Day 8: In Which We Say Goodbye to Chris and Erin, Float Rocks and Break Zippers

Daily: 5.9 miles
Trip: 65.5 miles
Camp: Deer Creek

Coffeeeeeeeeee. I’m off the sauce on the trail – just too much potential for caffeine headaches to combine with dehydration headaches. They can then invite elevation headaches to the party, put on the dance music, and I’ll be miserable. But in town? When accompanied by a huge, fluffy, sugary apple fritter from Schat’s Bakery? Um, heaven?

I had time for another video with Heather and the kids before seeing Chris and Erin into their taxi at 9am. They’re heading back to Seattle and Charlottesville, respectively, and I’m so glad they both decided to join us for the first week of this adventure. Having them with us relaxed the hike. It placed an emphasis on conversation and group activities instead of making miles. In addition to lots of laughs and good company, it kept my brother and I from making dumb choices and getting hurt by pushing too hard, too early.

Did I mention the John & Kim at the Travelodge in Mammoth Lakes are awesome? They let us store our bags there during the hike without any questions or fees. That meant, in addition to bags for the plane rides, we had town clothing and our pre-prepped food for this next stretch. So we stuffed five days of food into the bear cans, adjusted our equipment based on what we’d learned in the last week, and got ready to hit the trail. I had more moleskin for my unexpected blisters. I left the Kindle behind, since it’d somehow broken by day 3 of the first week, and instead took my iPhone & earbuds to listen to audiobooks. I’d be able to recharge the phone five days at Muir Trail Ranch and recharge my three camera batteries at the same time.

So we took the trolley from main street to the bus stop. Then we took the next bus to the Mammoth Adventure Center. Finally we took a bus from the Adventure Center up to Red’s Meadow. My brother and I were clean, well fed, restocked, and ready for the next stage of the trip.


The next stage happened to be through a burn. I was worried about this bit, since we were climbing 1500 feet in the middle of the day in a section which, by definition, had no tree cover. Turned out not to be too hot, though, and we wandered uphill among the currant bushes, sampling a few ripe ones.

This stretch of trail was dusty but interesting, in that were were walking for a few miles along the pumice flats. Pumice is volcanic glass and the pumice in this area was deposited within the last 10,000 years, showing that the local volcanos aren’t extinct. It’s the only time on the hike that I actually picked up a rock and put it in my pack. In fact, I picked up a rock and carried it for 160 miles! It was worth it to show the kids a rock that floats!

Every time a creek interrupted the dry landscape, we entered a moist microclimate filled with wildflowers. Lupin and Indian paintbrush often dominated, but there were a number of other beautiful flowers as well. With the loss of Chris and Erin, however, we had no way of finding out what they were except taking photos and looking them up later!

It was only a 6 mile day, so we made camp at a reasonable time and headed to our tents early. Trouble struck, though, as the zipper on my tent completely disintegrated. It had stuck at times in the past few years, but this time it was done. Lousy timing too – just out of town for a 13 day section! I ended up sewing the upper half of the zipper shut with a needle and dental floss. Then I shut the rest as well as possible with a carabiner, a safety pin, and a paperclip. As long as the mosquitos cooperated, it’ll be no big deal!

Day 9: In Which We Hiked and Fished, But Caught All the Fish at the Wrong Lake