Cupcake's 2002 PCT Journal    

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Bear Tracks in Lyell Canyon


Awoke at Walker Pass Campground.
Ridgewalked a lot today in fantastic wind. Lots of climbing.

Yogi and I had hiked so strongly yesterday, it was pretty clear by lunch that we'd make it into Kennedy Meadows tonight. It was a good feeling.
Hiked a while with Restless Wind and heard about his life, or former life, in Yellowstone.
The trail was through a burned area. The fire was very hot and killed almost everything. One side result was some amazing fields of light purple (lavender?) flowers. Here's a shot:

Met Brian and Allana on the trail. Both Yogi and I misunderstood Brian when he was talking about a friend's Halloween costume. We heard Taoist Cowboy Cheerleader instead of the Dallas...It puts ideas in one's head.
He works for Outward Bound and gave me the number for someone I can talk to about GLBT programs. My investigation and research into new careers continues.
Yogi, Brian, Allana, and I arrived at the KM store at 6PM, one hour after it had closed and after the shuttle to Grumpy Bear's had left. Food was on our minds. After only a short while, a pickup truck pulled up to the cluster of mail boxes near the store. We were on them like mosquitoes on a hiker. They had just arrived and the truck was full but the woman said that if we could wait 10 minutes, she'd take us. We said yes.
I ate a salad, two pork chops, a pile of mashed potatoes, and some gravy first. I was still hungry, so I ordered another dinner: salad, really good fries, and and NY strip steak. I ate it all. It was the first time I'd had pork chops or a steak in 10 years. Those were the only two things on the menu, so that's what I ate, and I enjoyed every bite.
We caught the post-dinner, post-basketball game shuttle to the thru hiker campground. Andrew with dog Dude was there, so was Goof, Stroller, Luke, Brian and Allana, Cheddarhead, Sam I Am, Cindy and Ken, Han Solo, Grasshopper, Restless Wind, and a few others, including a straight couple with two dogs.
Before too long, Cindy's mom arrived along with her husband and two friends, in two giant RVs. The RVs were like space ships as they drove down the short road to the area where we camped.

Kennedy Meadows Day
Cindy and Ken had two RVs come in with a VFW Bug in tow. It was party central, and the Bug, along with a two-way radio served as a shuttle between the places important to hikers: the campground, the store, and Grumpy Bear's, and the restaurant, which are all at least 1.5 miles apart.
Yogi and I spent most of the day at the store sorting through boxes, food, and gear. We did laundry and showered too. It was all good.
When we'd cashed out (mine was only $17 and change-not bad...), the store had closed, and the shuttle Bug was ready to take us to the trail, I dared weigh my pack. I'd picked up my bear canister in KM, plus enough food for 10 day. That would get me to Vermilion Valley Resort on Lake Thomas Edison. I'm not carrying an ice ax or crampons because there's supposed to be less snow than last year. Other than adding a head net and an A-16 mosquito net sleeping thing, all my gear was the same. OK, so my pack weight. I shocked even myself: 75 pounds. So much for going lightweight. My food is heavy. A true hiker always blames his food.
We hiked from KM Road to one of the middle campgrounds, the one with the two big RVs.
Click for larger image.
We hung around and had a great burrito dinner, then hiked to the trailhead in the campground. There we camped. Neither of us wanted to get sucked into the vortex that a lot of free food and alcohol can create for us or others.

I slept well, and was happy to have a pit toilet nearby when I awoke.
We set off with our heavy packs and climbed all day. This is where I started my trip last year, so it was somewhat familiar. Up and up with frequent breaks, we headed north.

A rattler startled when Yogi passed. I made a wide berth. We never saw it, but it was my first, and hopefully last, rattlesnake encounter this trip.

Despite my best efforts, I have a lot of mosquito bites. They love me.
Yogi and I hiked past lots of places I recognized last year, and, surprisingly, a lot of places I didn't recall at all.
Sadly, the shooting star flowers that were so amazing last year in Gomez Meadow were not growing yet.
Two firsts today: Saw our first marmot, and got above 10,000' for the first time. The marmot was a furry tube of golden fur.
Camped on a saddle with Yogi and Cheddarhead. I found an old horn near my spot.
Despise having a lesson on getting lots of food into into a bear canister, I had way more food than could fit into it, so I did a proper counterbalanced bear hang.

Yogi and I left Cheddarhead when we set out at 6:45 AM. Ran into Megan and friend not two minutes from where we camped. They were headed out Trail Pass today.
The only wildlife report is two deer. They are so tame in National Parks (We are in Sequoia.), where they don't allow hunting. Deer in other places bolt for their lives.

Click for larger image
Camped just short of Crabtree Meadows. We didn't want to push it, and it's WAY less buggy here.
I'm understanding the landscape a little more, and seeing it better this time. The Great Western Divide is gorgeous, but not much snow. I could tell, mostly because of having been there last year, where Whitney is. I could see it on the approach, and knew we were taking a long U around the back.

What an amazing day. Yogi and I got in the few miles to Crabtree Meadows before too long. There we ran into Stroller and Goof. The four of us dumped gear and food and headed up Whitney.
I wasn't sure I wanted to go. I was thinking that a day laying around Crabtree Meadow wouldn't be such a bad thing. Yogi reminded me of the opportunity, and what great shape I was in. I knew I should go, and I did.
We ran into Sam I Am coming down at Guitar Lake.
I knew Stroller was into fishing, so I mentioned the fish in the inlet streams. We agreed to check them out on our way down.
We plowed up the 8+ miles and 4000' to the top under perfect conditions. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and the day was alive.
Up top, it wasn't too crowded. I decided that I wanted a picture of me naked on top. I ripped off my clothes, ran to the eastern edge, and it was done. The wind was freezing. Since I'm not putting the photo here, I'll tell you that I'm facing away from the camera.
As a consolation prize, here's the marmot who was not shy either.

