Rainy days in Yosemite

The town after south lake Tahoe is Kennedy Meadows North, where Hummingbirds Cabin is. Even though she went back to college after reaching Canada, she allowed us to stay there. With a free place to stay, we took a zero and we’re able to cook our own meals. Lt Dan cooked a authentic Israeli breakfast called shakshuka. Well fed, we headed back into the Wilderness and soon entered Yosemite National Park.

Isreali breakfast

In the park we passed by huge waterfalls and beautiful meadows. Additionally the PCT merged with the John Muir Trail (JMT). That meant the number of hiker increased dramatically.

Water falls in yosemite

Besides just more hikers, more thunderstorms seemed to come with this new section. Almost every day around 3:30 it would storm. This meant if you were about to climb a pass you would have to wait until the storm blew over, which could take the whole afternoon.

The second day out of town, a massive thunderstorm hit. To avoid being in a dangerous place for lightning, we set up camp at an all time early 3pm. The storm raged on and the lighting strikes continued to get closer. There was nothing i could do so i put my headphones in and pulled my sleeping bag over my eyes.

frozen ground from the storm the night before

Two days after the first storm another one hit. This time almost at night. I got so cold in the rain I sped up my hiking pace to stay warm. I ended up getting quite a bit ahead of Lt Dan and Curry. When I set up my tent they went ahead of me and we got split up. The next morning was freezing but I packed up in the darkness to try to catch them before they left for the day. I passed lots of JMT tents but never saw there’s all the way to the pass. I knew they hadn’t packed up earlier that me, so i knew they were behind me but i didn’t know where. I waited on the pass in my sleeping bag for almost two hours and then they finally showed up. They too didn’t know where I had been so they had been slow to get up so I would see their tent (which I didn’t). Either way we were all united once again and the weather was good.

Waiting on the Pass

In Yosemite the giant rock mountains seemed to be bigger than normal. They loomed over us at every turn making me feel very small. The last day before town we had lunch at a deep blue like with a huge mountain range as the background. Soon after we were in the town of mammoth.

Noel Nelson- pct mile 2530

Lunch with a view

The Sierras (again)

As we approached the trailhead at Donner Pass in Truckee I was amazed. I had been here before but did not recognize it. In June everything was snow covered and now there was nothing… Day hikers as far as the eye could see, happily trodded up and down the trail. The plan had worked.

With heavy packs full of food we headed out once again into the grand sierra.

The first day out the trail led up a very exposed ridge. The views were beautiful on both sides but a thunderstorm was on our heels. We could see the dark clouds behind us and moving in. Every distant roar of thunder was good encouragement to go faster than before.

After a stressful hour of hiking we made it off the ridge. In the mess I had taken a wrong turn and gotten off trail. That meant lt dan and curry had gotten ahead of me thinking they were still behind. So when I got to where we said we would camp they weren’t there, thinking I had gone farther. So i hiked on as well hoping their ambition to catch me wouldn’t last long. Three miles later I found them at a camp.

Right before entering south lake tahoe, the trail passes by Aloha Lake. Named for the many stone islands scattered around it, this was the first of many sierra alpine lakes we would pass. The water was so clear we had to swim despite the fridges temperatures.

Aloha Lake

After getting into town we got connected to a trail angel named Rob who worked as a pit boss at casinos. Surprisingly we were the first thru-hikers to contact him this year so he was very excited to have us. He cooked us two homemade meals, made us sandwiches to go and drove us back to the trail.

Road Trip

From Canada it was about a fifteen hour drive down to truckee california. We decided to break it up over a few days because the rental car we had was only under Cupids name.
Although our goal was just to make it to Truckee and resume the hike, we made an event out of the drive. It was our road trip.

After saying goodbye to Bee Keeper in Canada, we drove down to seattle. Everyone tried with all their friends to find us a place to stay but we all came up empty handed. This meant finding the cheapest hotel possible. Unsurprisingly our hotel looked like a map on call of duty, set somewhere in the middle east. I might normally be apprehensive about staying in such an establishment but after hiking for the past four months my standards have seriously dropped. I welcomed the bed and hot shower, no matter the quality.

The next day we drove down to Ashland Oregon. The current talk of the trail had been the wild fires. I had been able to narrowly escape most, but while driving down, we were in smoke almost the entire way. These fires ran the entire length of the west coast. The entire day we drove in smoke but we eventually made it to ashland where planned to stay with a friend of curry and cupid named Zahara. Zahara owns a small shop in ashland that is focused on everything middle eastern/asian. The tiny shop was packed full of authentic dress and jewelry. Unsurprisingly, her house was exactly like the shop. I felt as if I was in another world. She was a very kind and gracious host and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. The next morning we were off once again.

