June 25: One of the biggest differences between the AT and the PCT is the amount of solitude you experience. The AT is very much set up to be a group experience. There are shelters with lots of space for overflow tent camping. The trail is very hard and rugged with high potential for falling and injuries- so you tend to hike together. Hiking the AT is like being on a sports team with the other hikers- a collaborative effort.
The PCT, on the other hand, seems designed to be a solitary experience. The camp sites most often can accommodate 2-3 tents at most, oftentimes with space for a single tent. The trail is gently graded and easy- no need to hike in groups, we hikers tend to fall into our own preferred pace and see hiking buddies during breaks. Hiking the PCT is like being in a class with he other hikers- a shared experience, but ultimately an individual one.
So when we come to spots like Tuolomne Meadows, where there is a large campground and multitudes of campers, it's a bit of a treat. Camping party!
It's also nice, every now and then, to mingle with the car camping crowd. They seem fascinated with the whole thru hiking experience, but don't look at you as if you are completely nuts. They initiate conversations that don't revolve around food, snakes, foot care, mysterious body pains, or poop. And they tend to be generous with their grilled chicken, beef burritos, and s'mores.
Up at the Tuolomne Meadows hiker camp ground, Skyline and I hung out with lots of day hikers and car campers and stayed up by the Campfire until 30 minutes PAST hiker midnight (9pm). It was crazy and decadent and wild! And then we went to bed because we were falling asleep sitting up. At about 10, I awoke, thinking "who is shining their headlamp RIGHT INTO MY TENT???" I opened my eyes to see that it wasn't a headlamp, but the moon! The stars and moon are so bright in the backcountry!
Just about everyone slept in the next morning- to the unthinkable time of 6:30 or so. Because there was a good breakfast place that didn't open until the unthinkably late time of 7 am. And when you have a chance to start a day of hiking with a hearty breakfast sandwich, that's what you do. I also has to wait for the post office to open to pick up a package. (This would become the baine of my existence- waiting for mail!) We made our way down to the restaurant and joined the line of raggedy, dirty (the campground had no shower), cranky hikers - complaining that WHO in their right mind waits until 7 to open a BREAKFAST place?!? We are very passionate about eating our meals in a timely fashion.
Which is why by the time I finally got my hearty breakfast sandwich, I had already eaten an ice-cream/cookie sandwich and drank a Dr Pepper. They were very slow.
When the post office finally opened, I learned that my package had not yet arrived and I'd have to wait until the mail got delivered around 1 pm. With that, I bid farewell to the hikers I had been hanging around with all morning (Skyline, Honey Stick, Starfish, Cardboard, Mowgli, Babyeater (?), and Wizard) as they headed down the trail and I laid down on my groundsheet to take a nap while waiting for the mail. 😕
I woke up with a start, sometime later. A ground squirrel had climbed up on top of me and was sitting on my back! EEEWWWWW! Squirrels aren't as disgusting as mice, but they are close. People tell me to be careful about bears, but I'm always more concerned about he little varments. The mice and chipmunks and squirrels and marmots are the ones that will chew through your tent to get your food. (As it turns out, I was completely on point with this idea!)
Finally, 1 pm rolled around, I got my package, and I headed out on the trail. Generally, 2 pm is a time I'd be resting in the shade, but with my non productive morning, is have to skedaddle to try and catch to rest of the crew. The good news was- there were lots of rivers to jump into if I got too hot. Like this baby:
It was a good thing I picked up my bear canister in Mammoth and didn't try to be a rebel. I was stopped by 3 rangers today and asked for my thru-hiker permit and bear canister. This would continue every day in Yosemite.
The beautiful views would also continue! After walking by beautiful sites like this:
I ended up camping in this Meadow.
What could be better than that?
Peace. Love, and trail magic!
And beauty that never ends.🌲