Day 62: Zero in Mammoth

Day 62
June 19
zero

I sought out a breakfast place in town that I thought would be healthy, bypassing the place that most of the hikers were eating at. There were only a few other patrons there, and I felt a bit lonely sitting by myself. I asked for soy creamer in my coffee, which did not look or taste as good as coffee with cream. It was a disappointing feeling not to be able to enjoy my normal treats. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to hike without being able to have my morning coffee to boost my mood in the morning. After looking through the menu, I ended up ordering the artichoke omelet that they had listed as one of their specials. Being new to a lactose-free diet, I was learning what I could and could not eat. The omelet had cheese in it, and I did not realize until a few hours later that I had made a big mistake in choosing what I did for breakfast.
I walked back to my room and gathered my clothes to put in the washer, started cleaning my stove and other gear that needed washing and began to sort through my resupply. I headed over to the healthy cafe after a couple of hours and ordered a latte with almond milk and a gluten and dairy free strawberry coconut muffin. A group of hikers were seated around a table and one of them, a young guy that I recognized from the yoga class I taught at kick-off, motioned me over. I thought he was going to say something to me about the class, but instead said “Hey, did you have the scariest ride of your life from that guy that took you up to Onion Valley?” I smiled. Somehow, he was far more terrifying to the guys than he was to me. We exchanged stories about our rides with him, and then I just sat at the table next to them sipping my latte while they tried to figure out how to get to a music festival that was beginning tomorrow.
I headed back to my room and skyped with my Swiss friend. My stomach was already hurting and the pain continued to increase throughout the day. The only thing I could do was lie down in my bed.
I thought that a sushi dinner might be good for my stomach, so I headed out across town, stopping in the natural foods store again to find out if they sold a non-dairy powdered milk alternative for my coffee. I ended up buying some soy milk powder and a few more lactose free snacks. I ran into Hermes and Lotus on the way to the sushi place and told them about my injured achilles and painful stomach. I was not able to enjoy the sushi at all, and had to practically force it down, while the pain in my stomach increased. My breakfast had done me in for the day. As I attempted to walk back to my room across town, I had to keep telling myself that I only to make it 10 minutes more before I could lie down again. I focused on each step and continued to tell myself that I didn’t have much farther to go.
Once back in my room, I lied down and texted a friend who was not sympathetic to my pain. He told me it was time to quit and go back to Boston. I tossed the phone down. I had hoped to get back on the trail tomorrow, but right now, all I could do was rest and hope the pain in my stomach would subside.

