For those who were/are interested in my thru-hike, I haven’t fallen off a ridge or caught on fire. I am now finished with my adventure and have taken the time to compile my notes and photos so that I can describe the rest of my hike to you! It turns out that when you are walking all day (and sometimes at night) there is little time for blog writing…so here it is!
I have now conquered the famous Sierra Nevada mountain range. This section of the trail is 400 miles long with little outside access. It begins near Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505 ft (4,421 m). This mountain range was formed when glaciations ~100 million years ago exposed underlying granite to form the spectacular mountains I have struggled over for the past few weeks.
Environments at high elevation tend to receive more precipitation then down below. Donnor Pass, infamous for a group of desperate travelers resorting to cannibalism, gets more snow than most other places in the United States. Lucky for me this year was a low precipitation year, I only encountered a few hailstorms, and one 4-day stretch of rain. The problem with backpacking in the mountains is that storms roll in fast. Moist air is forced upward by the rock barrier and is condensed as it moves through cooler air. If a hiker happens to have less then impeccable timing, they often find themselves at the crest of the mountains where cold and violent storms hit without warning.
Despite the harsh conditions, there are fellow inhabitants on the crest. Marmots are constantly interested in hiker campsites, looking for sweaty gear to chew on. Insects are abundant in the summertime, and as you approach Yosemite Valley, bears are scavenging. Black bears become a huge problem in the valley where there are lots of tourists leaving food remains, however in the backcountry most hikers are educated and responsible, using bear proof canisters to store their food. Biting flies are also a nuisance, making it tricky for a weary hiker to take a peaceful break. Many nights, choosing a campsite meant finding a spot furthest from any standing water where mosquitoes are most plentiful.
This section of the PCT is home to the most stunning vistas. Hiking through involves climbing a mountain pass every day (or sometimes two!), a grueling task made tougher by the lack of oxygen in the air. The view from the top of the pass is always the best reward for hauling your weary body up 4000+ft. This rough terrain has whipped me into the best shape of my life, so I am now ready to begin pushing higher daily mileage…still have a long way to go!
An important piece of wisdom from this section, always pack too much food! Carrying extra is less painful than being hungry.
Peace and dry socks,