PCT Day 147, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 66

September 6
Mile 940.8 to mile 926.1, 14.7 PCT miles + 1.7 miles on alternate, 16.4 miles total {since it’s an unbroken footpath, I’m again including these as PCT miles…maybe I should rename the PCT miles section, “PCT & blue-blaze miles*”}
*Blue blazing: taking a side trail vs the PCT. Some see this as cheating, we see this as maintaining our sanity on a thru-hike we know we won’t be completing
PCT miles: 1514.3
Running total: 1641.3
Big Momma was up and out early- she has a strict deadline & needs to crush serious miles in the Sierra, miles far greater than any of us want to tackle, so she was heading out alone. I am so glad that we ran into her yesterday and were able to hike & camp with her one last time. I’m going to miss her!! Big Momma, the little 19 year old badass,{who is now 20!} was the reason that Matt & I had our trail family- she had first invited us to stay with a her and few other people in a cabin in Idyllwild, which we declined, and then she invited us to share an Airbnb in Big Bear & that’s when we all hit it off. SO, thanks, Big Momma, for including Mr.&Ms. Anti-Social!! We had a blast with you 🙂
The rest of us slept in…kinda. We had planned to grab breakfast at the restaurant and resupply at the store before heading out, and neither place opened until 8. We had set our alarms for 7-something, but were awake by 6:45. Since we had nowhere to rush to, Matt and I enjoyed being lazy and warm in our tents, chatting with the girls. Arc had found us in the morning and was sitting at the picnic table enjoying the beer and Cheetos that Big Momma & Woodpecker had purchased for her the night before.
Since our tent was STILL soaking wet, we decided to leave it up while we went to eat and resupply, hoping that the sun would come out and eventually dry it out!
We walked over to the store and ordered a breakfast feast- I got an egg sandwich, fruit salad, an apple, breakfast potatoes, orange juice, and hot chocolate. Matt got a breakfast platter & orange juice, and we both shared a muffin. I was SOoOo full, I didn’t think I could eat ever again! (Spoiler alert: I ate again. Like 20 minutes later…)

We sat and chatted with Arc, Woodpecker, and Papá, then ran into the store to resupply. Papá intercepted us in the store and told us not to buy anything just yet- he had forgotten he had sent a box to the post office & had a box full of food to share with us! Arc, Woodpecker, Matt, and I all shopped through Papá’s box and scored some tasty goodies!
After we finished our resupply, Woodpecker, Matt, and I indulged in a mid-morning soft-serve ice cream cone- yummmm!!!
We then headed back to our DRY tent 🙂 and finished packing up. As usual, Arc was the first one ready and back on trail, followed closely behind by Papá. While Woodpecker, Matt, and I were stuffing the last of our goods into our bear cans, we met another PCT flipper named Poppin, who hails from Madison, NJ!! (Matt worked in Madison before moving to San Diego!!) Poppin’s mom now lives in Asbury Park- SMALL WORLD! Like us, Poppins won’t finish the entire trail, but when she finishes the Sierra she will have hiked the entire state of CA, which is pretty fuckin big!!! We ended up doing a food trade: she took my leftover hummus and veggies & I took her bag of jelly beans:) Fair trade, right??

Woodpecker stocked up on some of the jlt beans before hitting the trail, with Matthew and I then bringing up the rear.

We all chose to take the “shortcut” back to the PCT, which left almost directly from the campground instead of having to backtrack/ road walk back 0.3 miles to mile 942.5, where we had left off the night before. This 0.9 mile alternate trail intersected the PCT at mile 940.8, but it involved a little bushwacking to get to. In the end we saved the distance of the road walk…
The first 8 miles were incredibly easy, walking on level ground through a beautiful meadow. There were a million- maybe more- dayhikers and weekenders, which always takes some getting used to.

Matt kept his pace slightly faster than mine, which I much prefer to having him behind me- when he’s behind me, he is either so close to my heels that I fear he will run into me if I stop, or so far behind me that I start to think something has happened to him and I end up hiking back to him (it has happened a few times…) He is also a stellar animal spotter, so having him up front is always helpful!

Speaking of, I turned a corner to find Matt mesmerized by something in the trees- he waved me over excitedly, so I rushed to him quietly, ready to be awed by a bear- but no, it was a friggin ground squirrel…
I laughed to myself, thinking that Matt was just as excited to see a squirrel as he would be see a bear, and I asked him to come up with a special hand signal so I knew if and when there was a bear.
We continued on, me still laughing about the squirrel, when again I saw Matt stopped ahead of me, looking off into the distance. He again waved to me and pointed, and this time I knew it wasn’t a squirrel!!
Yes, a beautiful black bear was just strolling through the meadow. She was too far for my phone to take a good picture, so I dropped my pack and worked quickly to change my camera lens back to the zoom lens- I had changed the lens a few days prior thinking I would try using my camera for scenery pictures, but I found that I prefer my phone for scenery and my camera for the wildlife and flowers- I was pissed that I forgot to change it back!!!
While I scrambled to change out the lenses without contaminating them with dirt and dust, I kindly chastised the men that were quickly approaching- they were talking SO ridiculously and unnecessarily loud and I didn’t want them to scare the bear away!! (I basically was like, “hey guys, a bear! Shh!”And they were like, “cool, thanks for letting us know, we are going to talk 4728 decibels louder now!” Fuckers. Alas, by the time I had my camera ready, the bear was gone. I continued on slowly, peering off into the meadow with the hope of spotting her in the distance. As I came across a small grove of trees, something caught my eye- at first I thought it was Matthew, trying to get a better look at the bear, but then I realized no, IT WAS THE BEAR!!!!
The bear took a few steps running towards me, enough for me to be like, “holy fucking shit, a bear is running towards me!” but once the bear cleared the trees she turned and continued running on a path parallel to the trail, taking a brief detour to saunter down the middle of the trail behind me before heading back to frolic in the meadow. She was DEFINITELY a Yosemite bear, totally not phased by humans!!

I continued on my way, meeting up with Matthew around the next corner. Apparently, before the bear came running towards me, she had been playing in the creek! I was SO jealous that Matt witnessed that!

After our bear delay, we continued our long walk through the meadow, stopping for lunch at a small creek. While we sat there, we were joined briefly by a guy we had met in Oregon, Ryan, who was also from NJ! He was kicking total SoBo ass & was hoping to finish the trail on his 100th day! {To compare: we are on day 111 & still have over 1100 miles to go…}

We finallllly reached the start of our climb up Donohue Pass, where we had 2000 feet to climb in 3.7 miles. The first section of the climb consisted of short, steep, neverending switchbacks- every time I reached the end of one, I hit another. This had me reminiscing about my days playing high school basketball when Coach S. would line us up to run sprints and just say, “again,” or “go,” again and again and again. Every time I hit another switchback I said, “again,” and did what I did back in high school…I persisted.

I eventually made it out of the switchbacks and to a beautiful alpine meadow, where I had an incredible view of the dark, sketchy clouds that hovered near the pass… fuccck. I found a man coming NoBo and asked him about the conditions on top of the pass- he said it was fine, but when I pointed out the clouds near the pass he said that they weren’t there before and he wouldn’t go up now if he were me…I waited for matt and we talked it out. Since there was no active weather, we decided to go for it.

Our first challenge, though, was rock-hopping across the fairly sketchy Lyell Fork, where the rocks we hopped across were sitting too close to the top of a small waterfall for my liking! I went first and held my breath as Matt crossed behind me- we both made it with dry feet!
Right after the crossing we ran into two NoBO JMTers who said that the clouds were there ALL day and haven’t moved…we decided to take their word for it and continued our climb. The second half of our climb was powered by my fear of getting caught on the top of a mountain in a storm…

We made it to the top by 5:15, took a picture, then started our descent.

Not too far into our descent I announced to Matt that I was going to stop for a pee-break- I had had to pee nearly all day, but since we spent most of the day either in tourist-central or next to a water source, I didn’t have a good opportunity to go. I thought I had the perfect chance, thinking that we were the only ones on this side of the mountain, but then Matt spotted a guy climbing up in a white shirt…and blue shorts…the same white shirt and blue shorts that Matt used to hike in! I forgot I had to pee and got super excited- it HAD to be Matt’s outfit twin that we had met in Washington! When we got close we realized that it was in fact Ziplock- he had finished up his 2017 thru-hike attempt and was doing a “victory lap” in the Sierra- right on!! We chatted briefly before dispersing- we all still had some miles to put in!

We hiked on through some of the most beautiful scenery yet- I was completely blown away- it didn’t even seem real!

June mountain on the left, Mammoth somewhere to the right!!

With our late start, the bear delay, hiking slower than normal, the frequent pictures, AND the sun setting earlier, (all factors we forget to take into consideration when we plan our days…) it was later than we had hoped by the time we finished our descent. We had originally planned to hike another 7 miles, but we decided to cut our day short and set up camp just before the sun set. For the first time in the Sierra we were swarmed by mosquitos, so we sought refuge in the tent. Eventually we faced our fears and stepped outside to make and eat dinner, armed with our rain pants, puffys, and gloves, but the skeets weren’t that bad anymore!!

We were in bed and nearly asleep earlier than we would have been arriving to camp had we pressed on. As we were dozing off somebody passed by with a headlamp…i did NOT envy him!

We planned for a super early morning to hike 19-something miles in to Red’s Meadow, where we would then take a shuttle into Mammoth for a ZERO day!

Happinesses is: seeing a bear…and those views!!

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