a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 1195.4 to 1207.3. Sierra City to cowboy camp next to Packer Lake Lodge.
I slept well last night with my ear plugs and eye mask. Dario on the other hand didn‘t. He was woken up in the middle of the night by a loud noise in the neighbour‘s backyard. He didn‘t see anything but it sounded as though a big animal was looking for something edible in the trash cans, throwing the cans around noisily. Others apparently woke up too and it was confirmed in the morning: it was a bear. Our first bear! None uf us saw it of course, so I am not sure it qualifies as our first bear encounter.
We go for breakfast at 9am in the Red Moose cafe and have a delicious meal there. I love that the coffee is always refilled in the States, we surely could use that back home!
We are all hesitant to leave but eventually decide to get going. A huge climb awaits us, there is supposedly hardly any shade so we aren‘t too excited. The four of us leave with Sarah, a German girl who just started hiking a couple days ago back at Donner Pass and is suffering from a painful achilles heel and many blisters. We will take it slow today.
The climb is brutal, it‘s hot and neverending and I feel sick most of the time. We are soaked after a few minutes only and keep jugging down water. Finally we reach the top, there is forest and a spring there and we take a lengthy break and camel up. The rest of the day will be downhill and we are kind of hoping to make it to the so-called Packer Lake Lodge, a secret tip on Packer Lake and off trail. We don‘t really know what to expect but for a PCT hiker a 10min detour to a promising dinner is always worth it.
We reach the road around 6pm and follow it uphill for 5 minutes and then turn right towards Packer Lake. In another 5 minutes we reach the Lodge and outside the restaurant we are greeted by an elderly woman in a very welcoming way. Even though we surely must be smelling very bad and don‘t really look very decent in our dirty clothes she invites us to sit on the beautiful porch. We happily sit down and she gets the cook, Krista, to explain us how it works. 4 courses, 25$ per person. And it‘s Pasta night. Main course: Spaghetti Bolognese. Well, nothing short of MY FAVORITE FOOD IN THE WHOLE WORLD!!! I can‘t believe our luck and neither can the others. This place looks like heaven, is right next to the lake, the staff is so friendly and OMG THE FOOD! First Minestrone, then a delicious salad with tomatoes followed by the largest plate of pasta I have ever seen. And I have seen many. And eaten many. There is no way I can finish this one. And the others feel the same way. Except for Dario who asks for a second round. We just sit there and dwelve in our food happiness. This place is so cozy, warm and genuinely hospitable, it really touches me. It turns out the manager is Swiss and she comes out to greet us. She is from Basel! And she asks me to take over management when she retires in a couple years. :)
When it‘s time for dessert we go inside the hut-like restaurant to eat it there with the other guests. The dessert buffet is out of this world! Chocolate soufflé, apple and berry crumbles, carrot cake, ice cream...
We are so very full now. And then we are invited to Bingo night! I have never played it but surely it will be so much fun! We all have 2 or 3 charts in front of us and I might actually be a little too excited! Dario is in a food coma next to me so I take over his charts too. I might even get a double Bingo with this many charts!!! But no luck! Both Flamin Hot and Sarah win at some point and then they all tell me that if I get a double Bingo, then „Double Bingo“ should become my trailname. And I like it! Better than Khalysse, Yes Mum, Sticks and Reject (the named me the latter because I keep rejecting trailnames). But yeah, no luck, no double Bingo. So Bingo it is they decide. Someone who plays Bingo so overly motivated deserves that name.
What an amazing evening! We are all so happy and well fed and getting tired now. It‘s 10pm, waaay past our bedtime. We are the first ones to leave the restaurant (even though the average age in there is approx. 60 years) and go find ourselves a flat spot to cowboy camp. It takes a while but we eventually find a good spot, quickly crouch into our sleeping bags, all next to each other. Flamin Hot asks what the best and worst moments for everyone were today and we each tell our stories. Then we get one wish for tomorrow. „Less smoke in the air“, I say. „No Sweatheart farts“, someone else says (because sorry Babe, but you know it, they really are the worst!) And then, eventually, we all fall asleep cuddled up, under the stars.
Miles 1191.5 to 1195.4. Milton Creek Camp to Sierra City
The alarm clock was supposed to ring at 6am but when we wake up it‘s 6.45am. Oops, don‘t know what happened there!
We hurriedly pack up and leave camp around 7.15am. We make good time and reach the road from where you can hitch to Sierra City at 8.45am. We wait for 10 minutes but no car passes us so we decide to roadwalk the 1.5 miles to town instead. After about 0.7 miles a car stops next to us and offers us a ride into town, which we gladly accept.
Sierra City is a neat little town, everything there is is spread out to the left and right of the main road. We are dropped off at the General Store where there are already a handful other hikers around, people we haven‘t met yet. In the store we find our 3 packages that we shipped here, containing food, toiletries etc. We order some breakfast and then make ourselves comfortable out on the porch sorting through our packages. We had also tried to sell our bear canisters which are no longer required by law in this area and now receive a text from someone who‘s interested in buying one. We successfully sell one of them for 50$ and take it to the post office for shipping, along with another package in which we crammed all the stuff from our packages that we don‘t need yet and bounce ahead to Crater Lake in Oregon. We should be there in about 5-6 weeks.
There is a public shower in town which we hit next to shower and do laundry. It‘s so hot and the clean clothes we hang up outside are quickly dry. We are actually planning to leave Sierra City later today but then we suddenly are told that there is a new fire closure up ahead from Belden, our next town stop, to Chester. This is the section where also the midpoint of the PCT is in. Which sucks! We really wanted to reach it... I call our friend Speedy who is already further ahead and ask him what he thinks we should do. He says we shouldn‘t worry, we should easily be able to hike until Belden. But I am worried that the fire might expand in our direction and we won‘t know about it due to the lack of cell reception out there. We also consult the PCTA website (www.pcta.org) where they write that they will update their page later today. So we decide to wait for more information, and stay in Sierra City.
It‘s possible to camp next to the church for a small donation. So we end up there together with Sweatheart, Flamin Hot and the other hikers we met today. We’re only a small bunch, we feel like we are the last hikers out here (which is kind of true). It‘s a nice evening, we share stories, red wine and beers together and realize that we will just have to take it the way it comes at us. The midpoint marker is a huge milestone for every PCT thruhiker, but it is only a wooden marker. The Northern Terminus in Canada is more important to reach, so let‘s focus on that instead. ;-)
Miles 1172.3 to 1191.5. Bushcamp to Milton Creek Camp.
