After a relaxing zero day (i.e. no miles hiked on the trail) and two evenings here in lovely Mammoth Lakes, CA, we finally made it to their library and it is by FAR the best library on the trail thus far. It is huge and spacious and has 20 or more computers for public use-- AMAZING! Sorry for all the caps but it truly is remarkable after all of the tiny, closet-like, 1-computer, 2 chair libraries that we have been lucky enough to find along the trail. It goes right along with Mammoth Lakes -- generally the most full service town (free buses!) that we've passed through since Big Bear-- about 500 trail miles ago!
Since my last post, we have hiked another hundred trail miles or so, putting us at mile 906 along the trail (not including our side trips over Mt Whitney and Kearsarge Pass). We hiked through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which were spectacular, and then entered the John Muir Wilderness area. We had a tough trek over John Muir Pass. After clear sunny skies in the morning, the sky darkened and thunder started to boom right as we were beginning to peak above tree line into the ever so exposed rocky mountain peaks. The trail approached the pass from the east and was flooded out from melting snow in so many spots that we lost it again and again, all the while trying to pick up our hiking pace to beat the storm. But it seemed like luck was in our favor when the dark clouds started to lighten and the thunder ceased for what seemed like quite a while. We reached the illusive top of the pass and found a small stone shelter with several hikers inside who were waiting out the storm. Thinking that the storm was passing, we decided to take a little break in the shelter before heading down. Thirty or so minutes later, we rallied to head down the mountain pass-- 6 miles to tree line-- and just a little ways down the trail the lightening and thunder started again and this time they were close. We stalled a few moments to reassess, and then decided to head back to the shelter until the storm moved off a bit. Little did we know, the storm would continue to sit on top of the mountain pass for hours-- only increasing in intensity, sending down hail, snow, and rain and lots more lightning and thunder. More hikers arrived in the small shelter and we all considered ourselves quite lucky to be dry and out of the storm until.... the shelter started to leak.... everywhere! It was not promising to be a cozy night on top of the pass in a cold, leaky, crowded, stone shelter, so around 7:30pm, many hours later, Patrick and I decided to make a break for it and ran down the pass, through the hail and thunder, lightening and melting snow fields, to lower elevations. Though the trail stayed mostly flooded while we hiked down, the thunder and lightening and precipitation slowly subsided and gave way to breathtaking sunset colors on the mountain peaks and valleys. The whole granite valley was glowing a deep burgundy and highlighted the edges of the peaks along our descent. We ended our hike by headlamp and set up camp just before the trail crossed a large body of water, which seemed like a better task tackled in daylight hours.
This afternoon we are headed back to the trail and will enter Yosemite National Park when we head over Donahue Pass tomorrow afternoon. Our next few sections are a bit shorter and we're both excited to carry a little less food weight through the rest of the intense high sierra trail. We also sent our ice axes back to VT yesterday, since word on the trail is we won't be needing their assistance anymore. But along with the melting of the snow comes warmer conditions and that means mosquitoes! We've already had the first influx of mosquito hatchings in our last few days on the trail. We are hoping for the best, but are hiking with our mosquito headnets and our killer instincts, of course.
So many, many miles later-- here's another blog post! I had this mistaken idea that public internet access was easy to come by these days. Nope. Library hours are slashed. Libraries themselves are forsaken to the outskirts of small towns. And internet cafes? Well, those have definitely gone the way of the payphone... which is to say, they are no more. But nonetheless, the moon was in the right phase and all forces conspired so that I am now sitting here in Independence, California in a lovely little one room library in a courthouse basement. And its right across from a reasonable motel! Amazing! Before my computer minutes run out I will share a bit about our hike in these last weeks. Most notably, we had to get off the trail twice for a handful of days each time because Patrick (i.e. Dharma Bum) contracted giardia from some unsavory water source. There are a lot of questionable water sources in the southern sections of the PCT, so unfortunately, he was not alone. But with the help of so many strangers and trail angels, he was able to get antibiotics in Lake Isabella and is now once again a healthy and generally happy camper. We returned to the trail and made it through the last march of southern California-- countless miles of hot exposed hiking through recent forest fire and finally entered the long awaited High Sierra.
And it has been amazing! One breathtaking day after another. We summited Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48, and hiked over Forrester Pass, the highest point on the whole Pacific Crest Trail! What a high! Coming over Forrester Pass into Kings Canyon National Park was nothing shy of magical. We hiked out Kearsarge Pass this morning and hitched down here into town. Now we're gearing up for 7 more glorious days in the high sierra to our next resupply in Mammoth Lakes.
Recording moments from our journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. (All pre-2015 entries are Patrick's words on work and life at the homestead).