Archive for the ‘CA Sierras – H’ Category

Friday, July 9 Tuolemne Meadows Miles today: 20.6 Total: 941.6

Friday, July 9th, 2010


The 20+ miles we did today were tough miles, but we managed to land up in the end at Tuolumne Meadows! We were up ‘n at em at 5:00am, knowing we had TWO snowy passes to cross. First was Island Pass, with its gorgeous views of Banner Peak and Thousand Island Lake. The snow was definitely a factor, but not too bad compared to what we have been through. We never lost the trail for very long.

Then the PCT took us down into an area with a multibranched creek, and we got totally messed up. Wel missed a turn of the official PCT, and unknowingly headed off on some other trail that eventually just petered out in the woods.  We tried to go back and find the PCT again, which involved a lot of creek crossings, and no luck in locating any trail.  Bill finally said, “Forget this!  Let’s just go for it.  We’ll go straight up and get to Donohue Pass somehow.”  So we just headed off through the woods and uphill.  Eventually we came to a very rocky area, and oh joy!   There was the trail again!   (I think Bill may have been a little disappointed, though.  He sort of likes bushwhacking adventures!) 

The rest of the climb up to Donohue Pass was a rerun of what we’d been through before–watching for bits of trail appearing out of the snow, and heading for them.  When in doubt, oh well–just head for the top of the pass.  One really nice thing was that Donohue is not a steep, scary pass like some of the others, and it isn’t rough and rocky.  Instead, it’s huge sheets of smooth granite–very comfortable to walk on.   When we reached the top, we were very amused by a drop box where people could leave their survey forms (not sure where they got them originally) to give their opinion about their trail experience.


As we started down the other side of Donohue, we began to meet more and more JMT’ers–all sorts of folks, both old and young.  Partway down we stopped to cook a hot lunch, but didn’t linger over it, because we were determined to reach Tuolemne Meadows post office before it closed. So once we were across the last “big ford” of the Tuolumne River, Bill took off. I followed as fast as I could.  The trail was very rocky and rough as it headed down into the Tuolemne River valley–which made for slow going (for me), but the flowers (especially the “heather” ) and the views were so beautiful!   Whenever I am anywhere near Tuolemne, I alwasys feel as if I’m “coming home” because my family camped here several times when I was a kid.

Once I made it down the rocky hill, the PCT goes for many miles through green meadows, forests,  and creek crossings.  I very much wished it were earlier in the day so that I could linger and walk more slowly to enjoy the beauty,  but instead I pushed along as hard as I could.  A couple of miles before I reached the campground, I was so exhausted that I had to slow down, and by the time I reached the “hiker hangout” by the store, I was totally wasted.  All I could do was just collapse on the ground.  It was 6:15 pm, and it turned out that Bill had only beat me by 40 minutes. 

 However, he did have our box, and he had bought some Odwallas,  so I lay on the ground and slowly sipped an Odwalla till I felt revived enough to tackle sorting the box.   Lots of other thruhikers were doing the same thing–it was fun talking with everybody and seeing what they had in their boxes!  The Disraeli Gear had really interesting stuff–they are from Israel, and their food items were not like ours.  I particularly enjoyed talking to “DoubleCheck”–he’s a very enthusiastic, interesting chap.  Meanwhile, Bill had gone off to find us a place to camp.  His final conclusion was “Let’s just go to the backpacker camp.” 

So with heavy packs (7 days of food to get us to Echo Lake), we strolled over to the backpacker zone.  I was concerned about finding a water faucet where we could fill our platypuses.  I asked several people, but nobody knew anything.  All they could say was, “I guess you could get water at the bathroom.”  At this point, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was collapse, but instead I ended up wandering all over the campground, looking for a faucet.  No luck.  I couldn’t believe it!   Finally, almost ready to cry, I dragged myself back to our camp and voila!   Not too far away, near the campfire circle, I found the faucet!  As soon as I filled the platypuses, I crawled into my sleeping bag, completely wasted.  Bill and I are cowboy camped, and surrounded by lots of JMT’ers in big tents.  I couldn’t believe they were planning to drag those big heavy tents with them!  And they were equally astounded that we only carry a tarp, and only set it up if we HAVE to.

The ranger campfire program nearby was a familiar sound, and it was nice to know that our food was safe in a bear box for the night.   All through the Sierras, Bill and I have been keeping only our “smellier” food in the bear cans (things like Snickers and cheese, etc).  The rest of our food just parks in the food bags as usual, and we sleep with the bags right next to us and trek poles at the ready in case a bear comes around.  We’ve never had a problem, since we never camp near water, nor do we camp where other hikers are.  But still….it was a good feeling to have that nice bear box!   And it is so wonderful to have reached Tuolemne!

Walk to Rauros: Leave the border of Lothlórien and are given gifts from Galadriel


Thursday, July 8 Miles today: 14.4 Total: 921

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

We dawdled around getting organized this morning, and enjoyed the Motel 6 Coffee while we ate a breakfast of leftover this n’ that from our food.  It felt so good to be just resting!  But finally we said, “OK, enough!”, filled the bear cans, loaded our packs, and headed for the trolley to The Village.  It was another clear, beautiful morning.

