Day 68: Hitching Ahead

June 21, 2017: Backtracked Miles 947.6 to 942.5 + 8 Mile roadwalk along Highway 120 (13.1 total)

Woke up to a beautiful warm morning. It was so warm last night I slept in my underwear. I turned over and saw Colton bundled up in his sleeping bag with his beanie on. I don’t know how he can get so hot during the day and so cold at night.

We started our day off the worst way you can on the PCT… walking backwards. Backtracking is never fun and even though we knew we made the smart decision, it’s still not easy. But as we started walking, we passed by the first bridge over Tuolumne River that we crossed yesterday very unsafely and now the entire bridge was under water. The rule for hard creek and river crossings in the mountains is to cross in the morning, because the snow should have stopped melting overnight and the water should be much shallower and calmer. If the water has doubled in height at 7:00 in the morning compared to the afternoon the day before, you know you’re in trouble. It instantly reaffirmed our decision for me. As we kept walking, everything was more flooded than yesterday and when we crossed Delaney Creek again, it was much higher and stronger. If we had waited another day or two before turning around, I’m honestly not sure if we would have been able to get out.

We eventually made it back to Highway 120 at Tuolumne Meadows and ran into a couple more hikers there who were waiting for a friend to catch up. We told them about our experience and they said they were pretty set on skipping this section based on all the reports they’d heard in the past couple days. 

We took off walking east on the highway with at least an 8-mile roadwalk in front of us. The highway was still closed from Yosemite to Tioga Pass and it was either an 8-mile walk there or over 20 miles to Yosemite. The answer was pretty easy.

Our roadwalk was about as exciting as walking on a closed down road can be.

It was completely plowed so I’m not entirely sure why it’s still closed. I guess Yosemite Park gets to decide when it opens, even if it’s clear and judging by all the damaged cabins, I’m assuming that they want to clean up the area first before they start charging people to stay in broken-down shacks. Seemed like a waste of a perfectly good road to me, but that’s the government for ya. We got passed by tons of park trucks, but rumor is they’re not allowed to pick up hitchhikers. Or we just smelled that bad. 

We did have some pretty views on the way up though. 

The entire eight miles is uphill until you get to the pass where the road is open. So that was fun. Keeping up with Colton is always a chore and somehow we managed to walk the whole thing in under two hours. When we started getting closer to the top there was some more snow on the sides, but still a clear road. 

There were tons of cars on the top with people who apparently came up to see a closed gate and turn around because that’s what most of them did. We did see a few birdwatchers and cyclists, but of course they weren’t leaving anytime soon. We tried hitchhiking for awhile, but everyone’s car was either full or too nice looking for our stinky butts. 

But eventually you always get a ride. After about 30 minutes, a nice chiropractor from Mammoth picked us up. He didn’t have seats in the back of his car so we just sat on the floor and had a nice chat down the hill with him. He had a lot of backcountry experience, living in Mammoth, so we had a lot to talk about. He dropped us off right outside Lee Vining on Highway 395 and we walked into town and into the first restaurant we could find. Luckily Lee Vining is tiny, so that wasn’t hard and we found a cool place called Mike’s BBQ, I think (too hungry to really read the sign). We sat down on the patio and who was there, but a few of the guys yesterday who had helped us over the bridge. We ordered burgers that came with salad bar trips. It was the best deal we’ve got so far on the trail. We sat around there talking with those guys for awhile about the next section, chowing down, and getting back in touch with the world. I updated my blogs quickly, so hopefully they’re not to illegible.

After stuffing ourselves and chugging all their water, we grabbed some Gatorades since it was a million degrees and set up hitchhiking on the side of the road. We didn’t have to wait long before we got picked up by Zeb, a mountaineering guide from Truckee. He piled us into his sweet van/home and drove us all the way up to Highway 108. The ride was awesome, getting to compare hiking and backcountry experiences with him. He’s hiked Everest and all kinds of other mountains so he had some good stories. During the drive the clouds started rolling in and by the time he dropped us off it was starting to rain. It just never fails for us, every time we get back on the trail. He even came back a minute after dropping us off and offered to take us farther up, but it was still a long drive so we told him don’t worry, a little rain wouldn’t hurt us. 

We threw on our rain gear and by this time, my bladder was ready to explode after drinking so much water, so Colton watched for cars while I peed on the side of the road. I don’t think I’m ever going to readjust to normal life after this. 

Luckily we only waited about 15 minutes when, Rose, an awesome chick from Lee Vining picked us up on her way back home to Santa Cruz. She’s an outdoor educator and backpacker so of course we had lots in common. The rain petered out, but the highway was destroyed with rocks, mud, and water everywhere. We made our way up to the top of Sonora Pass with some incredible views in the canyon the whole way. She dropped us off about eight miles down from the pass at Kennedy Meadows North Resort and Campground (different Kennedy Meadows from the one we were at a few weeks ago) where we had a package waiting for us from our new friend Janet. 

We said goodbye to Rose and thanked her immensely for saving us from the rain. She even gave us a couple beers she had in her trunk. So sweet. 

The place was packed with campers, vacationers in cabins, and horse people. We set up camp in a little wilderness camping section they have for backpackers and horse riders. It cost $10, but we had already decided we weren’t hiking any farther tonight. And ten bucks really is pretty cheep for a campground. It’s just weird to pay when we’ve been camping for free for so long. 

We picked up our package from Janet and holy moly, did she send a resupply package. The workers said it weighed 39 pounds. She set us up for days. And with some amazing stuff. She it one heck of a trail angel. We took what we needed (or that fit in our packs) and shipped the rest ahead. We’ll have food for awhile, which makes us very happy.

We made our way back to camp with a pretty sunset on the way and made dinner since it was 8:00, practically our bedtime.

We had to try out some of the new food Janet sent us. 

The steak and rice meal was one of the best we had, especially when we used our tortillas to make burritos out of it and the raspberry crumble was amazing. Perfect meal, especially along with our beer. 

We were stuffed and more than ready for bed after that. Tomorrow the plan is to hitchhike back up to the trail at Sonora Pass and pray the water isn’t as crazy from here to South Lake Tahoe!

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4 thoughts on “Day 68: Hitching Ahead

  1. Bodie Mike’s! Great spot. You missed some delicious food at Epic Cafe though…next time when you come back to hike the Sierra’s in a normal year so you get to enjoy all the beautiful lakes!

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  2. Glad you guys made the decision to turn around! As you know, the Sierra is pretty crazy this year and the mountains/trail will be there when you come back. It’s been fun following along on your journey so far (while I’m rehabbing my ankle before my backpacking season starts).

    120 through Yose opens this week (Wed to cyclists, Thurs to vehicles). Last I heard they were plowing parking lots and and doing some repairs (on the aspects needed for opening the road itself). I’d prefer they don’t plow it as it’s way more fun to do a little ski touring on the road rather than drive it… 😉

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