Summary of our Pacific Crest Trail SOBO hike 2014 in numbers

It has been almost two months since Dirt Stew and I finished our hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought I would summarize our adventure with a few interesting facts and statistics from our hike:

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We hiked 95.5% of the Pacific Crest Trail (roughly 100 miles short due to wild-fire closures)

The hike took 128 days

We took 8 “zero days” (days off) which included 4 days to go to a wedding

We walked an average of 20 miles a day (including zero days)

Longest day: 34 miles

We spent 97 nights camping on the trail

We spent 19 nights in paid accommodation (hotel, hostel, cabin, etc)

We spent 5 nights with trail angels

We spent 6 nights with friends/other

We had 15 days of rain or precipitation

We hiked on snow for at least part of the day for 16 days

We each went through roughly 5 pairs of shoes

The most north-bounders we passed in one day was 78

Number of other south-bound thru-hikers we met during our whole hike was 7

We spent $4,000 per person during the hike (not including food in mail-drops)

We had 17 mail-drops pre-made and 6 more were made during our hike

Our biggest expense was health insurance ($250/month per person)

Most expensive piece of gear lost: down jacket

Most water carried: 6 liters per person (we didn’t need all of it)

Base weight for Dirt Stew was anywhere from 10 to 15lbs

Base weight for Dormouse was anywhere from 8 to 12 lbs

Favorite sections: Northern Washington followed by the Sierra Nevada

We took 3641 pictures

The most picked up piece of trash was Mylar balloons, followed by plastic water bottles

We soaked ourselves in 5 different hot tubs

We hiked or hitched past 6 wild-fire closures (we found alternates for many, but not all)

We saw 5 bears (none in bear canister territory)

Most obnoxious animal: raccoon waking us up in the middle of the night

Cutest animal: the pika

Number of hikers in bad circumstances that we were able to help: 3

Best food experience: Aardvarks food truck

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dirt Stew: 1 medium sized pepperoni pizza followed by 1 large burrito

Cause of most painful full stomach experience for Dormouse: 1 order of mozzarella sticks, 1 bacon cheese burger followed by ice cream

Dirt Stew’s most missed creature comfort: a kitchen with food in it

Dormouse’s most missed creature comfort: sonic tooth brush

Number of voice recordings for the Halfmile project: 1500+

If you are curious about any statistics we haven’t thought of let us know in the comments.

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Julian to the Mexican Border

Highlights:  We hiked on from Julian through Mount Laguna after which we started seeing border patrol more and more.  We saw a tarantula on Halloween, and on Halloween night it rained on us for the first time since the Sierra Mountains.  We arrived at the Mexican Border around midday on November 1st and were greeted by White Jeep, who took us back to San Diego to stay there for a few days.

Day 120: Julian to Mile 60, 17 miles

October 29th:  We packed up and at the breakfast at the hotel we were staying at and headed to the library to write my last blog post.  The library in Julian was probably the best library of the whole trail.  Lots of computers, that actually worked, and didn’t remind you of the 90’s with essentially no time limit.  Wow!

We got a ride with an arborist back to the trail and hiked uphill in the heat… drenching us in sweat.
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Day 121: Mile 60 to Mile 36, 24 miles

October 30th:  In my last blog post I commented a lot about cacti, which were the dominant vegetation.  Now we seem to have hiked out of the land of cacti and back into the land of chaperral.  Chaperral covers the hillsides very well, making the look green, and leaving very few spots for camping or doing one’s business.  We hiked into Mount Laguna and were immediately given 10 apples by a school teacher who’s kids hadn’t managed to eat them all.  We wondered over to the Post Office with our fruit, and picked up a package that we had bounced from Warner Springs, and also inquired about a package from KEEN, hopefully containing some socks.  We were lucky enough to have been chosen by KEEN to receive socks every few hundred miles, but we probably completely messed up their system by going southbound.  In any case, we had been trying to get socks delivered to us at various addresses with very little luck, and this time we found out that they had managed to send a FedEX package to General Delivery at the Post Office.  Usually, the US Postal Service will not touch a FedEX package, but the post master there recognized my name and decided to accept it and attempt to forward it to Mount Laguna along with our other package.  Although this wound up not working out, I was very impressed with the Warner Springs post office for doing this!

We wandered around town checking out the mostly closed businesses.  The outfitter looked awesome, but was closed, and the cafe was mostly closed for food, but we were able to order a frittata at the drinks counter before heading out of town.  The folks at the cafe told us the forecast called for snow on Saturday, the day that we would be arriving at the border.  Mount Laguna is at 6000ft, and the border is several thousand feet lower, so there would be only rain for us.  But we couldn’t remember the last time we saw rain, and the prospect was very exciting!

The sunset was beautiful.  Clouds were building in the sky, but were light and fluffy, which makes for a spectacular sunset.  Since there is not much vegetation to speak of, we are always rewarded with beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Pink sunset

Pink sunset

Sunset

Sunset

For the first time we started noticing border patrol aircraft namely helicopters.  From here on, border patrol will be appearing more and more.

Day 122: Mile 36 to Mile 11.5, 24.5 miles

October 31st:  Border Patrol became more and more abundant.  At every road crossing we saw them in their vehicles passing by.  We stopped at a campground with picnic tables to have lunch and one vehicle came into the campground and stopped right where the trail exited the park. Several other vehicles pulled in and out.  We sat there eating our lunch and watching them nervously.  As we exited the campground, passing right by the parked vehicle with the officer inside, the officer turned on the engine and exited the park.  From then on Dirt Stew was convinced our every move was being followed.  We passed a day hiker (undercover border patrol) who stopped and asked us:

“Since when did people decide it was a good idea to go Southbound on the PCT?”

He seemed annoyed.  Dirt Stew imagined this was because normally they have to have extra forces during northbound hiker season.

At some point in the day we realized it was Halloween and joked about dressing up as each other– the only “costumes” we were carrying.  I was excited that in the middle of the trail on Halloween, we saw our first tarantula.  I respectfully stopped and took a step back, pointing him out to Dirt Stew so that he could get his camera out.  Dirt Stew then proceeded to stick his camera about 1 inch away from the tarantula, scaring it into its hole, and all we got was a picture of a tarantula butt.

Tarantula's butt

Tarantula’s butt

Not only were there border patrol helicopters in the area, there were also many military airplanes and helicopters as well, probably carrying all sorts of deadly weapons.  All in all, this didn’t exactly make us feel more safe…  Eventually, we came across this sign:
Ummmm...

Ummmm…

As it got dark Dirt Stew was still convinced we were being followed by border patrol.

“They have infrared cameras, and they can see us even in the dark”  he said, half jokingly.

“Don’t they have something better to do than to follow a couple of PCT hikers who are hiking TOWARDS the border?”  I said.

Sometime in the night, the rain started.  It rained and rained and rained.

