Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 73: The beauty of Sierra

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Date: July 11, 2017
Miles: 18.8 miles (30.3km), from mile 951.8 over Benson Pass to mile 970.6.
Health: Feeling great. Right knee is coming along.

Like clockwork we were up at 4:15am and after a breakfast at camp, we were on the trail 5am sharp. This group is really punctual.

While we got off the meadow and to the higher ground, Blis and Airplane Mode still had their tents and sleeping bags all wet from the condensation. They camped out in the open, whereas I setup my shelter under the branches of a large tree and had no problem with condensation. Microclimates.

Hiking out in the early morning.  

Hiking out in the early morning.  

We hiked along the meadow in the early morning light and watched the fog rise from the river. The views were definitely worth the pain to get here.

Our task for today was to get over about five or six rivers and over the Benson Pass. The pass was barely over 10,000 feet so we weren't too worried about it.

Happy Feet crossing one of the many rivers.  

Happy Feet crossing one of the many rivers.  

We hit our first river after about an hour of hiking. It looked easy and we crossed it at the PCT crossing. Jack, Indigo's dad, was doing well with us. He only had trouble keeping up in the climbs. Thankfully for him we didn't have any big climbs coming up on this section.

Blis and Happy Feet showing Jack the i-formation. 

Blis and Happy Feet showing Jack the i-formation. 

We crossed few more rivers and smaller streams and stopped for a quick second breakfast to dry our wet shoes and socks.

After the break we did more ups and downs and crossed few more streams and then climbed up to Miller Lake. Our shoes and feet were again wet, and the clock was approaching lunch time, so we stopped for a lunch.

Happy Feet crossing over a log.  

Happy Feet crossing over a log.  

The day pretty much followed the same path. We'd walk up, then down, then up again, and cross few rivers in between. The views through out the day were breathtaking and if I didn't need to get to Canada, I could just stay here at any point and relax all day.

Blis.  

Blis.  

After one long downhill we hit another beautiful meadow and had to cross a river. The meadows's tucked between two mountains and the river runs through the middle. We thought it looked like a movie set and stopped for a second lunch. The sun was already up so Blis, Airplane Mode, and Happy Feet dried up their wet gear.

Stopping for a second lunch.  

Stopping for a second lunch.  

After eating, Indigo, Juniper, Jack, and I jumped into the river and swam with the current some way down stream. The water was cold but so refreshing!

Hitting snow.  

Hitting snow.  

As we were down in a valley, the next thing we did was climb up and out of it. And now we started to approach the pass. There had been barely any snow all day but now we slowly started hitting snow. The closer we got to the pass the more we met snow.

Climbing.  

Climbing.  

The pass was fairly easy with only little over 1,500 feet of elevation to climb. The snow was already soft but we just made our path through. We stopped for a quick high five session at the top and then started to climb down. On the way down we got to do more glissading and boot skiing which is always fun.

Going up.  

Going up.  

Going down.  

Going down.  

This side of the pass had much more snow and we ended up walking on it, or around it, almost the rest of the day. Happy Feet and I hiked at the front working on trail and route finding. This was easily a two person job as the trail was constantly under the snow. One of us would make sure we were going into the right direction and the other would work around to try to locate the trail. Blis would keep us and the rest of the group connected as they were moving slower on the snow.

Route finding with Happy Feet.  

Route finding with Happy Feet.  

At times the trail followed along a really steep climbs and due to the snow and fallen trees we had to be really careful not to loose our footing and fall down the mountain. Eventually we made our way down to the river down below, and the waterfalls that feed it. Everyone was feeling pretty beat down, and as there didn't seem to be any camping coming up for a long time, we decided to call it a day here.

Crossing a steep, slippery section.  

Crossing a steep, slippery section.  

We found a nice flat spot close to the river and a small alpine lake and setup camp. Jack looked so tired. After Indigo and he got his tent up, he went in and fell asleep immediately. Hiking out here is rough. Keeping up with a group of trail hardened PCT hikers while doing this is even harder. I don't envy him at all, there's no way I could have done this on my first few days out on the trail.

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Storyteller and Cannonball.  

Storyteller and Cannonball.  

While we were having dinner two hikers came down the mountain as well. As they got closer I recognized them, Cannonball and Storyteller. How awesome is this! We all sit around eating, swapping trail stories and laughing until hiker midnight and then it's time to go to bed. I have no trouble getting sleep and I think I'm down before my head hits the pillow.

Day 72: Easy day out of Lee Vining

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Date: July 10, 2017
Miles: 9.2 miles (14.8km), from Tuolumne Meadows to mile 951.8.
Health: Feeling great and well rested.

While it was super windy when we were setting up camp last night, the wind died down for the night and we slept really well. As we had nowhere to go before the girls could make their resupply run to the Post Office after 9am, we could just sleep in and relax all morning. Pretty awesome!

Packing up in the morning.  