Day 61: To Red’s Meadow

Day 61
June 18
mile 894.7- 906.7
12 miles

I saw a couple walk by on the trail while I was still getting ready in the morning. The man was moving slowly uphill and I quickly caught up to him and saw that it was Sharky from Silver Pass. His wife, Bibo, was waiting for him up ahead. I continued on alone in the forest until a hiker I had never met caught up to me during a pack break. He said his name was Prophet and was intent on getting to Red’s Meadow in time for lunch. I had no such goal. Twelve miles was still a good distance to hike and I just wanted to get into town.
When I caught back up to him as he was taking a break, he asked me if I had gotten a ride up to Onion Valley from a really scary man. He realized after I said that my name was Wendy, that I was the same person who had gotten a ride up to the mountain from the same man that had given him and Sagi a ride down. “Did you leave your snow basket in his car?”.
“Yes, I told him that, but he said that I didn’t.”
“Well, he found it and was shouting your name up the mountain. Wendy…! Wendy…!”
I shrugged. He said that that was the scariest ride he had ever gotten. He kept slamming on the breaks and driving in the middle of the road and was telling them the strangest stories. He asked them for money before they got in his car, as well. Only Sagi had a few bucks to give him.
I found it interesting that the guy drove them down the mountain and did not camp there after all. He obviously knew that we needed rides and was on the lookout for us. I was disappointed that he lied to me.
I took a break and let Prophet move on as Bibo and Sharky caught up. I dug into my food bag for some candy, which boosted my mood for the moment.
It didn’t take long for that pleasure to turn to immense pain, however. I crossed a creek where Bibo and Sharky sat on the other side eating and stood there, holding my stomach, unable to move. My face expressed the pain I was feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know how I was going to make it. One of the two asked me if I was okay and I said no. I told them the antibiotics had made me lactose intolerant and that I was in great pain. Bibo asked, “Do you want some cheese?”.
No! (I just said I was lactose intolerant…!).
I moved away until I found my own space and went to the bathroom. Then, I continued onward, walking mile after mile in the forest as the trail gradually descended. A southbound hiker headed towards me and told me I was almost there. (I still had about 4 miles to go. “Almost” means different things to different people..). He tried to boost my spirits by telling me that the restaurant had really good milkshakes. I frowned and said that I was now lactose intolerant and couldn’t enjoy a milkshake.
Later on, I ran into three day hikers. One lady exclaimed, “You look like you’re ready for anything” based on the size of my pack. I smiled and nodded. The man said that I had a challenging creek crossing coming up. My eyes grew wide. “Yeah,” the other lady said. “You get to walk across a big log!”. I smiled, wishing they could know half of what I had gone through in this last stretch. To them, this creek crossing was the big challenge of their day. For me, it was one of the easiest crossings I had done. It’s all about perspective.
I soon entered one of the ugliest parts of the trail I had seen. A massive storm had blown through, cutting through hundreds of thousands of trees, leaving a scene of destruction behind. The wind picked up and the sun glared overhead, and the walking became quite unpleasant. My sickness was making my mood decrease, as well. I walked past downed tree after downed tree, slowly descending towards Red Meadow. It felt like it was taking forever to get there.
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Finally, I reached an intersection at which I got a bit confused. I saw the sign to Red’s Meadow, but couldn’t figure out where the PCT continued north. I followed the side trail, still not knowing if the buses were running or not. A hiker headed my way. It was Drama! “Well, hello, hello!” I said. I told him that I was still sick and he made a joke about it. I didn’t find it so funny. Our interaction was brief. He told me that a bunch of people were in the parking lot getting ready to hitch and I asked if I should hurry to try to get a ride with them. He said no, and we parted ways.
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As I headed to the store to ask about the buses, I saw a group of thru-hikers standing in the area between the restaurant and store. One of them was the hiker who had told me to stop the psychosomatics. I did not want to be near him! The others I did not know.
I went into the store and upon asking, was told that the buses would start running on Saturday. Really? It was a low snow year and on a normal snow year, they were supposed to start running on June 15th. I went back outside and saw an Asian man heading towards his car. I followed him and asked if he was going to Mammoth. He was. “Could I get a ride with you?”. He looked at his wife, who was helping her daughter up the stairs. “How many of you?”.
“Just me.”
Luckily, she agreed! I put my pack in the back and got in the seat with the cute little girl. Her older brothers were in the seat behind us. The parents were interested in my hike and the father, in particular, had several questions for me. He wanted to know what the hardest part had been for me and what I liked best about it. He seemed to understand my answers and I could tell that he was looking for some of what I was finding on the trail in his own life. The girl wanted to play peek-a-boo with me, and kept asking her parents if they were almost at their hotel. When they told her they would be going out for lunch, she groaned. She said that sounded “awful!”. I guess the car ride was making her stomach hurt. I could totally relate! Every meal had sounded awful to me for over three weeks now.
They brought me to the Motel 6, where I had my packages sent, and went on their way.
After checking in, I ran into Greg (Sprinkles, now known as Butters), which was a surprise. He was with B-Rad, Spoonman, and Skinny D. Greg wanted me to show him some stretches for his IT band which had taken him off the trail at Tuolomne Meadows last year. It was acting up again. I told them about my lactose intolerance and Skinny D said that her friend had become permanently lactose-intolerant after taking antibiotics. Great!
I took a shower, changed into clean clothes, and headed out to find something to eat. There was a healthy cafe close by and I ordered a veggie burger that came with a side-salad and some corn chips. I felt so grateful for some real, healthy food, that I started to cry a little.
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I headed across the street to the outfitter to see if they had my shoes and found out that they did, but not in my size. They did have a half size smaller. After trying them on, I decided to go ahead and buy them rather than wait at least another 100 or so miles. The man also helped me find some lactose-free dehydrated meals, which was nice. I headed over to the natural foods store and looked around for any snacks that did not contain dairy. All of the food that I had pre-bought for my hike had dairy in it. I didn’t know how long I was going to be lactose intolerant and the thought of needing to buy all new food for the remainder of the trip had me very worried about the expense. Bambi appeared in one of the aisles. He asked me how my stomach was and I told him it was not good. I said that I ran into Purple Haze in Lone Pine and that he told me that you need to take flagyl for five days! Bambi said his dose was extra strong. Great. I took a huge dose that proceeded to destroy everything in my stomach. He told me that there was some really good pizza next door and upon realizing I wouldn’t be able to eat the cheese, said that they probably had one with just bread and sauce. No, thanks. We walked back up the road to the motel and went to our separate rooms.
I opened up my two care packages. One was from a woman from my yoga mentorship. She said she was going to buy me the specific things I asked for, including a package of Love Crunch granola, and a lot of packets of Starbucks via! She also bought me some grapefruit seed extract for my belly, as well as a box of probiotics. Luckily, the granola turned out to not have any dairy in it! She also included some gluten/dairy free cookies and oat bars. (Thank you so much, Susan!) I also got a super nice package from a woman I went to high school with and just re-met at our reunion last year. She bought me some delicious snacks that were the perfect back-packing size. And her kids drew me a sweet, encouraging picture. I felt so honored! (Thank you, Tanya!)
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I returned to the cafe for a snack and after a little electronic communication, went to bed.

Day 60: Silver Pass

Day 60
June 17
mile 873.1-894.7
21.6 miles

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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.
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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.
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After I crossed the rocky landscape, I still had more climbing to get to the top of the pass. A man started to gain on me, but I was stronger on the climbs and managed to stay ahead of him.
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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!
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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!
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I got farther and farther ahead as I descended, noticing the red algae on the snow and wondering if I had been drinking that…
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I walked along alpine lakes and then forded a series of streams, my achilles still shooting pain whenever I put weight on it.
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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.
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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.

Day 59: Finding Beauty in the Small

Day 59
June 16
852.3-(approx.) 873.1
20.8 miles

I watched the early risers pass by while I performed my morning rituals and was glad to be well enough off trail so as not to be seen. My mood had not greatly improved overnight. Somehow, Dust Bunny ended up sneaking up on me and scaring me! She told me that I made a wise choice in continuing on last night, as the socializing reminded her of a bar scene. She was in need of her own space and decided to scout out a spot to have her breakfast. In just over five miles, she would take a side trail down to the John Muir Ranch in hopes of finding some food to carry her through the next section. She also planned on stopping at Mono Hot Springs. I was going to bypass both spots and just get into Mammoth. I headed out and told her I would probably see her soon.
I crossed the bridge spanning the creek I had camped near and followed the creek back in the opposite direction. As I came to another ford, Commando hiked up to me wanting to know how crossing Evolution Creek had been for me the night before. I was still not over my feelings about having to cross it three times. “Fine,” I told him. I wondered why everyone was talking up these crossings with such fear. If there was no one out here dispensing their own fears and advice, I would just keeping following the path in front of me. He asked me if my shoes had dried out overnight. “No, they did not.” How would shoes be able to dry out in the dark cold air?
He moved swiftly down the trail and I tried to relax into my own space. The trail climbed and followed the path of a gorge. I didn’t find it to be the most beautiful of environments, but maybe my mood was clouding the view.
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I walked on and took a quick break along the side of the trail. A quiet man dressed in camo walked by in the other direction. He seemed to be about as happy as I was and I wondered what his story was. What was he in search of out here? The trail turned right as it crossed a bridge. I passed several nice campsites that were tucked away and thought about what it would be like to spend the night there. Then, I came to a steel bridge, where someone had left a note for another hiker. He had gone ahead when his friend didn’t show up and hoped he was still alive. The note was written several days earlier.
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I had been wondering if the buses from Red’s Meadow to Mammoth were running yet. Service was supposed to start mid-June, but often started earlier in low snow years. I asked a couple headed in the opposite direction if they knew, but they did not. The woman recommended I hike to the Ranch, where I was sure to find out the answer to my question. She told me I could find internet and other luxuries there. I thanked her and moved on. I found a rock to sit on and take another break and watched a father and daughter hike southbound, as well. I was surprised that Dust Bunny had not caught up to me. I never did see the trail that headed toward the ranch, but turned right at the upcoming intersection to follow the PCT as it began to climb.
The annoying man and his brother were taking a break at the stream at which I needed to collect water, but luckily, I was able to walk down and find my own little piece of land to collect and filter my water before heading off.
I later heard the man talking extremely loudly behind me. It was very jarring and luckily not something that I had come across much on the hike so far. I managed to stay ahead and then found a little inlet on the lake to stop and sit at.
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As he passed by, he shouted out, “Hi Wendy from Boston!”. My mood sunk even lower. I ate a snack and watched the dragonflies flying above the water. I wanted to take a picture of them, but found it impossible. They kept moving! I started looking at things on the earth and noticed how beautiful the concentric patterns of a pinecone were. I was reminded of how we really only see things when we stop and take the time to look around us. My mood started to lift a bit.
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I packed up and walked by a tree with a tremendous curvature in its lower trunk. I touched it with empathy, noting the similarity between its curvature and my spine.
I continued to climb back into the granite rocks that were dotted with pink flowers and green grass. Four young female hikers were headed down and I stepped aside to let them pass.
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I stopped to look at another alpine pond and continued the climb, slowly making my way towards Selden Pass. I looked behind me and noticed a hiker steadily gaining on me. He overtook me just as we were reaching the top. I told him he was looking strong- the very opposite to the way I was feeling. I crossed a small section of snow and dropped my pack at the height of the climb and we introduced ourselves. He said his name was Doogie Howser and that he was getting off the trail at Echo Lake. The mosquitoes started attacking.
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I wandered over to the south side of the pass and found that the view was much more beautiful over there, so I returned to get my pack and bring it to a rock farther down for my lunch break. The mosquitoes were even more horrendous on that side of the pass, however! I took out my Deet wipes and slathered it on my skin. These bugs weren’t going to allow me to enjoy my lunch or the view.
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I headed down the pass and walked along a pretty path, where clear streams cascaded down the hills and made the grass ripe with wildflowers.
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I eventually reached another ford and saw a fallen tree to help me cross it. I was growing tired and once I saw a large flat spot to the right of the trail, decided to stop and cook my pasta dinner. I was still feeling physically ill, which affected my mind and attitude, as well. A couple passed by looking in much better spirits than me. In the last section between Kennedy Meadows and Kearsarge Pass, my stomach was in a tremendous amount of pain, but the rest of me felt strong and happy. This section was a different story. I was still in a world of pain and now, it seemed like I had lost a lot of my energy, as well.
I reached the next “dangerous” ford according to my guidebook notes and looked across the water to see the couple changing back into their hiking shoes. The woman waved to me and then hiked on. I decided to change into my crocs and keep my shoes as dry as possible. The water only reached my knees at the highest height. It took much longer to change into and out of my shoes than to cross the actual creek. I headed onwards and was not happy to discover that I still had more fords ahead of me! As I carefully placed my feet on the rocks, the mosquitoes suddenly attacked. I felt as is they knew my hands were completely tied up, trying to keep me upright with the placing of my poles. “She’s fully occupied. Get her now!”.
It happened again when I was forced to climb over fallen trees across the trail. The sunlight was fading and my body was tired of all these obstacles. I stepped over little streams and finally saw a flat spot to the left of the trail, where I would make my home for the night. Despite the mosquitoes, I set up my cowboy camp and turned on my phone to see what mile I was now at. I was incredibly surprised to discover that I had reception and was able to chat with a friend from home for a few minutes. I covered my head with my sleeping bag liner and tried to fall asleep.

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.

