Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Part III: Northern California

Lower Echo Lake
July 10: In the morning, my mom and I said goodbye to ArtTrekker and headed off. We didn't leave town just yet--I still had some resupplying I needed to do first. The two of us stopped at Bert's Cafe for breakfast--an establishment packed with people and noisy from the clinking of plates and utensils. The service was prompt and the food was good, and we got in and out quickly. In fact, I called Amanda when I first arrived to chat one last time before I hit the trail, and the waitress took my order and returned with the food before I even had a chance to tell Amanda goodbye! Finally I told Amanda I needed to go--it was hard to eat and talk at the same time. =)

Then we headed out to Rileys where I bought lots of food to get me through the next section of trail. In the parking lot, my mom helped by opening ZipLock bags that I could pour stuff into. Most food does not come in packaging suitable to backpack with it and needs to be repacked. Cereal boxes, Hamburger Helper, and mac and cheese all comes in boxes that are much too heavy and bulky. Candy comes in packs that can't be closed again. Darned near everything gets repacked into ZipLocks: lightweight, recloseable, and generally waterproof. Exactly what I need.

Another hour later, and it was time to hit the trails. Except I wanted to make a slight detour along the way, and stopped at Taco Bell for lunch. Yes, I had eaten breakfast an hour earlier, but I didn't care. I needed to eat and get fat. Breakfast had a little time to digest, and I wanted to fill up those gaps in my stomach with more food.

The little general store at Echo Lake. (Charmin and GQ
are sitting on the small wall in front.)
And finally, I was back at Highway 50, ready to start hiking again. Mom hugged me like she thought a bear would attack me just as I turned the corner. Speaking of which, now that I was out of the High Sierras, bear canisters were no longer required, and I gave my mom the bear canister that had been weighing my pack down since Kennedy Meadows. I also gave her the ice axe--now that snow levels were going down, I didn't need it anymore either. My pack felt positively light with those five pounds out of the way.

Then I started hiking Northern California. I've been using a set of guidebooks known as the PCT Atlas, and it's divided into five sections: Southern California, Central California, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Highway 50 marked the dividing line between Central California and Northern California, so I walked out into my third book. Central California was officially done! It tried to kill me, but it had failed.

I reached Echo Lake after a couple of miles where I found a plethora of hikers gathered in front of the little general store located there, most of whom I didn't recognize. Even the ones I did know didn't recognize me immediately since I had buzzed off my hair and beard once again.

Charmin and Hasty arrived about five minutes after I did, and Hasty returned my long-last food bag. I was glad to get that back. I missed it. I'd been using plastic shopping bags in its place, but they weren't nearly as good or convenient. When Hasty gave it to me, I held it up by one end, jiggling the bag a little.

Little Engine and Plain Slice, snaking along
the banks of Aloha Lake.
"Seems a little lighter than I remember," I joked. Of course, I didn't expect the bag to still be full of Skittles, M&Ms, and all those other snacks that were in it when I lost the bag, but it doesn't mean I can't harass him about it. =) I was still curious, though, how they found the food bag since I thought they were ahead of me when I lost the bag.

Hasty said something about reaching Evolution Creek and them deciding that they couldn't cross it safely, backtracking to cross at Evolution Meadow. I didn't ask for more details than that, so I'm still not exactly sure of the timeline (did they cross that evening, or in the morning?). Did they try crossing at Evolution Creek, or just take a look and decide to backtrack to Evolution Meadow? How did they get back to Evolution Meadow without Fidget or I seeing them? (It would have been nice if they gave us a head's up to let us know that the river was particularly dangerous to cross. I specifically remember crossing down there thinking, "If a little girl like Charmin can cross here, it can't be that bad!" I might have reconsidered had I known she backtracked to a different location.) The revolution that they actually crossed in the meadow left me with more questions than answers, but I didn't pursue any additional answers. Ultimately, it didn't really matter. (But I still think it was a glorious stupid decision of them not to take advantage of our campfire when they had the option!)

Hasty left and went into the store, and I went in a couple of minutes later to look around. I didn't plan to buy anything--I just met all of my resupply needs in South Lake Tahoe and had lunch less than an hour ago. I was still a little full! But I wanted to look around anyhow.

In the store, Hasty approached me, telling me that he'd buy some M&Ms and such to replace the ones he ate out of my food bag. I think he felt a little guilty when I mocked being upset about how "light" the bag felt.

One of the many lakes the trail passes
in the Desolation Wilderness
"Dude, I was joking!" It was a nice offer, but really, what kind of jerk would expect someone else to pay for the food they lost? I was just happy to get the food bag back, empty or not! Anyhow, I had just resupplied in South Lake Tahoe. The last thing I needed was more food to weigh down my pack.

I went back outside and tried to talk to Charmin a little, but she seemed rather aloof so I gave up after a couple of minutes. Maybe she felt awkward about how badly things turned out between us on Mount Whitney. *shrug*

I continued hiking, entering the Desolation Wilderness. I love that name--Desolation Wilderness. I've seen desolate places before, but this particular wilderness isn't one of them. Not in my book, at least. It's stunning. Beautiful trees, lakes, views--ought to be called the Spectacular Wilderness--but I loved the name of the place anyhow.

Barely past the wilderness border, a park ranger stopped me to check my permit. Woah! I was shocked! I'd hiked over a thousand miles, and nobody had ever checked my permit before! I had one so it certainly wasn't a problem. Though I did have to take the time to pull it out from my wallet, buried deep in my pack. Later in the afternoon, I'd learn that Little Engine and Plain Slice got busted for not having a permit. They had a permit, but it had gotten wet and started growing mold, so they threw it away. They got off with a warning.

Another lake--I'm not telling you the name because
at this point, I lost track of which of my pictures are
of which lake. They were so many!
Another hour later, I passed another backcountry ranger who also wanted to look at my permit. "Wow! That's the second one today!" I made a mental note: Never backpack in the Desolation Wilderness without a permit. They will catch you! When he realized that my permit had already been checked, he told me not to worry about it, but did give me a list of rules for the area.

"No campfires are permitted. At all. Camp at least 100 feet away from water sources. That's about 33 steps." That sort of stuff.

For the evening, I camped with Little Engine, Plain Slice, Shroomer, and Motor near Gilmore Lake. Neon and Fully Loaded joined us shortly after sunset. The mosquitoes were absolutely awful once the sun had set, and everyone scattered to their respective tents for protection. Except for me, without a tent. I slipped into my sleeping bag, put on a head net, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt. Then tried to go to sleep, ignoring the buzzing around my head. I might try to get some sleep, but I knew--those mosquitoes would not rest until they found a chink in my armor.


Anonymous said...

Maybe with a name like Desolation Wilderness, there will be fewer visitors


Mr Mountaingoat said...

Hey Tortuga,

So I have the leisure, at last, to catch up on your journal. I'm impressed with the layout and photos. It's fun to find references to people I know (such as Fidgit). Congratulations again on finishing - at the point you're SUPPOSED to finish - and I hope you update everything soon!

Ryan said...

Hey, Mr. Mountain Goat! Are you leisuring in Australia or Switzerland? =)

-- GT

Goofy girl said...

Mental note: send ziplocks to Ryan for birthday, AQversary, and Christmas...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

When I was a kid, my girl scout troop went camping with the boy scouts and I remember one boy waking up in the morning with his feet covered in itchy welts from mosquito bites. Apparently his barefoot feet had been pressed against the tent fabric and the hungry mosquitoes dined well that night.

My guess is they gave the Desolation Wilderness it's name to protect it from ever getting too popular.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers