Day 72: The lowest of lows

Day 72
June 29
7 miles

I got up first and was able to successfully take care of my problem in privacy. As quietly as I could, I ate breakfast and packed up. Still, StoryTime had not yet arisen. Did I really have to wait around to take pictures with him? I went over and asked. He got up, looked around, and decided that it wasn’t worth trying because the morning light did not make the scenery look nearly as beautiful as it looked last night. Fine. I went on my way, with only six miles to hike until I reached the highway. The trail continued to climb and then dropped onto the other side of the pass.
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I had no idea how much snow I was about to encounter! These miles were some of the most beautiful ones I had hiked through, but also some of the scariest. The snow was slippery and I had to carefully place each step.
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I couldn’t imagine how hikers without poles made it through these parts! I relied on mine for balance and support. They are what kept me from slipping off into the abyss below. Being alone, I felt that I had to be extra careful of my footing. At times, I followed footprints in the snow that lead away from the trail and had to sidestep back down. Ever so slowly, I made it out of the snow and looked back to see the path I had just taken.
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I continued to descend, leaving the openness of the mountains and entering back into the trees. Still, I had small patches of snow to cross.
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Far down below, I could see the road. I followed the switchbacks and didn’t rush, knowing that wanting to get there wasn’t going to help me get there any faster. A couple of hikers were starting south and we crossed paths. After a long dry stretch, a couple of streams appeared, and eventually, the road was only meters away.
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There was a handwritten note taped to the sign at the trail head alerting us to trail magic up ahead. I crossed the highway, saw a second note and decided to drop my pack and check it out. It turned out to be father than I expected, at a campground. It was being put on by a former thru-hiker and all I saw were people drinking beer and some junk food laid out on a table, which did not interest me. I just wanted to find a ride to the Northern Kennedy Meadows store, 11 miles away, to pick up my resupply box. I asked if I should try getting a ride here, but was told that no one could take me. The guy said he was only interested in getting me drunk. I told him I had left my pack down by the road and he instantly became animated and told me never to leave my pack near a road! He had seen far too many thefts in the past few years. I ran off to make sure it was there and was thankful to see it untouched. MudD had arrived in the meantime and was waiting for his girlfriend, Dingo. He didn’t have much to say to me. Dingo arrived, excited for the trail magic and they quickly took off while I went over to the side of the road to stick out my thumb. Several cars later, a nice woman stopped. She was on her way home from vacation and was happy to take me where I needed to go. She was interested in my journey, which made the ride very pleasant and pass by quickly. I offered to buy her lunch, or at least a coffee, but she said she had just eaten.
I headed into the store and waited to ask the cashier for my box. It’s always a tense moment to arrive somewhere, hoping they have the box you packed containing everything you need to get through the next stretch of trail. She looked through her list and didn’t see my name… My stomach dropped. As she helped another customer, she asked me to go through the list. I looked at each name and my heart sank. “It’s not there.” I told her it was sent USPS, and she responded that they only accepted UPS. I asked if there was a way to get on the internet to contact my resupply people and was told to talk to the woman at the main desk. I was charged $5 to use the wifi and sent a text to Brian asking if perhaps my box was sent to the other Kennedy Meadows, over 300 miles back. After telling them that this place only accepted UPS, they said that they had called and were told that they also accepted USPS and that is how they sent it. This lady said that no one here would have sent that. If it was shipped USPS, it was now sitting in a post office over an hour away. She told me that I could buy more food at the campstore. I asked about the possibility of taking a shower and doing laundry and she told told me she would have to see how much laundry they had to do first. I decided to eat something and worry about that afterwards.
I sat down at a table and ordered a hamburger as I charged my electronics. Now that I had wifi, I was able to receive my texts, but was disappointed that no one had sent me any. I wrote to my Swiss friend and told him that I had reached the 1,000 mile point. He congratulated me and then said that he had some news that was going to be hard for me. Immediately, I knew what it was. He had started seeing someone else. All I wanted to know was for how long. He said that it started three months ago, before I even started the trail and that made me very upset. He had lied to me and made me believe that he was still free. In Mammoth, I brought up the possibility of visiting him after the trail and he still did not say anything. I felt extremely betrayed.
Meanwhile, Ham called on the store phone, not knowing where she had sent the package. There was nothing anyone could do about it now. Because I had already had the problem of one of my resupply boxes not getting to me in Colorado, I knew that I could make it through this problem, as well. I held myself together on the outside, but internally, I felt very upset. Everything that I had spent so much time planning for what I would need in the next section was now not there for me- my maps, my guidebook pages, my contacts and toiletries, and all of my food. And the store here had nothing but junk food. If I was still lactose-intolerant, I don’t know what I would have done.
