Isolated and Buggy Stretch (June 18-24)
June 21- This day ended well! I was a little concerned earlier, not sure how long I could keep up enthusiasm for hiking so isolated. I barely saw anyone all day long, just as it had been the past couple of days.
This stretch of trail, north of the Sierra, hiking though Yosemite, was the most challenging couple of days I’ve had so far. The views continued to be incredible, but the days were also hot, buggy, physically challenging and isolated- for some reason, fewer thru hikers seemed to be out here, and phone service was non-existent. Even when I did briefly see a hiker, they often passed by quickly, trying to out hike the mosquitoes that have been plaguing us!
I have a hiker friend who recently told me about how he watches other hikers see something beautiful, lift their phone, snap a picture, and hike on. He said, “I can’t do that. I can’t move on that quick, I have to stand there for a minute and enjoy it.”
I think it’s important to enjoy the views too, but my heart just wasn’t in it, in this section. On top of feeling isolated, I felt guilty that it got to me, and that it wasn’t always enough to be out here, surrounded by all this beauty. (Granted, there were a few times when I did stop to look, because there were some pretty beautiful scenes.)
I have to laugh a little when I think about how some of the same patterns are emerging that came out for me on the Appalachian Trail. At this point I no longer so clearly remember all the scenery I walk by in a day (depending on the day), it’s starting to blend together. Now the people I meet on this trail are becoming more important, adding a lot of flavor to what sometimes is “just another view”.
It’s fascinating to me how the mindset and experience changes, once I’ve been out for a few months.
I hiked mostly alone all day, doing what I could to lift my spirits- listening to an audio book, music, stopping for breaks as often as I could, swimming in a cold creek, eating snacks regularly. Each of these things helped, but I still really missed hiking with a friend or two.
Finally I reached one of the buggiest stretches of trails I’ve experienced, along a creek where I had to pause to consider my options for crossing. It was really terrible timing, to have to stop and look around while more mosquitoes swarmed by the second. I saw a hiker, all covered and netted up, pacing the other bank and eating, and she yelled over to me about where the trail was. It was someone I recognized, a hiker I had met before. I crossed the creek and we chatted for 5 minutes while we paced in place and swatted, then I continued on, hoping to hike up to higher and breezier ground. We only talked for 5 minutes, but somehow seeing a familiar face out there, doing what I’m doing, lifted my spirits more than anything had all day.
I started a final ascent up Seavey Pass then, in the evening light. Evening is always one of my best times for hiking, I find it so beautiful. It was exhilarating to finish with this long climb, up towards the sunlight.
When I finally made it to the summit, I saw two other hikers who were also familiar to me. I camped near them, and we chatted a while. They expressed having a similar experience to mine, seeing few other hikers out here in recent days, because of some hikers taking a side trip down to Yosemite Valley, or choosing to skip over this section, or quitting their thru hike. It seems some are losing motivation, at this point.
This week was a challenge for me, but also a good reminder that I’m not just out here for the views. The next resupply point was a lodge with hiker bunks, and I looked forward to reconnecting with hikers there. (Once I got there, it was really good to talk to some other hikers who also struggled with those same miles.)
I remain thankful to be out here, and recognize that the challenging weeks are a part of the experience. I continue to look forward to all that’s ahead.
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