On Again, Off Again

I had originally titled this post “Back on the PCT baby!” But that quickly needed to be changed when we received the news that the entire state of California is closed.

Day 64
Miles: 5

I got up and washed myself and some of my clothes in the sink. Ate breakfast with Calves and Roadrunner. Fucked around with my bear canister more. This thing sucks, I understand why we need it but it sucks. I fit it in my bag though – lol it’s very uncomfortable.

I got a ride to Sonora pass with some hikers who had a car. I met one before but it was nice meeting new people!

I’m so so so so so happy to be back on the PCT, I didn’t really realize how much I missed it. I also missed climbing the passes, walking on the saddles and walking on the side of a mountain. I’M CAMPING ABOVE 10,000ft!!! It’s all so exciting!! And I’m VERY happy to have my warm clothes back. I would not be a happy camper without my long sleeve and tights.

My body is sore from so many days off. My feet started to hurt right away and I think I have another ingrown toenail. This time it’s my left foot big toe. So I’ll need to dig that out later. But with all of this I couldn’t be happier. There was a climb today, and I may have cussed at the smoke. But it’s only going to get better, and I’m ecstatic to be here.

I wanted to do 10, but I found an awesome camping spot at 5 with a lake!! I sat, cooked, and chatted with four women whom I met at Callahan’s who were also camping here. And then Mudskipper and Lost and Found started coming down the mountain to where we were as well. I had a great time chatting with everyone and watching the stars come out. I saw the Milky Way AGAIN tonight. What an amazing adventure I’m on.

Day 65
Miles: 16

I rolled out of bed at about 5:30am dreading dealing with my bear canister. Fitting it inside my bag didn’t work for me yesterday because my bag curved around it. So I’m trying it on the top this morning. Now that I have the small Hyperlight, the bear canister won’t strap to the top with both clips by my shoulder straps. So I unclip the one and tighten my bear canister to the top a like lopsided. Unfortunately, the stupid thing slips and it’s just staying on the side of my pack as I am walking.

Besides dealing with my bear canister, I’m LOVING the hike this morning with Mudskipper and Lost and Found. I feel like I’m on Mars. There are no trees or vegetation, just rocks. We see the other hikers on our way to our first creek and we all stop to eat and camel up. There seems to be water everywhere so I’m only carrying about a half liter again. Ahh it’s so nice to have flowing water again!

After the creek, there are so many big rocks everywhere! I wanted to climb on all of them, and I did have some snacks sitting on a few. My feet are sore and it’s been a tough day. Not really because of anything in particular. It was hot and I haven’t really hiked in a week so if I had to guess, that would be why. But I did try to make it fun for myself.

I was hiking around Mudskipper in the afternoon and we took a few breaks together. After we ate I stuck my sore feet in the river and I think that made a difference! I started listening to Lord of the Rings as I hiked toward Lake Harriet to swim.  While I was trying to get a snickers bar out, dealing with the audiobook on my phone and naturally not paying attention to the trail, another SOBO tried to get passed me. I panicked and stated my apologies. He stopped about a quarter mile up and we properly introduced ourselves and we sat and chatted for a bit.

I finally made it to Lake Harriet when I had the thought of just hiking two more miles today to Dorothy Lake. This way I could swim and be right at camp without having to hike more. It was about 3:30 so I figured I could make it there by 4:20 and still have plenty of sun to dry off.

Welp! I entered Yosemite!! Woohooo!! And I’m SO glad that I waited for my swim. My first swim in Yosemite and the lake was gorgeous! It wasn’t too cold. After getting out and changing into my warmer clothes, I cooked dinner on the edge of the water and ate staring at this beautiful lake and towering mountain. This is what the Sierras are going to be for me; really cool camping spots and not pushing mileage just to push. I was drained today and 16 was the perfect amount to start getting back into the swing of things.

After I ate I started chatting with the other hiker who made camp here. It was Pigeon!! I didn’t recognize him without his beard! We sat and talked for a long time and he said he was happy to see me still on trail. He moves so fast so I doubt I’m going to see him again. He told me about him and a few other hikers rented a U-Haul and drove it from Seiad Valley. Among the hikers were Salty and Goofy!! I’m excited to see them again once they catch me.

Day 66
Miles: 14

There’s not much elevation change but it’s hot and not much shade. I started listening to Lord of The Rings. And then I FINALLY got to the lake. I was laying down debating napping and debating leaving so I could get 14 more in to get to 23 when I heard a voice. It was another hiker, it was Blueprint!! I hadn’t seen him since he was going to touch the Canadian border right after Travis and I did. Roadrunner and Calves were right behind him and Still Sam was right behind them! We all hung out way too long for me to do 14 more.

Off we went to do 5 more, we were in the creek, eating food. Roadrunner, Calves, Still, and Blueprint all wanted to do some more and I was reluctant but I figured the more I do today the less I have the next few days and I really haven’t been doing that much. I sat and talked with Push who was camping at this spot a bit too long, but then Catmando, Mousetrap and North Star showed up. I give in. I’m camping here. I haven’t seen North Star since Winthrop before I started! I was happy to catch up with everyone.