I finished my lunch and inquired about a shower. I was charged $6 for the use of one with no shampoo or conditioner. The store didn’t even sell conditioner! I was also told that I would not be able to do my laundry.
My Swiss friend wanted to talk with me over Skype to ease the hard feelings. With the small amount of reception I had, I went out to the back porch, where many people were sitting. There was no privacy in this place. I was angry and not proud that I ended up riasing my voice as I asked my friend why he mislead me and wouldn’t allow me the decency of telling me the truth. I had told him again and again that the truth is the only thing I can handle. All he could say was that he didn’t want to hurt me and that he didn’t know if it was going to develop into something serious when it started. I felt like I had fallen into the bottom of my personal ditch. I had been sick for almost a month, was still trying to hike over 20 miles a day in tough terrain and tough conditions, everything that I needed to get through the next part of the trail was gone, and now my heart was absolutely shredded. I could not possibly be in a lower place.
I had planned on only spending a couple of hours at this place to eat, shower, re-organize, and then head back out. Now that things were in disarray, I had to figure out what to do. Should I stay overnight? Should I stay for dinner and then head out? Reservations for dinner were required, so I asked if there was room for me. There was. I continued my phone call in the lobby after having calmed down considerably. Then, a lady whispered to the woman at the front desk. “How is she talking on the phone?”. When she learned I was on Skype, she told her that was against the policy. I was asked to hang up. Some places seem to be a vortex of bad energy and this was definitely one for me.
I went to look for replacement food in the store and couldn’t believe the junk I had to buy. I knew it was only four days and that I could make it through, though. I returned to the lobby and waited for the door to the dining room to open. It never did. Emma and Cuddles appeared, however. It was so nice to finally see some friendly faces! When I told Emma about my box not getting to me, she said that some hikers had decided to quit the trail and were giving away some of their food outside. I went out to take a look and saw FunSize. He thought it was karma that this food was being made available to me since I had given away a lot of my own food in Tuolemne Meadows. Unfortunately, I had already bought everything I needed, so I just took a few extra treats. I found it very interesting that the lady at the desk immediately pointed out the hiker box in the store to Emma, but never told me it was there!
It was well after 5, so I headed over to the other door of the restaurant to find that they had already given away my table while I was waiting for the other door to open. I was directed to one on the porch instead. My waitress was the same lady who was so mad that I was talking on Skype. She was the rudest waitress I have ever had in my life! This place was awful! I finished my mediocre meal, made worse with the bad attitudes, and went to do my final packing. I saw a truck pull out of the driveway and hoped to flag him down, but he drove off too quickly. I had no choice but to start walking. About half a mile later, a truck pulled over. The driver said he could take me to the end of this short road, but was then heading in the opposite direction. I took him up on it. When we reached the turn-off, I saw another thru-hiker trying to hitch back to Sonora Pass with a cardboard sign. I asked him how long he had been trying. “Two hours.”
“What?!” It was nearly 7:00 and there wasn’t much daylight left. I immediately stuck out my thumb and threw some feminine energy into it. Soon after, a truck pulled over and the driver said he would be willing to come back and take us after he had unloaded some things at his campsite. It was better than nothing! I stuck out my thumb again as another truck approached. It stopped and the driver said he could take us! Hurray! I felt a bit more uplifted because of the quick success and my ability to help Braveheart. Our driver wanted to know about our experiences so far and I enjoyed interjecting my opinions after Braveheart gave his answers. Soon, enough, we were back at the site of the trail magic. A whole new set of thru-hikers were sitting around, but I barely knew any of them and decided that I wanted to be on my way. I had no idea where the trail was, though! After several false starts, I was on my way up a very steep climb. It seemed oddly steep for the PCT. Once I made it to the top, a view appeared and I took the time to look out and appreciate where I was. The evening light was beautiful.
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I continued on and found a very nice campsite and then checked my GPS to see what mile I was at. It turned out that I was not even on the PCT! I walked back without my pack and realized how far I had veered off. The sun was now setting and I had to hurry to retrieve my pack and backtrack.
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At last, I found the PCT and a makeshift camp spot in between a couple of trees right by the trail. A couple out for an evening walk passed by me.
Once I set up my spot, I was finally able to let go of the control I had been keeping and feel all of the pain I had experienced in this one day. Tears flooded out. This was an extremely difficult day in so many ways. I was in an extremely vulnerable place without the physical things I needed and with my heart in a very shattered place.
I decided to take a few minutes to write in my journal, and for the first time, I drew a heart for myself. It’s so easy for me to give my heart to other people and to wait with extraordinary patience for theirs to possibly open in return. It never does. Coming from a history of abuse and neglect, self-worth is the hardest thing for me to learn, and my biggest obstacle in this life. I knew it was now time to start making self love and compassion a priority. Thankfully, my yoga practice had taught me that I am always surrounded by love, that it doesn’t exist within one person, and that the way in which anyone behaves is never personal. I reminded myself of these things and then cried myself to sleep.

