Pacific Crest Trail: The Sierra | pt.2

With the first 72 hours of the month of June resulting with me essentially bed ridden from Giardia, I had a lot of time to think. Too much time to think. 

At this point, my mind was so far from the PCT that I was beginning to go crazy.  I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be on the trail or elsewhere. On the morning of the last day in Bishop, I made the final decision to get off of the PCT and to pursue other options. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I had some ideas. I had far too much time to consider everything, and I couldn’t bring myself to continue in the headspace I was in. 

After the fourth and last full day in Bishop, I considered myself done with the PCT. To be honest, I even went to the extent of purchasing a plane ticket. I had fully committed to quitting the PCT, going home for one full day, hopping in my car, and then driving back West. I would then either drive north and sell my car, head south on the PCT, or drive to Colorado and sell my car, then head south on the CDT.

Both great options. 

Miraj and Slug, a couple of guys I met a few hundred miles ago, also quit the PCT in Bishop. It just so happened that we all were in similar, yet so different headspaces that resulted in an urge to do something different.  An urge that none of us could control.

Photo Credit: Miraj / this is an accurate depiction of my mental state.

Photo Credit: Miraj / this is an accurate depiction of my mental state.

For me, it was overwhelming. I couldn’t even bring myself to think about the PCT. I was in arguably one of the most beautiful places in the country, and I had no desire to be there. The motivation and goals were out the window. My entire plan; gone. Although I couldn’t even place my own god damn finger on the reason I felt that way, I knew that I had to act on it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be happy with myself, or even on a less important note, I wouldn’t be happy with my time in the Sierra. 

Being present and 100% with all of my endeavors is extremely important to me. I’ll never sacrifice that, even if my stubbornness tells me something else.  

So I quit. It seemed like an impulse decision at first, but it wasn’t like I didn’t have time to think about it. Remember, I had a lot of time.  

I justified every thought I had, and I couldn’t bring myself to go against my gut. Brewhiker offered us a ride essentially straight back to Slug’s house, so we took it. We figured we would road trip from Sacramento, where Slug lives, all the way down the 1 to LA, where Miraj lives and where I would catch my plane home on the 16th.  

We hopped in the car, went to Mammoth for two days, and the next thing I knew, we were dropped off in Auburn, a small town near Grass Valley. 

I wasn’t sure at that point if I knew what the hell I was doing. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I was now nowhere near the PCT, but also immediately thrown back into society. Always a strange feeling for someone on a thru hike. 

So we got pizza and milkshakes. Something we’re pretty good at nowadays. 

Slug

Slug

Slug arranged a ride for us back to his moms place to grab his car, so we got into his buddy Austin’s sedan and cruised off towards Sacramento. I had never been to most of the places we were going to go, so I was up for the trip. I think we were all a little anxious to see what would happen in the following days. Nonetheless, we started the trip off on a good note and with good laughs. 

Now that I think about it, that was the turning point for the entire trip. I was incredibly anxious and overwhelmed when I stepped out of a Brewhiker’s car. I didn’t know how the hell I had gotten there, and I wasn’t a fan of it, but I was in good company.

Did I mention that I’m back on the PCT now? Hah, we’ll get to that.  

Portrait of Slug pt. 2

Portrait of Slug pt. 2

We stayed a night at Slugs mom’s Place, then hit up his little sisters high school grad party for the afternoon. He showed us around Sacramento and showed us some of his favorite local spots that he would go to, especially the ones where he would have the seclusion for some meditation. In some sense, just a place to call his own. 

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That night we found ourselves in Berkeley, CA staying with one of Miraj’s friends from Sweden, Carl. 

The road trip went on. We drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, or more commonly known as the 1. We stopped in Santa Cruz, and our main attraction was Big Sur, a popular coastal destination known for its epic views of the coast. We ended up getting there for Sunset then did a little astrophotography to cap the night off.  

Big Sur x Milky Way

Big Sur x Milky Way

At this moment, my mind was made up that I wanted, no, needed, to go back to the PCT. I couldn’t stand the thought of missing some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. I yearned to be back in the Sierra, cruising along high alpine ridgelines and summiting massive passes.  

