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Day 70-73: Lush Meadows and Their Blood-Sucking Friends

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Day 70: Tuolumne Meadows (Mile 942.5)-Above Virginia Canyon (Mile 955.5); 13 miles

After stopping at the Tuolumne post office to pick up our new tent, socks, and trekking poles, we ate an extra large breakfast and continued walking north.

A few miles down the trail, we ran into our friends Mags and Stu. They have been traveling the world for the past six months and it was great fun to swap stories with them for a few hours. You can follow their adventures on their blog.

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Yosemite National Park continued to impress us with its many stunning rock formations, meadows, and waterfalls.

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Near dusk the scenery changed to a dense forest. It was quite lovely, but the mosquitos also seemed to like the area, so we quickly devoured dinner to avoid becoming a meal ourselves.

After dinner we were grateful for our new tent, which kept the mosquitos at bay. We have never been so grateful for a zipper!

Day 71: Above Virginia Canyon (Mile 955.5)-Near Benson Lake (Mile 973); 17.5 miles

In the morning we walked down into a valley. We heard the creek roar below and the birds chirp in the trees above, but otherwise it was silent. Even the deer were quiet.

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Throughout the day we encountered relentless climbs and descents, including Benson Pass. We tackled the seemingly vertical rocky trails with vigor in the morning but as the day passed, the climbing began to take its toll on our muscles.

Although the trail was rough, the scenery did not disappoint. Waterfalls frequently cascaded over the rocky terrain and we glimpsed a bald eagle swooping over Smedberg Lake.

At the end of the day we completed a long steep downhill. Hungry and tired, we were not very amused when clouds of mosquitos joined us for dinner.

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Day 72: Near Benson Lake (Mile 973)-Falls Creek (Mile 992); 19 miles

We began the day walking through, around, and over the most convoluted collection of downed trees we had seen on the trail to that point.

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Next, we crossed a creek on a fallen lodgepole pine. The log was perfectly round, and small enough to seriously test our balance, but we prevailed. After that came a steep rocky 1500 foot climb to Seabey Pass.

Mosquitos were bad everywhere, especially near any kind of water. When one of us paused to take a picture, a few mosquitos would immediately land on our hands. This caused us to skip our usual breaks and keep walking in order to outrun the mosquitos.

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The trail was steep, and filled with rocks of all sizes and shapes, at all angles. Our progress was slow.

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To top off the tough day, the mosquito swarms were ridiculous at dusk, the worst we had ever experienced. As we walked, a cloud of 50 mosquitos surrounded each of us, waiting for blood. We opted to eat trail mix rather than cook dinner, and even that was challenging while wearing bug headnets.

Day 73: Falls Creek (Mile 992)-Above Latopie Lake (Mile 1013.5); 21.5 miles

While diving into the tent to escape the vicious mosquitos last night, Shutterbug punctured his sleeping pad, creating a slow leak. Unfortunately we had pitched the tent on granite so he became uncomfortable and had to reinflate in the middle of the night. Adding to our discomfort, the temperature didn’t fall enough overnight to slow down the mosquitos, which were still maddening in the morning.

Despite the challenges we face on the Pacific Crest Trail, we feel lucky to witness so many beautiful places. Today we especially enjoyed Dorothy Lake with its beaches and surrounding peaks.

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Midday we passed a huge milestone — the 1000 mile mark! It was hard to believe we had walked so far.

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At lunch North Star cooked a large meal while Shutterbug very patiently inspected his air mattress to find the hole. Finally he discovered a tiny tear. Patching it was the easy part!

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In the afternoon we began a gradual 2000 foot ascent. The landscape transitioned from granite to volcanic rock and the views from the ridge were awesome.

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On the ridge we walked through a bit of snow.

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Then we set up camp in a rock field above the tree line. The mosquitos couldn’t survive up there, and we looked out over a lake and valley. We felt spoiled!

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To close this post we want to express our gratitude to organizations like The Nature Conservancy and the Pacific Crest Trail Association, who help keep lands like this wild. If you’d like to contribute please visit our personal Nature Conservancy page. Many thanks to all our donors so far. Your support means a lot to us.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Audrey #

    Anna/Chris, I am in Alaska and can relate to the blood-sucking bugs!! Luckily they haven’t been as bad in AK as I hear they can get this time of year. Climate change? I agree TNC does great things by preserving and improving so many beautiful places in the world. I love that you are supporting them with your 20+ miles a day hike and by sharing your experiences. I hope everyone who reads your blog will support them! Please help make a difference. Live, love and laugh!

    July 6, 2012
    • Hi Audrey, how cool that you are in Alaska! I’m sure the other wonders there more than make up for the mosquitos. We’d love to go there one day. Even better that so much is protected there by all the national parks!

      Thanks for your comments on The Nature Conservancy as well. It’s exciting that they are doing so much good work.

      July 8, 2012
  2. Great Post – loving your photos – I feel like I am on the trail with you when reading your posts:) Have a Wonderful Weekend and Watch Out for the Nasty Bloodsuckers!

