Day 82 (Friday, July 30): 1154.6, north end of Mt. Judah Loop, to 1184.2
There were a lot of runners and such coming up the PCT for a morning jog. The first person came up around 7AM, while I was still lazy camped, eating breakfast in my sleeping bag. He was walking with arm braces and moving fast.
I reached Old Highway 40 Donner Pass and then worked my way toward its replacement, I-80. I was hoping my guidebook would have the story of the Donner Party. I cycled through the alphabet trying to remember Donner’s first name, but couldn’t even remember that. Let’s just say that in the 1800s, a group of settlers or army men were coming over this pass, got snowbound, and resorted to some cannibalism to stay alive. Donner apparently had the heartiest appetite. It’s all his fault.
The crossing of I-80 occurred through a series of two drainage tunnels big enough for a horse to fit through. When there’s too much water in the tunnels there’s no other option but to frogger the interstate and hope not to get splattered. There was no water in the tunnels, quite thankfully. I checked Google Maps right at the PCT/I-80 intersection. Home in Clifton, NJ is only 2721.1 miles away. I’ll walk. It’s shorter and has no tolls.
I relaxed near a lake that was right next to the interstate, where a rest stop is usually open. This time it was closed. Then I began the first of 8 climbs of the day which averaged 500 feet each. Nothing easy about Northern California. This first climb was to Castle Pass. I passed Peter Grubb Hut, a Sierra Club hut, and then again climbed over a ridge, descended that to a jeep road, etc.
I only saw a few people today outside of Sugar Bowl Academy, near Old Hwy 40, and the Castle Pass Area. There was a pair of equestrians riding just part of the trail, but had to turn back because of blown down trees all over the trail. Spot, a PCT section hiker, was in his 70s, and had been out on the trail for three weeks, and for him, that was enough. Then there was Stacks’s mom, a. k. a. Alien March, who popped out of the dark, moving up trail because she had forgotten her sunglasses at a creek. She didn’t remember me from Hikertown, but I remembered her and Leap Year, who is off the trail, back in the army.
I was challenged time and time again with the terrain today. My pack is light, so much lighter without that bear canister and other random items that I sent home. But the trail is still difficult, even on 12 double-stuffed Oreos in one snack session. The views have been decent, but with the exception of the volcanic rock that dots all the peaks and crowns all the slopes, it looks like the Catskills. There is little snow on the trail or mosquitoes to complain about.
I didn’t have any water today for about 7 hours. I passed on one creek, too lazy to take water from there, and thinking the next water would be right around the corner. It wasn’t. Spot told me correctly that I’d have to walk about 7 miles to water, and this was at sunset. I was more or less hydrated. I was a good boy earlier in the day, filling up and chugging a liter at least every 45 minutes.
I walked as fast as I could but in the end surrendered to the headlamp for a couple of hours of night hiking. The spot I intended to sleep on was a logging road. I didn’t arrive there until 9:30. By the time I was eating dinner, Alien March was on her way back, having found her shades, and cautioned me not to sleep on the road. It was Friday night, and with a fire pit in this little cul-de-sac on a dirt road, a party could happen at any time. I could get run over in an instant by some stupid Ford-F150. Or a Prius, which I wouldn’t have been able to hear. The Prius scenario was less likely though.
I wolfed down my dinner and took her suggestion and decided to find a safer place to sleep. I didn’t realize I was basically on a ridge, and the wind was all worked up and there were no flat spots and this is really not a good way to end a 30+ mile day. Don’t hike like I do. There’s no pleasure or comfort in this night hiking.