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Posts Tagged ‘Drop Zone’

We got into Sierra City after a long, drown out descent.  At the road, Hop-a-long and I hitched a ride with 1/2 of the Red Moose Inn, trail angel Bill.  He gave us a ride there, we dropped our packs, and ran across the street to the General Store where we had sent resupply boxes.  Several bags of chips and soda later, we went back to the Red Moose and enjoyed the most awesome resupply help from Margrette and Bill.  They let us have free showers, laundry and $1 cheap beers.

A huge crowd had become sucked into the vortex.  G, Splinter, Inspector Gadget, Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson had all gotten there 9:30am the morning before and were still there.  Other suspects included: Hollywood, Chow Down, Lorax, Chimney Sweep, Dr. Huss, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Drop Zone, and Scallywag.  It was Scallywag’s birthday, so naturally, we all celebrated quite a bit.

Hop-a-long and I worked hard to have our first “in and out” trail resupply, so we whipped through showers, laundry, and eating as much as possible, which included dinner at the Red Moose.  The only people to make it back to the trail that afternoon were Snow Turtle, Aggassi, Swanson, Splinter, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Hop-a-long and I, yet the two of us only managed to get out at dark and night hike to a nice flat spot that we found off of a switch back, not more than a mile out.

We got up early and went for it to knock out a 3,000 odd foot climb up to the crested buttes that we looked directly up at from Sierra City.  Since there was no 1200 mile mark, we stopped and created one.  Three miles up, the trail began a giant upward contour instead of switchbacking.  That’s where we found Dancing Feet and Not-so-bad barely awake.

Once up and over, we began to hit side trail after side trail and a shit ton of jeep 4×4 roads as we went from ridge to ridge.  At one point, we came across three jeeps blocking the entire trail as they figured out how to get one unstuck from the bottom of a hill.

“Excuse me, sir?  Do you know you are parked on the PCT?  A footpath. No motorized vehicles…” I said annoyed that they had kicked up enough dust to line the insides of all our lungs.

In a dirty, grumblely voice, “you can walk right there,” pointing to scrub bushes around his 7 mpg jeep that was destroying the environment.

I threw them as many dirty looks as I could and kept walking.  Due to all the dirt roads, many day walkers were out and about the whole damn day.

After having to get gross ass water from Summit Lake, the A Tree spring tasted fantastic, although, the Sawyer Squeeze filter worked fantastic and I was definitely glad to have it.  Aquamira-ing that would have sucked, especially since all around the lake was a marshy mess.

We ate dinner and then kept hiking to where Yogi mentions we should “descend to a spot with some campsites – good water” at mile 1225.  Yeah, Yogi lied.  Both of our headlamps were starting to die, for some reason there were a ton of blowdowns and we neared the end of a 27 mile day tripping everywhere.  At 10pm, we knew we were half a mile further than where she said the flat spot would be and had seen nothing the whole time, so we called it and camped right smack in the middle of the trail.  Our logic was that the only person behind crazy enough to night hike past us was G and he would find it hilarious and no one would be up before us.

No one ended up passing us, but we found Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson in semi-flat areas half a mile further.  We cruised along, up, and over and eventually ran into Splinter who had slept until about 10am or so and just starting out.

“How far did you get out of town?” Hop-a-long asked.

“Uhh 13.  I had a good buzz going and I just kept drinking and smoking cigarettes until it was 1am,” Splinter laughed.

When we got to the road with the water .3 off, Hop watched our stuff in the parking lot while Splinter and I got water.  On the way back, we saw Hop talking up some nice looking day walkers.  They ended up offering us each a beer which made our day!  While we sat there, the woman came running back with a coffee mug type thing and said, “We’re really bad hikers…I bring two of these every time and I only need one, so you guys can have this and leave the mug in the back of the truck.”

It was a frozen Piña Colada that tasted especially delicious and soooo refreshing.  We shared all of it with Snow Turtle, Aggassi, and Swanson when they came a few moments later.

We had motivation with that coursing through our system to get to what was described as the best swimming hole on trail at the Middle Fork of the Feather River.  It was indeed the best one yet: the water was a perfect temperature, there was a large rock perfectly submerged to sitting depth in the middle, there were campsites nearby, and someone had left a goggle face mask there! The 15 miles to get there after lunch was so worth it rounding us off at a 25 mile day and swimming by 8pm.

