JMT – Day 7 – From Onion valley campground to Flower Lake… Did I just get scammed?

Aug 1.

Woke up in the king-size motel bed around 6am. Enjoyed the WiFi, turned around and tried to sleep more. Could not make up my mind if I should stay another night in Bishop to make it a full zero miles day.

With the thought of hot coffee waiting in the motel reception, I finally got up and started packing the bear canister with 8 days food. It fit surprisingly well.
It will be enough food to make it the about 100 miles to Vermillion Valley resort with the potential to get food two days before from the famous hiker boxes at Muir Trail ranch. And I must admit – the hiker hunger has not started yet, having hiked only for 6 days so far. They say it takes 2-3 weeks until you get really hungry due to the calories you burn every day hiking.
I completed my backpack with 2 liters water with the expected heat while climbing Kearsage pass. With all gear, the full bear can and the water the pack didn’t feel as heavy as I was expecting. I think that was the moment that I decided to hit the trail today. Why hang out another day in Bishop? I am not really exhausted to need recovery, not really hungry (only had breakfast in town yesterday, had skipped lunch and dinner), and I had done laundry, showers twice… 😂

With the decision taken, I decided for the ESTA bus at 1.15pm to Independence.

I had a couple of hours to kill working on my blog, first in the motel reception with a very simple breakfast but acceptable coffee and wifi speed, later at Starbucks with better coffee and internet speed. 😂
Bought some last minute items at VONS and enjoyed the bus ride.

It got scary when I tried to get a hitch from Independence to the trail head at Onion Valley campground.

I was standing at the corner for maybe 10 minutes when a battered black Mercedes SUV stopped. Two middle aged occupants, a guy driving as well as a woman, both with sun glasses. I asked whether they could take me to the campground – he said yes he drives that way, she said they will need gas money though. I offered 10 bucks, they said hop in. When they started driving she wondered if they have enough gas to make it there. He asked how far it was. I should probably have left the car latest that moment. He had said he was going there, now he turned out he had never been there. They were obviously trying to make money. I would have been fine with paying for the ride… But it got more spooky…
As we drove up the mountain, we did some chitchat, I told them about the trail. He started to get weird when he said he had heard that there were chapels along the trail. We exchanged names. When they asked whether I hike all by myself, I started bending the facts by saying that my hiking buddies are actually waiting up for me at the trail head. I didn’t really feel safe anymore. I had my hiking poles with me, sitting alone on the backseat with my pack.
About half way up the mountain, the car started stuttering. He cursed, called out that he was running out of fuel and swerved to one side, trying to u-turn the car. I decided to try my luck better out there in the heat in nowhere instead of staying with these two rolling down the mountain in a car without gas. I insisted on getting out right here, offering the full ten bucks. That probably got them… I opened the door, quickly got out my gear and myself. Feeling more safe outside, I checked for the money. Of course I only had a 20 dollar bill. She claimed they have no money whatsoever, that’s why they needed the gas money in the first place. I gave them the 20, they took off. I was glad. The 20 bucks will be a teaching for me to be more careful into which car I get. I guess I just got scammed? I don’t know.
It was the first hitch I ever had where I didn’t feel safe.
I was out there in nowhere, but it was the Onion valley campground road, so I was expecting traffic.I had plenty of water. A couple of minutes later Matthew from the Sierra transit shuttle stopped his mini van and took me up the mountain.

That adrenaline from this hitchhiking experience actually kept me pushing up the pass later way faster than I could have imagined.
I think I arrived around 4pm at Flower Lake where I had intended to camp. I wanted to keep pushing up the mountain… But when saw the nice German couple I had met the day before at the same campground, I decided to call it a day and relax to forget that experience.We had a very nice conversation about everything – about hiking, travel, ways of living and even politics. I hope we will stay in touch.
An exciting day came to an end. I was looking forward to the peaceful trail tomorrow.

JMT – Day 6 – From Flower lake to Onion valley campground and Bishop

Jul 31.

Anticipating breakfast in town, I got up quickly, packed my gear and left without breakfast towards Onion Valley campground.

On my way down, I met another acquaintance from my first JMT hike in 2016: Strider, the former owner of the Mt Williamson motel in Independence came walking up the trail with her dog Indy. I wasn’t 100 percent sure so I asked – and was rewarded with a hug. Strider kindly offered me a ride down to Independence if I should be waiting for a hitch when she returns from her morning walk.