Day 71: Sonora Pass

Day 71
June 28
mile 989.5-1012
22.5 miles

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I got up at 6:20 to find my sleeping bag extremely wet with condensation! I almost couldn’t believe it! Where was this moisture coming from? I also discovered that my new platypus that I bought in Bishop already had a leak in it! Half of the water that I had collected last night had leaked out overnight. I would have to take more time to collect and purify water again this morning. I cooked some maple nut oatmeal for breakfast and before I even took a sip of coffee, had to run off to find a place to go to the bathroom. What came out was no different than the first time this happened on the trail after Lake Isabella! The mosquito frenzy had also returned as soon as the sun came out, making it hard to enjoy anything. Only when I heard a loud noise and turned my head to see a deer standing casually near my camp spot, could I let out a laugh. I love how they stand there casually as if they have no cares in the world and nothing frightens them, but then easily get scared and run away. Seeing these bigger animals always gets me out of my head and brings me back to a more open state.
I spread out my sleeping bag and groundcloth on top of some rocks where the sun was hitting, hoping they would dry out quickly. When I couldn’t wait any longer I packed everything up and hit the trail. It was now 7:54! This was a very late start for a big day ahead!
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Around mid-morning, I saw the first person of my day. He was sitting on a rock, eating a snack while being swarmed and bitten by a cloud of mosquitoes. He had a beard and was skinny and I assumed that he was a thru-hiker, at first. However, he did not say anything to me. He was clearly not in a good mood. The mosquitoes were making him miserable.
I later learned that he was out here surveying birds. I hoped that maybe he would be able take a picture of me when I arrived at the 1,000 mile marker, but when I stopped to put on sunscreen, he zoomed on ahead with his little pack and I never saw him again.
Someone had made the number 1,000 out of rocks on top of a larger rock on the side of the trail. It was really only mile 998 at that point. After another intestinal emergency, I returned to the rock to take a couple of pictures, wishing someone else might show up. No one did.
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I ate a snack in the hot sun with pockets of snow around me and then headed down the other side of the pass.
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I came across a couple of cute deer and then met a crew doing work on the trail. As I stepped around them, they congratulated me on reaching the 1,000 mile point. One of the girls told me she liked my skirt. They said I was the 23rd thru-hiker they had seen that day, which blew my mind. It often seemed like I was the only one on the trail. Because thru-hikers hike similar paces and distances, it is hard to know who is ahead or behind you. The crew said this was the most thru-hikers they had seen in a single day so far.
I started feeling hungry today and ate more than I had been eating. I also had a lot of intestinal issues, which made the day difficult. Luckily, the terrain was easier than it had been and I least felt like I was making decent progress.
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A little later on, I ended up losing the trail which cost me about 15 minutes of time. I had a goal of where I wanted to get to by the evening and now, I had no time to squander. I entered some woods and came across two older men chatting. One asked me what my name was and seemed very disappointed that I did not give him a trail name. Being sick, I only had enough energy to be my own self. Before I could explain, the other man asked me about my pack and launched into a long and very boring story about almost buying the one I had, but finding this other one on sale at REI. The other guy, Storytime, then said they had been discussing trail food and wanted to know what I was eating on the trail. I had already been feeling short on time and had no interest in discussing food, when I couldn’t even enjoy it anyway. I tried to excuse myself. “Are you going to get to the highway tonight?” Storytime asked. It was now 3:00 and the highway was 15 miles away. Why on earth would I want to get to a road in the dark? No, I told him, I want to get to the pass. The other man immediately chimed in. “There are no camping spots up there.”
“Yes there are,” I firmly said. “There is one at mile 1012.” I wished them well and continued on my way. My energy began to wane as I made my way up the next climb. I had to sit down and eat something. Storytime passed by and commented on how he throws off his pack like that when he is in disgust. Actually, I wasn’t mad… I was tired and I had to do this all of the time to give my shoulders a break…
As I climbed out of the forest and mountains appeared in the distance, thunder boomed overhead. Maybe I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill my plan of hiking up Sonora Pass after all. I was reminded that I was not the one in control out here. The sky turned dark and I could see the rain falling in the distance as the thunder continued. Luckily, it stayed on the other side of the mountains.
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At one of the last creeks I came to before the highway, I sat down and cooked some lentil soup for dinner. I had some cookies and the package of fun sticks that Tanya had sent to me in Mammoth. Her treat boosted my mood. Anything different and anything that comes from a loving place from another person does wonders for the soul out here. I filled my water bottles, put on my pack, and set off to tackle the last five miles of the day. Blue sky had reappeared and I was pleased with the time I was making. As I climbed, the landscape opened up and gave me energy. I loved Sonora Pass. I didn’t find the climb difficult at all.
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I looked behind me and saw a figure very slowly making his way up and wondered who it was. As I followed the trail up in a new direction, the sun created a glare and it was hard to see the path in front of me. The walking became slow again. Then, I hit another large patch of snow that I had to carefully make my way across. I hadn’t expected to have to traverse through more snow!
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I kept my eye on my GPS so I wouldn’t pass by the campsite and when it showed that I was at the right spot, I began looking for a place to sleep. It proved to be a very time-consuming process, as I could not find a flat spot anywhere. I searched every area around some low brush and then finally picked a spot to attempt to set up as I watched the sun disappear.
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I knew it wasn’t going to be a good night because the ground was too sloped, however. Then, I happened to notice some bushes down below the trail. I decided to go check them out. Once I reached the bushes, I found a fire ring and a much flatter spot there, so I returned to retrieve my pack. The colors in the sky from the disappearing sun continued to get better as the minutes passed by and I would move from the bushes, where I was setting up my camp out into the cold air to take pictures every few minutes.
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Finally, it was time to lie down. I was surprised that I had enough energy to do a bit of journaling. Suddenly, I heard someone approach.
“Hello?” I called out.
It was Storytime. He wanted to know if he could also camp here. “Of course,” I said. He suggested that we take pictures of each other in this amazing spot in the morning.
I finished journaling and tucked myself into my bag, hoping my stomach problems wouldn’t be too troublesome in the morning, especially since I now had company.

Day 70: A million more mosquitoes and fords

Day 70
June 27
miles 969.5-989.6
20.1 miles

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As soon as the sun came up, the mosquitoes arose, as well. I had to keep my head net on while I ate my granola and coffee. Before I could even finish, I had to run to find a place to go to the bathroom. With this problem, it wouldn’t even be possible for me to camp with anyone anymore! I got back on to the trail (turned river) and headed back into the woods, where the mosquitoes became even more bothersome. I had to stop to put on bug repellent before I could continue. The miles went by very slowly in the morning. There were a lot of creeks to ford and my progress was frustrating. A previous thru-hiker had told me that the trail would get easier after Tuolemne Meadows, but it didn’t seem any easier to me! Expectations always seem to make things more difficult.
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I didn’t see anyone on the trail until I ran into a female ranger going southbound around noon. She asked me where I was planning on stopping for the night and if I was carrying a bear canister. She wanted to know what kind, but didn’t make me show it to her. She did want me to get out my PCT permit, however. She had asked several hikers ahead of me for it and many of them told her they had lost it. She said she didn’t know what to do about that. She asked me if the mosquitoes were bringing me down. They were, but my stomach/intestinal problems were even more of a downer on my mood. She said that she always feels sorry for the thru-hikers because they go through the Sierras when the mosquitoes are at their worst. “It’s not always like this!.” She told me that today would be a taxing day with all of the climbs up and down the canyons, but tomorrow should be a little better. I was glad there was a reason why I felt like I was going so slowly today! She didn’t mention anything about the possibly dangerous ford ahead, so I didn’t ask about it.
At around 1:15, I saw two tents and then recognized Cory, who I hadn’t seen since the early desert! I was in a good mood because I had just had my first sign of small intestinal improvement a little while ago! Mountain Man was reading inside his tent and didn’t seem to recognize me. They had decided to take a long lunch break and set up their tents to protect themselves from the mosquitoes.
I continued on, fording creek after creek, and slowly climbing the steep terrain. I stopped to put on Deet twice when I couldn’t stand the attacking mosquitoes anymore. They grow worse after 4pm and even more so when the sun begins to set. The Deet wiped away my sunscreen and left me with new sunburns.
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When I found a nice view and a large rock to sit on, I spread out my groundcloth to dry while I cooked my Katmandu curry dinner. The mosquitoes would not leave me alone. A bearded hiker, who I didn’t know if I knew or not, stopped and asked me how my hike was going. I told him fine, except for my stomach problems that started back in Lake Isabella. “You’ve hiked the entire Sierras sick? That’s bad-ass,” he said. He went on and I finished my dinner and M&Ms. More water and an increasing number of mosquitoes awaited me as I tried to figure out what direction to go. I walked on more swampy land and then came upon a rock outcrop where the bearded guy had chosen to stop. He had picked a spot with a really nice view!
I kept going until 8:00 and then found another set of exposed rocks to set up on. I had been envious of the other hiker’s view but was pleasantly surprised to find mine at least as nice! And there was a nice little river not far away! I went down to collect water after setting up camp and ate a little snack while thousands of mosquitoes swarmed my head. I almost couldn’t believe it. I had never experienced anything like this before. Big clouds billowed up over the mountain in the distance and I was treated to an amazing show with the setting sun. It was absolutely stunning.
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Tomorrow, I would finally reach the 1,000 mile point!

