Hello beloved readers and other random internet wanderers.
Oh, I am feisty today. First, I had a chicory coffee and a massive stack of cornmeal pancakes with bacon embedded, drowned in maple syrup, so I’m in a delicious stage of sugar rush infused food coma, which should last only about half hour before I’m hungry again. But also, I am writing this on a Mac and nothing on here is intuitive to me, not even how to connect to the internet. I’ll write the story here, despite repeated distractions – you know who you are – and then, somehow, load it onto the site when I can. Maybe I can even find a PC to do so.
My life is a dream, and this dream got even better once I got to Sonora Pass. I know the Sierras are beautiful. Everybody hooos and haaas about them. Lakes and granite and postcard vistas in all directions, delicate flowers, impossibly transparent waters, colorful sunsets and so forth, day after day after day, filled my eyes but did not stir my soul as the desert had. I felt a little claustrophobic in all that granite. I had a moment back a few weeks ago, as I crested a long stretch of uphill uneven rocky trail on a muggy, buggy day, to find the most vibrant display of wild flowers. I said out loud to the trail “This is an abusive relationship!! Don’t give me flowers after you spent the last 3 hours kicking my ass”. I then looked around to make sure I really was alone. Luckily, I was.
The end of the Sierras (by my own definition), corresponding to the section from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite to Sonora Pass was a gorgeous mosquito hell. I enjoyed the opportunity to be creative with my daily physical requirements (i.e. how do you eat, sleep and poop while under attack from swarms of relentless blood sucking monsters?) As any good thru-hiker must, I aspire to carry the most lightweight pack possible. They say you carry your fears. I have very little fears apparently. I carry neither tent nor bug repellent (I also don’t have any rain gear, except for an ultralight poncho, no water-treatment or filter, and no sunscreen. I tell the water and the sun I love them, and that has done the trick for me so far. I do, however, carry dangly earrings, pieces of bark and feathers I found on the trail, a harmonica, several journals and a geologist hand-lens. I never claimed to make sense on that topic.) Going through bug-hell without a tent or mosquito repellent definitely challenged my equanimity. I came to a mental place where I was so grumpy and complainy that I started to annoy myself more than the mosquitoes did. I reasoned that since what I was experiencing was to be eaten alive by the little suckers, I might as well really have that experience. I sat on a rock, rolled up my sleeve and told teem “Okay, have at it!”. I observed them for a long while as they buzzed around and discovered that they don’t actually want to bite me. They land, hesitate, test it out, change arm, hesitate some more, then reluctantly take a drink. Mosquitoes have never really liked my blood that much, but I could see that I was the largest supplier of warm blood around and there were a lot of them to feed. Once I actually paid attention to the experience at hand, I realized that in fact I don’t mind them biting me, it’s the buzzing that drives me insane. The best mosquito repellent for me is simply to crank tunes. I fired up my iPod and my mood changed instantly. I even stopped in a particularly beautiful but infested area, right before mile 1000, and played the harmonica for a while with no further thoughts about them. As if the Universe acknowledged that I had fulfilled my obligations regarding the experience of being eaten by mosquitoes, they were gone the next day. That is when I got to Sonora Pass.
For 6 or so miles before Sonora Pass, the trail follows a volcanic ridge, the edge of an ancient caldera. It was like being back in the desert, with views so wide that it’s difficult to focus ones eyes on the furthest peaks. The inhospitable volcanic soil only allowed select flowers to grow, but displayed those with contrast and space, a much better showcase for them than the green valleys that preceded this section I thought. I felt perfectly happy along that ridge, but there was even MORE goodness to come. At the pass, trail angel Sleeping Bear was waiting for hikers with chips, salsa, beers and sodas, but also, more importantly, with an offer to take our bear-canisters to the post office for us. Poof! Magic. 3 Lbs out of my pack. Sweet delight! I love trail angels. Less than a minute after the bear canister was taken off my hands, a middle-aged couple came up to the pass and said “We are here looking for thru-hikers to take into town and buy them lunch”. That is how Creep, Twisted and TheBobcat were kidnapped and treated to a delicious meal out of the blue. Creep and Twisted stayed in town for the night, but I returned to the trail. The next day, Weathercarrot caught up with me and we have been hiking together since, through the most diverse landscapes yet on the trail. Everyday since Sonora Pass has been different than the preceding one, yet just as spectacular.