I really start feeling at home with running into acquaintances again and again… 😊

Down at the campground, I met the German couple again from last night’s nice chat. We were discussing hitchhiking options when I was approached by other hikers. Some offered energy bars from their too big resupply which I happily accepted.

But it got even better: Other hikers gave me a complete resupply with 10+ mountain houses! Their hiking buddy was not able to join the hike!

So I was standing there holding a full box of resupply, still impressed about the kindness of the hikers.

The German couple was offered a ride down to Independence by a couple of older ladies with their Sprinter van – I was invited to join. I was really lucky today.

Down in Indepence, I got a coke at he gas station preparing for a longer wait for a hitch North to Bishop. I could not even finish my coke when a big 40ton truck stopped. Herman from Costa Rica gave me a ride to Bishop. Such a nice guy. We shared stories about travel, he told entertaining stories about his wild youth, later we talked politics. The 50 miles ride to Bishop was so entertaining… Thank you so much Herman!

So I really made it to Jack’s in Bishop before 10am! 😁

Next stop was Eastside Sports in Bishop. Highly recommendable outfitter! They had replaced my hiking pole tips when I came through during my PCT hike in 2018 just as a courtesy – and my tips were due for replacement again. I had a nice chat with the staff, paid my 7 USD for the new tips and left the poles with them for replacement.
I checked into a motel and reviewed the resupply that I had been given at the campground.

I noted one I still needed and went shopping to VONS.

Coming back with food and some beers, I shared beers with the motel neighbors.

Enjoyed the internet, did some blogging while snacking… And enjoyed a night in a bed.

John Muir Trail – 1 Day before

July 25.

Thanks to the jet lag, I woke up rather early and enjoyed a quiet morning in the motel parking lot.

For those in Germany suffering from the current heatwave – it’s just the same here, around 40 degrees Celsius.

I am looking forward to getting into the Sierra and to 10000 feet / 3000m where the air is not only cooler but a bit cleaner than around Los Angeles.

Spent the day shopping for snacks at a 711 and waiting for my Eastern Sierra Transit bus at 2pm. The motel kept the pool locked – a bit disappointing.

But the day got much better. At the bus stop I ran into Nick, a hiker from Missouri. He is about the hit the High Sierra Trail. We will be entering the wilderness via the same trail head tomorrow – what a nice coincidence. We spent the long bus ride to Lone Pine chatting about hiking. He gave me the idea to call the visitor center to ask for my permit to be stored for late pickup tonight. That worked out nice – thanks Nick!

Coincidence got bigger – he had actually recently visited a friend in Switzerland and seen the same town that I will be moving into after this hike. World is really small. 😜

The Sierras seen from the Lone Pine hostel

Did some last gear preparations (fuel, dry bag and water filter replacement) and started the self hydration process that is so critical to be conducted carefully before every hike (got wasted on beer with Nick). 😝

That made the gear shakedown we did with two JMT hikers we met in the hostel even more fun.

The weather might get interesting – there is a chance of thunderstorms tomorrow at lunchtime when I will be on trail already.

Tomorrow… Can’t wait! 😍

Iceland Day 9 – From Snorrastadir into Reykjavik

April 3.

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After a late breakfast, I continued South towards Reykjavik. Stopped at a Bonus supermarket to get food for the next days. Food is not that expensive in Iceland if you buy at Bonus. It is still higher priced than in Germany, but Germany has quite low prices. Many of the products I bought like fruits and vegetables from Spain or Italy have just the same packaging like in the German supermarkets.

I checked into the Grimur hotel, a nice yet affordable hotel with self checkin. Drove into downtown, visited a nearby barbershop for a quick trim. Rakarastofa Ragnars & Hardar – Highly recommendable. Then I walked downtown to see some sightseeing spots like the famous church Hallgrimskirkja and the Harpa concert hall where a StarWars piece was playing.

Had my best (and first) fish and chips in Iceland at the Reykjavik Fish restaurant. Before heading back, I stopped at Perlan, an exhibition center/water tower at a top of a hill with a good view on Reykjavik. They had an exhibition on Iceland’s flora and fauna and its vulcanos – quite interesting and well done.

