PCT 2003: Walker Pass to Sonora Pass
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I hopped on the PCT in 2003 joining Yogi at Walker Pass and quickly meeting up with Gottago. I start out in Tucson, AZ.

Pre Sierra 2003
If this trip is going to be a pilgrimage, what will make it so? If the journey finds a way to be hard (injury, weather or other) or a sacrifice comes evident, does it then become a pilgrimage?
Maybe I'm taking a too close-up view. Maybe I'm living a pilgrimage now, and this is just part of it; part that most looks like a pilgrimage.
I certainly must ask what this trip is about, what are my intentions? In some ways it's part of my celebration of not working 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year. Working on the film fell through, and now the month was free. It's a great section of trail. I wasn't looking forward to the July/August section I'd talked about doing with Gottago.

I highly recommend The Art of the Pilgrimage for anyone who like to travel.

6.7.03
Some recollections on the trip so far.
I spent the night of May 30 with Ed in Tucson. We had breakfast at fabulous Frank's, then he came over and endured me packing and cleaning. Oh, and he helped out too. At breakfast, he gave me a metal-wrapped lapis stone that I'm now wearing around my neck.

We said our goodbyes, and I made my way across Arizona, into California, all the way to Lost Hills, at I-5 & 46. I spent my 41st birthday in the hot car and hot Motel 6 room.

Other notes from the pre-hike trip:

I moved toward the back of the bus, looking for a seat. In an empty pair, I sat down and noticed something sparkly. I thought it was a pair of hair clips. I slipped my hand into space between the seat and the back to retrieve the curio.

Immediately, I felt a jab, a needle prick.

Shit.

I just got a needle prick on a Greyhound bus. What are the chances that I just got HIV? How weird would that be? How does it relate to my recent barebacking? Is my life taking a new direction?

The found bauble is a broach. It's silver with inset clear and pink rhinestones. From top to bottom, it's just under two inches. The flower stalk it's supposed to represent makes it airily narrow. The base has two leaves and a large clear rhinestone. Three stalks emerge from the base. Two are simple, and each support a single pink rhinestone. meant to represent a flower bud. the stalk on the left is shorter than the one on the right, which also rakes out to the side, breaking away from the core of the broach.
the center stalk leads to the center, big flower, a single clear rhinestone. surrounded with four smaller pink rhinestone pedals Two silver leaves emerge from behind the flower, following the center step as it continues up. The end curves and ends with a single pink rhinestone. It's something that I'd expect to pay $.50 in a thrift store.
It's priceless to me this morning. I decided (for two reasons) to leave behind the yellow platform sandal toy that I got from Bart and carried on the outside of my pack on the PCT last year. The first reason I left it was that it was extra weight, albeit a tiny bit. The second, and more important, was that I feel pretty 'done' being out as a backpacker: that I no longer need to be in peoples' faces about it. The sandal was one way I did that.
So here I am starting my journey with a little gift. I'll put it on the outside of my pack and shine the length of the Sierra.

Still later in the day...

It's exciting to be journaling from the trail again. Busses went smoothly. Although I was on five busses today, the connection times were reasonable and accurate. I arrived in Onyx 3 hours ahead of schedule because of a better connection, and just 5 minutes after Yogi and crew had arrived. They were also early. We ate and drank up, and I started hitching.

We figured it would take a half-hour to get a ride, so I thought I was just starting the clock toward getting us a ride. Instead, I got a ride for the four of us pretty quickly.

In the SUV piled Kimber, Cezar/Yucca, Yogi and I. I could smell the hikers because I was not one of them. Yet.

Instead of camping at Walker Pass, which had no water this year, we hit the trail. We are at a nice little saddle. The wind is blowing through the low pines. Strong traces of pink make a swath across the western horizon, and all is well.
I'm tired.

6.9.03 Kennedy Meadows
I am so content right now. I would have never thought it possible 4 hours ago.
We did something like 26 miles yesterday, sleeping at Cane Break Road near Chimney Creek campground. It was a lot of climbing, hot (for me), and I had trouble eating. It was a horrible day, but nothing bad happened.
The nausea and general disgust for my food carried into today. I let myself have any food I wanted for lunch. I chose tuna and Chinese vegis. It was good. My nuts and bars made me gag.

