Category: Pacific Crest Trail

Anything related to the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, stretching from the Mexico border in California to the Canada border in Washington.

PCT mm 1095.5 – Tahoe yes, Reno no


Echo lake is a no camping zone for good reason. A wonderful wrap-up to a full day in South Lake Tahoe.

A bit of a disappointing day today but all but one important chore were successfully completed.  I was able to get into Tahoe about 9 am after about twenty minutes hitching a ride, I was able to do laundry but no shower, I demolished the Chinese buffet, was able to get my replacement battery pack and charge it up about half way and the phone nearly all the way.

The big miss was REI in Reno.  The busses were screwy enough that I would not have been able to get to Reno until Monday.  And renting a car was not an option because Enterprise is not open until Monday.  A minor miss was getting replacement shoes at the Big 5 in town.  My shoes should be able to get another 100 miles on them and I think I can order a pair and have them delivered to Sierra City.  There’s no guarantee this one would have the same model and they would still be on sale.

Errands took longer than I expected because the town is pretty big and the bus service is not very frequent or have stops everywhere you want to go.  But the buses are free in July so that was a plus.  Everything I did took longer than expected, even eating.  The buffet was quite good.  It was the highlight of the day.

When it was time to leave (after the outfitter closed and we had to vacate their hiker lounge) I perched myself on the side of the road that let to the trail.  I was right in front of the grocery store and their was plenty of traffic, but no one was even remotely interested in picking up hikers.  I saw a couple of hikers trying to hitch in almost the same spot for close to two hours with no success.  I gave it thirty minutes then decided to try Uber.  It would be about $25 via Uber.  When I walked away from the road to the storefronts, I saw two other hikers so I went to ask them if they were hitching out of town and wanted to split the Uber.  They had been able to get a hold of one of the angels in town to get a ride.  Five minutes later, a big white van showed up and swooshed us up to the trail head ten miles away.  The trail provides.

The lodge at Echo lake was already closed, but I wanted nothing more than to get to the other side of the lake into the Wilderness area to make camp.

It was only a mile to Echo lake which has a bunch of rental chalets all over the perimeter.  You have to get to your chalet by boat.  They looked like a neat place to spend a few days to relax.  As soon as i reached the lake, the sun was in my face and I realized I did not have my sunglasses.  Great, not this again.  I took a quick break on the last switchback down to the lake, so I dropped my pack at the store and ran back to get them.  Luckily they were exactly where I expected them to be.

Hiking into the fading sun with great views of the lake the entire way to the end of the lake.

These private chalets all around the lake are privately owned by families for generations.

The trail around the lake is a no camping zone.  You have to go three miles to the wilderness area to camp.  With all the delays, I didn’t start off from the lake until 7:30 so it would be 8:30 or later before I got far enough.  Time to hoof it, but my right calf was bugging me a little bit, so I couldn’t push it.  On top of that, another headache was brewing.  I had one beer from Mammoth Lakes Brewery (which in Mammoth Lakes gave me a headache – time to avoid that brewery) but also wonder if the Chinese food might have had MSG in it.  I’m betting on the beer.  General Tsao would not forsake me that way, would he?

I was able to get to the wilderness right at 8:30 and found a good spot just a tenth after the boundary.  I was able to set up camp in the light and had good moonlight to eat by.  I didn’t bother to cook since I was still full from lunch so I ate a whole wheat roll with butter.  Yes, I am packing real butter on this stint.  Powdered milk, too.  The pack feels like 100 lbs even though I only have four days of food.  Off to bed to get an early start tomorrow.  I’m going to see if I can inch up to 30 miles a day well before I get to Oregon so I can get a bit ahead of schedule.

PCT mm 1083.7 – Powerade snowcones


Finding fresh clean snow when its hot outside screams to have Powerade powder mixed into snow for Powerade snow cones. This is really refreshing.

Another beautiful day in paradise.  I woke up at 5:30 and was out by 6:30 but another hiker beat me to the trail again today by five minutes.  I’m losing my touch.  But I was not in a hurry today, I was trying to make it a short day and end up five to ten miles from Tahoe and hit the mark perfectly at seven miles.

Today was pretty much like yesterday.  A little Mars volcanic rock terrain, then a little forest, rinse and repeat.  In the morning, one of the Mars mountains led us above a very large dammed lake. There were many boats on it and a group of paddle boarders.  They looked like tiny ants.  The mountain we were looking down at the lake from is called The Nipple on the topo maps.  You can guess what it looked like.

The trail near Lake Tahoe is high on the ridges and has an Appalachian Trail like vibe, even though the scenery looks nothing like the AT.

