Sports: July 2008 Archives


July 10, 2008

I just got back from a backpacking trip to Tahoe National Forest, mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail

Trip Summary: (map) Lola Montez trail to Hole In The Ground Trail to PCT. PCT North to Paradise Lake (almost). PCT South to Tinker Knob. PCT back North to Highway 40. Highway 40 to Donner Lake. Two days of hiking, about 45 miles, 12 kft. Note: the profile and map aren't quite right because Topo USA doesn't have the Mt. Judah Loop trail which I took on the way back1. Add about 1.4 miles and maybe 500-1000 feet of climbing.

Some notes:

  • Try not to camp where there are a ton of mosquitos. It's really hard to set up your tent and get inside without getting a big swarm of mosquitos in with you. Then you have to kill them all by hand. This happens every time you open the tent.
  • There were a lot of other backpackers out—more than on most trips I take. A lot of them tell you that they're hiking to "Canada". They're usually the ones covered in dirt.
  • Doing 20 mile days on the PCT (the standard recommendation for through-hikers) is a lot of work. My longest day was about 18, and while I could have done 20, it definitely would be not easy to do day after day.
  • This was the first time I didn't bring a stove. Eating cold meals isn't actually that bad (I'm not that hungry at 7000+ feet anyway) and it does save some weight and space in the pack.
  • Even a trail as well-travelled as the PCT can be hard to follow in places. As the map shows, there's a section that people often bypass on the road where I could see a single trail marker but no trail and finally had to take the road myself. It's especially hard when you're headed the opposite direction from the South-North direction people typically use on the PCT.
  • You can't trust anything people tell you about where there is water. Both I and others I met were told that there wouldn't be any water in various locations. It kind of sucks to carry 4 liters of water up a large hill and then come across a perfectly good stream. On the other hand, it would really be bad to have not had any water, what with high temperatures of 85-90.
  • You can really notice the effect of the fires. Even from high points, everything is kind of hazy and on Wednesday morning I could see this huge column of smoke way off in the distance. Some other hikers I met tell me that Tuesday night they could see this mushroom cloud backlit by the sunset. As I recall, Ben, the classic hippie-looking Jesus dude who told me about this described it as "It's crazy, man." When we drove through Sacramento on the way back the smoke was really intense—even objects only a kilometer or so away were significantly obscured.
  • Important tip: when something is described as "a .2 mile scramble" do not attempt to do it with your pack on. I made this mistake at Donner Peak.
  • Hiking on road sucks. I thought it would be OK to hike into town on Old Highway 40. Bad idea; tiring and tiresome.

1The GPS I'm using (Garmin Vista C) seems not to be able to lock on when it's vertical in your pocket. The result is that the downloaded track is all over the place. I had to recreate it using the maps in TopoUSA and tracing over the roads to make them routable. This is not the most convenient hardware/software combination I've ever seen.