I went to the spot where I caught a ride last year and stuck out my thumb. 10 minutes passed, 15, 20, 30. No luck. I decided to make a cardboard sign with the letters PCT written on it. I also decided to find a different spot because there were a couple of cop cars parked in a nearby lot. I don't know if hitching is illegal here, or if the police turn a blind eye to it since it is an outdoor town, but it made me uneasy. Maybe I've watched too many You Tube videos of cops beating up people, but I could imagine trying to explain myself to the officer, getting slammed against the hood of the car, pepper sprayed in the eyes and then tased with my heavy backpack smashing against my head as I hit the pavement.
I walked a little ways down the road and again stuck out my thumb and held up my sign. Immediately, a minivan pulled over. It was the owner of the Apex Inn! "I can drop you off in Myers, the town about 10 miles from here." The owner told me that 2011 was a particularly slow year for the Inn as far as hikers go. Many hikers left the trail early this year due to the snow. I was glad to hear that he appreciates our business when we do come. "The only thing I ask," the owner said, "is not to shave your beards off in the sink. It clogs them up!"
The owner of the Inn dropped me off in Myers and I again held up my sign and thumb. A couple of minutes later, a cop drove past. He gave me a nod and a wave. My fears and suspicions were unfounded. Just then, a white pickup truck pulled over and the man told me to throw my backpack into the back. Almost instantly, our communication was off the mark, it was almost comical. We simply could not connect our conversations and questions, and we kept misunderstanding each other. It was actually hilarious. Anyhow, he told me he used to rock climb with Ray Jardine in Yosemite back in the 70's. The man dropped me off at the trail head, and I was relieved to be back in the woods. Mission Accomplished! No more resupply, all I needed to do now was walk.
The climb from the 50 was quite steep and strenuous, but that was OK. I was happy to be amongst the trees and the granite. The trail passed several beautiful Sierra gardens, and meadows.
The TRT was still combined with the PCT and I had no trouble remembering where I was from this point on. The hillside pictured above and below was covered with paintbrush and lupine the same way it was last year.
After eating lunch on a picturesque hillside, I continued onward towards Showers Lake. Chaffing was still a major issue, and it was increasingly painful to walk as the afternoon wore on.
I met a woman doing trail maintenance with her small dog and horse. She actually looked a lot like my mom, although I've never seen her on a horse before. I thought about my family a lot the rest of the afternoon.
Before reaching Showers Lake, my stomach began to rumble. "What is this?" I thought. I continued walking until I could walk no longer. I made a mad dash for a secluded spot and had a major bought of diarrhea. "Dammit, did I drink some bad water?" I started doing a mental inventory of all the places I drank water. Maybe when I went swimming I accidentally drank some. Or was it on the first day, at Brockway Summit, I was so dehydrated I drank some water out of a plastic pitcher that was near the road because I was so desperate. Was it the faucet at the museum? These were the places I did not treat my water. I started to think about how quickly a hike could come to an end due to health reasons or injury. I took a look at my watch and waited for the next bought to come.
I thought about a hiker named Trooper that I met on the PCT last year. I crossed paths with him near Kearsarge Pass, along the John Muir Trail. He was so sick, he could barely walk, having major stomach issues due to drinking bad water. I thought for sure he was finished. His appetite was shot as well, and he was resting against a rock. As it turned out, he finished the trail on October 31st. He obviously overcame his sickness, although I don't know the details.
My mind was put at ease when the first hour, then the second hour passed and my stomach felt fine. "Pizza buffet," I mumbled to myself. Anyhow, the time came to say goodbye to the PCT once again. The TRT split and headed towards the east towards Big Meadow. I was sad to say goodbye, wanting to continue south towards Sonora Pass, but also was looking forward to seeing a new part of the Sierra. I took a break at the junction and thought about how incredible this trail is.
I also met another TRT hiker who was walking in the opposite direction. He seemed very happy to be hiking, and was doing about 12 miles a day. "It's all trail, we are outside, what more could we want?" he asked. Later in the day, my water was running low and I came to a creek where I decided to fill up. Water was more abundant now, seasonal streams were still running, but I was still having a hard time with my water rhythm. I didn't want to take any chances still, so I decided to replenish a gallons worth of water. The stream was really odd in the place I chose. There was a bend in the creek and it actually flowed under ground for about eight feet as it was making a swift turn. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I bent over to fill one of my bottles, it fell out of my hand, and quickly disappeared in the earthen tunnel and never came out the other side. "What are the chances?" I wondered to myself. I still had four bottles left, but I was peeved at myself for dropping a bottle, losing it, and littering at the same time. I hoped it would not come back to haunt me as there were some large waterless stretches approaching on the Nevada side of the trail.
I continued hiking past Big Meadow a few miles until 7:15. Water was plentiful and I was carrying 10 pounds for nothing again it seemed. Well, I guess not for nothing, I did have peace of mind. I found a nice secluded camp site amongst some huge granite boulders and a creek and set up my tarp. I was very happy about my progress so far on the trail, ahead of schedule and putting in good mileage. Resupply in South Lake Tahoe was done in perfect time, plenty of time to rest, and also putting in full days of hiking today and yesterday. My stomach felt fine, I was doing a very good job preventing blisters from forming on my feet, was hydrated, well fed, and feeling stronger and more in tune. I was keeping covered when the sun became too intense. Chaffing was still a problem, perhaps pack weight as well, but so far, this trip was turning into one where problem areas could be identified, and hopefully improved upon for future backpacking treks...