1000 Miles and Sonora Pass

22 Jun 1000 Miles and Sonora Pass

Two months on the trail. Two months of a beard. Two months of instant mashed potatoes. Two months from April 21st to the Summer Solstice. Two months of hiking everyday (except two). Two months of the epic outdoors of California. It’s been great.

In the last week, I hiked down out of the high sierras and into Tuolumne Meadows of Yosemite. A beautiful place to be sure, but, after so much time with the wilderness and the trail nearly to myself, the day hikers and busses of foreign or geriatric tourists that invade Yosemite were just too much. So the resupply was quick and Birdman and I were off.

That evening we didn’t make it far. We followed Tuolumne River until it seemed we were out of the tourist bubble. Then we found an awesome granite rock outcropping overlooking the river and some small falls. A breeze kept the mosquitos away all night and so we cowboy camped under the stars. It was a good night sleep, other than waking often and looking to see if the notorious bears of Yosemite were sneaking up on me.

Overall, we had to slow down. I had made plans to meet my family the next Saturday at Sonora Pass (today). Therefore, we had 5 days to do 74 miles. Slowing down would be hard.

We woke with Lake Benson on the mind. A beautiful sandy beached lake prime for swimming in snowmelt. It was a beautiful day and I wanted a good brisk swim in a high elevation lake. So, I put NY head down and had the 27 miles behind me and a beautiful beach and lake in front of me by 4pm. Birdman was shortly behind doing his best Hasselhoff into the water.

After lowering our body temperatures in the frigid water and charging hard all day, it was no surprise we both just wanted to settle into sleeping bags. I began reading an account of the Donner Party when Hooligan, Irish kilt wearing jovial fellow, showed up and offered me a hot cup of tea as he made a campfire on the sandy beach. I accepted the kind offer and chatted a bit with the man before retiring.

The next day we slowed to a crawl. We slept in until 8:30 and did t leave camp until 9:15. We did 15 miles to Lake Wilma where the mosquitoes were terrible. Birdman set up his tent on top of A spotted sandpiper’s nest and realized it quickly when the sandpiper spoke to him in bird tongue. So, he had to move his whole setup while the mosquitos attacked him.

The following day I was itching to get an early start. I paid for it though as the trail crossed a river in the first mile. I said screw it and charged through it, soaking my feet and socks at 6am on a near freezing morning. I kept moving though and could feel my feet again within the hour. Good sign.

We saw a juvenile bald eagle at Lake Dorothy and Birdman investigated further and was also able to spot an adult bald eagle when we explored off the trail. Our first of the trip surprisingly. Around midday, handshakes were exchanged when we reached the 1000 mile mark. Handshakes for Birdman, for Texas Grit, for BackUp (the later two I had just met).  It was business as usual and the skeeters were viscious in swarms so thick at times it was hard not to inhale one (which I did).

We stopped after 18 miles at 3pm and felt like we were wasting daylight. Everyone we passed that day came strolling back by us as we read and wrote in the afternoon sun.

That night was the coldest by far. 11 miles out from Sonora Pass, it was dreadfully cold. I’d wake up shivering, my 20degree bag feeling useless. Each time I’d put on more clothing to try to warm myself. I out on everything I had except my rain gear and hiking socks. Still I would wake up shivering often until it began getting light out. I kept thinking: well at least this will freeze those good for nothing m’skeeters.

With morning upon us, cold in our bones, and enough light, we got moving quick. Climbed a gorgeous volcanic rock ridge through scree and snow and icy footprints. Finally around 10:30 we descended towards Sonora Pass. Being close to home, I have some great memories of the Hoover and Emigrant Wildernesses and past camping trips that have been top of mind as I’ve climbed through this area. Although the trail is all new, it’s nice to have that familiar feeling for a bit.

We got a hitch cramming into the back of a jeep commanche down winding hwy 108 to Kennedy Meadows Resort and Pack Station. This place is awesome. Full of cowboys, hunters and fishermen, it makes me think of a long gone frontier waypoints. Rib special came with soup salad and desert for only $13.50. The saloon was loud and boisterous with whiskey and cheap beers sliding down the bar to weathered hands. Cowboy hats or camo is the norm. As a girl said on the trail a few days ago when asked if they were hiker friendly: they ain’t hiker friendly per say but they’re cowboy friendly. You’ll be just fine.She was right about that.

Seeing family for the first time in months today and then off to Echo Lake. Probably 3.5 days from now.

Let’r Buck.

  • Pops
    Posted at 21:50h, 23 June

    So great to celebrate your thirtieth birthday.
    Birdman seems like a good partner…say hi for me. So nice to see Keri too.
    I love your beard and 30waist…looking good and buff. Great legs.
    Loved to see you so relaxed and enjoying the moment…keep that the rest of your life. Special way to enjoy the new decade. ..with a new attitude, at peace and ready to conquer anything…recognizing that you can live in the wild.
    Beautiful memories…the thirst may never again be quenched unless you are on the trail or in the wild. Cherish and embrace this…my son.

    Love always

  • Pops
    Posted at 21:51h, 23 June

    Love and miss you Cowboy Nelson!

  • Maria (from the 577)
    Posted at 00:20h, 09 August


    I’m a little late on this news but just saw that you have been on this epic journey and came to start to read your blog. This is amazing. You are amazing. I’m so happy for you and look forward to reading more about your adventure. Ironically, I just listened to an episode of ‘This American Life’ on Andrew Forsthoefel tonight– you should check it out. Your Dad’s comment above made me cry 🙂 Very proud of you!

    Much love,

  • Chase
    Posted at 07:45h, 09 August

    Hey Maria! So nice to hear from you. Thanks so much for the support and for reading. Hope to see ya back in the bay in Fall.


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