Week 12: Entering Northern California Division

The Northern California section starts off well with plenty of mountain lakes. But after we hit Donner Pass, I somehow injured my foot which left me in excruciating pain for the following days. This turned out to be my biggest challenge on the road both physically and mentally.

PCT Day 68: Beautiful mountain lakes

Interstate 50 to Aloha Lake (mile 1098.7)
13 km (8 mi) / 3.25 h / 470 m (1,541 ft) altitude gain

After two zero days in Tahoe, we’re back on the road. Crazy Ukulady, who brought us into town, brought us back to Highway 50. There were only 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) left to reach the end of the current FarOut map and the official end of the Sierras. We thought we could get some food at the Echo Lake Chalet but they close at 5pm and we were 30 minutes late. What a disappointment. So we continue to work and the boardwalk meanders along the shore of Lake Echo. It climbs up from here and the landscape turns into the Alps. There are a lot of boulders and boulders on the ground.

Some people come down from the mountains on their sledges. I have no idea where they went skiing as there are some patches of snow on the mountains around us. I mean we carry skis in the spring too to hit the ice, but not in June. There are plenty of mosquitoes to stop by and ask. Even while walking I have many mosquitoes, especially on my shirt. It’s driving me crazy, always waving around my face and killing skaters on my arm. We walk 12 km to Aloha Lake where we spend the night. It is beautiful here. The sun was already out when we were still hiking, with a beautiful view of the lake. The only bad thing is the mosquitoes. I am very annoyed with them.

PCT Day 69: Many Lakes Day

Aloha Lake (1098.7 miles) to 1,123.3 miles
40.5 km (25 miles) / 9.5 hours / 1,036 m (3,398 ft) altitude gain

After we started walking along Aloha Lake, we got lost. There is a small snow field and you are supposed to follow the steps through the snow, but we took the most obvious path on a trail to the right. We try to go across the suburb to find our way back to the trail but that doesn’t work well. In the end, we go the way we came and find the right path. We definitely lost 30 minutes in that because the terrain wasn’t so easy to walk.

The first miles lead us down the hill a bit before the trail begins to climb into Dix Pass. On the way, we have a nice view of some lakes and snow capped mountains around us. Once we get to the saddle we can see Dix Lake on the other side. The trail continues up the boardwalk and then drops over some smaller snowfields to beautiful Lake Fontanelles which looks very inviting for swimming. It’s also very hot today. But we want to go some miles until lunch, so we carry on. We head back into the woods and pass another lake until we stop for lunch 12 miles later.

The second part of the day is mainly through the forest with some occasional views of some peaks and more lakes. It is very easy although there is not a lot of climbing. The trail basically goes downhill or flat and we can easily crush miles to the campsite near a small creek. On the way, I saw a badger again and one of us saw a sitting viper. They are back. I also see lizards and those black beetles from the desert again.

Mosquitoes in the camp are really bad today. Every time I think it couldn’t get any worse it just got worse. I am afraid this will continue for a while now. I hide in the tent early because it drives me crazy. Try to eat dinner when thousands of mosquitoes are trying to overwhelm you. I always cover my lower body with a sleeping bag and my upper body with a rain jacket. Maybe I should start wearing the bug net too but I still turn it down because I think it looks stupid. I know looking dumb isn’t something you should be concerned with here, but somehow I still think I can make it a little more without one. Am I trying to be tough or am I just stupid? I don’t know.

PCT Day 70: Endless Hill Lines

From 1,123.3 miles to 1146.6 miles
37.2 km (23 miles) / 8.5 h / 1,617 m (5,305 ft) altitude gain

We continue to climb from yesterday to the top of the hills where we have a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe. A few miles away, we follow the line of the hills where there are colorful flowers and wonderful views of the lake. Northern California does not disappoint so far. It’s windy here. My indicator is always strong winds when my hood blows off my head. But at least there are no mosquitoes all day. We go down to a small river where we take a lunch break 12 miles later. It’s like a little oasis in the shade by the water. There is a light breeze going in and the sliders don’t bother us. We stay here for a long time and just enjoy the peace.

The trail continues downhill and then begins to climb again. This one is very hot in the scorching sun. It’s not very steep but still cumbersome because of it. Moreover, the wind becomes stormy again and cools me. The views are amazing and everywhere around me flowers are blooming. We reach the next high point to go down again. There is a water source at the bottom where I ascend for the last ascent of the day. It just feels so much better because it’s not that hot anymore. About halfway up the climb there is one last water source because it will be dry camping tonight. We reach Tinker Knob, the highest point at 2,672 metres, and then follow the other crest line down to the campsite. It has a great view, no mosquitoes and we see a beautiful sunset. It’s very windy here but some trees provide shelter. The wind is very noisy at night, but it doesn’t affect our tents at all.

