Day 117: Farewell, California!

August 9th
Today’s mileage: 23
Total mileage: 1721

Trail Angel and former thru-hiker Legend was up again at an early hour, making pancakes and coffee for hikers. I enjoyed a cup of coffee but skipped breakfast. I knew this section was notorious for heat and I really wanted to get today’s climb out of the way as fast as possible.

I knew we were incredibly lucky to have this cool morning fog enveloping the ridge.

Unfortunately, I had severe chafing again. I took time to step into the bushes and use water to clean salt/sweat off of skin, hoping it would help but I don’t think that it did.

I also did a very poor job managing my water throughout the day. I skipped one spring relatively early on, because I saw there was another one in 5 miles. But when I reached the next one, I was quite surprised to see that it was 3/4 of a mile off-trail (so 1.5 mile round trip). I decided I would push on another 5 to the next one, but that was kind of a mistake.

I saw hikers go by with extra liters of water and very nearly asked for some, but I didn’t as it just felt so wrong to when they hauled it there. In the end, I reached the water source, drank deeply, and ate a lunch of salami and string cheese in a tortilla shell. Several other hikers stopped, including The Captain, Shitlips, and my German friend Flower.

Flower and I hiked the next several hours together. This is one of the final views of California from the trail.

It was nice to have company to talk to. She appreciated speaking to someone in her native tongue (hah!). I was especially appreciative that she cut a piece of Glide off from her anti-chafe stick for me to use. It very likely helped, although the damage was kinda already done, so to speak.

The final mile of CA was a PIA. It just couldn’t lay down and die. It had to throw one final 1,000-ft climb at us. Grrrrrr.

The CA/OR border, looking south.

Not down to my fighting weight of the year before, but at least CA is finally done. Hard to believe just how much of the trail is in CA.

That evening, I caught up to Flower and we shared an area with several others, including Pounders. We enjoyed a celebratory Banquet.

We met an older hiker tonight, named Pounders, who had stomach surgery the year before and had since lost something like 150 pounds in weight. o.O He looked great. Unfortunately, he said it came with some drawbacks, such as giving up fatty foods, alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee, and some other physiological problems. We wrestled with that terrible dilemma of whether or not we would give up bacon and beer.

Day 116: Ascent from Seiad Valley

August 8th
Today’s mileage: 15 (+4)
Total mileage: 1698

I started hiking again at the same gate where Clint & I had hitched into town last season. (Here is that blog entry if interested.) It was about a 4 mile road walk to reach the little town of Seiad Valley, which consisted of one single long building that housed a cafe, a minimart grocery and a post office. Adjacent was an RV park that hosted hikers. And that was essentially the entire town. They claim to be the 51st state, the State of Jefferson, and they have a simple logo splashed everywhere. There were a dozen hikers loitering in front of the store.

I ran into Afroman again, whom I met on trail during July 4th, and again after Truckee.

In the trading post, I found journal entries from my friends during last season. 🙂 Fun to see familiar names again.

Near the bottom, you can see my own entry from the year before.

From having read the blog entries of previous years, I knew that this ascent was one of the hottest and driest of the trail. Many hikers would stall until 6 PM and then begin to hike. It was around 10 AM at this point, and the temperatures were reasonable in the 80s, so I decided just to go for it. I carried 3L of water, a 32 oz Gatorade and a 24 oz beer. The climb was surprisingly easy. I think this ascent must simply be a different beast when the valley has stifling heat. I was surprised at how fast I gained in elevation, and that no one passed me. I thought surely all of the young and fit hikers loitering in front of the store would have been on my heels, but perhaps they needed some down time.

Some jackass left an empty fuel tank and a note asking for a southbound hiker to please return it to town.

24 oz of Coors Banquet. Not the wisest decision, but I felt the CA/OR border had to be properly celebrated.

The Half-mile app said there was a spring and a couple of tent spots ahead. I was a little apprehensive that I’d arrive and not find any space, but there was plenty. The spring was a hundred meters off trail, but it was cold and delicious.

