I walked a thousand miles for lunch today. And all I got was a tuna packet that I carried there myself. Here is a screenshot from mile 1000.15 where I realized that a thousand exactly was back on the other side of the creek via a log crossing that I deemed too scary to cross in the first place.
Though I snap photos of a marker on trail a few miles later, I am still unsure where the real thousand happened. The clouds were playing tricks with the GPS today, or Halfmile maps are off in this section.
The trail is a trail again, something you can actually walk on, a gently ascending dirt path cutting through green beside Waterfall creek. I make extra good time with mosquitos aplenty to thwart any attempts at early breaks. I look down at my legs, all covered in red welts and put on my wind pants for the rest of the morning.
The fresh new miles after a thousand turn eventful weather-wise. The dark clouds become stormy, dropping heavy rain, thunder crashing closer and closer. I run down the trail seeking shelter, settling for a patch of smallish trees off the exposed ridge. As I move the rain turns to hail, first tiny pellets but then growing larger until marble-sized ice pellets are raining down around me. I throw my Tyvek over a leaning tree for shelter, watching in awe as the ground turns white. Giant hail bounces off the rocks, off my tyvek and slams into my back, big enough to hurt.
The hail stops growing, retreating back into rain, until the return of the mosquitos becomes my cue to move on, though thunder continues. The trail goes up a bit, more and more exposed. I see lightning-struck trees everywhere, increasingly concerned, until I realize this must be a small burn area. Still the claps of thunder urge me on, looking ahead nervously for the trail to descend as the maps say it should.
The heavy rain returns on and off; again and again I seek shelter. So much for all the miles I managed this morning; dashing from shelter to shelter is not really adding up. I follow a stream, headed up toward the last ridge between me and Sonora Pass, where Hanie will be waiting in the morning. The water is turbid-brown with storm runoff, the log crossing almost submerged. A welcoming campsite with established fire pit waits on the other side. The plan is to stop for dinner, then head closer to the road. But the trail is very exposed in the next miles, warns a Yogi guide note, certainly not a place I wish to spend the night alone with a thunderstorm that refuses to move on.
While I am cooking dinner, friends catch up, ones I haven’t seen since Tuolumne, and there is more than reason to stay. We look for dry scraps to start a fire, I volunteer my job contract copy, that I have carried from Tuolumne.
Thunder has echoed around the hills on and off for eight hours now. The wind is whipping up again, whistling through the trees above. Fat drops fall on my tent. Lightening flashes in the distance, the campfire fed by wind glows brighter on the other side. I hope the far off rumbles stay away, that the tree keeping me dry in the rain is not exceptionally tall. I set my alarm, a very rare occasion, for there are miles to make, and pull my hat over my eyes against the storm.