Zero – Lone Pine
Thru-hikers have come down from the mountains to Lone Pine like ants come into your kitchen during the rain. They are everywhere, and seem to wander aimlessly. When these hiker ants meet they rub virtual antennas, exchanging what little information they have about the trail. We hear many stories from those who turned back. We also hear tales of a few who made it through. Ryman, who is a couple of days ahead, texts that he made it, but was miserable. He did not sleep the last two nights, freezing in the snow. Over Forester Pass was a complete whiteout. He has no idea how he would have made it without his cell phone GPS. He came out at Kearsarge and is not sure he wants to go back in.
Some hikers are planning to wait out the storms before going back. The forecast is not good. Many are worried about gobbling up their budget in hotel and restaurant expenses while waiting. Even with financial means, waiting around is torture. Hikers want to hike.
Others are planning to skip forward and come back for the Sierra later. A few, discouraged, are getting off the trail for good.
We decide to do a flip-flop. A flip-flop is when you hike the entire trail in one season, but not in the normal order. We will skip forward and hike back this section going south. Our goal is to enjoy the Sierras after some melt, rather than just survive them now. The question is how far north to jump so the passes are passable coming south. Our first thought is Reno/Truckee. After doing the math, we realize we would probably hit the northern snow passes too soon. Chester is near the mid way point of the PCT, which creates a nice sense of symmetry. We hiked the first quarter of the trail northbound. We will flip-flop the next quarter southbound. When we finish, we will flip back to complete the final half northbound again. This allows us to keep moving and still finish our trip when we cross the Canadian border. Now we just have to figure out how to make it happen.
A bus runs up highway 395 to Reno, but is $89 for each of us and does not run on Wednesday. We check car rentals. Only Enterprise will give us a one-way drop. We are told we can go from the Enterprise in Bishop to the Enterprise in Susanville for under $200. Split 5 ways, this seems like a deal. The only catch is that the Impala has an engine light on, which they are pretty sure is just the result of a light not being reset after an oil change. Perfect for hiker trash. I book the reservation. Tomorrow morning we will take a local bus from Lone Pine to Bishop, then meet up with Ben from Enterprise.
Our flip-flop planned, we relax. We go out for breakfast, visit the Lone Pine Movie Museum and find hikers to fill up the car. Our flip-flop party will be Klutz, Mountain Goat, BLT, Dish Cloth, and Rick.