Started: 08:30 @ MM 968.5 Smedberg Lake (Elevation 9,219ft)
Finished: 18:45 @ MM 987.4 Ford Falls Creek & Camp
Elevation Gain/Loss: +4,507/-5,766ft
Food: Oatmeal, Pound Cake, Tortilla w/cheese & jerky, Banana Cake, Goldfish, Trail Mix, Kathmandu Curry w/rice, Gummi Bears
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 5, Days since laundry 6
The day started well. The silly bear thing was undisturbed and exactly where I left it which meant, at the very least, I wouldn’t starve to death today. After breakfast things went downhill fast. Basically, from the moment I started hiking everything turned to custard!
I’m not sure how or when I became such a firm believer in the notion that the trail would be easier after the High Sierras. I was starting to realise that I’d fallen for a false prophet. Yosemite was so much harder! On paper my day should have started with a straight forward 2,000ft descent over 3 miles. The reality was very different. The trail switched back and forth down a steep, wooded incline … or at least it should have done. The north facing slope was almost completely covered in massive pockets of snow which totally obliterated the trail. I bushwhacked my way straight down where I thought the trail should be. In the sun the snow was soft and slushy, in the shade it was icy, treacherous and ridiculously slow going. It took me absolutely forever to reach the bottom only to then face a 700ft climb back up!Thankfully the up was significantly easier than the down and at the top Yosemite redeemed itself with a stunning alpine lake. I stopped here for lunch, braving the relentless onslaught of mosquitos that had now become just another irritation that I’d learnt to accept as part of life on the trail. I feasted on Trail Mix and Tortillas filled with Peanut Butter and Goldfish.After lunch the real horror show began. The trail plunged into Kerrick Canyon and I was stopped in my tracks by what seemed to be a totally impassible section. I was looking at a massive cornice of snow, to the left a sheer wall of rock and to the right a raging torrent of water. The snow had started to melt along the rock face, leaving a 10ft deep crevasse. The rocky boulder field along the river was partially snow covered creating a postholing nightmare. I just stood there in shock and horror for at least 10 minutes, trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get through this.
I opted for the marginally safer boulders and raging river option. It was ridiculously dangerous and I was well beyond my comfort zone and skill level. I was scared, in fact I was petrified and when I postholed up to my thigh between two massive boulders I decided to take a different approach, heading higher and away from the river. I was all alone and traversing the sketchiest section of trail yet. Death seemed possible and likely. I had only one option … I had to keep going!
Somehow I made it through. It took me over an hour to cover less than half a mile and miraculously I emerged relatively unscathed. No broken bones but I could feel the adrenalin coursing through my veins and the intense mental concentration had left me with a dull headache. Over half the day was gone and I’d covered just 7 miles. This was by far the hardest day on trail and I was now sure that the PCT was too much for me. I wasn’t strong enough for this, I didn’t have the skill set, I would never make it. I was sadly resigned to ending my hike at South Lake Tahoe.The rest of the day brought little respite, there were numerous deep and wide creek crossings. One came up over my waist and a conveniently positioned tree was the only thing that saved me from being washed away. At another point the trail literally became a river! The mosquitos were beyond ridiculous. I’d lost count of how many I’d squished, swallowed and been bitten by. I looked like a demented freak, constantly flapping my arms around and slapping myself. During visits to the “cat hole” I spanked my butt with both hands to keep them away from my big white target. It was miserable!Late in the day I bumped into Flora and The General. I hadn’t seen these guys since the desert. They had flipped up and we’re now heading south through the Sierras. They had both lost so much weight that I hardly recognized them. It was such a boost to see some familiar friendly faces and they brought promises of less snow and easier days ahead. I so wanted to believe them. I finally staggered into camp at well after 8 o’clock. The last test, another waist deep crossing. I was exhausted, soaking wet, cold, hungry and miserable. Curious George was at the camp but already in his tent by the time I arrived. Alone and in the dark, I forced myself to eat dinner and then collapsed into my down nest, too tired to contemplate what tomorrow might bring.