I packed and started hiking around 6am this morning. I need to get this hiking business over early today so I can catch a hitch into Truckee at at decent hour. Octane will catch up for our 9am breakfast somewhere around Squaw Valley.
Passing through both Alpine and Squaw ski resorts today. Interesting seeing these slopes bare of snow.
Stopped at the the crest of Squaw’s Granite Chief hill for breakfast. About a 1k foot climb. Octane skis here during the winter. Figure this would be a cool place for him to poke around.
I heated up and ate everything I had left in my food bag this morning. That leaves me with a handful of soggy fritos and a mustard packet. I cut this one a little too close given the crappy weather.
It is a bittersweet end to a bittersweet week. I’m ticking off a lists of “lasts” for the hike. Last climb above 9k. Last 1k climb. Last bag of dehydrated whatever.
All that is left now is a long walk along a ridgeline to Mount Judah, a walk past Donner pass, then highway 80. Octane got a pic of me before we got moving again.
Octane and I stopped at Donner ski area for a burger and a couple beers. After that we crossed through a drainage tunnel under I-80 and parted ways. He is going to do another 12 days to Chester.
As for me, this connects all the pieces. An unbroken footpath on the PCT from the Mexican border to Southern Oregon. 1,771 PCT miles of hiking.
Last night another through hiker rolled in and camped next to us. In the morning I met him. It is the German-American guy I’d last seen at Tuolumne. He’s going my way so we started the morning together.
Octane likes to take a late breakfast which worked out well for me too. We hiked from 6:30-9:00, then pulled over. Gave me time to dry all my crap out (again).
We stayed together throughout the day exchanging the leads. His pace is similar to mine and we were both pressing each other a bit to scratch out more miles.
Climbing from 7,700 into the Granite Chief Wilderness, the clouds started rolling in again for our afternoon dousing. I’m so sick of this.
We sat down under a tree when the hail first started. It was marble sized for a few minutes, then got smaller, and finally transitioned to rain. Octane is using a cheap umbrella that he bought a few days ago. Looks like a lighting rod to me.
At the first break in the storm we both packed and got rolling. Octane took another break an hour later, but I pressed on through the storm. I’m not getting stuck on another pass like yesterday.
The rain broke up on the way down and I snapped a couple photos.
I descended into the a large campsite near the Five Lakes trail junction. Rain had stopped and the campsite stayed dry for the rest of the day. Octane showed up a bit later.
I’m running out of food, but Octane, either through pity or the selfish desire to lighten his load, gave me one of his dinners. Good thing too, I’m down to half a bag of fritos and some chicken and rice.
Did 28 miles today. Turns out that the threat of starvation does increase motivation.
My tent, ground sheet, and hiking cloths were all soaked. The rest of my stuff is damp. I strapped the soaked stuff outside my pack, wore the rest, and started moving.
Just North of Echo Lake is Desolation Wilderness. I’ve been hearing about this area for a few weeks from Southies. They say it is beautiful, which I don’t get given the name.
The PCT follows the Tahoe Rim Trail for a few days. The good news is it is well maintained. The bad news is that there are many other trails intersecting here and the markers are hard to read. Just a 4×4 post stuck in the ground with signage carved into them vertically. Often these posts are just set in a pile of rocks and are not always oriented properly.
Got some photos of the heart of Desolation. I supposed it is interesting. Lots of solid granite with ponds and small lakes.
This would be an interesting place to explore if there was more time. I stopped for breakfast in the sun and laid out all my wet stuff to dry. Breakfast was a treat today. I’m having a couple of Soho’s beers with freeze dried bacon and eggs. Yum.
I chatted with some folks doing the Tahoe Rim trail. They gave my breakfast choice 4.5 out of 5 stars. After packing up my newly dried stuff, I hiked the PCT for a little while then got off on the wrong trail again. The signs are crap here. Did get some good pictures going the wrong way though.
After correcting and back tracking I took another pic at 11 of the area close to the picture above. Notice how the clouds are building early today.
This was not looking promising. I could already hear some thunder in the distance. Sure enough, at 1:30 it began to rain.
The intensity quickly built up. Soon it was pouring at 8,200 feet which is the base of the climb to Dick’s Pass. This was not going to be a good day.
I started climbing into the storm which kept getting worse. Soon it was a mixture of hail, sleet, and rain. It would cycle between all three. At 8,600 it got particularly bad with the lighting hitting near me. To wait it out for a bit, I sat under a tree in the rain and made lunch on my stove. I was getting soaked sitting there huddled over some boiling water with chicken and noodles.
Looking over the valley, the damn storm just would not move. It was a solid dark cloud hanging there with lighter skies around the edges where the mountain peaks were. This storm was going to sit here all day.
I gave up waiting and started hiking. Need to get over Dick’s pass and hopefully clearer weather so I can find somewhere to camp for the night. My rain jacket was leaking along the seams so pretty soon everything I had on was completely soaked. The wind came up and if I didn’t keep moving I was going to get hypothermia. I was so wet that I couldn’t use my phone for navigation…the touch screen is useless in these conditions.
Slogging up the trail the hail portion of the cycle became more frequent. The trail was a river of water and finally gave up trying to keep my feet somewhat dry. I was hiking in 3 to 5 inches of flowing water all they way to 9,400 feet. Remarkably, cresting the pass and descending the other side led to a clearing of the rain. Made it down to Dick’s lake, quickly setup my tent, and crawled just before the next wave of the storm hit. Took me a couple hours to warm up in my remaining dry cloths and sleeping bag.
This was one of the hardest days yet on the trail. Walking through heavy rain / sleet with a leaking rain jacket in 40 degree weather is a little on the dangerous side. I need to do a better job checking out my equipment next time….especially on a thru-hike where there is no redundancy in equipment.
The mileage for today sucked. Just 13 miles. In dry weather I could have done 25 or more miles on this trail. It is that well maintained.
Today I entered the Mokelumne Wilderness. What is the Mukelumne Wilderness? I’ve no idea. Just another word I can’t pronounce. I define the Mukelumne Wilderness as the place where I don’t have to walk on lava rocks.
The big bonus today was crossing Carson pass early in the morning. There is a trail head parking lot with a staffed information station and, oh yes, pit toilets. My morning constitution did not have to involve digging a cat hole. After I got out of the toilet, a couple of forest people showed up to open the information station. They gave me some snacks and asked about the hike. Love a little trail magic in the morning.
Then it was a walk down the highway and back on the trail.
This was some pretty landscape. Lots of lakes and easy walking. In the afternoon I had a special treat. I ran into Trash Panda! Hadn’t seen her since Mojave. She had skipped the high country as well and was Southing it now to finish up. She said Joe Dirt and some of the others had also skipped bits but were going to finish this year. Good for them. She let me get a picture.
I made it to Highway 50 and a place called Echo Chalet (mile 1092). Soho was there handing out trail magic beers. I hung out with him for a bit. Before I left I grabbed a couple breakfast beers and I noticed he had a big bag of Chili Cheese flavored Fritos. Nabbed that too. Then headed out. The sky was darkening and it looked like a storm might be coming.
Boy did it.
I walked the dam at Echo lake, the the trail follows a rough granite perimeter around the lake. Further I walked, the darker the clouds got. Then the rain hit. I met a couple southies that would later hook up with Soho for a ride into a warm stay at South Tahoe. Meanwhile, I walked through a torrent of rain and thunder.
It was getting late (7:00) and I was not going to make any of the campsites that were on the map. Was having a hard time even using my phone app because the moisture screws up the touch screen. It was time to improvise. I saw that on the North shore of the lake there is a public phone, apparently for the folks who live on the lake use this to call for water taxis during the summer. I figured/hoped there would be some kind of shelter there since I was running out of options so I headed down the side trail.
There is a little wooden shack with a phone in it. I jumped inside, warmed up, made some dinner. I was thinking about sleeping there, but the rain finally stopped for a bit. I setup just outside the door. I left all my wet stuff in the phone shack to dry. Managed to get some to sleep and stay reasonably dry that night. Got lucky on this one.
Here is a pic of my storm shelter the next morning