Day 6: Big Meadow Trailhead to Talamac Lake: 21.7 miles
The first day without Addie was sad and lonely to say the least. The only person i had to talk to was boring old me. Addie was at least a captive audience. But I know she’s in good hands with Joan and Greg. I got an update that she has made herself right at home (shocker) and has become great friends with the cat.
The day off yesterday was just what Addie needed. While I ran around collecting resupplies and buying a new water cartridge, Addie relaxed and rested her weary too thick legs. She has forgiven me and returned her normal snuggling ways. Which really tugged at my heartstrings. I feel immense guilt for leaving her and I’m not certain if I’m making the right decision. If I still feel this way on the trail, I’ll just bail out I n Tahoe City, only a couple of days away.
Carson City is a lot nicer and more fun than I was expecting! It has a huge deer population that have not one ounce of fear towards humans. “They’re just vermin,” Joan told me, “And you can always tell who the tourists are because they’re always taking pictures of them!” Well Addie must stick out like a sore thumb because she was paying them all the attention. And they ate it up. They were enamored by her and even followed us a little too closely for an entire block.
This morning I said a tear felt heartbreaking goodbye to Addie and took a shuttle to the trail head. Joe, the driver, was very knowledgeable of Nevada’s past history. We drove past a just put out wild fire that started last week and quickly burnt out 700 acres. The barren charcoaled vastness was alarming and jarring. Soon I was at the trail head and started hiking at 9 AM, a much later start than normal.
Because I do feel so guilty leaving Addie behind, I am going to hike as many miles as I can every day, from just after sunrise to just before sunset. I mean, what else am I going to do? After today. I originally was only going to hike 16 miles, but after getting there at 4:30 PM I thought, “what’s another 5 miles?”
The PCT joins for a portion of the TRT. I kept wondering why people were giving me weird looks when I told them I was a through hiker and I have been on the trail for five days. I totally forgot I was on the PCT. Sure, nearly 20 miles a day is pretty good, but not good enough to get to here from Mexico in five days! Ha!
With it getting late, I was ready to be done once I hit Echo Lake. I knew I was cranky when my response to a woman telling me to watch out for mosquitoes was, “you worry about yourself I’ll worry about me.” Yikes, I need a snickers. I mean, she wasn’t wrong, there are a ton of mosquitos, But I didn’t need her sage advice to realize it. I also didn’t need to get that sassy response either, looks like we both learned a lesson.
Eventually I made it into Desolation Wilderness, a part of the trail I was really looking forward to as everyone raves of its beauty. I’m really happy Addie isn’t here for it. The terrain is sharp and rocky, surely injuring her delicate little feet since she refuses to wear her booties! Now let me tell you desolation did not start off and on a good foot. Between the rocks, my tired legs, my rumbling belly, bloodthirsty swarming mosquitoes, and the sun setting right in my face, I must’ve look like I just finished 60 mimosas. I was so frustrated that I’m sure I scared any bears away with my clumsy stumbling and frustrating yells. But alas, at 7 PM, I made it to the Tamarack Lake. With just enough sunlight to eat and set up camp, I’m ready to just pass out to the humming of a million mosquitos.
Today was long and I’m feeling it. My feet hurt (my aching bunions!) and my hips are sore. I’m not sure if my old body can handle this high mileage, but I’ll reassess in the morning.
Day 6: Lake Tamarack to Lake Richardson: 22.3 miles
Without having Addie in a tent with me to check on to make sure she’s warmly snuggled in her sleeping bag, I didn’t sleep the greatest despite having a very tired body. The wind kept doing weird things to my tent, making me think they were critters (God forbid a raccoon) rooting by my tent. That coupled with being really hot left me half awake half the night.
But alas, the sun rose and so did I. The mosquitoes were in full force in the morning and I couldn’t break down camp fast enough. Because they were so aggressive, I set out at 5:45 AM and couldn’t find a mosquito free place to eat breakfast until a mile in.
I passed by more lakes today, most noteworthy being Aloha lake. It was very reminiscent of 1000 Island lake on the JMT. It drew in a crowd and was swamped with tents and campers in mosquito nets. At least I wasn’t the only one being assaulted by these bloodthirsty fiends.
On my way up Dicks pass I came to the realization that I’m not enjoying myself. While my body feels fine my mind and heart just aren’t in it. Even such beautiful scenery can’t make me feel like it’s worth it to finish the trail. Sure it would be great to complete, but I actually have a lot more desire to go back home and go back to normalcy. Besides, I really miss Addie. Right after this epiphany, I ran into Blake again. He too was discouraged by the mosquitos, but he’ll be done and out of their path on Tuesday – same as me!
The rest of the day wasn’t anything special. Mainly just coming up with a plan to get out. All of this trail I’ve had exceptional service, except the day I really need it. I could do another 22 mile day and end in Tahoe City tomorrow, but I have nowhere to stay. Joan and Greg are hosting an actual cyclist and I cannot contact the warm showers host in Tahoe city. So I’ll plan on a 15 mile day tomorrow and an easy 7 mile day Tuesday into Tahoe city where I’ll pick up my resupply, head to Carson City, then head home.
This hike certainly didn’t go as planned, but I am learning a lot about failure and humility and when to throw in the towel.
Day 7: Richardson Lake to Ward Creek: 15 miles
Today started out with battling mosquitoes, again. I’m so sick and tired of them. I packed my pack as much as I could in the tent, but when a quarter sized spider joined the party, you bet I flew out of that tent and was happy to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.