Goof, Yogi, Cupcake, Stroller on top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

On our way down, Goof, Stroller and I glissaded down a snow slope, while Yogi made a video. It was fun but didn't seem to save much walking: By the time we had walked to the edge of the snow, Yogi was already there.
Going down goes a lot faster than going up, so before we knew it, we were at Guitar Lake. Actually, Goof had gone ahead to get fish for dinner. When we arrived, he was trying the spearfishing method with his broken Leki pole, standing in the middle, near the lake and walking up stream. Soon Stroller and I were in on the action.
Our team strategy paid off. Before too long I had swatted a fish onto the bank. Yes: I caught a fish with my bare hands. It was big enough to eat too. Soon Goof, having changed his methods, came up with two of his own. They were gorgeous fish with red stripes on their bellies and dots on their tails. I was sad to learn that the two females and one male were ready for spawning. I'd have rather let them spawn than me have a tasty extra bit to my dinner.

Met Lady Leaper and Scott on their way up as we came down.

I cooked my trout in olive oil and a shallot. It was really good.
I wish I could tell every detail about my day, but it's late and words can't capture it all.
I will say that the day went from great to outstanding when I ate my after-dinner snack before dinner. I broke the routine and reaped the rewards.

It started out as a normal day: Stroller, Goof, Yogi and I awoke at Crabtree Meadows. Stroller headed out first, then Yogi and I. Goof passed us during a morning break. Bighorn Plateau was gorgeous, then we hit snow.

Bighorn Plateau: Beautiful as always.


Before the snow, we had three wet crossings: Wallace Creek, W...Creek, and Tydnall. They were par for the course.
The snow was par for the course too. One field had a very shallow lake under it, and I ended up punching through to about 4" of very cold water. My feet warmed up quickly though as we approached Forester Pass.
This landmark on the trail is the highest point on the trail, 13,200'. The snow continued to obscure the trail as we climbed. The day was clear and the wind wasn't too bad. I was hiking in nylon pants, synthetic shirt, sun hat, and wind jacket (Patagonia Velocity). I had gloves and fleece hat ready for quick access.
The dreaded (by some) ice chute near the top of Forester was small and manageable. One reason was that it was about 4PM. The snow had slowed us to about a mile an hour. It felt a little exhausting, but nothing more than a day of hiking in snow.

Once you are at the top, all you can do is go down.
The north side of Forester had lots of snow. At the top, we could see 20' of trail, then we were on our own. Others' footprints and postholes followed a single path, so we took it. All ended at glissade lines.
Yogi had never glissaded before because she was terrified of it. Because it was so late, and because we needed to get down, she just did it. She spent a long time going down, breaking for safety, and I waited above. I started to get a bit cold, and got really cold when I tried to get a running start, and fell into the snow. My hands were cold. My feet were cold. As I glissaded down, my butt got cold. By the time we regrouped on some rocks about half way down, I was hypothermic.
I was hyperventilating, shivering, and unable to think clearly. I could barely move my hands, and my feet were numb stubs at the bottom of my legs.
Yogi helped me out of it. First I put on a wool shirt, heavier gloves, and my fleece hat. Yogi sat next to me (banging her tailbone) and rubbed me to get warmer. I think that's when she realized that I just wasn't cold. She helped me get out of my wet pants, shoes and socks, and into my wool pants and socks. Yogi then pulled out her sleeping bag and wrapped it around me. It felt so good to have the warmth and to have the wind off me. The sun was still above the ridge, so that helped warm me too.
We decided to camp, and Yogi scouted. We moved a short distance to a spot that was big enough for her single-person tent. I was shivering and teary. She got the tent set up and I got in. I was so cold and sensitive to the wind.
I kept on crying. I'm not sure why. I knew my body was feeling weird, and I was having these strange contractions through my body. I checked in with Yogi, and she was fine. She continued to set up camp, and then cooked for me. I was bundled up and starting to warm up. To make things a little more difficult, we were low on water. Although there's snow all around us, it takes lots of fuel to melt it.
I drank some of my dinner water as it was warming. It felt great. Dinner was even better. Although I had been eating my normal amount, as soon as we started postholing and being wet, we needed more food. That's what got me into trouble: I didn't have enough fuel to do what I was doing. My body started shutting down.
While dinner was cooking, Yogi kept me talking. I knew I wasn't supposed to go to sleep, but man I wanted to. I told her about my brother Patrick and sister Samantha. She then got to hear the horrors my sister had to endure growing up with two older brothers. I also told her about DD (Dancing Dragon/Michael) because he had made my hat. She was trying to keep me talking.
The talking and food helped me transition to a better state.
Soon Yogi was done with her dinner and in the tiny tent with me. It was actually great. I was happy to be out of the wind, warm, and with someone who was willing and able to help.

At one point when it was really bad, I looked at Yogi and said, "I'm frightened." She reassured me that everything would be OK. Every time she stepped away from the tent door, I'd start crying and sobbing.
But it all worked out.

