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Posts Tagged ‘VVR’

The “rain” prevented us from taking many breaks, so we hurried to a Visitor’s center at Hwy 88, Carson’s Pass. When we got there, we saw Dubs, Wiz, Extra Credit, and Cactus hitching into South Lake Tahoe early.  We saw Scallywag sitting at the visitor center who we hadn’t seen in a while.

Yogi mentioned a cafe somewhere along the road that Gadget had hurried ahead of us to go eat at.  We weren’t planning on going until Dead Animal convinced us, mostly because he claimed to need soda, beer, and a burger to go on.  It only took five minutes or so to get a ride and then we found Gadget, Hollywood, Trip, and Drop Zone all there.

Inspector Gadget had already done some poking around on the phone and discovered that he could get us a free Holiday Inn room again that night, but not the next when we planned on getting in.  Somehow, we ended up hitching into South Lake Tahoe early as well.  We found Aggasi and Snow Turtle at the casino where we attempted to play some penny slots and celebrate Brittany’s birthday.

The casinos and their cheap drinks prevented us from leaving South Lake Tahoe promptly and we began attempting to hitch out on the outskirts of town after visiting the Lake of the Sky Outfitter who provided us with cardboard and markers to make a sign.  On one side, we wrote “PCT hikers to Carson Pass” and on the other we wrote “PCT hikers to Echo Lake.”

Knowing that getting back to Carson Pass may be pretty difficult, we started trying to get there, then just randomly kept flipping it back and forth seeing who would take us where.  Eventually, after a good wait, a red pick-up picked us up and brought us half way to echo lake.  He laughed since he had just picked up Navi there and taken her into town.  She had sprained her ankle super bad and stayed back at VVR for a week and managed to work most of her stay off down to an $88 bill…amazing.

Dead Animal and I waited there for not even five minutes and we got picked up by two guys who took us to where the PCT crossed route 50, or 14 trail miles ahead of Carson Pass.  Whoops, oh well.  The way I see it, is that I’m still a net of 17 miles ahead (17 extra for Whitney + 18 extra for Kearsarge minus 14 here, and minus 4 around that stupid frog detour back before mile 400).

We walked a mile and a half over a hill to Echo Lake which was swarming with day walkers and a bunch of hiker trash sitting at a picnic table drinking beer.  The suspects: G, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, Pacemaker, Swanson, and Natty.  We sat for an hour or so, then escaped to go on trail.  We compared recent stories of people thinking we were homeless bums.

“I was just standing outside the liquor store watching packs and some lady just came up to me and asked, ‘so are you homeless?'” Dead Animal said.

“Someone asked me that while I was waiting for the traffic light to change and the “walk” pedestrian light.  Sure dude, I’m just a homeless bum with $1200 worth of gear on my back…I don’t know what went wrong!” Backtrack laughed.

Soon, we discovered the irony of a populated Desolation wilderness as we passed an absurd amount of day walkers in the first few miles out of Echo Lake.  Walking by all sorts of cabins, people went in and out and all over.

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At mile 1100, some one had made the usual rock sign, so Dead Animal GPS’ed it for exactitude and we got to work making a pretty one.  While we set up behind the sign in a flat spot, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long and Swanson came up and crashed too.

“I heard voices and singing and saw headlamps last night around midnight,” Hop-a-long said in the morning.  “G probably passed us super late again.”

Down the trail three miles or so, we found none other than G, whose first comment was, “I wouldn’t be awake right now if it weren’t for those damn load section hikers early in the morning.”

“Wanna split our last beer, so I don’t have to carry it up the pass,” I asked.

“Yeah! Want some whiskey?” G perked up.

“We can polish off the last of this wine too,” Dead Animal chimed in.

It proved a fantastic start to the morning as we then had to climb Dick’s Pass, which surprisingly was not that bad since the grade was overall awesome.  On the way up, Dead Animal took advantage of cell service and called his mom back.  We also met a crazy old guy with an old-school pack and a crazy beard.

I got a bit annoyed at the pass because we went to the lowest point on the ridge which clearly was the pass, also marked thus on the map, but then we had to climb 300 more damn feet up one side and go over.  A sign post claimed that was the pass.  Nope.

Lunch came at a lake outlet stream a few miles below with a great swim, music from G’s speakers, and sock rinsing.  From there, we generally went down with several bumps the rest of the day.

