May 28: Lassier Meadow Trail to Sierra City

It did not rain last night, but I did get covered in dew/condensation. No problem though, as it is a clear day and I’ve only got 12 miles of snow-free trail to Sierra City! And, it’s mostly downhill! Great views:

It’s clear now that spring has taken hold here with Lilac in bloom filling the air with its sweet fragrance

Dogwoods (not a great picture, so trust me)

Larkspur

And these flowers, which I cannot identify

I found some huge Sierra Puff Balls

And a familiar Nor Cal Native Slug

There were signs that something bigger had been around: these are deer leg bones, I think, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Slug that did this!

I finally arrived in Sierra City! My resupply packages await me in there, I hope! I also get to mail home my snow equipment: insulated boots, gaiters, Crampons and my Whippet pole (a cross between a hiking pole and an ice axe).

In yesterday’s blog, one picture showed a statuesque peak in the background. That peak, or a significant part of it, is the start of my next segment to the town of Chester.

I am camping tonight on the lawn of a local Church that is PCT Hiker friendly. I have met up the team that left the footprints I followed: Damien from Germany, Brad, whom I met last year on the trail, Evan and Hawkeye, and Brad’s dog Lola.

It’s a beautiful, warm night, but there are a lot more insects out and about. But that is a better than snow!

Thanks for reading!

May 27: White Rock Creek PCT to Lasier Meadow Trail at PCT mile 1182 (15 miles)

Today I’ve been thinking that my next adventure will be keeping tropical fish.

I woke up to clear skies- it will be nice to have a day without rain. Unfortunately, it was not to be a day without snow. It was great having footprints to follow but the continual slipping, twisting,sliding

and postholing really wears me down. Even so, I’m glad to be on the trail… but seriously, I need to look into Tropical Fish.

After noon, and only about 6 miles progress, the elevation was dropping and the trail was staying on south-facing snow free slopes.

Things are looking up! I’m seeing flowers: Phlox, Wall Flower, unknown but unusual, more Wall Flower, Mule Ears and Snow Plant.

And some pretty Lichen

I was able to dry my gear

And my feet

And the most hopeful sign of all:

I also ran into Dome fungus growing on a downed log that resembled toasted marshmallows– S’Mores anyone?

Overall things are looking better as is my mood.

Thanks for reading!

May 26: Donner Summit to White Rock Creek PCT mile 1167 (10 miles)

I went out to breakfast with most of the gang. Chaucer, Wit, Sarah, the other Sarah, Amy and another gal whom I’ve forgotten the name of, are all tired of snow and low mileage days, and while the next 40 mile section to Sierra City is not nearly as challenging as what we’ve been doing it does have snow.

They are hiring an Uber to spirit them up to Sierra City. I thought of joining them but realized my logistical error: I have a food resupply, hiking shoes and a hiking pole waiting for me at the Post Office in Sierra City. Today is Saturday, so they close early (noon?) and Monday is a holiday! I doubt I couldn’t get there by noon and so would have to just chill somewhere until Tuesday. My former coworkers Mike, Roy and Andy would be very disappointed in me.

Instead, I chose to spend those days hiking, possibly alone, to Sierra City.

We said our goodbyes and I hiked down to I80 to hitch a 6 mile ride to Donner Summit, a rest stop on I 80. Not sure I’ll see them again, but who knows?

Chaucer showed me a website that charts snow coverage on the PCT:

It is complicated, but the orange line tracks the elevation of the PCT and the dark orange parts are where the snow is. The green line is a measurement of the snow depth. Donner Summit is at PCT mile 1157.

It looks great! Only a few places have snow!

Well, it’s wrong.

I stated hiking around 10 am and at 5:30 had only logged 10 miles. I was hiking is snow most of the time, and post-holing.

And it rained a bit, not too bad though, and visibility was limited due to low clouds.

Luckily there are tracks from a few hikers in front of me. You have to be right on top of them to see them sometimes.

I met two guys from Denmark that bounced ahead from Mammoth after tiring of the snow. They had set up camp in the Peter Grub Hut, a Sierra Club maintained cabin a few miles in.

I think they’re going to spend the night in there waiting for tomorrow s better weather.

When the trail is not covered in snow, it is a stream

or a bog

I saw some interesting cornices over streams,

and in the more exposed areas the snow is forming into snow cups.

At the top of a thawed ridge I saw some of my first flowers: a young Indian Paintbrush – yay Spring is coming!

Luckily both the larger streams I needed to cross had permanent bridges.

At White Rock Creek, all the established campsites were under snow or were bogs so I had to pitch my tent on non level ground.

I dined on salame, cheese, roasted almonds, and a ginger cookie for dinner, with a cup of Gatorade to wash it down. Not hating the diet yet.

No sooner had I climbed into my tent than it started raining lightly. It’s cold and dropping to the 30s. But tomorrow is supposed to be a sunny day!

Thanks for reading!

Day 6 : Zero in Truckee

Today was a day of sloth (relatively). I ate a hot breakfast, lunch and dinner after sleeping in a proper bed.

It was time to resupply food from the local Safeway, about a half mile hike. Here’s my food for the next 3 days:

I’m sure I have too much, but oh well, yeah, I know, it’s not the healthiest diet plan…

I also scored a pair of lightweight camp shoes!

Also, here’s more vies of this really awesome Hostel, This place is great!

Tomorrow the plan is to get one more hot meal and then continue hiking north towards Sierra City, a 2-3 day hike.

Hopefully the snow won’t be too bad– wish me luck!

— Duck

Day 5 (May 24): Five Lakes Creek to Squaw Valley ski area

I woke up early and kept going back to sleep in hopes of sun rays to dry my wet, well, everything. The only dry things are my sleeping clothes (socks and long underwear). I was negligent and wore my wool sleeping cap in the rain.

