Day 33 - Mile 926 to Mile 941
Tuesday 3 July (0600-1310)
Distance: PCT 15 miles; non-PCT: 1 mile
Weather: hot in the Lyell Canyon, even hotter in Yosemite Valley, and
silly-hot in Merced, even at 9pm
That we were both just clipping our hipbelts closed at smack on 6am
this morning was nothing short of a miracle. I'd managed a whole hour
of sleep last night before I was woken by a massive headache and I
spent much of the rest of the night listening to my audiobook and
tossing and turning. Mick managed to sleep through some of my tossing,
turning and grumbling, and may also have slept through when I nipped
out to use the en-suite, if I hadn't caught him a glancing blow with
my elbow on the way back in - oops!
In the absence of painkillers (being in potential problem-bear country
now, even the first aid kit was locked up in the bear canister and I
couldn't quite be moved to go in the dark to retrieve some) I did
finally get a little bit of sleep and, of course, was fast asleep at
5am when the alarm went off.
Having decided (but not conveyed) that my preference was to stay very
still until I felt better, I switched the alarm off and carried on
sleeping. Through Mick's packing away activities I slept, until I was
rudely awoken with the news that it was my turn to pack. No sympathy
for my malady was forthcoming, although a few minutes later some
painkillers were passed to me through the smallest possible opening of
the tent door (even at 0530 the mossies were desperate to get into the
tent). By noon I was feeling reasonably human too ... but in the
meantime, we had 16 miles to walk.
Mick had decided that his preference was to finish the walk and get
the bus to Merced in the same day. With a parcel to pick up at
Tuolumne (our posted-ahead Microspikes - glad we believed the reports
and didn't carry them!) and the only bus leaving at quarter past 2,
that gave us a bit of a tight schedule, even with a 6am start.
The first 3.5 miles were up to our final pass of the trip - Donahue
Pass at 11050' - and those miles didn't disappoint in giving us a
reminder of everything we've seen throughout the Sierra. There were
jagged ridges, a meadow, pretty lakes, marmots galore, patches of snow
and some waterfalls. Plus, of course, there was a complete surprise as
to the location of the actual pass. I nearly cracked and looked at the
map to find out where that trail was taking us, but exercised
restraint so that the element of surprise was maintained :-)
After breakfast atop the pass, a descent was inevitable. This wasn't
the gentle, meandering sort of descent to which we have become
accustomed. It was the biggest knee-killer of a descent of the whole
trip. It did, however, serve to deposit us at the valley bottom which
is where we were to stay.
Many flat and (compared to the previous two weeks) unremarkable miles
followed, during which the number of people coming towards us
increased - a sure sign that we were getting near to civilisation - or
at least to a car park. I got quite excited when we passed our first
day walkers (we were also quite pleased finally to see some pack
horses after seeing so much evidence of them; Mick was suspecting that
someone was walking the trail with a big bag of horse poo which they
scattered at random).
At 1310 we arrived at a paved road (Hwy 120 to be precise). Quite
remarkably, that was the first time the PCT had hit a paved road in
235 miles (our last on-trail road crossing was just after we left
Kennedy Meadows on 16 June). Can you imagine walking that far in the
UK without encountering a road?! (And when I say 'encountering', we've
not even seen a road from the PCT in that time; the only roads seen
have been as a result of side-trips made for the purpose of resupply.)
In keeping with our customary forgetfulness, having achieved what we
set out to do (save for the 22 miles we skipped) and walked from Agua
Dulce to Tuolumne, we failed to take an 'end' photo in the same way
that we failed to take a 'start' photo.
Our first priorites on hitting the store were to retrieve our parcel
from the PO and to buy cold pop, and then we got completely distracted
by all of the PCTers we knew, gathered around some picnic tables. Much
chatting was had (and we finally met the chap who woke up a few weeks
back, whilst cowboy camping, to find a bear sniffing his face!) until
the bus arrived.
With hugs and well wishes all around we left all of the people we've
come vaguely to know, in most cases with no way of now finding out how
the rest of their hikes will go (including: Knees, Cowboy, Shivers and
Bam, Mellow Yellow and Virgo - sadly we didn't get to see Cactus and
Xtra Credit, Pantalunacy or Waffles, and Sprinkles, Shepherd and
Strider were well ahead of us, but we did say goodbye to Orney in
Two hours later, the bus deposited us in the jaw-dropping Yosemite
Valley, and within the half hour we were on our way to Merced.
A total of almost 5 hours was spent on busses before we arrived in
Merced - half the length of our flight back to Heathrow - and we still
have another 4 hours of travel to reach San Francisco tomorrow. It's
all part of the adventure, though!
As Merced hadn't featured in our original plan as a night-stop, I
hadn't done my customary research, so it took us a while to sort out
getting to a motel for the night (with it approaching 8pm and having
skipped lunch, we could have done with being a bit more organised!).
We're now ensconced in the Motel 6 (the equivalent of what a
Travelodge is in the UK: cheap and basic, but you know what you're
getting), and a huge meal has been had in the diner across the road.
We'll no doubt be back there for a huge breakfast before we get the
train to San Francisco tomorrow. It's still 3 days before we fly home
- at this rate we will have regained all of the lost weight before we
So, another trip finished. I'll post some photos, more thoughts and
some kit reviews when I'm back on my own sofa with a proper-size
keyboard to hand.