June 12, 2018
882.2 to Horseshoe Lakes Trailhead at 903.3, then 3.5 miles to Horseshoe Lake
We went over Silver Pass today with very little trouble. Other hikers said they planned to hike all the way to Horseshoe Lake Trailhead to catch the last shuttle to Mammoth Lakes, which would leave the trailhead parking area at 6:00pm. Hearing this, I was envious of them. That would mean hiking over 20 miles in a single day through the Sierra, something our group hadn’t even come close to. Everyone had told us lower-mile days in the Sierra were the norm, so that’s what we’d planned for.
Besides, Sparky was still having trouble with his knees, Ghosthiker was still feeling quite ill from whatever expired food item she’d eaten at VVR and from bonking her head yesterday, and I had my own health issues to contend with. I resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn’t reach Mammoth Lakes until tomorrow. I thought perhaps if I pushed, I could have made it, but I wasn’t going to leave my trail family behind. Once we were down off the pass quite a ways, Sparky and I stopped to wait for Ghosthiker who was taking things a little slower. When she caught up to us, she said she was really dragging today although she felt much better than yesterday, and she thought I ought to push ahead and make it to the trailhead to catch the trolley. I was surprised. I was pretty sure I hadn’t said anything about doing that out loud, but here she was recommending it.
“You’re stronger now,” she said, “I know you can make it. You need to get to a doctor.” I hesitated, but Ghosthiker insisted I try for it. So I did. I told them I’d see them in town, almost apologetically, and started up the trail. As soon as I started moving, I switched into high gear. A higher gear than I’d hiked in before, but now it was serious. I had a deadline.
Almost as soon as I left my trail family I came to a set of steep, close switchbacks. I passed a younger-looking hiker and powered up those switchbacks like they weren’t even there. Not that I didn’t feel them, I just didn’t let my mind acknowledge them. I had a long way to go and God only knew how many more switchbacks. I could bitch about the next ones.
I quickly did the math in my head. It was about 18 miles to Horseshoe Lakes Trailhead and I’d need to get there before 6:00pm to catch the trolley. That meant I’d have to average 2.5 mph regardless of the terrain. I could do it. I knew I could.
It was brutal. My tailbone ached and there was a deep pain in my abdomen, not to mention the chaffing that started a couple of miles in. I went back and forth between feeling like a machine and feeling like I was going to die. I didn’t take any breaks. I sat once to put my shoes back on after an easy river crossing and once to change my socks, but that’s it. I hiked for 7 hrs without stopping, and that was after we got over Silver Pass and hiked down the other side a few miles. I remember seeing some of the most beautiful mountain views along the way, and the river I had to cross was shallow and clear and I wanted to stop and take a swim, but there was no time.
When I was still about 10 miles out, I passed a SOBO who told me the last trolley to Mammoth Lakes actually leaves the trailhead at 5:30pm, giving me ½ hour less to get there. I thanked him for this information and I pushed on. The day was a series of climbs and descents, some steep and some gradual, but all challenging as I pushed my body to its limit.
Needless to say, by the time I got to the Trailhead I thought I was gonna pass out. It was hot, dry, and I hadn’t eaten nearly enough all day. Mostly energy chews and Gatorade. I had burning chafe in lots of fun places, new blisters on my feet and hands, and my stomach ached with what I soon discovered was complete emptiness. There was no growling, just a deep, hollow feeling that took days to fill. When I got to the parking lot and finally stopped moving, the world spun a little. I escaped into the nearby pit toilet and was a little shocked by my own reflection in the mirror (which is also odd because most pit toilets don’t have mirrors). Then I went back outside and took a seat in a large rock, careful not to lean back on my tailbone. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to move again when the trolley arrived.
It pulled up right where I was sitting and about a dozen hikers disembarked. Once the trolley was empty, I slowly and carefully pulled myself up, shouldered my pack, and climbed aboard. The bus driver looked concerned.
“You alright, honey?”
“I am now!” I said with a smile.
She laughed. “Well, we won’t be leaving quite yet, but take a seat and rest a while.”
The ride down the mountain was wonderful. It felt odd to be moving at such a fast pace even though I know it was probably moving slower than an average city bus. It was an open-air trolley and the wind felt wonderful on my face and body, still damp with sweat.