About three miles down from lunch, I hear and “ARRRRRRG!!!” I turned around to see Dead Animal holding his right knee and hobbling to a log.

“I don’t know what I did!  I guess I stepped down from something wrong, or did something when I fell on it the other day, or what, but something is catching on something else every time I try to put all my weight on it,” he said through a grimace.

Vitamin I was taken and I looked at it.  The muscle or tendon just down from the knee cap was a bit swollen where he said it was catching.  As I thought about what we could use to wrap it, Pacemaker came up and offered us the use of his ACE wrap, which worked decently with the combo of him borrowing my polls for several miles.

Eventually, we got to Lake Richard and camped near a group of 13-17 year olds with matching t shirts who decided it was a good idea to play frisbee right near our tents at 8:30-9 at night.  Hop-a-long kindly explained that thru-hiker midnight was around 9pm and the four or five thru-hiker tents were all trying to sleep.  They all managed to quite down around 9:15, much to our pleasant surprise.

That evening, we had looked across the lake at the sky and had a “hmmmmmm” moment.  Right before sleep, we all put up rain protection.

“All you thru-hikers are scaring us!” said a nearby section hiker who did not want to put the rain fly on his tent it seemed.

“Those clouds look like the start of something and we heard there may be weather moving in tomorrow.  In our experience, it rolls in the night before out here,” Hop-a-long said.

Sure enough, 2am, rain spurts.  Thunder crashed all night while lightning bolts cracked down on trees only 50ft away.  Flash, flash, flash all night.  I didn’t sleep well since I was worried a lightening bolt would start a fire nearby or a tree would fall.

Good thing I had trouble waking up that next morning and was not quick about breaking everything down though.  Right after my morning pee break, I spoke with Pacemaker and while we talked, a massive sheet of rain began rushing toward us across the lake and the thunder became the loudest it had been, lightning getting closer.  I could see the line where it was raining and where it wasn’t.  I ran back so fast and continued laying on my neo-air hoping the lightening wouldn’t hit the lake and bounce over to where everyone was camped.

Once the biggest front seemed to have come through, we packed up and left at a late 8:30…so much for a big day!  From there to Barker Pass, it rained every 30 minutes or so for about five minutes.  Most of the trail there was in trees, which was super convenient since we could just pause under a big one and not get really wet, then hike when it only drizzled.  Dead’s knee still hurt quite a bit, so we went slow, which somehow seemed to increase my hunger.  Hop-a-long was on her yogiing game and got all kinds of non-cookable food since her pocket rocket rungs had gotten striped and she had to call MSR.  That’s what happened to mine last year on the Colorado Trail and MSR was super helpful and replaced it for me.

At Barker Pass, some section hikers we had talked to waited with their car there when Inspector told them Dead needed a ride into town to rest his knee.  Hop-a-long and I posted up near the bathroom, ready to chill there while it thunderstormed.  Dead Animal went down with them to rest his knee and Inspector Gadget went down too, for no real reason other than he wanted town and town food.

Hop-a-long and I talked with Funnybone, who had thru-hiked the PCT in 2002 and 2006.  He was out for a short section.  He was really fun to talk to while we waited out a few thunderstorms there since in not too many miles the trail would jump up on a ridge and stay exposed for about 7 miles.

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We hit the trees and had a small obstacle course of blowdowns to navigate when I found a water bottle that I somehow identified as one belonging to one of the three JMTers who went north: Nice, Steady, or Katz.  I threw it onto my pack and we found them at the bottom of the valley to return it.

Once again, we climbed.  This time, the grade was decent for the first few miles and we passed through incredibly still, peaceful meadows filled with deer that knew no humans could hurt them.  They stayed in the middle of the trail or right next to it until we were almost on top of them.  We also found wild onions and picked some to add to dinner.

Finding a campsite was pretty easy; hiding from the mosquitos was another story.  Snax and Zoner passed us who had hiked the PCT in 2010 and 2008 respectively and were out for the JMT going north for a section.

We managed to get up and moving at a good time for once and began our way up Muir Pass, another long, drawn out climb strangely similar to Pinchot, but not as shitty.  There was only one really annoyingly steep section of short, rocky switchbacks next to a waterfall and the rest of the climb consisted of figuring out which lake we were at because there were so many.  Lake Helen right before the top is actually one of the highest on the PCT at 11,617 ft above sea level.