    July 6, 2012
  3. Jan Alexander #

    Congrats on the 1000 mile mark! What an achievement!!! :-) Ouch, those blood suckers. George wasn’t too thrilled to read about those critters. Thank goodness for zippers that work. And I’ll bet you are so glad to have those trekking poles again, Shutterbug. And North Star, it was daunting just watching you climb over those logs. I can only imagine how it must have felt. And climbing on a trail made of nothing but boulders! Hey folks, does this thing ever get easier? Do you ever have day after day of meadows of wildflowers to walk through?

    July 6, 2012
    • Thanks Mom! I’ve been thinking of Dad ever since the mosquitos have gotten bad. They would drive him crazy sometimes. However, it would be good for us if he were here since the mosquitos would make a beeline for him and ignore us.

      The trail is gradually getting easier as we leave the Sierra, but as it gets easier we are upping our daily mileage to compensate. So we still work hard every day! The PCT never really gets easy, but it’s awesome to see so much every day, so that’s the trade off. After we finish our thru hike, we will probably go back to moving more slowly and savoring everything.

      July 8, 2012
  4. Allen Edwards #

    I was told that a white windbreaker would help keep the mosquitoes away. Ever try and buy a white windbreaker? I never found one. The thing I remember is randomly slapping my leg would produce 5 dead mosquitoes. The thing I hated the most was inhaling when I breathed in. Looks like you are much better prepared than I ever was. Love the write up.

    July 7, 2012
    • Hi Allen! We have heard that white is best, but like you we haven’t seen any white windbreakers. I do wear a white shirt, but it’s thin and they can poke through it without much problem. If we wear our light nylon jackets, those work well, though they are green and blue. At night we put those on, and along with our long pants and head nets if necessary, we can mostly avoid bites.

      During the day we sometimes spray on some Natrapel, since we try to avoid DEET. Natrapel works well but only lasts an hour or so.

      July 8, 2012
  5. Sabrina #

    YEAH! The 1000 mile mark achieved, congratulations! There is usually a challenge to overcome whether its the mosquitoes, fallen trees, etc. Jan does pose a good question, does it ever get easier? How often do you get to the edge and say this is enough? They say it’s 80% mental and 20% physical. Do you agree? And how did you post? Are you getting service where you are? I’m amazed by so many bloggers posting on the PCT! Your support for the preservation of the wild is appreciated!

    July 7, 2012
    • Thanks Sabrina! Sometimes mile markers seem arbitrary out here in the wilderness, but they still give us a nice boost when we pass them.

      The trail does get easier after the Sierra, but we will start going faster to compensate. The trail presents a mix of physical and mental challenges. Physically, you must deal with aches and pains daily. Mentally, you must keep your focus for the whole duration, even on the hard days. You can’t think too much about the entirety of the trail, because that’s too daunting. Just take it one day at a time.

      We work on our blog entries most nights in the tent, then post whenever we get a cell signal. Some days we never have a signal, so we have to be patient. But eventually we encounter one. We love sharing our experiences this way!

      July 8, 2012
  6. Margaret #

    I LOVED the 1,000 mile photo!!

    One of the things that amazing me is how you 2 keep on smiling & smiling & smiling!

    2 weeks from today the rest of us will hit the OB. We will certainly miss you!! So glad we can be with you through your blog, though!
    Love

    July 7, 2012
    • Thanks Margaret! There’s a lot to be happy about here so it’s not too hard to smile.

      We will miss you guys, but hopefully we can call or Skype at some point during the week. Have a great time!

      July 8, 2012
  7. Charles #

    Congrats on the 1k mark! Only ~60% more of the trail to go. :) But seriously, you two are tough. The skeeters would probably drive me insane. Also, loved the moon behind Anna in the snow pic and the starry night pic as well. Very well done.

    July 9, 2012
    • Thanks Charles! Glad you like that photo of Anna and the moon, I was excited to see how the elements could line up there.

      It’s strange to think we have walked so far already. My shoes have 850 miles on them and I’m getting new ones at last. We are excited to see Oregon and Washington, but we haven’t even finished Cali yet. It’s huge!

      July 12, 2012
  8. The photo-journal writing of this incredible PCT ought to be used to supplement and enrich a school curriculum. This could fit right in with English and Geography…..but with today’s restrictions by the Fed and State… you kind of have to “sneak it in” to the curriculum.. The good and effective self-directed teachers find ways to do it… especially if they have tons of money in the bank.

    August 13, 2012
  9. The photos are excellent… I was just wondering what kind of camera is used here. I imagine a large camera with a great zoom would be heavy and inconvenient to carry so many miles. Just wondering… if it’s a small one.. I would consider getting it myself.. so….if you could let me know, great..It would have a very special touch with me…knowing that a camera like mine photo-journeyed throught the Pacific Crest Trail…

    August 13, 2012
    • Thanks! We have a Canon 5D and a Canon S90, and we post lots of photos from each. The S90 is great for a compact camera. The 5D would be too big and heavy for most people, but Shutterbug carries it because he plans to put together a book and make large prints after the hike.

      The camera is important, but most important is practice and learning about composition, color, and light. That’s where the art comes in!

      August 16, 2012
      • You mentioned you were writing the blog using your iphones. How are you getting the pictures from the Canons to post on the blog? (and yes you still have my complete attention with any spare time I find) :)

        February 25, 2013
        • Good question. It took us a while to find the right device to transfer photos to an iPhone. The AirStash creates a local WiFi signal and works well for us.

          February 26, 2013

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