171001 – Sierra City (pop. 225)

Day:  161
Date:  Sunday, 01 October 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1175.5, 7621 ft
Finish:  Where the PCT crosses Hwy 49 at Mile 1195.4, 4591 ft
Daily Miles:  19.9 PCT, plus 1.5 to Sierra City
Total PCT Miles:  2516.0
Weather:  Mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Cabin at Buttes Resort in Sierra City
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Pop tarts
     Lunch:  Gorp and 1lb cheeseburger & fries
     Dinner:  Soup, corn chips, chilli con carne, ice-cream & fruit
Aches:  Left ankle still a bit sore
Highlight:  Getting to Sierra City at 3:15pm and confirming with the resort owner, where I have a cabin, that the general store/deli closed at 4:00pm.  I had time to dump my pack in my cabin then hurry down to the store where I ordered a second late lunch and bought supplies for dinner and breakfast.  The resort owner said there was only one place near town where I could get dinner (expensive) and that neither the town bakery, nor general store, nor any other food sources would be open tomorrow morning.
Lowlight:  Having made a big effort to get an early start and maintain a good pace so I could be sure of getting to Sierra City by mid-afternoon, I somehow lost the trail in mid-morning and ended up on a disused track, covered in thorn bushes, following orange ribbons tied to occasional shrubs.  Eventually I worked out where I should be from my GPS and hiked cross-country to rejoin the trail.  Probably cost me 20 minutes or so of hard-earned time.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

I woke early and was hiking in the dark using my headlamp by 5:40am.  Once again, it was cold, but not bitterly so, and I enjoyed walking under the still-bright stars as the sky gradually lightened in the east.  Initially, there was a climb, but after that the trail followed the top of a bare ridge from where I could make out mountains and valleys through the pre-dawn gloom.

For most of the morning, the PCT worked its way to the northwest following ridges and gradually losing height.  Sometimes there were views, but more usually the trail was in the forest.  I didn’t see any other hikers all morning, but the trail passed through a national forests recreation area and crossed a number of roads and went by a campground, so there was plenty of evidence of civilisation.  Apart from getting lost at one point (see above), I generally was making good time despite occasional rocky sections.

In the early afternoon I began to see some other hikers, and one couple told me there was another PCT hiker in front of me who was “flying” as Sierra City marked the end of his PCT thru-hike.  I was envious, and think I probably saw him and his welcoming “committee” when I later reached Hwy 49.  There was a small gathering of vehicles and obviously some celebrating going on.

I reached Hwy 49 at 2:40pm, and immediately began the 1.5 mile walk down the road to Sierra City, though I stuck my thumb out to all passing vehicles in the hope of getting a lift, but with no success.  I reached the very small town, sited beneath the towering rocky crags of the Sierra Buttes, at 3:15pm and checked into my cabin with the friendly owner before rushing down to the general store (see above).  I was back in my cabin in time to watch the final quarter of an NFL game while I ate my burger, and then took it easy for the rest of the day.

I now have 134 miles to go to finish the PCT and will take a week to do it.  From here, I will hike three days to Quincy, my next resupply town, where I will have Thursday off before tackling the final three days to Chester, reaching there next Sunday night.  The only public transport from Chester to Reno, or anywhere else of significance, runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so my timetable dovetails with that.

Given that there is nowhere to get breakfast in Sierra City tomorrow morning, I will try to get away reasonably early.  I bought some pastries and orange juice at the store to have for breakfasf.

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170930 – Ridge after ridge

Day:  160
Date:  Saturday, 30 September 2017
Start:  Where the PCT crosses Hwy 40 near Donner Pass at Mile 1153.4, 7114 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1175.5, 7621 ft
Daily Miles:  22.1 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2496.1
Weather:  Mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Oatmeal, ham & cheese omelette & hash browns, toast & jam.
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated beef stroganoff with noodles
Aches:  Left ankle sore for much of the afternoon
Highlight:  The last hour walking along the top of a high treeless ridge by the light of a setting sun which turned the distant mountains orange.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

I left the hostel, which had been OK, at 7am and walked to a nearby diner for breakfast.   From there, I walked a short distance to the bus station and right on 8am, as promised, Mark, who I had met in the burger restaurant yesterday, turned up to give me a ride back to the trailhead.  He even gave me a block of Italian dark chocolate (he had just returned from a vacation in Italy) as a gift.  He is another one of the very generous people I have been fortunate enough to meet on this hike.

