PCT Journal, Chapter 3

Mr Roboto comments: This is the unedited journal of my 2005 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Chapter Three begins from the southern Sierra resupply at Kennedy Meadows General Store and describes the epic push through snow-covered Sequoia and Yosemite NP. It ends in physical exhaustion and mental anguish over the decision to skip north at Sonora Pass.

5/31 Sheryl picks up me, Freebird, Dave & Michele in the flatbed truck at the Kennedy Meadows campground to take us to breakfast at the Grumpy Bear. She opens just for us and cooks us a big, greasy breakfast – eggs, sausage, biscuits. We used up the last of her supplies. She was going to Ridgecrest today to go grocery shopping.

Ride back to general store to go through boxes. Did laundry, hung everything out back to dry. Only 4 hikers out on big porch made it very relaxing. Got everything clean & packed, sent boxes, pay tab ($24). With full pack I hike from general store past campground 2 miles to riverside camp. Got gear straightened out, dinner, bed 7 pm. PCT mile 707.

6/1 21 miles, 728 total. Warm morning, another nice, sunny day.

Only saw one guy camping at Beck Meadows this morning, no other people. Followed Freebird’s tracks today. Nice meadows, Kern River bridge sparrows entertain. Got back to the snow above 9,000 ft. Finding trail difficult at times. Drop into brushy meadow, should have stayed high, hour of bushwacking back up.

Found tracks, found trail. Drop out of snow for now. Saw my first bear in a swampy meadow, eating. I was downwind, took picture. He saw me & took off. Very brown coat. About 6 pm. Camped at year round spring. Back into snow tomorrow, worried about finding trail. This will be difficult. Some mosquitoes last night, not many tonight.

6/2 A little chilly this morning. Another nice day, it warmed up quick.

At 7 am ran into Freebird camp. Talked for awhile. He is wearing worn sandals so he is getting out at Trail Pass to resupply. Last person I have seen and will probably see for a while. Dave & Michele are somewhere behind. “Squeaky” is the only other hiker to pass thru and he left KM 5/23.

A good day of hiking, no problem finding trail even in snow. Camp at 11,000 ft near Cottonwood Pass. 20 miles today, 748 total. No mosquitoes or bugs at all!

6/3 BAD DAY, only 12 miles. Cold morning, another sunny, nice day.

Got lost at Rock Creek, went way upstream. At beautiful lunch spot realized mistake. Spent the rest of the day getting back to trail. Had some bad moments, thought about quitting. Finally snapped out of it.

Back on Rock Creek trail saw Dave & Michele footprints but lost them in marsh. Found Freebird footprints. Saw no people but others are ahead of me now. Started fire at stock camp to dry out shoes – didn’t work. Coyote yelping at night woke me up.

6/4 Much better day today – an incredible day of hiking.

At 7 am saw Freedird at camp. Talked a while, he is going out over Whitney – in sandals!! Saw message in snow from Dave & Michele, they were only 38 min ahead. Caught up with them by 10:30.

We hiked up into the most awesome country surrounded by snow covered mountains. Couple of creek crossings – not bad. Took lots of pictures today. We hiked to the base of Forrester Pass, highest point on the PCT. We will try it tomorrow morning. It will be cold camping tonight in the snow at 12,000 ft. Cooked dinner after crossing Tyndell Creek. Pulled rib muscle – sore on right side.

6/5 Cold & thrilling day! Got up 5:15, very cold. Didn’t sleep well.

Climb steep snow up to switchbacks, avalanche chute. Dave scouted it out and borrowed my ice axe (instead of their ultralights) to cut steps across chute. Took about 40 min while I froze and worried.

Steps help a lot, it took only five minutes to cross. My biggest worry of the trip is over! Fun butt glissade down the other side. Trudged through snow for hours off & on the trail. I took lead for most of it. Stopped close to Glen Pass, shouldn’t be bad in the morning.

Stopped at 5:30, tired. Camped under bushes but off the snow. Dave wants to get up early tomorrow to get close to Mather Pass which is tough. 13 miles today, 791 total.

