Location- Side of stream
Elevation- 9,941 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 19.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 846 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 30s-60s
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 9
Hunger/craving- anything but Ramen
Today was probably one of my proudest days so far. I woke up with one of my latest starts yet, after 8 am. From my position, I had over 12 miles to the top of Muir Pass, and around 4,400 feet of elevation to gain.
I hiked a mile to warm up, then stopped for breakfast; two raspberry pop tarts, and a hand full of yogurt covered almonds. I dug into the climb, and immediately felt great. Before hitting the snow around 7.5 miles up, I only took two short breaks. I felt zero effect from the altitude today, and as a result I crushed every mile in front of me.
I hit the steep snow packs, and never stopped. Although this climb was easily the most grueling yet, I enjoyed it the most. I enjoyed it because it didn’t hurt me. My body felt so strong, there was no way this climb could bring me down. It took me around two hours to hike the nearly 3 miles up to the pass, through the snow, without stopping once. My Spirits were through the clouds when I reached the Pass.
Erected on the top was an emergency stone shelter. It was there in case bad weather rolled in while you were up there, or in case you didn’t have the energy to get back down to cover on either side. With so much snow to trudge through, it could easily sap someone of all their energy, and leave them stranded at 12,000 feet, with no cover. Also, severe weather could easily form in the time that it takes most people to get clear of all the snow pack. It’s definitely a smart place to have an emergency shelter made of stone.
I spent 20 mins in the shelter, snacking, then hit the descent. Nearly 4 continuous miles of slushy snow. It didn’t matter, I felt fantastic. For the first time in one and a half thru hikes, I put ear buds in to listen to music as I hiked. I’ve always frowned upon listening to music while hiking, just because of the distraction, but today, surrounded by an expanse of blinding white snow, I decided to give it a try. “Hey Jude” by The Beatles began playing as I struck back out into the snow. I was so jazzed up, that once the chorus hit a few minutes into the song, a tingling feeling washed over my entire body as adrenaline flooded my veins. I broke into an awkward slogging jog, and felt one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever felt while hiking. I could almost see myself from high above, a dark speck moving quickly across the white ground, nothing behind or in front, just running through the nothingness; yes there were a ton of times that I fell, or sunk up to my knees or hips in snow, but nothing got me down. I firmly believe that if there was one song that could unite the world in peace, if only for a few minutes, it would be “Hey Jude;” the final chorus could be sung in any language, and is probably one of the most unifying pieces of music I’ve ever heard; in my own personal opinion.
When I finally hit solid trail again, a little below 11,000 feet, I was still breaking into a jog every now and then.
I kept on, and hit a nice Meadow around 8 or 9 miles down from the pass. It was only 6pm, and I’d managed to go 20 miles over the most grueling climb of the journey so far. I could have hiked another 2 hours and racked up some more miles (I still felt fantastic), but I decided to give myself the treat of a long downhill tomorrow morning, instead of starting with a long uphill, like I’ve been doing every single day since I got in the Sierras.
My feet don’t hurt anymore, and I believe my shoes are finally broken in. I have plans for a very big day tomorrow if everything feels as good as it did today. For the first time since hitting the Sierras, my goal seems very attainable. I’m about halfway to where I minimally need to be in order to get Katana back, and I believe I’ve put the worst of the Sierras behind me.
Interestingly, I think I’ve passed Schweppes. I’ve had no contact with anyone, so I have no clue where he is. Over the last two days, I’ve passed a ton of people that I was hiking around before I took Katana home; people who have had a week’s head start on me. Many of them have already been into towns multiple times since leaving Kennedy Meadows. I’ve been into town once, for an hour, before getting back to trail. My massive resupply, and longer days have permitted me to stay on trail and go further than most everyone else. I think I passed Schweppes while he was in a town. I have no way of knowing, but when I talked to familiar faces over the last couple days, they say they think he’s behind, based on the last time they saw him on trail, or in town. There’s no way to be certain, but I can’t slow down. If I can get a bit of a buffer between us, then I can take a few days off with Katana while he catches up.
I’m totally, completely sick of eating Ramen noodles. They’ve gotten me this far, but I have to force myself to eat them. I put hot sauce in them, tuna in them, airheads in them, but they’re still terrible. I eat them for lunch and dinner, and it’s the least enjoyable part of my day. At this point, I’m eating strategically to keep up my strength, and keep me alive, not because it tastes good, or because I’m hungry.