PCT Day 84-86

Day 84

So, yesterday evening we ended up doing our resupply at Savemart and then sat for an hour at Starbucks, uploading some pictures. By the time we got out to the road to start hitching it was already dark. Somehow, however, we got a ride in about 15 minutes with a really nice couple. After they dropped us off back at the trailhead we hiked about 800 meters/half a mile further until the first tentsite and camped there. We could see the million stars in the clear sky and also the city lights down in the valley.

In the morning we got up pretty early (by our standards) and left camp at 7:45. There was another hiker, Bear, who had arrived even later than us in the evening and just cowboy camped a 100 meters from us. We exchanged some words and moved on but he quickly passed us and went ahead. Most of the day’s hike consisted of green lush pine forests and lots of up & downhills. After about one and a half hours we went through the highway I-80 underpass and then started the biggest ascent of the day – up and over Castle Pass.

The ascent wasn’t too bad even though the sun was super hot but luckily there was also a nice cool breeze throughout the day. When we reached the pass we met a father & a son, dayhikers, who were super excited to meet us and even wanted to take a picture with us. We felt like superstars!

A small descent and some snow later we arrived at the Peter Grubb hut. This hut is maintained by the Sierra Club and used by hikers and skiers as a shelter. There we met another hiker, the Poet, who was doing some on-trail zeros there due to an injury. While we talked Bear arrived – apparently he had gotten off trail at the I-80 parking lot and was therefore behind us. But he of course got going soon and we didn’t manage to catch up with him later. We also saw the Czech Republic hikers having a break a bit off trail but passed them without talking. Later on they caught up with us and we talked a bit – they had apparently found some mushrooms that they were planning to cook later!

We then continued down the hill for about an hour more, which is when we reached a bigger stream and had our lunch. We also got some water and took trailside showers with freezing cold water. But the weather was warm and nice so it was very refreshing.

After lunch we still had two ascents and two descents ahead of us; the plan was to hike about 29,5 kilometers/18 miles in total for the day to reach a tentsite next to a stream. There was also still a bunch of snow on the trail in many places and where it was clear of snow there was water and mud all over the place. That combination adds up to very wet shoes – as if we hadn’t had enough of that in the Sierras! We also walked past the Czech hikers again as they were having a break by a large stream.

Another very fast hiker – Pusher – then passed us and said he’d done the Sierras too but had had to take 3 weeks off trail due to an injury. Before leaving the trail at Mammoth he had been the first through-hiker of the pack! We had a long chat before he swiftly moved on to finish his daily 34 miles.

The last up & downhill went slowly but finally we managed to reach camp, just before 6 in the evening. Soon after we had set up camp we saw the Czech hikers arriving and setting their camp up just at the other side of the stream.

Kristians made us a fire and after we finished eating two other fast hikers arrived and asked if they could eat their dinners by our fire before moving on. We of course agreed and then had a great chat about hiking, climbing, ultrarunning and triathlons. Sadly they had to then hike on. We completely forgot to ask for their trail names but one of them is a P3 hiker. And I’m sure we’ll meet them soon again.

Just before bedtime a southbound flipflopper, also from Czech Republic, arrived and set up his camp by us. He was surprised to realize that there were two of his co-citizens camping right on the other side of the stream!

Day 85

The day started in the usual way – clear skies, a noisy flowing stream and Kristians not wanting to wake up. As we were doing our morning duties of cooking & packing we also noticed the increase in the amount of mosquitoes and quickly covered ourselves with repellant. The day ahead was a tough one considering our recent footpain, which we hadn’t experienced since the desert: 23 miles or 37 kilometers with 800m of ascent and 1400m of descent. Even though that mileage would get us directly to the road that leads into the town of Sierra City we didn’t plan on going there. We wanted to camp at the Yuba river, just before the road crossing.

The day quickly got hot as we pushed over the first big ascent of the day. The lush green forest then turned into open and exposed ridges that we followed for some time. There were blooming flowers of red, yellow & purple everywhere and often times we could smell the wild peppermint plants. We even saw some little snow – supposedly the last one we’d see for some time. It was pretty windy up on the hills but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the views – green valleys, dark blue alpine lakes and the Sierra Buttes’ craggy peaks in the distance (Sierra City is located just under those peaks).

Somehow we were walking pretty fast all the way until lunch despite the sun, hills & footpain. We had our break by a river – at 18 kilometers (recently the norm has been about 15 by noon) – where we found some shadow under the trees. As we sat there and relaxed suddenly two separate hikers passed us and then a third one a little later, he came down to us & had his lunch too. The guys were Redbeard, MC Camel and Hummer, as we found out.

