Day 63: Mile 942.5 to Mile 962.8
This was one of my favorite days… until I realized I left my coozy, pot, mug, stove and fuel back in the bear box at Yosemite. There are definitely worse things in life. However, in 20 days, I had managed to lose my hat, spoon, water shoes, and now stove, coozy, pot, mug and fuel. Oh man. I wish I could tell you that this isn’t me, that it was probably the snow and exhaustion, but I am pretty sure it is me, and my ADD.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Had I not taken the time off in Indiana that I did, I would have been in this section 10 days earlier. Well, 10 days earlier, there was a massive snow melt and the water crossings were even more dangerous, and possibly even impassable. However, all the water crossings were doable with caution, when/where I crossed.
Both bridges on the PCT that cross the Tuolumne River were accessible and crossable. Ten days prior, they were under water and the river was said to be impassable. McCabe Creek was up to my hips, but passable. Return Creek had caused a few problems for several people prior, especially when the level was really high, but it was passable with extreme caution at the trail; the water was up to my hips. There were several other crossings for the day, but none exceeding the level of my hips. Mind you, I am 5’10”, so for someone shorter than I, I can see these being more dangerous. The trail went up, over, and around beautiful granite mountains and canyons with blue tinted, white water rushing all around.
It was just so beautiful. So picturesque.
I passed Tuolumne Falls, which was also gorgeous. And yes, there was snow, for several miles above 9500 feet.
The wildflowers continued to steal my attention.
I camped by a beautiful meadow, deer all around, along with millions of mosquitos feasting off my blood. When I gave into the mosquitos and retired to my tent, the sound of rushing water made my eyes heavy and eventually put me into a deep deep sleep.
Day 64: Mile 962.8 to Mile 977.7 : Benson & Seavy Pass
Elevation Gain: 4,015 feet
This was the scariest day I had experienced in a week or so. The two passes weren’t terrible, except losing the trail several times. We followed footsteps up Benson Pass and this resulted in having to scramble/boulder up to meet the trail. On the way down from Benson Pass, footprints went every which way and following the trail wasn’t really an option, so this resulted in having to cross a sketchy creek, scramble down steep cliffs, and climb down a waterfall.
Snow still covered the trial, coming off the pass. Going up Seavy Pass was not bad at all. It was actually gorgeous. For once, I could follow snowless switchbacks, almost the entire way up. It was so green and beautiful. However, coming down was a different story. The trail was covered in snow. The footprints skirted Kerrick “Creek” and transversed for what felt like forever. There were times the footprints went on a ledge. It was nicknamed “Knife’s Ledge” by several hikers. If I had lost my footing and fell to the left, I would crack my skull on the boulders, if I lost my footing and fell to the right, I would be swallowed by the white rapids of Kerrick Creek. I was pretty scared.
Others had crossed Kerrick Creek by means of a snow bridge, but unfortunately, the snow bridge was gone. The creek flows through the canyon and you can feel its white rapids and force from afar. It’s very intimidating.
Thankfully, I ran into a group I had recently met, who were camped. I asked them if I could camp with them and cross Kerrick Creek with them in the morning. They graciously accepted me into their group. We were hoping to find a safe place to cross in the morning.
Since I was now stoveless, I stopped a few hours before camping, to put water in my rice, hoping it would rehydrate by the time I called it a night. After setting up my tent, I pulled out my rice mixture, which was a bit crunchy, but my hungry stomach and tired body had no complaints. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The sunset was beautiful and the company was nice. As I lay my head on my hard blown up pillow, my body ached in a variety of ways. My neck hurt from my bag jerking on it, after falling about 5 times while unavoidably foot skiing down the steep hills; my knees were throbbing from the shock they endured through the hard, steep rock climbs, up and down the mountains; my shoulders were stiff and sending pain into my arms from the heavy pack; my thigh stung from the massive abrasion that had been continuously scraped since the initial injury; my forearm burned from it being dragged through hard snow, after falling down a steep hill; amongst several other smaller aches and pains, I was falling apart.
However, despite all these aches and pains, I was thankful for the beautiful scenery the day had brought, that God watched out for me through this tough day, and that I was warm, dry, heathy (for the most part) and had a full belly.
Day 65: Mile 977.7 to Mile 994.9
Elevation Gain: 3,400 feet
As we got ready for crossing Kerrick Creek, in the early morning, I felt as if we were preparing for battle. Each of us silent, as I am sure each one of us is preparing mentally and praying to whatever God he/she believes in.
Kerrick Creek: We trekked in silence downstream to find a possible crossing. There was a log, maybe 100-200 yards upstream from the trail. Despite the log looking pretty wide, it still was wet and slippery, and as you know, I don’t do logs. So, 4 of us decided to form a “triangle” formation, which was more of a square, and wade the river together, while the 3 others chose to cross the log. We all made it across safely.
