Last night I had Thai curry for dinner and it was amazing though it was entirely too much and now I have to pack it out. I also ate a few pink goldfish. I’m not a big goldfish fan but when I saw them in pink I had to get them. Not that I love pink either but I thought it may make my poop more interesting. I know some of you will be grossed out by that but you long distance hikers get me. If I’m going to learn to do my dirty business in the woods, I figure I might as well make it entertaining. Rachel and Stephen both had their first poop in the woods so we all celebrated. I’m determined to go as long as possible without going. My colon can handle it. 60 permits were issued for the JMT yesterday but we only saw a handful of other hikers. Sun Bear told us only 8 people collected their permits because of the heat wave. we have this trail completely to ourselves.
By 6pm the thunder and lightening was right overhead but there was no rain. We closed up camp and crawled into our tents early.
We’re supposed to have four more miles going up this morning but honestly I have no idea where we’re gonna go. It looks like we’re on top of the world from here. But I’m sure we’ll walk around a hill and find a whole new mountain range ready to torment us.
We got up around five this morning and were hiking by 620. We need to get fast at tearing down camp. We’ll get there though.
Brian is really struggling with his morale this morning. He’s feeling a tremendous amount of pressure being the sole permit holder. We have ourselves plenty of time to finish this trail but we didn’t know until the night we left for the trail that Stephen and Rachel have four fewer days to complete the trail than planned. The problem with that is a group must stay with the permit holder. So if we cant convince the park to seperate our permits either Stephen and Rachel won’t get to finish or we are going to have to seperate and they will have to race ahead of us and take their chances not getting caught and escorted off trail. We will have to tell them when they catch up to us.
Yesterday Brian had to motivate me but today he was the one that needed motivation. He was even talking about calling it quits at the next major stop. I couldn’t tell if this was really him giving up or if it was just the defeat demons tormenting him. The first few days of a trail are always the worst and morning suck no matter what. I remember Brian talking about quitting the Appalachian Trail for the first three weeks but he hiked all 2200 miles. I remember how hard the Camino was for me and how I didn’t think I would make it the first week. But if you can get through the tough parts, it’s all worth it. I reminded Brian that we are going to hike this hike at our own pace. And when it stops being enjoyable, we will pull out our tent wherever we are and call it quit for the day. I told him all he has to do this morning was put one foot in front of the other.
We had lots of trail challenges his morning. Fighting morale, dealing with swarms of mosquitoes, and more long steep inclines. I also had to stop about two miles in and Brian bandaged my foot for me where I got a hot spot. It’s the exact same location where I got my first blister on the Camino.
We saw some beautiful things along the way though. There was a blanket of purple flowers covering the ashy forest floor, we saw giant bear prints, the spider webs looked like silk afainst the morning sun, and the fire line where the wilderness gurus took control of the fire. We also walked along another ledge and could see more mountains off to our right. I’m so happy right now. We came across some signs of Native Americans in this area! We were told on our tour to look for big hole drilled into rocks where native Americans use to grind up acorns. Well we came across one! It was the coolest thing to think how old that debt was.
I could tell the moment Brian beat his defeat demons. Suddenly he was way ahead of me. As I looked up at him several switchbacks ahead of me, my heart swelled with pride. He’s a beast. That man in a fluorescent green shirt, kilt, and bright orange shoes is mine.
We walked uphill for about four more miles. Somewhere around 9,000 feet, I was really starting to feel the altitude. I coward so out of breath and what’s worst was we had a huge incline. I took itty bitty steps and had to stop every few feet. I was struggling so hard to catch my breath that I had trouble drinking water because the few seconds needed to hold your breath was more than my lungs could handle. I took a couple of small sips and after about 20 seconds, I would feel a wave of nausea. I’d have to stop and wait for it to pass. I realized though that while there are very real symptoms associated with high altitudes, half of it is psychological. Brian and I put our headphones on to drown out our heavy breathing and I found that that helped tremendously. I waked up hill for ten solid minutes before needing to take a break.
Eventually we hit a flat spot. I was enjoying the softer terrain and eating my breakfast bar when Brian slowed down long enough for me to catch up with him. He suggested that if possible I may want to increase my speed on the flat parts of the trail. Oops. I was just strolling. I picked up my pace a good bit.The sun started beating down on us early this morning. I could feel myself getting a burn on my arm but there’s not much I can do about it. I’m going to get a sunburn eventually so I might as well get it over with.
