Today's miles: 15
Total miles: 915
Since we covered such good mileage yesterday, we only had six miles left to reach our next destination today: Red's Meadow. Red's Meadow was another little retreat in the mountains, similar to VVR, but it was a pack-horse barn. It was also the jumping off point to get a bus to the larger ski resort town of Mammoth, but since we had just resupplied in VVR a few days ago, we decided to skip Mammoth to save some money.
We arrived at Red's Meadow just in time for second breakfast, and we ordered large plates of pancakes and eggs (PANCAKESANDEGGS!!) to eat. Once finished, we all agreed that we could totally order a burger lunch and fries and demolish that plate, too.
For most of the afternoon we hung out at the resort and caught up on phone calls. We socialized with other hikers coming in and out of Mammoth, including TwoBadDogs, who we hadn't seen since Agua Dulce! We stayed long enough that we ordered lunch from the restaurant, too, and then decided that we needed to get more than six miles in today.
We hiked out of Red's Meadow at 5pm with TwoBadDogs and on the way passed by the geological wonder "The Devil's Postpile," a columnar basalt formation. Several miles after we came upon a junction in the trail where the PCT and JMT split. Since Mt. Whitney the PCT and JMT have been the same trail, but for the next 14 miles they diverged and then came back together before reaching Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. We had heard that the JMT section of this trail was much more rewarding than the PCT, so we opted to take that route. TwoBadDogs, having section hiked the JMT several times already in the past, opted to take the PCT route.
We very quickly learned that the JMT may not have been the best option. It was all uphill. All of it. It was still hot and humid (a heat wave of over 100 degrees was hitting the valley this week, according to the cashier at Red's Meadows) and the climbing was brutal. Even worse, the mosquitoes were horrendous. Before now they had been somewhat tolerable, usually leaving you alone while you're hiking and disappearing at night when it got cool. But today the heat made them come out in droves, and no matter how fast we hiked, they wouldn't be left behind. Even though I was pouring sweat, I had my sleeves pulled down to my wrists, my pants tucked into my gaiters, and my headnet on, but the bugs were still biting through my clothes and landing all over the tops of my hands. I had to run down the trail, waving my hands back and forth to keep shaking them off. They ignored bug spray. I had to knock the mosquitoes off my hat, brush huge swarms of them from my legs and shoulders, and couldn't stop even for a water break because they landed all over me in a huge cloud. It was awful.
I was hot, exhausted, climbing steep inclines, and couldn't slack my pace for even a second because the bugs would eat me. At one point, when we were three hours into our climb, dripping sweat and still covered in bugs, I paused to throw my head back and scream in frustration:
My scream echoed back against the hill and Rotisserie, a few switchbacks above me, looked down at me in knowing sympathy.
"THIS IS MY PERSONAL HELL!!!" I wailed. And it was. I was not even having a little bit of fun.
After we had gone nine miles, we found a campsite near Rosalie Lake and quickly made a fire to try and ward away the mosquitoes. It didn't help. I learned that Rotisserie, Sansei, Papa Bear, and Katie had all had similar frustrations with the bugs. Sansei had been running the trail at 3.5 miles an hour and still couldn't escape them; at one point he had thrown himself, fully clothed, into a lake to escape the mosquitoes and they had still followed him.
We sat as close as we could to the smoke from the fire, but it helped only a little. The mosquitoes still found us, and they were vicious. We had to wear our rain jackets just to keep them from biting through the fabric of our clothing.
"Rotisserie, I'm sorry about screaming earlier," I joked with her over dinner. "I was in a very dark place at the time."
She laughed. "I completely understand. It has been a difficult day."
We shoveled down food as quickly as possible and dove into our tents for the night. The only redeeming quality of the evening was the beautiful sunset over the lake. If only we could pause to enjoy it....