So we left the next morning. Miraj had made up his mind to go Southbound, so we stayed a night with him in LA then Slug and I cruised back into Mammoth the following day. We picked up some beers and brought them to Scooter and Beehive at the trailhead, and within an hour I was convinced that I had to hike out right then and there. So I did. 

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Two Photos of Miraj That I Captured To Represent the Anixety that I Felt in this Period of Time

Two Photos of Miraj That I Captured To Represent the Anixety that I Felt in this Period of Time

6/1 - 6/5: Spent at the Bishop Hostel with Giardia

6/6 - 6/12: Spent on the Road with Miraj and Slug

6/12:

Day 1 Back on the PCT out of Mammoth: 

Thats when I got back on the PCT. I felt alive again, because let me tell ya, the last few days in the car felt like a lifetime of purgatory. I couldn’t make my mind up, I was out of it, and had no direction. We started climbing up back to Mammoth Pass, where the PCT links back up, and I settled in. At first it felt weird getting back on Trail. Like some sort of shakiness in my steps and breath. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I kept going. Eventually, we got back to the PCT and that’s where it hit me. The overwhelming joy of being back in a familiar, yet so different environment than when I had last stepped foot on the PCT. 

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I went to bed that night with a overheleming sensation around the fact that I was back. 

Day 2 Back on the PCT: 

I awoke with an anxious feeling, but it quickly dissipated when I began walking. We only planned on doing an easy 19 to the bottom of Donahue pass, so we weren’t in any big rush. The early morning miles flew by as they always do, especially when rolling through a beautiful meadow and on ridgelines most of the time.  

 We took breaks, enjoyed our time by 1000 Island Lake, one of the more beautiful stops out here for me. I got in the lake for a bit, but not too far, it was frigid. 

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We stayed there for well over an hour as it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. Our goal was only 3.5 miles away, so we took it nice and easy over Island Pass, a relatively small, but tricky pass to navigate. With no real snow fields to worry about, we pushed pretty quickly up and over. It was nice to feel good at altitude even with so much time off recently.  

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We eventually made a fire and huddled around it for warmth. Wallet was there, someone both Beehive and I haven’t really seen or heard much of since the AT back in 2016. It was nice to camp with him to catch up. 

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Day 3:

After what felt like a lifetime of sleep, I woke up as did the others, slowly crawling out of our tents. We knew we needed to push to get to Tuolomne Meadows, so we got a head start and got going quick, making fast haste of Donahue Pass. With little snow to navigate or posthole through, we got up in a reasonable amount of time and even took a break at the base before the summit push. Eventually, we snaked our way up the switchbacks and found ourselves at the top.

We were greeted by a marmot who was particularly interested in Beehive’s Pack.

We got down and only took one break, just enough time to hang out by the lake to smoke a quick cigarette. Lunch and beers were calling and we had to get a move on. After we crossed the pass and entered Yosemite National Park, we ran into a ranger who checked our bear cans and permits, the first of that so far.

We bolted into the store and as I got in, I heard a familiar voice. Smokebreak was sitting there and I tapped him on the shoulder to surprise him. I hadn’t seen him in almost two weeks so it was a worthy embrace of a hug.

We ordered burgers, made pizzas, ate food and resupplied enough to get to Bridgeport. Somewhere in the middle of all of that we took a nap in the campground.

Three more miles led us to camp, and our first night in Yosemite. We pitched our tents as the mosquitos swarmed. Sleep was calling.

Day 4:

My anxiety woke me up in a haste, covered in sweat. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decisions still, and it was showing in my lack of sleep and restless mind. I talked to Smokebreak immediately about it, as I was having a guess about going back to the Meadows to go into the Valley. With a quick pep talk to get my head straight, we got going and with 25 miles in the sights, I knew it would be a hard day. Not to mention, my left foot had been bothering me for a couple days now. The pad of my foot felt like it was worn down. I had been leading my entire striking on the downhill with my left foot, hence the pain.