Day 69: Entering Mosquito Hell

Day 69
June 26
Glen Aulin to Mosquito Hell (mile 969.5)!
21 miles

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I slept better than I expected and had some intense dreams that were still with me when I woke up. I got up at 6:07, had some granola with my soy milk powder and then made a cup of coffee. My sleeping bag was wet with condensation! Several hikers walked by along the main path, while I sat in my bag, but none seemed to see me, except for one who smiled. I later realized that he was the guy I had given some of my food to. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to immediately run to the bathroom. FunSize was there when I went down and asked me how I had slept.
I returned back up the hill to pack up my things and then collected my food bag from the bear box. (For the size of the bear canisters, not much actually fits in there!). I walked past the white canvas tents and went over to the water’s edge where I saw a little rainbow in the mist. A couple of the other guests at the camp were standing there admiring the view with coffee cups in their hands and I wished that I could stay and relax at one place like they were.
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A bugle sounded and breakfast was called. Oddly, I wasn’t even jealous of the guests because the thought of food still hurt my stomach. I walked by some horses and then crossed over the bridge and got back on the PCT.
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Several minutes later, my intestines badly cramped and I immediately had to release the contents. Why couldn’t this have happened while I was in the outhouse? This was horrible!
Luckily, the miles passed by fairly quickly in the morning.
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I took my first break on a rock and tried to repair the loose screw in my sunglasses. A couple passed by, named Lodgepole and Wuzy, who I hadn’t met before. They had skipped the desert section of the PCT. I walked with them for a bit. It was nice to have people to talk to for a change. We reached a big creek crossing, which Wuzy made it over with no problem by leaping onto widely spaced rocks. Lodgepole and I were not confident enough to try that route. She made it part way across before getting stuck and Wuzy asked me to help her out. She managed to get across and I followed her path.
We walked on and soon came to another large crossing. Billy Goat and another hiker were taking off their shoes and socks in preparation. He said he was surprised that he did not see me at Tuolemne Meadows the next morning. I told him I didn’t know how we had missed each other. A woman was on the other side of the creek. She had found a fallen tree downstream to walk across. I wanted to take that route, as well! Very slowly, I made my way across and reached the trail as the others waded through the knee-deep water.
Once again, my intestines cramped and I looked for a place to go to the bathroom where I wouldn’t be seen. Then, I climbed until I reached a nice flowing river, at which I stopped to collect and filter water. The others went on ahead. When I caught up to Billy Goat, he thanked me again for taking the time to chat with him the other day and that he thought to himself afterwards, “that girl is really sweet.” He said he was sad not to have seen me at Tuolemne Meadows. He told me that I was moving fast and that he couldn’t believe I was still sick.
I moved on, climbing with the trail and coming to yet another creek crossing. I paused to look over my options. Nothing looked good. I walked down aways and tried crossing it away from the trail. Unfortunately, I lost my balance and got my shoes, that Billy Goat was so impressed I had managed to keep dry until now, wet. I reached an area of pine trees and big rocks and found a place off the trail to eat some lunch and lie down for a bit. The sun was so hot that I had to keep shifting my position, though. It was rather uncomfortable. I realized when I reached a beautiful lake up ahead, that I should have waited to take my lunch break here.
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It was now 2:00 and I still had 10 more miles to hike. I now had no more time for breaks. The mosquitoes started biting me, so I moved on. They grew worse as the day progressed and I threatened to take out my Deet if they didn’t leave me alone. Finally, I had to stop and put it on. These creatures would not let up! The afternoon miles dragged on much more slowly than the morning ones.
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I still had one pass over 10,000 feet left by the time it was 6pm.
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I stopped to make some lentil soup and had some milk chocolate covered pretzels for dessert. Once more, about an hour after I had eaten, my intestines demanded that they immediately be emptied. This was horrendous! Nothing like this had ever happened to me before!
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The trail became very wet as I walked, so much that it reminded me of the times that the Appalachian Trail had turned into a river! I didn’t expect this to also occur on the PCT! I walked until 8:07 and then scouted out a place to lie down. I realized that I had somehow gotten off the PCT and went back to see where it went so I could know which way to go in the morning. It took me quite awhile! I returned to my spot in the rocks and set up my sleeping bag. The mosquitoes were still swarming me and I had to put my head net on. I kept it on while I tried to sleep.
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Day 68: Back to Tuolemne Meadows and onward to Glen Aulin