Hop-a-long and I got up early and prepared for a really long day in order to make the Belden Post Office hours which were severely limited to 9am-1pm Monday through Friday.  The entire long day, we pretty much climbed out from the river to the tallest ridge around.

We ran into Splinter again about 9 miles further by the last water for 8 miles.  After chatting and hanging out, he realized he did not have his headlamp and he left it where he slept some 3.5 miles back and down some 1500 ft at least.  He ended up going back for it.

Hop-a-long and I kept plugging and ran into Sea Hag and Robo Knee getting water before the last climb.  It wasn’t a bad climb, but we had climbed all day.  They ended up camping at the top of it while we kept going over the very bumpy ridge.

The two of us ate dinner by a side trail and Aggassi, Snow Turtle, and Swanson passed us.  I turned my phone on for the hell of it and Dead Animal had texted me, “fire north of Belden, trail closed.”

“Details?” I texted back.

“All I know is info in Belden Town Resort,” the text came back.

Well, it was north of Belden, so we proceeded with our plan to do a 30 mile day so we only had 9 miles down into town.  When we managed to get to the campsite just before 10pm, we found a tent there with someone asleep and we didn’t know who it was, so we snuck around and found something behind it and set up quietly wondering what the fire was about.

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“…just to watch him die…” – Johnny Cash

Hop-a-long and I finally left the shelter of the bathroom at 1:30 in a break between thunderstorms realizing we had only managed 6.5 miles that morning.  We climbed up and over a small ridge and down to a creek and campsite where some section hikers were posting up at 3pm for the night.

We got water and watched the sky, debating our options.  Seven miles of exposed ridge walking would come in about 3 miles and there was no more water until we descended the ridge.  After we sat through a couple small storms and watched other systems collide and make dark swirls in the sky, we decided to load up on water and go until treeline and see from there.  The map showed possible flat spots right around where the trees would disappear on the ridge if the storms persisted.

On the way up the climb, it hailed on us and we stood under a tree for it to finish.  It got up to about pea sized but stopped after about 10 minutes and we continued climbing.

At the top of the ridge, we ran into three day walkers who told us the other side looked clearer than the east side facing Lake Tahoe.  There, we got to leave the 40 mile section that the PCT and the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) shared.  Watching the sky, we saw they were right and also another patch of trees a mile or so down.  w2e scampered over to them and reassessed.  Still ok.  Well, the clouds were a little dark but we hadn’t seen lightning in several hours that was close enough to be threatening.  We hurried along the ridge from semi-safe spot to semi-safe spot.  This particular ridge did not really leave too many bail out points that did not include 500 feet or more of scrambling down.

When we finally descended, we breathed a sigh of relief, sat down, and swatted mosquitos.  Then we hiked a bit more to a small campsite just a bit up the next climb.

That night was a bit strange without Dead Animal or Inspector Gadget, but Hop and I had fun anyway.  I also swore I heard voices, but Hop heard nothing.  Great.

“Hahahahaha, did you hear that?” Hop-a-long asked in the morning.

“No,” I said looking up from the 3G I discovered on my phone.

“Someone just yelled like Tarzan…you’re not crazy!” Hop laughed.

We had two climbs that morning before a very long descent to town road.  We ran into the first day walkers about half way up the second climb and they scared the shit out of me since I was rocking out with my iPod and in the zone climbing up.

When we reached the top of the ridge that we would follow down, we ran into a large man named Daniel who was doing a section from Truckee to Mt. Whitney, which he’d done several times to get back in shape.  He said it would take him 4 months for the 400 miles.

“So what are those loud booming sounds we’ve been hearing?” Hop-a-long asked when he said he was a local.

“Ohh, yeah, there’s a bomb range right over there,” he said nonchalantly, “and over there is some other military base that flies fighters all over, and over there is where they hit targets over in…what’s that country?? Oh, Afghanistan, with remote controls.”

“Huh.” Was our reply.

He sat and told us various other entertaining comments until we got up and hiked to town.  We began running into a million day walkers the closer we got to a road.  I kept my headphones in to avoid having to repeat the usual conversation over and over.

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At the road, Hop hitched right to Truckee and I hitched left to Soda Springs.  My wonderful mother sent my resupply box to the hostel, but the Post Office kept it, so I had to run across the street to grab it before they closed, then I was at the hostel bar having a beer when Dead Animal called and said he had gotten to Truckee and rented a car and was coming to pick me up.

