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Posts Tagged ‘Magellan’

Our food bags were heavy once again to avoid being hungry, although all of us had become bottomless pits and shameless about free food.  We had an easy, quite pleasant first five miles back on trail, but I had eaten almost a full loaf of super heathy bread and could feel it expanding it my stomach making me want to lay down, letting the stream ease me to sleep instead of walking.

The fall foliage had come into full, beautiful bloom sending a thousand different colored leaves dancing through the air with every breeze.  The wide trail without too many troublesome roots made it quite easy to walk staring straight up into the tops of the trees looking at the colors and not pay much attention to where it led.

Eventually, we came upon a brilliantly flat campsite with a privy, a crude shelter with a picnic table, and a perfectly clear stream running right through it.  Hop-a-long, Scout, Natty, and I set up camp and ate dinner at the table appreciating it like no one but a thru-hiker can appreciate an old picnic table.

In the morning, Natty woke us up at 5:45 and immediately started his jetboil for coffee.  Wanting to sleep, I rolled back over dozing until I heard the stove turn off, then mustered up the energy to eat and pack up.

“WHERES MY SPOON?!” Natty yelled, jolting me awake more.  “I left it right here!” he exclaimed searching around everywhere.  “Something took it!”

“What’s it look like?” said Hop-a-long, looking around where we had eaten dinner last night.

“It’s the orange Yogi spoon!”

When no one found it, we determined something did indeed confiscate the spoon.  Hikers get very attached to their spoons, especially one they have carried for well over 2,000 miles.

We went up, up, and more up to Rainy Pass the rest of the morning.  As soon as we came up out of the big trees to the littler, more shrubby trees and wide grassy patches, we felt the temperature drop and saw frost glittering on each tall grass blade.  Leapfrogging each other until we found a suitable sunny spot, we took a break right on the side of the trail near a stream where Hop found a half pound of goat cheese chilling in the water.  After much deliberation, we determined that a.) someone had chilled it for a few moments in the stream and forgot about it, or b.) someone didn’t like goat cheese and left it chilling in the stream because they knew it was an easy spot to fill up water bottles and a hungry hiker would see it before it went bad.

With the sun a little higher in the sky, we moved further and further up valley until we came to Rainy Pass and sat by the sign on the side of the road and had a bite to eat again.  Natty decided he had brought too much food and wanted to play a joke.  He borrowed a sharpie and wrote on it: “Trail Magic, I read Wild” referring to the horrible Sheryl Strayed book that every woman over 40 thinks of immediately when you say “PCT.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUsually, we walk downhill to roads and uphill after them.  This particular one was quite draining because we walked uphill to it, then uphill after it to Cutthroat Pass.  The name alone is encouraging….right?  Crossing the road and going just up the trail, we came across real trail magic in the form of an epic cooler which gave us some motivation.  The rest of the climb was really not too taxing and gave us spectacular views from the top.

Natty and I got up there first and stopped to re-fuel when we met this awesome old hippie named Chris who gave us trail magic of the greener variety and chatted with us.  He had an independent, exploratory dog who wanted to sniff the entire world with unbending excitement.

Hop-a-long and Scout came up and we all decided to continue on until dark o’clock and see what’s there.  Judging from what we saw on top of Cutthroat Pass, we would contour and run ridges the rest of the way to Canada.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe days had become drastically shorter and the nights colder in the past two weeks or so, making getting out of the sleeping bag increasingly difficult.  We got to cruise downhill for some miles in the morning which was nice, but it did not get the blood pumping and my feet felt like frozen blocks attached to the ends of my legs.

We came across the last known water source before our last 2,500 foot climb on the PCT.  Then some middle-aged guys with huge backpacks came from the other side of the stream.  Natty clearly was not in a gear-talk or answer the weekenders questions mood, but I decided to humor them a bit basically telling them they had way too much shit with them, when one said, “Maybe you guys can help lighten my load, I have this bourbon here.  Do you have a cup?”

Hop-a-long immediately produced her tiny wine cup she had carried all the way from Truckee and used to mix drinks with various drink mix powders.

“I guess 11am isn’t too early to drink for you thru-hikers!” one of the laughed.

We laughed remembering sharing tall boys of beer at 5am in the desert when we woke up to get us moving.

They ended up giving us the bourbon as a celebratory drink for the end of the trail.  Awesome trail magic!  Now we had vodka, wine, bourbon, and jack!  They also told us we were only about an hour or so behind Agassi and Snow Turtle who we wanted to catch back up with again since they made it three miles further than we did out of Stehekin.