The first 8 miles were nothing but mosquitoes. I couldn’t stop to rest, eat, or refill water without getting bombarded. With time, however, they magically went away and I could actually enjoy myself, well as best as I could with aching hips and throbbing feet. 44 miles in 2 days sure beat my body down!
Because it was a “short” day, I slept in (6:15am!) and took my time on the hike. I took lots of rest breaks and tried to enjoy my last full day out here.
The scenery was more or less the same with abundant wildflowers offering a dazzling display of yellows, purples, and pinks lining the trail. Apparently there was no trail maintenance during 2020 (thanks COVID!) and there are downed trees all over the trail, forcing weary hikers (such as yours truly) to get down on their hands and knees and crawl past. All with a very heavy pack. It’s amazing how a Trail 24 inches wide can have so many trees fall right on it. But honestly it’s only a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.
I arrived at my camp around 4:15 PM and saw there was already a tent set up. I recognized it as a girl’s who I have been leapfrogging with all day. Though there was plenty of space for the two of us, I didn’t want to encroach. I dropped my pack and started walking down the trail to find another spot, if there even were any. I was just walking along, minding my own business when I turned a corner and BAM. There was a massive furry creature less than 10 feet from me right in the middle of the trail. It took a second for me to recognize it as a bear. It caught me so off guard I really didn’t know what I was looking at, but it stopped me dead in my tracks. Instinct made me want to run, but luckily logic kicked in. It was a young adult bear and I avoided making eye contact as I slowly backed away. Well, just as confused, it took him a second to recognize me as human. And let me tell you, that second of him analyzing me as threat or prey was terrifying. I could feel him size me up. Even though I was backing up I was still close enough where he could annihilate me in less than a second. But thankfully like most humans, this bear must’ve found me intimidating because he ran back into the woods at a full sprint. And I very swiftly returned to the site, whether that girl liked it or not.
Well, she liked it. I told her about the bear and she was glad to not be alone. In fact, she was a little bummed she didn’t see him herself. Be careful what you wish for. Vivian is 22 years old from the Bay area, but lives in Vancouver working in software. She has also done the JMT and will be doing the Colorado Trail right after the TRT (next week!). She has plans to hike the PCT next summer. Oh to be young!
As we were having dinner, guess who decided to join us?? THE BEAR! Vivian’s wish to see a bear was granted – on her last night on the trail nonetheless. In fact, she got to see a lot of the bear. He just kept coming closer and closer unfazed by yelling, clapping, or whistles. The only thing that got him to flinch even slightly was waving around and clashing the trekking poles together. He circled us twice and appeared to retreat into the woods from boredom. Apparently we weren’t entertaining enough to stick around, but I think our food might tempt him to come back. On edge, we finished our dinners and chitchatted a little more. Three guys coming down the trail scared us to death, thinking the bear was back. We warned them and they didn’t seem too worried by the potential of running into Mr. bear.
We put our bear canisters far away and when we came back, so did the bear, brazen little thing. I’ve never encountered such a persistent bear. Raccoon, yes. But will bears react to a smack on the nose the same way as a raccoon? Doubtful. And I didn’t want to find out. He eventually moseyed away when one of the three guys came back to tell us they were two more bears by them, only a short walk down the trail. According to one of the guys, one of the bears of was, and I quote, “the biggest F’ing bear I’ve ever seen!” Splendid. Hopefully she stays over there. I’m fine with our little guy. In fact, he’s pretty darn cute. I’m confident that though he might came back at night I think he has a healthy enough fear of us that he’ll leave us alone, at least I hope. I have little Addie to get back to, I can’t leave her an orphan!
Luckily it’s only 7 miles to Tahoe city where I’ll drop out tomorrow. So the lack of sleep I’m sure to experience won’t affect tomorrow too much. And if I wake up without food? Whatever, I can last 7 miles without eating. Good night!
Day 8: Ward Creek to Tahoe City: 7 miles
1:00am: The breaking of branches broke me out of my sleep, heart racing. Oh no. They found them. The bear canisters we so craftfully shoved into the dead, twisted branches of a fallen tree. The mangled and misshapened fortress has failed us. Maybe we’ll still have food in the morning.
1:15am: Well that was definitely the unmistakable sound of a bear canister being assaulted by a bear. At least it’s 500’ away and not over by us. Please don’t come sniffing over here!
At 6am I woke up and peeked out my tent. I was surprised I was able to sleep so soundly after waking up to all that bear noise. I saw one canister out in the open, not where we left it. I walked up to it and saw it was mine. But it was intact! Only suffered a few bite and claw marks. But where was Vivian’s? I couldn’t find it. And neither could she, even after a pretty significant search. It was nowhere to be found – probably displayed as a trophy in the bear’s den, proud of his accomplishment of fooling those silly humans.
I gave her some of my snacks and she was on her way. I followed shortly after, ready to get out of the bear’s territory. I swiftly completed the 7 miles because there was quite frankly nothing to look at. Unless you’re enamored by active logging operations, there was really nothing to pay attention to besides getting to Addie soon. After doing some errands in Tahoe City I was on my way to do just that! And when I did, I’ve never seen her so happy before. She jumped into my arms and I nearly started crying.
This trip, though it didn’t go as planned, was a true learning experience for me. I think this chapter of my life may be coming to an end and this summer might be my last hurrah. While I have thoroughly enjoyed taking advantage of my youth by doing many long adventures, I think I’m ready to settle down and live a more normal life with more relaxing vacations. And I think Addie might be in agreement.