I wake late-ish, but most everyone’s still asleep, hungover on the excellence of yesterday evening. I pack up, head over to the fire, where there’s coffee and conversation to be had. We throw our extra food Pineapple’s way – she’s not going to Bishop, but heading straight through to Vermillion Valley Resort six days ahead – and give her so much love before Outro, Yoda, Homegrown, Sprinkles, and I all head off towards the Kearsarge Pass junction.
The climb is hard this morning, painful in a way it shouldn’t be. There was no debauchery last night, and yesterday, though it was a lot of ups and downs, didn’t seem that hard. Maybe it’s just having been so elated yesterday. Maybe it’s knowing that today will not be as good; that maybe no day will be as good. Maybe what goes up must come down. But it’s all up this morning, grueling up.
We pass the Bullfrog Lakes junction – we’re going to take the high road, not the low road – so it’s more climbing, up to a meadow where we can’t take it anymore, and while Outro is still trucking, we other four stop to rest, muse about town.
The Kearsarge Pass trail proper isn’t too far off, but once we arrive it seems to take forever, even though there are beautiful views to distract us.
I’m noticing my impatience on town days, my desire to just magically arrive at my destination, none of this walking to get there stuff. What must be done must be done, though, so it’s dragging ass up what becomes a sharp, talus-covered climb.
Finally, FINALLY, the pass itself.
Outro’s gone, having tired of waiting for us, but we’re able to rest and take a picture for a family before heading downward.
I’m barely a quarter of the way down before I realize, with growing dread, that Pineapple may have had the right of this one. It’s a rough climb down – up, I understand, but how does down take this long? How does it hurt this much?
I realize all of this, the length, the pain, the comparison to yesterday, is making me cranky when some folks – I presume they’re section or JMT hikers – keep cutting switchbacks and tee-heeing about it and the words “CUT A SWITCHBACK ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME” almost come out of my mouth1. I stifle it and pass them instead, Homegrown hot on my heels, and I vent to him instead of them. Conversing with him helps me down the pass, although it takes forever – it’s nearly 1pm by the time we finally make our way into the Onion Valley Trailhead parking lot.
Luckily, Michael – the trail angel who picked Pineapple and I up on our way into Lake Isabella – is there, happy to see me. He’d been asking after me, making sure I was still on trail, hoping to catch me. We all pile into his Subaru, and have lovely conversation as we watch the mountains recede and the desert rise to meet us.
Michael drops us off in Independence, where Yoda picks up her box from the local motel; the manager says we can have ice water from the dispenser outside. It’s over 100F down here, and our bodies are really, really confused about it. What a difference elevation makes!
We go to try to hitch to Bishop, but two hikers are already trying to get a hitch and we don’t want to blow up their spot. Their spot apparently being in the shade where, granted, it’s cooler, but also where no one can see them. I try to tell them; they brush me off. Sprinkles and I fiddle on our phones to try to wait while Homegrown and Yoda head to the gas station, returning with chips and Gatorade for us. I drink and eat greedily as we head to the bus stop – clearly a better hitching spot – and throw out our thumbs.
We visible hikers get picked up before the not-visible ones – and by a trail angel that’s supporting Snake Charmer through her convalescence. Homegrown offers to sit in the bed of the truck in the heat for the long ride up 395; us ladies chat with our hitch up front, and feel pretty bad for him.
We get dropped off at McDonald’s, which I eat unabashedly for the second time on trail. Particularly since it’s a McFlurry. Because I’m worth it. We try to figure out a game plan, as Outro has informed us that there’s no room at the hostel – I call all the hotels in the area, ask for pricing, but it turns out the cheapest open one is the Townhouse Motel, right across the street. It looks a little rough on the outside, but our room is nice and neat, new beds, new sheets, hot shower. That’s all I need.
Well, that and laundry. Outro, who’s staying at Hostel California, brings us loaner clothes to wear, and Yoda gets everything started. Eventually, we all head over to the nearby Mexican place and chow down on almost-thruhiker-sized portions. Almost.
We’ve got to finish the laundry, and I need to get a load of writing done while I’m in town, so Outro, Homegrown, and Sprinkles frolic off to the Brewery, Yoda’s off to make a phone call, and I’m hanging out with the firefighters and single local in the laundromat. The firefighters are working on a fire to the north that’s nearing the highway – they’ve tapped another group in for the moment, so they’re trying to get laundry and such done before heading back into the fray. The local and I chat animatedly about the best food in town – I’m supposed to get a burger while I’m here – and I put everything she says down on a mental list.
She’s out first, then our stuff dings too; I gather up Yoda and we head back to the hotel, where I try and pretty much fail to get anything done. Yoda and I watch Game of Thrones while I “work”, and then Homegrown and Sprinkles come back from the brewery, and there’s merry chatter about town town town until the hour finally gets to us and we sleep.
Start: 787.0 • End: 788.9 • Day: 1.9 on-trail + 7.5 over Kearsarge = 9.4
Notable Accomplishments: Made it over Kearsarge Pass • Made it halfway up Glen Pass in the process • Shower Laundry Town!
 DO YOU WANT TO GO STRAIGHT UP A MOUNTAIN, BECAUSE THIS IS WHY SOME TRAILS GO STRAIGHT UP MOUNTAINS. And those trails suck. Seriously, erosion is a real thing. Don’t cut the goddamn switchbacks. Having done some trail maintenance/helped work to create trail, I have really strong feelings about this.