A wonderfully warm day through unexpected rugged and scenic volcanic terrain with heaps of spring wildflowers.
- Date: Saturday June 13, 2015
- Miles hiked: 19.41 PCT miles
- Miles covered: 1041.46 to 1060.87 PCT
- Weather Report: Low 46, High 79. Sunny and warm and dry, with clear blue skies. Most of the day was hiking in the low to mid 70s
- Wildlife seen: deer, chipmunks
- Mood of the day: Cheerful and happy
It was really warm last night, and I slept well, getting in nine full hours from 9pm to 6pm and not bothering to get out of bed too early. Sage didn't sleep as well, but we both were able to get up and out on the trail by 7:30.
The first three miles or so were uphill until we went over a little saddle down to Noble Lake, walking across tennis court sized patches of hard snow down to the lake.
We were glad that we didn't push on last night when we saw the lake, more like a pond with little copses of pines here and there, and three campsites already occupied, one with a dog that was barking. Must be the weekend crowd!
The PCT dropped down from Noble Lake rather abruptly, and in a very southern California style of sticking to a very specific contour with a very gentle grade, winding in and out of deep gullies and around ridge spurs. The trail was obviously built as the PCT, rather than repurposed/co-aligned like the John Muir Trail; the two of us made good time to the Highway 4 crossing just west of Ebbets Pass. We encountered a good dozen or more day hikers heading south; yep, it must be a weekend day.
It was scenic but nothing special--just the trail, with more people than usual, but didn't look like anything we hadn't seen in the past two or three weeks. We chatted about "so when does the scenery really change?" and guessed somewhere north of I-80 and Truckee in that forgotten part of the Sierra. Little did we know that the scenery would change in just a few miles.
At the highway there were two folding chairs and a leather bag with LEGEND written on it. Ah, we've run across him again, providing trail support for two hikers. We chatted for awhile, watching the bicyclists training for the Markleeville Death Ride, then thanked him for some drinks he offered (cranberry juice and Tang) before heading on out.
The scenery changed within a quarter mile of highway 4, changing into a sparse volcanic landscape that got more and more barren as we walked north, until it was just sagebrush and wildflowers, and a very intense sun.
It looked more like parts of Hawaii than a 9000 foot high spot in the Sierra. With the trees gone, we could see for a good dozen or more miles north and east to snow covered ridges and forested valleys. I took many pictures of the wildflowers and was really enjoying myself--this is the Sierra, but not the pretty waterfalls of Yosemite or the big trees of Sequoia, something new and unexpected and delightful to see.
After winding through some more canyons, the PCT popped onto a high ridge around mile 1057, with fifty mile views north down the Carson Valley to Carson City. The scenery to the west was no less spectacular, a landscape of volcanic plugs and bluffs and deep canyons, and that's where the trail was heading. It was wonderful scenery as the trail went down a hillside covered with daisies and lupine and paintbrush and ceanothus, a plant that was just coming into bloom and one that I hadn't seen since southern California.
It was getting a bit late in the afternoon, and time to look for a campsite. There was one listed on Halfmile's maps at mile 1060, but it was a bit gloomy under spindly yet dense pine forest, with lots of mosquitoes. We opted to head a bit south, and found a high open spot on a dry ridge (no mozzies!) with a stream a few hundred feet away (plenty of mozzies, ugh). Strangely, the spot also had cell service, another bonus. We set up camp and did our separate chores: filter water (I got a tick on my leg doing that, ugh, at least it hadn't bitten into me), making dinner, washing feet and taking the tape off my now nailless pinky toe (it looks much better), making dinner, writing and uploading pictures, and watching the sun set and the twinkly lights down in the valley below come on.
A fine fine day, and one of my favorites so far. This part of the Sierra isn't as well known, but for wonderful scenery and wildflowers, spending a springtime day up here was an unexpected delight.