- Date: Friday June 5, 2015
- Miles hiked: 12.18 miles, about a mile on the PCT
- Miles covered: 908? to 909.0 PCT, plus 0 to 10.22 of the JMT Alternative. Those trails around Devil's Postpile are confusing
- Weather Report: Low 38, High 56 (when I was hiking). Thunder in the early afternoon, then clearing in late afternoon
- Wildlife seen: Chipmunks. Strangely there's little birdsong on the JMT alternative trail today
- Mood of the day: Content and happy
Well, I stayed up past midnight adding pictures to blog entries, which was fun but meant that I didn't get up early at all--I drowsed in the nice warm bed, and contemplated how the day would be shaped. Would I go across the street to the Base Camp Cafe for another omelette? Should I get on the trail early to avoid afternoon showers? I just didn't know, nor did I care that much. I'll get there when I get there.
It's two day's walk, around 37 miles, from Mammoth to Tuolumne Meadows campground, with a pass in the middle that's not difficult but should ideally be done as early as possible in the morning, and the last 10 miles are a wonderful near-flat downhill through Lyell Canyon; Chris and I hiked most of those miles last August.
What this meant is that I had no motivation for getting going, so I packed slowly, then around 11am checked out and caught the trolleybus to the big bus to the Mammoth main lodge area. I stuck out my thumb on the road down to Devil's Postpile, and the fifth car pulled over. I had waited a total of two minutes.
The driver of the car leaned out the window and said "What's down there? Is it interesting?" "Sure is!" I replied, and she said "Hop in!" I put my pack in the trunk, and got to know the driver, Whitney, and her passenger James. They were visiting from Boise and seeing family in Bishop, and were out to see what they could see driving around.
They both loved to camp, so they asked me all sorts of good questions: how heavy was my pack? What did I eat? How far do I walk in a day? When will I get to Canada? How many people have I seen on the trail? Real good chatting with them about the PCT, then I explained a little bit about the area since I've been here a few times. Once we went over the crest at Minaret vista, they were surprised at the change in scenery--"very dramatic and unexpected, and such big trees!" were the words used.
We stopped at the Devils Postpile parking lot, and then we all walked over the the big basalt columns, then around and up on top to where the glaciers had smoothed over the column tops, showing the hexagonal pattern. I bid them farewell, congratulated them on their upcoming August wedding, then followed the signs that pointed to PCT/JMT.
And it started sprinkling, grr, but stopped a minute later. I followed that connector trail to the real PCT, then diverted at the JMT alternative, which follows the John Muir Trail for 14 miles before rejoining the PCT. It's supposedly prettier, so I decided to take it; it's all of 1000 feet longer than the offical PCT.
Those sprinkles never came back, but the thunder started booming from a few miles north up the valley. If there's one thing I'm afraid of on the PCT, it isn't the bears or rattlesnakes, but lighting. The wind had picked up, the temperatures dipped to the low 40s, but I was feeling fine. The trail was uphill, so I just went slow. It gets dark around 8:30pm, so I have many hours.
The trail was indeed scenic, going by lake after lake after lake, each different. Some (Vivian Lake) were bright, some were gloomy, and some were downright creepy; around Shadow Lake I thoght someone was watching me constantly.
Around 6 the weather did turn better--the gray overcast had broken up, and the sky was mostly clear, allowing the setting sun to warm me up slightly. The air temperature was 47, which is a great temperature for hiking; you're just chilled enough you don't sweat but you don't get cold.
Around 8, I spotted a few campsites, so I took off my pack and looked around. They were all next to a creeklet, which wasn't too appealing (so much humidity might mean more condenstaion in the ten), but then I found one on a shelf above the trail, with the bonus feature of decent cell coverage. So I set up camp for the night.
Tomorrow is a long 24 mile hike; I want to get to Tuolumne around 3:30 so I can get more food at the general store, then I'll likely wander behind the store to the PCT/JMT walk-in part of the campground for the night and catch up with folks. The weather looks better too; so it should be a great but long day; I'm going to start around 5:30am and get going early so I get that hard snow on the pass, then it's all downhill from there!