Started: 08:30 @ MM 948.5 Glen Aulin Camp (Elevation 7,890ft)
Finished: 18:45 @ MM 968.5 Smedberg Lake (Elevation 9,219ft)
Elevation Gain/Loss: +4,672/-3,338ft
Food: Oatmeal, Pound Cake, Tortilla w/cheese & salami, Crackers, Clif Bar, Almond Joy, Beef Chilli w/ rice, Gummi Lifesavers
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 4, Days since laundry 5
Once again I failed miserably in my efforts to get up and out of camp at a respectable hour. During the High Sierras I had convinced myself that when the temperatures were more conducive to early starts, I would have absolutely no problem getting up and out in the mornings. Clearly, I was wrong. Now that the nights are warmer I find myself sleeping far more soundly and waking up is really hard. Lots of thru-hikers use the alarm on their phones but I was resistant. Alarms are for the real world, for grown-up people with proper jobs, for deadlines and stressful responsibilities. I didn’t want any of those things and moreover, the thought of being suddenly woken by a loud and unnatural sound in the middle of the night was very alarming!
I was determined to leave before 8am. I was close, so close but just as I was collecting water I was accosted by a crazy woman! My guard was down and before I knew it I was fully embroiled in a discussion about the virtues of Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion. By the time I’d convinced her that she was preaching to the converted, it was well after eight and I’d been eaten alive by mosquitos!
My magical “Hike The PCT App” indicated that it would be a tough day with over 4,600ft of gain and a 10,000ft pass. This was not the “easy” I had been hoping for now that the High Sierras were behind me. The initial climb wasn’t too bad and after about 5 miles the trail led out into a beautiful high alpine meadow. It looked absolutely perfect and it was … until I stopped! Hiking at 3mph was just enough to keep them off, but the moment I stopped or even slowed, I was completely engulfed in a massive swarm of bloodthirsty buzzing mosquitos. I consider myself to be pretty well travelled and I’ve experienced some bad “insect” situations, but this was by far the most insane thing I’d ever had to deal with. I covered myself with neat DEET and still, they attacked. The only solution was to keep hiking … If you’re going through hell, keep going … Right?
Another joyous feature of the day was the numerous creek and river crossings. I lost count at seven. I changed my socks three times and developed my first hole. It wasn’t shaping up to be quite the picturesque stroll through Yosemite that I’d imagined. I bumped into Curious George and Happy Trails a couple of times, but mostly I walked alone. I felt lonely today and my internal dialogue was full of reasons to quit and excuses to stop. But the trail won’t even let you quit when you want to. I was at least a full day of hiking away from anywhere!
I tried desperately to limit my expectations before embarking on this crazy journey. However, one of the few thing that I had really been looking forward to was the complete freedom that the trail offered. In my mind I had expected to be able to hike as long as I wanted, camp anywhere I wanted and do exactly as I wanted. The reality of thru-hiking the PCT is absolutely nothing like this. Everything has to be planned with an almost military precision. I am constrained by my food supply and forced to make at least 20 miles a day. I feel far from free, I miss the comforts of home and I’m ready to stop. The fact that I can’t even do that makes me even more pissed off with the whole thing. I hike on, frustrated and angry, tired and emotional.
It’s late when I reach Smedberg Lake. Apart from the millions of mozzies, I camped all on my own again. Exhausted, I force down my rehydrated dinner and generally feel pretty sorry for myself. Just 3 more days and I can quit … I tell myself this over and over again as I desperately try to stay awake long enough to enjoy the sunset.