Day 80 (Wednesday, July 28): Lake Aloha 1100.6 to viewpoint over Lake Tahoe slightly off trail at 1127.4
The moon, just past full, shined in my face all night. Every sound might have been a bear coming to feed on my eats. It was a bit windy. I didn’t sleep. I kept waking up. And I woke up at 5, spent. This is the life of the PCTer. With 2 months left and more than half the trail remaining unwalked, it’s a test of endurance punctuated by sleep deprivation.
Thanks for joining me again!
The morning scenery was perhaps a fleeting last glimpse of alpine, almost treeless hiking in granite basins. The afternoon was spent almost entirely under the forest canopy. I guess I’ve been spoiled the last month, hoping for forest but really enjoying the open spaces with big country views.
Lake Aloha greeted me with a scenic smackdown. With curved peaks hovering over her and islands peppered about, her name was fitting. I dropped off the shelf of Lake Aloha to Lake Heather, and then to Lake Susie, which began to look more volcanic. I saw Jenny, Hojo, and Buck, Hojo’s dad. He’s 72 and hasn’t been hiking in 42 years, since his Army days. He’s always wanted to do a section of the PCT and finally he’s getting his wish. It was inspiring to see.
After Lake Susie, I began to climb to Dicks Pass. It was a 1,600 foot climb that I barely felt. The snow on the south side was all gone, but the north side still had a bunch, but not any on the trail. Perfecto! After relaxing in the sun amid the black lava rock, I descended to Dicks Lake, Lake Fontanillis, and the Velma Lakes. It was getting pretty hot and dry, and finding running trickles of water was even a tricky prospect. I settled on some stagnant water that was probably a mosquito hatchery and was readily attacked by lots of them. It was a bit demoralizing. On top of this, I was beginning to feel worn out. Kicking stationary rocks and roots is usually a telltale sign of weariness. About an hour after lunch, as I was climbing Phipps Pass, I was off-trail looking for a spot to answer nature’s call. The area was full of downed logs, cracked in half, on soft soil. The combination of distraction, fatigue, and sketchy terrain took its toll. I lost my balance in the dirt, kicked and tripped on my trekking stick, and went full force with my shin into a jagged cracked log. I wouldn’t call it major or minor. It looked like a bald eagle grabbed my leg with its talons, resulting in a laceration. Blood began flowing down my ankle in a little waterfall. The mosquitoes were going bonkers, and I still had to answer nature’s call. Disaster.
Cleaning up the wound was tough without any lakes or creeks for 6 miles. I simply took one of the party napkins my mom sent me and attached it with some athletic tape. This seemed to at least keep the dirt out. The Desolation Wilderness was feeling like a very lonely place. A couple of hikers, Serena and Anya, passed by later and got to experience the loopy, zonked out version of me, snacking away on Double Stuffs, trying to get some energy. Later on, I caught up to Anya, and hiked along and talked with her, which did wonders to chill me out. When we arrived at Lake Richardson, finally, they hooked me up with hydrogen peroxide and tape, and anything else I might need. You guys were clutch-thanks to you both!
I was on Mile 22 at that point and was aiming for another 8, so I began to walk along, mindful of nature’s booby traps on the trail. The rest of the night, well into dark, was only marginally scenic. I passed by Miller Creek, crossed some jeep roads, topped Barker Pass at Forest Route 3 and then hiked only about another mile by headlamp. The ridge I ended up on was a mixed blessing. On one side, a precipitous drop and no escape route from bears. But bears don’t like ridges at high elevation. Ignore Bear Ridge in the Sierras-who knows why they called it that.
Thanks for joining me again!