Friday, July 25, 2014

Echo Lake to Donner Pass

Day 75-79:
I took an extra zero in Tahoe on day 75, and just as well, a major thunderstorm occurred which caused a widespread power failure for many hours that afternoon. The Matterhorn Motel is very hiker friendly.

The next day I got a ride with Rock Ocean who is shuttling hikers all along the PCT back to Echo Lake. 

Melissa , Jim and Finn the dog, gave me a spontaneous joyride on their boat, a big thank you to them!

I hiked 15 miles past Lake Aloha and Heather Lake 

to name the more meaningful ones to me and up over Dicks Pass where I camped on the bank of Dicks Lake with Goldmine and 3D. 

It was cold but sheltered at the campsite. I had a good day in spite of the fact that there were huge thunderclouds in the sky and it spat rain occasionally.  

The next day got off to a late start, it was just too cold to get out of my tent early. At this point the PCT and Tahoe Rim Trail TRT are one and the same. 

I hiked past many alpine lakes, through many forests and saw many TRT hikers going in the opposite direction. 

My Guthooks map app hadn't loaded properly so I was constantly thinking that I might be lost. I was hiking solo and had lunch on the bank of Richardson Lake in cloudy, windy conditions but it was still enjoyable. 

Sitting there, looking out over the lake reminded me of reading Walden Pond, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."
Henry David Thoreau

The day ended well with me camping beyond Barker Pass with Pippin, Tinkerbell and Screagle.

 They had placed their lamp that  they carry with them in the camp circle for ambiance. So rad!

I woke up after a broken night of sleep. I dreamt a she-wolf was outside my tent. She was a very dark grey, with even darker grey flecks on her coat and she looked me right in the eyes, as though she could read me by doing so. I wasn't scared, just aware of her presence.

I hiked out of my cosy, sheltered campsite and emerged onto a ridge with multiple saddles and got blasted by a chilly wind for hours which often nearly knocked me off my feet. 

These ridges are ski slopes in winter. 

I enjoyed a lunch of Thai noodles and trail mix at a creek and met up with Goldmine and Guy on a Buffalo, who is charging through the PCT with a hatchet and fishing rod in his backpack. 

There was a lot if climbing today and I ended the day on an extremely cold and windy ridge at Tinker Knob (8590ft), 

walked across the crest of a mountain with panoramic views and camped there solo in the shelter of a grove of trees.

 I was so cold I had to wear 2 pairs of long pants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 tops (wool, fleece and down), a beanie and hood from my fleece and I curled up in my down sleeping bag inside my silk sack.

Day 79, I awoke to a beautiful day! The sun was shining, the wind had abated and the sky was blue.
I saw a beautiful huge Golden Eagle up close which was quite breathtaking!

I got off the trail at Donner Pass and went to Truckee to resupply and have a nero (half day off). 

Donner Ski Ranch gave me a free beer because I'm a PCT hiker. A wonderful woman called Renee gave me a ride to the post office to help me locate a lost resupply box. I had mailed it to "Pooh Corner" an Address listed on the PCT resupply list, but it does not exist anymore and so my box is MIA. I got another ride to the old historical part of town to see if the parcel was at the main post office, which it wasn't but it all turned out very well. This section of Truckee is wonderful! Quaint, historical buildings, very artsy, with an array if different types of people. 

Every thursday evening the main street is cordoned off for a street festival, with music, art and vendors. I am staying at the Truckee Hotel built in 1872, in the touristy district.

 The town was built around the railway industry and every second thing is named after the infamous Donner party with their tragic history.
"The Donner Party (sometimes called the Donner-Reed Party) was a group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train. Delayed by a series of mishaps, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the immigrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness." Quote from Wikipedia. 
Whilst ordering dinner, I saw none other than Kimchee, Avocado, Shrugs (Sarah) and Rock Ocean. What a great surprise! I'll head back to the trail with them tomorrow.

