Sunday, July 27, 2014

Halbzeit!

Germany may have won the Soccer World Cup, but we haven't won the PCT yet. But there's good news: the first half of the game is over. Not only have I crossed the 1000-mile-marker a couple of weeks ago, but just yesterday morning I reached the trail's midpoint a few miles before I made it into the town of Chester.

Now, at first let me apologize that it took me almost a month to publish an update since I wrote my last blog post. Yes, I am still alive and feeling better than ever before. Now, what happened out here since I left Mammoth Lakes? Quite a lot.


Let's start where we got off: the mosquitoes. Every time somebody on the trail told me they would only get worse in Yosemite, north of Tuolumne Meadows, I responded with something along the lines of: "How is that even possible? How could ANY place in THIS universe possibly have more mosquitoes?". I was convinced that their density was pretty close to the mass of a neutron star, if not even a black hole. But when I got there I promised myself not to say that anymore, because every time I said it they DID get more and more terrible. Simply unbearable. Luckily the situation has improved a lot since I left the High Sierra. Around Sonora Pass they slowly started to thin out (but only after a final battle between me and them in a valley right before the pass; I decided that, henceforth, this place shall be known as The Valley Of Deadly Massacre And Most Awful Genocide). In the section of the trail that I'm hiking through now they're still around sometimes, but usually there are not more than a few of them. Let's hope it stays like that (but to be perfectly honest: I wouldn't place a bet on it).


When I reached Tuolumne Meadows a couple of days after I left Mammoth Lakes, I decided to finish off the rest of the John Muir Trail (JMT) by hiking down into Yosemite Valley, a side trip of around twenty miles (and I saw my first bear on this trip). I was very lucky to get the last permit for climbing Half Dome when I walked into the Ranger Station. Eight bucks well spent. Unfortunately on that day I caught another cold. This was actually the second time I got sick on the trail. I felt like something was trying to tell me that I don't belong out here. Screw that! I'm still determined to walk to Canada. If Mother Nature wants me off the trail, she better makes sure that I fall off a cliff. Half Dome would've been the right spot to do that, but she missed her chance.


When I arrived in the valley after two days of hiking through an area with the most marvelous white granite I've ever set eyes on, I decided to camp at the backbacker's campground and head back to the PCT the next day. But before doing so, there was another thing on my list that had to be done. So, the next morning, on July 4th, I took the bus to Tuolumne Grove, one of the three groves of Giant Sequoias in the park. A side trip totally worth of spending Independence Day there. Walking under these massive trees from an ancient time long ago made me realize how small we really are. Anxiety is what I felt while standing in front of these Giants, gazing up to the crown of living things that, in some cases, grow more than 3000 years old. Think about that the next time your pizza delivery takes more than half an hour.


Fate meant it well with me after Yosemite. Now that the big climbs over all these mountain passes were done, it didn't take too long to recover from my knee injury, and shortly afterwards I was back to hiking 25 miles a day. After passing the 1000-mile-marker I had a brief stop in Bridgeport for resupply. When I arrived in town a friend told me that I've just missed the semi-finals of the Soccer World Cup.

"OK, tell me the news."
"Yeah, you know, Germany beat Brazil seven to one."
"Haha, yeah, sure. Now tell me what really happened."
"I'm not kidding you. Germany beat Brazil SEVEN TO ONE!".
I watched the replay on TV in the hotel that night. I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked up on what date the finale was to be held and realized that I could be in South Lake Tahoe that day. And that's what I did. My friends and I went to a German restaurant in town to witness that glorious victory. I left that place with a tab of $ 136.


Oh, I also got a new pair of boots! Thanks to LOWA's customer service, I had a brand new pair of boots waiting for me in Tahoe, at no charge. Since my old pair had a hole in them, allowing sand and rocks to get in, LOWA agreed on sending me a free replacement.


After Tahoe it didn't take long before the trail flattened out and hiking became easier. At Sierra City we actually dropped below 5000 foot, an elevation we haven't seen since the desert (at least not ON the trail, so that doesn't include town stops). Another thing in this section that I haven't seen since the desert: a rattlesnake.


