700 miles I missed this year.
As we were climbing to the top of Donohue Pass, we ran into the Dutch Girls, Breezy and Smudge. There were also finishing the Sierras!
At the top, Mousetrap and I ate lunch with a family that is doing a section. I traded some Liquid IV for Hosen sauce and Siracha. My ramen is about to get so much better!
I was told to camp at Thousand Island Lake, which was about eight miles from where we camped last night. Even though it was a short day we still manage to make the hike last all day and we got into camp with the sun setting.
Before we finished climbing down, we sat on a rock in the sun and created the backcountry charcuterie board. It was complete with summer sausage, cheese, nuts, m&ms, and of course a snickers bar.
There were so many people camping here and I can see why. It’s a beautiful spot that I will be revisiting. We set up camp and then we were going in!
I stood at the edge of the water – the chilly waves licking my toes. Mousetrap read my mind and said we’re not chickening out. We got in waist-deep and Mousetrap counted back from three.
As soon as I was in I was out. I ran back to our site and started putting my clothes back on. And then I don’t know how this happened, but I think it’s because I’m from Chicago and swim in Lake Michigan while Mousetrap is from Texas, but I was nominated to go BACK IN and get water for us. Naturally, I was thrilled.
After finally warming up, my hair dry, and my ramen cooking did I realize how much fun I had today. It didn’t feel like it was going to be a super cold night too!
Mousetrap and I stayed at Thousand Island Lake today. We swam and ate so much food to lighten our load. What a beautiful spot!
I feel this joy that I can’t really describe walking on this one-foot-wide path. I’m just smiling and happy.
Upon leaving Thousand Island Lake we decided to take the PCT instead of the JMT alternate. I read on Guthook that there is more ridge walking (my favorite) while the JMT goes past more lakes.
I made frequent stops to look at the magnificent beauty in front of me.
Instead of taking the PCT, we took the Devils Postpile alternate route. It was so cool to see rocks have taken the shape of hexagons.
We passed Reds Meadow and unfortunately couldn’t go in because they did not open after the forests closed.
We walked through a short burn section and the sunset was beautiful. The sun was going down and there was still quite a bit to go until the nearest campsite. Luckily night hiking wasn’t too bad. When we arrived at the site there were other tents out and so we found a spot in order to not disturb the other hikers.
I changed into dry clothes and then went to get collect water before setting up my tent and cooking dinner. After my chores were done and I ate dinner I was able to quickly fall asleep.
After we woke up, we stayed in our sleeping bags for an hour. It was so cold outside neither of us wanted to move.
The day started with a climb and wow was it worth it. I think this has been the second most beautiful day next to Goat rocks. It was freezing all day and the clouds threatened rain. But the mountains were so amazing.
I don’t even have much to say, it was just awe-striking all day. I have more photos on my hiking Instagram @baloghikes that will hopefully show the beauty better than what I can describe.
We passed a few lakes and as we were coming down into the last valley, the sun was setting and lighting up the mountains.
I would definitely hike the section from Red Cones Tent site to Fish Creek Tent site again. It didn’t feel like work today I had so much fun.
We didn’t leave our sleeping bags until 10 a.m. It was sooooo cold. Luckily that meant eating a better breakfast. I made coffee with Carnation Instant Breakfast and hot chocolate and I made an Outdoor Herbivore rice cereal breakfast thing that I found in a hiker box.
I also discovered that I have a toenail that might fall off. It’s broken where it comes out of my toe, so now it’s just a waiting game.
Finally ready to go! We start hiking and not even a half-mile in, I need to poop. And then I’m really ready to go! I hiked up for 2.5 miles (Up feet) and it opens up to another valley where everything is flat. I’m in a bowl again. It’s just crazy how the land comes together. It’s about 0.7 more miles up to the high point of Silver Pass and just wow. There is no smoke and I can see mountains for miles. Mousetrap and I made some peanut butter ramen at the top and snack on.
But then the PCT does what it does best and just shoots me back down immediately. I just wish I could walk on the tops of these mountains. I love being at 10,000+ ft.
