Saturday, May 25, 2013

Part 86 - PCT Record Holders

We made quick time and she let me out at the top of the summit in the parking lot of the Sno-Park; I picked up the trail across the highway and made my way down to the marina/post office/convenience store at Echo Lake Resort.  I didn’t need anything at the store, and could have gone on, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy one more comfort food item, as it would be another five or six days before I would again have that opportunity. 

 I dropped my pack on the sidewalk outside the store and entered the building.  Immediately I ran into Prophet who was picking up his resupply box, and was also buying a few goodies to eat.  I noticed he had a large container of Chobani peach yogurt, and at that moment, it struck me as something very desirous to eat.  I purchased the same size container, along with a quart of chocolate milk and a bag of cookies, and went out on the front patio, and commenced devouring everything. 

My goal was to make at least twenty miles today, so I needed to get moving.  At this end of Echo Lake, there was a small concrete dam with a headgate to control the outflow of water from the lake.  I crossed the dam and then walked for three miles along the east shore of the lake. It was a well-used path, as many day hikers also used the path.  Along the shoreline were numerous cabins, some quite elaborate, while others seem to provide just the basic amenities.

I had entered Desolation Wilderness and a land of many lakes; the trail followed alongside of and around many of them.  Aloha Lake was the area’s most notable lake with many camping sites and was heavily used.  As a side note, the basin that Aloha Lake now occupied was actually a man-made reservoir created by the city of Sacramento when they decided to flood the basin to supply water to the city’s growing needs.

By the time I reach Dicks Pass, I had traveled thirteen miles, and hoped to make another seven before I quit for the day.  Ascending the trail to Dicks Pass, it began to rain.  I was only wearing my polyester, short-sleeve North Face shirt, but for the moment, it was not cold or wet enough to change into a long-sleeve shirt or put on my jacket – the rain was just annoying.

On the way up to the Pass, I encountered a middle-age female hiker who was carrying the largest ice axe I had ever seen.  And not surprisingly enough, her trail name was Ice Axe.  She used the axe like most hikers would use a trekking pole.  When I meet her, she was in the process of putting up her tent, but then when she realized it wasn’t really going to rain, she took it down.  I wouldn’t see this woman again until Washington, where I found her on the trail heading south from Hart’s Pass.  She had been hiking too slow and knew she wasn’t going to make it to Canada before the snow fell, so she flipped north to sign the register at the Canadian border and was now hiking south.

At the top of Dicks Pass, I found a couple sitting on the ground resting from their long climb.  They identified themselves as Weed and Ice Bucket.  I stopped long enough to chat and celebrate the climb with a PayDay candy bar, and then moved on.  It was all downhill for the next few miles, and I moved fast as I didn’t want to be passed by the couple I just met.

I passed more lakes and several trail junctions that lead down to Highway 89, the highway that traveled north to south along the west side of Lake Tahoe.  I knew the lake was off to the east, but the mountain vistas were never conducive to getting a good view of the lake.  I make my twenty miles for the day and found a flat spot a hundred feet or so off the trail to make camp.  By nine that evening, I was on the ground, snuggled in my sleeping bag with no tent.

Just before it was totally dark, I saw two figures moving quickly up the trail; they were moving really fast for this time of night.  I learned later that the two young men were trying to break the speed record for the Mexico to Canada hike, currently held by a tremendous athlete named Scott Williamson, who holds the record at sixty-four days, eleven hours, and nineteen minutes. 

Whoops, must make a correction here.  Scott’s record has been broken twice this year, first by Heather “Anish” Anderson, who made it to the Canadian border in sixty days, seventeen hours, and twelve minutes, for an average speed of forty-four miles per day.  This happened on August 7, 2013.  A day later, on August 8, 2013, Josh Garrett crossed the Canadian border with a time of fifty-nine days, eight hours, and fourteen minutes, for an average speed of forty-five miles per day.

For the last fifty miles, the Pacific Crest Trail has shared the same space with the Tahoe Rim Trail, and now I had arrived at the junction where these two trails parted ways.  The PCT continued north, while the TRT headed east towards Lake Tahoe.  From this vantage point of the trail junction, I could see Lake Tahoe.  The far horizon and the lake seem to merge, but in reality, it was just rain falling on the distant shore of the lake.

Massive lava flows indicated the presence of long-vanished volcanoes, and as the trail approached the rim above Squaw Valley Ski Resort, it marked a very long traverse across an extremely steep slope comprised of volcanic rock.

It was late in the evening when I reached the start of this traverse, and as there was no place to make camp, I determine that I would have to make the traverse, with the hope that I could make it off the rim and to a camping site before the trail was totally enveloped in darkness.  I couldn’t see the end of the traverse, and guesstimated that it was a mile to a mile and a half long.  Halfway across, I encountered snow fences and warning signs that indicate skiing beyond the point of these signs was prohibited.  Looking over the rim to the basin far below, I can see the buildings and infrastructure of the Squaw Valley Ski Resort that had been the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

It's wouldn't be hard to lost in these woods. When leaving the trail for any purpose, it's imperative to keep track of landmarks, in order to navigate back to the trail.

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