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No. 34- Stevens Pass to CANADA, 2015

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Stevens Pass: 47.746222, -121.085933
Manning Park: 49.063453, -120.786651
Northern Monument: 49.000042, -120.799999
Rainy Pass: 48.517903, -120.735211
Chelan: 47.844757, -120.019080
Wolverine Fire: 48.183028, -120.682068
Upper Skagit Complex Fire: 48.697306, -121.183319
Chelan Complex Fire: 47.919103, -119.967957
Hart\'s Pass: 48.720542, -120.669794

 

August 18- Hitching to Chelan

The Dinsmores' Hiker Haven

The Dinsmores’ Hiker Haven

The Wolverine Fire has closed a large chunk of the PCT between Stevens Pass and Stehekin. There is no going through it and the fire is still out of control, so it will be quite a while until that section reopens. We had two options once we left the Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven: 1) hike about 30 miles out of Stevens Pass to Suiattle Road and then either road walk or hitch about 110 miles up to Rainy Pass, which is north of Stehekin, or 2) hitch from Stevens Pass to Chelan and take a ferry across Lake Chelan up to Stehekin. The ferry sounds like a lot more fun and will probably be more scenic, so that’s our plan.

Awesome doodles from Artie on my Dinsmore's resupply box

Awesome doodles from Artie on my Dinsmore’s resupply box

After collecting my resupply box and admiring all the doodles my boyfriend put on it (it’s always easy to identify my box because it has the best doodles!), we set out for Chelan. Our detour started with hitchhiking from Baring to Sunnyslope with a tye-dye clothed kid named Nolan. He was driving to Montana to study ecology at one of the universities there. He let us out on the side of the highway and then we walked down the off-ramp until we connected to “Alternate Highway 97.” We’d planned on hitching from there to Chelan, but happened upon a bus stop that would take us there directly. Since buses are generally easier and nicer than hitchhiking, we opted to wait for the bus.

Waiting for the bus to Chelan

Waiting for the bus to Chelan

With the Wolverine and the Chelan Complex Fires only a few miles away, the town of Chelan is incredibly smokey and ashy. I couldn’t believe how many people had stayed in town with the air quality being so bad. It burned my throat and made my eyes water. After buying our tickets from the ferry office, we took refuge in a restaurant and went back and forth over whether to stealth camp or pay $24 to camp at the RV campground. I hate paying that much money just to pitch my tent and I really don’t like RV campgrounds, but stealth camping comes with its own set of problems. You’re lucky if only the cops bother you, but more likely you’ll have crack heads or homeless people thinking you’re “one of them.” That didn’t really bother Khalil, but, as a woman, it bothered me.

As we began our walk down the street toward the RV campground, a couple from the restaurant approached us and asked if we were hikers and needed a place to stay for the night. They had a great big house which they were in the process of converting into a Bed & Breakfast and they offered us rooms! They weren’t exactly trail angels, just local people who cared and were in the habit of helping anyone who’d been evacuated from the fire. Their names are Mark and Michelle and they are absolutely delightful. I hope I can return to their B. & B. some day to repay their kindness.

Angels Mark & Michelle

Angels Mark & Michelle

 

August 19- 7 miles, camping at High Bridge Campground

In the morning, Michelle drove us to the ferry that would take us to Stehekin. We met a hiker named Distance while boarding the ferry, one of the only other 30-somethings I’ve met on the trail. The three of us huddled by the snack bar waiting for it to open so we could buy expensive muffins and Jimmy Dean microwavable sandwiches for breakfast. The people behind us must have been miffed because we practically cleaned out the muffin selection and all the half and half.

Smoke over Lake Chelan

Smoke over Lake Chelan

Distance taught Khalil and I how to play Rummy 500 and we spent most of the four hour boat ride trying to master it. There wasn’t much point hanging out on the deck outside because the smoke was so thick and unpleasant.

Khalil & Distance on the Lake Chelan Ferry

Khalil & Distance on the Lake Chelan Ferry

About halfway across the lake, Khalil had the great idea to return to Chelan, rent kayaks, and then paddle our way across the 52-mile lake. Sounded like a great idea, except that we don’t know the first thing about kayaking and we have about zero upper body strength right now, so we wouldn’t really know how long it would take to kayak the lake. I’m all for spontaneous adventures, but I just wasn’t sure how well this one would pan out. He was so gung ho about the idea that he even offered to pay for the return ferry trip to Chelan and the kayak rentals.

Entering North Cascades National Park

Entering North Cascades National Park

Once the ferry landed in Stehekin, we talked to a ranger about kayaking and she, very sweetly, called every single kayak outfitter in Chelan on our behalf. Not one of them was willing to rent us kayaks for an overnight trip. They all said that only experienced kayakers should attempt paddling through the very windy and potenialy dangerous “Narrows” of Lake Chelan. I was secretly relieved and we began our road walk to the PCT.

The dirt road from tiny Stehekin to the PCT is about eleven miles, but about two miles in is a well known bakery. We stopped there for a huge lunch and then Khalil headed out toward the trail, determined to walk as much as possible. Since I’d forgotten to charge my phone, I decided to hang back for an hour, using the bakery outlets and enjoying more juice and cookies.

The Stehekin River

The Stehekin River

We’re camping tonight near the Stehekin River at High Bridge Campground. It’s practically glamping (glamorous camping) because the site has a shelter and a privy, complete with T.P. and hand sanitizer. I should sleep well tonight because I’ve put all my food in a bear box and the mice should have no reason to harass me.

High Bridge Campground

High Bridge Campground

 

August 20- 20 miles, camping at Rainy Pass Trailhead

Just before hitting the trail, a few section hikers recommended continuing along the dirt road until it connected with the PCT. We went for it and then, instead of reconnecting with the trail, we decided to stay along the beautiful banks of the Stehekin River, bushwhacking and rock climbing along an “impassable trail.” Khalil was loving it, exclaiming that THIS is how he expected the PCT would be before he came to the U.S. and that THIS is how he really wanted to experience nature- with no human signs around, not even a trail.