Grateful for:
1) All my trail hiker friends.
2) Staying healthy and intact mentally, emotionally and physically which enables me to continue this journey.
3) My family, friends and loved ones who give me constant support and encouragement and remind me of why I am doing this hike when I lose sight of the reasons.
4) All the wonderful trail angels I've encountered, who don't even know me, yet go out of their way to help me achieve my goal. Without these people, it would not be possible at times. 
5) Good weather again. I hope it holds out and being able to experience all these interesting little towns along the trail. It makes the entire experience so much more interesting and enjoyable!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Howling Coyotes, thunderbolts and lightening...

Day 63-65:
Back on the trail, I had spectacular views of the Minaret Peaks.

 It was a long uphill slog which led me to 1000 Island Lake and over 1000 Island Pass. 

I passed "The Canadians" who I had previously met in the desert. Today I left the John Muir Wilderness and entered the Ansel Adams Wilderness for awhile. That night I camped beside a river and in the morning made it over Donahue Pass. 

As usual it was a steep climb to the pass across the tundra and I reached it at 11,056 ft. There were banks of snow on the north face and the trail plummeted down into the Yosemite high country across streams, rivers and creeks which are crossed by  boulder hopping and balancing on fallen tree logs.

 I met Stringbean going ultra light and trying to break a speed record. He is a super nice person and stopped briefly to talk story and is genuinely interested in other hikers stories. 

A long 10 mile/16km flat trek on the west bank of a river to Tuolumne Meadows ensued. This is the longest meadow hike I've ever seen and the river looked so inviting. I saw many deer whilst walking.

Once I arrived at the Lodge, I booked a seat at a dinner table and spent dinner with a group of complete strangers who were very friendly and genuinely interested in my PCT adventure. After a vegetarian fajita and two glasses of Pinot Grigio, I made my way to the backpackers campsite for $5 per night and to my delight met "The Girls" again and camped with them. I was completely exhausted from two days of long mileage.

On day 65 I woke up feeling like I had a PCT family, camping with "The Girls, Hummingbird and I reunited with Kimchee and Bluesman. So great!
I picked up my resupply box and new guide book from the post office. 

Oh man, Purple Monster is going to be so heavy! I can't believe how busy this area is. Even the walk-in backpacker campground is buzzing with PCT and JMT hikers. The post office and general store here is so quaint, the P.o.being literally just a window. Once again I was happy with what I had packed in the boxes and grateful to my friend Michelle for mailing them. I decided to camp here for another day due to a thunderstorm and intermittent rain throughout the afternoon.
Thankful for:
1) Hot showers at the lodge.
2) Reuniting with "old" friends.
3) Lots of food
4) Being off the trail in bad weather.
5) My friends Michelle and Kevin for being such an important part of my adventure.
Day 66:

Back on the Trail at Lembert Dome. 

The PCT and Tahoe-Yosemite trail coincide and travel towards Glen Aulin High Sierra camp, past a stunning waterfall, then through some uninspiring woods before plummeting down to McCabe Creek. 

From there it was an uphill climb on some horrendous switchbacks but the reward was great! I set up camp on the banks of Miller Lake high in the mountains in Yosemite with 4 other women, Kimchee, Hummingbird and "The Girls". 

We had hiked together all day which was really awesome. Storybook, Tasty ( formerly Big Rips), Crawfish and Storybook's mom and brother also arrived at the lake and camped with us. What a beautiful setting! A lake, framed by mountains and an alpine meadow with deer grazing in it.

 We sat around the campfire talking story as the full super moon rose above the lake, shining it's reflection onto the tranquil waters.

Thankful for:
1) Hiking with a band of women.
2) Waterfalls and creeks along the way.
3)Miller Lake
4) My friends Deshka and Sabine keeping me inspired.
5) Encouragement from Josh everyday.