Day 57: The Day I thought I was going to have to be airlifted out of the Sierras

Day 57
June 14
818.5-835
16.5 miles

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When I opened my eyes in the morning, I looked up to see Cuddle’s tent gone! He had already left. Dust Bunny was sitting on a rock, gazing out into the horizon. Why was I the only person that needed to sleep? Dust Bunny came over and sat next to my sleeping bag. She asked me how I was feeling and I told her not well. She said that she she was getting the feeling that I needed to learn to care for myself and that it really wouldn’t help me if someone else tried to do reiki on me, which is why she decided not to do it. I didn’t know how to feel about that. The flagyl had not made me feel at all better, and was in fact making me feel worse. I dreaded taking another pill. Dust Bunny told me that she had learned a lot from her dog and told me about the time he was sick and refused to take his medicine, no matter how hard she tried to disguise it. She learned that it knew what was best for him more than she did and encouraged me not to take the antibiotics if they were doing more damage than good. I figured I had taken at least the equivalent of a five day dose by now and wouldn’t swallow anymore of those pills. Instead, I would just concentrate on giving my body probiotics. I opened up my bear canister and spread out my food to see what I could have for breakfast. “Oh, sweetie,” Dust Bunny said. “All of your food is bad for your stomach! It’s all sugar.”
“I know”. She said she would go get her ginger and make me some tea. I set her little strainer with the real pieces of ginger in it on top of my jetboil and let it absorb into the water. She ordered me to sit and relax for awhile. I agreed to do so for this one morning. The ginger tasted really good. It felt like the first real food my body had ingested in a long time! I was so thankful.
I got up to collect some water and saw LuckyMan headed towards us. I told Dust Bunny and she ran out to greet him. She loves talking to people! She stood there asking him about his family like she had all the time in the world. LuckyMan told us where he planned on camping this evening (he had hiked this section before) and bid us farewell.
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I returned to my spot, packed up my things, and headed out before Dust Bunny.
Just after I had made it across the first creek of the morning, I heard someone make a sound. I turned around to see Ash and Sexy Legs! Yay! I had wondered why they hadn’t caught up to me yesterday. They asked for help in choosing the best route across the water and I pointed out the rocks I had chosen. (Really? They wanted MY help?) Once across, I told them about how I had injured my Achilles coming down Mather last night. They told me about their cold night high up near the pass, and how LuckyMan was fascinated with the cracking ice in a little pond when he passed by them this morning. They went on ahead and I walked alone for awhile. The trail paralleled a beautiful Alpine lake that reminded me of being in the Swiss Alps.
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A little while later, I heard another call and thought it must be Dust Bunny catching up to me, but realized it was Sexy Legs again. “What are you doing up there?” I shouted.
He and Ash were high above the trail. “We found a cave! Come see!”.
“But I’ll never finish if I do that!”.
“Sure you will! Just pack some extra food!”.
“But I can’t even eat with my hurting stomach!”.
“Even better!”.
I continued along the trail and Sexy Legs shrugged. It would be so fun to explore with them, but walking the PCT alone took all of my time and energy. I could’t keep scampering up and down to see all of the natural attractions along the trail like they could, because I couldn’t walk as fast as they did.
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I came to a huge cascade of rushing water and decided to take a break there. Ash and Sexy Legs came down from the cave and stopped for a minute with me. Ash took a picture of me looking like I was relaxing in front of the rushing water, which is the antithesis of who I really am. I almost never relax and enjoy myself! Sexy Legs put the edges of his fingers to his forehead and bid me farewell as they moved on.
The trail descended out of the granite rocks and back into the woods. I contemplated heading away from the trail and taking a break at the creek, but decided to move on. As I started the next climb, I saw three deer on the trail! They were not at all fearful like the others ones I had encountered.
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I continued the climb and suddenly saw Sexy Legs and Ash about 300 feet in front of me! I reached out my arm and almost called out to them, but no sound came out of my mouth. By this time, the pain in my Achilles was immense and I knew I would not be able to catch up to them. I wondered if they would stay with me if they knew how much I was hurting. I stopped and took off my pack, dejected. I decided to try walking a few steps without the weight on my back and found that even without my pack, my Achilles could not bear weight! I couldn’t even take a step on flat terrain without excruciating pain. What was I going to do? I was in the middle of my longest section in the toughest terrain on the PCT, in the remote Sierras, and my foot could not bear any weight. I decided that I needed to get to some water and soak it. I put my pack back on and hobbled to a small lake, took off my shoes, and put my feet in the cold water. Maybe I was being forced to relax. I imagined being airlifted out of the mountains and resting in a hospital bed with Ash and Sexy Legs sitting at my side, looking after me. Surely they would care enough about me to do that! Then, we could share stories about our journey and our lives. It would be so nice! The water briefly numbed my feet and I felt like I might be able to walk again. It took only a few steps for the pain to return, however.
