Jennifer Whitcomb: PCT Thru-Hiker

Week 5 on the Pacific Crest Trail
Gorp.com

Week 5: Tuolomne Meadows, California

July 1

Bad postal karma, I'm convinced, has kept me from my e-mail device since Idylwild, where I sent a bunch of gear ahead in order to drop weight and make good time. Arriving to find no sign of the 12-lb box first in Wrightwood and then in Onyx, I left a second change-of-address form with the Tuolomne zip code, and set out through the southern Sierras hoping my little box of treasures would meet me in Yosemite. And here it was this morning, sitting all innocently in the magic little shoebox of a post office at this superlative location.

It's a strange sensation to descend out of the mountains with the dire need to send and check e-mail. The unexpected month and a half without the tether has been surprisingly refreshing, but it has left me with much catching up to do.

Since Warner Springs, my travels have bounced me far from the trail on occasion, and the death marches through treeless southern heat at times plunged my companions and me into raw spells of madness. All key parts of the trip, as I think back to the AT three years ago this moment. Each town looks the same in my mind before I reach it, and I've enjoyed seeing parts of California that stray far from the stereotype.

I kept up with the staggered installments as I went, which I'll now transcribe and send along with this latest update.

As for right now, no question that it's Fourth of July weekend here in Yosemite. I've walked back south now to the lodge, where I took a much-needed hot shower and left my pack while I went to the PO. There is a lot less commotion here than out by the main road, and the roaring waterfall behind me drowns out even the lodge employees buzzing around on their golf carts. Funny how much I'm enjoying the rare luxury of simply sitting at a table.

I'll continue from here hiking solo, as I have since Kennedy Meadows, where Colin and Steve left the trail. I've intentionally tried to remain alone thus far through the Sierras, as it's a pleasurable release to be finally subject to only my own mad whims. In fact, as if to flaunt my solitude, during my first three days north of KM I never stopped to rest for more than four hours, moving at night and napping for long spells through the middle of the day. I decided against climbing Mount Whitney, as the sky was clouding up and my pretentious self was in no mood for crowds.

But it was too bad that my companions left before reaching what has easily been the most breathtaking scenery yet... the first major dose of the stuff that sends us east coasters out west to hike. I kept wanting to turn to one of them and jump up and down with each new alpine lake or Technicolor sunset, but instead I'd just look down at my feet and take a deep breath, and continue onward.

The nights of sleeping on top of my sleeping bag are long over... it gets COLD up here, I'm delighted to say. My first thought every evening as I bunker down is "thank God for down!" I picked up a down jacket at Kennedy Meadows, and it has made all the difference between nights and mornings of misery and comfort. Now I'm just wishing I had remembered the gloves.

Here at the PO I also received several rolls of developed slides, which I had sent off in mailers several towns ago. Only a very few are of me. As the sole carrier of a camera, I took all the pictures unless I specifically instructed otherwise... all the while too dense to realize I am therefore all but absent from the evidence.

The next update will probably be from Truckee, just north of Lake Tahoe. This little piece of technology will not be having any more postal service adventures. From now on, it travels the REALLY old-fashioned way.

Happy Fourth of July,

Jen's Story

Three quick years have passed since this PCT thru-hike elbowed out grad school and a career jumpstart to claim the months following my college graduation. Not easy news for my parents, who in 1997 weathered my dropping out of college for six months to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I know they're now thinking "sh**, here we go again."

Pacific Crest Trail
What is she carrying? Check out Jen's gear list.
See the trail dispatch archive.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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