Day 67:

I am trying to do 18-20 mile days to get to Tahoe without running out of food. Today this included going over two mountain passes, Benson and Seaver Pass. Between each pass you plummet into a deep valley and almost immediately have to scale another mountain on steep switchbacks. I spent the day with the 'Girl Power' group, myself, Kimchee, "The Girls" Twister and Conner and Hummingbird. We spent a wonderful few hours at Smedberg Lake, swimming and relaxing at lunch time and then really had to pull out all the stops to get over Seaver Pass and down to the camp at 978 miles/1573km before dark. 

Along the way met Dirk and Derek, the first south bounding PCT hikers I had encountered, and north bounder Happy Feet. 

The lakes at Seaver Pass were fairyland type beautiful, like mirrors with the trees and rocks reflected in the water.

 As the sun went down, we all arrived at our predetermined camp site and sat around a camp fire again, thanks to Tasty after setting up our tents, collecting creek water and preparing our dinner.

Grateful for:
1) Awesome day with team "girl power".
2) Accomplishing good, difficult miles.
3) Lunch and swim at mosquito free Smedberg Lake
4)Great camp with amazing people.
5) All the encouraging messages I receive.  

Day 68:
Another long, brutal 20 mile/ 32km day. This whole section involves multiple climbs per day, followed each time by plummeting switchbacks into deep canyons and then immediately up again. I am extremely grateful to be doing this section with team "Girl Power" as it would be tough emotionally to be out here in isolation. We've been crossing paths with Storybook, Tasty and Crawfish for 3 days and have been camping together which has been a welcome change from all the solo camping I've done.

 Today we stopped at Lake Wilmer for lunch and camped at beautiful Dorothy Lake just before Dorothy Pass.

 Another enjoyable evening ensued around a campfire and under an enormous full moon. The evening light turned the sky and water shades of pink and blue, all framed by stunning mountains with little flecks of snow decorating them.

Day 69:
 I was woken up twice during the night by the howling of a coyote in close proximity and the responding howls from coyotes further away. The moon was huge and full as we camped beside Dorothy Lake, close enough to the pass to get over it first thing in the morning. 

Today, I passed the one thousand mile mark (1609.3km) whilst in the company of Kimchi, "The Girls", Hummingbird, Tasty, Storybook and Crawfish. 

Fortunately there was a passing section hiker who took our photograph.

Ten miles into the day a major thunder and lightening storm broke out and we all set up our tents in the forest and hunkered down to ride it out. 

This was a proper storm and I would have been very scared if I had been out there on my own. Having the company of the other hikers around me really helped me to stay calm. Hailstones surrounded my tent which held up nicely and I stayed warm and dry inside.

My thoughts today were "Once you've walked the earth through the wilderness for 1000 miles, you get a deep realization of how important it is for us humans to be good custodians of the earth and preserve it's beauty and natural state".
The journey took me out of Yosemite and into the Toiyabe National Forest. What was a dominant granite landscape is now changing into a volcanic landscape. 
The heavy rain stopped in the evening and we all sat around the campfire trying to keep warm and dry. I went to sleep with multiple layers of clothing on as it was still cold, damp and wet and the thunder did not stop rolling whilst the sky remained heavy with dark clouds that lit up pink for awhile in the sunset. 

Extremely grateful for:
1) To be with my hiker friends during this storm.
2) That my tent held up during the storm.
3) My satellite phone keeping me connected.
4) My Sawyer water filter, I was able to collect marsh water to drink as the creek was all muddy with run off.
5) My down sleeping bag and silk sack, keeping me warm at night.

Day 70:
At 3am I was awakened by what sounded like an extremely distressed man running and screaming through the woods with a yelping dog behind him along the trail next to our campsite. I lay there terrified, wondering what on earth could be going on but soon the screaming stopped and I fell asleep again. Upon awakening, my fellow hikers said that they had also heard it and it was the sound of coyotes " doing their thing" in the woods at night. 
The morning consisted of drying out our drenched tents. The sky was blue when we awoke but by 08:30 am the clouds were already moving in again.

The next 11 miles I spent trying to out hike another storm to get to Sonora Pass. 