A little ways ahead, I saw another place that was just down off the trail that looked like a good stopping point and again, I took off my shoes and put my feet in the water. I kept looking back up at the trail to see if anyone was passing by.
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I was surprised that Dust Bunny hadn’t caught up to me yet. As I hobbled along the path, wincing in pain, she suddenly called out behind me, scaring me. I told her how much pain I was in and that she should go ahead. I was still determined to make it several more miles in order to stage Muir Pass for the following morning. There was a lot of snow on this pass, and I would be postholing in it for hours if I didn’t get through it early enough in the day! The remaining miles were mostly uphill, which fortunately hurt my Achilles the least. Downhills and flat terrain hurt it the most.
I walked behind Dust Bunny while she scouted out a place to take her dinner break and then continued on alone at my slow pace. Still in forested terrain, I continued to climb. At some point, I saw an unattended backpack ahead, which I found strange. I walked by it and soon saw a man coming toward me. He stopped and asked if I was looking forward to seeing the whale. “The what?”.
“The whale! It’s a famous landmark on the JMT!”.
“I never heard of it.”
“None of you PCT hikers have. To us, it’s something we really look forward to seeing. You’re not going to make me walk back up there to show you, are you?”.
I told him I would be able to find it myself, but he insisted on showing me. To the left of the trail, two big rocks made a formation that looked like the mouth of a whale. I went and sat in it and let him take my picture.
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“Oh, you’re a model!” he said.
He told me that he wished he were hiking the JMT the other way. “Why?” I wondered, thinking it might be easier that way.
“Because then I could hike with you for awhile!”. I told him that would not be enjoyable for him at all with my hurting stomach and Achilles. He looked at my shoes and admonished me for not wearing boots. He said that there was a lot of snow on the upcoming pass and that the running shoes the PCT hikers were wearing turned their toes red and raw from the cold and wet. Then, he offered to give me some of the drops he was carrying for stomach pain. I followed him back down to his backpack and waited while he searched through his first-aid kit. It turned out that he had sent them home along with some of his extra supplies. Before I headed on my way, he asked if he could give me a hug.
I continued the climb, emerging from the trees into a world of granite. Someone had made huge stone steps up the trail and they seemed to steal my energy as I slowly heaved myself upwards. This was not an easy climb for me at all.
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Slowly, I put one foot in front of the other and made it out of the granite and into a meadow. I knew from what Luckyman had said, that I was relatively close to our stopping point for the night. It took everything I had to make it across the rocks and up another climb. I almost stopped at a place that looked like it would fit my sleeping bag but climbed a bit father and suddenly saw three tents! I had made it! I walked past them and then saw LuckyMan set a little further back. I dropped my pack. This had been a brutally tough day. I looked around to see where I might be able to set up and ended up finding a place up a slope, next to a tree. I spread out my piece of Tyvek and picked up a rock by the tree to weight it down. I coiled back when I saw toilet paper underneath it. I was sleeping right beside someone’s bathroom spot! It didn’t appear that I had much of a choice to move elsewhere, so I just tried to ignore it.
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I boiled some water for my pasta soup and went to talk to LuckyMan while it steeped. He said that he was hoping we would make it this far tonight. The others who had stopped were JMT hikers and a PCT hiker that neither of us knew. Lucyman said that he had crawled into his tent as soon as he set it up and went to sleep!
After I finished my dinner, we went and looked down across the meadow to see if we could see Dust Bunny coming. I spotted her. “She’s stopping!” I said to LuckyMan. He shouted out, “No! Don’t stop! Keep going!”. I told him she was probably just peeing. She does that a lot!
We cheered when we saw her pick up her pack and keep heading along the trail. Then, we went to make an arrow out of sticks to be sure she wouldn’t miss us! We ended up waiting for her right beside the trail, like expectant parents waiting for our child to return home after a late night out.
She made it and seemed both a little amused and disappointed to find so many people camping in one area. She chatted with us for a couple of minutes and then went off into the woods to find her own little area before coming back to chat with me next to my sleeping bag while we sipped our tea. She told me that when she sleeps in a places where others have slept before, her dreams get mixed up with theirs and it is very disturbing to her! She looked out across the water and rocks that I was near and exclaimed over my view. “But I’m going to be asleep and won’t be able to see it!” I said.
It got too cold for her to sit any longer so we agreed to see each other in the morning.