When he did, we picked Hop-a-long up from the busiest Safeway ever and drove around listening to loud car music in the extra awesome rental that had gotten upgraded because the rental car guy didn’t feel like cleaning the economy car.

While driving and blasting music, we decided to opt for AYCE Sushi instead of splitting a motel room.  We ate a massive amount and I almost had to pull a Swanson move of throwing up in the bathroom and then finish eating.  Afterward, we found the trailhead and slept in the woods by the rental car.

In the morning, after caffeine we bought a map and figured out how to get to a forest service road at mile 1174.2 and slackpack sobo back to Truckee.  We got there late and started around 10am.  We ran into one of the Japanese guys and Camillion who we hadn’t seen since the Anderson’s.

The trail cruised up and down, up and down.  At the first water, we ran into G and Swanson and I offered some of the vegan brownies my awesome resupply mom sent.  Hop-a-long and I chilled and cruised listening to music the whole time since we could charge it that evening again.

We soon ran into a number of other hikers, a lot of whom we hadn’t met yet.  Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Funk, and Trooper.  After the big “climb” which was so switchbacked that it didn’t seem like much, we ran into Snow Turtle and Aggassi on their way up.  It was actually really cool going the “wrong way” because we got to run into everybody.

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Dead Animal picked us up and we went to Reno since we had talked about it for about 500 miles or so.  We went to REI first where Hop-a-long checked out packs, but didn’t find anything since it was pretty picked over.  I got a Sawyer Squeeze filter to try out.

After that we found a cheap room in a casino, got pizza, and hung out.  We managed to get back to the trail around 3:30 and hike by 4pm after hanging out with Hollywood, Drop Zone, Lorax, Chow Down and I’m Fine.

Hop-a-long, Drop Zone and I made it about 10 miles that evening but couldn’t find any flat spots, so we camped right smack in the middle of a side trail figuring it wouldn’t get any traffic.

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The “rain” prevented us from taking many breaks, so we hurried to a Visitor’s center at Hwy 88, Carson’s Pass. When we got there, we saw Dubs, Wiz, Extra Credit, and Cactus hitching into South Lake Tahoe early.  We saw Scallywag sitting at the visitor center who we hadn’t seen in a while.

Yogi mentioned a cafe somewhere along the road that Gadget had hurried ahead of us to go eat at.  We weren’t planning on going until Dead Animal convinced us, mostly because he claimed to need soda, beer, and a burger to go on.  It only took five minutes or so to get a ride and then we found Gadget, Hollywood, Trip, and Drop Zone all there.

Inspector Gadget had already done some poking around on the phone and discovered that he could get us a free Holiday Inn room again that night, but not the next when we planned on getting in.  Somehow, we ended up hitching into South Lake Tahoe early as well.  We found Aggasi and Snow Turtle at the casino where we attempted to play some penny slots and celebrate Brittany’s birthday.

The casinos and their cheap drinks prevented us from leaving South Lake Tahoe promptly and we began attempting to hitch out on the outskirts of town after visiting the Lake of the Sky Outfitter who provided us with cardboard and markers to make a sign.  On one side, we wrote “PCT hikers to Carson Pass” and on the other we wrote “PCT hikers to Echo Lake.”

Knowing that getting back to Carson Pass may be pretty difficult, we started trying to get there, then just randomly kept flipping it back and forth seeing who would take us where.  Eventually, after a good wait, a red pick-up picked us up and brought us half way to echo lake.  He laughed since he had just picked up Navi there and taken her into town.  She had sprained her ankle super bad and stayed back at VVR for a week and managed to work most of her stay off down to an $88 bill…amazing.

Dead Animal and I waited there for not even five minutes and we got picked up by two guys who took us to where the PCT crossed route 50, or 14 trail miles ahead of Carson Pass.  Whoops, oh well.  The way I see it, is that I’m still a net of 17 miles ahead (17 extra for Whitney + 18 extra for Kearsarge minus 14 here, and minus 4 around that stupid frog detour back before mile 400).

We walked a mile and a half over a hill to Echo Lake which was swarming with day walkers and a bunch of hiker trash sitting at a picnic table drinking beer.  The suspects: G, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, Pacemaker, Swanson, and Natty.  We sat for an hour or so, then escaped to go on trail.  We compared recent stories of people thinking we were homeless bums.

“I was just standing outside the liquor store watching packs and some lady just came up to me and asked, ‘so are you homeless?'” Dead Animal said.