Day 123: Mile 11.5 to the Mexican Border, 11.5

November 1st:  In the morning, it was still raining.  We slept in.  As we had only 11.5 miles to do to reach the border, we weren’t exactly in a rush.  The rain persisted, so we decided to get up and get going.  Soon after we were packed up, the rain abated, and then stopped all together.  The sand we were walking on was now hard from being wet, and the footsteps we had been following for hundreds of miles had disappeared over night.  I suddenly realized that the people those footsteps we had been following were all no longer on the trail.  Sadie must have finished at least a day or two ago, and she was the next one in front of us.  Mother nature was reminding us that our journey too was almost over, and soon the land will forget us as well.

Why wasn't there one of these at the Canadian border?  We got the memo WAY too late...  :)

Why wasn’t there one of these signs at the Canadian border? We got the memo WAY too late… 🙂

We didn’t have far to walk, and as we headed towards a road that we were obviously meant to cross, we saw a truck parked where the PCT crossed.

“Border Patrol is waiting for us” Dirt Stew said, pointing at the truck.  I rolled my eyes.

As we got closer, we saw someone get out and wave at us, and Dirt Stew and I realized at the same time: “White Jeep!”  He had intersected us just 2 or 3 miles before the border to say hi, and offer us a honey bun.  From there there is a confusion of roads leading to the border with the trail winding through them.

So close!

So close!

As we continued on towards the border, we saw White Jeep’s truck again at another intersection, and behind it a Border Patrol vehicle.  “Just keep on going” White Jeep commented, as we passed him.  He drove on to the border, and I looked around for where the trail continued.  The Border Patrol officer, still stopped next to us, stuck his head out of his window and pointed down the trail “you’re on the right path” he said.  As we went on, he drove off, also toward the border.

“Ok, that one was definitely there because of us”  I said to Dirt Stew.

Finally we saw White Jeep’s truck by the gigantic fence of the Mexican Border, and we could just make out the monument marking the end of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Dirt Stew walked up next to me and took my hand so that we could walk the last stretch together, just as we had on the Appalachian Trail.  We walked up grinning, and walked straight up to the monument, looking at it for a moment before looking at each other for confirmation that we would touch it together to mark the end of our journey.

White Jeep was there to take many pictures, and I found the register on the back of one of the wooden pillars.  It was surprisingly cold and windy, so we didn’t linger for too long.

We made it!

We made it!

Whee!

Whee!

Yehaww!

Yehaww!

Signing the register

Signing the register

The border was amazing to me.  I couldn’t have touched Mexico if I wanted to.  There was a huge barbed wire fence with a dirt road behind it that border patrol were driving back and forth on, and a larger impenetrable fence behind it, and then Mexico was somewhere behind that.  We could see Mexico where a hill would stick up over the fence, and that was good enough for me.

The border-- with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

The border– with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

And just like that, it was over.

But we aren’t thru-hikers yet.  The miles that we had to skip around the fire closure in Northern California are still nagging us, reminding us that we did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one year.

Since we’ve gotten off the trail, we’ve showered and stayed with White Jeep and Seminole in San Diego for a few days.

Showering was a bit strange.  It felt like I was washing the trail off my body for the last time.   I was happy to see that even after washing my hands several times, there was still some stubborn dirt stuck in the grooves of my hands. The first shower, however wasn’t nearly as hard as the second.  You never take a second shower while you’re on the trail until you’re totally dirty again, and so it’s hard to convince yourself to get in the shower again once back in civilization while you’re still basically clean.

We decided that we’d better at least try to go back to Ashland.  The weather has turned quite a bit towards winter conditions, so we’re preparing ourselves with warmer clothing and some extra gear, but we would like to at least finish the last few miles of Oregon to have completed two states fully.  If the conditions are miserable, we’ll finish in Seiad Valley, but we’re open to hiking further if weather permits.  Chances are we won’t complete the Pacific Crest Trail this year, but we did give it our all.  There are probably many “thru-hikers” that didn’t complete the whole trail this year.  We have less than 10% left, and maybe, just maybe we’ll be able to get through there before conditions get too bad….  Stay tuned!

Independence to Tehachapi

Highlights: We enjoyed the remainder of the Sierra Mountains with a side trip up Mount Whitney. This is where the JMT hikers finish. We ran low on food, but were able to scrounge some extra food from JMT hikers finishing up their hike at Mount Whitney. We exited the Sierra right in time before any snow fall. As we descended from the Sierras into the desert, water became scarce and we had to start carrying more and more to make it from one water source to the next. In the desert we are the only hikers on the trail besides the occasional hunter. The additional water weight along with walking through sand has caused a flare up of an overuse injury in my hips. We are now taking several days off to go to our friend’s Don and Jenny’s wedding, which we are very excited about. I am hoping the time off will help my hips recover. This will be our first zero days in over 700 miles, so we finally feel they are well deserved!
Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Random picture from Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Sunset in the Sierra

Day 80: Mile 790 to Independence, 8.5 miles

September 19th: Despite sleeping above 11,000 ft, we were quite warm. We are getting better and better at selecting a good camping spot, and this one was well sheltered. We hiked down the Onion Valley Trail over Kearsarge Pass to get to the trailhead leading to Independence. The mountains around Kearsarge Pass were amazing. Knife’s edge ridges all around with lakes beneath.

Kersarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass is AMAZING!

Kearsarge Pass.  Wow, right?

Kearsarge Pass. Wow, right?

Once in the parking lot, we waited and waited for anyone who looked like they were leaving. It took more than an hour before we found someone headed to their car, and I cornered them and asked for a ride. They obliged, and we sat next to their cute but afraid of car-rides dog in the back seat. As the dog drooled on my lap, panting, I also felt nauseous going down such a steep winding road. The trail head is at over 9,000 ft, and Independence is right around 4,000 ft. We got dropped off in front of the Subway Sandwiches, and immediately ordered a couple of sandwiches. We got a hotel room, showered, went to the library to write my last blog post, and got more subway sandwiches before falling asleep in a very comfortable bed.

Independence, CA

Independence, CA

Day 81: Independence to Mile 786, 10.5 milesSeptember 20th: We slept really very well. We packed up and went to “Jenny’s” for breakfast where we were immediately pegged as being thru-hikers by the way we were wolfing down food. A man at the table next to us tried to talk to us and we mumbled answers between mouthfuls. We then went back to the library and printed out the very important “water report” which would give us valuable information on where we would be able to find water in the desert. We got even more subway sandwiches before finding a ride back to the trail. The forecast was thunderstorms for both today and tomorrow, and we were going to be reaching the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, Forester Pass tomorrow. Thunder clouds were building as we went back over Kearsarge Pass, but we made it safely down into the valley before the storm broke loose. We cuddled up in our tent as thunder and lightning tore through the valley. I really started to worry about tomorrow and getting over Forester Pass with such aggressive storms in the area. We fell asleep as the storm continued.

