a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
It‘s Wednesday and we are flying to Nice today. Some of our friends are already there, others will only join on Friday for the weekend and the wedding on Saturday. In any case we look forward to some fun filled, sunny days at the Côte d‘Azur with an awesome bunch of people and a beautiful wedding of an amazing couple in Mandelieu-La Napoule.
We are in Basel and we sleep in a little bit and then start packing our stuff. It‘s a logistical nightmare - what goes in our pack and to the US, what comes to France and will be taken back to Zurich and Basel respectively etc.
We say our goodbyes to my mum, then my dad picks us up and we stop at Migros to buy chocolate for Lollie and Grant, Aromat, Cenovis, Mayonnaise and Mustard for us. And chocolate for us. Of course.
We then drive to the Euro airport, and say goodbye to my dad. Everything goes smoothly and after a short flight we land in Nice where we pick up our rental car and then go meet the girls Lari, Zoë and Josi in downtown Nice. The five of us then drive to Mandelieu where the girls are staying in the hotel and the two of us drive over to our Airbnb where we are staying with Anja. We change real quick and then head out for dinner where Tanja, Dani, Laszlo and Martina are already waiting.
It it so good to see everyone again and we are both really happy and relaxed. After a lot of rosé wine and a nice dinner Caro and Mauri, the happy couple, come by with the Argentinian family and we go over to the bar where we have some more drinks and dance around. It is so so surreal to be here!
The next day we sleep in again while Anja goes out to get croissants for us. All the girls then come over to the apartment and we start preparing some things for the wedding. It is so hot outside! We decide then to drive to a secluded beach, but before we have lunch - yaaay, Spaghetti Vongole! The beach is perfect, the water refreshing and the company excellent!
In the evening we all go out for dinner with Caro and Mauri and enjoy another lovely evening with lots of wine and Dani‘s special cocktail! And by now Tom and Geri also join us. Of course we end up in the bar again!
It‘s Friday now and we are also moving over to the hotel. But first we collect Dario‘s tux in Cannes. He looks so handsome! How funny that in less than a week he will already look so filthy again!;)
Our room in the hotel is small but cozy and we love the swimming pool outside. In fact, we end up staying in the pool all afternoon. Soon Gino, Kaspar & Jenny, Matteo, Hannes & Eloise arrive from Basel and join the pool party. It is unbelievable to see everyone again, pure happiness!
Tonight is a cocktail party on the beach for the wedding party. We get ready and head over. There are more than 100 guests there and the mood is already very festive. A lot of rosé wine glasses later us girls perform our prepared „Schnitzelbängg“ in front of everyone. They are rather funny and I hope Caro and Mauri and everyone else liked them. We stay there by the beach until around 2am with our closest friends and then stumble home, happy and drunk. :)
The next day is the wedding day. And I am hungover. Well, this sucks. I lie in bed all morning, then Tanja brings me some ibuprofen and a coke. I eventually manage to go down to the pool area where Lari and Zoë offer me some tasty olive bread that I manage to eat. And I slowly start to feel human again. Dario during all this time is working on a video production for the wedding together with Anja.
I am so relieved that I am feeling better again! We gather in Caro’s suite, take some pictures and empty two bottles of champagne. Then she starts getting ready and I go over to the hairdresser to get my hair done and then come back and get ready for the wedding in Tanja‘s room. Wow, finally one of our girls is getting married. We feel quite special getting ready for such an important and emotional event!
It is really hot. The girls are wearing long dresses, the guys are wearing suits and tuxedos. And everyone is sweating. It is just so so hot and humid! And it‘s hot in the church too, but still I get goosebumps when Caro walks into the church and I start tearing up. This feels like such a big moment!
After the ceremony we have some welcome refreshments, have some time with the bride and groom, take pictures and soon move on to apérooo by the sea. What a beautiful spot to get married at! Château de la Napoule, you are a tough one to beat!
Dinner is in a beautiful patio surrounded by the old walls of the castle. Candles are lit, lights all around, an amazing atmosphere. Situated next to some of our closest friends we enjoy a delicious three course dinner, accompanied by lovely speeches (Mauri thanks for making me cry like a baby!), videos, one of them Dario helped produce and beautiful songs in both Spanish and Swiss German.
And then it‘s time for the newlyweds’ first dance as husband and wife. „I love you baby“ - guys, this is like the most perfect song for such an occasion, ever! The party has started! And what a party it is! Even though it is still so incredibly hot the dancefloor is full, the music is perfect and everyone is enjoying themselves. Then the Argentinians bring out the costumes and everbody gets dressed up with funny blinking hats and shiny glimmering glasses etc., and the party explodes! When Caro and Mauri step on one of the tables the crowd erupts, cheering them on while they are dancing.
After some tasty midnight snacks the party comes to an end at about 3am. But we are not yet ready for bed, let‘s go swimming in the ocean! And since us girls are all wearing dresses and bras are generally overrated in these, it turns out to be a big skinnydipping event! And the perfect ending to the most fabulous wedding. I am so happy we got to be a part of it!
