Because we had gotten out of VVR late we hadn’t been able to do as many miles that day. Only sixteen miles. That meant our next day had to eat up some more miles in order to make the last day into Tuolumne a twenty four mile day. Math, you don’ have to know the details, just know that we have been doing a lot of big days and man, is it exhausting. So we left purple lake, headed for Reds Meadow and beyond. The hike into Reds Meadow was extremely easy by PCT standards. We didn’t have to go over any passes or walk through any snow. Once we got in we did a little resupply, charged some things, and ate lunch at their little restaurant. I had two servings of pasta salad. It was very good pasta salad.
We digested for an hour before heading back out onto the trail, planning on doing another twelve miles to an unknown location (there weren’t any listed campsites twelve miles out but we were headed there anyway). As is typical for the Sierras these days, storm clouds were hanging around behind the mountains, piling up, and then, once again dispersing over the summits of granite, in one incredible plume. We found the water source we were heading too but there was no camping there. We hiked for another mile or so, carrying water for the next day, and finally spotted some flat looking spots down on an outcropping of rocks.
After we made our way down to them we discovered they were amazing camp spots, looking out across an amazing valley and straight at a flank of those rocky snowy mountains that make the Sierras so gorgeous. We set up and spent the rest of the night trying to get creative with making quesadillas. It is hard to effectively make quesadillas when the tortillas are bigger around than your pan is. It was Cameron’s last night. He claimed the quesadillas were the best he had ever tasted and as he munched on them the sun turned the mountains pink, and then lavender and then dusky blue behind him.
We woke up at four the next morning. We still had a twenty four mile day ahead of us to get to Tuolume meadows, where we needed to pick up our next food drop as well as get picked up by Cameron’s friend Kenzie. It was a two pass morning, over Island Pass first and then over Donahue. Another gorgeous day, a lot of water to cross, a lot of mud puddles to walk through, a lot of day hikers to pass. Island Pass was hardly a pass, Donahue was an easy climb and there was less snow on the other side than even we had hoped for. Once we were over Donahue we could see an incredibly flat bottomed valley down bellow us with a river snaking back and forth across it. This fit what we could see on Guthook. Once we reached the valley floor the elevation profile was flat for the next ten miles.
We sped through the day, hiking past a Mediterranean blue river running through a snake green meadow and leapfrogging with two backpackers wearing full mosquito suiting. We finally got to Tuolumne where the post office guy informed us we were just in time, they were about to close up shop. We picked up some very beautifully decorated packages from my mom and waited for Kenzie. Around five thirty Cameron finally got ahold of her only to discover she had driven to the wrong Tuolumne. It is confusing because all these passes, like Sanora Pass have a corresponding town down in the valley. The Tuolume down in the valley was two hours away. Damn. For her and for us! Luckily for us we got a hitch after about five minutes from a really cool climber, biker, hiker chick who took us all the way to Lee Vining, right up to the front door of our hotel in a downpour.
We took Cameron out for his last beer and dinner on trail. We ate BBQ. Kenzie showed up half way through dinner after a grueling five hours of driving, poor girl. But she turned out to be an angel because she brought us Indian food, fruits, vegetables, hummus, and homemade zucchini bread. Home baked zucchini bread. It is amazing. We love her. After they dropped us back off at our hotel room her and Cameron headed out before there could be any tears, to Reno and beyond. So, Cameron is gone.
It is strange, but I definitely know he is gone because for the last 750 miles there hasn’t been a lot of time spent out of eachother’s sight. How lucky am I to have a brother I can hike with for that long? There were arguments, between the three of us, two vs one, always taking different people’s sides, but they always resolved themselves in a cloud of farts and giggles. He made a great thru hiker. He is confident, spunky, sturdy, determined. Even when his ankle was clearly sprained he braced it and kept hiking. Walk it off, right? He gave us both shit and we gave it right back. I worried about him being warm enough in his tent every night. He was so hungry and so tired and so happy he cried multiple times. I was told every day you should shout for joy out here, but crying tears of joy, that seems completely sufficient. At dinner we talked a little bit about what it meant to him to thru hike, but I know that it is hard to even process what he has done so far. He pointed out that it must be different for him, because he had an end in sight, we pointed out that we have an end in sight too, the end of the trail. Everyone has journeys and adventures, sometimes we know when they will end, sometimes we don’t, but no matter where you are going, you know when you get there. I am going to miss my brother out here, but Kyle and my’s journey is really just beginning.