July 16, 2014
22.54 miles (1069.73 – 1092.27 )
More about feet. Pounding out 20 miles a day with a 30+/- pound pack and an overweight body for 12 hours a day on varying trail conditions certainly takes its toll on those two appendages at the end of your legs. Without them, I would be going 20 miles. Yet, with them I feel every mile. I am not real good about stopping and resting my feet, something I need to be more conscious about. However, one thing that completely amazes me is how much healing occurs during 6 hours of sleep. I go to bed with sore tried feet and wake up with feet that can’t tell me they walked all day the day before. Your feet get filthy out here. The dust of the trail penetrates everything. Your feet are covered in grime which over time acts as a sandpaper as your shoes and socks glide with every step.
This morning I wake up to complete amazement. My feet feel as if nothing is wrong. The metatarsal pain I have been having…gone! The blisters…dried up! (needle lancing a couple times a day sped that process along.) My feet are not tired or sore…I think today is going to be a good day!
The goal for today is to get within a couple miles of Highway 50 at Stevens Pass. I will walk into Echo Lake tomorrow morning to pick up my resupply box. I am concerned that I do not need my resupply…I packed way too much food and not eating as much as I would have expected. When I set up camp at night I have to force myself to make some dinner. I just don’t feel hungry, but once I eat I realize that I am. I’m burning about 6000 calories a day and only eating 2000-2500, I have to tell myself to eat and I force down a snack. So far my favorite trail snack has been the Baby Ruth candy bars; my least favorite are all these clif bars I brought – I am having a real aversion to their taste.
It is another beautiful morning in the Sierra. I left lost lakes around 7 am and started heading up over the Forestdale Divide. An hour later I am at the pass checking out the great views of where I have been and where I am going. To the south I can make out Sonora Peak – a good 50 miles of progress. To my North lies the Elephants Back, Carson Pass and into Desolation Wilderness.
The Forestdale Valley is a nice spot. It lies in the busier part of the Mokelumne Wilderness with the ease of access from Carson Pass. Due to the heavy use it, there are some wilderness restrictions in place. But this is definitely an area I could see myself coming back to explore in more detail. The 4×4 road that connects Blue Lakes to Hwy 88 is a distraction, but no one on the road today.
Around 9am I pass my first person of the day. It seems to have been a while since I have seen anyone even though it’s only been about 18 hours. He was a younger guy heading southbound trying to reconnect with a girl he met on the trail a few weeks ago but had to jump off trail at Sonora Pass for a couple of days. He asked if I had seen or heard of her, but I couldn’t say that I had. We had did have a good conversation about Bend, Oregon. He had lived there for the past couple seasons working at Bachelor and really liked it. All I could say was, yes, it is a nice place…changed a lot since the 80’s when the population was only abut 25k.
Around 10:30, I am over the Elephants Back and heading into Carson Pass. The trail is becoming super busy with day hikers. I know I must be close to Tahoe because I am back into the pretentious Californian attitude. In 4 days I have only seen 20 or so people and each I have stopped and had a brief conversation with. Walking into Carson Pass I see about 50 people in the first 5 minutes. I say good morning to everyone I pass and I would say about 75% of them ignore my salutation. The classic was these two women and walking up the trail and I say good morning…the reponse I get is ‘….well Jeff was going to, but he…’ They didn’t even break the stride of their mouths to acknowledge another human being saying good morning. I say under my breath…’Assholes!…Welcome to Tahoe!’
About a quarter of a mile before Carson Pass, I drop my pack and walk about 100 feet off trail to retrieve and small cache I had placed a couple weeks prior when we were camped along the Consumnes River for our annual Fourth of July camping trip. The items were not cold, but 2 Lagunitas IPA and a can of Coke was a treat to myself for walking 60 miles.
I sat down in front of the Visitor’s center and drank my luke warm beer and the can of caffeinated sugar. I met three young guys from the Northeast who are biking from NYC to San Francisco. A long haul, but progressing pretty well…it’s a big difference cycling 100+ miles a day compared to 20 miles on foot. They have the next 30 or more miles of a downhill coast…I try not to think about it. I also met this older guy who was SOBO hiking Belden to Tehachapi. He let me know the main pack is a few weeks ahead of me where he was passing about 50 hikers a day. The past few days he has only been seeing maybe 20 PCT hikers a day.
At noon, my liquid lunch is over and time to motivate. Clouds are beginning to form overhead…looks like it will be another game of dodge the storm.
Out of Carson Pass you make a short climb to a plateau that leads into Meiss Valley… Tah-Dah! The first view of Tahoe appears. Yeah, I have made it to Tahoe, Now I just have to get to the north side of the lake in 3-4 days…easy peasy.
I am passing many, many hikers, too many to make mention of. Most are day hiking and the others seem to be doing the Tahoe Rim Trail. This one group of moms and their teenage daughters out for a day hike had to heckle me about being a ‘liberal Oregon Duck…that hippie school’ All I could do is chuckle and make some smartass comment back like…’Oh, you’re a Stanford Grad?’…
The day moved on by nicely. The clouds kept forming, but no thunder to be heard. As I passed Showers Lake the trail takes a short descent next to the lake outflow and….my feet slid out from under me and my tailbone/bum took the fall…My first fall…and I am all butt hurt about it. No injury, just my pride…I shake it off and carry on.
Shortly after I meet my first horses on the trail. A couple of older cowboys out camping with their horses, one of these days I am going to have to do that…even though I think I’ll just bring along a llama with all my crap tied on to it.
As I approach the steep descent down to Echo Summit, I had my eye on a camp site around mile 1087. Unfortunately, it was already occupied, but looked like a great spot. A busy spot being next to the trail, but a nice looking camp.
This section of trail is pretty steep. I would not want to be doing this section southbound, the boulders and steep trail would kick my butt. Then again, it always looks different when you’re not actually doing it. Climbs are climbs, just dig in and get it done.
At the bottom of the hill sits the Benwood Meadow…I start looking for decent campsites, but the mosquitos are thick and I don’t feel like fighting with them tonight. I continue on. I reach Hwy 50 and decide to just keep plugging on to Echo Lake, only 2 more miles, I’ll try and find something down there.
I walk into Echo at 9pm, its dark and vacation cabins are everywhere. I make the decision to call a cab out of South Lake and just get a Hotel for the night. 2 hours and $60 later, I am in a budget hotel eating Pizza and drinking a 22oz Lagunitas…Time to wash some feet, charge my electronics and get a good night’s sleep.
1st milestone completed; PCT California Section J finished!
75.4 miles / Elev Gain +13, 745’ / Elev Loss -15,979’