Packing up in the morning.  

I woke up little after 6am and had to get out my shelter as the sun was really making it hot inside. I slowly took down my camp and hiked back down to the gas station to use the toilet, have breakfast, and recharge my electronics. Blis and Happy Feet were there already, as was Juniper. I was surprised as I saw her tent up on the hill and thought she was still sleeping.

We found a table outside that was both in the shade and had plugs to charge our devices. Jackpot! I'm so happy we decided to come here as it split this long section nicely. And after yesterday's miles we were still ahead of our schedule.

Lunch before getting back on trail.  

Lunch before getting back on trail.  

I ordered my breakfast and ate with Blis and Happy Feet while the girls started walking the mile down to the town to get to the Post Office. We did nothing but joked around, edited photos, and fidgeted with our gear.

For some reason none of us who had AT&T had cell service today. It was weird as the network worked well last night. Verizon seemed to work great.

Taking the bus back up to trailhead.  

Taking the bus back up to trailhead.  

Once the girls came back, they repacked their bear cans and packs, we ate a quick lunch and then hopped on the midday bus back up to Tuolumne Meadows. It was a nice ride up the mountain road. The views were amazing as we slowly climbed back up from the valley floor. There was no one else in the bus except us.

On the road back up.  

On the road back up.  

Indigo was a bit nervous as she was meeting her father later today at the Tuolumne Meadows General Store but as she didn't have any cell service she couldn't keep in contact with her father. Also, as there was no service up at the Meadow, it was impossible to contact anyone up there.

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Indigo and her father had arranged to meet at the general store but as we arrived there, Indigo's father wasn't there. We split up so that Juniper and us boys went to the trailhead to look for Indigo's father. Juniper was the only other person who knew what he looked like. Meanwhile Indigo and Airplane Mode stayed at the General Store.

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After about an hour the girls arrived to the trailhead with Indigo's father, Jack. He seemed like he was very fit but had a pretty large backpack. He would have his work cut out for him as we all had our trail legs, and much lighter packs, and he would come fresh and have his first day on trail in notoriously tough Sierra. Luckily we were only doing about eight miles today.

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We started slowly and got back on the trail. The trail was really well maintained and wide. It was easy to see that we were in Yosemite now. At times we could fit all six of us side by side on the trail.

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On the first water crossing we all started walking across but Jack stopped and pulled out wading shoes. He's going to be really slow if he's going to change shoes at every water crossing.

It's no wonder the area is so popular, the nature around here is absolutely gorgeous. Lovely green meadows that have crystal clear streams flowing through them, deer and other animals roaming around, completely unafraid of human.

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I kept hiking with a huge smile on my face. Not only were our surroundings one of the most beautiful ones I've seen, but there was no trace of snow and we could just focus on hiking on a well maintained, easy trail. I haven't felt this way in almost three weeks. It felt like we were really through the worst of the snow.

We passed some awesome river crossings and Tuolumne Falls, a fifty foot (15.2m) high waterfall, and countless meadows. We walked at a leisurely pace while Indigo told us interesting facts about plants, and then we talked about quantum physics. 

Indigo, Juniper, and a rainbow at Tuolumne Falls. 

Indigo, Juniper, and a rainbow at Tuolumne Falls. 

After we left the river behind and started climbing up again, we got into a forest and mosquitoes came out in force. It wasn't nothing compared to Finland but you definitely wanted to have some mosquito repellent on your exposed parts.

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We did about 1,000 feet climb up to the spot where we had planned to camp but as there was no water close by, we decided to hike 0.7 miles to a meadow with a stream. Indigo's dad was keeping up nicely but he was clearly feeling the climb. Good hustle on the first day as it's not easy to keep up with a bunch of trail hardened thru-hikers in Sierra.

Camp for the night.  

Camp for the night.  

Once we reached the meadow we were really happy with our decision to push on. It was so beautiful. We quickly found a nice spot little higher from the meadow, under some tree canopy, and next to a small creek. Perfect! This way our camp was out of the meadow where all the surrounding cold and moist air falls during the night, and have trees above us to stop the warmth from radiating upwards.

Juniper.  

Juniper.  

There was even a fire ring and we soon had a nice bonfire going on. The mosquitoes were really out now and the smoke from the fire was barely enough to keep them away from us. Juniper decided to eat her dinner inside her tent.

Indigo's dad brought some really good chocolate for Indigo as he had missed her birthday due to her being on trail and we all got to eat some. That was really nice of him.

Indigo.  

Indigo.  

As the clock approached hiker midnight we put the fire out and then went to our shelters. Tomorrow we have one pass to go over, and one river to forge. While this section has been called "the meat grinder" due to the bad river crossings (there have been few bad accidents), I have a feeling the water has had enough time to go down and we would not have such a huge trouble getting through. But we'll see soon. We'll get to the bad parts the day after tomorrow.