The trolley driver directed us to the “bike Bus” up to Mammoth Mountain Resort, and soon we were on our way back up the mountain.  The Bike Bus pulls a long trailer, which was loaded full of all kinds of bikes–everything from kid’s bikes to dad bikes, to crazy mountainbiker bikes.  Two of those “crazy mountainbikers” were sitting right behind us, looking very impressive in their black and silver protective gear.  Never mind the gear–the guys themselves looked pretty fearless!  After some of the video footage I’ve seen of mountainbiker stunts, all I can say is, “I hope they get home in one piece!”

Mammoth Mountain Resort was now totally converted from skiing to mountainbiking, and there were hordes of people everywhere. We had to wait a half hour for the next bus to Red’s Meadow, where we stopped off at the store for one last snack (ice cream and Odwalla) and chatted with thruhikers who’d just come in off the trail, notably Chocolate Bandido.


We met lots of folks hiking, riding and fishing. At Agnew Meadows there were a lot of CCC vehicles, including a couple of trailers full of very antsy mules who were making quite a racket, kicking and fussing.  “Hey, looky that!”  I said.  “Maybe there’s a trail project up ahead–I hope we get to see it!”  

After Agnew Meadows we began the long, gradual climb that took the rest of the day. The “flower gardens” at the springs on the High Trail section were gorgeous, and so were the views of the rugged snowy mountains on the other side of the canyon, where the JMT is.   Butterflies were everywhere.  Along the way, at an awesome overlook just off the trail, we caught up with “Dude” and “Trouble.”  We hadn’t seen them since Guffy Campground, before Mt. Baden-Powell!  All of us were oohing and ahhing over the stunning view of Shadow Lake across the canyon, with its backdrop of jagged, snowy peaks.  Trouble offered to take our picture, and we were glad to accept!

We stopped for supper (bagels & cream cheese!!) at the top of a long set of downhill switchbacks.  An aspen grove nearby was literally shimmering green–very pretty!  The trail itself in this area is mostly pumice–the kind that floats if you put it in water–so it felt (and sounded) as if we were hiking on potato chips.  By 7 pm, we were at Badger Lakes, but didn’t want to camp there–WAY too many mosquitoes!  So we kept on going till the trail climbed up higher again, out of the “mossie zone”.  But finding a dry place to camp was hard.  There were so many snowdrifts and snowmelts.  We finally found a dry spot and could cowboy camp.   Hooray!   We are hoping to reach Tuolemne Meadows by tomorrow, but with TWO snowy passes to cross first, well, we’ll see.

Walk to Lórien: Reach the city of Caras Galadan in Lothlórien


Wednesday, July 7 – Zero Day in Mammoth Lakes Total: 906.6

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


We “slept in” till 6:15 this morning. The sky was clear and blue— nice to see after yesterday afternoon’s dark gray clouds that dripped a bit. Looks like the Sierras are going into their normal summer pattern of clear sky each morning and cloud buildup in the afternoon. We packed up and headed for the Red’s Meadow cafe to have some coffee and wait for the bus to Mammoth. “Just Paul” and Eric were there, too— we enjoyed one last chat.


On the ride to Mammoth, a whole bunch of Boy Scouts and leaders got aboard. They were very excited and interested in what we are doing, and gave us a ride from the bus stop at the ski resort into town. We love Boy Scouts! They do a wonderful job of getting kids into backpacking.


Next on our agenda was breakfast at the Base Camp Cafe, a room at Motel 6, our resupply box and shopping for food. Getting around town in Mammoth is really easy, with a free trolley every 20 minutes. It’s a really pretty place with dramatic Sierra backdrop, tasteful buildings that “blend in” without the usual garishness of tourist towns, and best of all, gardens in bloom. I noticed that most of the garden plants are perennials— I guess they best handle a snowy winter.


Bill and I needed this zero day— we were so tired, and we both have lost an awful lot of weight. I don’t have much “padding” left on me. Hope that good food and a day of rest will help. I was worried about taking a whole day off, since we are only 1/3 done with the PCT, but Bill was very firm— “we need this rest!” he said, and I realized he was right.

Walk to Lórien: The hill of Cerin Amroth

Tuesday, July 6 Red’s Meadow Miles today: 18.2 Total: 906.6

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010


We were up long before the others and walked along Cascade Creek to  beautiful, green Tully Hole. Then it was a long grind of switchbacks and climbing up to Lake Virginia, where we were overjoyed to find an icefree lake and not-too-bad snow.  However (of course!) since the snow was melting nicely,  it meant that the whole area around the lake, including the PCT, was basically a bog.  Muddy, muddy!

