Tonight I tried to out walk the mosquitos, but I didn’t realise how long it takes to get dark after sunset, so after a 23.7 mile day I almost collapsed. There’s also an official heat wave until Tuesday which means the mozzies are up early and party on until late in the evening. I’m scared I’m going to have a mental breakdown because of them, and stupidly I didn’t buy extra deet in Tuolumne Meadows, big mistake!!! I may have to hitch into Bridgeport just to get more deet, lame!
This morning was one of my worst on the trail. I left camp at 6:30am and walked through mosquito infested meadows and forest for 3 hours. I was carrying an extra litre of water because Halfmile said there was none for 8 miles, but my pack started to hurt so badly that I emptied it out after about 5 miles. If I didn’t have my iPod I really don’t know how I would have made it through that section. I was not coping well.
I stopped twice for about 30 seconds to stretch and pee until I finally came across a spot on some sunny rocks where I could rest and have breakfast without the bugs. I was so relieved to find peace and have the opportunity to lie down. Maggie, a girl I had passed earlier, caught up to me and we both got comfortable and hung out there for a while until the sun got too hot to sit in.
Just as we were leaving, another hiker called Sexy Legs came by. I hadn’t met him before but soon discovered he started the trail on the same day as me, April 15. It’s amazing our paths haven’t crossed before as our schedule has been so similar. He had seen UB in Tuolumne Meadows a couple of days ago and was hiking with his friend whose family had just joined them. He was doing short miles to keep the same pace as them but was keen to break away to do bigger miles. I told him about my and UB’s situation and said these things happen, especially when you have different hiking paces.
I left Sexy Legs at a rather large river crossing where he watched how I was going to get across. I used some fancy foot work on two logs and a host of stones and got across quite eloquently. Literally two minutes down the trail there was another river crossing, which I didn’t handle with as much grace as the previous one.
With soaking wet feet I started to climb the first mountain of the day. I actually felt really good all the way up. Before the trail went down again it evened out through a meadow with a beautiful lake and sandy shore. I stared at the lake for about a minute contemplating a swim. I decided if my feet were going to be wet, I may as well cool off the rest of me. The water was super cold as it got deeper so I only had a quick dip and then dried up on the sand. I was going to have lunch there until I started getting attacked my moths and these tiny biting flies that you can’t shoo away. Why must beauty come with bugs?
I had lunch in a beautiful spot next to a large stream and dried out my shoes, insoles and socks. I treated myself to two tortillas with peanut butter and lots of water with electrolytes before continuing on. What I should have done was cross the stream BEFORE I dried out my shoes, because yes, I got both feet completely wet again. Grrr.
With wet feet AGAIN I started the climb up Benson Pass. On the way up I passed a ranger who said it’s the most challenging pass because of the mileage going up. Not exactly what I was hoping to hear. She was the one who also told me about the heat wave and that the mosquitos weren’t any better on the other side of the pass. The climb was long but not difficult, and there was a strong breeze on top which reduced the number of mozzies enough for me to make dinner up there. I don’t know if it was the food or the fact I walked immediately after eating, but my stomach was not happy on the way down the mountain. I ended up taking an emergency toilet break half way down, having to fan my backside with my pee rag to keep the mosquitos away. Horrible.
The day went downhill from here, literally and metaphorically. I bumped into Sexy Legs again who had set up camp and was dressed in his head net. I was determined not to rest until the mosquitos were gone. This saw me walking for another 2.5 hours, down some very steep switchbacks and through forest infested with the little pests. I thought I was going to lose it a few times but finally around 9pm it was dark enough for most of them to have gone and I was out of the forest on some flat rocky ground.