Camp 2 Miles South of I-80 – Tahoe Rim Camp
32-33 miles/12.5 hours
Up so early. I’m talking 2:10am early. Toss and turn and say fuck it at 3am. I am up for good. Why not. I was asleep at 8pm. The adventure begins when I somehow get completely turned around on the trail in the dark and do a 1.5 mile out/1.5 mike back to (almost) where I was camped. How the hell this happens I do not know. But it happens and I can only laugh. Duh.
I walk all and walk the next four hours. No need to stop. Up and over Donner Pass area. No stopping to eat. Not hungry. Just want to walk. Get somewhere. Somewhere south on the PCT that I’m really truly walking in its half-entirety. For the first time I let myself believe I just may be able to walk all the way to Mexico. Which inevitably makes me believe I will be back to walk the whole thing. This half thing is just a get-back-in-shape-have-some-fun kinda testing the knee out hike. And then I walk some more.
I see Pooh Bear who’s struggling with another rolled ankle. She says she’s rolled it 7 times now on the trail from Canada. Ouch. She’s bundled up save for her shorts. I try to give advice for the ankle but soon realize she doesn’t want it. She just wants to vent. So I just listen. I hope she makes it to Mexico however long it takes. Somehow I think she will.
I see many NOBO’s after Tinker’s Knob. Each of them think they are the last. Some tired. Some dreamy. Some bitter. Some stoked. I meet a young one with a headband and a big light brown greasy Afro. He’s got feathers tucked in the side full of grease from his hair. ‘Nice feathers’ I say. ‘You want one? Here’s the nicest one for you.’ He’s pretty stoked my trail name is RedFeather. I tell him I collect feathers, too, and have tried to restrain myself this hike. The last section hike I did on the PCT I would tape the feathers onto my pack and literally had a plumage at the end of 350 Northern California miles. I got a little out of control haha.
‘Do you smoke?’ he asks. I say no, thanks, it’s not my thing. Last thing I want is to be stoned on the trail hiking alone. Weed makes me paranoid and besides, I swear I’m high on nature and don’t need any additional stimulation. Savage, my NOBO friend, laughs and says too bad I have a bowl ready. He’s in no rush. We talk some more then each head our way.
I walk all up and over and down the 8400ft – 8300ft – 8700ft obstacles called knobs, ridges, passes and ski hills that come my way. I finally stop and soak my tired feet in ice cold creek water towards the top of Sqwaw Valley Ski Resort. I feel no pain in them again until 12 miles to go.
I start thinking about the acute stress in my life I can not control. Stress we all have that comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. I say to myself when I start feeling angry and sad ‘all you can do is walk. All you can do is breath. Walk and breath. In and out. Smile and feel grateful and enjoy these simple things.’ In this was I walk it off. In this way I smile at the pain in my feet when it returns.
Then suddenly after that last climb up and almost 30 miles I look over and see the massive glistening blue of Lake Tahoe. I am up on her rim and stare in awe at her mass of liquid contained.
I walk an exposed rim and feel my legs burning. Not from effort but from the sun. I forgot to reapply sunscreen in my walking-breathing-smiling routine and have torched my quads. Ouch. Oh boy. Not good.
Finally, I reach camp after finding a nice flowing water source on trail, filling bags and bottles, rinsing off right there on trail well past the flow. I am so grateful to feel clean from that little water bottle shower ritual that transforms me each night.
Ive just walked I think 32 or 33 miles depending on how much of an out and back I did way back in the darkness of the morning.
I make camp. Pitch tent. Blow up the new-air mattress, having to take breaks because of both altitude and fatigue. Filter water. Get the cord over the branch for the bear bagging in less than three tries. Make dinner. Eat. Hang food. Hang pack off branch on cord because of rodents. Finally, finally, lay down.
The thing is, I know I’ll be recovered by morning. I’m already stoked through the fog of exhaustion to do it all again.