Friday, October 11, 2013

South Lake Tahoe to Sonora Pass

Transcribed: October 11, 2013
From the Journal:  September 19, 2013

Yesterday we took a full day off, and it was amazing.  I slept in without guilt, had so many cups of coffee, and ran a few errands.  South Lake Tahoe is more challenging to negotiate than most of the towns on the PCT, but they have a decent bus system so it worked out.  Mom sent brand new shoes to me, which felt like Christmas and my birthday combined.  My old pair had about as many holes as I have toes and were starting to feel too small.  I got 500 miles out of them, which I was happy with.  Ben and I walked down to the lake to watch the sunset.  I got to do some sun salutations and watch the water ripple with golden rays.  Then we had a lovely Italian dinner and headed back to the hotel.  This morning was leisurely as well, and I feel like we almost didn't leave town.  After a very late bus, me nearly leaving my sleeping pad under the bed in the hotel and eating way too much at a Chinese buffet, going back to bed seemed like the very best idea.  Instead, we were good thru-hikers and headed out to the highway to hitch-hike.  We shortly got a ride with a kind local woman and her yellow lab.  Per usual, I was grumpy walking out of town with a too-full belly and too-heavy pack.  A couple hours into the woods now, I am content and feel right back at home.

Rachel finding peace at Lake Tahoe at sunset

September 20, 2013

It has been an exceptionally hard day, and I’m not exactly sure why.  We woke up at 6 completely exhausted and ended up sleeping in for several more hours.  We didn’t start hiking until 10.  I know we need to make forward progress but my body feels like it is pushing against a wall.  I have done other hard things – marathons, climbs, long distance bike rides, but this is different.  Month after month of daily physical challenge is different.  We walked 17 miles today and are camped above 9,000 feet.  It is very windy and snow is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.  You can feel the changing seasons in the air.  This afternoon we did have a wonderful surprise at the Carson Pass Visitor Center.  The volunteers there were big fans of the PCT; they gave us fresh water and snacks as we sat by the warm fire.  On days like this, it is kind people that lift your spirits immeasurably. 

September 21, 2013

Well, today is the last day of summer and we are huddled in the tent at 5 pm, watching snow fall. The wind kept us up much of last night, and although our tent pole got bent, the tent stood through the night.  Needless to say, finding the energy to start walking this morning was a challenge.  At first we just had wind to contend with, but the clouds looked ominous and soon we had rain, then grapple and then snow.  The winds were gusting at 30+ mph, throwing consolidated snow in your face and threatening to push you off the ridges we have been walking along.  At first this was pretty discouraging, but as the day went on I felt more purposeful and determined.  The problem is, we get most of our cold weather gear in two days, at North Kennedy Meadows.  We have pretty limited clothes to walk in and still have dry clothes to sleep in.  So we were walking in wind pants and a rain shell over shorts and t-shirt with light gloves and light socks.  About 4 pm fingers and toes started getting cold so we called it a day at just over 19 miles.  From what we last heard, this weather system is supposed to be short-lived, so with some luck, hopefully the weather will improve.  I am certainly intimidated, with hundreds of miles of high country ahead and September rapidly drawing to a close.  There is a different kind of beauty to days like these.  The pure white of a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains or a red-tailed hawk effortlessly riding the gusts of wind.  The clouds swirling around rocky spires up above conjures up images of a dark and mysterious castle.  Hopefully we can stay warm and get some rest, and be able to safely carry on in the morning. 
September 22, 2013                                                                                                                                              

I woke up to a perfect morning for first snows.  The sky was a bright blue and the whole world sparkled.  With the clouds gone, I have an unobstructed view of the rocky cliffs all around us, and they are covered with just a thin layer of snow.  Brand new snow on the ground allows us to see who we are sharing the trail with.  I spotted deer, rabbit, coyote, cougar, and bear tracks.  It looks like there was a mama bear with two cubs frolicking around and having a great time this morning.  It is amazing how a fresh dusting of snow gives the mountains a whole different appearance.  They are absolutely breathtaking today.  We were traveling up high with gorgeous views for most of the day.  When the sun set the sky was ablaze with orange clouds, giving it the appearance of being on fire.  Shortly after sunset, we heard a pack of coyotes singing together.  It was hauntingly beautiful.  We are camping under the stars, watching the moonrise and eating split pea soup.  It is cold tonight, but I love cowboy camping whenever we can, there is no better way to fall asleep than star gazing. 

First Snow of Fall

September 23, 2013
Perhaps it is not the best idea to cowboy camp when there is snow on the ground; it was 26 degrees when we woke up this morning.  Also, my shoes were frozen solid, and I had to force them onto my feet since I had neglected to loosen them the night before.  We got walking in a hurry with almost all of our clothes on.  The trail climbed above 10,000 feet for the first time.  This served to warm us up as well as being beautiful.  I am so glad for the snow we got; the contrast of the white on the rocky peaks is quite striking.  Just as we were walking to the trailhead, a car was leaving.  I frantically waved them down and a very nice couple gave us a ride to the Northern Kennedy Meadows resort.  This was so lucky, as this hitch is supposed to be one of the more difficult on the trail.  We spent several blissful hours eating hot food and ice cream, calling home and organizing our gear for the next leg.  Ben and I were so excited to get our cold weather gear – warmer long underwear and socks, down booties to sleep in, and rain pants.  We were not so excited to receive our bear canisters.  They are required for about the next 300 miles of the trail, weigh in at over 2.5 pounds and are made of a rigid and space-consuming plastic that proved quite difficult to pack around.  We walked back to the highway with aggravatingly heavy packs.  It was nearing dusk and the road had almost no traffic, but we lucked out again and got a ride back to Sonora Pass just before dark.

No comments:

Post a Comment