I wake up in the middle of the night with the bites itching like crazy. My alarm goes off at 5:30am and I’m up and hiking by 6am. I feel good about today’s hiking, 15 miles to Tolumne (to-oh-low-me) Meadows.
The sun is shining, it looks like it’s going to be a good day. It didn’t rain in the night so I don’t have to pack away a soggy tent! But I still don’t know where Growler is.
I had two miles and 800ft of ascent to the pass and as I set out I looked for footprints. There were no Salomon footprints. The only footprints I could see were those coming south. This convinced me that Growler was behind me. I was 98% sure she was behind me.
My balance was totally off today. I fell over just before a stream crossing and landed hard on a rock on my left bum cheek. I lost my trekking pole in the stream and had to go chasing after it. With a sore bum I crawled my way up to Donohue pass. The weather was threatening the whole way. Initially the sun was out but it soon grew cloudy, although it didn’t rain there was an icy cold wind.
I didn’t hang around at the top of the pass because it was so cold. As I made my way down and fell over again. This time my feet slipped sideways out from underneath me and I landed hard on a rock on the heel of my hand. My had was numb for a while and it was difficult to hold my trekking pole. There were some patches of snow to avoid and I lost the trail a couple of times. But, the north side of Donohue pass was beautiful…
It was all downhill from here and it was steep and rocky. If there was something to trip over today I tripped over it. Rocks, twigs, roots, my own feet, nothing…
I saw loads of southbound JMTers on the was down and asked them to look out for a Canadian girl with short hair, goes by the name of Growler. No one had seen her yet so this further convinced me that she was still behind me. I told them where I was heading and to please pass on the message if they saw her. It became kind of flat and boggy for the last 7 miles and it was kinda difficult walking that should have been easy.
Today I had the first thoughts of I can’t carry this on. I don’t know if I want to carry this on. But I knew there would be days like these. The mental battle is kicking in. Two months on the trail. 940 miles is a long way to walk. Thinking of the long way still to go and imagining doing it alone didn’t fill me with joy. (A character trait that I don’t like in myself is immediately imagining the worst case scenario the moment something doesn’t go quite to plan – I must stop doing this!).
I had to stop and take my pack off. So much pain on my hip bones, I put my fleece hat under my trousers to try and ease some of the pressure. My pack is just so so heavy. As I got up to leave a day hiker called Jose (who had a pack significantly bigger than mine) walked with me for a bit and was super interested in what I was doing so we walked together for about an hour. He was saying it’s so cool that you’re out here and you’re all on your own and you have loads of time to think about things (inside I was screaming I don’t want to be alone!! I just want to find my friends!!).
I passed so many people today, so many JMTers, day hikers and just people taking a trip to the park. Then I realised that we were close to a road, and there was a car park right there so that’s where all the people had come from. Now I think it’s a weekend because there are so many people about – I have absolutely no clue about the day of the week.
I hiked on and eventually made it to the store at Tuolumne Meadows at around 12pm. I asked everyone there if they had seen Growler. No one had. People started arriving. Little Brown, Ricky Bobby, Hops, people I didn’t know – no one had seen her. Well this is most concerning. Then Cool Breeze arrived. He was surprised to see me as he started a whole day after me (but he was yet to find out about the 6 mile shambles day). He hadn’t seen growler either. What? Where is she?!
We got burgers at the takeout restaurant (one of the worst burgers I’ve ever had with the exception of McDonald’s) and I saw Jose again who gave me a beer and said I had a place to stay any time I wanted to come to wine country, people are so kind.
I went to set up my tent at the campground, on the way I bumped into two very exciteable young women just starting their PCT journey to Canada with enormous packs, I tried to help them out by telling them not to carry too much water. I bought insect repellent and bite relief from the store – think the bite count is now up to around 35. The store shut at 5 so I couldn’t just sit there anymore like a puppy staring up the road hoping to see Growler walk in.
We went back up to the campground and I sat forelornely at the picnic table discussing what I was going to do with Cool Breeze and who walks in?……Growler!
Where the #%€$ have you been?!? We hear that she managed a 5.5 mile day yesterday – we were camped half a mile apart! We were so close, but something had made her sick so she was camped off the trail – people going by wouldn’t have seen her. But she got all my messages from the southbound JMTers and she made it here!
I have friends again! I’m so happy. We sat and had dinner at the picnic table and laughed and joked and drank hot chocolate (this is why I will miss hiking with Cool Breeze for a bit. He makes hot chocolate for everyone whereas I can’t be bothered because it means I have to clean my pot!).
Then Suds comes into camp! I was with her in San Diego, I saw her briefly at idyllwild and then I haven’t seen her since! The trail is weird like that, you think you may never see someone again and then they just reappear.
I get into my tent happy to be surrounded by people. Who knew I liked people so much!