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Impassable… SHmimpassable!

 

Off trail along the Stehekin River

Off trail along the Stehekin River

 

The Stehekin River

The Stehekin River

Once we were back on the PCT, we were climbing north through a long, hot canyon. The elevation is really low in this section and there wasn’t much shade on the trail. The heat wiped me out and, even though the trail was pretty easy, I felt exhausted.

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As the sun was preparing to set, Khalil and I were struggling to decide where to camp. I was super tired and convinced him we should just camp at the Rainy Pass Trailhead, which isn’t really a campsite. We collected water from a nasty looking pond next to the highway and pitched our tents on the only flat spots around, right next to the outhouse. The smell isn’t as bad as you might think and I’m too tired to care anyway.

Camping at Rainy Pass

Camping at Rainy Pass

 

August 21- 20.5 miles, camping on Glacier Pass

Looking towards Fisher Peak

Looking towards Fisher Peak

I’ve been told that the North Cascades have some of the best scenery along the trail. Unfortunately, because of the detour and having to skip the entire section between Stevens Pass and Stehekin, I missed some of that beautiful land. Today, as we hiked out of Rainy Pass and up high along a mountain crest, I got to see a taste of that famous North Cascade beauty.

Viewing Hinkhouse Peak, Silver Star Mountain, and Vasiliki Ridge

Viewing Hinkhouse Peak, Silver Star Mountain, and Vasiliki Ridge

In stark contrast to yesterday, rain clouds threatened to dump on us today and a cold wind relentessly chilled me to the bone. Stopping for snack breaks was almost miserable and I actually hiked in multiple layers and my gloves, something I never do because hiking usually really warms me up.

Mount Hardy (left) and Tower Mountain (right)

Mount Hardy (left) and Tower Mountain (right)

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Appropriate for the weather today, our camp is located on what’s called Glacier Pass and I’m dreading how chilly it might get tonight. When it’s this cold, I start sipping my hot coco with a spoon to savor its sweet warmth and hopefully not go to bed cold.

 

August 22- 21 miles, camping near Shaw Creek

Anzurite Peak (L) and Mount Ballard (R)

Anzurite Peak (L) and Mount Ballard (R)

This day surprised me with a completely different landscape than I expected. Once we climbed out of Glacier Pass and up to a ridge, a view of rugged, rocky, and dry mountains stretched before us. The treeless landscape made the trail visible for miles ahead along the ridge and through distant passes. It reminded me so much of Southern California, specifically of the Southern Sierras and the Tehachapi Mountains that rise out of the dry Mojave Desert. Somehow, it seems appropriate for the end of the trail to remind me so much of the beginning.

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The very last road the PCT crosses before the Canadian border is Hart’s Pass. Any hikers not planning on entering Canada either hitch or road walk thirty miles from here to the nearest town. Lucky for us, someone left a last little bit of trail magic on the road in the form of a cooler filled with cans of Bud Light. Whoohoo!
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Hart's Pass Ranger Station

Hart’s Pass Ranger Station

Hart’s Pass is just a dirt road with a ranger station and an outhouse, but it has the last trail register before Monument 78 at the border. I didn’t see many of the signatures of hikers that should be ahead of us in this register and wondered if they weren’t able to hike onward to Canada from here. The section from Rainy Pass to Hart’s Pass was recently closed due to fire and had just reopened before Khalil and I set out from Stehekin. There have been so many fires, some small and some big, and they’re reeking havoc on the hiking season and the resources of the fire fighters and forest service. If I had to guess, it seems like many hikers chose to end their hike at or shortly after Stevens Pass because the fire closures made a direct route to Canada just impossible.

North of Hart's Pass

North of Hart’s Pass

After Harts Pass, the trail climbed up into golden grassy mountains that looked even more like Southern California. Smoke from an additional nearby fire at Ross Lake, called the Upper Skagit Fire, was blowing in and obscuring our views of valley floors and mountain tops. This is the most smokey air I’ve had to hike in and I had a really difficult time with it. I became nauseous and dizzy and even thought I might pass out during one climb. The nausea took away my appetite, so I wasn’t eating as much as I should have, and that just made me feel even worse. I was hiking so slowly, maybe a mile an hour. If I wasn’t such a mouth-breather, it probably would’ve been much better, but I think my nose is just too small for that.

A smokey valley

A smokey valley

 

A doe-eyed visitor

A doe-eyed visitor

We were visited by a couple of deer at our campsite tonight and one in particular was very determined to lick up Khalil’s pee near a tree. They love the salt and can really be a nuisance around camp. Khalil actually lost one of his shirts to a deer when he left it to dry overnight on a branch. The deer stole the shirt, he chased after it, but the deer wouldn’t drop it. The next morning, he found it half chewed up down the trail.

 

August 23- 20 miles, camping near Castle Creek in Manning Park

Hiking in smoke

Hiking in smoke

This has to have been one of this worst hiking days I’ve ever had. Smoke sucks and it’s mucking up my whole style. The nausea and dizziness hit me harder today that yesterday and, unfortunately, it put me in a really lousy mood for the majority of the day.

Powder Mountain

Powder Mountain

I could tell that we were hiking through some beautiful mountains, but they were barely visible behind the smoke. It wasn’t until late afternoon, when we’d finished most of our ascent for the day and the smoke lightened up, that I started to feel like myself again and could really enjoy the last few miles of Washington.

