Day 9: South Lake Tahoe

PCT Mile 1073.2 to 1090

Miles Hiked = 16.8

It was another beautiful morning here in the mountains south of Lake Tahoe. I was looking forward to meeting Donna later today where the PCT crosses Highway 50.

I had camped in a spectacular valley last night – here is a view looking down it as I started my hike this morning. As I hiked a little higher, I looked back at where I had camped as well as the ridge (upper left) I had crossed over late yesterday afternoon.

The flowers were in bloom.As I climbed higher towards Carson Pass, the trail crossed over more snow fields.Soon I reached the Passand then passed by Frog Lake on the other side of the passIt wasn’t long before I reached the Carson Pass Visitor Centerwhere I took advantage of the facilitiesthen continued down the trail towards Lake TahoeAfter another mile or two, I had my first glimpse of Lake Tahoe in the distancethen continued up another beautiful valley filled with green meadows and more flowers in bloomA few hours later, I had another view of the lake but it didn’t look any closer And then this mountain biker passed me a couple times! – the PCT is closed to mountain bikers (and motorized vehicles) – it’s only legally open to hikers and equestriansMore lake views – maybe a little closer?I descended down a rocky trailand then passed by this plaque as I neared Highway 50It wasn’t long before I was poolsideThanks for following

Day 8: Happy Anniversary Donna

PCT Mile 1050.8 to 1073.2

Miles Hiked = 22.4

Today was my 30th anniversary. I was very fortunate to have cellular service throughout the day so that I could chat with Donna. I even was able to call her at 6pm, our anniversary to the minute! We will celebrate our anniversary over the next few days in South Lake Tahoe. Five years ago we revisited Fiji (where we spent on our honeymoon) so this may be a little letdown, but I will make it up later! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to hike the PCT but make no mistake the most important things in my life are my wife and children and grandchildren!

I am so appreciative of the support that all of my family gives me, including my father, sister and kids, but particularly Donna, for supporting me on this crazy PCT journey.

But let’s get back to the PCT.

Today was a beautiful morning. The skies were clear and there was a slight breeze which was quite nice and refreshing. I started a bit late this morning because I couldn’t locate where I had placed my reading glasses. I retraced all my steps and even took my pack apart before I eventually found them. Probably cost me 30 minutes!

Almost immediately after beginning this morning’s hike I entered into this beautiful green valley filled with colorful flowers.But what was really impressive were these large volcanic rock formations.

The terrain has definitely changed since Yosemite one week ago – much more volcanic rock and less granite.

Soon the trail rose above the lush green valley and traveled across the barren volcanic scree.Once I crossed over to the other side, there were expansive views to the eastI passed this gigantic pine treeAnd a few minutes later had this view looking north – if you look closely you can see the trail crossing the barren hill in the middle of the photo.And the trail continued There was a small cascading stream of water falling down onto the trail as I passed bySomewhere down in this valley is Blue Lakes Road – I’ll take my lunch break there in a few hours – not many cars pass by.On the way down this butterfly poses for meAfter lunch I pass by this lake

I spotted this unusual rock formation – the trail will wind itself around it and I’ll use it as my reference point for the next few hours.

Soon the trail will once again climb above the trees and the views are such that a video (I say Day 9 on the video – it’s really Day 8) will only do it justice – it’s a little windy so I hope you can hear the audioEventually I wind myself around to a beautiful valley on the south side of Carsten Pass – photos in the next blog – my shadow was getting long as the sun got lower on the horizon – time to find a camp.Thanks for reading.

Day 7: Increasing Mileage

PCT Mile 1031.8 to 1051.8

Miles Hiked = 20.0

I was up earlier today because I knew I needed to hike at least 20 miles. I’m meeting Donna in South Lake Tahoe in three days and that’s 60 miles away, so I need to average about 20 miles per day. I was on the trail by 6:30 this morning

Here’s a screenshot of an elevation profile of today’s hike from the Guthook app. This is the app that all PCT hikers use to navigate the trail. No more paper USGS topographical maps. The app shows where water is, where campsites are, etc. On this particular screenshot you’ll see that I have over 4000 feet of elevation gain today and almost that same amount in descent. That’s a pretty typical day.