Looking down at a lake with tiny little boats on it. Everything looks so tiny down there.

Most of the time when I pass large patches of clean snow, I scrape of the surface layer and grab a handful to eat.  Around noon, I passed one such patch and it was a little hot in that area so I decided to get out the Powerade powder and make Powerade snow cones.  It took a while to get the amount of powder just right, but once I did, it was damn tasty.  So tasty I made a second one.  Now I want to hit a 7-11 and get a slurpee at the next opportunity.

We passed about a dozen lakes throughout the day.  There were also several dirt and paved roads.  Weekend hikers were all about, too.  This is part of the Tahoe rim trail, so there are trails going all over the place, and being Saturday, many people to fill them.  I must have seen close to a hundred hikers today.  Only four were PCT hikers.

One of the roads in the afternoon went right past a national forest information center.  The staff there were very nice and were giving out cokes and doughnuts to PCT hikers.  The coke tasted most excellent.  One of the other PCT hikers left there at the same time as me and we hiked together for three hours or so talking about beer and hiking.  He was not planning on stopping in Tahoe, so he went on when I stopped to get water for camping.  I will probably see him again in a few weeks.

One of the things we talked about was something called the Oregon challenge.  Oregon is close to 500 miles long and to hike it in less than two weeks is considered pretty challenging.  It comes to 34 miles per day for 14 days.  I was hoping to do 30 per day so 34 does not sound like too much of a stretch.  What it does mean is not spending much time in Bend if any at all.  It does sound like a way to ensure I have enough time to come back in September and finish early in October.  I still have 500 more miles of California to tackle before Oregon, so first things first.  It’s just amazing how large California is.  By the time I get out of this stage, it would be like hiking from Georgia to Vermont on the Appalachian Trail.

The vistas on this stretch are non-stop all day long.

What a typical campsite might look like in most of California. Denuded sand is about the only durable campsite surface you can find. Away from grass, you are guaranteed very little dew, and probably good breezes all night long.

Being only seven miles from Tahoe tonight I should be able to get into town by 9 am.  I know the outfitter will be open, but I imagine my package will not be delivered until late afternoon, so I will probably try to get straight to Reno as quickly as possible to get the REI visit taken care of, then head back to Tahoe before it gets too late to get anything done.  I will probably stay at the hostel in Tahoe if I can get back from Reno early enough.  There is also a Chinese buffet in  Tahoe.  I hope they are open on Sundays because I plan on destroying that buffet.  Love me tender, General Tsao.

PCT mm 1060.5 – Mars attacks (and makes me fall)


I think I prefer the greener landscapes to the rocky landscapes.

A day like any other day… Wake up early, hike all day, check for cell service, eat, filter water, go to bed.  Well, it as a bit more exciting than that.  I met perhaps eight thru hikers, and about that many day hikers.  It’s the weekend near Reno, and folks are out in the woods.

I did get up pretty much on time, perhaps 5:15, and ate my breakfast in the tent.  As I got outside and began breaking down the tent, the couple that I met yesterday (Gator and Nuthin) was leaving.  I think this is the very first time I have ever seen anyone leave camp before me.  Kudos to them.

I love starting early in the morning to be able to walk in the dramatic morning sun. The smells are more intense, the sun more enchanting, and the forest creatures are frolicking.

Please close the gate. I’ll try my best, but I can’t promise anything.

I left about a half hour after them, right at 6 am.  The trail here was wooded but then gave way to barren volcanic rock that makes you feel like you are hiking on Mars.  Sometimes it can be small shards and clumps that are hard to walk on, and it’s definitely hotter since there is no moisture in the ground and usually no tree cover.  I think I fell four times today, all in slippery gravel areas.  Twice I banged my knee on a rock as I fell.  I also managed to break the weak trekking pole right in half as the weakened joint totally failed.  Looks like the REI trip to Reno is on.

Pretty early in the morning we hit a pass that had an excellent view.  It also had Verizon service.  I spent an hour and a half there answering texts and emails and half of the time was spent ordering a new battery pack and having it shipped to an outfitter in Lake Tahoe.  That will help alot.  I kept my phone in the solar charger the rest of the day because the hour plus phone fest got me down to 43% battery remaining, which is too low to be coming into a town like Lake Tahoe.  Because my phone was packed, I did not take as many pictures today.

Surprise cameo of a huge bumble bee in my picture.

I don’t think the trees particularly enjoy growing on a sloped mountainside.

