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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bridgeport and the Bear Canister

September 15th,
Its been about 10 days now since my last entry at Carson Pass.

We hiked south from there early in the morning and came upon some fantastic scenery.  There was a big mountain called Elephants Back and one called "The Nipple".  There was an awesome ridgewalk where we could see distant Yosemite.

We walked about 20 miles that day and crossed a large desert.  We then came to another ridgewalk in the afternoon around Mt Raymond.

We found a nice spring pouring like a faucet out of the mountain and decided to grab a gallon of it and carry it up the slopes.  We setup camp at the mountain summit and saw a glorious sunset.  The moon was bright that night, the lights twinkled down in Gardnerville below us.  It was a great spot.  The air was cold and clear and in the early morning the stars were once again fantastic.

We continued on the next day through beautiful scenery as always, the mountains getting bigger and bigger the further south we trek.  We soon entered the Carson-Iceberg wilderness.  As we decended a mountain pass, we heard music echoing off the mountains, carried by the wind.  We listened carefully.  It was bells, chimes, coming from some distant land.  Eventually we figured out it was cowbells from the valley below.  We camped at a lake that night.

The next day we saw very few people.  Nobody all morning and well into the afternoon.  We spent that morning in a most peculiar place.  The trail was steep and rough, and there were cows wandering the foothills.  The bells still clanging created a haunting melody.  The trail took us behind a huge granite wall and we walked along the bottom of it.  The valley felt forgotten about, like all of California was on the other side of the wall.  To the east, there was only the mysterious and empty land of Nevada.  We sat and rested by a huge old fire pit and other structures built of rocks and the place had a very haunted feel to it.  It reminded us of New Mexico, another ghost infested place.  After climbing up and out of that valley, I looked back on it very fondly.

The terrain became steeper and soon huge walls of granite revealed themselves.  We camped that night in an amazing spot, on a cliff, with a view, but still in the forest.  A turbulent waterfall poured off the cliff right beside us.  Running water in our cliff-side mansion!  We had been having strange dreams all week and that night was no different.  We had left the rainfly off the tent and gazed up through the screen at the nearly full moon.  In my dreams there was rain.  I woke up to a drop of rain on my forehead.  Now the sky was full of clouds.  They were big and misty and twisting across the bright moon.  It was beautiful and I dreamed of rain again.  A light rain woke us both up and we put the rainfly on.  We then laid there and watched lightning flash somewhere far away.

Our hike in the morning started dry but then rained off and on.  It was beautiful because when the sun came out we would dry off very fast, as would all the surrounding plants because of the dry climate.  There was a spectacular rainbow!
  Then we hiked to the top of the pass and met Death Valley Bob who we talked to for a long time about Death Valley and about Glacier too!  He was cool.  As we crested the top of the pass at 10,000 feet we saw a mountain range before us covered with dark storm clouds.  They were coming right for us and opened up curtains of rain over all the colorful mountain landscape.  It rained sideways on us and we hurried down the switch backing trail.  Then it stopped, the sun came out, and everything seemed to glow as it quickly dried.

We walked out that day on a quiet lonely highway at Sonora Pass.  The first car that drove past after 10 minutes picked us up and drove us right to Bridgeport.  It was an eccentric, adventuresome fellow, Kelly and his Japanese friend Hero-san.  He was taking Hero backpacking in the Sierras for his first time in America.  They told us about sacred mountain hikes in Japan. 

We got to Bridgeport and were happy to be there.  It was our 3rd time in Bridgeport, we love this town.  We gave in and got another motel room.  We got frustrated watching lousy TV until 3am.  The next day we were getting ready to leave when I found out I got offered my job back in Death Valley starting November 1st! Yay!  I love it there and can save money really good so I will happily go back.  That also means I don't have to look for a job in October and we can keep hiking further south...and we can get another motel room when we get to Bishop! 

So we walked to the north end of town and stuck our thumbs out on the side of highway 395.  Nobody stopped.  We stood for over an hour in the hot sun watching the people all clearly driving to Reno.  Finally the coolest guy, Corbett, picked us up, with a truck camper setup and a dog.  He lived on an organic farm in Truckee and was car camping for a while in the mountains.  He took us right to Sonora pass but then he had a proposal.  We could come to a lake with him if we wanted, camp and then hike on a trail that connected to the PCT.  It would save us 8 miles and we decided, why not, we'll come on this adventure. 

So he missed the road and turned around and eventually found this little four wheel dirt track.  Some hikers on the road told us it was all washed out and crazy ahead.  We went onward and saw it, there was a stream you had to drive across.  The road was a mess, it was all torn up with huge rocks and deep trenches.  "Well, lets give it a shot!"  Corbett says and plows through the stream and successfully up the washouts.  The smells of rubber strong in the air, the truck nearly to the point of flipping, bouncing up and down.  The road continued to be horrible, I looked out the window while clutching the "oh shit" bar and tried to give him some directions through the potholes.  I would never have taken my own truck on that road but it was fun to go in his!  And he made it to the lake!  We hung out and had our dinner in his truck camper, drank beer and told him all our stories.

In the morning we hiked onward.  We didn't quite realize it but we were hiking that day passed the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park.  They require you to carry a bear canister there, which is this terrible gigantic metal box which you are somehow supposed to fit all your food into.  And somehow fit it into your backpack.  Well we didn't have one and we had put it out of our minds hoping one would just fall into our lap.  They cost around 75 dollars.  Corbett was the one who told us all the rules and thereby made us anxious of them.  We didn't have one, oh well, looks like its time for some civil disobedience and hopefully we don't get caught.  Maggie was not handling the stress of it well as we hiked towards the national park.  We met a younger girl who was on a side trail of the PCT and Maggie mentioned the bear canister dilemma.  She was by herself, hiking north, hoping to make it to Portland by mid November and move there.  She was spunky, she said she was borrowing her friends bear canister but was mailing it back now that she no longer needed it

We went our separate ways but then at a trail junction , I realized she might not know she was off the PCT.  I decided to take off my pack and run back to tell her.  When I got back she offered me the bear canister, and I could mail it back to her friend when I was done!  I didn't want it, I hate the damn thing, but I took it.  It was so kind of her.  Maggie was thrilled to see it.  It hurt me though, my backpack frame had snapped apart the other day and now a big metal spike was poking me in the back.  My fully loaded pack was so heavy and now all the weight was at the bottom of it in the unwieldy bear canister.  It dragged down on my shoulders and I suffered greatly for a couple days until I removed the broken half of the frame and replaced it with a sturdy stick as a splint and duct tape.  I also pack the clothes in the bear canister at the bottom of the pack so all the heavy food can be closer to the top of the pack. 

Anyway, now all our stress about the bear canister is over and it didn't cost us a dime!  We will mail it out as soon as we legally can!  From there we hiked into the wild terrain of Northern Yosemite...

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