tiffany's pct journal

California Section H: Highway 120 (Tuolumne Meadows) to Crabtree Meadows (Mount Whitney) - Part I.

Days: 89 - 91.
Dates: September 30 - October 2.
Trail mileage: 1746.5 - 1783.7.
Distance: 37.2 miles.

The next day, we still didn't know if Tioga Road was going to open anytime soon. I didn't want to sit around and wait forever, some of us hitched down to Mammoth Lakes to continue the trail from Red's Meadow nearby. Some hikers also decided to stick around Lee Vining a little longer to see if the road would open.

I was hoping that the weather would be great by the end of the Sierra so I could come back up north to finish California Section K, which I missed earlier, and this section. They totaled about 100 miles, and I was eager to see what I was missing.

When I got to Mammoth Lakes, we decided to take one more zero, because the weather wasn't going to be that much warmer that night, and sleeping outside seemed potentially dangerous at temperatures that cold. This turned out to be a great idea; when we got dropped off at Red's Meadow to get back on the trail, we happened upon a hiker we had met in Lee Vining, and chatted with him.

Apparently, he had continued hiking after Lee Vining, and it was so cold the previous night that he got to Red's Meadow and decided his gear wasn't good enough and he wasn't having anymore fun, and decided to get off the trail entirely. Coincidentally, we had actually gotten a hitch from the person who was coming to pick him up to get off the trail. All of a sudden, our second impromptu zero in Mammoth Lakes seemed like a good decision.

Hiking was hard that day. I think the elevation was really starting to get to me, because I was feeling nauseous, light-headed, and not at all hungry (this one in particular was really weird for me because I'm always hungry. I also had a headache, which was unusual for me too.

view from the trail
At least the views were nice

I camped that night with a few others with a campfire, and thank goodness for that campfire, because it must have gotten down to below 20°F that night. I had a tough time getting back to my tent to sleep because I didn't want to leave the fire.

snow on the trail
Usually we only saw snow further up, but now we were further up

Now, I love my sleeping bag; it's probably my favorite piece of gear and keeps me very warm. But that night, I had on a puffy jacket, a fleece hoodie, leggings, a pair of puffy pants, 2 pairs of wool socks, a pair of down booties, gloves, a hat, and my neck tube, cinched up completely in my sleeping bag. And I still couldn't sleep because of the cold until I broke out my emergency hand warmers for my feet.

Yeah, it was cold.

I'm glad I finally got sleep, though, because I felt a lot better the next day. None of us left camp until later in the morning because the cold made it very difficult to want to leave my sleeping bag, let alone take down camp. All of the water in my bottles froze completely. But the day got warmer, especially after I started walking.

icy water source

Like I said, the Sierra meant the beginning of night-hiking almost every night. That night, I was hiking with my headlamp, when the light reflecting two glowing eyes back at me in the trees.

I haven't hiked that fast in a long time. I still don't know what it was. Honestly, it was probably a deer, but I still booked it out of there.

I met a nice JMT hiker at camp that night named Late Night. He had a great campfire going. I was really happy that campfires were allowed in the Sierra (below 10000 feet!), because those nights would have been pretty miserable without one. Even though it was already pitch-black outside and past hiker midnight, we sat around the fire, chatting and eating dinner, even later into the night. My diary entry for this day ended with: "It was a good day."

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