Day 71: Island Pass, Donahue Pass, and I've hiked the length of the JMT

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Date: July 9, 2017
Miles: 19.1 miles (30.7km), from Thousand Island Lake over Island and Donahue Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.
Health: Knee still hurts but it's ok with the knee brace.

Waking up today was just gorgeous. We cowboy camped next to each other with Blis and our view looked over the Thousand Island Lake and the mountains behind them. The lake and the mountains still basked in the light of the moon as we woke up at 4:15am.

Thousand Island Lake in the early morning.   

Thousand Island Lake in the early morning.   

I was a bit chilly and I just quickly ran to get my bear canister from little outside our camp and got back to my sleeping bag. I ate my breakfast while watching the moon slowly disappear behind the mountains on the other side of the lake. One of the peaks on those mountains was called Davis Peak, Blis's name peak (his last name is Davis), and he climbed it when he was 17.

Happy Feet approaching Island Pass. 

Happy Feet approaching Island Pass. 

After a quick setup we were all hiking at 5am. Our first order was to find the trail from under the snow. After some rock climbing and wondering in the dark we found it and got on our way. For a while we had great views at the lake from above as the sun started to slowly rise.

Island Pass.  

Island Pass.  

In less than two miles we would go over Island Pass which, at 10,226 feet (3,117m), isn't the most impressive pass we've crossed. We had to cross about a mile of snowfields while climbing and then we were at the pass before even realizing it. After a short singing break, while looking at the sunrise, we continued towards our main pass for today – Donahue Pass.

Approaching Donahue Pass.  

Approaching Donahue Pass.  

While approaching Donahue Pass we came across KB, Dandelion, Fireant, Fyre, Roadrunner, and Kendall. What a happy coincidence! I thought they were far ahead of us. We chatted for a while and then continued. We'd most likely meet somewhere along the trail again today.

We descended down to a small valley before starting to climb back up again. We hit snowfields pretty soon but the snow wasn't that icy. It seems the snow doesn't have enough time to freeze during the night anymore. While others used microspikes, I felt it was easier to walk without them.

Airplane Mode.  

Airplane Mode.  

We needed to climb a bit longer to reach the Donahue Pass but it wasn't that hard. As we've already crossed the highest and the hardest passes while drudging through deep snow, these smaller passes, with less snow, don't quite feel the same. We still have six or seven passes to cross overall but they are all under 11,000 feet.

Break before reaching Donahue Pass.  

Break before reaching Donahue Pass.  

After Donahue Pass we descended down to a long valley that would take us all the way to Tuolumne Meadows. But our descend didn't go as smoothly as one would hope. We got a bit glissade mad and ended up on sheer rock face that we couldn't go down without ropes. So we started scrambling left towards what we hoped would be an easier path down. After few sketchy moments and few slips, we all made our way safely down.

Descending down to the valley far in the distance.  

Descending down to the valley far in the distance.  

Once down we needed to find the trail again. We found a northbound JMT hiker right where we climbed down to, so Blis asked him for directions. He pointed to the right and everyone started heading that way. I felt the direction was wrong and took out the GPS. The direction he pointed out was way off and I though I'd look for the trail from where I though it should be.

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While others went right, I went left and after about hundred feet found the trail a bit downhill. I walked along the trail thinking others would soon notice they were heading towards a cliff. I tried yelling after them but they didn't hear me.

Marmot. 

Marmot. 

I walked along the trail until I reached a spot where I knew they could not pass me from either side without noticing me and waited. I also had left marks along the trail so that if they got on it earlier, they would know I had passed that spot. Soon I heard the girls yelling my name and yelled back that the trail was where I was. After a bit more yelling we were united again.

We descended all the way down to the valley and it was time for lunch. We found a nice spot and stopped. After eating I was so tired that I just fell asleep. When I woke up KB and the whole group had caught up to us and were also eating on the same spot. Now we were one big super group.

At the valley floor all the snow disappeared and we got to hike on a beautiful, open trail. It felt so great to not have to climb snowbanks or search for the trail constantly.

The views were simply amazing. I don't have words to describe the beauty that surrounded us all day. Nor do I have a lens wide enough to capture the open vistas all around us. We walked along and across meadows while the clear blue river meandered next to us at the valley floor. This is what I always imagined Sierra would be like.

Airplane Mode and Happy Feet.  

Airplane Mode and Happy Feet.  

Once the three o'clock heat hit, we decided it was time to stop for a swim. Almost everyone jumped in to the river and after a refreshing dip, we dried ourselves off in the sun for awhile.

Then it was time to get back to hiking. We saw deer, marmot, and butterflies along the trail. It felt so good to be here. Yesterday and today had been some of the most beautiful scenery along the whole trail so far.

Tuolumne Meadows.  

Tuolumne Meadows.  

