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John Muir Trail - Week 2, Part 1 (Days 8-9)

(Read about Days 4 - 7 HERE!)

Day 8 - Tuesday August 27, 2019

It felt so good to sleep in a real bed. The previous day's hike over Kearsarge Pass was a rough one even though I got an early start and made it to Onion Valley by mid afternoon. After a full week in the backcountry my body was ready for a break and a nice cushy bed. I was eager to sleep in but by 7:00am I was awake. I made coffee in my room and stared at the explosion of gear surrounding me.

Somehow the contents of my pack, my resupply box, and freshly laundered clothes had taken over the space. I tried to put together a list of the things I needed to do while here in town. I needed to somehow fix my still broken trekking pole, get more bandaids, etc for my blisters, get some toe sock liners to help with my blisters, and make sure I had everything else I'd need for another week in the backcountry.
I also needed to make sure I actually rested during this zero day. It's easy to pack your day in town with chores but my body still felt sore and stiff and I needed to take it easy. I was still unsure I'd be able to get back on trail the next day.

My friends at the Inn Lee, Meghan, and Reid took the shuttle back down to Lone Pine where Lee's Jeep was parked (where my car was parked as well, and later we'd find out we were parked right next to each other!) and were going to run up to Bishop for some errands. I thought about going to knock out my to-dos but I didn't want to spend half the day in a car drive up and down Hwy 395. I took a gamble and decided I'd stay here, try to fix my pole with some epoxy rather than seeing if Eastern Sierra Sports in Bishop possibly had the spare part that I needed. Luckily the gamble paid off and Jim the owner of the Independence Inn had some epoxy and I got my pole put back together.

I cleaned my gear as best I could, laid out my sleeping bag in the sun for a while, finished my laundry, and went through my resupply box to figure out what I'd want to eat the next week. When I got off trail the day before I still had a good amount of food in my bear can so I was trying to carry the food I knew I would eat for this stretch while also counting on the fact that my hiker hunger would probably kick in and I would want to eat absolutely everything.

And then there were my blisters that now had fresh blisters forming under my initial blisters. Meghan showed me the needle trick she had learned the night before at camp from a PCT hiker named Juicy J. You take needle and thread, poke through the bottom of your blister up through the top, pulling the thread through but you leave the long thread at each end of your blister, don't pull it all the way through. You then take each end of the thread and tie and knot forming a loop of thread half of which is still in your blister. This helps wick moisture out so that it can stay dry and have a chance to heal. This was life changing! We joked that we felt like seamstresses or surgeons working on our feet. It sounds weird but it honestly did the trick! This plus soaking my feet in Epsom salt had my feet feeling so much better.


 

Lee, Meghan, and Reid made it back to Independence from Bishop around 3pm and I joined them on the return trip to Lone Pine so that I could get toe sock liners from Elevation Outfitters. It was a quick 15 minute drive to Lone Pine, 15 minute stop in the store, 15 minutes wait for the shuttle, and another 15 minute ride back to Independence. One hour round trip and I got everything I needed. Everything was working out perfectly. With my new wool Injinji toe sock liners I was hoping this would be what I needed to handle my blister issues. They definitely helped but I would deal with blisters the rest of the hike.


It was a good and restful day. Honestly the entire time I was in Independence I felt like I was in a movie. From Jim the owner of the Inn who was a complete character, to the way other hikers pitched in and offered help or food or rides to help make sure we all had everything we needed. It was touching to see how we all tried to help each other. My little nostalgic heart was soaking up every little interaction. At the time I had no idea that these hikers who were basically strangers would soon become my beloved trail family and we'd be together until the last day.

Although I was apprehensive about getting back on trail the next day (going back over Kearsarge still made me want to cry) I felt better doing so with this new group of friends. 30 hours in Independence felt like forever and part of me wanted another day there but I knew I needed to get back to the trail.

Day 9 - Wednesday August 28, 2019

We decided we'd get an early start up Kearsarge which meant at 4:30am all of us, Lee, Meghan, Reid, Brian, Diane, and myself were loaded up in Jim's truck with our newly filled packs. Jim had made us coffee cake that morning to help with our early start. I was dreading the hike up. I knew it would be another hard day and I knew I'd be slow. We made it to the trailhead before the sun had come up over the White Mountains. We unloaded, said goodbye to Jim, and didn't waste any time to get up the pass before it got too hot.

 Immediately I became the caboose. My friends were zipping up the switchbacks so fast I started to feel sad knowing that they'd soon be so far ahead of me I probably wouldn't see them again. I knew this would happen. I tried to stay positive while following behind but soon I couldn't see Lee, Meghan, or Reid. I was leap frogging with Brian and Diane so at least I still had some company.



I don't know if it was the day of rest or Jim's coffee cake but somehow the hike up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. And it was shorter than I thought. I still struggled but I got to the top of Kearsarge Pass in 5 hours! It took me 3 1/2 hours to hike down the other day, how did I manage to do 3,000 ft of gain over 4.4 miles in 5 hours?!

I was feeling better. Today was going to be a two pass day to get all of us to Rae Lakes. That morning we figured we'd get split up while hiking since we all had different paces but we'd plan to meet back up again at the campgrounds by Rae Lakes. This was a comforting thought but I was also scared that I wouldn't be able to make it and they'd continue on without me the next day. Somehow though we all met up again where the Kearsarge Pass Trail meets back up with the John Muir Trail. Lee, Meghan, and Reid were just finishing a break when I was looking for one so on they went while I waited for Brian and Diane behind me. We all thought that Glen Pass, our second pass of the day, would be simple enough, kind of short and sweet but it was anything but short and sweet. I was already tired from Kearsarge and what I thought would be a quick, easy pass kicked my ass. It took me 3 hours to go 2 miles and the last 1/2 mile lasted forever.

Once again I was so tired and frustrated. I cried at the top of Glen Pass. I was so over hiking, and now the sun was setting and it was getting colder and I was hungry but had to keep hiking and oh yeah going down the pass is harder than going up it and why was I doing this?! The first part of the day was great but now I was flat out not having a good time. It was bad. I was ready to just be done. Done with this whole hike. It was so much harder than I thought and I'd felt incompetent too many times. And I was so sick of the rocky, bullshit trails. I half joking/half seriously wrote in my journal, "Why do the Sierras have so many rocks?!" It was a flat out bad day. I told myself if I have 3 bad days in a row, I'm done, I can bail.
 

 

I just felt like I was struggling so much more than everyone else. Other people would complain about heavy packs or blisters or their slow pace but then they also zipped up passes and didn't look like they were suffering. Other people can do this, why can't I? I was determined to get to the campsite we agreed upon. I left Brian and Diane at the top of Glen Pass where they were going to have dinner, they were also struggling. I hadn't seen Lee or Meghan or Reid for hours. And the mileage I was counting on, counting down 1.9 miles from the top of the pass to Rae Lakes only meant the edge of Rae Lakes, not the additional mile I had to hike to get to the campsite. At 7pm, 13 hours and 10.5 miles later, I finally, finally stumbled into camp desperately looking for an empty spot where I could set up camp before the sun went down. I didn't see anyone from my group. Did I have the wrong site? Did they keep going? Finally I heard, "you made it!" and saw Reid. I'd made it! And I was completely exhausted. And somehow I was the only one that had made it. Reid hadn't seen Lee or Meghan, and Brian and Diane were still behind me. Our little group had dispersed. Reid and I exchanged some of the day's stories and I finally hobbled over to my site, quickly made ramen for dinner to get some sustenance in me and went straight to bed. Welcome back to the JMT!
(Read about Days 10 - 12 HERE!)

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