The climb was a long slog of switchbacks, but by the top, we had fantastic, sweeping views once more and a great knoll to eat a late lunch on.  The trail bumped along and began slowly going down toward Harts Pass which was surprisingly more busy than any of us thought.  I put on headphones to get through the hoards of people walking up from their cars a few miles and asking us if we’d read Wild.  Damn that book.  Just as bad as Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.”  Their actual writing was entertaining, but neither had any idea what they were doing and gave a fairly unrealistic picture of what goes on.

After all the day walkers, all of us wanted beer, so we sat by the trail head looking pathetic eating scraps of food for a while until Natty began flagging down every car asking if they had beer.  None of them did, so we walked on, trying to push another six miles to a marked campsite.

Leaving Hart’s Pass was not super well marked, but we figured it out and not long after, we ran into Lorax hiking south.  We OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApaused, talked, and kept walking trying not to get in too late.

When we knew we only had half a mile or so to go, we saw some headlights and yelled over.  It was Snow Turtle and Agassi!  We finally caught them!  Going a little further, we found the marked campsite which was not very flat or great, but tuckered out, we stopped and passed out pretty quickly, after eating of course.

The next morning, we leapfrogged Snow Turtle and Agassi for a bit, went through Woody Pass after being thoroughly temped to take the old PCT over the large scree field to avoid the 700ft or so descent only to climb immediately back up 800ft, but the reports seemed to say it was unstable.

After Woody Pass, we had only a little more uphill contouring before we went down for about 14 miles to Monument 78, the Canadian Border.

We cruised down wanting to drink the booze we’d been saving and carrying for 80 miles from Stehekin.  That was the furthest I’ve carried booze, not drinking it along the way.

Hitting the monument felt so epic, we began celebratory drinks and photo ops.  We waited for Snow Turtle and Agassi to get the group shot.  Natty read us “Where the Wild Things Are” which someone had left with the register.

Eventually, we realized that we had to move our drunk butts a quarter-mile into Canada to camp as there were no spots by the monument.  We built a fire in the ring and sat around finishing off the hodgepodge of alcohol we had.

The morning came and I looked over to see what I thought was Natty cowboy camping and yelled over at him to wake up when he answered in the opposite direction.  Hop-a-long was near me and looked as utterly confused as I was.  We investigated and found Magellan!  He had gotten in absurdly late pulling a 36 mile day to make the 11am greyhound bus from Manning Park so he didn’t miss his flight.  He had done it, just like Knees had made his absurd goal.  We all did.  Nine miles to food that’s not whatever is leftover from our packs!

Making it there early, we beelined for food and ate quite a lot.  We had a slight mix-up finding my wonderful trail angel mother who had a cooler of beer because we arrived too early and she waited by the trailhead.  It eventually got worked out and we relaxed.

PCT. Mexico to Canada.  April 29th to October 7th, 2012.

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After more awesome trail magic, detailed in “Pass the Beer“, we set off up the hill…it’s always up after town and full stomachs.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I got going after lunch and planned to make it eight miles to the first campsite at Ridge Lake, a solid climb of around 2,500 ft later.

The mountains changed south of highway 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and north of the highway.  They became more rugged, remote, and more scenic.  The most difficult sections are always the most beautiful.  They shot straight up to the sky, then dove furiously down into a valley; and let me tell you, there were many valleys in this section.  The PCT tried to contour as usual, but the contours were wrought with rocks and changed elevation quite frequently for contours.

We passed Magellan on the climb who seemed to be moving slower than normal, but ok.  He said he ate too much before leaving.  That food truck next to the gas station was dangerously enticing for thru-hikers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe top of the climb ended in a tiny pass where we made a short hop over to the other side of the ridge, looking at the sunset in one direction, and a beautiful array of clouds in the other direction.

Those beautiful, mysterious clouds that we stared at began moving in quicker and quicker until we could barely see more than twenty feet in front of us and we almost missed the tiny ridge lake that we sought.  It lay in a saddle on a rather small ridge.  Scout scouted out the best campsite in no time and no more questions were asked about how he received his trail name and we set up in the mist of the cloud that blocked the sun and sent shivers into our bones.

While we ate dinner, we saw a headlamp moving slowly through the fog, scanning the area, but unable to see much, so we called out and directed it toward our campsite.  It turned out to be Magellan, grateful for flat ground and dinner time.

