I got up at my regular time (around 7) and tried to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the sleeping boys. This is hard to do when you make your coffee with a jetboil and have to repeatedly move all of your possessions into and out of stuff sacks and metal bear canisters! I wish I could be as care-free as them, but I don’t have the ability to hike as fast, so I must steadily keep plodding away. My goal for today was to hike more miles than I did yesterday. These Sierras are tough!
As I was nearing the end of my packing, I saw someone coming up the trail. It turned out to be Dust Bunny! What timing! I told her I was just about ready and our whispering woke the boys up. She took the opportunity to ask them if they had any extra food because she was low. Sexy Legs began sorting through his bag and came up with a few things. I had seen how much food he had with him last night and was worried about it not being enough for him, so I didn’t think he had anything he could spare. Since Dust Bunny has to eat gluten free, she couldn’t accept his offer anyway. I told her I could give her some of my food. I went over to Sexy Legs, still in his sleeping bag, and stretched out my arms to give him a hug. “Thank you for welcoming me,” I told him and then did the same for Ash. It was my big open-hearted moment and it felt wonderful!
And then, Dust Bunny and I were off!
We filled each other in on what had happened to us since we last saw each other on Mt. Whitney. Dust Bunny was hoping to see a nice guy she had met earlier in the hike, but so far, that had not happened. She was lamenting the fact that she wasn’t a “good thru-hiker”. She had all the ability, but not the drive to wake up each morning and put away the miles on a single path. She much preferred exploring and enjoying the places she found herself in. I, on the other hand, had no problem with keeping myself motivated to keep walking and pushing through all obstacles in my path, even when to my own detriment, which Dust Bunny didn’t think was so good.
She let me take the lead as we climbed to Pinchot Pass. “I’m doing good!” I proudly said at one point. “You’re doing awesome,” she said. We found Syashinka, a young hiker from Japan, who was a bit lost and searching for the trail. He had stopped by last night when we were sitting around the fire and asked us our names. When Sexy Legs responded, Syashinka’s eyes opened wide. “Sexy?” he asked and pointed to his legs. It was a great reaction! I remembered first seeing Syashinka at the fire by Dr. Sole’s RV at kick-off. This morning, he asked my name again before realizing that he had passed by last night. I sat down on a rock and took a break while the others worried about where the trail was. And then, we were off again!
We let Syashinka go ahead. The terrain reminded me a lot of Colorado with its red rocks and openness. Dust Bunny lives outside of Durango and agreed with me. The altitude slowed my pace and I let Dust Bunny go ahead. I walked through another patch of snow and kept moving one foot in front of the other. The top of the pass seemed like it was never coming!
Three and a half hours after we started out this morning, we reached the windy pass and quickly had to put on our winter hats after almost losing our hiking hats! After quickly taking a couple of photos of the other person, we headed down the other side.
Part way down, Dust Bunny started talking to a man headed in the other direction. I recognized the voice as the German who had put me down at kick-off, telling me that I was hiking up to third gate slowly. He obviously had abandoned his plan to thru-hike. When he saw me, he said, “You’re the yoga teacher…You’re still on the trail.”
“Yes, I am.” He asked me if I was doing yoga along the trail. When I said no, he scoffed at me. Dust Bunny had already taken off. He asked me if I had seen his friend Half-Slow and I told him not for a very long time. I wished him a good journey and continued my descent. As I was walking through more snow, my knee hyper-extended. Ow! I wasn’t sure how much damage I had just done. I took the next steps slowly. A little later on, I did it again! These mountains were not kind to me!
I continued to descend to a lake, where I found Dust Bunny taking a break. She was contemplating whether to make a hot drink. She had one packet of coffee and one packet of green Chinese tea that had been given to her. For some reason, she decided to mix the two so we could share it. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted! I recommended that next time, she make the tea and coffee separately. She asked me if I knew much about the chakras and I said I knew a little. She was wondering what chakras the colors green and red represented, as those were the colors she was wearing. I told her that green was the heart chakra and red was the root chakra. She thought those were applicable to her current state- finding a state of groundedness while opening her heart. She thought that my colors also matched me- speaking my truth and seeking a connection with the infinite.