Day 56: Two Passes in One Day

Day 56
June 13
801.5-818.5
17 miles

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!
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Day 55: Glen Pass, Mile 800, and a Pair of Lovely Boys!

Day 55
June 12
mile 789-801.5
12.5 miles

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I only had 2 miles to walk before I reached Glen Pass, which my guidebook pages said was the scariest of all the passes. Past hikers had written a couple of sentences about their experiences and I couldn’t make sense of their advice. “Stay to the left of the bowl” and the trail goes over the “spit of land” between Rae Lakes. The only thing I could do was figure it out when I got there! I climbed out of the trees and into a landscape of loose rocks, heading to an elevation of 12,00 feet. Looking down, I saw the most beautiful blue glacier water in a small pond. It was mesmerizing.
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There was no snow on the trail during the ascent, but my pack was heavy and the altitude made the going slow. The other side of the pass was a different story! There was lots of snow to contend with.
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I took it very slowly, choosing my steps, and driving my poles into the snow. In places, the snow was deep and postholing took a lot of time to get through. Occasionally, I slipped, but made my way out unscathed! I slowly made my way down to Rae Lakes and back to cascading streams, flowers, and trees.
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I found a tree to sit under and look out over a big lake while I snacked. It was pretty, but I was not feeling well. I wasn’t enjoying the Sierras with my stomach illness.
I walked along the lakes, stepping on rocks to make it across creeks in my path, and then finding a spot of take my pack off for another minute. As I put it back on, two guys approached and said hi. One of them asked me if I was hiking the JMT. “No, I’m hiking the whole thing.”
“You’re hiking the PCT? So are we!”. I asked them their names and one said, “Sexy Legs.”
“Oh, I’ve heard about you!”. The other said his name was Ash. After a brief chat, they headed onwards. I wondered what gave them the impression that I was only hiking 200 miles…
It wasn’t long before I saw them stopped up ahead, chatting with Delaware Dave who was resting up on a hill. He said that he had only hiked 2 miles so far today and was now taking a siesta. I chatted with Ash and told him about my stomach problems and my calf that was still hurting! He said that I just needed to walk it off. I said I wasn’t so sure about that… It had been hurting for a week now! He let me know where they were planning on stopping for lunch and invited me to join them. How nice!
They hiked on at their fast pace and I slowly walked behind. It turned out the lake they were envisioning was non-existent, so they stopped beside a creek to have their lunch. Sexy Legs cooked his 900 calorie meal! I joined them for a bit and then headed back out.
My stomach was really hurting and the miles were becoming excruciatingly slow. Delaware Dave caught up to me and hiked behind me for awhile. He was suffering from exhaustion and didn’t know where it was coming from. We reached a creek that looked impossible to cross without getting our shoes wet. I saw another hiker on the other side who looked liked he had crossed it upstream. I went to investigate but saw no way to get across. Delaware Dave made it across in the meantime and pointed downstream to a fallen tree that I had also seen. I made my way down to that spot and ducked under branches to try to get on the slippery tree. It took me a long time to make my way across the rushing water and only when I made it to the other side, did I see that Delaware Dave was waiting up on the hill to make sure that I made it across okay.
On and on, we walked. My energy was draining out of me. My pack was killing my shoulders and I had to stop and rest while Delaware Dave continued on.
Finally, I reached a camping area with a bear box and took my pack off again. I went down to see if Delaware Dave was okay. He decided that he could walk no more today and would set up his tent and rest for the remaining part of the day and night. He was worried that he had Lyme’s disease, but I thought it was probably the altitude in combination with a heavy pack. I hadn’t seen Sexy Legs or Ash since I left them and assumed they must have taken a nap. Soon enough, they came along and confirmed my surmise. We all chatted for a bit and then left Delaware Dave and headed across the suspension bridge to reach the 800 mile point! I was excited to have people near me for the picture opportunity! The bridge was very bouncy and a little scary to walk on at first, but then felt fun! I felt like I couldn’t take my time, though, because the others were waiting!
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I let the boys go ahead and as my breathing became labored, let them do the searching for the 800 number while I stayed focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I saw them stop ahead and look at the ground and assumed they had found it! But they hadn’t seen anything yet. We continued to climb and then I found them looking at a raging river flowing over smooth rocks. I thought that there was no way that I could cross that myself and was glad that there were people with me, but it turned out that they were just checking out this attraction. Ash said that they were constantly finding cool things to check out in the Sierras. There was something new around every corner! I followed them down the rocks to look at the rapids and checked my GPS. “You guys- we already passed the 800 mile point! We are going to have to make our own marker!.”
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After they were satisfied with observing the water, we went up to a bank and started collecting rocks. Ash started making a “nushuk” and Sexy Legs and I looked at it, confused. We didn’t know what he was making, so we got to work on forming the numbers for our 800 milestone! “I know what pose I want to do!” I said. It was great having people around.
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We hit the trail again and the boys took off. They hike almost twice as fast as I do! I found them again at the edge of another creek crossing, trying to scout out where best to cross it. They didn’t find a place where we could cross it and keep our feet dry. I started to take off my shoes, but decided to keep them on when I saw Sexy Legs on the other side. I started across and the boys watched me from the other side. “You’re going to watch me?”. That was making me even more nervous. I told them I was okay and they went on. I ended up losing my remaining snow basket in the rushing water and was unable to cross without getting my shoes wet. I felt like a failure.
I walked on and heard a call. Sexy Legs was up on some hill! He said he was checking out a waterfall. I wasn’t sure if they were planning on camping up there. I decided to sit down in some grass and cook my pasta and peas. Some deer came by to keep me company.
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The boys walked on and said they were planning on hiking about three miles and that I was welcome to camp with them. I told them 3 miles was too much for me tonight!
Luckily, I found them stopped about a mile ahead. Perfect! I was so tired and very dejected about only having hiked 12 lousy miles that day. Sexy Legs said he didn’t want to hear it. He and Ash weren’t doing big miles in the Sierras because they wanted to explore and enjoy themselves. They got up at 10 this morning and decided to swim out to an island in one of the Rae Lakes. Sexy Legs had gotten hypothermic in the process and nearly drowned! Luckily Ash helped bring him safely back to shore. He said his lungs were still hurting.
The boys set to work on trying to make a fire from scratch, starting with a cute little nest of straw. Sexy Legs said they always try doing this first, but so far, have not succeeded. It appeared that it was not going to work again tonight, but after a few more attempts, they got it to catch fire! I put on my warm layers and sat on an uncomfortable rock near the fire. This was only my second fire of the entire trip! Ash thought I was very brave to start the PCT alone. (Eh…).
They were both very friendly and polite and I appreciated them inviting me to hang out with them. We each picked a spot to cowboy camp and unrolled our sleeping bags. Sexy Legs asked Ash, “Hey, should we… should we…”. I was sure he was going to ask about drinking some of the bourbon he was carrying or smoking marijuana, but then he said, “Should we have some hot chocolate?” It was one of the sweetest things I had ever heard! I said that sounded good to me! I had my own mix and Sexy Legs tried to figure out how much water he needed to boil for three people. It turned out to be not enough, but it was still nice. We went down to the creek to collect our own water before it got too dark to see and then headed to bed. I felt like naming this little area “Sleepy Hollow”. I felt so safe and content with these boys. It was a good night!