Day 68
June 25
Tuolemne Meadows- Glen Aulin
mile 942.5-948.5
6 miles

I decided that I would rather take advantage of the time I had in the room I had paid so much money for, rather than rush to catch the one bus. I would try hitchhiking instead. After another shower, I headed over to the cafeteria and looked over my options. It didn’t seem right that the only thing I could eat was the healthiest option with the lowest number of calories! All of the other thru-hikers were eating plates of pancakes, entire pizzas, huge hamburgers, and brownies and ice cream! I decided that I couldn’t deal with eating dairy-free anymore and went ahead and ordered a bacon and egg breakfast with pancakes on the side. The server asked me what I was hiking and was impressed and interested in my journey. When he gave me my food, he told me to “walk in beauty.” I still asked for soy milk in my latte.
I sat down at a table to myself, next to one with a father, toddler, and grandmother. Eventually, the father started talking to me and told me that his wife had seen me yesterday and wondered which trail I was hiking. She had read “Wild” and guessed I was hiking the PCT. “I’m going to tell my mother-in-law that you’re here,” he said as he left. “She might come running down to ask you some questions.” I hung around for awhile, but no one showed up.
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I returned to my room and used the bathroom. Nothing had changed, which was very disappointing. I packed everything up, checked out, and walked to the backpacker’s camp where I was told I would have the best chance hitching. I stuck out my thumb, but car after car passed without stopping. Eventually one pulled over and wanted to know where I was headed. He wasn’t going the same way. Later, another guy stopped and told me he could only bring me part way and that it was up to me if I wanted to accept. I decided against it based on what had happened in Bishop. He thought I would have better luck if I held out a sign that said where I wanted to go. I walked over to the check-in booth at the campsite and asked the man if he had a marker and a piece of cardboard. He was only able to find a single piece of scrap paper and a thin marker, so I stood there, doing my best to make the letters as large and as thick as possible. I returned to the road, tucked my PCT bandana into my shorts, and held out my sign. I wished someone could have taken a picture of me! Several cars slowed down to see what my sign said, but then kept going. This was much harder than I expected! After about 30 minutes, a car pulled over and asked where I was going. They didn’t know where that was, but said they could take me as far as they were going. I decided that a little progress was better than nothing. Once on our way, the wife asked the man where the falls that they wanted to see were. He did not know and tension ensued. Suddenly, we were at a split in the road and near an accident scene. A helicopter had landed in the grass and ambulances were waiting nearby. They asked one of the officers how to get to their destination and discovered it was back the other way. Before I knew it, I was being dumped out at the accident spot! I walked back to the road and resumed my hitching attempt. Now, however, no driver would even look at me! Every eye was drawn to the accident scene! I had made a horrible mistake! I walked back in the direction I came from and waited in a place where the road had widened. Still, no one would stop. I thought about all of the time I would spend waiting for someone to give me a ride back to the trail on this journey. I felt a lot of pressure to get in my miles, but I had no control in doing so. Eventually, I started getting mad. I didn’t know what to do! I had to keep reminding myself to put out positive energy. I hoped that a nice blue car would stop for me. Every car continued to pass by, however. No one knew about the PCT in this valley.
After two hours, a car finally pulled over. They pulled off the road so far ahead of me that I thought they were checking their maps or something. Then the driver got out and motioned me over. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“Tuolemne Meadows.”
“That’s exactly where we are going!” he said and he opened the trunk for me to put my pack in his blue car. How wonderful!
He asked me if it was okay if they made a stop. His wife wanted to see El Capitan. Of course, that is okay! They were a very nice couple and I felt very comfortable with them. Peter and I remained in the car while his wife got out and stood in a field with others who hoped to catch a glimpse of the diminutive figures climbing the rock face. Peter said that they were two peas in a pod and that they always had trouble getting anywhere because one of them always wanted to stop and look at something. Once back in the car, she showed us the photos she had taken. Only when zoomed in to the most extreme could a semblance of a figure be made out. Peter told me that it took the climbers six days to climb the rock, which I found unbelievable. They told me about their sight-seeing vacation to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and now Yosemite, and how varied each climate was. Peter is an engineer in NYC and was fascinated by the rock tunnels around Yosemite.
We stopped at an overlook so he could get out and stretch his legs. Unfortunately the clouds remained heavy in the air, and we couldn’t see anything. He lamented leaving his sweatshirt back in his room.
At last, we arrived back at the Tuolemne Store.
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I offered to buy them lunch or coffee, but Peter said he wanted to buy me a coffee! I figured I had better eat some lunch, so I paid for my hamburger and fruit cup and he bought us each a coffee. I joined them at the picnic table and pointed out the group of thru-hikers congregated on the other side. “Look at all of those homeless people!”. I saw Dinnertime and stretched out my arms to hug him. I love seeing people that I know! I think he is not typically the affectionate type, but when he heard I was still sick, agreed that I deserved a hug. I couldn’t believe he had already caught up to me after taking 11 days off to visit his girlfriend!
Peter and his wife went on their way to explore the area a bit and I went to retrieve my resupply boxes. The man found my name on the list and told me to meet him inside the store. It turned out that they were storing all of the the thru-hikers’ boxes in a storage area above the cashier counter. The postal employee had to wait until the cashier was ready to step away, step up on the counter and then be boosted up to the storage area. Once he located the box or boxes he needed, he passed them down to the cashier and then hopped down. I was amused at the process and that made them happy, as well!
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I was really hoping to receive an extremely light-weight full sized journal that someone from home said they would send me here, but only my own boxes were there. I had had two boxes sent because I thought I would need one to get me into the Valley and one for the next stretch on the PCT, but it turned out that I had enough food to get into the valley. I still didn’t know if I could eat anything with dairy in it, so it was hard to figure out what to pack. I ended up having more than an entire box of excess food!
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Cuddles came by and said he needed more food to supplement what he had. He asked if his wife, Emma, could also look through the box. When she was done, she asked if their friend, Fun Size, could come over and look through it. I had never met him before, but he was super nice and grateful for the food I gave him. He thought it was high quality stuff. Several people were planning on camping nearby, but I wanted to get in some miles.
By the time I finished sorting and packing, it was 5:00! I handed the rest of my food to a store employee to put in the hiker box and then walked back along the road.
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A woman in a car stopped and asked me if I was hiking the PCT. I thought she asked me if I knew “Carrot Cake” and “Zucchini Bread”, thinking they were hikers and I shook my head no. She was actually telling me that she made those things for PCT hikers and had come looking for us! I accepted a carrot cake muffin and told her there was a big group of hikers at the store who she would make very happy.
I crossed the road and looked for the PCT. It was not at all apparent. I tried every direction and wondered when I was ever going to take the time to look at my maps before I set out! Finally, I found the path. It was surprisingly flat!
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There were information sign along the way and I stopped to take pictures of them, so I could read them more fully later. Then, I saw Peter’s wife wave to me! She said they thought they would run into me here! Peter was photographing a group of very tame deer, but she was worried about the ticks in the grass.
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She grew a little impatient waiting for him. I smiled, remembering the “two peas in a pod” phrase. We chatted a bit more and then I moved on.
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I came to a stone building and suddenly had to go to the bathroom. I had to drop my pack and find a place quickly. I wished I could just enjoy these places without having to worry about that problem.
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I walked around and saw the little bubbling sulphur springs in the ground and then decided I better get a move on it. I wanted to get to Glen Aulin, where it was highly recommended to stay since there was a bear box there. The scenery and light was very pretty in this area.
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I entered the woods and a man soon after headed towards me. He asked where I was going and told me to introduce myself to his two lady friends behind him. He said I will be so inspirational to them. They already knew what I was doing before I could say anything and wanted to know if they could ask me a few questions. They asked me where I was stopping tonight and told me that there were several nice young guys there. I wondered who!
Not too long afterwards, I again had to quickly go to the bathroom. This was extremely frustrating! I continued through the woods and then emerged into a section of exposed granite. A huge waterfall of rushing water appeared on the other side. The sinking sun was illuminating the rocks in shades of red. I thought this was one of the pretties sections of the entire trail.
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I walked over exposed granite and started making my way down toward Glen Aulin. As I grew close, I could see a big group of hikers gathered on a rock, watching the sun set. I wanted to set up my camp and go join them. I crossed a bridge, walked by a large canvas tent and then headed back towards the tent sites. A group of guys were standing around a campfire. None of them were thru-hikers. It was strange to be around so many campers, none of whom I knew. I continued back and up a hill to find even more tents. I did not feel like hiking farther and father back, so I cut up a hill and found a flat spot to set up my cowboy camp. Then, I brought my food bag down to the bear box as I made my way back to the rock, just as everyone was leaving. I had missed the sun set. The mosquitoes were out in force and after sitting alone while I ate a chocolately snack, walked back to my spot.
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Only once I was in my sleeping bag, did I realize that I was on the path to the outhouses!