We moved on. Somehow I got ahead and after crossing a creek, in which I got my shoes wet, I found a sunny rock to try and dry off a little. I had to keep moving back and forth because the sun was too hot to be in, and the shade was too cold! Dust Bunny came along and joined me. She decided to bathe in the creek while I ate some beef jerky and snickers. We didn’t know if we should attempt the next pass this evening. It was already getting late for that. I told her I would see how I felt. My stomach was already badly hurting. A hiker passed by that Dust Bunny knew, but he didn’t stay to chat. We moved on and reached another wide creek that we had to ford. Cuddles, the other hiker, was waiting on the other side, and helped direct Dust Bunny across. I followed her. My stomach was hurting so bad that I told her I needed to stop and see what I could do about it. I told her to go on.
The afternoon was slow going due to the pain of my calf and the even more excruciating pain of my stomach. Another hiker was in the same vicinity that I didn’t know. I would stop and take a break and he would pass by, and then I would catch up and we would repeat the pattern. There was yet another creek crossing ahead and I searched up and down the banks for the best crossing. Nothing looked easy.
The trail continued to climb and I thought there was no way I was going to be able to climb another pass tonight with the way I was feeling. I was going to tell Dust Bunny that I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel at all like myself.
I saw LuckyMan up ahead and hiked up to talk to him. Mosquitoes were attacking everywhere. He said that Dust Bunny and Cuddles had decided to climb Mather Pass tonight and that they had left 10 minutes ago. No!! I looked at my watch. It was 5:00. The mosquitoes were horrendous. I thought about what it would be like to camp here and then decided to move on. I can do it. It’s just 1,000 more feet and 5 more miles… I wished Lucky Man a good night and continued on. I stopped often. The other hiker, Oblivious, remained in my area. I wished I were in a better mood. I was in such pain that I really couldn’t be friendly, however. I kept plodding along. I watched Oblivious hike ahead and stop every 100 feet or so and take in the views all around him. I just tried to keep moving forward.
The trail started climbing more and then turned into switchbacks. I kept thinking I only had one or two more, but they wouldn’t end. Then, I saw Dust Bunny ahead, making her way towards the pass. Unbelievably, I wasn’t so far behind! I reached the pass ahead of Oblivious and dropped my pack. I was exhausted! Dust Bunny and Cuddles welcomed me. I told her there was no way I was going to do that and then Lucky Man told me you had just left. We took some photos and Oblivious talked about how he had hurt his knee early on in the hike and how some guy did reiki on it and made it feel 75% better. I told Dust Bunny that I wished someone could do reiki on my belly! She said she would put her hands on it when we got to camp if I wanted.
I was surprised that we still had a bit more climbing to do before we headed down the other side. Again, we were met with snow that caused our pace to meet a snail’s. This was slippery stuff and we had to be careful where to place our feet so we didn’t turn our ankles on rocks. At one point, my foot slipped out underneath me and almost sent me sliding! Dust Bunny stayed close to Oblivious and I to make sure we were okay. I looked at my watch and told her that it had taken over 45 minutes to do less than one mile! She just laughed.
I continued to step heel-first through the snow, and suddenly, my heel locked up! I couldn’t get it to release. This day was getting worse and worse! We made our way out of the dangerous snow and back on to the rocky trail as the sun set. I thought about how I had now been suffering from my awful stomach pain for 2 and a half weeks and felt so sorry for myself. Dust Bunny had reminded me that the pain was only temporary, but 2 1/2 weeks seemed too long to be feeling this way. I could see trees in the far distance and hoped they would appear sooner, as I knew that is where we would be camping. I hobbled over the streams, hoping my Achilles would release. I had no energy to collect water and kept my vision on the trees ahead. Finally, I saw Cuddles with his tent set up. “Is this where we are stopping” I asked. “If it looks okay to you,” he said.
“It’s perfect. I can’t take another step.” It was 8:30 at night and nearly dark. He pointed behind him to two possible spots. I chose one and spread out my ground cloth and then my sleeping bag. I was in so much pain and so exhausted that I couldn’t even manage to brush my teeth, never mind eat anything. Dust Bunny had said that she would make me some ginger tea, but she was chatting with Cuddles and I guessed that she had forgotten about it. She found a place to cowboy camp just below me. As I lied on my left side, the pain seemed to move from the right to the left side of my body. I turned upright and placed my hands on top of my stomach.
It was the worst I had felt yet.