PCT – Day 7: Barker Pass to Five Lakes Trail Jct / Alpine Meadows

July 19, 2014

9.65 miles (plus 4 miles down to Alpine Meadows)

(1126.35 – 1136.00)

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I get out of camp at my normal hour of 7am. I proceed down the trail another half mile to the water stop at the headwaters of Blackwood Creek. I pass through a camp of a couple guys who are doing the Tahoe Rim Trail to get to the creek. On the other side of the bank I can see a few camps of the hikers I met yesterday afternoon. It looked busy around here, I am glad I slept up on the ridge, away from the mosquitoes and enjoying some solitude. I think I have learned a lesson here…Grab a few liters of water at the end of the day and dry camp on a ridge.

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I am moving through the switchbacks as I climb up to Twin Peaks and I spook a few grouse. We spooked a few the other day at Dick’s Pass as well. I am guessing they like these forested high elevations. They are beautiful birds about the size of a small chicken. I have heard they are good eating, but the hunting season is pretty short.

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As the trail passes below Twin Peaks it is going to be a ridge run from here on out. This lady and her dog comes running up the trail from the North, she explains to me that she is training for a race that is going to happen tomorrow, the Tahoe 100 or something like that. A 100 mile endurance race. I question if I would ever be able to trail run…This hiking is checking my endurance as it is.

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The trail opens up as it passes along a knife ridge above Ward Canyon. Great views out towards the lake and ski lifts of Alpine Meadows. It has been a few years since I have skied Alpine, but the runs seem familiar and incredibly steep without the soft cushion of snow.

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After passing around the west side of Ward Peak you get a glimpse down into the main lodge at Alpine. I can see the condo my family is in…a couple more hours I will get some hugs, a cold beer, a shower, some ‘real’ food and a soft bed to sleep in.

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Cell coverage is wafting in and out, I text my wife about her schedule and that I will see her soon. My wife sends me a response that they are heading to the beach soon, they will see me this afternoon. I respond about getting a key for the condo… As I am coming off the ridge down into the Five Lakes area, the cell coverage becomes real spotty. I am not sure my text was sent out and not sure if she responded.

I pause at the Five Lakes trail junction. Charge my phone a bit as I have been losing battery rapidly while having it off airplane mode. Still no response. Frankly, I am a little frustrated. I walk 120 miles to have my family head to the beach for the afternoon just as I reach them. Still no response on a key…Do I head down to Alpine to sit for the next 6 hours?…or do I just say F#^K IT, and keep walking to Donner Summit?

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I chose to head down, worst case scenario is maybe the lodge is open and I can get a few groceries to last me while I wait. I pass plenty of day hikers coming up the trail as I am flying down this trail. Every hundred feet, I have to step aside to let people pass. I am not used to all this traffic…I start questioning myself again that I should have stayed up top and continued on.

The worst part of the day was once I reached the road I had another couple miles to walk back up to the condo. I hate road walking. I thought about hitching it, but the only two cars that passed were heading in the opposite direction.

Just before I get to the condo, I receive a text about the key location. I let myself in, eat some BBQ ribs the family made the night before and drink a nice cold Sierra Nevada. Then there was a shower and clean clothes…I sit on the balcony for a while and relax…My body just wants to keep walking. It was not ready to shut down yet…after 120 miles, it doesn’t want to stop at 2pm. It knows there are another 6 hours of activity available.

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My family arrives in the evening, everyone happy to see me, but not as excited as I was expecting. It was almost like, ‘Oh, hey Dad. We had a fun time at the beach today, we did this and we did that. How was your hike?’

Well, at least they had some daily updates for the past few days of having cell coverage above Tahoe. We had a nice dinner and everyone went to bed.

I asked my wife to drop me off at the Five Lakes Trail tomorrow morning around 5 am and she can pick me up at the I-80 rest area at Donner Summit on their way out of Tahoe tomorrow afternoon.

Good to be surrounded by my wife and kids…but, I have the PCT bug and I want to finish off this section; I am only 20 miles from completing it.

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