June 12, 2017
Bullfrog Lake Trail Junction – Bishop
~ 7 miles side trail
Surprisingly, I was actually able to fall asleep at 7pm in broad daylight last night. I woke around 9 to the sound of something softly pattering against the roof of my tent, and it took my sleep-addled brain a few minutes to realize that it was indeed snowing. Luckily, it just seemed to be a light dusting, and I was actually able to sleep pretty well. I woke up every couple of hours to knock the snow off my tent, but always managed to fall back asleep right away, and actually stayed pretty warm. So the night’s events weren’t nearly as bad as I was anticipating.
The morning was a different story. When the alarm went off at 4am, the inside of the tent was covered in a layer of frost so thick it looked like the tent was made of glitter material. My shoes were once again frozen into solid blocks of ice. And I had to use to my ice axe to excavate the stakes and rocks that I had used to pitch my tent from the frozen ground, accidentally axing my tent in the process, leaving a small hole. Dr. McDirty’s watch said that it was -7 degrees Celsius inside their tent.
The ground was covered in an inch or two of fresh power, making it extremely difficult to follow the foot print trails that had been our saviour the day before. On top of that, it was so cold that both the phones were malfunctioning, leaving us without GPS. Knowing the general direction of the trail, we set off into the cold, white world. My hands and feet were so cold that they were essentially lifeless stumps on the ends of my limbs. I tried to take my pack off at one point and was incapable of unclipping the buckle. I put my sleep socks on over my gloves to try to warm up my hands, but it was in vain. I would find footprints to follow for a while, and then lose them and start cutting my own trail across the snow. I was so hungry, but couldn’t stop walking without feeling like my body was going to freeze over. I eventually stopped briefly to stuff several hundred calories worth of peanut butter into my mouth.
Finally, I saw the pass rising up ahead. There was a steep wall of snow, with faint switchbacks of footprints cutting across it, leading to the final rocky trail to the top. I began to climb. My feet and hands were still completely numb, and every step seemed to take an excruciating amount of effort. There was a cold wind blasting, and the sun couldn’t quite reach me over the steep wall of the pass. I finally made it to the dry trail, having to scramble up some rocks to reach it, which is almost scarier than the snow for me. I pounded up the trail as fast as I could, afraid that I would lose some digits if I stopped moving.
The view from the top was incredible. In fact, the views all morning had been incredible, but somewhat hard to enjoy given the pain and frustration of struggling through the trailless cold.
The other side of the pass was much nicer. I was finally in full sunlight, and the other side seemed more sheltered from the wind. I sat at the top and waited for Cougar and Dr. McDirty to finish the climb. We started moving again pretty quickly after they arrived, desperate to keep warm. We traversed a steep snowy slope, and then made it to some dry ground where we stopped for breakfast. My overnight oats were frosty, which wasn’t the most pleasant experience. To get down into the valley where the trail was, we had to traverse across an even steeper slope, which was kind of scary. While we were preparing to descend, 5 deer ran and jumped across the snow straight down the slope. How I wished to be them.
Once we got down into the valley, the hiking became much easier. There were plenty of footprints to follow, and we made pretty good time. We stopped briefly so Dr. McDirty could jump into a partially frozen over lake, because he’s insane. We were the first ones to make it down to the trailhead parking lot, but as we sat there, more and more hikers started piling in. There was a huge congregation of hiker trash all trying to get rides into town, and rides were in short supply. We sat there for at least a couple of hours with no luck, until finally a man who had driven up to take some photos agreed to drive us down into Independence. Success! When he dropped us off, we grabbed some snacks from the gas station and set about trying to hitch a ride to Bishop.
It actually didn’t take too long until we had secured a hitch. The guy who picked us up had driven there from Connecticut and was on his way to visit his mom in Bishop. Turned out he was a bit of a speed demon, and we actually got pulled over by highway patrol because he was driving 92 in a 65 zone. Definitely one of the more interesting hitching stories so far. He dropped us off in downtown Bishop, and we sat in a coffee shop for a while trying to figure out where to stay. We ended up at the Townhouse Motel, which is pretty nice. After the stressful section, I was just happy to have a warm bed to sleep in for a couple of nights.
We did laundry, I video chatted my parents, and we all video chatted Gummies, who’s staying with his cousin that conveniently lives a few minutes from the hospital he was taken to. It was so good to talk to him after all that happened in this section. After all the stress and anxiety of the last few days, I’m super excited to have a relaxing town day tomorrow.