Day 66: Mile 1105.5 to Mile 1090.5, 15 miles
September 5th: Today we hiked out of the Desolation Wilderness which was amazingly beautiful and full of lakes and came out at Echo Lake. There were lots of hikers hiking around there. We kept on to the intersection of the PCT and Rt 50, and tried to hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe. It took us quite a long time before someone stopped and picked us up. The woman who picked us up turned out to be the sister of someone who was participating in the Tahoe Rim Trail 200 mile ultra marathon. It was amazing to talk to her about what it takes to run 200 miles in under 4 days. We had seen signs for this race, and we were walking on part of the route. One of the interesting things we learned is that these runners need to take capsules of salt to replenish what they sweat out! She gave us a ride to the library where I wrote my last blog post, and then we wandered over to the Safeway to resupply. At the Safeway, we found a machine in the pharmacy section that measures your weight, blood pressure, etc. We decided to weigh ourselves. Dirt Stew weighed in at 173lbs, and myself 124lbs. Not too bad, but we both lost close to 15lbs (we had also gained some in the months before the trail, however). Once we left Safeway, we found a local bus that took us over to an all you can eat Chinese Buffet. After stuffing our faces full of delicious Chinese food, we managed to talk our way into a ride back to the trail from a local. A few miles in we camped.
Day 67: Mile 1090.5 to Mile 1062.5, 28 miles
September 6th: At 2AM, Dirt Stew was awoken by someone either running or walking very fast past our tent. “I wonder who that was!” He said to me in a whisper. “They were going Southbound!”. We speculated, but only a couple hours later another several people passed by us. By the morning we figured out we were on the race course for the 200 mile run, and runners were running through the night past our tent. After a few miles into our day we passed an aid station where runners could get water, food, etc. We were happy when the PCT diverged from the Tahoe Rim Trail, meaning we wouldn’t have to worry about being woken up again tonight. We soon lost sight of Lake Tahoe, and came to a visitors center where we chatted with the docents and bought some post cards. We walked into very dry rocky terrain with no trees. The wind started to pick up and we started to get annoyed that we couldn’t keep our umbrellas up to keep from getting sunburned. We got up over 9000ft, and the wind was just crazy. We came back down into trees and camped near a seasonal stream which turned out to be running great.
Day 68: Mile 1062.5 to Mile 1033, 29.5 miles
September 7th: Today we kept passing dry creek beds. We started carrying more water since we could not rely on any sources. The funny thing was that many of the water sources labeled “seasonal” were running great whereas the larger streams seemed to all be dry. We decided this probably had a lot to do with soil type. It continued to be very very windy, and in the distance we could see clouds and some of them looked like smoke. We wondered if we still needed to worry about forest fires. After we set up camp and the sun set we heard rumbling in the distance. Soon the thunder storm was upon us, and we were so glad that we were not in the habit of cowboy camping. We made sure everything was securely under the shelter of our tarp, and fell back asleep to the sound of rain dripping onto the tarp.
Day 69: Mile 1033 to Mile 1018.5 (Sonora Pass), 14.5 miles
September 8th: When we woke up, it was dry, but rumbling continued in the distance. After we packed up and started walking we could tell that the day would be filled with thunder storms. As we walked towards Sonora Pass we met a section hiker named Death Valley Bob. He gave us very useful information. He told us the wind that we experienced several days ago was part of a tropical storm coming up from Mexico, and that the storms were also part of that storm. He also told us that the wind caused a flair-up of a fire in Yosemite which had been burning for quite some time now, but was made worst by this wind. He also assured us that the fire would not affect us, as it was not on the PCT. Only JMT hikers were affected. Phew! As we hiked down to Sonora Pass to get to the Kennedy Meadows “Resort”, we were rained on repeatedly. I was very happy to have my umbrella even though the wind made it difficult to keep up. We were able to get a ride on the road down to Kennedy Meadows, and walked the additional mile from route 108 to the resort, and were pleasantly surprised to see that they had everything we wanted within just a few steps of each other: we rented a cabin with a shower, they had a laundry room, a store, a small restaurant, and even a pay phone! We ate lunch and dinner in the restaurant, showered, and did laundry. We picked up our bear canister full of food and packed it in our packs before passing out in our cute little cabin.
