Day Sixty Six

Today's miles: 9
Total miles: 942

We only had nine flat miles to cover today to reach Yosemite, but we needed to cover them by noon because the post office at Tuolumne Meadows closed then and we had resupply boxes to pick up. We meant to leave camp at 8 but got a late start, so we had to really book it. For once, Katie and I were awake before Rotisserie and Sansei, so I peeked my head into their tent and sang a very loud good morning song to them. Sansei grunted at me and Rotisserie laughed, saying, "you have a song for everything, don't you?!"

Katie and I left camp with Papa Bear before the other two and headed toward the park. Since the trail was completely flat we made great time, covering nine miles in less than three hours. I picked up my package from the post office right at 11:45. It was a very open and hot trail through the meadow - the temps are still in the upper 90s and there was little shade to be seen. Along the way we saw a lot of dayhikers and runners on the trail coming from Tuolumne. The strangest phenomenon was that we could often smell them before we could see them - they reeked of perfume, deodorant and soap.

We walked through the park campground before reaching the store, and it was overwhelming to see so many RVs and tourists. The campground was able to hold hundreds of people, and it was completely full for the weekend. For someone who has been in the wilderness for two months, this was complete sensory overload for me. It was strange how disconcerting it was to be in a crowd, and I didn't like it. I wanted to be back on trail.

After picking up our boxes, we sat at picnic tables with the Chain Gang, sorting through food and care packages. We bought lunch from the little store, charged our phones and hung out for the afternoon, discussing plans. Tuolumne Meadows was the final destination of the JMT trail and the Sierra mountain range, and it seemed to be a crossroads for a lot of thru-hikers. After two months on trail together, becoming closer than family and lifetime friends, suddenly everyone was moving in different directions. Some people were taking a zero day to explore Yosemite Valley, some were moving on down the trail, and some were getting off trail entirely. It was heartbreaking to see so many of our friends, good, strong hikers, moving on with their lives. But the mantra of the Trail is to Hike Your Own Hike, and for some, this means starting their lives anew. They made it nearly 1,000 miles through the desert and the Sierras, and for them, this was enough. Suddenly they realize what they want to do with their lives. They discovered their passions, their drive, and unfortunately, it no longer is the Trail. For others, it was an issue of money, or injury. For still others, it was a natural goodbye as they started a new journey. A new chapter of their lives.

We said goodbye to so many good friends today: Boulder and Scooter were moving back home to take up their true passion for the rest of the summer: climbing. Pickles and Irish were embarking on a biking trip in the midwest for a few months (poor Milkman was devastated). Sunset and Sour Cream (one of Starfox's Wolfpack) ran out of money and needed to go home to get jobs for the rest of the summer. Lunchbox and Sneaks were leaving trail to go back to school, which started in August. And Dog was flying home to Pennsylvania due to a painful stress fracture in his foot. It was so hard to say goodbye to such good friends, and we knew they would be sorely missed in the coming months. The Chain Gang was down to three members: Dance Party, Buffalo and Sunshine, and Katie and I were losing half of our crew, too.

It was particularly difficult for me to say goodbye, because I knew I wouldn't see many of them until I returned home from Europe, and the others I may never see again. Katie and I had to say goodbye to Rotisserie and Sansei today, too, as they took off on their own adventure for a few days. Sad and lonely, we set up our tent in the Tuolumne campground near Papa Bear and TwoBadDogs and tried to think happy thoughts about all our friends, now gone. So much about our hike will change from here after, but we can only hope the journey will still be an adventure.