Near Devil's Backbone

Near Devil’s Backbone

 

 

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We reached the monument after a few switchbacks just as the sun was slipping behind the hills. There weren’t any tears or even shouts of joy- in fact, it was rather a quiet moment. I struggled to reflect on everything that had brought me to this moment and to find words to write in the trail register that could really sum up my hike. The best I could up with is that this journey has been about a sense of adventure and curiosity and, to borrow a phrase from John Luther Adams, connecting with something larger and older in this world that we usually forget about in our daily civilized lives. Living this closely with and really immersed in nature and weather has been humbling and inspiring. I will forever be grateful for this experience and hope dearly that I can do it again somewhere, sometime.

J.O.Y. at Monument 78

J.O.Y. at Monument 78

 

 

Camping at Crystal Creek

Camping at Crystal Creek

There’s an established campsite about a quarter mile after the monument within the Canadian border where we’re staying tonight. Two other hikers are here with us, a couple of 70-somethings who section hiked Washington. It’s hard to believe this is the last night in my tent and I’m savoring the comfort it gives me. Khalil and I are celebrating by cooking a double serving of potatoes and sharing our dinners with each other, a kind of hiker feast/pot luck. He even packed out a picnic-friendly half carafe box of wine so we could really toast to the trail.

 

August 24- Hitched to Vancouver

Not even on my very last night would the mice leave me alone. There wasn’t even food in my tent and they still helped themselves to exploring around and chewing on my gear. I forget the score now, but the mice have clearly won.

Last breakfast on trail: Fritos & coffee

Last breakfast on trail: Fritos & coffee

Since I ran out of fuel making dinner last night, my breakfast consisted of cold coffee and Carnations mixed in my little soda bottle and Fritos crumbs. Ah, I will miss this!

Last bit of trail into Manning Park

Last bit of trail into Manning Park

The Manning Park Resort is pretty much the only thing around the official end of the PCT. They offer thru-hikers a free shower and drink, preferably hikers take the shower before going into the restaurant for the drink. We were too hungry to care, so we bee-lined it to the restaurant first for lunch.
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Hitching to Vancouver

Hitching to Vancouver

It took us about an hour to hitch a ride, but we were lucky enough that the first car to stop was on his way directly to Vancouver, a two and a half hour ride. Our driver, Andrew, dropped us off in the middle of downtown where we then needed to take a bus to the hostel on the outskirts of Vancouver. We didn’t have any Canadian currency, so I just worked my magic on the bus driver, trying to explain how we just walked into Canada in the middle of nowhere and Manning Park didn’t have any currency exchange- needless to say, he let us ride for free. Vancouver is beautiful; I wish I could spend a couple of days here exploring. Tomorrow I’ll do some errands, hopefully visit the famous Museum of Anthropology, and we’ll have dinner with Kurt, who I hiked with in Oregon. By Wednesday, I’ll be on an airplane home to California and, soon after, back to my life of music and teaching.

View of Vancouver's skyline from Jericho Beach

View of Vancouver’s skyline from Jericho Beach

It’s been a wild ride ever since I started section hiking back in August of 2013. Like your very first love, the dreaming, planning, and experience of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will forever hold a special place in my heart. I wish that everyone can have the vision, courage, and energy to fulfill their own dreams, whether they be outdoor adventures, educational or professional goals, or of personal growth. Life is short and, if we choose to see them, opportunities are all around us.
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Thank you to everyone who has followed along and supported me. Until the next adventure, HAPPY TRAILS!

 

Links

The Lake Chelan Ferry

Stehekin

Manning Park Lodge

Museum of Anthropology, U.B.C.

 

Installment No. 21 of My PCT Journey

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No. 21- Echo Lake to Sierra City, 2015

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Peter Grubb Hut: 39.367885, -120.367525
Benson Hut: 48.216038, 16.378984
Echo Lake: 38.833796, -120.041573
Sierra City: 39.566488, -120.634069
Donner Pass: 39.316968, -120.325656
Claire Tappaan Lodge : 39.317959, -120.350900

 

May 31- 13.5 miles, camping at Dick’s Lake

 

On our way to Lake Tahoe!

On our way to Lake Tahoe!

After a long drive to South Lake Tahoe and a ferry ride across Echo Lake, I was once again standing in a familiar spot with my backpack. Art had to say a quick goodbye because the ferry was waiting to return, but it felt too quick. I had been nervous about starting this hike since last night and I really wanted a long hug.

5-PCT-CA-Section-K-Desolation-Wilderness-1

 

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Lake Aloha

Throughout the day, I found myself comparing my speed to how fast I hiked last year. When I came through here in 2014, my feet were killing me, I was exhausted, and I’m pretty sure I was also PMSing. Today, I knew that I was walking slowly, but I felt so much stronger. The reason I had such a difficult time here before was because I had already been on the trail for 450 miles. I’m anticipating having that same struggle this year after the same distance, somewhere near Etna or Seiad Valley.

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13-PCT-CA-Section-K-Desolation-Wilderness-9

 

 

I saw numerous day hikers and overnight hikers off and on and met one PCT hiker named Beavers going southbound. He was actually a northbound hiker, but was hiking the section from Sierra City to Lone Pine southbound in the hopes the snow levels in the High Sierras would be more manageable when he reached them. With the drought this year, a lot of hikers have hit the Sierras early and didn’t expect as much snow as there actually is; now they’re either plugging through it or flip-flopping around it.

View towards Pyramid Peak and Susie Lake

View towards Pyramid Peak and Susie Lake

Fun Fact: 13,000 years ago, the valleys of Desolation Wilderness were carved out by great glaciers, pushing out all the top soil and leaving only the hard rock beneath. That’s why the trees and vegetation are so sparse and hence the name of this wilderness!

Dick's Pass, looking toward Dick's Peak

Dick’s Pass, looking toward Dick’s Peak

 

Dick's Pass, elevation: 9,400 ft

Dick’s Pass, elevation: 9,400 ft

The weather and the scenery was so beautiful and it was delightful to see differences from last summer. There is still quite a bit of snow, particularly on the north side of Dick’s Pass.