After about 13 hours of hiking we reached Tuolumne Meadows. KB and others were doing Half Dome tomorrow so they stayed here. We headed towards the highway 120 to hitch a ride down to Lee Vining where Juniper and Indigo had resupply packages. Indigo's dad was also visiting tomorrow.

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As we reached the highway we caught literally the first car that drove by. All six of us stuffed ourselves into a small van and after a winding mountain road found ourselves on a very popular gas station just outside of Lee Vining. The place had live music and barbecue, and it was full of people.

About to hitch.  

About to hitch.  

As we walked in I saw DG. He was heading out on the same evening. We all ordered food and sat down drinking beer. It was so great to be here after such a long day.

Our arrival to Tuolumne Meadows today meant that I hiked from Mt Whitney to Tuolumne Meadows, which is basically the John Muir Trail, in sixteen days. That's pretty good considering we did it in a record high snow year, in snow. To give some context, the usual itinerary for JMT covers the trail in 21 days when there's no snow.

At Lee Vining.  

At Lee Vining.  

After relaxing at the gas station we moved over to a hill close by where we heard we could camp for free. We tried setting up our tents in the heavy winds but it was really hard. The soil was so soft that our stakes simply had no hold. Some of us gave up and simply slept on top of our tents, I was too stubborn and wasted too long to get my tarp up. Once I had it up I went in and got into my sleeping bag. Right then the wind changed direction and the stakes gave up and my tarp fell on me. I wasn't about to give up so I carried the largest rocks I could find and piled them on top of the stakes. Finally.

As I got back inside my tarp the wind died. Go figure. Tomorrow we can sleep in late as we have to wait for the girls to get their packages from Post Office which opens at 9am. Such luxury!

Day 70: Thousand Island Lake

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Date: July 8, 2017
Miles: 4 mile road walk (non PCT miles) + 8.2 miles (13.2km), from Agnew Meadows Trailhead to Thousand Island Lake.
Health: Feel fresh after the zero in Mammoth. Right knee hurts but is ok with the knee brace.

I wake up to a really bad need to pee. I storm to the bathroom but Blis has gotten in before me and is taking a shower. Conveniently there's no lock on the door so I knock and barge in.

We all try to get up as it's already 7am and we need to be on the 10am trolley to the ski center. While others head for breakfast, I stay in to work on my blog. The internet is so slow here that everything takes such a long time. And when you're working on a mobile phone, you can't really multitask, you just have to wait and upload things one by one.

Others soon arrive and we start packing our packs. I stuff all my food into my bear can and the rest that doesn't fit I put in the Opsak. All my gear is almost ready, I'm only waiting for my electronics to finish charging.

Pack failure.  

Pack failure.  

To give others more space to move in the small room I pick up my pack and as I do this, the fabric on the extension collar rips. And not a small rip, but a large rip. Great, just as we're leaving.

I've seen many backpacks breaking on this trip, and it's mostly been ZPacks, but now MLD's? There's not much to do. We figure that the best option is to sew it. Indigo takes charge and before I know it, my pack is like new. I just have to be more careful with it and not put any pressure on the extension collar.

Indigo fixing my broken pack.  

Indigo fixing my broken pack.  

The good things is, the pack only needs to last for a little over 100 miles, to Sonora Pass. From there we're hitchhiking to Bridgeport where my Pa'lante Pack is waiting, and from there we can ship our heavy Sierra gear home. I'm sure the double stitch Indigo did will hold that long.

I carefully pack my pack again and we head out to the trolley stop. Thanks to the backpack episode we're late on our schedule.

Happy at Mammoth.  

Happy at Mammoth.  

After 10 minutes of waiting the next trolley comes and we hop aboard. We need to switch to another one that takes us all the way to the ski resort. From there we have a 4 mile road walk to Agnew Meadow from where we rejoin the PCT again. We wanted to go through Red's Meadow but the roads to get there are still closed.

Starting our roadwalk.  

Starting our roadwalk.  

We walk the larger road and soon reach a ranger who informs us that there is road maintenance on the road ahead, they're cutting trees. From here the road narrows down and we soon reach a police officer and a civilian worker who make us wait for a minute. Once they get ok from the radio we can keep walking.

LL and Airplane Mode.  

LL and Airplane Mode.  

Not far down we run into another worker and we need to stop again. This time for a longer while as we have to wait for this massive tree to be cut down. We sit on the road and start eating.

Indigo and LL talking to the forest crew.  

Indigo and LL talking to the forest crew.  

Soon we see and hear the massive tree fall and we're cleared to continue. We get only few hundred feet down when we're stopped again. We sit down again and wait for two more trees to be cut down. Then we get cleared again. We get stopped two more times and our progress is very slow.

Waiting for the road to open. Again.   

Waiting for the road to open. Again.   

After all the stops it looks like we won't be going very far today. And luckily we don't have to. We're only trying to make it to Thousand Island Lake before the sun goes down.

Yoga break while waiting for trees to be cleared.  

Yoga break while waiting for trees to be cleared.  