The 3 guys made a triangle and had me in the middle of the triangle to protect me from the current. It was working great at first; however, the current was too strong despite them blocking it and the rocks that I couldn’t see beneath my feet were too slippery. I started to slowly get taken by the force of the current, more and more with every step. Once we were a few footsteps from some branches, the formation was falling apart because of the current, and I was about to go downstream, so I broke off from the formation and grabbed onto the branches of the bushes in the water. The water was only up to my waste, but Franger, who was in front, was wading through water up to his low chest at one point. We all made it safely, but realized we needed to work on our triangle.
Stublefield Canyon Creek: This was a deep, slow moving creek, with what seemed to be multiple parts. Fresh and I waded various parts together and made it safely, only crossing in parts that were up to our waste. I hurried to get across the major section. My feet were stinging from the cold, going back and forth from being numb, to feeling like a million needles were being shoved into them. As I started to remove my shoes and wet socks to warm my feet, I looked over and saw DK floating down the creek on his air mattress. This definitely made me laugh. We all took a long break to dry out our belongings and to eat lunch.
The trail was submerged in water a lot of the time.
Tilden Canyon Creek: I’m pretty sure this is the one I almost floated away in. The current wasn’t fast, but it was strong. We did our triangle formation, which worked great and we made it across, but I lost my footing on the rock and just started to float away. One of the guys stuck out their trekking pole and I grabbed onto it and pulled myself to safety. Whew!! Although I was submerged up to my shoulders after losing my footing, all of my belongings stayed dry with an ultralight dry sac.
Our initial plan was to get over Dorothy Pass, but unfortunately, the mounds of snow made this impossible. I thought walking on snow was tough. Well, walking over a pass with half melted snow is worse. Every few feet, we would walk up, over and down a huge snow mound. Post holing was a bigger issue now that the snow was melting as well. It was one of the most exhausting days.
We had been moving for 12 hours and I struggled to keep up with the guys. There came a point that I just wanted to set up camp, but saw nothing but mounds of snow, and I knew that finding a good camp site anytime soon, was going to be a challenge. Tears built up in my eyes. Mainly from exhaustion, but partly because I was quite miserable. This wasn’t enjoyable for me. I really needed to think of why I was still on the trail. I couldn’t continue on with this level of mental and physical exhaustion.
Another hour passed by and I saw a few tents set up. I was so relived that the boys found a decent camp site. Fresh boiled water for me so I could enjoy a hot meal. I was so thankful for these guys. They really looked it for me, waited on me and made sure I was safe. The rest of the night was a blur.
Day 66: Mile 994.9 to Mile 1009.3: Dorothy Pass & Sonora Pass
Elevation Gain: 3325 feet
I didn’t get out of bed until after 8 am. I had thought about staying in my tent until the snow melted.
I was so exhausted from the day prior, that I simply wanted to sleep in. I sent the group on without me and took a half day off (nero day).
I spent the morning drying out my sleeping bag from the condensation, hoping my shoes would dry before sticking my sore feet into them, and enjoying the view of the rushing river next to my tent, the patches of green grass that were visible through the mounds and mounds and mounds of snow. I wanted to discover a love for the trail again. I was beginning to grow nothing but sour feelings for this trail, after 300 or so miles of snow travel and water crossings, and I could foresee me quitting before I finished if this continued. So, this was the day to take my time, rediscover what I love about the trail and let my body rest.
I didn’t start moving until 10am, and was very very slow all day. Dorothy Lake Pass was my least favorite pass up until that point. It was long, there was still 75 percent snow, which meant constantly climbing up and over snow mounds. I post holed more on Dorothy Pass than I had the entire time in the Sierra Nevada.
Apparently, I had not learned my lesson regarding following footsteps without looking on the map prior to. I ended up following footsteps coming down from Dorothy Lake Pass, which brought me to a cliff of boulders with a waterfall. I had two choices: go back up and around the lake on the other side to the trail, which would have taken hours, or attempt to scramble/boulder down. I assessed all angles to make sure that I wouldn’t get cliffed out and have to use my SOS button.
I found a few paths that could be good options for getting down, so I chose to give it a shot.
I made it down safely, but upon returning to the trail, I took a side trail, which split off from the PCT and did several extra miles of switchbacks. It was very exhausting. A nice reward of getting back on the trail, was passing the 1000 mile marker. It’s hard to believe I’ve walked 1000 miles, well way more than 1000, but 1000 pct miles. That’s a big deal. A lot of people weren’t sure if I was capable of walking this far, including myself, but I did it and I was so proud of that.
After a very relaxing, enjoyable day, I decided to go for Sonora Pass. I didn’t think it was going to be as intimidating as it was, but despite the steep transverse in the snow, I wasn’t scared. Not to mention, the deer I saw walking straight up the pass, on the snow, and didn’t fall down the mountain; that definitely helped the fear factor go down. That deer was a badass! Man, I’ve come a long long way from when I started doing these passes. It felt so good to not be scared, not to mention, I was so much faster without fear. The Moore’s, the wonderful couple I met in Tehachapi, gave me awesome advice… the Bible says, “fear not”, so whenever I would get a bit frieghtened, I would repeat that over and over and my fear would disappear.
