Tales From the Trail -Red’s Meadows

IMG_5634IMG_5620We traveled 11.75 miles this morning after breaking camp in 5-hours! We were a tad motivated to get to Red’s Meadows. As we hiked, we talked about the upcoming luxuries of SHOWERS. REAL FOOD. CELL SERVICE. Among many, one of the things this trail has lended me was to absolutely and constantly be thankful for the little things. As I paid the $15 for 15 minutes of clean water in an actual shower I considered people who do not have this option and how easy it is to take for granted. I couldn’t believe the MUD that rolled off of me and down the drain. Serious filth! Even though I was bathing daily in whatever body of water was available to us each evening, it just didn’t compare to a warm, clean, shower. How much this relates to Jesus! I would’ve paid $100 for this luxury. We laughed! Us girls. We all three went into the shower at the same time, finding three empty stalls and as we plopped our tokens into the coin operated machine and stepped in, we laughed! Hard! We stood under the rush of warm water and felt like pampered princesses and REALLY felt clean! We didn’t shave the entire trip. It was our pact. The feeling of wanting to now was SO incredibly overwhelming. It was part of the journey and being all in. We may be clean princesses but we are hairy! And so was our dude! His facial hair was reaching epic proportion! For me, this shower washed so much more than dirt away. It washed away my bad attitude from the days before, it washed away feelings of guilt over decisions I have made, expectation I’ve placed on myself and ones that have been put there by others, it washed away things I’ve been holding on to that needed desperately to be let go of, past hurts, pride issues, being judged, negative feelings, mistakes, times in my life that I fell apart, fear, the mess of the last year and the dirt of the past…..It all ran down the drain in a puddle.

Red’s Meadows is such a great place. Magical. The gathering place for all wanderers just outside of the beautiful Mammoth Lakes/Devil’s Postpile area. IMG_5630Full of wonderful, backpacking, happy people. It’s no wonder I loved it! (“My People” as my hubs refers to them) We quickly recognized some of our trail family. Those we’ve met along the way, and continue to see on the daily. Leap- frogging along, but always ending up camping alongside each night. Our Slovakian’s whom we met WAY back on Glen Pass; two buddies hiking together, one of them barefoot. Tony, our dreadlocked farmer, who gave up an organic farm to hike the JMT, and of course the sweet 50th-anniversary couple, Brooks and Rita. We all filtered in little by little to the showers, the Mule House Cafe (that had the BEST cheeseburgers, fries, and fruit pie on the planet, ON THE PLANET!) and little general store that held our resupply. Interestingly enough, none of us rushed for our resupply. We opted instead for a shower, food, beer and hanging in the sunshine talking with other hikers…. in that order. We met Sam, a guy from the UK who is hiking the PCT. He is 3 weeks from finishing his 6-month journey and even though I have suffered some pretty rotten things out on this trail, I yearn for the opportunity to hike the PCT at some point. I was a little jealous. We talked to 2 women hikers from Maine that were having issues with sleeping bags. They were freezing at night and were asking opinions from everyone about new sacks that they were considering purchasing in Mammoth Lakes. We met a group of 4 women hiking together that were sharing a jar of queso dip and chips from the store. HEAVEN! We listened to the stories of fun and laughter, of animals, of heartbreak, of spiritual journeys, of blisters and sprained ankles, of sleeping COLD, of favorite and least favorite passes, the stories of their journeys and what brought them out here in the first place. I was happy to see so many solo-female hikers, and Ladies of the JMT (all of us wearing our blue bandanas on our pack to signify who we were) I was fascinated by these people and their stories and just wanted to take it all in! Sometimes I thought; man we must have a screw loose to do this, to want this, to enjoy (to some extent) the suffering of almost a month in the wilderness. The isolation, being dirty, being in the complete silence, the remoteness…but then I realized…Nah, it’s passion. It’s passion that drives this and every. single. one. of. us.  has. a. story.

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This was some DANG good coffee!

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With our “Slovakian’s” Igor (who hiked most of the trail barefoot and Jakob (Jakub)

We picked up our resupplies from the little general store and sifted through the contents. I dug….WAY down to the bottom for my note, but quickly saw that Greg had added a few other goodies to this bucket. A can of Pringle’s (oh sweet Jesus) about 5 lbs of Starburst, blister care items (first aid) and a few bottles of Fire Ball. That man knows exactly what I need even from thousands of miles away and not hearing from me in over 10 days! This would be our last resupply. My last note. The last little bit of correspondence until we finish this out. It excited me as much as it grieved me. It was bittersweet in several aspects and as happy as I was to be finishing up this incredibly, epic experience, I was deeply SO saddened at the same time.