It was a clear morning, but I knew a big storm front was coming in. I wanted to get to Truckee today: a 16.5 mile trek to I80 and then hitching a ride from there.

I heard voices nearby and met Chaucer, Amy and Sarah who had hiked in last night. They had started at Campo (Mexico) in late March, but bounced from Horseshoe Meadow to Echo Lakes to try and avoid the late season snow. Bad luck as they, like me, have been dealing with a lot of it.

They asked me if I was the one hiking before them, leaving the nice footsteps. When I answered “yes”, the said “You’re Duck!!!” It seems my foot pronation is very pronounced and they have been following the path of the person they called Duck. So now I have s trail name!

They were quite excited to meet me and thanked me for making their trail easier. It’s kind of funny that I had a trail name days before I knew it.

We decided to get to Truckee together. It started out with a snow-free uphill with nice meadows and streams.

But before long we hit the snow fields…

We climbed to the ridge that is the backside of Squaw Valley ski area and found a steep snowfield that we felt was beyond our skills.

We decided the risk too great and so opted to exit at Squaw Valley and catch a ride to Truckee to wait out the storm.

It was a blast glissading down the ski slopes (sorry, no pics), but we worked ourselves to the operating ski lift (yes, it is still ski season at Squaw Valley!). Once at the lift we were informed that we need to get to the other side of the ridge, it’s company policy that only ticket holders can ride the lift up, so we’ll have to hike the 1,000 feet or so to get to the Gondola. Ugh. So up we started

Finally we reached the summit and could see the tram station.

We had a beer and then caught a free ride down on the tram

We then caught a bus into Truckee and checked into the Red Light District Hostel where I got a bunk room all to myself

Tomorrow I will take a Zero ( no miles hiked) as it is supposed to rain heavily. I’ll assess my options and either hike from here or jump up to Sierra City.

Bottom line, I’m safe and warm and dry and showered and well fed. Happy!

Thanks for reading!

–Duck

Day 4 (May 23): Barker Pass to Five Lakes Creek

11 miles (hard earned!) on the PCT.

I woke up surrounded by fog – I’m in a cloud, but at least it’s not raining.

Lots of snow hiking and more cross country travel. Saw deer prints

and a bobcat print (no pic, sorry) in the snow.

More signs of spring trying to start

The trail soon rose into the snow and presented some pretty steep traverses:

Only every so often some trail.

I traversed some pretty knarly sections all afternoon. It was physically and emotionally draining to assess and commit. There were no previous footsteps to use so I had to kick, often multiple times to make each foothold. I was always at the ready to perform a self-arrest should I slip.

I use a PCT GPS app on my cellphone to let me know where the trail is when it’s buried in snow. Of course when I need it most the battery is dying. I was on top of a edge above the xxx ski area when a whiteout condition formed and my phone was down to 10% charge. I plugged it into my recharger and checked which direction I should be going. It reported that I should walk perpendicular to the ridge, right off the side of the mountain. It was so confusing, I traversed back and forth and finally the clouds lifted. I could see where I wanted to go, but the app was in disagreement. Finally I considered that the iPhone compass might be compromised by being stacked on the battery. I separated the two and reloaded the app. Voila, map and app agree. I wasted at least half an hour up there in the rain.

It stopped raining at about 4 but I was still high on a ridge with no flat spot to camp.

I finally descended the ridge, off trail, through snow, trees and then willows and marsh. I found the campsite around 5pm and I was beat!

I set up my tent, ate dinner and climbed in my tent. My shirts, pants, socks and boots are soaked, and they will not be dry in the morning! I hope it won’t be a wet morning! I dressed a nasty blister that has been plaguing me- I have a photo, but choose to keep this blog civil.

Just after I entered my cocoon of warmth and dryness I heard something I had not heard in days: human voices! I was too tired to re-don my wet clothes so just hoped I would find them in the morning.

I slept well!

Thanks for reading.

Day 3 (May 23): Phipps Creek to Barker Pass

Day 3: Phipps Creek (1112.6) to Barker Pass (1124.8)

12 miles on the PCT from mile 1112.6 to 1124.8

It rained again over night, but had cleared by morning. My tent was wet but luckily my bag was dry.

I found a nice tent shaped boulder to dry it on:

With the warmth of the sun and having all dry stuff I was feeling good

My feet were just feeling dry when I got to Miller Creek. There was plenty of water moving fast and crossing it at the trail would mean getting into the thick of it.

Upstream it was wide and deep heading into a meadow and I could not see any logs to cross on. Downstream there was a log jammed up against a boulder that looked pretty good. The log was wet however, and a slip would mean falling into fast moving cold water. I remember the two hikers that drowned solo crossing streams and decided to keep looking. Further downstream there was a couple of large logs and sticks and mud and whatnot forming a bridge so I decided to cross there.

Halfway across was an island of mud and debris, or so I thought… I stepped on it only to have it collapse and my foot plunged into the stream. I resituated myself and continued on only to have the other foot slip off the log and take a dip in the stream. I made it across, but now have wet feet. Oh well.

I got my first proof I’m on the PCT

And because I started off below the snow line I saw some nice flowers, lichen and sprouts.

I also ran across the first lost Mylar balloon of the season:

I saw a lot of these last year…

The stream crossings today were not too difficult

And the snow crossings were not so bad.

But around 3 o’clock grey thundering clouds appeared and I decided to set up camp early. I would have liked to go another 3 miles or so.

I setup camp, ate dinner and then the rain started. Another early to bed day.

Thanks for reading!