PCT Day 71: Injury Day

1146.6 miles to 1164.4 miles
29.6 km (18.4 miles) / 6.5 hours / 788 m (2,585 ft) altitude gain

We continue along the ridge line until we come down to Donner Pass where we come to the road. There are a lot of rocks and pebbles on the way down and I am careful where I put my feet. There are some snowfields left as well, some very steep but never in dangerous places. From the road, it’s a short walk from Donner Ski Ranch, a restaurant and bar. Unfortunately it opens at 11am and we are here too early as we had the wrong info that it was going to open earlier. So we spend the time shipping our things until they are opened and we can order food.

Somehow we get stuck in there with two other hikers. There’s a free 40-ounce beer for every PCT surfer and that might be part of the reason. It’s already late when we finally start walking again and we can’t go any more miles today. We decided to go 11 miles further. The trail climbs up from the road through some rocks and descends down to climb again in the direction of the very noisy Interstate 80, where a flooded tunnel leads to the other side. There is so much water that it is impossible to keep feet dry, so I just need to wade through it. I wasn’t expecting that to come after the Sierra.

On the other side, dry up again and ascend the trail to Castle Pass. It’s a nice climb but my left foot is starting to hurt a little bit in the toes part. I keep going to the top as I wait for others for a long time. I change my wet socks to the only other pair I have left after having holes in the third pair. And in fact, I got bad holes in two of the left socks so I threw them away and kept the right ones which work fine but still have holes, just not in a bad place. But yeah, I need new socks. And new shoes because they have holes too. And they are growing every day. In Sierra City, new shoes are waiting for me. Somehow, this pair only managed 450 miles after the first went 700 and they were in better shape then as they are now.

When I start walking again, the pain in the left foot becomes much worse. It hurts at every step. I have no idea about this, but it worries me. I keep pushing the next hill and down to the camp site. It gets a little better while walking but it still hurts. At the camp site, I cooled my feet in the river while thousands of mosquitoes swarmed around me. This way I ran my error web, finally. I can’t deal with it anymore with other problems. I really hope my feet get better after the rest. By the way: We are camping at the place where the Italian, standing half a day in front of us, saw a bear today. Let’s see how this goes. Since we got rid of our cans of bears at Kennedy Meadows North, our food isn’t protected anymore. Bear cans make sense but because they’re not mandatory anymore and they’re so heavy nobody carries them after Kennedy Meadows North.

PCT Day 72: Feeling the Pain

1164.4 miles to 1187
35.9 km (22.3 miles) / 8.25 h / 932 m (3,057 ft) altitude gain

No bear visited us last night. Today is the hardest day for me on the road so far. It’s actually a nice and easy walk and you can easily do big miles. But my left foot still hurts like hell. It’s okay after 20 minutes of walking but after each break it’s hard to start. Every step is painful. I don’t know how I can do this many miles today because I’m slow and aching.

The trail goes up and down today, there are no major climbs and there are some lovely views occasionally from up the hills. I don’t care much about landscapes today because I’m just trying to cross. When I had a front desk I tried to google for my foot problem but I can’t figure it out. I think I need to go to the hospital in Quincy.

I arrive at a lonely looking road in the middle of nowhere and at the exact moment of my arrival there is a car coming and stopping for a moment to talk. Oh man, I was tempted to ask if they could hook me up to the next town, but I’m so proud to do so. I suffer from it.

Towards the end, we take a look at a large lake among the trees. I fill water from the second last source as the next source will be a climb down and I don’t want to do any extra distance today. I’m glad when I finally got to the camp site. I did for today. All day long I was worried about him. The only good sign is that the pain gets better when I walk, so I guess it can’t be that serious. The uneven surfaces suck though, it’s an excruciating pain.

Also, this is the last night with Sharkbait as he leaves our group to go some more miles and catch up with another group. We feel like parent and child are leaving home for college or something and you are happy for them but also you will miss them so much.

PCT Day 73: Making It

Mile 1187 to Sierra City (miles 1195.4)
13.6 km (8.4 mi) / 3.5 h / 142 m (465 ft) altitude gain

Well I thought yesterday was the worst day but actually today it is getting worse. It takes 1.5 hours for me to walk properly again and all the uneven surfaces are causing a lot of pain. This 13 km (8 mi) feels endless and I have no eyes on the landscape. I just focus on walking. I even only took one photo today which is an indication of a bad day. Popeye even took my bag for a while so I could walk without any weight.

The path mostly goes downhill and is actually easy, but I was so happy when we finally got to the road and stumbled across Sierra City, where I picked up my new boots and the best and biggest breakfast burrito I’ve ever had. Then we get to Quincy, where we’ll spend the weekend at a music festival. We stay at the Angels Trail house with a lot of other hikers and he even takes me to the hospital to have my feet checked.

It’s my first experience with the American Health System and it was really fun. It only took 2 hours to wait, everyone was very nice and I didn’t have to pay anything because they handled my travel insurance directly. They couldn’t really tell what was wrong with my foot, the x-rays were good and it looked like a sprain. So I need to give it a rest for a few days and see if it gets better. If not, I need to get an MRI which is not available here, so I will need to go to a bigger city. I am worried. I’m trying to put “what if” thoughts away but it’s hard. This is the biggest challenge on the road so far.

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