Over a thousand miles in Truckee CA
From Mammoth, I hiked north over Donahue Pass and thru Lyell Canyon to Tuolumne Meadows. This spot marked the end of the PCT miles I had hiked as part of the John Muir Trail, and, I thought, the end of the High Sierra. This last bit was not true AT ALL.
At the Tuolumne Post Office I was to pick up a box with 4 days of food, and new shoes from Amazon Prime. The food made it, the shoes did not. Express mail delivery to general delivery addresses is a real crapshoot, and I hadn’t remembered this while ordering. I placed another order to get a pair in South Lake Tahoe in 150 miles, and continued on wearing 600 mile old shoes with no tread.
I hadn’t read about the section of trail in Northern Yosemite between Tuolumne and Sonora Pass, and somehow had the idea that it would be relatively flat and fast.
It wasn’t. I cried. It was not pretty.
The mismatch between my expectation of ease and the reality of the trail — imagine 45 degree cobblestone covered in dust and that’ll be about right — made this one of the hardest morale sections for me so far. I had one day where I sulked in my tent until 9 am, feeling weak and contemplating quitting, then eeked out a measly 13 miles.
In addition to the steep terrain, the bugs ate me alive. I lived in my headnet for 2 full days, and wore long wind pants and my rain jacket, since the mosquitos could bite through my long sleeve knit top. Thankfully, I didn’t react too badly to the bites (i.e. not much itching), and I learned to do a lot under a headnet: eat snickers bars, floss my teeth, eat burritos.
Never did figure out how to pick my nose through the mesh, despite repeated attempts.
At Sonora Pass, I got an easy hitch from some Bay Area hikers west into Kennedy Meadows (north), by far the nicest resort/pack station I’ve seen on the trail yet. I had a tasty burger dinner, got my box of food from Russell, camped by the river, stayed around for breakfast, then got a hitch back to the pass from a fellow with Siberian Huskies in the back of his truck. Mmm, dog kisses are the (second) best.
Between the bugs and the grade, I was so very glad to make it past Sonora Pass and into the slightly easier terrain of the start of the volcanic Cascades. From Sonora Pass to South Lake Tahoe, I was able to pick my pace back up to 21-22 miles per day, and didn’t want to quit on quite *every* uphill.
At Echo Summit, I was picked up by friends of my cousin, who live by Lake Tahoe and hiked the Appalachian Trail several years ago. They were wonderful hosts for a zero day, knowing exactly what a thru hiker needs to rest and prep for the next section. I replaced the tips on my trekking poles, got a visor to replace the straw hat that got shredded in the last section, and bought food for the next few days.
My good friend Aiko drove up to Tahoe at the end of my rest day, and hiked out with me the next morning. She’s the person who got me back into backpacking a few years, and it was great to get to share the next 4 day stretch with her. Thru-hiking is not backpacking (unless you hike from dawn to dusk every day you backpack, for months on end), and I had wondered if she’d be able to keep the pace, and more importantly, have fun. We hiked the 63 miles to Truckee in 4 days, pulling a 20 on day 2, so I should say she could keep up! You’ll have to ask her about the fun…
As the granite Sierra mountains transition to the volcanic Cascades, the terrain has gotten lower and gentler. And greener. I love it. The High Sierra is so magnificent, it can be intimidating. I don’t find its beauty inviting, more awe-inspiring. The Cascades, on the other hand, and the lower Sierra, feel welcoming, comfortable. There’s been a lot of ridge walking, with green slopes all around me, blue lakes sparkling below, Indian Paintbrush and penstemon glowing in the light — I could see myself coming back here, easily.
From here I go north (surprise!) to Sierra City, then Belden, Chester, Dunsmuir, and eventually Ashland, where Russell will join me. I’m aiming for no more zero days until Oregon — wish me gentle grade and good weather.
Big hugs and happy hiking,
← Kearsarge Pass/Bishop (mile 789) to Mammoth Lakes (mile 907): Past the high passes in Mammoth Lakes, CA
→ Next: Truckee (mile 1156) to Chester (mile 1335): A visit from a bear, and halfway to Canada in Chester CA