The weather that tried to kill me
Day 73: Zero day. Hitch from Quincy La Porte road to Sierra City.
I woke up all night when a crazy wind was shaking the tent and a rain was pouring over it like a long shower. I felt that my quilt was wet and noticed that the floor was also soaking wet. I decided not to start hiking before the daylight to be able to evaluate the situation.
Somehow water had been flooding in my tarptent and everything was wet: the quilt, the clothes I had left on the tentfloor, everything but my t-shirt and the underwear I was wearing. Even my powerbanks had been drained out of power because of the cold temperature.
It was still raining and I decided to wait until 10 a.m. when it was possibly supposed to have a break. I tried to dry the floor with a bandana and had to squeeze gallons of water out of it. It was around 37 degrees (3 C) and I had no desire to put on my soaking pants and start hiking in the rain. I made some coffee and ate against the rules in my tent.
I heard somebody shouting “Whiskey!” outside my tent and of course it was Sniff. He was also freezing and soaked because of the rain.
A hiker called Freezer passed by when I was swearing packing the tent and said there was a trail angel Jay who had just given her a ride that could take me to a laundromat. He was happy to drive me. After hearing about my plans he even said he could drive me to Sierra City or Truckee if I wanted to since he was going that way. First we’d need to get to Chester and pick up two hikers to this trailhead. Soon I was sitting warm in the car with a cappucino in my hand. We gave ride to two other hikers that had just been soaked that night right next to my tent.
The two hikers that needed a ride from Chester were Miss Bubblelegs and Landslide. It was great to hear about their hikes north and that they would probably be just a day behind us at the High Sierras.
I was sitting in the car the whole day hearing stories about Jays 17 years of trailangeling and work as a snowpatrol. He was amazing and insisted on not taking any money for the rides but to pay it forward somehow.
We were going to pick up my packages in Sierra City and head on to Truckee. The store was closed, however. There happened to be a hotel right across it that was not expensive so I decided to stay there. In the lobby I met 5 other hikers that I recognized most from before, one of them was Easy that was hiking with the Dolphine Gang way before. They had all been soaked in the floods that night and we all decided to go for a dinner, even Jay joined us.
The local restaurant had an awesome menu and we even shared a bottle of Merlot. Of course Jay sneakelly payed the bill.
Back in the hotel the friendly owner Rob rinsed my tent and then we were having some whiskey in the bar. We had philosophical discussions and even pot was smoked in the bar. Rob was telling about this old miner hotel from 1880 and the artefacts he had found around. He was also talking about finding meaning after his wifes death. Jay and Barefoot played some music with quitars and I went to sleep way later than normally.
Day 74: 13 miles. Sierra City to Pass Creek Loop Road
I could have slept long but I woke up already at 04.30. I had to eat some snacks in wait to the only restaurant in the town to open at 8.
I had breakfast there and sat with Austrian hikers living in Sweden, with whom I had chatted before we started the trail. They got Cov-19 as soon as they came to the country and decided to do a flipflop. We were talking about living in Sweden and an ultra cross-country skirace that he was organizing.
The other guys had decided to stay and zero in the town. I wish I could have done the same but a double zero is unheard of for a SoBo. After 11 the store that has random opening hours had opened and I went to look for my packages with food and warmer clothes. I found only one of them in the shop, the rest had been delivered to the post office next door. I was lucky that it was open!
After re-packing my backpack and dumping again a bunch of food that didn’t fit in my pack I left the town. It is always sad to leave a trail town and go hiking alone.
I roadwalked up and to the trail. It was very beautiful and started to look like I’d imagine a forest in the Sierras look like. As the weather report promised it started raining and I heard a thunder but fortunately I was going to the opposite direction. There is nothing I fear as much on the trail than getting into a thunderstorm on an exposed mountain.
I had lunch in a really scenic spot but the rest of the evening was rather wet. That is at least good for the wildfire that has been going crazy around Lake Tahoe.
I was listening to a podcast and had a quick dinner before camping. The closer you get to the High Sierras the more brave the bears apparently get. In Desolation Wilderness that was just a couple of days ahead it would be mandatory to have a bear canister when camping overnight. I wondered why the bears hanging around just 30 miles before should be more timid and was nervous about loosing my food for the bears as my bear canister was only coming to South Lake Tahoe.
I had to hike the last half an hour in darkness – the days are getting so short that starting and ending the hiking day in the darkness is unavoidable.
Day 75: 11 + 10 miles Pass Creek Loop Road to Stampede Reservoir, Nevada
It was chilly when I got up before six and started walking. I had breakfast with an awesome view and walked to a stream. Then I walked over my first 8000 feet top and then the dark clouds started rolling in. I felt the first drops before the next 8000 feet crossing and I set up my tent since it was supposed to rain for a couple of hours. I didn’t want to freeze my ass off in a rain again. As I sat down in my tent a hailstorm started and in minutes there was a crazy layer of ice around my tent. I blew up my mattress and thought I might as well take a nap waiting for the weather to improve.
I woke up in an hour when I heard a stream like sound. I thought there was not supposed to be any streams nearby and then I saw that it was forming right under my tent. I got in a hurry and packed my stuff super quickly. I knew I’d have to keep on going or I’d freeze to death in a soaked tent. My tent was in an ice pool and I packed about half a gallon of snow with me as I stuffed the tent in my backpack.