“Someone asked me that while I was waiting for the traffic light to change and the “walk” pedestrian light.  Sure dude, I’m just a homeless bum with $1200 worth of gear on my back…I don’t know what went wrong!” Backtrack laughed.

Soon, we discovered the irony of a populated Desolation wilderness as we passed an absurd amount of day walkers in the first few miles out of Echo Lake.  Walking by all sorts of cabins, people went in and out and all over.

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At mile 1100, some one had made the usual rock sign, so Dead Animal GPS’ed it for exactitude and we got to work making a pretty one.  While we set up behind the sign in a flat spot, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long and Swanson came up and crashed too.

“I heard voices and singing and saw headlamps last night around midnight,” Hop-a-long said in the morning.  “G probably passed us super late again.”

Down the trail three miles or so, we found none other than G, whose first comment was, “I wouldn’t be awake right now if it weren’t for those damn load section hikers early in the morning.”

“Wanna split our last beer, so I don’t have to carry it up the pass,” I asked.

“Yeah! Want some whiskey?” G perked up.

“We can polish off the last of this wine too,” Dead Animal chimed in.

It proved a fantastic start to the morning as we then had to climb Dick’s Pass, which surprisingly was not that bad since the grade was overall awesome.  On the way up, Dead Animal took advantage of cell service and called his mom back.  We also met a crazy old guy with an old-school pack and a crazy beard.

I got a bit annoyed at the pass because we went to the lowest point on the ridge which clearly was the pass, also marked thus on the map, but then we had to climb 300 more damn feet up one side and go over.  A sign post claimed that was the pass.  Nope.

Lunch came at a lake outlet stream a few miles below with a great swim, music from G’s speakers, and sock rinsing.  From there, we generally went down with several bumps the rest of the day.

About three miles down from lunch, I hear and “ARRRRRRG!!!” I turned around to see Dead Animal holding his right knee and hobbling to a log.

“I don’t know what I did!  I guess I stepped down from something wrong, or did something when I fell on it the other day, or what, but something is catching on something else every time I try to put all my weight on it,” he said through a grimace.

Vitamin I was taken and I looked at it.  The muscle or tendon just down from the knee cap was a bit swollen where he said it was catching.  As I thought about what we could use to wrap it, Pacemaker came up and offered us the use of his ACE wrap, which worked decently with the combo of him borrowing my polls for several miles.

Eventually, we got to Lake Richard and camped near a group of 13-17 year olds with matching t shirts who decided it was a good idea to play frisbee right near our tents at 8:30-9 at night.  Hop-a-long kindly explained that thru-hiker midnight was around 9pm and the four or five thru-hiker tents were all trying to sleep.  They all managed to quite down around 9:15, much to our pleasant surprise.

That evening, we had looked across the lake at the sky and had a “hmmmmmm” moment.  Right before sleep, we all put up rain protection.

“All you thru-hikers are scaring us!” said a nearby section hiker who did not want to put the rain fly on his tent it seemed.

“Those clouds look like the start of something and we heard there may be weather moving in tomorrow.  In our experience, it rolls in the night before out here,” Hop-a-long said.

Sure enough, 2am, rain spurts.  Thunder crashed all night while lightning bolts cracked down on trees only 50ft away.  Flash, flash, flash all night.  I didn’t sleep well since I was worried a lightening bolt would start a fire nearby or a tree would fall.

Good thing I had trouble waking up that next morning and was not quick about breaking everything down though.  Right after my morning pee break, I spoke with Pacemaker and while we talked, a massive sheet of rain began rushing toward us across the lake and the thunder became the loudest it had been, lightning getting closer.  I could see the line where it was raining and where it wasn’t.  I ran back so fast and continued laying on my neo-air hoping the lightening wouldn’t hit the lake and bounce over to where everyone was camped.

Once the biggest front seemed to have come through, we packed up and left at a late 8:30…so much for a big day!  From there to Barker Pass, it rained every 30 minutes or so for about five minutes.  Most of the trail there was in trees, which was super convenient since we could just pause under a big one and not get really wet, then hike when it only drizzled.  Dead’s knee still hurt quite a bit, so we went slow, which somehow seemed to increase my hunger.  Hop-a-long was on her yogiing game and got all kinds of non-cookable food since her pocket rocket rungs had gotten striped and she had to call MSR.  That’s what happened to mine last year on the Colorado Trail and MSR was super helpful and replaced it for me.