6/6 Very tough day today. Cold in the morning, shoes frozen stiff.

Start at 5:30, climb up to Glen Pass. Tough climb, Dave cut steps. Tough desent – used Squeaky’s steps to get down. Lots of slogging through snow all day. Trying to get over Pinchot Pass tonight.

Long haul, another tough climb. Reach summit at 7 pm. Quick descent, looking for a place to camp out of the wind. End up behind rock in trench between snow & rock.  Curled up  in bag, rain fly, emergency blanket. Cold dinner. 18 miles, 807 total. 14 hrs of hard work.

6/7 Terrible night’s sleep, wearing all my clothes. Cold morning, leave at 6:30, more snow hiking. All of us very tired from yesterday. Slow, tiring grind up to Mather Pass. Soft snow, kicking steps, steep pass, easier descent. Hiking past lakes, I fall in.

Hike down Golden Staircase switchbacks to 7,900 ft. Camp at Deer Meadow. Very tired, eat two dinners. Dry out shoes by fire. Ready for an easy day, plan to hike to Muir Pass hut. Bear prints all around our campsite.

6/8 Nice night’s sleep for a change. Wake up at 5 am. Overcast, turned to a light snowfall by late morning. Saw 11 deer. First 6 to 8 miles – nice walk in woods with no snow. Then start climb to Muir Pass. Weather turns colder, less visibility.

Got to Muir hut at 4 (12,ooo ft). Snow melted wall around stone hut. We stayed in the hut, relaxing dinner. Easy day, 14 miles, 838 total. Food will hold out til Vermillion Valley Resort.

6/9 Chilly sleeping on cold stone slabs of hut. Dave snored alot. Took a pee at night, sky was clear & beautiful. In the morning, clouds and faint snow cleared to sunny for start of descent. Clouds returned, some light rain in afternoon. 18 miles, all downhill.  Muir Pass (12,ooo ft) to Muir Junction (7,800 ft). 856 PCT miles.

Five deer today. Camp below snow level on soft pine needles, Yeah! Ate two dinners, very hungry. Will be out of food by VVR. Hoped they are well stocked. Need four days of food to get to Tuolumne.

Recognized a few landmarks from a school trip to Sierras 30 years ago. All my clothes really smell! Haven’t had a chance to wash & dry things out. Hope to do that at VVR in two days. Hope their boat shuttle is running – otherwise its an extra 4.5 mile walk.

PS – Evolution Creek ford was easy – only knee deep. It can be a scary ford but big melt has not started yet at higher elevations. An advantage to starting early in the Sierra. Later hikers will have a tougher time & more mosquitoes. I still haven’t used DEET in 850 miles.

6/10 On the trail by 6 am. Tent all wet. Steady switchback climb, saw 4 deer. Back into the snow as climb toward Seldon Pass (10,900 ft). Easy climb, beautiful, sunny day. Got to pass earlier than thought. Early lunch at pass, let tent dry out. Easy descent, wandering downhill, eventually find trail. Nice, easy cruise down to Bear Cr TH junction.

Got to camp by 3 pm – earliest stop yet. Easy, relaxing day. Had fun on trail, relaxing campfire talking to Dave & Michele. We are all looking forward to eating at VVR. Can’t wait to call Sue. D & M will stay extra day at VVR, I will leave Sunday to make it to Lee Vining P.O. by Friday.

Its been nice traveling with D & M. Next section I am on my own and probably won’t see other people. Looking forward to it. Now that the hard part of the Sierras are over, ready to rock on. 15 easy miles, 871 total.

6/11 Left camp at 6:15, about 30 minutes behind D & M. Climb up Bear Ridge and there is our old friend – snow. I know trail goes over ridge and down other side to Thomas Edison Lake so I bushwack – to Hell! Tough descent through brush, cliffs, wet marsh, etc. down to Mono Creek.