Day 67: Half Dome!

Day 67
June 24
Half-dome to Yosemite valley
about 10.5 miles

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I got up at 4:20, ate a quick breakfast, and packed up camp. By the time I started walking, it was already light out. I turned onto the side trail leading to Half Dome and started the climb. Once in a forested area, I heard an unexpected sound and stood still. A bear was digging through fallen branches at the base of a tree! It did not detect my presence as I stood on the trail watching it. It was completely consumed in its foraging. Then, I noticed a small cub next to the mother! I knew I would have to keep my distance. The cub saw me looking at it and would stand up on its hind limbs and stare at me for a moment and then return to helping its mother dig. It was so cute! I had not yet seen a bear on the PCT and was so glad I made this side trip into Yosemite. Eventually, the mother noticed me and casually sauntered off with no concern at all. A few minutes later, I saw a deer.
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The morning was quiet. I saw no other hikers on my way to the base of Half Dome. I did see a tent set up at the base of the rock. I found a tree to stash my bear canister and a few extra items that I did not need to carry and then started my way up the rock. A large group of people were on the way down and encouraged me along (which I always find amusing). Ahead, I could make out the ladder of cables for the first time.
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Grey clouds filled the sky and a few men at the bottom of the cables stood there wondering if they should climb it or not. I immediately went to search for the pile of gloves that Billy Goat had told me about. At first I couldn’t find them and thought I would have to wear my thin ones, but close to the cables, I found the pile and picked out a good pair.
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I was ready to start up! One of the men said, “You’re going to climb that in a skirt?!”.
“Yup!”. (Why not?). I looked up and saw a man sitting down about half way up.
“Why is that guy resting?”.
I took ahold of the cables and planted my feet into the rock. A guy in jeans asked me how it was once I had climbed a bit. He was worried about the dampness of the day making the rock too slippery. I told him that if you hold on tight enough, it’s no problem. The rock quickly became more steep and my grip tightened. I wondered what I was doing, having lost all of my arm strength over the last 2 months. If I tired enough to lose my grip, I would fall to my death. As I pulled myself up into higher atmosphere, I felt more and more exhilarated. This was the best feeling I had had on my entire journey so far! I knew I would like to try rock climbing at some point. I gained on the man who had been resting. He looked to be tying rope to the cables and hauling himself up that way.
As I got closer to the top and saw him sitting down again, he asked me how old I was. “You’re not going to beat me,” he responded and started up once again. We reached the end of the cables and he found a rock to sit on. It was cold up there! The man in jeans behind me reached the top and the older guy began reciting a long Mark Twain quote. My mind could not stay focused on his words. I told him I was going to head up to the top.
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Once there, I asked the guy in jeans if he would take a picture of me. The older guy immediately said, “Take a picture of me!” (with my camera). He wanted several pictures of himself up there and insisted that I send them to him.
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After seeing the guy in jeans stand over a ledge, the older guy asked me if I wanted my picture taken over there. I handed him my camera and then realized as I walked away that I was putting an incredible amount of trust in this man’s hands. If he dropped my camera, I would lose every picture from my journey so far!
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We each took some time to explore the area on our own.
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Rain threatened and the air grew colder, so I decided it was time to make my way down. The older man was already a good ways down. While the ascent was one of the most exhilarating times of my life, the descent was one of the most terrifying! How did masses of people get up and down those cables meant for one person?
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I was so glad that I had them to myself and that no one watched how I got down! I tried turning around and going backwards, but that was far more terrifying then being able to see where I was going! I squatted down, gripped the thick steel cables with all of my strength and slid to the next wooden slat ahead of me. I thought I was going to pull an arm muscle! Rain drops began to fall, making the rock even more slippery.
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I managed to get down safely and headed back down to my gear, which I hoped wasn’t getting soaked. The older man had found a young lady to talk to, who was wondering whether or not to attempt the climb. He told her it wasn’t worth the risk of permanently injuring herself. Before I could gather my things, he wanted to make sure that he had my contact info before I got too far ahead. He was so worried about not getting the pictures, but had nothing to write down my e-mail address with! I had to continually assure him that I wouldn’t walk away without giving it to him. I packed up my stuff as the rain fell harder. I realized that if I had taken the Cloud’s Rest trail, adding seven miles to the distance I would have had to hike, that I would not have been able to climb Half Dome. It would have been raining and much too dangerous to climb. I was one of only a few people who made it to the top before the rain fell that day. I was reminded that everything was happening as it should. There is no need to try to control. Instead, I have to keep learning to trust.
Before long, I had caught back up to the man and we spent the next mile or so verbally repeating my e-mail address over and over again. Inevitably, he would get something wrong. Once we came to the intersection of the JMT and the Half Dome trail, we found a family of three, who happened to have a pen and piece of paper on them. He wrote down my e-mail, but still wanted to keep walking with me. I had slowed down my pace for him to keep up, but he still said I was walking twice as fast as he would have normally. “Hey Wendy,” he would call from behind.
“It would be really nice to hear from you along your journey. Maybe you could send some pictures of some of the most beautiful things you see to my sister’s e-mail and then she could print them out for me! And maybe you could include some of yourself, occasionally. Then, I could go on your journey with you.” I explained that I didn’t even have time to do that for my friends, but that I would try. I thought it was sweet that he was so interested in my trip. We continued to slowly walk down the mountain until he reached the point at which he had stashed his camping chair in the woods. He wanted to know if he could give me a hug before we parted. He said he was happy to have met me and I was reminded by him that we all just want to have a friend and be connected to each other. It’s so simple and so meaningful.

