Day 78: What’s Ahead, Nobody Knows

We continued pressing north through Yosemite today, making our way through some surprisingly — and impressively — strenuous hiking. I’m honestly not sure whether it just feels strenuous because there are fewer Big Goals to conquer (like all of the high passes from earlier), or if it really is just that difficult. Although our ascents and descents aren’t for as long, they seem steeper than ever, and we have to slow way down on both of them: the ascents to keep catching our breath, and the descents so that we don’t fall over. Nevertheless, Yosemite continues to be a truly gorgeous place, with so much of the backcountry in such solitude. We might see a total of ten people in an entire day here, which makes it feel a lot more like “getting away from it all” than Yosemite ever has for me before.

The PCT rumor mill, we’ve discovered, is an incredibly powerful machine. Case in point: there’s a rumor going around that there’s a big wildfire north of Sonora Pass (the next big road crossing, and our next resupply stop) and that the trail is closed all the way from there to Echo Lake, seventy-five miles north. But the funny thing is, out here in the outdoors with no Internet access, nobody really knows for sure! We talked to Lisa, Yosemite’s “PCT Ranger”, today as she came down the trail; she was incredibly friendly, helpful, and wonderful — but as she couldn’t get in contact with her base via walkie-talkie, she had no idea other than the rumors everybody kept repeating. We’ve seen the PCT rumor mill get things wildly wrong before — there was a rumor that the package fees at Kennedy Meadows had been tripled, which was just completely false — so I genuinely don’t know what to believe. It reminds me of living in the pre-Internet era: there’s absolutely nothing to do but keep going and wait until we either find someone who knows, or find that section of trail and discover it either open or closed, so we press on no matter what. If it is closed, it’s going to cause a pretty major change in our plans, so we’ll just have to take it as it comes.

Speaking of rangers, particularly backcountry rangers: is there ever a class of person, government employee, or law-enforcement officer you’d overall rather run into? Every single one of them is incredibly helpful, friendly, and just a great person. We even had our bear cans checked today (by said Ranger Lisa), as they’re required in Yosemite, and she was super-friendly and nice about that, too. It just made me realize that I don’t think I’ve ever met a backcountry ranger I didn’t like, and that’s saying something. Here’s a big toast to all of them, especially since they put up with some hikers doing ridiculous things — and are incredibly helpful to all of us!

As we continue north, the mosquitoes continue to get worse, but the landscape just gets greener and greener and greener. It’s a lush kind of green, too, full of ferns and new grass and all kinds of young plants — completely different from the dry, prickly dark green of the desert. The trail turns damp or muddy often, and we cross streams almost constantly. It makes me think of how much of the Sierra really does all come down to snow: all that snow in the wintertime creates all this runoff, which is exactly what makes the streams, meadows, and forests feel like they do. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like out here in a wet year, since even this exceptionally dry one is full of water everywhere.

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