My alarm sounds strange, a relic from a past life. One where I had appointments to keep, and where the sun could not be trusted to rouse me in time (puffy jacket permitting). It’s five am. I am going to try to make the store at a reasonable time in the afternoon with hopes of picking up my box and job appointment letter though the post office will officially be closed.
Just after I start hiking I see a tent tucked between rocks at a nearby pond. I was not quite as alone as I imagined last night, but am still proud of having hiked in the dark by myself. I see no one for the first few miles, which pass easily in cool the morning, terrain less extreme than past weeks.
On the way up to Donohue, barely a pass in this direction, I finally get my marmot photo. So tame and fat he must get fed. But photos happen just the same. The descent into Yosemite is less cooperative. The tread is all stairs and rock cobbles placed with intention, but sometimes the intention appears to be tripping up hikers. I tiptoe tediously down tiny steps, far too small for human feet, and feel my ankles suffer across giant jigsaw puzzles of uneven stones. At the Lyell bridge I stop for a moment, to contemplate with pride how far I have come. It was right here last August that I was stared at in disbelief when I mentioned that I too might through hike the PCT. I don’t know if Mr. Underestimates -Small-Women is hiking this year, but I. Am. Here.
Reaching the meadow is a huge relief, what must be the only nine blissfully soft, flat direct miles of the entire PCT. At least next to a perfect creek. I eat an apple to help pass the last hour when the urge to already be there overtakes even the most appealing walk. I make the store just before 3, having hiked 36 miles in 25 hours. Night hiking and camping alone. New shoes, shirt and gloves already worn and stained, feeling like a badass.
I manage to retrieve my mail, though with some ado. I fill the several hours wait with food, amazed to find two kinds of tempeh and three flavors of baked tofu at the campground store. Finally the post office rings the bell and hands out parcels, four hours after the official closing time. The employees look exhausted; they have a record 1500 resupply boxes filling the tiny single room, stashed in the rafters and overflowing into the store. I pile into an equally packed backpacker campsite, goods in tow.