The terrain seemed to change every thirty minutes to an hour.  It would be like Mars one minute, then cross a stream and be on a different mountain that was lush and green and riddled with mosquitoes. Then the next bend, back to Mars again.  Where I decided to camp at about 7:30 is heavily forested in pines but also has a lot of mosquitoes and a stream next to it.

I met two couples weekend hiking when I went down to get water.  We talked a good while and when it was time to cook dinner, I went down to their campsite and cooked and ate by their fire.  They have been coming here every summer for the last five years.  It’s a nice spot.

I am now a hair over thirty miles from the road to hitch to South Lake Tahoe.  It’s too far to make tomorrow and my battery pack will not be delivered until Sunday, so I’ll go 20-23 miles tomorrow and leave 5-10 miles to go into town for Sunday.  There is a Chinese buffet in town which I plan to hit first, then get the bus to Reno and get things settled with REI.  Depending on how long that takes will determine if I come back to Tahoe for the evening or stay in Reno.  Either way I have to hit the outfitter and grocery in Tahoe before heading out of town on Monday. There is an enterprise car rental in town but it’s $55 a day for a subcompact which is more than the $22 bus fare to Reno and back.  I hope the buses are running on Sunday.

PCT mm 1035.4 – Back to Mars


Lava rock is starting to make a regular appearance in this area.

I had a nice stay at Northern Kennedy Meadows, but it was nice to get back on the trail and be in the comfort of the woods again.  I would definitely stop there again if given the chance.  Everyone that worked there was very nice and they have the best camp restaurant so far.

The store and restaurant open at 6 so I rolled out of bed and hit the bathroom at about ten til.  I have no idea why, but I got a headache just as I went to bed and it lasted all night long and into the morning.  I have no idea what it could have been.  I wasn’t dehydrated, the elevation was not high, and I didn’t have a beer at dinner, unless root beer counts.

First stop was the store to get some aspirin and pineapple juice.  It was the only juice I could find that did not have added sugar.  Second stop was breakfast.  Two eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, seven bucks.  The same thing at VVR was double the price.  Third stop was back to the store again for resupply.  I needed three breakfasts and two of everything else, but I forgot that while I was in the store and bought three of everything.  Oops, I guess I’ll show up in Tahoe with an extra day of food.

Fourth stop was the office to mail home the bear canister, microspikes, and a few other things I haven’t used or don’t need any more.  The rule is if you have not used it and it’s not for safety, then get rid of it.  I’m keeping the sewing kit and gorilla tape in case more repairs are needed.  My shoes are showing signs of wear and the way they are made, it looks like when they go, they will go very rapidly.  The gorilla tape might be needed if I can’t replace them in time.  For $40 a pair, I might start replacing these a little earlier to avoid catastrophe.  I’ll probably order some in Tahoe.

Speaking of failures and repairs, I went to charge everything up last night and found that the battery pack will not charge.  I thought it was just tree cover keeping it from charging for the last two days but there is apparently a problem that had developed with the charging port.  I tried all my cables but none of them would charge it.  And then I discovered what the true problem is.  Indeed the charging port is defective.  In fact it has come unsoldered from the circuit board and is flopping around inside the unit.  It still had half power, so I assumed I could use it until Tahoe, but by the end of the day the unit was totally dead.  Great.  I have two more at home I can send for, but who knows how long I will have to be without one.  I just might have to pick up a new one in Tahoe or Reno.  The phone can last about five days on a charge, by I have some stretches coming up that will be longer than five days.

I think it might be time for new pants and shirt, too.  The white shirt doesn’t come anywhere close to white after washing, but structurally it is still holding up aside from severe pilling of the fabric around the waist where the waist belt rubs it.  It is also blue there.  I’m not sure if it’s adsorbing dye from the waist belt or my underwear, but it’s definitely not even close to white.  The pants are starting to fray at the hems and it had an internal adjusting belt that has been nice to be able to pull to tighten them as I have lost weight.  But I have to pull the belt so tight now that it’s starting to bunch and cut into my hips.  Looks like I might be hitting the REI in Reno for new pants.

After breakfast, I got packed pretty quickly and was walking a mile out to the road shortly after eight.  It took nearly an hour to hitch a ride up to the trailhead but I finally got a ride and got on the trail at about 9:45.  Not too late of a start, but not early enough to knock out 25 miles.

The lava rock is tough on the feet, but the views are still outstanding.

A fresh new sign marks the entrance to another WIlderness area.

This entire mountain is nothing but a huge pile of dead rock. Am I near a coal mine?

The trail started out like it finished yesterday, as if I was on the surface of Mars.  There was tons of volcanic rock everywhere and switchbacks going to the sky.  There were alot of up and downs that were rocky, so it started to feel like the pain of a few days ago, but it was not quite as bad.  There was also lots of snow again.

