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.

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