PCT Day 29: One More Night

Last night, a section hiker named Nobody joined us at camp. Nice guy, very conversational, he asked a lot questions as we were all lying in our tents. He got the girls talking about SpongeBob, movies, ghost stories and their trip. He even asked me about Puerto Rico.

Though it was great to meet someone on the trail who showed genuine interest, after a while, it got to be a little much. Every time we fell silent, like that was the end of it, he’d ask another question and get one of us going with an answer, like priming a pump.

Finally I said, it’s been fun, but I have to go to sleep now. I suspect the girls felt the same. He was totally cool about it, and we all said goodnight.

Early Morning Trail
Early morning trail, so lovely, so cool out, heading up over that saddle ahead.
Verdant Valley
Same area, looking behind, a verdant little valley on the backside of Squaw.
Hiking Poles
My poles, another nineties camping relic. They’re not super light, but they are sturdy.
Babbling Brook
Another stream crossing, with tons of wildflowers amidst layers of green.

Everybody got up early the next morning, hoping to beat the heat. Nobody was first to leave a little after 6:00 am. The girls left at 6:30, and I left at 7:00.

Five minutes down the trail, something felt off. What was it?

I was missing my poles! So I had to go back for 10 minutes of bonus trail time, retracing steps. I adored those poles, and there was no way I’d leave them behind.

The day delivered another lovely hike, up out of a canyon and down a bit through the top of Squaw Valley. So pretty up there, I was tempted to hustle on down to the village for lunch, but the climb back up would have been murderous.

Coming Down Into Squaw
Coming down into Squaw Valley, it was so beautiful here.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadow
Another gorgeous little alpine meadow at the top of Squaw Valley, one of the last I’d see this trip.
Girls Getting Water at Squaw
The girls getting water at a creek in Squaw Valley.
Hikers Talking on Trail
Squarepants and Fish Nugget talking to some other hikers on the trail.

One of the best things about ski resorts is their cell phone reception. After texting The Hubby, I checked Facebook and found that my awesome friend, Sharla, who lives in Alpine Meadows, had seen my plea for a beer a couple days back at Barker Pass and had offered to hike one in for me at the Five Lakes Trail Junction!

OMG, such a tragedy I’d missed that message—I would have given just about anything for a beer in yesterday’s blistering sun.

Leaving Squaw, we hiked up and over to Tinker Knob, overlooking Coldstream Canyon on one side and the headwaters of the American River on the other. Somewhere down there I swore off Class IV rapids forever.

PCT Trail Goddesses
Striking a pose near Tinker Knob, the girls were looking good today.
Two Chicks on the Trail
Two amazing young ladies, living their dreams, making them happen on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Settling Differences on PCT
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns on the PCT. Sometimes it’s more like Fight Club.
PCT Sound of Music
Fish Nugget and Squarepants having their Sound of Music moment on the PCT.

Years ago, I went on a rafting trip with a group of friends on the North Fork of the Yuba River, the day before I was supposed to graduate from UC Santa Cruz. Harboring a twinge of aquaphobia due to a near drowning incident as a child, I’d done my best to get over it. Still, my biggest wish for the day was not to die before I graduate.

A few of us skipped the Class V Maytag, watching some boats conquer it, while others flipped and went in. Part of me felt like a chicken for not doing it. The other part felt super relieved not to be in that mess. Hiking down the rocks, we rejoined our party for the far more manageable, Class IV, Son of Maytag.

Somehow, right at the top of the rapid, the raft capsized, and everybody went in.

We had life jackets, helmets and safety instructions from our guides earlier that day: feet first, keep them up, on your back, arms in, breathe when you can.

The river took me like a rag doll. It plunged me under. It spit me up, a gasp for air, then down again. I prayed I didn’t hit a rock or get caught by an underwater branch. I didn’t know when I’d get my next breath, or if I ever would.

Air, gasp, under again. All I could see was the whitewater above me.

Time slowed, just like it had for rock skating. I could do nothing but hope for another breath. No point fighting, I surrendered—to God, the universe, fate, whatever.