We soon reach the PCT trailhead, get some water from the stream close by, and then start climbing up. It's not a big climb on PCT standards but we still climb for over an hour.

Back in the wilderness.  

Back in the wilderness.  

Once we get to the top of the ridgeline we're climbing, the views are absolutely breathtaking. Looking over a valley, we see a gorgeous, snow capped mountain range with waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. This is the part of the trail where the John Muir Trail and the PCT are separated. The JMT goes on the range we're looking at and the PCT on this side of the valley. I keep wondering if I'd rather walk on this side, and have all that beauty as my view, or walk on the other side among all the stream and lakes.

Group walking along the mountain side.  

Group walking along the mountain side.  

The trail keeps climbing gradually all the time and it feels like we're approaching a pass. I catch up to Indigo and Juniper at a small stream. They are super fast on uphill and I can't keep up with them. Soon Happy Feet, Airplane Mode, and Blis also catch up. We fill our water bottles, talk about how beautiful it is out here, and then keep hiking. It's going to be tight to make it to the lake before dark.

Looking over the valley to where JMT goes.  

Looking over the valley to where JMT goes.  

I'm soon hiking alone again as the girls push on fast, and the others stay behind. As I'm walking I start to hear rustling slightly above me. I take of my earphones but can't hear or see anything. I keep walking without my earphones and every now and then keep hearing something big moving above me on the small ridgeline. I stop on a spot where I have a good view of the ridgeline above but can't see anything. Must be a bear just outside my line of sight.

Indigo and LL.  

Indigo and LL.  

As I'm standing there, listening, Happy Feet catches up to me and we keep hiking up towards the lake. We soon reach the lake outlet and after a little bit of snow walking we see the lake. It's all frozen but the views are amazing.

Blis approves our camp spot for tonight.  

Blis approves our camp spot for tonight.  

We catch up to the girls and wait for the rest to come up while searching for a good spot to spend the night. Sun is already setting behind the mountains so we don't have much time left.

View from my sleeping bag.  

View from my sleeping bag.  

After some searching we find a spot where we all can fit. Blis and I share a single tent spot by cowboy camping on it. Happy Feet makes his own spot between some rocks, and the girls setup their shelters. We eat dinner while looking at the sun creating all these cool colors on the mountain on the opposite side of the lake. Blis tells us stories on how he failed and in the end managed to climb the mountain we're looking at as a young guy.

Our campsite on Thousand Island Lake.  

Our campsite on Thousand Island Lake.  

Soon it gets so cold that we need to love into our sleeping bags. I crawl in and watch the last rays of light still light the very tip of the mountains as the lake already rests in the shadows of the mountains behind us. Such beauty.

Day 69: Zero at Mammoth Lakes

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Date: July 7, 2017
Miles: 0.
Health: Rested. My knee is sore. 

Today was a pretty uneventful day. We slept late, headed out across the street for breakfast and planned what we'd do on the upcoming section. After a long breakfast I headed back to the motel to work on the blog while others headed out to work on their resupplies and other town chores.

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After sitting on the bed all day and uploading photos and videos over the crappy wifi, I also needed to get my resupply done. Also, I needed to eat something.

I walked over to the Mexican place everyone had talked about and got an order of tacos and some corn. It was good and cheap.

Doggy in a truck.  

Doggy in a truck.  

As I was heading towards the grocery stores I messaged Blis and he and Happy Feet just happened to be going to do their resupply at the same time. I met them at the fast food place they had eaten and we went to buy food.

As I got really tired of all the bars I had to eat on the last section, I wanted to make sure I didn't run out of meals this time. Finding good, calorie rich, light foods that don't require cooking (I'm stoveless) is always a bit of a challenge. We spend a lot of time walking through all the aisles at the store, trying to find foods that we aren't already sick of. Not an easy task.

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After some time Blis and I are done so Happy Feet tells us to go as he still wants to look around more. We take our groceries and head back to the motel. I bought some nice juices and food for tonight as well to eat in our room.

On the way back we stop at Rite Aid and I buy a knee brace to help with the hurting on my knee. The one that I buy is not as good as the one I have in San Diego, but as they didn't make it here, it has to do. It's better than nothing.

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As we get back to the motel, I start going through all the stuff that I bought. Something is missing. Actually, it looks like a lot of what I bought is missing. After some time I realize that the girl who packed the groceries to the plastic bags must have left two of my bags on the packing shelves. Damned.

As the store is about a 30 minute walk away, I try calling them to see if my guess is right. I wait on the line for almost an hour, not getting through. It's getting late and I really don't want to walk an hour back and forth to retrieve bags that might not be there. And I still have tons of other tasks to do.  I'm too tired to go back so I just mark this one up as a lose. Sucks as I'm most of the stuff that got left in the store was what I had bought for tonight.

Photo and edit by Happy Feet.  

Photo and edit by Happy Feet.  