As the day wore on I was retching (dry heaves). Nothing came up. Water was hard to get down too.
Everyone was way ahead, pulling in by the vortex of KM. I rested when I needed to, taking long breaks in the shade. I knew I'd miss the 5PM Grumpy Bear's shuttle, so I looked on a map and saw how I could get closer to Grumpy Bear's by leaving the PCT. It was a long walk, made harder by my lack of food and the insistence of the sun.
I got to the main road where there's rarely traffic. I began hitchhiking prep. A truck came over the rise. I started putting all my stuff back in my pack, threw off my hat and sun glasses. The truck was approaching, but was it slowing down? Then it honked. Then I saw there was a flatbed trailer in back, filled with hikers. It was the 5PM Grumpy's shuttle at 6:05.
I was exhausted, but thought the town food would sit better. It did. I drank lots of water and had pork roast. I started slowly, considering my hunger, and it all sat well. Soon I was much better.
We are camped by the bridge at KM, a new spot for me. It's only .7 miles to the store from here, as opposed to 2-3 from the campground.
I'm seeing flowers I did not see in bloom last year. I'm not photographing as many.
I'm a little weary to go into the Sierra if I can't eat my food. I'll need my calories. Tomorrow's a zero, so I'll decide then.

6.10.03 Kennedy Meadows
Beautiful zero day here. Once again, my pack is heavy. I'm feeling well enough that I'll hike tomorrow.
The day has come to an end. We are at the end of Kennedy Meadows, near the trailhead. Yucca, Kimber, Stretch, Yogi and I will hike out in the morning. Boy Scout, Salty Bitch, Turtle, Tommy and one or two others headed a bit into the wilderness this evening. Rob, a former thru-hiker, has a car here in KM and has been shuttling us around.
I'm not actually that interested in this hike. I'm starting it worried about my inability to eat the first few days, the chafing on my balls, and tonight the mosquitoes are reminding me of how hellish it can be.

6.11.03 Near a Monach Creek Bowl
We climbed just over 3000 feet today. I'm camped with Yogi, Kimber, Yucca & Stretch at a marmot outpost with views down to the south fork of the Kern. I'm sleeping in the marmot's driveway. I hope I don't have any problems.
The evening light warms the nearby rocky peaks. They are all part of this bowl. The occasional mosquito buzzes by.
Today was the first day I was glad I was hiking. Coming down to the bridge crossing of the south fork of the Kern, I was smiling from ear to ear, happy to be where I was. The sky was blue and full of fluffy clouds, the landscape was mostly dense sagebrush, and the sandy shores of the river cut a golden ribbon through the flat area.
Everybody was at the bridge: Boy scout, Salty Bitch, Turtle, Tommy/Moses, Garlic Man, Ian, Kingston, and Huff & Puff, the last three back from a week in the Bay Area, and the five of us. The sparrows, who nest under the bridge, were there too.
It was a great lunch, although I wished I'd remembered (or at least checked) that I didn't have my underwear on. If I'd known, I'd have gone for a dip. I guess I didn't really want to go.
I had a huge dinner, but I'm really craving a big Chinese dinner right now.
It's nice to be journaling and not exhausted.

6.12.03 An Early Set from Star Trek
Kimber suggested that our camp site looks like a set from Star Trek. You decide.



Since I'm the new one for this episode, the Sierra, I'm the one that's got to die if a plant grabs me.

Stretch decided to go to what he thought was the stopping point today, but overshot it. We ended up doing 7 miles after dinner. It's still plenty early, and I'm in my bag since we ended up doing only about 21 miles.

We started with Deadly Canyon, a huge climb with lovely rocks. I hope to show photos from the last two years to my friend Rusty who might have insight into how they were formed.

Thought a bit about Ed, and our relationship, today.

6.13.03 - Crabtree Meadows nr. Ranger Station
Lots of hiking today, seeing new things, being reminded of places I knew before. The rendezvous with Coach and Gottago went smoothly. Ian, Huff & Puff, and Kensington are camped near us. A bunch of us are going up Whitney tomorrow.
My Platy leaked again today, so my jacket, which is my regular pillow is drying, my normal foot prop is my pillow, and I'm using my pack as my foot prop. The last is not very comfortable.

6.14.03 On Top of the World
Turtle, Boy Scout, Salty Bitch and I have a great campsite just above Tyndall Creek. When I say just above, It's probably 900' down. So where we really are is the end of the stunning Bighorn Plateau. Sunset was lovely. Others are camped ahead, probably in bug hell.
Did Whitney today. Not sure why.
The moon was full last night (or may be tonight), and it's really bright. The days are clear and blue, with a few afternoon clouds, which sometimes bring shade. Today, no shade from the sky.