 

Iceland Day 6 – Grettislaug, Saudarkrokur, Bloenduos, Hvammstangi

March 31.

Leaving Grettislaug was not too easy, considering the amazing quiet and peaceful day I had had yesterday. This will remain one of my favorite spots of Iceland.

But my goal remains to make it on the ring road around Iceland within the two weeks I have. And I have a room booked in Reykjavik on April 3rd, so leaving is not easy, but necessary. I said goodbye to Herbert, his wife and Gerald and left in the late morning.

Leading out of Grettislaug towards Saudarkrokur was a dirt road with lots of horses roaming freely. A great opportunity to snap some shots of these beautiful and friendly and curious animals.

I was driving the whole day with mixed weather. No big blue skies today. I made it back to the ring road around noon and continued traveling West.

I was aiming for dirt road North of Hvammstangi for the night. I passed the small town in the evening, scouted the area for good spot for the night. Later in the evening I did one more run back to town and grabbed some food to go. Was back at my spot at 7.30pm, hoping for Northern lights, but no luck withe the weather coverage. It was heavily clouded, so I had my first Netflix night on Iceland.

Day 134 – From tentsite to Trout Lake, mile 2229

Sept 1.

The alarm went off as usual at 6.15am. As we had feared, the tentsite had had a lot of humidity from the vegetation surrounding us over night. So in the inside of my tent was wet from condensation that had also settled on my sleeping bag. And it was very cold – a wet cold.

Slow start, we were still chewing our breakfast at dawn when Spirit Kick walked by, not recognizing us in the red down jackets.

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Started walking with sleeping underwear and my hoodie as well as the down jacket and gloves on… But got warmer maybe 30min later. Caught up with Spirit Kick again a bit later and caught up on the latest. We hiked for a good part together chatting.

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Refilled some water and discussed the hitching options into Trout Lake. One road just 10 miles from our tentsite with very little traffic and a second road another 5 miles and 1500 feet altitude later with a bit more traffic and a potential shuttle into town.

We gave it 15min at the first road that we hit around 12pm – but with no cars at all, we moved on.

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Mount Adams – View from Trout Lake

At 2pm at the crossing, Tinkle was quickly lucky and stopped a ride. There was only space for two – Spirit Kick took the ride together with another hiker. Shortly later Tinkle got us the next car. Bill – a friendly older guy who has been living around Trout Lake for 50 years. Bill is a dog lover. As we passed through the neighborhood, he stopped from time to time. Dogs would run up recognizing his car – and he threw some goodies out for them.

Trout Lake is a small community. We went through our town duties quickly. Met up with Spirit Kick again, had some burgers, moved on to the grocery store that also held our resupply packages and new shoes for me. We had trouble finding the packages… we looked again and again. I found again a package addressed to another hiker Florian Eckert. I never met him, but had seen packages for him along the trail again and again.

When we looked one more time, we got our packages!

 

While there was free camping in the yard of the grocery store, we opted for the village campground – it had decent showers! After pitching our three tents, we went one by one to have the shower. Tinkle attracted some trail magic – coming back from the shower, we were greeted by water melon, hot dogs and more snacks.

Cleaned up and well fed, falling asleep at 9pm.

Day 131 – From Cascade Locks to tentsite, mile 2166

Aug 29.

We had another big breakfast in town where we met up with Crumbs. Then we brought our resupply packages for Washington to the Post Office. We were sending 4 packages – to our planned stops at Trout Lake, White Pass, Snoqualmie and Skykomish. Due to the fire closure around Stehekin, we had not decided yet to send a package for a last resupply there or not.

Then came a big moment – crossing the Columbia river from Oregon to Washington via the Bridge of the Gods. The bridge is famously featured in the movie “Wild”:

 

Crossing the narrow bridge by foot, we got a nice greeting by the lady in the toll both – and a mix of friendly greetings and confused looks from drivers passing by…

 

 

A beer before noon to celebrate the last section of our PCT journey – the state of Washington. The trail started soon after the crossing to lead us back to the woods.

 

The vegetation looked differently. Lush green vegetation, big ferns… it always felt like rain forest. The expected climb turned out to be not too bad.

 

We found a campsite with water at 7.30pm around mile 2166 – 20 miles despite our late start and the celebration beer. Good start into Washington!