Saturday, July 12, 2008

An Amazing Phrase

Spending time with Uncle Doug (seen here in this poor "photobooth" picture with his prized spoon collection) has taught me much about the laundromat trade.

More importantly, I have learned an incredible phrase that maybe you've heard before, but I had not.

That phrase is, "I've got to get my poop in a group."

Figure out what "getting your poop in a group" means, and I think you'll find this a delightful turn of phrase to start using around those in your life who are offended easily by the words you choose.

Thursday, July 10 - To Echo Lake

With Echo Lake being so close, everyone was up and out early, very excited to be heading into town. The boys had been talking about Chinese buffet in South Lake Tahoe for about 3 days now.

When real food is around the corner, sometimes the last few miles can seem to drag on forever. But we finally made it to Echo Lake, and were happy to consume sandwiches and sodas. There was a bit of a hiker hangout outside the store, and we enjoyed the company of many hikers who were coming and going, including Marshall the Dunedain. He's a section hiker and bought us food and drink while offering encouragement and showers. Uncle Doug came up to pick us up, and we headed to Placerville.

Dinner was at In N' Out. Get ready for this. Caterpillar: 2 Hamburgers w/ grilled onions and one order of fries. Landshark: A 3x3, animal style, fries, and then, still hungry, a double-double w/ grilled onions. Hungry again by 8 p.m. We have officially become beasts.

Wednesday, July 9 - Sagebrush Saddle to Infant Truckee River Camp

We awoke with the sun, having plans for another long day. And it was, 23+ miles. We repeated the day before. Long miles, long lunch with the dudes, hiking past sunset. Today did mark the most epic of mountain names – we walked past "The Nipple." As you can see, it was appropriately named. Good times.

At our dinner spot, 21 miles into the day, many of us were gathered around picnic tables (picnic tables!) at Carson Pass on Highway 88. I was about to throw away a pouch of chicken sent by my mom which said, "Best before Nov. 4, 2005," when another hiker (Spiff) convinced me that someone would eat it. And she was right. Bear, TenderFoot and TreeBeard enjoyed the chicken and lived to tell about it. Hikers will eat anything, except for us apparently.

The seven miles from our lunch spot to Carson Pass included a beast of a climb known as "Elephant's Back." While Bear, et al. ate the chicken of yesteryear, a truck pulls up with hikers. Who should pop out but Noll and MoonDog. Three hours before, they arrived to our lunch spot. While the rest of us began hiking, they continued lounging, napping, and dreaming of Chinese buffet. Just about the time we were finishing our climb of Elephant's Back, these guys were offered cold beers and a ride from our lunch spot (it was next to a lake with a dirt road). A good deal of light-hearted name-calling and jealous frustration was directed toward these guys, but they lived to tell about it.

Tuesday, July 8 - That creek to a saddle

Shortly after starting our day, we were surprised to run into a group of guys we had been hiking with before our Fresno break. This group of young bearded men are known as Noll, Bear (trail Bear, not house-building Bear), TenderFoot, and MoonDog. Over the course of the next few days, we will hike and camp with them a fair amount.

With a bit lower elevation, our days are hot, so we try to do as many miles in the morning as we can, and then take a long lunch break in the afternoon. We get about 14 miles to Ebbetts Pass (Hwy 4) by 1 p.m., and sit on the side of the road with the boys plus some. We enjoy watching cars pass, with people wondering if a new homeless camp has been set up on the side of the road.

After lunch, we were able to put in 8 more miles – making it a 22 mile day, which we were pretty proud of. We camped at a sagebrush-covered saddle with Bear, TenderFoot, Serpico, TreeBeard, and many others (sunset photo is from the saddle). It was a popular saddle. Serpico turns out to be a law school compatriot of Steve's childhood friend, Liz Basset. Remember, Justin Allamano, Liz?

Monday, July 7 - Sonora Pass to some creek somewhere

After a breakfast of French toast and bacon, courtesy of Bill, Bear took us back to the trail. We got started at about 10:30, but were still able to get about 17 miles in for the day.

In the first couple miles, we said goodbye to the quintuple digits – we will not go higher than 10,000 feet for the rest of the trail. We can now breathe a little easier :) Except for the smoke.

Sonora Pass to Echo Lake

I will just preface these entries by saying this section is beautiful. By gradually leaving the granite mountains behind, this terrain has become a little easier. There are still some pretty steep climbs, but the trail rarely has giant rocks that you have to climb up and down. Also, the wildflowers are in bloom right now, and they are absolutely breathtaking. At times it was like hiking through a wonderfully, sweet-smelling dream, except for the 30 pounds on my back :)

Sunday, July 6 - Bridgeport and Bodie

We were having such a nice time with the fellas, we decided to take a zero to spend more time with them. Plus, they had mentioned steak for dinner!

Bill, Bear, Tony, LandShark, and I piled into the truck and headed back over the pass and into Bridgeport for breakfast. From there, we went to the gold-mining ghost town of Bodie and were wowed at such a strange place.

A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to Bear for pushing us to get organized, and especially to Bill for towing his trailer out there, taking care of us, and being an avid reader of this website. May he be an example of service to the rest of you ;)

Saturday, July 5 - The Ridge to the Pass and Laziness

Meet Bill and Bear. Bear (real name Tom) is a lovable retired firefighter who goes to Mexico with us each year to build houses with the kids. When Bear heard we were doing this hike, he told us that his brother Bill comes up to this area a lot to fish, and they would be happy to meet up with us when we got to Sonora Pass. So we took them up on their lovely offer. And lucky we did – this is an incredibly hard place to hitch to and from.