I wrote yesterday's journal, and the first part of this one this morning. It's a clear, calm morning and the sun is warming us as we sit on our pads wrapped in our sleeping bags writing about what we just went through.
We are at 13,000', not even a quarter down Forester Pass, and there's a giant frozen lake below us. We are waiting for the snow to soften so we can continue our northward trek.
Last night was not as bad as it could have been. I was warm, and I think Yogi was too. At times I had to take off my synthetic jacket and hat because I was too warm. The rocks under my pad were little bother. It wasn't that cold, although our shoes froze within half an hour of us taking them off yesterday. I mean frozen solid. I couldn't move any part of the shoe. Right now, they are propped up facing the sun.
Must go eat more and see how the snow is softening up. All this and it's only 8AM . Here's an image that may capture the exposure of our tent:

Hypothermia Camp: The top is the top of Forester Pass.

The evening finds us at Rae Lakes. Our trip down the rest of Forester Pass was fine.

I don't know how to convey this, but the best thing that could have happened is for us to have camped where we did. If we had tried to get below the snow yesterday evening, we probably would have gotten into even more trouble. It was pretty complicated getting down, and in several places there was snow over water. Hypothermia was a big enough issue to stop us. Other things might not have stopped the northward trek of a couple of thru-hikers.

Hypothermia is interesting. It comes and goes. We did the right things, and I'm fine. In the morning, I felt 95%, and by lunch, I was 100%. I can't comprehend what Yogi did for me, other that to know I'd do the same for her, or any other hiker.

There is lots of snow everywhere, way more than last year. Here's an image of the north side of Glen Pass. You can make out the trail through the snow at the top.

Here's one near the top of Glen Pass looking south. Again, look for the trail along the side.

Saw a grouse with 6 or 7 chicks at Vidette Meadows. I like grouse.

What a great day of backpacking.
We left Rae Lakes where it was cold and damp, and had breakfast down the way, in the sunlight. The major goal of the day: Pinchot Pass. Last year, the 3800' or so climb kicked my ass. This year, I took it back.
It's over 7 miles from the low point of Woods Creek to the pass. It took us 7 hours to go 7 miles. Now, that may not seem like a conquest, but time and miles are not everything.
The first half of the trail up to Pinchot Pass was just climbing. The second half was climbing with no trail. We did a huge distance cross-country because snow was obscuring the trail most of the time.
I led the way, and Yogi was great. We are a good hiking team. I knew I could get us to the snow-free switchbacks that led to the final steep snow-covered approach to the pass. I'd caught a glimpse of these clear switchbacks earlier when the light was right, but could not see them in the final hour as we approached them. The whole approach was now in the shade and beginning to firm up on the way to freezing for the night. I just hoped I'd seen correctly.

I knew the snow would be fine when we crossed it, however, I was worried about what the other side would be like when we got to the top. We were estimating that we'd get there around 6PM. What if we had to camp? What if the other side had more snow than we'd been trudging through? I wasn't expressing these concerns, but Yogi pointed out that it would be sunny on the other side. I felt comfortable with her assessment, and stopped worrying.
As soon as we hit the pass, we walked back into the sunlight. The snow was manageable and not yet starting to freeze.

Our feet were wet all day. When we cross a creek and our feet get wet, we call it freedom. Once they are wet, we are free to get them wet all day. Of course, we try to keep them dry, or at least not freshly wet. Between the swollen streams and the wet snow, they stay pretty wet. They get cold if I am not moving.
Toward the end of the day today, I was declaring, as we approached roaring water we had to cross, "Let there be no more freedom. Let our freedom be curtailed, just for this crossing." Our final ford, across a lake outlet near the Taboose Pass junction, we shucked our shoes for the short crossing. Interestingly, the damp ground was colder than the water in the stream.

Another reason to not get the shoes soaked late in the day is evident the next morning: the more water in the shoe, the more solidly frozen they are. I think I've already written about this. Rock-hard, frozen shoes are no fun. No fun.
Saw Simon and Liz from England today. Only seeing Goof and Stroller's footprints.

I decided today that I want a life with more gratitude and less resentment.

I am setting my own course and finding others' footprints already there.

Mather Pass today. The approach had moderate amounts of snow and cross-country, and the backside the same. The approach was hard.

Yogi climbing rock to avoid steep snow. The trail? What trail? Simon and Liz are kick-stepping up.

While Yogi and I were cooking dinner, Lady Leaper and Scott clicked by. Lady Leaper, first thing out of her mouth: "Are you guys weekend hikers?" First, it was Tuesday, second, we met them on Whitney. Who needs the kind of attitude that thru-hikers are better?

Camped with the Two Joes at the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Kings River with ? River. We could smell their fire before we could see them. They are having a good time hiking the Sierra slowly. They have huge packs and each has a small guitar.
Tonight is the warmest in a long time, and we arrived in camp with dry feet, which means no frozen shoes tomorrow. It's warm because we are sleeping at something like 8000'. Tomorrow, we climb and climb and get to Muir Pass, 11,955'. We anticipate it will be the most snow and the hardest yet.

Sleeping tonight with dark trees rising on one side and glacially-polished granite falling away on the other. Evolution Creek roars in the distance and the tiniest of crescent moon floats in the early night sky with its planet friends. This home for the night is just a fraction of the beauty I've seen today.
First, I had a lousy morning. It was cold, I knew I had about 4,000' of climbing to Muir Pass, and I didn't want to do it. Plus we had a 6:30 AM get outta camp time.
I knew I couldn't just quit my hike. I'd still have to walk to where ever I was quitting, so I just hiked. It's a game I get into infrequently.
We also knew there was going to be a lot of snow. There was, on both the south and the north side of the pass.
Met Happy Jo, Little Ewok, and Sundance on one of our breaks. They came up on us fast. At that point the Two Joes were ahead of Yogi and I. The seven of us hung out at Muir Hut on the pass. Then we tackled the wet afternoon snow of the descent. I led the charge and did moderate amounts of postholing.