The night is short, the alarm rings at 11am and fortunately we are not hungover this time. We now have the pleasure to divide our stuff again between what goes home to Zurich with Lari, what goes home to Basel with Tanja and what comes to the US with us. Once we are checked out we go out for lunch with Anja, Gino, Dani and Tanja and then hang out by the pool with everyone else. I can‘t believe it‘s gonna take a year until we see everyone again! So much love for these people!
So far so good. But then we run out of luck. Dario checks his email and yells out that our flight to Barcelona (from where we will fly to the States) has been cancelled. Half an hour before we are supposed to leave for the airport! WTF! This can‘t be happening! We really need to catch this flight from Barcelona to Oakland. So we start checking flights from Nice to Barcelona which could take us there in time, look up prices for rental cars and night buses. Call Vueling to find out about other flights, reimbursement, compensation etc., Europcar and Mobiliar to find out about what is insured in this case and don‘t get satisfactory replies from anyone. We really need to drive our rental car back to Nice Airport now because the girls need to catch their flight to Basel and we need to return the car. So we quickly say our goodbyes to Caro and Mauri and start driving. First we need to return Dario‘s tux in Cannes and of course, get lost on the way. We reach the airport in time though, return the car and then look for the Vueling desk to find out what‘s going on. It’s in Terminal 1. Great, we are in Terminal 2.
Vueling offers us a busride to Barcelona instead, but this bus is leaving in less than half an hour. We agree, having no other options, quickly get something to eat with the 12€ voucher we received and soon (the bus is late, so we end up waiting there another hour) find ourselves in a bus to Barcelona with all the other passengers of our cancelled flight. The boarding of the bus feels like people trying to get onto a life boat while the Titanic is sinking. The lady in charge even shouts: „Women and children first!“ We already look so much forward to quiet trail life...
We arrive in Barcelona at 7.30am after a sleepless night, now we need to find the Vueling complaints desk and well, complain. And make sure we get compensated. After standing in line twice, once to get the form to fill out, and once to hand the filled out form back in, it is already 9am. We decide to check in for our flight this afternoon and when we finally find the Norwegian Airlines check in counter we are told we can’t check in yet. We had a room booked in Barcelona for the night and decide we still have the possibility of taking a nap there. So we order an Uber, which is only 2 minutes away but needs 30 minutes to find us. The hotel isn‘t far, we both get about two hours of sleep and then wake up feeling jetlagged. I want to order an Uber again, but there are none. Neither are there cabs. They are on strike we find out. Great! When is the bad luck going to end? We need to be back at the airport in less than 30 minutes! There is a bus though we find out, leaving in 5 minutes. We check out in two minutes and run down to the station. The bus is about 15 mins late. Of course. But it arrives and takes us to Terminal 1. We of course need to get to Terminal 2. And so do hundreds of other people. It‘s not crowded at all, not at all.
We are finally checking in. Handing over our passports and all that stuff. „Where is your return ticket back from the States?“ „We don‘t have one, we are exiting the country on foot via the Pacific Crest Trail.“ „Oh okay, well so do you have a ticket for your onward flight from Vancouver?“ „No, because we don‘t know when we will get there. But here is our ‚Entry to Canada via the PCT permit/visa‘“ „Oh okay, let me get my supervisor.“
The supervisor is equally confused and we already see how we are denied access to our flight. But luckily (finally, some luck!) the supervisor just says: „Well, they do have a permit to enter Canada until the end of October, so this is proof enough that they will leave the US on time.“ Puuuuuh!
The flight is on schedule, we are waiting at the gate. Then suddenly Dario‘s name is called out through the speakers. „Random
security check“. Of course. He leaves and doesn‘t come back for like 20 minutes. But then he comes back. All good.
We board, we fly to Oakland, no window seats of course, and enter the country without any further issues. It’s 6pm. Weird to be back.
We take the BART to downtown Oakland where awesome Lollie picks us up and takes us to Grant‘s to pick up our bear canisters and other stuff. Then we do our resupply with her and go out for Thai food. It feels good to be back. But we are tired. And we still need to organise our packs. And prepare a box with the things we will ship to the Frost Family to Canada. My amazing host family from my student exchange year back in 2004/05 agreed to hold our boxes until we arrive at their place in Canada around October. Thank you Kim and Gary, can‘t wait to see you!
It‘s easily 1am when we are finally asleep in bed. And we need to get up at 6am to catch the BART/Amtrak/YARTS bus to Yosemite to start hiking in Tuolumne Meadows at the exact same spot the very next day.
We are surprisingly well rested when the alarm goes off, and excited to get back on trail. We are at the Richmond Amtrak station an hour early and get coffee at a grocery store because the coffee shops are still closed.
