PCT – Day 9: Donner Summit to Jackson Meadows

July 17, 2015

28 Miles

(1157.25 – 1184.72)

Another year on the PCT…

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 009

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.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 002

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.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 104

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.


PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 075

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.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 118

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 129

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.

PCT 2015 Donner to Sierra Buttes 137

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…)




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