Thursday, July 30, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Finally getting out of Sierra City, we hit the trail at 4pm and began the 2800 ft. climb up to the Sierra Buttes, supposedly the smallest mountain range in CA. As we skirted the peaks on the west side, the trail turned rocky and hence, hard. After a much-needed dinner break, we pushed on until 9:30pm, needed our head lamps for the last mile, and found a flat spot in a previous clear-cut.
The next two days, we hiked 46 miles, including some detours to get or look for water. Twice, we had to backtrack a bit after becoming confused by our data book and notes left on the trail by hikers north of us. It's very strange, after spending a month carrying no more than 1 L. of water, to be faced with having to calculate water consumption and mileage between water supplies again. We caught our first glimpses of Lassen Peak during this time, too. Lassen, an inactive volcano which lies within Lassen Volcanic Nat'l. Park, is the southern most mountain of the Cascades, and is a sight for sore eyes after being in the Sierra for the last 800 miles ( the mountain range is actually 1/2 that distance ).
Saturday morning, we awoke knowing that we had a big climb right off the bat, since the evening before we had descended to 2900 ft. to cross the Middle Fork of the Feather River, the best swimming spot so far on the PCT. Shortly after gaining the high point, we were greeted by a sign welcoming thru-hikers to a trail angel's cabin near Buck's Lake. We couldn't resist, and hiked out after putting in 15 miles for the day. It was the right call! We had showers, did laundry, drank beers and had an amazing dinner complete with brownie sundaes and a post-meal bonfire.Thank you, Nancy and Terry.
Back on the trail at 8am after a breakfast of coffee, OJ, scrambled eggs, potatoes, nectarines and cantaloupe. Unbelievable. We hiked 19 miles today, the last 5 thigh-burning and knee-jarring as we descended 4600 ft. into the hot valley where the town of Belden is. We caught the tail end of a weekend party, and people-watched outside the general store for 2 1/2 hours before leaving to find a place to camp. As I write, we are on the top floor of a historic structure at the Hwy. 70 PCT trail head named Eby Stamp Mill, it's like our own personal tree house!
To the Belden post office for our mail drop and northland in the morning.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
We rolled out of Echo Lake around 3:30pm and cruised 8 miles past rocky lakes in Desolation Wilderness. The area is actually not so desolate. We crossed paths with dozens of day hikers along the way. The next day we met up with one of Chris' former co-workers from Alaska. "Monologue", a fellow thru-hiker, still lives in Dutch Harbor, so it was fun for Chris to hear about his old haunts. (While they both knew the other was hiking the PCT this year, it took all of 2 1/2 months for them to connect!) A steady rain settled in during the afternoon, though we persevered and camped in a dense pine forest. As we were huddled in our tent, seemingly in the middle of no where, music started blaring from not too far off. We were definitely not alone - weekend car campers - were sharing the woods with us but we never saw them.
I also learned we were sharing the woods with bears. I spotted one in retreat early the next morning-our second sighting and still no pictures. Moving on, we soon found ourselves climbing past ski lifts for Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley resorts. Where several feet of snow had been a couple months ago, fields of wild flowers were now being batted around by the wind, as were we. We also passed a fellow thru-hiker who was quitting the trail for medical reasons. Several other hikers were helping her out to a nearby trailhead because she had major stomach pains. They must have been bad because this girl already proved herself to be tough having hiked through the Sierra with a broken wrist! It's a poignant moment to reflect on your own hike when you see someone quit. While we've definitely had our down moments, Chris and I are still planning to finish this hike!
However, we are having to modify our hiking schedule a bit so we can make up some time. In the past couple of days, we've hiked some long days. We've been able to do this because of the gentler terrain-no elevation above 9,000 feet, good footing and good weather-and because we've tweaked our eating schedules. Instead of slogging through miles with empty bellies, getting crankier by the minute, we are trying to eat dinner before getting to camp at night. That means that we pull over around 6, brew up some Ramen and then get back on the trail by 7 to bang out a couple more miles. So far, it's helped us pull some of our longest days yet - 25 and 26 miles! And, both days we scored cold Cokes from stangers: once from a nice guy in an RV at the Donner Pass rest area (yes, the infamous pass that hosted the Donner Party one winter) on I-80 and the next day from a lovely couple doing hiking on the PCT.
Now we're sipping coffee at a garden cafe in Sierra City. We'll do a quick resupply before getting back on the trail this afternoon for a long climb. Hard to leave this charming, historic mining town...
