June 18, Day 45
11 miles [831.0]
Drunken slumber wasn’t great but breaking my 44-day streak without a bed on a memory-foam mattress was heavenly. Immediately got coffee from the common area, took my bedraggled gear out to the patio and started evaluating. Water bottles were thoroughly scrubbed, with soap, and electronic devices got topped off while other hikers around me lanced blisters and patched holes in tents. Drank a third cup repackaging last night’s resupply, thank god this one’s only four days. Walked across the street with my fourth cup to Bronco’s Deli and got the daily special machaca and egg burrito, smothering it in as much fresh habanero salsa as I could tolerate. Back at the hostel, “Trash Bath”, “Shocks” and I mowed through a few dozen freezer cookies and the rest of the mint chip ice cream while looking for future problems to solve with a reliable internet connection. It dawned on me my first and only pair of shoes are legitimately starting to wear thin, I purchased the same pair, a half-size bigger (why not, everyone’s doing it), and had them delivered home for future request. Ordered new earbuds since the first pair have been destroyed and the backup set has already lost sound in one ear. Finally we summoned the courage to leave, ultimately getting three hitches to the trailhead. Sometimes I worry but all it takes a happy jig, a smile, and about twenty minutes. Hit the trail around 4 p.m. and had a blast going the “correct way” towards Bishop Pass—this must have been my eighth trip this direction. We passed Long Lake and “TB” took a dip, he’s trying to jump into 50 alpine lakes. Managed to get a mile or two away from the PCT before sundown and set up camp. An amazing zero, this time it actually felt restorative.
June 19, Day 46
14.9 miles [844.4]
Warm sleep and good rest made for an easy departure, the group of dudes who politely tried to share our site late last night weren’t moving by the time we left. Within the first mile, as I rounded a switchback while picking out my morning music selection, I saw a grouse sitting on the trail. Before I could identify it any further, it flushed, thereby checking two separate items off my internal “Nature” list. Merged back with the PCT (hooray!) and started the climb up Muir Pass. Postholed for what felt like the entire 3,500 feet of gain, false peaks and crests made the ascent even more demoralizing. I was exhausted; a malaise only altitude is capable of. Muir hut seemed like an apparition until I swung open the hefty wooden door. We celebrated and tried to mute our collective agony by hotboxing the entire hut with a few joints. It seemed like the perfect occasion so I drank the Coke I packed out, taking care to chill it first in a pile of slush. Morale improved. Left the shelter just before 3 p.m. which only made things more challenging because the sun had thawed enough of the usable terrain which had turned it into a frigid stream. The alternative was more frustrating postholing through uncompacted drifts. Made it to the northern end of Evolution Lake which seemed to be a popular spot to set up camp. “Skinny Dip” and “Hot Pants” introduced themselves and we all ate dinner, swatted away skeeters, and bitched about the slow, difficult progress. A few more joints emerged and were passed around the dining rock, all of us believing in and hoping for its magical medicinal properties—my feet are raw hamburger. Didn’t even make it 15 miles, a feeling akin to being unable to run in a nightmare. However, the views were straight from fantasy.
June 20, Day 47
21.2 miles [865.6]
Early rise in an effort to offset yesterday’s short gain. Just over five miles into the day came Evolution Creek which Guthook says is “often seen as one of the most difficult stream crossings in the Sierra.” Unbuckled my hipbelt which basically holds up my pants and took off my shoes per my mantra. As my thighs began to enter the frigid current, whatever soreness there was in my feet was replaced with sharp, stinging cold, pain to the point of questioning if I had sliced my feet on some of the rocks; the water must have been 33 degrees. My shitty too-big pants just made things more frustrating, I nearly tripped on the baggy cuffs trying to pull up the waist while also trying to use my poles to stabilize. Made it across with a wet taint but a dry pack. More downhill miles to Muir Trail Ranch where we took lunch. A few good items were in the hiker boxes but nothing nearly as miraculous as purported. “Shocks” found, made, and shared a peppered beef Mountain House while we tried not to judge the three fresh JMT’ers, all the while buzzarding over their resupply. “Hot Mess” managed to sweet-talk herself into a huge bag of pasta from one the guys. After a fat shade nap, we packed up and headed for Selden Pass. “Trash Bath” likes our company and it seems like he’s going to stick around. Camped directly on the pass in hopes of less mosquitoes but they found us anyway. Demolished a tuna taco and some mint cookies. Don’t know if it’s the altitude, blood loss, or miles, but I’m just whooped.
June 21, Day 48
21 miles [885.1]
The best part about camping on a pass is knowing the next day will start with downhill. Even then it was hard for me to motivate for today’s hike. Made a rare slip on an early stream crossing and plunged both feet into the creek. My shoes managed to dry out before lunch. “Missing Person” was having worse luck and said he broke his phone; it fell out of his pocket and smashed on a rock. I recognized the look of despair on face, as clearly as he must have seen me wearing it back at Kennedy Meadows, while he told me and “Shocks” he was thinking of exiting—indefinitely—at Mammoth Lakes in order to solve this new problem. I gave him my fuel for a hot lunch. “How many Nutter Butters do you think I can fit in my mouth at once?” asked “Trash Bath”, not waiting for any guesses while furiously stuffing in six, somehow maintaining a proper airway. Put one in front of the other and trudged along, it’s hard to recall any outstanding events from the day—I’m sapped. Camped on top of Silver Pass in efforts to avoid mosquitoes. Pulled out two creamy chicken Top Ramen packets from my bear can, fished out a few garlic cloves skittering around on the bottom and sliced them, fired up my stove and fried the garlic wafers in olive oil with a few dashes of Tabasco. The aroma was powerful enough to mask our collective stench but not enough to ward off the clouds of skeeters, even at 11,000 feet. One less mythic property of garlic.
June 22, Day 49
23.5 miles [906.6]
Got a fairly late start on Silver Pass for the remaining 21.5 mile mostly-downhill haul into Mammoth Lakes. It seems as though mosquitoes can’t fly faster than 2.5 miles per hour, so I just tried to maintain or outdo that pace for the entire day. Don’t remember much from the hike, stream crossings, trees, and lakes blended together like backseat views on a cross-country road trip. By 5 p.m., “Shocks”, “Trashbath”, and I rolled into Red’s Meadow. Immediately, I hydrated with an IPA from the trading post and we all reveled at making it to another town. My bear can is empty but I didn’t go hungry; success, and it only took 900 miles. Hitching seemed like a distant possibility but an $8 bus ride was a worthwhile investment. The old bird who sold me my first beer, who also sold bus tickets, must have taken another good look at me while I was asking for a bus ticket, selling me my second beer. Grinned like an alcoholic, downed the first and took the second to-go, hoping the bus driver wouldn’t care. Gang decided on John’s Pizza Works and we settled on a supreme-style ‘za; out of the 16 slices I had four or five, nothing but the pan was left. Coke has never tasted so delicious. Ran into “Combo” who had apparently rocketed ahead by a few days in order to hang with his family—he looked real clean. Made a quick stop at the liquor store for beer before setting off into the residential woods of this ski town for a spot to stealth. Got pretty drunk and talked between tents just like all those fifth-grade slumber parties.