After the long lunchbreak we still had some ascents to do but it was mainly going to be in the forests (shaded) and then we’d have a long downhill all the way to the river. The sun, however, got even hotter and the trail seemed to extend forever, zig-zagging up and around hills. The heels were now burning and even our calves hurt, so we decided to have a 15 minute water break by Milton Creek. There I found a nice big rock to lie down on. Suddenly MC Camel and Redbeard both arrived – somehow we had passed them when they were having their lunches.

After a short rest & chat we had to continue for 7 more kilometers or approximately 1,5 hours. I think because we were so motivated just to get to camp we walked relatively fast, despite the tiredness and pain. As we arrived at the big, loud Yuba River we realized that the flat spot by the river that Kristians had seen on the topological map was not flat at all. We looked all over the place but could not find a spot anywhere, there were only trees and steep cliffs. So, we were faced with reality: because we needed water for cooking and a flat spot for tenting we had to go to town; the next suitable on-trail location would have been 2,8 kilometers ahead & 300m up.

We unwillingly dragged ourselves to the road crossing and as we were about to sit down and discuss, Kristians threw up his thumb to hitch, not really hoping to get a ride. The car didn’t stop. Two seconds later, however, we saw the car backing up to us – a post office worker on his way home! He gave us a ride to the Catholic Methodist church downtown, where it’s allowed for PCT’ers to camp.

We found ahead toilets & even a public shower plus a bunch of other hikers, MC Camel among them. Soon enough Hummer arrived, too (he hadn’t got a ride and so walked the 1,5 miles down). And then we saw Nut again. We set up camp, had showers and started to cook dinner while chatting with some of the other hikers. Later a southbound hiker arrived and so did Redbeard.

It was a fun evening with other hikers – we hadn’t really hanged out with so many other hikers since some of the trail angel homes in the desert. Even as we were in our tent, ready to go to bed, we heard other hikers arriving: Heidi (who we had briefly met in Mammoth) and Justin (who we had met at the Echo Chalet) among them.

Day 86

We got up first out of the whole group – pretty astonishing considering that we’re usually the last to start moving our asses in the mornings. Anyhow – we ate & packed & then walked down to the general store to get some wifi. We also bought a soda & postcards to send home to our families. After taking care of those errands it was time to go – we had to roadwalk for 1,5 miles just to get to the trailhead.

It was already miserably hot when we reached the trailhead but there was more suffering ahead: 32 kilometers/20 miles and 1500m of ascent. Luckily half of the first 1000m ascent went through a forest and so we were quite shaded from the sun. As we reached the second part, which skirted the Sierra Buttes mountain, we were beaten by strong winds. But the good views made up for it for sure.

On our way up, Kristians walking ahead, we realized we’re back in snake country – two rattlesnakes were warming themselves up right by the trail, rattling as Kristians got too close. No harm done, however, and we soon reached a stream where we had our lunch siesta. We had 19 kilometers still to go, 500m to ascend.

As we crested the first ascent the trail descended, we could now see the other side of the Sierra Buttes: multiple very sharp, craggy peaks with steep slopes, some of them still covered by snow. Down in the valley were the two Tamarac lakes, which we soon walked by as we descended some more. Here we saw a father and a son cycling and two cars leaving. As we crossed multiple streams on our way to the valley floor we also walked by a National Forest Service campground where we saw multiple campers, so we stayed away.

The second big ascent of the day went pretty smooth – it was still windy and very sunny, though. All the way we had amazing views of the valleys on both sides of the ridge, we could see the Gold Lake and Salmon Lake, too. Everything was so green and fresh – even the moss on trees looks neon green!

As we grew more tired we had our second break of the day on some logs. We decided we’d set up camp a bit earlier instead, by the Summit Lake. We calculated that we’d have enough water to get there. So we pushed on, heels hurting, and soon saw a girl setting up her tent. She was a nobo through-hiker, too, and so we exchanged some pleasantries and said we were going to camp by the lake ahead. After having waved goodbye we walked on, waiting for the lake to appear. After about 15 minutes we realized, however, that the lake had been just off the trail where we had met the girl. So now we had done extra miles but were also running low on water – we decided to push on to our originally chosen campsite as there was water there.

We forced ourselves to hike the last 6 kilometers, which took forever. We even got lost for a moment on a ridge and had to bushwack to get back on trail. The deep tiredness was relieved by the amazing views, at least, so we couldn’t complain. It was already nearly 8 o’clock so the sun, that was now low in the sky, warmly shined through the tall pine trees. I even managed to fall when my shoe got stuck on a fallen tree but I barely noticed as I was so concentrated on cruising on to our destination. I was desperate to get those shoes off my sore feet.

Exactly at 8 we descended to a small rocky plateau – our campsite. I set up the tent while Kristians went to get some water and we had a short dinner followed by a long, deep sleep.

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