At Barker Pass, some section hikers we had talked to waited with their car there when Inspector told them Dead needed a ride into town to rest his knee.  Hop-a-long and I posted up near the bathroom, ready to chill there while it thunderstormed.  Dead Animal went down with them to rest his knee and Inspector Gadget went down too, for no real reason other than he wanted town and town food.

Hop-a-long and I talked with Funnybone, who had thru-hiked the PCT in 2002 and 2006.  He was out for a short section.  He was really fun to talk to while we waited out a few thunderstorms there since in not too many miles the trail would jump up on a ridge and stay exposed for about 7 miles.

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In the morning, everyone slowly packed up to go back to the picnic tables where we ate breakfast, lounged, and sat.  Periodically, some people would get motivated and leave the picnic tables for the trail.  Eventually, after a good amount of french fries, I got motivated.

Dead Animal and I cut across a field to get back to the trail and we walked for a bit until we came back to the Tuolomne River which we had tried to swim in before at a higher elevation, but it was too cold.  There, the river got wider and warmer, so we jumped in since we couldn’t shower anywhere near the store.  The whole first few miles, we passed ridiculous amounts of day walkers, horse packers, and complaining kids.

After a good swim, we got to the Glen Aulin Camp, a horse camp type thing where a few people worked.  It had a super buggy backpacker camping area next to it, so we set up there and tried not to be completely eaten by mosquitos.  It was a bit early but there wasn’t any water for 8 miles and the terrain didn’t seem too amenable for flatness for a bit.

Bolt rolled in right before dark who we hadn’t seen for quite a bit and he said that he and House had gone down into the valley for a bit.  He was trying to go to South Lake Tahoe in 8 days which meant a lot of 20s.

The mosquitos were horrible right from the get-go and did not care about deet what-so-ever.  Plus, we had a long slow climb first thing in the morning heat.  Since we entered Yosemite, the trail turned shitty.  It was super rocky and in parts it seemed like they didn’t really try to build a trail, rather they just brought some horses through for a footpath when they couldn’t just make cairns on large rock slabs.  Other times, they built the trail up nice, lined with large rocks, but left piles of ankle-twister rocks in the middle.  Or, worse yet, these cobblestone-like steps which were usually covered with sand and were too small to actually put your feet all the way on, i.e. I’m-going-to-fall-on-my-ass-steps.

Most of this section was dominated by that and going in and out of canyons.  We would hike sharply up on rocky steps to almost a view, then descend sharply down the same shit into another canyon.  Sometimes, a large blow down would cut off the corner of a steep switch back so we had to cut the already steep switch back into a steeper one.

Once in another canyon, we followed it for a ways, then climbed up into another one pretty much.  After dropping into the first one there, we ran into Waffles, Gator, Snowflake, and Mancake by the water.  While we ate lunch, they headed up the next steep climb which turned out to be a bitch of a steep climb.  The climb redeemed itself by taking us past Miller Lake which proved some of the best swimming yet.  Waffles and the others had caught Ornie and were building an elaborate sand castle using six different pots for various building sizes, a mote, and the whole nine yards.

We continued steeply down, then back up toward Benson Pass.  The first third of the climb up was a little absurd in the steepness, but it evened out a little bit afterward following up Wilson Creek.  At the last creek crossing, we stopped to cook dinner and decided to stay there, taking the 17 mile day.  I would have loved to read, but couldn’t since the Kindle got in a fight with my bear canister and lost.

Hiking up the last 600 feet, we reached the pass to find G camped there blasting Jay-Z off of speakers and Bolt fifty feet up on some large rocks.

“What are you doing up there?” Hop-a-long yelled up.

“Sleepin’!” Bolt called down as he began traversing down.

G had left the Tuolomne store at 2pm, passed us at midnight, and camped in the pass for a nice 26 mile day.  Little crazy.

We went up and down, up and down, pretty much the whole next day.  For lunch, we had to set up mosquito netting and tents to not get bit near the side trail to Benson Lake.  Of course, we had another steep climb after that.  On the bumpy top, we stopped by a small lake and Brittany (a JMTer who continued on the PCT from Tuolomne to Tahoe) caught us.  Then the wave came: Dubs, Wiz, Trip, Cactus, Extra Credit, Drop Zone, and Hollywood (not the same one from the AT) all came up and joined us.

The way “down” Kerrick Canyon was so much of a bitch, we all camped at the bottom.  Trip made a campfire and Cactus attempted to make a large spam kabob.