I took the trolley to the Davison Street Guest House, a lovely, eccentric hostel just west of town. Eric, the hostel manager, was a super-nice guy. He showed me where everything was, including the room I’d be staying in, but then he came back shortly thereafter to try and reconfigure the rooming situation because there’d been some booking confusion. A hiker had arrived, claimed a bunk, and gone to take a shower without actually reserving the space with Eric, and he’d already reserved all the beds in that room for the night.
At the time the only people physically in the room were myself and a young hiker couple, Squeeze and Jam, who I’d met on trail already. Squeeze said that since he and Jam were married, and if Eric was okay with charging the same rate, the three of us would take the room on the second floor that had a king-size bed and a full-size bed, sort of like a family room. Then he looked at me and said, “Would you be cool with that, Trooper?”
“Sure!” I said. Honestly, I’d have agreed to sleep on the floor in the common room at that point. When I saw the big, cozy bed I was gonna get all to myself, I wanted to just crawl right into it and go to sleep. But first things first.
I showered (so glorious – clean hair at last!) and then I just stared at myself in the huge mirror for a bit. I still had fat on me, but on the inside, I felt like I was wasting away. And I looked so tired. I applied bag balm to the raging chafe I now had from such epic hiking, put on my last clean pair of underwear that I always saved for town days, my stinky sports bra, my relatively clean sleep shirt, the softest fleece pajama pants I’ve ever worn (found in a box of loaner clothes), put all my things on my rented bed, then just sat there on the bed feeling dazed.
I sent a quick text to my mom to let her know I was safely in town. She called me right away and we chatted for a while. I told her about my epic day and that I’d head over to the hospital tomorrow morning. As sick as I felt, I couldn’t fathom trying to organize a ride into town this late in the evening and then possibly spend a night in a hospital (not necessarily sleeping, but waiting for test results and stuff). Eric had said there was excellent public transit in Mammoth Lakes and that I’d have no trouble getting there in the morning.
“Have you eaten?” Mom asked.
“Not yet. I’m too tired.”
“Well, why don’t you go eat something and then get some sleep. You sound beat.”
We signed off and I sat there on the bed for I don’t know how long. I knew I needed to eat, but even my brain was too tired to think about food. What would I eat? My bear can was mostly empty. Eventually, I did a quick search and found a local Dominos Pizza that would deliver. Perfect. Give some money, get some food, no energy required.
The Davison Street Guesthouse is an interesting building with lots of smaller and larger rooms, an A-frame style house with at least two little deck areas, and the entire first floor seemed to be Eric’s private residence. The second and third floors were for guests. I decided to wait outside for my pizza to be delivered, but when I got to the first set of stairs I was shocked to find that my knees and hips did not want to work properly. I had to grip both railings and take the steps one at a time. It was a long way down to the front entrance, but I eventually made it and sat down outside to wait. Once the pizza arrived, I had to climb back up those stairs to the kitchen on the third floor.
There were hikers everywhere, none of whom I knew except Squeeze and Jam. I sat in the hostel kitchen with my pizza, but all I could do was look at the box for a few moments. Chewing seemed like an awful lot of work. When I’d first arrived, Eric had been very attentive to my needs and seemed rather concerned by my appearance. Or maybe that’s just how it felt to me. Other hikers seemed concerned as well. I felt like people were watching me.
“You OK?” Asked Spice Rack, a hiker I’d met earlier.
“Yeah,” I said, “I was just thinking about going to bed.”
“You should definitely eat first.” He said. “How many miles you do today?”
“Dude, I don’t even know. Like, 25, I think.” I didn’t know anymore. I did the math later. it was 24.6 total.
His eyebrows shot up. “Yeah, you should definitely eat.”
Another hiker who was busy making himself dinner in the kitchen was kind enough to share a bit of his Knob Creek with me. I eventually opened the pizza box and ate half a medium pizza and all 8 boneless wings. I could have made myself eat more, but I was so tired my mouth didn’t want to work anymore. I wrote my name on the box with a sharpie, put it in the fridge, then headed to my rented room. Curled up in the bed, I felt hollow inside even after eating so much pizza. I slept really well that night. Like most women, losing weight is always in the back of my mind and always a sort of triumph whenever it’s accomplished. This was the first, and I’m sure will be the only time in my life where I was the skinniest I’d ever been and was actually rather concerned about it.