Day 82: Mile 786 to Crabtree Ranger Station (mile 767), 19 miles

September 21st: We woke up before sunrise, as we usually do, and I saw flashes lighting up our tent. “More thunderstorms” I said to Dirt Stew. “What should we do?”. “Stay put” He replied. So we went back to sleep for half an hour, and woke up again when it was light enough out to see the sky. I poked my head out and was surprised to see blue sky. We packed up quickly and started marching our way up Forester Pass to beat any further storms. I was really happy to see we weren’t the only idiots out there trying to make it through. It was an ant’s march of John Muir Trail hikers also trying to make it over the Pass. There was a very small powdering of snow on some of the higher peaks. As we got closer, I realized it was actually small balls of hail from last night’s thunder storms. We headed up, passing several groups of hikers as we went, and as we climbed above 12,000 ft, signs of the altitude started affecting me. I was tired and lightheaded, but every time I looked back and saw very ominous dark clouds creeping over the ridge in our direction, I found it in me to push a bit more. When we got to the top I peered over the edge to the other side and was surprised to see blue skies on the other side. I felt strangely safe on top of Forester Pass, I could see for miles. There were a few others also at the top taking pictures. We snapped a few pictures, and got a nice Australian couple to take one of the two of us, and we headed down the other side.

Forester Pass

Forester Pass

As we took a break at lower elevation, the Australian couple caught up with us, and we hiked with them for a couple miles trading hiking stories. They had hiked the GR20 in Europe and talked about how difficult the terrain on that hike was compared to the PCT. It sounded like an interesting trail. We hiked to the Crabtree Ranger Station, and camped there, at the base of Mt Whitney. The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be good, which I am so thankful for. The one place you really don’t want to be in a thunder storm: Mt Whitney! Before we went to sleep, I studied our food situation. It looked very grim. Only 2 or 3 snacks per day and barely enough calories for breakfast, and our jar of peanut butter was almost empty. Dirt Stew was hungry and showing it. I was feeling OK, so I told him I was full and gave him the rest of my instant mashed potatoes. That barely made a dent in his hunger, and I knew we were both going to be starving in a day or two if we didn’t find more food. We discussed the situation as I shivered in my sleeping bag, and we decided we would swallow our pride and beg for food from the John Muir Trail hikers who would be finishing their hike on the top of Mt Whitney. It took me over an hour to warm up, even in my 10 degree sleeping bag. This is probably because of lack of calories. Usually I eat an extra 300-500 calories right before sleep to keep me warm at night.

Day 83: Mile 767 to Mt Whitney on to Mile 762, 21 miles

September 22nd: We woke up cold, but that was a good sign because the sky was completely clear of any clouds, a good day for climbing Mount Whitney. I was tired and very worried about the food situation. I had visions of losing energy to hike the miles necessary to get us out of the Sierras to get more food… It would be a snow-ball effect, and we would starve! There was frost everywhere, and as we climbed, the rocks above Guitar Lake were covered in ice. We were dragging our exhausted bodies up the mountain. Each step felt like it took all the energy in my body. We had barely eaten anything for breakfast. The plan was to stop at the intersection of the Whitney Portal Trail (where people hike down to civilization), and the trail up to the summit and eat a spoonful of peanut butter while waiting for JMT hikers to pass by, asking them if they had any extra food. When we finally got to the intersection we were pleasantly surprised to see a line-up of backpacks and several hikers hanging out there. We sat down and opened up our peanut butter. I asked a hiker: “Did you hike the John Muir Trail?” The hiker was a Brittish fellow named Shaun who had taken 20 or so days to hike the JMT and was about to summit and finish his hike. When I asked if he had leftover food, he produced half a jar of peanut butter, half a jar of Nutella, and a freeze dried meal. My eyes lit up. Other hikers over-heard our conversation and started digging in their packs as well. We got another freeze dried dinner, some jam in a squeeze jar, some honey, some packets of “Gu” energy gels, and some candy. I thanked them profusely and ate a “Gu” packet plus another spoonful of peanut butter. Suddenly hiking was easy again. We had the energy to make it to the top of this mountain! We passed many hikers, most of which were probably day hikers hiking in from Whitney Portal. Many looked in bad shape with the elevation paying a toll on them as they hadn’t had the many nights to acclimatize like we had. At the top there were tons of people all congratulating each other and taking pictures. I felt like a spectator at the end of a marathon. This wasn’t my victory. I certainly didn’t feel like I had conquered this mountain. As we stood there, on the tallest point in the continental United States, I felt vulnerable and exposed. There was a hut with words of warning to support my feelings. The sign read something like: “This hut will not provide shelter from lighting storms. If a thunder storm is approaching, get off the summit”.

On top of Mt Whitney

On top of Mt Whitney

I wandered around the hut and saw a large marmot standing on his hind legs not a foot away from a group of hikers. He was begging for food. I suddenly felt in good company. “We blend in well with the wildlife” I told Dirt Stew pointing to the marmot. We snapped a few pictures and headed down.

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near the top of Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

Near Mt Whitney

On the way down I did have a sense of success. We had effectively made it out of the High Sierra before the first snow, and we had gotten enough food to make it to Kennedy Meadows. We got back down to Crabtree Ranger station where we had left our tent and sleeping bags (and unfortunately also my umbrella), and packed up. My face felt hot, and I felt really dumb for forgetting my umbrella for the hike up Mt Whitney. I undoubtedly had a sunburn. As we left the intersection of the JMT and the PCT all the people disappeared and we were once again on our own.

Day 84: Mile 762 to mile 737.5, 24.5 miles

September 23rd: It was nice to be on our own again. We didn’t need to worry about being caught peeing in sight of the trail, and we didn’t have to worry about all the camping spots being taken. The terrain really changed, and we were obviously walking into the desert. To be honest, the terrain really started to change right after Forester Pass. The trail was very sandy, and it was difficult to walk at a good pace with each step sinking into the sand. We suddenly started having to worry about water sources, and so we started carrying several liters each. We ate a lot, having scored extra food yesterday. I still felt like I could eat everything in my food bag in one sitting. Dirt Stew earned his trail name again by spilling half the contents of one of the freeze dried meals in the sand. We exited Kings Canyon National Park, and as we passed several side trails, literally all the footprints in the sand disappeared except for one. “Robert’s alive!” I shouted back to Dirt Stew. His footprints were clearly visible as the last person who had been through this section. We had worried a lot about Robert. He must have been freezing cold without warm clothing and nothing but a 32 degree bag. He was also low on food when we parted ways, and I wondered if he also begged from the JMT hikers. It struck me as funny that out here in the wilderness without cell phones, Facebook, email, etc. a few footprints in the sand was a way of communication.