Realizing we were a little low on food, we got up early to pull a long day in the direction of town.  We had already climbed 2,400 ft before 10am in two small climbs that had longer descents.  We passed Drop Zone and Brittany who had camped three miles ahead of us.

We had over ten miles of super slow ascent through meadow after meadow up to Dorothy Lake Pass which would take us out of Yosemite.  For the first time since leaving Tuolomne, we had a decently graded climb.

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A little under two miles after the pass, we crossed the 1,000 mile mark, so we stopped and celebrated.  The last of potato chips were devoured and we opted to go as far as possible.

We stumbled down the trail trying not to stop for dinner since we knew we wouldn’t go any further.  At 8:30pm, it was called at 23 miles as we all began stumbling over our own feet.

We followed a meadow to Kennedy Canyon, then hiked up the canyon to a very exposed section above 10,000 ft.  All four of us were beat after the day before.  We found Bolt again at the last creek crossing and the section was making him feel beat too.

The last big climb went super well.  At the top of the ridge, Dead Animal, Hop-a-long and I stopped for a snack.

“Those were the nicest graded switchbacks in hundreds of miles,” Dead Animal said.

“Yup,” was the resounding reply.

We went from one side of the ridge to the other several times staying high and exposed the whole time through some amazing volcanic rock that reminded me of Colorado.

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After two and a half days of shenanigans in Mammoth, we finally made it back up the free trolley to the free bus to the pay bus to Reds Meadow where we chilled with Snow Turtle and Aggassi.  Eventually, we left around 5pm and went about five miles up the trail.  It was buggy, but graded decently and the trail crews had cleared an amazing amount of downed trees.  There were also a ba-zillion side trails going every which way to and from shuttle stops.

We had a nice little campsite tucked into some trees, but so many mosquitos!  The bloodsuckers got me good a few times.

In the morning, we got to walking after a large coat of deet.  The trail climbed slowly pretty much all day unless it went up steeper.  Only a few times the trail went down that day.

For 14 beautiful miles we got our trail back; the PCT went high on a ridge and the JMT went down in the valley by a bunch of lakes.  It was pleasant not to have a herd of them hiking south, at us, for a change.

We had a scenic overlook lunch where someone had left a pair of boots unceremoniously.  Inspector Gadget had yogi’ed a fresh tomato from some Russian day walkers despite not liking tomatoes, so he gave it to Hop-a-long and me.

At 1000 Islands Lake, the JMT met back up and immediately we saw a swarm of JMTers, one of which was shooting medium format actual film who decided Dead Animal and I were good film subjects.

We had to climb over Island “Pass” which really was just a small ridge and wasn’t “passy” at all.  After a short descent we had to climb up Donohue Pass, which wasn’t too difficult, but being at miles 17-19 of a 20 mile day, I was tired and pissed at all the damn JMTers, most of whom didn’t know the person going uphill has the right-of-way.  I gave several of them dirty looks when I had to stop for them or I almost ran straight into them.

Dead Animal and I got to the top of Donohue pass around 6:30pm and had it all to ourselves.  We didn’t stay long, just did ESPN, ate a bar, and hiked down a mile to a lake with a large outlet stream.  Hop-a-long and Inspector ended up camping two miles before the pass.

We got up and hiked down to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was 3 miles down and 8 miles through a meadow.  The closer we got, the more people we saw. It was a wave of people hiking south.  I asked four hikers with large packs and water testing poles if they were signaling the mothership and they said “something like that I reckon!”

The Tuolomne Meadows store/post office/grill was all in the same temporary structure with some wonderful picnic tables outside in the shade.  As I walked up, I was surprised to see Neon, Onna Move, Trip, and even Drop Zone.  I grabbed some vegan chili from the grill and caught up with a bunch of them over some beer.  I slapped a Yosemite sticker on my bear canister that I packed for the last time. Natty, Swanson, and Magellan walked in and joined us.

We stayed there for quite some time, just hanging out on the picnic tables when Cactus, Extra Credit, Dubs, Wiz, Cheesecake (now maybe Mancake……..), Snowflake, Gator, Ornie, Ornie’s girlfriend who’s now hiking and Waffles jumped off the bus that came up from Yosemite Valley. When we realized what a crew we had, we went over to the campground with campfire food and took over a large chunk of the backpacker section. Leave it to the thru-hikers to be the other backpackers up past 8:30pm drinking and cooking on a campfire.

