PCT mm 1175.4 – Donner pass and Truckee


I was able to get up early today and get out at 5:30 and make good miles all day so now I am exactly 20 miles from Sierra City, where I have a resupply package waiting.  The store closes at 6 PM so I need to get an early start tomorrow so I can reach the store before they close.

The night up on the ridge in the trees was a little breezy and I woke up alot through the night but I was warm and toasty with the down jacket on.  I was able to eat and pack up in just thirty minutes which helped for the 5:30 start.  The moon was out all night and almost full, so it was hard to tell what time it was throughout the night.

My heels were stiff and sore for the first fifteen minutes of hiking, which is normal.  The trail was a little rocky, so it made it that much slower.  There was another ski area that we skirted under as the trail made its way towards Donner pass.  Around the ski area, the trail was nice and wooded.  On the slopes themselves, it always seems to get rocky with big rocks.  I guess with enough snow you have no clue what’s underneath.

The last mile to Donner pass was very rocky and had lots of switchbacks.  I remember many years ago taking the California Zephyr from Denver to Oakland and it went right through Truckee and the road at Donner pass goes into Truckee.  I was excited to be able to cross the tracks I once rode.  I could hear a train in the distance, but I could never see it.

When I got down to the road, there was a parking area packed with cars of day hikers.  I had seen ten or so on the way down, but this was more cars than for ten people.  They must be on other trails.  Lots of people running on the trails here, too.  There was another PCT hiker there trying to hitch into Soda Springs which is the other direction than Truckee.  I tried talking to him, but he was Japanese and did not speak much English.  I saw him on trail thirty minutes later, so I guess he gave up on going into town.  Some day I’d like to go into Truckee and check it out.

While I was down on the road, I got so hungry, I felt like eating my arm off.  OK, so that’s bad Donner pass humor.  But seriously, compared to the other passed I have seen in the last few weeks, Donner pass seemed like it would be a piece of cake to navigate.  There’s a huge lake nearby and it’s not that steep or high.  I’ll have to review the history of the Donner party to see what other contributing factors led to their demise.  Homework for after the trip.

As I ascended out of the pass, I saw a car on a pullout of the road with a whole pile of gear on the ground.  It took me a while to figure out it was climbing gear.  I looked above me and the rocks there did indeed look like good climbing.  I also noticed there were no railroad tracks in sight.  How could I have missed them?  I looked at the map and it showed them clearly and showed them on the south side of the road.  I had already crossed them, but I never saw them.  Then it dawned on me.  The train passes Donner pass in a tunnel.  I probably walked 200 ft above them and never knew it.  As I looked across the pass, I noticed the track and saw the snow sheds that I remember in the area.  And sure enough, the track disappeared into the mountain I just hiked over.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to walk across them.

The next excitement of the day was crossing under I-80 and being able to go to a rest area.  Rest areas mean bathrooms and vending machines and vending machines mean Coca Cola.  It took about an hour to get there, but once I got there I discovered they did not have any vending machines.  Super bummer, I could have used a Coke.  Oh well, I got to eat lunch on a picnic table for probably only the second or third time of the trip.

The trail after that was alot like the last few days.  Deep woods, climb to a ridge walk, then back to woods and repeat.  There were two exceptions to this pattern, however.  There was one meadow and an actual hut, Peter Grubb hut.  It had a main room, a small room to the side, and a loft above.  It was maintained by the Sierra club and would have been a neat place to stay, but it was only about 2 PM.  It had a solar panel and provisions for lighting and cell phone charging.  It also had the most interesting outhouse.  It was two stories and you did your business on the second floor.  It had a ramp up to the door.  I guess when there are varying snow levels a ramp makes the most sense.  It received frequent use.

I planned on hiking until about 8pm to eat up as much distance to town as possible to make tomorrow easier.  I found a decent campsite right at 8 and it turns out to be exactly 20.0 miles from town, so that is my goal… Get out as early as possible tomorrow and see if I can hit town between 3 and 4 PM.  It should be possibly if I can get out before 6 am and the trail remains much like it has been for the last few days.  I can taste the hamburgers and smell the showers and laundry from here.

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