PCT Day 168 – Ending My PCT Hike at Yosemite National Park

Last updated Feb 17, 2020 | Published on Oct 11, 2017

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.

Lyell Canyon

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.

Lyell Fork

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.

Squirrel!

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 Meadow

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.

Almost There!

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.

The last mile of the PCT that I hiked going into Tuolumne Meadows is under construction. Not very inspirational…

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.

PCT Trail Junction with Unicorn Peak in the Background

DID I MENTION THERE’S A MOUNTAIN CALLED UNICORN PEAK IN YOSEMITE?!?!

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.

Lembert Dome

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.

Beth and Jaime Camping in Style

And that is how I spent the last day of my 2017 long distance hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

For more on my experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, visit my Pacific Crest Trail Blog page.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

17 Comments

  1. Mr Dalrymple

    Congrats! Sounds like the right time to call it done. I hope you had a good time in Yosemite Valley. Too bad you weren’t able to spend more time around Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite Valley is wonderful, of course, but the general Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass area is quite possibly my favorite place in the world. Following your trip here on the blog has been a real inspiration. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Doug! I really enjoyed Yosemite and am looking forward to going back. I’ll share a post or two about my experiences there later this week 😊

      Reply
  2. Jerry Hedrick

    Sounds like you made the appropriate decision. Since I met you in Southern Cal I was impressed with your personality, maturity and leadership. People seemed to gravitate to you for these qualities. Your brave discussion with ailments was inspirational. I hope to see you next year on the trail. Thank you for your blog. I wish you God’s mercies. CHEERFUL aka darlin’.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Cheerful! So nice to hear from you. I’m glad I got to hike with you this year. Looking forward to seeing you on the trail again. 😊🦄

      Reply
  3. susieant

    Enjoyed your journey. I met you near Silverwood Lake in Hesperia. You have been so brave even through some issues. I am happy for you to be done for now. I think you picked a great place to stop. No need ending on a bad note. And you can come back and finish later. Enjoy whatever is next for you. Many blessings.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      It was a pleasure meeting you. Thanks for following along!! 😊🦄

      Reply
  4. Kate Zylland

    “Default World.” What an excellent name for it.

    Reply
  5. Lori Drew

    It must’ve been a tough decision to end your 2017 PCT hike, bit it sounds like a good decision. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to reading about your 2018 PCT hike! Enjoy your winter and your comfy, warm bed!

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Lori! 😊

      Reply
  6. Rod

    Simply amazing! You are an inspiration to all 🤗. I have so enjoyed following along. BTW, the picture of Beth and Jaime reminds me of your folks! Blessings!

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Rod!! 😊

      Reply
  7. garypegg

    Congratulations on your journey. You lasted two days longer than I did. I was just tired of being cold. I’m thinking we just chose the wrong year, but you can’t control the weather. I love an adventure, but i don’t want to die! 🙂

    garypegg, the horseguy

    Reply
  8. oscar

    It was a pleasure to follow your adventure, it was several months of reading your journey with emotion, you chose the perfect place to finish the trek, I understand the nostalgia that you felt leaving the trail and returning to the “default world”, we would like to continue on the trail forever , you made a good decision to stop. Sincerely you receive congratulations from my family and me. We will wait to hear from you next year, on the trail, we’ll miss you. Adios.

    Reply
  9. joel mccomb

    congrats u wild unicorn. Tore up the trail by doing it your way despite the many challeges/obstacles. great to see/read about your adventures, thanks for sharing.
    Joel

    Reply
  10. Mike O'Connor

    What an epic trip! I’m planning a 2019 PCT thru hike and you’ve really inspired me. Bittersweet that you didn’t get to finish but you can finish it up in sections. How knows maybe I’ll see you out there.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Good luck with your 2019 hike Mike!

      Reply
  11. Haley

    Hi there! Fellow Washingtonian here. I found your blog while reading up on Lake Ozette a while back. I’m not sure how I ended up reading your entire PCT journey from start to finish but i’m so glad I did. I have loved all your photos and stories from the trail. Thru Hiking will likely never be in my future but your blog has inspired me to get out in nature more often. There is so much beauty out there! Now I’m off to read up on all your other adventures!

    Reply

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