Today was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies. Shortly into my walk I passed right by this large cone of volcanic rock. I wonder how many thousands of years ago it was deposited?

I had one last view looking back at the rugged mountains that I descended a few days ago in a hail storm. I was happy that that particular adventure was in the rear view mirror!

Yesterday as I hiked (after leaving Kennedy Meadows North) my spirits were a little down. It’s sometimes difficult being out here alone. It’s much more fun to have someone to share the experience with. When I was a teenager and young adult I would backpack in the High Sierras with my father every summer. It was a great father/son experience and together we learned a lot of basic backpacking skills. Later, when my oldest son was in his middle teens he started joining my Dad and I on these annual summer backpacking trips. When the younger kids were a little older than Donna and I were able to start venturing into the backcountry together. We’ve done a lot of hiking and backpacking and trekking together over the past twenty years. So even though I know she’s hiking along with me in spirit, it’s still sometimes difficult.

But today my spirits were better. Maybe it was because of these majestic views. More likely it’s because I know I’ll be seeing Donna in a few days.

A little later I had a different view looking back at the cone of volcanic rock that I had passed an hour or so ago (it’s on the left).Then I passed a stream cutting through the snowand a beautiful green meadowthe remnant of a once majestic treea small waterfallan alpine lake in the distanceand then the trail traversed up to a saddle above Noble LakeI had cell service up at this saddle, so was able to call Donna and send texts to all the kids.

This is the valley that I would hike down on the other side of the saddleI took a water break under this old weathered Bristlecone PineI passed, yet again, under more rugged jagged peaksand finally reached my planned campsite where I set up my tentand enjoyed lake views as the sun slowly set.

Thanks for following!

Day 6: Kennedy Meadows North

PCT Miles: 1016.9 to 1031.8

Miles Hiked = 14.9

Yesterday, after I arrived at Sonora Pass on Highway 108, I was picked up around 3:30pm by the KMN shuttle and transferred to the resort and pack station.

I checked into to my bunk room, did laundry, dried out my gear (tent, sleeping bag, shoes, etc), took a shower, picked up my resupply box and bought a few supplies at their well supplied store.

Oh, I also had a couple beers and had dinner with a nice young female hiker that I had met while waiting for the shuttle. Her trail name was something like “Strange Sounds” because she has to hiccup often. We had a nice chat. She graduated from the University of North Caroline a couple years ago and then worked in the Athletic Department as a sports photographer. When she quit her job her parents weren’t very happy. I told her that’s the way parents are but that they’ll get over it – she needs to lead her own life! We talked about all the places that Donna and I been fortunate enough to travel to and I gave her some ideas on possible companies to contact for employment opportunities – she’s interested in environmentalism, photography, travel. Seems like Nat Geo, Lindblad or one of the other adventure travel companies would be a perfect fit. Hope it works out!

I was lucky enough not to share my bunk room with other hikers – there are five beds crammed into each small room! So I was very fortunate to essentially have a private room!

The next morning I had the “Cowboy Breakfast” at the restaurantand finished organizing my gear. I also mailed my bear container (not required after exiting Yosemite) and micro-spikes home. It actually should be called an “anti-bear food container” – it doesn’t really contain a bear! Most hikers only carry a bear container through the Sierras because it is a requirement by the National Park Service. They typically weigh about two pounds and most hikers don’t want to lug around any more weight then they have to.

Lastly, I called my father and filled him in on the trail and my hike. He is 93 years old and did his last backpacking trip four years ago!

At 10:00am I caught the shuttle back to the trail along with nine other hikers. It wasn’t long before I was back on the trail headed north towards South Lake Tahoe. I was looking forward to meeting Donna there in a few days and enjoying two “zero” days – days when I don’t hike any miles.