6.15.03 Trail to Kersarge Pass
Awoke in that lovely campsite at the edge of Bighorn Plateau. Snapped the moon setting over the Great Western Divide.

Made it over Forester Pass with no problem. Less snow than last year on the approach, more on the north side. Glissading was successful. Lots of post holing for me, and a sunburn to boot.

The night is clear and still here at the intersection of the PCT and the Charlotte Lake trail. There are melted automobile-sized blobs of snow around me. The ground is mostly clear, but the snow lingers. Camped again with Yogi, Stretch, Gottago and Coach. Yucca and Kimber are visiting friends (who brought them food) camped at Charlotte Lake. Others are nearby.

6.16.03 Up Pinchot Pass a bit.
Where to start? 14 or 16 miles today, none of it hard. We got a planned late start to not hit Glen Pass too early. I slept GREAT! I only woke up a few times, the moon did not disturb me, and I was warm. Plus I slept a lot.
Yogi says the approach to Glen Pass had less snow than last year. This morning, it was a breeze. I jumped in Rae Lakes just to clean up. I was way ahead this morning and lagging in the afternoon. Climbing is the weakest part of my hiking.

Having emergency poops today. It's a hassle.

Saw some new flowers in bloom today, and got photos. This part of the Sierra is just beautiful. Tremendous amounts of water this year. The roaring rivers on the climb up to Pinchot Pass are fuller than usual. It's great to imaging that there should be a way to safely enjoy such a rambunctious river ride.

6.17.03
Slept so well last night.
Two passes today: Pinchot & Mather. Found an arrowhead and chips from obsidian on the approach to Mather. It seemed fairly obvious that someone had sat in that spot many years ago and made some tools. Way cool.
Going up then down Mather was very slow because of the group. Less snow than last year. Some good glissades down the back.
Cooked and camped as soon as we found a spot big enough for all of us, just above Upper Palisade Lake.

Today was a total freedom day. I started the morning hiking with a wet crossing, and my feet stayed wet all day. I plowed through all the crossings without a thought of keeping dry. It's so easy that way. Plus you end up with clean socks.

6.18.03 Above a creek below Helen Lake.
A no-pass day. From our campsite last night 21 miles would have put us on the top on Muir Pass, and that felt like too much, given how much potential walking we imagined we'd have to do to clear the snow from the pass. So we had an easy day.
I slept until I woke, took my time getting together, had a huge morning bonus round, and left about 7:15 AM. I soon passed Stretch on the huge downhill we faced. I didn't take a break until the confluence at the Middle Fork Kings River. There, I hung out with Boy Scout, Salty Bitch (who, earlier, had apologized for her behavior yesterday, which was only to pass me in tears telling me she was having a really crappy day), Mountain House, Tommy, Stretch & Craig. Next stop: the bridge.

Had a great lunch break at the bridge with the same crowd plus Turtle.
Went in the river twice, and took my time hanging out in the sun.

Being with Yogi again has reminded me of some things I forgot about last year and didn't journal about:
1. I lost my spoon soon after KM, and she let me use her spoon as necessary.
2. I brought too little fuel on this section last year, and Yogi came through.
3. Yogi thinks I correct her when I ask her certain questions. She thinks it's a game I play. I just get confused and shut up. I did learn that there's a product category called 'lotion.'

I'm writing this journal entry waiting at a stream crossing for the rest of the crew. Stretch and I went at our own pace today, and are way ahead. We picked out a site on a peninsula, and I hiked a short distance back down the trail, past the frogs, to direct everybody across the creek crossing.
We do expect the crew to come along, but we may have gone too far. How long should I wait? When will they be along?

The stream is actually the outlet water for Helen Lake, and seems way more than a stream. It's so loud that it would be difficult to hold any but the most intimate discussion.
Above me the stream splits, and the right half splits again, joining the left half. The right flow falls 10 feet splashing onto black rocks. The left half crashes and slides down white granite. They converge briefly, only to split again and fall out of sight into one of the many falls/cascades we saw on the hike up to Muir Pass.
It's very difficult to wait for someone by a river. The motion of the water in the corner of the eye portends falsely.
This is an 'in case I die' note: I id 'd and ate a trainwrecker mushroom that I collected before the bridge going up Muir Pass. It was about 4" across. Stretch ate one slice. I ate the rest. It was yummy.

