It hasn’t been that long since our last post, but in real time almost two months have now passed since we reached Bluff on the Te Araroa back in mid-March 2019…
As it turns out, this was more than enough time to jump headfirst into our next adventure 😉
As some of you may have already seen from our most recent Instagram photos, we will be heading to the US to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this season!
After much discussion, we decided that if we were ever going to do the PCT, there wouldn’t be a better time than right now – coming off the back of the TA we already have a good base level fitness, and we have our gear choices and daily hiking routines pretty much locked down.
For those of you that may not have heard of this trail before, the PCT is a super iconic 4,200km wilderness trail, running along the US west coast through California, Oregon and Washington. The trail’s southern terminus is on the Mexico/US border, just south of Campo, California and its northern terminus on the Canadian/US border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia.
The PCT is widely regarded as the pinnacle of long distance hiking.
Hiking the PCT has been on Leigh’s bucket list for a number of years now, but it was only really after hiking the TA that Adam started to give serious thought to hiking the PCT.
Leigh will start hiking solo from the US side of the Mexican border at the end of April 2019. Adam will remain at home in Australia for an extra month and a half to manage some work commitments, before joining Leigh at the start of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California for the remaining 3,000km of the trail.
The PCT is a considerably different trail to the TA and will bring with it many new challenges – whether it be the longer distances, the more extreme conditions (including snow and desert), the larger numbers of hikers on the trail, or the animals that we may encounter (rattlesnakes, bears etc).
We are really looking forward to facing these challenges and learning a lot along the way.
We hope you can follow our journey, either via our regular blog updates, or on Instagram (@adamleighandthetrees)!
Monday 22 July 2019
Location: Mile 965.3
Distance travelled: 19 miles / 31 km
We enjoyed a spectacular morning following the river down to Tuolomne Falls. The forest was pretty and the falls were spectacular.
Thanks to all of the snow melt the falls were gushing with water.
The trail climbed throughout the day, we had a few up and downs but all with spectacular Yosemite views in the distance.
We reached Miller Lake in the afternoon. Its was pretty but the mosquitos were not conducive to having a swim.
We didn’t have any passes today but we did have a big climb. The views were worth it though.
We spent the night at a picturesque little campsite on the side of a meadow by a stream. Despite the mosquitoes we had a delightful evening with a young fawn visiting us as the sun set in the sky.
Tuesday 23 July 2019
Location: Mile 983.1
Distance Travelled: 17.8 miles / 29 km
Today was a super pretty stretch of trail. We were out of the long stretches of pine forest of yesterday and into what felt like a magical section of the park.
We crossed beautiful lush meadows where deer grazed in the morning sun, we crossed countless streams and crystal clear waterfalls of fresh snowmelt. Everything was lush and vibrant with the backdrop of the iconic white granite of Yosemite. It was a good day hiking. It was tough hiking with a lot of ups and downs but it was beautiful.
The snow has well and truly melted in this section and spring wildflowers were beginning bloom.
We crossed two passes today, first up was Benson Pass followed later in the day by Seavey Pass. It was a dramatic change from the experience we had with some of the passes earlier in the Sierras. The two passes we hiked over today were mostly snow free which meant they were also hassle free. The climbing is still tough but actually having a trail to walk on and not having to worry about slipping on snow and falling to your death certainly makes the hiking a lot more pleasant.
We had two strange little bouts of rain today. It isn’t meant to rain at all in the sierras this time of year and we haven’t had rain in over a month. When it started sprinkling Adam and I were confused about what was happening. Sap dripping from a tree above? A bird pooping? Nope, it was definitely rain. Both times it was merely a sprinkle and it didn’t last for long.
We enjoyed a rain free evening camped on a rock edge with views over the valley below us, a beautiful end to a beautiful day in the mountains.
Saturday 20 July 2019
Rather than hike straight down into the valley we decided to take a scenic route via Glacier Point. We didn’t have proper topo maps but expected the trail to traverse around the outside of the valley to Cascade Point where we would have views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. The trail ended up being spectacularly beautiful but there was a little more climbing involved than what we first anticipated.
