PCT – Day 13: Chimney Rock to Bucks Lake

August 2, 2015

23 Miles

(1236.94-1260.25)

DSC04483The rain didn’t last long last night, the distant lightening put on a great show and everything (but me) had a nice freshness to it this morning. There is something about the smell of the forest after a rain…it always brings back childhood memories of how much I enjoyed the smell of the sagebrush after a thunderstorm.

IMG_4956The new shoes are not working out as well as I’d hoped. I developed a few blisters after yesterday’s hike and spent a little extra time this morning draining and taping them. The major spots of soreness are primarily my pinkie toes and outer heals. Not a good outlook for 6 more days of 20 plus miles per.

As I am finishing up breakfast a middle aged guy comes SOBO. He’s a dentist out of Seattle trying to get through the High Sierra this year. He hiked Washington and Oregon last year. Made me think how nice it would be to have a business that could run itself while I spend the summer hiking…

A little late getting out this morning at close to 8am. Looking forward to reaching the Middle Fork of the Feather for a midday swim. My original goal was to get there by the end of the day to set up a river camp…but, I need the miles to get me into Burney on time. That is one downside to taking a week off work rather than a full summer, I always feel the need to push on to reach my goal. Whereas, if I had a more relaxed schedule I could do some short days now and then.

There is plenty of bear sign around, but yet to encounter one. A fair amount of torn up logs and trail signs scatter the trail side displaying their efforts for an ant snack.

The morning was pretty much all downhill as I was dropping into the Feather River canyon. The landscape was mostly a forested with views across the side draws or the south face of the canyon. Some scars on the earth can be seen here and there which I assume were created by the destructive hydraulic mining during the gold rush. Ever since Sierra City, rusty remnants of old mine equipment pop up now and then documenting a bygone era.

A downed tree that had been cleared by a trail crew provide a good 15 minutes of entertainment this morning. A large pile of sawdust stood in its perfect cone of repose beneath the end cut on the log. Every second a black carpenter ant would make his round to the opening drop a chunk of dust, make a u-turn and disappear as the next laborer did the same…a hundred at a time. They worked at a feverish pace that never let up. In the end I simply just simply had to give this log a name – ‘Black Ant, Inc. – 1244 Mill Site’. The Corporation’s most productive operation and a near perfect safety rating. (I’m sure a bear found it in the days following and ripped it to shreds.)

DSC04490Nature is so fun to watch.(I have a video to upload, will have to get technical and insert later)

DSC04510An hour later I am at the Feather River washing my clothes and soaking in a perfectly sculpted granite bench that put the water level just at my chin. The water was surprisingly warm – much warmer than I would have expected. The downhill trudge in these new shoes are killing my feet… The soak helped, but this is going to be an issue for sure. I set up a lunch spot on the north side of the river and lay my clothes out to dry. The mosquitoes found my exposed skin as a giant blood magnet…The whole species were instantly called to my position…I hate this insect!

DSC0452410 miles completed with a 3000 foot elevation loss from this morning’s camp. Next 10 miles is a steady climb 3000 feet back out of the canyon.

I decided to plug in with some music and start the upward grind. A brief water stop at the next spring I meet back up with the Canadians (Truck Stop and Take Up) . I grab a couple liters and continue the grind…fueled and lubricated…All is good.

I am usually pretty sluggish on the uphill, which is probably more mental than anything. I found my zone and set out to conquer this canyon. 4 hours later I was at the top and filling my water storage for an evening dry camp. 2 ½ mph on the uphill with a full 30 pounds of gear including water and food…that’s pretty damn good for me. I think the 60 miles two weeks ago and the 2500 climb in Yosemite last week was good conditioning for this week. Feeling good physically…feet blisters are the the concern.

Once out of the canyon the trail crosses a few forest service roads on a fairly level track towards Buck Lake. WooHoo, Roads! What that really means is that anyone can drive in, unpack their garbage and then shoot it all to hell…then leave it…because packing it out in your vehicle is so difficult?

