Today's miles: 18
Total miles: 933
It was unpleasantly warm last night, so I had a hard time sleeping. So, too, did Rotisserie and Sansei. So much so that they got up at 3:30 am and packed up to leave. They told us they wanted to hike the remaining eight miles to the trail junction with the PCT and then take a nap there. They were hoping that by hiking at night they could avoid the worst of the mosquitoes.
Katie, Papa Bear and I slept until 6 and then got on trail by 7:30. The mosquitoes were already bad and they drove us out of camp. We hiked as quickly as we could to escape them, but once again it was hot, humid and uphill.
We passed by several beautiful lakes on our route today: Shadow, Garnet, and then Thousand Island Lake, beside the trail junction. I was so overheated at this point that I stripped and jumped in the lake with Katie, and it felt wonderful. It was also the only way to temporarily escape the bugs.
Rotisserie and Sansei weren't at the junction, so we figured they must have hiked on, since it was noon at this point. We had lunch with Papa Bear beside the lake and then rejoined the PCT north over Island Pass. The trail finally leveled out a little after that, so the afternoon was very pleasant. We passed by lovely lakes, meadows and rivers, and eventually caught up with Rotisserie and Sansei later in the day.
Our last climb of the day was over Donahue Pass, which began very gradually and got steep right near the top. As usual for mountain passes, though, the view from the top was breathtaking. It was a perfect spot for a break.
We met up with Boulder, Scooter and Sunshine and enjoyed lounging on the rocks and watching storm clouds brewing in the distance. Sunshine was enjoying an extravagant lunch of hamburger patties that he had packed in, and the marmots were enjoying the bits he left behind.
After an hour of lounging on the roof of the world, we hiked down the north side. The descent was beautiful and involved several cold water crossings (we christened one ford "Lake Cold Toes"). We dropped down into a lush valley afterward, trying to get as close as possible to Tuolumne Meadows so we could arrive in Yosemite tomorrow.
We camped nine miles shy of the National Park near a raging river. Sansei made another fire, but the mosquitoes weren't as bad tonight. As we ate dinner, the five of us - Rotisserie, Sansei, Papa Bear, Katie and I - lamented that it would be our last night together for quite a while. Rotisserie and Sansei planned on going into Yosemite Valley after Tuolumne in order to climb Half Dome and Cloud's Rest (a side trip off the PCT). Papa Bear would be meeting up with his niece in Tuolumne to hike with her for two weeks, and he expected to do fewer miles than usual and drop behind us. As for Katie and I, we had a deadline to catch. In a week Tanner was going to meet us at Sonora Pass to pick us up. Katie was going to go to Lake Tahoe for a few days to visit friends and hike with her boyfriend Bryan when he came down to visit in two weeks. As for me, I've had a trip to Europe planned for a year, and it happens to coincide with the middle of my PCT hike. For two weeks I will be off trail hiking around Mt. Blanc in France, Switzerland and Italy. After my European tour, I planned to meet back up with Katie in Northern California and continue toward Canada.
All of our journeys took us in different directions for a while, so it was a sad evening as we reminisced together. Rotisserie, Katie and I had been hiking together for over 600 miles, Sansei a little less than that, and we had been hiking with Papa Bear since our very first weeks in the desert. It was hard saying goodbye, even if we hoped it was only temporary.