Day 57 & 58 – A false start to the Sierras
Monday 24 June 2019
Location: Lone Pine, California (Mile 745.3)
Distance travelled: 0 miles
After travelling for the best part of 20 hours yesterday from Sydney to Reno, Nevada, I was feeling ok jet lag-wise. I would only be staying one night in Reno, before catching a bus down to meet Leigh in Lone Pine at the southern end of the Sierra mountains the following day.
I had a few things to organise in Reno before getting on the bus, so had set my alarm for 6:30am to give myself enough time to grab a few things before my 1pm bus departure. When I managed to then sleep through my alarm until 8am, things got a little bit more frantic than I was planning!
I had planned to finish packing up my gear before walking down to Walmart to buy my food for the first section of trail as my destination, Lone Pine, was only a small town and probably wouldn’t have the same grocery options. It was a good 30 minute walk down to Walmart in Reno. By the time I left the hotel for Walmart, it was just after 9am and it was already stinking hot outside! It felt like it was at least 30 degrees Celsius.
I had a decent sweat going on by the time I reached Walmart and was grateful for the air conditioning inside. The shop was absolutely massive and took me a while to get my bearings as the layout felt quite different to supermarkets back home, almost as if it was back to front. I eventually found most of the things I was looking for within about half an hour and raced back to the hotel with about 5 minutes to spare for my 11am check out.
I quickly dumped everything I had into my bags and checked out after having to wait what felt like 10 minutes for a lift that wasn’t already full with people on their way to check out at hotel reception.
Check out was my first experience of American taxes and service charges with my room being almost USD$50 more than I had been quoted at the time of booking online through a third party. Guess it pays to read the fine print. After checking out, I waited in the lobby for another hour until it was time to head across town for my bus to Lone Pine.
The taxi across town was about 15 minutes and gave me a good opportunity to pick the driver’s brain about what was in store, particularly in relation to bears and snow.
I waited in a random bus stop for the bus but did not realise at the time that it was running the best part of an hour late. It eventually arrived about 10 minutes late to drop off its last batch passengers from the morning run from Lone Pine to Reno. The driver normally then takes a 30 minute lunch break. As I had nowhere else to be and hadn’t had lunch myself, the driver let me jump on the bus and join him for lunch at a local taco shop, which was cool.
Once we were finally on the road, the 6 hour bus trip went by pretty quickly. I slept for a decent chunk of it, but when I was awake, I did get some spectacular views of the nearby mountains that we would shortly be walking through. After changing to a smaller bus in the town of Bishop full of happy locals on their way home from work, I reached Lone Pine around 8pm, just before the sun set.
It was great to see Leigh again after almost two months apart. I’ve been so proud to see how far she has come on her own, but I’m glad to be joining her now on this journey onward to Canada. The Sierras are supposed to be one of the main highlights of the entire PCT, so I would have been disappointed to miss out on seeing them.
It’s probably going to be a rough introduction for me, with the combination of lack of trail fitness, high altitude, mountainous terrain and heavy packs on account of large food carries through the remote mountains, meaning that I’m probably starting with the most difficult part of the trail. On the plus side, if I manage to get through ok, the rest of the trail should be a breeze!
Our plan is to hitch out to the trailhead the next day once we have our food and packs sorted, starting our first 8 days on trail through to Bishop by the afternoon.
Tuesday 25 June 2019
Location: Lone Pine, California
Distance travelled: 0 miles
Today was all about final preparations for our entry into the famous Sierra mountain range. We spent the morning sorting through 8 days worth of food and packing our bear canisters. The involved repackaging most of our food into snaplock bags to allow all of our food to fit inside the canister.
The bear canisters are mandatory for the Sierras, the idea being that you put all your food and other scented items into the canister each night and place it downwind of your campsite so that if a black bear is nearby and manages to smell your food through the canister, it will be searching for the bear proof canister rather than your tent. It is supposed to be very difficult for the bear to break into the canister. The end result is that the bears don’t associate hikers with food and instead maintain a healthy fear of people in the backcountry.
The reorganising and packing process was taking me longer than planned, so we took a break to head out for breakfast at a nearby diner for an authentic American experience. The walk to the diner was a great opportunity to take a look at the mountains we would be shortly heading into. Both of our meals were big enough for three people, so we had to box our leftovers which we had for lunch later in the day.
With breakfast out of the way, we finished sorting our bear canisters as well as our bounce boxes with excess gear that we would be sending forward to a post office ahead of us on the trail. It was pretty clear by this stage that we wouldn’t be ready to get out on to the trail today, so we extended our stay at the hotel for an extra night.
We spent the rest of the afternoon going over our planned hiking itinerary for the next 8 days until we would reach Bishop and also swung by the local outdoor store to pick up a few things and make some hiker box donations of things that we were going to throw away otherwise. Leigh switched over her shoes to a brand new pair for the first time since starting the hike 2 months ago.
In preparation for the higher than average snow levels in the Sierras, I spent the evening watching self arrest videos on Youtube to learn how to use my ice axe in case of a fall on a snow covered slope. It’s going to be a steep learning curve – hopefully we can ease ourselves gradually into it. Looking forward to it though!