 

Couscous Dinner above Dick's Lake

Couscous Dinner above Dick’s Lake

 

Dick's Lake

Dick’s Lake

I’m camping at Dick’s Lake, just below the pass and the there are a number of other overnight hikers here. It’s actually a bit crowded. I’ve found a spot next to a kid named Jacob from North Carolina. We chatted a bit and he gave me some extra bottled water so I didn’t have to filter from the lake. The wind really kicked up and I was hoping it would die down after the sun set. It’s blowing so hard that it’s whipping through my tent, kicking the sand in and blowing my guidebook pages out and straight into the lake! Jacob tried to help me grab them all, but one, unfortunately, has been lost to Dick’s Lake. Wind 1. Katie 0.

Camping at Dick's Lake

Camping at Dick’s Lake

The wind is screaming outside my little tent and I’m having trouble writing this because I have to keep stabilizing my pole so the tent doesn’t collapse. I haven’t experienced wind like this since the Tehachapi Mountains above Mojave. Really, PCT?? You couldn’t wait at least a couple of nights before throwing me something like this?! I think this is going to be a really long night.

 

June 1- 17.5 miles, camping at Barker Pass

Last night my tent fell down twice, I had to get out and restaked it three times, and the sand blew right through my tent netting getting all over my gear and face. At 1 AM, I seriously considered just packing up for a new site, but didn’t want to deal with putting everything back in my pack. By the morning, only three stakes were still anchored and my tent was practically blowing away. As soon as it was light out, I packed up and found a protected spot to eat breakfast and have some coffee. Wind 2. Katie 0.

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I had a lot of ups and downs today. The majority of my day was spent walking through dense forest with a flooded trail and downed trees. The “tunnel of trees” trail days, as I call them, are difficult for me mentally. Throw in some achy body parts and I start wondering if I made the right decision coming out here. Soon after these demoralizing thoughts, though, I’ll see some adorable mushrooms, a waterfall, or another hiker and I’m right back on track.

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I must’ve seen about 10 southbound PCT hikers and I’ve been leapfrogging all day with a section hiker named, Jim. He and his dog, Bochi, are hiking from Highway 50 to Donner Pass. We chatted by a lake while we were both taking lunch breaks and his dog completely stole my heart. I told him I was worried I might be hiking slower than I’d planned and that I might run low on food. He was all too happy to hand over one of his freeze dried meals because he was carrying too much weight- his pack was 80 lbs!!

My Dirty Girl Gaiter twin!

My Dirty Girl Gaiter twin!

 

Jim and Bochi

Jim and Bochi

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Something I’m trying to do differently this time is not cook and eat where I camp. The smells are just so tempting for bears and there seem to be a lot in this area. There’ve been bear signs along the trail all day long and just as I was thinking I should stop to eat soon, I came across a very fresh pile of scat- steamy fresh! I didn’t see the bear, but I’m going to be careful about my food!

Bear scat

Bear scat

View from Barker Pass

View from Barker Pass

I’ve made it the 17.5 miles that I’d hoped to do today and am camping at Barker Pass. The picnic tables and outhouse made the goal even sweeter! Jim and Bochi are camped nearby. It’s gonna be another cold and windy night and it looks like it may rain, too. If it’s as bad as last night, I swear I’m going to sleep in the picnic area privy!

 

Camping at Barker Pass

Camping at Barker Pass

 

June 2- 18.5 miles, camping below Anderson Peak

 

Good morning!

Good morning!

I was awoken with a friendly face this morning as Bochi the pup tried to join me in my sleeping bag. He managed to pee on my sandals, which was no big deal and pretty funny. The weather turned out to be beautiful last night and, after getting some much needed rest, I felt good about hiking over eighteen miles for today.

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After saying goodbye to Jim and Bochi, I didn’t see a single soul all day. I didn’t feel lonely or scared because it just felt so good to be out here. Despite some windy patches, the weather was really nice and the trail didn’t throw me any curve balls.

View of Lake Tahoe

View of Lake Tahoe

Looking towards Anderson Peak and Tinker Knob

Looking towards Anderson Peak and Tinker Knob

All day long, I wound along ridges with breathtaking views around me. At lunchtime, I stopped for an hour at a creek to wash my legs, filter water, and charge my phone. I wanted to take a nap, too, but felt like I needed to get moving. I still had seven and a half miles to go to reach the campsite I was aiming for tonight. I popped an asprin and a caffeine tablet and tackled the three-mile climb ahead of me.

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Tinker Knob

Tinker Knob

It paid off. With plenty of daylight to spare, I reached my camp next to the headwaters of the Middle Fork American River and just below the climb to Anderson Peak. It feels so nice to have a couple of hours of daylight to muck about before going to sleep. I was able to dry out my shirts, repair the velcro on my shoes for my gaiters, fix one of my guy lines, filter all my water, and sort my food for the next three days. There’s nothing like that feeling of being productive to put the cherry on top of my day!

Camping below Tinker Knob

Camping below Tinker Knob

Fixing my gaiter velcro

Fixing my gaiter velcro

Today, more than before, I found myself walking in spirit with many of the hikers I met last year on the trail. Things I saw and places I past reminded me of sharing some great experiences with those friends. Tonight I raise a toast of hot cocoa to those hikers: Duchess, Booey, Crusher, Sugar Pine and Lingo, Knockout and Liverpool, Beav, Smokes, Lorax and T-fox, Glitter, Red Light, Butters and Just So Fresh- the list could go on (don’t you love hiker names?). Thank you, kids, for making last summer so memorable!

Playing pine cone games & thinking of Butters

Playing pine cone games & thinking of Butters

 

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June 3- 13.5 miles, staying at the Claire Tappaan Lodge

What a roller coaster today has been! I went from feeling really great, to not; then to being angry and frustrated, to resigned and even delighted.