The trail happens to intersect with a service road here, which is an alternate route that a lot of hikers take. (My understanding is that it offers some shade and has several waterfalls along the way.) Trail Angel Legend had been shuttling a lot of hikers up throughout the day in his pickup truck, and he arrived again at 9 PM with a half dozen hikers.

I enjoyed Mac and cheese for dinner, with new friends Boy Scout and Flowera girl from Templin, Germany.

Day 115: Sierra City Redux

July 8th
Total mileage: 1683
Today’s mileage: 16 (+1.5)

It is amazing on days that you’re going to reach town, how you can just absolutely crush the miles. I had a challenging deadline, as my dad had offered to pick me up in the small town of Sierra City at 1 PM. One slight problem with this particular town, which is exceptionally small, is that there is no cell phone coverage. (When there is a medical or fire emergency, personnel are called to a rally point with a town-wide klaxon in the middle of the night.) So I was hopeful that we didn’t run into any hitches meeting up.

Someone left a pair of shoes here, dumb.

Maybe the first State of Jefferson signs of the trail.

Notice that the store has absolutely run out of storage space on resupply boxes. They are actually used to form lanes around the store.
Back in Portland after completing this section. My footprints are now connected from Mexico to Seiad Valley! California is within reach.

Day 113: Truckee and the Peter Grubb Hut

July 6th
Total mileage: 1644
Today’s mileage: 17

Amoebe leading the way toward Truckee. We encountered a Korean film crew documenting the trail this morning.

Amoebe and I reached where the trail crosses the road to Truckee, and soon after we got a ride in a pickup truck by an elderly man into town. He was widowed, and shared a story about being visited by his wife’s ghost. I especially felt for him, as she had passed now years ago. He dropped us off at Taco Bell and offered to treat us, but we respectfully declined and tried to treat him in appreciation for the ride. He said Taco Bell didn’t sit well with him and we parted ways. We definitely brought an unpleasant odor to the restaurant, hehe, but we charged phones and drank soda for an hour, trying to let the height of the day’s heat pass us.

Amoebe proudly displaying sour cream on his face. And not caring one fig.

Amoebe was getting off-trail for a few days to spend time with a friend, so I continued on my way.

Just on the edge of darkness, I found the Peter Grubb hut. One of the only shelters on the PCT, intended for hikers. The mosquitoes outside were fierce and there were probably two dozen people staying within, so the door was constantly being opened. It was a restless night of sleep. As much as I enjoy social gatherings–and I do, it wasn’t the place for me. I’d have been happier in my own tent a bit further down trail.

Day 112: Mr. Google and Squaw Valley

July 5th
Total mileage: 1627
Today’s mileage: 19

I had carried this Coors from Echo Lake to celebrate the 4th of July, but yesterday’s big day (24 miles with 2 passes) left me too tired to do anything but pitch my tent and fall asleep. So…in a long line of wise decisions, I decided it was best to observe our nation’s independence by drinking 1.5 lbs of Coors on the morning of the 5th, just before hiking.

Outside of my tent, I had another conversation with Amoebe, a male hiker who had pitched about 100 meters away from me the night before. He had been intent on staying up to watch the distant fireworks above Tahoe. As I was going to sleep, my last memory was looking out from the tent and seeing his headlamp swing repeatedly into the adjacent woods. When I asked him how the fireworks were, he said in essence that it was worthless. The fireworks were like a square-foot of space in the sky from his distance and with no sound. Furthermore, he was 90% certain he’d seen a bear in the bushes near his tent and so it unnerved him. The eyes in the bushes did not run away. I’m glad I wasn’t aware of the creature. And Amoebe’s vigilance also likely protected my pack, which I’d placed halfway between our tents, hehe.

While I was packing my gear up, a woman came over from the parking lot and said, “You might wanna come over and see this. I guarantee it’s something you’ve never seen before.” She was right.

