Hiking With Jason

Detached From Reality

Day 59: Frosty morning and snow covered afternoon

Day 59 – 6/19/16

Matterhorn Creek 962.06 to mile 977.74

Total miles: 15.68

I woke up this morning with the top of my quilt covered in frost. Great… Everything was frosted. Another cowboy camping failure. After I packed up my stuff I went to put my shoes on. Frozen solid. Awesome. What a great start to the day. My right shoe is falling apart. There is a huge rip on the side by my big toe. All of the creek crossings and snow have shredded the material. I worried that shoving my foot into the frozen shoe would just rip it even more. Luckily it didn’t rip more but the shoe is almost done for. I’m getting new ones in Tahoe but that is 130 miles away. Hold together shoe. Hold together.

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By the time we started moving it was 6:30 am. A late start to the day. We headed out in the cold morning on a wet and soggy trail. My frozen shoes thawed after a few minutes and were soaking wet. As is standard in the Sierra.

5 Star and Mad Dog were way ahead of me before too long. The snow is very low and I lost the trail. I wandered around looking for it but the foot steps disappeared after a snow patch that I could see was over the trail and then there was no trail. I walked back to where I knew the trail was and looked around. I was next to a creek and looked to see if maybe I had to cross but I couldn’t see if the trail was on the other side. I walked along the creek looking but saw nothing. There was a huge tree that fell and was halfway across the creek so I  climbed on the tree to see if I could get a better look. Once on the log I saw the trail did an abrupt left turn across the creek and then continued on. Stupid snow. I’m so sick if it. I couldn’t find a way to cross without getting my feet wet so I plowed through the creek. I’m so sick of creek crossings and wet feet.

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The trail was soaking wet and muddy. Mud squished into my shoe with the gapping hole. Up ahead I saw 5 Star and Mad Dog across the muddy meadow. The trail started to go up. By the time I reached the start of the uphill I could no longer see them. Maybe they were a figment of my imagination. The uphill was brutal. The trail is very rocky, roots every where, and wet. It’s just really crappy. I long for the nice graded dirt trail of Southern California.

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As the trail goes up the snow patches increase. I get to a point where I lose the trail again and can’t see any foot prints in any snow patches ahead of me.  Ugh.. Have I mentioned how much I hate the snow on the trail? I wander around looking for the trail but can’t see anything. The footsteps and trail dissappear once again.I’m starting to get frustrated. Very frustrated. At the snow and that 5 Star and Mad Dog didn’t wait for me especially if the trail is getting hard to find. They know my phone sucks at connecting to the satellites for the trail apps. Sometimes it takes 10 minuted for me to get a location. I sit in the shade and pull out my phone. The battery dropped down to 20%. It was at 50% when I went to sleep. Great. After a few minutes the phone connects to the satellites and I see I’m off the trail a bit but I need to go straight. I see I’m at Benson Pass. I keep going and check my phone occasionally to make sure I’m going up the right pass.

As I get closer to the top I can see 5 Star and Mad Dog. The snow is just a field of snow cups all the way to the top. Snow cups are very hard to walk on and my ankle and knees are hurting. I can’t wait to be done with the Sierra. As beautiful as it is the trail is horrible. I get to the top and see 5 Star is talking to another hiker that camped by us last night. When. We left he was still in his tent. How the hell did he pass me? Even the two times I couldn’t find the trail I wasn’t far from the trail not to notice. Oh well. I walk right past them without saying anything and sit down in some shade away from them. I was in a foul mood and decided it would be best not to say anything I might regret. It’s not their fault I’m going slow and they don’t have to wait for me.

I get up and make my way down the pass. Only to later learn that there was service at the pass. Oh well. I slowly descend the trail looking for a spot I can stop for a break and pull out my quilt that I’m sure is soaking wet now that the frost has melted. Of course the trail is covered in snow and the parts that are not are soaking wet. Eventually 5 Star and Mad Dog catch up and pass me when the trail disappears and we have to cross a creek.

The trail starts to head back up but I’m exhausted and starving. I tell them I have to take a break and so I sit on a boulder and eat some chips. The uphill is covered in snow. After 15 minutes we get back up and head up the snow. The trail went up a couple hundred feet just to go back down. Going down sucked. The snow was very steep and was very slippery. I kept slipping and sliding down. Falling to my side and sliding down the steep slopes. My frustration was at a high. I was sick of the trail and the snow. Going down the snow hurt my knees. It was also making the hole in the side of my shoe worse. I came to the last snow patch before the terrain leveled out again. It was steep and all the foot holds were gone. It was too hard to make my own and too soft for microspikes. I started slowly going down. My right foot slipped and I fell on my hip and slid down 30 feet and hit a rock. I was pissed. Cursing at the trail and snow. I threw my trekking poles and one landed high up in a tree 20 feet away. Have I mentioned how much I hate the snow on the trail? I grabbed one of my poles and went up to the tree and was just barely able to knock out the pole with my other one.

