PCT Week 11: Storms, Desolation Wilderness, Family

Onwards to Tahoe

With the High Sierra in the rear view, we’re off to the last of the Sierra Nevada region, Lake Tahoe. There is still plenty of snow to get through, and while I can tolerate it, I’m looking forward to not having to deal with it soon.

I can definitely tell we’re not in the High Sierra anymore, no longer are we reaching 10,000 ft of elevation and the ascents are not as dramatic. Still though, steep switch backs make the trail more trivial, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

The second morning, I wake up feeling a pain in my stomach. I try to sit up but it’s not happening. All I can do is rest some more and hopefully it’ll go away. Finally around noon I am able to get up from my tent, I can still feel my stomach hurting, but I need to start moving.

Even with a stomach bug, I am able to get my miles in for the day. It’ll be a couple long days ahead. I’m used to feeling some sort of pain every day, whether it’s my sore body, or stomach aches, it’s something we just have to deal with out on trail.

Along with this stretch of trail came a bunch of section hikers. I hadn’t crossed paths with many up until this point. By chance one of those section hikers was someone I knew from the real world. He had asked about conditions weeks prior, and I didn’t think we’d run into each other. It was a short reunion as I still had plenty of miles to do for the day to get to camp.

Stormy Trail

After 3 months of hiking, I finally awake to my first rain on trail. It’s only light sprinkling but it’s continuous. For the very first time on trail I put on my rain shell. It continues all day. All you can do is keep hiking and hope it stops at some point.

Luckily it does slow down a bit. But as I ascend my next climb I now have to deal with high cold winds. All around me the trail is covered in fog, I can barely see 10 feet in front of me. It feels never ending. Finally I reach the top and make my way down to the base of Carson Pass. Fortunately the high winds I endured were able to dry my gear. I setup camp for the night, it’s going to be another wet day tomorrow.

Carson Pass isn’t too trivial but the wet weather makes crossing the icy shoots more difficult. Everything is drenched and cold. It’s definitely the worse conditions I’ve hiked in so far. I make my way to the visitor center where we’re treated with some trail magic, a nice warm fire and snacks. We’re all definitely in need of it. Outside it’s pouring non stop, it gets worse and worse.

With the trail magic, comes an offer into town early. We could easily start from here once the storm subsides, the offer is very tempting and we take it, I’d rather not spend an entire day drenched again. We head towards South Lake Tahoe, my winter home. It feels good to be back.

A full day of rest and drying all of our stuff is in full effect. It was definitely a good call to head in early. While I generally don’t mind hiking in a storm, I’d much rather not have to deal with multiple days drenched and cold. South Lake Tahoe is a fantastic place to rest and zero, with plenty of amenities, it’s definitely a great place for hikers.

Desolation Wilderness

With a zero behind us, we are back on trail early. We catch up the miles missed during the storm and head off into one of my favorite sections of the PCT, the Desolation Wilderness. This 50 mile stretch of trail is apart of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and is definitely a fan favorite. Every twist and turn leads you into alpine lakes.

It’s a gorgeous day and there’s beautiful trail all around me. There’s plenty of day hikers and section hikers on this trail as well. Some early Tahoe Rim Trail thru hikers are also making their way around. I pass the more hikers in one day than I’ve seen in a week.

I make my way up the biggest climb of this section, Dick’s Pass. As I go up perfect views of the multiple lakes are visible. It’s incredible. The last of the High Sierras also in the background. The best view comes from the very top of the pass. There we see Dick’s lake and the rest of the Desolation Wilderness. This is why this section of trail is my absolute favorite.

I camp at the Dick’s Lake that night with a bunch of section hikers. It’s a bit more crowded than I’m used to but it’s still a fun time. While Desolation Wilderness is a beautiful stretch of trail, it goes by quick, so you definitely have to make the most of it.

We continue north up the trail, passing more section hikers. There are more lakes and amazing views all around us. It’s going to be a big mile day as we make our way of Desolation Wilderness. You really do need to make the most of this stretch, as quick as it started, it was over. But while it went by fast, the alpine lakes all around me made it a very memorable two days.

Granite Chief Wilderness

I cross over into Granite Chief Wilderness, our next section, where I am welcomed by another bear, and a beautiful sunset. I get 360 degree views of gorgeous skies. Its just perfect. I setup camp in a snowy wooded area, I’m excited for what’s to come next.

One of the most unique and very personal sections of trail for me will be crossed today. Going through the Alpine Meadows and Palisades Tahoe ski resort. These mountains I have skied since I was a kid. I’m truly in my backyard. It’s interesting to be up here, I was just here a couple months ago enjoying laps of these bowls.

The coolest section of definitely going down the Granite Chief lifts. Above us, chair lifts. This ski run is one of my favorites in Tahoe and here I was hiking down it. There’s even a tentsite up here, if only it wasn’t so early, I would have loved to camp on this mountain. I still have many miles left today, so I’m off.

We officially make our way out of Sierra Nevada region. Behind us, the last remaining views of the High Sierra. In front of us, a vast green valley. We’re definitely in a completely new region. Northern California awaits.

But first, one final celebratory meal at Donner Ski Ranch, a very hiker friendly restaurant. After a 25 mile day I definitely deserve a good meal, and after 3 months of not seeing my family, I am slo treated with a visit from my parents who came up to Truckee to see me. It’s definitely been a great day!

Family Magic

With Truckee being so close to where I grew up, it made sense to get a visit from my parents here. It’s definitely the best reward I could have asked for now that I’m officially done with the Sierras. And of course it makes for an easy hitch into town!

Truckee itself is another great trail town. It has everything we hikers need. Just like South Lake Tahoe it’s full of outfitters and resupply options. Plenty of restaurants to choose from as well. My original plan is to zero here with my family, as it is one of my favorite trail towns, but due to the weather the plan has changed.

From here I’m only two days from Sierra City. And the weather forecast plans for stormy weather. If I leave tomorrow I’ll most likely be stuck in a lot of rain, so the plan is to leave the same day that I arrived. It’s definitely bittersweet.

With my family here I am able to quickly get my resupply completed. It definitely makes it easy having parents as your trail angels for the day. I have a lot to get done if I want to be able get back on trail and get a lot of miles done tonight.

Finally it’s time to get back out. It was a short reunion but definitely was something I had been looking forward too. Part of me didn’t want to leave so soon, but with the weather forecast it made more sense to leave earlier than scheduled in order to get to Sierra City before the storm.

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