Days 65-71 (PCT approx. mi. 942 to 960ish?)
Long time no update!! I'm a few weeks behind on the ol' blogaroo, so I'm going to be posting in three different segments. This first post starts where I left off- resting a few days in the Bay Area with the fam. It ends in Yosemite, after the worst day on trail yet.
Enjoy!! Days 65-68: Zeros in Stinson Beach and Sonoma
If you remember my last update, you know that I took a few days off to see family in the Bay Area! This was also the perfect chance to let those waters loose swelling, because drowning was on my agenda for this thru-hike. This break was SO needed!! I was able to spend time with my mom ON her birthday, play around the coast with my sister Catherine, see extended family, and joke around with my dear grandpa. I also ate a ridiculous amount of food, hiked around Muir Woods/Mt. Tam, and slept. A lot.
Thankful for rest. I'm learning it's an absolute discipline, as my brain just wants to go go go. Definitely need to take the practice of rest back to traditional life and life/career balance!
Anyway, here are a few pics from the week!
Day 69: Yosemite Valley to El Capitan Trail (Eagle Peak Meadows)
You know how Harry Potter gets giddy when returning back to school? The Hogwarts Express works as a vehicle to enjoyment, learning, familiarity, and whatever ridiculous trials await back at the Castle. It's a gateway to The Wizarding World- the place he's made home.
While Sonoma is completely unlike 4 Privet Drive, and my family couldn't be more different than the Dursleys, I can definitely relate to this feeling!! The Trail, no matter how many three-headed dogs, basilisks, and Hungarian Horntails await, feels like home. That's pretty cool.
The trip from SF to Yosemite was long. The train + bus combo on the 3rd of July made way for some gnarly delays and late hiking. Also, I am OUTASHAPE from this week off. Mom, you fed me too much.
Also, Yosemite Falls stills holds the crown for the most annoying hike. Those 50+ sandy switchbacks are da worsssst. But at least the views are prime. 🙌 Questions I've been asking myself lately:
-What if I quit the trail?
-Why am I doing this trail?
-What does the Lord still have to teach me? Not sure if I'll have those answers soon. I have no plans to quit, but I think it's an important question to ask as I seek growth.
Day 70: El Cap Trail (Eagle Peak Meadows) to Aspen Valley
12:30am: My alarm goes off in three hours. Come on, body. Fall asleep.
2:45am: I'm wide awake. Should I just start hiking now?
3:25am: Gooooood. Is it worth it to try and get 5 more minutes of sleep? 3:30am: Okay, 30 more minutes. I'll still be able to see the sunrise over the Valley if I hustle. 4am: *Snooze* 4:10am: Nope. I'll come back to Yosemite in the fall and catch the sunrise. Yeah, that's a good idea. *sets alarm for 7:30*
Annnnnnnd that's how I began my day. Lazy freaking bum. I knew views of Half Dome would be hazy after sunrise, as it's position in the East.... but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Sometimes your body says "lol" to waking up early.
Overall, today was fun!! It took a good bit to get over the psychological hump of life back outside, and, honestly, those anxieties might linger around for a few days. All I can think about is how I only have 1700 miles left. Compared to the 950+ complete, it seems like a helluva lot. But when compared to the PCT's total mileage of 2650, I start to feel a good bit better. Anyway- the brain is a scary place. A good friend used to say, "the space between your ears is a scary place, and you're not meant to go there alone."
Okay. Back to the trail. This morning I did a quick off trail summit of Eagle Peak. My legs were reluctant, but I could see Future Andrew shaking his head in disappointment if I chose not to. Dang you, Future Andrew.
Turns out the small hike was WELL worth it. As the tallest point on the north rim of Yosemite Valley, the views were killlller. I killed a solid hour up there just gawking at the vibrant greens anchoring the endless shades of blue. So pretty.
While sitting on the ledge, I lazily opened my electronic bag only to have an escapee. The tiny white iPhone block (you know, that thing you either have 7483927 of or none at all) skipped out and tumbled down the mountain and into the Valley.
Each "clink" of the block + granite was paired with a whispered "shit" from my end. Clink. Shit. Clink. Shit. Clink-wooosh.
Alright, it didn't *actually* woosh, but the silence after its final clink meant one thing- it was a goner. RIP, white block. After the iTragedy, I made my way back to Trail and trekked along to El Cap. While only a few hundred feet away, I didn't want to stand directly on El Capitan's summit. Probably silly of me, but I'd love to climb (not hike) this beaut one day... and I want to save it. Same with Half Dome. We'll see.
This alternate route back up the PCT is a collection of trails stitched together. While it makes navigating a little tough, I LOVE IT, as I get to see so much of the Yosemite backcountry.