We were off hiking by 7.30am, starting out on the Mist Trail. This is the trail that hikers take to get up to Half Dome. Hiking up Half Dome is extremely popular (hence why we couldn’t get permits), we passed dozens upon dozens of would be half dome hikers en route to Nevada Falls. Their combined smells of coconut oil, bug spray, sunscreen and laundry detergent was a little overwhelming, as was the culture shock of seeing so many other humans in one place.
We were relieved to get off the Mist Trail as we made our way to Nevada Falls. The water was in full flow, the falls were putting on a spectacular show for us.
After Nevada falls the trail began to climb up a series of switchbacks. After all of the climbing we’d been doing over the past few days we breezed up the mountain.
As we climbed we gained magical views back over where we had come from, Nevada Falls and below them, Vernal Falls and as the backdrop to it all, the beautiful curved granite back of Half Dome.
We naively thought that would be our climbing done for the morning but the trail dropped in elevation as we reluctantly hiked down to Illilouette Creek, crossing above another series of waterfalls.
As we began to climb back up the other side of the creek both the number of day hikers, unprepared tourists and the grandeur of our views began to increase.
Half Dome came back into view and as we rounded the corner up to Glacier Point we began to lay our eyes on the face of Half Dome for the first time.
The hordes of tourists were almost as overwhelming as the views. After a 30 minute line up for the toilets we enjoyed a few ice creams from the gift shop at the top of Glacier Point and made the most of some shade and a conveniently positioned power outlet where we charged our electronics.
The wildlife in the area are definitely more accustomed to tourists than the critters we’ve been meeting on the PCT. A dirty street squirrel and a punk chipmunk did their best to try to steal food from us and our packs. After recently being reminded that these critters can carry the plague we did our best to ward them off. They definitely looked like plague carrying rodents.
After a generous break it was time to begin our descent into the valley. We snapped a couple more photos of the spectacular half dome and headed down into the valley on the four mile trail.
The trail was busy with day hikers coming up from the valley floor. We passed a good number of people who seemed to have underestimated what they had got themselves into.
A few switchbacks down the trail we got our first glimpses of the spectacular El Cap. It looked magnificent in the afternoon light.
The trail down took us a solid couple of hours. We were hoping to be able to catch a ride on the valley shuttle service once we reached the trailhead but unfortunately it was full. We opted to walk the couple of kms into the valley instead.
It was a warm afternoon so we stopped off at the river (under my demand) and had a quick dip to cool off. Adam wasn’t as keen on having a swim so he dipped his toes in instead.
Feeling refreshed (I a little more so than Adam) we made our way to Degnans Deli to have a bite to eat and finish charging or devices.
Adam was worried about us bagging a campsite in the backpackers camp ground (as it runs on a first come first serve basis) so he headed over with our tent to reserve us a spot. The plan was that we would then head out on the shuttle, see El Cap from the valley floor then get a shuttle back to the village store so we could resupply for our next leg of the PCT. We would then get the bus back up to Tuolumne Meadows first thing in the morning.
Our plan got derailed when we got out to the bus stop to find the El Cap shuttle finished at 6pm. Instead we went to the store, resupplied and very sleepily made our way to the backpackers campground.
It was dark when we arrived so I was very grateful Adam had set the tent up in advance. We shoved our newly acquired food into a bear box, made our beds and crashed out for the evening.
Sunday 21 July 2019
Location: Mile 946.3
Distance travelled: 3.8 miles / 6 km
Our alarm went off just before 6am and we were prepped to throw on our clothes, pull down the tent and jump on the 8am bus out of the valley but we had a last minute change of mind. Having run out of time to see El Cap yesterday we didn’t want to regret not seeing it so we decided to stay another day and get the 4.15pm bus out of the valley. It was a good decision.
Given we were already awake we lazily walked our way over to the Deli for a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. That alone would have made my morning.
After breakfast we jumped in line to be first on the first shuttle to El Cap at 9am. Whilst the shuttle which drops people from the campsites to the village runs from 7am until 9pm, the El Cap shuttle only runs from 9am to 6pm. We were surprised to find that we were the first ones in line and the bus wasn’t full.
It was a quick but scenic ride around to El Cap bridge. We jumped off the bus and gaped in awe at the huge slab of granite towering over us. All of the epic climbs that we’ve seen tackled on the docos seemed even more epic once we were standing so close to the rock itself.
After admiring it for a little while we took one of the approach trails and walked our way to the base of the wall. We had absolutely no idea where we would end up but knew we wanted to get up close and personal with the rock and it looked like we were headed in the right direction.