We watch TV for a while but soon everyone is so tired that we just doze off. Tomorrow we get back on trail. While it felt good to be back in the civilization after a long stint in the mountains, I'm excited to get back up there.

Day 68: To Mammoth Lakes

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Date: July 6, 2017
Miles: 6.5 miles (10.5km) + 3.5 miles over the Mammoth Pass (non-PCT miles), from mile 897.4 to mile 903.9.
Health: Tired and my right knee hurts a bit.

We're getting to town today. Finally! As we only have 6.5 miles on the PCT and then 3.5 miles over the Mammoth Pass to get out of the mountains, we get a late start at 6:30am. The long night of sleep felt good but my body is so beaten up that it's clearly not enough. Going through Sierra in record snow is rough!

As we're leaving the camp, I notice I have a rock in my shoe and stay behind as others head out. I shake my shoe and check my sock but as I but my shoe back on, the rock is still there. Annoying, but I have to get going. It's not a long hike so I'll just get used to it.

The trail follows along a mountain side and is quite easy. I soon catch the others and we hike on in a nice line, wiggling along the mountain. Spirits are high as everyone has spend almost two weeks in the mountains and getting to town is kind of a big deal.

My legs are not yet warm and my right knee starts to hurt. I slow down as I know that once the muscles warm up, I'll be fine. I still send a satellite message to Mikko in San Diego, asking if he could ship my knee brace on express to get it in Mammoth tomorrow. It might come handy on the next long stretch on snow.

I'm a little behind and hear yelling and hollering from ahead. As I reach others, I see them standing around the 900 mile marker. Can't believe we're here, 1/3 of the trail done. We take the mandatory photos and then hike on.

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The spirits are still high but we soon hit snow again. We don't mind as we're going to town today. And then my phone peeps and I look down to see I have reception. Everyone takes out their phones and for awhile we all hike with our phones out, checking real world stuff (read: Facebook).

Then we get down in a gulley and lose the reception. Back to hiking and looking at the nature.

After a while we get the reception back and I call my parents who are at their summer place. My brother is there as well with my nephew and niece. We FaceTime for a good while. It's great to talk Finnish for awhile, and to talk with my family. Then I call my other brother to catch up with him as well. Time goes by quickly when you're distracted and we soon reach the junction. Awesome!

I'm getting really hungry as I didn't feel like eating a Clif bar or a Pop Tart for breakfast. I've eaten way too many of them on this section and the shear thought of one makes me gag. And that's all the food I have left. I sure I can make it to town without a breakfast.

As we head on the side trail leading to Mammoth Blis comments how it's all downhill from here. I celebrate in my head thinking it's just what I needed. A quick hour long downhill walk and then we're in town.

Well Blis wasn't quite right. We start climbing and lose the trail due to the snow. This is part for the course while hiking in Sierra but when you're hungry and expecting an easy downhill walk to town, not good. I start cursing at the snow and feel really hangry. I take the Clif bar from my pocket but can't make myself eat it. I just have to make it to town.

Happy Feet hopping over a fallen tree.  

Happy Feet hopping over a fallen tree.  

We hop over fallen trees, climb hills and head high snowbanks. Getting forward gets slow and hard. I start cursing more and more in my head and few times some of those curses get out. Airplane Mode tries to cheer me up with her list of "reasons I like snow". It's a good list but I'm too deep in the "I hate snow" mode. She senses that and switches to reverse psychology and starts cursing at the snow more than I do. I can't help but start laughing. That was a great move!

As we walk along, Airplane Mode cursing at the snow and me laughing behind her, we reach the last lake before the trailhead. Airplane Mode decides to bet me a large pizza in town if I jump into the lake instantly. I ask if I can take my clothes off and she says no. I have to jump into the lake and stay under water for 30 seconds. I throw my backpack to the ground and jump right into the lake. Blis and Airplane Mode take a video as Airplane Mode does her best to count to thirty as slowly as she can. The water is ice cold but hey, free pizza!

Soon the thirty seconds are over and I climb out. I'm soaking wet and we still have 0.4 miles to go. Hopefully that's enough time to dry me out. I put my backpack back on and start hiking to warm up. 

The lake I jumped into.  

The lake I jumped into.  

We reach a downhill with large patches of snow and no sight of the trail. We start just walking downwards trying to maintain course. Suddenly I'm again in a really good mood. And wet. I try to only walk in the sun to stay warm and to dry.

Once we get down we see the trailhead and the cars. Civilization! We speed up as we see the trolley that would get us down and to the town. The ride is free and we hop on.

As the trolley doesn't have any windows, it gets pretty chilly as we're moving and Blis offers me his jacket as mine is buried deep in my pack. I'm still quite wet so the wind chill is pretty chilly.

Reaching civilization again.  

Reaching civilization again.  

After a short drive we reach the town but have to switch to another trolley to get down to were our motel is. While we wait for it, I dry myself in the sun.