As we were cooking dinner, more hikers showed up. No one I really knew but people who I’ve heard about before; Fancy Feast, Black Dog, Dory, Moss, Ibex, and Boy Band. It’s official we’re in the SOBO bubble.

Mousetrap and North Star played chess and soon after the game was over I fell into a deep sleep.

Day 67
Miles: 17 (plus 3 bonus miles)

Woke up at 6:15 and got my shit together. I started up the first climb, whew I’m remembering Washington. I went down with Catmando and saw Roadrunner and Calves. We kinda hiked together but we also spread out enough for me to go straight through Buckeye Pass Junction for 1.5 miles when I should have turned right. I was getting too much into LOTR and Frodo was pissing home off. The worst was I had to walk past a trail crew, and then I had to again when I turned around. I laughed it off but I was embarrassed. It was very beautiful though.

Note the climb of the day. Oh my goodness the climb to Benson Pass kicked my butt. I was planning on going to Benson Lake at the bottom before the climb but with my earlier detour I was not going to make it up and over before it got dark.

I finally arrived at Smedberg Lake. Word traveled fast and everyone knew I went the wrong way when Catmando didn’t pass me again. I was so exhausted and so happy to see everyone. And everyone was in agreement to do 3 more miles instead of 6 to get to 20. The mountains kicked our butts. But it was so beautiful and I’m loving clinging on these rocks.

Made it to camp with Catmando, North Star, Mousetrap, and Still Sam. Made dinner and chatted.

Day 68
Miles: 17

It was only 5 miles to the first lake where I found Calves, Roadrunner, and Catmando. The water is so warm but the air is cold and I didn’t go all of the way in.

Today was a lot of steep downhill and my knee keeps hyperextending. Besides that it was a really relaxing day. It was hot and hiking with Catmando wears me out because he SPRINTS! He waited for me and we took breaks together. And he doesn’t expect me to keep up with him, I just wanted to try. But of my goodness he’s so fast.

Calves, Roadrunner, Catmando and I ended up camping by an amazing waterfall. We’re ready to get to Tuolumne tomorrow and have a beer!

Day 69
Miles: 5

My day started with reading a cryptic message Mousetrap sent me. It read: “Bad news for PCT hikers. You may not have heard yet but you will soon”. Little did I know that meant all of the National Parks were closed and my PCT adventure seemed over.

Roadrunner and I hike in silence after the rest of the news comes through my inReach. Ibex and Boyband catch up to us and are very chipper. I haven’t seen them since before I started the PCT and I hated to greet them with this news. We all stood in frustration and not fully understanding what is going on. We catch up to Catmando and inform him next. Two miles to Tuolumne. Once we get in, it’s a horde of upset SOBOs.

We sit at the picnic tables all day. Some deciding to hitch to Mammoth Lakes, some taking the shuttle at 6pm, others hiking into Benson Pass knowing they’ll have to turn around after getting to the edge of Yosemite. No one knows what to do or say. The same conversations are being had over and over. Do we hop over and do the CDT/AT/AZT/CT?? A lot of my friends are just going home. Done. This can’t be over. I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to do this again. I have a job lined up after this which is amazing! I’m excited for it. But I can’t complete California next year on two weeks of vacation. I won’t let this be over for me.

I have an unpleasant conversation with Calves as he’s trying to reassure me the trail and Mt Whitney isn’t going anywhere. But it feels more like he’s brushing away my feelings and tears roll down my cheeks. Moss tries to console me by saying he was invalidating my feelings and I’m allowed to be sad about this massive closure. I wish I could stick up for myself but I’m just so emotional. I have barely walked 1,000 miles of a 2,600 mile trail and it seems like I won’t get to walk anymore.

Mousetrap, Calves, Roadrunner, Catmando and I are the last ones and we head back NOBO to camp. If we have to stay in Yosemite so be it. We pack our bags and stay up late talking and looking at the stars. We all remember to sleep with our Sawyers as it’s going to get below freezing tonight. I have all of my clothes on and I’m still cold. Mousetrap donated his rain pants to me for the night so I have tights, my rain pants and his rain pants on. Luckily I was fairly warm!

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Comments 3

  • Scott Naucler : Sep 24th

    It is sad that your hike was interrupted by the fires this year, but you will very likely have the opportunity to hike it again in the future. In the meantime, you will be able to squeeze in a lot of great adventures.

    I am planning on hiking the PCT in 2024, after I retire. I will be 59 (you have another 30 or 40+ years to try again). It is something I have wanted to do since I was about 20, but I could never be away from work that long. I did manage to get 3 weeks off work one year and lead a trip up Denali. I have spent many weekends running up and down the mountains of the Pacific NW. Your lifetime of adventures is just beginning!

    Good luck out there

    • Morgan Balog : Oct 14th

      That is so cool!! If you need any advice on preparing please reach out to me, I’d love to help! I really appreciate the support as well. It’s sometimes hard to look to the future when the present was so bleak. I’m excited for more future adventures, and I will “finish” this one this year! I have not given up! 🙂


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