I wanted to see some chalk marks on the rock, to see the starting point of a route or two. We managed to find our way to what we think are two different routes.
One at the base of the nose had an easy start so we played around climbing up a couple of meters which were more of a scramble than a climb. There were some definite chalk marks on the granite.
After mucking around for a while we made our way to the right and found the start of another route where we spotted old bolt holes and a couple of bolts in the wall. The starting holds for this climb were ridiculously tough crimpers. There was no chance we were moving anywhere on this route.
Having had our brush with climbing royalty we made our way back down to the meadow, snapped another couple of photos for good measure and headed back to the village were we had very trustingly abandoned our packs.
We spent the afternoon eating, charging our electronics and making use of the incredibly slow wifi while we had the chance.
At 4pm we jumped on the bus back up to Tuolumne Meadows which was unexpectedly busy and enjoyed a scenic ride out of the valley. The bus ride takes a couple of hours so after a few more snacks from the Tuolomne Meadows store we headed back out on the trail.
It was already late in the day by this point so we were only looking to hike the minimum required 4 miles from the trail head before we were legally able to put up our tent.
It turned out to be a very beautiful walk through a meadow and past a magical lake.
It was the perfect time of day to be walking, the temperature had cooled off and the golden hour light was making everything look spectacular.
We found the perfect camp spot right on 4 miles from Tuolumne Meadows where we could watch the changing colours across the mountains of Yosemite as the sun set in the sky. It was the perfect way to end a beautiful, relaxing day.
Thursday 18 July 2019
Our alarms sounded at 6.30, we packed up quickly, headed up to the Wilderness Centre and position ourselves in line for a Yosemite Wilderness Permit.
While the PCT skirts around the outside of Yosemite it doesn’t go into the valley. Adam and I have heard so much about Yosemite over the years, watched the documentaries and climbing movies, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do some hiking in the park and lay our eyes on the two big faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. The park is very popular these days and as a result the permits are understandably restricted. Because we didn’t know exactly when we would be arriving at the park we couldn’t apply in advance for a permit so we had to try our luck with getting one when we arrived. The park reserves 25 permits every day for walk ups and these can be applied for at 11am the day prior. There are several wilderness centres in the park where you can apply for the permits so the line we would be lining up in at Tuolomne Meadows wasn’t the only cue of people lining up to try to get their hands on one. The system is rather confusing. We knew we wanted to hike up Half Dome and Clouds Rest but didn’t know which permits we would need in order to do that.
I had arrived at the Wilderness Centre at 7.30 (Adam had gone to check out the local grill thinking we had plenty to time, that no one would be lining up yet). When I arrived there were about 20 people in line, waiting patiently for the permits to be issued at 11am. I knew most of the people in the line, other PCT hikers also hoping to get a permit.
I made myself comfortable in the cue, fixed myself breakfast and a coffee and chatted to the other hikers as I waited. Adam arrived just before 8 and a short while after a park ranger came out of the office to begin sorting through the crowd. There were some unallocated permits remaining from yesterday which meant that it would be possible for some people to head straight out on trail today. She asked who would like to head out today and we raised our hands. This was good news. The bad news was yet to come. It turned out that we couldn’t get a permit for the trail head we originally wanted and we wouldn’t be able to get a permit to climb half dome at all. This was a completely separate permit system which we had missed the boat on. It required entering a ballot 2 days ago.
After a lot of confusion and chatting we discovered that we would be able to get a permit for the Cathedral Lakes Trail Head and do a 2 day loop, hike over clouds rest and then head down into Yosemite Valley where we can catch a bus back up to Tuolumne Meadows. Although we won’t be able to hike to the top of Half Dome we will be able to see it from the valley floor. As we were told by the ranger who issued our permits, its better to look at it from the valley floor anyhow. It’s one of the main features of the valley and when you are ontop of it you can’t see it. It made sense to us.
Our permits were issued and we were grilled about our bear canisters, proper food storage, leave no trace principles and we were sent off on our way.
Enroute we stopped off at the general Store, picked up a couple of extra supplies, had a second breakfast and headed out on trail.