Click for larger image Cupcake, Joe A ("Jose"), Joe B ("Hose B"), Yogi, Happy JO, Little Ewok, and Sundance at Muir Hut on Muir Pass.

We all ended up having dinner together at the top of Evolution Lake, or the one before it. I really enjoy their company. Simon and Liz were just finishing as we arrived, same as yesterday.
We exchanged Lady Leaper stories and Han Solo tales. One of the Two Joes told us that Grasshopper was off the trail because of snow blindness. He got rid of his sunglasses after the desert. I hope he can get back on the trail.
After dinner, hiking was great. I was happy to be hiking, Evolution Valley in the setting sun was spectacular, and I was enjoying the company of my walking companions.

Part of Evolution Lake.

Looking forward to hash browns at VVR.

What an incredible day of hiking. 26.7 miles including ? Pass, which was relatively snow-free. The best part was the night hiking. The team today was Little Ewok, Happy JO, Sundance, Yogi and I.
I led the night hiking. Setting off with my small 4-LED headlamp into the night was exciting. Early on, tall dark trees created an opaque black forest, water created dark shiny patches on the ground, like pools of oil, and the stillness went on forever. I broke that stillness with my stride, managed the water with my nimble feet, and slipped through the darkness with my small body.
I had four headlamps, also feeble LEDs, bobbling behind me, chatting and confirming I was on course. We crossed roaring, swollen, steep creeks in dark canyons on skinny, slippery logs.
We had motivation: We wanted to get to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR). We were worried about the number of hikers we thought would be arriving at VVR and trying to catch the morning boat. We wanted on the first boat.
VVR runs two shuttles a day across Lake Thomas Edison, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. If there are a lot of hikers, they'll send another boat, but that takes time. The lake, and shuttle, are off trail, and the boat journey is part of a PCT adventure. Hikers can also choose to walk the 5 or 6 miles around the lake, but for $6, most of us choose to arrive by boat. It is off-trail, after all.
We were motivated to get to VVR early because of food. I was hungry for real food with the original fat (not added in, like my backpacking food), fresh foods, like vegetables, and juicy things, like plums, salsa, and meat.
So we pushed on through the night, deciding to finally camp when, at 11 PM, we reached the junction to Bear Ridge Trail. We still have 6 miles in the morning to make the 9:45 AM shuttle to VVR.

Today's day number 50 of my hike, and we are at the 871 mile mark on the trail. Yogi is a number master.
We awoke and got walking early, 6 PM, in order to be the first to the shuttle to VVR. I'd recalled from last year that the boats could only take 4-5 people, and we knew there would be the five of us and two other parties, Lady Leaper & Scott Still Roaming, and Simon & Liz. On our way to the ferry, we ran into Gottago who was camping near Katie (Raven), Tom (Spunky Edison), and Helene, the people we'd seen glissading down Whitney.
Our team was the first to arrive to the ferry loading place, so we knew we'd get on the first one.
Last year there was a shortage of bunk space, so I wanted to make sure we got bunks in the tent cabins. We worked out a strategy during our two hour wait in the morning sun. Happy JO, Tom, Gottago, and I went for a quick dip to clean up before hitting 'town'.
By the time the boat arrived, 13 hikers were waiting. Luckily, the boat could hold us all. LE and Puget, Ed and Pete, along with other PCTers and campers got off to resume their adventures. On the boat, hikers lined the outside seats and a row of backpacks filled the centerline of the boat.

We arrived to find Goof and Stroller at VVR, sick. I found out when I went to find Stroller to return his water bottle which I'd found 8 days earlier on the approach to Forester.

VVR is great, but a little expensive. Two AA batteries are $3.99. Do I really need to listen to my minidisk between here and Tuolumne? Will I do interviews between here and there? What is $4? I think I found a used battery that will fit the bill.
Am I rambling on too much? I have the luxury of lots of journal time as we sit around waiting for the Friday BBQ to get started.
Yogi and I got an Airstream as our free nights' accommodation. All hikers get the first night and first drink free at VVR. Usually the first night is a bunk in a tent cabin. Since we got to the registration early, we were offered the Airstream. We can't sleep in the sheets (just on top), and it has to be clean when we leave, but it's just great.
I just ordered pork ribs and chicken, cole slaw, zucchini and carrots, garlic bread, and a big baked potato. Hopefully it will be enough. For breakfast I had 2 eggs, home fries, 2 pork chops, and a side of sliced tomatoes. For lunch a few hours later, I had a mediocre grilled chicken salad with wedge-cut fries.

Little Ewok, Sundance, Happy Jo, Yogi, and Cupcake leaving VVR.

What a great day. Decided yesterday to take the 4PM boat out of VVR, so we had the whole day to sleep in, sort our food, eat an extra town meal and visit with other hikers. I am totally in love with Flutterby and Fancy Nancy. I'd seen their names in register entries, but this was our first meeting where I could appreciate them. They knew me by my hat, but we didn't establish where that had happened. It was probably the kickoff. FB and FN have a very different style of hiking, and I probably won't see them again.
Click for larger image

Even though we hiked only 6 miles today, we had lots of trail experiences. We, today, are the same as who I came into VVR with plus one: Little Ewok & Sundance, Happy JO, Yogi, and Gottago. We had several intense fords, including the wettest dry ford I'd ever done. It was at the base of a waterfall.

