Saturday, June 23, 2012

Days 60-62 - Three Days

Doing some catch-up this evening, three days to cover: the bad day, the long day and the sore day.

The Bad Day

Monday was the bad day, as Mondays sometimes are.  It was going through the northern part of Yosemite, though I can't always tell where one wilderness/forest/park ends and another begins.  The scenery was nice but the trail was probably the most physically challenging I've ever been on.

It went through deep valleys and over steep ridges and everywhere it went was very rocky; big rocks and cliffs.  The trail was often climbing up and down very steeply in what looked like old creek beds or dry waterfalls.  Most days it isn't the miles that wear me out, rather how strenuous the trail is.  And this day had me beat by early afternoon.  Not even the Sierras with a 50+ pound pack or 12-13k' passes wore me out so quickly.  But I had to get decent miles in so that I could stay on pace to reach Echo Lake.  I limped across a stream and into a camp spot around 7:30, fairly late for only a 20-mile day.  Oh, did I mention there were mosquitos?  Here's a look from the inside of my fortress of a tent.

The Long Day

Tuesday I got up determined to make it farther than I had Monday. As the trail goes on in this section it looks to get a bit gentler. There were still a ton of mosquitos, especially in a long meadow area leading up a pass. At the top of the pass though there was enough of a breeze to keep them at bay. At the top I saw Bird Nut and G-Man, a couple hikers I'd seen in the Sierras.

We looked at the map and all agreed that another 8-9 miles would get us to the last good spot to camp before climbing the next ridge. I'd done 15 already to that point, and it was only 1:30 or so; not having to scramble up and down waterfall-shaped trails makes a difference. Bird Nut and G-Man shared my opinion that yesterday's trail was miserable and painful. Some of us may even have been yelling at the trail the day before...

We reached the stream with a good campsite around 5:30. I had decided to have dinner there, then figure out whether to push on up the hill to the top of the ridge or not. I didn't really feel like stopping so soon, we had 3 hours of light left still. So after a double Ramen dinner I hiked on.

The trail went up out of the trees onto a very barren ridge and along the top of it for several more miles. I had thought I'd go part of the way up, just a few more miles and camp, but soon I was at the top and kept deciding to go a bit further. The sun went down, stars came out and I kept going. There was no moon so I eventually had to get out my headlamp to see.

When the trail shifted from the south side of the ridge to the north I came across some patches of snow. The snow was all easy enough to cross in the Sierras, I did it all during the day except the little on Whitney, which was fairly flat. This snow was on the side of a steep ridge and iced over now that the sun was down.

When I stopped in Mammoth Lakes I thought I'd save a bit of weight and sent my microspikes home, since I hadn't used them in the snow at all in the Sierras. Now, standing halfway across an icy patch of snow, following melted and frozen-over footprints, on a 45 degree slope, where the snow extended down the slope a few hundred yards before disappearing into blackness, I wished I had my spikes.

Looking back, it probably wasn't the safest thing to be doing that night. A slip there would have sent me sliding 300 yards down a slope to either hit the rocks at the bottom, or worse, keep sliding/tumbling down the rocks. In the dark. In the middle of the night. In the middle of nowhere. With no one else around for miles. I had my trekking poles though, don't think I would have tried it without them. I'd keep one or both solidly planted before taking a step. I think I considered turning around at one point, but that probably would have been trickier than going forward.

Aside from the danger, it was a good night for hiking. Being high up and closer to towns meant I could pick up some radio stations with my mp3 player. They came and went every few songs. Some I could make last longer by holding my trekking poles out at odd angles. Yet another reason to have them.

Around 11:30 I reached the bottom of the ridge where a highway crosses Sonora Pass. I was at almost 36 miles for the day and considered doing another couple hours of hiking to make it an even 40, but the trail started up another long climb that I didn't feel like doing yet. So I found a semi-flat spot among some sagebrush. With clear skies, a new moon and no towns nearby, the stars were amazing. I saw 3-4 shooting stars before falling asleep.

Broke the 1000 mile mark today!
There was a bald eagle sitting in the top of one of these trees until just before I took a picture.

The Sore Day

After the late hiking the night before, I slept in until about 8:00 on Wednesday. It has been quite a while since I've woken up still sore from the day before. But the long day left me moving a bit slower that morning.

I still got in some decent miles though; the trail has been much better since the rugged patch in Yosemite. I had a campsite in mind and as I was getting close to it I was thinking about how I was almost done with the section of trail where we're supposed to see a lot of bears and I'd seen exactly zero. I crossed a stream and suddenly, there was a bear, right where I was planning on camping. It didn't see me so I took a couple pictures. Since I have no zoom on my phone's camera you can't see it real well in this picture, but that light brown patch just to the left of the trail is really a decent-sized black bear.
As soon as it saw me to took a couple seconds to look at me, then spun around and went crashing away through the trees. I figured since it behaved like a bear should it probably wouldn't be back anytime soon, so I camped there anyway.


  1. YAY! 1000 miles! That is very impressive. I laughed when I imagined you standing in the trail holding your poles out as antennas. :P And I sure hope the mosquitos let up soon. :/

  2. My first response was that I didn't realize you were so DETERMINED -- 40 miles in one day. We were all pretty impressed with 25 miles. My second response is motherly instinct - BE CAREFUL! Did I forget to say that when you headed out the door over two months ago? I am glad you got across the ice okay. Want me to send you back the microspikes? You amaze me.