DAY 77: (1017.9) TO (1044.1)
Sleepy wake up, made an excellent combo of vanilla breakfast essential and French vanilla latte powder. Plus oatmeal. I actually like the oatmeal packets better with cold water vs. hot, and haven’t yet gotten sick of it. Said bye to Q and the dogs, climbed up and over the cool rock formation we were admiring last night. Hiked mostly on my own for the morning, lots of flowers today. Puff showed up out of nowhere looking rough, he’s been crushing 30 mile days to catch us.
We had planned to camp at the top of the saddle above Noble lake and I was really low energy getting to the top, and not in the greatest of moods. When Puff and I got to the top, there was only one campsite and it had already been taken by another hiker so we went over and down, even though we were losing sun and it was about 8:30, way later than we usually stop for camp. The way down did nothing to decrease my bad mood, we lost the trail and there was thick mud after we got off the snow, shoe got stuck and pulled right off twice, socks are in a bad state.
Thankfully we happened to run into Cy and Lukas and Greg at the campsite they had stopped at but it wasn’t in the best spot and it was hard to find a good place to set up for sleeping. Jade and Sara also showed up as I was making dinner, surprising we all found each other since I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the actual PCT. Had rehydrated veggies and beef for dinner in the dark and at that point I was too tired to set up my tent so just cowboy camped and hoping for no rain. Not my favourite day on trail, knee felt really bad even though we had two neros the last two days...slightly worrying.
DAY 78: CAMPSITE (1044.1) TO HIGHWAY 4/TAHOE NERO (1048.3)
Jades ankle was really bad today so she planned to meet Q at Highway 4 to take a few days off to rest and hopefully heal up. We ran into Q about two miles out and hiked all together to the road where the Trooper was. It wasn’t where I was planning to get off trail but I went with Jade and Q and Puff into Tahoe to see a couple friends from home and give my knee a chance to (hopefully) calm down.
Tahoe is busy and expensive, I prefer Mammoth. Got food and met up with Val and Hendrick who just got into town. We’re staying in nearby Markleeville because Tahoe is ridiculously expensive…the cheapest room we could find was 350 a night at a two star hotel, yikes. Much needed break but it’s odd not to be with Cy and Lukas and Sara, we’ve been together 24/7 since Chicken Spring Lake.
DOUBLE ZERO IN LAKE TAHOE
Zero I in Tahoe
Great zero, Jade wanted to celebrate Q’s birthday with a surprise cake so I helped her get everything organized, we left Q at the coffee shop and picked up a cake, shout out to Chris the cake guy for hooking us up with everything we needed.
Grabbed a six pack and went to go pick up Cy, Lukas, Sara and Greg at the trailhead around 2, it was so fun getting to drive. Forgot how much I missed it. Caught the squad right as they arrived at the trailhead, had beer I brought them and waited for Greg. Vanessa arrived but she’s pushing ahead since she needs to get off trail for a wedding soon, we sent her off with some extra fruit and a beer. Drove back to Tahoe, resupplied and went to an Airbnb Q had rented for the squad: cool little house with a hot tub on the front porch. Had frozen pizza for dinner. The cake place had written “Happy birthday Clinton” but close enough, and it was delicious. Ate about 6 pieces of cake with Jade and then a fuck ton of rainbow ice cream, I’m so sorry body.
Slept in a bedroom upstairs with Cy, Lukas and Sara. Also here are Puff, Jade, Q, Val, Hendrick, Greg and Cody who we haven't seen in a while. Sleeping on the floor but I have a real pillow. Great zero.
Zero II in Tahoe
Chores day, went to goodwill for books-carrying a paperback since weight seems like nothing after getting rid of the bear canister. I also got a new T-shirt since I’m sick of my black button down. Grocery store again for resupply, didn't need much since my last mail drop was insane. Back to trail tomorrow.
DAY 81: ECHO LAKE TRAILHEAD/TAHOE (1092.1) TO MIDDLE VELMA LAKE (1109.9)
Again got up pretty early to check out, did the dishes which was oddly comforting.
Packed up and left around 10:30 for the Echo lake trailhead, I’m skipping about 40 miles from where I got off. Knee is still achey so I’m not sure if I need more time off but after two days I definitely wanted to be back on trail.
At the trailhead, there were a lot of tourists and a small store. The trail took us around the lake all day, and it was very popular, lots of day hikers and locals that have cottages in the area. Reminded me of the cabin back home. Low motivation, hot and rocky and so many people, it was tough to not get caught behind trains of tourists taking group pictures. After a couple hours of this I finally left most of the crowd behind when the trail deviated away from the lake.
Started raining pretty hard as I caught up to squad at Aloha lake, which is really the first time we've been rained on while hiking. Good to know my rain jacket will get at least some use this trip. Into Desolation wilderness. Went up Dicks pass which wasn’t our brightest move as there was lightning and thunder up ahead of us, although the rain didn't last much longer. Long downhill, caught up to Val and Hendrick and Suta!
I’m not sure what got to me but I felt like crying about the smallest things this afternoon-kicking a rock, stumbling over a tree root. Bad moments on trail but never bad day.
DAY 82: MIDDLE VELMA LAKE (1109.9) TO FIVE LAKES CREEK CAMPSITE (1135.9)
Woke up to condensation all over everything. Sunrise looked sick over the lake where we were camped, but I slept through most of it, darn. Dried our stuff in the minimal sunlight but it didn’t help too much, hiked out at 9 behind the squad.