I was hiking by 8:30am, initially climbing uphill through rocky terrain until after an hour I passed under the I-80 freeway and into more forested country.  There were quite a few day hikers about as I climbed gradually through pretty old growth forest to Castle Pass (7928 ft) and then descended into a valley.  That seemed to establish the pattern for the day, with one ridge following another, and valleys in between.  Sometimes the ridges were treeless with scrubby vegetation, allowing for good views, but there was also old growth forest, which I always enjoy.  Some of the valleys had grassy meadows and crystal clear streams.

The day hikers seemed to disappear in the afternoon and I had the trail to myself.  The grades were reasonable, despite all of the climbs, and I made good time even though my pack was heavy.  I have booked a cabin at a very small town called Sierra City tomorrow night, and given that it will be Sunday night and a good chance things will close early, I wanted to cover a reasonable distance today,  so that I have 20 miles or less for tomorrow.  My pack is heavy because I’m not confident of resupplying in Sierra City, so have brought enough food to get me to Quincy on Wednesday night, though I am hoping to get dinner and breakfast at the former while there.  I reached my goal, a forest road crossing the PCT, at 6:40pm, and found a good tentsite nearby.  I will be making an early start tomorrow to make sure I get to Sierra City by midafternoon. 

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170929 – Down to Truckee

Day:  159
Date:  Friday, 29 September 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1143.9, 7740 ft
Finish:  Where the PCT crosses Hwy 40 near Donner Pass at Mile 1153.4, 7114 ft
Daily Miles:  9.5 PCT, 2.0 in town
Total PCT Miles:  2474.0
Weather:  Mostly overcast and mild.
Accommodation:  Dorm room at Redlight Hostel in Truckee
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Gorp
     Lunch:  Patty melt & fries
     Dinner:  Enchiladas, beans & rice, ice-cream.
Aches:  None really.
Highlight:  The views from Tinker Knob (9300 ft) at dawn, with the sun illuminating cliff faces ahead, and fog blanketing distant valleys below was fantastic.
Lowlight:  I would prefer a motel room to a bunk in an 8-bed dorm, and might have enjoyed a zero day tomorrow, but Truckee is very expensive and very booked out.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

Rob and I were hiking by 6:00am, using our headlamps on a cold, but not bitterly cold, morning, hoping to cover the 9.5 miles to the Hwy 40 by late morning so that we could hitchhike into Truckee in time for lunch.  Our hike started with a climb of about 800 ft to near Tinker Knob, a bare rock outcrop, from where we had superb views of the trail ahead winding along a ridge, and over the Donner Pass as well as way back to Lake Tahoe.  There was a cold wind, but this scene before us was worth it.

From there, we followed the ridge northwards in a bitterly cold wind, with clouds depriving us of the sun’s warmth, and we both got pretty cold.  But because of the mostly bare rocky terrain and our high trail, there was always something to look at, including some weird rock formations.  In the distance could be seen the I-80 freeway running through Donner Pass, and we knew that somewhere in between was Hwy 40, our destination.

We had one more solid little climb before a steady, and in parts very rocky, descent down to Hwy 40.  We started hitching immediately, and the second car, driven by Kerrie, a former pro-MTB racer, and now a teacher playing truant for the day,  picked us up in her small pickup.  We threw our packs in the back and then squeezed into the cab, which we shared with a very large labrador for the ride into town.  The dog lay on us (it was pretty heavy after a while) and spent most of the trip giving Rob a wash.  It was a fun ride down the mountain, and Kerrie went out of her way to deliver us to the best hamburger restaurant in town.

