July 29th, 2018; Florence Lake – Bear Ridge Junction: 16 Miles
Well, I survived by first day alone in the wilderness. Marybeth made the hard decision to leave via Florence Lake to determine exactly what has her feeling so lousy. After a sad “see you later” – cause I have hope of her returning soon – I went long on my own. It took 1.5 miles to get out of MTR territory and back on the trail. That short distance was some of the toughest hiking yet! Yesterday at the ranch, I overheard some guys going SOBO talking about their trek coming in. “May, I couldn’t imagine going NOBO outta here!” So at least I was semi prepared, but not enough! I was so glad to see the Selden Pass >” sign, indicating the end of that stretch. As soon as I got to that sign, I almost got trampled by two deer who I spooked. Well, they spooked me too! Right before one was feet from plowing right into me, I let out the highest pitch shriek my body would allow. That deer did not want to collide into something that made that kind of noise, so she last second changed course and left me alone. Phew. Now I could focus on the climb ahead of me. Like I mentioned last post, I had over 3K’ to make up in just a few miles. The GPS elevation profile gave me an indication of what was in store. Most of the elevation gain was in the first 2 miles. Rough, but it’s gotta happen! Good thing I was getting it over with first thing in the morning.
After the first few miles, things settled down and turned “flat”. I enjoyed it until the last 1/2 of the pass. But I gotta say, I’m a fan of going North, just because of the gentle grade of the passes this last half of the trip. The way up going SOBO looks way more intimidating and less friendly. But there is a trade off for these smaller elevation passes… less of a view. And they only get smaller from here on out. I was spoiled by the grand views of Forester Pass. I’ll be daydreaming about those breathtaking views for the rest of my life. Once atop Selden Pass, I spoke with some hikers and ate lunch. Being exposed and in the sun, I didn’t stay up there too long and set back down the pass.
Today, just after getting back on the trail, I observed complete sounds of nature. Now I’ve experienced it before on this trip, plenty of times, but being by myself added to the magnitude of silence I was at that time listening to. While going up a set a switchbacks just before Selden Pass, it was early enough where I had the trail to myself. The atmosphere was devoid of human made sounds. No airplanes, no cars, no music, no frivolous conversations, no clumsy feet or trekking poles accidentally kicking rocks (my specialty). Just nature. Once my heartbeat stopped drumming in my ears and I swatted all the mosquitoes and flies away, I was fully immersed by deafening nature. The sound of the distant stream, the gentle breeze, the sing song chants of the birds flying amongst the clouds all put me at peace, just at time when peace was needed. When surrounded in a world full of constant stimuli, it is beyond refreshing to experience a world so quiet and unadulterated, where humans have yet to fully inhabit.
Hiking such a trail in such wilderness alone is intimidating. Though I’m confident in my abilityies to solo hike and I rarely go 15 minutes without seeing another human being, you can just not prepare for the unexpected. Needless to day, the prospect kept me up last night (that and the fact that the campsite kinda creeped me out). But there are signs out here that I’ll be just fine and that I actually am not truly alone. My grandmother promised me that she’d be watching over me, keeping me safe. She sent a sign (literally) today, of all days, that she was keeping that promise. I passed by Rose Lake Junction, and seeing as her name is Rose, I know it wasn’t just a coincidence! I know she’s up there, keeping a watchful eye, giving me confidence for the days to come.
Today was a long day. In fact, it was the longest mileage day yet! That because I got over be pass before 11:30am and felt great. I also want to try to get to VVR tomorrow early tomorrow for the 9:45am ferry. By going further today, I only have 5 miles tomorrow to the ferry, making it easy to make that time. Otherwise I’ll be waiting around until 4:45pm, no thanks! Marybeth, if given the okay by the doctors, will likely meet me at VVR, so I’d rather get there early and just relax. She’ll let me know by tonight. If she isn’t able to make it to VVR, I’ll likely just skip it and head to Red’s Meadow. Although VVR is a staple stop for JMT hikers and offers hot meals and free beer to hikers, I would rather push on. More so than food and especially beer (yuck – at this altitude I’d be hungover for days), I’m craving communication with friends and family. I need to make sure little Addie is okay! The person who is sharing a campsite with me has a dog – ugh I might steal it for the night!
The smoke was the worst it’s been yet today. As I learned on the Pacific Coast bike tour, winds out here tend to blow from the North down to the South. Seeing as any of the fires are North of here, the wind is blowing the smoke right our way. A cowboy leading a mule train told me, “howdy Ma’am, welcome to the most beautiful part of the trail!” News to me, I can’t see anything through the haze of the smoke!
I officially have less than 100 miles. And with 10 days to complete those miles in, I feel confident that I’ll be able to achieve my goal. Unless, of course, something befalls me!