The train is on time and practically empty. We want to ride it till Merced and take the Yosemite bus from there to Yosemite valley. We are very efficient on the train, writing on the blog and preparing our box to Canada which we plan to send from Yosemite Post Office. We get off in Merced and ask about the bus at the station where we are told that the road is still closed and we have to enter the park via Fresno. So the same way we came from. Google Maps told us differently but okay, luckily the train is still there and hop back on. The train conductor doesn‘t even charge us extra, he probably feels sorry for us. So Fresno it is.
We finally arrive there and according to Google Maps have an hour until the bus to Yosemite comes. So we go to the Post Office to ship the box. We can send it off just in time and run back to the bus stop where the bus is just coming around the corner. I tell the driver that we will be riding the bus until Yosemite Valley, when he looks at me astonishingly and says that Yosemite National Park is now competely closed because of the Ferguson Fire. We can‘t believe it! For days now we have been travelling to reach Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park and now this guy tells us we can‘t reach our final destination? Really? What the hell???
We don‘t know what to do. We can‘t stay in Fresno either. It‘s far from everything and frankly, it feels a little bit like a shithole. And it‘s too hot! We just know we don‘t want to stay here. And therefore board the bus and decide to ride it till the final destination, Fish Camp, an hour away from Yosemite, right before the road closure. We know it doesn‘t really make sense because the road won‘t be open for at least another couple of days, but everything is better than staying here.
The bus takes off and I decide to call the ranger station in Tuolumne Meadows. The lady answering confirms our fears. Yosemite remains closed until further notice, the PCT trailhead in TM can‘t be reached at the moment.
We are in shock. What should we do? We want to do all the miles! We want to thruhike from Mexico to Canada! But it is not meant to be. We hurriedly tell the driver we need to get off the bus. We are still in Fresno.
We are at the bus stop, there is no shade, it’s about 40 degrees out. I feel frustration, disappointment, lack of sleep, sadness and utter confusion crashing down on me. Should we wait another few days? But where? Fresno? No! Fish camp? Where even is this place? No! Back to San Francisco? No! We are already among the last hikers this season, we really have no time to wait! And who knows how this fire is going to develop. It might even get worse...
Skip ahead and continue hiking north? We don‘t want to, but we feel like we have no other option.
Fresno is a rather big city and luckily there is an airport with car rental there. We know that there is a car rental place in South Lake Tahoe because that‘s where Speedy & HK4 came to visit us in San Francisco from. SLT would be an option to get back on the PCT. The first option to reach the PCT would be Sonora Pass, but it‘s only a road, no place to give a rental car back... and also affected by a fire... so SLT it is. Which means we will skip 148 miles of trail. Not what we had planned, but it will have to do.
A bus stops at the bus stop. We ask the driver if she drives by the airport and she tells us to hop in and she will tells us where we have to get off and take the next bus. When we reach the designated stop we see the airport bus stopping on the other side. We hurry over there but apparently the other bus doesn‘t see us or couldn‘t care less - and drives off. The next one is in half an hour. It‘s 35 degrees out, in the shade. So here we are, waiting for a bus to get to Fresno airport to rent a car to drive to South Lake Tahoe with. Let‘s hope they have cars available because with our bad luck they might have just run out or only have huge vans for 500$ a day available.
While we are waiting for the bus the weirdest people are joining us. The talk is about jail and probation time, drugs, the cops and a tried breaking and entering at the gas station which is right behind us. I can usually block these things out but right now they really get to me. I feel hopeless and sad, frustrated, disappointed and frankly, disgusted. Let‘s hope the bus comes soon.
And finally we are on the bus, get into the airport and inquire about a small car to rent for a few hours to drive to SLT. This time we are in luck. A small Nissan is available, we pay 115$ and off we are.
It‘s a 4-hour drive up to the town on Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada. First we drive all the way back up to where we came from in the morning (great!) and then we turn east and continue to our destination on smaller roads. The setting afternoon sun puts everything into golden light and we feel finally at ease. We open our windows and feel the warm breeze, and we feel finally free again. It‘s so annoying to be dependant on airlines and buses and trains, and it‘s just so good to finally be in our speed and exactly get to where we want to get. No more cancelled flights and closed roads.
We are soon in town, driving past Echo Lake where the PCT trailhead is. We pass it and then realize that we both really want to see it and don’t want to wait until morning when we start hiking again. And we might even run into some thankful hikers who need a ride into town. So we do a U-turn and head back. There are no hikers there but the feeling to see the familiar trail sign again is undescribable. It feels so incredibly good to be back. It feels like coming home. I even feel some tears rising up, tears of happiness. We might not have been able to get back on trail in Tuolumne Meadows - even though we really tried - but we found another way and did our best to get there.
We enter South Lake Tahoe before sunset and pick up some dinner at the Thai restaurant in town. Then we driver over to the camping where we had booked a tentsite on the drive here. We quickly set up our tent (we are not out of practice yet) and then enjoy our Phad See Iew, spicy eggplant curry and fried rice.
Then we are finally back in our tent, cuddled up in our sleeping bags. What a marathon it was to get here! But now we are stuffed with good food and oh so happy to be back here. And back on the PCT tomorrow!!!