6.18.03 Poem
I see the wind in the trees, but do not feel it on my skin.
The Goldenrod explodes ahead
Shooting Stars fill my imagination.
The water white with fury
Returns to clarity
Everything defies winter's grip, each in its own time.
Because summer is here,
The solstice is running toward us unaware of our plans.

6.19.03 Camped on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River
We were not camped on Helen Lake. We were well short of it. Yogi, et al., were 20 minutes downstream. They stopped at 6:30 and were asleep by the time I left my sentinel position by the creek. Oh well.

I set out my morning hiking with Stretch, who was soon out of sight. I spent a long time trying to cross a multi-chanel water feature, when I saw everybody headed my way. I tried to direct them across. Gottago slipped on an icy rock and smashed her head. It was a tense few seconds before Yucca gave the thumbs up that she was not seriously injured.

We continued up toward Muir Pass. Just shy of the pass, at nearly 12,000 feet, we saw bear tracks in the snow. Amazing.

There was lots of snow on the approach and decent. I did a lot of leading today, with Yucca keeping me company, advising, and taking over when one of my explorations was the wrong track.
We came down from the pass and are at nearly the lowest point in the Sierra. No VVR tomorrow for dinner. Saturday AM it will have to be.
Been thinking about Ed.
Yucca's been helping me envision an independent IT/IS consulting business for small business.

6.20.03 Bear Ridge Trail, above Lake Edison
Lots more water flow this year. Lots. Not much snow today. Saw a deer from my bag this morning.
Yogi, Gottago, and I told the lemon cupcake story. They changed a little of the timing, which made it a funnier (at my expense) story.
The trail was straightforward today: We crossed two bridges over raging rivers, walking along a consistently beautiful stretch of river between the two.
Next, near Muir Trail Ranch, we began the climb to Selden Pass, but it really felt like the climb to Sally Keys Lakes, where we had lunch. During lunch we tried fishing. I even found a real grub, but they managed to eat it without getting hooked. It was a relaxing lunch. At the top of Selden Pass, The Clean Team caught up with me.
At that point I was the last, having chosen to linger at our lunch spot with Mercury.
After the pass, we dropped to Marie Lakes, then Bear Creek, a feared crossing that was not that bad this year.
From our dinner spot we climbed to where we are now, Bear Ridge. Did the last section last year in the dark.

6.21.03 Vermillion Valley Resort
Woke up on Bear Ridge to frozen solid shoes, which was surprising since we were relatively low and in the trees. We all managed, eventually, to get our shoes on. We headed downhill to Mono Creek, then on to the VVR ferry. As ferry arrival time (9:45AM) approached, people started showing up. We knew Mercury was nearby, but then Salty, Boy Scout, Turtle, and a few others showed up. We had a great crew going in.

A giant breakfast, resupply box, and other town features were next.

VVR has a new owner, Jim, and he's doing a good job. He's making improvements, catering to hikers, and keeping the easy going feel to the place. I'm a little scared to know what my bill is, but I have no complaints about anything. They even have the elusive Lexan spoon. I have needed a replacement spoon each time I've been at VVR. This is the first time they've had what I wanted.

Gottago, Yogi, Coach and I are splitting a room. It's so worth it. We don't have to wait for a toilet or shower, and we have a nice place to sleep. Nice is relative here. The hiker tent-cabin is OK, but crowded and a little short on space. The hotel room has a small patch of "curly brick carpeting" (as Yogi called it this morning) that sits on top of the stripped linoleum. It's little more than a dive, but it's comfortable. I slept well.

I slept well, but not before a genuinely enjoyable evening. Turtle, Salty, Boy Scout and I sat around after dinner, talked, and did tricks. Dinner earlier was a huge event, the Saturday BBQ. I had the combo: Tri-tip, pork ribs, and chicken with salad, baked potato, and vegetables. Yum. Lots of hikers and other guests crowded in the dining room and patio for all the food.

6.22.03 Vermillion Valley Resort
Slept great even though I had to get up to pee five times. Nobody made much noise and the widely-heard screaming throughout the night.
Seeing trail buddies moving on.

