Feel good in the Sierras

Day 78: Zero to South Lake Tahoe

All night there was Latin music played at the campsite and there were dogs barking and people screaming. I read in the Farout app that a bear came and ripped off a hiker’s quilt while he was sleeping at this campsite, so I didn’t sleep very well.

I had breakfast near the picnic tables and went to register. I was informed that the PCT hikers had a campsite a little further out so I packed up my things and moved them to the site. I saw a hiker sitting there and it was Hoot. He had done a crazy 40 and even a 50 mile day hike and was on his way back to the trail.

Hank told me she couldn’t get to town until the post office where her resupply arrives closes, so she should zero until Monday. This was bad news because I had really set myself a deadline to leave South Lake Taho before September 25th. There was still snow from the blizzard before at 10,000 feet and I wasn’t looking forward to doing any more snow hikes.

An awesome trail angel brought me a free bear canister at the campsite. His wife had even made a bandana with the text “Whiskey” sewn on it.

I went for a Mexican breakfast then went to an outdoor store to get a floor mat and a paper map. I had resupply for the next section as well as emergency whiskey. It was hot and I even went to the beach to try swimming in the shallow water. I ate a bowl of ice cream after that.

Back at the campground, I tried to do laundry, but the laundromat only worked with quarters, even though the whole country ran out. I had to run to four different places to change money before someone did it for me against the rules.

I spent my evening charging batteries and washing clothes in the laundry room which was at least warmer than outside.

Day 79: 12 miles. Echo Summit Trailhead to Upper Truckee River

I woke up at 6am and went to hang out in the busy laundry room as it was too cold to hang out. Hank was trying to hold on to the trailhead and we agreed to meet at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Eventually, she was taken away by ambulance. Well, hiker hunger is an emergency for sure!

We hadn’t met since Stehekin and had a lot to catch up on. We had a great breakfast with pancakes, hash browns, and exactly the kind of food you crave on the trail. We had surprisingly similar experiences on the trail, like always being the slowest in the race or getting caught in the snowstorm. We agreed to meet at Kennedy Meadows North at the latest if Hank didn’t join me before.

After breakfast Hank went to enjoy his rare zero and I started hitchhiking. It wasn’t too long before a nice couple took me on a ride and they were also impressed that I did the hike (or almost did). I made up for the miles skipped by leaving too early and walking an extra mile.

The scenery was amazing from the start and I felt like I was really in the High Sierras. The trail climbed to 8000 feet and then to nearly 9000. I had never hiked this high before and was more out of breath than usual. Saw some dark clouds passing and heard thunder once, but luckily the clouds seemed to be raining lower down closer to South Lake Tahoe.

The lakes and mountains were really cool and sometimes the scenery looked like something out of a western. I met a few section hikers in the first few miles, some women doing 50 miles in four days, and a SoBo hiker from 1980.

The last hours, I had no company. I had dinner near the abandoned Meiss Family Cabin from the year 1878. It was a little scary and I swear I could hear children’s voices even though there was no one around. It was too scary to camp there, so I hiked into a cool meadow early to camp.

Day 80: 24 miles. Upper Truckee River at Pennsylvania Creek

I got up before 6 am and started the hike. The scenery was the most amazing I had seen so far. It kept changing. There were a lot of ups and downs and I started to feel the altitude. I had constant headaches. When I arrived at the camp, I was beyond exhausted. I realized my elevation was affected and decided to hike a bit shorter than planned the next day.

I encountered a single 2021 NoBo all day that was finishing their hike with this section.

Day 81: 21 miles. Pennsylvania Creek to the tent site at mile 1619.

For once, my watch alarm was on and I woke up before six o’clock. I filtered some water and put away my bear box.

The scenery was absolutely amazing and I had to say “Oh my God!” strong several times during the day. As the sun was rising, I saw an animal on the path coming towards me. A wolf! He was happily jogging and when he saw me he jogged off the trail into the woods. The wolf with the incredible mountains and sunrise could have made for a great photo.

There was a lot of rock climbing but it was one of the best days on the trail so far. The mountains were like from another planet and there were beautiful lakes between them. It was very windy at times and I was afraid of getting blown off the trail.

I was really tired and could have fallen asleep anywhere. Tried to take a nap at lunch but there were too many ants. Unbelievable that 9000ft could make me sick, it was like having a pms and a hangover at the same time. After eating a lot and drinking electrolytes, I felt a little better and was able to climb my first mountain of 9300 feet. I met a few section hikers half of whom asked me if I had seen Kate. No, I hadn’t.

A man who was already camping at 2 p.m. said I couldn’t cross the Sierras until winter came. Well certainly not if I was already camping at 2 p.m.! He said he wanted to do the PCT but he hadn’t done it yet so I took his advice with tweezers. Winter can come at any time in the Sierras, but in an average year you can if you cross the highest pass in mid-October. I also met a Swiss hiker who hadn’t seen anyone all day and was therefore talkative. We were talking about how annoying it is that there is no free camping in the USA like in our countries.

The sunset was the most amazing I have ever seen. Passed the Paradise Valley Junction and set up camp in the dark at 7:30 p.m.

Day 82: 20 miles. Tent site at mile 1619 towards Kennedy Meadows North

The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. and half an hour later I was walking under amazing starry skies. I was playing Abba as a precaution against the bear/mountain lion and was amazed at how stupid some of the lyrics are. Just listen to “Honey Honey” and think about it.

The rest of the day I walked through stunning scenery and listened to an addictive but somewhat miserable audiobook. I cleared my highest pass so far, Sonora pass at 10,500 feet. It was very beautiful. At the side of the road, I saw four other hikers waiting for a shuttle. I arrived there just 30 minutes before one of the day’s two shuttles descended the 10 miles to the resort.

The resort is a very stereotypical western ranch with people in cowboy hats and stuffed animals on the walls. I took a bed in a dorm and the other hiker sleeping there turned out to be Nine Beers! She had skipped a section and had trouble getting up in the morning. Meanwhile, Hank texted that she was focused on Tahoe and would likely be at the resort the next day. I should continue to hike the High Sierras on my own. The next stretch to Mammoth Lakes would be 110 miles crossing passes that are above 11,000 feet.

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