As I hiked north away from Highway 108, I gained about 1100 feet in elevation in the first three miles. When I got to the top I enjoyed a great view looking back at the mountains I had descended yesterday in rain and hail. It was certainly nicer weather today!I also had a great view north towards where I was headed and was surprised at how little snow I saw in the distance.I then had a long descent (about 2500 feet) down this valley over next six miles.As I got further down this valley the surrounding walls got more rugged.I started to see these colorful plants along the trail.

Thanks for reading.

Day 5: Sonora Pass

PCT Miles 1005.9 to 1016.9

Miles Hiked = 11.0

Well, I survived the cold stormy night in my wet tent. When I first climbed in it late yesterday afternoon I was expecting a cold and miserable night. But, as I mentioned in my last post, I actually slept well and was warm. When I awoke this morning it had stopped raining but everything was still very wet. My plan was to get to Kennedy Meadows North (KMN) today and spend the night in their PCT hiker bunk room, shower, do laundry and eat restaurant food. I would also be able to dry out my gear and pick up my resupply box that I had mailed several weeks ago. Prior to last night’s storm, my plan was to arrive at Sonora Pass on Highway 108 before 10:30am in order to catch the shuttle provided by KMN. That wasn’t going to happen now, so I set my sights on the 3:30 shuttle.

I was packed up and hiking by 9am. The skies were overcast but it didn’t look like any more rain was imminent. It didn’t take long before I was above the tree line and enjoyed nice views back towards the forest where I had camped last night.As I looked forward I could see the trail traversing across the landscape above me.The trail did a big reverse Z switchback up the hill.Instead of staying on the switchback, I followed a shorter, steeper side trail that angled up from the bottom switchback – something like this:

As I got closer to the top, I shot the following video:Once I reached the top there were spectacular views to the south towards Yosemite, where I had started a few days ago.As I looked forward I could see the exposed ridgeline that I would be walking along for the next five miles.I had cell service so I called Donna to let her know about the storm and that I was OK. Then I continued my hike and enjoyed these hearty colorful flowers that thrive in this extreme mountain environment.As I continued, I hiked across 12-15 angled snowfields. Most of these were easy and safe to cross but there were a couple that were a little sketchy and I had to be careful.I was thankful that Donna was not having to cross some of these snowfields – I think they would have been a little too exposed and beyond here comfort level.

As I continued, it started to rain. Then the hail came. I was in shorts and my rain jacket but was soon soaked thru-and-thru. As long as I kept moving I stayed warm enough. But the landscape and the views were simply amazing.Eventually I got to the other side and could look down to where Highway 108/Sonora Pass was.There were more snowfields to cross as I descended to the road- would they ever end?Finally I neared the road and looked back at what I had just come down.It was 2:45 – the shuttle would be here shortly.Thanks for following

Day 4: Thunder, Rain, Hail, Hypothermia?

PCT Miles 990 – 1005.9

Miles Hiked = 15.9

Last night I had set up camp in Mosquito Hell – when I awoke this morning it was still Mosquito Hell. When I broke camp and started hiking at 7:15 I was in all my mosquito protection gear – wind pants and shirt and mosquito netting over my head. I don’t know the name of this valley that I was hiking up but it was very pretty with green meadows alongside the creek.

The trail travelled through this valley for four to five miles. It was very wet and the trail was often muddy.

Just before I reached Dorothy Lake, which is at the upper end of this mosquito hell valley, I met a young female Yosemite Park Ranger who was out on patrol. We chatted for a few minutes and she checked my PCT long distance permit. I guess I passed her inspection because she let me continue.

Dorothy Lake was very pretty.

The pass just beyond Dorothy Lake is called Dorothy Pass and is the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. There was still quite a bit of snow over the pass.

I took a snack break just beyond the pass and was still in full mosquito protection.

I little while later I passed the 1000 mile PCT marker – it is quite a milestone for all the thru-hikers that started at the Mexican Border (usually 2-3 months ago).

My hiking goal today was to get to one of the campsites between PCT mile a 1008 – 1010. This would leave me with a relatively easy hike the next morning to Sonora Pass on Highway 108 (Mile 1016.9) where I would catch the 10:30 shuttle to Kennedy Meadows North.

