Day Sixty Nine

Today's miles: 18
Total miles: 991

We woke up at 6:30 when TwoBadDogs passed us again, barking at our tent like dogs to wake us up. We had Selvey Pass to climb early this morning, but since we were on trail early enough, the hike up was mostly in the shade. It was hot already, though, and we knew it was going to be another muggy day. Yesterday's thunderstorm wasn't even a blip on the radar: the sky was bright blue, sunny and cloudless today.

We had second breakfast at the top of the hill with TwoBadDogs near an alpine lake. The mosquitoes weren't quite as bad here with a breeze, but they were still irksome. Katie and I joked that we wouldn't have any recollection of this part of the trail because we moved so quickly through it, trying to escape the bugs each and every day. We barely even had any photos of Yosemite; stopping for a photo was simply inviting the mosquitoes to bite. We clicked pictures as we ran through the landscape, promising ourselves we'd look at them later, even if we didn't remember seeing any of it. My bug headnet was now a staple of my daily wardrobe; I put it on first thing in the morning and wore it until I fell asleep. I was starting to hate Yosemite and its bugs.

We hiked down the backside of Selvey Pass and stopped for lunch beside a river ford. TwoBadDogs caught up with us and as we ate, we realized dark clouds were once again rolling overhead. I checked my watch and noticed that it was almost exactly the same time that the thunderstorm had hit yesterday: 2pm. It was strange how quickly and unexpectedly these storms rolled through. I didn't want to be caught in another lightning storm, and the upcoming trail climbed a very steep and exposed ridge. We opted to stay below to wait out the rain, hoping it would pass quickly. But today's storm was slow, and though it rumbled and clouded above us, it wasn't breaking.

After an hour, we decided to risk it and keep hiking. The air was heavy and sticky, the bugs were horrible, the trail was uphill, and just when we thought it couldn't get worse, the rain began. I also discovered that mosquitoes still have the audacity to bite you even when it's pouring rain. In fact, they seem to bite harder, as if they're aggravated about getting wet. If I thought wearing long sleeves in 95 degree humid heat with 10,000 mosquitoes biting me was my own personal hell, then wearing long sleeves in 95 degree humid heat with 10,000 mosquitoes biting me while it's pouring is hell intensified.

The clouds stayed with us for some time and then slowly began to drift away. We finished climbing one mountain and started up another. Half way up the hill, my blood sugar crashed. I knew immediately when it happened because my feet suddenly felt like lead weights and each step upward was a desperate struggle. I had been getting so strong these past few months, able to climb mountains like a slow, steady machine, but this energy crash brought me back to my first weeks on trail. It was suddenly hard to move. So hard that I fell behind Katie by a considerable distance and had to force my feet to move forward. I began feeling my mood pitch in wild directions, and when I was to the point of breaking down, I knew I needed to get food into myself or I would fall apart. Unfortunately, I was carrying less food than usual this stretch and I didn't have many snacks left. I allowed myself a granola bar and some peanut butter, but it helped only a little. I managed to finish the climb and catch up with Katie, and forced myself to say in an even voice, "I think we need to stop soon for dinner. My energy completely tanked and I'm having a hard time."

Katie was nearly out of water, so we needed to push on at least until the next river. We got there none too soon, and I practically inhaled my dinner, sucking down the calories. It made an immediate difference and I felt 100% better.

The next few miles were very flat, so we flew through them. We flew even faster than usual, too, because mosquitoes were chasing us every step of the way. They were worse than we had ever seen them, and if we slacked our pace even a little, they covered us in a black swarm. They bit through our clothes, covered the tops of our hands, tried to bite through our mosquito nets, landed all over the fabric on our pants and shoulders. I spent most of my time swatting at them and shaking clouds of bugs off my skin. We tried to find a campsite that had a good breeze, to ward them away, but there were none to be found. We made it 18 miles before we were exhausted and knew we had to set up camp.

I don't think we've ever pitched a tent so quickly. The mosquitoes were ten times worse once we stopped, so much so that we had to run in circles as we did all of our nightly tasks. It was mentally exhausting. Getting into the tent was a process, too. In order to avoid letting all the bugs in with us, we had to be quick about our movements. Katie went first, with me crouched beside the tent door zipper, wildly shaking like a crazy person to keep the mosquitoes from landing on me.

"Ok, ready? Ready?" she asked, kicking off her shoes and socks in one fluid movement as she danced in place.
"Go! Go! Go!" I said, unzipping a tiny hole in the tent for her to dive through.
"Get the mosquitoes off! Get them off!" she shrieked as she jumped into the tent.
"AHHHH! AHHHHHH!" we both shrieked as I wildly slapped her on the back, the shoulders, the legs, trying to rid her of bugs before she got in the tent.
"Sorry! Sorry! AHH sorry!" I yelped as I slapped her over and over.
"It's ok, it's ok!" she said back, "I'm in! I'M IN! CLOSE IT!" I zipped the tent behind her. A second later I was up and running in circles again, not able to stay put.
"How many are in there?" I asked, doing laps around the tent.
"Lots," she said, "but not as many as I would have guessed."
I could hear her slaps as she killed them against the tent wall, one by one.
"Ready for me?" I asked.
"I'm by the zipper," she said.
I kicked off my shoes, did one more lap around the tent and then jumped for the open door.
"Shake them off! Shake them off!" Katie yelled.
"AHHHH!" I yelled back, shaking frantically as I squeezed in beside her.
"It's closed!"

We sat huddled in the tent, looking warily outside, where mosquitoes coated the doors and mesh so thickly that the tent was turning black.
"They're waiting for us," I shivered.
"So gross," Katie moaned.
"We have to get up early tomorrow," I swore. "Like, 4am early."
"Deal," she agreed.
"I never thought I could hate something so much," I said, as we killed the remaining bugs that had snuck into the tent and tried to go to sleep, the high-pitched whine of mosquitoes just outside our door.