Backpacking Mammoth Day 3: Homeless Simulator

After my first night in the woods, I awoke to a frosty landscape now acutely aware of how I was basically living in a homeless simulator for the remainder of this trip. Getting out of bed was something I wanted to put off as long as possible, just to allow some warmth to come across the area. But I needed to go get water and I figured I would get some beautiful morning photos so it was time to get up even before the sun crested over the mountains to the East (behind my tent).

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Breakfast took a long time to get going due to my fuel canister being so cold that it pushed butane out slower than usual. It took about 20 minutes to boil water and I did this twice between making my morning tea and heating up food. Eventually though I had eaten enough food, packed my lunch for the day, and was ready to go for my day hike. I didnt have my fancy all-trails app planned route since I had no internet and hadnt planned out my route before the trip. So this was a route designed entirely with my paper map, what a novelty! The app still showed my GPS location and the trails though so I wasnt totally off the grid there. Just no real time elevation maps and such so I really just was guessing on the elevation changes based on the map gradients.

It was then a steep climb down to the valley below where I met up with the real trail for the day, the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail runs from Canada to Mexico and is a well known route so is quite frequently traveled. This was the only time I saw other people that day, every person I passed was obviously through hiking some greater distance than I was for sure! It made me feel out of place with my day pack but that definitely had me thinking I made the right choice for the day to go exploring here. From the trail junction, it was about another 2.5 miles to get to Purple Lake, mostly easy hiking with a lot of level ground and some downhill. Of course more beautiful views along the way!

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Purple Lake was a great place to spend some time just relaxing in the sun and eating some salami on bread, a tuna packet, and a cliff bar. I had contemplated refilling my water here since there was a nice stream as well but it ended up not being necessary since I had only gone through 1L so far and still had 2L remaining for the trip back, with other spots to stop for water if needed. I wished I could have spent more time here at the lake but I wanted to make it back to camp in time to relax a while before dinner and eventually fighting the cold again.

I had considered making the hike all the way to Ram Lake (another 2.5 miles or so each way) but it was also an additional 2000 feet of elevation change so it was too ambitious of a day hike for me right then. Sure I had enough daylight to accomplish it but I still had to make it back to the car the next day with full gear so expending that much energy seemed like a poor choice to me. Another time though!
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Purple Lake in it’s glory!

After lunch, I headed back on the trail hoping to make it back to camp by about 1500 which was plenty attainable over the next 3 hours. Again I was treated to beautiful views and enjoyed every step of that hike.

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I made it to my camp at about 1520 and realized at that point how tired I was. Surely the altitude, the hike the day prior, the long hike today, and the general lack of sleep certainly was getting to me. I just laid down in my tent and enjoyed the warm sun for a couple of hours, watching a show on my phone and just resting. Around 1730 I started dinner, making the same meal as the night prior.

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Again I tucked into bed early, around 1930 just to avoid the cold. I tooled around on my phone for another 2 hours just like the night before just because it was way too early to sleep. This night I definitely slept better in general, I guess getting used to the hard ground and the cold. It was nice knowing that I was heading home the next day but also sad to know I was leaving such a beautiful place. Thankfully my motivation for real food and not freezing anymore was certainly stronger though so it wasnt hard to get going the next day.

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Join me in the next installment for the final day where I will hopefully rip from some video from dash cam as well for the drives there and back. Lots of scenery on that adventure that I just didnt have time to stop and enjoy non-moving.

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