Another early morning where I wrestle with the quandaries of fitting a bear can into my morning routine – you’d think I’d be used to this by now, but it’s still a struggle. How does Outro pack up so fast? But she’s packed and off like a shot, go on and get that pass, girl. Me? I’m a’comin, I’m a’comin.
I’m aiming for just short of Red’s Meadow today, trying to stall to go to Mammoth tomorrow. Outro’s also in on the plan, given that it helps her wait for U-Turn, Evac, and Wolf. And it’s one pass and done today, Silver Pass, then a small up to a couple of lakes, then down, down to perch above Red’s for the evening.
We made it most of the way up the pass yesterday evening, so there’s only a little bit to go. That “little bit” kicks my ass though, takes longer than I anticipate.
I hit the pass, but the PCT is a showoff, and so it takes us up a little more.
Outro is sitting on the top of a rockpile, listening to a version of Feeling Good that I’ve never heard before. I climb up to chat, and we talk about the day ahead, or friends behind, being reunited once again. We both get excited, and she can hardly sit still; she’s off, climbing down the snowy north side and into the distance.
I take a step down onto a rock I think will be solid maybe – neeewp. It levers to the side and into my left ankle, making me shriek and curse and wonder if Outro heard me, if she’s turning around for me, but she doesn’t seem to have heard.
I wonder if it’s broken or fractured, but it holds my weight. It does seem to be scraped up and hurts like a bitch for seemingly no reason – maybe because of the scrape? There’s nothing to be done about it here, though, so it’s limping through the snow, terrified of postholing and doing whatever it is that makes it hurt. There seems to be no consistency in it as I make it to solid ground, swallow my rising panic.
That something this unlucky, this stupid, could maybe take me off trail seems horribly unfair – not that the trail cares about fair. It just is, and I have to deal with that, whatever that means. So while I’m moving, I’m moving so slow, and not just because of the pain – I said on the CT that it your heart is heavy your legs are heavy, and so it goes now.
And it hits me – in addition to being freaked out about my ankle, I’m sad. So sad. I don’t want to leave this place. I never want to leave this place. I want to stay in the Sierra forever. Maybe become a beggar right here on the trail, ask for extra food. I already have everything else I need.
But I can’t stay here forever. Winter is cold, and so is the breeze that shoos me back into the sunlight.
I sit to eat something and watch a plane go by, and suddenly I’m back on the plane from Sacramento to San Diego, looking down on snowy peaks from 36,000 feet. I feel older, more tired than that me, who even then longed for the Sierra but was committed to doing the desert beforehand. I realize I’m preemptively saying goodbye, and that will not do – especially since I have to get myself out of this forest regardless.
The primary lakes of the day, when I reach them, are nice – I eat with a lovely view of the first, a gentleman lounges on a rock dipping into the second – but that farewell-bidding feeling never ebbs. It doesn’t help that I’ve made it through the stunning parts of the Sierra; everything hereafter will be more subdued, the grandiose peaks growing ever-distant. I’m pulled out of my morose ponderings first by an inquisitive JMT hiker, then by encouraging other JMTers up the hill I’m descending. Even as I do it, I’m not sure it isn’t laced with a hint of jealousy for all they’ve yet to see – then I remember their climbs and lolno, I’m good.
It’s 3pm when I reach the Duck Lake outlet, and I’m belittling myself for only having made it 13 miles so far when something shifts within me. If my ankle’s made it this far, it’s probably alright; if I make it to cell service today, I can call my doctor’s office and see what they suggest. I just have to make it to cell service. Renewed purpose gets me to my feet, pushes me down the trail.
The guy from the rock in the lake is taking a break ahead of me, and when he sees me coming, leaps to his feet, trying to get his pack on, actively stopping me from getting in front of him with his antics. Eventually it’s awkward and he moves to let me pass, but he doesn’t seem happy about it. It’s a strange interaction. He passes me at the water a bit later, so I hope he’s happy now.
Outro’s waiting for me near the 20 mile mark – Sprinkles, Homegrown, and Yoda are all in Mammoth, and the last bus is at 7:45, whaddaya say? I say I think we’re going to Mammoth tonight, assuming my ankle cooperates. I tell her about it and she lets me take the lead, and I roll as fast as I can, adrenaline pumping, through the forest and into a burn area.
I’m losing steam, but we’re close, so close, one last push, ahead of super-competitive man and– Awww. Yisss. Red’s Meadow.
We’re only there 10 minutes before the last bus leaves, taking us up a crazy hill, letting all the tourists off at a lot, and dropping the two of us off in town and giving us bus directions to the hostel. We get all checked in, drop our stuff, and shower, glorious showering!
All shiny again, we head out to meet Sprinkles, Homegrown, and Yoda at a pizza joint, where nearly every other hiker in town is also eating. There are a lot of joyous reunions, a birthday song for Canary, and a near-overwhelming amount of social interaction. Folks are headed back to a condo they’ve rented for more fun, but I slink back to the hostel, where everyone in the women’s room is already asleep. I male a stupid amount of noise settling in, and then another lady makes the same amount of noise snoring. Earplugs only help a little as I try to grab a hold of and eventually succeed in catching some zzzs.
Start: 882.8 • End: 906.6 • Day: 23.8
Notable Accomplishments: Maybe didn’t completely murder my ankle • Made it into town on my ankle • Sprinkles and Homegrown and Yoda oh my!