the Devil's Postpile and Mile 909 to Mile 926
Monday 2 July (0850-1800)
Distance: PCT: 17 miles; non-PCT: 1 mile
Weather: some cloud. For the first time since the morning of Day 5,
the sun was obscured by a cloud today, albeit only for a few minutes.
As I type, there's a big grey cloud to the south of us.
It would have been all too easy to keep spending 'just one more night'
in Mammoth, eating huge portions of food and generally lazing around.
A positive decision had to be made and my vote was that I wanted to
finish the walk - even if we were going to miss out a few miles.
So, the alarm went off at 6 this morning and by 7.30 the strewn kit
had all been packed and we were striding up the road to 'The Village'
to catch the shuttle bus to Red's Meadow.
The decision to get off at Devil's Postpile was a spur of the moment
one. Most of the bus full of tourists had alighted when I decided that
we would too. It had been recommended to us weeks ago that we take the
detour to see it and it suddenly seemed sensible to do so from the
nearest shuttle stop. What I didn't realise at the time (but had no
problem with) was that so doing cut another mile off our day when
compared to our intended re-start point of Red's Meadow.
The Devil's Postpile is indeed a marvel (and a National Monument) -
it's a 60 foot-high wall of hexagonal columns of basalt formed by
volcanic deposits later scoured by a glacier. As marvellous as it was,
it didn't take long to look at it, so soon we were walking back
towards the PCT, which we joined at mile 909 - some 14 miles from
where we left it on Saturday morning.
The first few miles were fairly unremarkable. People have been talking
about the blow-downs in this area for weeks (mainly because they
blocked the trail and stopped the road from Red's Meadow to town from
opening) and the descriptions had been quite consistent that there
were entire hillsides of trees completely felled. It all happened in a
single storm which blew through on 30 November last year bringing
winds blowing 90 and gusting to nearly 200mph.
There were a lot of trees down (fortunately all cleared from the path
in this section), and some of them were very big and very old (400
years, the bus driver said) but in terms of concentrated numbers of
trees, I've seen worse devastation in Scottish forests. The difference
here is the huge area affected.
Having cleared the forest, we found ourselves traversing a hillside,
the remarkable thing being that our side of the valley was very green,
whereas the other side was volcanic rock which was bare save for the
smattering of trees which had somehow managed to take root. The JMT
and the PCT take different routes at this point, with the JMT going
over that bare hillside, whereas the PCT just looks at it.
Cruelly, after lunch (it was as we stopped for lunch that the sun
disappeared behind a cloud for a few minutes) the trail led us
downhill. Cruel, as we were headed up to a pass at the time and
downhill didn't seem an appropriate direction to achieve that. Worse,
at one point a long switch-back took us directly away from the pass.
We did eventually make the pass, but our ascent wasn't over (and it
was a hot day for ascending today) as we still had one more pass to go
(just 600' of ascent with barely any descent, so nothing too
alarming). On the way there was Thousand Island Lake, which did indeed
sport lots of islands and quite a few PCTers gathered on its shore.
We went on another 3 miles, clearing the pass and descending down to
the multiple strands of a river, where we found a pitch.
The pitch seemed okay until we were about to start eating dinner, when
it became a mossie-fest. We resorted to pacing whilst eating. Whilst
cleaning my teeth, I had to run in circles. At least now we are
ensconsed within the mossie-proof tent - hoping we don't have to
venture back outside until the cool of night has made them go back to
their hiding places.
They'll hopefully still be lying low when we get up early in the
morning for our final 16 miles into Tuolumne. Just one more high pass
(11000' - but we're already at 9700') stands between us and our