Darrell will be up around 2pm, so I had time to kill in the morning. Checked out the camp area. This place is huge. There are spots between the trees for 100+ tents. I never found the end of the prepared area.
Interestingly, I’d guess there were <75 folks camped here last night. Given all the Sierra anxiety, I bet that a lot are doing the next 50 mile segment, exiting Horseshoe Meadows, and chilling in Lone Pine.
There was a helicopter flying around last night. Heard it pulling a long hover/warm landing. Found out someone had to be rescued due to a fall in the Kern river North of here. The rescue guys are going to be busy this season.
Caught a ride with a bunch of folks to Grumpy’s for breakfast. We lined up and answered the following: Coffee? How do you like your eggs? A gigantic pancake eventually arrived with eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon. Too bad I wasn’t sitting with some vegetarians for some free bacon.
There is a ridiculous pancake eating challenge. One guy tried it. If you can eat this
Then your breakfast is free. Else $20. Last report was that he was halfway through, but slowing down.
Spent the rest of the morning drinking some leftover beer, writing notes for the blog and chit-chatting with Capt Underpants. I don’t have proof this is the REAL Capt Underpants. He offered to show me, but I took his word for it.
Darrell turned up early and carted my smelly ass back home. He kept offering to setup his portable shower for me. I wonder why.
The Sierra is full of snow. It was nearly a record snowfall and the melt has come late. The snow line is 9k feet right now. Even lower on North facing slopes. Above the snow line it can reach depths of 20 feet or more. Had I been earlier, going in while it was all frozen was an option. Now with the heat wave coming in, all that snow is going to get rotten. Lot of post holing, unexpected voids near trees and rocks, and unmapped hidden watershed to fall into. Couple that with very high river crossings.
My risk tolerance is pretty high, but this is just too much. I’ve talked with a couple of folks who have done the first 75 miles recently. Almost to the individual, they are now either waiting or bailing North. So it will be for me. Plan is to take a couple weeks off, then hit the trail somewhere above Truckee around July 1st. I’ll come back to the Sierra when misery and injury is a little less likely.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HIKERS AND THE TRAIL
700 miles of hiking. The last segment of ~150 miles was my longest single stretch. Until now, I was hesitant to call myself a thru-hiker. I think many declare it too early only to bail out after a few hundred miles.
Our numbers have shrunk the further North we have traveled. When I stop to camp now, all I see are hardened backpackers. Some are faster (20-30 milers), some slower (12-20). For various reasons the rest have been filtered out.
Physically, most of us are stiff in the mornings. Sore feet, blisters, weak ankles, tendonitis, leg muscle strains, pulled back muscles, etc. Rising from a long break during the day sometimes takes 5 or 10 minutes for the joints and muscles to start working again. Most of us, especially my age group, walk with a stiff limp around town.
Current events seem so insignificant. Bomb going off somewhere, Trump’s latest tweet, an election in France, some piece of legislation. This stuff seems trivial. I have experimented stirring up folks about some political debate. They will engage in debate but frankly there is no passion. I feel weird even attempting it. The things that matter most are the hikers around you, location of the next water/town stop, rumors of trail magic, a funny story, and family and friends in the real world. Beer also seems important to most of us.
We share a some common traits now, but is it a common bond? No. I think that term is used too loosely. More like a common experience and, temporary, outlook. Everyone I have met recently….everyone…is strongly independent. Some need the small confidence boost a group offers, but all have operated alone. If one hiker encounters another in need of help, we stop and offer it. These offers are predicated on the environment we are in….food, water, bandage, or humping some of their pack weight. The rest is on you. SOS to the rescue helicopter is an option, but nobody wants to do that. I believe we are experiencing some of the most basic and positive aspects of humanity in this setting.
One of the guys I was talking to a few days back had a funny story. He asked his buddy “How you feeling?”. His buddy responded: “Well if I felt like this in the real world, I’d be in the hospital. But out here….I’d say I feel pretty good.”
There is a reason backpacker arrive at Kennedy Meadows store to applause. They are Thru-Hikers.
I am a Thru-Hiker.