The beginning of the end, and then, the end.
After a much needed zero day, I return to the trail for the last section of this grand adventure.
On day three, we pass over the last of the high passes, Muir Pass. It is also the pass with the most amount of snow that we have encountered on the trail. On both the ascent and descent there is miles of snow. The mountains are sending me off with one last snowy hurrah! Our ascent is relatively painless as it’s early morning and the snow is still hard. However, our descent is much slower as by the time we get over the pass, the snow has turned to slush soup. By this stage I am really over the snow, and will be glad to see the end of it!
The following afternoon we encounter the most epic thunderstorm, and hours of rain. Thankfully, we’d found a tentsite just as it started to spit rain, and by the time the sky exploded, we were somewhat safely (and dry) inside. It turns out that it’s the start of the moonsoon season in the Sierra. There’s never a dull moment on this trail!
The next day we hike until just before 3pm when the thunder starts and the sky explodes. The rain traps us for the remainder of the day, cutting short our intended mileage. With a dwindling food supply, I know the next two days are going to be long ones.
The river crossings continue and are more frequent than ever. There is just so much water in the creeks and rivers and on the trail. For two days I have wet feet, but it means I, at least, have clean feet!
As we move away from the high passes the scenery begins to change from high rocky mountains to smaller forest covered ones. We continue past crystal clear lakes and through lush green meadows bursting with colour. The climbs become more gradual and the terrain more gentle.
On day eight we reach our last resupply town. Mammoth Lakes is a ski resort town that, incredibly, due to the record snow fall this year, remained opened until August 6th. Its probably been my favourite resupply town so far, in part to the absolute best meal that I had there in a ‘real’ restaurant!
The next day we return to the trail for the last time. It’s a bittersweet return to the trail knowing it’s for the last time. However, I know I’m ready for this trail to end. Mentally and physically I’m tiring and I know it’s time.
We learn of a wildfire that is burning just south of the PCT. The trail is not closed but we swap monitoring storm clouds for monitoring smoke.
With all major passes done, our days become easier and our pace slows as we continue North to Yosemite. Trail life is much the same however. The last few days are largely uneventful, and before I know it, my last day on trail has arrived.
I’ve mixed emotions as I arrive at our campground for the night. It’s mostly an anticlimatic event, and I suspect that I’ll need a few days to process all that has occured these past 83 days. I struggle to reconcile how fast the days have gone, clearly remembering my first day on trail 83 days ago.
This trail has been unlike any I’ve hiked before. It has taught me more than I could have ever imagined it would. It has challenged me mentally and physically, and its pushed and reset all my limits. Its also provided some much needed healing, and a return to my true self. I’ve remembered that freeeom is a state of mind, home is where my heart is, and simplicity is the cornerstone of happiness.
I am a different hiker to the one I was three months ago. More experienced, confident and comfortable, the trail now more than ever is home.