JMT, Day 19: Happy Zero Day!

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Mammoth Lakes, CA: 0 miles

We are taking our first zero day, a day off of the trail where we do no hiking. After 19 days and 200 miles, our poor feet and backs deserve a rest, and we have some business to take care of in the nearby town of Mammoth. My air mattress hasn’t been holding air for the past four nights, and I wake up in the middle of the night and find myself lying on the hard ground—no fun! So we’ll head into town to find a gear shop where we can purchase a new one and then mail the old one home to return to REI when we get back to Chicago.

We wake up at 6 and have a leisurely start to the day, eating breakfast and chatting with other hikers in the backpacker’s camp before they set off for the rest of their hikes.

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Not sure why Matt looks so tired since I am the one with the leaky mattress!

There are some pretty flowers around the campsite, and I take advantage of the lack of wind this morning to snap a few photos of them.

We head over to Devil’s Postpile, a national monument where you can see a large exposed formation of columnar basalt. It’s just a short walk from Red’s Meadow, and we bring all of our stuff that we will need for the day with us. There are a few trails leading to different vantage points of the rock formations. We take them all but don’t want to exert ourselves too much since this is supposed to be a zero day. It’s a short walk with pretty views from there to the shuttle stop.

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From there we catch a $7 shuttle down to the Mammoth Adventure Center where hundreds of people are mountain biking on the city’s single track course.

There’s another bus to Mammoth Village and then finally a third trolley that takes us to the center of town where we get most of our errands done. New mattress: check! Fresh food for lunch: check! Trip to the grocery store to get some guacamole: check! Free internet/computer usage at the public library: check! Stop at the post office to mail back my leaky mattress: check!

By 3 pm after hoofing it around town (aka hiking on pavement) for a few hours, we are done with our errands and head to Mammoth Brewing Company to celebrate our zero day. We sample some of the delicious local brews and order some food that doesn’t involve boiling and rehydrating. We have a salad of fresh greens, roasted tomatoes, carrots and a huge slice of Humboldt Fog cheese that may just be the most divine thing we have ever eaten. We are in heaven and have to resist licking the plate once we have devoured all the food.

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Sad but sated, we leave Mammoth behind to catch the last bus back to the Adventure Center at 5:30 and then finally the shuttle back to Red’s Meadow. This is the last bus of the day, and we are the only two passengers on board. We chat with the friendly bus driver all the way back and get the lowdown on what it’s like to drive a big bus through these mountain roads. She says it’s a pretty good gig and that driving a huge bus full of people along winding mountain roads is not nearly as scary as it looks. We are just going to have to trust her on that one!

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I run into the general store at Red’s to get a couple of beers and some chips and salsa to go with the guacamole and fresh grapes that we picked up in town while Matt watches the bags outside. And guess who I run into? Team Alabama! They have caught up with us after spending some time at Vermilion Valley Resort celebrating Greg’s 21st birthday. It’s great to see them again, and we spend the rest of the evening at a picnic table in the backpacker’s area having a little party with all our tasty treats while exchanging fun stories of all that has happened during our time on the trail. Some other hikers join us, and it’s after 10:30 when we all finally go to bed.

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Many hikers, especially those on the long-form PCT, find it difficult to get back on the trail after taking a zero day, and it’s easy to see why. But with less than 60 miles to go, we are determined to see things through to the end. A little taste of civilization is enough to satisfy us for now. It’s on toward Yosemite and the conclusion of this amazing journey. By 5:30 am, we will be up and ready to hit the trail again. Here’s hoping that my new mattress will hold air tonight!

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