While I was in the store picking up my breakfast dessert (yes, icecream sandwich). Adam had a very authentic American experience with a local who was looking for some advice. “Excuse me Sir, do you speak American?” The man asked. To which Adam, a little confused, replied, “I speak English”. The gentleman was a little abashed but turned out to be a lovely guy.
Out on trail, the forest was much like that which we had been walking through over the past couple of days, pine trees, rocky, dusty bareground and patches of the last remaining snow of the season. Unbeknownst to us we had a fair climb ahead of us today.
We climbed up to Cathedral Lakes where we took the half mile side trail through a swampy, mosquito dense meadow to reach a lovely sandstone rock lunch spot looking out over Cathedral Lake.
We enjoyed lunch here. There were plenty of day hikers about, day hiking in the park doesn’t require a permit but the number of day hikers soon dwindled when we got back out on trail and past the Cathedral Lakes turn off.
We passed several tall granit peaks which got us excited to see Half Dome and El Cap in the coming days.
From the lakes we climbed up a ridge before dropping down once more into a grassy meadow.
We were technically on the John Muir Trail at this point and had met a JMT hiker who had warned us about the mosquitos through this stretch. She was right. They were bad! I will never in my life complain about the New Zealand sandflies again. The mosquitoes were vicious and in their thosands. They bite through clothing so wearing long sleeves and pants doesn’t help all that much and they somehow even managed to get under my headnet.
At one point the buzzing became intensely loud. I turned my head to the left to see where the sound was coming from and all I could see was a thick, black buzzing swam of mosquitoes. We walked fast through that meadow, took our turn off towards clouds rest and began powering up the hill, thinking we would find a reprieve from the bugs if we gained a bit of elevation. Sadly that was not the case.
Although we were enjoying the views we were both feeling pretty miserable by this point amd decided to call it a day. We found water and a great campsite with an epic view. After a battle with the mosquitos we threw up the tent and climbed in, happy for some rest in our little mosquito free refuge.
We were both too overwhelmed by the mosquitos to cook any dinner but our treat for the evening was spotting a pair of coyotes roaming past camp. I was hoping to see a bear but this pair made my night!
We went to sleep without the fly tonight, watching the colours of the setting sun change over Polly Dome. The mosquitoes might have got us down but the sunset surely made us feel like being eaten alive was worth it.
Friday 19 July 2019
We had a short reprieve from the mosquitos this morning, allowing us to eat breakfast and pack down the tent swarm free. It wasn’t long before they came out in force though. The trail dropped in elevation to a valley floor and we walked along the edge of a lake. It was beautiful in the early morning light, the mist still lingering at it’s edges. It was here that the mosquitoes were waiting for us. We put on our head nets and kept moving, momentum being the only real thing to stop them from attacking.
We passed two more beautiful lakes during the morning before the trail began to climb in elevation. Clouds Rest got its name for a reason.
We stopped for a morning tea break on a fallen log and were instantly preyed upon by two cheeky chipmunks. Although we didn’t feed them they were determined to try their luck. After 5 minutes or so they must have been agitated by the lack of food. What seemed to be a turf war broke out between the two.
It was only a short break, moved on by the mosquitos we continued our way up the hill to clouds rest. The climb was steep but made worth it when we started to see glimpses of the valley coming into focus. It was finally starting to feel like the last 24 hours of hard work was worth it.
The track became unclear at the top of the mountain and we had to do a little rock scrambling to make our way to the summit. We passed over the peak and infront of us was a grand view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. It finally felt like we were in Yosemite National Park.
We took our time at the top, having lunch and drying out our wet sleeping bags and tent from the night prior. With such spectacular scenery we didn’t want to move on too soon.
Finally it was time to make our way down. The descent was a lot less challenging that the hike up. It felt good to have the hard work behind us.
On our way down we ran into a volunteer from the visitor centre who, after chatting with him, suggested we camp at Little Yosemite Valley Campground tonight and head into the valley the following day. This way we would make the most out of our wilderness permit plus and additional 1 night stay allowed in the valley. I had been thinking about this as an option, it was a good idea and would allow us to have a relaxed afternoon, a win win.
We made our way down to little Yosemite campground, passing by the back of half dome and the junction for the summit hike.
It wasn’t far to the camp, we found a site and were pleasantly relieved to find the area relatively mosquito free. I took the opportunity to go for a swim in the river, it would be another 5 days or so until we would be showering so it was nice to freshen up.
Tuesday 16 July 2019
Location: Mile 924.4
Distance travelled: 17.8 miles / 29 km
First day back on trail after a couple of days off in Mammoth Lakes and it was a damn good day back. Having missed the last trolley and consequently the last shuttle back up to the trail head yesterday we had unexpectedly spent last night in Mammoth.
We were keen to get back to the trail as early as possible today so we were up and checked out of our hotel just after 6am. Our morning started with a delicious breakfast bagel and coffee at a local bakery before we jumped on the 7.15 bus back up to the valley.
The bus ride up is a beautiful, scenic and somewhat touristy route through the valley. Unexpectedly, half way into the drive we spotted a bear cub running through the forest! The whole bus got excited, even the driver. She stopped the bus so we could watch the little bear making its way through the forest. It was startled by the bus and was doing its best to get away from us by climbing a nearby tree. We never did see the mumma bear but its sure to say she wasn’t far off. The sighting made my day. I feel so glad to have finally seen a bear, even better that it was from behind a bus window so we didn’t need to worry about correct bear protocol. We have been carrying our bear proof food canisters for a couple of weeks now and to be honest it’s felt like overkill since we haven’t seen any bears. Seeing the cub this morning was a nice reminder that we are carrying the canister for a reason.
When the bus dropped us off at Reds Meadow (the trailhead) I was still elated from the bear spotting. To top off an already fabulous start to our day, there outside the Red’s Meadow general store was my old group of friends, Safari and Sam (now named 2can), Cheesus, Magic Mike and French Ninja. They had left a couple of days before Adam met me in Lone Pine, I wasn’t expecting to see them again so it was fantastic to run into them.
To add to an already fabulous morning Adam and I ate one last ice cream sandwich as breakfast desert before heading back out onto the trail at 9am.It was only a couple of miles down the trail before we would hike by the Devils Postpile, a national monument of intricate rocks created by lava flow 100,000 years ago. We had a good view point of the rock from the trail so we didn’t take the side trail down to the bottom of the rocks.
We passed a lot of day hikers during the morning, it’s a popular area for hiking. We also walked by a trail maintenance crew who were making repairs to the trail in the area.It was largely a day of climbing in altitude and once we popped out above the tree line we had spectacular views of the snow capped Minaret Range. It felt great to be able to enjoy the snow capped mountains without having to slog through the snow.The trail from Reds Meadow is also popular for horse riding. On our climb up the trail we hiked past a group of people riding horses and mules who were going the opposite direction. One rather plump gentleman at the front of the group said to me, ‘the view from the top makes it all worth it’. For some reason it irritated me, maybe it was because he wasn’t willing to put in any physical effort but was still willing to dish out advice. I thought, tell that to your horse buddy.The day seemed to fly past, we enjoyed lunch with Safari, 2can and the crew and leapfrogged with them on and off throughout the day.
Before we knew it it was dinner time, we wanted to walk a little further for the day and try to make it over Island Pass so we had dinner at a beautiful spot with a view before continuing on for another few miles.As we approached Thousand Island Lake, golden hour was just hitting. The light over the water was magical. It felt like we had arrived there at the perfect time of the day. We took in stunning views before continuing on.It was less than 2 miles to the top of Island Pass so we decided to try to get to the top and camp there. We found the most incredible site just 0.2 miles from the top of the pass. On one side of the tent we had views out over a mirror like lake and to the other, snow capped mountain peaks. It was a truly magical day in the mountains and I feel so glad to be back on trail.
Wednesday 17 July 2019
Location: Mile 924.5
Distance travelled: 18.1 miles / 29 km
It was wonderful waking up in our magical camp spot on Island Pass. It doesn’t get much better.
We were camped almost at the top of Island Pass but you wouldn’t have know it. It was the flattest top of any pass we’ve crossed this far. This morning we hiked over the top of the pass without even knowing it.The descent was gentle, no ice axes were needed on this one, just a couple of small snow fields to cross. We then had a short descent before starting our climb up Donohue Pass.When we reached the bottom of the descent we were pleasantly surprised by a series of stunningly beautiful lakes.The water was perfectly still, casting reflections of the mountains above. The lakes were surrounded by large pieces of ice and snow, freshly uncovered by the warmer temperatures. Although the seasons aren’t abiding by the calendar at the moment, the wildlife sure know it to be sping, the lakes were teaming with large tadpoles and croaking frogs.I love watching tadpoles. It amazes me how they develop like like do. Most other creatures are formed in an egg or in utero but frogs, they sprout their little legs and drop tails once they have already hatched. It’s pretty amazing.The climb up to Donohue Pass was slow going. After Island Pass I was hoping it would be a little more snow free but we still had a bit of snow to slog through.At one point I strayed from the bootpack when I spotted the cutest little trail of Marmot foot prints through the snow and decided to follow them. As Adam kindly pointed out I weigh a little more than a marmot and post holed up to the hip on this short stretch of snow.At the top of Donohue we stopped for a long lunch break and took in the views. It was magnificent with the lakes below and the glistening white snowfields infront of us. Although the Sierras are slow going I’m really going to miss thew views when we make it through to Sonora (which marks the end of the Sierras).At the top of the pass we were joined for lunch by the friendliest chipmunk we had met on trail yet. It climbed all over our bags and up my legs in search of some stray trail mix. Although it managed to grab some tortilla crumbs I was proud that I restrained myself from feeding it. It was only a few days later that I would be reminded that chipmunks and squirrels carry the plague so it wasn’t the best idea to let the little beggar climb up my legs.Heading down from the pass we followed a long bootpack in the snow which required a little bootskiing in the afternoon sun. After a mile or so of snow fields we hit dry trail once again. The trail led us to a spectacular series of lakes before we made our way to the valley floor on a series of switchbacks.We had now officially entered Yosemite National Park! We are looking forward to the next couple of days. We plan to take a couple of days off and make the most of being so close to such a major natural attraction. While the PCT skirts around the outside of Yosemite there is much of it that it misses, including Yosemite Valley. To do some hiking in the park away from the PCT requires us to obtain an additional wilderness permit. These permits are snapped up quickly so we decided to push through to Tuolumne Meadows, camp there this evening so we could line up nice and early for a wilderness permit in the morning.We had a long descent ahead of us followed by a long flat walk through to Tuolumne Meadows. The meadow was pretty but the mosquitos and bugs were persistent.It was getting on in the evening and we were feeling tired after a long day hiking, it was a slog to make it through to the campground but we were committed. There is no dispersed camping allowed within four miles of the Tuolomne Meadows Trailhead so we would have to make it to the campground.After a couple of rest breaks and being eaten by bugs we had made it. We had just enough time before sun down to find the backpackers camp ground where we would be permitted to camp for one night. The campground was huge, much bigger than we had anticipated and difficult to navigate so we were lucky to run into a couple at the entrance who led us there. They seemed excited to run into some PCT hikers and offered us to join them for a beer but we were exhausted after a long day and after putting up the tent, crashed out for the evening.
Friday 12 July 2019
Location: Lake Virginia campsite (mile 891.8)
Distance travelled: 11.2 miles
We had over 4 miles to reach Silver Pass so were up early again, leaving the campsite by 7am.
The plan is to reach Reds Meadow tomorrow. Reds Meadow is a ‘resort’ that caters for hikers but, for us, is also a gateway for getting a ride into the nearest town, Mammoth Lakes, by Saturday evening. With only 26 miles to go, we figured we’d take today a bit easier given the amount of climbing today, and aim for about 12 miles, leaving 14 or 15 miles of mostly downhill hiking for Saturday.
The morning was definitely a bit of a slog for me but it was also spectacular. Firstly climbing next to Mono Creek, we eventually reached a junction which our GPS app told us to cross via a log about 100m from the trail rather than the waist deep normal crossing. This turned to be good advice as we managed to stay completely dry.
We then started climbing up quite steeply via switchbacks, eventually coming to waterfall which flowed over the trail. We crossed carefully, the spray cooling us off as we crossed its path.
The views started to open up as we got higher, but thankfully not much snow to speak of on this part of the trail.
We made our way slowly towards Silver Pass, the early morning sun hitting us with a lot more force than most days in recent memory. Thankfully the incline was gradual.
We passed a couple of lakes and even spotted a small frog nearby one of the lakes.
Once we reached the top of the pass, there were amazing views in all directions. It made the 4 hours of climbing to start the day feel worthwhile.