The morning brought much of the same.  We had camped inside a cloud, with its lack of visibility and all of it’s moisture.  None of us wanted to get out of our nice, cozy sleeping bags.  When we did, we found the trail again through the intense fog and headed onward to Canada.

Amazingly, after we left the saddle and made it a little way up the ridge, the fog went away giving us an amazing view of the valley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfilled with clouds while the ridge tops glowed in the morning light.  It really hit us that we had truly been inside a very small micro-climate the night before.

Compared to the long, steady climb that we accomplished the day before, the next eight miles seemed to drag on forever.  The trail shot up and down over ridge passes, shale, trees, wind, calm, all with a chill making it very difficult to keep the right layer system on and not sweat too much.

We took a break looking mostly into fog, but every few minutes, the fog would thin, giving an eerie glimpse of a jagged peak jutting upward from the ridge.  Our breaks did not last long or we would become too cold, so we kept moving.  At the top of the last ridge before a several mile descent, we caught a bit of sun and dried out our rain flies, grabbing a bite to eat.

The downhill seemed glorious, partially because we could hike easily with only one layer on.  A waterfall cascaded down across the trail and we crossed a small bridge and filled up on some delicious tasting fresh water and grabbed more to eat.  Already the afternoon, we kept trucking to the bottom of the valley, only to climb another long slog up to another large ridge.

In about half a mile as the birds fly, the PCT managed to fit six miles of switchbacks to cut the steep grade down.  I could not bring myself to count the switchbacks, because that would just be depressing, but cranked some tunes and enjoyed the increasingly better view the further I climbed.

We all stopped for a snack on top of the ridge and Snow Turtle and Agassi came walking up.  Somewhere we had passed them while they ate lunch off trail.  This particular ridge stayed fairly level for about a mile or so and we meandered along passing many small tarns and very damp ground.  All at odds of how far we wanted to go, we all stopped in different places, ironically, within a mile of each other.

I found a sweet spot with a great view over the next valley that fit my tent perfectly.  It was much easier to get up the next morning to a brightly colored sunrise instead of dense fog.  The four mile descent was still freezing because the sun had not yet hit the valley floor, just the ridge tops.  I leap-frogged Snow Turtle and Agassi all day up and down, up and down.

We passed Cathedral Rock and I pondered the creativity of the early explorers and mountain men who seemed to lack originality in their naming devises.  I understand the whole “wilderness as a church” thing, but not every mountain that has a few spires needs to have some religious crap attached to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain, we hiked down off the ridge, passed Deception Lake which reflected a perfect mirror image of the trees surrounding it.  I decided to continue on a little further until I got tired and ended up camping in Deception Pass which was surprisingly thin compared to the last several passes we’ve gone though.  I found a great one-tent spot and set up shop.

In the morning, I ate breakfast with Lush and Man Party who decided to speed up to finish.  Apparently, Challenger was waiting with Only A Test’s car for them at Stevens Pass with their resupply so they could all hike out together.  Snow Turtle and Agassi passed through too and had a “you’re from Mississippi too!” moment and then kept hiking.  They said that Hop-a-long and Scout had gotten to Deception Lake the night before.

The five of us eventually set off, leap frogging through some more very annoying bumps, one of which was incredibly steep, despite obvious attempts at switch backs.  I definitely had to blast the iPod to get up that one.

We all ran into some incredibly nice older people out for a day hike who lounged in the sun.  We wanted to join them but food and beer called our names with only a few more miles to go.  Everyone seemed to have underestimated food through this section and were either running on empty or the scraps of what they had, but really did not want to eat.  The trail difficulty had surged our already large appetites into over drive.

Stevens Pass came after we dove down the ski resort and found Challenger and Only A Test who gave us beer and soda while we waited for Dead Animal who had been there, but got a call from Hop-a-long and Scout who had taken a side trail down skipping several miles of the end due to lack of food and ended up somewhere random on the side of highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish.

Clown car piling in, all of us made it down to the diner and motel for a large meal.  We went to the Dinsmore’s to grab our resupply packages and say hi to those there, but wanted a bed, so we ended up with rooms instead.  None other than Bounce Box and Major Upchuck seemed to rule to roost inspiring some good old drinking and croquet.