Kennedy Meadows North is a Resort and Pack Station. Since they are only about 10 miles west of where the PCT crosses Highway 108, they cater to hikers and offer group bunk rooms, showers and laundry. They also have a restaurant and store and will except hikers resupply boxes for a small fee.

Shortly after passing the 1000 mile marker, I started to hear thunder in the distance. I continued to hike on and passed the campsites at mile 1003 and 1004. I wasn’t too concerned about the thunder – it seemed like it was off a ways. At about mile 1005 it started to rain heavily and hail was also falling from the sky. I took cover under some trees hoping that this storm would blow through in a few minutes, but it didn’t. Since there was no where to camp, I decided to push on (in the rain and hail) to the next campsite. When I got there there was already one tent set up but I found a place for my tent. As I rushed to set up my little one-man tent, it continued to rain and hail. The hail was the size of large green peas. I was literally setting up my tent on a bed of hailstones. The rain and water soaked my tent before I could get my rainfly set up. I threw in my gear and crawled inside. Of course I was soaking wet. There were pools of water on the inside floor of my tent! I used my camp towel to sponge up the water as best I could so that I only had a damp tent floor. I was cold and shivering. I blew up my air mattress which I lay on top of my closed cell foam mattress. I put on my only dry clothes – my long underwear tops and bottoms, one pair of dry socks, my buff around my neck, my beanie and my down jacket. I crawled inside my down sleeping bag. The storm continued to rage with rain and hail pounding my tent. I continued to shiver. I knew I would be OK as long as I stayed dry inside my bag. I didn’t dare go outside to pee so I used my Gatoraid bottle. I had a few Fritos and a couple sips of Jackie D for my dinner. After about two hours of shivering I finally warmed up and fell asleep. It turned out to be my best nights sleep yet on the trail.

Thanks for reading.

Day 3: Water Water Everywhere

PCT Mile 973.4 to 990

Miles Hiked = 16.6

Today was another challenging day in the backcountry. I was up and hiking by 7:15. I started the morning with a 1000 foot climb up to Seavey Pass. On the way up I passed this cascading narrow waterfall.

And the trail passed thru this fern grotto.

There was still snow near the top.

And then I passed this lake with awesome reflections – I really like the reflection of the snowfield and the barren diagonal tree.

Shortly after Seavey Pass, the trail took a sharp turn to the left (west) and followed along a cascading creek down Kerrick Canyon for about three miles.

At the bottom, there was a large, deep, fast moving creek to cross. Rather than wading across, I used this large fallen tree.

Following the crossing I met a young man named Kazoo – he is thru-hiking the trail and had a late start in mid-May. He hikes about twenty-five mikes a day. He’ll have to keep up that pace in order to reach Canada by October 1. I wished him good luck.

After a short snack break I started my second uphill climb of the day. This one was only about 800 feet up. As I hiked up the trail, there were spots where water was running down the trail.

Following the next descent, I came to Stubblefield Creek which has a reputation of being a difficult crossing early in the season. I waded across just downstream of the path – up to my knees – easy peasy!

Just following the crossing, as I started the next climb, I passed this deer – she let me get within twenty feet!

This last climb of the day was the most difficult. It was only 1200 feet up, which isn’t that much compared to many other climbs, but I was already getting tired and therefore wasn’t moving very fast. There were nice views of the surrounding mountains.

I got to the top about 3pm and had only hiked about 11.5 miles for the day! I needed to pick up the pace! Luckily the remainder of the day’s hike was downhill and on nice smooth trails through the forest. I passed Wilma Lake which was very pretty.

And then continued down the trail for a few more miles to my intended camping spot at mile 990. I took this short video of the adjacent stream.

Finally I reached my intended campsite. It was close to the steam, was away from the trail a bit and had a nice flat spot to set up my tent. But it was MOSQUITO HELL!!! I set up camp and got in my tent as soon as possible otherwise I would have been eaten alive and unable to send any posts.

Thanks for following and keep those comments a coming.