June 18, 2018
3.5 from Horseshoe Lake to the PCT, then mile 903.3-909.0
I struggled to get up the next morning. I was anxious to get back on trail, but more because I could feel the time slipping away than because I was excited to actually start hiking again. I was determined to finish sometime in September, and I certainly didn’t want to still be hiking in October. I was starting to get excited about what would come AFTER the trail, mainly the thought of being back home with my dog. I was missing Zoe so much it physically pained me. I only get so many years with her. I don’t want to waste any more of them.
I’d been blundering around trying to find a career that suited me for years, with no success and many detours. Meanwhile, Zoe had been living on my parents’ farm where she was born and where she had lots of canine companions to keep her company. But I was tired of only getting to be with her if I stayed with my parents for a while. I wanted to have a place I could call my own home where she could be with me all the time.
I didn’t spend a lot of time reading in the kitchen that morning. Instead, I had my coffee and a good breakfast, got dressed, and headed to the hospital. The previous evening I’d exchanged Facebook details with Couch Potato so I could send him a copy of the photo we’d had taken of him, Shadow, and I. While I was at the hospital he sent me a message asking how everything was going. Slowly, I said.
“If all goes well, what time do you think you’ll hike out?” He asked.
“I wish I knew! After this I’m off to the Post Office, then hopefully gonna catch a trolly to the trailhead, you?”
“Still trying to mentally prep to start hiking again, haha!”
When it looked like the hospital was going to take longer than expected, I asked Couch Potato to please let Eric know my situation and that I’d be there to clean my stuff out of the room asap since I’d be leaving that day regardless. When I finally made it back to the hostel, my two hiker friends were watching the World Cup in the livingroom. Apparently, we were all rooting for Portugal. I don’t remember why.
Couch Potato said we could probably catch the 1:00pm trolley without a problem, although “We could just take another zero…” he said, smiling. We?
I laughed. “Hey, you can take another zero if you want! I gotta make some miles.”
In the end, the three of us walked down to the bus stop together. Shadow was heading back to Bishop for his doctor’s appointment. We bid him farewell at the Village and Couch Potato and I jumped on the trolley headed for the Horseshoe Lakes Trailhead with a couple of other hikers.
When we reached the trailhead, Couch Potato waited for me while I used the restroom, then we started up the trail together and stuck together all day. Neither of us had said, “Hey, let’s hike together!” but there we were. I have to admit it was nice to not head back into the mountains completely alone. I don’t know if we’ll stick together or not but for now it’s nice to have someone to talk to. Once we got to the PCT turn-off, we barely saw anyone else all day.
I was excited to be back on trail and making progress again. I knew I needed to calm down or I’d end up pushing for big miles and missing the point of being out here: to enjoy it. I hadn’t even completed the Sierra section and I was already anxious to get to the finish.
Couch Potato and I chatted a lot while we hiked. He told me about living in Toronto, about his sister, about working as a photographer and sometimes as an Uber Eats cyclist, and about his passion for rock climbing. I’d been hiking with Sparky and Ghosthiker for so long that it was completely novel to be hiking with someone new, with new stories to tell and a new perspective on everything.
When I’d hiked into Mammoth Lakes a week ago, Red’s Meadow hadn’t been opened for the season yet. By the time Couch Potato and I got there early that afternoon it had just opened the previous day, so we decided to make a little detour and grab some lunch at the little diner there. The lady working there asked if were out for a day hike. Our shock must have been evident because she then asked if we were JMT hikers, to which we both adamantly replied no, we were PCT thru-hikers, of course! She looked justifiably surprised. Couch Potato thought this was hilarious. Apparently, we both looked way too clean and rested. When we left, I wanted to continue along the Red’s Meadow side trail and pick up the PCT at the north end, but Couch Potato didn’t want to skip the .3 miles of PCT, so he went back the way we’d come.
“Wait for me!” He said, and hurried off.
I was at the PCT in no time and did indeed wait for him, silly as it felt. We hadn’t gone far before I let him take the lead and then quickly get well ahead of me. I needed to send a little snot rocket into the brush and I didn’t want him to see because that’s gross. I’d just wiped my nose and had taken several good, long strides when my shoe caught on something and I was thrown completely off balance. Down I went, trekking poles and all. I hit the ground hard, taking the brunt of the fall on my left leg (Fantastic! Now I’d have scars to match my right leg!) and even smacked my head against the gravel as my hat went flying off my head. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I pulled myself off the ground. My leg was already covered in blood from so many deep cuts filled with dirt and rocks, my head was throbbing, and I’d scratched up my hands pretty good. I looked back to see what massive object had been waiting to sabotage my progress.
“Are you fucking kidding me!?”
Sticking up out of the hard-packed ground I saw the tiniest little root, no bigger than two inches tall. It had managed to snag my shoe completely and seemed to be mocking me now as I looked at it in utter shock. I didn’t fall off any mountains, but this damn little root had managed to take me down in an instant. It was childish, but I couldn’t help flipping it off as I gathered myself together to stand. Things had flown from my side pockets. I used water from my bottle to clean the blood off my leg and tried to apply bandaids where I could, but the wounds were too long for most standard bandaids. I decided I’d just let the blood congeal and call it good. There was little else I could do.
I brushed the dirt off my hat, but when I put it on my head I felt a terrible sting and there was blood on my hat. Perfect. By the time I caught up to my new hiking friend he was sitting by a stream taking a break, and his eyes widened a little when he saw me. By that point, I was already laughing it off. At least there’d been no witnesses to my humiliation. I seem to keep getting lucky like that. Couch Potato inspected my forehead and asked if I wanted to sit down for a bit, but I said no, I was okay. We mushed on.
Soon we were hiking along the side of a mountain, slowly making our way higher, and were eventually rewarded with some fantastic views in all directions, which is quite honestly pretty common in the Sierra. We saw lots of weekend hikers and JMTers. It felt good to be back on the trail again.
We’d gotten a pretty late start in the day, and we’d planned to hike longer and further, but the mosquitoes came out in force and made it so that we were ready to quit early. We threw down our stuff at the first good campsite we found, assembled our tents in record time, and climbed in. We did, however, take a little detour to see the Devil’s Postpile, which was pretty awesome. It was about 7:00pm by the time we set up camp, kind of late, but we’d only have to hike about 18 miles to make it to the base of Donahue Pass tomorrow and go over it early the next morning and make it to Tuolomne Meadows by that afternoon, so as far as I was concerned we were doing just fine.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Couch Potato. I think he’d prefer to hike a little slower but he lets me lead. I like to hike out very early in the morning but am happy to wait an hour or so to make it easier for him. I like to take fewer breaks and make more miles, but I found I can easily take breaks more frequently (which he prefers) since that’s probably something I should have been doing the whole time. We seem to be enjoying one anothers’ company well enough and have no end of things to talk about. He has kind of a dopey, charming way about him and I could tell I was beginning to like him a little too much, but that was okay. I suspected that if he decided to keep hiking with me after I rejoined Sparky and Ghosthiker, he and Sparky would probably have some great conversations. Nerds:-)