The top of Muir Pass had a rock hut on top made in the 1930s by the Sierra Club in memory of John Muir.  The more I hiked in the Sierras, the crazier I think he was to explore that much then, without trails and with loaves of bread and tea for food.

We took an extended break up there with the hut, enjoying the sweeping views into Evolution Valley on the other side with these things we hadn’t seen in a long time: clouds!  They made our pictures just that much better.

When we finally left, we stopped a few miles later at Lake Wanda where we got cooked in the sun and soaked our feet in the cold water.  I also watched Inspector Gadget cannonball in and then run screaming out of the icy, snow melt lake.

We meandered down Evolution Valley which, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful that we passed through, despite the mosquitos.  Muir Pass was our last almost 12,000 ft pass we had to do, which was somewhat of a relief, but we still had miles to go before we slept.

Camping down in a meadow, we battled some intense mosquitos that actually were up and biting at 5am.  I actually hiked with the damn mosquito headnet on for quite some time.

Evolution Creek crossing is usually an intense ford that PCT hikers worry about every year, but when we hit it, it was only knee-deep and a breeze to wade across.  Lucky us!  The mosquitos were terrible there though!  Deet time.

The trail followed the creek down where it would change drastically from mellow, meandering through meadows, to raging waterfalls down steep, slick rocks.  It plunged into another creek that we crossed on a bridge and continued down to the Muir Trail Ranch side trail where we found Griffin hiking sobo through that section and he gave us some intel.

“It’s great!  I see all the PCTers because I’m hiking the opposite direction and I see all the JMTers because I out hike them!  They only go like 12 miles a day or something and 50 pound packs are the lightweight ones!” He joked.

After lunch with him, we headed up Selden Pass, supposedly the easiest Sierra Pass.  The hard part was the almost 2,000 feet of switchbacks coming out of the valley, then the rest went in steps: it would go flat around a lake, go up a step to another lake and so on until the top.  We cooked at the top of the switchbacks where Dead Animal used the deep creek to find the hole in his Neoair he got the night before.  We suspect either a small critter or a fight between the Neoair and his bear canister in his pack.  I took the opportunity to wash my shorts, hang them on my pack and hike up in my underwear.

We hit the pass that evening, did the quite naked ritual, then headed down to camp somewhere.  Unfortunately, the spot we found had a lot of moisture and our sleeping bags were all wet.  We waited until the sun came and dried us off, then set out down trail cruising downhill until we had to cross Bear Creek, another ford that usually consists of horror stories of chest high water with packs on shoulders.  It only came up mid-calf.  The next two feeder streams had complicated rock hops, so I plunged straight through those too since my feet were wet anyway.
Once we hit the bottom of the valley, we of course had to climb again.  This time, it was not to a pass, just up and over a large ridge in the way with 1200 ft of steep switchbacks and 2000 ft of steep switchbacks going down, which made my knees sore.  The amount of JMTers coming up astounded me, almost all of their packs went higher than their head and some were hunched over under the weight of them.

We hit the VVR ferry side trail and I had to pull Dead Animal away from its temptations.  A hiker friendly resort, but they start you a tab and the cheapest anyone gets out for is $70 and horror stories have reached over $400, even with the first beer and night tenting free.  We skipped it and began climbing to Silver Pass.  Its main challenge was one rocky jump off 600 ft in half a mile with a waterfall ford in the middle, which for us was a careful rock hop.

Camping a mile and about 500 ft of climbing to go, we spent another moist night where we waited for the sun to dry everything off.  We hit the pass, then descended past large alpine lakes until a few large bumps we had to go up and over.

Once we started descending toward Purple Lake, we began hitting the blowdowns.  The Sierras had 140 something mph sustained northerly winds in November and December knocking down thousands of trees that kept the Reds Meadow Rd closed until June 29th this year.  Luckily, they weren’t too bad because so many trail crews were out and diligently clearing the trail.  There were also a few annoying ones back a few miles around Tully Hole, but completely manageable.

After one more bump, we pretty much descended for 10ish miles down to Reds Meadow where trail crews had done amazing work.  We passed mile 900 and realized we had 3G for the first time in a week, so we sat on our phones for a wee bit and managed to finish the section in 7 days instead of the 8 that we planned.

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