I started walking in the snow and the whole trail was covered in snow. I thought I couldn’t find my way if it snowed for five more hours. It was 18 more miles to the nearest highway so I decided I’d just hike for my life in damp clothes without stopping.
I got to a forest road and heard a sound of a car. I walked towards the sound and saw some trucks with forest workers. I went to them and asked if there was a way to get to a bigger road from there. They said it was just “a couple of miles” to a bigger trafficked road but didn’t give me a ride. So I started walking. After four miles I understood that “a couple of miles” is a broader concept for people with a vehicle – for a hiker it can be a four hours difference between 2 and 6 miles. So I decided to hike a couple of hours and just camp by the road if I didn’t get to a bigger road.
After around 6-7 miles of road walking I heard a car and saw a pickup truck getting off from a sideroad. I ran to it to ask if I could get a ride to a road. I was lucky as the elderly couple was driving to Sierraville and gave me a ride.
They were having their anniversary that day and we talked about hiking and camping in snow. In the end they gave me a beer and I gave them an emergency whiskey. We cheered at a parking lot and as I hadn’t eaten any lunch I got tipsy drinking the strong beer.
I started hitchiking by the road and after an hour a car stopped. A woman and her 90 year old father stopped. As I explained that I didn’t know where I was going to sleep she offered me to sleep at her place.
So we drove to her house which was a cool house in the middle of a field and actually located in the state of Nevada. It was so cozy to get inside by a fireplace. She offered me to eat everything I found in the kitchen while she was cleaning the outhouse. She had two dogs of which the one sized of a donkey wanted to try to sit on my lap. Her dementic father was telling five times that this was the route the first European immigrants took on their way to San Francisco. Apparently it was also just 0,5 miles from where the Donner Party events and people getting stucked in a snowstorm ending up in cannibalism took place. I felt for those people that day.
Day 76: Zero in Truckee
I had a breakfast with my host and enjoyed the fireplace as a contrast to the suffering the day before. I got a ride to Truckee and walked a couple of miles to Donner Lake where Sniff had invited me and a few other hikers to stay at a house his parents had rented.
We had a zero updating our gear with warmer clothes and resupplying. Sniffs lovely parents fixed us some food and the guys were playing pool and pingpong in the bearcave built in the garage. I was reading a book and drinking wine in the sun on the patio like a snowstorm had never happened.
We were picking up the last hiker from Donner summit and went to the inn only to pick up free beers for PCT hikers. The service was not friendly in the place and I managed never to order any food. I didn’t even drink the free bottle of strong beer I got but we gave it to a random man in the bar.
The scenery around Donner pass was amazing and I was bummed I’d have to skip that in order to make it to South Lake Tahoe that weekend. Hank (previously Vampire or Mustard Sandwich) was going to be there that weekend too and we planned to hike the High Sierras together. I decided to at least see a part of the famous Desolation Wilderness and hike a day in it on Friday.
We ate like crazy and after having stuffed ourselves I enjoyed some ice cream with Fifty. We had weighed ourselves and everybody had lost weigt, myself about 10 % of my normal body weight.
I got to sleep in the kingsized bed that was more cozy than a soaked tent.
Day 77: 17 (trail)miles. Meeks Bay to Eagle Falls via Desolation Wilderness
We got up after six and after a breakfast the guys got into a car and I took a walk to hitchike towards my dayhike.
I had to walk several miles to get to somewhere where I could hitchike. It was too foggy to see a hitchiker by the roadside and I tried to ask people at a gas station for a ride. I made a sign and finally got a ride from a guy who liked hiking. He had been before to the Desolation Wilderness without a bear canister and his and his friends food bag had been eaten up completely. That is why I didn’t want to camp there or near it before I’d have a bear canister.
Even the second driver was a hiker enthusiast and he was envying me for hiking the trail. At the moment I wasn’t even feeling like a thru-hiker after all the skipped sections even if the skipped parts in total were just a couple of hundreds of miles and the hiked parts were at least 1300 miles.
I got to Meeks Bay and started hiking Tahoe-Yosemite trail and then Genevieve trail to the beautiful Genevieve Lake. To get to the PCT I had to bushwack an crazy overgrown trail for about 0,6 miles. The PCT was beautiful in this section and the weather was the most perfect. It really looked like the pictures you see from the Sierras.
I left my whiskey as a trail magic at the junction of the PCT. I hiked quite fast and saw some beautiful lakes. The last bit was a lot climbing up and then a long way down via Eagle Falls Trail that was crazy beautiful. As I didn’t want to do an over 30 mile day I took a shortcut down to the road hence skipping a part of the Desolation Wilderness.
Before getting back down a man said he had just seen a bear a couple hundred yards down. I was playing John Muirs essays loudly to scare away the bear, how ironic as Muir was a great lover of wild animals.
Down by the road I got a hitch from a couple that brought me all the way to a campground at the South Lake Tahoe. It was unclear where the PCT hikers were supposed to camp so I pitched my tent in the middle of a superloud campground reminding me why sleeping in the woods is a million times better. There was high bear activity at the campsite so I put my foodbag in the toilet in the lack of a bearproof container but the loud music from the nearby camps kind of worked as a bear protector.
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What a GREAT POSTING. I loved every WORD. Thank you so much. You have a real talent and a great perspective on the trail.
Hope you go on IG also.
Seems like you might have some great pictures to share as well.
Love your trail journal! Thank you for the kind and positive words ✌😁
Please stay in touch
Old Sierra City Hotel