Tuolemne Meadows- Glen Aulin
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only once I was in my sleeping bag, did I realize that I was on the path to the outhouses!