6.23.03 Virginia Lake
Last night in the room at VVR was fun. Yogi was babysitter while Coach, Gottago and I got into laughing fits. It was one of those nights when everything was funny, which means you have to have been there, and I will spare you the details.
Strange day. We left VVR on the 9AM ferry and hiked to Virginia Lake. There were two monster climbs (3,000' to Silver Pass, and 1,200' to the lake). We did only 14 miles.
It's cold, which is why we stopped at 6PM. The sky forebode rain too. Yogi and Gottago did not want to cook then walk on to camp somewhere else. They'd get too cold. Yucca and Kimber hiked on to Purple Lake, so they can get into Mammoth for new shoes for Yucca. One of his NB 904s lost their sole in less than 150 miles. I debated whether I wanted to hike on with them, but at the time I had to make the decision, the clouds were looking pretty threatening. Plus I would just be waiting at Red's Meadow for Gottago, Yogi & Coach.
I have my tarp up tonight, mostly to help keep the wind off me.
What to do between now and dark?

6.24.03 Snow in June
Last night was pretty intense. The clouds were dark during dinner. Because everybody else put up their tents, I put up my tarp. Now, everybody always puts up their tents and I don't, but last night, I wanted to be safe. I picked a site in the trees above Lake Virginia where I could string my tarp ridgeline perpendicular to the wind and tacked three sides of the tarp down to the ground, leaving a big opening on one side. For extra space inside I used the pull points in the middle of the sides, attaching them to the trees around me. I cooked dinner and settled in. My head was just below the doorway, and I knew that if it did start to rain, I'd have to scoot more inside.
I don't know when I first felt moisture, but I scooted down as needed. It didn't make much difference, and to add to the confusion, the rain didn't sound right. Higher levels of consciousness helped me put it all together. The wind had shifted 180 degrees, and it was snowing. My large tarp opening was now part of a windsock, and the snow was flying in.

Shit and double shit.

My first response was to ignore the problem and go back to sleep, but that didn't work. Sleep was impossible with the cold flecks landing on my face and covering everything around me.
Somehow I managed to pull part of my groundsheet up to the top of my hiking pole, which was at the center of the large opening, covering a good percentage of the opening. My head was tucked right behind it, so it was shielded from most of the snow.
I slept and woke, pushing accumulated snow off the tarp in my waking moments. The tarp was increasingly loose. One giant gust turned the windsock into a tunnel. Most of the tarp's ground attachment points were lost. The hiking pole, however, was staying put.
I decided I had to do something. I ventured out into the night, searching for my tent pegs and solutions for my predicament. My shoes, pulled wide and laces loosened in anticipation of a freezing night, were not quite fully frozen solid when I put them on.

Outside, it was cold. And windy. And dark.

Things looked bad. It was going to be difficult to batten down the hatches. The tarp was flapping everywhere, I couldn't find many of the tent pegs, and the weather was not changing. I decided I needed to pack up and get hiking. There HAD to be a less-windy spot.

I secured a few tarp strings to get me though, so that I could pack. I lowered the hiking pole so there was less of the tarp for the gusts to catch. What was holding it all together was the guy lines from the trees. With both ridge ends low, the sides secured as best I could, and the guy lines holding well from above, I crawled back in to warm up in my bag. I had about 18" of headspace, give or take.
I fell asleep warming up, but a big tarp-pulling gust woke me up. Oh, that's right, I have to pack up. I began pulling at things half-covered in snow, getting them ready to pack.
I was wearing my hiking shirt, merino wool shirt, wind shirt, and GoLite Coal with hood. The hood was on, and I had my double-fleece cap over it. While packing, I thought a gust of wind blew the fleece cap off my head. It didn't seem possible, but I was drowsy and dealing with extreme circumstances. It was nowhere to be found under the tarp, so I headed out toward the lake to find it. I once again pulled on my nearly frozen shoes, and ventured out.

The wind was howling and everything was covered in snow. No sign of my cap. Gottago heard me and asked if I wanted to join her in her intact tent. I declined, stating that I was going to head out to hike.

I secured things a bit more, and returned to my bag to warm up. I found my cap under the tarp. Of course, I fell asleep again, awaking with another big blast of wind. Daylight was breaking, so I took the final steps in packing before I had to commit to packing the bag and tarp. I went to see a man about a horse and saw that the trail was quite distinguishable, at least in the 20 feet that I could see. I warmed up for the last time and soon I was hiking.

