June 26, Day 53
20.3 miles [962.8]
Unsurprisingly, I woke to hikers ‘quietly’ retrieving their smellables from the bear lockers. Read a few pages of Desert Solitaire before poking my head out and confirming “Trash Bath” and “Sticky Fingers” had made good on their promise to sunrise Cloud’s Rest; their tents were empty. Packed up and headed down to the post office and grill. Got two cups of coffee which had me buzzing. In typical fashion, just before 8 A.M., garbage trucks rumbled through the valley, dumpsters were being violently emptied—Welcome to Yosemite. Even though I had been there less than a full day, being steeped in the huddled masses of one of the most popular National Parks has started to bum me out. A van of Euro hippies which had parked next to the tables opened all their doors and musical instruments started appearing. About twelve seconds into the free-form pan flute session harmonized by a banal conversation from some try-to-hard Instagram model types sitting adjacent, “Shocks” and I decided to leave. Cruised through a few miles of open, lush meadows before taking a long lunch with “Combo”. Five, ten, fifteen, the miles melted. Took a bird bath at Miller Lake, mainly for my feet and pits. Struggled to cross Matterhorn Creek and made it half mile more before calling it quits. Nearly two decades of Scouting beat into me to never, under any circumstances, have food in, near, or around one’s tent for fear a bear would be attracted and attack. However, I am so fed up with mosquitoes, I welcome the possible grisly encounter and ate dinner in my tent with only a shrill, unyielding whine penetrating the glorious mesh. Suckers.
June 27, Day 54
19.5 miles [982.3]
Blessed to have only a singular mosquito bum-rush me during my AM BM, after which any portion of flesh was in critical danger. Disassembled my tent while attempting to move at two miles an hour. Rolling start out of camp only to be stopped by a ranger, my first, who in predictable fashion asked to see my permit only after the briefest of greetings. “Can you fit all your food in your bear canister?” she asked, groping my pack for a rigid and dense confirmation. I nodded enthusiastically, handing her my permit with a mouth full of Poptarts, a bag of Cheez-its prominently strapped to the outside of my pack, silently thinking if I continued to eat at double my current input, yes. Hiked mostly alone much like yesterday, I feel utterly zonked. Walking all day is the hardest easy thing I’ve ever done. There’s a certain calming quality in the gorgeous monotony. Benson Pass proved to be a breeze but Seavey Pass was seriously steep. Dusk soon arrived and I set up camp didn't have much to say. Annihilated a tuna taco and somewhere around the fourth bite, had an out of body epiphany: mayo is king. The delectable, savory spread makes any dry packet of tuna taste luxurious. Much like any addiction I can’t imagine life sans substance. How do people survive on ramen and instant potatoes? I don’t think I’ll ever understand the mayonnaise haters. Killed the remainder of the wine while enjoying another night safe in my tent. Kennedy Meadows North is in 38 miles but I’m looking forward to tonight’s sleep more.
June 28, Day 55
23.6 miles [1005.9]
I should be elated, I should be proud. This afternoon I crossed the 1,000 mile marker, a new significant figure has been added to my trail log. But there wasn’t anyone around to celebrate with. As I got out my camera and wondered how I was going to take a photo of me and the ground simultaneously, fortunately “Combo” showed up and was a great human tripod, but he seemed to be in a real hurry (probably the skeeters) and bolted after snapping a photo for his own memories. Didn’t see anyone I recognized for the rest of the day, I just kept leapfrogging the same pair of vaguely international women who don’t seem to enjoy sharing the English language. Set up my tent while looking over my shoulder like an addled, twitchy squirrel, hoping and praying to see any member of my trail fam come into camp; no such luck. It took 55 days and finally it’s my first night ‘alone’. That fact bums me out even further. To top it off, most of my days are spent tuning out the drudgery of putting one in front of the other. Each day seems so long, each hour seems to be another brutal reminder that I didn’t even make it another three miles since the last hour. There’s a small chance I’m behind, my plan is to get moving an hour before we normally depart. Either way, I’m sure I’ll see someone before the highway. While filling water to cut down on tomorrow's morning chores, I misread the ground and sunk to my ankle in mud. I had to curl my toes to keep the shoe from being slurped up like a tender baby back rib. Washed it in the creek, there’s nothing better than starting the morning off with wet feet.
June 29, Day 56
14.8 miles [1020.7]
Of course my shoe froze, that novelty quickly thawed. But you know what? THIS smart guy snuggled with his water filter all night. Not learning that lesson twice. Crammed my shoe into a spare Ziploc and stuffed the whole mess into my puffy while I packed up everything inside my tent. Raced out of camp in efforts to ditch the nagging demons telling me I was behind. Had over ten miles worth of intrusive thoughts, loneliness being the main culprit despite passing and being passed by a dozen other hikers. Met “Captain” who remarked on my similar looks to another hiker he had just seen and I asked if he had met a “Shocks” or a “Trash Bath”. He told me I was about four miles ahead. I strolled down to the highway and snagged a beer from the parking lot magic and waited for my tramily to appear. Watched seven people to squeeze into a mini trailer, later I found out there wasn’t even tailgate. Gang showed up and we caught a ride into Kennedy Meadows North from a gentleman shuttling hikers for the afternoon. Arrived at the meadows and promptly bought a six pack, convincing “Combo” and “Shocks” to split a load of laundry with me. Ravaged a cheeseburger during the rinse cycle. Whole crew is back, I feel like an utter fool for having been so bummed. Scavenged a decent resupply from the convenience store before packing up one last time and heading out to the road. Hitching was getting tough—it was 6 P.M.—most of the tourists using the secluded road had already headed home. As the occasional car went by, everyone stood up and threw out thumbs smiling as hard as possible. With each missed opportunity my morale kept getting goofier; positivity attracts vehicles. A Mercedes Sprinter van zoomed by with no indication of slowing. “Sorry, we have TOO much space!” I yelled in my most sardonic tone to the exhaust fumes, the gang chuckled as they sat back down. Not thirty seconds later, much to everyone’s surprise, the Sprinter van came back and offered to help. I was absolutely stunned. The eight of us criss-cross-apple-sauced our limbs and gear into the rear and I politely handed the driver my camera while he pulled out his phone for the same purpose. “We haven’t seen this many people in the back of a van since India” he said with amusement, snapping our photo. The doors slammed and we rocketed off onto windy Highway 108. We screamed through tight corners and steep drop offs while our two intrepid chauffeurs told us plans of a second attempt at a Rainier summit. In some turns, I swore I could feel the back tires beginning to break. Said a few prayers and fortunately we arrived back at Sonora Pass. Made it a few miles up trail and set up camp. Happy to have lived, happy to be alive; remember that.