So. Many. Wildflowers. A wonderful day walking along the ridgelines north of Donner Pass towards Sierra City. One of my favorite days so far on the trail.
- Date: Saturday June 20, 2015
- Miles hiked: 22.18 PCT miles
- Miles covered: 1159.34 to 1181.52 PCT
- Weather Report: Low 49, High 76. Sunny and warm and dry and breezy with deep blue skies. Again, most of the day was hiking in the low 70s with a nice breeze--not too hot or cold!
- Wildlife seen: chipmunks, lizards
- Mood of the day: Chipper, upbeat, this was a great day. Feeling fit
It took me a long time to get up and going this morning--putting things in their color-coded sacks (the gold sack for clothes, the blue sack for general stuff, the green sack for the outside mesh pocket of my pack). I literally couldn't get my shit together, and when I was all packed I said "uh, where's my dirty water bottle, that Gatorade bottle I just bought yesterday at Safeway?" I couldn't find it at all, so I apologized to the forest for littering--sorry forest!--and got on my way just after 8.
I needed water. I had maybe 1/4 of a liter after making a tiny little cup of go-drink (aka Starbucks Via). The next water was miles away, sigh... but once I started walking I found a nice stream just 500 feet from camp and filtered about a liter and a half. That's good enough for ten miles, woo!
The PCT went north from I-80, which was goodness; during the night I could occasionally hear the highway a mile away, and I could definitely hear the train horns blaring, ruining My Personal Wilderness experience, darn it. Then I thought that trains have been going through that pass for over a century and a half, so who am I to complain? In just a half mile we were over Castle Pass, not really much of a pass at 7900', and into unknown country to me.
I knew the Sierras--wait an aside. I like using the plural, just like you call the Rocky Mountains the Rockies, yes I know it's Spanish, and yes I bet you English speekers don't say San Fran-sees-co either, and don't get me started on Vallejo's pronunciation. OK, again: I know the Sierras get lower and lower in elevation the further north you go, but what does that mean? Are they rugged? Steep? Broad and shallow? I think the best description is rounded, with lots of basalt and granite here and there. There aren't many lakes or creeks or ponds, but there are enough.
The PCT north of I-80 also returns to its modern implementation: not much gradient but enough, large switchbacks, dipping down to water every few miles, and staying up on the ridgelines as much as possible. Today the C was definitely in the PCT.
The first landmark was the oddly named Peter Grubb Hut, a little hut that looked like it was mainly for snowshoeing and winter use, with a 10 foot ladder to the front door. Yep, this place gets a lot of snow (the lichen on the tree trunks starts at least 10 feet up, above the snow line). Not much to see there, so I just hiked on the fast trail--Sage must be two miles ahead by now, at least 45 minutes.
The miles just flew by as the PCT gradually ascended then descended across a series of drainages, then dipped down to a broad buggy meadow where I ran into Caboose and Squatch yet again. Too many bugs to pause and filter water, but I did stop at the next stream some five minutes up the trail and quickly filtered some. I spotted a wonderful orchid plant too, with a spiral of tiny white orchid flowers, and that "this is a good day"
And it just got better from there--around mile 1170, the PCT climbed up to a mostly treeless ridgeline... and stayed there, jumping from one side of the ridge to the other every so often in gaps. I caught up with Sage at one of these gaps, resting with Halfslow and Señor Whiskers. I told him I felt like I could go 25 miles today, I was feeling great--and he was too.
The flowers just kept coming and coming--hillsides of mule ear daisies and lupine, paintbrush, sulfur buckwheat, pentstemon, mariposa lily, a few other species I didn't recognize. What's more is that the trail kept on going and going along the ridge, heading west then north then west, for miles and miles, sometimes at the top, other times on the side, but always flowers in the loose friable volcanic soil, and usually with views down both sides of the ridge to green forested valleys below. It was stupendous, I think we got lucky and hit this just about peak flower season.
After 20 miles, we stopped for water, and tried to figure out where to camp. Neither of us were tired, we just wanted enough time to make dinner and write and such before getting a good night's sleep. We picked a spot still high up at 7500', before a descent to Jackson Meadows Lake (the campgrounds there are probably filled with weekenders enjoying too much beer and perhaps their firearms, not a pleasant combination). And there's also that equation Lake = Mosquitos, so best to take 3 liters of water from the last creek and dry camp along the trail.
Tomorrow is very much a downhill day; the PCT descends 3500 feet in 14 miles or so to Sierra City. I've got a food package waiting, and if we get there early enough I'd love a tasty chocolate milkshake too. It's also time for new shoes for me; these are going on 500 miles and I'll ship New Shoes to Chester--better book a room there as well from Sierra City.
I'm not quite sure where we'll camp tomorrow night, maybe at the church in town, or perhaps we'll head up the 3500' climb out of Sierra City in the late afternoon. That might not be fun at all, but hey, we'll figure out what needs to be done when the time comes. Tonight, it's just enjoying the fading glow of beautiful day well spent. Nothing to worry about, and I will sleep well.