Yogi crossing below a waterfall on the trail with moral suppport from Sundance.

We are camped under two miles from the top of Silver Pass. We zoom toward Red's Meadow tomorrow. If we make it tomorrow or not, we'll have breakfast there Monday morning no matter what. Hot spring-fed free hot showers await us. I'm looking forward to endless amounts of hot water.
We had a rare fire in camp. We are low enough and in an open area of granite. We cooked in camp and are not taking proper bear precautions. Will our luck hold?

In Red's Meadows campground where we had to pay to stay. Plus, I had a very mediocre $20 dinner from the lunch menu here. (Note to future hikers: If you know you'll be at Red's Meadow for dinner, call from VVR to make a reservation, or else you have to eat off the lunch menu.) Did have a good hot shower from the hot springs. The showers make up for a lot.
We camped last night just short of Silver Pass, so we put in the miles today, 24.4 or so. Not much snow, finally.

Marie Lakes are just over Silver Pass.

Happy Jo, Little Ewok, Sundance and I stayed late and had breakfast at Red's Meadows. It was expensive and mediocre, and the service was poor. I think they really hate hikers. Yogi and Gottago went on.

Started the letter game with movies. In the end, it always comes down to a pairing of Sundance and I. We start with the letter A and take turns naming movie titles that begin with that letter. Words like, a and the don't count. There is no time limit. It's a game designed to help the miles fly by. It was my first time playing it.

Shadow Lake was just one of our views today. The JMT goes into the Shadow Lake basin.

We regrouped at points during the day. At some point, we had a short break together where we set a dinner destination. We broke apart after that.
When I got to the dinner spot, only Gottago was still on the trail. As soon as I dropped my pack, I got urgent poop signals. I scanned the area, trying to find a place that was away from rivers, lakes, trails, and potential campsites. It was slim pickings, but it looked good across a snow field. I grabbed my kit and set off like a chipmunk.

It's not every day that I poop in my pants. Today was one of those days. I couldn't make it across the snow field in time. I won't share the details, but it wasn't pretty.

I took it in stride. I cleaned myself up, and as I went back to camp, I announced, "If you don't want to see me naked from the waist down, don't look at me." Everyone looked. I put on my wool tights.
I went back and cleaned my pants. That took me a while and put me behind everyone, but Gottago still hadn't shown up. I realized then that I wasn't feeling too good.

Sundance started to get worried about Gottago and went out with a whistle to look for her. He said that he'd give us three long whistles if he needed help. I continued to make my dinner, which was taking forever. Sundance wasn't gone long when we heard 3 whistle blasts, and Gottago cry for help.
Yogi took off. Happy JO packed up his pack with warm stuff and Little Ewok and Sundance's first aid/drug kit. I was going to go too, but we didn't want to leave any part of the party alone, so I stayed. While I worked on dinner (I was starving), I put on warmer clothes in case we had an emergency. The only dry pants I had left were my yellow Propore rain pants. We were to follow up in 45 minutes if they were not back. I was worried because Gottago was tired today.
Soon, they all came into camp, all well. Gottago had lost the trail and had been traveling using map and compass bearing. She blew her whistle when she hear Sundance calling for her, then called out help. Sundance didn't think that we'd all go into panic mode.
We had a jovial dinner, laughing about my misfortune and Gottago's little adventure. I proposed that I soiled myself the moment Gottago stepped off the trail. That lead to the idea that I have psychic bowels.

As we were leaving camp, I pulled off my heavy insulating layer and left my yellow wind jacket on. As we were hiking towards bed, I had a revelation I shared with the group as I reflected on my outerwear: "Today, I am a lemon cupcake." Gottago was laughing so much she fell down.
Camped along Rush Creek in a tiny spot. By the time we had gotten there, I'd invented a new character: Nova and her psychic bowels. Her motto is: The answer is blowing in the wind.

The crew, Yogi, Gottago, Sundance, Little Ewok, Happy JO and I, left our camp by the Marie Lakes Trail junction at the normal time, about 6AM. We got Donahue Pass out of the way, and played the letter game with movies, resuming with Sundance and I finishing M, to make Lyell Canyon go faster.

Click for bigger image An easy, but scenic, crossing after Donahue Pass.

The group split up as the day went on. Gottago got antsy at our non-lunch break, and headed out. Happy JO was already ahead, preferring to go really fast through Lyell Canyon. We passed Pete and Ed.
As we got closer to Tuolumne Meadows, Yogi and I, and Little Ewok and Sundance paired up. We waited for them at a junction. They headed toward the campground, we toward the Lodge. They are off to get married on Glacier Point on Saturday. I hope I see them again.
We arrived in Tuolumne Meadows around 2:30. We showered, made dinner reservations, and Gottago got a tent cabin.
We then headed to the PO and store. The box Yogi and I sent from Kennedy Meadows is not here. Everything else is: my bounce box, my laptop box, and my resupply box, plus a Thermarest repair kit I ordered from REI. Richard and Tsvee left a note too. Unofficial mail is fun.
The usually lousy cafe here had great vegetarian chili.
Yogi decided that she did want to split the room with Gottago, which meant that I could afford to do it too. When Mark/Bushwacker became the fourth, it sealed the deal. We are in beds tonight with unlimited access to showers. There's a warm fire in the stove.
I'd called Ginger from VVR & Red's Meadows to made sure we could hook up. She left a note that said I could use her place while she was gone. I set up World Headquarters in short order. It takes a lot of time to do my site. I really want it to be great, but figure that it's better to have something, rather than nothing. I'll continue to work on it when I finish the trip.

