Want to document and share your hike with friends and family?
Written Friday, 11 June 2021
Okay, I'm not making this up.
Bishop, our town stop, is a 55 mile drive from Onion Valley Campground.
I have at least 25 hikers I know personally less than a day behind me, and getting hitches for that many people is going to be insane!
So what is a responsible Otter to do? Of course, we rent a U-haul van and spend the next 3 days shuttliing hikers between Bishop and Onion Valley.
I told you: I'm not making this up.
I was up and packed by first light on Wednesday and waiting at the Trailhead parking lot with my thumb out.
At about 0630 (after about an hour and a half),I got a hitch down to the town of Independence, 14 miles away, at the bottom of this particular Mountain (below Independence and Kearsarge peaks).
Grabbed a coffee and microwave breakfast at the convenience store which is the largest business in town and then moved to the bus stop to wait another 2 hours for a bus to take me another 41 miles to the much bigger town of Bishop CA.
I decided to try thumbing while I waited for the bus, and luckily, after 20 minutes or so, a guy pulled over to pick me up and carry me directly to Bishop, which is a very nice town, except that the California Youth Rodeo Championships are being held here this week, and every business and town service is completely overwhelmed.
My hitch driver deposits me at Jack's, a great dinner, for breakfast. And that's where I realize what a nightmare it's going to be to get big bunches of hikers to and from town.
While eating my two breakfasts (so sue me, I'm hungry), I decide the best solution is to secure a vehicle to shuttle people back and forth. I hop online and make a reservation at Enterprise rental car. Good to go.
The local Enterprise calls me immediately and tells me they have zero vehicles of any type available until next week because the rodeo is in town. You gotta be kidding me.
He is not kidding me.
I have no idea what primitive synaptic firing caused me to think of U-Haul, but I check with them, and yes they do have a van available, and I can pick it up this afternoon! And they're only about 6 blocks away from where I am sitting now. It's better to be lucky than good.
In the intervening time, I am able to get laundry done, secure the last available room in a nice hostel (the same one I made reservations in from the top of Whitney for the next 2 nights), and eat lunch at a Dutch bakery. I have no idea how Bishop CA came to have a Dutch bakery, and I don't care. The pastry is fantastic!
Also, y drop by the Post Office to get my new backpack, which has been chasing me down the Trail since Tehachapi (over 200 miles back). The pack looks great! I'll give you a full report after I try it for a couple of weeks.
I pick up the van at UHaul (easy!) And I see some hikers who have been trying to get a hitch back to Onion Valley for hours. I figure I can make a practice run so I pick up half a dozen hikers and drive them back the 55 miles I had just covered in about an hour and 15 minutes.
Thus began my short career as a shuttle driver and trail angel.
I got back to Bishop, checked in to the hostel, showered, went to pick up pizza and--yes--beer.
I was back in the room by about 1900, when I got an InReach message from Catch. Pure luck that InReach on and charging.
Catch is headed over Kearsarge Pass late, just as I did last night... even later than I did it last night!
Luckily, I'd only had a half a beer. So I gathered my gear, hopped in the van, and headed back to Onion Valley.
Man, the wind in the highway and especially on the road from Independence up to Onion Valley us whipping! My van is getting rocked!
Pulling to a stop in the parking lot at Onion Valley, I don't see Catch immediately. Honk the horn. Flash the lights. No Catch.
Hmmm. If I were Catch, where would I take refuge from the cold and wind? The bathroos, of course!
I run over to the toilet hut, and, sure enough, I can see that one of the doors is locked. I pound on the door and yell, "Hey, Catch, I'm here!"
A man's voice yells back, "What the hell do you want?!"
"Uh, nothing! Nothing at all! My mistake!"
I must have scared that guy half to death...
I do find Catch, right at the foot of the Trail (exactly where I slept last night), freezing in the blustering wind. She is really awesome (and tough)!
We get back to the van, meet the man from the toilet, and offer him a ride to town too. We hop in front. He hops in back, and we're off. Turns out he is a Trail maintainer who has been in the wilderness for 3 days, hand-sawing trees that have blown down across the trail.
We drop him at a side road (where he asked to be dropped, go figure) and head on to Bishop with all due speed, arriving about 2230.
The next day, we made 3 runs to get a tin of hikers into town (and a few back to the Trail.
That night, everyone ends up at the Bishop Bowling Alley, eating, drinking, laughing, and celebrating the birthday of a hiker named Dilly Dally. Everyone has a blast!
I duck into the dining room (yes, this bowling alley has a dining room), order the swordfish special and a beer. While I'm waiting another diner -- a lawyer who is enroute to a nature photography workshop, and we have a great conversation about the state of the world, COVID, and California governance.
Would not have guessed my Thursday night would be like this, but that's the way it goes.
Friday was a true zero day. No driving, just catching up with chores (which didn't include updating the blog...sorry, folks), and eating, and eating, and eating.
Tomorrow, I'll run a couple of loads of hikers back up to Onion Valley and then get back in the Trail myself, late in the day. I have to be honest, I'm not looking forward to the climb back over Kearsarge Pass.
But, until then, I'm safe, dry, and warm.
Miles Hiked This Entry: 0.0 Total Miles Hiked: 789.1
Sea Otter Fact of the Entry: Sea otters often appear to be clapping with their front paws, but they are, in fact, keeping their sensitive paws warm!