I broke for lunch about noon right after finishing a rocky crappy section.  I was tired.  I had packed out a green Chile burrito from the store and ate it cold.  It wasn’t too bad, but it was not great.  I stopped again about 4 for cheese and crackers after a long climb.  I laid back on a rock and actually fell asleep for a few minutes.  I met a hiker named Catnap yesterday and it looks like he might have some competition now.

Lush vegetation has returned to the landscape again.

I stopped about 7 pm at a campsite beside a stream and there are four other hikers camping here.  It’s a very large camping area, so we are fifty yards apart or more.  I ate my mashed potatoes, tuna packet, cheese-its, and peanut M&Ms.  I’ll try to get up early and knock out some miles so I can get to Tahoe as early as I can.  Worst case I should be there in three days.  At least I have plenty of food.

PCT mm 1016.9 – What a grand view


More alpine hiking was quite welcome today, but totally unexpected.

Today was not what I was expecting at all.  I got out right at 6 AM and got to Sonora pass right about 5:30 PM, but nearly everything in between was a total surprise.  I also passed the 1000 mile milestone, but I missed seeing it on the ground and didn’t think about it until I was two and a half miles past it, so there was no running back up the trail to look for it this time.

I made the two miles to Dorothy pass, where I had been trying to get to the day before, in about 45 minutes and I’m glad I stopped where I did because the camping area was full.  It would have been 8:45 PM and hunting for a tentsites in the dark would not have been fun and neither would going another mile or two in the dark.  Good thing I stopped when I did.

I just cannot say enough about how jaw dropping gorgeous these alpine lakes are.

The reflections go on forever in these crystal clear lakes.

I had a quick stop at 8 and another one at 10 and loaded up on water then.  As I was filling water bottles, I saw a guy run by with a quick hello.  And when I say run, I mean run.  He was doing a slow 12:00 min/mile pace, but he was actually running.  He carried a very small pack of perhaps 15 liters.  He had on compression socks and used poles.  After he had gone out of view, I began to wonder if this was a runner attempting to set the speed record.  It would make sense that if you are running 50 miles per day for 50 days, that you would want a nice slow pace.  Confirmation with other hikers later in the day confirmed that he was indeed trying to set the speed record.  No one caught his name.  I’ll try to figure it out later.  (I confirmed that who I saw was indeed Karel Sabbe, a 26 year old Belgian.  He hiked “jogged” the trail in 52 days, 8 hours, 25 minutes.  That’s about 4 times faster than I hiked it, and I was not lollygagging)

I saw a few other people during the day.  A couple that I did not get names of and a guy named Squatch kept leapfrogging with me all day.  There were also more south bounders today.

The trail had ups and downs, but it was not cluttered with rocks with big steps.  Most of it was a grade less than two percent and was nice hiking.  I was able to make good time and the scenery was nice.

I had no idea I was going to be headed into snow fields again today, but I’ll take it.

The trail switch backed all the way up to the top of the ridge. It was well graded, but seemed to take forever to get up there.

Shortly after 11 am, the trail exited the trees and began to climb.  And climb and climb.  It was graded well with lots of switchbacks, but the mountain was just volcanic talus that was hard to walk on in some spots.  The scenery, however, was amazing.  Rough rocky mountains everywhere and lots of snow.  I pushed on until 12:30 to get to the top to have lunch.  Where I at lunch was about five feet from a 1000 ft sheer drop.  Scary, but great scenery.

These small pale white and violet flowers were everywhere. They just pop out of the rocky talus.

This was the most interesting flower I have encountered so far. These inch long hollow bulbs have a paisley metallic-luster to them.

Flowers of every color abound. I must have taken a dozen flower pictures today.

The rest of the day was exactly like this.  High altitude hiking above treeline with lots of snow fields.  Only one was difficult, all the others just another mass of snow to cross.  I met a couple with a golden retriever who seemed to love the snow.  He would just run along the tops of the sun cups making his own path.

Vistas in every direction as the trail makes its way to Sonora Pass.

More snow fields than I was expecting, but most of them were very easy crossing. Only one was a little steep, but not that big of a deal to cross.

We could see the highway when we were still three trail miles away, but only one mile as the crow flies.  That’s the penalty for good switchbacks.  They make the trail easier, but much longer.

I made it to the highway right at 5:30 and only three cars passed in thirty minutes, but lucky number three picked me up and took me to Northern Kennedy Meadows.  Yes, same name as the one three hundred miles south of me.  That one is the name of a town, this one is the name of a park.

