June 21, 2022
Mammoth to trail near Red’s Meadow to campsite at mile 920
The alarm goes off and I ignore it. No. No! You can’t pull me from this bed. But I hear Jumbo rustling around and know it’s game over. “We’ve got shit to do!” he says. He and Tribute are already packing up while drinking coffee. Back to the trail today. It’s always good to be back, but hard to leave. I was so comfy. But the trail! The trail.
Jumbo and I decide we’re done with our ice axes, so we pack them up in one package that I’ll send home to Kentucky (and then I’ll eventually mail his over or bring it when I inevitably go to England for a visit). We clean up the condo and do a last sweep before walking to the post office. I mail another box of stuff home in addition to the axes and it is… breathtakingly expensive. When did it get so expensive to mail things? I guess ice axes are rather large, but still. Then we wait for the bus, get on it, transfer, and start making our way up the mountain.
Back at Red’s Meadow, we raid the hiker box for last minute goodies, get a snack and drinks from the general store, and then hit the dusty trail. Literally. It’s so sandy. It’s that loose dusty horse trail nonsense and it is so annoying. My shoes feel huge on my feet and the sun is beating down on me. Is it always this hard to get back on trail? I already feel exhausted.
We make a pit stop at Devils Postpile, a basaltic columnar formation that looks like a big pile of funky sticks. So cool! We hike a few more miles through hot dusty semi-burned forest until we take a lunch break at the river. There’s not a ton of shade, but Jumbo finds a nice spot on the concrete directly under the bridge. We sit there eating our fancy just-out-of-town lunches. It feels like the transformation from hiker trash to bridge troll is underway.
I struggle for a while after that. I put music in, then decide I don’t feel like music, then switch back to my audiobook of Where the Crawdads Sing. I wasn’t really hooked on it before, but after an hour or so, I really start to get into the story. It’s been a while since I was absorbed in a book like this. I listen as I climb higher into the canyon, then past Agnew Meadows.
I stop for a break in one of the parking lots when I see Jumbo and Tribute, then we keep going five more miles to camp. I don’t feel great, and I fall behind. I take another break when I see them again and complain that my right foot is hurting. I take Jumbo’s advice and re-lace my shoes so that I skip a set of laces on the middle of my foot, where it feels like a nerve or something is being pinched. It helps, but I still fall behind for the last few miles.
At one point I’m so involved in listening to my book that I totally forget to collect water before I go to camp, so I have to backtrack. By this time it’s a gorgeous evening, golden and glowing on a ridge line across from the chain of mountains that includes Banner Peak. It looks like what a child would draw if you told them to draw a mountain range, all craggy and snowy and perfect. Soon I pull into camp, which is perched right on the edge of this gorgeous view. I set up my tent and feel so relaxed lying on this soft, grassy-ish ground. We cook dinner while taking in the mountains across the valley from us. It’s good to be back on trail.