Day 58: Muir Pass

Day 58
June 15
835-852.3
17.3 miles

Luckyman got up early, us he always does. He was hoping to say goodbye to Dust Bunny, but didn’t know where she was camping, so he headed off. A few minutes later, she came over to plop down beside me in my sleeping bag. She thought that once I made it to Mammoth, I should take a week off to try to heal up. “A week?!” I exclaimed. There was no way I could afford to take a week off the trail! The weather window frame on this trail was far too narrow. She told me that I could skip a part of the trail and jump ahead when I felt better, but that idea did not sit well with me at all. I wanted to do the entire trail in one shot. She asked me why that was so important to me, and I had to question my reasoning. Did it really matter if I hiked every mile of the trail or not? Cheryl Strayed only hiked 1,000 miles of it and achieved huge success from writing about the sections of the trail that she did hike. Maybe my thinking wasn’t so rational, especially when I was hurting so much. Maybe my injuries and illnesses were really a test to see if I could actually be caring towards my own self. I wasn’t ready to make any changes to my plan yet, however. I still wanted to try to accomplish what I set out to do. I would think about alternatives later, if it came to that.
I gave Dust Bunny some of my extra food- at least the things that did not contain gluten in them. She wanted to avoid staying in towns and hoped that there would be a full hiker box at Mono Hot Springs, even though it was early in the season. She headed back to pack up and I started the trail just ahead of her. We walked along a glacial lake and stopped for a quick break. I needed to put on sunscreen. Dust Bunny longed to bathe in the lake and contemplated whether she should do so or not. I was perfectly fine staying out of the cold water!
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I took the lead, and as I looked for a place to cross a river, ended up losing the trail. We made it to the other side and looked around. Dust Bunny asked if I could go back and see if I could find the trail that way while she went up over a big rock in front of us. She ended up quickly finding the trail and leaving me behind to hike the longer route.
We headed up into the rocky and snowy terrain of the higher altitude, hopping on rocks to get across the ice cold creeks. I would wince with pain every time my right foot had to bear the entire weight of my body and backpack.
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Up, up, up we climbed. Again, we reached a creek crossing and this one, I couldn’t figure out how to cross. I saw footprints on a snowy path above the water and wanted to cross it that way, but Dust Bunny didn’t feel the same way. I then thought about the potential of the snow to cave in, resulting in a fall into the water and decided I would follow her. She had made it to the other side, but I still didn’t see how I could get across. As I stood there contemplating, she started back across to show me the path she had taken. One of the rocks tipped over and she fell into the water. I felt bad. Our feet were wet and cold and we still had a long way to get to the top of the pass. We followed the footprints in the snow and ended up losing the trail again. I checked the map on my GPS but still couldn’t figure out where we were in relation to the trail. We ended up backtracking and then spotting the trail again. I was so glad that I had someone with me at this time! It was amazing to me that at the time I most needed help, someone was there, willing to do so!
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The snow got deeper as we climbed and I kept slipping backwards. This pass was taking a lot of effort. It was not at all “fun” for me. Finally, I spotted the stone hut.
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I had made it! A group of hikers was just starting to descend the path that we had just climbed. I didn’t envy them. I went into the hut to find Dust Bunny. It was cold inside, but we were at least sheltered from the wind in there. Dust Bunny was sitting on a bench in her sleeping bag, eating. I wished that she could take a picture of me, but I didn’t want to make her get up. Post-it notes that other hikers had written little messages on sat in a cluster on the bench. I read through them and found the one that Whistler had left. Then, I looked through my food bag for a snack. Dust Bunny planned on staying at the hut for awhile. She asked if I would be okay on my own. We had different resupply strategies and wouldn’t be able to hike together for much longer anyway.
I told her I would be fine and started down the other side.
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IMG_3230 copy 2 There was still a large field of snow to cross, but it wasn’t as deep as it was on the climb up. I took my time and scanned the wide-open terrain ahead of me to see if I could figure out where the trail went. A big group headed in my direction helped me with the path finding. Occasionally, I still lost the trail and exerted a lot of energy scrambling over boulders. A couple of other hikers quickly passed by on the actual path while I was doing so. I reached another beautiful lake and sat down to take a break. The water was unbelievably clear!
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Then, I headed onward, climbing a bit more before dipping down to another lake which the trail followed.
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I saw a man fishing in the next body of water that I came to and followed the path of rocks to the other side.
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My intestines started to cramp badly and I had to quickly find a place to go to the bathroom. I was so glad that I was alone. This stomach illness was awful! When was it ever going to end?
As I continued on my way, I looked behind me to see Dust Bunny and another hiker gaining on me. I was glad that I had that little bit of space to myself when I needed it! I reached another beautiful lake and decided that I had to stop to put my feet in the water. I didn’t know when my last opportunity to do something like this was going to come! I had heard so many people say that you should slow down and enjoy the Sierras, but so far, the Sierras were anything but enjoyable for me! They were all about pain and immense struggle. I couldn’t imagine hiking this section of the trail ever again.
