June 23, Day 50
9.3 miles [915.9]
Decent rest for having slept near a road, drunk. “Shocks” shared his other Torpedo while we packed up and waited for “Combo” to come pick us up, the four of us went to Von’s for resupply. A disgruntled shopper got confrontational when he scrutinized my 23 items, not the stated and illuminated “15 or less”, most likely because I look homeless. While sitting at a table repackaging my food, a motorcyclist who was parking came within inches of colliding with me, even grazed my shoulders with his handlebars, the old man didn’t even acknowledge the incident to anyone at our table of four. Justin’s of the past would have handled both of those situations far worse; I just ate my Talenti in the shade and enjoyed not moving. We said our see-ya-laters and “Combo” dropped us off at the resort. Started chatting up lifty Sinona who gave us the nod for a free ride in the gondola. At the top I pilfered 10 mayonnaise packets from one of the restaurants while we watched mountain bikers bomb the slope and charged our electronics. I killed my remaining beer from last night. Met “Gandalf”, a kooky fellow, who was also waiting out the midday heat. Caught the return bus to Red’s meadow where I drank more beer. Spent a moment being touristy at Devils Postpile and admired the basalt columns. Struggled through nine miles of mosquitoes before setting up camp to seek refuge where I had my first fire of the entire trail. After 50 days, I’m finally starting to get the hang of this.
June 24, Day 51
20.1 miles [936.0]
Waking up doesn’t seem to be any easier on trail, no doubt thanks to yesterday’s diet of beer. I got up late and took my time packing and hydrating. I hope the pictures I take somehow remind me of the sheer grandeur of the Sierra—it feels trite to keep calling everything gorgeous, amazing, and beautiful. Easy enough hike to Thousand Island Lake where we met a young family of four just about to leave. They had two sons under 13, everyone carrying remarkably high spirits, and informed us they were doing “just a 100 mile section”. I remembered the odd level of enjoyment and suffering backpacking taught me from Scouting. I took care to fist bump those little dudes with an extra level of coolness that only a group of three smiling, wild thru-hikers could provide. Was beyond stoked to take an extended lunch break staring at Mount Ritter but as soon as we sat down the skeeters began their assault. So far, the highs and lows of trail life are a natural and common occurrence, but it was then that I reached maximum frustration. I just feel helpless, my life has been reduced to two states: either moving constantly, never enjoying the solitude of rest outside of a netted shelter, or to accept it, like some sort of self-immolating monk, waiting for the possibly diseased swarms to suck me dry and cover me with itchy reminders for the upcoming weeks. I’m already chewed up, what’s the use in fighting? Sailed over Donahue Pass to find cleaner air and was rewarded with my new favorite view (so far). Another five miles before calling it quits and making camp. Pleased my tuna taco game has been fully optimized. A thoroughly squeezed mayo packet, a glug of olive oil, and a few heavy shakes of Old Bay goes into an awaiting tuna pouch. The gloopy contents is spooned onto an awaiting, crumbly tortilla and garnished with a heaping handful of hot Cheetos, tonight I had two. I’m utterly exhausted, but not hungry. And fuck mosquitoes.
June 25, Day 52
14.5 miles [942.5]
Enjoyed sleeping late, then read until just past 7 A.M. Just as we were about to head out, I recognized Casey, the girl who “Shocks” and I met and hadn’t seen since the terminus, was about to sail by and I shouted out her name. She raced over and gave me a monstrous bear-hug, pack and all. It was strange because my only form of human contact on trail so far has been entirely fist-bumps. We chatted and caught up over the next few miles before she zoomed ahead. I don’t think I’m going to catch her. Arrived at Tuolumne Meadows and enjoyed the loving embrace of a picnic table. There were a dozen or so lonely sodas and beers with no accompanying notes and after deliberating, I took one of each. A young man with black frames and a hot pink shirt appeared to be holding court at one of the other tables. I recognized his face from scrolling through social media and asked if “Twerk” had taken his photo, a name I heard back at Casa de Luna. “I am ‘Twerk’”, he said sweetly and the table erupted behind him. It’s refreshing to find someone making original content, we talked shop for just a few minutes. Sat there feeling apathetic about moving, but “Trash Bath” wants to hike, he’s never been to Yosemite. I buckled and got a double cheeseburger with a hot coffee from the grill which seemed to boost my spirits. The three of us hemmed and hawed but agreed a $6 per person campsite was a good purchase. Set up camp and decided that Cathedral Peak—a pinnacle of angry, wicked granite—was a worthwhile summit. I snagged another beer from the convenience store before we blazed into the unloaded portion of our digital maps. Navigated to the trailhead and began the ascent, Cathedral sharply looming over us the entire time. The higher I climbed, the more exposed the terrain became, I should have figured a rock spire would be treacherous. With each step towards the peak I wanted to turn back, but I ignored the scared, weak boy who just wants to sleep and drink in the void of all things difficult. Class 2 morphed into 3, then suddenly 4, I scrambled past a pair of climbers practicing rappelling techniques, death a very real possibility. My brain loudly reminded me this was the second most exposed I had ever been without gear and rapidly was becoming number one. I pushed until I was 20 feet from the top before my wits and reptilian brain won out; this was good enough. Made it safely back to the trail portion, we all trail-ran, knocking off three miles of descent in less than half an hour. Stumbled onto the main road just before the convenience store closed. I got a carton of Merlot and we retreated to the very full backpacker’s campsite. Met “Sticky Fingers”, a friend of “Trash Bath’s”, he offered me a draw off his Makers Mark. There was a half a liter of Coke which I used to make kalimotxos, educating everyone with a full cup who gave me quizzical looks. Absolutely blitzed but I earned it; a reason to celebrate.