My note to myself.

Paula,

Wild Mama, just because you cried today doesn’t make you weak, Allow the tears to come and wash your spirit clean. You’ve come a long way baby! You’re at Red’s Meadows. Reflect on where you have come from and where you’re heading. Continue to celebrate all that lies within you. God has created in you and adventurer, a lover of nature and of stars and extraordinary views. This is why you’re out here. Breathe it all in. You are stronger than you ever give yourself credit. Keep it up, badass warrior! Thanks be to God. Remember, you planned well and are ready for the next few days to the finish!IMG_1659

And from G.

Look at you, Lady! Wow! Bad-assery in its truest form. Your body is probably a little beat up and tired, but that’s ok. Better this than a lump on the couch. Embrace it all! You can make it this last stretch, dig in and remember, LOOK UP! Hopefully, you remember me at the end of this. I will be the guy standing with a cold beer, a super-soaker, and a razor. Ha-Ha! I love you, G

I roared with laughter as I read this. Along with his funny note, and myriad of additional goodies, he had packed the baggies of my re-packaged dehydrated meals (yes RE-PACKAGED because weight is EVERYTHING when it’s on your back) and had renamed a few for me, which brought some great laughter around our little Jet Boils as we cooked dinner at camp.IMG_5623

We had to say goodbye to Red’s Meadows  in the morning and start our way up Donahue Pass. It was hard leaving. We ate an AMAZING breakfast with WAAAAY too much coffee from a pot. Donahue is a big pass with 23-ish miles to the top. It’s long and gradual reaching 11,703 feet. We camped part way up around the Shadow Lake area. We had decided to bite this last section off in chunks. This was a gorgeous camp, with a waterfall right outside my tent door. (and for me, besides sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls rank HIGH up on the food chain of gorgeous-must-sees for me. I LOVE them) I climbed to the top of the falls and spent some alone time with God thanking Him for his creation, for His love for us through his creation. The beauty here and along this entire journey has been unsurpassed. I thanked Him for the opportunity of being out here, for His healing on my feet and body. I thanked Him for my hiking partners and keeping us all healthy (for the most part.) and safe. Out of the four of us, we had one common thread before going into this hike….our dude! K and I knew one another, but not to the depths that we did now. J and I met the day she, K and her hubs picked me up in San Bernardino to head to Lone Pine. Talk about really putting your faith into your hiking partners. So for us to make it this far with only a few small scrapes and bumps along the trail (so to say) I think I was in good company. I was so thankful for their underserved patience, and their inspiration, and kindness. I know we all had days where the raw emotion was high and we wanted to scream at one another, but in the end, we showed love, appreciation, devotion, fortitude, humility, mercy and grace. We showed friendship.  I was so grateful for that. Complete and utter favor in the most extreme conditions Their compassion was incredible. I know full well that some days, probably most days, I was deserving of NONE of it!

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That one day that J fell and K had to bandage her up with a Maxi-Pad!!

I took a deep breath as I climbed into my tent and into my mummy, the cascading sound of the falls outside the door making me dizzy with relaxation and tiredness. It had started to rain and we all retreated to our tents early. The daylight still lingered. I sat up and re-read the note from G and giggled. He has the greatest way of always making me and those around him laugh! He would love this spot. I cannot believe this journey is almost ending. I didn’t want it to. It had changed me in some pretty profound ways already. What would going home be like? What would matter to me that hadn’t before? What things would I cherish more and what would I no longer need or care to have? Would I want to go home and buy a Tiny House in the woods after living in Big Agnes for the past 3 1/2 weeks? What would I appreciate more and find unnecessary? What would food and water taste like? Different? Possibly. I do know the need to see my family was so colossal. To breathe them in deeply was all I wanted. That, and to lift and inhale the sweet, dirty, earthy, grass-smell of my puppy’s paws. (this is something her and I do several times a day) Those things that on a daily we become so accustomed to, that are so ordinary at times, that never will be again. They just can’t be.

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Start my JMT journey from the beginning HERE 

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Tales From the Trail -A Wilderness Throne and Forrester Pass

~GRATEFUL for the nights that turned into mornings with the friends that turned into family.

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Look real close. See those two awesome women? K and J on Forrester Pass

*Let me start by saying if you are in ANY way squeamish with dirt, blisters, feet, skin or the likes, DO not scroll to the bottom of this post. Spare yourself now!