I checked into the bunkhouse, took a shower, then did laundry.  I scoped out the general store which seems to be well stocked, but did not buy any food yet.  I needed to unpack the bear canister first to take inventory of what I have left.  I went to the restaurant and had a craving for steak, which they took care of.

The Kennedy Meadows North resort had outstanding resupply, a fantastic restaurant, great bunkhouse, showers, and laundry.

The store and restaurant both open at 6 am so I’ll get my resupply done then and grab a breakfast before hitching out to the road again.  I’d like to be back on the trail by 9 or 10 if possible.  Next resupply stop is South Lake Tahoe.

PCT mm 994.9 – A lake day


A Crystal clear reflection in the lake.

Today took over from yesterday with the same steep trail and canyon after canyon of lakes, right up until the end of the day when out pops a huge meadow.

I thought I was going to get out early when I woke up at 4:45, but my fifteen minutes of relaxing turned into forty five more minutes of sleep.  A win, I guess.  I ate only one bagel this morning and I actually felt better for the first few hours of hiking.

The early morning casts deep shadows everywhere.

I’m not sure how many official passes I had to climb today, but I think it was three.  Both the climbs and descents were pretty steep and much of it very rocky with poor footing and big steps to step up or down from.  I met a southbounder in the middle of the day who said “after the next pass, it gets easy” which sounded like music to my ears, except for there were two more passes, not one.

I am still hiking from pass to pass though valleys every day. The Sierras are huge.

I saw some interesting wildlife today.  Aside from the usual deer, I saw what I can only describe as pygmy deer.  They were quite small, no larger than a cat and ran quite well.  I don’t think they were newborn deer.  I have seen a deer that was born only an hour ago in Virginia and that deer was several inches taller than these rascals.  There were two of them and they took off running as soon as they saw me.  There was no adult deer anywhere around.  I spent five minutes looking for them again to try to get a picture, but they took off pretty fast.  Maybe they were deersquatch.  I also saw a medium sized bird with half a dozen chicks.  It was bigger than a pheasant but smaller than a chicken.  Whatever it was, it looked delicious and was not afraid if me.  It just kept cooing to keep it’s chicks close.

I didn’t get a picture of the pygmy deer, but I spied this and many other pheasant throughout the morning.

Today was also a low human count day.  Perhaps only five hikers until late in the day when I came upon a scout troop building a bridge across a stream.  It was thin and flimsy, but did the job spanning thirty feet of water that I normally would have waded through.  An hour later I did hit a stream that I had to wade through.  I took my shoes off and took the opportunity to wash my feet.  It felt refreshing and some my feet up a bit.

It’s hard not to stop and take a break when you come across an awesome lake like this.

It gets harder to write blog entries every day when there is not something spectacular happening.  Since leaving Toulumne Meadows it’s been a whole lot of unremarkable.  Except for the rocks… Those have been remarkable.  But looking at the profiles it looks like things may ease up a bit.  I do still see snow drifts every day, but they are nothing special at this point.

The high mountain lakes are almost always crystal clear.

I am an awkward distance to Sonora pass, where I can hitch West to North Kennedy Meadows or hitch East to a town.  The distance from here is 22 miles which I would hit pretty late in the day 6-7pm which may be a hard time of day to hitch.  If the terrain is easier, I might be able to make it earlier, but if it’s not easier then I would get there even later.  I’ll try to get up early and see how the day goes.  I may be hitting the coffee packs early….

PCT mm 970.6 – The crowd is thinning


Another great meadow to hike across nearly every day now.

I slept a little late but had a good full day.  I want to try to do 25 miles per day for the next few days, so today’s 22+ is good enough.  I have been carrying a Mountain House chicken fajitas dinner and I wanted to stop a little early so I could have plenty of time for fajitas.

The Sierra camp folks were well behaved last night, as I was able to get to sleep pretty quickly.  Sleeping next to a brook helped to drown out any noise the earplugs did not take care of.  I awoke at 5:30 and fixed my bagels.  Two bagels are a lot of food first thing in the morning so I’m going to cut back to one tomorrow and just hit the granola bars earlier.

It may be July, but it’s still well below freezing many mornings. This is a heavy frost still visible in the shadows of the sun.

The morning hike was a jumble of ups and downs with lots of rocks and a little meadow walking.  I see two or three Meadows like the one in the first picture every day.  They are nice to walk by, but the trail ruts can get pretty deep and make it hard to walk.  I didn’t even bother with the poles today.  Using poles in ruts like that is frustrating.  I have been thinking about sending them home but they are useful in stream crossings.  I didn’t use them at all today and crossed over a dozen streams.