Sure enough. It was a Google volunteer, who schleps around 50 lbs of gear for documenting the various trails. Two other hikers were carrying his normal camping gear for him. They hiked about 15 minutes behind him and kept in contact with radios. Remarkable! Unfortunately, they said the Forest Service wouldn’t allow them to document the John Muir Trail (JMT). I could see that being worthwhile for many people unable to ever hike the back-country.

Ran into Amoebe again at the end of the day and he implied he wouldn’t be against the idea of camping near another hiker for the night. He was understandably still rattled from the close mammal experience the night before. We were grateful to be free of mosquitoes this night, despite having a water source within 40 meters. We swapped dinners, as he had grown tired of his Backcountry pasta. I went to sleep dreaming about town food on the morrow.

Day 111: Dicks Pass

July 4th
Total mileage: 1608
Today’s mileage: 24

The descent on the north side of Dicks Pass was kind of a mess, as the trail was buried under snow and you mostly had to look for other hikers’ footprints. Once the ground leveled out a bit, I wandered about a half-mile off course, because there were a series of non-PCT trails that tricked me, trying to lure me back to South Lake Tahoe. Actually, truth be told, I was somewhat hoping there was a way I could have a big mile day and still get a hitch back to town for the night’s festivities. I reached the second pass of the day and there was a truck leaving just as I arrived, so it’s possible I could have gotten that dream hitch, but instead I stayed. I hastily erected my tent and put on both my Ghost Whisperer and my Montbell Mirage. It was remarkable how fast the temperatures plummeted.

Day 110: Northward now from Echo Lake

July 3rd
Total mileage: 1584
Today’s mileage: 9

Two locals kindly housed us in a cabin just outside of South Lake Tahoe. In the morning, Darko & Taters dropped me off again at Echo Lake. My footprints now connected with Mexico from the season before, and I had to walk north to Sierra City to finish this section I’d missed. Echo Lake had a dozen or so hikers loitering about. There were a lot of holiday hikers. I felt strong heading out, despite getting an afternoon start.

Example of the trail being completely submerged. I lost it a couple of times, and had to resort to the compass in the Halfmile app.

That evening, I camped near a group of 7 or so women in their 50s-60s. They were quite concerned about bears, each diligently piling their bear canisters in a grove. I made a point of storing my entire pack a good distance away and it survived the night unmolested. In the morning, in recognition of the 4th of July, they fastened a small American flag on back of my pack.

Day 109: A Final Push to Sonora Pass

July 2nd
Total mileage: 1575
Today’s mileage: 11

We witnessed something rather funny this morning, regarding a couple with heavy packs who appeared to be on their first hike together. (We weren’t entirely convinced the woman wanted to be there.) She sat her pack down right on the edge of a sharp embankment and then managed to knock it over the side. It tumble 30 meters or so down, into the water below. Her male partner went scrambling after it, with his own pack still on. He rescued it and it was early enough in the day that they could dry everything out, so I think it all ended happily. Who knows, it may have ended with them abruptly returning to the car, hehe.

We got a little turned around in this section and were almost a half-mile off course.

The ascent of the north side of Sonora Pass really came as a curve-ball. For some reason, we didn’t realize how much work it was going to require in the snow, and it just kept feeling like one false summit after another.

The summit of Sonora Pass. This completed their missing section from the previous season, so this portrait is aptly titled “The Final Hour of the PCT”.
Sadly, this guy still has some work to do, hehe.

Even on the descent we go up! Both ways, in snow! Back in our day….

Ipod was hosting some wonderful trail magic at Sonora Pass, with hot dogs and Coke.

It took quite awhile, actually, to get a hitch out of Sonora Pass, but eventually a local logger took us east to a busy junction. Soon after, a French hiker who had just quit the trail pulled over and we filled his small sedan with the five of us. He took us to South Lake Tahoe, where we promptly treated ourselves to Round Table Pizza.