Day 55 & 56 – En route to Lone Pine
Saturday 22 June 2019
Location: Mile 740
Distance travelled: 17.6 miles / 28 km
Today was a spectacular day on trail, from the moment I left camp to the moment I set up camp. The views were outstanding and the weather was perfect for hiking, sunny but with a cool breeze so it never got too hot.
It feels good to be in the mountains, looking out over the High Sierra’s, knowing that in a few days I will be walking amongst those mountains.
The big snow melt is definitely underway, I was meant to encounter snow on this section of trail to the Crabtree Meadows junction but I was lucky that it had mostly melted. Only a few stubborn patches remain. It amazes me that with the sun shining so strongly, these last chunks of ice are still frozen. The result was plenty of water on trail. I still find my brain resorting to the desert mindset of being vigilant about planning for water. How much I need and when I’ll next be able to get it. It is nice to know that we won’t have any big water carries with the extra weight of our snow gear and bear cans.
Having 3 days to make it to Lone Pine means I can take it slowly and enjoy the views, taking plenty of breaks along the way.
I was grateful for the relaxed time frame, I started feeling the impact of the increase in altitude. Today I would reach the highest point on the trail so far, 10,000 feet or 3,000 meters. The thinning air snuck up on me. It was only when hiking uphill that I noticed being more out of breath than usual.
The spectacular scenery more than made up for being a little out of breath. The trail descended from alpine pine forests into lush green meadows.
The trail was lined with pretty little flowers, creating a yellow and maroon carpet across the forest floor. Butterflies flitted about while birds chirped in the trees overhead and chipmunks darted across the trail infront of me. I felt like I was walking through a fairtale book.
From the meadow the trail began to climb once again. It wouldn’t be the Sierras without climbling.
I took a long lunch break near the peak of the hill, enjoyed the views while I ate, feeling incredibly greatful to be out on trail taking this all in.
Post lunch there was yet more climbing but again, I was rewarded with breathtaking views. I could see right out over the Owens valley. The landscape looked like a painting, it felt surreal to be standing amongst all of this beauty.
I ran into my aussie friends Mahni and Ben during the afternoon while I was collecting water. We walked together for a couple of miles. It was nice chatting to Mahni as we walked. They would be continuing further than me and going straight through to Independence, not stopping in Lone Pine so it may be a little while before I see them again but I hope to run into them again along the trail.
I found a nice secluded place to camp for the evening. I had beautiful views through the pine trees, looking out over the mountains. It would be my last night solo camping in the tent on the PCT. Tomorrow I would walk down into Lone Pine and from there, Adam will be joining me on the trail.
Sunday 23 June 2019
Location: Mile 745.3
Distance travelled: 5.3 miles / 9 km
Today I woke up from my last night tenting alone on the PCT. Hiking solo has been a great experience, I have had two months of headspace, learning to trust in my own decisions and having the freedom of walking at my own pace and to my own schedule, being able to break when I want to and camp when and where I want to. Walking solo I have forged friendships with other hikers who I may not otherwise and have overcome fears that come with camping alone in the desert and forest and sometimes even under bridges beside highways or energy farms underneath wind turbines.
That said, it is a wonderful thing to be able to share such a journey with another person, from the magical things you experience on trail, the beautiful views and adorable critters to the tough times when you are struggling uphill with a heavy pack in the blazing hot heat. It is comforting to have a companion to share the good times with and to be able to support each other through the tough times.
After 2 months apart I can’t wait to see Adam in Lone Pine. We have spent longer living apart previously but somehow being on trail makes that time feel longer or different in some way. You experience so much, see and learn so many new things that 2 months can feel like 6.
When I think back to the 29th April, when I took my first steps on the PCT it feels like a lifetime ago. I have learnt a lot and grown a lot in that time. I have so much more confidence in my own abilities and decisions and I feel grateful to have been able to have the experience.
I was camped a little over 5 miles from Trail Junction, the trail I would be taking to get into Lone Pine.
The first couple of miles were downhill and easy walking. I was met with the same stunning views that I finished my day with yesterday. I am loving being up in the mountains in the pine forest. It has been a luxury that over the past few days I’ve been able to camp pretty much wherever I like, there are plenty of flat patches of earth which, with the recent snow melt are clear of vegetation.
Slowly but surely I made it to trail junction and excitedly took the turn off down to horseshoe meadow. There were a few residual patches of snow lining the trail but the trail itself was snow free. It is a pretty trail with streams of fresh snow melt providing plenty of water.
It was a wonderful morning, on my way down to horseshoe meadow I came across the first horses I had seen on trail. I heard their snorting before I could see them and was instantly excited. It was a couple out on an adventure, each on a horse with 4 mules in town. It was a wonderful sight. When I first started the PCT I was hoping to see some horse packing folks. After all the trail was originally created as a horse route. These days the trail is a little more difficult for horse riders, they aren’t allowed to graze their stock and are required to carry enough weed free feed for all of their animals. It sounds like a big responsibility and a lot of gear.
I had a brief and quick chat with the horsey folks as they steadily made their way up the trail. I felt like I had 1000 questions to ask them but there was not enough time.
I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in horseshoe meadow. It was different to what I was expecting. There was a large sandy area with baby pine trees shooting up and a large residual patch of snow which had somehow, inexplicably been surviving the strong sun and heat over the last couple of weeks. It was a beautiful area, a big stream ran through the middle of the meadow. The bridge over the stream had snapped in the middle but I was able to make it across with dry feet.
From the meadow it was only a short walk to the car park where, when I arrived I was happy to find that another hiker had already flagged down a lift. I was very grateful to also be able to catch a ride with Brian.
Only a few weeks ago the road in and out of this trailhead was closed due to the snow. To get in and out of lone pine people were having to walk an additional 13 miles on the steep, windy road down to the highway before they could hitch. It is an incredibly beautiful journey but one I was glad to do by car rather than on foot.
Brian was very generous to rearrange his full truck to fit 3 hikers. He was a lovely guy, out for the weekend from Orange County. He was very knowledgeable about the area, I felt like I was on a tour on the way down to Lone Pine, the view were out of this world. The mountains looked like a backdrop of a movie set.
We drove past Alabama Rocks were Brian stopped and we got photos with the plaque. It is a famous filming location where many films have been made. There is a film museum in Lone Pine which I can hopefully pay a visit to while im in town.
In town I checked into the hostel where I was happy to find I would only be sharing the 6 bed dorm with one other girl. She was planning to summit whitney the following day and would be leaving at midnight so I would have the room to myself in the morning.
A group of friends that I’ve been hiking on and off with over the last 2 months came into town just after me and booked into the hotel so after I’d done my chores for the day I headed over and spent some time with them in the pool.
They will all be heading out the day before Adam and I. I hope to see them further down the trail, they are a great bunch.
It is surprisingly hot down in Lone Pine and the sun had taken it out of me so I had an early night back at the hostel.