Monday, September 6, 2010

Civilization! Can it really be?!

I pass by this enticing sign for Reds Meadow
and go to Agnew Meadow instead.
June 29: When I passed Tom a couple of days before, he suggested to Fidget and I that if we wanted to go into Mammoth Lakes, that taking the bus in from Agnew Meadow was the way to go. Invariably, all guidebooks suggest getting off at Red's Meadow, and invariable, that's what nearly all hikers do. Tom suggested Agnew Meadow for two reasons, however: One, it was a shorter bus ride into Mammoth Lakes, and two, we'd be carrying lighter packs up the next ten-or-so miles of trail since we wouldn't have much food. Hikers returning to Red's Meadow will be loaded down with food.

Looking at maps and studying the situation for myself, I liked the idea. My pack was positively empty of food, and it was early in the morning. I could hike the extra miles to Agnew Meadow with the near-empty pack and still get into Mammoth Lakes before noon.

So I skipped the turnoff on the trail to Red's Meadow and kept hiking. My food supplies were now down to a single Cliff Bar (which Tom had given me a couple of days earlier) and a small bag of gorp, but that was enough. I could make it.

Devils Postpile. It's a pile. Of rocks.
There's a network of trails in the area, and I decided to take an alternate route through Devil's Postpile rather than stick to the official PCT route. The two routes are nearly identical in distance for the few miles they split, running parallel to each other, except the trail past Devil's Postpile didn't allow for horses, so the official PCT couldn't go in that direction. (At least that's my theory. So far as I can tell, there's absolutely no other reason for the official PCT to follow that parallel route.)

So I took the alternate route. I've never been to Devil's Postpile before, but I remember seeing photos of it since I was a mere child, and I wanted to finally see it close up and personal. I passed a few day hikers and a couple of fishermen working a nearby creek, but it wasn't especially crowded. Not at 7:00 in the morning, at least. The lighting on the postpile was terrible, causing the whole thing to be in its own giant shadow. I had to steady my camera on trees and rocks to get photos of it that weren't blurry.

It's kind of cool to see, but there's not really much to it either. You can see the entire postpile in about 30 seconds of walking. If you're in the area, by all means, check it out. But I wouldn't drive very far out of your way to visit this place--it's just not worth it.

Is this supposed to be funny?
The trail went back into the woods, and the occasional day visitor that I seen disappeared leaving me alone with my thoughts once again. A couple of creeks I had to walk through, highly annoying. I had hoped to at least have this one, easy, short day with dry feet, but it was not to be. I think the people designing the trails are making fun of us too. At one point, I had to walk halfway across a creek to reach a small bridge that spanned the other half of a creek. And really, what's the point of hiking through a creek to get to a bridge? I cursed the trail workers who put up that bridge for the half-ass job that they had done. Even when there was a bridge completely crossing the river, the river was so high, water would still splash onto the bridge.

Following the maps provided by Eric the Black's book, the trail was supposed to go onto what appeared to be a paved road where there was supposed to be a bus stop to take hikers into town. So I just followed trail markers blindly, walking through a campground, passed a few folks doing trail maintenance, and started switchbacking up a steep hillside, waiting until the trail crossed a paved road....

And I started thinking, "I don't remember any steep switchbacks before Agnew Meadow." So I pulled out my maps, and there were steep switchbacks, after passing Agnew Meadow. Damn trail never even touched a paved road, but I was absolutely certain I had hiked too far. I cussed the inaccuracies of the guidebook and turned around.

Bus Stop #1
Back at the campground, I followed a dirt road eastward to where I thought the main (and paved!) road was supposed to be, hitting it after perhaps a quarter of a mile. A post labeled the point as a bus stop (#1!), and I threw my pack down on a picnic table and sat down to wait.

I pulled out the small bag of gorp I carried--the last of my food by now--and ate the last morsels of food I had left. I was now completely and totally out of food. Not a drop left. Oh, I still had some powdered milk, but nothing that was actually edible. Before eating it, I took a photo of it. It seemed important enough to document with photos.

The mosquitoes were terrible while I waited. I batted at them. I cussed them. I told them about all of the horrible things I wanted to do to them, but to no avail. DEET seemed to provide a marginal amount of protection, but the little devils were everywhere.

Buses were scheduled to run every half hour, and I must have just missed the last bus because it was nearly a half hour later when a bus rolled to a stop and picked me up. The cost was $7, round-trip. I carried $6.61. I also carried a ten-dollar bill. I hoped the bus driver could provide change for a ten, or was willing to go 39 cents short of the full fair. I really didn't want to pay $10 for a $7 ticket.

Alas, he did not make change. When I realized how little I was short of an even $7, however, he started digging in his pockets to add two quarters of his own to the contribution, but one of the passengers on the bus (the only passenger on the bus, I should say) beat him to it by handing me a one dollar bill, given me an even $7 to pay the ticket price.

Sweet! =)

My last bit of food.
So the bus continued on, dropping me off a short time later at the ski area for Mammoth Lakes. From here, there was supposed to be another bus that would get me into the city of Mammoth Lakes, and this one was supposed to be free. It wasn't readily apparent where I was supposed to catch this free bus, so I asked a couple of guys who seemed to be working in the area if they knew anything about it, and they directed me to the "bike bus." I wasn't sure what bikes had to do with anything--I was hiking! But I followed their directions and waited. I was supposed to see a bus that was pulling a bike rack, and it would be my free ride into town.

While waiting, I watched a few snowboarders showing off on the ski slopes. It seemed astounding to me, here, at the end of June, and the ski slopes were still open? Blasphemy.

This time, I only had to wait about five minutes before I saw it--a giant bus towing an equally giant bike rack behind it with what seemed like hundreds of bikes. The bus was packed, but a few folks got off. Most stayed on, and I got on and took a seat.

The bus made another stop a few miles down the hill at which point everybody--and I mean everybody except myself got off the bus. I felt seriously out of place amongst all of these bikers. I got on where absolutely nobody else got on at, and I stayed on when absolutely everybody else was getting off. I guess they get free rides (with their bikes in tow) high up the mountain where they can bike down back into town--downhill the whole way.

Only in Mammoth Lakes, and the tourists were everywhere!
As the bike bus pulled into town, the driver pointed out a trolley just ahead telling me that I could jump on that to get around anywhere in town I needed to go--also absolutely free. So I jumped off the bus and into the trolley. The girl driving it recognized me as a thru-hiker, clearly having picked up a few in the past, and asked where I wanted to go. I told her the Motel 6, and she said she'd tell me when that stop was reached.

She was a friendly, chatty girl, telling me about the city and pointing out sights along the way. She gave me a copy of a free local paper and told me about where I could find a happy hour. Very friendly town folks!

I checked into the motel, showered, then went off to see the town. I needed to do a major case of resupplying! At the outfitters, I bought new pants, gloves, socks, sunscreen, and sunglasses. I checked out the price of a new trekking pole and winced with pain. I just want a cheap little pole that Wal-Mart would sell for $10 or less. I'd rather carry a stick than pay the prices they were asking. I also needed new shoes but again winced at the prices. Maybe I could find a cheaper place for shoes elsewhere in town. So I held off on those items.... for now.

The bike bus.
In the little newspaper the trolley driver had given me, I learned that Toy Story 3 was playing at the movie theater, and--even better--it was "Tuesday Customer Appreciation Night" and all movies, all day, were just $6. SOLD!

So I walked over to the movie theater and went to see Toy Story 3--which I absolutely loved! It hardly seems possible, but I think that may be my favorite Toy Story yet. That is a story that just gets better and better with every sequel. Can't recommend it enough.

And then I headed back to my room for the night. Time for sleep.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'd say that's cuttin' it a little too fine on the eats! So glad that "town' was in sight, as it were, and that you got back on track so fast! Whew.....Too close.
Keep on keepin' on! Yak~King blues

veganf said...

That Devil's Postpile really is cool geologically speaking. I'd love to visit it someday.
And if you love Toy Story, maybe we can lure you to Massachusetts for the big Toy Story series being planted this fall. :-D

Anonymous said...

So, my question is...did you cry at the movie??? Everyone I know cried, even the guys! I love this movie too. My favorite Toy Story as well:)


Anonymous said...

My brother lived in Mammoth while I was in high school... he took me to Devil's Postpile once, though I thought I remembered us going there on horeseback... Perhaps we did, though it can't be done now; perhaps we merely did both horseback riding and a visit to Devil's Postpile on the same day. Only recently did I learn why folks are no longer allowed to enjoy the hot springs in Mammoth (as we also did when I visited my brother): not environmental concerns, as I'd guessed -- safety concerns. It seems that, being a natural geothermal area, occasionally there's a burst of superheated water -- and folks were getting COOKED! Yikes -- glad there are safer ways to soothe one's tired muscles. Stay safe, Ryan --


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Gee Ryan! You're sure a tightwad. You'll pay $6 for a movie, but reuse to spend $10 a round trip bus ticket. Good thing the people in that town were so generous and friendly...and they had free buses and trolleys. :P

Even paying a bit more for a new trekking pole, you would have gotten your money's worth with the number of miles you still had left to travel and you wouldn't have had to annoy anyone by asking to borrow their pole ever again. :P

I think it's pretty awesome that folks in California can head to the mountains in June to enjoy winter sports.
And I would love to visit the Devil's Postpile. It's a geologic wonder. We have one that I know of here in New Mexico because of all our volcanoes. I think it's fascinating how lava can be formed into hexagonal columns like that. Very cool!

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers