Day 116 – Wet and Wild (Sept 12, Mile 1095-1108)

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.

Fat Trail

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.

That’s How We do Breakfast in AMERICA!!!

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.

Looking Back South around 10

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.

Same area a little after 11

This was not looking promising.   I could already hear some thunder in the distance.    Sure enough, at 1:30 it began to rain. 

Last Dry Moment for the Day

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.  

Day 115 – My Luck Runs Out (Sept 11, Mile 1073 – 1095 )

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.

Echo Lake in the Distance

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.

Trash Panda!

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.

Something Bad is About to Happen

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

Which would you Pick in a Thunderstorm?

 

The Spacious Interior

Day 113 – Cowtopia (Sept 9, Mile 1029 – 1049)

Cows. Cows running around everywhere. Each with a bell on their neck, clanging away.

Entrance to Cowtopia

 

Most of the time I could not see them.   But they are out there. On the one occasion I caught some in the meadow

I ran into a few cowboys with their dogs. They were heading out to round up some of their herds and get them closer to the loading chutes. I was asking about the dogs. They said they use the horses to set the general direction for the herd and the dogs work the perimeter to keep them all bunched up. I wonder how they train them to do this.

I got through the last fence and entered an area of old lava flows. Made for some interesting change of scenery. This stuff is pretty old so the trail was not bad to walk on. Most of the loose stuff had been weathered down.

 

 

There were a bunch of mixed lava / rock balls that had rolled down the hills over time. They make interesting set pieces.

Lava Balls!!

Somewhere along the trail I ran into some old friends. A Swiss couple that I first met South of Big Bear. They had earned the trail names of Gilligan and Mongoose. I recalled that they had done some mountaineering in the Swiss Alps and were carrying some pretty sophisticated looking equipment for snow and ice climbing. Well, it turns out that they did a bit of the Sierras in early June and determined that it was too sketchy. They bounced up to Washington and southbounded from there. It was good to see they didn’t mindlessly push through.

I found a nice spot near a stream and solo camped for the night. I decided to take it easy for a while, going to try to keep to 20 mile days.

Day 112 – Alone (Sept 8, Mile 1017 – 1029)

A couple of hikers turned up last night to join us in the bunk room. One guy is a young math teacher from NYC named Taco Cat. I asked him about his name, he said I should think about it first then ask him. I filed that one away and thought about it taking a shower the night before. It spells the same name in reverse. Typical math geek stuff. He is hiking southbound.

The other character is a Hispanic kid named Kickback from San Bernardino. Oh boy, this kid is a riot. He decided to northbound somewhat on a whim in June. He didn’t bother researching much or agonizing over his gear choices. He just got a big pack and stuffed crap in it. The funniest thing he is carrying is one of those 7 pound mesh chairs you might take to a cookout or a parade. He said REI wanted $10 for a lightweight camp chair, so he just went to Walmart and bought this thing for 15 bucks. He has been humping the monster since Campo.

Kickback is meandering up the trail taking his time. When he was near Mojave, he called his buddies and went to Six Flags to ride roller coasters. Later he came out of the Sierras for a resupply and spent 5 or 6 days at a hostel doing odd jobs and smoking an ounce of pot some guy gave him. He is starting to get semi-serious about mileage and is planning to reduce weight soon. No way he is going to get out of California this year, imo, but I think he will eventually turn into a hardcore hiker some day. He just has a great attitude.

We all had breakfast together. Afterward I organized my food, bought some extra, and setup for the last segment. It will be a 140 mile carry to finish. Most folks resupply in South Tahoe, but I’m going all the way to through. I need all 7 hiking days to finish this by September 15. Fortunately I can dump this bear canister / boat anchor. I’m going a bit light on food, I figure hunger will be a good motivator.

Starvation Will Inspire Me to Great Deeds

Soho ankle is bothering him again. He says he’ll get his resupply in the afternoon and, if he feels up to it, will leave later and catch up. I know his heart is not in it. He is done. I will finish this hike as I started it.  Alone.  It feels somehow appropriate.

I packed up and headed out to the highway. It took 30 minutes to get a hitch. Nice guy heading up for some day hiking. When I got dropped off, a couple of older guys who are doing a few days hiking came over to ask for help finding the trail. I recognized their car, it passed me earlier when I needed a hitch. Thought about rubbing that one in their face. I got them on the trail, then accelerated away. It was about 11 in the morning.

Stay Mellow, My Friend

 

The trail is mellowing out as I head into the Tahoe area. The amount of vertical is the same, 3 to 5k feet over ~20 miles, but the grade is generally easier. Good place to make miles.

The Flower Gardens Are Still Out

The weather continues its usual rhythm. Blue skies in the morning, clouds roll in early afternoon. Then some thunder and a shower or two. The worrying thing is that the cycle seems to be starting earlier each day. I’m hearing from other southbounders stories of being caught in nasty weather. It all depends on which pass or valley they are in. Some get pummeled others get a few drops. I hope I get lucky.

Ran into the Czech Bam Bam who I last saw in Beldon 45 days ago. He made it up to Washington, then flipped back to do the Sierras. Got a picture this time. Gave him Soho’s number since I’m pretty sure Soho will be hanging around Mammoth over the next week.

The Czech Bam Bam

There is a stretch of cow pasture I need to travel through starting at mile 1033. I stopped a couple miles before that to camp.

Time For Dinner

Oddly, a couple of southies showed up about the same time and we camped together. Leafy and Bull frog. We were swapping stories well into the night. These guys had a good one about 4 days ago when they first met.

They ran into each other on an exposed ridge in a thunderstorm. Lighting was hitting all around them so they jumped off the trail and scampered down a ridge line. They spent the next couple hours huddled under a tarp next to a tree until the storm passed. Guess they did some bonding.

Bull frog has been hiking with his buddy Old Bum who is somewhere behind them tonight. He figures I’ll run into him tomorrow.

Did about 13 miles today. It is a solid start.