At lunch time I came across a lake in the middle of a meadow, so I spread out and ate my salami and cheese wraps then took a thirty minute nap.  There were mosquitoes but a good breeze kept them away much of the time.  Another hiker spread out everything he owned to dry in the sun.  I was drying myself.

Lake lunch-be-gone.

The afternoon was similar to the morning, little ups and downs with lots of rocks.  There was one big climb to Matterhorn canyon, but it had nice switchbacks.  The one recognizable pass, Benson pass, was the smallest yet.  Compared to the others I felt a little claustrophobic.  The mountains on either side were quite close.  There as one small snow field, but it was easy to walk around.

Up to this point in the day, I had only seen three other hikers going southbound.  There were two northbounders leaving the pass as I arrived.  For the last few weeks I have been used to seeing twenty to sixty hikers a day.  Shortly after the pass, I did go by a large group of about eight resting away from the trail.  Since we are getting near the northern border of Yosemite and the John Muir trail is no longer the same as the PCT, the traffic should go back to being very sparse like it was back in southern California.

Sometimes I accidentally take pictures while putting my camera up. They are frequently of my shoes. This one was too neat to delete.

I did manage to find a decent camping spot right at 7 PM, so I stopped so I could make my fajitas.  There was another campsite two miles further, but I was hungry and had been thinking about fajitas for two days.  I found a nice cooking spot and made my fajitas.  They did not disappoint.

Stopping for a break in the afternoon on a perfect sitting rock.

As soon as I exit Yosemite, the bear canister is no longer required.  I am two days away from a pack station that will mail my canister home for me, so right now that is the destination I am aiming towards.  The canister has been nice to have, but two pounds is more than I want to pay for the luxury of a seat to cook from.  The microspikes need to go home, too.  The pack station also has a restaurant and store, so that may end up also being my resupply.  There is a town I can hitch to that might have more options, but I’ll figure that out later.

PCT mm 948.4 – Tuolumne Meadows


The sun sets behind the mountains as I make my way to Sierra Camp from Tuolumne Meadows.

I survived big winds last night, freezing cold in the morning, a huge snowfield, a ranger incident, miles and miles of meadow trail, a general store/post office in a tent, and a group campsite.

I camped atop Island pass last night and selected a spot behind some trees that I thought would shelter me from the wind.  I was wrong.  The wind was gusting so bad that it was deflecting the tent poles about a full foot.  I had the vestibule opening downwind, but the wind was so strong it seemed to want to turn the tent inside out.  It was also quite cold.  I did not get much sleep.  I met another hiker from Belgium in the morning who had the same experience but was so afraid his tent would collapse that he took his tent down and just wrapped himself in his fly.  He said he got about twenty minutes of sleep.  I probably got two or three hours.

Despite all the ruckus all night, I got up at 5 to try to get to Tuolomne Meadows by 3 PM.  But as I am gathering things up, I noticed one of my stuff sacks is missing and it’s former contents are scattered on the ground.  Great.  It’s too dark to look for a navy blue stuff sack, so I keep to the morning routine and wait until it’s bright enough to go looking.  As luck would have it, I finally found it stuck between some rocks about 150 yds away and almost 100 ft down.  Ten minutes later I have the stuff sack and finish packing.  I don’t get out until 6:15, which is still a respectable time given the festivities of the morning.

Have I mentioned that snow means good, reliable water? Cold water, too.

It’s only about an hour to the bottom of the canyon then begins the next climb to the next pass.  It’s cold enough that I have to wear my gloves but not my jacket.  By the time I got to Donahue pass, it’s pretty cold and I have to put on my rain jacket.  On the backside of the pass is either a rocky twisty trail, or one really long snowfield all the way down.  It’s early and the snow is still hard, so I opt for the snowfield.  It’s so long, I have to take several breaks down it, but it’s pretty good travelling.  There are boot prints I can settle into without slipping most of the way but some sections are a little steep and slippery so I opt to travel on the fresh sun cups on those and the snow is just sit enough to crunch into them a few inches but not slip.  The trail is much tamer at the bottom of the snow, so it’s quick travelling the rest of the way down the canyon.

This snowfield was so large, I had to stop several times just to rest.

Travelling on the snow ended up being easier than travelling on the rocks.

Half way down to the meadow level I meet a ranger.  Only the third of the trip so far.  She asks for permit and bear canister and says my permit is not valid.  I have not signed it yet.  That’s an easy fix.  She asks if I am heading to the Meadows for the night and I tell her I plan to just buzz by and keep going and she informs me the next six miles after the meadow are no camping, so I’ll have to be sure to go at least six miles past it to the Sierra camp or further.  Good to know.  I should still have enough time.