After a scrumptious lunch, Rob adjourned to the bus station, from where he will be travelling to Reno and then his flight back to Connecticut.  I visited the hostel (not open until 4pm) and managed to get them to let me leave my pack there while I walked back to the new part of town and bought food for the next four days and a new sleeping bag liner.  After shopping I had time to return to where Rob was killing time until his bus arrived and keep him company.  Having not seen each other for 14 years, it was remarkable how well we got on during our hike, and hopefully there will be more in our future, perhaps in Australia.  A book Rob wrote about a hiking trip of his in Scotland is getting published soon, and I look forward to reading it.

After returning to the hostel, which is a bit pretentious and governed by a multitude of rules, I showered and paid for my laundry to be done before catching up on some tasks and then heading out to buy some dinner.  A guy we met in the burger restaurant at lunchtime kindly offered to drive me back to the trailhead tomorrow morning, so I will have an early breakfast at a nearby diner and then meet him at the bus station at 8am for the drive back up.

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170928 – Granite Chief Wilderness

Day:  158
Date:  Thursday, 28 September 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1127.0, 7992 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1143.9, 7740 ft
Daily Miles:  16.9 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2464.5
Weather:  Mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Pop tarts
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated Mexican style rice with chicken
Aches:  None really
Highlight:  The morning walk high along the side of a bare rocky ridge in the Granite Chief Wilderness with views across the valley and mountains to the west, and occasional views to Lake Tahoe in the east, in perfectly still conditions with superb visibility was magic.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

Rob and I were underway by 7:00am on a cool and very still morning and after a steady climb entered the Granite Chief Wilderness at a high saddle with great views.  From there we followed a long ridge (see above) on the other side of which were a number of ski areas, including the famous Squaw Valley.  It was a fabulous dress circle walk, interrupted only occasionally by a buzzing helicopter.

At the end of the ridge, we descended to cross a small valley where we had a break for lunch in the sun, then spent much of the afternoon climbing up to pass over the shoulder of the Granite Chief mountain, crossing the headwaters (just a little creek) of the American River on the way.  The climb was long, on what had become a warm afternoon, but the great views and beautiful boulder-strewn forest in the high valleys were worth it.

The last part of the afternoon involved a long rocky descent followed by a short sharp climb to another high valley where we found a beautiful campsite in a pine forest lit by the light of a setting sun at around 5:30pm.  We were happy to be in our tents by soon after 7:00pm, and plan an early start tomorrow for the remaining 10 miles to Donner Pass Road from where we will hitchhike down to Truckee, and Rob will begin his journey back to Connecticut, and I will resupply for the next leg.

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170927 – A mostly “green tunnel” day

Day:  157
Date:  Wednesday, 27 September 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail near Fontanillis Lake at Mile 1108.7, 8288 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1127.0, 7992 ft
Daily Miles:  18.3 PCT 
Total PCT Miles:  2447.6
Weather:  Mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Pop tarts
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated chilli mac with beef
Aches:  Nothing new
Highlight:  None really
Lowlight:  I’m looking forward to camping somewhere where there is no snow on the ground nearby.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

Rob and I were hiking by 7:15am on a cool clear morning after a cold night.  Our goal was to cover about 18 miles, but we were going to see how the day progressed, and adjust our goal if necessary.

It turned out to be a bit of a “green tunnel” day, with most of the walking being through pretty pine forest and occasional grassy clearings.  We did pass by a couple of picturesque lakes, and at the end of the day climbed high to a saddle with good views of the surrounding mountains and to McKinney Bay on the huge Lake Tahoe to the east.

Although it wasn’t a spectacular day, scenery-wise, the hiking was pleasant and time passed quickly as Rob and I solved the world’s problems.  We reached our target campsite in a valley beside a small stream at 5:30pm and after setting up camp and eating dinner, retired to our tents soon after 7:00pm.  It looks like being another cold night.

