Take a Trek

Day 6: Professional Homelessness

Garnet Lake to Reds Meadow
Day: 13.3 Miles
Trip: 64.8 Miles

Unconsciousness is a warm and relaxing place, filled with cocktails, French fries, and other high-calorie delicacies. It’s a beautiful savannah, inhabited by gorgeous women in bikinis, who feed me grapes and massage my feet. I desperately want to stay here, but I can’t. I can’t stay here, because the sounds of zippers, ruffling down sleeping bags, and panicking backpackers don’t exist here. It’s five o’clock in the morning, a dark and frigid hour in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Sarah is wrestling with her sleeping bag. Intrigued, I watch her roll through the tent door and flail around our campsite, before disappearing down the trail, chattering about seeing the rest of us later in the morning.

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Ansel Adams Wilderness

We find Sarah and her collapsible backpacker-chair occupying the shoulder of a dusty intersection, near Shadow Lake. Greeting us from her seat, she seems suspiciously relaxed for someone who was barely clinging to her sanity a few hours ago. Sarah has discovered that she can reach Reds Meadow by taking a four-mile side trail, instead of the eleven-mile JMT route. Since her knees have been sore for the past two days, she and Christine will take this shortcut, while Ruby and I continue along the JMT. The four of us will meet at Reds Meadow, later today.

The End of Hiking with Sarah, Christine, and Ruby

The End of Hiking with Sarah, Christine, and Ruby

Approaching Rainbow Falls, I experience an increase in the number of day and weekend hikers, as well as the debris that they often leave behind. It always amazes me that someone can walk for hundreds or thousands of miles through the wilderness without leaving the slightest trace of their existence, while so many others can’t go on a four-hour day-hike without dropping garbage on the ground. I pass a group of three male JMT hikers who are more than willing to share their disregard for this section of the trail with me. “This place is a bunch of crap,” one of the men explains to me. “This shouldn’t even be part of the JMT,” another carries on. “We shouldn’t have to hike this shit,” the last of the three chimes in. I smile and nod. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is overdue for a little rest and relaxation off of the trail. To my amusement, one of the men is Big John, the mild-mannered fellow that I met during my second day of hiking.

When I arrive to Reds Meadow, Sarah, Christine, and Ruby are nowhere to be found. That’s okay though, because I know how to kill some time while I wait for them. I wander into the touristy-looking general store, that awaits all of the JMT and PCT hikers who pass this well known resupply point, and fill my arms with potato chips, Snickers Bars, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I escort my new subjects of interest to a small patch of shade beneath a tall redwood tree. Big John joins me briefly, and I’m pleased to see that he’s no longer sweating, heaving, and on the brink of having a psychological meltdown. He invites me to share a hotel room with himself and his two friends in Mammoth. I thank him for his offer, and explain that I already have plans to stay with the girls that I’ve been hiking with for the past three days. Like an eight-year-old child, who has been set free in a store full of candy, Big John’s eyes grow wide with excitement. I can see the assumptions formulating into words on the edge of his lips, but I intervene before he has a chance to articulate his erotic fantasies. I tell him that Sarah has offered to let our group of friends stay at her parent’s rented condo in Mammoth for the night. To his dissatisfaction, I reiterate that we’re all just friends. Big John mulls this over in his head for a second, before giving me a “yeah right” kind of look. Shaking my head, I laugh, and tell him to look for me on the trail in a couple days.

Sarah and Christine arrive, and we spend the better part of an hour eating, drinking, and discussing how dirty our feet have become. The tourists who come and go from Reds Meadow look at us like we’re zoo animals with human voices. While examining blistered toes and digging through backpacks, like homeless people who have wandered too far from the city, a complete stranger walks by and gives us half of his watermelon. Backpacking is professional homelessness, I suggest. She nods in agreement and moves another spoonful of slushy pink fruit towards her sunburned face

Professional Homelessness

Professional Homelessness