Mile 988.5 to mile 1018.5
I wake up way too early- damn those caffeinated fruit snacks I ate yesterday! I hiked fast, though, so there’s that. I lay in my sleeping bag, wishing I was asleep, and before long it’s 5:30, time to get up. I should’ve just gotten up when I woke up but hey, what can you do. I mix protein powder with water, chia seeds and granola in my plastic container and eat it while looking out at the mosquito-y forest. Breakfast of champions. Then I eat my last two caffeinated fruit snacks. 30 miles to the highway, and Bridgeport. If I make it by 6 I’ll have time to hitch in. And then what- food?!! I look in my food bag- a little bit of trail mix, a few pieces of jerky. Bleh.
Twinkle appears while I’m packing up. He says they all camped about a tenth of a mile back, just after the river crossing. Twig built a big fire. Dammit! I remember when Instigate and I ran into the middle of that river last year, to escape the mosquitos. Literally ran into the middle of it.
The mosquitoes aren’t too bad this morning, as long as you don’t stop to take a break. Ever. I’m hiking by 6:10 and I’m charging through the enchanted meadows at top speed, trying to get to this footbridge I remember from last year. A footbridge with no mosquitoes, just on the other side of where the landscape magically changes from the Sierras to Northern California. I pass a string of glittering alpine lakes, propped against granite mountains striped with snow. I stop and look at the lakes.
“Goodbye Sierras,” I say. “I miss you already.”
I loved the Sierras this year, sketchy snow crossings and all. I absolutely loved them. I was able to enjoy them much more than last year, because I didn’t get as sick from the altitude. I decided I would acclimate, and I did. I don’t know why that worked, but hey.
A few miles later and bam! The mountains turn from jagged granite to a smooth red stone that I do not know the name of, and the path turns from roots and rocks and muck and water to soft sand and this red stone, crushed into gravel. The mosquitoes are gone, the meadows are gone. We’re climbing up sonora pass (my favorite pass! Night hiked, last year, in glorious wonder) and all around us we can see mountains, rolling away to the horizon. The trail hasn’t been this obstructed since the desert, and it’ll stay this unobstructed until washington.
And we. Are. Crushing it.
Except, I suddenly have a stomach ache. I take one of the most awful shits ever, and afterwards I feel terrible. Damn caffeinated fruit snacks! They do this to me sometimes. Never again!
I fall behind the others as I plod up towards the pass, sick to my stomach. There’s always something, right? Twinkle walks with me and by the time we reach the top of the ridge it’s just the two of us, and a couple of hikers we don’t know. Now comes the real beauty of Sonora pass- the ridge walk! Four miles on top of the sky, the topography of the earth rolling away from you and rising up, everything made of dusky red stone and way in the distance, nevada. And peeking out from behind the red mountains, the granite and snow of the sierras, where you just came from!
It’s windy up here, and I’m dehydrated, and my stomach is cramping. I don’t care though, it’s still my favorite pass. We find water trickling from a snow field, we take a snack break. I start to feel better, and my morale shoots to the sky. We’re on sonora pass! We’re in northern california! What glory, to hike the trail again!
There are lots of snowfields on the ridges, but I’m a pro at this now. Only one of them is sketchy but we don’t die, so that’s awesome. Then we’re on the north side of the ridge and we can see the glissade tracks where NotaChance, Guthrie, Woody and Mack took the short way down the mountain, avoiding more sketchy snow traverses. I pull out my sleeping pad and use it as a sled- I fly down the slope, laughing, snow flying up everywhere. Two good glissades and we’re quite a ways down- we pick our way across the crumbled slopes, find the trail, and race the rest of the way to the highway.
We’re at the highway at 5:58. We high-five each other, which makes me feel like a surfer, or something, and then a super nice dude who lives in the area (and spent a summer building two miles of the PCT of this section in the 70s- he built those stone staircases! With dynamite! Rode in on horses! Fishing in the lakes! Best summer of his life!) gives us a ride to within 15 miles of Bridgeport, where another dude, a paramedic who lives in Mammoth, swoops us up and takes us the rest of the way. Bridgeport is one of those tiny towns, one block long, which may or may be made up entirely of white supremicists. It’s not everyone’s favorite trail town but it has what you need, so here we are. We call around to different motels and the best price is at the Bridgeport Inn- an old mansion of sorts that makes you feel like you’re still in the 1800’s, in the best way possible. (Room 16, they say, is haunted!) Our room is full of light and has tall narrow doors and two twin beds with lacy bedspreads. Long lace curtains move in the air from the window, which looks down on the old-timey main street. The wallpaper has a pattern of large, faded roses and in the bathroom is a massive old bathtub. I wish I lived in this room. I could write a novel in a room like this.
We go to the bar across the street, where everyone in town is watching The Game. Burgers, Pizza, Wings. I eat until I’m overwhelmed with sleepiness and then, back at the room, I wash my clothes in the tub. And then, good god, sleep.
Photos on instagram.