Day 85: Mile 737.5 to mile 711, 26.6 miles

September 24th: We woke up early at 5AM and decided we may as well get going. We were going to have to make a habit of hiking in the dark either in the morning or the evening as we are losing day light with each day that passes. The trail climbed down several thousand feet, and we saw our first cactus. Desert indeed! We were unsure of many of the water sources. One spring was piped into a trough that had a dead chipmunk floating in it. Luckily I could take water directly from the spring. The trail is dominated by wildlife tracks: bear, deer, coyote. Obviously nobody but PCT hikers and animals hike this section. There were many, many bear prints, and the ever-apparent Robert prints. We passed through huge meadows which were quite chilly in the morning. The trail here is obviously not maintained on a regular basis. Some downed trees looked like they had been there for years. My hips are sore, as they have been for many days, in fact my right hip has been bothering me most of the trail. The sand aggravates it, and the pain wakes me up at night making it hard to get a good night’s rest. My face is obviously quite sunburned from the hike up Mt Whitney. My left ear in particular is blistering quite badly.

Day 86: Mile 711 to mile 694, 17 miles

Now that we are at lower elevation, it is very warm at night. We walked 9 miles into Kennedy Meadows, and the wind really started picking up. We had a very hard time keeping our umbrellas up. When we got to Kennedy Meadows, we heard that a storm system was due to move through the area in a couple days, and this wind was probably associated with it. We took a shower in the outside shower stall, and although the water was warm, we were frigid because of the wind. We ate burgers, did laundry and unpacked our resupply box. We were excited to get new shoes.

Old shoes

Old shoes

We wandered down to Tom’s place across the street where he let us use his wifi. We hiked out in full ninja-hiker gear with shirts around our faces in order to protect ourselves from the sun and wind, and ran into a northbound section hiker who said “you guys must be thru-hikers”. “How’d you guess?” we asked. “Well, you look like you’ve walked almost 2000 miles!” He replied. “Can I take your picture?”. “Sure!” We answered. As he left I said to Dirt Stew: “Let’s take a picture of ourselves! It’s the first time someone’s told us we look like we’re thru-hikers who’ve hiked 2000 miles!” We snapped a picture at arm’s length and looked at ourselves on the little screen. We looked a lot like we did only 100 miles in. We were covered from head to toe so as not to get sun burned.

Do we look like thru-hikers?

Do we look like thru-hikers?

As we hiked into the desert we saw a jackrabbit jump across the trail. We camped near one of the few water sources listed on the water report. It took us a good 20 minutes to find it based on the description, but realized that it was much easier to find for northbounders than southbounders… as usual.

Day 87: Mile 694 to mile 670.5, 23.5 miles

September 26th: We took 10 or 11 liters from Fox Spring for the 30 mile dry stretch and then found a cooler less than 5 miles later. There was no water in the cooler, all it had in it was two cans of seltzer water. Whomever left those has a strange sense of trail magic. Not that I object, but seltzer water has 0 calories, and just tastes like fancy water to me. We split one, and left the other for whomever’s behind us. For some reason I was very exhausted, and when I took a short break to sit down, I nearly fell asleep on the trail. My hips are very sore, and the weight of the extra water is not helping. Dirt Stew is carrying a lot of the extra weight, but even so I am still struggling. At some point during the day I took off my pack and realized my right hip was numb to the touch. I panicked a little, and called Dirt Stew over. He told me something similar happened to him a while back, and he thought it was because the hip belt was cutting off circulation around the hip bone. It was disconcerting to be able to pinch myself and not feel a thing. Eventually the feeling did came back. The camping options were very limited as the trail followed steep ridges for many many miles, and when we found a flat spot, we stopped early. My hips were so sore that I was happy to call it a day early.

Day 88: Mile 670.5 to Lake Isabella (mile 652)

September 27th: We hiked towards Lake Isabella where we would spend a night, and as we approached we saw the storm coming in from the north that had caused the high winds for the last couple days. We hiked fast, and managed to out-run the storm. We felt a few rain drops, but that was it. We wondered what impact the storm had on folks north of us. We got a ride into Lake Isabella and got dropped off in front of a pizza place. We each ordered a large pepperoni pizza and chowed down. Dirt Stew finished his pizza in no time and started eyeing mine. When I was ready to share, he had a couple slices from my pizza as well. There was one slice left, and we both looked at each other wondering if we could finish it. I was stuffed. The one piece would have to go in a ziplock bag. This was embarrassing. We got a hotel room and took showers and did laundry. I called my mother while laying on the bed in the hotel room, and as the sun set I felt completely exhausted. Dirt Stew was jumping up and down ready to get more food, but I told him I was still full from pizza. “Go ahead” I told him, “I’m going to take a nap”. I woke up again an hour or two later when Dirt Stew opened the hotel room door groaning. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I wish you were there to laugh at me and to tell me to stop eating.” He replied. He had eaten a large burrito, and struggled with the last bites. He had wrapped the literally last bite of burrito up and brought it home. Moments later I was back asleep.

Day 89: Lake Isabella (mile 652) to Mile 636.5, 15.5 miles

September 28th: We slept in slightly and ran some errands. We found out that the storm that we saw north of us yesterday caused snow to fall in the Sierra. We got out just in time. Apparently some folks experienced a foot of snow! We ate breakfast at the “Dam Korner Shop”, and tried to get a ride back to the trail. Lake Isabella is 30-something miles from the trail, and getting a ride back wasn’t easy. One guy offered us a ride part of the way, and we accepted it, but from there it was hard to get another ride. Finally a couple stopped and asked us where we were headed. It turns out that they only lived a block or two away, but they drove completely out of their way to give us a ride back to the trail. It was very generous of them to do that for us, and we were very grateful to make it back finally. We hiked past dark into a section that had some trees, which was nice. I was feeling pretty good coming out of town, so far my hips were not sore.

Day 90: Mile 636.5 to Mile 609, 27.5 miles

September 29th: We walked through large sections without trees. This really looks and feels like the desert. With no shade, we took almost no breaks until we found a Joshua tree that provided just enough shade for us to squeeze under.

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Taking a break under a Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

Big Joshua Tree

We came across two water caches in this section, and were overjoyed to find sierra mist was left there too. We split one so as to leave more for folks behind us. The citrusy carbonated caloric beverage was very refreshing.

Water cache!

Water cache!

Unfortunately my hip pain came back with a vengeance to really put a damper on my mood. Hiking in pain is difficult, and taking ibuprofen every few hours doesn’t feel right either. We were warned in town that hunting season just started, and as we climbed up into a forested area towards the end of the day, we bumped into a hunter who had fallen asleep while sitting on the trail waiting for deer to show up. We kept alert for hunters as we hiked through the forested area, talking and singing loudly. We came up with a song to sing during hunting season:

Doe a deer is NOT over here

Ray, the name of a PERSON

Me, a name PEOPLE call themselves

Fa(r), how long your gun can shoot!

