Breaking Through Breakdowns

Last update Level and I shared our exciting news of our engagement! We got to secretly revel in our news for a week in some of the most beautiful, difficult, and remote parts of the trail. The high Sierras tested us in many ways.

Resupplying in the Sierras is a tough job since it is so remote. We had a box sent to a small town of Independence so we didn’t have to buy all our food at the local gas station. In order to get to town, we had to hike 7.5 miles of a side trail over another Pass, called Kearsage Pass. It was inconvenient to have to spend a whole extra day hiking off the PCT but part of the beauty of the Sierras is that it is so far in the middle of nowhere. The trail we took down past Bullfrog Lake was incredible though, making it a worth while hike.

The little town of Independence was just that, very little. The highlight of the town was the fantastic Taco Truck, yum! We couldn’t believe how hot it was in town. The mountains had treated us wonderfully in giving us sunny but cool weather. I sat outside of the Chevron gas station far too long unable to move because of the stifling heat. We looked at all our resupply food, puzzled how we could fit it all into our bear canisters. In the end I had items whimsically hanging off my bag as we decided to try to make the 8 day stretch without stopping. Most people stop at a resort called VVR but we heard it is so expensive and time consuming we wanted to skip it.

By 5pm I felt ready to go but The hitch didn’t go over so well. The mountain was 22 miles away and Independence wasn’t filled with many locals who hike. We sat on the curb waiting for occasional cars to pass, but had no luck. For those two hours I couldn’t help but laugh thinking how we spend our time out here. When else in life would I sit on a random curb in a very odd town for two hours? We had no choice but to stay that night, so we stayed at a local campground. No showers but I tried washing in the creek that ran through camp. I started to hit a wall of feeling too dirty. My hair felt like a greasy pizza and I just couldn’t take it. It had been 8 days and we wouldn’t get another chance until 10 more… We had heard the Chevron gas station had showers for a fee, so we stopped over. The owner nickel and dimed me for the shower and shampoo but I was ready to feel human again. The shower was the sketchiest and most disgusting shower of my life, but hey I guess I was cleaner than when I got in it. We wanted to get out of town but not before gas station burritos and donuts. We saw some other hikers and ended up having to use the one Uber of the town to get back up the mountain. The couple we shared a ride with were European and told us how they met on the El Camino in Spain 3 years ago. Reluctantly with heavy packs we hiked the 7.5 miles back to the PCT. During the hike back up Kearsage Pass we got to see many hikers that we hadn’t seen in awhile. We didn’t get much hiking done because we stopped to talk to each of them. That evening we hiked right below Glenn Pass. The idea is to go up and over passes early morning to avoid falling through the mushy snow. Everyone had similar plans to hike all the passes in the early morning and then hike to the base of the next Pass. In Independence we had grabbed a few little alcohol shots to bring along the trail. They would prove to be a much needed help with numbing the aches and pains that would ensue in the next week.

Glenn Pass wasn’t too bad in the morning, as a group of us all hiked up the ridge like ants marching. Level and I led the crew down the snowy side of the mountain. Some parts of it were starting to become slushy so we ‘skied’ backwards to get down the snow quicker. There were lots of river crossings that day where our feet got wet but none of the streams were difficult to cross.

The whole day was so full of beautiful waterfalls which kept us going. Though even after a 15 mile day I felt so exhausted. It was going to be a long week 😳

In the morning I woke up feeling like bricks were on my body. Though I had slept like a hibernating bear, not waking up once. We wanted to get up earlier but we weren’t hiking until 7:30 that morning. That morning was Pinchot Pass and it was about 3 miles away. It was very snowy so we put our micro spikes on and got going. It had a completely different feel from all the other passes. We hadn’t heard that Pinchot Pass was difficult, so as we moved at sloth speed through the snow we felt a little flustered. We kept losing the path and checking our GPS to make sure we were going the right way. I felt a bit weak, sweaty, and a sore throat but I just focused on each step. I stopped for a few minutes to remind myself to look around. In that moment I realized how crazy it was that we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by these beautiful mountains. Getting to the top felt great but the snow was melting quickly so we started our snowy descent after a quick snack. After we got through the snow we found a sunny spot next to a frozen lake to lay out.

That day we crossed what we called, ‘Death Crossing’ as it was one of the crossings a girl died in last year. We had four of us together to make sure that we all made it across safely. I grabbed on Level’s arm during mid-crossing as the current was quite strong. That night we had one of the most unique camp spots. It was a rocky, open field with mountains of snow making a wall around us. We gazed up at our next pass that we would defeat in the morning. It really did feel magical as we ate our dinner and drank our bourbon, realizing such a small percentage of people get to experience what we do every day.

The next day was our big push of a day, 20 miles. Luckily we had an easy time up Mather Pass. Though the way down was tough for me because we climbed down loose rocks vs snow. We thought it would be easier but with every step the loose rocks would come out from under me. I scooted along slowly on my heels, difficult with my big backpack on. That day was very different hiking, going through burned areas and high grasses. When we were only mid-day it was difficult to keep a relaxed feeling knowing we still had so many more miles. Later I told Level and Birdy to go ahead because I needed to go my own pace. As I took it slow I had my favorite time of the day. The waterfall was spraying mist on me, I felt like I was at Niagra Falls ‘Maid of the Mist.’ Then to top off the good evening we got to have a campfire, one of my favorite things. A hard, wall-hitting day quickly turned to a great day. It’s easy to turn difficult days out here into good memories.

We woke up at 4am to get over the longest snowy stretch. It was a long morning as I was too fearful to rock hop and got my feet wet. As they started to dry there was yet another stream I got my feet wet. I looked ahead and saw miles of snowy climbs and we had already done 5 miles up. I was tired, hungry and felt prickles of tears. If we didn’t keep hiking we would risk the dangers of postholing. Already two hikers had hospital visits after postholing incidents.

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It was a slow crawl down the mountain. We did have fun though making the best of it as we kept falling in the snow to our waists.

We celebrated by taking an hour nap on a sunny rock. It felt amazing knowing we had an easy rest of the day.

That night we had such a serene camping spot with another fire to keep the mosquitos away.

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The next 2 passes we had heard were much easier. I was thrilled to be heading to Selden Pass- as it’s my last name 😁 I may have been bias but I think camping at the base of Selden Pass was one of my favorites. Level and I made a fishing pole with floss, a stick, safety pin, and craisins as bait. The fish were everywhere but they weren’t fond of our bait. So no fish feast for us.

Up and over Selden pretty quickly but the day only got harder. Our 8 day food supply was looking skimpy and it’s a chore to eat enough calories. We hiked until 730, with just enough energy to eat then bed. One more long day then town! But that last day I finally hit my mental wall. I was done with getting up at 4-5am and hiking until 7-8pm. I wasn’t the only one who hit my wall… it was a long and cranky day. It took until about mid afternoon for all of us to find a beautiful pond to lounge by. After a speciality meal of eggs and bacon Level and I felt much better. It’s funny how almost everything out here can be solved by good food and sleep.

The next day… Mammoth Lakes! Air BnB, so many calories, and a hot tub.  Now we get to look back and remember all the crazy, beautiful, tough times we made it through.

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