*Alternate title: Everything Out Here is Trying to Eat Us*
OK, before I say anything else, can we pause real quick and note that we’re almost at mile 1100? It’s true that we skipped forward 200 miles that we have to go back and complete, but even keeping that in mind, we’ve still walked nearly 900 miles since May 13th. I’m getting nerdily proud up in here. But let’s move on, because we’re still not even halfway.
It’s usually sort of hard for us to leave the comforts of “town” and hit the trail again, but neither of us were charmed by Tuolumne Meadows or felt any need to spend much time there. We were ready to hike away from Tuolumne, but leaving our resupply without the usual feeling of rest and without the aroma of clean-ish laundry and freshly showered bodies was disheartening. We knew we had a rough stretch coming up due to the length – more than 7 days without a resupply, our longest yet. No showers or laundry in Tuolumne meant the hiker funk that so often follows us these days was to follow us for a lot longer. Dark moods and hiker stench hung in the air for the first day out, though the former were lifted when we hiked the Glen Aulin portion of the trail. We hiked past the most gorgeous waterfalls and ponds, straight down to an amazing little campsite at the base of the waterfall. We considered stopping early and spending the night there, but decided to save our low-mileage day for the next day, the fourth of July.
We’d both been feeling really homesick with the holiday approaching, lamenting the fact that we couldn’t beam home to celebrate with our families and then beam back to the trail – where is this teleportation technology we’ve been awaiting for so long? We don’t usually pack any alcohol out with us because it’s really not worth the weight – we’d rather use the space for food – but anticipating the 4th, we bought a small bottle (first mistake, should have bought two) of Fireball in Tuolumne before we hiked out. Celebrating America with Canadian whiskey … close enough, eh? On the 4th, we had few goals … get up and over Benson Pass (elev. 10,124 ft), try desperately to contact family at the top to let them know we were thinking of them (spoiler alert: not a strong enough signal which made for a very sad Stephanie), and find an awesome spot to set up camp early and do some swimming and sip some whiskey. We spotted an elk relaxing in the shade as we made our way down from the pass. He let us snap a few photos before getting annoyed with the paparazzi and moving on. We made it down to Smedberg Lake where the mosquitos were blissfully few in existence. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!
Let’s talk about mosquitoes. They’d been plaguing us since about a day before Vermillion Valley Resort, so we’d grown sort of used to slapping them off every time we paused for a few seconds. At night, immediately upon getting to our camp spot we’d put on long sleeves, long pants, and DEET to cover any remaining exposed flesh. But then they started to get worse. No longer content to simply buzz around annoyingly as we hiked, they got more aggressive and started biting us as we walked. No amount of DEET deterred them. There were sections where the mosquitoes were so thick we actually RAN through them (and if you know me, you know running is not something I usually do willingly, particularly with a 40 pound pack on my back). Don’t get me started about having to try and do your business with mosquitoes angrily landing everywhere. All I’m saying is spraying DEET on our, ahem, posteriors has not been my favorite part of this experience. Between the mosquitoes, horseflies (just like houseflies, but bigger and they bite! Yay!), and sweat bees, we feel like a veritable buffet dinner for the bugs out here. The mosquitoes seem to have calmed down the last few days, but I’m given to understand that they will continue to worsen as we move north, so wish us luck (and send DEET!).
The day after the 4th of July was my favorite day. We were just coming down a descent near Tilden Lake with Edwin in the lead when I saw him stop, motion for me to be quiet, and beckon me closer. He was pointing to a bear cub, frozen in fright about 50 feet away from us. My first thought was a panicked one … “Where’s Mama Bear?” I looked wildly around but couldn’t spot her. Knowing we were in a precarious position possibly between a mother and her cub but not able to resist the temptation, E got off a couple great shots of the cub while we pondered what to do. Make noise so it runs off? Back away and hope it runs off? Move slowly towards it on the trail, hoping not to spook it or Mama Bear? While we were pondering, we heard something descending the hill we just came down and the panic returned momentarily, but it was another thru-hiker we’d passed a short time before. He got to see the cub as well before we all moved forward together, slowly but noisily to warn of our coming. The bear bolted off, away from the trail and away from us. All the same, E and I postponed our break for “second breakfast” for another couple of miles.
We reached Echo Lake on Wednesday afternoon, picked up our package, hitched into South Lake Tahoe, and immediately began eating our way through the town. Feeling full, rested, and finally clean, we’ll be hitting the trail again this morning and heading towards Sierra City. I hope to be able to update from there early next week. Enjoy the weekend!