Location- Side of river
Elevation- 8,983 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 26.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 872.1 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 30s-70s
Injuries- mosquito bites
Pain level- itchy
Spirits/Morale- very high
Days without shower- 10
Hunger/craving- anything not in my pack
I got a later start again, a little after 7 am, but I knew I could make up any time on the 11 mile downhill.
Since getting into the meat of the Sierras, there are literally countless river, stream, and creek crossings. Some you’re able to rock hop, many you have to wade across. The question is always…to take off the shoes and keep them dry… or leave them on and just roll through it? The Appalachian Trail got me very used to wet shoes, so once I determine there is no way to cross without getting wet, I just go for it. The trail runners dry in an hour anyways, provided you don’t dunk them in anymore streams. For the first few crossings, I took my shoes off, but once I realized how frequent they were, I stopped caring.
I had over 12 miles by noon, and decided to stop for a quick lunch and bathroom break. I made my way down into a pine grove and dug a cat hole with my foot. No sooner did business start, I realized that I was in a swarm of mosquitoes. Within 30 seconds of squatting down, I had more than 50 of them all over my legs, butt, arm, face, everywhere! It was absolute madness! I started trying to shake my body in an attempt to get them off, but to no avail. I became frantic, and as a consequence, this became the most rushed wilderness poop of my entire life. I wasn’t even totally finished before I was ripping off toilet paper and trying to be done with this location for good. I was shaking, stomping, and swatting, and before I knew it, I’d used the rest of my toilet paper, and further maintenance was still required. Nothing I could do right now, so I pulled up my pants, grabbed my stuff, and began running back up to the trail. I dropped everything again, then decided to go up the hill instead of down it. I ended up in a nice grove of bushes, with nearly no mosquitoes. I found some friendly looking leaves, and finished the job before continuing the hike.
I ran out of pop tarts yesterday, and my yogurt covered almonds today. I officially have no more “real” snack foods.
I began the 8 mile climb up Selden Pass, and the first 2,000 feet of elevation were steep switchbacks. The final thousand feet were drawn out, going around lakes, and through snow packs, before one final steep push of 500 feet or so through more snow packs, and rocky switchbacks up to the pass. It was easily the most unchallenging pass so far, but far from easy.
As I was going around one of the lakes, I caught up to an old man who stepped to the side and remarked “I’ll let you go by, you’re fast.” I said “I’m not fast, I just hike steady. Is the altitude getting to you?” The man replied with a chuckle, “No, I’m just old.” So I responded jokingly, “That’s no excuse, hiking keeps you young!” To which he said “I don’t think it’s working!” My final reply, which popped into my head was “Hiking keeps your soul young, but ages your joints, maybe that’s the problem!” The man just laughed as I continued on ahead.
I had one scary mishap while going over Selden. There was a lot of water running off the higher elevations, creating strong flows of water where there usually weren’t any. You cross a lot of what is called “ice bridges” out here. They’re nothing more than snow packs that have running water beneath them. Sometimes you can clearly see that a stream is running beneath one, sometimes you can’t.
As I was crossing a larger snow pack, a large chunk of snow and ice collapsed beneath me. I fell suddenly, catching my chest and arms on the snow pack that was still in tact, while my legs plunged into an icy stream, up to my thighs. I couldn’t touch the bottom, but I quickly scrambled back onto the snow pack as adrenaline kicked in. I was most thankful that I didn’t lose a shoe. I shrugged it off and finished the pass.
About a mile down the other side, I ran into two other young, male hikers, around my age. One was from France, and his name was “Sponsor,” because he worked for the outfitter “Patagonia,” and sported a lot of their gear. The other guy was named “Shaggy,” and he was a Doctor of internal medicine from Australia; at the age of 27, even though he looked to be more in his late teens.
Neither of the three of us had ever met one another until this day, but we hiked together and talked about everything under the sun for the next 4 hours. We talked about the trail and its affect on us and other people, life, our homes, our interests, philosophy, books, movies, you name it. This is one of the most absolutely addicting aspects of trail life. Where else is an American, a Frenchman, and an Australian going to randomly meet for the first time in the middle of nowhere, walk together for hours, and have deeper, more meaningful, more enlightening conversation than you’d have with your best friend, family member, or therapist back home? There’s not many places, but the unifying, distraction-less wilderness is one of them.
The trail began to parallel a river, and before we knew it, hundreds upon hundreds of mosquitoes were attacking us. In all my life, I’ve never seen anything like it. Nothing on the Appalachian Trail even compared. For three miles, there was nothing you could do to get away from them. The landed everywhere, and you could feel them bouncing off your legs as you walked. I was going to go over 30 miles today, but the mosquitoes submitted me. We couldn’t handle it, so we all decided to camp at the same time. I’ve never set up my hammock so fast in my life.
While the AT had way more biting bugs overall, this short section had more than I’ve ever seen in my life. The little demons are stacking up on my bug net, looking at me, licking their filthy lips. I’ve never felt more like prey; like a caged animal awaiting slaughter.
I’m out of snack food, toilet paper, and battery charges for my cell phone. My plan is to get to a fancy campground called Vermilion Valley Resort, about 6 miles ahead, and 5 miles off trail, get some more food, charge up, see what else they have to offer, and get back to the grind.
I feel great, however bumpy and itchy…