I had on everything, all my clothes, and I was warm. That was good to know. I made my way across the icy rocks at the shallow end of Virginia Lake and continued on through the wintry landscape. Snow blew in small drifts, and I could see down to lower elevations where it had not snowed. I saw where the German thru-hiker who worked in Ireland slept. The bare rectangle stood out in the white landscape. I passed where I supposed that Kimber and Yucca had slept because I was now following their footprints, along with a set of boots. Was the German wearing heavy boots? I didn't think so.

The morning progressed, I warmed, shedding layers as necessary, and soon there were only patches of thin snow struggling to survive.

I pulled into Red's Meadow as Kimber and Cezar hopped on the bus to town. The Tent Inspectors were there, along with some other. I took a hot, hot, long, long shower in the campground after breakfast.

Later in the day, Gottago announced that she was going to quit the trail. She got a cabin, and Yogi and I stayed with her. Eventually, we talked her into continuing. It was funny to hear Yogi's tactics.

"You invite me to hike with you, giving me 3 weeks to prepare, then you are going to quit? Gee, thanks." (or something to that effect).

She decided to hike that evening, but I told her she didn't need to decide to hike until the morning.

06.25.03 Above Rush Creek Trail
Easy day from Red's Meadow. Gottago rented a cabin and Yogi and I shared it with her. Got going about 7:30. Took the JMT instead of the PCT.
As the light was fading, a deer walked through camp. I'm convinced it wants our salty clothes.
Wondering where Yucca & Kimber, Salty & Boy Scout, Mountain House & Tommy, and the Tent Inspectors (Huff-n-Puff, Ian, and Kensington) are. They went into Mammoth and were supposed to get on the trail. That's what Trippin' Ant and Apterix, who had breakfast with them all, reported as they passed us.

06.26.03 Tuolumne Meadows
There was enough snow on the approach to Donohue Pass to make it slow going simply because we had to keep re-finding the trail. Lots of people on the trail too. Some southbound JMTers, but mostly others.
Once we got past the tricky stuff, I zoomed ahead of Yogi and Gottago, arriving at the TM Lodge around 2, in plenty of time for a shower. I then dropped by Ginger's (she was at work), then caught the shuttle to the store and PO. The PO had just closed, but I went to the back door, knocked and the nice lady got me my two boxes and letter. The store was closing at 5, so I got the stuff I needed. Yogi and Gottago had arranged to have Meadow/Mountain Mary bring a box to Sonora Pass. She agreed to do that for me too, and to mail a box. Yipee. Three days of food versus six days. It makes a huge difference.
Kimber and Yucca caught up with us today. Yucca's got shin splints, so they may be off for a while. Coach has skipped ahead to Belden, I think; wherever he got off last year.
The TM campground is closed, but there are a few people here. It's almost like a ghost campground.

06.27.03 Before last ford of Wilson Creek, Yosemite National Park
Up and down. Not much snow. I love the water flowing over granite slabs.
I've found when I hike that there are some birds that are curious about me. They flit to the next place, watch me walk toward them, then flit again along the trail. Today, it was an interesting bird that hung to the bark of trees. It had white around its eye, a dark crescent brow, and a beak longer than I would have expected.
I kill every mosquito I have the opportunity to kill. In some ways it's like a video game. You have to win at some point. There has to be a finite number of mosquitoes, right?
It's an early camp, taken in anticipation of swampy areas and switchbacks best avoided tonight.

06.27.03 Below Macomb Ridge pass
What a hard day of hiking filled with ups, downs, and wet crossings. For me it was like new trail too. I remember only three parts of the trail from last year of this many-part day: I remember the crazy decent early in the day. I think it was down from Benson Pass, but there were so many big downs (and ups) today...I remember the lovely lake before Seavy Pass. The data book describes it as 'wind-free sparkling pond.' It is my favorite lake on the PCT. Gottago and I went for a dip here during our lunch break. I remember the ford of Kerrick Creek. The rest was new, save a few moments of vague recognition.
The mosquitoes went from normal to really annoying today.
As we were looking for a place to camp, we came across Billy Goat and Garlic Man's camp. Then we passed Mercury tucked away.
For most of the morning, it seemed that a deer was hiking the PCT. There were tracks pretty consistently despite the crazy trail today. Between the snow, the downed trees, and the water, the trail, set in bouldered, forested steep slopes, was tricky. The tread was rocky and full of roots and branches most of the day.
Lots to write, but I'm tired.

