Express Yourself: Dispatch – Starting at mile 700

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Robert “Pitcher” Nickelson is back on the trail. (Courtesy photo)

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By Robert “Pitcher” Nickelson
Special to the Express

I hike alone, yeah, with nobody else. Cause when I hike alone, I like to be myself.

Apologies to George Thorogood.

I’m continuing my PCT hike 100 miles north of where I left off, starting at Kennedy Meadows South – mile 700. The goal is mile 1,152 – Donner Summit. That was my goal last year too. Trying to walk home to my cabin and getting my free 40 ouncer for crossing old highway 40. We shall see. It’s my main driving force.

On Sunday, July 18, my daughters Keeley and Molly dropped me off at Kennedy Meadows and we said goodbye. I was a little apprehensive knowing that hiker traffic would be low and would be much different than last year, when I started at mile one during the busy season. The apprehension only grew about a mile into my hike when reality set in. Where is the next water source? The data I had was a week old and I was still in a somewhat arid area around
6,000 feet in elevation. It turned out there were still water sources and I learned (again) that some puddles taste better than others.

I hiked heading northbound only seeing one other hiker (heading southbound) in four days. It was a beautiful landscape and a great lonely hike. I loved it. I would wake up in the morning and think, maybe I’m going to see a human today. It kept me motivated. At camp I would speak to my chipmunk friends and by the third night I think we were having conversations.

I soon began seeing more hikers as I approached the Whitney area. I camped with others and interacted with many hikers and backpackers, all going somewhere and for different reasons. Water was plentiful, and the views magnificent as I headed north.

It was a tough hike going up over peaks, down and back up again, many over 11,000 feet. The elevation did slow me down but I would just breathe faster. Luckily, I have previously summited Mount Whitney and did not have to add the highest peak in California (14,505 feet).

The last two days before my planned beer-o day in Independence, Calif., I met my new hiking partner Ron, from Michigan. He was headed down a steep trail section while I was headed up.

We were of similar age and spoke for a while. I asked him where he was headed? Forester Pass – where I’m going to, too. After taking a minute to figure out who was going the wrong way, Ron says, “Oh, I have to climb up that cliff I just came down.” I said no big, let’s head up together. I made a mental note to always double check the GPS when with Wrong Way Ron.

We headed north over Forester Pass (13,200 feet) and Kearsarge Pass (11,500 feet) and a planned beer-o (zero) day in Independence, Calif.. After a day of real food and beer it’s a tough uphill hike back over Kearsarge Pass and back on the trail.

Ninety miles and six to seven days lay between me and my next resupply at Vermillion Valley Resort PCT mile 879. They say they have the best barbecue in the middle of nowhere.

I am a quarter way into my other goal, completing the “Sierra Slam” – catching all four species of trout in the Sierras: Golden, Rainbow, German and Brookie. I nailed a Golden. Three more to go.

The Trail looks good.

I feel good.

I like my chances.

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