Sunday, October 6, 2013

Donner Summit - sixty miles later.

Woke up before the crack of dawn. I could see things faintly in the pre-dawn grayness. The temp was chilly, like the inside of a refrigerator... So this is what it's like when the door is shut. I checked my phone for the time, six nineteen! I've got to get moving.

The transition of warm, cozy down sleeping bag to the cold hard reality of the woods in October is never a pleasant one. I un-stuffed my clothes from my pillow and quickly, that is as quickly as I could, put them on. It can be a hard thing to standup on a cold morning, especially when you are standing on a nylon bivy sack, which is filled with a nylon covered sleeping bag, containing a silk mummy liner. Whoops, good morning rocks and sticks. Okay this time I am going to stand on the side of the bivy on the ground cloth. "Gosh its cold," I thought as I picked the pine needles and off of my hands.

My goal was to get moving as quickly as possible. Coffee and granola, no oatmeal. I had the oatmeal yesterday morning. It's amazing how quickly I lost my taste for it. I retrieved my food from the tree I hung it in last night. It was still there. Last night when I arrived in camp it was dark and one of my first priorities is to get the bear hang already to go so that I don't have to deal with it after dinner when I am stiff from sitting. Unfortunately the branch I had selected was weaker than it looked and when I began to hoist my food, Crrack! Down came my food and the branch it was supposed to be hanging from. Note to self: always stand to the side when hoisting your food into a tree.

One thing I didn't mention last night was that just as I was climbing into my bivy sack, stuffing my clothes into a stuff sack to make a pillow I heard voices behind me, on the trail. Mind you it was pitch dark. I had my headlamp set on the red light setting to preserve battery power and to keep my eye acclimated to the dark. I flipped my light to high-beam and a brilliant white beam shot out towards the trail. The voices stopped. I peered into the dark between the trees, moving the beam left and right. Nobody, nothing, weird huh? I didn't want to think about it too much last night as I probably would have freaked myself out and ran screaming for my life through the woods. Either they were unsociable hikers who could hike in the pitch black, or they were just in my head. Regardless, I am alive today and don't have an axe in my skull, so it's all good.

I was on the trail by seven fifteen, less than an hour to get ready, not to bad. I was in a valley and still had no sun by the time I left. As I started up the trail an urgent necessity became apparent. There would be squatting in the woods in my near future. One of my least favorite things when backpacking is the process of relieving myself of food that has been processed and has outlived it's usefulness. I was mulling over my prospects and considering my options.  It's still cold and I am in the shade. I will wait till I reach the summit of Barker Pass. By then I'll be in the sun and I won't have to expose my privates to the cold. Thank you Mr. Forest Ranger, or whoever it was in the government to build the fine, pit toilet at Barker Pass. I know that you're not working at this moment with the government shutdown and all. But the work you did in the past was greatly appreciated this morning.

There were a lot less people on the trail today. Probably because I had left the ever popular Desolation Wilderness and was heading to and through the less familiar Granite Chief Wilderness. Around lunch time I was descending into Five Lakes Basin when I met a mountain biker coming up the trail. By the way, this story only works if you know that the Pacific Crest Trail is a hiker and horse trail ONLY. Okay, well I met this biker coming up the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail, so I stopped and stood there in the middle of the trail. "You know this is a hiker only trail don't you?" I said. "Uh, yeah, the guy down there told me I have to go back they way I came, he won't let me exit." Yeah right, why make up a lame story like that? There is eighteen miles of trail up there and you are going to tell me that you have to go back? Sure.

Near the end of the day, I met a guy with a giant pack climbing up to Tinker Knob. He, like me was heading out to Donner Summit. He had been hiking with his buddy who had left him behind. His buddy was hiking from Mexico, and he had been trying unsuccessfully to meet up and hike with him on certain parts of the trail. He and I played leap frog for a few miles. A fifteen pound pack is pretty easy to carry up a hill compared to the fifty plus pounds he was lugging. The darkness descended on us while we were still about two and a half miles out. I past him on the last uphill and when I entered the forest I turned on my headlamp. I didn't see any light behind me, I suppose he stopped to camp.

The last two miles of the trail were pitch black with my headlamp providing a small beam of clarity with the shadows of the trees flickering by me. The shadows seem to be moving behind me. The last bit of the trail is probably the toughest and roughest part of the entire trail. It's like climbing down an empty stream bed. With boulders and loose rocks strewn haphazardly about. I slowed way down to avoid twisting my ankle or falling. I arrived at the trail head exhilarated and exhausted. I'm sleeping in my own comfy bed in my own comfy room tonight!
Quite the fashion statement
Big bear poop.


Confused hunter?

Thank you, Mr. Ranger

Lake Tahoe

Last light, 3.5 miles to go

1 comment:

  1. What great pics! Taken by someone who truly appreciates God's handiwork!