There was one point where I had to walk up tiny rocks and mud to get to the trail covered in snow and I got myself into a bit of a mudslide. I thought that I was going down the mountain with the mud. That was the only scary part about this pass. I made it out of the mud slide with mud up to my ankles, on my knees and saturating my hands! That was a first! I ended up getting to the top of the beginning of the pass at almost dark. This was one of my top 3 favorite sunsets of the PCT. I was going to try and night hike to the next camp site, but was too tired, so I found some rocks and set up my tent behind them on the ridge of the mountain, hoping to be shielded from the wind a bit. I ate my cold soaked rice. I was so happy with today. It was exactly what I needed. I did fall in the love with the trail again, especially after the sunset on Sonora Pass. I fell asleep quickly from exhaustion, excited for the sunrise.
Day 67: Mile 1009.3 to Mile 1016.9: Sonora Pass/Kennedy Meadows North
Sonora Pass is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Sonora Pass was my favorite part of the Sierra Nevada section of the PCT. It was also my favorite pass, maybe because my fear had gone down, but it felt like I could see the entire world. The sunset the night prior was something you only see in National Geographic magazine, that I could only dream of seeing in real life. The sunrise was nothing less.
There had been days in the Sierra Nevada, that I really wanted to quit, even just two days prior. I was so tired. Tired of the snow. Tired of the ice cold water crossings. Tired of cold, wet feet. Tired of getting cut up by fallen trees. Tired of my shoulders being raw and bruised. Tired of the same food. Tired of walking all day. Just tired. And then… I saw a sunset such as the sunset on Sonora Pass and the excitement and love came back. I am so grateful I continued to push through the exhaustion, and pain, and snow, and cold. This scenery, I couldn’t see anywhere else. This experience, I wouldn’t trade for anything else.
The rocks I picked to camp behind didn’t shield me from the wind, and kept me up most of the night, so as eager as I was to see the sunrise, I decided to get up at 330 and was moving by 430. Once I found some trees to shelter me from the wind, I popped a squat and awaited the magnificent colors of the sun to appear. I could have stayed there all day. However, I was trying to get caught up with the group I had been hiking with a couple days prior, so I kept moving.
I had sent my crampons home in Yosemite and there was only one part on Sonora Pass that I had regretted that. Early morning snow, is not snow, it’s ice. For this time of day, crampons would have been super helpful. This slowed me down a bit until the sun started to turn the ice into slush. Once this happened, it was go time.
Going over Sonora Pass was bittersweet. It was the last of the major passes, and almost the end of the High Sierra. I couldn’t believe it. I did it! I trekked through the snow in the Sierra, during one of the highest snow years, with barely any snow experience, no river crossing experince, and scared of heights! With extreme caution, smart choices, and God by your side, each of you is more than capable!
Every few steps, I stopped to take in the beauty of what was surrounding me.
I had not planned on stopping in Kennedy Meadows North, but a hot meal sounded so good at this point. Hitchhiking was not easy from here. One older couple pulled over, looked at me like “how can we help you?”
I said, “Kennedy Meadows North”.
They acknowledged and pointed to the direction of Kennedy Meadows North and I said, “Yes, I know. Could you possibly give me a ride?”
They said, “Oh no, not today”.
I was so confused by this, but I finally was able to get a ride. I was only going to go, have a hot meal, and get back on the trail. Well, this didn’t happen, I ended up staying the night there and leaving the following day. It was an awesome visit though. I ran into an old friend, Glass Half Full, met some new ones, and got a lot of sleep.
Although I am somewhat far behind on my blogging, I am actually about 35 days from finishing the trail. As you probably know, I’m jobless by choice right now to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. As I am approaching these final trail days (currently around Mile 1800/2650), I am encountering a few more expenses than I had anticipated. These have included: new shoes every 500-800 miles, new socks, more food than I had planned for, new trekking poles because mine snapped in a mud slide, ice axe, crampons, new pack, donations to trail angels for accommodations and rides, medical bills (from being sick in the hospital). If you’d like to help me finish this journey, I would be forever grateful! Also, if you were looking for a gift for my upcoming birthday, this would be wonderful! The link below will take you to my fundraising page! Thank you so much in advance!
2 thoughts on “Just Keep Walking: Tuolumne Meadows to Kennedy Meadows North”
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.
These are the words of David, take them for your own!
Blessings for sunny days and warm nights.
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This was my world. I’ve done most of what you have finished at one point or another when I lived around there, but never in as difficult as situations for an extended period. I am very impressed. It was a monster snow year, and I have been wondering if you would be able to make it through. Good luck with the rest of the trip. Should be just miles from here on in. The Cascades are pretty clear of snow.
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