I had a pretty restless night, not being able to lie comfortably on the mattress with this lower back pain. And I am really worried that as soon as I wake up in the morning I will still feel the pain. So when our alarm clock rings at 6am I try to get up - and the pain is gone completely!! I don‘t know what it was, but I am so happy and relieved it‘s gone!
We get going with Sweatheart while Flamin eats his breakfast in camp. We take our breakfast about an hour later on an exposed ridge with beautiful views on both sides. I really dig this trail family thing we‘ve got going. They are both so sweet, relaxed and funny and we can spend hours just sharing stories and laughing.
We actually take our lunch break not much later at a water source and are all not too eager to start hiking again. But we want to make it to Sierra City early the day after tomorrow and the thought of burgers, cold sodas and a shower finally gets us going again.
Dario and I pretty much hike by ourselves in the afternoon, the other two unfortunately are both injured (knee and foot arch) and are taking it slower. By the time we arrive at our camp next to Milton Creek it‘s already getting dark. We wash ourselves in the ice cold water and then quickly hurry inside our tent as there are quite a lot of mozzies around. The others haven‘t shown up and we hope that everything is fine but just assume that they stayed at the previous campsite seeing as they were both not feeling it today.
For us it means a 4 mile downhill hike into Sierra City tomorrow! We will get up at 7am and hope to make it to town by 9am for when the store opens (where they also sell breakfast).
Miles 1153.9 to 1172.3. Bushcamp to Bushcamp (+2 miles to paradise lake)
Early we get up today as we agreed yesterday to hike with Flaming Hot and Sweatheart. So at 6am Sweatheart walks into our campsite and Flaming Hot is already up exploring the scenery.
So off we are and soon reach a highway rest area. Here we discover that there are several vending machines and joyfully pimp our breakfast with M&Ms icecream, cinamon rolls and a swiss roll.
We all have breakfast together and talk to car people who are interested in what we are doing.
Later we hike on and pass the junction to Paradise Lake, a supposedly amazingly beautiful lake, which is unfortunately about 1.5 off trail. But since we are only on the PCT once in our life we all agree to do the extra mileage and jump in the lake. And it is totally worth the extra miles! There are some small islands not far from shore, the water is clear like ice and azure blue. We all have lunch there and after some hours continue our hike through woods and forest until we arrive at our camp spot at about 7pm.
Quickly we pitch our tents and crawl into our sleeping bags.
Miles 1135.9 to 1153.9. Five Lakes Creek Camp to bushcamp.
Today I don‘t wake up because of the alarm clock, the sun heating up the tent or Dario snoring. Today I wake up because I smell something in my nose. Smoke! This is bad and very unsettling. We have hiked through smoky areas, yes, but we only ever saw the smoke, we never actually smelt or tasted it. And this scares the hell out of us. We pack up quickly and start hiking soon to leave this area in hope of the air quality getting better soon. Our German friend (whose name we don‘t remember) is still asleep.
On our first climb up we meet another hiker. A guy from England and the first SOBO hiker we meet! We are so-called NOBO hikers, short for Northbound, as in hiking from Mexico (south) to Canada (north). And well, this Brit is doing it the other way round (only about 10% of the hikers do it this way). And he is already past the midpoint of the trail meaning he is very fast since SOBOs usually don‘t start their hike until July. We talk with him for a while, asking about the smoke conditions on both sides and what we both can expect in the upcoming days etc.
Later today we are scheduled to arrive in Donner Pass, and the ski ranch there is known to hand out free 40oz Cobra beers to PCTers. With this huge motivator in mind we speed up, again hiking on beautiful ridges and past ski areas. We make good time and reach Donner Pass hungry and thirsty around 4pm. We both order large burgers with fries and get the free beer. 40oz must be somewhere between 1.5-2 litres of beer! Per person! Dario will of course be able to finish his, but I am not so sure. While we are talking we are suddenly interrupted by a girl at the table next to us. In Swiss German! In Bärndütsch actually! It turns out it‘s 21 year old Céline ‚Sweatheart‘ from Bern and we like her instantly! She hitched here from Mammoth Lakes, being at the very end of this year‘s NOBO hikers and hiking by herself, so it‘s understandable and reasonable that she decided to hitch further up north. She also introduces us to ‚Grim’ who has just completed his Triple Crown (when you successfully thruhike all three long distance trails of the US, those being the Apalachian Trail (AT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the PCT, right here at Donner Pass and ‚Flamin Hot‘ who was passed out on a bench when we got here.
The five of us spend a very entertaining evening together (finishing my beer and ordering some more!), celebrating Grim‘s huge milestone accomplishment and decide that we will hike out together the next morning. Then we leave together with Flamin Hot and camp right outside of Donner Pass on a flat piece of land in the forest. Sweatheart will join us in the morning as she is spending the night in the bunkhouse of the ranch. Should we really end up hiking with these two then the next chapter of this hike will be filled with fun, laughter, companionship and a lot of great and memorable times I am sure of it!
Miles 1118.6 to 1135.9. Lake Richardson to Five Lakes Creek Camp.
We get up a little later than usual because we are both feeling the last day. When we start hiking the sun is already pretty high up, but we are hiking in forest and the sun rays can hardly poke through the trees and it‘s kind of chilly. We will only stop for breakfast when we find a sunny spot we decide. And it takes a while so we are bith seriously hungry when we can finally stop and eat.
We actually brought Thomi Mayonaise and Mustard as well as Cenovis, Aromat and of course chocolate from Switzerland and breakfast tastes suddenly so much better. Oh and also M-Budget Ice Tea powder to sweeten our water. Best idea ever!
We keep meeting awesome people today. There is a dad with his daughter hiking the TRT and they start asking us about the experiences we‘ve had and offer us some of their food which we happily accept. Then they ask about my trail names. Dario has been names Ratatouille a while ago (not because he likes vegetables, or looks like a rat, but simply because he likes to cook) and I hesitantly tell them that so far I have rejected all trail names, the first one being Khalisee followed by „Yes mum“. So the next time we see them they tell me they‘ve come up with a new trail name for me: Sticks. Because of my skinny (and dirty) legs. Well, not sure I like it but I am too polite to tell them that.
The afternoon we spend hiking on mountain tops, surrounded by splendid, though smoky views. We soon start seeing multiple signs stating that this is a ski area, the so-called Alpine Meadows ski area. Would be nice to ski here in the winter time!
The last part of the day is a short but steep downhill climb and then we reach our tentsite for the night. We wash ourselves in the ice cold water of the Five Lakes Creek and then retreat into our orange home. We feel so far away from civilization, from everything, which is nice but unnerving at the same time with the fire/smoke situation and all. And suddenly we hear something! It turns out we won‘t be staying here on our own after all! A German hiker our age makes his way into our camp and we are relieved to see him. To say that he is happy to see us is an understatement. He almost starts crying from relief and happiness and would put his tent up like literally in our tent if he could. I point out the tentsite like 3 meters next to us and he hesitantly sets up his tent there. When we later give him some of our self-imported Swiss chocolate as a „Bettmümpfeli“ he is so happy and very grateful. I have the utmost respect for everyone hiking this trail on his/her own. Even among the two of us we sometimes crave the company of another person just so we know we are not completely alone (and the bears might eat the other person first ;-)) Good night!
Miles 1098.5 to 1118.6. Lake Aloha Camp to Lake Richardson Camp.
This felt like the best night ever! We slept so well being back out here in the wilderness. The temperature was perfect, there were millions of stars above us and Lake Aloha right next to us is so stunning! It feels amazing to be back and especially after the last couple of days we really needed a quiet, peaceful night like this!
We are full of energy this morning and quickly pack up our stuff and get going. We spend the morning hiking past many lakes, their surface completely calm, the mountains reflecting in them. There is no smoke around us which we kind of expected considering all the fires burning a couple hundred miles away from us. We have breakfast right by one of the lakes before we start climbing Dicks Pass. There are a few hikers around us, but they all seem to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail, we don‘t meet any other PCT hikers, it seems like we are the last two hikers going north this season. In fact, if we hadn‘t gone home we would most likely be in Sierra City now, which is about 90 miles ahead. But we enjoy talking to the TRT hikers who are amazed at how far we‘ve come and how much we‘ve hiked. And even though we skipped the section from Tuolumne Meadows to Echo Lake (148 miles) due to the road closure in Yosemite we are proud of the 960 miles we have hiked so far.
The afternoon passes by quickly, we‘re in good spirits, the scenery is beautiful as always. We spend our lunch at Fontanillis Lake and go for a swim as it‘s so hot out. How refreshing! We dry pretty quickly and go on soon. We actually think we are gonna be able to hike 20 miles today! That would be a great first full day back on trail! And we successfully arrive in Lake Richardson in the evening, 20 miles after Lake Aloha. We are both exhausted, feeling each and every mile. We don‘t even bother to have dinner and just go straight to bed. But it‘s good to know we still have it in us! :)
Miles 1090.0 to 1098.5. Echo Summit Trailhead to Lake Aloha Camp
Today we are finally going to be back on trail after all the troubles of getting here…
But first we have breakfast at our campsite and then try to figure out where I can get a replacement for my broken air mattress.
I am not sure if we mentioned it before but since the middle of the Sierras some of the air units broke or more kind of melted together causing a major bump right in the upper section of the mattress. Since then it got worse and worse - by now about 15 units have broken and the bump is just so big now that I have to change sleeping directions on the mattress.
So when we were in Mammoth, I called the Thermarest guys about that and they told me that they are going to send me one for free to Tuolumne. Fine ,I thought - it should easily arrive until we are back from Europe and since we are going back exactly to the same place we left the trail - Tuolumne - that will work out perfectly.
Well, since the road was closed to Yosemite it didn’t work out at all and we had to skip this section entirely. Also the post office told me that they never got any packages for me...
So now I call Thermarest again and they agree that I can get one for free at a local outfitters.
After making a several calls we finally find one that has the same mattresses (but a size smaller than mine) on stock.
After finally picking up that mattress we drop off the car and get an Uber from town center to the road leading to the trail. Here we try to hitch again and I do the “Rad dance”, the dance that Rad from Kenya showed me. And what happens is, that the second car stops. Wow, that dance really is working!
After a 10 minute ride we reach the trail. Finally! What an insanely long trip this was to get back here - but hey, here we are!
From Echo Summit where we start now it is only two miles to Echo Lake, a resort with a small store next to the lake and a lot of boats and kayaks. Here we get some coke, melon and ice cream and sit next to the lake eating it.
The lake looks very warm so in I jump for a short swim.
Now we have to do the remaining 7 miles until reaching Lake Aloha. We walk next to Echo Lake and then have to do some climbing. By 7pm we arrive at Lake Aloha which is even nicer than Echo Lake. No boats but a stunning landscape. This time it’s Maya who jumps in right away.
We pitch our tent close to the water, make dinner and feel so happy to finally be back again and are so looking forward to the next months of our journey!
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!!!
We are back in Switzerland! This feels so unreal. And great. It feels so great to be back! We quickly collect our bags and meet Dario‘s parents outside. They came to pick us up even though it‘s already quite late. Thank you so much Mutz and Phads! And they bring us our July box, a package full of stuff we had packed in April, for this week.
We don‘t have much time with them right now as it‘s midnight and we are both sleeping at our friends‘ places. First they drop me off at Lari‘s place and then they continue on to Sebi. But we will see them on Sunday night for dinner at their place.
I run up the stairs to Lari‘s flat where both she and Zoë are waiting by the door. Wow! It‘s just so fantastic to see them again! We hug it out and I quickly jump under the shower which feels great. Then we sit by the kitchen table drinking wine and catching up and I feel so relaxed and excited at the same time. And now I get to spend all weekend with my girls for Caro‘s bachelorette weekend!
It‘s about 3am when we finally go to bed, and 8.30am when the alarm rings and we need to get up. I am feeling very jetlagged now, I only fell asleep at 5am...
Before we meet at the BANK, I pass by Sebi‘s apartment to get my clothes that Dario washed there last night. And then meet the girls at the restaurant. Anja and Tanja are there now too and I feel awesome seeing everyone again! Soon Caro and the rest of the girls arrive from Basel and there is some more hugging and excited chatter.
The brunch is delicious, I really dig in! But I realize that somehow my appetite is less these days. I can eat more times a day, but less food each time. Because that‘s how we eat out on the trail.
After brunch we walk over to one of the many Zurich escape games where we are divided in two groups and run around Zurich HB train station for 90 minutes, like headless chickens. It‘s so much fun and our group does really well and wins the game!