We left Mt Whitey and camped at Crabtree Meadows. We were exhausted by the time we got to CT and really just wanted to set camp, have a quick meal and rest. Although we had left camp at Guitar Lake, summited Mt Whitney, and hiked back out to Crabtree I was surprisingly not hungry. A through-hike phenomenon to me, as I knew the calories we burned and would need to replenish were substantial today. Also considering the next day, if I was low now, there was no catching up. I managed a few pieces of beef jerky and a small amount of cheese, but that’s all I could muster tonight.

We all thought it was funny that in the camp area at Crabtree there is one toilet. One. And its right in the middle of the campsites. Right out there, with nothing surrounding it. A wilderness throne. Trying to put your business together sitting out there is next to impossible while others just stand around and wait. Trust me on this, as I am living proof to sitting down and not 1 minute later having a guy walk right up, apologize and then proceed to go stand about 10 feet away. It was this day that I realized that all modesty, timidity, and discreetness was down the toilet. K dropped her entire roll of tp in there this morning!

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This my friends is a throne with a view…..of EVERYTHING!

Leaving Crabtree we had a long day ahead of us. We hiked to the switchbacks/the base of Forrester Pass. We had a couple points that we thought we’d stop, but we pushed through, continued on and felt good about getting to the base of the pass. This country is so gorgeous, words cannot and will not do it justice. Right at the base, there is a perfectly, azure, alpine lake. Making the promise to myself, I had to take a dip. I leaped in with gusto and popped back out from under the frigid water with a scream that I’m sure was heard for miles. I proceeded to try and walk on water at this point due to the temps. Unsuccessful, I managed to swim back to shore and dried off surrounded by granite walls waiting to be explored.

Tonight would be our coldest night.

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Backcountry Pippy

 

I had to switch out of my boots to my camp sandals today as my feet are terribly blistered and sore. Well-fitting boots are no match for calloused, running feet that are damp from creek soaking and sweat. They are really starting to get sore, and to save myself from the pain and a hope for some healing, I hiked in sandals all day. This resulted in yet another trail name for me; Backcountry Pippy. Must be the striped socks and braids!

There are a lot of marmots running around here, just eying us and waiting for anything to drop onto the ground for them. I am chasing them away while eating my reheated, dehydrated Chili Mac by rocketing chunks of granite at them. I’m sure they are harmless but know they will eat anything they can get their little paws on. I shortly realized after pitching, the opening of my tent is in their zone. Right in front of a den! I sit and stare out of my tent door to a fat little fella across from me. He blinks and sniffs at the air, as we make a truce. I will keep ALL of my belongings inside my tent tonight, away from his sweat and odor loving fatness, and he will….well he won’t try and get into my tent to devour the handles of my trekking poles.

We camped at 12,500 feet tonight and covered 13 miles.

Dawn was upon us as we packed up camp and left the base of Forrester Pass and made our ascent of the steep switchbacks. Seeing the sun rise over the mountain ranges is spectacular and the most majestic thing I’ve seen. What a gift! I have to pinch myself! It was slow-going as we descended the other side. Definitely a steep pass to maneuver. We came through some gorgeous wilderness today that smelled of mint and wild onion. This section had quite a few waterfalls that were just incredible and so life-giving to me. I needed this! Second to the ocean, waterfalls nourish my soul in such a deep and profound way. I decided that Vidette Meadows is a MUST for a camp on my next trip.

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” John Muir

We had a longer day than expected today and it was definitely a low day for us. We were tired and had a lot of unexpected vertical. It was rough on all of us. We knew going in this was not a cake walk and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that not all days would be sunshine and rainbows. Going into a hike of this magnitude we’d be fooling ourselves to think otherwise. It’s in the agony that you can realize what you’re truly made of. Your potential. The laying down of egos to allow for a helping hand. We tried to support one another any way we could, but it was just an off day. It happens, and that’s why I consider these friends family now. We have seen ugly together. We have seen pain and fatigue and the bruising of our minds as we fight for the last few miles in a day.

This is the second day I’m hiking in camp sandals. I’m not sure how well they are going to hold up over the sharpness and ruggedness of the land and granite. They are not supportive and I am watching each step as to not roll an ankle. Quite frankly, it sucks, but I don’t have an alternative at this point. My toe is not doing good, the skin has completely de-gloved off of my pinky and its probably some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. J is worried I will get an infection at this point.We are headed into Onion Valley over Kearsarge Pass tomorrow for our resupply and I’m going to have to go to the Immediate Care.

Join the start of our journey HERE Tales From the Trail

And Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney HERE Tales From the Trail-Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney