It’s taken me a few days to adjust to a full speed life. One full of multiple threads, cars, phones, computers, many people and the organizing of all of these things. Over the past week, from August 24 – August 31, the only stuff I organized was items in each stuff sack, the stuff sacks into the pack, thoughts in my head and potentially thoughts into writing in a journal. Simple. Easy. Realistically unsustainable but enjoyable as heck while I was out there.
Out where you ask? The High Sierras in Northern California. 108 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park to Hwy 4 at Ebbett’s Pass. Desolation. After the first day away from the Yosemite trailhead until the parking area of our last day at Ebbett’s Pass, we saw less than 15 hikers. One day we saw a single hiker. Desolate. We saw more cows than people on the entire trip. We hiked on more mountains too.
We? Who’s we you ask? Me and my friend Tom who has been one of two primary hiking buddies over the past 15 years (the other is my Dad). Trailname: Ironweed. Until this week we didn’t know that trail names actually meant anything. When you wife tries to contact you via normal means to relay some serious news, she doesn’t get you. When she goes to extraordinary efforts to get a message to me via park rangers, they will only relay it via trail name. Who knew? In addition, it helps for the hikers to check bulletin boards at trailheads for these important messages. The one and only road crossing/trailhead opportunity we had would have been at Hwy 108 at Sonora Pass on Day 5. We didn’t check. Message not received. Funeral missed. Lesson learned. Discussions requesting me to carry a satellite phone have been held, considered and subsequently denied – I think I’d stop hiking before carrying that weight. Bullheaded? Yes. Principled? I like to think so. The cost of missing a simple note on Wednesday of last week was being able to say goodbye to my sweet Granny with my extended family. Seeing the note would have required a 50 mile hitch on 3 different roads (likely 3 separate hitches), many flight and airport changes and still a real chance that I would have missed it. But, alas it would have offered a decision to be made vs. one rendered. I appreciate Cindy and Tom’s wife Debbie for their efforts. They were not small. I also appreciate the wilderness officers who helped them. Above and beyond. I miss my Granny.
So, back to the trip…Was the trip good? Yes. Excellent. Some basic highlights:
- Perfect weather. Lows in the mid-30s, highs in the low 70s. Cloudless skies.
- Tough but gorgeous terrain – I have a new appreciation for the word ‘canyon’ – we hiked several deep ones.
- Fairly easy late-season water. Only once did we have to adapt our hike to have ample water.
- Benedryl on the next hike: I was stung by a bee (a first).
- Cowbell – many grazing cows in the final 2 days. Their cowbells were fun.
- Coyotes – howling at a full moon on our last night. Don’t they know that’s a stereotype?
- Bear Bin – no matter how hard you try, 2 days of food on an 8 day trip won’t fit in the Bear Bin. Hanging food is a laughter-rich activity.
- Avalanches/Mudslides/Rockslides – real activity in these parts. Don’t mess with this kind of nature.
- GoreTex – not only does it keep feet dry, but also cleaner than non-GoreTex shoes.
- Sunburns – when you feel like the sun is behind you all day, even if it doesn’t make sense, reapply sunscreen to the back of your legs.
- No mules, all llamas – most Sierra trips have been mule-filled. This once was llama-filled.
- Only a few revelations for me – one of them: learn to make cheese. Another: the lower elevation a lake is the more likely it is to be a pond or even a swamp.
Altogether another fantastic trip. Plenty of lakes and rivers to keep relatively ‘clean’ and great time with nature, thoughts and a good friend. Glad to be back with my family but always looking forward to the next one!