On our way down we met MacGyver, a hiker who started on the CDT NOBO this year and then just decided he was going to hike the Great Western Loop. He’s a triple crown but we didn’t find that out until later. He was so humble but so wonderful to talk to. We said we’d definitely see each other again since Mousetrap and I skipped around.
I went into another lake! It was so refreshing. I did have to go back in again to collect more water. Somehow I keep losing this conversation, but I really don’t mind too much. I’m going to miss the water in the desert.
The hike the rest of the day was gorgeous. It really has started to feel like fall and with the aspen trees turning yellow, it has started to look like it too.
At camp, I went to collect water and I almost fell in the river getting water. I stepped on a really slippery rock and slide down it. I dropped both water bottles in and as soon as I regained my balance I jumped on the other rocks and was able to fish the water bottles out before they were carried away. I only panicked a little bit.
It was nice to be at camp before the sun went down and set up before it got dark.
The day began with a hill that kicked my butt, even more so than the pass later did. But after the climb, the day wasn’t too bad. It’s fall in the mountains and the streams are beautiful!
It was a long way to the pass and like usual, the last 0.5 miles were the toughest. Mousetrap and I took a pass selfie and the view was beautiful. This was the first pass I could actually see where I was going to be hiking to from the bottom.
I’ve loved the walk from about five p.m. to camp the last three nights. The sun does magical things with the trees and the mountains. Even if it is cooler, it’s still my favorite time of the day.
I’ve been seeing a lot of JMTers in this section. The Sierras are popular and I really understand why. IT IS BEAUTIFUL.
I ate lunch in the sun today! It’s weird to have been constantly desiring to sit in the shade since June 25th, to now I crave the warmth of the sun. The days are getting chilly.
Lots of water and rivers!
There was a lot of smoke rolling in the afternoon. We met a group of trail workers (thank you!). One woman asked us if we had any updated weather info. The smoke was affecting her pretty bad. I gave her my N95 mask. I reassured her I don’t have COVID, and I had only worn it for a few hours for a couple days. She put it on and after a few minutes said she was already feeling better.
Mousetrap and I were able to rock hop over evolution river. Which apparently you can almost never do. We heard a stories that the river could be over some people’s heads and how they had to pass one girls backpack over the river and then pick her up and carry her across.
It seems like my PCT experience is the opposite of what other people generally experience – a hot Washington with not much snow, no bugs in Oregon, etc.
Two women that we met are going to give us a ride from South Lake. Woohhooo! We were told by a couple of people yesterday that the smoke should clear up today. And so far it looks like they were right.
6.5 miles to lunch and swimming! After I got out of the water the smoke came rolling in so fast, I didn’t really get a chance to dry off completely. Mousetrap and I packed up quickly and tried to get up the pass as quickly as we could. We wanted to beat the smoke.
We got to the top of Muir pass and there was a shelter! The way down was so unclear and rocky. I don’t know how the NOBOs did it in the snow!!
It’s so smokey. It’s really bad. This is the third time I had to wear a mask. I’m glad the trail worker has my N95, but the little blue masks do not do much in blocking smoke. I did get a headache this afternoon and I’m bummed to be missing such beautiful views. At least I have only had three bad smokey days. I’m thankful I’ve had more days without smoke than with it.
Mousetrap and I met Sofa Queen! She’s also blogging for The Trek!! She’s headed NOBO and is doing what is now open of Northern California! Go check out this super badass amazing woman!!
When we got to camp, I went to get water and I dropped the Sawyer into the river. REALLY!? AGAIN!?! Luckily it stopped a bit down the river but I had to take my socks and shoes off to get it. And also luckily I had a screw top on the clean water side because the flip top broke. I didn’t have to worry about dirty water getting into it.
The Aspen trees are beautiful! And there are so many lakes. The pass was not as bad as it seemed it was going to be. We made pretty good time going up it.
There are SO many people out, at least it made it easy for a hitch! Got a hitch from 3 people we met near the top of the pass!
I resupplied and bought WAY too much food. My puffy broke – the zipper and feathers have been pouring out the arms. Here’s some advice for past me – don’t cheap out on gear.
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