Friday, July 10, 2009
The next day was absolutely beautiful with blue, blue cloudless skies the entire day. We had our biggest day to date, at 25.7 miles, with an enjoyable lunch break on a windy saddle, and surprise trail magic at Ebbett's Pass. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fresh fruit, tostitos, cookies, cokes and Gatorade, all offered to us by a guy named Doug from a nearby town. Leaving there with full bellies we hiked on a little further than we had planned due to a lack of possible campsites, but found a spot on a spur ridge by headlamp and with the help of our friend,Willie, a thru-hiker Sox-fan from Walpole, Mass.
July 7th, our anniversary. Originally, we had hoped to celebrate in Lake Tahoe with a restaurant pasta dinner, but alas, we were still 36 miles away, so we spent it on the trail. It was another gorgeous day, and the miles were semi-easy, until after lunch, where 60 miles per hour winds pushed us around and treated us like rag dolls. We leaned into the wind though and made it almost 23 miles, camping in a secluded spot near the Truckee River. Dinner was the rest of the red wine, back country nachos (fritos, cheese, hot sauce), ramen, quesadillas again, and Peanut M&M's for dessert. Yum.
We awoke early the next morning, and walked the easy 13 miles to Echo Lake Resort, where we had mail awaiting our arrival. Thanks to everyone for the anniversary cards, birthday cards, and treats and goodies that we received. Of special note, I found out that I am going to be an uncle. Congratulations, Greg and Jenny!
We hitched into South Lake Tahoe and began a day and a half of the usual town ritual: eating, drinking, rest and resupply. Our first night was a Motel 6 and dinner at an awesome bar where the Red Sox - A's game was on. The next day we were treated by Ryan and Katie to massages and a night at a hotel casino across the border in Nevada. Thanks, Guys. We are now in our swanky room, enjoying some TV time after annihalating the buffet earlier. Back up to Echo Lake and on to the trail in the morning. Northbound again. - Sunfish
Saturday, July 4, 2009
All clean, we picked up the next morning and headed to Yosemite Valley. It was a treat to car camp at the White Wolf Campground with a picnic table, flushing toilets, and a fire pit. But the real treat was a driving tour of the valley. The towering granite cliffs, wispy waterfalls, wild flowers and crystal clear river made for some overwhelming scenery. We were especially happy to see all these postcard worthy sights since the trail doesn't pass through this part of the park. The highlight of our non-hiking visit to Yosemite was a glorious float down the Merced River in an inflatable boat - PBR and snacks in hand! Some good fireside chats and good eating with Clare, she left us in Mammoth to take care of some errands before we luxuriated for one more night at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. This was a birthday/anniversary treat from Chris' parents.
The next day we were slow to get on the trail, bogged down with one last town meal, the shuttle back to Red's Meadow and catching up with other hiker's. We finally set out on the trail around 2:00pm with a heavy heart. I always have a hard time leaving town and this long rest and visit with Clare made it especially hard. We only made it a couple of miles before camping at a real campground after getting lost for about an hour. A delightful group of boy scouts let us pitch our tent on their site so we could save a couple bucks and they peppered us with questions about the hike all night, especially the dads. The next couple of days of hiking treated us to some rolling terrain. We had one high elevation pass- Donahue - that we crossed under threatening skies and finally drizzle. But as soon as we dropped down into Tuolumne Meadows back in Yosemite, the clouds lifted and we skipped through a lovely grassy stretch hugging an amazingly clear river. Our goal: get to the store before it closes at 5 for burgers and a quick grocery resupply. Mission accomplished, we ended up camping at the Tuolumne campground right behind the store.
Beyond Tuolomne, the trail through Yosemite was rocky steep and remote. And the mosquitos were unlike anyhing I've seen before. I actually donned a very dorky headnet and the mosquitos were clinging to the screen so thickly, I couldn't see the trail at times!
The bugs and terrain were a bit demoralizing, but our efforts paid off during our planned resupply at Bridgeport on July 4th. It was a tough 30 mile stretch, but a pickup finally pulled over at Sonora Pass and let 5 of us thru-hikers pile in back. We were let off in small town America- a rodeo was underway, American flags and swags everywhere, moon walks and live music on the court house lawn and open containers! So our intentions of a quick turn around after grocery shopping were foiled and we decided to stay. We pitched our tent in a local character's front yard, next to a bar with great burgers and celebrated the 4th barefooted in the sunshine watching a Johnny Cash tribute band while lounging on the lawn of the historic court house, beer in hand. We decided that this hike was as much about making miles as seeing and celebrating our country in towns along the way. I did think about the circus on the Esplanade in Boston, but we were happy to be where we were. Emily