Then we board the train to Lavin in the Engadine mountains. Anja, the maid of honor reserved seats for us, organised a lot of drinks and prepared a fun game. We are enjoying ourselves so much, laughing all the time and drinking Tequila and other shots. This is like the fastest train ride - we are already there! Lavin is a pretty small village in the Swiss alps, there is one hotel there, with pink walls. It looks so cute! We get our room keys, I share my room with Tanja seeing as she‘s brought me some clothes to wear and of course we also have so much to talk about, me being her maid of honor at her wedding next year! I am so honoured and happy and want to get all the details out of her! :)
We meet with everyone else again after about a half an hour, for apéro, followed by a delicious three-course dinner in a private dining room. We have lots of wine to drink, play another game and share many stories. The others are getting tired, but I am still jetlagged and wide awake! So when we all go back to our rooms Tanja and I spend another two hours making up poems for the wedding and just laughing so hard! Even writing this I already start laughing again!
The next day - no hangover, yay! - we meet for breakfast at around 9am and then head out for a nice walk from Guarda, this stunning mountain village, back to Lavin. The girls all admire my trailrunners, amazed that I have hiked almost 1000 miles in shoes like that. And I feel on ‚home turf‘, back in the mountains, in my hiking outfit :)
Once we are back in Lavin we collect our bags from the hotel and walk to the train station. The train ride back to Zurich passes by fast, we are all a little tired and just spend the hours chatting, looking at our pictures etc. In Zurich I get off and go home with Lari to collect my things. There‘s still some time left until Dario comes to pick me up to go to his parents‘ house for dinner and Lari and I spend it talking about the amazing weekend we just had.
Then I say goodbye to Lari who I will see again soon in France and we drive out to Wangen, which Dario will write some more about. We do have the most amazing dinner there and afterwards Dario takes me to the train station from where I go to Basel.
I arrive in Basel 1.5 hours later, feeling pretty knackered, but so excited to see my mum again! It‘s 12.30am by the time I reach her place and she is still awake. I missed you! We talk for a while until we both almost fall asleep. Luckily I get to sleep in tomorrow! :)
The next morning my mum and I walk over to her new apartment. I love it! She will be very happy there I’m sure!
I then go meet my favorite sister Dana for lunch, she invites me to sushi because she knows me and she knows how much I missed it! ;)
We then visit our grandma in Reinach and I spend the afternoon with her and going for a walk in the neighbourhood. I will be back to spend some time with her tomorrow.
In the evening my dad comes over, it feels so good to see him again, both parents healthy and well! He brought his bolognese sauce and we have a delicious spaghetti dinner out on the balcony. I missed this so much!
The next day, Tuesday, I first go to a beauty salon to get my dirty feet ready for the upcoming wedding. I received this visit as a goodbye present from my former work place. How great are my former work colleagues to predict such dirty and well, gross, feet? And indeed, my feet turn out really nicely! Then I visit my grandma again and spend some time playing games with her. This is the last time I will see her for a year and I really hope she will stay well until I get back. She has had a tough time lately and I just wish for her to stay healthy now.
My dad picks me up later and we drive back to my Mum‘s place. Tonight is the last night in Switzerland for a year and soon Dario and his parents are scheduled to arrive for ‚our last supper‘. Christian and Andrea arrive first and we sit on the terrace having a few drinks and some snacks until Dario arrives.
It‘s really hot in Basel these days and everyone brought their bathing suits so that we can go floating in the Rhein river. It‘s the most refreshing dip ever, we all feel less sweaty and so much better now! When we get back to the apartment Dana and Andri are there too, and we have a lovely BBQ dinner.
But soon it is time to say goodbye to Dario‘s parents. Thank you so much for everything you are doing for us! The pick-up at the airport, this amazing dinner on Sunday night and the drive out to Basel for this dinner - it means so much to us and we will treasure these moments forever!
After we clean up everything we finally fall into bed, both really exhausted from the last couple days. What a great time we had in Switzerland! Home, you have been very good to us! <3
My parents drop me at my friend Sebi’s apartment at Europaallee in Zürich. It is a warm welcoming and we both are happy to see each other again.
Although it is already kind of late and we know that we have to get up earlyish the next day we spend an hour or so on the loggia, drinking beer and talking. After a long desired shower I fall asleep in a blink of an eye.
The next day we leave home at about 10:30 am to meet with all the others for Fabian’s birthday celebration in a rather small group.
And finally we meet everyone at Stadelhofen. It is a truly nice moment to see all of my best friends - Ste is here who flew in from New York, Rody came all the way from Tel Aviv, Remo from London and Michi, Di, Luki and Yotam. We all were supposed to prepare a future scenario where Fabian is going to end in 15 years and dress like Fabian would in the chosen scenario.
We then meet Fabian at the Forch memorial and time travel with him by taking the Forch Bahn into his future.
So we do this Bar hopping and in each bar someone presents his scenario - it is so funny!
After the last bar (Rio bar) Fabian now has to embark and steer an inflatable boat by himself underneath the central station and go all the way down the river Limmat until he is supposed to find his surprise party at Provitreff. He does an excellent job steering and docks safe and sound at his party.
The party itself is a blast - there are about 70 people here, we have some delicious antipasti and Lebanese Food Yotam prepared, a big barbecue, salads from Luki’s former start up Zum Guten Heinrich, a Schnupfmaschine, a Flämmlibar, Photobooth, a Jugomat (basically Nadia dressed in a Bosnian scarf handing over Rakia) and a book with pictures from the evening where one could write some things for Fabian.
At 4 am the party is over and a small group of the organization team stays there until 6:30 to clean up.
The next day I stay at Sebi and Nadia’s place until late afternoon and then get a lift from my sister Giuli to my parents’ home. On the way there we pick up Maya who is now back from the bachelorette weekend and we all have a exquisite dinner. Actually I basically ordered what we craved the most when we were on trail and my parents they cooked it all! Wow, thanks again it was absolutely amazing!
Later Maya is going to take the train to Basel and I decide to sleep at my parents.
The next day I have breakfast with my dad who is doing home office and we talk a lot (like always).
I then can lend his car and drive to Zurich again to pick up Sebi, Di and Michi for a fishing trip to Wägitalersee - a tradition we do every year. We always go up there the day before we actually fish, then go to the local restaurant order the “Mega Stausee Schnitzel”, ask the stuff there nicely if it is possible to cool our beer during the night in their fridge and then go camping on a meadow close to the lake. Sleeping outside it is again - yaaay... Not that I don’t like it but it also would have been ok to sleep on a bed for me…
Well it was a short night since we had to camp close to approx 100 cows who were making noise all night ringing their bells…
Nevertheless we are ready to embark on a small motorized boat by 6ish and head out.