IMG_5024I had no plan on taking the alternate into Haskens / Buck Lake lodge, so I find a camp site on the trail shortly before I reach the paved road crossing. I watched a beautiful sunset from a nearby rock outcropping – a brilliant orange-red induced by a series of forest fires raging in the coastal range.

I recently read in a blog (maybe Thin Mint’s) on a food strategy. Their statement was to always eat the best thing in your pack first, that way you will always be eating the best. I tend to take the opposite approach. That way I will always have a better meal tomorrow. Needless to say, I should have taken the advice.

I tried a new meal tonight…Mary Jane’s Vegetarian Chili Mac. This was the worst meal I have ever eaten (may have tied with Mountain House Scrambled Eggs). I just couldn’t do it…and I tried. I needed the nourishment, but I also didn’t want to lose it all in a bout of vomit…Oh, it was close. In 45 minutes, I was only able to force feed myself a little over half a pouch… I set it next to a tree hoping an animal would come and raid it overnight.

During all this a large spot light started shining down the trail, slowly moving as the shadows from the trees were shifting. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, the last road I crossed was more distant and it was too bright for a headlamp. For a good minute or two I was completely perplexed… until I realized it was a bright moon rising…I felt like such a dummy. I must have been lightheaded from this afternoon’s hike and the crappy dinner.

Then there were the sounds of the forest. First it was an owl screech. Every five minutes from a different tree top to my west. Then there was a sound I have never heard before. It is hard to explain in writing, but I will do my best. It was a guttural growl-squawk in series of 3, definitely a mammal. Every 15 minutes the series would happen starting from the southwest and ending towards the south of me, each time closer. My best guess was a mountain lion… which very well could be my mind thinking the worst. I only heard it three or four times because the next time I was conscious was 7 hours later when I woke up at 5 am. I guess it didn’t bother me that much…that was one of the best sleeps I have ever had while backpacking. Didn’t wake up once and don’t remember tossing and turning at all.

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PCT – Day 12: A-Tree Spring to Chimney Rock

August 1, 2015

20 Miles

(1217.2-1236.94)

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Almost 2 weeks have passed since I jumped off trail. Last weekend my family and a friend’s family hiked into Yosemite’s Chilnualna Falls as our third annual backpacking trip. Each year we make our kids pack a few miles into a wilderness for a few nights of nature play. I will post more about this trip, other trips and intend to create a blog post about ‘Hiking with Kids’ too.

Early Saturday morning I drive over to my parent’s house to have them take me back to the trail head at A Tree Spring. I had a big work deadline due on Friday and all the graphic files were too large to email to the client. I ended up staying up all night reformatting the files to a reduced size that could be emailed, frustrating for sure. Needless to say, I was tired and skeptical about how effective I would be hiking on no sleep.

I have probably said this before, but it is worth saying again. My parents are very supportive and helpful in my quest to complete the PCT. I grew up in the outdoors, thanks to them, and it was in 1977 that my Dad exposed me to the PCT in the Three Sisters Wilderness. We have talked about doing sections of the trail together in the past. In fact if it wasn’t for my father wanting to do Sonora to Ebbetts pass last year, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. Unfortunately, he had some health issues come up last year and decided it was best not to try a 30 mile hike. So, he now gets to experience the trail vicariously through me.

We get to A Tree Spring around noon. I say my goodbyes and hope to see my family and possibly them in a little over a week at Burney Falls.

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I decided to buy a new pair of shoes for this section. The last pair has a few hundred miles on them and I would hate to have them die before the next 200 miles are complete. I am never a fan of taking a new pair of shoes on an extended hike without breaking them in on a couple short hikes close to home. But, this my third pair of New Balance MT1210’s and feel comfortable about hitting the trail with a new pair.

