Finally back on the trail today, we spent a large part of the day just trying to get to the trailhead.
The first order of business today was to ... work on a jigsaw puzzle. Some people had been working on it for the past couple of days, and I figured I’d give it a shot, since I needed to make a trip to the post office, which didn’t open until 9. Quoi was already working on the puzzle, and the two of us managed to add a few pieces and connect two disconnected sections to the completed puzzle.
Free, who had been working at Hostel California (as the only present employee for the past couple of weeks), was now free, and would be joining Dylan, Flowers, Quoi, and I, as would Craynip. Free cooked a breakfast of eggs, onions, and garlic (delicious!), which I supplemented with soda left over from McDonalds yesterday.
Sending my bounce box up to Mammoth Lake at the post office went uneventfully, though I should have left a few minutes earlier, and I should have taken one of the loaner bikes at the hostel, rather than walking. Oh well; a little extra exercise never hurts.
Against my better judgement, I weighed my fully-loaded pack on the pack scale at the hostel, which came back with a horrifying 62 pounds. No one else present even came close. (I suspect fully half of that is food.)
Quoi, Dylan, and I left the hostel at 10:30, walking south on Main Street (US-395), and trying to hitch a ride the whole time. Flowers, Free, and Craynip followed shortly after, and we were behind several other hikers as well. We eventually walked to the Jack in the Box at the edge of town, and stopped there, trying to hitch for a good 45 minutes. Eventually getting tired and thirsty standing in the hot sun, I got lunch, and then we returned to the road side.
Around noon, we finally found someone to give us a ride: Billy, from New Zealand, was willing to give us a ride to Big Pine, a tiny town in between Bishop and Independence. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a move in the right direction, at least.
Billy dropped us off at a gas station about 20 minutes later, and we proceeded to try and continue to try and hitch to Independence. Within five minutes, we got a ride. Jim and Dawn, who had passed a group of six hikers back in Bishop, but were unable to stop to pick them up because there was nowhere to park their RV, parked just past the gas station we were at, and offered us a ride to Independence. From Ridgecrest, they were returning there after a weekend at Mammoth Lake. They were excellent hosts, also offering us food and drinks, and I think it was my first time riding in an RV. Around 1 pm, they got us to the gas station in Independence, where we had got our ride to Bishop a few days ago.
We waited at the gas station for a while; Quoi was feeling a bit carsick, and we wanted to wait for Flowers, Free, and Craynip to arrive, which they did not too long after we got there.
A bit after 2, we walked across the street, a short distance down the road to the trailhead, and started trying to hitch. This became more complicated, because other hikers showed up while we were waiting, and there were easily ten people there all trying to get a ride up the mountain. After about 15 minutes, Jan, who was coming from the direction of the trailhead, saw us, turned around, and offered us ride; or at least, rides for five of us that could fit in her truck.
Free and I got in, as well as three hikers from another group, and we rode up the mountain. Jan said she’d pick up the rest of my group if they were still there when she got to the bottom of the mountain. She didn’t have to make that return trip; everyone’s else got another ride up, and got up to the trailhead not that long after I did.
Dylan and I waited for a little while to help Quoi’s altitude sickness abate (the trailhead is literally a mile higher than Independence), and around 3:25, we headed up the mountain, following after Flowers, Free, and Craynip.
Our destination today was Flower Lake, only 2.4 miles up the Kearsarge Pass Trail. It wasn’t far to hike, but we weren’t exactly the quickest, carrying heavily loaded packs. It did, though, get us back on a trail, and the PCT is now only a few hours of hiking away.
My pack was clearly not designed for a 60-pound weight. The excess weigh was pushing down on my shoulder in a way that was probably compressing a nerve; my pinky fingers were tingling after not too long. Fortunately, the weight will only go down as I eat through my food, and should be sub-60 by the time I start hiking tomorrow morning.
Quoi’s altitude sickness bothered her the whole way up, slowing her considerably. She made it to the lake, though, and this is one of my most scenic tentsites to date.
After setting up our tents, we had a little bit of a rain scare, but a few drops fell over a few minutes, and then it was over. The winds did pick up as the sun went down, though. Usually calm, an occasional gust of wind would blow though, before calming down again.
Tomorrow: an early start so we can get over Kearsarge Pass, and the next pass on the PCT, Glen Pass, before it gets too late in the day and we start excessively postholing again.