Big lake youth camp – tent site
16.6 miles. 3016ft up. 1724ft down.
It was a nice peaceful, non-windy sleep and I planned to just wake up when my body told me to. I normally set my alarm and it rips me from my sleep at 5:30am. Today I woke up at 5:27am. Great.
I tried to go back to sleep but it wasn’t happening. I didn’t get the chance to wash my clothes last night, I did a quick sniff test. Actually they smell ok! They don’t really smell of anything. I read a bit of my book, packed up and went to the hiker cabin to wait for breakfast.
I’ll eat a quick breakfast and then be on the trail by 9:30. That was the plan.
A bunch of other hikers arrived throughout the morning, all making it there in time for breakfast! We went down to the hall to get in line before it got too busy. I was chatting to a couple of nobos and the guy says ‘hey are you Puff Puff? I follow you on Instagram’.
Ruth and Alex arrive – I have 3 SOBO friends now! We are all standing in line and suddenly everyone breaks into song. I forgot this is a religious camp. They sing something about thanking Jesus for the food, I get the inappropriate urge to giggle, and then we eat! Something I didn’t realise is that seventh day Adventists have to be vegetarian, so we had carb on carb. Waffles with strawberry compote and apple sauce, cream and syrup and potato things with veggie sausages. It was good. I got a hot chocolate and several glasses of orange juice to feed the addiction.
A nobo guy called FedX was talking to us about resupply in the Sierra. I have been banging on for a while now about how we have to get to Kennedy Meadows before it shuts down on Columbus Day, but he has said Grumpy Bears (a restaurant close to KM) doesn’t shut down and they may accept packages. He also said he would help us out with a ride when we hit Mammoth Lakes. Ok. I’m liking this. This sounds like we have options and I should just stop stressing about it right now.
I hung about longer than I intended to listening to FedX make suggestions. Then it was time to get packed up, drop of any lingering kids at the pool, grab a drink from the store and roll on outta there. I had left my phone charging, it was on 97%. Ok. When it reaches 100% I’ll go.
I just went to unplug it and a man walks through the door with a cooler and a box. ‘Hey anyone for donuts?’. Err, yes! He says his name is Packman and then he says ‘you’re Puff Puff’. I am, but how do you know that?! He follows the blog. I enjoyed meeting you Packman, and thank you for the soda, peaches and donuts! My first real trail magic (aside from the people I know of course). Well, I can stay a little longer to eat all these goodies.
Another hiker called Grim came in (hiking the last trail for his triple crown). He started over a week before me and that makes me feel good, but he took some time off in Portland and is clearly going to be faster than me going forward!
Then Walking Mantis walks in and I ask him if he is going north or south. He says ‘you know me!’ I didn’t realise it was him because he was in silhouette. Whoops. Sorry Walking Mantis.
I got into another conversation about reaching the Sierra in time and I decide I have to leave. It’s not good to keep going over it. Plus I’ve got a new plan. Im going to catch Catwater, who is skipping ahead from Cascade Locks to Ashland as she already did Oregon earlier in the season, and we are going to hike the Sierra together. So first part of the plan is to catch her so I need to get going!
I say bye to everyone and leave, they are probably glad to see the back of me. God that Puff Puff, what a prophet of doom, constantly banging on about the Sierra!
I leave at 11:30am. A ridiculous time to be heading into the lava fields ahead of me, but I also know in 11 miles there is trail magic at McKenzie pass because all the northbounders told me. A guy called Coppertone has been following the hikers north and hanging out for a week in one spot serving up root beer floats.
So I head off into the heat. But I don’t think it’s as hot as yesterday. The .8 side trail that leads to Big Lake Youth Camp felt like no distance at all compared to last night when the trail felt about 5 miles long. It’s easier with fresh feet. I needed a wee about 10 minutes after hitting the trail, I guess copious amounts of OJ and 2 cans of Sprite will do that for you. But at least it looks a healthier colour now. Less like ale, more like champagne.
My bag is hurting my back and my shoes are hurting my feet. What’s that all about? I adjust my pack so it’s sitting lower and that helps. My feet were really swollen this morning and it was a bit of a struggle to squeeze them into my shoes, I fantasise about having sandals. My feet could spread and maybe the pain in my heels would stop. The trail rises through more burn area and it gets hotter. I am constantly anticipating the start of the lava and I hit it eventually after about 5 miles. 2 miles of climbing through black rock. The sun is heating the rock so I have heat from above and heat from below. It’s hot.
As I walk through the rock I think about wearing sandals. Would that work? It worked for my friend Lightfeather last year. She did the whole trail in her Luna Sandals. I’ll give it some more thought.
After what felt like an absolute age I reached the top of the hill where it flattened and smoothed out a bit. I see two ladies in the shade. ‘Excuse me, may I ask you a question?’ One of them said. ‘How much longer does this bullshit last?’
Luckily I knew what she was talking about. I was about to descend into the rockiest lava section which they had just climbed up. It’s not a fun section, especially in this heat. I assured them the trail got better and I headed off into the bullshit.
It’s not much easier on your body when your descending, but at least you don’t get so hot as when you’re climbing. And at least there was a bit of movement in the air this side of the hill. A few nobos passed me and it didn’t bother me so much when they didn’t speak, I could feel their pain. I met a couple of British guys who recognised my accent – Neon and Dragon – and I stopped to chat with them for a while.
People I pass tell me about Coppertone and the root beer floats. I am eager to get there, my water is hot and it’s not quenching my enormous thirst at all, but I also don’t want to break an ankle, so I make my way carefully over the lava rocks until I see chairs.
Chairs. An understated luxury. How nice it is to sit in a chair. Coppertone made me my eagerly awaited root beer float. My first ever root beer float (root beer with ice cream in) and it was good. Nice and cold. But I could see the bottle of root beer in front of me and it took all my will power not to grab it and chug the whole thing.
I sat there for about an hour chatting with Coppertone, mostly about the differences in our language and about other hikers who have been through. He told me about a girl, who did pass me earlier in the day, who has only had 4 showers since she has been on the trail. 4 showers in three months!
At 5:30 it was time for me to push on. I wanted to make 5 more miles and there was a couple more miles of lava ahead of me. Hopefully I would get to camp at 7:30pm. Eventually the trail came out of the lava and went back to dirt and dust. I told a couple of nobos there was magic at the pass. It’s nice to pass on good news.
A couple of hikers are camped a few metres away from me. I can’t see them but at least I know I’m not completely alone. Lots of people come out here to hike around the Three Sisters. I imagine I will see a lot more of these people about.
I pitch my tent next to the lava rocks, sheltered from the wind. I end up faffing about a bit and I have to eat my dinner by the light of my head torch, I eat the other half of my backpackers pantry meal from yesterday. Was it really only yesterday?! With added cheese and Fritos to make it more palatable. I drink my lake water and imagine it tastes like cheesy socks.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.