PCT Day 152 & 153 : Bad Weather Days In Mammoth

September 3 (~07:15 – ~09:00)
Middle Fork San Joaquin River – Red’s Meadow (4.3 mi / Total: 906.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2448.3
Weather: Chilly, then warm once I start walking. Thunder and rain in Mammoth.

September 4 (~14:10 – ~19:30)
Red’s Meadow – Duck Lake Outlet (10.8 mi / Total: 895.9 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2459.1
Weather: Pleasant. Not too hot or cold. Lots of clouds moving about, with thunder nearby.

I wake up next to the river. Today is my day off, or really it’s a nero, because I still have about 4 miles to walk to Red’s Meadow resort, from where I’ll be taking a shuttle into the town of Mammoth Lakes. I have a hotel booked for tonight, and I’m excited about it. I love having a room to myself when I’m in town.

It’s a pleasant walk to the resort. There are pretty much no views and it’s a level walk through the forest. When I reach the small buildings that comprise the lodgings, store and pack station, a shuttle is just pulling over – my timing is perfect. I purchase a ticket for $8, which will also get me back tomorrow, and watch the scenic route form inside the bus. It takes two more shuttles to get into Mammoth Lakes, but somehow they’re all perfectly aligned and I don’t have to wait at all. An hour later, I’m in town.

My main chores for town are laundry, blogs, and resupply. I’m too frazzled to consider doing my resupply today, and instead sit down at Stellar Brew for coffee, a breakfast burrito and a smoothie bowl, and then pick up another coffee from Black Velvet Coffee across the street. I like these places. Then I fruitlessly wait for the free town trolley that passes right by me because of roadworks and I have to walk to the grocery store instead.

When I finally get to Vons I pick up fruit, avocados and yoghurt and take them to the hotel. I booked a room at Motel 6, and it’s basic but actually quite nice. I do my laundry and eat all my fruit while I blog on the bed. Outside the skies have gone black and it thunders, lightning everywhere, while it pours rain. It must be terrifying up in the mountains right now and I’m so happy to be inside today. I could stay here for days.

I’ve been calculating my days left on trail, and I’m trying to arrange them so I could possibly add Mt Whitney, a side trip which would take up an entire extra day. I’ve got it all worked out but the next morning I already ruin my own plans by not leaving early enough. I’m supposed to do a full day today – I only had yesterday off. Instead I sleep in because I feel I really need it, and I don’t leave the room until it’s almost checkout time.

I pick up two breakfast burritos and a coffee, and walk to Vons to do my resupply before heading back to the trail. I’m careful about what I pick up. Everything should really fit in my bear canister, and I’m packing for 5.5 days, so I don’t want to bring too much. I think I’m successful, and I stand outside the store, packing everything in ziplock bags and fitting it in my can while the skies thicken and thunder sounds. I wonder how far I’ll make it today.

Before I hop on the bus I pick up some KT tape from the pharmacy. My lower leg was hurting a lot last night, and this kinesiology tape might just help to alleviate some of the pain. I find the shuttle and have another perfectly aligned experience back to the trail – three shuttles and no waiting. An hour later I’m back at Red’s Meadow and I sit down at a picnic table outside eating one of the burritos. I put a strip of KT tape on my leg and then I’m off. It’s just after 2.

Not even fifteen minutes later I’m stopped by heavy thunder, dead ahead of me, and I sit next to a small stream and decide to wait. What a start.

It’s not all a loss, a northbound hiker passes and I ask him about the weather conditions ahead, and I find out he’s a PCT hiker called Triple Whammy who’s probably done just as much flipflopping as me. We chat for some time, and he tells me the weather so far hasn’t been too bad. When he continues the storm clouds have also begun to move away, and I decide to get going as well.

It’s a good decision. The clouds disperse, and the heavy grey ones remain at a safe distance ahead of me, only rumbling again much later on. I start a gradual uphill that’s tough because my pack is so heavy, but otherwise it’s a very non-offensive day. The trail just goes through the woods, and it’s not until the end of the day that the pink and gold from the lowering sun illuminate today’s first views of the incredible Sierra mountains ahead. It’s all rock and moonlike and unlike anything else. I’m looking forward to getting there.

I set up close to an outlet 10 miles in. It’s not a lot, and it’s certainly not the full day I was supposed to do, but it’s something. And I’m in a nice spot. There’s a ton of space here, and I see a lot of tents hiding in the trees. I set my alarm early and I’m actually going to have to get up on time as well – there’s a chance that more thunder will hit tomorrow afternoon, and I need to get over Silver Pass before that. The pass is 10 miles ahead, and there’s quite a bit of ascend to get there…

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