Monday, July 7, 2014

America the Beautiful!

Day 52 and 53:
I enjoyed a zero day in the town of Bishop which is very hiker friendly. Zero days are always spent catching up on my blog, getting in touch with people and shopping for resupplies. I was so happy to reunite with Avocado and Sarah during my stay here.

I got a ride with Greg, ( Little Ripper's man), to Onion Valley camp ground. He was going to surprise her when she arrived from the trail. 

I had to get back onto the PCT via the Kearsage Pass again. 

I was able to enjoy Kearsage Lakes and Bullfrog Lake more this time around in the sunny weather. 

It really is magnificent out here. 

I set up camp just after passing Charlotte Lake and camped with Katsumi (Two Young) and his lady friend from Japan who joined him in Independence.
Thankful for:
1) Making it over Kearsage pass again without too much difficulty.
2) Seeing the lakes again in great weather.
3) Seeing Saint, Rocky 4 and Little Ripper again at the pass.
4) A tranquil, windless camp. 
5) Feeling great!

Day 54:
The day began with a crossing over Glen Pass ( 11,978 ft).

The north, steep face of the pass was covered in snow and the switchbacks were obscured in places but were navigable. 

Looking down onto Rae Lakes was like looking at the Elven Kingdom of 
Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. 

What epic, tranquil beauty! The vista included an array of lakes in many different shades of blue and green, nestled between mountain peaks with little patches of snow decorating them. I sat on the bank of one of the lakes to have a brunch of Backpackers Pantry Katmandu Curry and to refill my water supplies.

 What I was to learn is that someone had opened Pandora's Box here and I was completely attacked and devoured by mosquitoes. The DEET I applied didn't seem like much of a deterrent. 

Nevertheless, the lakes were gorgeous, crystal clear, with many fish swimming around in them. The trail plummeted into a valley, along rivers and creeks until the suspension bridge at WoodsCreek where some hikers had spotted a mother bear and her cub. 

After crossing the swinging bridge, it was a constant uphill towards Pinchot Pass which I would only get to the next day. I set up camp near a stream and met up with other PCT hikers, Block, Pigpen and Skylegs. 
Today I passed the 800 mile mark.

Grateful for:
1) Crossing Glen Pass
2) Being able to experience Rae Lakes.
3) My Satellite phone
4) Hot chocolate
5) My tent. Escape from the mosquitoes!

Day 55:
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
John Muir

Started the day 4 miles from Pinchot Pass (12,130 ft), and once over the pass I stopped off at beautiful Lake Marjorie and had brunch with Lighthouse and Native.

The trail then followed many other lakes, rivers and streams, down into another valley and into the woods, which is the theme of all these high Sierra sections, although each section between passes is unique and has it's own special features and beauty. As the afternoon went by, massive thunderclouds appeared overhead and I wasn't sure whether to hunker down or try to make the next major pass. 

As it turned out, I managed to get over Mather Pass ( 12,100 ft) in the late afternoon. Several banks of snow where covering the descending path and at one point I fell and cut my leg, although I didn't realize it until I was in camp and looked down to see my shin all bloodied.
During my descent, I also saw 3 beautiful deer who watched me inquisitively as I watched them. It was a wonderful experience!

  The view from Mather Pass is dominated by the eight 14,000ft peaks of the Palisades group and looks down on the gorgeous Palisades Lake. I found a camp site near the lake and camped there with Rockin'. She is a rock climber and a very fast hiker and we had met on top of the pass.

Today I really channelled philosophy from Bruce Lee, focusing on the qualities of self discipline and focus. I would like to share one of his quotes:
"If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."
This has meaning for all aspects of life.
Thankful for:
1) Crossing two major passes in one day.
2) Not getting caught in a thunderstorm.
3) Seeing 3 beautiful deer.
4) A gorgeous campsite
5) Camping with Rockin' who shared great info with me about the area.

Day 56:
Today started out slow as I was so exhausted by the two pass crossings and excessive climbing yesterday. Walking along this section of the PCT/ JMT was truly mind blowing! The lakes were stunning, framed by all the extremely high mountain peaks. 

It was a very long descent into a wooded valley along the "golden staircase" and switchbacks that went down forever. Once down in the woods, the trail ran by a river and I stopped to swim in the crystal clear but very bracingly cold water.

 There I met a couple from Truckee who invited me to stay with them when I reach that area.
The trail then started the 10 mile/16 km ascent towards Muir Pass. I took it slow, stopping to "smell the roses", actually, the flowering sage bushes and pines I should say.

My Sawyer water filter bag is broken, perished around the opening and I've been drinking unfiltered water. Hoping for the best! I also slipped on some wet rocks and injured my left calf muscle which is making me limp. I found a place to camp at 10,465ft and I'll make it across Muir Pass in the morning.

Thankful for:
1) Being able to witness this natural splendor.
2) America the beautiful!
3) A swim in the river.
4) My satellite phone ( thanks again Neil).
5) DEET and mosquito net.

Day 57:
What a long, stressful day!
First, the brutal assault up Muir Pass, where I kept losing the trail. 

It was wonderful however to be atop Muir Pass and visit the stone hut built in honor of John Muir.

As usual, the lakes on either side of the pass were spectacular and pristine and these particular lakes are named after John Muir's daughters, Helen and Wanda.

I met a JMT hiker, Derek, who recognized me from the PCT facebook page, then another hiker who pointed out a family of the endangered frog species the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged frog.

The trail wound downhill following one spectacular lake after the next, Evolution Lake, then Sapphire Lake. 

I was feeling anxious as I only had enough food for today and it would take me another two days to get to Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) to resupply. I mentioned this to a passing JMT hiker who very kindly gave me one of his protein bars.
The trail plummeted down into Evolution Valley, often over loose rocks and over boulders. After fording the South Fork Joaquin River by wading knee deep across it, I set up camp near a wooden bridge on the canyon floor.

