So, we’re a bit behind on the blog (in case you hadn’t already noticed) …
To bring you up to speed, in real time, we’ve already passed the Oregon/Washington border. We are currently at White Pass (near mile 2,300) and now have less than 350 miles to go until we reach Canada (fingers crossed).
With the going being slower than normal this year through the snow in the Sierras, we’ve had to make up time by doing bigger mile days through Northern California and Oregon. This has meant that our days have typically involved getting up before sunrise and hiking until sunset in order to hit our mileage targets. All of which, we have discovered, doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for writing a blog unfortunately!
The conventional wisdom is that you should aim to finish the PCT by 1 October if you definitely want to avoid being snowed out at the US-Canada border (which we’d ideally like to avoid as it would mean we wouldn’t be able to finish the trail). We’re already starting to notice some changes in the weather over the last couple of weeks on trail, so it is looking like it will be a race against time to reach Canada before the end of the hiking season.
We’ve heard from other hikers and locals that it may be possible to finish later into October if the weather doesn’t get too nasty though, which is comforting. Our plan is to continue to push to reach the Northern Terminus no later than 10 October, while keeping one eye on the upcoming weather.
This schedule, combined with the expected lack of cell service and wifi as we head further into northern Washington means that there will probably be a delay in us being able to finish our blog posts, but we will get them online once we have a chance to sit down and do some posting.
In the interim, we will keep posting daily photos on Instagram, so please feel free to follow us over there if you would like to see how we are progressing over the next few weeks.
Wednesday 24 July 2019
Location: Mile 1004.4
Distance travelled: 21.3 miles / 34 km
We hit the 1,000 mile mark today! It feels like a huge achievement walking 1,600km. It’s a long way. When I think back to when I first started on the PCT I have learnt a lot in these 1,000 miles and gained a lot of strength both physically and mentally. I have survived the hot, dry Mojave desert and together Adam and I have tackled some extremely dangerous and challenging mountain passes in one of the highest snow years in the history of the PCT. We have learnt how to use ice axes and microspikes and how to deal with snow and snowmelt.
Still after 1,000 miles we aren’t yet at the halfway point and we are still in California. Yup, California is a LONG state. While I don’t feel disheartened by this I am starting to worry that we won’t make it Canada before the winter snow storms hit. While I keep saying, “we can’t worry about the weather in the future because it’s out of our control”, I would be devastated if we got snowed out and couldn’t finish the trail. So for us this means keeping a good eye on the situation and if necessary, flipping up north and walking the trail south to give ourselves more time to finish it. We will arrive in South Lake Tahoe in under 1 week. It marks the end of the Sierras so we will be able to make some more solid plans then.
Today was our longest day hiking in a while, mileage wise. We officially left Yosemite National Park as we hiked up and over Dorothy Lake Pass. The Lake and the Pass were both gorgeous but we had a hell of a time getting there.
The trail was a nice gentle incline but with a huge amount of snow recently melted the area was very wet. We were in and out of streams all day and walked a mile through a meadow from hell. I normally love meadows, they are beautiful, green and lush and a prime location for spotting deer but this one was more like a boggy swamp. There wasn’t a proper trail to walk on so we were slopping through mud. It was the worst mosquito experience we’ve had on trail yet. The air was thick and buzzing with them. There was no pausing for breath, a drink or photos because they would bite the moment you paused. The mosquitoes here are so vicious they bite through clothing so even with headnets, long sleeves and long pants we are covered in bites. It makes it hard to enjoy the scenery in conditions like that. After today’s experience im feeling grateful that we went through the most of the Sierras while the snow was still frozen and didn’t have this bug problem.
We had a little reprieve when we got over the pass and were able to enjoy the lakes and views headnet free for a little while.
The trail into camp dried out somewhat and we could feel the scenery change as we start to make our way out of the Sierras. The distant mountains aren’t so high or so snow capped. It has me intrigued as to what Northern California has in store for us.
The condition of the trail itself improved as the afternoon wore on and it felt more like the smooth easy hiking trail of the Southern California section once again. I’m hoping that as we make our way out of the Sierras we will be able to make up some time by walking longer days once more.
Thursday 25 July 2019
Location: Mile 1,016.9
Distance travelled:12.5 miles / 20 km
Today we hiked the final 12.5 miles to Sonora Pass. It is the first road crossing we have hiked to in over a month. Sonora Pass is a highway crossing, not like the type of passes we have been hiking over during the last month. It is nearing the end of the Sierras and today we certainly felt that as the scenery changed throughout the day.