I had to hustle to make the 9:45 lake shuttle so I forded Mono Creek. Tough ford up to my waist, panicked, fell but made it across. Hauled ass to ferry dock where D & M were waiting. No ferry running! Damn, we had to walk extra 4.5 along lake to Vermillion Valley Resort. Got here at 12:15.

Just the staff are here, road is not open yet. They do some fishing tours on ATVs but snow is hurting business. They only use generator for power when they have to. Tough but funny mountain men types. They are happy to see us and  make us feel welcome. They cook us big burgers with brownies for dessert. I stay in free thru hiker tent, D & M stay in room.

Staff planning BBQ buffet for dinner. I take hot shower (yeah!). Try to do laundry but generator not on. Hang out in store resupplying bear canister with five days of food. They have Mountain House dinners, Cytomax, Pemican bars, Snickers, etc. Use satellite cell phone to call Sue. Dinner, laundry (clean shoes!).

Have a few beers with fishermen who come in for dinner. Lots of heated conversation between conservative, red-neck americans & brits Dave & Michele. Went to bed in big tent with all bunkbeds & matresses to myself. Got up to pee many times because of beer.

6/12 Leisurely get up, coffee at 7 am. Great, greasy breakfast with pancakes, eggs, bacon, hashbrowns. Sit around with staff while they tell stories about past hikers. Another nice, sunny day – a few mosquitoes. Clean up and repair gear. Lost waterbottles on Mono Cr ford so I resupply. Hang out with D & M waiting for lunch – 4 chili dogs! Settle up bill – $179!

Say goodbye to D & M. Head back along lake to Mono Creek. Ford fast running creek. Hike to Rocket Meadow. Second ford looks risky – I’ll wait till morning when it is lower.

6/13 On trail by 6 am. Another beautiful, sunny day. Crossings were fine. Saw no one today. Good day of hiking – Silver pass, no problem. Still lots of snow to get through. Hiked 21 miles in 12 hrs. Stopped a mile past Deer Creek crossing.

6/14 Another day alone. 15 deer, 20 miles in 12 hrs. Tough slog, some dry trail.

Red’s Meadow, Devil’s Postpile detour. Wasted sidetrip to offload garbage. Tough late afternoon postholing through marshy muck. Tired & frustrated, camp on rocky area above Badger Lakes. Back to 11,000 ft tomorrow. Getting closer to Tuolumne.

6/15 A long, hard day with a happy ending. Sunny & nice, 27 deer.

On trail by 5:45, found Thousand Island Lake (frozen over). Made it to Island Pass then it went to sun cup hell. Complex terrain, difficult travel. Went too far east and climbed wrong pass around Donohue Mtn past Lost Lake (appropriate). Had long traverse on back side of mountain, down another drainage into Lyell Canyon. Steep bushwack, ford Lyell Creek by 4 pm. First aid for sore pinky toe.

Finally clear trail down gorgeous river canyon to Tuolumne Meadows. Pleasant evening, ate dinner at Volsgang Junction. Determined to get to T. Meadows and call Sue. Got to Ranger Station by 8 pm. Lyell Creek had become a raging river. Was off loading garbage when Ranger Nate Knight came out for a chat. Showed my PCT permit. He asked me to come to his room for hospitality after call to Sue.

Nate served juice & cookies, had a nice chat. He has worked in WA Cascades & Olympics. He is first person I’ve seen in three and half days. After dark, looked for a place to camp. Realized I left my headlamp on bunkbed at VVR. Laid out bag on ground and crashed. 21 PCT miles (+detour) in 14 hrs, 942 total.

6/16 Got up, pack, on the road by 6:15. Walking to Lee Vining on hwy 120 which is still closed. Saw bear run across the road about 100 yds ahead. Nate drives up on his way to the pass. Nice smooth ride in law enforcement vehicle. At road closure, got ride to L.V. from Chet & Bonnie, a couple  on vacation from Texas. Dropped off in L.V., breakfast at Nicely’s by 8:30 am.