Tuolumne Meadows Day
It's time for reflection. There are many things I think about over the course of days that don't make it into the normal journal flow. I'm here at Ginger's, working on the site, and now's the time for some of it.

I've seen crows on every leg of my trip. Before this trip, I'd always had no respect for crows. I'd seen them as cawing annoyances and slightly evil. I have been incredibly impressed watching crows fly on this trip. The other day, I saw one doing a tight spiral while dropping in a fairly strong breeze. The shape and constant adjustment was amazing. And the crow made it look easy. Perhaps other birds do this too, but because of their cockiness and size, I'm getting to see the crows do it at close range. They are masters of the skies.

When I say there's lots of snow, I mean there's lots of snow for doing the type of trip I'm doing. I'm hiking with lightweight gear, in trail running shoes, with no snow/ice gear, like an ice ax or crampons. The snow levels get much higher in the Sierra. I'd do it then with different gear.
I've been OK with the gear I have. I have never wanted an ice ax. The snow is not solid, even in the mornings. Crampons have been wholly unnecessary.

Large topic, I know. My thoughts today are that if we all got a little closer to what's important, food, water and shelter, the world would be a better place. My life is so simple on the trail. I need to have enough water and food, and make sure that my body is protected. I face, and overcome, dangerous situations every day. They are not wildly dangerous, like driving 80 mph or going to a sale at the North Face Outlet. They are human-scale dangers that I can comprehend and asses pretty fully. Because I can take most of it in, I can make comfortable decisions.

It shouldn't be too long before another journal update on the site.

Tuolumne Meadows to Echo Lake Update

Glad I decided to stay. Ginger knew just what I wanted and took me to it: A real California meal. We went to the Whoa Nellie Cafe in the Mobil station at intersection of Highways 120 and 395. I walked in and ran into Fancy Nancy and Flutterby who were out from Red's Meadow with a friend.
I had seared Ahi on a generous bed of greens with fruit and spaghetti squash condiments. I added a side of fries. It was great! Fresh, yummy food, simply prepared. Who could ask for more?
Ginger's a friend I met through my father and Yosemite Association. She's a ranger in Tuolumne in the summer, and Yosemite Valley in the winter.

The east side had thunder storms both up and back. I'll probably get rain tomorrow.
Did lots of work on the laptop. It really takes a whole day. I hope it's worth it. I'd like a zero-mile day where I didn't do anything.
I am definitely starting another phase of my trip. I'll either be alone, or be hiking with a new set of people. Let the fun begin.

Woke up outside of Ginger's cabin around 5AM. It was great to have a leisurely morning. I did little tasks, and necessary tasks as they came to me, not in a mad rush to get packed up and hiking. Ginger had an 8AM obligation and she requested the cabin before then to prepare for her day. That help me set my agenda.

Ginger's been with me in two ways on my trip. Years ago, she stated, "You can always tell the thru-hikers. They will eat anywhere." I remembered this as something I didn't quite understand when she said it. Then one day on my trip, I got a full understanding as I sat down in a parking lot to eat. I laughed.
Ginger, like a lot of my friends, prefers to spend lots of detailed quality time with nature and in an area, something that doesn't really happen on a thru-hike. We get quantity, not quality, to grossly sum it up. I actually feel I get a lot of quality, it's just different from what Ginger gets sitting for the 15th time on a rock in a meadow in the morning and comparing it to the times she's spent on the same rock in the evening.
So, I've been aware of the quality Ginger has to her interactions with nature and trying to bring them to my hike. I don't hesitate to linger over some flowers, or to slow down so that I don't startle some deer and can watch them longer.

Cupcake and Ginger outside the cabin.

I estimate that I departed Tuolumne Meadows at 10:15AM today. Strawberry Girl & Blackhawk, DLow, Mags, and Restless Wind had all just gotten in. It was good to see them. To my surprise, Happy JO walked up. He and I hiked today over 20 miles, despite the late start. We may not stick together this short leg because he made a commitment to meet some people at 5:30PM on Saturday at Highway 108. That means, with our 20 today, that we are looking at a 26 and a 30. I could probably do it, but do I want to? It would put me closer to Yogi and Gottago, who headed out of TM at 1PM yesterday. I think Iron Chief (formerly Matt G.) and Bushwacker are with them.

Iron Chef (arriving at VVR).

I'm getting to see new territory. I have not been in this part of Yosemite. The drop off and views to the north after Miller Lake were quite lovely.
I heard that Blackhawk had written that the PCT should be called the PCR, for the Pacific Crest River. Many times a day there's water flowing down the trail. Today was no exception.

There is almost no snow here north of TM. Benson Pass early tomorrow will tell us more, but it's pretty low.

Happy solstice. The last 24 hours have been about wood: moving wood, breaking wood, snapping wood, rolling wood.

Camped by Wilber Lake with Pur Boy and Iron Chef. Happy JO has moved on. I did enough miles today, thank you very much.

Had a deep, wet ford first thing in the morning. I gave myself total freedom because I didn't want to mess up my feet on the rocks or take the time to take off my shoes, cross, dry my feet and put my shoes back on. Another reason is that I think one of my metatarsals is out from a barefoot crossing yesterday.
I was in deep canyons and open meadow for the first 3/4s of the day. It was mosquito hell. There was no stopping for miles and miles. I would pause to see if I could get a snack, but I'd get attacked. Mosquitoes love me. The can find me and tell their friends faster than snot.