Out of A Tree the trail gentle climbs through a forested section of trail. A bout a mile into the hike I meet this older man laying horizontal in the trail. He is hacking it up pretty bad and something seemed amiss with his breathing. He was SOBO-ing it from Belden to Sierra City. I stayed with him for about a half hour making sure he was alright. He didn’t want any help and was confident he would make it Sierra City by tomorrow. I reluctantly parted and continued Northbound. Not much I can do if the person doesn’t want help. I just hope everything turned out ok. He informed me that there was a couple hiking in front of me, but could say how far ahead. At least it was good to know if I had some people in front of me or not. With the two week break, I am firmly in the tail end of the main pack again this year, so I am not expecting to see as many people as I was hiking with a couple weeks ago.

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The trail is definitely transitioning out of the Sierra and descending to lower elevations. It heads in a more westerly direction than north and is gradually descending into the Feather River watershed. By the end of the day the elevation change wasn’t anything significant as this portion was pretty much following a series of ridge lines. It is mostly eroded volcanic rock formations and primarily forested making any distant views few and far between.

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Around 7pm I reach the trail spur to Alder Spring – which is about a 5-10 minute walk to the north to get water. I dropped my pack and met the young Canadian couple that had been hiking in front of me all afternoon. By 7:45 I had 5L of water and proceeded to make a couple more miles before setting up camp. I found a campsite at Chimney Rock just after sunset and set up in the dark.

 

At about 1am I was awakened by the sound of thunder and raindrops hitting my tent. I jumped out to stake out the sides of the tent to insure the rain wasn’t coming in the bottom vents. I stayed awake for a good hour watching the lightning flashes and fell back to sleep. I slept really well that night – probably because I was sleep deprived from the night before. Overall, I impressed myself by making 20 miles on no sleep and only a half day of hiking. I managed to make it 6 miles farther than my pre-planned goal.

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PCT- Day 11: Sierra Buttes to A-Tree Spring

July 19, 2015

11 Miles

(1206.25-1217.2)

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The night before I exchanged messages with my parents that I will be at the A-Tree spring road by noon and to have them meet me there at that time.

The hike looked pretty level along this ridge and I had no worries making it 11 miles in 5 hours. I broke camp at my normal 7am and took the day pretty easy.

The views down to the ‘Lakes Basin’ we great. Packer Lake, Deer lake, Salmon Lakes, Gold Lake, etc. They all looked popular with car campers and off road enthusiasts.

This area is also popular with mountain bikes. About an hour into my hike this guy comes down the trail doing about 30 mph. I didn’t even hear him coming when suddenly I hear him call out ‘Whoa’ as he flies off the trail to get around me on this blind corner.

Asshole!

I understand that single track mountain biking is fun, but there is also a reason why the PCT was set up for foot and horseback travelers only. In an area where there are a plethora of 4wd roads, why do you have to ride your bike on this trail? If it is a shared trail, you are conscious of the possibility of a bike coming through and you are aware of the potential. On a trail where bikes are prohibited, you tend to dismiss the possibility of sharing the trail with them. If this guy would have hit me, it would have ended my hiking days.

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A couple miles later another mountain bike comes down the trail. I saw him up the trail and knew he would soon come up behind me. A few minutes later I hear him slowing behind me. He calls out that he is behind me, but we were in a brushy section of trail with healthy manzanita on either side…I am not going to step off the trail to let him pass. During a break in the vegetation he passes me and asks what trail he is on. I mention the PCT and he says, Oh, I better get off this…I reminded him that the fine was probably pretty expensive. At least he knew he was in the wrong.PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 308

I passed or was passed by 7 thru hikers this morning. I am definitely hiking in a portion of the main group that left Mexico in late March early April. In relation to last year when I was definitely in the tail end, it appears I am at the front end of the tail this year. This group seems to me more dedicated in reaching Canada than the tail end group I was hiking with last year.PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 314

A quarter of a mile before A-Tree Spring I reach the point 200 miles north of Sonora Pass….only 2465 miles to go.

 

I reach the road at 12:15pm. The seven hikers I had been hiking with today were all there for lunch. (Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names now 6 months later) 3 guys were sitting on a log and I struck up a conversation. One of them was the guy that passed me on the climb up Sierra Buttes. 5 minutes later I hear my dad’s pick up coming up the road. Can’t beat that timing! My parents had a few beers in a cooler. Unfortunately, only enough to share with the 3 guys and not the other 4 sitting over by the spring. I still feel bad that I could not offer everyone a beer, I know how much I love a cold beer.

I hate to have to jump off the trail but we have a family backpacking trip in Yosemite next weekend, but I’ll be back here at A-Tree in 2 weeks to continue on.

PCT – Day 10: Jackson Meadows to Sierra Buttes

July 18, 2015

22 Miles

(1184.72-1206.25)

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Rise and shine…A hearty breakfast of dehydrated Biscuits and Gravy…not bad, certainly better than those egg dishes. Camp broken down, packed and on trail by 7am. I am getting pretty good at camp breakdown and repack within 15 minutes… if I want to. I wake up, jump out to use the bathroom and grab my food bag from its ‘scavenger safe’ location (more on food storage later). I boil a pot of water while I dress out of my cozy sleep wear and into my stiff smelly trail garb. I repack everything inside my tent. By that time the water has boiled, I rehydrate a breakfast pouch and let it sit while I take down the tent. With everything repacked in its proper place, I sit and eat my breakfast. With breakfast over, garbage in the garbage bag and spoon in the outer mesh pocket. Pack is on and my legs start the daily grind once again. 30 minutes is a pretty typical morning. Some days I simply let my breakfast rehydrate in the top of my pack and I am back on trail in 15 minutes. Other days I will put a little forethought in to my day and rehydrate a bag of cup o’noodles to be ready when lunch rolls around.

Back on trail, it’s another wonderful day to be in the wilderness. I meant to bring a cotton buff with me this year mainly to wipe off the sweat that tends to muck up the lens of my sunglasses – all my gear is synthetic fabric which smears rather than cleans. Just before putting my pack on I tear off a piece of TP to clean my glasses while on trail.

The next 10 miles will all be downhill to Sierra City to close out Section L and reach my goal a day and half earlier than planned. I send my dad a message letting him know to pick me up farther up trail, either at Gold Lake Lodge (which would require an off trail 1000 foot descent) or at A Tree Spring road, we will confirm tonight when I stop to camp.

About a half hour into the hike, the sun starts reaching the trail and I go to clean my glasses…I can’t find that piece of TP anywhere…ughh, back to some blurry vision. Another half hour I meet a SOBO hiker, he’s in his sixties and on his last section to complete the PCT. Over the past 15 years he has been chipping off portions of the trail and his last section is from Sierra City to Echo Lake. His story gives me hope that I will finish the PCT in a similar time frame and will probably be in my 60’s too.

As we part in our respective directions, the man points to my pack and says ‘It looks like you might be losing something out of your pack’…I take my pack off and low and behold… ‘Thanks, there is that segment of toilet paper I was going to clean my lens with’…It was stuck to the bottom of my pack via a little drop of pitch. Hmmm…

In the voice of Bluto (John Belushi in Animal House)…

Elroy, your Delta Tau Chi name is Segment.

Why Segment?

(Burp) Why not?

A new trail name is born…

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 185Shortly after, the trail drops down a rocky face and into the Milton Creek drainage through a series of switchbacks. I had brought with me a podcast of the audio reading of Moby Dick and was listening to it for about a half hour when I found, I just wasn’t interested in reading a book right now. This area is just too beautiful and the sounds of the forest just too precious to miss. PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 201

It is nice walking along a stream…seems like a long time since the trail has followed water, Actually, this might be the first time in my 175 miles. The lushness of flowing water and Big Leaf Maples…ahhh, refreshing from the usual dry dusty trail.

