The Sierra Nevada Mountains are one of the most well known mountain ranges in America. Some of the first documented accounts of these mountains come from the legend himself, John Muir, circa 1868. (For those of you that don’t know this name, check him out. He is a badass.) I can only imagine how much these mountains have changed since then in the way of access and trail construction. However, I think vast areas of this range have been, and will remain, untouched for years and years to come. These mountains are rugged. They are pure. They are beautiful. Many well known long trails traverse this particular section of the Sierra Nevada’s, most notably the PCT, The John Muir Trail and The High Sierra Trail. I chose this map segment to represent the Beans and Rice because of the versatility. No matter how you spice up the Mexican Beans and Rice, you will never be disappointed with where you end up.
On of my favorite memories of the Sierra Nevada Mountains- Muir Pass
This memory was sponsored by my 2019 thru-hike, the PCT. For various reasons I elected to begin the PCT earlier than most and begin hiking north from the US/ Mexico border in March. This landed me in Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Sierras, in very early May. As a result the last time I really set foot on actual trail for over 700 miles was the last few miles hiking north from Kennedy Meadows. Then, the snow began. This was quite the adventure to say the least. I knew that parts of the trail were basically going to be mountaineering, but I didn’t realize this would be my new reality for the next couple of months.
Roughly 140 miles from when the snow began, and after we had been blown off peaks by whiteout storms, hiked miles down closed roads to access towns and crossed sketchy raging rivers we were nearing Muir Pass. It was just one of those days where if it can go wrong, it did go wrong. I was hiking with my buddy Flo at the time, we had spent over 500 miles together at this stage, so to say we were pretty close is an understatement. We made a good team and were great at balancing each other out. This particular day my mental state was not the best, and the terrain was super physically demanding. Add in the snow, a pack that weighs half your body weight (winter gear and large food resupply) and wam bam you have a recipe for madness.
As we were nearing the end of the day we made the decision to make camp about 12,600ft and finish the ascent to Muir pass in the morning once the snow refroze again. I could not find the motivation to take one step up and slide two feet back in the slushy snow anymore that day. We found a measly patch of trees to make camp near for the night. This was one of the only flat-ish spots going up the mountain. We donned our snowshoes and began to stamp out a semi-flat surface to pitch the tent and the tarp. The mood was not the best. I am tired, soaking wet from the sweat and snow, the wind is steady, we are basically fully exposed on this slope, and the last thing I want to be doing is using the energy to make this slope as flat as I can to sleep on it. I finally come to the conclusion that it is good enough. I take off my snowshoes as I begin to set up my tent (don’t want to damage it/ snowshoes are just awkward). Every fourth to fifth step I take making my way around the footprint perimeter of my tent I am post holing and sinking anywhere from mid shin to mid thigh in snow. At this point my patience is basically gone. I am pissed. Each time a series of expletives leave my mouth and Flo just quietly works on his set up, experiencing the same thing but not losing his mind-at least verbally.
Finally the tent is pitched and I am ready to eat, I know food will help and hopefully make me less grumpy. And this my friends, this is where I totally lost it. We were required to carry bear canisters through this section, and just the way that everything packed for weight distribution, space, ect. My bear can was always shoved sideways into the bottom of my pack. Well, it was stuck. And I mean stuck, stuck. I pushed, I pulled, I jumped on it, I tried to hit it with my ice axe, snow shoes- literally everything and I couldn’t get it. After nearly 10 minute of this- don’t forget, there is a sustained wind, its below 32F, I am wet, I am angry and I am hungry. I gave up I just sat down in the snow and started crying. Every emotion of the trail was coming out right in that very moment and I am pretty sure Flo thought I was absolutely crazy. He was like what is wrong with you? It is just a bear can! To which I answered in a somewhat elevated voice as to why it was everything but the bear can and how insane this trail was and so on and so forth.
He made his way over to me, falling in the snow as he tried to walk and said he would get the can out. I threw him the bag and another struggle ensued. At this point I think he was getting pissed too at not being able to free the can and I am pretty sure we both just gave up, chocking it up the that’s just how this day went and I put myself to bed just ready for that one to be over.
At the time it was not funny, and as I reminisce I still think about how much that day just plain sucked for me. But Flo and I still get a chuckle telling the story of the great bear canister meltdown of 2019. It will live on for many years to come.