So, don’t shoot me in the head…

La, I’m singing this to YOU! Ti (tea), a drink I’ll make for you

if you don’t shoot at me now, now now now…

Day 91: Mile 609 to mile 580, 29 miles

September 30th: We got up and packed up. I went to go dig a cat hole and got scared half to death by a deer, and then instantly got scared again that hunters were nearby. We were near a dirt road, and hunters were driving past in their off-road vehicles. We kept vigalant. We decided to trade hip belts on our backpacks because Dirt Stew was very uncomfortable with his, and mine had more cushioning. This worked for most of the day, but the belts were not really designed for the opposite packs based on where the velcro was, so we had to switch back again in the evening. We walked through a burn area, which contained our first sighting of poodle dog bush, a poisonous plant that can cause similar skin rashes to poison oak. We also saw our first horny toad, a funny creature who is actually not a toad at all, but rather a type of lizard.

Horny Toad

Horny Toad

We also started walking through a very expansive wind farm with wind turbines as far as the eye could see.

Wind farm

Wind farm

The trail is used most by cows, it seems, and they not only rip up the trail, they also completely destroy water sources by crapping right in them. We were happy that one of the springs had a fence around the source where we could take water that had not been contaminated by cows. All in all this section is certainly not the most beautiful one, but it is a unique experience. It is one of those sections you would never hike through unless you are trying to get from point A to point B. We camped very close to the wind farm, and struggled to sleep.

Day 92: Mile 580 to Tehachapi (Mile 566.5), 13.5 miles

We slept extremely poorly. Huge gusts of wind were causing our tent to flap about loudly, waking us up every few minutes. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get comfortable due to my achy hips. At about 1AM Dirt Stew asked if we shouldn’t just get up and hike, but the thought of being groggy and hiking in the dark didn’t appeal to me at all. The wind farms were certainly well located; we were not. At some point in the early hours of the morning, the wind died down slightly and we got a few hours of precious sleep. We overslept our alarm, but didn’t mind too much as we needed to sleep. We packed up and started walking towards town. The wind persisted throughout the day. We saw our first road-runner, which looks surprisingly like the cartoon character. It moves in quite an unusual way by half running, half flying. We descended several thousand feet to route 58. The trail follows route 58 for a mile or so, which I believe is probably the most ugly mile of the PCT. The highway is on one side, barbed wire fence on either side of the trail, nothing but desert for miles, and wind farms in the distance. Being next to the highway meant we were in trash-land where people throw stuff out of their cars with no regard for where it winds up. The trail spits you out at an overpass where we realized hitchhiking would be impossible. Luckily there was a sign suggesting we call a bus to stop at the overpass we were on, and we did just that. We sat there huddled under the shade of our umbrellas, the only shade for miles, while the wind gusted creating dust and trash clouds. Disgusting. Occasionally a large truck pulled out, pushing more dust in our direction. We waited an hour or so for the bus, and dreamed about the food we would eat in town.

Waiting for the bus...

Waiting for the bus…

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

The bus drove us into town and dropped us off in front of Burger King. We gobbled town several burgers at Burger King (something I never thought would be so appealing), and checked into a hotel. From here we are going to take several days off in order to go to Don and Jenny’s wedding. We’re so excited to see our friends again and celebrate with them before heading back to the trail to finish our hike. I’m also excited to have a few rest days to hopefully help my injured hips recover. We went to Kmart for some snack food, and I bought some nail polish to try to make my hands and feet look presentable for the wedding. We’ll let you know in a few days how a couple of hikers have enjoyed a wedding!

South Lake Tahoe to Independence

Highlights:  We have been climbing up and up into the high Sierra.  The nighttime temperatures have been dropping below freezing, and we have been feeling the altitude in our hiking as we have been climbing above 11,000ft.  We got to hike with another hiker for the first time in a very long time, Robert, and we really enjoyed his company for a few days.  The scenery in the high Sierra is spectacular, and I wish I could post pictures, but alas, I cannot download pictures on this library computer at Independence.

Day 66: Mile 1105.5 to Mile 1090.5, 15 miles

September 5th:  Today we hiked out of the Desolation Wilderness which was amazingly beautiful and full of lakes and came out at Echo Lake.  There were lots of hikers hiking around there.  We kept on to the intersection of the PCT and Rt 50, and tried to hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe.  It took us quite a long time before someone stopped and picked us up.  The woman who picked us up turned out to be the sister of someone who was participating in the Tahoe Rim Trail 200 mile ultra marathon.  It was amazing to talk to her about what it takes to run 200 miles in under 4 days.  We had seen signs for this race, and we were walking on part of the route.  One of the interesting things we learned is that these runners need to take capsules of salt to replenish what they sweat out!  She gave us a ride to the library where I wrote my last blog post, and then we wandered over to the Safeway to resupply.  At the Safeway, we found a machine in the pharmacy section that measures your weight, blood pressure, etc.  We decided to weigh ourselves.  Dirt Stew weighed in at 173lbs, and myself 124lbs.  Not too bad, but we both lost close to 15lbs (we had also gained some in the months before the trail, however).  Once we left Safeway, we found a local bus that took us over to an all you can eat Chinese Buffet.  After stuffing our faces full of delicious Chinese food, we managed to talk our way into a ride back to the trail from a local.  A few miles in we camped.

Day 67: Mile 1090.5 to Mile 1062.5, 28 miles

September 6th: At 2AM, Dirt Stew was awoken by someone either running or walking very fast past our tent.  “I wonder who that was!” He said to me in a whisper.  “They were going Southbound!”.  We speculated, but only a couple hours later another several people passed by us.  By the morning we figured out we were on the race course for the 200 mile run, and runners were running through the night past our tent.  After a few miles into our day we passed an aid station where runners could get water, food, etc.  We were happy when the PCT diverged from the Tahoe Rim Trail, meaning we wouldn’t have to worry about being woken up again tonight.  We soon lost sight of Lake Tahoe, and came to a visitors center where we chatted with the docents and bought some post cards.  We walked into very dry rocky terrain with no trees.  The wind started to pick up and we started to get annoyed that we couldn’t keep our umbrellas up to keep from getting sunburned.  We got up over 9000ft, and the wind was just crazy.  We came back down into trees and camped near a seasonal stream which turned out to be running great.

Day 68: Mile 1062.5 to Mile 1033, 29.5 miles

September 7th:  Today we kept passing dry creek beds.  We started carrying more water since we could not rely on any sources.  The funny thing was that many of the water sources labeled “seasonal” were running great whereas the larger streams seemed to all be dry.  We decided this probably had a lot to do with soil type.  It continued to be very very windy, and in the distance we could see clouds and some of them looked like smoke.  We wondered if we still needed to worry about forest fires.  After we set up camp and the sun set we heard rumbling in the distance.  Soon the thunder storm was upon us, and we were so glad that we were not in the habit of cowboy camping.  We made sure everything was securely under the shelter of our tarp, and fell back asleep to the sound of rain dripping onto the tarp.

Day 69: Mile 1033 to Mile 1018.5 (Sonora Pass), 14.5 miles

September 8th:  When we woke up, it was dry, but rumbling continued in the distance.  After we packed up and started walking we could tell that the day would be filled with thunder storms.  As we walked towards Sonora Pass we met a section hiker named Death Valley Bob.  He gave us very useful information.  He told us the wind that we experienced several days ago was part of a tropical storm coming up from Mexico, and that the storms were also part of that storm.  He also told us that the wind caused a flair-up of a fire in Yosemite which had been burning for quite some time now, but was made worst by this wind.  He also assured us that the fire would not affect us, as it was not on the PCT.  Only JMT hikers were affected.  Phew!  As we hiked down to Sonora Pass to get to the Kennedy Meadows “Resort”, we were rained on repeatedly.  I was very happy to have my umbrella even though the wind made it difficult to keep up.  We were able to get a ride on the road down to Kennedy Meadows, and walked the additional mile from route 108 to the resort, and were pleasantly surprised to see that they had everything we wanted within just a few steps of each other: we rented a cabin with a shower, they had a laundry room, a store, a small restaurant, and even a pay phone!  We ate lunch and dinner in the restaurant, showered, and did laundry.  We picked up our bear canister full of food and packed it in our packs before passing out in our cute little cabin.

Day 70: Mile 1018.5 (Sonora Pass) to Mile 996.5, 22 miles

September 9th: We woke up slightly cold in the morning and walked outside.  It was definitely very cold.  We went to the restaurant and ate our third meal there and asked about the weather.  The temperature was the talk of the restaurant, and the verdict was that it was 34F.  We put on all our clothes and walked to the road to try to get a ride out.  There was almost no traffic on the road, and nobody was stopping for us.  We were getting colder and colder.  Finally a couple stopped and picked us up, and we thanked them profusely.  I was about to give up on getting a ride!  I was so happy that the heating in their car was on full blast and slowly the feeling in my hands and feet came back.  Once we got dropped off, we hiked up a really rocky area with no plants and then back down into the trees again.   Finally we passed a sign claiming we had entered Yosemite!  This was one park for which we needed the bear canister.  The bear canister is big, heavy, annoying to carry and annoying to open.  I’m not really convinced it does anything to help against bears, but I respect their rules, so we begrudgingly carried it.  Once we reach Touolumne Meadows we will be getting a section canister, since all our food won’t fit in just one.  Then we’ll both have to carry one.  Groan…

Day 71: Mile 996.5 to Mile 972, 24.5 miles

September 10th: It was cold in the night, and when we got out of our tent we saw frost on the grass.  We passed a stream and collected water, and I noticed that some of the rocks had ice on them.  We were taking a break when another thru-hiker walked up on us.  His trail name was Alabama, and we started to talk with him as we continued walking.  Alabama was hoping to finish the trail by Oct 15th, and was hiking quite a few more miles a day than us in order to accomplish his goal.  We walked with him for many hours, and the trail was quite rough.  Lots of up and down with lots of rocks.  We wondered how horses were able to hike here.  I hiked faster than normal in order to keep up with him and chat.  It is so nice to talk to another hiker and share our thoughts.  Dirt Stew and I often hike most of the day in silence since we don’t have that much to talk about on a daily basis.  The miles went by fast, but I knew we had to let Alabama hike on ahead since my legs felt like jello.  We decided to take the side trail to Benson Lake to check it out since we had heard many good things about it.  Alabama hiked on ahead as I expected he would.  I was exhausted.  The lake was not as spectacular as I had thought it may be, so we hiked on just a couple more miles to higher and hopefully slightly less cold ground.  We have become good at figuring out where it will be cold.  Valleys and near lakes are always cold.  Higher elevation is also colder.  The best is low elevation, but not near water or a valley.  We camped and gobbled down some food before crawling into our tent.  As I got in I felt terribly nauseous.  I had no idea why, but I ran outside just in case I was going to vomit.  Only Pepto Bismol helped in the end, and finally I was able to sleep.

Day 72: Mile 972 to Mile 948, 24 miles

September 11th: Today both Dirt Stew and I felt exhausted nearly all day.  My muscles burned on the uphills, and I generally felt fatigued.  The scenery was of course beautiful, especially going over Benson Pass.  We had breakfast next to an amazing lake and took many pictures.  We took many breaks since we were feeling tired, and at one of the many pathetic “streams” that was almost dry I saw a small puddle that was separated from the rest of the water and was drying up slowly.  In this puddle there were a dozen or so little fish with nowhere to go.  I decided that I would catch them all and put them in the bigger body of water.  This of course was just a tactic to avoid more hiking, but I managed to “save” each one of them.  I knew there were countless little puddles like this one with fish caught with nowhere to go, but it gave me some joy to release them into a bigger pool and watch them swim off.  Later in the day we met a section hiker named Unprepared who told us of his journey through the desert and how he carried 17 liters of water, which made his pack 90lbs.  We started worrying about how much water we would find in the desert.  But for now, the Sierra has plenty of water for us.

Day 73: Mile 948 to Mile 923, 25 miles

September 12th: Today we hiked to Tuolumne Meadows, a small store/post office/cafe where we had some packages to pick up.  We ate two breakfasts each at the cafe before the Post Office opened up.  We were surprised when we saw Alabama walk up.  He had accidentally put the SD card for his camera in a box to be mailed back home, and he was hoping to get it back out.  He also told us he was in the market for a new trail name, since he didn’t want to be constantly associated with Alabama.  So we started calling him Robert.  We hiked out with Robert along the John Muir Trail which is the same trail as the Pacific Crest Trail through much of the Sierra.  The scenery was unbelievable.  We exited Yosemite and entered Ansel Adams Wilderness.  More jaw dropping scenery with huge granite mountains, some with glaciers on them as we kept going past dark to find a place to camp.