Today we had plans to get to the camp and lodge at Kennedy Meadows North, nearby Sonora Pass. The lodge has dorm rooms for rent to hikers, resupply shop and a hiker friendly restaurant. It is a descent drive away from the trail head so the lodge runs 2 shuttles per day, to and from the pass. It makes things a little easier for hikers. We had plans to jump on the 3.30pm shuttle down to the lodge, pick up a resupply box we had sent to ourselves, get showered, wash our clothes and head back on the trail the following morning.
The final stretch of trail to Sonora Pass was like a pass in itself. While our maps showed us we had a climb ahead of us they didn’t show us how epic this final stretch would be.
Most of the snow had melted from the trail and the hills we would be climbing over but there were still some large patches that tested us.
There was a steep climb to a ridge where we had expansive views back over the snow capped mountains of Yosemite.
As we hiked on we could see rolling hills in the distance, an insight of what we would be walking through in Northern California over the next couple of weeks.
The juxtaposition of terrain flet like a farewell to the Sierras. It feels sad to be leaving such beauty behind us but it has been challenging and exhausting, I feel like I am ready for the next chapter of this hike and ready to move a little quicker and put away some bigger mileage days.
We ended up hiking the majority of the day with another hiker, Aurora. I had seen her on and off throughout the desert but hadn’t really spent any time with her as she was hiking with a larger group. It was nice to spend some time getting to know her.
The trail traversed along a ridgeline for a good while before wrapping around the back of a peak. There was a short stretch that traversed a patch of ice. It was here that we ran into another couple of hikers. One of them was trying to walk high across the ice. It meant not needing to drop down in elevation and hiking back up to meet the trail again but there was no established boot pack where she was walking. We chose to take the lower route where there was an established boot pack but we would have to hike down to it and back up again. The route we chose was much quicker and safer since there were already steps cut into the snow. We were gaining ground on the lady who was traversing above us. Adam was in front, I was in the middle and Aurora behind. At one point I looked up and saw the lady above us sliding down the ice. It was perfect timing, she had fallen just above Adam and as she slid down he was able to catch her to stop her sliding further down into the valley. It looked like it had been choreographed. “Nice catch” I called out.
Our adventures for the day didn’t end there. It felt like the Sierras were sending us off with a final horrah. On our descent from the mountain we had three epic glissades. All of which were extremely painful on the butt, but very fun and worth it to save some miles walking.
It was a slippery slidey event on the way down. There was mud, snow and at several points a combination of both. Although it was challenging it felt like a good way to end the Sierras.
Once we reached the road we headed to the trail head car park where I was happy to find Sonora Pass Resupply. They are a company who meet hikers at the trailhead with resupply boxes. We had planned on using them to resupply but unfortunately when we went online to order they were sold out of most things. But they do however buy used bear cans! Sonora Pass is the first place we can get rid of our bear cans after carrying them for the last month all the way from Lone Pine. They weigh about 1kg so I was very happy to offload mine and receive $20. I probably would have paid the man $20 to take it from me. Given we bought them used for $50 I felt OK getting $20 for it. Later when we arrived at Kennedy Meadows North I found 3 in a hiker box, people obviously more sick of weight than they are worried about losing money.
From the trailhead we managed to get a hitch after a few minutes which was all Aurora’s work. A guy in a truck who had been climbing in the area had already picked up two hikers and was happy to fit us in the back also. It was perfect timing. We were a few miles down the road when a storm which had been threatening all day finally hit. We copped a little hail and heavy rain in the back of the truck but were mostly protected by the cab.
Arriving at Kennedy Meadows was a delight. Hot showers, laundry, a bed, very slow but existent wifi, hot meals, a store, a comfy place to sit and hang out and best of all a menagerie of dogs who strolled in and out of the place. It felt like every time I turned around I saw a new dog. It felt like a home away from home.
It was a cultural experience to boot with a myriad of taxidermy bears and deer on the wall and real life cowboys strolling around in stetsons and spurs. As well as running the lodge they also run horse rides and pack rides with mules. We could definitely smell the horses and mules from the building. Adam and I were lucky enough to get a private room and could even see a donkey in the yard outside our window.
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.