Today was a loooong day! I had the alarm set for 5am, ready to jump out of the bivvy, make breakfast and break camp well before the mosquitos woke up. Apparently their 7am wake up call must be a myth or someone set the alarm early, because there they were at 5am, buzzing outside my mesh window.
I did my best getting ready with my head net on and was all packed and ready to go when I realised my phone wasn’t in my pocket, and had to be stuffed away in my sleeping bag and bivvy sack. This meant tearing apart my entire pack and unravelling my whole sleep system to get it. Not happy. I had a pop tart on the go for breakfast and a few handfuls of trail mix.
In the first two miles of the trail I had about four tricky river crossings. With 45 pounds on your back your balance and ability to take large steps is very much reduced. I produced some pretty epic moves to get safely across the first three, then all my hard work came unstuck on the fourth when a branch I was walking across sank and my whole right foot got soaked. I was actually surprised I didn’t fall in completely, pack and all.
I ended up getting both feet drenched by the time I reached the other side and trudged on unhappily with wet feet. As the trail started to climb down some large rocky steps I couldn’t take the weight of my pack anymore and threw it on the ground. I emptied all of my water bar a 1/2 litre bottle, which I tried attaching to the front of my pack. The difference was remarkable! I felt so much lighter, and for at least 30 minutes felt like I was speeding down the trail.
As the grade became flat in the lower valley meadows, so did my energy levels. I realised I hadn’t eaten anything substantial since breakfast the day before, so as soon as I found a mosquito free spot, I stopped for coffee and second breakfast. It was a beautiful spot sitting on a group of large rocks with a little shady tree sticking out. I started thinking about how far I still have to go on the trail, and just after a couple I’ve leapfrogged with for a while went by and said hello, I suddenly got teary.
As you often do after a good cry, I felt a lot better. When I hit the trail again I was powering along. A few south bound JMT’ers even said I was motoring. I met one couple who were amazed at how decked out I was with my sheep skin straps, solar panel, knee braces and colourful gaiters (I found my missing one!), and asked if they could take a photo!
I had about 12 miles to reach Tuolumne Meadows and made it there around
1pm, just in time for lunch. I didn’t want to get sucked into buying too much at the store so I made a list of what I needed before I went in: more deet (which was given to me by Handstand the hiker as he was ending his hike there), a Gatorade bottle and a new pair of socks as all of my Dry Max are wearing out and I was starting to get hot spots on the padding of my feet. I also bought a hamburger and fries (why not eh?).
I ran into Apache and Burrito Grande who were just heading back out to the trail. Everyone I run into either asks where UB is, or says they saw him a couple of days earlier. I’m still getting used to him not being around. I felt a little lost in Tuolumne amongst the fever of hikers so I hit the trail again as soon as I was done eating. I was soooo sluggish heading back out, plus my pack felt about 5 pounds heavier.
A thunder storm was looming just to the right of the trail for the first hour. It was blue sky on the left, and huge grey storm clouds to the right (the photo is taken looking back in the opposite direction). I could hear and feel the thunder it was so close, but luckily the trail led me safely away back into the blue skies. At around 4pm after having my entire body abused by mosquitos when I went to the bathroom, I found a flat windy area with no mozzies, and was so exhausted I pulled out my sleeping mat and fell asleep right next to the trail.
About an hour later a girl I met earlier called Rafiki and the two Swiss boys (clothed this time), came along. We all sat down and chatted for about half an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever done that on the trail. We were all headed to the same campsite at Glen Aulin at mile 948, and had under 3 miles to get there so we just took our time. Sadly the mosquitos were/are horrendous here! I experienced the challenge of cooking and eating in my head net which I can barely see out of in the daylight, and even worse as it got dark. The Swiss boys had gone all out in their resupply and offered us chips and mango! Such a delicacy!
I’m zipped up in my bivvy deciding if I should get up early tomorrow and try to escape the mosquitos as quickly as possible. The boys went for a swim tonight which was tempting, especially tomorrow morning, but we’ll see how bad the swarms of mosquitos are. I also just realised I made a bad choice of location to set up camp as I’m getting wafting smells from the drop toilets 50 feet away, and considering how bad it smells inside this bivvy, that’s saying a lot!