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?”.
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.

Day 52: From Bishop to Lone Pine

Day 52
June 9

One of the tourist destinations in Bishop is Schat’s bakery, where no one is allowed to take photographs of anything inside. It’s a huge place that is filled with every kind of pastry imaginable, and has a separate room devoted to breads. Bambi and I headed over there for breakfast and looked around. It was like being at Disney World at first- everything was big and new and shiny. But, my sick body didn’t actually want any of that. I ended up buying a multi-grain roll and a single packet of butter, along with a latte. I was planning on sitting inside, but Bambi wanted to eat outside in the sun. When I walked out, I found an Indian man, clearly in despair, seeking help from Bambi. “You’re going to be okay, man,” Bambi was telling him, calmly. He turned to me and began enlisting my sympathy. I couldn’t understand him very well and thought his reservation was being taken away and his sister was soon to be homeless. He had tears in his eyes and kept shouting out his pain, wanting us to do something about it. All we could do was tell him it was all going to be okay. I went back into the bakery and asked Delaware Dave if he could come outside and eat with us, as we needed his help with a situation. He agreed, saying that anything interesting is good. When Razor walked out, the Indian man immediately called him Chief, which I found amusing. Razor said something dismissive and demeaning in return. The presence of the others succeeded in getting the man to leave. I realized that he had a new audience each morning outside this bakery. Bambi informed me that his sister was going to be put into a nursing home, and that was why he was so upset. He had repeatedly called me “sissy”, which I didn’t find so nice, but Bambi said he actually meant “sister”. Whistler came and sat with us, which made me happy. I showed him my Mt. Whitney jumping photo and he stared at it just as incredulously as he had stared at the rice krispy treat! “You have the best expressions!”, I told him. He had a very laid-back, easy-going demeanor and I liked being around him. He reminded me of my brother. I asked him where he was from and if he had ever been to the White Mountains. “I can see you working in the huts up there,” I told him. He had actually already hiked the AT and knew just what I meant. Because he had to get back to school, he was on a tight deadline to finish the PCT by August 26, which I found extraordinary. He had already lost a precious few days by getting lost over Glen Pass, and hiking it backwards after he had hiked it northbound. Because this mistake had caused him to be low on food, he had to make the additional unplanned trip down Kearsarge Pass and into town. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him again after today.
We headed back to the room to start packing. Bambi was heading back to the trail and I was heading to Lone Pine. I texted Muk Muk and asked what she was doing and she replied that she and UB were eating sundaes at 8:30 in the morning! She was looking forward to seeing me and said they were planning on taking me to the ice cream shop once I arrived!
Bambi showed me his photo at the starting monument. On our descent down Forrester, he was telling me how stiff and awkward he looked in that picture. “My hand was gripped into a claw.”
“And how do you look in pictures now?” I asked.
“Rugged and cool.”
It’s fascinating to see the change that visibly occurs in us after only about 10 days of hiking. Our entire demeanor changes as the things that control us in our other lives slip away from our bodies.
He asked me if my arms were so toned from doing yoga. I didn’t know how to answer that because it had been a long time since I had done any yoga! The only thing I was doing now was planting my hiking poles into the ground with each step. Bambi had just gotten 2 poles for himself and was practicing in the room. He had no idea how to use them and looked like a stiff geriatric man with canes!
I wanted to bring his leftover pole that he had found in the hiker box at Kennedy Meadows to UB, who had thrown his poles (as well as his cooking pot) over the mountain on a day that his past reared its head and overtook his self-control. When he told me the story at Kennedy Meadows, I told him that when that happens, he just needs to get calm and breathe and let it pass. And if he stills needs to throw something, he can throw some sticks or rocks. “Throwing the things you need down the mountain just hurts you more,” I said. (And the environment…).
“No!” he quickly shouted back. He said he didn’t need to get quiet.