Smoke from the Oregon fires

The car was to be returned in Reno Nevada, about thirty minutes from Truckee. Being back close to the trail we hoped to find a trail angle to stay with before hiking out, but had no luck. So we tried a new tactic, couch surfer. I had used couch surfer before on trail and had always had a positive experience. In Reno we found a host named Zen. He was originally from the south and made beans with corn bread. Having a taste of home-made southern food was an amazing reminder of home. Also at his house were other couch surfers who had just come back from Burning Man. Over dinner we all swapped stories of our recent adventures.
The next day we were on trail once again. This time, with the end in sight.

Oh Canada!

The final town in Washington is called Stehekin. This tiny town is unique because there are no roads leading in or out of the town. The only way to get there is by foot, float plane, or ferry.

After arriving there, we went to the bakery. One of the most famous establishment on trail. Then, after a few cinnamon rolls the size of my face, I was asleep on the bakeries grassy lawn.

Out of nowhere Cupid said she was taking the ferry and hitching to meet up with Curry who was in the Hospital. This was not the first time I had witnessed one of the girls giving up a section of their hike to be with the other in a time of need. It was a true act of friendship and showed the bond that is formed between thru-hikers. So once again, it was just the guys.

That night in town I sat with Bee Keeper. We watched the sun go down over the lake and talked like old friends do. Over the past few weeks we had grown close. Unlike everyone else in the group, he had made it through the sierras. This meant that in the next four days he would be finished with the entire trail. As the day turned to night our conversation focused on his finish of the trail and re-entry to normal life. I thought that he would be ecstatic in his completion of the trail but he talked about how great his time had been and spoke about finishing as if he was bracing for a painful event. This struck me. I had recently been disappointed that I would not be able to finish in canada. I still had the Sierra’s to go back for and not finishing at the terminus was something that had increasingly bothered me up to this point. But now, sitting on the lake, my mindset shifted. Instead of disappointment I was happy. I still had a few more weeks of this grand adventure. In my drive to complete the trail I had missed this up until now. I now reminded myself that it is all about the journey not the destination.

Once the night had grown late we headed back to our camp. With my new mindset, I was happy to head out into this last section and the next morning we were hiking once again.

After leaving Stehekin we entered the heart of the North Casacdes. The end of Washington was every bit has beautiful and dramatic as I had anticipated.

Bee Keeper, Lt Dan, and myself had dubbed ourselves “The Singers”. A phrase Lt Dan always says, it refers to living the good life. Between our many days of laughter and adventure life couldn’t seem to get much better. Therefor “The Singers” were official. Our last days with Bee Keeper, climaxed the night before reaching Canada.

Instead of camping in a low elevation valley like normal, we slept on top of a pass. A giant rock face overshadowed us on one side and a grand vista took up the other side. The sun set turned the rocks a deep color of red and illuminated our view in a way that seemed cinematic.

The high elevation made the night cold and windy and soon after the sun retreated, we all did as well.

The next day was our last all together. We hiked the remaining eleven miles to Canada in cheerful conversation about reaching this massive mile stone.

A few minutes after noon we rounded a corner in the thick washington forrest and saw the monument standing before us. Shouts of joy erupted from us as we howled and hugged the wooden monument.

In the moment I was more happy for Bee Keeper than myself. For me it was just a mile stone. I had over 350 miles left but for him it was the final milestone.

The girls had rented a car and met us at the border. All together again we had a group photo sesh and then entered into Canada.

At Manning Park we shared our final meal together and in the parking lot Lt Dan gave Bee Keeper a moving goodbye speech. We all said our own goodbyes and then were on the road.

Bee Keeper would take a bus to Vancouver and fly home the next day. As for us, we started our drive back to the Sierra’s. My journey was not over just yet.

Noel Nelson (pct mile 2300)

Gone with the Wind

All together, and injury free we headed out from the trail angels house, well rested after a zero day. By now, we were far into Washington and the mountains only seemed to grow the farther north I hiked. Every day of hiking the total elevation change was over 10,000 feet. This made miles longer, but the climbs revealed vistas that made the aches and pains fade away.