It is a wonderful day again, the sun is shining, the water is quiet, in the background there is a nice mountain and we can hear the cowbells from everywhere. Feels like Switzerland in a commercial! But it is so nice and by mid-afternoon we caught about 8 trouts and two bass. As usual at the end we do some skinny dipping in the perfectly temperatured lake and then it is already time to drive home.
After saying goodbye to my friends which I will probably not see for the next year I now drive directly to Basel where the next part of our Switzerland program is taking place, family dinner with Maya’s and my family.
We wake up early today as we want to catch the first bus leaving Yosemite Valley towards Fresno, where we will have to take the AMTRAK train to Richmond.
But first we have a decent and even more expensive breakfast.
As we wait a the station for the bus to arrive we meet Monica again. Remember, we met her after Kennedy Meadows and went swimming in the river together.
While we are talking to each other, another bus arrives and we meet Dzim again, the cool Russian Guy who offered us some mushrooms he collected. Unfortunately we don’t have much time as our bus now arrives. We take a picture together, say goodbye and board our bus. Everything goes smoothly except that we see a lot of smoke leaving the valley. Yesterday a fire broke out and is now growing fast..
After 3 hours we reach Fresno, take the train to Richmond and from there the subway (called BART - Bay Area Train) and ride it until 19th street in Oakland.
For the 4 days we are in San Francisco we contacted Lollie - a good friend of our friend Luki, we met her a year ago, when she was visiting him in Switzerland.
Generous as she is, she offered us to stay at her place but found out that her friend Grant has a free room at the moment, as his room mate is on holidays in Canada.
Wow, thank you two again for letting us stay at Grant’s place!
When we arrive, Lollie and Grant both welcome us, serve us some beers, do our laundry, order some dinner...You guys are just awesome! :)
We talk, laugh and have dinner together. What a terrific start of our San Francisco time!
The next day we take the BART to go to San Francisco - it is a quick 20 minute ride.
When we leave the station, we find ourselves in front of a GAP store and immediately decide to get some new clothes so people don’t confuse us with some hobos.
After a long shopping tour we start our search for Maya’s dress for Caro and Mauri’s wedding and end up at Macy’s where they have at least 400 different dresses. After trying about 10 different dresses, Maya finally finds a very pretty one.
Now we start to get hungry and walk to Chinatown, get some amazingly good and gigantic dumplings and relax in a nearby park.
We forgot to buy something to drink and therefore go to the next Irish Pub and have some beers. It was a nice first day in the city and we go home a little tipsy.
Grant and Lollie are arriving at the same time and they take us to a lake close to Grant’s apartment. It looks so beautiful in the night, there a hundreds of small lamps shining from tiny light bulbs and the big buildings reflect on the totally flat surface of the lake.
From here the two take us to a nice restaurant where we sit in the patio, have some pizza and drinks sitting next to a cozy firepit.
And then Speedy texts me, that he and the Hongkong 4 will also visit San Francisco and will arrive on Wednesday. Grant immediately comes up with the idea of all of us meeting to cook dinner at Grant’s and eat together on Wednesday evening.
It is a wonderful evening with these two amazing guys!
The next day we sleep in a bit, get some breakfast at the local store and then take the BART to San Francisco again.
This time it is shopping for town shoes as we only have our dirty hiking shoes.
After successfully spending another fortune, we meet with Lollie who does a San Francisco Tour with us. We start at “the Mission”, a neighbourhood which is mostly inhabited by latin people. So we stop at a restaurant and have some “Pupusas”, a dish from El Salvador, which is basically a rolled up tortilla with cheese, meat or fish in it and - oh so tasty!
After that we hit a chocolate store to try chocolate from all over the world and then pass by some nice graffity,, go for some greek ice cream with olive oil and salt and end up in a nice park.
From there we take BART again and embark on a ferry at Pier 18. The three of us drink a bottle of Rosé, eat some fancy cheese and enjoy the beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline passing by.
30 minutes later we are at shore again, only this time in Oakland. Here Malcom, a friend of Lollie and Grants picks us up and drives us to Canadian Mike’s place (another friend) whose birthday party is tonight.
Mike cooks some delicious fried japanese.chicken and we all sing the Canadian anthem for his birthday. We actually learned it by heart on the way over to Oakland!
It’s a cool evening with all of Grant and Lollies friends and after Malcolm generously drives us home we fall asleep in a second.
It is the morning of our third SF day and tonight Speedy and the Hong Kong 4 will visit for dinner. Together with Grant, Lollie and Lollie’s roommate we will be 10 people. So the first thing in the morning we do is to go shopping for all the ingredients we need for our 3 course menu and then we do all the cooking. In the afternoon we take Grant’s and Lollie’s bikes to SF (thanks again guys) and go for a 4.5 hours long trip through the city. We do the “Wiggle” a more or less zigzag course to avoid all the hills, then we pass Golden Gate Park, bike over Golden Gate bridge, both directions, drive along the coast with views over to Alcatraz, pass by Fisherman's Wharf, visit the famous Lombard Street with it’s criss cross curvy road and then end the tour next to the pier. Now we hurry back home as all our guests will arrive very soon. And indeed, after only some minutes of spending at home, Speedy and the HK4 arrive. We laugh a lot, share stories and are very thankful to Grant and Lollie who have made this evening possible.
The next day is already the day we leave SF and fly home. We quickly wash all the dishes and pack our stuff together and off we go towards 19th street where we take the BART to SF airport.
Everything goes smoothly and at 6pm our plane takes off towards Istanbul. It is a weird feeling going home, leaving the PCT and all our newly gained friends behind, but we also feel so happy to see family and friends again. Soon the silhouette of the SF skyline disappears on the horizon and about 12 hours later we are in Istanbul again.
Unfortunately our connection flight to Zurich is 1.5 hours delayed but at 11pm we finally set foot on Swiss ground again and back we are at the exact place where we embarked on this amazing journey 2.5 months before...
Miles 931.2 to 942.5. From Lake camp to Tuolumne Meadows (to Yosemite Valley)
Last day on the PCT for 2.5 weeks today! It is a beautiful and sunny day again. But when we get up, some of our stuff including our backpacks is still wet from yesterday’s storm.
This is even more motivation to get to Tuolumne Meadows as soon as possible.
The first two miles are very easy as the trail is slowly descending towards the valley.
As we go downhill we videotape a sequence for our clip for the upcoming wedding in France.