I continued on my way and found a ranger waiting at the next intersection, checking permits. The weather was too unpleasant for them to be stationed at the top. The rain continued to come down as people happily made their way up the Half Dome trail. I wondered why they were trying to climb it on a rainy day. I knew most of them would not make it up the cables in such conditions. I found a large tree to sit under while I ate a snack and then made my way farther toward the Valley. I was running out of energy and had to stop often. More and more people populated the area as I got closer to the bottom. One person told me that my backpack was heavily slanted and asked me if I needed help. “No, thank you. I am all right!”.
“Are you sure?”.
Another couple asked me where I was coming from with such a big pack. I told them that I had started from Tuolemne Meadows yesterday and had climbed Half Dome this morning. “You did all that in one day?” they asked incredulously.
Most people took no notice of me at all, however. National Parks feel as anonymous as being in a big city.
I reached another intersection and tried to figure out which way to go. A man recognized me. “You’re the girl who climbed Half Dome in a skirt!”. He wanted to know how far back his friends were. I made my way out, walking by waterfalls which didn’t seem as pretty as I thought they would be in all of the rain and clouds. I was cold and exhausted.
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Finally, I reached the road and found the bus stop. Once the bus arrived, I found a seat and held my backpack in my lap. I wasn’t sure where I was going to get off. All of the stops at which they were selling food were massively overcrowded and I couldn’t stomach the thought of standing in the rain, waiting in long lines surrounded by crowds of people. I ended up getting off at the lodge and decided to see if they had any rooms available. I needed to dry out and get warm. They did have a very overpriced room, but it wouldn’t be ready until 5:00. I paid for it and then went over to the cafeteria to wait in line. Again, I had to ask what dairy-free options I had, which eliminated most everything that looked appealing to me. After I finished eating, I returned to the lobby and waited several hours for my room to become available. I was surprised to see JT and Laptop inquiring about buses back to Tuolemne Meadows! When they saw that I was staying, they wondered if they should to, but there were no more rooms left at that point.
I was finally able to get a warm shower. Afterwards, I headed over to the restaurant for dinner. Again, I had to wait nearly an hour for a table to open up. I ended up eating more than a basket of bread as I waited for my dairy-free pasta, and by the time my dinner arrived, I could not eat much of it. I felt a little lonely eating at a fancy place all by myself. I had a single chocolate truffle, which the cook could not confirm was dairy-free, but after eating the butter with my bread, I did not care.
I returned to my room to wash a few things and update people back home and then finally went to bed. The one bus back to Tuolemne Meadows would arrive at 8am.