September 9th: We woke up slightly cold in the morning and walked outside. It was definitely very cold. We went to the restaurant and ate our third meal there and asked about the weather. The temperature was the talk of the restaurant, and the verdict was that it was 34F. We put on all our clothes and walked to the road to try to get a ride out. There was almost no traffic on the road, and nobody was stopping for us. We were getting colder and colder. Finally a couple stopped and picked us up, and we thanked them profusely. I was about to give up on getting a ride! I was so happy that the heating in their car was on full blast and slowly the feeling in my hands and feet came back. Once we got dropped off, we hiked up a really rocky area with no plants and then back down into the trees again. Finally we passed a sign claiming we had entered Yosemite! This was one park for which we needed the bear canister. The bear canister is big, heavy, annoying to carry and annoying to open. I’m not really convinced it does anything to help against bears, but I respect their rules, so we begrudgingly carried it. Once we reach Touolumne Meadows we will be getting a section canister, since all our food won’t fit in just one. Then we’ll both have to carry one. Groan…
Day 71: Mile 996.5 to Mile 972, 24.5 miles
September 10th: It was cold in the night, and when we got out of our tent we saw frost on the grass. We passed a stream and collected water, and I noticed that some of the rocks had ice on them. We were taking a break when another thru-hiker walked up on us. His trail name was Alabama, and we started to talk with him as we continued walking. Alabama was hoping to finish the trail by Oct 15th, and was hiking quite a few more miles a day than us in order to accomplish his goal. We walked with him for many hours, and the trail was quite rough. Lots of up and down with lots of rocks. We wondered how horses were able to hike here. I hiked faster than normal in order to keep up with him and chat. It is so nice to talk to another hiker and share our thoughts. Dirt Stew and I often hike most of the day in silence since we don’t have that much to talk about on a daily basis. The miles went by fast, but I knew we had to let Alabama hike on ahead since my legs felt like jello. We decided to take the side trail to Benson Lake to check it out since we had heard many good things about it. Alabama hiked on ahead as I expected he would. I was exhausted. The lake was not as spectacular as I had thought it may be, so we hiked on just a couple more miles to higher and hopefully slightly less cold ground. We have become good at figuring out where it will be cold. Valleys and near lakes are always cold. Higher elevation is also colder. The best is low elevation, but not near water or a valley. We camped and gobbled down some food before crawling into our tent. As I got in I felt terribly nauseous. I had no idea why, but I ran outside just in case I was going to vomit. Only Pepto Bismol helped in the end, and finally I was able to sleep.
Day 72: Mile 972 to Mile 948, 24 miles
September 11th: Today both Dirt Stew and I felt exhausted nearly all day. My muscles burned on the uphills, and I generally felt fatigued. The scenery was of course beautiful, especially going over Benson Pass. We had breakfast next to an amazing lake and took many pictures. We took many breaks since we were feeling tired, and at one of the many pathetic “streams” that was almost dry I saw a small puddle that was separated from the rest of the water and was drying up slowly. In this puddle there were a dozen or so little fish with nowhere to go. I decided that I would catch them all and put them in the bigger body of water. This of course was just a tactic to avoid more hiking, but I managed to “save” each one of them. I knew there were countless little puddles like this one with fish caught with nowhere to go, but it gave me some joy to release them into a bigger pool and watch them swim off. Later in the day we met a section hiker named Unprepared who told us of his journey through the desert and how he carried 17 liters of water, which made his pack 90lbs. We started worrying about how much water we would find in the desert. But for now, the Sierra has plenty of water for us.
Day 73: Mile 948 to Mile 923, 25 miles
September 12th: Today we hiked to Tuolumne Meadows, a small store/post office/cafe where we had some packages to pick up. We ate two breakfasts each at the cafe before the Post Office opened up. We were surprised when we saw Alabama walk up. He had accidentally put the SD card for his camera in a box to be mailed back home, and he was hoping to get it back out. He also told us he was in the market for a new trail name, since he didn’t want to be constantly associated with Alabama. So we started calling him Robert. We hiked out with Robert along the John Muir Trail which is the same trail as the Pacific Crest Trail through much of the Sierra. The scenery was unbelievable. We exited Yosemite and entered Ansel Adams Wilderness. More jaw dropping scenery with huge granite mountains, some with glaciers on them as we kept going past dark to find a place to camp.
Day 74: Mile 923 to Mile 893.5 (Purple Lake), 29.5 miles