Day 74: Mile 923 to Mile 893.5 (Purple Lake), 29.5 miles

September 13th: We emerged from our tents to absolutely jaw dropping scenery.  The sun was rising over Thousand Island Lake with the beautiful mountains covered in glaciers in the background.
We continued hiking with Robert, and it was nice to chat all day.  We diverged from the PCT to take the JMT alternate and walk past Devils Post Pile, which was an amazing example of columnar basalt.  We hiked past dark again and camped by another lake.
Day 75: Mile 893.5 to Vermilion Valley Resort, 20 miles
September 14th: We started hiking towards Silver Pass when we came across a sign on the trail telling us that the ferry to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) was only running in the mornings, and only took you to several trails that were quite a hike away from the Pacific Crest Trail.  We decided to take the shortest way possible directly to VVR by going over Goodall Pass.  We had no information about the trail we were on, and we were not even sure how long it was.  We kept hiking for nearly 5 hours, completely confused at trail junctions as to where to go, and not knowing where any water sources may be.  Miraculously we made it to the front step of VVR and were greeted with a free beer.  Everything else was expensive.  We took expensive showers amd did laundry and then had one of the most expensive meals we’ve had on the trail.  It was good, but I still felt empty.  We sat outside and ate food out of the expansive hiker box and chatted with Robert.  He was worried about having to quit the trail to get home to his wife.  His plan was to hike from VVR through to Kennedy Meadows without resupply.  I knew we wouldn’t be hiking with him much longer at the rate he would need to go.  After eating an ice cream we retired to our tent.
Day 76: Vermilion Valley Resort to Mile 864, 17 miles
September 15th:  We slept in then ate an expensive breakfast.  Robert decided he would be able to finish the trail.  We hiked out via the Bear Ridge Trail, which was steep, and we were feeling it with our fully loaded packs.  I was envious of Robert’s minimalist gear, which was obviously much lighter than ours.  After nearly 4000ft we went over Selden Pass and camped on the other side of the pass near a lake.  There were clouds in the sky, and so a chance of rain.  We watched Robert set up his ultralight shelter, which was the Golite Poncho Tarp.  He had it precariously set up with two branches instead of trekking poles, and the result left something to be desired.  I figured if it rained, he would probably get 50% soaked.  He also only had a 32 degree sleeping bag, and no insulating layer.  I crawled into our tent and into my 10 degree bag, and was instantly glad not to have such minimalist gear.
Day 77: Mile 864 to Mile 835, 29 miles
September 16th: Luckily there was no storm, but there were clouds in the sky all day.    We entered Kings Canyon National Park, and were surrounded by granite mountains with absolutely no trees on them.  Evolution Valley was amazing with knife edge ridges surrounding us.  We went over Evolution Creek, which for north-bounders is perhaps the hardest ford, but we were able to rock hop across and not even get our shoes wet.  As we hiked on, we found two John Muir Trail (JMT) hikers standing in front of a barbed wire fence across the trail.  “We thought we were on the trail until we came across this barbed wire” one of them remarked.  “It’s OK, you just have to go through the gate” I told them, and opened the gate for them.  Dirt Stew could not help but laugh that they were stumped by a little gate, and we wondered how long they were sitting there.  Later on, we were all taking a break to go pee when I heard Robert shout “Hey guys! I found a waterfall!”  “Cool” we replied.  He continued: “If this waterfall were in Alabama, it would be a State Park.  It would be called ‘Alabama Waterfall State Park’!”  We laughed.  “I’ll look at it while I pee”  I heard him say.  At the end of the day we went over Muir Pass around sunset, and at the top there is a cute little hut built in 1930 for hikers caught in inclement weather.
Day 78: Mile 835 to Mile 812, 23 miles
September 17th:  It was cold enough at night for me to put my big down jacket on, and when we woke up I heard Robert rustling around.  “Were you cold last night?” I asked.  “Unbelievably so”  He replied.  I knew he’d be leaving us.  “I won’t be sleeping above 10,000 ft again.”  He was also running low on food, and he needed to make it to Kennedy Meadows as fast as possible.  I poked my head out of the tent, and saw Robert packed up and wearing his sleeping bag.  “I’m going to miss you guys” he said.  After we said our goodbyes, Dirt Stew and I packed up and started hiking.  Mather Pass was a really tough climb, and as we finally got over it, I felt like I was on the bottom of the ocean with no water.  The mountains were so bare.
Day 79: Mile 812 to Mile 790, 22 miles
September 18th:  We slept above 10,000 ft again, in fact we were nearly at 11,000 ft, and I was wearing all my clothes.  There was frost on everything, and it was incredibly windy.  We had to go over two passes today: Pinchot Pass, and Glen Pass.  Between the two passes we crossed a large stream by way of a swinging bridge.  The bridge reminded me of bridges I had crossed in New Zealand on the Milford Trek with my mother many years ago.  As the bridge wobbled beneath me and I looked down, I realized why these bridges frightened my mother so much.  We saw lots of wildlife today: deer, marmots and pika.  On the other side of Glen Pass we were forced to camp above 11,000 ft, and we found the most sheltered spot possible.  We went to sleep dreaming of Subway sandwiches which we would be getting in Independence the next day.

Quincy to South Lake Tahoe

Highlights: We are definitely now in the Sierra Nevada! The mountains have been growing higher and higher, and we have been seeing more and more granite. The views are amazing. Also: we got a wonderful care package from my mother in Sierra City, we saw Sadie again after nearly two months, and were invited to stay in someone’s condo in Truckee after only having met them for a few minutes! We walked through Desolation Wilderness which was absolutely stunning, and made the mistake of camping on top of a windy pass. We hiked out at South Lake Tahoe (which has a library!), where I’m writing this blog post from.  Unfortunately the computer here only let me upload 4 pictures.  Next time I will try to update this post with more pictures.

Day 58: Quincy, 0 miles

August 28th: The night before in our hotel in Quincy, the hot water didn’t work, and the air conditioning failed right before we wanted to go to sleep. We complained to the front desk, and they came to try to fix our air conditioning, but it broke again half an hour later. We were just falling asleep when the manager called us and asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a jacuzzi suite. I was half awake, and told them, that was very kind, but I just wanted to sleep. In the morning, we decided the jacuzzi suite sounded too good to pass up, so we’d take a “zero”. We went to the Post Office, and got the package that White Jeep sent us with all the backpacks to try on, and I picked the most comfortable one. Then I went to the library, subway sandwiches, and the convenience store before picking out a movie from the pile of DVDs that the hotel had, and retiring to the room to soak my sore hips and watch a movie. We felt lucky to be able to relax, but a bit guilty, as the “zero” felt undeserved. Our two rest days in Ashland were not that long ago. No more rest days until we are out of the Sierra Mountains!

Day 59: Mile 1270 to mile 1248, 22 miles

August 29th: We packed up and went to the Post Office to ship the rest of the packs forward, just in case, and got some more food before getting a ride back to the trail. We hiked a few miles before I decided that although the pack that I had felt great- it was probably a size too small. I have quite a long torso. There happened to be cell phone service in the woods, and I called the manufacturer of the pack to order myself a size larger. They would be able to get it to me in Truckee! We kept hiking and were completely surprised to see the last person we knew hiking the trail this year: Lubko. We had stayed with him for a night in Tahoe when we practiced our ice axe skills, “and so I basically saved your life,” Lubko concluded. He had taken a month off to sort out real life stuff, and so lost the herd of northbound thru-hikers.

Us and Lubko (Bam Bam) our friend from the Bay Area who hiked from Mexico

Us and Lubko (Bam Bam) our friend from the Bay Area who hiked from Mexico

Cliffs of Bucks Lake Wilderness

Cliffs of Bucks Lake Wilderness

Bucks Lake area

Bucks Lake area

Day 60: Mile 1248 to mile 1217.5, 30.5 miles

August 30th: We decided to hike as many miles as possible today to optimize our chances of getting to the store at Sierra City the next day before they closed so we could pick up the package my mother had sent to us. We pondered what could be in the package. The terrain was tough though, and it was not an easy thirty miles. A few miles into the morning I got a massive nose bleed. This is probably the 3rd or 4th nose bleed I’ve gotten on the trail, and in normal life, I never get nose bleeds. I imagine it has to do with how dry it is out here, and maybe also the elevation, although I’m not sure. Dirt Stew saw a bear, but by the time I caught up it had run away, and later in the day a huge snowy owl flew in front of my face, and somehow Dirt Stew didn’t see it. Maybe we should try to stop doing 30 mile days now that we’re not in “easy” Oregon anymore. For the record we did 8,044ft of elevation gain and 4975 of elevation loss.

