Day Sixty

Today's miles: 24
Total miles: 872

With not many options for resupply in the Sierras, we had to carefully time our mileage between stops to make sure we didn't run out of food. It was a six day hike from our last town, Bishop, to our next: the small resort called Vermilion Valley. There was a ferry we needed to catch to reach it, which only ran at certain times of the day. In order to make it on time, today's mileage was essential. We figured if we could do at least 18 miles, we would only have 11 left for tomorrow to catch the 4pm ferry. But since we had been averaging 14-17 miles per day lately, 18 seemed like a bit of a stretch.

We were determined, though, so we got up at 7 and were on trail by 8, leaving Papa Bear and some of the Chain Gang sleeping in camp. For once we didn't have a mountain pass to climb first thing this morning. In fact, we had ten miles of downhill through a canyon, so they went by fairly quickly. We also had our first big water ford - usually we can rock-hop across rivers, but this one was too wide and deep and had no rocks to skip across. As we stood on the bank, changing from our shoes to sandals so we could wade across the river, we saw Sunshine standing on the opposite bank, yelling something to us.
"What did he say?" I asked Katie.
"I think he said, 'look out for frogs'," Katie translated.
"Well, that just sounds adorable," I said.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Katie yelled across the river.
"Look out for bugs!!" Sunshine yelled back.
We groaned: mosquitoes.
We sloshed through calf-deep water until our toes went numb from the cold, and as we tried to put our shoes back on, we were swarmed by millions of mosquitoes, covering every inch of our clothing and skin. We shrieked and swatted and ran in circles, but the little pests wouldn't leave us alone.
"I wish it had been frogs!" I wailed.

We hurried on through the canyon, trying to leave the bugs behind. We noted that today was overcast and the air was particularly muggy, forecasting rain. It made the air hot and sticky and unpleasant to hike. We stopped for lunch with the Chain Gang just before the trail began climbing up to Seldon Pass. Sunshine was making a Nutella tortilla and told us that if we ever bought Nutella to save him the gold wrapper from the jar.
"Why?" we asked.
"I can't tell you, then you won't give them to me!" he said.
"What could possibly make us want them?" we laughed.
"Ok, ok," he sighed, and then told us in a conspiratorial voice, "see, if you collect enough wrappers, you can trade them in for cool things!"
"Like what?"
"Like Nutella t-shirts! And stickers! And an awesome spoon that's shaped like a Nutella jar so you don't miss a single inch!"
We were rolling with laughter. "Sunshine, why would we want those things?!"
"And how do you know about all these prizes anyway?" Sansei asked.
"There's a Nutella website!" Sunshine said, as if it were perfectly obvious.
"Sunshine," I laughed, "don't you think it's a little bit asinine that a thru-hiker is trying to collect things to carry?!"

After lunch we climbed the eight mile Seldon Pass. It was apparently the "easiest" pass and well graded, but it was hot and buggy to the top. We stopped at a water source half-way up to fill our water bottles, and I made a caffeinated drink mix to get me through the afternoon. It kicked in really quickly and pretty soon I was a jittery mess, running down the trail as the landscape flashed by me in long streaks. I told Rotisserie that "everything is moving so quickly; I think I can see the future!!"

We got to the top by 5pm and stopped for dinner. Having calories in my stomach made me feel stronger and I was charged up as we tackled the backside of Seldon. We dropped down into a chain of lakes and I kept everyone's spirits up by loudly singing Disney and camp songs and getting Katie and Rotisserie to sing along with me. We had a destination of 18 miles for the day, where there was supposedly a campsite near a lake at the bottom of the pass. But unfortunately the mosquitoes were so bad that we were forced to move on. We forded a few rivers and I opted to keep my shoes on, walking in soaking wet sneakers for a few miles. We put on our mosquito nets and practically ran along the trail, trying to find a decent spot that didn't have any bugs. But it was so muggy that it wasn't cooling off as the evening approached, and the mosquitoes were out full force.

We kept pushing and pushing, desperately trying to find a bug-free spot. Eventually the sun set, but we kept moving. On and on, until it was 9pm and we had gone 24 miles. It was cool enough then that the bugs weren't as bad, so we found the closest campsite, quickly pitched our tents, and fell exhausted into bed.