There is a story I have been meaning to tell you since the last decent internet connection. I wrote it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget. I will transcribe it here. It took place the same day as my last post (“the tyranny of the miles”):
“What an exhilarating, strange day today was! […] After the library, I had sushi and carrot cake in the parking lot of Vons before getting to the road to hitch a ride. It took 4 rides to get from Mammoth Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows. It took less than a minute for my first ride to show up, two elderly ladies in a giant Ford F-something. They were eager to pick me up and had a million questions about the trail. They said I was very courageous and wished they could have an adventure of the sort I am having. At first, they said they could only take me to highway 395, which was fine, but the more we talked and the less they wanted to let me go. I told them I was going to the gas station in Lee Vining to have fish tacos, then to Tuolumne Meadows. Oh, they knew about the fish tacos. “Couldn’t we just take her to Lee Vining?” the woman in the passenger seat insisted. They discussed it for a while. They even spoke of having fish tacos with me and then giving me a ride to T-Meadows, but they had to call John (the driver’s husband), and maybe he would need the car, and they still needed to go where they originally were going when they picked me up, and finally, apologizing, they dropped me off at Highway 395, with all the good wishes one could have.
Three cars later, a young hispanic man in a lowered red honda civic that was blasting some death metal picked me up. The man was very nice, but he was driving like a bat out of hell. He asked where I was hiking and other usual questions, then, after a particularly intense 85 mph cut-corner, said “I am sorry for my fast driving, I don’t usually drive like this, but my wife is in the hospital right now giving birth to my first-born son. She’s already 3 inches dilated!” When I asked why he had even picked me up, he said in a very matter of fact way “You looked like you needed a ride”. I have a suspicion he was very excited and wanted to share his news with someone; I was at the right place at the right time. As an aside he also told me that the death metal band “Death”, which was playing, has inspirational lyrics. Apparently, despite the apparent “kill them all” voice and music, they sing of the one Soul and of unity in communities. Cool! I wished him good luck for the next 20 year and he dropped me off at June’s Lake.
Three cars later, two women and a man picked me up. I told them I was going to have fish tacos at the gas station in Lee Vining, and of course, they knew the one and could take me there. Soon after we got driving again, the man turned around and said “You are the Bobcat, right?” Wow. How in the world was I known this far off the trail? He turned out to be the work partner of the new friend I made in Bishop, the man who took me and Weathercarrot to the Death Valley hot springs. It was like being picked up by friends. We chatted the whole way to Lee Vining.
Finally, there I was, after hearing about the world’s most famous and delicious fish tacos for the past 6 years, at the Lee Vining gas station. I was so excited to be there. I was in that state of joy I get on the trail, the one that is so large that it cannot be contained. I ordered my tacos and talked about the trail with the cashier woman then dropped the RedBeast by a booth and sat with my much-anticipated meal (Yes, I did have sushi and carrot cake less than an hour prior. I’m a thru-hiker, our stomachs are bottomless pits). I had just started digging in when two twenty-some handsome men approached my table. “The lady there (the cashier) said that you are the happiest thru-hiker she’s ever met, so we were wondering if we could join you?” Of course, they could. What a treat to be able to meet interesting people everywhere I go. My friend Ana always said that I lead a charmed life whenever I texted her from the Bellingham Bay with a morning mocha … I do indeed lead a charmed life. Great conversation with new friends while eating world-famous fish tacos, it really doesn’t get much better than that. After our plates were cleaned, the subject of my final destination came up. It turned out that one of them (the semi-pro hokey player with the gorgeous green eyes) had never been to Yosemite. I insisted that he should see it, since Tioga pass was right there. The driver (the well-traveled ESL teacher with the great smile) seemed to enjoy sudden spontaneous changes of plans as much as I do. We loaded the RedBeast in their little car and off to T-meadows we went. They dropped me off, front door service, right where I had left off a few days prior. We exchanged email and phone information and they continued on.
It was therefore in a state of exhilaration even high for me that I found two of my favorite trail friends, Mrs Peacock and Dragonfly. The news that they had to get off-trail for family reason, back to New York with no plans of returning to the trail this year, hit me like the non-sequitur bad news it was. I never lost the joy I had from the day, but it did get temporarily masked by the sadness of losing friends. On the other hand, I was grateful to have been deposited just there, just then, knowing that if it had been any other way, I would not have been able to see them off. I spent the night in camp with Mrs. Peacock and Dragonfly, and headed out alone the next morning, off to mosquito land, off to mile 1000, off to more adventures.”
That’s it for now. This should keep you occupied a while 🙂
The next section is a short one so I probably won’t try to write another story at the next town. Then after that, I don’t know. I need to look at my maps. These town zero days make me lazy. I can’t be lazy. I have many more miles to hike. As my favorite hiker from Georgia said the other day, we need to “hike like so–on’bitches, a marathon a day” if we want to make the Cascades before the weather becomes unpleasant.
Love to ya’ll.