Once we got back to Reds Meadow the whole gang was there waiting. We ate as much of our town" food as our stomachs could muster and then (after a couple hours) packed up and headed back out to trail.
We hiked 8 1/2 miles before camp and I spent most of the walk listening to freshly downloaded podcasts and chatting with Woodchuck.
By the time we all reconnected at camp it was 7:30pm and still light outside. We cooked dinner together and, despite the tormenting mosquitos, we sat around in bug nets and ate our food and laughed at our own silliness.
This morning we had a beautiful hike with cascading waterfalls, wild flowers, and the jagged peaks of the minaret mountain range in the distance.
I was in the middle of the herd when I decided to sit down and break for lunch. I packed out vegan sausage, daiya cheese, and tortillas. I had nachos on my mind. While I cooked I laid out my tent to dry (from last nights mini rain storm) and waited for Cosmo and Happy Baby - who were both behind me.
Today was a tough one. We are all out here living a dream. We are privileged to get to hike and camp everyday and to be walking amidst this dreamlike landscape. But that doesn't mean there aren't challenges. There are days when it's impossible to get out of your own head. Days when every step is painful. Days when you just don't feel like hiking. Today was challenging for me Cosmo and Happy Baby, but as I've said in the past, having this shared experience helped us move forward. We had each other to make sure we continued to put one foot in front of the other.
The rest of the day the three of us stayed together. We climbed up and over Island Pass and Donahue Pass, finally ending after 17 miles at a campsite tucked in the trees next to a waterfall.
The rest of the gang is ahead of us somewhere, but we made the choice to set up camp while the sun was out. We were able to eat dinner and get cozy in our tents by 9pm. The goal is to try and get up early to catch the rest of the gang.
We had an easy, flat, beautiful hike to Tuolumne Meadows where we spent an hour hitching to the Yosemite Valley.
In a normal year we would be able to resupply in Tuolumne (which is where I had my package sent) but this is not a "normal" year for the trail. The winter weather has slowed everything down in the Sierra Nevada, and the Tuolumne Post Office is still not open.
Our first car ride brought us to Tenaya Lake, and soon after we found another ride to the juncture of Hwy 120 and Hwy 140. From there we walked along the winding road into the Valley until we were picked up by our final car that took us into Yosemite Village.
Thankfully we got dropped off at the grocery store where we were instantly reunited with Utah Aaron and Ya Ya.
We spent hours sitting at the picnic table outside of the store, eating food and trying to plan the rest of our night. Jess, an employee of the grocery store, overheard our conversation and offered us a space on the floor of her shared tent cabin. After much indecision between the four of us, we decided to accept the offer.
With a cart full of food, we made our way to the tent dorms.
Once we arrived, we showered, did laundry, ate our midnight snacks and fell asleep, reminiscing about the days of college dormitories.
We left Jess' place mid morning and headed back into the Village. Woodchuck, Rooster, Happy Baby, and Soulshine decided to take a zero day so we were in no rush.
After picking up packages from the post office (thanks to Cosmo's Grandpa Tom and Gran for the awesome snacks!), I headed over to the Visitor Center to take care of some serious business.
After learning about the park and achieving my Junior Ranger status we headed towards Half Dome Village and found the other four.
We ran into Rooster and Happy Baby first, and then found Woodchuck and Soulshine. We walked with the girls to get lunch and on our walk Woodchuck had some devastating news to catch me up on.
About a week ago we got word that a hiker named Rika (aka Strawberry) had gone missing. Nobody had heard from her since she left Bishop a couple weeks earlier. Woodchuck and her crew knew Rika. She was a familiar face during hiking lunch breaks and town visits. When Woodchuck found out that she was missing, she was filled with an uncomfortable intuition. Woodchuck called Search and Rescue from the top of Donahue Pass and told them to look near the White Fork River crossing (this was the location of the frightful crossing we did as a large group at dawn when we met Rooster, Woodchuck, and Happy Baby). Shortly after sharing this information we found out that Rika's body was found downstream at White Fork. Naturally, this news was a shock to all of us. Rika was in her early 30's, and she had traveled here from Japan to live out her dream of hiking the PCT. Her story acts as a reality check for all of us. What we are doing out here is no joke. The mountains are powerful, unpredictable, and serious. Although most of us started as solo hikers it is crucial that we stick together and help one another through this journey. I believe that Rika's story should not deter people from hiking, but act as a reminder to remain aware, do your best to stay safe, and stick together.
We took it easy the rest of the day, sitting by the Merced River, remembering that we are fortunate to be here in the beautiful Yosemite National Park.