We got going and with an immense amount of fords in the agenda for the day, we all knew it would be slow. Ten miles hit for the day and we took a break to dry out our tents, something we’ve been accustomed to. Again, we packed up and left. The usual. Until we came to a lake for our lunch break, at least an hour out of the day where we all relax and take in the views. We did so, then got the last 10 miles into camp done before calling it a night at a beautiful campsite tucked in the trees on a fairly steep, rocky descent down the mountainside.

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My first big day back in the Sierra was a treat. Sure, I had another few days there before hand, but that was the first true test to see if I still had the drive, and I do. Good thing, right?

Day 5:

Another big day was on the mind. I rolled over at 4:45 to the familiar and somewhat comforting sound of Smokebreak moving around in his tent, minutes before anyone else would dare think about it. I got up to take a leak and to look around, and meandered back in, not just ready to get up yet. The comfort of my quilt is usually quite alluring.

The morning picked up and we enjoyed a cup of joe before we set our for a hopefully 26+ on the day to set us up for a good but smaller day into town. We obviously wanted nothing more than to gorge ourselves on delectable treats.

The first few miles led us across the small, rickety logs that connected the only dry land in some parts. Some of the fords out here can be pretty intimidating, but also actually dangerous. Luckily, we a lot of the times we can cross with our shoes off or find a tree to balance across while the vertigo creeps in around my head and chest.

The day held well over 5,000’ of elevation gain alone, we so we pushed the first 16 miles for our lunch break, getting well over half of that out of the way before we took a long break.

Ascending was the name of the game for the next nine miles as we went up and over Dorothy Lake Pass. Eventually we found ourselves tucked away behind a wind block at the Pass. We stopped for a brief amount of time to only get up and continue down to camp. The night ended right before a river Ford, and with a beautiful campsite, we tucked in and fell asleep one by one.

Day 6:

Town day. Our favorite day, or at least one of them. We woke up as the sun was starting to crest over the hills. It was bitter cold out, and with the wind still whipping just as strong as it was the night prior, It was tough to get out of bed.

The craving for burgers and milkshakes eventually made us all stir and we got a start on our 18 mile day up and over Sonora Pass, which would eventually lead us to Bridgeport, where we would resupply and get a hotel room for the night.

The first seven miles were relatively easy and manageable as we moved a quick clip. We eventually got to the start of the climb, and with that came the beginning of the snowfields and traverses.

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One came after the other, each getting slushier as time went on. The postholing began on the north face. Slushy snow led to less than ideal grip on the steps. Here and there I would find myself sliding down the chute, only to get a grip seconds later. For the first time in my life, I had to self arrest. Twice. Over the course of the long, slippery decent, I scraped up my legs and thighs pretty bad. Once on an ice chute and the other on a roughly 12 foot slide of rocks and ice. Great.

The traverses kept coming. Even once I got below tree line, they kept coming. One after the other led me deeper and deeper into the snowpack, eventually going up to my waist a few times to avoid sliding down another chute. Part of me absolutely loves snow travel for the mental stimulation that comes along with it, but most of me loathes it. It’s time consuming, energy burning, and just overall an annoyance sometimes. Today, it was great, even though I got banged up. 

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 Bridgeport:

So my first big stretch back on the PCT has come to a close. I’m tired, beaten down, and ready for food. I’m currently in the back of a pickup where Beehive and I are crammed in amongst personal belongings we don’t recognize. Smokebreak and Scooter are up front. Beehive is currently passed out. 

Im glad I got back on the PCT, and I’m glad I’m back to pushing myself and my own limits. The last few days have been tiresome and testing, each getting harder as we went along. The snow is still there, but not nearly as much as it was. 

It seems that sometimes, all that is needed is a little space, time away, and thought to really and truly realize what is wanted out of a period of time, or life for that matter. I couldn’t have made the decision to get back on Trail had it not been for quitting in the first place. Each decision led me to where I was, and so on to get me to where I am. 

Sometimes you think you know what you want, but in reality, you never know until you try something else. Even then, you’ll never really get a full grasp on it. I gave it a shot and went with my gut. I made a decision and it turned out to be the wrong one. That’s how life goes sometimes and the only thing you can do is roll with the punches.