I pass a couple stream side campsites that almost made me stop just so I could camp next to water and relax. I always seem to be a half day off some nice campsites, but my ridge line dry camps have their benefits too of a view and being relatively bug free…PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 196

By 11am I am out of drinking water and crossing the North Fork of the Yuba, a couple miles east of Sierra City. It seems that most thru hikers take a trail junction a couple miles back to go into town. I have no reason to make a town stop on my second day back on trail. I fill up with a couple liters of water for the big climb to come. I am always a little sketchy getting water from a river where people are swimming, it was a pretty busy day at the river as a few families were taking their respite from the hot summer sun.

As I cross Highway 49,  I complete Section L my third complete section of the PCT.

I search for a shady spot to eat lunch but nothing appealed to me. I figured I would find a spot before hitting the switchbacks that start off the climb up Sierra Buttes. I didn’t want to make this climb in the afternoon due to the heat and lack of water. But here I am starting it at noon.

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Without finding a decent place to sit for lunch, I finally just park myself on the side of the trail and eat my lukewarm cup o’noodles. Refueled and rehydrated, here I go up the side of Sierra Buttes. I count 13 switchbacks on the map and entertain myself on the ascent by counting each switchback as I make the turn to the next…When I get to 13 I realize I must have miscounted…I am not at the ridge yet…ugghh. 2 more switchbacks then the views open up and now starts the exposed ascent across the south face of Sierra Buttes.PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 214

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 219I figure I have 4 miles/2 hours to get to the other side and back into the forest. I pass a couple day hikers coming back down, and then get passed by a thru hiker just coming out of Sierra City. He was bummed that he left his trekking poles in the car that he hitched in and was already making an unscheduled stop in Quincy to replace them.

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My trail companion about half way up this mountain was this doe that stayed a couple hundred feet behind me. Every time I would take a few steps she would too… the sides of the trail were steep and brushy…I can see why she was using the trail as well.

 

 

Then this older gentleman comes down the trail wearing dirty long johns and a pretty small pack and he says 39 or 67. You are the 39th thru hiker and the 67th hiker I have seen today. We chat for a good 20 minutes. He was a funny guy with one of those great dispositions on life. He’s all grins and likes to talk. He was retired military then a stay at home dad while his wife worked and his kids grew up. Five years ago his son went to college and his wife retired. Since then he has been hiking. He did the AT a few years back, portions of the CDT, when he finished the Washington Section of the PCT he hiked east along the TCT to hook up with the CDT. His wife had dropped him off yesterday up trail and was waiting for him in their camper at Sierra City. From there they were going to drive down to Tahoe and he was going to finish his last section of the PCT which was Carson to Sonora Pass. Yet another older guy giving me hope that I will be able to finish this trail by sectioning it out over the next decade or two.

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I reach the top of the climb (which is not to the top of the buttes that could be done by hiking another 1400 feet in a couple miles up a 4wd road) by 4 pm, stop to take a breather. This young woman is hiking down the road from the buttes, we chat for a bit. A mile further was a nice spring with a good trickle of water. I load up with 5L for the evening, As I leave a group of 3 thru hikers stop for water.

I plan to get as fa as I can tonight and find a place to camp on the ridge that gives me a decent view. A couple miles more the trail joins a series of paved or well traveled gravel roads. This area seems very popular with the offroad crowd. Sounds of motorcycles and ATV’s fill the distant air and wheel tracks are everywhere, including on the PCT. When the Trail finally leaves the roads behind and enters back into the woods, a short distance above the trail is a popular unimproved car camping area filled with campers, motorcycle haulers, ice chests full of cheap beer and macho men in Harley shirts sporting stylish mullets they have been grooming since the 80’s. I was wondering how many of them I grew up with, hehe.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 237I found a nice flat spot around mile 1206 and set up camp. A quick scurry up the rocks next to my camp to an awesome view of the sunlight setting on the north side of Sierra Buttes. What a great way to end a 22 mile day.

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Just after dark and while eating my dinner, a couple hikers come up trail with their headlamps, eventually see my camp and move on. Another solo guy comes up, scurries up the rocks next to my camp and sets up a cowboy camp. Felt sorry for the guy the next morning when I climbed up there at 5:30 to watch the sunrise and woke him up.