On one of my crossings, I saw a dead tree bending down across the water. The far end was narrow and not touching the ground. It looked as if it would touch the ground if I put my weight on it. It was also thin enough that it looked like it might break with all my weight.
I decided to give it a try. The stream wasn't too wide, maybe 5'. I tested my weight with one foot and it all seemed good. I was too high to use my poles in the water and the tree was too narrow to use them on it.
I pulled my other foot onto the bent wood. The far edge of the dead tree still hung above the ground. The worse thing that could happen is that I'd get wet if this didn't pan out. I inched my way across. The wood began to bend, making my path downward-sloping. With each step, the tree moved closer to the ground, and my path got narrower and narrower.
Finally the tree touched the ground on the opposite shore. I made my final moves and jumped to dry land.

Today was a morning of following the blue trail, trail full of water reflecting the clear blue sky.

Much later in the day, still in mosquito hell, I ran into Gottago with Billy Goat. I'd been hiking with Pur Boy, Iron Chef having bolted, never to be seen. I saw Bob, Don & Leslie. They joined Gottago, Billy Goat, Pur Boy and I. We decided to cook there, at the last reliable water, then start up toward Sonora Pass.

At that point we were just past the 1000 mile mark on the trip. It's incredible to think about: walking 1000 miles and still having 1658 to go. Here's a self portrait near the milestone:
Click for larger image

We pushed it a bit and are camped at a spectacular spot. In the far distance to the south are the northern granite mountains of Yosemite. There's an almost-full moon gracing the clear sky.

See the four dots on the snow? Those are hikers (Gottago, Bob, Don and Leslie) on their way to Sonora Pass.

Our site is a former jeep road. We are all sleeping out, lined up along a fairly level section just off the PCT. We are sleeping on volcanic rock of all sizes smaller than a fist.

The transition from the granite landscape to the volcanic was amazingly quick. The rivers are different, but the flora and fauna are the same.

Awoke a couple of times last night. The cold was coming through my Thermarest. The sun on the mountains was just as great in the morning. We knew what we were in store for in the day's hiking. The goal was Sonora Pass, and the Book of Lies warned if there has been a lot of snow that the 1200' descent to Sonora Pass and Highway 108 could be 'even deadly.' Ice and snow were the problem. So we held back our mileage yesterday and got a late start this morning so that we could hit the descent as late as possible.
There was very little snow or ice. Over the high Sierra passes, we'd seen a lot worse and treacherous. I was very angry at the Book of Lies this morning. Of course, if we hadn't heeded the BoL's warnings, we wouldn't have had our spectacular sleeping spot. Things work out.

On the way down to Sonora Pass, I did some glissading. It was fun, but didn't seem to save any time.

I got a ride to Kennedy Meadows (the north one) from the Corralitos 4H club. Corralitos is a rural community near Santa Cruz. Member of my extended family live in Corralitos. Small world.
Kennedy Meadows (North) is actually nice. It's the first 'vacation spot' that I've been to on this trip that I might consider vacationing in. I got my box, did laundry (first since VVR), and had an OK lunch.
Gottago, Bob, and Leslie showed up in Mountain Momma's camper. Mountain Momma is Billy Goat's wife. They gave me a ride back to Sonora Pass. Back at the pass, before too long, Happy JO showed up. He'd made his big miles and got the town connection he was looking for. He was happy and looked well-rested.
I helped Pur Boy make an alcohol stove from Tecate beer cans. I hope it works for him.
We all set out, minus Pur Boy and Billy Goat.
Happy JO and I pushed on the furthest, and I'm glad we did. Did lots of cross-country after passing through surreal volcanic formations.

Happy JO and I did 14 miles by noon. Iron Chef passed me at some point. HJ and I are camped a mile past Ebbitts Pass. I think that's a 27-mile day. He's got a plan that I think I can tag along with, meaning he and I may be hiking together for a stretch. I like HJ and hiking with him. He's engaged to Jen who's in France right now. I may get to meet her in Washington State. We'll see. She'll be on the trail, but I may be south of them.
It was an emotional day for me. I was missing my friends Tom and David, and other friends and members of my extended community. I wanted to go to Dance Church, be greeted by Connell the Barbarian, and feel the bodies warm from dancing.

Nice hiking in the morning. Lots of contouring with mature trees and granite. Peak 9500 was interesting. It's volcanic material in a granite landscape.
I took three small falls today, two on slippery mud, one on snow. My afternoon was frustrating. I didn't have any energy, little things went wrong, and, yes, the mosquitos bit me freely.
While at home, before the trip, I made a great batch of polenta. I threw some in the dehydrator and packed it up for the trip. I attempted to eat it tonight for dinner. Yuck! Dehydrated fresh ingredients don't work.
HJ and I had dinner at Ebbitts Pass, right next to the road. We were hoping for someone to stop, curious about the PCT hikers. Our hope included that they would have (and give us) Chinese food or avocados. No one stopped for the two dudes with beards and bleached hair on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I wonder why?
As I walked down the trail today, I knew that Yogi had been this way. I keep hoping I'll catch up, but it won't happen. In a short time, she'll leave the trail for a wedding in KC, and then return.

Got a note on the trail from Yogi. Trail mail is good. She was telling me her plans in hopes that I could help her get from Reno to the trailhead. We'll see how it goes.
Camped at Carson Pass so that the headlights of the west/southbound traffic shines where we are sleeping. Got in around 7 to find a note from Happy JO that he got a ride to Lady Leaper's condo. And he would see me at Echo Lake. Oh well.
Iron Chef showed up and he's camped here too.
Did some hairy snow crossings alone to get here.
It's good that there's a phone here, but it doesn't work that well.
Got rain drops from developing clouds, during the most exposed part of the day, passed a mountain named the Nipple.

A sample of the landscape today.

Hiked from Carson Pass to Highway 50, Echo Summit, today. Leapfrogged with Iron Chef, then caught up to Josh (now J-Bird) and Tom. Katie's done this section so she's taking two weeks off.
The distances on the trail signs today seemed way off. The trail was generally good, and at times the scenery was really gorgeous. Mosquitoes were abundant.
Here's the frustrating part about hiking through mosquito areas: When I start going up hill, I slow down. When I slow down, the mosquitoes have a higher bite ratio. When they bite me, I try to swat them, which usually involves slowing down. When I slow down, they bite more.
So I try to pound up hill, but then I get sweaty and uncomfortable. Then I want to take a break. It's a no-win situation. I finally resorted to deet. Iron Chef put up his tent for lunch and a nap as a solution.
Echo Lake Resort and Echo Chalet are the same place. I'd been having anxiety that I had boxes in two locations. They were generally friendly.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. My could not reach my sister. I was hoping to get together with them, but I was two days ahead of my projections. Happy JO and I had talked about getting a room in South Lake Tahoe, but he was listed on a chalkboard as having rented a boat with Megan. It was confusing because they were supposed to be behind me.
I decided to call Jill and Ethan, and Ethan offered to come and get me. Just after I hung up, Happy JO and Megan showed up. On foot. They were on the board because they had a message.
I got a ride to Highway 50 where Ethan was to pick me up, but I did not end up where I thought I'd be. We eventually hooked up and headed off for Carson City, about an hour's drive.
We went straight to Ethan's parent's house for a dinner party that also included Ethan's sister and her husband, and Jill's parents. I had not showered since Tuolumne Meadows and my clothes were pretty dirty. I met everyone and hopped in the shower while Ethan went home and got me some of his clean clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Dinner was lovely. I was the entertainment, and not the imposition I thought I'd be when Ethan suggested it. I ate wheat and dairy. Jill's dad, John, and Maria, my connection to Jill and Ethan, it seems have butted heads in the past. I got to hear some good stories about Maria in the days before I met her.
Jill and Ethan's little ones are great. Elizabeth is 6 and Ann is 18 months. I taught Ann the word 'dirt' after dinner. We ate outside in the warm evening.

I'm considering staying here until Sunday, when we could pick up Yogi and get a ride back to Echo Summit.
Ethan and I went to a barber in Carson City. It was an old-fashioned barber. Luckily, I didn't get any stinky cologne. Then Ethan set me up with a bike and backpack for a town excursion. I went to grab a lunch a Java Joe's and see a chiropractor. I stopped at a health food store in between.

Echo Lake to the End of June Update

What a great decision to take time off the trail, and how lucky I am that Jill and Ethan have been willing to put me up. World Headquarters has been my focus, but I've also been trying to help out around the place. Had a nice time pushing the girls on the swing yesterday evening while the other adults worked on projects. My sous cheffing was well-received.
I feel a little weird because my goal of being off the trail is to have my feet up and not do anything. It's not possible, but I still feel like a loafer.
Went to see Minority Report as a way to not do anything. I love having the freedom that the bike brings me.
My plans have come together well. Yogi's going to catch a shuttle to South Lake Tahoe where I'll be with my sister, her family, and my Dad.

Jill, her mom, Ann, Elizabeth and I headed to Nevada Beach on Lake Tahoe. I spent the morning getting the site updated and finishing up all the stuff I'd thought get done because I had all this time off.
Nevada Beach was lovely. I never thought much of Lake Tahoe, but now I actually have something to like. Samantha, Brian, Bailey and Jack arrived strolling down the beach. Soon it was a bunch of kids and adults having fun and getting too much sun.
I transferred my stuff to Samantha's car and the five of us headed to South Lake Tahoe.
We ate a late lunch at Planet Hollywood, then headed back to the hotel for a swim. Samantha was great: She bought trunks for me so I could join the kids in the pool. It was the first time I got to play with them in water. I hope to do it more.
Then we headed back to the room and my Dad showed up, as planned. Samantha, my Dad and I headed out for dinner. Brian stayed with the kids, opting for room service.
Dinner with the three of us was really enjoyable. We got caught up and shared stories. I ended up having only a dinner salad because the kitchen was inflexible: Everything on the menu, except the steaks, had dairy in it, and they wouldn't change it.
We headed back to the hotel where I continued the dance with my laptop while I watched Peacemaker on the TV and Bailey slept beside me.
It was a great day.

I stayed in the hotel while everyone else went out. Got lots done. By the time we checked out, it was time to go to the Hard Rock for our 2PM rendezvous with Yogi. She'd confirmed on Samantha's cell phone.

We made it to our destination, Echo Lake where we hung out a while. Then my sister and her family took off, and Yogi and I started hiking north.

I got to sleep pretty quickly, only to be awakened by Yogi calling Cupcake! in a fairly concerned tone. I assumed we had a bear problem, but a quick glance to the food and cock of the ear came up empty. I replied as all this happened, "What?" I hear some mutering. I asked, "Are you asleep?" Still no answer, but then, "I hate sleeping in the trees."
Yogi was talking in her sleep. I checked the time and it was only 10PM. I HATE SLEEPING IN TREES? I had to laugh. It's what we do all the time.

That's all for June. Here's July.


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