Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28 - Day 68 - Onto the volcanoes

Wilmer Lake (Mile 987.5) to Sonora Pass (1018.5)

Total PCT Miles Hiked today: 31

We crossed the 1000-mile mark!

Dionysus, Pan, and Seano at the 1000-mile mark ... in mosquito netting.
Dionysus here.

Long distance travelers have often written - in regard to very long expeditions - about what is called "seeing the elephant." Seeing the elephant is the realization of how vast the undertaking of an expedition truly is. The realization is characterized by a feeling of being totally overwhelmed by one's situation. Often it is experienced as a loss of motivation, sometimes it can be paralyzing and/or terrifying; it can even eventually mean the end of the adventure if the traveller can't cope (we've seen this already in other thru hikers -- some who've already lost heart and left the trail). We are in no wise going to quit, but I think it is fair to say we have "seen the elephant."

As I said in yesterday's post the romance of the trip and even the wilderness has faded. We come in to town and no matter how shabby it is or how little the place has to offer, it has become a more difficult to return to the trail.

[**Note: at the moment, as I write this, it is the next day and I am sitting here in the dumpy laundromat of Bridgeport, CA, drying clothes so we can get back on the trail tomorrow morning, and the whole time I'm thinking to myself "I wonder if the room has HBO" ... "maybe the Olympic trials are still on TV". The thought of getting back on the trail tomorrow morning brings little enthusiasm at the moment - daily life with all those ants and mosquitoes (ha!). I look out the window on the Matterhorn wilderness, a ripple of glaciated crags, and I think " yes, it's beautiful, but I don't want to go out there right now". And then I look at the map of the PCT on our Yogi's guide and I see that we are only just past a third of the way done - that we still have 600 miles of Calif to do? and then all of Oregon? and then Washington, too? WHAT?! This is the first time that I have thought that what we are doing is, frankly, insane. So motivation is hard to come by right now. But we don't need motivation to do what we plan to do. Our feelings are beside the point.]

In case you hadn't guessed already, yesterday was a big, painful, tough day. We started in a low basin next to a lake with the most voluminous and persistent mosquito clouds of the trip. (It actually doesn't make sense to talk about them as individual entities, or even as quantifiable colonies or hives like ants or bees; they are a singular annoyance that grows exponentially greater the longer one stays still. So one actually measures mosquitoes in time rather than number - that is, the time from the first mosquito landing to the moment they are so completely at and on you that you've been driven into a kind of restless mild-panic. In the case of Wilmer lake, that took about one second).

So we broke camp and opted to skip what would have been a maddening breakfast, and got rolling early. We made our way up a loooooooong glacial valley to a high pass and a series of lakes. At this point the trail turned round a rocky hillside and dove into a series of beautiful limber pine glades. We turned further west and climbed another not quite as looooooong valley up to the base of a volcanic pumice hillside. Here we had the most unspeakable dinner of the trip. Leftover ingredients combined with hot water and powdered sauces, sheltering from howling winds in scraggly limber pines ... It was hilariously bad, but we needed the carbs to climb the 10,500 foot high ridge of volcanoes ahead.

Then we started up the steep volcanic rock & cinder hill.

You can tell by Dionysus's posture he's having to manage unyielding abdominal muscle pain.
It looks flat, but it ain't. This is a steep slog up the caldera.

Three Gay Caballeros, a shadow of their former selves.

We really love the views, and love the wild craziness of the wind & weather. But we have no love for hiking on volcanic cinders. Ugh.
Seano's shadow on the trail.
It was steep. And at the top the views were amazing. The rounded polished granite range of Yosemite to the south and rows of marching volcanoes to the north. Very dramatic.

A pause at a false summit.

Plus the sun was going down for most of our climb, so we had the slanted shadows of coxcomb ridges against the lower knobs and salmon-rust pools on the horizon. But there's not many places to camp up on sharp volcanic ridgelines. So we hiked ten extra miles (a total of 31 for the day) and an hour and a half in the dark ...

... down the ridge, until we found a campsite that would work.

Amazing and really tough. Phhhh. My pulled groin muscle slowed me down a lot - and Chuck's ankle was very much not pleased. But we made it to the highway, and tomorrow we'll resupply in Bridgeport.

We slept in the middle of a dirt road setting up camp at 10:30 pm.

Completely exhausted (or "knackered" as our Kiwi chums might say).

PS. Pan here. For the record, Seano is the one holding up best among us. Dionysus suffers the hard pain every day. And I am just worn down. But we wake up feeling we've bounced back ...[PS. Never believe the lies your body and your mind tells you when the going gets tough].

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1 comment:

  1. I keep checking off your miles. My Oregon trail map is waiting for you. One step after another.