9.5 miles on PCT and Cottonwood Pass trail
Three hikers walk by as I’m packing up. I can’t wait until I’m out of here. It’s painful watching hikers move farther into the Sierra while I’m getting out.
Without smoke clogging the sky, I get to see views I didn’t see when Cucumber and I passed this way two days ago. This is beautiful country.
After what seems like an unreasonably long uphill stretch, during which I pass many northbound PCTers and weekenders, I reach Chicken Spring Lake. I see more people. I reach Cottonwood Pass and turn left. As I step off the PCT, I kneel and touch the trail because I’m emotional like that. High Sierra, I’ll be back.
The switchbacks are steep. With earbuds in and music pumping, I vault off my trekking poles and fly down the trail toward Horseshoe Meadow. Shortly after the slope levels out, I spot Mom and Dad coming toward me. It’s an emotional reunion. I can’t tell if Mom is primarily laughing or primarily crying. My eyes are wet, too.
As we walk to the trailhead I tell them what happened on Whitney and why I decided to skip ahead. We reach the car and drive to Independence, where I need to pick up my resupply box. First, though, we spot two hikers attempting to hitchhike to Bishop. We’re going that way; we can give them a ride. We stop to pick them up. Dad recognizes one of the guys – he gave him a ride in Kennedy Meadows when the hiker accidentally left his shoes in the shuttle to/from Grumpys. Such a small world.
The hikers get in the car, and it turns out they actually want to get to South Lake Tahoe. Well, shoot. We can take them most of the way. Our new companions are Rabbit from South Korea and Pascal from Switzerland. They came over Kearsarge Pass yesterday. They show us pictures and video. I’m so glad I didn’t attempt that pass. They tell us about crossing Tyndall Creek. I’m so glad I didn’t have to make that crossing. I made the right choice. And I’m not the only one. Rabbit has friends at South Lake Tahoe who already skipped ahead. Some hikers may be getting through, but it turns out lots of us are bailing.
We have a nice drive north chatting with Rabbit and Pascal. We drop them off just over the ridge from Tahoe and continue on. For dinner we stop at Archie’s Giant Burgers and Breakfast in Reno. I eat a giant grilled chicken salad and a massive basket of fries.
My parents drop me and my backpack off at my house, where I’m reunited my husband. After a quick pit stop, my parents continue their drive home. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for coming to rescue me!
I’m exhausted. Tomorrow will be a zero, and then we’ll see where I end up.