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We woke up in a cloud on top of a ridge.  This particular cloud seemed to create its own weather system that could not exactly be classified as rain nor mist; neither could it be written off as water falling off of trees from the breeze.  Definitely wet and cold enough, I kept my shell on and attempted not to sweat quite so much, but without much of a pack, I found it hard not to fly through miles.

Dead Animal could meet us at around 10 mile increments on various logging roads that he figured out.  Hop-a-long, Scout, and I set off for the first chunk, cold and slightly wet.  Hop took an early lead and her legs got soaked the worst from brushing up against the wet vegetation.  We bounced around the top of the ridge and noticed just how localized the weather situation was since we could see clearness in spurts to the east, while we could see nothing but white to the west.

I almost missed east coast rain for a few moments in that stretch, remembering how I sent my rain gear home somewhere in Pennsylvania on the AT because the rain was so warm it acted more like a free shower.  But then I remembered how frequently it rained and the general wetness and I appreciated the PCT a bit more.

We found Dead Animal just as planned and we all sat on mats eating lunch together and trying not to get cold from lack of movement.  Some fresh vegetables were most welcome from the cooler.  We took only an hour break trying not to lose what little motivation all of us possessed and set off on another 10ish mile chunk.  I threw some tunes on at that point to distract my mind from focusing on the crappy weather when eventually I ran into a sobo section hiker who exclaimed amazingly over the drone of my headphones,

“TRAIL MAGIC FIVE MILES AHEAD!” and scampered south.  Instantly excited and newly motivated I sped up and caught Hop-a-long who laughingly told me he came up on her taking a pee on the side of the trail.  They talked in the process.  Only. On. Trail.

We surged ahead completely missing a supposedly major landmark of a weather station just off trail with an outhouse.  Halfmile even made a GPS marking called “Out House.”

Hitting the road, we saw PCT trail bandanas strung up like Buddhist prayer flags across the trail and a large tarp over a circle of chairs filled with a barbecue, cooler, and entertaining beverages.  Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee welcomed us, gave us comfortable chairs, and placed hot food in our hands.  Heaven on a rainy day.  Dead Animal was there brewing up some delicious hot chocolate.

Before I knew it, Hop-a-long had found the best beverage there, something Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee only called “Tasty Goodness” and she dumped some in my hot chocolate.

We caught back up to Snow Turtle and Agassi who had a good bit of tasty goodness and spent a good deal of the afternoon enjoying it.  Blood Bank had the longest stay record that day doing a long 0.7 mile from the weather station down to the road and staying there.  Scout got there about fifteen minutes later and came up with the biggest grin on his face that matched every other thru-hiker’s.  Two section hikers also had holed up there who were local-ish Washington boys, one of which was having quite a bit of fun convincing Agassi to drink more.

I totally meant to get further to make a half day in town with my mom and aunts, but the trail magic was way too awesome and the weather was way too shitty.  From there, I would have to make 18 miles before 1pm, our agreed meeting time.  After several hot chocolates with Tasty Goodness and later some root beer vodka, I decided staying was a much better option.

Right before dinner, Knees showed up who Hop-a-long, Dead, and I had not seen since Wrightwood (mile 368).  It was great to catch up with him for a bit.  Tahoe rolled in late as well as Straw, Willie, and Magellan.

The trail magic came at such a perfect time and turned around my whole attitude after the rain.  I didn’t even care if I had to make miles the next morning.

I managed to wake myself up at 5am and leave by 6am with my new-found motivation from the trail magic and motivation of mom-made baked goods at the end.  I shot up hill, saw Snow Turtle and Agassi’s makeshift camp spot, just far enough up that they wouldn’t be tempted to wait and stay around for breakfast.

The miles were not as hard as they had been and I was able to cruise my way around the bumps through the mud.  I went hard for the first 10 miles and then stopped to stuff half of a large bag of chips down my throat thinking that should give me at least 600 calories or so to make it to delicious cookies and brownies.

The route down to Snoqualmie Pass was fine until I was about 4 miles out and all the day hikers were hiking up and I moved against traffic, having to give them the right of way.  A few stopped me and asked me the usual questions which I was really not in the mood to answer since food was so close.

I made it to the ski area and decided that running down the ski slope was much faster than taking the trail all the way to the road and I plunged down it.  I laughed as I walked down it thinking only that Vail’s bunny hill was steeper than that.

