Miles walked: 23.1
My ankle hurt so bad this morning. Because of that, I was sitting in my sleeping bag at 5:30 am with a question repeating itself in my mind. “Is this the end of the PCT for me?”
I could barely hobble out of my tent to take a piss. My ankle was swollen and in a lot of pain. I again cursed the day from February 2013 where the original horrific ankle injury occurred. To start the day, I was 27 miles from Sonora Pass and Kennedy Meadows North. There wasn’t even reliable cell service there. I was 100 miles away from South Lake Tahoe, which is the first place I might be able to get medical attention.
I decided I had only one choice. Hike.
So, I got ready. I put on my repugnant shirt that had only been rinsed in a river once in the last eight days. I packed up my stuff as quickly as I could to minimize my exposure to mosquito hell.
I limped for the first mile and using my poles for crutches I covered that mile in 45 minutes. My second mile took 35 minutes. My ankle was loosening up a bit, but the pain was still very real.
This was the worst morning I’d had thus far on the PCT. My ankle was excruciating. Much of the trail was muddy or filled with puddles of muddy water.
Hoards of mosquitoes engulfed me every time I stopped to do anything. I was hiking with my buff pulled up to cover my ears and mouth. I had headphones in with music playing so I couldn’t hear these evil fuckers. I was wearing hat, sunglasses, and mosquito head net. I was also wearing my rain jacket to prevent mosquitoes from biting through my shirt. My legs were drenched in deet. While treating water the cloud of mosquitoes around my head was so thick that it obscured vision. I limped along, sweating in my rain jacket, sinking up to my ankles in mud, wishing I was anywhere but in this meadow.
A buck stopped what he was doing to laugh at my attire. Never seen a laughing deer? Just dress like I was and walk around Yosemite for a while.
I continued up and over Dorothy Lake Pass which was also my exit from Yosemite National Park. I stopped a half a mile shy of the mile 1000 mark to eat lunch in a rare spot with only a few mosquitoes.
At lunch I wondered what I’d do with my summer if my ankle didn’t get better. Maybe I’d go play a couple of events in the World Series of Poker. Maybe I’d ride my motorcycle somewhere awesome. I also wondered about my trail family that is no longer together. How’s Chilly Bin doing? Where are Tapeworm and Opera? How’s HoosierDaddy doing after seeing the doctor? How far ahead is Ziploc? How’s Sleeping Beauty enjoying her first day back at work after the JMT? What’s up with Peanut Butter, Ranger, Gandalf, Whiplash, and so many others I’d met over the last thousand miles?
I had no answers. I ate my lunch in the same manner as I hiked and camped for the last three days, by myself.
Mile 1000 was a letdown. I didn’t feel like dancing, and I was in too much pain to even think about it. I crossed mile 1000 the same way I started the PCT at mile 0, by myself.
Hiking the rest of the day was a grind. I counted the miles remaining till Sonora Pass. I am in desperate need of a shower, laundry, and time off my feet.
Briefly during my climb I forgot about my pain and my loneliness. I even forgot about the mosquitoes for a while as the views of the mountains grew with each step up in elevation. I stopped to camp at one of the highest camp spots on the route at nearly 10,600’.
I ate in silence and tried to use a spotty LTE connection that seemed to disappear any time I tried to do something. Instead, I sat and watched the sun setting in the west and the alpenglow to the east.
It was my favorite moment of my entire PCT hike. A day that started with hell finished with heavenly views.