Day 79 // 0 miles
Making the Plan
Zero day in Bishop! I met Cheer and Steve at the coffee shop for breakfast - check out the Looney Bean Coffee Co. if you're ever in town. After eating and caffeinating, we headed back to the hotel to check out. Sadly, this was also where we said goodbye to our friend KoolAid.
He was planning to hitch to Lake Tahoe where his friend could give him a ride back to his hometown. It was really sweet - he told us that the community of friends he'd made on the hike had been his favorite thing about it.
He's seen and done a lot of amazing things, but I'm sure traveling alone can get lonely after a while. We're going to miss him!
Cheer and I made our way to the Hostel California afterwards and got bunks, and Steve and Snickers weren't far behind. It was sweet to see some hikers we knew - Sophie and Alex, Casper, and a few others were there, and we told them our tales and they shared their scary and thrilling Sierra experiences as well.
Many of the people we talked to had also decided to flip ahead too. Casper had a bit of a breakdown on Mather Pass, which made me happy about my decision to bail before it. It's infamous as the sketchiest pass of the Sierra with how steep and rocky it is. I guess I'll be going out with a bang then, since it will be my last big pass before the end of my hike in September now. But I know it will be much less crazy then, after most of the snow has time to melt.
Stevie Wonder, Cheer and I went over to the bakery for lunch. It's a pretty popular tourist spot, and I was overwhelmed at the shelves and carts lined with baked goods. It was like a pastry maze in there!
Once we ordered, we had a chance to talk through logistics for our trail-cation. After researching bus schedules, rental car options, Tioga Pass road info, and seemingly every potential mode of transportation, we decided to rent a car.
We would drive together to Yosemite and then Steve would drop us in Chester and return it at the Reno airport before his flight to visit his fam for a week.
Afterwards, I had time to do my laundry, play guitar a bit, and get the town chores done before Steve, Snickers, Cheer and I went out for Mexican food. Snickers is planning on staying at the hostel a bit to rest his swollen knee (Taboose Pass was rough on it...), but we're hoping we'll see him in Chester!
Days 80-85 // Yosemite side-trip!
Our trail-cation to Yosemite was amazing! I took a little break from my regular journaling, but here's a few short entries of what we did each day.
We left Bishop after and early breakfast. Stevie Wonder picked up the rental car and we got some essential road trip snacks at Von's. We saw a few hikers trying to hitch north - so of course we picked them up. So many people have been great about giving us rides and we wanted to pay it forward.
We got to Lee Vining around 10:45am and dropped off our hitchers, then turned onto Tioga Pass Road to head toward Yosemite. We knew the road was only open from 10-11am and 3-4pm for a partial closure, but unfortunately we arrived at the roadblock just 5 minutes too late.
So we headed back to Lee Vining to enjoy lunch, then decided to take an excursion to the nearby Mono Lake to see the Tufa (salt columns). Mono Lake has a crazy ecosystem because of the high salt and alkaline water. It was pretty interesting!
We made it back to the pass early for the 3-4pm window and headed through. We saw a few hikers near the road by Tuolumne Meadows. I'll see you in September, Tuolumne! (Also the whole trip, we enjoyed purposely butchering the pronunciation of Tuolumne. TWO-oh-LOOM-neh... TWOO-LOOM-Nuh)
Driving down into the Valley, I was blown away. The falls and domes were spectacular.
We wanted to make it to the visitor center though to get info about where we could camp. Usually camping at Yosemite takes a reservation months in advance, but with our PCT permits, we were allowed at least a night at the Backpacker's Camp near North Pines.
We got set up, parked the car, and hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls. It was roaring and the bridge was so misty! Obviously, I made a cheesy video tour posing as a Maid of the Mist tour guide.
We got up semi early to apply for wilderness permits at the office. Hoping to do Half Dome, but open for anything, we put in our names and waited. The office was super busy, so it took several hours to find out :/
Eventually, we heard that we had gotten permits for Eagle Peak since Half Dome was full. We didn't really mind though! Eagle Peak looked beautiful!
We got some lunch and then took the shuttle to the Mist Trail, where we hiked Vernal and Nevada falls.
Lots of mist was seen, and the falls were absolutely crashing down.
It was weird to see so many tourists, especially on the Vernal falls trail.
Also since when are there sinks right on the trail?! Definitely not in Kansas anymore... haha.
On our way back, we also saw two bears near the Vernal Falls bridge! Go figure that my first bear sightings on this trip would be off the trail and in Yosemite.
This morning, we treated ourselves to the breakfast buffet at the swanky Majestic Yosemite Hotel... or at least we thought we were! Our waiter, after hearing we were PCT hikers, only charged us for one meal! We were so surprised and confused at first, thinking he had forgotten our checks.
We returned to camp and packed up our stuff to leave for Eagle Peak, which is past Upper Yosemite Falls.
Starting at 10:50 or so, we headed up some crazy rocky switchbacks. That trail is STEEP. Way steeper than the grade of most of the PCT.
We enjoyed our lunch at the top of the falls and then headed to Eagle Peak where we set up camp at the best site ever!
We only saw two people the whole night we were up there, and we had this view all to ourselves. How amazing is that!
Because we were only two miles from El Cap, Steve and I decided to leave our stuff at camp and slackpack there. Cheer's leg was bothering her and she decided to stay at camp and rest it up.
We enjoyed the morning hike, which wasn't too strenuous up since we had gained almost all the elevation yesterday. When we got there, we were both not sure if we were at the right spot. El Cap is a gentle dome on top, so we decided to find the edge. We went down a ways and found a crazy ledge that confirmed we were in fact on El Cap!
After making our best Alex Honnold Free Solo poses, we headed back to camp, and then the three of us started back towards the valley. The downhill was perhaps worse than the uphill. The rocky trail had some sand and gravel on the stony path, making it easy to slip.
But we finally finished the switchbacks down and set up at the backpacker campground another night using our wilderness permit this time. It's awesome to think we only spent $18 for 4 nights in Yosemite!
As we headed back from dinner, we saw a young bear frolicking in the meadow chasing some ducks. So cool!
We headed out Friday after grabbing coffee at the cafe. Snickers had stayed in Bishop for a bit to rest his knee, and he was hoping he could catch a ride with us to Chester after taking the bus to Lee Vining. It worked out perfectly! We swung by there and picked him up. We jammed out to music, and decided to stop at In N Out for lunch. It was right next to a Trader Joe's too, so we had to stop and do our resupply!
We got to Chester, CA and stayed at the Best Western for the night.
Steve took off this morning to return the rental car to Reno and catch his flight to CO for a family reunion. Cheer and I were able to pick up boxes at the post office during their short window of Saturday pick-up hours. We also got laundry done and I took the opportunity to rock my hikertrash Vogue laundry look.
After a bit of time catching up on errands and making calls, we checked out of the hotel and set up camp behind the Lutheran Church. They kindly allow us hikers to stay for free!
We were able to find a trail angel who could help us mail our packages and drop us at the trail tomorrow. Can't wait to be back!