Day 61: Mile 1217.5 to mile 1193, 24.5 miles

August 31st: Today there were lots of people on the trail- this is because it’s Labor Day weekend, of course (not that we’re good at keeping track of these things). The PCT went around the Sierra Buttes which were beautiful, but we were stuck on a very sunny, shadeless steep slope around them with tons of lose rock. I wondered how on earth horses could do this.

Sierra Buttes

Sierra Buttes

We hiked down to the road and managed to get a ride quite quickly into Sierra City where our package waited for us. We got to the store and got our package and opened it up to find lots of tuna fish, chicken salad, hummus, dense bread, and other snacks. I went back to the store and bought a cucumber and a lemon and some soda and we sat and ate and ate and ate. I called my mother to thank her for the food. We were able to eat most of what was in the box, except for some bread and the snacks, which we packed out. As we were trying to leave town, a lady named Lauren came up to us asking us if we were PCT hikers. She was very excited to meet thru-hikers, and told us the PCT was a dream of hers. This was our first real fan! As she was giving us a ride back to the trail, I was looking out the car window and saw Sadie! We hiked with Sadie in Glacier Peak Wilderness almost two months ago, and had struggled through the snow together, but we hadn’t caught her since. Lauren pulled over, and Sadie got in the car. We traded stories for a few minutes before Sadie had to get going to pick up her package before the store closed, and we had to get back to the trail. Who knows when we’ll see her again… We hiked 4 or 5 miles to a campsite near a stream, and there was a couple already there. We introduced ourselves, and chatted about gear and where we were headed. They spent part of their time in this area, and part of their time in New York, and so I asked them if they knew of an inexpensive place to stay in Truckee. They looked at each other and said “yes, we know a place!” Before we knew it, they were inviting us to stay in their condo at Sugar Bowl just a couple miles off the trail. Dirt Stew and I were both shocked that we would be staying in someone’s place while they were out backpacking! They were going to make all the arrangements to have it ready for us when we got there. And there was a hot tub to look forward to.  I have to say that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has really restored our faith in humanity. That night we joked about how we were just hiking from hot tub to hot tub.

Day 62: Mile 1193 to mile 1162.5, 30.5 miles

September 1st: Fueled by all the protein in my mother’s care package, and driven by the promise of a hot tub, we pulled another 30 mile day, even though we had just told ourselves we wouldn’t push such big miles. I stopped for a break and opened a German “energy bar” that my mother had put in the care package. I took a bite. I’m used to energy bars tasting like chalk with all the protein they tend to pack in them, but this one melted in my mouth. It wasn’t so much an “energy bar”, it was more like chocolate covered marzipan with a hint of honey. Definitely the best ‘bar” I’ve had on the trail. I made Dirt Stew take a picture. The scenery was beautiful. In the morning we saw “drunk trees”, trees that are completely deformed by being pushed down by the snow. We also walked through some logging areas where there had obviously been logging within the last day or two right on the trail. We went above 8000ft for the first time on the trail, and found ourselves on very exposed ridges. We were thankful for no thunderstorms.

Day 63: Mile 1162.5 to Truckee (mile 1155.5), 7 miles

September 2nd: We were so excited to get going in the morning that both Dirt Stew and I left our umbrellas at our campsite. I realized this about a mile or two into our day, and Dirt Stew took off his pack and ran back to go get them. I kept walking, and as I climbed down the mountain towards I-80, I got completely lost. Luckily I was carrying the map, and bushwhacked to where the trail had to be. I found it, and Dirt Stew caught up to me very soon after. “Did you get lost?” Dirt Stew asked me? “Your footsteps disappeared for about 100 ft”. I was glad we didn’t lose each other at least, remembering what had happened to the Eskimo Brothers back up in Washington. We made it to the condo at Sugar Bowl and took a long shower while our laundry was running, and then jumped in the hot tub. I called the Post Office to see if my packages were there yet, and since they were, we decided to go into Truckee. At the Post Office, a lady named Andrea offered to give us a ride to Safeway. She happened to be from Charlottesville, the same town I grew up in. She was only a couple of years older than I, and we found that we knew some of the same people. She gave us a ride back to Sugar Bowl, and we cooked ourselves a nice pasta dinner with broccoli. We then also made some eggs and bacon before going to bed. We were so great full that we were given this opportunity to have a kitchen.

Day 64: Truckee to mile 1135.5, 20 miles

September 3rd: We got up and made ourselves more eggs and bacon for breakfast. We cleaned up after ourselves and got back on the trail by 10am. The trail was very rocky and there was no shade for many many miles. I was so glad, again, to have my umbrella. Good thing Dirt Stew had ran back to get them when we both forgot them. We hiked over 9000ft for the first time, and as I looked at the map, I started to worry about where we were going to camp. There was a long stretch where there was no flat ground according to the map. Finally we got to the top of a pass that was probably part of Squaw Valley Resort, and saw a sign for Wolverine Bowl (black diamond) ski slope. There was a flat spot right there at the top, and so we decided that even though it was exposed, we were unlikely to find something better. We pitched our tent and went to sleep. Several hours later, the wind picked up. The tent was flapping around like crazy, and both Dirt Stew and I tried to adjust our sides of the tent so it would hold up better. I got very little sleep, as the tent kept hitting me very hard in the head.

Day 65: Mile 1135.5 to mile 1105.5, 30 miles

September 4th: When I woke up in the morning, I realized that the tent stake on my side had come undone. No wonder it was hitting me in the head all night. We decided that we were never going to sleep on top of a pass again. I had looked at the maps the night before just before falling asleep, and found that we could do 27 or 28 miles to a lake. Perfect. At some point during the day I realized that my math was wrong. The 27 or 28 miles was actually 22 or 23. Not enough miles. Then I checked where 27 or 28 miles would land us, and it was the ONE place we definitely did not want to camp: on top of Dick’s Pass (9400ft). We could do 30 miles and wind up near a lake on the other side. Damn, another 30 mile day. Oops. That teaches me to do arithmetic right before falling asleep. As we climbed over Dick’s Pass, the sun was setting and we got amazing views of the lakes and the granite rocks of Desolation Wilderness. We decided Desolation Wilderness is definitely not overrated. Tomorrow we hike towards Echo Lake, and we must exit at Rt 50 to get to South Lake Tahoe to resupply (and write the blog!)