John Muir Trail - Week 2, Part 1 (Days 8-9)
(Read about Days 4 - 7 HERE!)
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.
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.
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?!
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.