With only 8 miles to hike, we were able to sleep in a bit and still make it out to Sonora Pass before noon. Unfortunately, I awoke that morning to find that my poncho was missing. This is a very nice and expensive poncho that Steve had purchased in case of rain. Of course it hasn't rained and so I haven't been able to use it even once. One of two things happened – either it fell out of my pack at some point during a stop the day before and I didn't notice it, or the mystery man who was camping next to us (we were already in our tent when he showed up) swiped it. Either way – it sucks.

Bill, Bear and their friend, Tony, picked us up at the Pass and took us back to their campsite down the road. On the way we stopped at a small store and picked up Its-Its – yum! The boys made us burgers with all the fixings for dinner, and we enjoyed many laughs, stories, political discussions, and s'mores around the campfire into the night. Tony's son Jeff and grandson Max also joined us and it was a delight to see a 13 year-old harass his grandfather as much as he did.

Friday, July 4 - Grace Meadow to Sonora Pass Ridge

Happy Birthday America! We salute you by leaving Yosemite National Park and crossing the 1,000 mile mark! (1,000 miles – holy cow!!)

Today's hike was a transitional space, with the mountains slowly turning from granitic to volcanic. We had quite a spectacular view back into Yosemite as we climbed out of Kennedy Creek toward the mountains before Sonora Pass.

As we got to the top of the mountain where we would start walking along the ridge, we met Nick, Tim and Jordan from San Francisco who were hiking for the weekend. Very friendly fellows who were kind enough to offer LandShark some Maker's Mark, and he was happy to take it. Landshark says, "Thank you – you boys are real trail angels." Good luck with the move Jordan, and with the gardening Tim.

We found a nice camp spot along the ridge at 10,100 feet. And the best part? No mosquitos!

Thursday, July 3 - Narsil to Anduril

This post is for Natalie Grant, wherever she is...

Arising to the biting mosquitoes of the dead marshes, we found our path nearly as steep as the way to Cirith Ungol. We ate at the highest pass, tired of peanut butter as if it were month-old lembas.

The solace of our meal was the gift of some Longbottom Leaf which Erik had brought to us in Fresno. For that moment, I enjoyed a rest like that enjoyed amongst the ruins of Isengard.

The rest of our journey that day took us through mosquito lairs as treacherous as Shelob's, til we met a wanderer named Marshall whose wisdom and travels suggest he was one of the Dunedain. Eventually, our day ended at the borders of a meadow as fair as Ithilien in all its glory. Nearly six leagues we walked in Middle-Yosemite ere evenfall and the Lady Caterpillar was tired.

As tired as you are of this ridiculous post.

Wednesday, July 2 - Virginia Canyon Creek to Benson Lake

Climb up a steep hill, rest for five minutes to catch your breath, and ruin your knees on the descent. Repeat three times over 17 miles.

Finally descend 3,000 feet to the birthplace of my understanding of "hell on earth," aka Benson Lake. Ah, Benson Lake... a tempting beach, a beautiful view, and more bloodsucking than Transylvania. We lived through this mosquito hell with not a few mental breakdowns.

Protecting Jane from bites at times required a level of intimacy most married couples are never required to experience. Alas, that's all I'll share!

Benson Lake is probably the first place since that incredibly windy day near Mojave (450 miles ago) where both of us said aloud, "why are we doing this?"

But the sun rose the next day, we lived, and we hiked the next day, too.

Tuesday, July 1- Tuolumne to Virginia Canyon Creek

So when we told you on Monday that we were going to hitch out – we lied. We decided to stay another night in the Valley and take the 8 a.m. bus to Tuolumne on Tuesday morning. We were meeting friends at the next stop on Saturday, and we knew we would be able to make it in time, so why not enjoy another night of real food? And that's what we did!

Our bus ride was quite enjoyable. It was a tour as well as a bus ride, and we learned lots of interesting things about Yosemite, including bear stories, which were our favorite. One time there was a bear they called "Camaro" – he broke into a Camaro at the beginning of the summer and found so much food that he proceeded to break into 27 more Camaros the rest of the summer – he associated the shape of the car with food. They are smart! And that's why we have to carry bear canisters :)

After 5 days off the trail, it was hard to get started again. It's amazing how quickly you can get out of shape. Since we didn't get started until after 11 a.m., we hiked about 15 miles before camping. We were joined by Overdose, whom we had met in the Valley with Esoteric Ninja. Overdose got his name by taking 10 Aleve pills when his knees started hurting him. He's a funny guy.

Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass

Hello friends!  It has been a while.  About 150 miles, in fact. We didn't have reception at our last stop, so following is a re-cap of our adventures from the past week and a half. We are currently in Placerville, enjoying the hospitality and company of Uncle Doug, as well as Andy, Megan, my parents, and Erin, who all arrived yesterday. With this break comes the use of a computer and real pictures from the camera. Exciting stuff!

I was going to do two big long posts, but in an effort to make Erin interested in actually reading them, we are going to break them up. And just for fun, here's a picture of Half Dome from our time in the Valley.