We continued slogging on toward  Purple Lake.  The snow was enough to give us problems occasionally, but it wasn’t too bad.  A looong contour around a mountainside took us to a very scary (Slippery rocks!  Big dropoff just below the trail crossing!) ford of Duck Lake’s outlet creek.  I tried to do it and backed out.  “I’m going farther upstream,” I told Bill.  So while he crossed at the official ford, I walked a little way up and crossed there with no problem.  Just beyond that creek was a very pretty meadow with people and horses lounging around, as well as a very unhappy dog, who kept randomly barking and whining.  I’m not sure what his problem was.

The trail then spends many miles contouring through forests near the edge of a dramatic deep canyon with snowclad peaks beyond.  Every time there was a break in the trees, the views were awesome.  We met no other hikers till afternoon, and then there were lots of them.  First was a lost JMT’er (we set him straight and he was very grateful!), then a gang of newbie JMT’ers  (we wondered how they were going to handle the challenges ahead of them) and then, to our great amazement and delight, sitting by the trail was Scott “Buck Larceny”, a fellow thruhiker from the PCT in 2005!  He was doing the JMT with his girlfriend “Tango”.  We had a very joyful reunion, and took pictures of each other before heading our separate ways.


Bill had been figuring we wouldn’t reach Red’s Meadow till late in the day, but before we knew it, we were down into the “burn zone” and Red’s Meadow.  As we turned off the PCT, we could hear the sound of a farrier’s hammer at the corral, and sure enough, he was busy shoeing a horse.  I stopped to watch for a few minutes, but the lure of burgers and milkshakes at the cafe was very strong, so off we went again. 

Fortified with HUGE burgers, we strolled down to the campground and claimed one of the campsites near the famous hotsprings showers.  I wanted a shower, but my only “towel” is a small 9″ square piece of absorbent cloth.  It was late afternoon by now, and getting chilly.  If I’d had a nice big towel, I would have taken a shower, dried off immediately, and been fine.  But my tiny towel wasn’t up to it, and I didn’t want to get cold.  So Bill did take a shower, but I stayed at camp and welcomed other hikers to join us.  We ended up sharing with Michelle (who sewed her own tent–very nice!),”Just Paul” and Eric, and one other couple.  

We all put up our tents & tarps, since it was clouding over and dripping a bit, but sat around swapping stories and talking till 8:30 pm.  We also slapped at mosquitoes a bit–they were definitely a presence!  Tomorrow we’ll take the bus to our resupply in Mammoth!

Walk to Lórien: Arrive at the hill of Cerin Amroth


Monday, July 5 Miles today: 11.2 Total: 888.4

Monday, July 5th, 2010


Tent 4 was full last night (mostly JMT people) but cleared out fast as soon as the cafe opened. Bill and I were more leisurely because we had fresh fruit, and all I had to do was drop by the store to get coffee and some danishes.   So this morning we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful morning (and fielded a lot of questions from other hikers about “Where’d you get the fruit?”  I didn’t tell them my source–I didn’t want the poor clerk to be inundated with fruit-starved thruhikers.)  I’m glad I can eat, and the Flagl seems to be working already.


We both rode the ferry back across the lake saying “Back to the trail!” The ferry was at MAX capacity–the captain actually had to shuffle us all and our packs around to “balance the load.”  This time there was  a whole gang of us PCT NOBOs, all headed for Silver Pass. But at the ferry landing,  there was a very serious ranger, who stopped us as we got off the boat, and we all had to produce our permits. Grr!

Going up to Silver Pass involved two “very bad” fords, including the famous “waterfall”  crossing.  I did do the “get behind Bill” technique for that one, but it  turned out to be not as bad as I expected.  In fact, just after we got across, along came a whole group of JMT southbounders, with a dog.  The brave dog unhesitatingly followed its master as he rockhopped and leaped across the roaring, foaming water at the foot of the waterfall.  Wow!


We leapfrogged with other PCT NOBO’s all day, which actually did help a bit with  the usual route-finding in snow going up and down the pass. At the top of each pass is a whole new view of a whole new set of snowy peaks, and Silver Pass was no exception. Wow!  Coming down off Silver Pass, I glissaded twice, and on one of the glissades, my purple bandana came off.   By the time I noticed, it was too late to go back.  But no problema!  One of the other thruhikers spotted it,  knew it was mine, and when Bill and I had stopped for a Snickers break, he came by and said, “Lost something?”  Hooray!   My bandana was back!  I’d carried it for the whole PCT in 2005.  That cheered me up–I had been feeling very discouraged again about being slow over snow and rocks.

All of us ended up tonight camped near the bridge over Cascade Creek.  The mosquitoes were around, but we cowboy camped anyway.  We may ??? make it to Red’s Meadow tomorrow if snow does not give us a lot of problems.  Or to be more accurate, does not give ME a lot of problems.  Bill zips right along, snow or no snow.   He wasn’t very happy today about having to wait for me so often.  All I can say is, “I will do my best.”   But it sure would be nice to make Red’s Meadow!!

Walk to Lórien: In woods near the edge of Lothlórien