So I decided to hike to John Muir Trail. Again. Well I say again but technically I hadn’t done the whole JMT yet. The JMT and the PCT become one trail, with the exception of about 30 miles. So there were still 30 miles of the JMT that I hadn’t done.

This year (2019) has been a busy one. For those that don’t yet know I am planning to row across the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean next year so I have been kept really busy with the planning if that – which means no time for a thru-hike – but I felt like I had to do something this year.

I considered a section hike of the CDT, and I thought about trying to coordinate something with Catwater as I knew she would be out there this year finishing up her multi year thru-hike. But to be honest it seemed like a lot of hard work and extra planning on top of a heavy planning year! So when I found out that Catwater was planning to jump on the JMT after the CDT I decided to join her.

I really only had to think about how I was going to get there and how I was going to get back, and Catwater planned the rest.

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Goodbye England
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Hello Los Angeles

I flew into LA and it was weird because everything has changed in just a year, you don’t fill out landing cards anymore, it is all done at border control by machine, no talking to people anymore. I also decided to take some freeze dried food with me, and after getting anything with chicken taken off me at customs in 2016 I decided to do two things. One, take the labels off anything with meat in and hand write ‘mac and cheese’ on them, and two, just not declare them.

It was a risky strategy but I had decided to play the confused tourist card, and the ‘they let me through with them in the past’ card. After getting through all the machines we then had to queue for an age to talk to a human. I was nervous about the food in my bag but I didn’t need to be. No one checked and it never got mentioned.

The border guard asked my how long I was staying and why I was using my B2 visa (answer: because I already had it from previous trips). He asked me what I had done before and he declared me: the British Forest Gump. Later on, if I didn’t already have a trail name someone suggested the BFG which I thought was pretty good! But Puff is here to stay.

I got the flyaway bus from the airport to Union Station. I’m not sure what I did wrong, or what they did wrong, but I didn’t have to pay for the journey. It would have only been about $10 but at no point did anyone ask me for any money, so I got away with that one!

I had one night in LA, I booked into a hostel which was the closest to the train station I could find for a reasonable price (LA is expensive!). Jet lag meant I was good for nothing and just crashed out. I’m not keen on LA, everything is so spread out and it doesn’t feel like the safest place to just go for a wander. The area I was in wasn’t great, and to get to downtown I would have to go through Skid Row, so I just hung around the hostel.

The next day was another long day of travel. I got the Metrolink train from LA to Lancaster and I didn’t realise how close the railway got to the pct, we even crossed it at one point, it made me all nostalgic. I was also amazed at how many homeless tent cities there were all along the tracks.

After my 3 hour train journey I had to hang around in Hotsville (Lancaster) for 3 hours. It was so hot. Stupidly hot. La was hot, but the further north I was going the hotter and hotter it was getting. I went to Delicious Burger and stayed there for an hour and a half. 4 Dr Pepper refills and a giant mushroom bacon swiss burger, which I just didn’t need to eat…but it was goooood!

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I wandered about a bit and tried to find an ATM which had no fees, but I couldn’t remember which banks were the good ones so in the end I just sucked up the fees to save on the amount I was sweating by walking from bank to bank.

Finally it was time for me to get the the bus up to bishop, which was a 4 hour journey.  The nice lady who drove the Eastern Sierra Transit bus turned around at the terminus and took me right to the door of the hostel. Small town America is just the best. I had already been in touch with The Hostel California to organise one of my hiker friends – the Prodigy – to ship his bear canister there for me to borrow, and found out the hostel was being run by The Graduate and T-Rex who I met at cascade locks in 2016, they were going north and I was heading south. They don’t normally accept packages but because they knew me they made an exception. It is all about who you know!

The hostel wan’t that busy, I was there out of thru-hiker season, but because this year was such a high snow year there were a few flip floppers around. I saw a girl who hiked the PCT in 2015 but skipped some parts, so had spent the last few years finishing up what she missed, fitting it in around work. I hadn’t met her before and we didn’t have any friends in common, it’s amazing how you can be just a week apart and have such different experience. I also saw a guy I met really early on on the AT. He was a bit weird. He’s still a bit weird.

I went to Vons supermarket to check out the resupply situation and quickly remembered how painful resupplying is and how much I don’t want to eat any of that food! I checked out all the outdoor gear shops and I wanted loads of things but didn’t need anything. I replaced my 2l platypus (I donated my old one to Peaches on the AT) and I bought some sunglasses. Bright orange plastic frames aren’t my usual look but it was pretty much all they had and the lenses are awesome. They are polarised and give a really nice light. So as I value my eyesight quite a bit I went for those. And a steal at only $25!

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Because of the jet lag I’ve been consistently waking up around 4 am which isn’t great. The next day I did my resupply and it was kinda painful. I had to do the first 6 days and the next 5 days after that. Buying 11 days of hiking food is one of my least favourite things to do! I knew it was hot so I didn’t want to carry things like cheese and salami and I didn’t have any room in my bear canister for potato chips (in hindsight no crisps was a big mistake!) so I got a load of old junk that I always eat when I’m hiking and I have the freeze dried meals I brought with me from England, plus the 2 packets of TimTams that Prodigy put in his bear canister when he sent it to me! Hiking friends are great!

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This will do for 6 days resupply!

On the way back to the hostel I treated myself to a baja blast from Taco Bell – Mountain Dew on steroids and one of the best things about America. It is time to begin my soda cravings again. That night I went out for Mexican meal for one and it was the best Mexican I’ve ever had, in fact one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Chicken and avocado enchiladas with mango salsa. If I stare at this picture long enough I can almost taste it again  🤤

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Keeping on the food theme I went to Schatts Bakery. There is a Schatts in Mammoth and I have fond memories of it so I was very pleasantly surprised to find one in Bishop too. So good. So much choice. So much bread! I got some bacon-chilli-cheese breadsticks and intended to take some on my hike but ate them all straight away.

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The next day Catwater came to pick me up about 2pm and I screamed and ran out to see her. Her friend Joan drove us to Independence where we dropped off a resupply which we would pick up in 6 days time, and then went on to Lone Pine. We met Jim and Tom and his wife Ellen. Jim and Tom are hiking with us from Cottonwood Pass to Kearsarge Pass and Ellen would shuttle us up to the trail head. Logistically I have had to do very little!

We went out for pizza and then I had ice cream. Literally all I have done since I’ve been here is eat and I haven’t even done any hiking yet! I do feel like a fatty. I feel like a blob. I am 6kg/13lb heavier than when I finished the pct first time around but I am 5kg/11lb lighter than when I started it first time around. So there you go.

Catwater and I are staying in the Portal Motel. She won’t let me pay, again. Tomorrow we finally get on trail…

 

FOOTNOTE:
My aim is to get these posts published regularly over the next 18 days. I will try my best!

 

 

 

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