Mile 962.5 to mile 988.5
The mosquitoes are around, but not too bad- neither twinkle or I have bug-proof shelters (the zipper on my hexamid is busted but zpacks is sending me new zipper pulls- thanks zpacks!) so we cowboy camp, pulling our headnets over our faces to sleep. I never would’ve done this last year- mosquitoes buzzing that close to my face would’ve driven me bonkers- but this year I drift off, feeling peaceful and happy. At some point in the night I wake up, too hot, and rip the mosquito netting from my face- but it’s ok, the mosquitoes have gone to bed.
This section is hard. Hikers behind me- the section from toulumne meadows to sonora pass is hard! Up a thousand feet, over rock staircases, irregularly shaped stones, tree roots, pulverized down trees, tilted slabs of granite, creeks that have overtaken the trail, mucky mud, labrynthine loop-de-loops- and then down a thousand feet, over the same, into a squishy, mosquito filled valley. And then up again. Over and over. We decide that trail miles should count double here, because the surface of the earth is so irregular. It’s arduous and we are kicking ass as hard as we can and yet it’s real slow going.
My god, though, is it beautiful.
Climbing bright granite staircases in the syrupy yellow sun to lakes so clear, deep and untouched that you can hardly believe your eyes. Pine-covered ridges looking out over lush, secret canyons where the only sounds are the mule’s ears opening and the water trickling through the grass. Broad green meadows that collect the light and make it glow.
It’s what I saw in the southern high sierra, last year- but this year all these earthly delights were covered in white- the meadows mashed under snow, the glittering lakes scrimmed in ice. I am getting it now, here, in this arduous, breathtaking section. And I am so happy!
And then, in the afternoon, the mosquitoes arrive.
Rising up from the lakes and mucky valleys in swarms, chasing us down the trail. Everyone is covered with deet but I don’t use deet- fuck that shit! So I’m hiking as fast as I can, thirsty but I can’t stop to get water, hungry but I can’t stop to eat. I find NotaChance, Woody and Mack camped behind a closed-up ski cabin and I join them, put on my rain jacket and crouch over the stream to gather water, work on transcending my psychological reaction to the bugs.
They can’t hurt me, they can’t hurt me, they can’t hurt me, I think, as the mosquitoes swarm my face, hands and legs. And it’s true.
Mack has an extra bit of mosquito net that he’s not using and I drape it over the opening to my shelter- it works pretty good and I sit inside, killing bugs until their carcasses litter everything, and then I eat my dinner. I take off my shoes and socks, sodden from all the mucky meadows, and inspect my pruny feet. I cut off bits of skin and open the mesh just enough to toss them outside. I wonder where the others are- they were behind me and they could’ve camped anywhere, driven mad by the mosquitoes.
I curl up on my sleeping pad. I decide that if I have to pee in the night, I’m doing into an empty potato chip bag.
Photos on instagram..