After taking a break at the top of the pass to re-fuel, we set off on the descent, curious to locate the glissading lines that other hikers had mentioned to us in passing over the last day or so. It didn’t take long to find the first one, and they just kept coming after that.
We made the most of every opportunity to glissade (ie. sliding on your bum), as it is easy and quicker to get down the mountain, as long as the path is safe. Thanks to glissading we were off the snow in next to no time, before continuing our descent down the trail to another creek crossing. This time it was bridged though, which given the ferocity of the rapids below, was probably a good thing.
Following lunch, we started our second climb of the day, up to our planned campsite near Lake Virginia.
In the hottest part of the day, this was a fairly punishing climb, but luckily it was over much more quickly than our morning climb.
Once we reached the top of the hill, we made our way around the edges of the stunning Lake Virginia, settling on a campsite overlooking the lake at the shockingly early time of 3:45pm. Plenty of time to relax, dry wet gear and have an early night.
Saturday 13 July 2019
Location: Red’s Meadow campsite (mile 906.6)
Distance travelled: 14.8 miles
Today was all about getting into Reds Meadow, where a shower, ice cream sandwich and burger awaits. After another week on the trail, we were looking forward to a few small luxuries at Reds Meadow, before catching the bus into Mammoth Lakes the following day.
The plan was pretty simple – walk 15 miles and get into Reds Meadow before the general store and cafe closed at 7pm.
We were on trail shortly after 8am, thankfully the sun had already appeared to warm us up as we walked. It wasn’t long before we arrived at Purple Lake, which Leigh tells me wasn’t actually purple. As I’m colour blind, I’ll have to take her word for it.
We then climbed about 500ft, which was the extent of the climbing that we would be doing today. It felt great knowing that it was all flat trail or downhill for the rest of the day.
The rest of the day from about 11am absolutely flew by. We were doing close to 3 miles per hour for much of it as the snow free, flat trail made for easy forward progress. I guess this it what hiking the PCT is supposed to be like in a year that is not an abnormally high snow year!
We passed the 900 mile marker and stopped for lunch about 4 miles from Reds Meadow. Leigh decided to get creative and mix liquid peanut butter with trail mix for her wraps.
We powered on after lunch to reach Reds Meadow by mid afternoon. Leigh almost acquired a new trail name along the way, as a passing hiker commented enthusiastically “sweet pants” to Leigh as he passed us on the trail. Unfortunately I couldn’t convince Leigh that this was better than her current trail name, Stacks.
The staff were really helpful at Reds Meadow, allowing us to camp for free in their closed campground and getting us sorted with showers and laundry.
We finished of the day with burgers in the nearby cafe, opting for sides of potato salad and pasta salad curiously, rather than fries or salad. Can’t say I’ve ever mixed those combinations before. Followed it up with a piece of pie with ice cream. Looking forward to hitting a real town tomorrow.
Sunday 14 July 2019
Location: Mammoth Lakes – Moderne Hostel (mile 906.6)
Distance travelled: 0 miles
We were up at 7am this morning to catch the bus from Red’s Meadow to Mammoth mountain, and then from Mammoth ski and mountain bike park to Mammoth Lakes village. It was interesting to see so many people out skiing and mountain biking when we changed buses at Mammoth given how hit it is at the moment.
Once in Mammoth Lakes, we headed straight to Good Life Cafe for a late breakfast before checking in to our hostel. Next on the list was to scope out the nearby supermarkets and organise our food for the next section of trail. Mammoth Lakes has an awesome free town trolley which does laps of the town all day and we made good use of it, even though the timetable wasn’t the easiest to understand and definitely caused a few arguments.
We found a discount supermarket selling $2 tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and made sure that we ate our fair share while in town (including one in the nearby car park).
The rest of the evening was spent catching up on messages and touching base with friends and family.
Monday 15 July 2019
Location: Mammoth Lakes – Motel 6 (mile 906.6)
Distance travelled: 0 miles
We had a pretty simple plan today – spend most of the day going through photos and entries for the blog at the local library before catching the bus back to Reds Meadow in the evening.
We also started planning ahead for the next section of trail which doesn’t have any nearby supermarkets and organised for a company to ship our food resupply to us in the mail.
