September 10 (~07:00 – ~10:45)
Before Kearsarge Pass junction – Kearsarge Pass Trail (1.2 mi / Total: 789.1 mi) (+7.3 bonus miles to Onion Valley Trailhead)
Total PCT miles: 2566.0
Weather: Painfully cold in the morning, one of the lakes is frozen. Hot in the sun once it comes out.
When my alarm goes off I have no idea how I’m ever going to be able to leave my tent. It’s so cold I can barely move. All my layers of clothing don’t help, and my early wake up call is soon rendered a failure from slow, frigid movements. When I make it out of my tent I’m stunned in a different way: the pure white landscape of rock and the trail leading up to the pass is wholly overwhelming. It’s so different from yesterday, it’s so splendid, as opposed to last night, when it was imposing and scary.
I instantly feel regret I couldn’t see Glen in its esoteric splendour when I reached the top last night, but at the same time I did get a unique view. And I treasure that as well.
I make my way out of this mass of white rock, and pass a few small lakes of which one is frozen over. Now I get why it was so cold. The sun doesn’t even come near until I get to Kearsarge Pass Trail, and I leave the PCT to hike the final 7 miles to the trailhead. Finally it warms up. The trail is easy and the views are splendid, with several blue lakes down in the valley. I’m happy I’ll have to take the same trail to come back in, which means that I don’t feel the pressure to take pictures every ten seconds, and it feels great just to walk, and not constantly stop and search for angles.
I make it over the pass after a short climb, and then I descend. Ah, the descend is great. Long switchbacks and a gradual way down. I half run, and it still takes forever, but I make it down in good time. It’s not even 11, and I’m ready to go to town.
Unfortunately, I’m at a dead end road with a parking lot filled with cars, but no people riding out. There were lots of people on the trail, but most of them were headed towards the pass, in the opposite direction, and I have no idea when they’ll be coming back. I position myself towards the end of the parking lot, stand in the sun, and wait.
After some time a JMT hiker joins me, and it’s good to have someone to chat with, and share the waiting with. Then suddenly a car pulls out, and I hail them, and although there’s four people in there already, they’re happy for us to squeeze in. The JMT hiker ends up in the boot with six backpacks, I’m the backseat with two others, and we slowly drive down the swirling road to Independence.
Town! They drop us off and I decide to try for Bishop. Bishop is a nice town, and bigger than Independence. It’s another 40 miles north but I’ve been wanting to go back since I passed it months ago during my hitchhike to bypass the Sierras, so I walk towards the edge of town, and hitch. Hitching is always awkward but this time I quickly get picked up by three young people on their way to Yosemite for a short camping trip, so it turns into a perfect and fun drive up.
We arrive in Bishop before 2, so I have the rest of the day in town. It’s not a lot – usually I’d want a full town day, but it’s enough for this time. I pick up a coffee first, then get several plates of food at Looney Bean, and then decide to head for one of the hostels in town. Crazy enough, I haven’t stayed at a hostel yet during this trip, but I don’t want to spend too much money on my last town stay.
I get a bed at Eastside Hostel, take a shower and hand wash some of my clothes which I lay on the grass outside to dry. I do my resupply at Vons in the evening and spend the most money I’ve ever spend on trail food, and I sit in the main area of the hostel to pack it all up. While I do so, a hiker who’s just come off the JMT keeps asking me questions, and at first they’re nice ones and we have a good chat, but then he just won’t stop – what do you do for a living, are you married, does everything fit inside your pack or do you strap your tent to the outside? It gets a little much.
And then it’s time for bed. I haven’t really managed to work on too many blog posts so I edit some writing in bed, and then I sleep.