The idea is that all the guests send in a short video, covering their ideas or advice for a successful marriage. So we decided to give five tips and one of them is to always give a helping hand to your wife. For that we film me climbing a mountain with two backpacks and sending a kiss to the camera/wife.
After another 30 minutes we reach the valley. It is so beautiful, right when we arrive all of yesterday’s rain is now vaporizing and slowly finding its way towards the sky as big foggy clouds. Then there is a big river in the middle of the valley shining through all the fog. The whole scenery looks magical!
Shortly after we meet BigBro and PitRoast who both made it down the valley during yesterday’s storm and hike a bit further to have breakfast on a huge rock and try to dry our wet stuff.
When we are finished eating and drying we continue to hike this long valley and follow the river. After another 8 miles we finally reach Tuolumne Meadows and are overwhelmed by the feeling of going home and seeing family & friends again.
But to get to San Francisco where our flight leaves and where we plan to spend 3 days before flying home, we have to get to Yosemite Valley, camp there for one night and then take the bus the next day.
The Valley is about one hour of driving away and the next bus is only arriving in 3 hours. So we decide to hitch another time, this time we have a special weapon to catch someone to get us a ride. The name of that weapon is Rad and he is actually a very cool American guy who grew up in Kenia. Rad has a special hitching dance he always does to make cars stop. Together with his shouting and eye rolling it is the best hitching weapon ever…
So yes, it took us only 3 minutes and the three of us are in a car going to Yosemite Valley.
As we enter the Valley we pass the famous El Capitán and see in the background Half Dome throning over the valley. “Wow!”, we both think and enjoy the amazing view.
Now we say goodbye to Rad and set up camp at a camping site. Unfortunately we get confused and pitch our tent in the camping with car area only to find out a couple of minutes later that our space is already taken by a family. But luckily they only reserved the place for their friends who will arrive tomorrow. So they let us camp here for free :)
Later we meet BigBro and Pitroast for dinner at a very crowded restaurant and spend a nice last evening close to the trail. Tomorrow we will say goodbye to the PCT for our trip home. It is a weird feeling but we can’t wait for it!
Day 70 (13 July)
Miles 918.1 to 931.2. Rock camp to lake camp.
Today is the day we will climb two passes. That hasn‘t happenend since the beginning of the Sierras, and we are excited. Noooot. As a matter of fact, we still just want to reach civilization. And have a hot shower. I know, it‘s only been a day since we left Red‘s Meadow. I know, I know. But everything is damp, our spirits are low. At least the weather is a little better. Which means, it stopped raining. It‘s still cloudy. And not too warm. So let‘s get this over with. We get up, BigBro is awake but doesn‘t look like he‘s gonna go anywhere soon. We leave the campsite before him and start hiking, knowing that Minji and Pip are camped ahead somewhere and usually don‘t get up until later. And sure enough, we find them after 2 miles. Minji is just leaving, but Pip is still in her tent, looking miserable. She claims that all of her stuff is wet and she is determined to make a fire now to dry her clothes, at 8am. We sit down beside her and have our breakfast while she slowly gets up and starts collecting wood. Soon BigBro shows up and helps her make the fire. We roast her clothes next to the fire, it doesn‘t really seem to work well, but after a while the stuff seems warm, if maybe not dry.
We leave the two eventually and prepare ourselves for the first pass, Island Pass. It happens so fast and before we know it, we‘re past it. No, it‘s actually beautiful, with a lake called Thousland Island Lake, not too steep, giving us plenty of time and energy to enjoy the serene beauty of it. Too bad the weather has got worse again and it‘s raining a little again.
Now on to the second pass. First downhill and then a long uphill climb to Donohue Pass. We take a lunch break somewhere in between, in a really beautiful meadow and look forward to climbing our last pass before our holiday. It‘s even sunny now. But not for long. In fact, it starts raining again while we are on the ascent of Donohue. And soon rain becomes an understatement. 10 minutes before reaching the pass we are in a thunderstorm. How? Why? When did this happen? We are soaked within seconds, but kind of enjoying it because it is so crazy right now! We try taking pictures but our phones and our hands are wet and we can‘t use our smartphones. We see lightning, we hear thunder, it‘s pouring and then hailing down on us. As crazy and amazing as this is it quickly becomes terrifying as hell. We realize in what a dangerous situation we are in and start running down the mountain on the other side. We run in water streams flowing down, I just hope and wish that we make it to safety in time and that the storm will pass.
We stop beneath some trees and put our rain jackets on because we are freezing now from being soaked completely. We hurry down and realize we lost the trail. Great! Can this get any worse? Since we can‘t check the directions on our phone now we have to backtrack to where we came from. We then realize that we have to cross a river. So yes, it could actually get worse. By now we are both scared and yelling at each other. We somehow cross the river and then finally hear the angry storm turning away from us and giving us a break. We tumble down the mountain until we reach flat ground. But to get to it we need to cross another river. We are already so wet and just decide to wade through the knee deep water, because, well, it‘s all the same now.
Finally we reach a sheltered campsite where other hikers are already camped and quickly set up the tent. We are both freezing cold and put dry clothes on as quickly as possible. Lying in our sleeping bags we make a hot dinner and cuddle to get warm. We apologize for yelling at each other earlier and then soon fall into a deep sleep, thankful that we have the best, waterproof tent.
(Of course I need to get up in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, to pee.)
What a day!
Miles 906.6 to 918.1. Red‘s Meadow Campground to rock camp.
Alright, let‘s do this, our last stretch before going home. We are not very eager to get going, the weather is not very nice, it‘s actually quite cool and it doesn‘t feel great to leave a place with a restaurant. So why not have breakfast there first?
A milkshake, eggs over easy with hashbrowns & toast and coffee later we finally manage to leave with Pitroast and BigBro. But the hiking is hard. It‘s not fun. We can hardly make miles. We actually just wish we would already be on our way to San Francisco. I really wonder if our mindset would be different if we didn‘t go home next week. But BigBro and Pitroast feel the same, they can hardly move and are not at all motivated. It is now raining a little, which doesn‘t help our morale. This actually really sucks! The rain gets harder, we are soaking wet because we didn’t bother putting our rain gear on hoping it would stop soon. It is 4pm now and we decide to call it a day.
