The day after Forester Pass, we planned to hike over Kearsarge Pass to a road that would connect us to the town of Independence, where we were picking up our resupply box. By this point, we were nearly out of food. We had come down Forester Pass starving, with nothing to eat except quinoa, which we had for dinner that evening. We ran into Laura and Adam before camping and they generously gave us each a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. Despite the quinoa, I went to bed hungry, knowing we still had 12 miles to do the next morning before getting to town and food. Kearsarge Pass was not hard compared to the days before, but for me, it was one of the hardest climbs. I trudged up the mountain, each step a struggle, feeling weak and depleted. All I could think about was food and what I would eat at the Chevron gas station that was our destination. There is really nothing in Independence except this Chevron, and it’s amazing how much I planned and fantasized about arriving there. I have never been so excited to get to a gas station. When we finally arrived, 12 miles and a long hitch hike later, I gorged myself on pop tarts, chips, soda, and a huge sandwich.
From there, we hitched 40 miles to Bishop, a larger town up Hwy 395. We happened to catch a ride with the County Commissioner, who gave us a full history of the area and overview of the current political landscape. One of my favorite parts of this trip has been the interesting people we meet along the way, and the incredible generosity of the strangers who help us. Phil’s friend Liana lives in Bishop and generously offered her home to us, despite her not being there. It was pure bliss having a house to stay in with showers, a kitchen, and a sofa to lounge on. In Bishop, we did lots of grocery shopping and food sorting, stopped by a rodeo and watched the high school girls barrel race, saw the ridiculous new Tom Cruise movie The Edge of Tomorrow, and visited lots of cute little shops. While we were there, Phil arranged with our friends Jay and Suzie to meet at South Lake, about 60 miles north, in two days.
Between leaving Bishop Thursday morning and arriving at South Lake Saturday afternoon, we went over 5 passes (back over Kearsarge, Glen, Pinoche, Mather, and Bishop Passes), climbed over 15,000 feet, and hiked 60 miles. It was a tiring few days, but full of the most incredible scenery. On our way up Bishop Pass, we were passed by a trio of very hard core-looking hikers with hardly any gear with them, one of whom was wearing a very small raccoon outfit. After chatting with them, we learned that the one in the raccoon dress was Jenn Shelton, a well-known ultramarathoner and the crazy college runner featured in the book Born to Run. They had just done Whitney to Bishop Pass (90 miles) in two days, and Jenn was going for the John Muir Trail speed record in a few weeks, attempting to break the current record of 223 miles in 3 days, 20 hours. Needless to say, we were inspired, and decided to hike up the pass as fast as we could. Along the way, we did manage to pass the ultra trio, which made us feel good. Then again, they were just finishing up a crazily long trek and were hiking leisurely at that point. 🙂
It was so wonderful to spend time with Jay, Suzie and their dog, Bear. They had driven all the way from the Bay area to spend not even 24 hours with us, so we did our best to make the most of it. They fed us steak, trout, fruit and vegetables from their farm, soda, beer, cheese, chips, pancakes, and fresh squeezed orange juice. It was restful and idyllic, and I was extremely sad to leave this haven of comfort and friends and head back to the trail when it was time.
Over the next few days, we crossed over three more passes, made it to our next resupply at Vermillion Valley Resort, went into the town of Mammoth Lakes for a few hours, got our first taste of awful mosquitoes, and braved some truly scary river crossings. Finally, after crossing over Donohue Pass and a long, hungry (we were out of food again), 13-mile descent through the most beautiful valley I’d ever seen, we reached Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite. Desperate to get to Tuolumne by the time the restaurant closed, we charged those last miles, hiking as fast as we could and rarely stopping. I listened to 2 Pac and Sublime on my iPod, gathering energy from the music and marveling at how different my current surroundings were from what they sang about.
Everyone told me how spectacular Yosemite was, but I didn’t fully realize and appreciate it until I was there. It is full of perfect meadows, the clearest streams you’ve ever seen, and surrounded by huge, weird granite mountains. The day after arriving there, Phil insisted we finish the John Muir Trail and hike the 17 miles down to Yosemite Valley, despite this not being part of the PCT. We hiked over Cloud’s Rest, a gigantic slab of granite with views of Half Dome and the entire valley. I was blown away by the scenery. We got to Yosemite Village after dark, devoured a large pizza, and sat chatting with our friends Josh and Carla (fellow thru-hikers) until midnight.