June 4, 2022
Campsite at mile 722.2 to Dutch Meadow at mile 743
I am not in a good mood. DLT and Catless pack up so fast and it takes me forever to even get out of my tent. Yesterday scared me. I do not want to be that hungry again. I hate rationing food. It’s throwing me back to the JMT and splitting meals in half. Please God, just let me be a little less hungry today.
We finish the hill we started last night, and so far, it’s a lot easier than it was while I was running on empty. To the left there are so many rocky granite snow-capped mountains. We are really out here! It is real! At the top of the hill we re-enter the forest. It is coniferous on top and rocky on the bottom and it looks exactly like Cottonwood Pass, where I started the JMT/Nüümü Poyo five years ago. I wish I’d studied my plants better. All I know is that these are not pines. Firs, maybe? Douglas firs? They are towering and their bark is swoopy and I love them. Through the trees we can see Olacha Peak, and then, to the left again, we spot Tumanguya, Mount Whitney. So close. I cannot believe that I’m here again.
It’s downhill for a few miles, and I walk with DLT, who is pretty quiet this morning. I think this stretch is going to be rough for him on the food front too. He’s like a human garbage can, and he usually burns through his food quickly even on short carries. We start to chat a bit as the downhill increases, though, and soon we see the Belgians and Rolls and Royce pulled over, having a snack. We join them. I decide (unwisely) to finish my jar of peanut butter that I got half-full from a hiker box and then add in an expired packet of Cola-Cao (similar to Ovaltine) that I got the last time I was in Spain. It’s terrible. It tastes like bear can and peanut butter burps. I regret everything.
A few miles later, we take another break at Death Canyon creek, which is not really flowing but which has some water at least. I boil a bit and add in Breakfast Essentials to my awful peanut butter-Cola-Cao concoction. It still tastes bad, but it’s less bad and now it has more calories and protein, so hallelujah. Catless goes ahead, then DLT, but I take my time stretching and swallow another ibuprofen. I didn’t stretch last night, and I’m tight today. I’m going to be ready for this climb coming up.
I actually feel pretty good as I start moving up the hill. The higher I get, the more I can see: Olacha peak behind us, and the rocky hill ahead. Up, up, up. For the first bit, I’m okay without music. Then I listen to “Long Lost” by Lord Huron, which has been stuck in my head for days (“Send me to the mountains / Let me go free forever…”), followed by the album An Awesome Wave by Alt-J, which is synonymous with hiking for me. I’m in the middle of “Matilda” when I pass next to a rock and see DLT and Catless pulled over for lunch. It’s earlier than we were planning on stopping, but they’ve found an amazing view out towards the true Sierras, including Whitney. I plop down, boil water, and make a stroganoff Knorr side. We’re trying a new strategy: cook the big meal in the middle of the day and eat something lighter for dinner. Hopefully this helps me avoid crashing like I did yesterday.
I pack up slower than the other two again, stretch, and keep moving. It’s always slow at first, but then I get into the groove. It’s not too far up, then it drops down to a view of the Owens Valley. I pass Catless chilling there. He tries to say that James, i.e., DLT, had service when he was at this spot a bit ago, but it comes out like this: “Jim… Jim… JUMBO said he had signal here.” Thus, James’s new trail name is born. Henceforth, he shall be Jumbo. It’s so much less clunky than Daddy Long Toes, and he seems to like it. There we go.
I take a sip of water and then head up the last major stretch of uphill for the day. It’s steep and my joints are whining, but I’ve got the Grateful Dead playing now and I’m really jamming.
Is it ibuprofen or the Dead that is propelling me up this mountain right now? It’s been a while since I listened to Cornell ‘77 and wow, how amazing is “Fire on the Mountain”? I can’t listen to this music without thinking of Wiggs and the forests of Ohio and mushrooms in the spring. I’m brimming with gratitude as I hyperventilate my way north. This hill is about to crest and this Liquid IV lemon ginger tastes weirdly good. I feel so much better than yesterday. Fire, fire on the mountain… Send it, Jerry. Life is so beautiful and strange.
At the top I stop for another break and view with DLT (oops, I mean Jumbo), Christopher, and Catless, but we realize how late it is and decide to keep moving. It’s mostly downhill now. I walk with Jumbo for a bit until he pulls over, then I’m in my own little cruisey music world until it’s cathole time. This forest is so lovely and I feel pretty good, if a little tired. I finish the downhill and stop when I see Jumbo on a log eating a small dinner. I join him and eat mine: a tuna packet, olive oil, and some homemade dehydrated banana chips. I’m obviously still hungry, but I’ve done a lot better today.
Catless comes to join us soon. He’s not feeling great today; his foot is hurting. “I’m channeling Passport last night,” he says, describing his lethargic and over-it mood. Very fair. But the hill that follows really is not as bad as the one yesterday. We walk 1.4 miles in the afternoon sun and stop at the top of the hill when we see the Belgians and Company camped at Dutch Meadow. (Hah. Apt.) We sit with them while they eat, and then, hearing our struggles with food, they give us some bars they don’t want. Amazing. I inhale mine and am so grateful.
Jumbo, Catless, and I get water from the stream, then Jumbo has his “stupid little hot chocolate” while I have a tea and Catless goes to bed. It’s a lovely evening here in the mountains among the conifers and rocks and actual flowing water. Tomorrow I’ll see places I recognize from 2017. Would that version of me recognize me today? I can’t help but feel like in some ways, I’m living her dream: on the PCT, lighter pack, living the life I’ve imagined. That feels cool.