Day 60 continued…
So as we were saying in the last post, Cashmere made a deal with a nice woman in a campground to give us and another fellow named Chopsticks a ride to Mammoth.
We enjoyed the high heat in the car which warmed our wet bones. The road to Mammoth was winding and scenic but the scenery that really attracted our attention was the food establishments we cruised by going into town: pizza, bagels, sushi! Why did we ever think it was a good idea to leave society? Well I guess all the exercise earned us more justification to eat more.
After checking in at the Motel 6 (and Physio checking out the hiker box in the lobby) we went to our little, modest room. Cashmere was still freezing and sick so hopped in the hot shower first with all sorts of things to wash: her pack, plastic bags, poles, etc. Let’s just say it wasn’t the shortest of showers. Then Physio jumped in next and proceeded to wash the tent (among other hiking gear) in the shower. He was in there so long he came out feeling kind of ill. Meanwhile, Cashmere started googling, “all you can eat, Mammoth Lakes”.
Next thing you know we are sitting in a restaurant next door for the Wednesday special: all you can eat ribs! (Cashmere’s usual meat ethics are a bit on hold for the trip.) When we tried to order two sets of all you can eat ribs, the waitress said, “why don’t you get one order and share it and another entree?”. We were like, “What you do that? And you encourage it? I love this place!”
Okay so it turns out Cashmere’s food fantasies are not matched by her stomach capacity. Physio carried the team when it came to consuming ribs – and he managed three plates.
Once Physio had overdosed on BBQ sauce, ribs, shrimp fajitas, and delicious beer we retired to our room for a cozy night’s sleep.
Our second day in Mammoth was a pretty standard zero day. We did laundry, got our resupply, ate pizza, and most importantly visited the local brewery.
After a few very tasty beers with our friends we went to Angels (the rib place) for more food (other than ribs this time) and then went back to the motel to bed.
This day was weird. We were in no hurry to leave the motel, check out was noon, the bed was comfortable, and we were still finishing tasks. So we decided to have lunch with the Tits. Then as thunderclouds rolled in and we thought of our 18 mile walk in the rain to Mammoth, somehow lunch turned into another zero!
To avoid paying excessive weekend motel rates we split the room between four of us. We also moved to the Roadway Inn, which happened to have enormous rooms, breakfast included, and a hot tub.
With most of the day already gone by the time we decided to stay another night, Physio fell into a state of depression. At around 3:30pm he realised he could have spent the whole day riding world class mountain bike trails – if only he knew we were going to stay another night!
In the evening we went to see Jurassic World at the local theatre. Jurassic World engendered very different reactions from members of our crew. Some had high expectations, which were not met at all. Others who were expecting a really crap movie came away feeling moderately entertained.
The good news was after the movie we could all enjoy $2.50 pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from the nearby supermarket, which made everyone happy.
We started our third day in Mammoth with complementary continental breakfast at the motel – where Physio and Cashmere enjoyed a copious number of toasted English muffins and other carbs. We sure aren’t on an Atkins diet.
When we were still in our motel room at 10am Physio started freaking out. “Why are we still here?” “If we’re going to hang around all day I might as well go mountain biking”.
So we finally got a bus to…believe it or not…the gondola-serviced mountain biking park. The bus back to Reds Meadows departed right next to the gondola and the hundreds of happy mountain bikers. Physio was distraught.
Eventually we made it back to the PCT by around midday. The first landmark of note after Reds Meadows was the Devil’s Postpile – a particularly striking tessellated rock formation.
We soon passed yet another amazing waterfall.
Then we began a long climb onto a ridge where we would have dinner and camp for the night. The ridge provided incredible views of the mountains across the valley, darkening storm clouds, and ultimately one of the best campsites either of us have ever utilised.
The campsite offered shelter from the potential storm, incredible views through a ‘window’ in the trees, perfectly flat ground that was easily staked, and what’s more, we had the whole area to ourselves.
Waking up at our idyllic campsite the suffering we had experienced in the high Sierras was beginning to wash away. We were almost starting to like the PCT again. After three consecutive seven day sections between resupply we were relieved to be hiking only two days from Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows.
To celebrate this lovely shorter section and fight our growing hunger on the trail we decided to carry a huge amount of food and attempt to eat it in two days.
This essentially meant lots of cheese, avocados, salsa, instant mashed potatoes, tortillas, more cheese, granola, more granola, chocolate pretzels, chocolate espresso beans, jerky, Cliff Bars, copious amounts of cashew nuts, Macaroons, a huge peanut butter brownie cookie, and of course huge servings of dehydrated refried beans and black bean soup. Our bear cannisters that we would normally use to carry seven days worth of food were almost full…but we were planning to eat it all in two!
Physio had been fantasising about this exact strategy while walking hungrily over snowy pass after snowy pass in the high sierras. So we started the day with chocolate espresso beans, a huge serving of granola, and a smile that can only be brought on by feelings of food security.
The majority of the day’s hiking was incidentally spent climbing yet another snowy pass – which once again rewarded us with stunning alpine views and a delicious lunch on the other side.
After a long descent and a nice easy hike along a river valley and grassy meadow we arrived in the evening in Tuolumne Meadows. That’s right folks, we had already reached our destination and had eaten through the majority of the food described. It was amazing.
Arriving just on dusk at the very busy Tuolumne Meadows hiker campground made Physio immediately aware we were now in Yosemite. He became very uncomfortable and declared to Cashmere “we’ve got to get out of here!”. His feelings of crowding were especially stark given the previous night was spent in complete isolation.
Nevertheless we set us camp on the only flat(ish) piece of ground we could find – which appeared to have been previously used as a fire pit! What’s worse we had to pay to camp there…Yosemite was not impressing us so far.
When we awoke the hiker camp was already clearing out, much to Physio’s relief. After breakfast we made our way to the Visitor Centre where we could get a bus to see a Giant Sequoia grove.
Once on the bus we marvelled at the air conditioned comfort in which we could enjoy views of Yosemite. We quickly realised we’ve been doing it all wrong – we can see amazing views without so much as taking a footstep when riding a bus. And the bus was free…our shoes were not!
The splendour of viewing the natural world from a bus was further demonstrated when we saw our first bear in the wild. The bear was wandering around eating plants in a meadow adjacent to the road. We had the luck to see a bear when we were in no danger – and it could not eat any of our precious food. Thank you Yosemite bus.
After an hour or so in the bus we arrived at the nearest bus stop to the Giant Sequoia Grove. Unfortunately getting to the grove required walking for a couple of miles on a narrow and busy tourist road.
Once at the track to the Giant Sequoia’s we immediately made our way down into the valley until we saw “Big Red”. We decided that we would bask in the grandeur of Big Red for a while so decided to eat lunch in it’s presence.
After spending some time with Big Red we continued around the Tuolumne Grove circuit to see some other big trees. Some of the ancient trees had fallen over and one dead tree even had a tunnel through it’s base big enough for a car to fit through.
Unfortunately due to a slightly bizarre bus timetable we soon had to make our way back to the bus stop for the return journey.
Once on the bus Physio promptly fell asleep, waking just in time for the driver to stop at Angel’s Rest. Yet again we were bemused about why we had done so much walking. Within 100 feet of the bus we could enjoy views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.
Despite our new found conviction that sight seeing by bus is far superior to going on a 2,650 mile hike, we still resupplied back at Tuolumne Meadows and prepared to get back on the trail.
I’ll leave the hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass for the next blog.
Thanks for reading!