Day 61: Trail Magic Spoils

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Mile 1140.9 to mile 1162.4 (21.5 miles, 34.6km)

An easy morning today. Undulating hills towards Donner Pass with quick walking.

There were a bunch of trail runners out this morning, all training for the upcoming Tahoe 100. Small groups of 2 to 4; teams of 5 to 10 and heaps of solo runner. One fella walked and talked with me for 10 minutes or so as he took a breather. He was saying that he got into trail runner to train for the PCT but fell in love with the sport and stuck with it but never got around to hiking the trail. It’s the opposite for me. I was thinking about getting into trail running when done with the trail in an effort to capitalise on the solid training my body has done just hiking. I said the same following Te Araroa and then proceeded to sit on my backside for two years. I’ll have to commit this time around.

It’s a Sunday here and there are so many ordinary people out on the trail. Many out for day walks or walking the dog. Stacks of kids following parents up hills. The system of trails is fully utilised and it’s great to see such high use.

I could not help but think of work today. Walking a section of trail the absence of fire was really striking. Huge areas of forest were being choked by young regrowth creating ladder fuels from the ground to the crowns of trees. Many natural meadows are disappearing under this growth. If a fire were to pass through it would take the whole forest out. Then further along I walked through an area deliberately thinned to remove a lot of the younger trees. The contrast was easy to see. Fire can now pass on the ground without the ladder fuels to reach the crowns and kill the older growth above.

Then nearing the top of a hill at a ski resort, on the horizon I spied a column of smoke from a nearby fire. It looked to be to the north east of Truckee and well away from the trail. I had cell service on top and checked it out on line. It looked OK for the trail, no closures, but 4 days ago the same fire did close Hwy 80.

Continuing on, people kept appearing on the trail. More trail runners and day walkers. On hearing my accent, many people wanted to stop and talk, about the PCT, about where I’m from and what brought me over here. My tattoo of the Te Araroa trail on my right calf is always a talking point too. I always get compliments on it to the tune of ‘Wow. Awesome tatt. What trail is that?’ which is a popular conversation starter.

Around 10:30am and approaching the carpark at Donner Pass, a women walking up the trail stops me and says she has trail magic for me. She is out here today specifically to shower treats on thru hikers. She then proceeds to open her pack and pass me fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, a banana and an ice cold beer. A couple of older ladies following behind me laughed at the thought of beer so early and the generosity shown by this women. Pronouncing that ‘It’s never too early for beer ladies!’, I cracked the top off and poured it down the hatch. Nice one.

About a half hour later I arrived at the Donner Ski Resort to see what food they had on offer, promptly ordering second breakfast while the breakfast menu was still firing. On ordering the bar tender asks if I’m a PCT hiker and says PCTers are entitled to a free 40oz beer. Sounds good to me. The only issue is that I’m a metric kind of guy and not used to imperial. How big is 40oz exactly? I have no idea until he props the open bottle on the counter. Wow! 40oz turns out to be just over a litre. I now have a mission on my hands having just had a can not that long ago. Starting to sound like an alcho but you can’t knock back these opportunities.

Several other hikers followed in through the door and we sat about eating and drinking. Breakfast came and was chowed down as I slowly knecked the 40oz down. Good times.

Sufficiently drunk before noon it was time to hitch a ride to the general store around 4 miles away. I picked up a ride in no time, grabbed a few things to supplement the food I had and quickly hitched back to the trail. Rides were easy with some many people around.

Now I wouldn’t recommend hiking drunk. It’s not the best hydration strategy but it was fun. The steep ascents and baking sun soon had the sweat pouring out which in this case was a good thing and I quickly sobered up.

More undulating hills towards Interstate 80. You can hear it for a long time with the constant stream of traffic but you never really see the highway as the trail passes underneath it through a tunnel. The air in the tunnel was nice and cool, a quick reprieve from the afternoon sun.

Once under the highway and not far along there is meant to be a Hwy rest area with heaps of vending machines. I had one thing on my mine, a cold Dr Pepper and was determined to get one from the rest area but I didn’t have too. Just further along, more trail magic. A young couple had set up at a trail junction. They had beer on offer. I politely declined having had my fill for the day. Best treat of all, they had ice cold Dr Pepper. Talk about being spoilt with freebies today.

I pressed on another 5 miles or so, passing Peter Grubb Hut along the way. The first hit a NOBO hiker comes across and there aren’t many on the PCT. I wasn’t keen to stay there as huts always attract mice and lots of day walkers. It obviously gets a lot of snow as the entrance is via a ladder to a 2nd level and then you have to climb down another ladder from inside to the ground level. Great hut. A pity about the garbage bag full of rubbish left behind. Tragedy of the commons.

I have a nice camp for the evening. Up high with a bit of wind to keep the mozzies at bay. 33 miles to Sierra City, my next resupply. It’s only going to take a day and a half or one solid days effort. Still undecided if I should have an easy half day and stay in town or get in and get out back to the trail. We’ll see.

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