That is one of my pet peeves about this trail, it can be hard to find solitude in a camp. It seems like most thru hikers are so accustomed the sleeping with their ‘bubble’ mates (more on the word ‘bubble’ later) that they don’t like to camp anywhere unless there is a tent already set up. Sometimes solitude is hard to find around here.

When I tell people about my hikes the first question is usually “You hike this alone?” My answer is ‘Yes, but there are so many people on this trail you are never really hiking alone’. This is a case in point.

 

PCT – Day 9: Donner Summit to Jackson Meadows

July 17, 2015

28 Miles

(1157.25 – 1184.72)

Another year on the PCT…

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I have decided to keep the day count consecutive with last year and simple not count the 362 zero days since the last hike. I figure I have about 20 more years of documenting this journey, I don’t need 20 ‘Day 1’s to confuse myself in trying to figure out an overall day count.

With my wife and kids heading to Tahoe for a long weekend again this year,  I am taking the opportunity to catch a ride with them back to the place they picked me up a year ago. Donner Summit Rest Area…woohoo!

Of course, we don’t get out of town until late in the evening, at least it was Thursday and not a lot of traffic getting out of the city. Shortly before midnight the minivan rolls into the rest area, I jump out, grab my pack, kiss my family a farewell and they speed off eastbound.

I take the opportunity to double check my pack at a picnic table near the restrooms, get my headlamp situated, trekking poles adjusted, etc. An older gentleman drives up, parks and proceeds to the restrooms…seeing me standing there with all my gear…he pauses turns around to his car and makes sure his car is locked by repressing the key fob…I chuckle thinking to myself…ummm no worries sir, I am not the vagrant you think I am and I really don’t intend to put anything else into this full pack… 5 minutes later as I am making a couple final fitting adjustments  and start to step off the concrete to bushwhack my way down to the trail, this woman drives up and just gives me a blank stare as if she just wanted to say ‘What the hell are you doing walking into the woods at midnight?’ …and I disappear into the darkness.

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I scramble down to the culvert passage under the freeway and re-hike a few hundred yards of trail then wind my way up the side of Castle Peak. My goal was to try and reach the Peter Grubb Hut tonight, but thinking I don’t want to crash into the cabin at 2 am when it is probably full of sleeping hikers, I make a quick cowboy camp next to a boulder in the trail and get a couple hours of shuteye before sunrise.PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 006

I awake around 5am staring at the star filled sky and mentally go through my goals for the next couple days. I have arranged for my parents to pick me up in Sierra City in the afternoon on Sunday – 3 days to cover the 38 miles of this short Section L.

By 7am I am using the facilities at Peter Grubb Hut and quietly return back to the trail – outside sat a half dozen trekking poles…I’m glad I didn’t try and crash in here last night. The loft door opens and Bird, a young British lady climbs down, we say our good mornings and I continue on. About a half hour later she passes me with her 1100 mile hiking legs at a pace that I will never see her again.

A cPCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 060ouple hours later I stumble into a random Trail Magic set up by two great guys Jeff and Allen. They were camped up by White Rock Lake. They had never heard of the PCT but became very interested in it when they noticed all these hikers passing through.

They decided to set up a ‘snack shack’ along the PCT near the creek and feed these hungry souls that are passing through at a steady rate. I grabbed a hard boiled egg and ate a few sliced cucumbers (the best!), but wouldn’t take any more as I just got on trail last night and knowing the through hikers would appreciate this much more than I.

We chatted for about a half hour with them asking all kinds of questions about the trail. I hope I gave them a different perspective as a section hiker. Overall, this was Truly Magic! Thanks again Jeff and Allen and good luck on your future hikes.

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The next few miles were uneventful but a good opportunity to start checking my pace and pushing myself on the ascents to maintain it. I am a steady 2.25 mph hiker (including snack breaks…which I rarely do and never sit for more than 15 minutes)…not the greatest pace; certainly one I would like to improve.