I took a break just before Tamarack Flat, in a little nook paralleling a creek. I SO wish I would've snapped a picture of this spot. It was definitely in the Top 10 nap spots on trail. 👍
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I made my way up and down some unnamed trails to Aspen Valley. I sweat a lot. I swam in a beautiful tributary of the Tuolumne river. I daydreamed. I wished I wasn't on trail, and then I wished I could never leave. Tomorrow I'll make my way to Hetch Hetchy (more on the history of HH soon) and inch a bit closer to the PCT. Oh I miss that trail. So, so soon. Day 71: Aspen Valley to Hetch Hetchy
Oh wow. Currently writing this post in reflection, because I was unable to create an entry that night (you will soon learn why). However, to keep consistency, I am still going to use "today." Kapeesh? Right on. Here we go.y
If today were a 2001 punk song:
Wading Through Thorns
Miles of Misery
Sleepless in Sonora
If Greenday were to make a comeback, they'd be SET. Unfortunately, these titles are not a metaphor for my heart's condition or the status of a relationship. They're all pretty literal.
Okay. Worst day on trail. Going to do my best to adequately describe the scenarios without doing too much whining. Because whining is laaaaame.
Learning from yesterday's wake up, I set my alarm for a bit later. While I still snoozed for a bit, I didn't feel nearly as guilty! I was on trail by 6:45a, and the day started out fantastic. The Lord was really preparing my heart for a position of rolling with the punches.
The day began with a few miles of unmaintained trail, but it wasn't too bad. I could mostly tell where I was supposed to go, and I was able to move pretty fast.
And then the scenery changed. The burn area developed some incredible thorn bush growth, stretching up to 8' tall for about 7 miles. Hahahaha. Y'all. This was the worst. I went a staggering 1 mph as I bushwhacked and whimpered through the thorns. A few hours later, I emerged through the thorns covered in blood and soot, with ripped shoes and shirt. I waded through a small stream and took a quick, overdue lunch break.
That was rough. But it's all still good! Only 10 more miles until Hetch Hetchy.
I'll save the emblishment, but those 10 miles were combination of mud, stickers, and road walking (my faaaavorite...). I didn't see anybody all day and I ran out of water during a bit of that stretch, but it's all good! Endurance. All good. We're fine.
Around 5:30, I rolled into the Hetch Hetchy backpackers campground. I made it!!! The worst bit of "trail" is in the books and now I can eat, clean some cuts, and sleep.
In relief, I threw my backpack on a picnic table and my phone fell out of the hip belt pocket. As soon as I heard the screen-on-rock collision, I knew. My heart sunk a little as I approached my little phone, fearing the worse. Yep, it was worse than I though. Not only did I score a cracked screen, but the LED was completely shot. Goodbye iPhone/GPS/Navigation etc!!! ☺️
If you're familiar with Yosemite, you know that the Hetch Hetchy is pretty dang remote. It's a strange side entrance, with not a ton of in-and-out traffic. I went to the ranger station to find a way into a nearby town, but no luck. Feeling defeated, I headed back to camp and passed some folks in the parking lot. They just arrived and were gearing up for their trip, nalgenes and dehydrated food scattered around their Subarus. "Are any of y'all headed back in a town? My phone busted and I'm out here solo"
"No- we just got here! Sorry man."
"Ah- no worries." Keep in mind- I'm covered in soot, music stickers, and blood. The ideal hitch hiker. BUT HERE ARE WHEN THINGS GET GOOD. "Hey- did you need a ride? I decided to cut my trip 3 days short and head out tonight." Meet Ben. He's a gift from God who happened to be leaving the park. Obviously, I gladly accepted his offer and hopped into his car. I didn't know WHAT towns were nearby, so I just asked him to drop me off at the first descent town on his way home to SF.
Two hours and LOTS of trail talk (Ben hiked the JMT in 2015) later, we rolled into the city of Sonora, CA. Ben dropped me off in front of the closed AT&T store (it was about 7:30p at this point) and wished me good luck. Such a good guy. Praise the Lord for Ben.
So, Andrew. You're phoneless and in the middle of a town with no transportation, looking like you just escaped a burning building. What did you do?
I went to Starbucks. I borrowed their phone, called my fam to give them the update, and drank a Venti Vanilla Latte (why? no idea). I sat and thanked the Lord for safety and, even through hardship, complete provision.
I also went over to Walmart, bought Pringles + a book, and went over to Applebee's to grab Din Din. Some giggling teens took pictures of me, which made me feel really good. I must look crazy. But anyway- Applebee's! This shopping center just has all the goods!!!
Annnnnd after dinner came the sketchy part- finding a place to sleep. I ended up finding a grassy spot behind Starbucks on a hill. Without pitching my tent, it was a near guarantee I'd go unseen. Score.
Looking at my current conditions- things are pretty poor. BUT I managed to use muscle memory on my phone to open up the camera and take this selfie. Double score.
Also, will someone turn off the lights? Thanks.
PS- remember the other day when I wondered if the Lord still has more to teach me? LOL.