We camp next to BigBro, it would be a super nice camp site on flat rocks right next to a really nice view, but right now everything just looks grey. Like our mood. We quickly set up camp, and Dario and BigBro walk off in search of water and only return after 15 minutes. Poor guys! Meanwhile I got the tent ready and when Dario joins we prepare dinner and then - yay - realize that we have AT&T service. And since we only need our fully charged powerbanks for 2.5 days we treat ourselves to a couple episodes of „Friends“. Always a mood booster! BigBro also watches a movie in his tent and so we all spend a relaxing evening in our mobile homes while the rain pours down incessantly. Kinda cozy. :)
Miles 0 (zero day in Mammoth Lakes and ride back to trailhead at Red’s Meadow)
Today it is back to the trail again to start our last section before our 2-week break and flight to Europe.
In the morning we pack all our gear together and place our fully loaded backpacks on the hostel’s terrace.
We plan to get something to eat first and then go to the local library to do our administrative stuff on the provided computers.
So we take the town trolley and hit a deli where I probably eat breakfast burrito for the next couple weeks. The library is located only a few minutes from the deli but when we get there we find out it is only the admin section of the library. So we take the bus again and finally find the right library.
Maya does our stuff while I have a phone call with my friend Michi in Zurich regarding the upcoming surprise birthday party for Fabian to find out if we are ready and if I may be of any help.
So after we are done we go back to the hostel, get our backpacks and take the bus towards Mammoth Mountain and meet Minji on the bus. At Mammoth Mountain we have to change buses again and meet BigBro, PitRoast and Pip and board the next bus all together. We all decide to camp at Red’s Meadow and spend a funny evening there with all our friends. The next day we will start our last section of only 3 days. We are so looking forward to seeing our families and friends in Switzerland and are ready for a break!
Miles 0. Zeroday in Mammoth Lakes
It was the first night in a real bed again so of course we both slept really badly and don‘t feel that refreshed in the morning. But oh well, at least there is no physical activity involved in today‘s schedule, so we can just have another nap later on. We decide to go for breakfast first and then do our resupply at Von‘s. It should be an easy one this time - we only need food for 2.5 days. Once we arrive in Tuolumne Meadows we will leave the trail and somehow get to San Francisco from where we will fly home on July 19.
Back to breakfast. We look at the best places on Tripadvisor and opt for „The Good Life Cafe“. Transportation in Mammoth is so easy. There are free trolleys all over town and they pass every 10 minutes and so it only takes a couple of minutes for us to reach our chosen breakfast location. We both order Eggs Benedict, ham version for Dario, spinach version for me. Extra avocado as always. Freshly squeezed orange juice and cappuccino. This is food heaven!
Meanwhile Big Bro has got in touch, they will all be coming into town today, and stay in the same guesthouse. We decide to go out to dinner together tonight.
After we are done with breakfast we walk over to Von‘s (so technically, not quite a zero-mile day!) and get our usual food. A few more fresh items because well, 2.5 days only. We are done pretty quickly and then hurry back to the guesthouse to reach our loved ones on the phone. Always good to catch up. :)
Now it‘s nap time but we are not that tired anymore and organize our packs instead. Yay, the food fits the bear canisters! But they are pretty full considering....
We later spend some time blogging until the others are ready to go out for dinner. We walk down to the local brewing company, what a great place in this lovely town! They brew different kinds of beer, the guys are very happy! There is a long line to order the food, but the food is very worth the wait. My Naan chicken tacos are delicious and Dario‘s Asado fries are fast gone. Well we haven‘t eaten since breakfast after all!
We then play some häckisäck game - the Swiss against the Germans. We lose. I blame the cider that I‘ve been drinking. But what a fun night with these guys! I will miss them because if we continue the PCT from Tuolumne Meadows, where we get off next weekend, we will most likely not see them again. But we are still not sure where we are gonna get back on trail after our holidays in Europe. We‘ll see.
Even though it would only take us 15 minutes to walk back up to the guesthouse we decide to take the trolley which will first drive through the whole town before reaching our stop. Thruhikers. Every additional step in town is too much, we all agree on that.
Miles 890.9 to 906.6. Bushcamp to Mammoth Lakes.
We get up at 4.30 am and we don‘t even feel like snoozing. We just want to get into town! The place we need to reach is called Red‘s Meadow, it‘s a campground with cabins, has a small store and most importantly, a restaurant!!! Apparently they sell really good burgers and milkshakes there and we just can‘t contain our excitement!! And then on to Mammoth Lakes. It has been 9 days since we were in Bishop and it‘s really time for us to have a hot shower and do laundry. I am sure every one we meet this day would agree with us. :)
So off we go, leaving our campsite at around 5am. We pass Lake Virginia, it looks so peaceful. The sun is not yet up, but the sky is slightly pretty in pink. We did all the climbing the day before on purpose as to have an easy day today. It‘s still 16 miles but since it‘s all downhill we make good time. We stop for a quick breakfast, a cute little chipmunk keeps us company and even finds some tortilla crumbs to eat. I love these little fellas!
The scenery is once again mindblowingly beautiful, especially this time of the day. The miles fly by, we only stop for the occasional photo session. The last 5 miles we average 3.8 miles per hour, which is our now record! This is how much we crave restaurant food! And finally, here we are, Red‘s Meadow at 12.30pm! We sit down at a table in the restaurant, order cokes, burgers, a large milkshake to share and then sit back in the chairs and relax. And are suddenly aware of how we look and smell. But the waitress just smiles at our remarks about how we must look to her. She must be used to smelly hikers.
After a delicious lunch we hop on the bus to Mammoth Lakes. We have to take two more buses until we reach the guesthouse we had booked the day before. Our room is small, has 4 beds in it, but feels comfy enough. We start unpacking, collect our dirty laundry and soon head out again in search of a laundromat. Mammoth has a great public transportation system, all their buses are for free and take you anywhere! While our laundry is being done we treat ourselves to some drinks and snacks from the coffee shop next door. And then head back to the guesthouse for a nap once the laundry is done.
Later we head out to an Italian restaurant. Pasta and pizza, beers and wine for us today because we deserve it! Life is good!
Miles 873.6 to 890.9. Bushcamp to bushcamp.
When we decide to get up everyone else in the camp has already left. We both are tense, not quite feeling the trail today. It‘s about time we get into town. And tomorrow is the day! So let‘s get going, let‘s do this! We pack everything up and then spray ourselves genereously with deet. Suddenly Dario cries out in pain. He had held the spray the wrong way and sprayed the poison directly into his eyes! This is bad, we need to react quickly. Luckily the stream with a little waterfall is nearby and he runs over and washes his eyes out for about 10 minutes. His contact lenses are gone, the acid has practically burnt them. Thank god he had them already on, if he hadn‘t been with the contacts I am not sure what would have happened to his eyes. They still sting a little but he is sure he can start hiking now. So that‘s what we do.
