PCT Day 168 – Thursday, September 28
Lyell Fork Creek Mile 931.2 to Tuolumne Meadows Mile 942.5
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 11.3
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1812.8
Feet Ascended Today: 285
Feet Descended Today: 1936
Current Elevation: 8100
When I awoke this morning I was COLD. It’s one of the few times on my hike that I wasn’t able to warm up satisfactorily in my sleeping quilt by trapping my body heat. My nose was cold and my butt cheeks were chilly. I wasn’t shivering but I wasn’t exactly comfortable either. When I checked the temperature at 7:00 am it was 28 degrees.
I only had 11 miles to go until I reached Tuolumne Meadows, and from there I needed to hitch 1.5 hours to Yosemite Valley to get my resupply box.
I’ve been toying with the idea of ending my 2017 hike at Yosemite for a while, and today I decided to go ahead and do it. My heart hasn’t really been in the hike ever since I got snowed on a few days ago. To be honest it scared the crap out of me. It’s the earliest snowfall in the Sierras for years. The weather forecast is good for the next week or so, but it could change at any time. I’m terrified of getting dumped on with several feet of snow. If I was hiking with other people I wouldn’t be so worried, but I’m by myself. I have over 800 miles to go until I finish the PCT which I clearly won’t do this season. I’m feeling rundown and homesick and I’m tired of being so cold at night. I want to go home.
So I decided to end my hike on my terms and not by some sudden weather event. I’ll go to Yosemite and spend some time there exploring the park and decompressing and reflecting on my summer. It seems like a good way to transition from hiking back to the “default world.” I’ve never been to Yosemite before and I’ve always wanted to go.
My decision made, I packed up camp and headed downhill towards Lyell Canyon. The path was icy and I almost lost my footing a few times as I descended.
Lyell Canyon is comprised of a picturesque grassy meadow with Lyell Fork winding lazily through it. Since I knew this was my last day on the PCT, I wasn’t in a particular hurry. I hiked slowly and took lots of breaks, admiring the meadow. I wondered if John Muir ever walked along this meadow. I assumed that he must have. The thought gave me goosebumps.
I eventually made it to Tuolumne Meadows in early afternoon. I was feeling tired and hoped to spend the night at Tuolumne’s backpackers campground and hitch down to the valley in the morning. I didn’t really know what I was doing though and thought it would be a good idea to talk to a ranger about my options. I’ve heard that Yosemite is super popular and regulations and permits are complicated and enforced. It’s not the best place to show up without plans made in advance. I wandered around for a while looking for the Wilderness Information Center and eventually realized I had walked right past it, and had to backtrack a half mile to find it.
When I finally talked to a ranger, he informed me that the backpacker’s campground was closed in Tuolumne Meadows. I could hitch to the valley and stay at the backpacker’s campground down there. Campers with Wilderness permits were allowed to stay at the backpacker’s camp either the night before or at the end of their backpacking trips for one night only. My PCT permit allowed me to spend one night there.
So I stuck out my thumb and attempted to hitch down to the valley since the buses were no longer running this late in the season. I hate hitching. Car after car roared past me as I stood on the side of the road. Ugh.
Eventually an old camper-style Vanagon pulled over and offered me a ride. The occupants, Beth and Jamie, rented the van and drove it to Yosemite for their 20th wedding anniversary. They had through-hiked the PCT back in the 1990s and recognized a through-hiker in need.
Minutes after I stepped into their van, Beth and Jamie offered to share their campsite and dinner with me at the Porcupine Flat Campground. I gratefully accepted. I was exhausted and feeling a little bummed out about ending my hike, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. They made me feel right at home and we spent a pleasant evening together drinking wine and eating steaks (they fed me steak!!). What a wonderful and unexpected way to end my hike.
And that is how I spent the last day of my 2017 long distance hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.