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We managed to have quite a bit of fun in Wrightwood.  Probably too much fun.  Safari, Shags, and Drop Zone had gotten ahead of us and we heard tell from some Canadians that Drop Zone had gotten a ride from the water cache to Wrightwood.  When we finally got a ride down, we fit Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget and me in a hybrid with our packs and we went straight to the Mexican restaurant for Margaritas.  With two double shot margaritas and large portions of Mexican food in our bellies, we found Safari and Shags who had gotten a room at the Pines Motel.  They gave us word on Drop Zone who had apparently just hiked out with another girl and didn’t sobo back to the water cache.

The Pines Motel had plenty of character and great service, but the shower didn’t drain, the TV did not change channels, and we put 5 people in a 3 person room.  We stayed in town to celebrate Safari’s 21st birthday. Our goal: make him puke.

We started with beer and white russians with almond milk then progressed to the Racoon Saloon for tequila shots and jukebox entertainment. When we got back to the room, our goal became fulfilled.

We attempted to get moving in the morning, but all we could motivate to do was head down the street to the Grizzly Cafe and eat extremely large breakfasts.  Safari had called to ask specifically if they had Belgian waffles with fruit and they did.

Food comas set in so we went back to bed for nap time.  Jay, the motel manager, knocked on our door at 10:45 to tell us check out was at 11am.  We packed up and then looked outside.  An evil dark cloud of death was descending from the mountains where we wanted to go and the wind blasted us so hard the trees pelted us with pinecones.  We later found out the snow level had dropped to 7000 feet and there were hurricane force winds going on up there.

We moved to a bigger room and fit more people in it.  It’s super helpful when sleazy motels are run by hikers.  They try to give you the lowest rate for the most people and do your laundry for free.  Our second room had more character than the last and even included brick paneling.

Lounging all day took work.  We got some free coffee/tea from the local coffee shop, resupplied, went through hiker boxes and drank beer.  Major Upchuck came over and hung out, getting fake tattoos and shot-gunning beers with us for a while.  Then, out of nowhere, Hop-a-long found Peter wandering around outside so we took him in and immediately put beer in his hand.

We did manage to get the 6:30ish am shuttle that the motel ran for free.  I wished I had more layers that day.  I huddled under a large bush while waiting for everyone to come up in 3s.

The first five miles were fine except for the wind and the general coldness.  It really wouldn’t have been that bad except I’d gotten used to 85 to 105 degrees and when we got dropped off, it was a whopping 29 degrees.  Then the trail did this annoying thing that trails do of going to 7500 feet only to drop 1000 feet and then gain 3000 feet.

We all stopped at the second road crossing of Hwy 2 at the base of the Baden-Powell trailhead.  As we ate a snack huddled together and used the privy, we attempted to look pathetic to see if the hoards of people in the parking lot would give us any food or anything hot.  They didn’t.

It was then that it hit us that it was not only Saturday, but Memorial Day weekend Saturday.  Hello headphones!  We probably saw 150 people on one side of the mountain. Day walkers, boy scouts, crazy trail runners.  The boy scouts were the most annoying; they didn’t yield to packs going uphill, they completely ignored the small group hiker etiquette, they cut switchbacks, and hell knows what else.

We met a section hiker, Shaka Zulu, who sang a wee song that amused us.  Safari and Shags skipped the side trail to the summit while Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, Bolt, and I went to the top and drank our last two beers and Bolt provided some whiskey.

If the morning was slow, the afternoon was slower.  My energy had been zapped between climbing and answering the same usual day walker questions over and over despite the obvious headphones (i.e. leave me alone sign).  Yes, I am walking to Canada.  Yes, I started in Mexico.  No, I don’t have a job. Yes, I sleep outside. Blah blah blah.

By the afternoon, the sun had partially come out and there it might have gotten up to the low 50s, but as soon as the cloud that usually seemed to mysteriously stay to one side of the ridge tried to creep over, it got cold.  The trail weaved over the ridge and in and out of the cloud.

Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget convinced Hop-a-long to make them quesadillas while Inspector hatched a plan to go to town for pizza, despite having left town that morning after a zero.  He blazed ahead six miles to the 3rd crossing of Hwy 2.

Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I got water from Little Jimmie Spring and pondered the maps and all the information we had on the up coming detour which had to by-pass 4 PCT miles for the breeding of a yellow-legged frog.

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