PCT Day 24: If a Tree Falls in the Forest

We packed up fast, ready to get back on the trail. Fish Nugget and Squarepants wanted to go to the beach one more time, so I said I’d meet them at Sprouts. I walked over, got a coffee and settled into a nice, spacious corner with outlets where I could plug in the electronics.

The Hubby and I once had a juice bar in South Lake Tahoe, and Sprouts was one of our competitors. They were a lot scrappier back then, but they obviously expanded, remodeled and seemed to be doing great. I was happy for them. It’s not easy to succeed long-term in a seasonal, tourist market like this.

Our own business looked amazing, served quality product and ran well, but financially it was a disaster. The rent was too high and the traffic too low. We were lucky to offload it before being completely wiped out.

I called it the alligator because it gobbled up loads of money every month.

Sipping my coffee as I watched the summer crowds come and go, I admired the tenacity of the Sprouts management and the culture of employee ownership that they’d so carefully cultivated. Kudos to you, Sprouts.

Waiting for the bus in South Lake Tahoe.
Waiting for the bus in South Lake Tahoe.
Keeping cool in the shade, feeling the heat already.
Trying to keep cool in the shade, feeling the heat already.
Crossing the dam at Echo Lake.
Crossing the dam at Echo Lake, heading into Desolation Wilderness.
Girls hiking with umbrellas.
The girls use their umbrellas to beat the heat. Wish I had one of those today.

After a delicious breakfast with the girls, we gathered up our gear and went out front to catch a bus to the Y. Lucky for us it was free ride day, hooray! Our plan was to hitch from there to Echo Lake.

Standing curbside in front of the Raley’s Shopping Center, our hitch plan wasn’t going so well. We’d been thumbing it for a while with no action. Squarepants and I decided to walk over to the nearby transportation hut to see if there was a bus that went there, but along the way, Fish Nugget texted and said to come back.

This nice guy named Derek on his way home to Placerville offered us a ride.

He’d been up at the lake helping get ready for the Rubicon Jeep Jamboree. A fellow hiker, he’d done the Appalachian Trail, but after breaking both legs in a car accident, no more backpacking for him. Off-roading was the next best thing. He told us all about the work the Jeep Clubs do maintaining roads and educating users to keep the forest clean.

Derek dropped us off right at the lake, circumventing two, useless miles through a bland forest up a big hill. We could feel the heat already, and it wasn’t even noon.

We stopped at the little store there for last chance treats, a Dove Bar for me, a cookie for Fish Nugget, and an apple for Squarepants. She’s so healthy.

Chairs at Echo Lake
See those Adirondack chairs down there? What an awesome spot to chill.
Looking Back at Echo Lake
Looking back at Echo Lake and the mountains beyond, where we actually walked from.
Echo Lake
One last look at Echo Lake.
Rocky Trail Ahead
The rocky road ahead, it must have been over 90 degrees fahrenheit.

We headed up the trail to Aloha Lake, a long, hot slog that stretched for hours. A heat wave had descended upon California, with hot rocks everywhere, the sun beat mercilessly. It was so friggin hot, I could feel the heat through my shoes, my clothes, and reflecting off every surface. Even the girls went slower than usual.

You could only sit on the shaded rocks, because the sunny ones were too hot.

But at least the views were amazing, which is what kept me going. And all those cute little cabins along the lakeshore, where you pretty much had to either hike or boat in for access—what a pain they must be to maintain, but so magical to stay in.

Consuming water faster than expected, we stopped at the Tamarack Lake junction to get more. Fish Nugget made the run, while Squarepants and I rested in the shade.

There we met Big Spoon and Stitch (formerly Batman), an unlikely hiking duo. Big Spoon smelled of dirt and weed, dreadlocks forming on his head. Stitch looked perfectly clean and organized, like he’d just stepped out of his CS 101 class at Stanford. His pack looked brand new, even though he’d been on the trail since Mexico.

He told me it was custom made, cost $500 and that he totally babied it, while Big Spoon threw his on the ground. No surprise there. Big Spoon smiled and said something to the effect of: stuff is meant to be used.

They said they were going for Canada, which meant 20+ mile days from here on out, all business. We wished them luck.

Tamarack Lake
Looking down at Tamarack Lake, still sizzling in the heat.
Resting in the shade.
Squarepants taking a break, sporting her fifth pair of sunglasses since I joined the trip.
Fish Nugget Resting
Fish Nugget resting in the shade, talking to some other hikers.
Pink Wildflowers
Finally reaching the top of the hill, we passed this beautiful field of flowers.

Up we slogged, suffering in the sun.

We met a lot of nice people along the trail, and we even saw Icky again. She was hiking in with her friends for just one night, up to Aloha Lake and back out in the morning. As we talked, they trudged up the trail in the heat, looking slightly more miserable than I did. But it was nice to finally meet them.

The last half-mile took forever, and I got kind of whiney about it. We took the first campsites we saw, because we were too tired to look any harder.

After we’d set up, a European girl came by, looking for her friends. She seemed mildly panicked and had been using her whistle. We told her that there were more campsites up ahead along the shoreline, inviting her to stay with us if she wanted. She decided to keep looking.

Later her friends came by asking if we’d seen her. We pointed them in her direction and told them to listen for her whistle. A little while later, we heard the joyful shout-outs of a happy reunion.

It was good to be back in the wilderness.

Sitting at the edge of the lake, swatting at mosquitoes, I watched the sun disappear behind the mountains. Lots of folks had camped here, but they were all spread out, so it didn’t feel crowded. The temperature dipping, I retired to my tent.

Aloha Lake
Aloha Lake, our home for the night.
Islands of Aloha Lake
So many little rock islands, this would be a fun place to kayak.
Another Beautiful Day
Nearing the end of another beautiful day.
Inside my Tent
The view from inside my tent, safe from those pesky mosquitoes.

My throbbing feet, legs, back, shoulders and hips complained to my brain about having to work so hard. My brain said, look at all this splendor, listen to the silence, isn’t it marvelous? And then my brain thanked my body for getting us all here.

Drifting off to sleep, I heard a tremendous crash in the distance, followed by another. A tree must have fallen in the forest, taking another one with it. Scary. But I didn’t hear any other sounds, so I guess it didn’t crush anyone.

There was a dead tree right near me. What if it fell? I’d be dead just like that.

But I was too tired to move.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 24: July 26, mile 1098