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I told Dust Bunny that I was going to put my feet in the water and she decided that she wanted to, as well. She introduced me to “Knock on Wood” and told us that she wanted to go all the way into the water if we both agreed to look away. She just ended up putting her feet in, though. I calculated that I could only spend 30 minutes here, which included taking off my socks, shoes, and gaiters, and putting them all back on again. It was not at all a relaxing break for me.
We headed on and I dropped behind the others. I wished that hiking this trail was as easy for me as it looked to be for so many of the other people out here! I saw two men under a tree and was asked what my name was and where I was from. I mentioned that I was not feeling well, and the guy who was hiking the PCT that I had never met proceeded to tell me that he had a fever one day in the desert and was “forced” to keep hiking in the heat and how awful that was. I felt like being in pain for over two and a half weeks was quite a different story, but didn’t say anything. I just excused myself and headed on my way. I later found Dust Bunny and Knock on Wood off to the left of the trail eating dinner. Dust Bunny was exclaiming about how good the mashed potatoes that she was given were. I didn’t want to take the time to cook and ate a quick snack instead. I hadn’t planned on taking a break at all. I asked them where they planned on crossing the notorious Evolution Creek that was coming up. LuckyMan had told me that there was an easier place to cross it about a mile before the PCT crossing. I planned on looking for that spot. They said they would see when they got there. I was so cold sitting in the shade so I headed out and told them I would see them before the creek crossing.
I checked my waypoint App and was not happy to see that the mileage for the creek crossing was off! How was I going to find the place that was easier to cross? I continued on the PCT and could see the creek to my left. I came to some rocks that opened to the creek and assumed that must be the point at which I could cross it earlier! I walked over the rocks, sat down, and took off my shoes and socks and put on my crocs. I placed my camera and iphone in a ziplock bag, and put in inside my pack. Then, I put my pack on, keeping the hipbelt unbuckled in case I needed to fling the pack off if I was swept underwater. I looked back at the trail and saw no one coming. The water was ankle high at the edge. I started to make my way across. The rapids increased as I headed towards the middle and I had to dig my poles as hard as I could into the rocks below me. The water was now up to my thighs and I felt stuck. I thought I was being smart crossing this creek early, but when I was in the middle of the rushing water, all by myself, I felt like I had made a huge mistake. I briefly thought about turning around, but realized that would take just as much effort as continuing to the other side, and I would still be left needing to cross this big creek. So, I braced myself and plunged my poles forcefully downward as the current tried to sweep me away with each foot that I lifted. Eventually, I made it to the other shore. I felt happy that I had done it!
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I found a rock to sit on while I changed back into my socks and shoes. Then, I started looking for a place to follow the creek downstream. There were trees and giant bushes everywhere! I heard Ned Tibbets tell us that it was no problem to re-find the trail if we just followed the creek, but I was stuck! This was not how it was supposed to be! I heard some hikers talking as they made their way down the PCT. “Hey” I called, thinking it was Dust Bunny and Knock on Wood. It wasn’t them. I felt so stupid in the position I was in. I really did not want to take off my shoes again and try to make it back across that strong current. I continued to search out a way to get through the trees, and somehow managed to scramble my way through. I found the water and walked in the swampy grass following its contour. And then, the creek forked. I had no idea where the PCT crossed it. I took out my GPS, and just as I couldn’t figure out where I was when we had lost the trail in the snow on Muir Pass, I could not figure out where I was in relation to the trail here. I decided that I was going to have to cross the river back to the other side. This time, I was not going to take the time to take off my shoes. I was mad.
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I made it across the water, followed a path, and came to a sign that said this was the alternate crossing for Evolution Creek, just as another hiker was approaching. I had jumped the gun and tried to cross the creek too early, based on what Luckyman had told me. His memory had been off. The old trail crossing was a quarter of a mile before the current PCT crossing- not a mile like he had said. I was reminded not to take the advice of other people. The hiker in front of me had a wire coat hanger hanging off the back of his pack which disturbed me in the state I was in. What on earth was he carrying that for? A little further ahead, he stopped to talk to Dust Bunny, Knock on Wood, a couple who I had never met before, and another guy. They all seemed happy and invited me to camp with them for the night. Now that my shoes and feet were already wet, however, I was determined to cross Evolution Creek for once and for all! I told Dust Bunny what had happened, but she gave me no sympathy. She was too busy socializing with the others. Commando made fun of me for wanting to hike a couple more miles rather than stopping where they did, but I didn’t care what he thought. I needed to move on and knew that because I don’t get up early, that it is necessary for me to get my miles in during the evening hours. I left them and continued on, finally coming to the actual PCT crossing of Evolution Creek. It was not bad at all. I had put myself at much greater risk by crossing it alone where I had first chosen. I was fortunate that nothing bad happened to me, and that it resulted only in experience for a future dangerous crossing.
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I walked along more rapids that sprayed me with mist and then started the descent. I saw trees at the bottom and knew I could find a place to camp there. As I reached the trees when the terrain flattened out, I saw the annoying man and his much nicer relative camping at the first available spot. I walked on, unnoticed, and eventually found a spot to myself as the remaining traces of sunlight faded away. I set up my groundcloth and sleeping bag and finally took off my wet shoes and socks, cooked some dinner, and went to sleep. I was now hating the Sierras.

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