I wake at the appointed hour of 5am, roll over in my sleeping bag to feast my eyes on the scene: sleeping hikers, sky growing lighter, lake as still as glass. I almost never want to leave this place – or maybe it’s just this feeling, the peace in this morning – but there are miles to make, and it’s time to start if I’m going to make them. I stare at my shoes like they’re traitors, like they’re the ones forcing me to move, and putting them on is one of the harder things I’ve done on trail. But putting them on lets me wander over to Powder to share her coffee, and enjoy the coming light a bit before I head out.
Three sharp bumps in the profile wait for me today: first, an immediate up to Seavey Pass, the last two nameless what-I-assume-are-passes. Then it’s smooth sailing, a gentle up to Dorothy Lake. I’m feeling at peace with what’s coming, head out around 6:15 to test my mettle.
So it’s back to the PCT and up she goes. I’m instantly climbing towards Seavey, and the higher I get the prettier it gets.
Up near the top there’s a nice little pond – and apparently between the sight of the water and all the uphill, it’s time to dig a cathole. I take a quick picture, and start running down the hill to try to find a flat spot to dig.
There’s nothing really flat of course, so my body starts doing all sorts of inner contortions to try to wait. There’s grumbling and rumbling and what I can only describe as a backwards fart – there’s a *poot* of noise from inside my gut, and then the gas sneaks all the way up to my mouth and I burp – after which I feel a lot better. Like. What. Did that just happen. Is that even possible? My confusion (and a few more backwards farts) gets me all the way to a flat-enough spot, where I finally relieve myself while waging a war on the mosquitoes that come for my ass. Well that was fun.
There’s a bit more down, and then it’s right back up, up the second bump.
It’s a 600 foot climb in 1.2 miles, and it feels surprisingly good. Maybe this is what hitting your stride feels like. It’s over almost before it begins, and then it’s down to water. Two down, one to go. It’s only 10:30am, so I spend a half an hour eating and lounging streamside. I don’t want to lose too much momentum though, so soon enough, it’s back out for the last up.
It’s the hardest of the three, and I stop to rest a number of times before making it all the way up; Outro passes me along the way. Still, I make pretty good time, and by the time I’m headed back down I’m feeling exuberant.
I go to collect water in the creek at the bottom of the sharp down, and find to my delight that it’s full of tiny frogs swimming about. A hiker comes from behind me, wants to catch one, poke it with a stick, but I fend her off by asking to take pictures first. I take my time with that; she gets bored and moves on.
I try to take some more pictures as I make my last descent for the day, but my phone won’t unlock. I try to use my pattern, the only pattern I’ve used on any phone I’ve owned, and it doesn’t work. I try to use my thumbprint, and it tics away four tries: I have 11 remaining before the phone wipes itself, resets to factory settings. I wipe the button, try my thumbprint again; it whittles my tries down to 6 before I hastily remove my thumb. I try my pattern twice more, then another time, before I start to freak out. I’m down to 3. I finally tell myself that I need to turn it off, take my mind off it, stop panicking.
Of course I can’t take my mind off it, but I figure out a way to mitigate most of the damage. All my photos are saved on a microSD card, so while I don’t know if the phone resetting will wipe the card too, I can pull it, just in case. I’ll lose all the blog posts I’ve taken notes on, and some other stuff, I guess, but my pictures are what I’m really scared for. At least they’ll be safe. I seem to not be able to get the port open, though, so I’ve got two tries before I have to turn off the phone – and miss a bunch of photo opportunities – until I get to Kennedy Meadows North.
So I sit, and I take the phone out of its case, and I scrub it as clean as I can get it before I turn it off. I can’t do the thumbprint – who knows how many times it’ll try before I can remove my thumb – so I try the pattern. Nothing. 2 more tries. I almost sob. I try it one last time before it’s a lost cause– and it unlocks. I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding, and immediately remove the lock function from my phone. NO MORE OF THAT NOW, YA HEAR.
I feel like I’m not as tired as I should be, for having passed the 20 mile mark after two relatively short days. I’m in a kind of trance – I’m not quite not-paying-attention, because I haven’t broken my face open, but everything’s just sort of there, separate, disconnected. Whatever it is, it’s working for me; the nice, gentle upslope towards Dorothy Lake flies by under my feet, strange booms that sound like explosions echoing all around. The up gets harder right before the lake – but then, victory!
Outro’s waiting for me, for all of us, in the campsite, having already washed her clothes, set up her shelter, started a fire. I sit, but I’m feeling antsy – I have more in me tonight, especially since I have all that recently-released anxiety over my phone still rolling through my veins. People pass us by, and I’m envious of their movement. I wait around until 6, and then I tell Outro what I’ve decided: I’m headed for mile 1000 tonight. A little gift to myself for the emotional ups and downs I’ve had today.
So it’s out again, back up to Dorothy Lake Pass to get out of the lake basin – and out, I learn, of Yosemite.
The other side is lakes, so many lakes!
Lakes and also weekenders, who suggest that the booms were military planes flying drills, breaking the sound barrier. This seems like a weird place to conduct such drills, and a weird time – the last time I heard that noise was 15 years ago, when jets were scrambling out of a local Air Force base to protect Air Force One the day the Twin Towers fell. It makes me uncomfortable, particularly since I haven’t had service in a while. Who knows what’s going on in the wider world. My brain juggles apocalypse scenarios in a very distant way all the way to mile 1000.
There’s a tentsite at 1001, but there’s no one there and it’s not optimal, dead trees all around. I doubt any of the Wolfpack decided to follow me, so I decide to push on to Walker River, where I know there’ll be water and plenty of sites – and maybe some of those people who passed us at Dorothy Lake will be camped there. That’ll be just over a 30 mile day for me, if you count the side trail from Benson Lake. It’ll be my first 30 ever, the prospect pushing me just a little farther, just a little farther.
I wind through some crazy-looking rock fields, down, chasing the sun down and around to the bridge – I’ve made it. 30.2 miles. Holy shit. I did it.
There’s no one here, but I’m not going any further to try to look for anyone. I set up in a nice cozy little alcove, pop some Aleeve and spend some time with my tennis ball, rolling out my calves, thighs, and knees. I’m gonna hurt tomorrow, but right now, curled up in my bag, I feel good. 30 miles. Dang. I’m feeling way better about my chances of reaching Canada now. The moon is celebrating with me, shining brightly into my tent, cheering my accomplishment as I slowly fall asleep.
Start: 972.7 • End: 1002.5 • Day: 29.8 + 0.4 from Benson Lake = 30.2
Notable Accomplishments: First 30 ever! • Did not erase phone • Hiking hypnosis