We had a few mouse visits last night – not unexpected, but still irritating. For such small animals they can make a lot of noise. We didn’t sleep very well. At least they weren’t trying to get into our packs or our food. We were very glad to be up off the ground in bunks.
Waking up in the shelter this morning was a novelty. It was a luxury to be able to change clothes without getting cold, and it was nice to be able to sit in a bunk and pack our bags instead of sitting on the ground in a tent. Such small things but we appreciate them so much. Mindful of the couple in the attic, we packed up quietly (I hope) and moved outside to have breakfast on the front steps. They were up before long, though, and we had time to chat for a bit before setting off down the steep hill back to the trail.
It’s always fun for us when people are interested in our hike, and despite the fact that it was a weekday we met many more of them on our way to Donner Pass. There were lots of dayhikers out enjoying the same ridge walk we were, and many of them seemed to know about the trail and thruhiking. We were held up as an example of “hardcore backpackers” to a youth group we met along the way, which was very gratifying. Us, hardcore? I guess we can say that after three months on the trail. I’m not used to being called hardcore about anything – or being held up as a shining example of anything, for that matter.
We reached the highway and Donner Pass in good time considering all the conversations we had along the way. We were motivated by the fact that the town of Soda Springs was only 3 miles up the road, with the promise of every hiker’s siren song – second breakfast! Given the short distance we had to travel, it took us a long time to get a hitch. We must look pretty disheveled. Finally a guy stopped on his way to check out the Sugarbowl ski area, and he kindly hauled us into town when he realized how close by it was.
As it turned out, the delay was fortunate because the cafe didn’t open until 15 minutes after we got there – just enough time to make some calls and check in at home. Then it was on to delicious paninis and cold sodas. We chatted with a very nice trail angel from the area who had stopped in for a bite, and just like that we had a ride back to the pass when we were finished with our errands. Our waitress overheard that we were from MN – she used to live in Marshall and work at Lake Shetek state park. What a small world! After lunch we crossed the street to the general store and picked up dessert and a few snacks. Then we were whisked away by our trail angel and dropped right back where we’d left a few hours ago.
It was considerably hotter now than it had been before and the next few miles were partially exposed. The sun beat down on us in a humid haze as we climbed. We were sweating buckets. Given all the soda we’d just had to drink, it felt like big drops of corn syrup should have been running down my face. We were making for our next interstate crossing under I-80 and the rest area there. It was obvious that this was a well-traveled area and there were lots of side trails leading off into the boulders. At some junctions it took us a while to figure out which was the PCT. It got easier as we got closer to the highway and the road noise and we were finally rewarded by the sight of a metal culvert leading under the roadway.
Another reward was waiting at the other end – a cooler full of sodas. Despite our earlier drinks we each chugged a can to replenish what we’d lost on the sweaty climb between the highways. From there it was a short distance to the rest area where we washed ourselves off, threw away some trash, and refilled our water. We are in a relatively dry section compared to the last few weeks and the next reliable water was 10 miles away at our intended campsite. It felt strange to be on I-80, a road we drove on to get out here and one I’ve taken to Denver more than once. Outside the building was a plaque dedicated to the ill-fated Donner party, who got stuck here (very close to Donner Pass) during a brutal winter in the 1800s. Here’s hoping we have better luck on our trip.
Finally there was nothing more to delay us and we set off north, away from the roar of traffic. We were more shaded now than we were between the highways and it was much cooler under tree cover. We had a long, gradual climb out of Castle Valley and over the pass of the same name. On the other side we passed the Peter Grubb Hut, another Sierra Club shelter similar to the Benson Hut from last night. This one had no bunks but had a very cozy-looking addition with a wood stove and massive benches carved from two enormous tree trunks. The outhouse had a ramp instead of a ladder – a bit easier to negotiate. It would have been fun to stay there if we’d been finished for the day, but some of the glamor had gone out of the idea after the mouse encounters we had last night.
We set off again on another slight climb around the base of Basin Peak, followed by a descent into Paradise Valley and our last climb for the day. The uphills took us onto treeless, daisy-packed ridges with amazing views of the surrounding peaks. As we approached the creek where we’d stay for the night (the last water for 12 miles) we headed back into forest and the mosquitos came out for the first time all day. Safely wrapped in our net tent, we looked forward to a solid night’s sleep to make up for yesterday’s.
– Posted from the PCT
Location:Pct mile 1169