I found my mom and two aunts who had found Dead Animal, Pinky, Sticks, and Ahab.  Delicious beer made it into one hand and a large helping of vegan brownie in the other and I was happy.  We decided to hobo it up in the parking lot, all sitting right down over a few parking spots in the back, drinking and eating.  Eventually, the rest of the pack at the other trail magic made it to my mom’s trail magic and we had quite a posse drinking in a parking lot.  Classy.

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Delirious from 36 miles and tipsy from the beer, I stumbled down the road to a user trail spawned by Yogi down into the Mazama Village of Crater Lake.  According to the Yogi guidebook, if you walked the road into the Village, you would have to pay at the entry booth and the proper side trail was extra miles.  She claimed that you could bushwhack down when you see a guard rail on the curve of the road straight down to Mazama.

When I got there, I found Scooter in the store buying beer.  He took me over to campsite E17 where Dead Animal had set up camp complete with Coleman stove and grill.  He had just gone to see if I was at the trailhead, but Hop-a-long, Scooter, and Tahoe showed me where everything was.  I barely managed to sit down when a beer maneuvered its way into my hand and Hop-a-long filled a plate with soy chorizo, peppers, and onions.  We sat around a fire talking, cooking, and having a few brews.  Dead Animal filled me another plate of potato product fried and covered in ketchup.  Apparently, I need to eat.  It’s actually true.

Everything went grand until some gun totting park rangers came by with their flashlights up by their heads looking all serious and such rolled up.

“We got a few noise complaints for over here, you guys need to keep it down,” one said in his best cop-like voice.

I looked at my watch…it wasn’t even 10pm yet!  Quite hours were from 10pm-7am.  We had no music playing and we weren’t even talking loudly or drinking outrageously.

“What’s in the bag?!” one said with his flashlight beaming over on the picnic table which was covered with food, stoves, bags of all sorts.

I was closest, so I answered, “which bag?”

“The bag by the phone.”

“What phone?”  There was no phone on the table, probably because there was no cell service to speak of down there.

“The bag by the phone,” the guy started to sound more irritated.

“Oh, the MP3 player?” I asked and picked up the bag that had a garlic clove in it before we used it all.  “It had garlic in it.”  I picked it up and smelled it.  It smelled strongly of fresh garlic.  “Here, you smell it,” and I shoved it in the woman’s face.

Sniff sniff.  “hmm, yeah, garlic.”

Damn rangers.  Get out of here.  Go find some teenagers to bust for underage drinking or maybe the people who couldn’t stand 35 degree nighttime temperatures across from us who sat in their car with the heat on from 4 am on…thats between quite hours and a car engine running is not exactly quite.

Gadget rolled up around 11pm, right as I was going to bed and chilled out.

None of us got up early in the morning, besides Gadget who went to get a long early breakfast at the restaurant near the store.  Eventually, we made some breakfast, got our packages and formulated a plan which turned out to be somewhat of a cluster fuck.  For starters, the PCT split so an equestrian PCT separated from a hiker PCT for about 13 miles.

Scooter and Tahoe decided to slack pack 14 miles to where the trail came back together.  While Dead Animal shuttled them to the trailhead, Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I bummed the camp showers and walked to the store to do laundry.  In the meantime, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk showed up and joined our plan to slack pack a whopping 5 miles up to Crater Lake Rim.  After stuffing our faces full of food from the store, we grabbed some beer and got shuttled by Dead up to the trailhead.

Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk took off first and stayed ahead of us the whole time.  Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and I started chatting and drinking beer on the first two miles since it was flat.  We knew we were moving slowly since each of us had a beer in hand, but we also knew we were supposed to shoot upward when the trail split.  Almost an hour and a half in, we knew something was wrong because the trail was still flat.  We definitely weren’t going 3mph, but we weren’t going a mile and a half per hour either.  Gadget checked the GPS which showed us on the trail, but upon second glance, we realized that the GPS only had the equestrian trail marked and we had gone about two miles past the junction.

We hurried back moving faster than 3mph until we saw the junction.  Looking at the sign, the top had “Dutton Creek Trail” underlined and only on the third line down said “Crater lake Rim Trail – PCT.”  None of us looked past the top line and dismissed it as a side trail.  Underneath the sign, a piece of paper taped up said, “Horseys <–, Hikers –> Don’t be a Dumbass like Us.”  Great.  Didn’t even manage to see that.