One more pass until Mammoth Lakes- Silver Pass. We are getting really excited! It‘s been an intense 8 or so days out here and we can both feel the strain on our bodies, and mind. For the first time I question myself and this trip. Is this really what we want to be doing for like another 3 months? Oh, all the things we could be doing instead! Dario is feeling it too. But we are sure it‘s all got to do with our imminent return home which we are so happy about! Surely this is the reason we feel this way? I guess we will have to wait and see.
First we go up. Then we go down a very steep hill only to climb back up on the other side. See? It also starts to sound the same way, every day. But let me assure you, every day out here is different. The scenery changes constantly and manages to amaze us every single day. Suddenly we hear noises from behind, turn around to find out that we have been stalked by a whole caravan of horses. The ones from the Muir Trail Ranch probably? Wow, that must be such a logistical nightmare to get all the goods there. Gone are the negative thoughts, it‘s even fun to climb the last pass, we tackle it with a lot of energy. The view from the top is spectacular once more, there is quite a bit of snow still there and large cloud formations make it look rather out-of-this-worldly and menacing.
We stop for lunch after the pass, but both feeling restless, we want to get some more miles in, as to not having to do many the next day and reach Mammoth Lakes early. So off we are, hiking fast now, all the way down and then, of course, back up the next mountain. We will camp on top of that mountain and then only have to go downhill the next day. Dario isn‘t feeling it at all anymore, and I just want to reach camp and keep pushing. Finally we make it. The climb was beautiful but tough, once we are on top we are both soaking wet from sweating. But there is still sun up here and we hang everything up to dry and give ourselves a good wash with wet wipes. We are in good spirits again, making dinner, dreaming about the delicious food we are gonna order at Red‘s Meadow the next day and then soon make our way into our cozy sleeping bags. Another up and down day, literally and figuratively speaking.
Miles 857.7 (+1.5 Miles from John Muir Ranch Side Trail) to 873.6. John Muir Ranch to Bushcamp.
We get up at our beautiful campsite located on a rock right next to John Muir Ranch. We heard that every morning after 8am the Ranch gives away not used meals from the JMTers (hikerish for hikers doing the John Muir Trail) for free. But to have the full choice you have to be there right when they open the ranch at 8am. So we stand in front of the entrance gate at exactly 7:59 and are excited to find some tasty meals. It is also my birthday today another reason to hope for some special food. :)
When we search the approx 15 different food buckets (all the food is transported to the ranch by horse and therefore has to be in buckets) we find a lot of self made dehydrated food. We choose cannelloni, pasta with tomato meat sauce and a weird swedish dish.
Then we start hiking again. Today is - surprise - another pass to climb, Selden Pass.
First we have to get back to the trail. It is one of the steepest sections we have done so far and after 10 minutes I look like I have just taken a shower. But after another 20 minutes of constant sweating we are back on the trail again.
From here the climb towards Selden Pass immediately starts - yaay the climbing goes on!
But at least it is now way less steep than before. When we have already done 3 out of 7 miles of climbing we meet a couple coming from the other direction. It turns out it is a guy from Italy and a girl from Switzerland! We are amused to meet someone from Switzerland after a long time. The last 7 days we did not have any cell service at all and I was constantly wondering about the result of the football match Switzerland vs Sweden. The Swiss girl tells us now that actually Switzerland lost 0:1…:( Well that was not what I was hoping for but life and hiking goes on.
We continue our hike and after another 2 hours we pass another stunning lake and are soon on top of Selden Pass from where we observe the below valley and another lake. We take a short 15 minute break and just enjoy the view.
From here we descend for about 1 hour and decide to have a nap on our mattresses as our feet hurt a bit and we are also exhausted of the climbing.
Soon later there is another river crossing we have to do without shoes and we enjoy the wading through the stream.
Down in the valley we realize that there is cell service and I start reading all the nice congratulations for my birthday - thanks again to everyone who texted or video messaged me. :)
Soon we arrive at our campsite for tonight and share it with 3 other people. We have a little celebration in our tent and I blow out a music candle Maya got for me. :)
Since we still have good cell reception we end the day watching some episodes of “Friends” in our tent and go to bed in hiker terms late - which means after 10 pm :)
Miles 843.3 to 857.7 (+1.5 Miles on side trail to ranch). Evolution Lake Camp to John Muir Ranch.
We had a good night's sleep next to Evolution Lake and are excited to reach tonight's goal, the Muir Trail Ranch, short MTR. The MTR is too expensive to stay at, but a great way to resupply because JMT hikers often leave a lot of goodies behind which they decide to get rid of in order to lighten their load. There is also a store there that sells deet and we just really want to get our hands on another spray. We are also very excited about the fact that today is pretty much all downhill, descending Muir Pass. We look forward to an easy going day! Of course it turns out to be completely exhausting. But one after the other. Mosquitoes. They are everywhere. It's the Evolution Creek's fault, accompanying us all day long. We even have to cross the river multiple times, and even have to take our shoes off and put our sandals on and wade through the water because there is no other way. But we find a good spot and can cross it without any issues. Two other guys behind us aren't that lucky and end up retreating back to the shore and then walking "in our footsteps". Only from putting our shoes back on we are again bitten by multiple mosquitoes. Aaaarrggh!
Finally we reach the junction to the MTR and follow it for about a mile. Then there's another junction to the ranch itself and to the camping site/hot springs. Since the MTR is already closed for the day there is no point going down there. And we also already see some tents pitched right around the corner where the campsite is. So we walk that way and see a lot of friendly faces, in particular a mum with two teen boys just getting ready to go swimming. We ask them where the hot springs are and they explain that we need to cross a large ricer to reach them but that‘s is really worth it. So we quickly pitch our tent next to theirs and grab some things to go soak in the hot springs. It‘s actually fun to cross the cold river, the current is quite strong and there is a rope to hold on to. So that‘s what we do.
The hot springs look kinda gross but we jump in anyway, first the colder one and then the really hot one. It‘s fantastic! But it feels more like a hot pond, there are a lot of mosquitoes, and we emerge again not feeling quite clean. So let‘s check out the river and wash ourselves there! We walk back, quickly dip in the ice cold water and feel soo refreshed afterwards!
We climb back up to the tentsite where we make a delicious pasta dinner and soon get ready for bed, feeling very clean and sleepy. Tomorrow we will try to get as many goodies out of the MTR hikers box as possible, we are very excited!