Tuolumne Meadows is aptly named. This is not Tuolumne proper, but I’m not far away.

A Large deer hangs out drinking water and chomping meadow grass.

The rivers are slow moving here in the meadow, but they are still moving large volumes of snow melt.

Once down to the meadow level, the last eight miles to the store are easy level hiking for the most part.  I stop for lunch on a big rock in the meadow and marvel at how much I love salami and cheese.  I should eat this more often.  I wrap it in a tortilla and use a packet of Mayo and it is heavenly.  Mayo makes the sandwich.

I don’t get to the store until 3:30 or so, but the store and grill are both open.  I hit the store first for some fruit and more cheese and pepperoni and a few more items to extend my food a day.  Then I head straight to the grill, but they are out of salad, so I settle for just a double cheeseburger.  It’s a frozen patty affair, but it has lettuce and tomato so it serves as my salad.  This post office/store/grill is actually built inside a giant tent.  Very odd.  An ice cream sandwich and Pepsi later, a little small talk with other hikers, a little packing, and I’m finally ready to leave at 5:30.

A large waterfall north of the Meadows campground on the way to Sierra Camp.

The hiking out of the Meadows starts very easy on a ten foot wide nature trail, then gets a little rocky, but nothing too bad.  We are following the Tuolumne river and eventually hit a fifty foot waterfall.  The Sierra camp is not too far after that, so I turn off to go to the camp.  It’s only a tenth off the PCT and when I see it I’m a little overwhelmed.  It’s a giant complex with a store and about twenty tent cabins.  It’s not what I was expecting.  I ask one of the patrons about it and he says there is a campground in the back.  That’s more my speed.

I head back to the campground and there are at least 25 tents all around.  They have running water and a pit toilet and I do finally manage to find a good spot, so I set up quickly and eat a nutritious dinner of potato chips, carnation instant breakfast, and skittles.  Eating at the Meadows store so late is still keeping me fueled but I want to be sure to have plenty of raw materials for my body so it can rebuild while I sleep.

The Sierra Camp has rental tents and a group hall. I camped in the back.

They have bear storage lockers so I put everything that even remotely has a smell in it except for my bear canister.  These big campsites are almost always frequented by bears, so I don’t want to take any chances.  Let’s hope for uninterrupted sleep tonight.

PCT mm 924.7 – Escape from Mammoth


Another impressive view of a snow laden mountain providing fresh drinking water.

Hurray!  I managed to leave Mammoth Lakes.  I enjoyed being there and needed the rest, but it feels so good to be back on the trail where I belong.  I also managed to knock out enough miles to be able to hit Tuolumne Meadows in the afternoon instead of evening.

I slept in because the buses don’t start until 9 am and the bed was quite comfy.  The mattress were soft, and they were fitted with nice sheets, a blanket, and a comforter.  We left the windows open and it felt quite nice while sleeping.  I was still the first one up at 7:30 and went up to the kitchen to eat my breakfast.  One of the managers had also gotten up and made some fresh coffee.  I heated up the potato wedges from dinner and ate them first.  Then toasted the bagel and ate it with butter.  Bagels are so much better when toasted.  Then the orange and banana, and finally the cinnamon bun.  As big of a breakfast as that was, I could have eaten more.  The manager was already starting to make pizza dough as I was finishing.

I packed up pretty quickly and was out of the hostel at 8:40.  The trolly did not start until 9 am but so did the bike bus, and that was the critical one to get to the adventure center.  The walk to the village took 15 minutes and the bus was already loading bikers by the time I got there.  They load bikers until the rack is full, then they hold the rest of the bikers for the next bus and then load the hikers who have to stand.  There were at least twenty hikers there so I was nervous there would not be enough standing space for all the hikers, but there was.  The ride took about fifteen minutes, and I immediately got in line for the Reds Meadow bus.  I was about eighth in line so I was happy I would get a seat this time.  Nearly all the other hikers had to go buy tickets which meant they were not PCT hikers.

The ride back out was much better this time, being able to sit for the long ride.  It also did not take as long because we did not have to stop at all the stops, either.  I think it was a bit after 10:00 when we finally got to Reds.  I went in to the store to buy a Starbucks frappachino and some coffee candy to have with my kale, chicken, and cranberry salad that I brought from Vons grocery.  There were some other PCT hikers there but I had only met one of them previously at VVR.  They were all envious of my salad.  I was able to find some coffees, drink mixes, and Ritz crackers in the hiker box.  I stashed them in my food bag and was finally off at about 11 am.  That’s about when I had figured I’d finally get back on the trail, so I guess everything was going well.