We eventually stop at a place that is dry and take a lunch break. I pull out my quilt and it is soaking wet and smells of mildew. No more cowboy camping until warmer and dryer climate. I plug my phone into 5 Stars solar charger and then eat some food while laying on my thin pad. The shade goes away so we move our stuff and selves to another patch of shade. 5 Star checks on his phone and cones back and says my phone wasn’t charging and plugged my phone in again. Of course it wasn’t charging. What a day…

We pack up our stuff and head out. The trail is flat for a but before we climb over another pass. It was cold enough to freeze shoes this morning.  You would think it would be a nice cool day, right? You would be wrong. As we climbed up the treeless trail my watch was showing 93°. How? Why? Why do the trail gods hate me so? I climb and climb. Barely moving at all. The mosquitoes find me and take advantage of my slow speed and attack me. I drop my pack to grab my bug spray while being swarmed. I spray my legs, hat, shirt, and my hands. I wipe my face and neck. This gives me a small force field but they hover around me, inches from my skin.

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I continue on and reach the top and an alpine lake stretches out before me.  I look at my watch but I’m still 300 feet short of the top. I look around and see that I still have to go up. I keep walking on the muddy, wet, and snow covered trail along with my posse of mosquitoes waiting for the bug spray to wear off or get washed off. I start to climb again and after 100 feet I see 5 Star and Mad Dog sitting in the shade eating. I walk up and sit down. I feel like shit. Physically and mentally. Mentally I’m exhausted and I feel like the two of them are tired of my shitty attitude the last several days. I try not to but the trail is wearing on me. Mammoth didn’t give me the rest I need and I think the town zeroes just makes it harder once I’m back on the trail. I feel weaker and it takes longer to get back to trail normal.

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I think once I finish I won’t feel 100% for a month. Every thing about the trail is tiring. Obviously walking all day with 15 to 30 pounds is tiring. Add in heat, cold, wet feet, snow, and mosquitoes and it just adds to the stress. The low quality sleep on a pad doesn’t help in regaining energy. I never feel rested the next day. I’m constantly hungry. No matter how much I eat it just isn’t enough. I’m starving 15 minutes after eating 1,000 calories. Eventually all this catches up and leaves me hungry and tired all day on the trail. It is what it is and something I have to learn to deal with but it’s hard. Dealing with the mental stress of the trail is becoming much harder than the physical. The physical stress just adds to the mental.

We get up and start moving again. The trail goes up a bit more before dropping. We hoped for a snow free descent but we knew better. Why would the trail make it easy for us? It’s only 9,200 feet. Before Mammoth snow was above 9,500. The snow is steep of course but easy to keep track of the trail.

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Until we get down to a large creek and the snow is right on the trail at a steep slope. On the right is a raging creek. On the left is sheer rock. The snow has melted next to the rock and so there is a gap between snow and rock.

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We have to go across this. If I slip to the left I fall 6 feet down between rock and snow. If I slip to the right I slide down into the creek and get swept away to my cold wet death. I start making my way across and my shitty right shoe slips. I fall and barely grab the ledge of snow as I start sliding down. I start cursing at the trail and snow. I shuffle the remaining 15 feet across. Legs and hands frozen from the snow. Have I mentioned how much I hate the snow?

We continue on walking along the snow slope. Hoping a foothold in the snow didn’t give way and send me sliding into the creek. After a long time finally we drop enough that the snow lessens and we are left with just a mud soaked trail.

At this point I finally finish the 14th book of the Wheel of Time series.  This one was almost 42 hours long. I am happy to finally finish but I’m sad it’s over.

We come up to a flat dry spot over looking the creek and decide to stop. It’s 6 pm.almost 12 hours and not even 16 miles. 16 tiring miles. I can’t wait to be done with the Sierra.

I set up my tent and then get out my needle and floss. I sew up my shoe and hope it will get me another 115 miles.

7 Comments

  1. Jason you are a gifted storyteller! Your humor and honesty are keeping not only your family and your friends anxiously awaiting each new post from you but also people you’ve never met! We are all inspired by your words, your wit, and your wonderful pictures! At those moments when you feel at your weakest, remember that you are stronger than you think. When you are done and back home in the desert I’m going to send you one of those t-shirts that say “Think Snow!” to remind you of the good times you had in the snow!
    Love you 🙂

  2. Merna Campbell

    June 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    It is hard to image all that snow when we are having record breaking heat here. The heat saps your energy too but at least everything is dry.

  3. What a crappy day. Your writing is so visual. I felt like I was there with you and was experiencing all of your frustrations. If it was me, I think I would’ve plopped in the snow and cried. Thankfully your arm was in a weakened state and your trekking pole didn’t go higher into the tree. Your day could’ve been worse having to climb the tree. You can do this! It’s your dream.

  4. That was the hardest post to read yet. Just the hole in your shoe sounded awful, but snow is the worst. I don’t know what kind of sick people like snow. Just try and remember, on your worst days, you are still doing it. You are doing what you’ve dreamed. You are being braver, stronger, and more adventurous than you ever have. And soon, you will be back home in your bed dreaming about creek crossings and shaking your trekking poles out of trees. And you definitely won’t be able to eat 5000 calories a day 😉

  5. feel a bit sorry saying this but im really loving all this negativity in the lines!! talk about sincere hiking literature

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