170901-5 – Back to the High Sierras

Days:  131 to 135
Date:  Friday, 01 September 2017, to Tuesday, 05 September 2017
Map:  Click here for Google Map

The journey from Canada wasn’t quite the self-indulgent five days off the trail that I had fantasized.  It started with the 2am Greyhound bus from Manning Park, the northern terminus of the PCT.  Three hours of intermittent dozing on a darkened full bus down a winding mountain road in the wee hours with a raging toothache seemed like a dream, or a nightmare.  In Vancouver, I just missed the bus I had booked to Bellingham, the first town across the US border.  The train was full, but I managed to get a standby seat on a later bus.

The fifth dentist I called in Bellingham agreed to see me, due to the persuasive efforts of the office manager, though on the understanding that they were fully booked and would just be giving me an assessment.  With virtually no sleep, dishevelled and smelly, I rolled up at the dentist after picking up my rental car from the airport, and they spent 90 minutes investigating the problem.  Turned out to be an abscess, a potentially serious problem if unresolved, but it was hard to identify exactly which tooth was the culprit because the pain had become quite widespread.   Mike, the dentist, said he was 90% sure about which tooth, and I agreed.  One option was to get it treated by a specialist to see if the tooth could be saved, but at noon on the Friday before a long weekend, it seemed unlikely anything would be done until at least Tuesday, and even then the problem might not be resolved.

Unwilling and unable to lose any time from my schedule for the remainder of my hike, I opted to have the likely tooth extracted, and came back at 2:00pm after grabbing lunch in a nearby mall.  The extraction was not without difficulty, but was painless.  I left around 4:00pm, with loads of instructions, an antibiotics prescription and medical supplies, having paid an exceptionally reasonable price for the whole procedure.  I cannot overstate how grateful I am to Mike and his wonderful staff at Bellingham Family Dentistry for the attention I received.  Mike continued to follow up twice daily over the weekend to make sure I was OK.

I checked into a motel across the road, thoroughly exhausted, with a very swollen face, but not in that much pain.


The next day I had a leisurely drive down coast to Seattle, with Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier visible to the east, and stopped in at the massive REI outdoor sports store in Seattle to have a look at their Labor Day Sale.  I didn’t realise there were so many things I needed, but managed to restrict myself to small items for the rest of my hike.  My leisurely drive was made even slower by long weekend traffic jams and I stopped for the night just south of Portland.


The drive across Oregon was disappointing because of a very heavy smoke haze.  You couldn’t see more than a mile and none of the mountains I hoped to revisit visually could be seen.  Cars were covered in a fine layer of ash and it all seemed a little apocalyptic. The haze continued into northern California, though slightly less dense, and I stopped for the night in Susanville, near my hike restart point of Chester, having driven about 500 miles in smoke haze.


My route on Monday took me through Reno and I took the opportunity to see Dunkirk, which I enjoyed, on a big screen as a break from the drive.  The last few hours were down the scenic Hwy 395 to Mammoth Lakes with no smoke haze, and I reached my motel there at 5:00pm.


The morning, and previous evening, were spent organising food and other supplies for the next 17 days.  The food needed to be packed into daily rations and some of it shipped to places where I will pick it up.  I also collected my bounce box, new boots, and bear barrel from the Post Office.  Later, I squeezed in a haircut, before catching the bus at 5:15pm for the two hour journey to Independence where I am staying tonight, and from where I will hitchhike to the Kearsarge Pass trailhead tomorrow morning.  My pack feels very heavy, with six days of food and the bear barrel, so I’m expecting tomorrow’s climb up to the Pass will not be pretty.  But I’m keen to resume hiking and finish my journey. 

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