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170926 – Desolation Wilderness

Day:  156
Date:  Tuesday, 26 September 2017
Start:  Echo Summit Trailhead on Hwy 50 at Mile 1090.0, 7388 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail near Fontanillis Lake at Mile 1108.7, 8288 ft
Daily Miles:  18.7 PCT, plus 1.0 in town
Total PCT Miles:  2429.4
Weather:  Cool and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Oatmeal & McDonalds Big Breakfast
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated lasagne
Aches:  Cold a bit worse
Highlight:   The desolate-looking, bare rock island-dotted, Lake Aloha set against a backdrop of partially snow-covered rocky mountains was a wild and awe-inspiring landscape.
Lowlight:  None really
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

The day started with a mile walk to a road junction in South Lake Tahoe, where after a McDonalds breakfast, I began hitch-hiking back to the Echo Summit Trailhead around 7:30am.  After 10 minutes or so, I got a lift with a couple of hikers, and was back hiking on the PCT by 8:00am, a good start to the day.

I had arranged to meet friend Rob at Fontanillis Lake, 19 miles away, at the end of the day, and felt I should do that comfortably, given my 8:00am start.  It was another beautiful cool sunny morning, but the peace was soon interrupted by the sound of a helicopter passing overhead with a water bucket dangling below, and for the next hour the helicopter passed back and forth overhead, collecting water from Echo Lake and dropping it on a fire somewhere.  This was a sound and sight I hoped I had left behind with the Oregon wildfires, but fortunately, though I could smell smoke, the fire didn’t affect my day’s hiking.  The second ominous sound I soon heard was the roar of rushing water down a snow-melt swollen stream.  I hoped I had left the challenges of swollen streams behind back in June and the High Sierras, but the snow storm last week and subsequently warm weather was obviously having an effect on water levels.  There was a slippery wet log across the creek,  and with great care, I got across without mishap.  Hope there aren’t too many more ahead.

The trail soon passed along the edge of Echo Lake, which had a small marina, and some beautiful wood vacation cottages along the water’s edge amongst the trees.  It is obviously a well-patronised recreation area, and I could understand why.  However, civilisation was rapidly left behind as the trail climbed into the wilderness, and the rest of the day was spent on mostly rocky trails passing by alpine lakes in very rocky landscapes, and climbing over Dicks Pass  (9377 ft), one of the easier passes on the trail.

After descending from the pass, I reached Fontanillis Lake around 5:00pm and found Rob and our campsite without difficulty.  It was great to have an early finish for a change, and I enjoyed chatting with Rob as I set up camp in daylight and we both cooked and ate our dinners, before retiring to our tents at 7:00pm.

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170925 – South Lake Tahoe Zero Day

Day:  155
Date:  Monday, 25 September 2017
Start:  Echo Summit Trailhead on Hwy 50 at Mile 1090.0, 7388 ft
Finish:  Echo Summit Trailhead on Hwy 50 at Mile 1090.0, 7388 ft 
Daily Miles:  0.0 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2410.7
Weather:  Cool and sunny
Accommodation:  Room at Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe
Nutrition:
     Breakfast:  Omelette & hash browns, toast & jam
     Lunch:  Tuna sub, pastries
     Dinner:  Enchiladas, rice & beans, ice-cream & tapioca
Aches:  Nothing new
Highlight:  None really
Lowlight:  None really
Pictures:  No pictures today

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map
Journal:

This morning, I accompanied Rob, my friend and hiking partner for this week, as he returned his rental car in downtown South Lake Tahoe, and then bought myself some breakfast while Rob got a taxi to the PCT trailhead outside of town.  Ideally, I would have been here a day earlier and ready to resume hiking today, but I wasn’t so we decided that Rob would start his hike with two easy days and I will catch him up tomorrow night.

The rest of my day was spent buying some replacement socks, trying to repair my rainpants with special waterproof duck tape, buying supplies for the next leg and planning my remaining days, including making accommodation bookings (mostly cancellable).  If all goes according to plan, I will finish in Chester on Sunday, October 10, but if that schedule proves too aggressive, it can slip a couple of days.  I couldn’t get a new sleeping bag inner, so have resigned myself to more cold nights, but there is an outdoor sports store in Truckee, which we will reach on Friday, so maybe I will have some luck there.

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