August 1st & 2nd 2018: Deer Creek > Red’s Meadow Resort; 5.5 miles > Mammoth
My poor weary body can rejoice! I’m writing this on a comfy chair in a hostel with a full belly of REAL food. I haven’t had a 45 pound pack strapped to my back for over 24 hours and my legs feel fantastic! Although smoky and hot, this rest day in Mammoth was just what I needed. However, I am getting a little itchy to get back on the trail tomorrow… it feels like cheating being off of it!
Yesterday I got to Red’s Resort right in time for breakfast. The 5.5 miles there were easy, however, they were filled with devastation. I walked through a forest of dead trees, likely dead for a while. I’m unsure how they got that way (Edit: Lightning sparked fire in 2008), but there was an odd beauty to the destruction. As I descended into the resort, I saw the smoke that I had been warned about. It made for hazy views into the meadow. People coming up from the meadow were wearing N95 masks and complaining about how thick the smoke was down at the bottom and warned me to get out as soon as possible. When I told them I was headed into Mammoth, they said that it wasn’t much better there. Great! Eventually I made it to Red’s (such a beautiful sight to see the sign!) and had a delicious – albeit pricey – breakfast. Worth every cent. Afterwards I picked up the resupply bucket and rooted through it to see what goodies I wanted to take along. I gave most of it back because I still had too much food leftover from the MTR resupply and Marybeth had her resupply in the bucket as well.
I stuck around at Red’s for a while, talking with other hikers and just killing time since I didn’t have a plan for when I got into Mammoth. Eventually I caught the shuttle into town and I checked into the Moderne Hostel. I went around town to get supplies for a much needed shower. Mammoth is not very pedestrian friendly. Walking anywhere is putting your life on the line. Luckily, however, the town offers free trolleys to you take to and from various points of interest. Just simply hop on board and go to your destination worry free! I took the most amazing shower and for the first time in over 2 weeks I felt clean! Plus now I won’t terrify Boy Scouts hiking the trail with my hairy legs – pretty sure I gave a few of them a decent fright as they passed by open mouth shocked by my legs – ha! I met the woman staying in the same room as me. Jen from Monterey (we bonded over their impressive farmer’s market) was hiking the JMT SOBO, but bailed out at Mammoth due to severe knee pain that started after coming down from Donahue Pass. She was going to spend a few days here to see if it felt better, but after not being able to put any weight through it, she made the tough decision to drop out. She was awesome to talk with and is a super friendly and sincere person. Living in CA so close to the trail, she is planning on coming back out next year to attempt it with her 16 year old son.
Soon it was time to think about dinner. Someone who I had met on the TransAm suggested I go to Liberty Grill. It was right down the street and is owned by a Philly guy. After looking them up online, I saw they had burgers and was immediately sold. Though not entirely hungry, I still ordered and ate everything. It was all gone quicker than I’d like to admit. The poor people at the bar had to witness the pure savageness of me devouring that food. When I got the bill, I came to learn that Danny offered to pay for my meal! Thanks Danny!!
With an uncomfortably full belly, I went back to the hostel and immediately went to bed to sleep off the food coma. At exactly 4am, I woke up and immediately regretted scarfing down all that fried greasy food. I had a bad case of bubbly guts and practically fell off the top bunk in a rush to get to the bathroom. Pretty sure I gave Jen quite a fright in my frantic rush. I should’ve known this was going to happen – after 2 weeks of such bland foods, assaulting my stomach with a burger and fries was not a great idea. But it tasted so good!!
In the morning I went to a coffee shop to try and figure out a game plan for getting to Yosemite amidst all these fires. Mammoth is extremely smoky. In fact, I woke up to the smell of smoke this morning. I know that a bunch of JMTers are either cutting their hike short or cancelling it altogether because of reports of smoke. I began to question whether my bullheaded decision to try to push to Happy Isles was smart, or (more importantly) safe. Ultimately I came up with the conclusion that if the smoke gets too much to handle, I’ll just turn back and come home from Mammoth.
So the plan: get to Tuolumne Meadows by Sunday, when Yosemite is rumored to reopen. If it opens, great! I’ll finish the hike in 2 days. If it doesn’t, I can camp out there for a few days till it does. If I run out of time, I’ll find a way back into a town where I can catch public transportation to a major airport and fly home. I is unclear whether or not YARTs is operational right now due to the fires. If it is then it’s an easy ride into Mammoth. If it’s not, then I’ll just have to stick out my thumb and catch a ride into town with some generous stranger.
The prospect of potentially having to end this experience early is heartbreaking to me. Even though it’s only 2 days worth of hiking, I wanted to finish more than anything in the world. After having such a tough first week and not being sure if I would even make it past that, I would feel incomplete having to quit early when I know physically and mentally I am capable. But with such a devastating fire rolling through such a beautiful place, it is completely selfish of me to think this way. I hope the fire is contained soon, not only for my and other hiker’s benefits, but for the preservation of Yosemite and the safety of the firefighters working so hard to contain it.
With all my maps laid out on the table in the coffee shop and my dirty smelly ratty cloths, I guess I gave off the hiker vibe. A guy, Josh, recognized me as a JMT hiker immediately and struck up a conversation. Being a photographer and having lived in Mammoth for some time now, he is very familiar with the Sierras and the JMT in particular. Seeing I was alone and likely bored, he invited me to Bluesapalooza with him and his friends, a yearly blues festival held right down the street from my hostel that apparently is the event of the year. How lucky I was to stumble into town the exact weekend it’s being held! Having nothing better to do, I figured why not indulge in a little bit of Mammoth culture.
I’m so jealous of people who live in California. All of Josh’s friends were talking about all the trails they have done and how easy it is for them to get a walk up permit for whenever they want to go camping out in the backcountry. Not fair! It took me weeks of planning and stressing to get my permits! Oh well. Such is life.
After only being able to tolerate the Blues festival for an hour, I left to get some sleep. I talked with Sheena on the phone and practically cried about how much I wish she was here with me for this hike! Oh well, next time!
Being back in civilization has made me want to get back on the trail ASAP. It is such a weird feeling being in a town when you know you have unfinished business out in the wilderness to attend to. I don’t like the feeling so I’m ready to hop on the first bus outta Mammoth tomorrow and get back to Red’s so I can (hopefully) finish this hike!