PCT Days 62 and 63: Nero and Zero in Mammoth Lakes

June 19, 2022

Deer Creek to Red’s Meadow to Mammoth

5.6 miles

Everything is frozen. The water bottle inside my tent is frozen. My feet are frozen. I know I should get a move on because today is town say, but I just don’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. I boil water with the last of my fuel, toss in some True Lemon because I’m out of both tea and coffee, and proceed to drink it like a little gremlin in my tent. I think I have time, but when I poke my head out, Jumbo and Tribute are already basically packed up and ready to go. Shoot. It’s a whirlwind of packing after that. Tribute goes ahead while Jumbo waits for me, then we head out together.

It’s chill forest today, all downhill and cruising. We realize that we have service and we start looking up places to stay in town. I find an Airbnb right in the middle of town that looks awesome and we reserve it. Then at one point, Jumbo and I both slip on a rock and fall into a creek. Oops. We’re so focused on town plans that we forget how to cross a stream.

Jumbo speeds ahead in town mode while I get caught up in texting Andy. He’s in Mammoth but about to leave, so it’s looking like we won’t see him or the others in town. Apparently he also got caught in a rock fall on one of the passes and managed to shield another hiker and avoid seriously getting hurt. Um, what? It’s terrifying to think of how that could have ended and I’m so glad he’s okay. He tells me he has a new nickname as a result: Shield. I’m not sure I like it any better than Pants, but at least the story is good.

Petra had also texted me saying she’d be in Mammoth Friday and Saturday. Today’s Sunday, so we’ve missed her as well. It’s so weird to me how you can be physically not that far from someone on this trail but still not see them for days or weeks.

I catch up to Tribute and we walk together to Red’s Meadow. I remember not loving this section in 2017. It’s a little dusty and depressing because of all the burned trees, and the sun is glaring. Soon we come upon the turn-off and Jumbo on a video call with his bother. A group of horses passes by, and then we are at Red’s! I loved this place on the JMT, and it’s nice to be back. We make use of the bathrooms (actual real toilets!!), get chocolate milk and change for the bus at the general store, and then board the shuttle for Mammoth. We’re moving without walking! Amazing!

At the stop by the lodge for the town shuttle, we meet another hiker who is leaving the trail to start a new job. He joins us for lunch at Mammoth Brewing. It is… how do I put this? How can I possibly explain the deep pleasure of a pint of beer (or flight, in the case of Jumbo and Tribute), a bougie brewery cheeseburger, and a side of fries with three different sauces after nine days in the mountains eating instant mashed potatoes? I become one with my burger and beer and shut out the world for ten minutes. I transcend what it means to be human and simply exist to consume within the space-time of this exquisite lunch.

Satisfied, we wish good luck to our job-bound comrade and step out into the world. We walk down the street to a gear store where we load up on a few essentials like Clif Bloks and fuel, go to another gear store to see about new socks, and then get coffees at the Looney Bean.

Around 3 we check into our Airbnb. It’s so cute! It’s a little condo with a wood stove, fully equipped kitchen, comfy couches, and a huge fluffy bed with an electric blanket. Best of all might be the fact that there is a brand new washer and dryer right there in house. No waiting in line for change to do laundry! No coin-operated nonsense! We can do as many loads as we damn well please! The luxury of this is thrilling.

But instead of diving into this glory, we go to the Grocery Outlet followed by Vons for resupply. It’s the part of zero days that is the most stressful, so our plan this time is to get that done and then relax later. After buying what of course feels way too expensive for three days of food, we come back, I FaceTime with my parents for a while, and then I finally take a long, peaceful shower while the boys go to pick up pizza. Apparently my order is complicated and nearly breaks Domino’s, because it’s over an hour before they return. Meanwhile, I crack open a beer and make use of the condo’s HBO account and watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver for the first time in two months. I’m clean and wrapped in a blanket and absolutely living.

Eventually J and T come back with six medium sized pizzas, which we begin to devour while watching Tribute’s film of choice: Spaceballs. It’s very Airplane-like, which I enjoy until I fall asleep halfway through and wake up as the credits roll. Then bedtime is fluffy and warm. Don’t get me wrong. I love my tent and being in the woods. But have you ever even been in a bed? I mean. The comfort. The cleanliness. I’ve never appreciated it before this moment.

June 20, 2022

Mammoth Lakes, CA

0 miles

I feel like today is simultaneously chill and busy. We sleep in, then don’t move much even when we do get up. I bought a huge box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch yesterday, and I crunch on that while drinking actual drip coffee and catching up on writing and social media. Jumbo calls his family back home in England, and Tribute sends us photos and videos from his very nice camera. Once we’re all caffeinated and finished with our morning activities, we go to the Warming Hut for breakfast, where we meet up with tons of hikers, including Machine’s group and Leia (Leah?), who we haven’t seen in forever! I love that so much about towns. I murder a waffle with Nutella, fruit compote, butter, syrup, and whipped cream. Jumbo and Tribute sip Bloody Marys. Jumbo delights in the bottomless coffee. All is right with the world.

Next door is Mammoth Mountaineering, where I get new Topo Ultraventure Pro shoes. My toes have been rubbing on my old ones, and I can feel every rock when I’m walking. It’s expensive and 100 miles too early, but pain is pain. Feet are pretty important on something like this.

Next we take a field trip to Ridge Merino. They’re the ones who made Jumbo’s, Tribute’s, and Beetle’s sun hoodies that I’ve been coveting ever since my synthetic shirt started taking on the scent of what smells like a wet dog who ran into a dumpster and then got peed on. Everyone I know who has one swears by their merino, and the shop has a 30% PCT hiker discount. So yes pls. I try on a few colors and end up with a lovely blue one. I’m excited to stay out of the sun, have more color, AND not smell like a sad wet dead thing.

We have a few more tasks after that, then I head back to the Airbnb to write while Jumbo watches YouTube and Tribute checks out a chocolate shop. Around 6:30 we head to Distant Brewing to meet up with tons of our hiker friends, including Machine, Feather Blue, Jive Turkey, and Qwerty and Trash Balloon and some folks they’ve been walking with. The beer is delicious and the place is absolutely brimming with hiker trash. It makes my heart happy.

We eventually pull Tribute away and head back to our place for dinner: salads we picked up the day before, leftover pizza, and root beer floats. Then we play a round of Exploding Kittens, which is more complicated than I remember, followed by completely passing out.

Mammoth is a great town, and this might have been one of my favorite zeroes. But it will be good to be back on trail tomorrow.

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