Scurrying as fast as we could, we tried to race to the rim.  The trail, however, had other plans for us.  It shot straight up, pulling an AT number and we soon realized why the equestrians went around and not up.  Eventually, we hit the road that ran around the rim for all the yuppies and we walked to the cafe since the sky threatened rain and Dead Animal had gone to drop off Scooter and Tahoe’s stuff further on.  We warmed up there since the wind was fierce out near the lake until Dead Animal came and we formulated a plan of where to stealth camp so we didn’t have to pay for a pricy campsite again.

Right as we were going to bed, some music came bombing out of the woods, in the form of Magellan.  We gave him some chips, salsa, and beer since the store had already closed and he stealthed there with us.

The cold morning gave us a late start and we slack packed the 9 miles to where the hiker PCT and the equestrian PCT rejoined.  We took our time as the trail shot up and down to every viewpoint imaginable.  We dodged tourists, took pictures, and drank some beer while we hiked.  Dead Animal cooked us a good large meal of epic portions and we drank as much beer as we could fit into our ever shrinking stomachs.  The extra beers we left by the trail with a note to pack a can out for the other thru-hikers who we knew were not more than a day behind.

Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget got a head start on me and landed about a mile ahead of me that night, but I caught them in the morning.  I would have caught them sooner, but we had one of the coldest nights on trail up until that point and it zapped my motivation to move apart from my sleeping bag.

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The stretch from Chester to Drakesbad Guest Ranch went quickly and had some great jam music from Heehaw and Kristo.  We stayed near Drakesbad at the trailhead for a night as all the hikers clumped together in a new bubble from having to skip around the Chip’s Fire.  Drakesbad gave us free laundry and showers which was great and we got to swim in their hot spring pool…but only after a shower.  Dead Animal, Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Cowboy, Shep Dog, Heehaw, Kristo, and Swiss Army.

Dead Animal had gotten back on after a week off to rest his right knee which had started hurting him crazy bad right before Barker Pass.  He and I set out from Drakesbad right as Hop-a-long had caught up and headed north slowly since the heat was pretty bad.

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The heat actually sucked so much, we stopped after 3.5 miles and took a two hour nap.  We saw Michigan Wolverine, E.D., Even Star, and Dazzle there when we first laid down.  When I woke up, Magellan was eating lunch ten feet away.

We plugged on five miles to South Twin Lake and went for a swim which felt most refreshing.  Yay water filter!  The lake was also the last water for 12 miles.

Dead Animal and I put on headphones and managed to whip out another ten miles or so in just over three hours and camped for the night about five miles before Old Station.

When I woke up, however, I did not feel in tip-top shape.  I thought it was just because I hadn’t eaten as much as I should have the night before, so I ate breakfast and kept packing up.  Right before leaving that feeling you get when you know you’re going to throw up sometime soon hit me.

I managed to get a mile and a half to water where I laid down.  Not much longer and the sudden feeling of “I’m going to puke NOW” came and I made it about 10 feet before breakfast came right back up.  My first reaction was annoyance: I could have used that four hundred calories.

Since puking made me feel better, I ate a handful of Triscuits to replace the lost calories but that only upset my stomach five minutes later and I hurled everything up again. Dead Animal waited patiently while Splinter and Inspector Gadget passed and made sure I was semi-ok.

We moved another mile before I had to lay down in the shade, then puke, then I could go another mile or so, then lay down, then puke.  I’d hiked on food poisoning twice before in Spain and it sucked, but I knew I could do it if I had to.  Dead Animal did eventually take my pack for the last two miles when I was not holding down water and almost passing out.

Dancing Feet and Not-so-bad had called Firefly, a former trail angel to pick them up and Firefly offered to take us in as well.  Magellan came to get away from the heat.  When she came, I was laying on the cool pavement outside of the Old Station store drinking ice water from a cup with a straw so I didn’t have to sit up.  Funk gave me an anti-nausea pill that doctors apparently give to cancer patients to keep food and water down.  It worked miraculously.

Firefly got us all over to her house and showed us around.  I decided to take a nap in her garage since it was the coolest place around.  After some sleep and rest, two days later, we were back in action going up to Hat Creek Rim.

Dead Animal and I saw Safari, G, and Bouncer that evening as we began our night hike up there.  Right as it got dark, we saw sweeping views of the Reading Fire, started by lightning in Lassen National Park back where we traveled through before.  To the other side, we saw grand views of Mt. Shasta off in the distance.