High Alpine Meadow

While studying the map on the first night back in trail we discovered an alternate roof that would shave about five miles off the days hike. The alt was the old pct and the reason it was abandoned is that it requires fording one river and crossing a rather large river on logs. We decided to go for it and set off down the overgrown trail early in the morning.

When we reached the first river there was no way to get through it but fording it. Searching for the best spot to do so, we hiked upstream a little bit and ended up standing over a bee hive that had fallen from a tree. After noticing this, everyone jumped back but it was a second too late. Curry, the only person with us that is allergic to bees had been stung on her leg. She said she would be fine since it was not on her torso or neck so we hiked on eventually making it past both rivers.

A few miles after this, we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t until this point that we realized something was wrong. Curry was breaking out in hives and started to swell. The first signs of anaphylactic shock. As we discussed our course of action we realized we had passed some forest service rangers doing trail work earlier that day and ran back to talk to them. With their radios, they called in the problem. Next thing we knew, a helicopter was in route from Seattle. As we waited Curry seemed to worsen and was in her sleeping bag in the middle of a hot summer day. She was in pain and not very responsive.

Rescue Helicopter

Bee Keeper and I set out to find a place for the helicopter to land. We found a small swampy field in the thick Washington forest and called in our longitude and latitude to the helicopter.

A few minutes later we heard the sound of helicopter blades and waved emergency blankets in the air to signal our location. Unable to land due to the small field, a medic repelled down. The wind from the blades above us was so strong it challenged me to stand my ground. The medic ran over and began work on Curry, giving her a shot. Immediately after he harnessed her up and the copter pulled her up. Next he pulled himself up and as quickly as they came, they disappeared.

Helicopter Medic

For a moment we all stood there in shock at the event that had just happened. Without anything else to do though, we pulled on our packs and continued our hike.

Noel Nelson (pct mile 2568)

PCT Eclipse

Bridge over marshy ground

The night on the porch was rather cold and misty so the next day I awoke without having attained much rest the night before.
The next stretch was about 100 miles. They were filled with lakes, views and trail magic, but all together uneventful.
My mind wasn’t in the game as much as it had been. I wanted to hike with people I fit in with and being with these people made things rather unenjoyable.

The day I got into the next “town” (really a ski resort) I did 23 miles by lunch time. I immediately went to the hiker famous aardvark express, where I hoped to find Lt Dan. This establishment is a food truck located in a gas station parking lot. Don’t let its location fool you, the food truck give huge portions of some of the best thai food I have had. It was there I caught up to lt Dan and his group. Plans were made, and the next morning I started my hike out with them.

I Immediately clicked with them and felt the social connection I had been longing for in the past stretch. They were all early twenties and very fun people. Just a few miles into the walk, Cupid (a girl from CO) realized an injury she thought would heel in town still hurt so her and Curry (A twenty four year old from Switzerland) headed back into town with plans to meet us in the next town.

Instead of leaving on the original PCT, Lt Dan, Bee Keeper, and I decided to take a side trail that led to a hot spring and then reconnected with the pct. The Hot spring was an 11 mile hike in and we arrived on the first night. After paying a rather hefty price to camp we headed up to the spring.
I was amazed to see a cave coming out of the side of the mountain and filling the two pools below it with steaming hot water. The cave was about three feet wide by five feet tall and went 30 feet back, into the mountain. Just a few feet above the first pool, I climbed into the cave and waded back into the darkness. The water was about 2 1/2 feet deep and by the time I reached the end of the cave it was almost pitch black. A small wooden bench had been placed right over the hole in the rocks where the water came from. After airing for a few minutes with by lower half in hot water and my upper half in thick steam I returned to the tubs and spent the night relaxing and talking with friends. Outside of the cave.

Bee Keeper

After our one night stay at the hot spring we continued on. The side trail we hiked on was much less groomed than the pct and involved much more climbing around fallen trees than walking on ground.

The talk of the trail up to this point had been the upcoming eclipse. Being in Washington, we were outside the path of totality but would still be able to witness a 90% eclipse. So after a rather big climb, a small group of hikers formed on top of the pass as the temperature dropped and the land darkened. A few hikers had thought ahead and bright eclipse viewing glasses which made the experience extremely interesting.

Eclipse viewing party

After a long break watching the eclipse we hiked into town and met up with Cupid and Curry at a trail angel’s house. We made such good time that we decided to take a zero. This had been my first day off since Bend Oregon. Reunited, the day after the zero we set off once again into Washington’s wilderness.