Days 47-49: 3 Zeros in Bishop

The Hostel California in Bishop is a great place to stay. The owner is laid back and friendly and gives you a beer on check in. There are plenty of bathrooms, a large kitchen and living area, and huge back porch complete with a kiddie pool. Typically a hostel for rock climbers, this time of year it is full of hikers.

Everyone here is making decisions. We are in a heat wave, and the temperatures in the mountain are above freezing at night. Combined with the excessive snow, all the streams and rivers are swollen to 200% of normal. It isn’t possible to adequately describe the amount of water rushing down the mountain sides. Normally easy creek crossings have turned into very difficult crossings through raging waters and quite a few hikers have fallen, though so far no one has been seriously hurt. The road we used to come down from the mountains at Kearsarge Pass was washed out and is now closed to vehicles, meaning hikers now have an extra 5 miles to hike to return to the trail. (Meaning it’s 12 total miles of hiking just to get back on trail).
We’ve gone back and forth about the future of this hike. Waiting for the snow to melt will simply take too long and make finishing on time in Washington unlikely. Going ahead means we may be forced to turn back, or take very long detours to avoid dangerous crossings. Skipping forward up the trail could bring better conditions, but not for long as the snow this year is blanketing all the mountains from here to Canada.
Yesterday we thought we had decided to flip ahead, looking for better conditions and less dangerous stream crossings, continuing to hike North and then returning to the Sierra at the end of our hike when the waters are at their lowest and the weather is still dry. However, we have talked to people who have come down from the mountain more recently than us who are fully confident this is doable with proper caution. We’ve gone back and forth, back and forth. We do not want to dissect our hike, we want to hike from Mexico to Canada. But is it possible this year? As of now, yes it is still possible to traverse the Sierra. It will be slow going, but we aren’t ready to move on without giving it proper try. If we get turned back, so be it.

We found a group to hike with. We are 10 strong, with 2 gps beacons and plenty of rope. We’ve got 10 days of food in the event of slow going or the need to turn back. We stay within sight of one another at all times and do not leave anyone behind. I am the only female and Paul might be the shortest male, meaning we’ve got stronger hikers to assist in the crossings. Local rangers believe the water levels are peaking now, and should begin to subside within the next few days. The weather is starting to cool slightly and freezing temperatures should return overnights soon. We are optimistically cautious. Tomorrow morning we head back out.

This section should get us to Vermilion Valley Resort in 9 days from Kearsarge Pass. I doubt I’ll be able to upload posts until then, so don’t worry if it’s awhile before another update. No news is good news.

I wish I could do justice to the Sierra with words. It is hard, tiring, scary, beautiful, inspiring, and wild. The scenery is majestic, towering, expansive, and isolating. The experience is humbling, rewarding, exhausting, and exhilarating. We’re starting to understand that overused quote from John Muir: The mountains are calling, and I must go.