 

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Atop Lacey Peak, I drop pack and scurry up to the high point to try and get a view of the surroundings. Grand views are definitely getting harder to achieve as the trail continues to descent out of the higher Sierras. I do get a good glimpse back to Castle peak and Tinker Knob beyond (still always fascinated in how far one can walk in a day or two or three) Shortly after I get my first glimpse towards Sierra Buttes off to the NW…hope to be there in 2 days, but it’s starting to look like that might be tomorrow.

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By 1pm I had 18 miles accomplished on the day and sat down for a quick lunch and map review of where I can end my day… as I’m finishing up with lunch 3 thru hikers come barreling down the trail, we say hi as their pace doesn’t slow and the dust cloud of progress lingering behind.PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 130

A mile further I catch up to them as they sit in scant shade on the trail. Thin Mint, J-Walk and Armstrong. Armstrong from the Bay Area and Thin Mint and J-Walk from Oregon/Washington. I recognized Thin Mint and J-Walk from recently reading the blog posts on PCT journalist. I really appreciate Thin Mints blog and was fun to actually meet someone I had been following. The week before each section hike I tend to read all the blogs to get a sense of water status as the water report is not always up to date. This year I have been playing close attention as the Sierra saw a non-existent snow pack.

We had a good conversation and realized that Thin Mint and I were both living in Eugene some 20 years ago. I wished them luck on reaching the border with no assurance I would see them again at the 3-4 mph pace they were on.

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By 6 pm I get down to Jackson Meadows Reservoir camping area and expect to fill up with water at a small creek at mile 1184 and camp a mile further. I bypass the main inlet creek at the bridge and continue on. When I get to the expected water stop I discover it was dry. By this point the 27 miles so far today has taken a noticed effect…I am ready to set up camp and lay down… My dogs are tired. I decide to move along, set up camp and grab water at the next spring in 2 miles rather than back track. I reach a saddle that has a few tent sites scattered, drop my pack and grab my filter and bottles. A mile further I get down to Bear Meadow spring and find a marshy area full of mosquitoes but not viable flowing water to collect. Frustrated and tired I back track to camp and bushwhack my way back down hill to the campground to fill up from a hose bib. An hour ordeal that left me frustrated but too tired to care.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 139I set up camp, eat a quick meal and lay down for a well deserved rest. 28 miles (plus another 3 looking for water) on my first day back on trail was probably a bit much. My feet are very tired, but overall doing quite well. Not a single hot spot on my feet. I slept well.

(The following week I was reading the PCT blogs and run across Thin Mint’s post….I was instantly jealous. They stopped in the campground 2 miles back and had a night of real food, beer, etc…amazing trail magic…)

 

 

PCT – Day 8: Five Lakes Trail / Alpine Meadows to Donner Summit

July 20, 2014

21.25 miles

(1136.00 – 1157.25)

Slack-Pack

Before going to bed last night, I was dreading having to hike back up the Five Lakes Trail to get back on the PCT. It as a steep descent with oodles of day hikers where I blazed myself down through the masses for the taste of a cold beer and some real food. I just didn’t know how I would feel in the morning after a few beers and a gluttony of BBQ chicken. I sorted through my gear and trimmed it down to a rain jacket, trail snacks, lunch, water filter, a couple liters of water and transferred everything to a small camel back day pack.

Before sunrise, I woke up, threw on my freshly laundered trail garb, gentle woke my wife from her vacation slumber to give me a ride down to the trail head.

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I started the morning in 5:30 darkness that quickly changed to twilight then sunrise by 6am. I get back on the PCT 7 and off I go…heading North… Today’s only goal is to get to Donner Summit by 5pm where my family will do a drive by pick up at the rest area on I-80.

9 am I am sitting at the top of Squaw’s Granite Chief ski lift…nice spot for a break and experience looking down on my favorite ski run at Squaw when it has no snow….’Holy S*%t That’s Steep!’ I say to myself…much more forgiving when it has 10 plus feet of snow covering it. Much faster and more fun getting to the bottom as well.