Up, gasp, down again.

After what seemed like forever, the current slowed, I opened my eyes, coughed up water and saw an opportunity to swim ashore where our group had gathered to fish us out. My guide helped get me to safety, along with the others in my boat, and we all lived to die another day. Thank God, I’d get to graduate after all.

Heading Towards Anderson Peak
The girls take a break on the way to Anderson Peak.
Looking East to Truckee River
Looking east into the canyon where the Truckee River flows alongside Highway 89.
Trail Keeps Going
The trail keeps going, thankful for these views, even through the haze, with Coldstream Canyon off to the right.
Finding Shade on the Trail
Finally, some shade on the trail and a place to pee!

In all my years of living in Truckee, Reno and Incline Village, I’d skied these mountains, but never hiked them. It was cool to see the backsides of these familiar landmarks.

We passed a lot of day hikers doing the 17-mile hike from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley. One group was trekking to celebrate a woman’s 70th birthday—wow!

I hope I have that kind of energy when I get to be her age.

The girls and I rendezvoused at a creek, where we met a nice, young teacher out on a section hike. She taught math to middle-schoolers at an exclusive, private school in San Francisco, essentially educating the one percent.

We stayed for lunch, listening to stories from her world. The kids were great, but the parents and politics were another matter. Some parents were fantastic despite their gobs of money, while others were dreadful and difficult to stand up to.

Cool Old Tree Stump
This cool old tree stump has stamina, that’s for sure.
The Trail to Sugar Bowl
Getting closer to Sugar Bowl, we camped in that flat area of trees on the upper left.
An Interesting Rock Formation
An interesting rock formation along the trail, trying to distract myself from the heat and pain.
Looking West Behind Sugar Bowl
Looking west at the area behind Sugar Bowl, wondering if that’s Emigrant Gap on I-80 over there.

This would be our last night on the trail.

I felt sad, but also glad. Originally, I’d requested a trail permit from Mammoth all the way to Manning Park, thinking I might love it so much that I’d find a way to continue on to Canada with the girls. It’s good to have options.

But having come this far, after a month on the trail, seeing as much of the glorious Sierras that I’d seen, this was enough for now. I was ready to be done.

Next year, though, I definitely want to do the other half from Kennedy Meadows South up to Mammoth Lakes. Then my trek along the spine of the Sierras will be complete.

Looking for Camp
Heading over to those trees to look for a place to camp.
Looking Up From Tent
Looking up from my tent for the last time, sans bug screen for once, hooray!
Last Bit of Laundry
Last bit of laundry, clean undies for tomorrow.
My Last Tent View
The view from my tent, the last one of the trip. I’m going to miss these wild vistas.

We ended up doing 12 miles today. Our target campsite turned out to be small and full of people, so we pushed on, wanting to get a little closer to our endpoint at mile 1157, which would make our last day easier.

My dear friend Belle had baked orange brownies in honor of our Truckee arrival, and surely G-man, her hubby, had a fridge full of beer. We’d all be staying with them for a few days in comfortable guestrooms with beds, showers, linens, laundry, toilets, real food, furniture and a beautiful deck with a view of Mt. Rose. I could hardly wait!

Squarepants, Fish Nugget and I made it to camp at about 5:30.

An unofficial clearing in a stand of trees surrounded by sagebrush, we set up just behind Sugar Bowl. We were tired from an extra long day, having had to haul water as there was none nearby. But it was nice up here with the wind, very quiet, with no people, no bugs and cell service, hooray!

My only gripe was that the stunning vistas we’d hiked through all day would have been much better without all the smoke from whatever fire was burning up north. That said, I was thankful it wasn’t bad enough to impede our journey, and I hoped the people involved were okay. Everything smelled a bit like campfire, but we could still breathe.

I’d just have to come back again on a clear day.

30 Days on the PCT
Day 29: July 31, mile 1150
Goodnight PCT
Goodnight, sweet trail. I will miss you.