We had finally made it to Tuolumne Meadows, the start of Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest Trail. A milestone to be acknowledged by our feet for sure!
Upon arriving there we were immediately reminded it was the start of the 4th of July weekend. Every single person within 500 miles had driven to this tiny little place to partake in some light weight day hiking! Yay for us… not being around a single soul other than a few attack deer for a week we are now thrust into the clutches of hundreds of people. That is enough to make you feel closterphobic and want to stab someone in the face with a trekking pole!
So we deal with it and decide to go grab some food from the store, which is a temporary tent set up along side the road; think car port tent you buy at costco. After fighting the crowds for some trail mix, an apple and some high fructose beverages we decide to find a place to set up camp.
I spotted some sworthy looking folks sitting at a picnic table along side the tent store. Before I go on, I should also inform that we are consistantly refered to as the cleanest thru-hikers in existence. It could be our state of the art fabric clothing that doesn’t stain and instantly dries, or the fact that we carry baby-wipes to clean our hands and face, it could also be the fact that we don’t make a conscious effort to roll around in mud and pour sand in our hair every morning. So here I am, walking up to this table of drunken hobo hikers. I stand there, looking at them, they are completely drunk and stoned and look like they haven’t showered in several months – and they want you to know that!
I say “Hey, you guys look like thru-hikers… obviously… where are you guys camping out tonight”? I’m instantly put on blast by the hobo girl of the group. A hairy one at that… a hairy, hobo, girl-beast. She gets real defensive and asks me with a sharp tone, “what makes you assume we are OBVIOUSLY thru-hikers”?!
I think simply bring to light the fact that they look homeless and are sitting at a picnic table mid day with 5 six-packs of beer in front of them making fools of themselves.
That seemed to be recepted well by the drunkards because they all began to laugh, the girl-beast didn’t. They told me about a campground spot for hikers, so all in all it was a win win. I get to insult dirty, self-rightous antogonists and I get information on where we can camp! score!
The next day we depart for the 70 mile section of Yosemite. No maps, no guide, no directions – Thanks to the awesomeness of the National Parks Service! The first few miles went something like this … walk 4 miles through ankle deep mud, walk up 3,000 feet in a mile, walk down 2,000 feet in half a mile, swim across a giant ass river then do it again two more times then get lost for 2 hours, give up and go to sleep to do it again.
We are normally easily making 20 miles a day, however with this terrain we have been making 13-15 miles a day max. Which isn’t a very good thing when you planned your food around a 20 mile a day average. yikes!
So we continue this routine for a couple days and begin to enter the giant snow fields. Something we were hoping not to see … since we didn’t have any maps. Well, sure enough we end up getting lost for a couple hours. Aimlessly walking through the mountains looking for signs of a trail. Come to find out, there was a branch off in the snow that went straight uphill about 100 feet. After finding that, we walked another few miles then got lost again. We did however find another hiker aimlessly wandering through the forest, lost as well. We teamed up and the three of us spread out to find the trail. We got fed up and decided to head straight down a mountain face where we knew the trail met up with a river.
Me, being an angry person, got angry at being lost and being behind schedule. We encountered a creek that was pretty fast moving about about 3 1/2 feet deep. I didn’t feel like taking my shoes and socks off so I decided I was going to make a bridge. So here I am, clearing dead trees and throwing them across this 40 foot wide creek. Once I finally get the last log in place I step on it and instantly fall in. I wanted to cry. Poor Kristina had to endure this emotional volcano …
We finally crossed the creek and was met with another, wider and deeper river about 300 yards away. I was already angry about being hungry and going so slow, so I just went ahead and walked out into the river. Apparently it was pretty deep and I got really wet. Right after that crossing we decided to stop for the day at a lake a mile up the trail. The lake had warm sand beaches! … and I got food! So we were all happy once again! A friendly deer even came out of the bushes to come hang by our camp fire for a while.
The next day continued on with the same schedule, crappy and slow. However progress was being made, we only had 30 miles to go! That was until we got to a big river and crossed at a “slow moving” area. The river was about 5 feet deep and moving pretty fast. So fast in fact that it swept Kristina up off her feet a couple times. Once we managed to ford that river and defeat hypothermia we continued on the trail, or so we thought. Looking back, we realize we had went down the river so far that we actually missed a trail junction somewhere and ended up on the wrong trail. We didn’t find this out until about 24 hours later … thanks again Park Service for not giving us the map we wanted!
We crossed a few more rivers and ice lakes, dodged more creepy bugs and used another tube of sunscreen then ended up back on the PCT. Upon meeting back up with the PCT we heard thunder start ahead of us.
Fast forward a couple hours and it’s raining. The rain then mixed with the snow and already flooded trail and turned the trail into swift moving streams a foot deep! Now again, here we go bushwacking our way along side the trail, slowing us to a crawl.
Fast forward another day and we see some light. That 30 miles we thought turned into more like 50 miles and 3 days instead of 1 1/2. We see some light at the end of the section with one more major pass to make and it was supposed to be down hill to a road where we could hitch a ride to a “near by” city. Near by being about 70 miles away…
So here we are, standing below a 11,000 foot mountain pass. The last thing keeping us from some real cooked food and a nice shower. The clouds started to roll in and they weren’t looking very pretty. We decided to go for it anyways and try to beat the weather. We got to about 10,600 feet and thats when the first bolt of lightening shot down from the sky about a mile from us. It shot down into the valley below and hit a tree right where the trail was! I decided to call it and say we needed to go back, as we were well above the tree line and the lightening clouds were at our level and moving toward us, quickly. We turned around and went to start heading down but it was too late. Lightening started shooting all around us, right above us, and bolts were hitting the ground so close that the sound was deafening and you could feel the electricity in your hair. We decided to get as low to the ground as possible and wait it out, we were so close and now we find ourselves pinned down.
We brought out our ponchos and thats when the real bad weather came in, the hail began falling, faster and faster and growing bigger and bigger until they were the size marbles! The lightening was striking every very seconds and thunderous crashing was echoing all through the mountains around us. It was like we were in the middle of a war, waiting for an opportunity to run away!
We sat through this storm and it slowly made its way over the same mountain pass we were trying to make it over. The clear skies opened up for a moment and we made a run for it. We decided to press on and crest the pass. We made it over that and eventually made it to a spot where we could see the highway, a few thousand feet below us. We had hope we would make it! So we ate our last candy bar and a back up 5-hour energy bottle! That sugar and B-12 overload kept us going until dark, where we were crossing 2,000 foot cliffs on 45 degree snow fields. When we decided it wasn’t safe anymore we set up camp and waited until morning to finish the last few miles.
That worked out very well as when we got about 1,000 feet above the road we just said screw the trail and we slid down the side of the mountain on our butts across snow fields. We made it down in record time and ended up having to scale some very rocky and very dangerous cliff sides. I guess that’s the down side about making your own trail…
After we were done playing mountain goat, we scampered our way to the highway where we immediately saw a car. I waved them down to ask them which direction was the city and it turns out the people were part of the Sierra Hiking Club and avid hikers. Go figure!
This extremely nice retired couple gave us a ride 70 miles away, all the way into the city! They even drove us around to check out the old town and get a tour or things so we knew the layout.
So here we are, tonight, with a shower, hot food and a bed. Which I actually prefer the tent at this point, honestly, but it’s hard to beat a hot shower!
Signing out and still alive – Team Robot House.