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I was up early because it was especially cold this morning. When it’s that chilly, sometimes the only thing to do to get warm is hike. So, hike I did! I was lucky enough to see a couple of bears on my mile and a half climb to Tinker Knob. One was a medium sized black bear and the other was a massive, brown bear. I couldn’t believe how big he was- almost the size of a small car! He was probably 700 lbs. I clacked my poles together and shouted “Hey, bears!” They turned and ran right off the trail and down into the trees.

Bear print!

Bear print!

By 8 AM I had already climbed to the top of the ridge and felt great. The views were not only spectacular, but also new for me. The last time I walked the ridge was in a rain storm and could only see ten feet in front of my face. I had no idea what I’d missed out on. Today I could see as far as the Sierra Buttes above Sierra City towering sharply on the horizon.

Looking towards Castle Peak from Anderson Peak

Looking towards Castle Peak from Anderson Peak

I stopped at the Sierra Club Benson Hut, just to check it out and use the outhouse. Somehow, it didn’t seem as awesome as last summer when I took shelter in it during the storm. It needs some TLC.

The Sierra Club Benson Hut

The Sierra Club Benson Hut

The trail goes right through Roller Pass, which is where pioneers hauled wagons up from the meadow and over the cliff using oxen. One of the things I love about being on the trail is that it takes you through so many historical sites and really brings to life, for me, what the early settlers must have experienced. I’m always impressed by the guts of any pioneer or immigrant to put it all on the line and seek something better than what they were born into. I’d like to think that I may have inherited some of that brazen sense of adventure from my own pioneer ancestors.

Roller Pass

Roller Pass

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Coming down toward Donner Pass became more and more difficult. I was tired and my feet were feeling really bruised from the rocky trail. By the time I reached the Donner Pass rest area at Interstate 80, I was itching to be done with my day. Unfortunately, multiple day hikers had told me bad weather is coming in and it seemed to be getting started already. The clouds were heavy, the temperature had dropped and I couldn’t decide if I should keep hiking or get a room somewhere.

Donner Pass

Donner Pass

Just four miles up the trail was the Peter Grub Sierra Club Hut that I knew I could stay in for the night. Unfortunately, my batteries were all running low and I couldn’t get any info on how bad these storms might be. I didn’t particularly want to get out there, run out of juice on my phone with no sunshine to recharge it and also risk getting stuck in my tent all day because of a really bad storm. If I couldn’t hike because of weather, I’d rather stay in town than in my tent.

I pulled out my guidebook and called the number of a local Sierra Club Lodge. They picked me right up and got me to the lodge in time for dinner with the other guests. It’s a great little gem and as frustrated as I got trying to make up my mind about coming here, I’m glad I did! For $70, you get a teeny bunk room, dinner, breakfast, a bagged lunch, free laundry, free Wi Fi, and use of the private hot tub. Plus ,by staying here you help support the Sierra Club and keep the lodge open for future use.

The Sierra Club Claire Tappan Lodge

The Sierra Club Claire Tappan Lodge

 

A bunkroom at the Claire Tappaan Lodge

A bunkroom at the Claire Tappaan Lodge

At dinner, I met Ed and Meredith, a couple of engineers from New Jersey. They’re in California for Ed to participate a fundraising bike ride of 100-miles! They were really fun to talk with, both of them being intelligent, active and lighthearted.

I was determined to not get stuck for another night in Soda Springs, so I came up with some game plans to hike through the storms. The weather report showed the storms hitting for only a couple hours in the afternoon for the next couple of days and that the wind wouldn’t be above ten miles an hour. Done! If the wind isn’t gusting, I can handle everything else: rain, hail, snow, thunder and lightening. I studied the map and figured I could hike from valley to valley, keeping an eye on the weather and staying off the ridges if it looked dangerous. I picked a couple of tent sites that looked protected in case I really needed to hunker down.

Now I need to charge my phone and get some sleep.

 

June 4- 17.5 miles, camping on a ridge near mile 1178.5

After breakfast burritos and coffee and waiting for my skirt to dry in the drier, Ed and Meredith drove me out to a trailhead that connected me to the PCT. They hiked with me as far as the Peter Grub Sierra Club Hut and it was great to have their company. They were really delightful to be around and Meredith even carried my pack for most of it, just to see what it felt like! With service like that they should be charging money!

Meredith carrying my pack

Meredith carrying my pack

Peter Grub Sierra Club Hut

Peter Grub Sierra Club Hut

Not long after Meredith and Ed said goodbye, the thunder started to roll in. I was able to hike for awhile in the light rain, but when it started coming down harder, I had to stop and put all my rain gear on. The rain turned to hail and bit sharply on my bare hands, but I was still having a good time! Having the proper gear and no wind makes all the difference in situations like this.

 Storm clouds near Donner Pass

Storm clouds near Donner Pass

Ultralight ZPacks pack cover

Ultralight ZPacks pack cover

Tom's Valley

Tom’s Valley

It was beautiful watching the clouds roll through, twisting around each other in shades of greys and dark blues. I actually really enjoy hiking in weather like this because it’s so different from the usual hiking day and beautiful to watch.

Fungus

Fungus

An orchid

An orchid

 

Looking towards the Sierra Buttes

Looking towards the Sierra Buttes

Around 6 PM, I stopped to make camp because I was feeling sore and the mileage would work out nicely getting into Sierra City in two days. I’m still trying to shake the mentality that I need to hike at least twenty miles each day. Eventually, I will, but not for this first week. Plus, I love having so much daylight left when I get to camp.

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As I lay in my tent eating a dinner of jerky, a protein bar, fruit leather and hot cocoa, a light rain began spattering my tent. I looked out and saw a perfect rainbow arching just above me. I’m not superstitious, but rainbows always seem like a good omen.

Rainbow!

Rainbow!

