TRT Day 4: 23 miles
I heard Donner get up to go pee around 5AM, and John was tossing and turning. I hadn’t slept well because of the bed – soft and the covers got totally messed up.
We managed to leave the hotel just after 6AM, and although I was tired, I was thankful that we were getting an early start because I knew we had a lot of climbing to do and I wanted to get as much of it done as possible before it got hot.
I also wanted to carry as little water as possible, so I decided to chug two liters of water before leaving the hotel and only carry 1 liter for the next 4 or 5 miles uphill.
The trail was nice and cool, and because of all the water I drank, I had to pee every 10 minutes. That got old really quickly when I realized that there were quite an abundance of mosquitos around. I remember these mosquitoes from the PCT. They were most similar to the Oregon variety, which could land on you regardless of how quickly you were trying to run through them.
Luckily the mosquitos were not a constant. They were only really present in spots where we were going through a meadow, in the forest or near a stream. This side of Tahoe is definitely much more wet than the other side. Water sources are plentiful.
Early on we passed an active logging site, and repeatedly heard chain saws followed by trees falling and crashing onto the forest floor nearby as loggers cut them down. Although we weren’t close enough for it to be dangerous, we jumped every time a tree fell.
Donner made the mistake of showing an interest in lichens, when the topic somehow came up, and John spent the next hour or two regaling us with every detail on lichens he could possibly remember – which, given that he has a book on the topic, and the brain of a sponge, was a lot.
I decided to steer the topic away from lichens and onto quantum mechanics. Donner was a physics major, so between us we tried to remember details of our physics and chemistry courses.
There were tons of hikers – both day hikers and backpackers. We intersected the Pacific Crest Trail, and that brought a few PCT hikers into the mix too. We were constantly pulling our buffs over our faces as we jumped off the trail to let folks pass. I’ve been really impressed with how many hikers have pulled out masks to pass us.
At lunch we cracked open a gigantic jar of Nutella, and also made tuna wraps. Once we finished, John and I packed up and John was standing there with his pack on ready to go 20 minutes after we sat down to eat.
“God, you guys really just like to hike, don’t you?!” Donner said.
It’s at that point that we realized that we had been such in thru-hiker mode that we hadn’t really taken a really long break just to sit and admire a view or take an extra long lunch just to relax in nature. Our style has always been to just keep walking. It’s not that we don’t admire views, but usually not for more than 5 minutes or so. Donner was more used to taking half hour or hour long breaks to enjoy the scenery.
Since we got such an early start, we got done with quite a few miles early on in the day. We realized that there was no point in rushing or completing more miles than we needed to, since that would just mean that we finish the hike before we had planned. We made plans to attempt to slow down a bit and take more breaks during the next section
We decided to camp at Richardson Lake, a popular camp spot – there are dozens of other people here, but really pretty. The lake was very warm, and I soaked my feet. I would have gotten in if it wasn’t so breezy and getting a bit chilly as evening descended.
We decided to take a little stroll around the lake to check out a Sierra Club hut that was listed on the map. It turned out to be quite a quirky little hut, built in 1955, and obviously designed for use during the winter, when snow would pile up to the second level, so the leave a door unlocked at the top of the hut, which gained us entrance. The inside was warm and there was a register, which I signed, which had many recent hiker’s signatures in it as well. Outside the hut was a double decker outhouse, which we did not investigate as thoroughly.
Tomorrow we will be entering the Desolation Wilderness, which is probably the most scenic stretch of this trail. We are all very excited, and anticipate enjoying some breaks near lakes along the way.
TRT Day 5: 21 miles
We woke up in the morning refreshed from an only slightly interrupted sleep. An animal repeatedly hissed for an hour in the middle of the night. Maybe a fox? Who knows.
The trail was noticeably moist compared to the dry Carson Range on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. At points it seemed like someone had been spraying the trail with water and other times it was even slightly overgrown with vegetation around dry creek beds (on the dryer side, there was much less vegetation).
Today was the day that John and I have been looking forward to since booking this trip. We entered the Desolation Wilderness, one of our many favorite spots from our Pacific Crest Trail hike. A few steps past the Wilderness boundary sign John said, “We really are in the Desolation Wilderness look at all the granite rocks!”
Slowly the damp trail became more rocky. We came upon the first lake of the day and took a long break to swim. I was nervous to get into the cold water, but John and Donner convinced me to jump in from a rock. It was nice to go for a swim. Four years ago when we were here it was too cold to even think about swimming here.
We continued onto Dicks Pass which presented us with an absolutely gorgeous view. We could see the chain of lakes we passed as well as many others that were out of view.
Moments after we arrived, another a hiker arrived and gasped at the scenery. It was wonderful to watch her reaction. We spoke with her for a bit, and found out that her name was Rose. We also found out she hiked from the Washington/Oregon Border along the PCT and was finishing her section tomorrow. As we walked away we noticed that there would be an even better view a few steps further along and John said, “It will be great to see her reaction over there.” Predictably, Rose gasped again.