Whistler was also ready to head back to the trail, but wanted to write some postcards first. I decided I might as well make use of the pool while I waited and again saw the family from last night.
Finally, we were all packed and ready to go. We walked to Main St. and stuck out our thumbs. Bambi turned into an extrovert and was doing all sorts of actions in hopes of getting someone to stop. No one did. After lots and lots of attempts, someone told us we would be better off trying to hitch down the road, closer to the interstate. So, we slung on our packs on another roasting hot day, and walked down the street. “Who wants a smoothie?” I asked as we passed the coffee shop. Bambi had told me that I need acidophilus and that the yogurt in a smoothie would be good for me when we came in yesterday, but after he read some information about flagyl, realized there was a high chance that I am now lactose intolerant and that yogurt would be bad for me! Great!
We walked down the shadeless street, wondering where would be a good place to try our luck. It seemed to go on forever! We finally stopped on a street corner only to be later told that we would have better luck up the road, across from the gas station. So, we moved on. There was a single tree in front of a municipal building that I wished was closer to the road. I put my pack down and joined the guys in sticking my thumb out. We were having no better luck down here! Why was it so impossible to get a ride around here? Bambi continued his antics of waving the cars down, kneeling down on the pavement, and holding his hands in prayer. “You know you want to give us a ride!”.
Finally, a van pulled up and asked us where we were headed. He said he was only going partway. Bambi decided to take him up on it. I got in the front seat and the guys sat on the floor in the back. We were driven about 10 miles down the highway, at which our driver needed to turn into a ranch to prepare for the rodeo coming into town. He asked us if we were going to be okay.
As the cars whizzed by at over 60 mph, we realized what a huge mistake it was to have accepted a partial ride. We were in an even worse place to try to hitch than when we first started trying! Bambi started doing russian splits at the oncoming traffic! No one cared. I texted Muk Muk and let her know that I was still far, far away from Lone Pine. Not only did I need to get this impossible 30 mile hitch from the middle of a highway, but I also had to find another 15 mile ride once we got dropped off in Independence!
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Luckily, the driver of a pick-up truck took pity on us and pulled over. We were so happy! He was holding a mason jar of water between his thighs and would pick it up ever so often to take a sip. I was envious of the refreshing-looking water! ‘Wagon Wheel’ came on the radio and I looked back at Whistler. “The AT song!”.
As we drove by the Sierra mountains, our driver talked about Fossil Falls and the petroglyphs you could find there, as well as the bighorn sheep that lived in the area. There were so many things I didn’t know about and so many things you could see if you weren’t constrained to one path with a very limited time frame in which to hike it! I wanted to come back here and have a chance to explore the area.
He dropped us off at the gas station in Independence. Whistler asked if he could get a hug. “Of course!”. I figured I better give one to Bambi, as well, even though it didn’t feel nearly as natural. Bambi asked for my number and I told him not to text me because I get charged if it’s not from another iphone! Then, I headed down the road to start the third part of my hitch.
Luckily, this was the easiest one of the three by far! A couple that I had made eye contact with as I was looking for desert last night and they were leaving a restaurant recognized me! “We saw you in Bishop!” they said. They were super nice and brought me right to the Dow Hotel, where Muk Muk and UB were staying. I checked into my room, happy to have my own space again, and immediately headed over to the lunch place with 10 minutes to spare before they closed! I texted Muk Muk after I placed my order. I got some refreshing lemonade with my burger and it came in a large glass mug that reminded me of our driver’s mason jar I had been envying! Happiness!
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Muk Muk said they were going to get pizza and wanted me to join them, but she and Lion King ended up coming in to meet me. The energy was centered around Lion King, who was complaining about hiking in the heat. He was doing small sections of the PCT and had hiked a southbound section to meet Muk Muk in Lone Pine. We headed back to the motel, where Muk Muk wanted to take a nap, and agreed to meet up later to get the ice cream sundaes, as promised! I gave her a big hug and ended up lifting her off the ground! She had gotten so tiny since the last time I had seen her!
I wanted to take a nap as well, but decided that I had better write postcards that I promised I would send. That took quite a bit of time! 5:00 arrived and there was a knock on my door. I opened it to find UB with Muk Muk and got a big hug! Then we headed over to get our sundaes.
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Mine ended up hurting my stomach more and more and I wasn’t able to even finish it, while UB got a second one (his third for the day!). I think the flagyl had made me lactose intolerant! I felt awful!
UB wanted pizza for dinner and said we could share one later in the evening, but I knew the cheese wouldn’t be good for me. It felt so sad to not be able to eat the foods that all of the other hikers were enjoying! UB headed back to their room on his own, leaving Muk Muk and I to our “girl talk”. After a couple of stories, we headed back ourselves. Muk Muk stopped it in at the outfitters to inquire about getting a ride back to the trail by way of Horseshoe Meadows. There was already a couple of people signed up for that ride, so she and UB were able to join in. There were no rides back to Onion Valley trailhead, where I needed to go, however.
We walked down the street and I saw 5-Star and Purple Haze in the window of a restaurant eating dinner! I knocked on the window pane and waved and they invited us in to say hi. They had not yet met Muk Muk, and were delighted with her exuberant personality and Australian accent, as all men were. I asked Purple Haze how many days it had taken for him to feel better after taking the flagyl and learned that he had taken the antibiotics for five days! What?! I told him that Bambi had said it was one dose, but Purple Haze said, “no, you need to take it twice a day for 5 days”! Before I had received the dose from Bambi, I was planning on asking a college friend who is a doctor if she could write me a prescription. After talking to Purple Haze, I knew I still needed to do this!
We returned to our rooms and agreed to meet up later for pizza. Muk Muk placed a delivery order and came down to my room to share it. She talked about a lot of guy stories on her journey so far and seemed to understand that they were happening to teach her a lesson, but she hadn’t yet figured out what exactly the lesson was. We had talked about these kinds of things at kick-off and she wondered how I knew so much about keeping boundaries. I told her that I was forced to learn those things on the AT! The same kinds of awful behaviors kept showing up! Because Muk Muk is so naturally open and friendly, a lot of people think they can get things from her. I encouraged her to keep thinking about the way she was being treated and perhaps change her behavior a bit to better protect herself so she wasn’t being taken advantage of. I was very dismayed to hear that Lion King had made her pay for his hotel room in Lone Pine! After we finished the pizza, I gave her my neon yellow fleece jacket, as I now had a black one that I felt much more comfortable with! The yellow color looked much better on her!
We wished each other a goodnight and agreed to meet for breakfast in the morning. All of this hitchhiking and moving from town to town was exhausting!