From zero to one thousand
Of course we finished the last section to learn that the next section, up to Sonora Pass, is really the most dangerous because of the extremely high water. Crazy passes are pretty much over and done with. But creeks that we would potentially have to swim across? Still had yet to come. The swimming never happened, but the waist high, snow melt water did. The feet-they-are-so-cold-they-hurt did. The sketchy log/jumping over small rapids did. The number of creeks we forded in this four day section was nucking futs. I used to think three in a day was a decent amount. Take that number and times it by seven (equals 21), that’s how many creeks we forded in just four measley days, once we passed Tuolomne.
We also hit the 1000 mile mark. 1000 miles. And we aren’t even halfway. Yet these 1000 miles were the best I’ve walked in my life. Thinking back to day one, when I was hiking with trekking poles for the first time and carrying a way-too-heavy pack, and thinking about now, when I have self-arrested, forded sketchy streams, and FINALLY have some self-control in grocery stores, is just crazy. I had an ice axe and microspikes waiting to be sent to Kennedy not realizing what I would be using them for. I had heard about the constantly wet feet but couldn’t imagine what it would actually feel like. I had been to the Sierra but not the High Sierra. I have met so many wonderful people and seend so many beautiful vistas. And we’re not even halfway. Part of me worries that the “epic” is over, no more gnarly passes or craggy peaks, but I know the next sections will bring their own stories, people and adventures. It is amazing to think about the past and what is potentially the future and recall everything that has happened in between. My life is pretty effing rad.
Day 64: Thousand Island Lakes, 923.9
We wanted to make it to Yosemite in two days. ATeam had never been there and wanted to explore the valley a bit. We left Mammoth in the morning, after I opened a package of birthday cards from my friend Hannah’s second and third grade class. They were adorable and full of jokes. Loved it.
Anyways, we got back on trail and made a stop at Red’s Meadow for the coffee drinkers. I felt pretty fatigued all day, I’m guessing just from being in town and eating everything. After eating not enough calories on trail, town fold really messes with your digestive system. Pooping three times a day messing with it. Your body gets confused.
Still managed to do 20.5 miles and had some awesome views. Walked through Agnew Meadows and saw wildflowers and a big green mountain. Kinda cool to see s big ole’ green mountain after snow and rock and trees. That is still beautiful but this was a new beautiful. Thousand Island Lakes was covered in snow but still sweet. We camped by it on some tufts of green grass and I slept like log. I think just from perpetual tiredness.
Got started at five am to make sure we had enough time to get to Tuolomne. Island Pass was a synch and Donahue had a long but mellow climb to the top. The descent was gorgeous. We had to scramble through the tops of some cliffy waterfalls to find the trail but found it eventually. Then we got to walk through brilliant green meadow that the Tuolomne river, with it’s shockingly blue waters, wound through. It was so so pretty. The river was all shades of blue but you could always see to the bottom. Of course we swam in it.
After the swim and lunch we cruised the last miles into Tuolomne. There were loads of mosquitos at the campground, which was closed, so we went for – hitch to the valley. It took S&M and I theee separate hitches to get there but we did. Our second hitch fed us snacks, we devoured them, had a mutual friend. Small world. Third hitch was a car jam-packed with shit that our drivers rearranged cause they were so set on us getting to the valley. We just barely fit in the backseat, with our arms and legs wrapped around our packs. It was a sight.
Four million hours later, we got to the valley and ran into Chopsticks. We met a Yosemite bus driver who hiked the trail in 1973! Charles, you’re a badass. He bought us fries and told us where to camp. At the camp, a family who turned around on the JMT gave us all their extra food. So bomb. What I thought was going to be an expensive resupply ended up being free! Woot woot. AND, Lauren McAvoy is hiking the JMT and we ran into each other! Gave her some tips and wished her luck. Later she brought me MORE food and a $20 bill. People. They are so nice. I hope I am able to give back better once I am done with the trail.
Slept like a rock again even though it was stupid humid and hot.
Day 66: Tuolomne Meadows, 943.5
Got to sleep in to 6am today what what. Really did not accomplish anything today; I spent a lazy day in the beautiful Yosemite Valley while ATeam and Flicker did a hike. Felt a liiiittle guilty not doing anything Yosemite while in Yosemite but…oh well. Life goes on.
I did just happen to run into a coworker from Copper, which was totally cool. So good to see you Aiden! And Alex/Nuts was doing a day tour so I saw him too! Go to one major tourist destination and you see three people you know just by chance. So sweet.
We got our hitch back to the trailhead, which ended up taking three hours cause she missed the turn. So we didn’t get super far on the trail. But the moon was bright orange and beautiful and who surprises us with their headlamps again? Unger, Wasabi, Karaoke, and Neon! So we camped with them and got ready for the crazy, water-heavy section.
Day 67: Third Wilson Creek Ford, 965.3
Member how I said we did 21 creek crossings this section? Well, we did half of them today. Eleven. We forded eleven creeks. All but two got our feet wet. We passed through a beautiful meadow just rampant with mosquitos. So that kinda took away from the beauty, especially cause we were all swearing and smacking ourselves. I get way to much pleasure out of killing mosquitos. But God, do I hate them.
