I did not take a single picture for six hours today because the smoke from a nearby forest fire prevented me from seeing any views. I was in the forest for the first half of the day, ascending another 1,000 feet, and then descending 2,000 feet down switchbacks. The air was hazy and I could not see anything in the distance. I wondered how close the fire was and if I should be concerned. I was just following the one path I was on without knowing any of the happenings outside of it. I wished I could send out a message to someone who had a computer and access to information, but I had no cell service. I decided it was best not to worry about it. The couple I had seen yesterday caught up to me on the descent and asked me if I knew anything about the fire. They were concerned, as well, but there was nothing we could do except continue to walk!
Awhile later, I ran into two men hiking southbound and asked if they had any information. They said the smoke was coming from a fire outside of Yosemite, in Mariposa, and that it was not close enough to where we were to worry about it at this point.
I reached the junction to VVR and found the couple nearby eating their “second breakfast”. They were digging into a jar of peanut butter and looked like they were really enjoying it. While I was happy for them, I was so sad that I was not able to enjoy food, myself. Eating caused so much pain. This hike was not at all enjoyable in this condition.
I started up the 3,000 + foot climb to Silver Pass. By the time I got to the open, rocky landscape, my energy was drained.
I sat down on a rock and watched a couple of marmots play. Looking back, I could see the snow-covered mountains that I had just come from, and waves of emotion swept through me. I had hiked up and over those mountains in such a sick state and felt so sad for myself, but proud at the same time. My Achilles was still hurting badly and I didn’t know what was going on with my stomach. This was not how I imagined this hike to be at all.
I put my pack back on and slowly moved on.
I couldn’t figure out where the top of the pass was, but continued to plod along and eventually saw two guys that I did not recognize sitting with their backs pressed up against a big rock. I thought that must be the “peak”, but then saw two other hikers a little higher up on the other side of the trail. I went up there and found my own little spot to snack on some goldfish crackers and whatever else I could find that wouldn’t hurt my stomach too much. I was not in a good mood. Several minutes later, one of the guys came up to chat with the older couple across from me. “Are you two thru-hiking?”. He told them that he had thru-hiked in ’06. I listened to their conversation and started to feel a little better. This hiker was from New Zealand and had a very positive attitude and I couldn’t help but smile. He told Bibo and Sharky that he only had to set up his tent five times during his hike- that is how little rain they had. Sharky and Bibo couldn’t believe it. I asked him if the rest of the trail was going to be easier. I had never hiked such a tough stretch in my entire life. It was tougher than the toughest part of the Appalachian Trail, and I didn’t know how much longer I could take these big snowy climbs and endless fords. He said it wasn’t going to be easy, but it wouldn’t be as tough as this stretch. He told us about bumping into Donna Saufley, the trail angel in Agua Dulce, when he got onto the BART after flying into San Francisco and what a small world this is. He was out here hiking a stretch of the trail with his father now. He talked about how he had taken the Cloud’s Rest trail to Half Dome when he thru-hiked. I hadn’t heard of that trail before, but it sounded beautiful, and now I wanted to do the same! I had been planning on taking the extra time to hike down into Yosemite Valley and climb Half Dome, from the beginning, but with my stomach illness, I knew I might have to forgo that plan and rest in Mammoth instead.
The other couples headed out and I asked Sun Catcher if he could take my picture. I decided to do another jumping shot and I was amazed that he got the picture in the very first take. No problem!
I took a picture of him and his father and when they just stood there, asked them if they wanted to do a pose. They said that was their pose!
We all took off together and after I descended a snowy slope, I watched Sun Catcher “ski” down the hill. I really appreciated the injection of good energy from him!
Dusk approached and I made my way down through a rocky section and then into another forest, heading to Purple Lake. I could smell smoke from a campfire and eventually saw a couple of tents set up. I stopped to collect water and then saw the couple I had been seeing for the past couple of days. We finally introduced ourselves. Their names were Pleats and Side Project. They asked if I was stopping here for the night and I said I didn’t want to camp so close to water because of the mosquitoes. They told me that there were some campsites ahead on the hill that they had checked out, but they were already taken.
I headed on, passing the tents and continued to climb. Surely there must be flat spots ahead. As the trail rounded, I saw another couple of tents set up. This was a crowded area! I looked around the woods and found a possible spot and stood there contemplating whether or not to stay. I finally decided that I didn’t want to be so close to other people and continued on. I climbed to a grassy area, dotted with rocks and went off the trail to investigate the area. I picked the flattest spot I could find and spread out my cowboy camp while I boiled water for my pasta dinner. Tomorrow, I would reach Red’s Meadow, where I would be able to get into town after the longest stretch of trail I had ever hiked.