Everything is close & convenient. Check into Best Western little cabin. Got new flashlight at sporting goods, picked up box at post office, settle into room, shower & laundry. Checked myself in mirror – shocked by gauntness. Weather is overcast, windy. Plan to stay two days. Bodie Mike’s BBQ for dinner, call Sue, beer & b-ball playoffs, watch TV late.

6/17 Still breezy this morning but clear. Big breakfast at Nicely’s. Goal today – pack in calories. Post Office. Call Dad. Take nap. Walked out to Mobile Restaurant for famous fish tacos & cheesecake. Lots of TV flipping & beer. Bodie Mike’s for dinner, watched “Cypher” on Showtime.

6/18 Check out at 7 am. Walk up hwy 120 four miles trying to hitchhike. 24th car stops. Kim & Dave – two young locals out to climb Mt Dana. At park boundary walk 8 more road miles to Tuolumne Meadows. Back on trail by noon. Saw Ranger Nate on the trail. At 1:30 mostly clear trail. Beautiful Tuolumne River & falls.

Hike to McCabe Lake trail junction. 13 PCT miles (955) + 12 road miles in 11 hrs. Felt very sluggish and tired for most of the day. Feet very sore & tight. Road walk tough on feet. After vitamin I (ibuprofen), afternoon felt better.

6/19 BAD BAD DAY! 10 PCT miles in 12 hrs.

Got lost at Miller Lake. Descended Virginia Canyon instead of Matterhorn Canyon. Six plus hours of brutal bushwacking to finally get to Wilson Creek. Camp between 2nd & 3rd ford. Just glad to be back on trail. Did not panic but there were some low moments. I’ve got to stay on track, can’t keep wasting days like this. Arms & legs scratched up bad.

6/20 Another hard day but did not get lost. 15 miles in 11 hrs.

Some trail visible. In Kerrick Canyon trail side had steep snow. Opposite side was clear of snow so forded creek early and bushwacked 4 miles to official crossing. Feet sore, little toe hurts, more scratches. Nice camp, good water.

6/21 SHEER HELL! 13 miles in 11 hrs.

Started with clear trail for a couple of miles, had to swim across Stubblefield Canyon Cr – deep & wide. Doing okay staying on course but endless snow & tough terrain up & over river canyons. Slow progress, very frustrating. It will take me two more days to Sonora Pass at this rate. I will then have to hitch to Bridgeport to resupply. Don’t know how much more of this I can take!

6/22 14 PCT miles, 1007 total. Everything covered in frost – tent, pack, bear canister, etc.

Chilly walk on snow easier this morning. Made it to Dorothy Lake quick. Wrist watch acting up in cold. Everything was going well until Cascade Cr – got lost again! Hiked all the way down to Walker River sign until I realized mistake. Had to hike back up 1,000 ft.

Hide & seek with the trail down to West Fork Walker River footbridge. Late lunch, dry out stuff. Clear trail for several miles until Kennedy Canyon. Back to snow, stop early due to fatigue. 11 mile climb to Sonora Pass tomorrow. Finished 2nd fuel canister.

6/23 Begin climb to Sonora Pass. Last time PCT goes over 10,000 ft. Clear, rocky trail on west slopes alternate with snow fields. Beautiful trail along crest. Some steep climbing on snowfields but snow holds steps. Some postholing, finally get to Sonora Pass by noon. Saw first people in 5 days.

Families playing in snow at pass, a father offers me cold drinks. Harley riders stop for a chat. Quick hitchhike in big pickup by father & son, fast ride to Bridgeport. Check motel rates, ran into elderly couple support crew for Dan Horton record attempt. Checked into Silver Maples. Lunch & laundry.

I have a dilemma. Am burned out physically & mentally from battling snow. Considering a skip of 180 miles to Sierra City. If I continue this pace I will be behind schedule getting to Eugene by end of July. Tough descision. Made some calls – bus to Reno runs tomorrow (Friday) then not til Thursday next week.

Finally decide to take bus to Reno tomorrow then hitch to Sierra City. General store for dinner – deli sandwhich & beer. In room, watch game 7 NBA finals. Call Sue. Make hitchhike signs. 11 miles, 1018 total.

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