Today I am grateful for:
1) Crossing Muir Pass and seeing the stone hut memorial.
2) Being able to experience the stunning scenic lakes.
3) Random kindness received in the form of food.
4) Safely fording the river.
5) My kids, Ian and Sian.

Day 58:

  After waking up in the bank of the river, I crossed the bridge and made my way to Muir Trail Ranch situated in the John Muir Wilderness, in the hope of obtaining even a small quantity of food which gets donated to the "hiker boxes" they have set up there. Muir Ranch is mostly used by the JMT hikers as a resupply point. As I arrived a couple were in the process of abandoning their hike after having just received a glorious resupply bucket and they basically gave me all their food. Talk about having faith in the universe! After eating copious amounts of hiker food at the ranch and having the opportunity to buy a new water filter bag, I set out again on the tortuous switchbacks to cross Selden Pass at 10,900 ft. 

Beautiful lakes were once again situated on either side of the pass, Sally Keyes lake on one side and the many island Marie Lake on the other. 

Passing many lakes and getting devoured by mosquitoes, I made it down to Bear Creek and camped secluded on the river bank. Tomorrow I have to ford this fast glowing river which is fairly deep.
Today I am thankful for:
1) The amazing food obtained at Muir Ranch.
2) Being able to cross another pass.
3) Making good mileage and having endurance.
4) Josh, for always checking in on me via satellite phone and encouraging my progress.
5) My brothers Neil and Andrew for doing the same, as well as friends Michelle, Kevin, Leonel and Eug. 

Day 59:
I woke up to find my plastic spork missing. I had placed my bear canister, jetboil mug and spork outside my tent overnight and to my surprise found that item gone in the morning! Very strange!
Next was the Bear Creek crossing which is supposed to be the most difficult river crossing, but I managed  to get across it by balancing on logs and rocks. My main aim of the day was to get to VVR. I desperately needed a break from the trail. This involved a downhill hike through a forest and then up, up, up and finally I took the Bear Ridge Trail to VVR. 

Once there I met up with many awesome hikers I had met before. It was 4th July and the people that ran this camping resort were extremely friendly and I was able to have a shower, do laundry, recharge my phones and we sat around a campfire that evening, talking story and discussing philosophy of life and the meaning of hiking the PCT while some strummed on guitars and sang. I enjoyed a delicious evening meal with Block, Pigpen and Skylegs and reconnected with "the girls", Native, Ljghthouse and Julian. Although I was initially disappointed that there was no phone reception here upon arrival, it turned out to be a relaxing and rewarding experience. 
It was quite shocking to see the low level of Lake Edison which is a hydroelectric project. The drought and low snowfall is definitely in evidence here.
Thankful for:
1) Free hiker camping at VVR
2) Talking story with great people. 
3) Awesome food- VVR hires a good chef over summer and is known for it's delicious good and menu.
4) Campfire philosophy. 
5) Connecting with Josh who keeps me going.

Day 60:

Wow! 60 days on the trail! Hard to believe that I've been walking nonstop for that amount of time with a heavy load on my back, through the wilderness. I often ask myself why I am doing this and have no real answer, but at moments when I see a spectacular sight that I have worked really hard and earned the privilege to see, I say to myself "Oh, that's why!"
This journey is tough - physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. There are so many reasons people could just quit at any given moment. I've definitely had highs and lows, thought about how much more comfortable and happy I'd be back home in Hawaii, but I'm still here on the trail, plodding along up and down mountain passes, past so many beautiful lakes that I've lost track of them, through forests and all of the while struggling at times with exhaustion, muscle fatigue, isolation and hunger. However it is worth it!

So today I was ferried across the half empty Lake Edison back to the trail to continue my journey north. I met a JMT hiker, Chewy at a creek and while I filtered water we discussed the meaning of life. 

Then up and over Silver Pass at 10,900ft to gain a first glimpse of Chief Lake, then down some switchbacks to Squaw Lake where I decided to cook an early dinner. 

Here I met a father and son, Bear and Quicksilver who were hiking a portion of the JMT. I enjoyed this lake as there were no mosquitoes for a change. 

I continued until evening and after crossing a steel bridge over Fish Creek, I found a cosy campsite in the forest alongside the creek. Huge dark thunderclouds were forming overhead. I really hoped that my tent is waterproof and that I'll be able to stay warm and dry if a storm breaks out.

Grateful for:
1) The boat ride from VVR back to the trail.
2) Making it over Silver Pass today.
3) A lovely "dinner" at Squaw Lake.
4) Finding an awesome camping spot near a creek.
5) The knowledge that I'll be in Mammoth Lakes and be able to connect with people tomorrow.  

Day 61 and 62:
I was focused on getting to Reds Meadows so that I could catch the shuttle bus to Mammoth Lakes. This section of the hike was not the most scenic I've experienced but I did enjoy passing the lakes, including Purple Lake and seeing the  mountain peaks in the Mammoth area.

 Much of the forest leading into Reds Meadows has been destroyed in a wildfire. Just as I arrived near the stables, I saw "The Girls" again which was nice and I made the last shuttle bus in the nick of time to town. 

My zero in Mammoth Lakes was productive with chores and catching up. It is a very pretty ski resort town with an abundance of shops and restaurants. I can't believe how perfect my timing has been, as it started raining today and it's completely wet and soggy outside. It's funny that the first time I'm using the Golite umbrella that I've been carrying on my back for 906.2 miles is during a zero day in a town!
My accommodation has been at Holiday Haus and they gave me a PCT hiker discount which I feel I should mention.
Tomorrow I'm back on the trail! Over one third completed and much more adventure ahead.   

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