About a week ago I broke my own record by hiking 27.1 miles (46.3 km) in a single day. So yeah, I totally hiked more than a marathon with a full pack on my back. Ain't too shabby. It's pretty interesting what kind of stuff goes through your head when you're living in the woods for so long. It can drive you crazy. Here are some of the broken bits that went through my mind the next day:

I wake up in the morning with the sun beating down onto my tent, drying out the remaining moisture on the rainfly, as my dreams evaporate into star dust.

"Greetings, dear Afterlife", is the first thing that comes to my mind as I slowly rise, feeling nothing but the numbing pain in my body from the twenty-seven miles the day before. I get up and crawl out of my shelter to begin my morning chores. Dark clouds roll in as I get ready to move out. Sore feet, stiff legs. Another day in Paradise. Today I set out on a hike under a total blackened sky. The electric atmosphere gets a tight grip on me on this walk through an enchanted forest of lichen-covered firs. The sweet smell of rotting pine wood under a layer of wet duff, mixed with the spicy fragrance of wild mint along the trail rises up to my nostrils, robbing me of all my senses. Intoxicated, my spirit is being carried away to a jurassic period long gone. For a brief moment the sun breaks through. "Hush, go away! You are not welcome here", I think, but the clouds have already returned, willing to seize control again as I observe a glimpse of my shadow fading on the damp forest floor. In oblivion lost.

I can feel the surface tension on my skin. Goosebumps on my arms. With the hair on the back of my neck standing upright, I feel like a bobcat lingering in an ambush, spying on its prey, just waiting for the final leap to devour everything that is fair and noble in this world.

The woods are pure poetry, the sound of the wind in the tree tops is like music in my ears. Looking up to the sky I sense Mother Nature's furious rage, as if she was willing to eradicate every trace of mankind in a single blow, yet mercy holds her hand at bay. For a moment it seems I can feel the disrupted shadows of the Four Horsemen in the back of my neck.

Suddenly the distant sound of a highway draws me back to the present. As I look up I can see the weather clearing up and the magical atmosphere is gone. My spirit returns to the empty shell that is my body, hiking blindly on and on.


Okay, back to reality. I crossed the PCT's midpoint yesterday. Quite an achievement, eh? But thinking about all the things that happened in the last three months, I come to realize that it's probably not my biggest achievement on this journey. No, my greatest achievement out here is headbutting a mosquito to death. That's right, I headbutted one of these Flying Bitches to death. I have no regrets. If I'm in a good mood I will tell you about that story the next time.

In the meantime, here are some more pictures:


































Happy Trails,
Cheeseburger

4 comments:

  1. 1st of all promise to never EVER fall (or jump) off a cliff !!!
    Thanks for visiting yosemite, I remember it being quite impressing long time ago, 1975, way before anybody thought of a boy called cheese (at least I guess so ;-) )
    Enjoy the second half and keep on telling us about it, please

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    Replies
    1. Impressive ...
      Sorry

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  2. Wir sind froh, es geht dir gut. Du wirkst trotz all der schäbigen Mückenattacken, Schuhproblemen, Klapperschlangen, Hitze etc. nicht wirklich unglücklich. Die Natur dort ist wirklich beeindruckend.
    Lass dich nicht unterkriegen und genieß den Trail,
    Grüße
    wheretogobirgit

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  3. Ahoi du 1000er,
    die Hälft deines Marsches ist nun um und du hast schonn jetzt mehr gesehen, Menschen getroffen und Dinge Erlebt als so mancher in einer Lebenszeit. Ich beneide dich um das was du an Natur zu sehen bekommst, echt ein paar sehr schöne Momentaufnahmen an dehnen du, uns teilhaben lässt(aber schneid dir bei Gelegenheit einen Iro :))
    Anzwaz, bei uns geht das Leben seinen vorprogrmierten, immer gleichen Tagesablauf weiter und führt mich unweigerlich und stetig in den Wahnsinn XD.

    Mir bleibt nur noch zu sagen auf die nächsten 1000!

    up the irons!

    Sve

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