Never found Cody last night, must've hiked ahead of where we had stopped. Mosquitos were awful in the morning, kill count must've been in the hundreds, but it kept me moving fast. Day mostly flat, listened to music, very easy hiking and my knee has felt better than it has in days. Passed a campsite I’d like to visit in the future: Richardson Lake, mile 1118.6, it looks like there is car access. Caught up with squad for lunch beside a creek, dried out our bags and tents since the sun finally came out. Afternoon was full of meadows and it smelled strongly of wild flowers and sap, lovely.
Around 3, I was hiking along a knife ridge with great views on either side, and watched a wall of rain start moving closer and closer. Was trying to move as fast as possible because the last place I wanted to be in a thunderstorm was a high exposed ridge. Didn’t make it to cover in time and got rained and then hailed on. Ran about a quarter mile to get out of it and sheltered under pine trees when I could.
I caught Sara, Cy and Lukas waiting out the rain under some thick trees. After the storm cleared we finished the windy ridge walk and passed through the a closed ski resort. Easy downhill after that through mossy green trees and got out of the wind. Caught up with Cody, Hendrik and Val making camp near Five Lakes Creek. There are other hikers here but we have our own little opening in the trees. Knee feeling alright after a bigger mile day.
DAY 83: FIVE LAKES CK (1135.9) TO DONNER PASS/TRUCKEE (1153.4)
Woke up again to condensation on everything, and it’s still damp and chilly so no way it was drying. Packed up slow and hit the trail at 8. Val and Hendrik already leaving when we got up. Slow starting but the cool weather was nice for walking. Passed a bunch of other PCT hikers I've never met before, it’s strange to think we’ve probably been hiking close for months but rare to actually meet new people.
A long uphill, had an easy time of it, my knee is feeling so much better today, I don’t know what’s causing it to act up (or not). Got a little lost on the way down on some steep faces, but found Lukas and Sara taking a break in a patch of sun. Took everything out of our bags to dry and waited for Cy. Sara's getting off trail for a day tomorrow to stay in Truckee with a family friend, I’m invited as well. The boys are pushing ahead. Jade’s still in town with Q and the dogs to let her leg rest up.
Back downhill after our break and then up another steep, steep climb up to the really excellently named Tinker’s Knob. High energy for the uphill and then waited for a long time at the top while squad went down, it was fun watching them get smaller and smaller as they ridge walked down below, I could still see them from a mile away.
Ran a bit on the way down from Tinker’s Knob but the loose rock made footing a little tricky and put a stop to the running real quick. Beautiful rock formations alongside the trail. Got a trail magic PBR from a day hiker-Dave from Reno- which was very enjoyable in the afternoon heat. Got to Donner pass of the infamous cannabalism history, took advantage of the phone service to read the Wikipedia page.
Drove back trail to camp and navigated a treacherous rocky descent in flip flops to sleep on shitty rocky campsite next to an old train tunnel that was giving off serious homeless vibes. The Austrians are also here with Suta, so we’ve got a big pack of seven hikers and three dogs.
DAY 84 & 85: ZERO IN TRUCKEE/SIERRA CITY
Was up late nerding out on Wikipedia reading about the railway tunnels we’re sleeping next to-between them and the Donner party this area is just overflowing in American history.
Decided to go with Sara, Jade, Val and Q to stay with Sara's family friends in Truckee while the boys hiked on. Got breakfast potatoes at a local eatery, really cool spot. Cabins here have lots of character and are a mix between mountain chalet and rustic backwoods cottage. A+, would live here, probably one of my favourite trail towns for atmosphere. Would have great ski options in the winter too. May have to look for jobs in NorCal after trail.
After breakfast picked up some food in town and then on to cabin. Sara’s friends Dan and Ruth have a beautiful place and we have plenty of sleeping space in actual bed. They wanted to take us to the nearby lake for an afternoon of swimming and canoeing, unfortunately when loading truck to go to the lake, Sara stepped on a rusty nail, went right through her shoe into her foot. As usual she was cool as a cucumber while I tried not to feel nauseous while she held the bloody nail next to her foot, which was bleeding everywhere.
Drove into town to urgent care with her and Dan for a tetanus shot. Insurance system here is whack. It didn’t take long and we made a stop after to pick up bandages and swing by the local outfitters (Mountain sports?) for Sara to get new Altras. The store was having an event before a long trail run competition, so got free beer and cookies while shopping-trail magic everywhere!
Considering picking up another water filter, but saved that for another time, I’ll continue to live on the edge without water treatment a little longer. Dan gave us a cool little Donner/Truckee history tour on the way back, may have to move to this town. We had an homemade dinner plus brownies and ice cream. First time on trail eating a proper home cooked meal at a table with music and wine-didn't realize how much I missed it, especially after eating dinner in the dirt for months. Sharing a room with Sara and Val, although I have a bed to myself. Basically passed out right after dinner and going to sleep hard.
Woke up later than usual due to sleeping in an actual bed with actual pillows. Had homemade waffles from Ruth and Dan with coffee and berries and syrup, this stop was definitely worth it, although I can see why it would be dangerous to get off trail for a while, makes me wonder why it is we choose to live in the woods for months at a time away from modern comforts.
Said goodbye to Dan and Ruth, and went to Sierra City and meet up with the guys. The one bar we stopped at didn’t want us to come in, apparently there was a large group of hikers that came through last night that were rude/smelly/didn’t tip. Unfortunate, but shows how important it is for hikers to make a good impression in town.
Finally back to trail tomorrow, a little bit of regret about doing the skipping from Truckee, it was never a priority at the start of trail to walk every mile, but I’m starting to understand the drive to want to not miss any at all. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to come back and give this another shot in the future so I can claim to have hiked the whole PCT.