Rose had wanted to hike the whole PCT this year, but changes her plans when COVID hit.
“I hope you get to hike it in 2021,” I suggested
“If there IS a 2021….”. She retorted.
There was a small patch of snow at the top and Donner attempted a snow angel and threw a couple of snowballs at us.
As we descended my hip started to hurt and we slowed down. Donner and John both offered to carry some of my weight, and I took them up on their offer since John always accuses me of being too stubborn. I was pretty upset that my hips were not cooperating, and I silently wondered if my thru-hiking days weren’t over.
The temperature seemed really warm with all the granite reflecting the sun back at us. When we got to Susie Lake we decided it was worth taking another swim.
We debated spending the night there but it was still early so we moved onto Aloha Lake, where we found a perfect spot with a spectacular view.
As we watched the sun set and the moon rise, we noticed that little tufts of pink clouds passed by.
“Hmmm, clouds” John commented. I knew what he was thinking. We hadn’t seen clouds in almost a week. Out here clouds usually mean weather.
TRT Day 6: 17 miles
We took our time packing up in the morning – no need to rush since we had only 6 or so miles to Echo Chalet, where there is a small store where we planned to resupply, and we knew they didn’t open until 10AM. The clouds were strangely gone after a quiet night, and we had a perfectly blue sky.
We descended from Aloha Lake to Echo Lake through huge boulder fields. The trail was mostly pointed rocks, which was slightly hard on the feet. It was in one of these rocky areas that we heard some little squeaks, and found that they were coming from a pika! Pikas are only the cutest alpine rodent. They’re actually closely related to rabbits, I believe, but they look kind of like big fat fluffy mice with big ears. I attempted to take its picture, but it was in a hurry to get somewhere with the tuft of grass in its mouth.
I’m assuming that this area is normally quite crowded, but today being a Friday, it seemed especially busy. We passed group after group after group of hikers walking up from Echo Lake.
I remembered this section quite vividly from the PCT. Once you exit the wilderness, Echo Lake has quite a few cute little houses and huts along it, with no access besides either the trail or the lake.
When we made it to Echo Chalet, we immediately bought a half gallon of ice cream to share along with chips and guacamole, soda, and potato salad.
“Growing up, my dad used to microwave the whole tub of ice cream so he could eat it melted, and then put it back in the freezer so all we ever had was freezer burnt ice cream,” Donner griped.
“That sounds awful!” I replied
“And then my mother would dig all the good bits out of the ice cream, like if we got chocolate chip cookie dough, there was never any bits of cookie dough left. That was pretty much the extent of my horrible childhood. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.” He said, shoving spoonfuls of ice cream into his mouth.
Donner noticed that Rose was in the parking lot, having met her family who were there to pick her up. He came back with a bag of cherries that she gave us. So sweet!! We went over to say goodbye and gave her our website to look us up when she got home.
It took us another hour or two to buy and sort through all the food we needed for the rest of the trail, which should take us about three and a half days. The store was two or three times more expensive than a normal grocery store and with limited selection, so we wanted to choose our food wisely. We managed to buy a few things that we could split between the three of us, plus a ton of Ramen noodles.
When we started hiking again, it was brutally hot.
“East Coast heat melts you, and West Coast heat bakes you” Donner remarked. It’s true – I felt baked, and my legs were cracking because of the dry heat. In fact, right at the front of my ankles, my skin is so cracked that it is bleeding.
We got to a cold stream where we collected water and I took my shirt off and dunked it in the cold water and put it back on again. That felt divine.
“What’s for dinner?” I asked Donner
“I’m pretty sure all my meals involve Ramen somehow” he replied.
“I think we’re going to have instant stuffing mix and hot dogs” John said.
“Oh, then I’ll have Ramen with hot dogs!” Donner said with excitement.
We noticed that clouds were beginning to form, and quite quickly. These were not cute little clouds like last night, these were very obviously thunder heads.
Soon enough we are shaken with a sudden “KABOOOM!!” A thunderstorm was upon us. I started hiking faster, since we were headed up a hill, and we scurried over the top of it. The rain soon started, and we made sure everything in our packs was in something waterproof. I was glad I brought my rain jacket and rain pants, because the temperature dropped quite quickly. Luckily my shirt was almost dry.
Now instead of holding our umbrellas up for sun, we had them open for the rain. It didn’t rain hard, but it rained enough to bring life to the hillsides, and as we continued we passed many meadows and drainages absolutely packed with wildflowers. Views of nearby mountains were incredible.
The rain subsided, and the flowers and views continued to take our breath away. We could hardly stop taking pictures.
Eventually we got to the lake where we wanted to spend the night, called Showers Lake. Funny that we came through on a day with showers…
We ate dinner by the lake, and enjoyed the last lake that we will have along this trail.