A lot has happened the past couple weeks which is why I haven’t been able to post as regularly as I’d like. But I’ve got just a little bit of downtime now so here’s the post for the past 10 days or so. Some days won’t have much of anything but the pictures should be great!
Day 77 (13 miles off trail)
Today we hiked the Bishop pass trail back to the PCT. Even though this pass isn’t technically on the PCT it probably had some of the best views so far.
At camp a curious deer came looking around my tent for food. I shooed him away because I barely had enough food for myself for the next stretch.
Day 78 (831 – 850)
It felt good to be back on the PCT and making miles again. I was beginning to feel the clock ticking as I did the math estimating my mileage and completion date. I would need to pick up the pace.
Today was the last of the major 5 passes of the high Sierra – Muir pass. This one was notorious for being a long snowy slog but not technically difficult. It definitely was a long way up but once on top we relaxed in the emergency shelter out of the wind.
The way down was just was surreal with the amount of snow and crystal blue snowmelt rivers.
After 5 miles of solid snow descent we made it to some dry switchbacks and eventually hiked to the floor of a wide wide valley. Here was the infamous Evolution Creek, one of the most well known creeks on the PCT for it’s danger during high snow years. We decided to take the alternate route and cross the stream where it widened and slowed in the meadow and it was not difficult at all.
Day 79 (850 – 873)
There is a small resort with hot food and a free beer for all PCT hikers deep in the Sierra Nevada called Vermillion Valley Resort. We couldn’t get there today but our goal was to get close and take the early ferry across the lake tomorrow.
We began our hike up and out of the valley. We’d need to go over Selden Pass today, not a difficult or high pass but it would require us ascending around 3000 feet.
Along the way there were plenty of obstacles to slow us down – fallen logs, flooded trail, and still plenty of snow.
Once over the pass we had one last challenge for the day – Bear Creek. This creek was also notorious for raging during high snow years. We opted to hike off trail about a mile upstream and cross the creek were the two forks hadn’t yet joined into the main creek. These forks were much easier to cross. Once we got back to the trail we took a look at the actual crossing location and it definitely was rough.
Continuing on the trail we saw a large group of what looked like first time backpackers looking for a way to cross. We told them about our alternate route so hopefully they were able to get across.We climbed just a little bit out of the valley and came to an awesome tent site that was unfortunately sullied by clouds of mosquitoes. Still, we were too tired after 23 miles to go on so we pitched our tents through the bites and turned in for the night.
Day 80 (874 – 880)
We got up early and hiked the 2 miles to the lake where a ferry would pick us up to take us to Vermillion Valley Resort. The hike down was super green with tons of Aspen trees.
Unfortunately there were tons of mosquitoes and muddy trail all the way to the lake but we made it on time. The short ride was $13 but well worth it to avoid having to walk more of the trail to get there.
Once we got the the resort we ordered huge breakfast portions and then talked with some other hikers till around lunch time.
Then we got huge lunch portions and our free beer for being PCT hikers. After that we all wanted to pass put but we had to catch the afternoon ferry back to the trail.
It was definitely a nice little place – expensive for sure but well worth the stop if you need a small resupply or just want to relax and have some hot food.
We got back to the trail and hiked another 4 miles into the early evening. Today was a short day in terms of miles but we felt refreshed.
Day 81 (880 – 903)
Today was a ridiculously hard day and I barely took any notes so I’ll try my best to recount it.
Straight off the bat we had 2 difficult creek crossings within the first two miles. The first one was impassable at the actual trail crossing point so we went downstream a little ways and crossed where it was gentler.
The next creek was much easier and actually quite scenic because of the incredible waterfall. I did have to put on my rain jacket because the spray from the falls was basically like rain.
Done with the river crossings, we now had to slog through nearly 20 miles of snow. Our goal was to get to Mammoth Lakes tomorrow to resupply so we needed to do a lot of miles today.
Even after descending into the valleys the trail was still very rough and in many places just non existant. This picture shows what the “trail” looked like a lot of the time.
Lots of bushwacking and falling through melting snow but it was nonetheless an incredible day of hiking. Brutal, but worth it for views of lakes like these.
We ended up making it 23 miles to the junction with the Mammoth Pass trail so we could hike just 4 miles to town early tomorrow.
I figured I’d throw in a selfie to show my beard growth progress.
Day 82 (4 miles off trail)
We hiked 4 miles off the PCT to a popular trailhead close to Mammoth lakes where we were able to get a trolley into town.