Everything was going to plan so we stopped off at Carl’s Junior again for some burgers before catching the town trolley back to the Mammoth Village. It wasn’t until we reached the Village that we realised that while the bus to Reds Meadow would still be running for the next hour or so, the bus that we needed to catch from Mammoth Lakes back to Mammoth mountain had already finished for the day. Rookie error.
We attempted to hitch the first leg of the journey for about 15 minutes but it was already after 6pm by then and we didn’t like our chances of getting a ride as there was hardly any traffic headed in the right direction at that time of day.
We decided to stay in town for another night at the cheapest place we could find at short notice, Motel 6, before catching the first bus to Reds Meadow tomorrow morning at 7:15am.
Wednesday 10 July 2019
Location: Sallie Keyes Lakes campsite (mile 864.0)
Distance travelled: 15.6 miles
How nice to walk on snow free trail for an entire day! Not only did we manage to walk over 15 miles, but we didn’t need to get up early or arrive at camp late in order to achieve it.
We packed up and left our campsite on Evolution Creek by 7am and headed towards the notorious Evolution Creek crossing about 2 miles further down the trail. We had heard stories of this particular crossing being anywhere between waist and chest deep, so we wanted to hit it first thing in the morning to make sure the water level was as low as possible before any snow melt later in the day.
Not wanting to get our clothes wet so early in the day, we decided to strip down to our undies for the crossing. We joked that it would probably end up only being ankle deep and people would wonder why we were walking around in our undies, and it turned out to be not too far from the truth. The crossing ended up being thigh deep and cold, but not dangerous at all. We must have got it at a good time.
The rest of the morning was spent following the river downstream until it joined up with another river. This made for some spectacular rapids but the walking was easy for once and didn’t require too much energy.
We stopped for lunch at the bottom of the descent. We had dropped below 8,000ft in elevation for the first time since Lone Pine but would be climbing back up to 10,500ft later in the day. By the time we had lunch and dried out our wet shoes and socks in the sun, it was scorching hot. We delayed leaving our lunch spot for as long as possible but the time eventually came for us to get moving again.
The climb was long and hot with only small patches of shade. It was draining but we eventually made it to the top of the climb and had a break near a stream.
The incline mellowed out for the rest of the day as we passed a number of lakes and found a spectacular campsite with lakeside views. Tomorrow morning we’ll tackle one of our last major passes of around 11,000ft, Selden Pass, before dropping down again to lower elevations later in the day.
Thursday 11 July 2019
Location: Mono Creek campsite (mile 880.6)
Distance travelled: 16.6 miles
Our latest morning yet – 8:30am start! No great rush as we have plenty of time and food to get to Reds Meadow later in the week.
It was a beautiful start to the morning from our campsite overlooking Sallie Keyes Lake. The trail then took us up to Hearts Lake which was even more spectacular.
The remainder of the climb to Selden Pass was fairly snow free and relatively gentle – definitely one of our easier passes so far.
The views from the top of the pass were unexpectedly stunning. We took in the views for a while before heading down the snow covered northern side of the pass. The snow went on for a couple of miles, which got annoying as we were now in the slushy part of the day on account of our late start.
We walked along the edge of more frozen lakes before descending down to a meadow. There was even more descending to do though before we reached the notorious Bear Creek.
Upon reaching the crossing, we ran into Fig Bar, who we had first met a couple of days back on our way over Bishop Pass and have been running into daily ever since. Fig Bar had been waiting for someone else to do the crossing with, so the three of us linked up and crossed the thigh deep creek.
We had a short lunch on the other side of the creek while being attacked by mosquitoes, before continuing our descent to the low point on the trail today. We passed a bunch of southbound hikers and stopped to chat with them as long the way.
We got our timing wrong for the big climb of the day again, doing it in the hottest part of the day. The climb itself wasn’t too bad though. Once we reached the top, we found that there was a small amount of phone reception, so we used it to book some accommodation in Mammoth Lakes, our next town stop, to prevent a repeat of the Bishop incident.
It was now mid-afternoon and we followed the switchbacks all the way to the bottom of the mountain. It literally took 2 hours – I’ve never seen so many continuous switchbacks in my life.
Once we reached the bottom, we crossed a raging creek on a massive fallen log, before starting our climb up the other side towards Silver Pass. We hear this pass is also fairly easy, so have camped about 4 miles from the top. We will have a bit of climbing to do first thing in the morning though.