That night we got 14 miles into the 30+ mile of exposed rim before we took a nap to get up early and try to get through the rest.  The cache 22 was not far off and we found it in the morning as a small oasis of water, shade, and an amazing trail register.

Regrettably, we had to leave the space of wonderfulness and go out into the evilness of the sun.  The entire day had very little shade but we did get a small treat of trail magic in the form of a cooler full of ice water.  I had actually just been dreaming of ice and anything iced.  We enjoyed a break with Bird, Freebird, and Scallywag.

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Dead Animal and I pushed that afternoon and made it to Hwy 299 into Burney and went in to escape the heat.  Talk about a small town.  It was super nice and the motel was clean and had cheap laundry.

The next morning, we got out and went to the trail fairly easily.  Hiking another 8 miles, we got up to Burney Falls State Park where I had my resupply sent.  Dead’s knee was still really bothering him those 8 miles and he made the tough decision to get off there instead.

The state park store where we loitered for quite some time had some rather disgruntled older and very rude employees, so we tried not to spend too much money there and blow up their toilets a few times for them.  A whole crew took over a section of picnic tables: Extra Credit, Cactus, Trip, Hollywood, Scallywag, Mr. C., Buffet, and Camilleon.

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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 waited there for almost 3 hours to get a ride down to town.  For the first hour, only one woman drove by in her empty SUV and tried really hard not to look at us and go completely to the other side of the road as if we had the plague.  The one plus about the Horseshoe Meadow road was everyone heading out from where we were literally had to pass through Lone Pine, where we wanted to go.  Lucky for us, a nice guy named Dave in a blue pickup took pity on us and drove us down since all the other few cars that passed had been filled to the brim with stuff.

In Lone Pine, we found food, a hot tub, and a small outfitter.  We stayed in the Dow Villa Hotel (which for some reason was cheaper than the motel…go figure) and got Gene Autry’s room.  I will admit, I totally had to google search who he was; Wikipedia is a great thing.  It also told me that the Horseshoe Meadow road was an engineering feat built for a potential Disney ski resort that never got built because of the Wilderness Protection Act of 1964, so now the road just goes up 7000 ft of sketchy-ness to the campground.

We did end up having to pay to get back up the hill the next afternoon in a super sketchy van where the speedometer didn’t work, a door or two was completely gutted out save for the frame, and it made all kinds of noises.

Having taken Mulkey Pass down, we decided to take Cottonwood Pass back up since both dumped down into the campground at the same spot, so technically, it was a continuous foot path still.  We ended up with an extra mile and an extra 600 ft or so of climbing.

Inspector Gadget had stayed in town to eat a late lunch and finish with his laptop while Dead Animal, Hop-a-long and I had gone back up.  The three of us started after watching a car full of weekenders take over an hour to fit as much as possible it seemed to the outside of their packs.  Four of five of them had giant boots while the last one had some super minimalist shoes.

We walked slowly under the heavy weight of the food we had crammed into our packs and the sudden rise of 7000 ft of elevation, only to go up another 1200 ft to 11,200 at Cottonwood Pass (the valley Lone Pine was in was not at 0).

The first water source was a small pond with an outlet stream called Chicken Spring Lake.  We ended up stopping there since Hop wasn’t feeling fantastic and that way Gadget could catch us easily as long as he got out of town.

While we ate dinner we saw two dudes coming down sobo, one without a pack.

“Hey!” The one with a pack called, “You guys have any extra water? We’ve been out the past few miles.”

“There’s a stream right there that you just walked over,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but that looks dirty and those tabs take 30 minutes,” he replied.

Now, the logical thing would have been to immediately start whatever water treatment he had and then ask for a few sips to tide him over til he had more instead of expecting others to just give him water since they were obviously unprepared.  We gave them a little anyway and when he came toward us, I noted they were all in cotton.

As the one came over, the other one without the pack slumps over and pukes.  “Oh, that’s my uncle.  He’s been throwing up because of the altitude for two days now.”

My mouth dropped.  “Where were you guys?” I asked

“Whitney.”

“You could have just taken the portal straight down the east side and gotten him out before it got this bad,” I said.  If you get AMS, you just need to go down, not stay on the damn ridgeline.

“Yeah, but you gotta have a permit for that.  They’ll fine you.”  Was the reply he came up with.

Personally, I would have taken the damn fine instead of AMS, but whatever.

