Friday, May 15, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 74: The Tahoe Rim Trail

DAY 74
July 7th, 2014, Monday
1125 to 1144ish

I woke up from a dead sleep at 9:30 the next morning, and Zach was soon to follow. We both sat up, dazed and a bit rattled after sleeping for 13 hours straight. “I guess we’re just not used to hiking yet,” Zach said.

We saw mosquitoes swarming around our tent, so we donned our head nets before we jumped out and began packing up as quickly as possible. Then we booked it, trying to stay ahead of the mosquitoes as we wound through meadows and woodlands.

As we raced along, someone caught up to us— a runner with a drawstring bag. Jogging in place and slapping her arms, she desperately asked if we had any bug repellent. I handed her our bottle of 100% Deet, which she rubbed over all her exposed skin. She was training to hike the John Muir Trail, and hoping to complete the trek in ten days. We wished her luck.

At the road, we saw a truck parked and several hikers sitting around. Eyeing it hopefully, we slowly hiked by.

A very somber guy in his thirties, with black hair, sharp glasses, and a short beard, asked, “Would you guys like some soda?”

We gratefully accepted and walked over. The guy leaned against the truck, looking listless. “I’m Happy Nomad,” he said glumly as he motioned to the cooler and handed us each a cookie.

“I’m Leftovers and this is Tabasco. Thanks so much!”

“Have you guys met Butterfly yet?” he asked.

We said we hadn’t.

“She’s my girlfriend. I told her I’d meet her here.”

“Oh, so she’s doing the trail solo?”

“Yes,” he said, looking glummer than ever. “We started together, but I got a bad shin injury near Kennedy Meadows, so I’ve been out for a few weeks.” He flexed his leg, glaring at it. “Just a couple more weeks and I’ll be able to join her again.”

I admired them both for continuing her hike even though he had dropped out. Zach and I wouldn’t do that. 

We ate our cookies and drank root beer. As we sat, a guy named Blue walked up. We hadn’t seen him since the Andersons’ back in the desert, but we recognized each other. We hung out with him for a while, then started up the trail together. I looked back at Happy Nomad and prayed that his leg would heal soon so he could get back to the trail.

We started a long ascent, chatting with Blue all the way. It was nice to talk to someone for an extended period of time, and we chatted about our jobs and our hikes and everything in between. We told him about sleeping 13 hours last night, and he chuckled. Blue made the observation, “Only in thru-hiking is 7:30 or 8 considered a slacker start!”

Now the PCT joined up with a section of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. We met several hikers who were doing it, and they all said this was their favorite section of the Rim Trail so far. 

The Rim-Trail hikers’ gear looked so clean and bulky, and it was positively adorable how much they bragged. “Yup, I’ve been doing 15 miles a day,” one would say, barely containing his proud grin. “There are some tough climbs ahead,” a southbounder would gravely warn us. 

We hiked up the mountain some more, at last emerging on a windy, wildflower-covered ridge. The land fell away on both sides into rows of verdant mountains, and far off to our right we saw Lake Tahoe, practically glowing blue. Further along the ridge, huge columns of sharp igneous rock thrust their way upward through the grass. As we hiked, I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was, and kept remarking about it. I was glad that a week indoors had given me new appreciation for the outdoors.

This ridge was also lined with a ski lift, since this is a huge skiing area in the winter. Some hikers didn’t like this after the untamed wilderness of the Sierra, but I found it comforting and a little charming. The ski lifts seemed to fit in the landscape as much as the trail itself: these were constructs that allowed people to enjoy this gorgeous area.

We found cell phone reception on the ridge, and called everyone to let them know that we were happily back on trail. I watched the wildflowers tossing in the wind and crows wheeling overhead. Rainclouds were beginning to close in, though, and we wanted to get off the ridge in case there was a storm.

We started a long descent down the mountain, weaving our way through boulders and gnarled trees more common to this alpine landscape. Looking at our maps, we realized we might have to dry camp. We needed to start watching our water again, since this area didn’t have snowmelt to constantly quench our thirst. 

We paused at a spring to get water, chatted with some hikers (both Tahoe Rim and PCT), then continued down the mountain, searching in vain for a place to camp. At last we spotted a relatively flat space on a pine-needle-covered slope, and set up there, hoping it wouldn’t rain too hard that night. We put the rain fly on, but since the air was so warm, the tent soon got sweaty. We laid on top of our sleeping bag, feeling sticky. Because of the heat and overbearing humidity, neither of us got much sleep that night.


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