Day 66: Tuolemne Meadows

Day 66
June 23
miles 933-942.5 plus 16 miles on JMT
25.5 miles total

I got up and made my way down to the grassy valley and walked along a winding river. The fog was heavy and it was very cold! I was glad that I had slept higher up in the woods. I thought my hands would warm up as I walked, but they remained frozen, so I had to stop and dig my gloves out of my pack.
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Fortunately, the trail was flat and the miles were easy. The fog lifted and although it remained cold, a bit of blue sky appeared! I watched a deer in the meadow and then was visited by a cute chipmunk.
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As I got closer to Tuolemne Meadows, I began to see more day hikers, most of whom were not very friendly. The trail took me back into the forest and a guy hiking south asked me if I was a thru-hiker and if I knew Ice Queen. He wanted to know how far back she was, but I wasn’t able to give him an answer, as I hadn’t seen her since Mammoth. I did see a big group of hikers standing around a fire this morning, but they were too far from the trail for me to tell who they were.
After another four miles, I reached a split-off to a parking lot. I knew from talking with Luckyman, that I needed to get a permit from the ranger’s station in order to climb Half-dome. I found a park employee who told me where to go. I paid my $8 and asked how far it was to hike to Half Dome from Tuolemne Meadows. She seemed to think I could do it in a day, but it was already after 11 and I needed to pick up my resupply box, eat lunch, and get sorted out before I could begin the hike down into the valley. I asked about Cloud’s Rest and she said that would take me longer to hike.
I arrived at the Tuolemne Meadows store and headed over to the take-out restaurant. The clouds had returned and it was freezing cold! Whenever someone opened the door, we all stood in line, shivering. Once I got to the cashier, I asked if the chili contained dairy. A cook was summoned and confirmed that it did! I was so disappointed! There is no way I could eat dairy free for the rest of my life! He said the vegetarian chili was lactose-free, however. I asked him if a hamburger would be safe for me and he said he would have to check about the bread. There’s dairy in bread? I told him I would be okay with the small chance. After getting some soy milk for my coffee, I went outside and sat at picnic table to eat my meal. I had to layer up to protect myself from the cold. The wind kept threatening to sweep anything not held down away! Prophet joined me at the table. I hadn’t seen him since the day I arrived at Red’s Meadow. He was in a quiet mood. Syashinka was sitting off on a rock on his own until Prophet called him over. He had just returned from his Half Dome trip and pulled out his map to show me the route. He said it was 16 and a half miles to get to the base of Half Dome! I had to get a move on it! He talked about how hard it was to walk through the crowds of people on the way to the valley and how he hates to be around a lot of people. I told him I do, too! Every piece of advice I had read in my guidebooks said to arrive at the base of Half Dome and climb it as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds.
I gathered my things and waited for the bus headed to the Cathedral lakes trailhead. For some reason, it was not coming! A bus pulled up from the other direction and a bunch of thru-hikers got off, including Andrea Jane who started the trail the same day as me, and who I last saw in Idyllwild. She was now alone. I asked her how her feet problems were and told her about my stomach issues and the way the problem had morphed. She told me that I probably got a second infection from the antibiotics and called it something that I had never heard before. She had had it before and said that you need to get a second course of different antibiotics to treat it! At that point, I wanted nothing to do with anymore antibiotics! She sympathized with me.
As I continued to wait, I saw Otherworld pull up in a car driven by her fiancee! She was trying to drop off her resupply box because it wouldn’t have arrived in time if she had mailed it. Unfortunately, the store would not let her leave it there. Afterward, she was talking to another hiker, who I didn’t recognize until she called my name. “Wendy? Is that you?”. It was Tejas! This girl is so sweet! She sympathized with me, asked Syashinka if he was taking some good photos, and said that she hoped she would see me and Otherworld again. She formed a heart with her hands as I headed out with Otherworld. Her fiancee agreed to take me up to the trailhead.
With some nice hugs, I was finally on my way towards Half Dome at 1:15 in the afternoon. I had my work cut out for me!
The trail climbed about 1,000 feet as I started off. Many hikers were heading back to the meadows. One woman stopped to take a photo and I looked behind me to see my first view of the Cathedral peaks. The sight made me smile and relax for a second. I had to keep my forward progress, however, as I had a long way to go!
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My energy began to tire and I sat alongside the trail in the grass and ate a snack. It didn’t seem to help much.
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Eventually, I came to a sign pointing to the Sunrise camp and Cloud’s rest and made my way up some huge stone steps. Several campers were set up and I was confused as to where to go. I tried each way and ended up backtracking each time. I walked back down the steps, read the sign, then walked back up, each step consuming a huge amount of energy from me. I finally called out for some help. I was directed back down the stairs again! Where on earth was this Cloud’s Rest trail? Two guys came over and took out their maps. They seemed to have all the time in the world, which was nice, but not for me at that moment! I had just lost 50 precious minutes of time. It was now after 5pm and Cloud’s Rest was over 7 miles away and Half Dome was 10 miles away! I would have to hike in the dark, which I typically don’t like to do, or not make it to Half Dome until later the next day when crowds of people would be there. I felt extremely stressed and exhausted. Finally, I said I would just follow the John Muir Trail and forget about Cloud’s Rest.
The trail climbed again and followed a ridge. I could see a rock formation that might have been Half Dome, but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to take a picture and send it to someone back home who could confirm it for me.
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A song popped into my head that I began singing to comfort me a little. As I continued to walk into the evening hours, two deer appeared among some rocks.
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I watched them for a couple of minutes and then began a descent back into the woods. Exhausted, I sat down on the trail and ate a gluten free cookie. I felt sick and tired. I continued hiking, still keeping a lookout for Cloud’s Rest. I came to a stream and saw tents set up nearby, but the mosquitoes were out in droves and I wanted to make a little more progress.
After a small climb, I suddenly stopped in awe. Half Dome appeared right in front of me! I wondered if there was a spot I could camp around there and ended up finding a place close by. At 8:11, I spread out my groundcloth and sleeping bag and got ready for bed. I was going to have to get up as close to 4am as possible. Once I had a moment to stop and realize where I was- in California, in Yosemite, and in front of Half Dome- and that I got here by walking nearly 1,000 miles from the border of Mexico, tears fell out of my eyes. Sometimes, in the daily effort, it’s hard to realize the progress you’ve made, and what you have actually accomplished. I couldn’t believe that I had made it this far after being sick for almost a month. And I couldn’t believe that my bedtime view was this famous rock that most people fly out to visit.
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About a minute later, I looked over to see a deer’s head with antlers on top staring at me between two rocks. It was just like a cartoon and the sight made me laugh. It dove behind the rock for a moment and then darted out to my camp space and stood there casually, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. And then it wandered off somewhere.
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In the middle of the night, I detected the presence of something large next to me. “Deer! Go away!.” It ran off and did not return to bother me again.