Mileage 17 (on the JMT coming out of Yosemite Valley)
Last night NotaChance and I discovered that it was only 23 miles to hike from Yosemite Valley back up the Toulumne Meadows, to the PCT. Seven thousand feet of climbing in nine miles, but who’s counting?
“Let’s do it!” I said.
“Ok!” Said NotaChance.
I wake in the wee hours of the morning to the people camped next to us sitting up in their sleeping bags, doing a slow clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Plus some shouting. A big, cinnamon-colored bear ambles past the edge of the camp. The bear came through after all! The staff warned us- they told us about the “bear squad”, who put collars on the bears so that they can see, on an app, when they come into the campground, and they shoot them with beanbag guns in an attempt to make them afraid. We joked that the bear squad repels from the trees, wearing uniforms of green wool and carrying super soakers.
The bear ambles away, I fall back asleep.
In the morning, when I wake, I still want to hike up out of the valley. I’m tough this year! Hiking! I love hiking!
You know what? I’m having too much fun. The trail’s going to break my goddam heart again.
But what can you do?
Trail life is so sweet.
For breakfast we go to the cafeteria in the village- some people order the expensive breakfast and the rest of us wait for people to leave and score mounds of half-eaten breakfast from the their tables. Why do people leave so much food? In this manner we stuff ourselves over the course of an hour or so, a whole slew of dirty, disheveled hikers, until we can’t eat a single thing more.
The climb out of the lush hot valley is brutal. I want it. I need it. The endorphins are so good. We’ve been doing 20 mile days in the sierras, taking zeros. I feel like I’ve been eating more than I’ve been hiking. Today my muscles are full of glycogen and I’m wound up like a spring. It’s me, NotaChance, Mack and Guthrie. Everyone else is being tourists today, looking at waterfalls and then hitching back to Toulumne, and they are kind enough to carry our heavy things- bags of food, etc. So we’re powering up the granite mountain with our tiny packs, blowing past all the day hikers. Even the ones in running tights, carrying only a water bottle. We are flying by them. Every. Single. One.
Soon we’ve passed them all, and there’s a waterfall. The trail keeps on, up and up and up. I’m sweating like crazy- I smell like cat piss and my pack smells like dirty feet. And am I the only one out of breath? Or am I panting so hard that I can’t hear anyone else? There’s a cool blue stream, running slow and deep, and NotaChance and I jump in in our clothes. Guthrie and Mack sit on the bank, eating chips.
We reach the junction for clouds rest and I decide to continue on, on the JMT. We’re all headed to Tanaya lake, which is just down the road from Toulumne meadows, where we’ll hitch from the trailhead- making it a 17 mile day instead of a 23 mile one. But I figure if I take the JMT instead of the cloud’s rest trail it’ll be less climbing.
I take a lunch break and eat too many chicken sandwiches- I packed out half a roast chicken- and then go a little wild putting mayonnaise on pico de gallo tortilla chips. By the time I hike again- steep uphill- I’m what they call “hiking heavy” and my stomach hurts way bad. I undo my hipbelt and breathe through the nausea until, a few hours later, the pain is gone and I’m magically hungry again.
It’s nice to hike alone all afternoon, off the PCT, without a map. Actually it’s kind of stressful, but then I meet someone with a map and take a picture of it, so now I have one. I take the junction to the lake and after a mile I see cascadia footprints- the others are ahead of me! I climb as fast as I can through the dusty, mosquito-thick forest and finally, 2.5 miles before the lake, the trail starts to go down. At the lake there are drunk, sunburned people stumbling around, and I feel confused. I stick my thumb out to hitch but then the Yosemite shuttle pulls up.
“Does this shuttle go to the Toulumne Meadows store?”
“How much does it cost?”
Moments later I am reunited with all my friends, who are crowded around the picnic table in front of the closed-up Toulumne Meadows store, empty beer cans everywhere. Twinkle, Woody, Brainstorm, Coughee, Twig, Lead Dog. NotaChance, Mack and Guthrie are stuffing their faces with food- they got in just before I did. Twinkle gives me a pint of strawberries from the Valley.
“Because you don’t drink beer.”
A beardo after my own heart.
We haul our booze to the campground next door and Twig gathers a grip of woor for the fire. Everyone is stoned and we sit around the picnic table, eating chips. Woody falls over a rock and we laugh so hard we can’t breathe.
Tomorrow we return to out regular 25 mile/day schedule- we’ve got to do that for the next 400 miles to make it to the halfway point by 2 months.
My god, trail life is good.
Photos on instagram.