Heavily forested trail leaving Reds Meadow.

The trail out was pretty mellow with an easy grade.  A mile and a half up the trail was the Devil’s Postpile which is an odd formation of volcanic rock in tall hexagonal shafts that look like pencils and a pile of broken pencils below them.  I was able to see it well enough from the PCT and did not feel the need to take the side trail to hike above them.

The Devils Postpile consists of very odd hexagonal shaped columns of rock.

Most of the day was pretty mellow.  The mid afternoon the trail climbed up switchbacks on a mountain with sage on it and I was afraid we were going back into the desert.  It was just that one hill, and the temperature was cool all day anyway.  I was making good time to be able to cross the next pass before dark, so I pushed on.  By late afternoon I had gotten quite hungry since I ate my lunch early at Reds.  I didn’t fix an official lunch or dinner but I had an extra tuna packet of tuna salad that I wanted to try on a tortilla.  It was pretty good.  I might make that a staple at some point.  As the day went on, the trail got rockier and I slowed down a little.  Looking at where I was, I would get to the pass right at sunset.  I would probably have to hike a few miles past the pass to find a camping spot, so I was prepared to walk into the dark.

The trail winding higher in elevation.

I had gone light on water, so as I approached the pass, I had planned on picking up water at 1000 island lake, which is the one in the first picture.  The trail actually did not go too close to the lake and immediately started climbing again, so I did not get water from there.  It was also quite windy so I did not want to go down to the lake to camp.

Plenty of snow means plenty of water to be had.

I stopped at a small lake just before the pass to filter two liters so I could have one to camp and one to hike in the morning.  The water delay means I would miss sunset at the pass and I saw it from the lake instead.  What I did not realize was that while filtering water, I was essentially only two tenths of a mile from the pass.  This one had no climb to speak of.  And as luck would have it, I found a nice camping spot just a tenth beyond the pass that had decent protection from the wind, so I stopped there.  I had plenty of light to make camp, cook, and eat, but then the light faded as I was cleaning up.

I am just over 17 miles from Tuolumne Meadows now, so I should be able to make the store by 2 or 3 PM if I get up at 5 in the morning.  I think it’s about 75 miles to the next resupply from there, and I should be able to do that in three or four days.  I am carrying four days of food and hardly cracked into the first day yet, so I may not have to buy much of anything there at all.  That would be nice.  I’ll double check my notes when I get there tomorrow since I can’t afford to make any resupply mistakes out in the remote woods I am in right now.  One comfort is that there are so many hikers here, that if I did run out of food it should be pretty easy to bum some off the week-long hikers that are all over the place.

PCT mm 906.6 again – Zero in Mammoth Lakes


The town center was having a Jazz festival and wine walk today.

I did end up taking a zero day today.  I did not sleep that well last night and don’t feel great and still have a bunch of errands to run today, so instead of rushing to get them done and get out of town, I’ll just stay here again tonight since this is a pretty good hostel.

I got my gear related chores done before lunch.  One of those was fixing my regular prescription glasses.  I brought my old pair that were pretty worn out because I thought they might get scratched up and it turns out that sometime in the last 300 miles they broke in half right across the bridge.  Another hiker had some super glue so I glued them with that and then reinforced the joint with a section from a plastic spoon.  This would be the second repair with a black plastic spoon for these glasses.  They are holding so far, but I expect they will get broken again before too long.

I ran into the village for lunch because I was craving a salad.  I had a mixed green salad with salmon on it and it was great.  I spent the rest of the afternoon running the full bus route to see the other side of town and going back to the grocery to get breakfast.  I have a bagel, orange, banana, and cinnamon roll for breakfast and a kale and chicken salad for lunch.  The shuttle from town to the adventure center does not leave until 9:00 so I don’t expect to get to Reds Meadow until at least 10:30, so I might as well have an early lunch there before I head out.

I grabbed dinner on the way back into town and then headed to the jazz festival before coming back to the hostel.  They were also having a wine walk with about a dozen wineries.  I didn’t stay long at the jazz festival because the sun had gone down and it got downright chilly there and I did not had a jacket.

The band playing at the Jazz Festival in Mammoth Lakes, CA

Nearly everything is packed and ready to go.  I want to catch that first bus to the adventure center so I’ll head out from the hostel about 8:30 and walk to the village.  It’s less tan a mile and all downhill.  I want to be able to make as many miles from Reds as possible so I can get to Tuolumne Meadows quickly.