Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Northern Sierra, Day 2; Women on Trail, No Rain Pants and Rubicon Madness

Day 2: Squaw Creek to Richardson Lake, 21.4 miles

Ridge walking!
This was the day of the women. They were everywhere, in cute skirts and hats. After 1,100 miles of walking from the Mexican border, the men looked dangerously skinny. But the women were thriving. They were all beautiful: young, braids over their shoulders. Even though I am sure I would never want to do a continuous thru-hike, I was a little jealous. Why didn't I know about the PCT in my twenties? I could totally have done it then, I thought. No permanent job, no mortgage, no relationship; these things become more important the older you get. I wouldn't just want to walk away from the life I have. But still...

Oh well. We were out here now. We walked on a ridge while clouds boiled up behind us. In the distance, Lake Tahoe shimmered, impossibly large. We were in peak flower season, and we speculated on the names of the large yellow and pink flowers Ridge walking! Does it get any better?

Clouds are happening.
Except in a thunderstorm. I fidgeted, seeing the clouds billow. Flash was not as anxious as I was. She eyed me with tolerance (I think). Luckily the trail began to drop off the ridge and into the woods.

Lake Tahoe, out there.
Our trail met up with the Tahoe Rim Trail, and suddenly those hikers were everywhere, carting large packs and bear canisters. A man had set up his tent at a stream, saying he had gotten rain every day for the past week. It was early, but he seemed reluctant to move  on. A couple of women filtering water warned us about the presence of OHVs and Jeeps at the lake we were aiming for: "It's Rubicon Madness!" they said. It was mid week, I thought. How bad could it be?  The women looked at us in disbelief as we confided our mileage goals. "Hmm. Dicks Pass kicked our ass," they said. The pass, another day away, began to assume mythical proportions. But we had time to ponder the fear. We climbed upward, heading into the storm, and past Barker Pass, where hikers were huddling from the rain under an outhouse roof.

A road came in here, a bail-out point of sorts. Nobody was bailing! We felt good and the trail was ours. I tried to ignore the distant sound of thunder. Maybe it would go in the opposite direction?

We passed a creek where a section hiker was getting water. "This is home for the night," he said, but it was only 3:30 and we felt compelled to make more miles. That compulsion turned to envy as rain, then hail, pelted us. Reluctantly we pulled out our rain jackets. I wavered, Rain pants or not? It was always a gamble. Hiking in them is annoying, and surely the rain would go away. I decided to chance it.

Our chosen campsite, Miller Creek, was awash in puddles. No. No.  Flash and I barely broke stride. We had to push on, and finally we reached Richardson Lake, a shallow lake blanketed by campers. Strolling up an old jeep road, we spied a perfect site--but alas, it was taken by others. Finally we chose a semi-desperation camp, a small spot that would fit our tents. As we threw them up in the rain, a familiar sound rang through the woods. Was it the twittering of birds in the wilderness? No! It was...OHVs. We had imagined we were in the Desolation Wilderness, but it appeared that the boundary excluded this little piece of paradise.

Because I had chosen not to wear rain pants, my hiking skirt was soaked. I shivered as I pulled on my long underwear and crawled in my sleeping bag. Despite the gloomy weather, the mist rising off the lake was a beautiful sight. There would be no swimming, not tonight.

Unable to summon up the courage to cook dinner in the rain, we munched trail mix inside of our tents. As darkness fell, a large vehicle drove by. What could you do but laugh? This was life on the PCT. It was never exactly what you expected. We were just along for the ride.

In the distance, Dicks Pass loomed, a behemoth at over 9,000 feet. We would hit it at mid-day, when it was the hottest. What if there was a thunderstorm? What if this was the pass that told me I really was old, could no longer hike long distances?

I reached for more trail mix. Across the lake, the OHVs ran up and down the road. On a long hike, like a long run, like your life, you have to break it down into manageable sections. Five miles, then a break. Five more miles, another break. We would get there, and know everything we didn't know tonight.

to be continued...


  1. Waiting on pins and needles to hear what happens next..... :)

    1. Haha! Probably not nearly as exciting as I make it sound..but in truth, you can never anticipate anything on the PCT. Time and again, we were surprised at where it took us.

  2. ' We would get there, and know everything we didn't know tonight.' I love this line. I look forward to reading what you now know.

    1. I think hard trails teach you a lot. I am still sorting through what I learned. Next post coming soon!


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