Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 6 Devil's Postpile and Red's Meadow

I am in the best mood this morning.  I feel confident and right on track with everything.  I cook a yummy oatmeal breakfast - and wish I had put loads of sugar into it.  Bland used to be ok but it's getting a bit old.  I'll be able to change that later today when I get to Reds Meadow.  My pack is lighter now.  I still have about 5 days of food in it rather than being down to nothing.  So much for calculating what I need.  And I understand now that no matter how much I would have experimented before this hike, until I am actually hiking and am having this experience, I would not have got it right.  The terrain is different, I am different, the altitude is higher, the distances are longer and the hikes more strenuous.  The length of the hike also means that my body's needs shift constantly.  I anticipate that my exhaustion will get less, I will get stronger and more acclimatized and I will likely eat more and want more diverse food.  And so I now know that I won't need much more food at Red's Meadow for the following 7 days, just more diversity - tuna fish, some cheese, some more flavors.

The smoke is so strong this morning, there is ash on my tent and now in my eyes and hair.  Since I know that the fire is no threat, I am relaxed about it.  I meander along the trail and it is getting hotter and the landscape drier.  I come across a group of hikers who got turned around.  They want to head south on the trail but and heading north where I come from.  I am glad I can help them out.  But they have to backtrack about 3 miles all the way down the hill again.  That's hard.  I come across the trailhead for Devil's Postpile and get a bit frustrated with the trail designers - rather than leading my past the postpile and on more even ground, they guide me all the way up and up and up over a hill parallel with the Monument and into the hot sun.  Well, it is what it is.  I have learnt that when I get frustrated the best thing is to take a break.  And so I take my pack off, sit on a rock (of course) and take in the Devil's Postpile monument.  It does look like someone has piled up posts of granite and done so in a very orderly fashion.  Lots are stacked like organ pipes, some are strewned about above and below the cliffs.  For the first time I see casual day hikers and families in the distance.  They are noisy, wear light clothes and footwear and eat ice cream and drink soda.  Unreal and I am glad I am over here and not in the midst of the crowds over there.

Birds are all around me, butterflies and lots of little chipmunks.  One comes over to hand out with me, flattening itself on the warm rock.  We have an easy companionable moment and then it's mate calls and off it goes after a look at me.  Unfortunately I don't fit into it's little hole, otherwise I would have accepted the invitation to visit its' home:)

I walk on and after a few unclear signs in the midst of trail heads to parking lots and bus stops, arrive at Red's Meadow.  Red's is an old old family run ranch that provides trail rides and supplies backpackers with mule and horse trains.  I see photos of Tom Hanks, Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and other on the wall with the owners.  There is a cafe, a store, lots of adirondack chairs, showers and cabins and a camp ground half a mile down the road.  I drop my pack and marvel at the site.  Germans, Argentinians, lithe groups of long-distance runners who cover the trail in a few days, clocking 25 miles a day, groups of men, mized groups, all are chatting, resupplying, repacking, having beer, burgers and talking on their cell phones.  I drop into a chair and just take it all in.  I recognize a few other hikers and we smile at each other.  Our first significant milestone achieved!

Since my stomach has been bothering me, I get some advice from other hikers, buy some beano pills and eat yoghurt.  That helps.  I am starting to figure out that I am reacting to nuts and dried fruit - too much of them and that I still clench up with the heavy pack.  I then go to the cafe and have a tuna melt and cannot finish it.  I have got used to eating slowly, thoughtfully, savoring the taste and eating smaller meals.  A new experience for me and I like it.  

Lots of information is passed on between us hikers, especially those coming north and us going south.  It's an instant brother/sisterhood.  I stay for a long time and then go and set up my tent among the other hikers.  That day is all about showers, washing all my clothes and just catching up with other hikers.  Instead of a big dinner I have a bag of potatoe chips, a beer and ice cream.  All the food groups are covered.  I love just sitting in my chair and seeing who passes by and chatting with them.  I feel like in my home village of Worsdorf, sitting in the village square and hanging out.

I hear so many stories.  One young man has to go back since his girl friend was in a car accident. Another pair of close women friends is deciding what to do - one has lost a filling, the other would love to continue hiking.  Some families have been coming to the Sierras forever and are just so delighted to be here, fishing, hiking, going to hot springs.  Boyscout groups, close friends, a personal trainer with his coachee, siblings, couples, work colleagues….everybody is out here.  

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