After that initial burn, I’ll just char to a crisp. I’m really glad I hiked the Camino first. It was a great intro to long distance hiking. One thing it taught me is that I can’t control much. I can’t control the fact that I’ll eventually get a sunburn. No amount of sunscreen will stop it. I also can’t do anything about my chronic foot pain that is getting consistently worse every hour. For those of you who have not ready my Camino blog, let me explain. Some of the little muscles in the back of my legs never fully developed and are too short so whenever I stand, they’re overextended and it creates pain in my feet. I can’t stand for more than five minutes without the pain starting to kick in. So you can imagine what happens when I add 35 extra pounds and walk for miles every day. It becomes down right excruciating. But what I learned is that the pain can only get so bad. Eventually I’ll reach my threshold and I just keep walking. There’s nothing I can do about it.
About five miles in we stopped at a steam to get water and rest our feet. The place was swarming with mosquitos so we covered ourselves in deet again. Rachel and Stephen caught up with us at that point. They saw all the cool things we saw this morning too. When we told them that most people didn’t start hiking the JMT yesterday because of the heat wave they just looked at us blankly. They have no idea what the problem is. They’re so used to hot weather. Stephen joked that he could make a lot of money training people for the JMT in Tennessee. They fetched some water for themselves and kept on hiking.It’s deflating to go through so much trouble to have an adventure and then see others waltz on through it like it’s nothing. I imagined what their blog would sound like if they kept one. “We went up the first mountain because we’re badasses. Then we walked across a desert because we’re badasses. We set up camp and it was fun and uneventful because everything comes so easily to us.” My blog? “Everything hurts, everything is hard, and I’m not sure if I’m even going to make it.” I try not to think too hard about it though.
But back to my blog where everything is a struggle. Next we hit a massive meadow that stretched out for several miles in all directions. As warned by hikers passing from the opposite direction, the mosquitoes were the worst we’ve seen yet. For the first ten minutes I kept my hands moving and swatted them away as best I could. But eventually I gave up and let the little bastards land wherever their little hearts desired. It felt like sweet revenge whenever I accidentally swallowed one. The sun was also blazing hot but eventually we got a little breeze and the mosquitoes died down. But what I’m learning about this trail is that with every thing that sucks about it, there’s something amazing. For example, we were walking through a large green meadow that was surrounded by mountains where evergreens manages to secure themselves in the massive bald rocks. And several times, we had to step off the trail to allow men with horses to pass. The horses came in packs and were carrying goods on their backs.
As soon as we found shade on the other side of the meadow we stopped for lunch. We pulled our packs apart, removed our bear canisters and made lunch in the shade of two giant trees. We felt good as we rested in the shade and joked around. As we routed out the rest of our trip we realized we have six more miles to make it to the town spot we agreed to meet the others. If we stuck with the original itenerary Brian made for us before we had to speed things up, we would only have two more miles left for today. We realized that there’s no way we can keep up with Rachel and Stephen and our trip will be hell as long as we try. They passed us again as we were eating lunch. I’ll talk to them tonight.
The rest of the hike was decent. Some of it sucked and some of it was fantastic. At one point, we made it up over the pass and could see Cathedral Rock off in the distance. It’s a steep mountain that ends at the sharpest point. We also passed cathedral lakes which is where we would have stopped if we followed our original itenerary. They were a beautiful sight though as we walked past them. The part that sucked was when Brian informed me that despite the sun and heat, we needed to pick up our pace if we were to make it to our destination in time. I doubled my speed wherever I could. The horses that passed us earlier in the day were on their way back so we got to see them all again. OH and we saw snow today! It makes you realize just how much snow these passes get when there is still snow on the ground on a 100 degree day.Despite the gentle inclines, the last four hours felt like a death march through a desert and I was pissed the entire way. I did not spend a whole year saving up my vacation time to come out here and be miserable. I refuse to have one more day like today. The last couple of miles themselves weren’t bad and if in better condition I would have enjoyed myself. But my body from the knees down were completely shot. I know my foot pain could get out of hand. I was just talking about it this morning but oh my God I forgot how bad it gets. Brian tried so hard to encourage me but my walk slowed to a crawl. He was really worried about me. I told him that I recognize this. This is exactly what happened on the Camino. The first few days literally broke my body and my spirit. But I know this will pass. Im not crazy. I would never sign up to do something like this again if I didn’t know there was something amazing on the other side. I just have to get through this.
Here’s the highly of this wretched day. I really had to go to the bathroom so I jumped off trail. I didn’t notice that I was visible from a different angle though and I accidentally mooned three day hikers. They were very friendly and said hello like it was a totally normal interaction but I was absolutely humiliated. I hate this day.