The traverse was exposed with switchbacks climbing 1500 ft to an old jeep road above Kennedy Canyon, then up more switchbacks to 10,880 ft which gave awesome panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and beautiful Latopie Lake. 

The trail led through a narrow notch in the volcanic crest and by that time the thunder was rolling, lightening flashed and the rain was spitting.

I placed my pack rain cover over my backpack, put on my Frogg Toggs rain outfit and had my Golite umbrella ready whilst hastily making my way down the mountain towards the car park at Sonora Pass. Along the way I met Par 3 and we managed to hitch a ride from a wonderful family to Kennedy Meadows North Resort and horse/ mule packing station. Here, warm, dry,well fed, showered and resupplied, I waited out the storm overnight to resume my trek. 

Unfortunately no cell phone service nor wifi but I did get my laundry done. I stayed in a dorm room for $35 including shower and laundry. I reunited with other hikers which was fun, Julian is now "BackScratcher"and I saw Shortrib who I hadn't seen in ages.

Day 71-74:

"Doubt kills more dreams than failures ever will" Karim Seddiki. I read this in the restaurant at Kennedy Meadows and it couldn't be more true.
I hitched a ride from a friendly trio of Germans who live in the Bay Area and were on their way to section hike the JMT.
I had left Kennedy Meadows despite the forecast of another thunderstorm that afternoon. 

The trail had been eroded in places from the run off from yesterday's storm. As I hiked, the clouds built up and by 2:30 pm I had already placed the rain cover over my pack. I walked in the rain for hours, staying dry under my Golite umbrella. That evening I found "The Canadians" at a large campsite. Scottish Lynn was also camping there and due to the fact that there was a creek running beside the camp and a campfire had been started, I decided to camp there too. 

The only other hiker I had encountered all day was a south bounder called "Outlaw", who appeared over a rise with long hair flowing and piercing blue eyes smiling beneath the brim of his outlaw Josie Wales hat and a tarp draped over his body like a cloak for rain protection.
The rain had stopped for now but the thunder was still rolling. I tucked up in my tent for the night.

An early start got me lots of miles done but by midday I was caught in my 5th thunderstorm. This time, I just put on my rain gear and hunkered down under my umbrella while the heavens opened up and poured hail and rain down upon the trail and Thor threw his toys around making a loud thunderous noise. I sat beneath a tree overlooking a lake and once the worst was over, I just kept hiking in the rain.

I felt amazed that I have been walking hundreds of miles through fields if beautiful wild flowers in bloom. 

Soon I passed the skeletal remains of a large animal, probably a deer that had been torn apart and devoured by another large animal.

 I felt a bit disconcerted about that.

The terrain was undulating with ascents or descents but very manageable and it was interesting to distinguish the difference between the granite and volcanic landscapes. As the hike went on over days, the rock formations were often surreal with volcanic peaks, knobs, pinnacles and cliffs. 

At one point I walked past a tent with a pink flamingo lampstand outside. A hiker called Tinkerbell popped her head out of the tent door and said "You look like a PCT hiker". I wasn't sure what that meant, but I guessed it meant that I looked a bit quirky. I had first met her and her boyfriend Smigel who carries the lamp stand, on Kearsage Pass and the last time I saw him he was wearing a skirt. They're awesome! 

Another hiker I met in this section was 3D. She takes photos for a 3D project for museums on the west coast. 

I've also gained an appreciation and somewhat of an understanding for nomadic lifestyles and I actually love setting up my tent at night. I've learned to pop that baby up real fast.
Eventually I reached the road that would take me to Tahoe and civilization once again. Another rain storm started as I hitched a ride and the following day during my zero there were thunderstorm and flash flood warnings.

Once again it was good to reconnect with the world and catch up on my chores. I also picked up a resupply box from my work mates which was awesome
So grateful for:
1) All the love and support I get
2) An awesome motel room with a jacuzzi.
3)A ride from Jim to get my resupply box.
4) Shelter from another storm.
5) The knowledge that life is a journey, not a destination.