Day 54: Back up Kearsarge

Day 54
June 11
Kearsarge Pass
7.6 miles

I didn’t sleep so well because we had agreed to go get breakfast in the morning and I didn’t want to sleep in too late. We both wanted to get a real egg breakfast, so we skipped Schat’s and found a little restaurant. While I used the restroom, Otherworld found a couple to chat with who were seated next to us. They were very interested in hearing about our journeys. I hoped they were interested enough to want to give me a ride back to Independence, but the timing wasn’t going to work out.
We decided to head next door for a smoothie afterward. Otherworld was disappointed that it wasn’t a “real one” like she makes herself every morning back home. That was one thing I knew I wanted to start doing when I got home! Otherworld, who had recently gotten engaged, was having trouble deciding if she actually wanted to hike to Canada or leave the trail when her fiancee came to visit in 10 days. She missed him a lot. I encouraged her to keep listening to how she felt and that either way would be okay. I knew that this was her chance to do it before she started a family, though. It was good to have someone to talk with about meaningful things.
She wanted to look for a town dress while she was here, so I went to a thrift store with her and then back to the outfitters while she tried on dresses. I forgot to look for a second camera battery while I was here last time, so I stopped in the camera shop, but they didn’t have what I needed.
When we got back to our room, all I could do was stare at the bed and wish I could go to sleep! I felt so tired! Otherworld checked the guidebook to see if she still had a chance to get to Tuolemne Meadows by the time Brian arrived. Then, she set to work rolling toilet paper. I decided to take a nap and ended up sleeping hard! It was the deepest sleep I had had in a long time! I guess my body was finally able to relax enough. I got up around 11 and packed up my gigantic, overflowing pack once again and then walked over to the lobby to say goodbye to Otherworld. She needed to stay in town to do chores.
I walked down the road just as I had done two days ago with Bambi and Whistler, stood across from the gas station and stuck out my thumb while I ate my apple. I was prepared for this to take awhile. After about 20 minutes or so, a man stopped. He didn’t know where Independence was, but I told him it was about 40 miles down this road. He agreed to take me. He was driving 9 hours to Southern California to visit his sister and wanted some company. He had been a hippie in the 60s and 70s and told me a lot of stories from his earlier days. He offered me some marijuana while we drove, which I declined. I wasn’t very comfortable with this guy, but figured I could reason with him if he tried anything.
Everything turned out fine and he dropped me off on the main street in Independence. I called a trail angel to see if he was available to drive me up the mountain, but he was working and said he could only take me after 5. I asked him where the road that lead up to the mountain was and decided to stand there and see if anyone was headed up that way. The first car that passed was a couple that lived in the neighborhood. The second car pulled over. The man got out and started grumbling. He was upset about the road being ripped up ahead and I assured him that it was only like that for a small stretch and was fine to drive on. He grumbled some more and told me that he was driving around, trying to sell his book. “Do you have any money to help me out?”. I told him I would give him $10 if he drove me up the mountain and he seemed happy. I asked him what he would be doing once he got up to the trail head and he said that he was going to camp there overnight. As we drove, he told me that he was a seer and that he was awakened to the truth by a test of fire when he was 44 years old. His skin was burning and he heard voices telling him to “put on the lotion, put on the lotion”. He was told that the religion he had been taught was all a lie and now he wants to travel and spread the truth. He handed me his book and told me to read through it as he continued telling me about his experiences. All I wanted to do was get back to the trailhead. I patiently read through the poorly written book and nodded in agreement at the things he said. I think he was expecting me to argue with him. He told me that he hadn’t had any companionship in a long time. As we drove up the curves of the mountain, he would stop the car and stare at the mountains. “Look! A dinosaur spine! Do you see it?”. He told me that he would also like to hike the PCT one day.
Finally, I arrived at the trailhead and got out of the car. It was a beautiful afternoon and I was finally going to climb back up Kearsarge! I took my pack out of his car and noticed that one of my snow baskets on my poles was already missing! I told him that it must have fallen off in his car, but he said it wasn’t there. A group of three women who had just come off the mountain told me that someone had dropped a snow basket on the trail and that I could take that one.
My driver commented on how big my pack was. “You look like an ant with 10 pounds on its back! Next time, you might want to carry a smaller backpack!” I asked if he could take a picture of me and wished him a nice night of camping.
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Then, I started back up the mountain. I felt strong and happy and was so glad that it was a nice day!
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It wasn’t long before I saw two thru-hikers coming down. I told them they would have no problem getting a ride, thinking the three women could take them into town. I continued to climb, noticing things I had already passed when I tried climbing this part in the storm. I found the snow basket the ladies had mentioned, but it soon fell off my pole, too. The wind picked up and blew my visor off, leaving me in a moment of panic. Luckily, I was able to chase it down and retrieve it before it blew off for good. I passed a young couple who were out for a couple of days and slowly worked my way up. The climb wasn’t as bad as I had been dreading on the way down, even with such a heavy pack.
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I made it above treeline and kept my eyes on the pass, knowing I would be there shortly.
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And then, I was there at the top!
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I took a break and watched the marmots play around me before heading down the pass and into new territory. The terrain flattened out and was dotted with pretty pink flowers and square granite rocks. I stopped at one of them and ate a power bar, as my energy began to fade.
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I walked on, stepping over a small stream and then walked along a ridgeline. A man headed my way asked me how far the water was. He had set his tent up further back in a stand of trees, a good distance away from the water. I walked on into the evening, and grew more and more tired. Eventually, I reached an intersection. One path lead to a lake with a bear box. I chose to stay on the PCT. The sun was setting and I just wanted to find a place to sleep. I walked across a meadow and headed up a hill to my right where there were large rocks and trees and found a flat space to lie down.
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I munched on a bagel and another power bar and got into my sleeping bag. I was so tired that I didn’t even want to look at the stars. I was in a bad mood! This was going to be a tough stretch ahead!

Day 53: From Lone Pine to Onion Valley… And Back to Bishop?

Day 53
June 10
Attempted to climb Kearsarge, but had to turn back
Zero official PCT miles