After they left for Cottonwood Pass, the other two with them rolled through, one with two packs.  They asked us how far Lone Pine was.  After telling them it was .6 miles to Cottonwood Pass, then 3.8 down to the campground, then 22 miles down a road, their only response was “shit.”  I’m not sure if they even had a map…

That night was freezing!  I had ice crystals in my water and all my layers on.  We decided to play the “wait-for-the-sun-to-warm-us-up” game, so we didn’t get out of our sleeping bags for quite some time.  Gadget had come in with Astro and Magellan getting a ride from Shutterbug’s mom, whom they had met in the Post Office.

I felt slow the whole day, taking lots of breaks, taking pictures and hoping my body would get over the elevation shock I put it through going straight from Lone Pine up to the ridge.  It did fine, I just had small headaches and felt sluggish.

The whole day we contoured around large piles of rocks, went through meadows, rock-hopped streams, and eventually got to Crabtree Meadow where a side trail went 8.5 miles up to the summit of Mt. Whitney which, at 14,505 ft, is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.  We had planned an extra day of food to do the 17 mile round trip side adventure.  We saw more deer there than we had in 750 miles of trail.  Buffet, Mr. C, Flatlander, June, and Taka were all there after summiting Whitney that morning.

Looking at the map, we chose to hike up 1.1 more miles to another meadow and closed ranger station to help us out just a wee bit the next day.  We found Condor there chillin’ in his tent doing Whitney the next day as well.  He had hiked the PCT last year and was planning on doing the High Sierra Route this year.

Now, if we thought Chicken Spring Lake was cold, this meadow was colder.  We managed to sleep, but getting up in the morning proved difficult. I gagged my oatmeal without sugar down fairly well, then borrowed honey from Dead Animal to help it out a bit.  He ended up staying there all day to sleep while Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I went to summit Whitney at a very ridiculously late start of almost 9 a.m.

We took our time too.  Taking our first break at Timberline Lake, 1.5 miles later, we had to de-layer and eat some grub.  Then another one, 1.3 miles later at the last water after Guitar Lake.  We took a decent break there with Murphy and Dump Truck who had hiked 1600 miles last year and came back to finish what they skipped this year.

From those ponds, the trail shot up 2300 feet in about 2.3 miles, came to Trail Crest Junction, then went up another 1000 feet or so to the summit along a dramatically sharp ridge.  The switchbacks going to Trail Crest were like a stair stepper on crack with the steps and their never-ending ascent.  Guitar Lake looked more and more like a guitar from up there as I peered down at it during breather breaks.

At Trail Crest Junction, I ate a few spoonfuls of peanut butter while watching people come up from the east side of the mountain, the Whitney Portal side there.  The last two miles from there went slowly up on the ridge.  At three points, the trail became only a few feet wide with large, steep drops down to the east, and rocks everywhere to be seen to the west.

At the top, all the thru-hikers were huddled in a wind break eating, snoozing, and chatting.  I joined them and laid down to eat.  I had felt completely fine until the last 200 ft of elevation or so, then felt queasy.  I solved it by eating, drinking water, and not staying too long at the top.

After a lot of pictures, we headed down, back the way we came.  We met a few people with very small day packs going up and they said they had meant to go down the east side back to their car at Whitney Portal, but accidentally gone down the west side.  An accidental extra 2000 ft of climbing or so.

We slept in that same cold meadow again that evening with all the marmots.  The temperature had not gone down quite as far that night.

If we had had energy, we should have gone another four miles that evening, but we didn’t.  Lucky for us, since this year has almost no snow, it wouldn’t matter if we did Forester Pass in the afternoon.  In a normal snow year, we should have done it first thing in the morning so as not to posthole in the warmed snow.

We motivated ourselves to only an hour lunch break, and set off for Forester Pass in the afternoon.  The last 700 feet or so shot up steeply, like that section on Whitney.  We stopped there to eat and grab water.  We made friends with two extremely friendly marmots aptly named Larry and Nelda by the creative imaginations of Inspector Gadget and Hop-a-long.

That 700 ft kicked my ass and at the end I could see how Forester Pass would be super sketchy with loads of snow.  The actual pass was super small and v-notched.

A few of us decided that we should participate in ESPN: Every Sierra Pass Naked.  Just to add a little more excitement to our lives.

The nakedness didn’t last long because the wind whipped through the pass really quick.  We put clothes back on and scurried down the switchbacks on the other side.

About halfway down I began to feel really nauseous and needed to eat and sleep.  We stopped in a tree patch right before diving further down in the valley.

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