06.30.03-1 Matterhorn Motel, S. Lake Tahoe
I have stopped this hike. So has Gottago.
As the soles on my NB 904s started to fall apart, I began thinking about what my options were. The Billy Independence Day gathering came up quickly as an alternative activity that did not require much shoe tread. I decided I would go. Nevermind that I had not registered, and that it was full.
Yogi hiked on from Sonora Pass with Mercury and Apterix around her and Billy Goat half a day behind. Gottago, Ajax and I set out to hitch from Sonora Pass at 1:30. Ajax had hiked back south to the pass because he was ill.
We quickly got a stop from a guy going to Carson City, one of our possible destinations and he was alone in a Subaru wagon, but, even though he had stopped, he couldn't be convinced to take us. A sedan with four people stopped next. They were European, and were offering one of us a ride. We sent Ajax on his way.
Gottago and I spent the next 4 hours standing up every time a car came by, which was every 15 minutes or so. Gottago does not like me to fart around her, so when I had to, which was at about the same interval that cars came by, I'd step away, claiming to be interested in the scrapes the snow plows had made in the road. When she had to, she'd step away in the opposite direction, claiming to be interested in an ant colony down the road. It was amusing.
We had decided that we'd continue hitching until half an hour after the sun went behind the mountain to try to get the sympathy hitch.
Turns out we didn't need to wait that long. Up the hill came a dirty blue car with a bike on top. The car stopped. I could see that the back seat was full, and the passenger seat had a bunch of stuff on it.
A guy in his early 20s stepped out of the car.
"Where you going?"
"Tahoe City. Where you going?"
"South Lake Tahoe."
"Cool. Is your trunk full?"
"Yeah."
"Do you have any bungees?"
"In the trunk," which was indeed full.
I strapped my pack to the roof rack, and started to arrange the stuff in back, piling it high, to make room for one. Where there first appeared to be room for nothing more, we had found space for two people and two backpacks. Shit was everywhere.
Austin had everything he owned in his car and was temporarily leaving his job as a geology field technician mapping volcanic formations west of Sonora Pass to fly to New York City tomorrow. He was headed to Tahoe City to crash at a friends'.
We drove the 100 yards to the summit of Sonora Pass, then began the descent, which, at times, is 26%.
Gottago sat up front with Austin, and I sat in back, next to the pile of everything. Austin asked me to choose a CD from a fairly large selection. I got busy looking, having tagged a The Simpson's CD as being of possible interest early on, when I realized I was getting motion sickness. I knew this combination well: curvy roads, reading, and, the clincher, angled sunlight coming through trees. The uneven visual thwap, thwap, thwap of sunlight and shade as it passed through the window while I was reading quickly moved me to the point of nausea
I said, "How's this Simpson's CD?" it being the only one I thought I'd enjoy listening to.
"Funny."
So in it went. Austin had a heavily rigged car stereo. A power supply for the portable CD came from under the passenger side rear view mirror. Gottago plugged that in, as instructed, into the back of the CD player. A wire connected to an audio transfer device in the cassette player snaked out of the cassette player's opening. Gottago plugged that into the side. More details had to be addressed, but I couldn't discern them from the back seat.
Then came the music. And snippets from the show. What a mistake.
Now we were headed down the east side of the Sierra on a windy, steep road in a mechanically questionable car with muffler problems packed top and bottom, front and back with people and stuff, through the thwap, thwap, thwap of the afternoon light listening to melodically questionable and definitely interrupted music, which, from the back seat, was way too loud. Plus the driver, a geologist, was seeing this part of the East Side for the first side, so he was rather distracted by the landscape.
To ward off the bouncing light and its reflection within the car, I curled up the dog-eared US road atlas and wrapped it around my face.
I repeated to myself, "Do not throw up. Do not throw up."
It was all too much after three weeks on the trail moving at my own speed with very little sensory input.

We moved onto 395, but the light continued. I'd peek out, guess when the light would be consistent, and throw up the atlas as soon as there was a transition from light to dark. I eventually felt better and could ride like a normal passenger.

We were soon in South Lake Tahoe. Austin picked up beer, we went to Harrah's awful AYCE buffet, and Gottago and I ended up at the Matterhorn Hotel, grateful to have arrived in one piece.

(Next part of this journey)

    {PD} {ND}

© 2001 & 2002 John E. Brennan