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I pass under the lift and and continue my descent. Take a quick water refill break a the headwaters of the Middle Fork American River (which brought back a few memories of an overnight car camp my wife and I did many years back and 30 miles downstream where we had this annoying little kid lecturing us that we were not allowed to have a fire and not old enough to understand that because his parents did not get a campfire permit and I did). Ahhh, this water was some of the best tasting water I had had all week, thanks to the chlorinated crap I schlepped up the mountain front the resort below.

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Not too much further on my way down the ridge I pass a couple of guys heading South doing Donner to Carson. I move quickly through the drainage that junctions with the painted rock trail and begin the climb back up to the ridge. The landscape starts to open up as I depart the granite once again and enter back into another swatch of old volcanics. Some nice views up to Tinker Knob and Anderson Peak and the ridge I will be following much of the day sprawl out before me…I moving right along with this 10 pound slack pack.

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By noon I have passed Tinker Knob accomplishing 10 trail miles (14 overall)…10 more to go at a 2mph average to reach Donner by 5pm.

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I really enjoyed this section of ridge line. An open landscape with a view in every direction. Looking to the North one can feel another stage of the exit out of the Sierra. The landscape ahead seems much more tame.

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I took a quick lunch break on the north side of Anderson Peak and took in the view down to I-80 and Truckee. A group of 5 college girls day hiking from Norden to Squaw passed by – they were already looking forward to the drinks and ride that awaited them at the other end.

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A couple miles further a spectacular experience made it all seem so right. As I trek down this straighter section of ridge the wind was really starting to pick up. I has been wind all day, but by this time I was noticing a sustained 20mph wind blowing up the canyon from the south and flushing over to ridge towards the Truckee River drainage. As I approach the saddle before climbing back up towards Mt Lincoln, I can see two hikers coming towards me a couple hundred yards out. Something in the corner of my eye at about 4’oclock (lower right) comes up from the forested north side of the ridge. A mature Golden Eagle rises up, hits the air flow pushing from the south and stalls out about 50 feet in front of me and 15 feet off the ground…she levels off and ever so slowly glides into the wind heading south. She had a 6 foot wing span and ever so graceful. All I could do is point this out to the young couple approaching from up trail as I stood there in awe, jaw open quietly saying WOW as I slowly exhaled. The next 30 seconds I just stood there watching this beautiful creature silently gliding overhead and away down the slope.

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By this time the young couple were passing and we both acknowledged what a great treat that was to see… It was obvious that I was the one that was thoroughly impressed as the guy asked me ‘what was that?’ and nonchalantly continued leading his girlfriend on what seemed like one of their first times out of the city and into the woods.

Over the years I have had some pretty strong spiritual connections with large birds of prey. I always feel as if one of my ancestors is showing up to check in on me and help define the experience. After hiking 134 mile in 7 ½ days this Eagle wanted me to know they have been watching and protecting me the whole time.

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Passing through a saddle where the Truckee Emigrant Trail passed, through Sugar Bowl, over the transcontinental railway at Norden, and up to I-80, I walked with a revived sense of purpose and accomplishment.

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I arrive at the pedestrian tunnel under the Interstate shortly after it had started to rain. A few minutes later I am at the rest area sitting under an eave with my bare dirty feet cooling off and being cleansed in the rain. Sections J & K complete. Not 5 minutes later, my family pulls up, I jump in and homeward we go, with a nice stop Woodstock’s in Davis for couple pints and a meat covered pizza.

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My hips tightened up pretty quickly sitting in the car for 4 hours and my lower body took about a month to acclimate back to a more sedentary working lifestyle. All I wanted to do was continue walking…

Until next year when I pick up from where I left off, mile 1157…

140 miles completed (2,515 to go)

20 miles/day average

24,254 ft elevation gain

26,715 ft elevation loss