By 7:30, my stomach was growing very hungry, my body was growing restless, and still, there was no sign from Muk Muk. I texted her and asked if they were ready and soon after met them in the lobby and headed across the street. The waitresses were very familiar with UB and Muk Muk by now because they had eaten there so many times in the past few days! UB set up his video camera and started filming us, much to my chagrin. Muk Muk loved her time in Lone Pine so much that she wanted to stay there and start a family with the three of us!
The owner of the place even told us that he was tired of running it and wanted to sell it. He suggested we could take it over, with Muk Muk acting as the hostess. He asked UB if he was protecting us out in the woods and he replied that Muk Muk was the one who wore the pants. As scared of the dark and the animals (and even going to the bathroom outside) as he was, UB definitely wasn’t the one to take care of us, as nice as that sounded! The owner ended up giving him a super-strong marijuana joint that he said would knock him out if he tried hiking after smoking it! UB thankfully tucked it into his coat pocket.
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I headed over to the post office, wanting to be first in line to finally get my resupply box and package that Amanda had sent me. She was worried that the contents would be spoiled by now. I was still nervous about interacting with the post lady! Fortunately, a visiting postal worker from Mammoth was there on this day and he retrieved my packages with no problem! (Even the one that Amanda had sent to “General Delivery” without my name on the address!) He even said he would see me when I got to Mammoth in about a week!
I made the trip back to my room with heavy arms and began the sorting process! I had to work quickly! I was dismayed to find no socks in my resupply box. I had asked for them in my Kennedy Meadows box and was disappointed when they were none in there, but now it was becoming a big problem! Once I sorted through everything, I needed to go to the outfitter and see if they had any toe socks, and then go to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription for flagyl, as well as some probiotics. The outfitter had only one pair of toe socks. They weren’t in any packaging and didn’t have a size on them, but would have to do. The clerk told me that I could check with the hostel to see about getting a ride to the trail. I returned to the pharmacy to get my prescription and randomly chose a box of probiotics from the shelf. Then, I headed back to my room to do my final packing and begin my search for a ride.
No one was at the hostel. I finally called the number and the lady cleaning the rooms said she would be down in a half an hour. She gave me the number of a man who I could try calling in the meantime, but there was no answer.
I didn’t have any more luck when she returned. She just pointed me to the bulletin board where there were three options for getting a ride back to the trail. The first one cost $210! I said no thank you and before I could hang up, the guy warned me that the others didn’t have insurance, which would have big implications for me if they got into an accident on the way up the mountain.
I finally found a man that would be ready to take me in a little over an hour for $55. I headed back to the ice cream shop for a breakfast sandwich and coffee and told Muk Muk and UB that I had some pecan square crumbles for them from Amanda. They were just checking out and getting ready for their own ride. Muk Muk continued to blog and UB worked on editing his videos and soon, it was time to separate once again. UB asked if I wanted to go back with them and hike Whitney again. I thought about it for a couple of seconds, as it would be nice to have some company on the trail, but I had already hiked that section, and Dust Bunny was right- the coldness of Mt. Whitney was too much for the body to handle twice. I needed to stick to my own path. He started to sing new words to “He’s So Vain”- “She’s so fast.. We’re prob-ly never gonna catch her…”. He said they needed a way to slow me down. I told him I’m already hurt (my calf muscle was still causing pain from climbing Whitney) and my stomach was also hurt! “You need something more!” he said. Muk Muk said that they would probably see me in Oregon. “Oregon?! That’s 1,000 miles away!”. We hugged each other goodbye several times and I told UB to take it easy on his knee.
I met my ride at the hotel and then I was on my way to the trail head. Ominous dark clouds overtook the skies as we drove. I could see the rain falling on the mountains. My driver said I was headed right into that. Then, he noticed that there was a clear patch that happened to be right over the part of the mountains that I would be climbing! Maybe I was going to get lucky after all!
We wound up the mountain and when we arrived back at the parking lot, he let me out just as cold drops of rain started to fall. I had to take everything out of my pack to to find my raingear. It turned out that I hadn’t gotten so lucky! The rain fell harder and the air grew colder. I used the toilet in the outhouse and then started the climb back up Kearsarge. A couple of dayhikers were headed down. “Heading right into it, huh?”.
“Yup”.
I stopped underneath a tree to put my camera and phone in a ziplock bag and make sure things weren’t falling out my pack that was too full to close. My hands were so cold!!
I continued on and began wondering if this was such a good idea. I was climbing up to 12,000 feet and already it was turning to snow and hail. I looked back down and saw an RV below. Maybe they would let me sit in there until the storm passed? Or at least I could hunker down in the outhouse. Maybe I could even do some journaling in there while I waited for the storm to pass! I turned around and headed back down. When I reached the outhouses, I discovered that I was not the only one who had this idea! Delaware Dave and Craig were also hanging out there, waiting for the storm to pass before they started their climbs. I abandoned my journaling plan and stood with the others so I wouldn’t be hogging one of the restrooms, but I was getting even colder standing around. We looked up toward the trail and saw two figures coming down. Delaware Dave said that one of them looked like the Abominable Snowman! He was right. The figures made their way down the switchbacks and headed towards us. I realized that the Abominable Snowman was Abbi (Otherworld)! “Is that Wendy?” she asked.
It was so nice to see a nice, familiar face, especially in these conditions! Thoughts of getting off the mountain and getting into town where they could warm and dry kept Otherworld and Luckyman happy. They both had good attitudes. Craig realized that he had left his phone in the car of the people who had given him and Delaware Dave a ride up the mountain. Luckily, Delaware Dave had their number and was able to let them know. They said they would turn right around and come back up the mountain to deliver his phone back to them! Otherworld really wanted to go to Bishop and asked me if I wanted to go with her. Since it was 40 miles from the trail and I had already been there, I really did not want to go back there. The thought of getting warm and dry was appealing, however. She went into the outhouse and changed out of her clear plastic rain outfit and into her down pants and jacket. I started to think it might be nice to go back to town with her, but hoped we could stay in Independence.
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The car returned with Craig’s phone and he asked the couple if they could take Otherworld, Luckyman, and myself into town. “Of course!”. So we loaded our packs into the back and got into the backseat. It turns out that this couple, who lives 70 miles from Death Valley, spends their wedding anniversary in the Sierras every year just so they can help shuttle us PCT hikers around! Amazing! Otherworld asked if there was any chance they could drive us to Bishop and the man said that would be up to the boss. His wife agreed and we were soon speeding down the highway. My sleeping pad was flapping around in the wind and the driver pulled over to make sure it was secure.
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Once back in the car, they commented on how we all got quiet all of a sudden and saw that we were all transfixed on our phones. They said we were just like their grandchildren! We offered to buy the couple dinner, but they declined.
They dropped us off and we said our goodbyes, and then Otherworld went to find us a room in a motel that she had visited often on family vacations. Unfortunately, they were all booked up, so we headed back to the Rodeway. Seeking and Razor were still there in the same room! They were planning on having sushi again, so we joined them. Luckyman had an equally hard time with Razor. When he went to the restroom, Luckyman said, “Now I know why they call him Razor. Because he cuts through everyone’s conversations!”.
We headed back to the room and Otherworld went outside to call her boyfriend. I barely unpacked my things since I didn’t need to do any sorting here. She ended up talking to Razor and Seeking outside the room for awhile and also ended up getting frustrated that she wasn’t given the chance to answer the questions she was being asked.
After she came back in, I finally fell asleep.