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...