Day Seventy

Today's miles: 16
Total miles: 1007

My alarm went off at 4:00am. I was determined to get up before the mosquitoes and get some miles in this morning before I got bitten to death. But 4am was so much earlier than we were used to waking up these days, and I lay in bed for a moment before struggling up onto my elbows.
"Unnnhh," Katie groaned next to me, clearly not a fan of waking up this early, either. "What time is it?"
"Four," I said.
She rolled over and looked out the mesh, where a row of mosquitoes had landed and was waiting.
"The mosquitoes are already awake," she said, "lets go back to bed."
"Makes sense to me," I promptly agreed, and we fell asleep again.

Two hours later we were awake again and got dressed, dreading getting out of the tent. We donned our headnets and Katie sighed, "ready?"
We jumped outside and were immediately mauled by bugs. We hurried through our daily routine: packing up gear, putting on sunscreen, having breakfast. We couldn't sit still for any of it, and if I hadn't been so annoyed by the mosquitoes by now, I would have thought it was hilarious to see Katie eating her granola while she ran around in circles.

The worst part of the morning routine, though, was going to the bathroom. There was nothing more horrifying than having to drop your pants and sit still in the middle of a mosquito swarm. It was inevitable that by the time you stood up, you had a dozen bites in places you didn't want them.
"If I never see a mosquito again, it will be too soon," I muttered.

After checking over the maps and elevation charts last night, we had a good plan for today. We were only two days from Sonora Pass, and we were determined to make the most of it. The terrain was pretty flat this morning, so we were going to try to get through ten miles by lunchtime. Then six more miles to the bottom of a big climb, where we would have dinner, and then use the extra calories and caffeine from dinner to get four more miles up the climb and only have seven miles left to do tomorrow.

It was a solid plan. But as solid plans usually go, it completely fell apart.

The first part of the day went very well. We made great time along the trail, mostly driven by our desire to get over Dorothy Lake Pass. The pass marked the end of Yosemite, and we had heard that the mosquitoes weren't as bad outside the park. Having been driven nearly to insanity by them over the past few days, we couldn't wait to be rid of them again.
As we hiked, we slapped at bugs and dreamed of life in the mountains again.
"Want to hear a song I made up?" I asked Katie halfway through the morning. "I call it, 'Ode to a Fucking National Park.'"
She laughed. "Yes."
I launched into my newest tune:

"I hate you Yosemite, oh yes I do,
I hate you Yosemite, oh yes it's true
Because of the mosquitoes
And you're hot and humid, toooooooo
Oh, Yosemite, I hate you."

"I love it!" Katie said.
"I'm making up another verse called, 'I miss you High Sierras,'" I said.

When we got to Dorothy Lake Pass, we were greeted by the lovely Dorothy Lake, which was incentive enough to jump in and cool ourselves off. The mosquitoes were still horrible, though, so we soon pushed on before stopping for lunch at mile marker 999. As we ate we soaked in the fact that we had walked 1,000 miles from the border of Mexico to Lake Tahoe in central California. It seemed unbelievable, and yet, here we were. Even with swollen feet, sore joints, and arms covered in mosquito bites, I was still proud of the accomplishment.

Our official 1,000 mile celebration was cut short because the bugs didn't let us stand still for more than a couple seconds. We took a quick photo and then hurried on. There were many miles yet to go.

By the time we reached the bottom of the climb, our now-familiar speedy thunderclouds had taken over the sky. I checked my watch, and sure enough, it was almost exactly 2:00.
"I don't get it, how does this happen every day?" I wondered. "The morning starts out sunny and hot as hell, and every afternoon like clockwork we get reamed by a thunderstorm."
"It's really putting a kink in our plans," Katie frowned.
"Especially since we always need to go up in elevation when the storm hits," I sighed.

Technically the original plan had been to eat dinner at the bottom of the climb, but since it was still early in the day, we wanted to get to our next water source before eating. But the storm was making our plan fall apart. Instead of hiking on, we waited in the trees for the rain to pass. A half hour went by. Then an hour. Then an hour and a half. Still the storm rumbled overhead, but no rain.
"I say we keep going," Katie said. "We can't wait here forever."
So we hiked upward beneath the threatening thunder and storm clouds. Our next water source was a river that crossed the trail, but before we reached it, we noticed the river below us in the canyon: it was running heavy and muddy.
"Is that our water source?" Katie wondered uneasily.
"I hope not," I said.

We soon discovered why the river was so muddy; there had been a mudslide from a recent storm and it was all washing into the water. Worried that we wouldn't find a good source of water to drink, we stopped at the nearest tiny stream and took some time filling up our water bladders. As it turned out, though, when we reached our water source, it was right at the fork in the river where the muddy water met the clean.

By then it was raining and the sky had gotten significantly darker. It was 5pm, so we decided to stop for dinner and mull over our options. We ate in the rain under a bow of trees and contemplated the odds that the storm would pass by the time we got to the top of the climb. The topo maps of the climb made it look pretty exposed, so we ultimately decided that it would be safer to stay in the trees tonight than to chance the storm and climb to higher altitudes. Still, we were frustrated that we were forced to stop hiking at 5pm when we could have gone further.

In the end, staying put was the smarter decision. The storm didn't pass over quickly; it rained all night long and we learned a few days later that the ridgeline had gotten pelted with hail and high winds all night. It would have been a dangerous place to camp.

As for Katie and I, we set up the tent and hid from the rain inside, listening to Ender's Game on tape while we lay in bed at 6pm. TwoBadDogs eventually caught us and set up camp nearby. We giggled about going to bed so early, and both of us were glad we were so close to Sonora Pass. It had been a very difficult week, and my desire to see Tanner and get back to civilization was growing stronger.