Forst ford was Delaney. Super chill, ankle hit skip-I-doo-da across. Our second two fords were the Tuolomne River. Yes, there was a bridge but the river had flooded the entrance and exit so we waded through knee deep water. Not scary but wet feet. We passed by the Glen Aulin bridge that was completely washed out. We hit Mcabe, Return, and Spiller all within five miles of each other and were able to do all of them solo. They were deeper, I think Spiller was hip high at the end with a pretty strong current, but we made it through without feeling too sketched out.
Matterhorn Creek was fine and we ended up fording Wilson only once and bushwhacking back to the trail. Twenty one miles, eleven creek crossings, and a lot cuts on the legs later, we camped. I was pooped.
Day 68: Stubblefield Canyon Creek, 983.3
We got creeked out today. After eighteen miles of bushwhacking, stream crossings, snow, and getting lost, a creek stopped us. Our first obstacle, Benson Pass, was a breeze. The descent to the first creek (that we would cross three times total) was stupid steep with no trail. We got lost and had to scarmble straight up some rocks. Luckily, the creek crossing was easy when we finally to it. We got a log at crossing number two and another not-too-bad crossing for number three. Our feet were wet ALL day. Squishy, wet, soggy shoes. So yummy.
Piute Creek was deep and strong at the end again but not fear inducing. Honestly, with days like these, all the water runs together. It’s hard to remember one creek crossing from another; really, you just remember your feet being wet all freaking day. We climbed Rock Island Pass descended to Kerrick creek. Talk about a sketchy descent. It was real steep with patches of snow and no trail. Then we walked along a steep-ass snow bank right above the raging river. At one point, we were walking on a tiny, eensy, weensy ridge with a drop into a rock crevice on one side and the whitewater river on the other. Time to punch in a new trail. Then climbed straight up to find the actual trail.
The sketchiness contined when we finally crossed Kerrick. We went over a log that did not span the whole creek and had to cross a gushing section of water between the log and a rock. As I attempted to straddle it, my foot got swept for a milisecond and I had to balance on one foot while trying to get my foot back on a solid surface. I know I said milisecond, but the consequence of that milisecond could have been getting swept. I regained my footing (it is amazing how the brain keeps its cool in moments like these), ATeam asked if I was ok, then pulled me over to the safe side. Kerrick Creek, check.
After one last 700 foot climb and descent we came to Stubblefield Canyon Creek. But not before we had a surprise waterfall ford. Not listed on the water report. Just loads of water gushing down the trail quite quickly. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do. By the time we got down, it was 5:30 and the water was really, really high for the next recorded creek crossing. We searched up and down stream for a good crossing but decided to wait till morning when the water level would be lower and less vicious.
We ended up crossing Stubblefield on another incomplete log. This time, Unger had to pull me, via my pack, to get over the sketchy rapid. Tilden Creek was next and was a total synch: hip deep, slow-moving water. Pieco o’ cake. It was Wide Creek that sucked. Cause it was wide. And that meant deep. And it was really, freaking freezing. Oh, it also had three branches we had to cross. By the third, we were just going for it to get through the cold water. My feet and legs were throbbing it was so cold and I had to take a ten minute break for them to regain feeling. It was belly button deep water. Ugh. So cold. So flipping cold. Probably didn’t help that half a mile back we skinny dipped in a lake but still.
We were supposed to have a chill climb, 1500 feet over ten miles, but this was proven wrong by the four million snow patches we had to go up and down or around. Makes me wonder what our actual elevation was. It works your micro-balancing muscles so much and sucks every but of energy out. After five miles, I was exhausted. And then we went the wring way arkund Dorothy Lake and had another rock scramble back to the trail. Oh the Sierra. Crossed Cascade Creek twice, neither being awful (but also, remember that “normalcy of risk” I talked about in the last post), and then rolled into camp. Everyone ate two dinners cause we had the extra food. I tell ya, when your body knows it’s hitting town the next day, it just makes you constantly hungry for 24 hours.
Only one ford today and it was another piece of cake. Then we did our last major pass and the highest point we’ll be at for the rest of the hike. We traversed across steep snowfields and saw epic views. It was weirdly nostalgic. Every step I took in the traverse made me a littke sad cause I knew our days of this would soon be over. We saw the High Sierra behind us and the Northern Sierra ahead of us. We got to walk along a beatiful ridge with wildflowers growing in the scree and 360 degrees of vistas. I know the adventure and sights will continue but it is hard to say goodbye to this. It is just awesome, the feeling of climbing a pass and seeing everything around you. I can cautiously say I enjoy creek crossings and higj snow fields do not scare me as much anymore. But they are part of the past, the trail behind us, and we have so much more ahead to look forward too.
We did get lost, Flicker, Dirty Avocado, and I, on our way down to the pass. We should have gone straight down like everyone else, but instead wanted to follow the trail. So the last mile took us an hour. Dumb. But it made us more on time for my mom to pick us up and take us into Bridgeport. Did the town things, ate a burger and getting back on trail tomorrow. I am bummed to leave the High Sierra because as difficult as they were, they were the greatest adventure. Having dry feet will be nice, but a small part of me is going to miss the semi-dangerous creek crossings and gnarly passes. I think I’ve said that about five times now. But really, I was cherishing those last few steps on the snow traverse today thinking about everything we have come through. Epic. It’s the best way to describe it. So epic.
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