By the last part of the journey I was walking and crying at the same time. The pain was shooting up my leg and whenever I stopped the muscles would cease up making it excruciating.
When we got to the bottom of the mountian, we came to a road and there was a shuttle stop. I’m not above taking a bus the last mile of road walking. Some people may consider that cheating but that’s the stuff of amateurs. I’m not here to prove anything to myself. I already did that in Spain. I’m here to enjoy myself and see what there is to see. And so far, the good times have not outweighed the bad. I know this will pass. I know it. I just have to keep pushing. But right now I feel totally and utterly defeated. Broken. I’m sorry I’m not more positive. I’m sorry I’m not more entertaining. I’m sorry I can’t be more. I’m sorry I’m not better at this. I’m sorry for everything.
The times the shuttle was supposed to arrive came and went multiple times. We still had one mile to go and I couldn’t walk anymore. Brian wasn’t in much better condition. We got desperate so we thought we’d try hitching a ride. We saw some other hikers doing it going in the other direction. I’ve never hitched before and it took me several minutes standing right at the side of the highway staring at the vehicles coming towards me. Finally, I raised my thumb. I felt like a pan handler. And not a homeless person who actually needs money. Like those jerks who have a job but bother everyone for more money because they want to make a few extra bucks. It was embarrassing and with every passing car I felt rejected. But after about 15 minutes a bus came from the opposite direction. He stopped for us!! He told me he had to go somewhere else first but would come back and get us. I thanked him so much. As we waited for him to return, a woman and a young boy showed up looking desperate for a ride. We told them the bus was on its way. We got to talking and Cindy and her son Joseph are from South Dakota. They also pushed themselves to this point and were really hurting. It’s her first long distance trail and I assured her that while it may feel like hell now, it will get better and it’s totally worth it. As I heard myself speaking as an experience hiker I tried to believe myself. I listened to my own words as if hearing them for the first time. I know I can do this. I know this is worth it. I just have to get through this.
The bus dropped us off at the Tuolumne store. Several other hikers debarked before is. I was the last one off the bus and the driver said “whoa you have a big pack!” I told him it’s about average size but I’m just small. He just smiled and said “amazing.” It doesn’t feel amazing.
The grill was already closed so no burgers for us. But Brian got a cold drink at the store before we searched for the campsite where Stephen and Rachel no doubted lot already were. I tried to send them a text but there wasn’t enough reception. We asked another hiker where the campsite was. He told us to follow him. Along the way he and Brian chatted while I hobbled behind. They both know a lot of AT hikers so they were trying to see if they knew the same people.
We found Stephen and Rachel’s tent and said hi when we got there. They were lounging on the picnic table and their camp was all set up. They arrived about three hours before us and of course they did not take a bus. Brian and I Weren’t too talkative. We just wanted to set up camp and go to bed. Stephen asked, “what time do you want to get up tomorrow” and all I could get out was “we don’t.” He laughed and started sharing pictures from today’s hike. Rachel said she had a rough time and didn’t feel too good. I assured her it would get better and told her I had a rough day too. I didn’t go into detail though. By the time we got our tent set up around 7:30 they were in bed so we will have to talk to them tomorrow morning. We will probably have breakfast together at the store before going to the post office to pick up our resupply.I fetched water and Brian made dinner. I attempted to clean my blackened feet so I could better inspect my hot spot. The wet wipes did an adequate job but I have never been this dirty in my entire life. My hot spot is now a blister so Brian said he would take care of it for me when we get in the tent.
We met several other hikers at the site. One woman saw my sunburn and urged me to protect myself better. She is from the east coast too and explained that “the sun is different over here.” So I’ll be more cautious. Unfortunately my sun screen exploded in the insane heat so I may have to buy more. She also told us that it’s been abnormally hot so to be careful. Though as she was saying that, I realized it was cool enough that I was starting to tremble. For the first time since I’ve been out here, I put my jacket on.When Brian assessed his feet he found out something bit him today. He said he felt at bad sting but then forgot about it. His foot is swollen pretty bad so he took some Benedryl.
We ate our dinner but I only had a few bites. I’m finding I don’t have much of an appetite at all. Even the fun stuff I brought isn’t enough to tempt me.
I saw that Cindy’s camp was near ours so I stopped by and we chatted a bit more. They’re taking a zero day and may take a bus to mammoth Lake. Brian thinks we should do the same and while I don’t feel I’m in any condition to walk tomorrow, I’m not convinced I want to skip a day yet. We will see what tomorrow brings.I’m going to bandage up my blister and head to bed. I hope I’ll be in better spirits tomorrow.