 

June 5- 19.5 miles, staying at the Red Moose Inn

I woke up to a chilly morning breeze and a very wet tent. It must’ve rained more during the night and I tried my best to dry the tent off with my nano towel and wysi wipes. Nothing’s worse than a tent that smells like mildew. It was so cold, I didn’t feel like getting up and going- contrasting to the motivation a cold morning gave me a couple days ago! Since I pack the sleeping bag in the bottom of backpack, I couldn’t pack anything until I was willing to get out of my bag. So, all I managed to do was move things from one side of my tent to the other for about an hour while I made coffee and breakfast.
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The Sierra Buttes

The Sierra Buttes

By 10 AM, I felt ready for a nap. As tired as I may be, I’ve never been good ant napping, but I made an attempt anyways. I plopped down right on the side of the trail and lay there, just listening to the birds for about fifteen minutes.

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Snow plant

Snow plant

It was nineteen and a half miles all downhill today, and beautiful! I didn’t plan on hiking all the way to Sierra City, but by the time I reached the turn off for the town it was only three in the afternoon. When I’m that close to town, it’s hard not to go all the way. When you’re not focusing too hard on a goal, sometimes you can be surprised by how far you’ve come, especially when it’s all downhill!

PCT-CA-Section-L-46-Plumas-National-Forest

Old structure, maybe a horse corral?

Old structure, maybe a horse corral?

Road walking along Wild Plum Road

I’m sitting in the Sierra Hotel bar now, watching Jeopardy with the locals and enjoying a Hot Toady. It’s the only place in town with Wi Fi strong enough to upload my videos. I love meeting the locals and hearing their stories- like the bartender who’s worked at this mountain bar for 15 years, now it’s being bought up by a city slicker investor and and he has no idea what he’ll do next for a job.

Town shoes1

Town shoes!

Sierra City

Sierra City

I’ve picked up my resupply box from the Sierra Country Store and need to go through all the food for the next section. I’m procrastinating because I know I have more food than I’ll need for the next four and a half to five days. I’ll have to put some of it in the hiker box at the store, but I also hate wasting food.

I’m looking forward to a hardy breakfast in the morning and wondering if I’ll get stuck in town for most of tomorrow, enjoying the amenities it offers.

 

Links

Installment No. 22- Sierra City to Belden, 2015

Roller Pass

Claire Tappan Sierra Club Lodge

Sierra City

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Tinker Knob Anderson Peak Rainbow

 

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
No. 13- Echo Lake to Sierra City, 2014

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Herrington\'s Sierra Pines: 39.562929, -120.642680
Echo Lake: 38.833796, -120.041573
Sierra City: 39.576519, -120.612566
Peter Grubb Hut: 39.367885, -120.367525
Benson Hut: 39.260938, -120.296369

 

 

June 23rd- 7 miles, camping at Susie Lake

People might think that town stops mean rest and relaxation for hikers.  In reality, there are usually so many chores to be done that napping, etc. doesn’t happen as much as you might expect.  I was really hoping to get a nap in before hitting the trail this afternoon,  but there were just too many things to do.  I had to make phone calls and send emails, check my bank account and bills, organize my gear, fix my tent, duct tape my pack, shower, eat breakfast, mail home my bear canister, and eat lunch.   Whew… even now,  it seems like a lot.  I still didn’t manage to contact my cell carrier to figure out my data plan.  It’ll be postponed again.

PCT Section K South Lake Tahoe Bert's Cafe

Bert’s Cafe, So. Lake Tahoe

I really enjoyed my stay at the Apex Inn.  My super clean room had a mini fridge, a microwave and a coffeemaker, all of which I took full advantage of.  I especially loved that it was within walking distance to all of the facilities and shops I needed.  They Indian family that runs it were so hospitable and sweet.  The hotel owner even shuttled me back to the trail today.

PCT Section K South Lake Tahoe Apex Inn

The very affordable & pleasant Apex Inn, So. Lake Tahoe

After checking out, I hung out at the Lake of the Sky Outfitters hiker lounge waiting for my ride to finish up his work.  While there, I worked on replacing guy lines on my tent and taped up the fraying fabric on my backpack.  I bought an awesome stuff sack that can double as a day pack and am using that to store my food in from now on.  Lunch was a Subway sandwich.  Mmm… Veggie Delight.

PCT Section K El Dorado National Forest Desolation Wilderness Echo Lake

Echo Lake

I rode with the owner of the Apex Inn and his two children back up to Highway 50 and the two miles to Echo Lake.  He even waited to be sure I got my Echo Lake resupply package okay before he left.

I lolly gagged at the picnic table sorting my resupply food.  Apparently, I never got around to putting in any dinners for this box.  I looked closely at the list I made of the box contents and could see my note to myself:  “Add 5 dinners.”  I had to buy a bunch of top ramen from the Echo Lake Store.  Bleh!  Another solo lady hiker, trailname “Freedom,” was sorting her box, too.  She and I took.the speedboat ferry across the lake to shave off a couple miles and just for fun.

PCT Section K El Dorado National Forest Desolation Wilderness Echo Lake Ferry

Echo Lake Ferry with Freedom

Since I bought two new poles in Tahoe, I now have to get used to hiking with them.  They’re much more secure feeling, but it’s kind of like walking with four feet instead of two.  I feel a bit like a baby giraffe trying to get the swing of it.

PCT Section K South Lake Tahoe Lake of the Sky Outfitters trekking pole

Old trekking pole, new trekking pole

 

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness 1100 miles

1,100 mile-marker on the PCT

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness wildflowers

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha

I hiked only seven miles today and am camping next to a beautiful little lake, but it’s swarming with mosquitoes.   They’re thick in the air and they’re EVERYWHERE!  Every time I left and reentered my tent, I spent five minutes smashing all the buggies that snuck in.  Little do they know that entering this tent is their DEATH SENTENCE.  I’m like a cat, enjoying the chase and kill of its prey!  Bwahhhahahaha!

 

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness marmot

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness Susan Lake

Camping near Susie Lake

 

 

June 24th- 21 miles, camping below Barker Pass

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness trail food breakfastIt’s funny how you can look at a mountain and get an idea of its shape, dimensions, colors and textures; and all of those things together give you a sense of character for that mountain.   You think you KNOW it even because you’ve observed and admired it for so many footsteps or minutes.  Then you continue to hike and you get a different perspective on the mountain.   Suddenly, it’s not the same mountain you thought you knew, it’s shape is completely different than what you thought and the texture or colors change.  These mountains have so much character to me, and, like a good story, the characters are always developing.

 

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation WildernessSo, I guess I had a rough start to the day.  I just didn’t feel good in my body, mind, or spirit.  I struggled with the uphill climb and struggled with getting my pack comfortable on my sore hip.  My feet were sliding around in my shoes as I went over rocky trail because I’m trying new insoles.  I’m not sure if it’s my diet, all the exertion over the last month, maybe it’s dealing with the overall discomfort of my body, or maybe I’m just PMSing.  I don’t know, but it’s wearing me down.  I didn’t bother trying to keep up with T-Fox and Lorax as they past me this morning; I knew I just wasn’t up to it.

 

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness Dicks Pass

Dicks Pass

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness Dicks Pass trail food lunch

Lunch

I felt so much better after a second breakfast of salmon wraps, Fritos, and tea.  Sounds like exactly the kind of picnic my dad would have, except maybe there’d be a Boddington’s, too!  I am my father’s daughter!  I hiked well for several more hours and was starting to feel like myself again.

 

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness Dicks Pass

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness wildflowers

Around 2:00, the ache in my feet came back.  Again, I spent the afternoon hobbling mile after mile toward camp.  I dreaded taking breaks because it was so much more painful to get up again than it was to just keep moving.  How can I make it another 1,030 miles like this?

Freedom, the solo hiker I met at Echo Lake, caught up with me this evening and we’re camping together tonight.   She’s a a recent college graduate from Portland and is moving to Germany to manage a family farm when she finishes her hike.  Which, I think, is the coolest thing ever.

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness wildflowers moth

PCT Section El Dorador National Forest Desolation Wilderness

Camping with Freedom

 

 

June 25- 20.5 miles

I learned a very important lesson today: caffeine is essential for good hiking in the morning.  I flew up Barker Pass and felt great the whole way.  Along the way, I talked to a number of day and section hikers.  This area is really popular and accessible for that kind of hiking.

My first view of Lake Tahoe this morning caught me by surprise.  It was so beautiful and maps just can’t do it justice.  It’s the most majestic lake I’ve ever seen.

The trail weaved in and out of view of the lake.  I stopped around noon along a ridge because I had reception and could check my email.  While waiting for a video to upload to Vimeo (which never did) I had a tuna wrap for lunch and dried fruit.  I’m getting better at eating more of my food, but it’s still hard.  When you’re full, you’re FULL- you’re body doesn’t want any more.  It makes me sick to my stomach when I force myself to eat any more.  Ahh, hiker problems.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Lake Tahoe

Grand vistas of Lake Tahoe

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Lake Tahoe

This afternoon I ran into a big group of PCTA trail workers cleaning up the trail. They were a great group of people.  They’re collecting videos of hikers saying, “I am the PCTA.”  Maybe I’ll be in one of their fundraiser promos!  Stay tuned to their website for my moment of fame!

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Lake Tahoe trail maintenance crew

PCTA trail crews

The wind has been strong all day.  I’m starting to think it has a vendetta against me.  As it blew into the afternoon, a light thunderstorm came with it.  I had to stop and change into my long johns and rain gear.  Oh, I LOVE my rain gear!  I was so comfortable and dry all through the showers.

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Lake Tahoe


PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness

 

 

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Tinker Knob Anderson Peak

View towards Tinker Knob & Anderson Peak

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Tinker Knob Anderson Peak Rainbow

Rainbow!

According to Yogi’s PCT guidebook, there is a Sierra Club hut in the area.  I thought it would be great to spend the night there, high and dry.  I wouldn’t have to unpack my tent or worry about having to dry it out the following day because of rain.  I reached the campsite that marks 20 miles for the day, but it was only 6:15.  I sat on the ground staring at the maps; if I kept going up the ridge, I’d have to climb four and a half miles with threatening rain clouds looming over my head.  I decided it would be better to chance the night in my tent down at the bottom of the climb rather than hike until 9 pm in the wind and rain.  Plus, what if the hut was locked?  Or if I couldn’t find it because it’s not on the trail?  So, here I am, 20.5 miles for the day.  I felt like I could’ve done more, but at least it gives my feet a rest.

PCT Section K Granite Chief WildernessAfter a dinner of Knorr’s Pasta Sides, which I’d bought at Echo Lake, three other PCT hikers showed up:  Potluck, High-Robics, and Wall-E.  They’re setting up camp up the hill in a more exposed area.  I hope it’s not too cold there!  I think I got the sweet spot protected by the trees.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness hiker trash potluck

High-robics & Potluck

The sky is now a beautiful, dynamic tangle of clouds blowing by.  I’ve crawled back into my tent because it’s too cold for socializing.  Since I had so much time this evening, I did more stretching and foam rolling than I think I’ve done any other night on the trail.  I hope I wake up early tomorrow- no more sleeping in!

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness

 

June 26th-17 miles, staying at the Peter Grub Sierra Club Hut

The wind gusted and it rained lightly on and off throughout the night, and it continued into the morning.  A Canadian hiker named Early Bee hiked up the ridge with me during the morning storm. He was great to talk to and kept a good pace for me to keep up with him.  He lived and worked for about a decade in Saudi Arabia, and since I’ve visited the Middle East, we had some stories to compare.

As we hiked, we came across Crusher and his friend, Section Hiker Katie. I hadn’t seen Crusher since Kennedy Meadows and was so surprised to learn he’d actually been hiking close to me the entire time. He has a wonderful blog that you can read:  WesleyTrimble.  Three ladies training for an ultra run approached us in their little shorts an t-shirts shivering and wet. They asked us if the weather improved further down where we’d just hiked up from. It definitely didn’t and we recommended they turn around based on how cold they looked. The wind was blowing pretty hard all along the ridge and the rain was coming down harder. Even us hikers, in our long johns and rain gear, we’re getting too cold. We all decided to head for a Sierra Club hut we’d read about in the guidebook.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness

Hiking with Early B.

Early B. and I reached the area where the hut was said to be and wandered around the hillside looking for it. Just as we were going to head on up the trail, the fog cleared for a moment and I could see the hut on the opposite side of the trail. The guidebook, which is usually dead on, had given the wrong location for the hut. I was delighted to find the runners already stoking a fire inside.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Sierra Club Benson Hut

Sierra Club Benson Hut

 

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Sierra Club Benson Hut

Joggers, Early B. Katie & Crusher

The seven of us hung out for nearly two hours, drying out and warming up, eating chocolate and drinking tea. The storm cleared up and we were able to head out again toward Donner Pass.

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Donahue PassEven though I hadn’t done many miles, I felt so wiped out by the time I reached Highway 40 at Donner Pass. I crashed hard on some chair cushions I found near the trailhead parking lot. I pulled out all my gear and spread it out in the sunshine to dry while I ate lunch.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Donahue Pass

Approaching Donahue Pass

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Donahue Pass Highway 40

Donahue Pass, Hwy 40

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Donahue Pass Highway 40Crusher convinced me to stay at the next Sierra Club hut on the trail, the Peter Grub Hut. It meant I only put in 17 miles for the day, but the hut and the company had a strong pull. Turns out Steve the nurse from Michigan was there, too. It made for a fun little party! Steve finally got a trail name that’s sticking: “Knock Out.” I pride myself in giving it to him back in Tuolumne Meadows after he accidentally punched himself in the face and got a bloody nose. He had been trying to tighten cords on his pack, I think.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Sierra Club Peter Grub Hut

Sierra Club Peter Grub Hut with Gas Pedal & Crusher

 

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Sierra Club Peter Grub Hut

Peter Grub Hut with Knock Out & Crusher

 

The hut had three rooms: a kitchen/dining room and a game room room (full of board and card games) on the first floor and an empty attic accessible by a ladder. We all slept on the floor of the attic, sleepover style.

PCT Section K Granite Chief Wilderness Sierra Club Peter Grub Hut

(L->R) Knock Out, Crusher & Katie

 

 

June 27th- 23.5 miles

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest Sleeping in the attic of the hut was awesome except that it didn’t have any working windows to air out the hiker stench. For most of the day, I leapfrogged with T – Fox and Lorax. Update:  I posted their blog incorrectly back in the Lone Pine to Reds Meadows Journal. Here it is corrected:  DanTaraPCT.

I don’t think I’ve had so many ups and downs on the trail in a single day before. None of them were very bad, but it felt a bit like a roller coaster. It was a great day for loading up on caffeine and hiking to some hip hop!

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest

Lorax & T-Fox

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest Bear Sign

There have been so many wildflowers all through the Sierras. Some are shaped like trumpets, others look like little fireworks or feather dusters. They come in all colors of the rainbow and when growing in patches together, they look just like bouquets from the flower shop. Sometimes, as I walk through the patches of colors, I feel like Dorothy in some alternate Oz universe where the enchanted poppies have been replaced by enchantING orchids, lupine, and mariposa lilies.

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest

 

PCT Section L Tahoe National ForestI’m cowboy camping under the stars. I’ve missed it: the cool air on my face, the sparkling sky above, and the anticipation of a shoot star at any moment. Tomorrow I’ll be in Sierra City and Art’s driving up to meet me. Yay!

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest

Camping with Lorax & T-Fox

 

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest

The view from my bed

 

 

June 28th- 11 miles, staying at Herrington’s in Sierra City

PCT Section L Tahoe National ForestThe laws of the universe must have been turned upside down because I was packed at out of camp by 6 am while T-Fox and Lorax were still eating breakfast. The thought of hot coffee drove me all morning up one last hill, down a very long mountain, and straight into Sierra City

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest Sierra City Red Moose Inn

The Red Moose Inn with Crusher, Half & Half, and Liverpool, Sierra City

 

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest Sierra City Gut Buster Burger Crusher hiker

Crusher enjoying a famous Gut Buster Burger

I walked directly into the Red Moose Inn for a late breakfast and was greeted by Crusher, Half & Half (a police officer from Germany), and Liverpool. I thought Liverpool would’ve been several days ahead of me! Numerous hikers showed up throughout the day, most of whom hung out on the Country Store porch eating sandwiches and ice cream. Knock out and I enjoyed some baseball watching and a drumstick dinner from the local saloon before I headed down to Herrington’s Resort for the night. I made sure to stop by the store one last time and grab more juice, ice cream, and pudding. I must’ve been quite a sight carrying my pack, resupply box, trekking poles and groceries a half mile along Highway 49.

PCT Section L Tahoe National Forest Sierra City Herringtons Resort

A visit from my honey <3

Art met me a few hours later and he’ll hang out with me while I take a zero tomorrow. We plan on eating lots of chip and dip from the store and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a foot massage!

 

Links

Installment No. 14- Sierra City to Belden Town

Echo Lake Chalet

Crusher’s Blog

Sierra Club Hut Information

Herrington’s Sierra Pines Resort