PCT Day 156, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 75

Sept 15

Mile 840.5 to mile 820.5, 20 PCT miles, no off trail miles!
PCT miles: 1619.9
Running total: 1755.6
Whenever we arrive to camp at night, we never really have a full understanding of where it is that we set up our tent until the next morning. Last night, between the bright moon and our headlamps we had some idea, but when I poked my head out of the tent this morning my mind was blown!! We had picked such a beautiful site!!!!

We didn’t start hiking until 0830. Our day began with a 1/2 mile stroll around Wanda Lake followed by a 1.5 mile climb up to Muir Pass. On our stroll we passed Melissa breaking down her camp and said hi to Paul who was still half-sleeping in his tent- he is crazy and had climbed up the pass around 3am to take pictures!! I look forward to seeing his finished products.

The climb was slow and rocky. About halfway into the climb we stopped to take some layers off- it always amazes me that we can get so warm so fast, even when it’s cold enough to freeze the water in the streams!! The trail was basically a small, semi frozen stream for most of the way up, but it was easy enough to stay dry.

At 11969 feet, on the top of Muir Pass, sits the Muir Hut/ the John Muir Shelter, which was built in 1931 by the Sierra Club and US Forest Service as a memorial for John Muir. Hikers have used the hut as an emergency shelter and according to at least one ranger, also sadly as a place for terrible people to drop off their wag bags. Wag bags are essentially poop bags for humans, and they are required when hiking in the Whitney zone, since digging a cat hole in the rock is impossible. When we hiked Whitney last year, the campground closest to the peak was littered with SO many wagbags- have I ever mentioned that I hate people?!! Ughh. Anyways, I was shocked at how warm and clean the shelter was- it was awesome!!

After admiring the shelter for a few minutes, Matthew and I began what was a surprisingly and painfully slow decent down. Between the rocks, the water, and a little patch of snow, following the trail was difficult and we made TERRIBLE time! It took us 3 hours and 10 minutes to go 5 miles!!!!!! 5 friggin miles!!!

The trail…

Around 12:45 we came across this hungry fella…

We decided to sit down and take our lunch break with the monster and two JMT hikers, Chuckwalla and Kenny. These guys were great- they have such fun personalities, and for college kidz they both have a really neat balance of life experience and curiosity that’s super refreshing. Chuckwalla is planning on hiking the PCT SoBo next summer- I’m so excited for him and hope we can catch up with him when he passes through SoCal!
After our too-short lunch break, we started back up again, allowing Chuckwalla & Kenny to go first- damn those youngins move fassst!!
At one point I heard people coming down the trail behind me and as I moved to get out of the way I was shocked to see that it was Chuckwalla & Kenny- whaattt?!? Turns out they took the wrong trail and started hiking up Bishop Pass, which would have been a BITCH had they not realized their mistake! They decided to include me in their game, where I gave them three items and two people that I would chose to be stranded on a deserted island with, and they would tell me how I’d die. It was SO fun listening to them tell the story of my death, each taking turns piggybacking off of the other. They are so silly & creative- I wasn’t surprised to learn that at least Kenny has led student wilderness trips before. The boys eventually took off in front of us, while Matthew and I continued to trudge along.
The afternoon was full of stunning views…

We ended up passing the boys again (I think they were filtering water??) and I left Matthew behind as I carried on alone. {Sorrrrrry, ma, but I am SO much slower than the rest of them, I had to get a head start!!}

I reached a once dangerous but now easy rock hop crossing and decided to fill and filter a liter of water while I waited for Matt to catch up, but he never came…or at least it felt that way.

I started to grow worried, especially since NONE of the three guys caught up, and as I said, I’m significantly slower than them. I started running through all of the possibilities in my mind- Matt got stung by a bee. Matt twisted his ankle. Matt got eaten by a mountain lion. I was waiting for either Chuckwalla or Kenny to come running to tell me the bad news, but I started to get eaten my mosquitos and decided that I couldn’t wait. I began walking back north and finallllly saw Matt, with the boys following closely behind. phew.

The boys ended up setting up camp where I had originally planned to stop, and though the site looked inviting and very well protected from the wind, Matt and I decided to carry on. The next day we would be tackling Mather Pass, which although isn’t the highest pass we would be climbing, it is often said to be the most difficult; every foot we could climb today would set us up for a better day tomorrow, and Matt’s goal site would put us 600 feet closer to the pass.

We arrived to the next tent-site before sunset, which we were super psyched about, BUT it was completely and entirely exposed and windy. We both SO badly wanted to set up camp before dark, but we knew that staying would be a terrible mistake. While Matt climbed down a cliff to collect water from a waterfall, I hiked up to the next site to see if it was any more protected…it wasn’t. (Sidenote, I actually don’t know where Matt went to get the water, but he said that I wouldn’t have liked it and since I don’t like hiking down cliffs, I’m going with that. He also joked that if he had slipped, he would have been joining Chuckwalla & Kenny at their tent site, 600 feet below…not funny, Matthew!!!)
The dirt on the bottom right is the tent site
I retraced my steps back to Matt and we continued on together as the sun started to set. We were hopeful that the next tent-site, 0.5 miles away, was in the small grove of trees that we could see up above, but alas, it wasn’t; it was another exposed site, leaving us no choice but to continue uphill…ughh

The sun was setting, the temps were dropping, the wind was picking up, and the next tent-site was now over a mile away and significantly higher than either of us had planned to camp.
We ended up meeting and hiking the last few miles with Mason, a JMT hiker. That day, Mason had attempted to hike two passes in one day and was on mile 28 for the day- that’s frickin nuts!!!! Even seasoned thru-hikers with trail legs of steel have said that 20 miles a day felt rushed and challenging in the Sierra. Mason was frickin LOCO!!!

The last 1/2 mile or so was incredibly dark and rocky. It took us a while to find sites in the dark, but Mason found a spot behind some bushes and Matt and I cuddled our tent up next to his. It was pretty windy while we set up and ate, but we were definitely more protected than we would have been if we had stayed at the original site, which happened to be 1.8 miles behind us and 1090 feet below us! That’s pretty significant considering this wasn’t a planned climb (& MY goal was 3 miles behind us and 1690 feet below us!) Thankfully Matt and I had both been feeling awesome that evening and had the energy to go, go, go!

Happiness is: meeting a milestone!! Since returning to the trail 75 days ago, we have hiked over 1000 miles!! AND we did that while taking 14 days off for our flipping, flopping, and hopping and taking an additional 6 zero days!!!

One thought on “PCT Day 156, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 75

  1. I have been following your journey from the beginning, and I have enjoyed your stories flavored with your very entertaining, plain spoken colorful prose – and the big beautiful pictures are stunning and amazing. I felt bad for all of you this year with the enormous amount of snow you had to deal with, but I am particularly enjoying these fall entries as you travel through the Sierras – for years I have been following others who cross thru when the most beautiful part of the hike is buried in 20′ of snow, but how much better for you and Matt that you get to see it NOT buried! I’m assuming you are done hiking for the year and catching up on the entries – I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for the months of fun reading and the enjoyment I received from your truly spectacular photography. I’d also be interested to know how you felt when you made the decision to finish and how it feels adapting back into normal life after living the dream most of us will never experience. Congratulations on an amazing unbelievable adventure!
    Maybe you should write a book! Anxious to see whats left.
    Ryan in Seattle

    Like

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