We got on another bus in town and I could hear a couple ladies near the front of the bus mutter under their breath how something smelled why not so subtly glancing back at us. I guess we were in a ski resort town now and people just weren’t as used to PCT hikers. Oh well, nothing I could do about it right now. We headed over to the hostel and luckily the three of us were able to get bunks in the same room.
Not much else happened that day except for typical town day chores. Mammoth was nice but we couldn’t stay long.
It was also today that I solidified my decision to skip ahead around 200 miles. I would hike 50 more miles to Yosemite Valley then skip up to the town of Truckee. My reasoning was simple: I was getting tired of hiking in the snow all day as it just wasn’t fun for me. Also, not only was it not fun for me, it was dangerous. I had several falls per day going downhill in the melting snow. I knew I had close to 200 more miles of this with several sketchy traverses and descents. There were also the numerous dangerous river crossings after Yosemite. I knew I could always come back later and make up these 200 miles when conditions were better and I could enjoy the hike more.
I had been thinking about this for a while but not told my friends yet. I knew it was the right decision for me and I also knew they wanted to go straight through so it would be a tough conversation.
Day 83 (903 – 911)
We went to a really cool coffee shop this morning and I told my friends my decision. They totally understood which definitely made me feel better about skipping these miles. I still didn’t love the idea of not having a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada but I had to do what I felt was responsible, safe, and enjoyable for myself.
The rest of the day’s hiking back on the PCT was great. Very little snow and great views.
Although the mostiquoes were really bad at our campsite and this one bird was so persistent trying to get our food. It looked cool at least.
Day 84 (911 – 927)
Today was a great day with incredible views but I don’t have much notes on what actually happened.
I did get a video of a marmot aggressively trying to get to our food.
Day 85 (927 – 942)
In the early morning we went over Donohue Pass. The ascent was completely snow covered but not hard (despite the annoying sun cups).
Once over the top we were officially in Yosemite National Park! The goal for today was to hike down to the Tuolumne Meadows campground and stay there for the night then hike into Yosemite Valley the next morning.
The hiking in Tuolumne Meadows was incredibly scenic. As you might guess there were beautiful green grassy meadows and a crystal clear river which we followed the whole way.
The trail was flat and mostly void of mosquitoes so it was a really pleasant hike.
We ran into a JMT hiker who mentioned that his friend had quit 2 days in and left his resupply buckets at the campground so we were free to raid them. And we definitely did. There was some good stuff in there!
The ranger at the wilderness office could tell we were PCT hikers without even asking. We decided it was because of the smell and not because of our tans and experienced look.
Day 86 (16 off trail miles)
Today we hiked to the base of Half Dome in Yosemite so we could hike it in the evening with less crowds.
We set up tents at the base and Salsa and I headed out around 5:00 PM to hike Half Dome. The switchbacks to the cables were rough after having already hiked 16 miles with lots of elevation but the views were unreal.
I chickened out at the cables because I’m afraid of heights and I was just over doing sketchy things. Salsa still went up though.
Day 87 (n/a)
We got a late “vacation” start at 7:00 AM to hike down into Yosemite Valley itself. I’ll let the pictures do the talking since this place is just so scenic.
We decided to join the thousands of other tourists and just do some easy hikes around the valley taking in the sights. It felt good to take it easy and enjoy the beauty of the valley without rushing.
Unfortunately I had to leave my friends behind today. They took the 4:00 bus out of the valley and I stayed behind to stay another night and head out tomorrow.
It was awkward hugging goodbye with giant backpacks but we made it work.
Day 88 (n/a)
I left the Valley today after spending some time talking with and giving advice to some JMT hikers heading out on their month long hike. I gave them all the info I had on trail conditions, snow levels, river crossings, gear advice, etc. It felt good to help out as they started on their own long hike.
I needed to make it 200 miles north to the town of Truckee and I didn’t have a car. Even though I wasn’t hiking these miles it would still be an adventure. The plan was to connect a couple bus routes to Reno, then uber a little ways, and finally hitchhike the remaining miles into Truckee.
Today I was able to just get out of the park to Lee Vining via bus and it was a beautiful ride. The town was great too and it had probably the best restaurant on trail so far – Epic Cafe.
Day 89 (n/a)
I’ll spare you the exciting details of my journey up to Truckee but in short I took another bus to Reno, ubered to the edge of town, and then hitchhiked the rest of the way to Truckee. It all happened pretty smoothly.
I did all my exciting town chores and prepared to finally hit the trail again tomorrow.
I ended up staying at a ski ranch/hostel for the night which turned out to be a really good deal since the rest of the town was so expensive.