All Geared Up, heading North!

Our short stint down the hill brought us to Gold Lake, where we met a young couple from Yosemite out for the weekend. They offered to drive us to Graeagle, which was the closest town to where we were. From Graeagle, we got a hitch to the next town 10 miles up, then from there another hitch to Red Rocks, which was just outside of Reno. From there a guy with a pretty colored teardrop camper took us the rest of the way to REI in Reno.

Our Red Rocks driver is actually a grandson of the Reed family, a family of the Donner Party, which was a pretty neat connection since we had just learned all about the Donner Party the week before.

We walked into REI and headed for the shoe department. Waterproof boots were our main priority because dry feet can make or break the hike. As we got to the back corner of the store, who did we run into, but our Trail Angel Janet from Truckee, who was on a day trip to the big city with her son who had come up from LA for her birthday. We regaled our tails of the previous week of snow endeavors as we shopped for new boots. We decided to order our snow gaiters from Outdoor Research online as that was the only place to acquire the colorful retro line of gators. They typically only sell the black version in stores, which we already have at home. We also grabbed some Nik Wax to help reinforce the waterproofing of our backpacks. With the Memorial Day weekend sales, dividends, and members specials, we got a sweet savings on our new boots!

Janet offered to take us to wherever we needed to, though she wasn’t able to take us back to Truckee as her and her son where spending the evening in Reno. We went to the same casino hotel we had stayed in earlier that week, knowing it was a cheap place to stay. But we quickly discovered that since it was Nevada graduation weekend, plus at least three other major events happening, every single casino hotel room was full in the city. The only hotel room we could find was $150, back on the other side of town where we had just come from. There went our sweet savings for the day… It was one of the junkiest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. They had a 14 year old working the front desk, with her bratty 10 year brother mouthing off behind her, TV didn’t work, towels were staind, and bed sheets had holes in them. But it was a bed and a hot shower, so we survived.

The next morning, we called for a Lyft to take us to the major highway exit out of town so we could start hitching back to Truckee. This beautiful Sunday morning must have had everyone in a good mood, because our Lyft driver took pity on us and drove us the rest of the way to Truckee, free of charge. She enjoyed our stories and had some free time that she could spare, so she was our trail angel of the day!

Once we were back in Truckee, we shopped for some small snow shoes for Steve to help prevent him from sinking into the snow. We found a pair children’s snow shoes on sale since it was out of season. After some blogging & internetting at Starbucks, we began to look for a place to sleep the night. We ended up having to stealth camp out side of town since there was no safe place to camp in town. Each tucked away spot was already claimed by a homeless person.

Our hitch plan was to get to Quincy to pick up our gaiters since we had already completed about half of the distance between Sierra City and Buck’s Lake. We didn’t want to go back to Sierra City and retrace our steps. So we jumped ahead to the next town on the trail which was Quincy. It took us 5 hitches to make our way from Truckee to Quincy, but we got there late morning, with plenty of time to do our chores.

Laundry topped the list, pizza buffet after, then resupply our food, all while looking for a trail angel to host us or a safe place to camp. After some fanageling with the Facebook, we were able to connect with Jennifer and Mark. We were greeted at their house by a lovely puppy dog, Boris, and two friendly kitties. Then, we discovered we are able to stay in their outdoor teepee! Score!

Our gaiters weren’t due to arrive for another 2 days, so the next day we hitched out of town to Buck’s Lake so we could slack pack the 20 miles between Buck’s Lake and Belden. Both locations were accessible from Quincy, so we took the opportunity to cover the miles & keep our legs going. We took two days to hike this since it was either wait for mail in town, or wait for mail out on trail, where we’re less likely to spend money.

Halfway through our first day, Steve noticed some ominous clouds coming over the mountainside ahead, so we set up our tent. And just in the nick of time! Suddenly we were being pounded with bags and bags of peas. Or so it looked. The hail came down hard on our tent and bounced up under our vestibule door. This pittering interruption provided me the perfect opportunity to read and for him, a nap.

We were waiting to make sure the storm had passed when we were caught by our friends from Sierra City: Science, Frodo, Ducky, and Shoes. They stopped to chat while they had their mid afternoon snack, saying they didn’t get any hail or rain where they were. We decided it was clear enough to pack up and head out. We joined them not much farther up trail at a large campsite near the creek. The group set to work building a campfire out of the damp debris & discussed various topics of life. It’s nice to sit around a campfire and chat with new people & hear new ideas.

They packed up and headed out early the next morning. We opted to sleep in a smidge since we had a short distance to Beldon, which we covered before noon. Luckily, there was bridge construction in Belden so traffic was brought to a very slow single lane where it was easy to catch all the traffic heading to Quincy.

Upon arrival to town, we discovered FedEx and the Postal Service decided they can’t play nice together so we had to reroute our package to Jennifer’s house instead of the post office and wait another day in the process. Fortunately, Jennifer and Mark were very welcoming and helpful and allowed us to stay an extra night in the teepee, which meant more Boris time for Steve.

While we roasted hotdogs for lunch in the teepee, inspired by Frodo’s dinner the night before, Mark delivered our box of goodies. Finally, we were geared up with our colorful new gaiters, ready to take on any snow we’d encounter on our way north!

After 3 hitches, we were able to get back to Belden to start our section to Chester. We must have accidentally miscalculated how many miles it was from Belden to Chester, as we had more food than we needed. We decided to take the opportunity to hike nice and slow into Chester.

Our first night, we found a beautiful campsite along Chip Creek. Along the way, Steve almost stepped on his second rattlesnake of the trail. The commotion startled the poop out of me… a little too literally… though no crisis caused. We took advantage of some pre-fabricated stone-age decor to enjoy our dinner.

We awoke to the sound of rain the next morning, so we stayed in and read, napped, and played games until lunch time. The rain had cleared enough by then to set back out for a nice easy day, but had to make camp early before the rain hit again. The rest of the hike was slow and steady, and not very social as not many hikers were crossing our path. We encountered a few day hikers here & there, but the thru hikers had spread out all along the trail due to the late season Sierra snow storms.

One night we camped near a piped spring, which was located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but had road access to which town people traveled to to get fresh spring water for their homes. No problem there. We camped far enough away from the spring to not bother anyone, or be bothered by them. But people were coming and going throughout the whole night.

I heard a car door shut around 10:30 at night and my first instinct was they had come to the woods to bury a body, and we were there to witness it, so we would be next. Then I realized I probably shouldn’t be reading detective murder mystery books while out on trail. But they’re better than the romance novels that fill the free library boxes, so I’ll deal with the paranoia.

We logged 3 days of easy short miles, feeling a bit sluggish with the dreary weather, but awoke the 4th morning to a sunny day. That put some pep in our step & we knocked out a 22 mile day, putting us close to Chester. We passed the official PCT halfway point, which left a little to be desired as far as monuments go. It was a bit odd to be passing it, signifying 50% completion, when we were only 28% done due to the flip. But that’s okay, we’ll create a great monument at our personal 50% mark.

By the end of the day, our feet were a little angry with us, giving us each some pinky toe metatarsal pain on opposite feet. But after some examination & manipulation, decided we hadn’t put too much stress on them yet with no permanent damage, but our feet agreed, it was about time to settle in for the night.

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