In the first trolley we met a young guy who likes hiking too and he asks if he could hang with us while we're heading to the same direction. He seems fun and new company is always appreciated. He's about the same age as Indigo and Juniper.

After the second trolley we reach our hotel but everyone's so hungry that we decide to eat first. We hit the pizzeria close by and Carlos, the young guy we met, joins us. I also spot DG on the other side of the road and he joins us too.

Our ride back to town.  

Our ride back to town.  

It turns out DG and Topo got to Mammoth yesterday. They had seen my note on trail but went on, thinking I would catch them before the next pass coming out of VVR. We did a short day then and stayed a half a day behind them.

We get in the pizzeria and soon Topo also joins us. Carlos buys the whole table pitchers and we happily have a few breakfast beers.

After stuffing our faces full of food, soda, and beer, we walk across the road and Blis and I get our room. Airplane Mode already got herself own room and Blis, Happy Feet, Indigo, Juniper, and I are sharing another room. Only me and Blis show up at the reception as places usually charge more if there are more than two in the room.

After showers and putting our clothes to laundry, Blis and I head to old part of Mammoth to do some gear shopping. I need new shoes and socks. My last pair of Injinji socks got a hole in them and I accidentally burned my last pair of Darn Toughs as I was drying them on fire. And my shoes are starting to break up and have no more cushion on them. No wonder as I've walked with them since Idyllwild, a good 750 miles (1,200km) back.

The crew.  

The crew.  

We get to the outfitters and I find my shoes soon. Size 10 Altra Lone Peak 3.0's. New color this time to get some variation on what I look down all day long. I also buy new Darn Tough socks.

Blis needs a lot more. He's been having trouble sleeping on his 3/4 length XLite pad due to his legs hanging out (he's tall), and because his elbows fall off the pad. He gets the XLite in large, which means it's longer but also a lot wider. He also gets new shoes as his are also destroyed, but doesn't get new microspikes to replace his broken ones. With the reports we keep hearing, we might not need microspikes anymore. He also gets new tips for his Leki trekking poles. Those are his third replacement tips so far. Mine are still like brand new.

KB, Dandelion, and Fireant are also in town and we keep messaging back and forth. It's great to be able to communicate with people again. On the way back we run into Fyre and Day Tripper. We didn't know Fyre was here and we're so happy to see her again. We thought she might have flipped north like most others did.

We talk for a while and then Blis and I head back to our motel. As soon as we get there we just fall on the beds. The room is quite small even for two, but with five people and everyone's gear, it's quite tight. But we make it work.

As I was walking back, I noticed that I still felt that rock in my shoe even though I was wearing my new shoes. Strange. At the motel I look at my foot and notice a small bump at the bottom of my left foot. As I touch it, it hurts. This is why I've been limping all day. The bump is in a place where I can't quite see or reach it. Indigo helps me and after a short investigation she notices that there's a splinter inside. She gets out a needle and tweezers and gets it out in couple of minutes. It hurts quite a bit as it had infected already. No wonder I was limping.

In the evening Blis's sister comes to visit and we all go out to eat Thai food. At the restaurant Fyre and Day Tripper happen to come to the same place, and then Dandelion, Fireant, and Roadrunner join us. It's so great to see everyone.

Blis's sister came over to say hi.  

Blis's sister came over to say hi.  

Dandelion and Fireant are heading out tomorrow but we keep telling each other we want to hike together again. We'll be only a day behind so there's a very good change we'll catch them. I so miss hiking with them!

After a long and laugh filled evening everyone starts to feel tired, it's already eight o'clock. We head back to the Motel 6 and pretty soon everyone's in bed. Blis and Happy Feet share one bed while Juniper and Indigo share the other. I take the small spot on the floor as I don't mind. I really enjoy sleeping in my sleeping bag.

It's so great to be back in town. Tomorrow's a zero and the day after we nero out of town. I'm going to just rest and do my resupply tomorrow. And work on my blog all day.

Day 67: Silver Pass and a rough day on snow

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Date: July 5, 2017
Miles: 16.3 miles (26.2km), from mile 881.1 over Silver Pass to 897.4.
Health: Low energy day. Twisted my right knee on the snow, it hurts but doesn't affect hiking on trail.

I woke up without the alarm at 4am. Somehow I had forgotten to set my alarm. I saw no lights or movement in other tents so I slowly started to change back to my hiking cloths in my sleeping bag. The nights aren't that cold, but it still feels pretty cold when you have to come out of the warmth of your little down haven.

Fifteen minutes later Blis comes to wake me up as I was preparing without a headlamp, it must have looked like I was still sleeping. I setup my gear leisurely and like a clockwork, everyone's ready to leave at 5am. Just like we agreed. Such a punctual group!

Crossing a waterfall early in the morning.  

Crossing a waterfall early in the morning.  

Our first obstacle for the morning is getting up the steep mountain face to the waterfall. We can't use the trail as it's at the other side of the big river, and then we would have to cross the more dangerous waterfall.

Airplane Mode approaching the pass.  

Airplane Mode approaching the pass.  

We climb up on all fours until we find the trail again. Few more switchbacks and we can tell by the sound that we're getting closer to the waterfall. And there it is.

The water we have to wade through is not so deep, but the force of the water, the mist, and the shear drop from the other side, make it quite impressive. And in we go. It's nice to get an ice cold waterfall bath first thing in the morning. Really wakes you up!

Quick break on top of the Silver Pass.  

Quick break on top of the Silver Pass.  

We all cross it quite easily and then it's on again. Happy Feet leads the way as he's hiked this section before and due to the snow, there's a lot of trail and way finding to do. Soon we reach the snow level and it's on with microspikes. It's still so early that the snow is hard and icy. The spikes have a good hold on the surface and it's easy to walk as you don't fall through the surface yet.

View down from the pass.  

View down from the pass.  

We have little bit over 1,000 feet climb up to the pass, meaning this is one of the easiest passes we've done. The climb is again quite uneventful. We cross endless snowfields and sun cups and climb up without seeing the trail.

Silver Pass has kind of an false summit. You climb up to what you think is the pass, only to realize you still have more to climb. It doesn't take us long and soon we're at the top of the pass. This was our last pass before Mammoth.

After a little snack break, and yoga by Airplane Mode, we start heading down. There seems to be a lot of snow on this side of the pass. We walk down the still icy snow but the sun is already out and slowly melting it. Soon we reach a spot that gets us all smiling. Looks like we're going to get to do some epic glissading.

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We have to go down these long, steep snowfields and they look absolutely perfect for asspath. One by one we hit the first one and it's a great one. Long and fast. There's a short walk and then we hit another one, this time even longer than the first one. These are my favorite moments up here!

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We get to do few more glissades and then the trail falls back to the woods. We do the usual on-off trail walking. We find the trail for awhile and then it disappears under the snow and we won't see it for a while. Then we get back on it and again it disappears. This goes on all day long.

There's still a lot of snow left and it makes making any progress slow and hard. I feel like we have to work at least three times as hard for the miles here, than we had to in the desert.

Small stream crossing.  

Small stream crossing.  

At times we climb down steep hills as we can't find the trail or it's somewhere buried under the mountains of snow.

We take a lunch break next to a bridge. I feel tired. Sierra at this time of the year, and with the record snow, is really hard. We climb 5-7,000 feet of elevation every day, and most of that in deep snow. You can definitely feel all that after a long day.

Airplane Mode and Indigo having a lunch.  

Airplane Mode and Indigo having a lunch.  

After the lunch we start climbing again and reach the snow, again. The area we are hiking through is covered with beautiful lakes. Sadly they are all almost frozen over.

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We take a long lunch break next to one of the lakes and entertain ourselves with stories and verbal games. It's funny how much fun you can have when you have great people around you. We don't need any electronic devices to keep us entertained.

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We nap side by side with Blis under a tree. The sun is warm and we feel tired and broken. I feel like I could stay here for the rest of the day but the others push us on.

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We cross one of the lakes and climb a small hill that looks like a pass and then start to descend down to the Purple Lake. Happy Feet and I are at the front and while going down, hear a thud and some commotion from behind us. We stop and look back and see Blis on his back after one of the steep snowbanks. Indigo and Juniper are there with him and we see them taking of their backpacks. Oh no!

We yell to see if everything is alright and if they need our help. They reply they're ok, and that Blis cut his hand. We stop and watch as they bandage his hand. Everything seems to be ok. Once Blis gets up and catches us, we hear that he fell while sliding down and a stick went through his skin. It's nothing bad but needed medical attention.

Duck Lake.  

Duck Lake.  

We slip and fall often on the snow. Everyday many of us take different kinds of tumbles on the snow, or when crossing it. I've fallen through between rocks, slipped, fallen, postholed, fallen through snow under a tree, and so on. And today while sliding down on one of the hills with my feet, my ankle gets stuck under a tree branch and it twists my knee. It's nothing bad but I feel it a little every time I start moving after a small stop.

Happy Feet doing the last climb up to camp.  

Happy Feet doing the last climb up to camp.  

It's been a long day and everyone seems to be beaten. We finally reach our camp spot for tonight. It's 6.5 miles from the junction to Mammoth and from there we need to hike 3.5 miles more. Normally we would have taken a bus from Reds Meadow, but the road from there to Mammoth is closed due to snow. We're hoping the larger road from where we're heading would be open.

Dinner at camp. 

Dinner at camp. 

We have no bonfire tonight. We eat our dinner and everyone quickly goes back to their tents. This has been our longest stint out, and at the same time the hardest. I can't wait to get to Mammoth and rest for few days. And to get the milkshakes, and burgers, and proper real food.