Pacific Crest Trail

You shall not pass Donner Pass

Day 69

…well at least not easily, as we shall see a bit later. But I have wanted to use that Lord of the Rings quote here ever since the first pass in The Sierras.

Got up a bit earlier than the previous days, and walked the first part of the day in the early morning light. I knew not what to expect in terms of scenery, as I hadn’t really studied the maps for today , sonI was pleasantly surprised when the trail led us up another ridge which it followed for some time as yesterday. Lake Tahoe was no longer there on the right, though, as we were north of it.

There is hardly any snow around anymore, but one patch did cause a bit of trouble today due to its steepness. What most people did was to walk around it on then rather steep hillside, which is also what I attempted. I took my time, so a hiker caught up with me and said that this was the las snow on trail until Ashland (a town in Oregon). I said “That’s nice because this isn’t”. I slowly got down and did a half meter or so of controlled sliding leaving me above a large rock and I was able to walk around the snow patch.

Still before noon the trail went by some paved roads at Donner Pass, where I slightly lost my bearing as the GPS wasn’t working well, but maybe with a ten minutes delay I got to some place called Donner Ski Ranch which allegedly were serving free 40 oz (1.2 liter) beers to us PCT hikers. I was there a bit before they opened, and before other hikers as well, though. I simply spent my time deleting bad pictures from my camera and had a call back home as there was cellular service.

They opened at eleven and me and two other hikers went in and found a table. The rumors of free beer were true. They were out of the big ones though, so we got a pint on tap instead. One could say that I dodged a bullet there by default, as I think it would not be as easy to hike out there after the big beer. That could also be a reason for offering the big beer as people would opt to stay at their accommodation instead of plowing through. I am not saying that is the explanation. It could also just be generosity. Anyways, I had a burger with fries to go with that, but didn’t feel full at all. They also sold pies by slice or whole and I guess that you have already guessed where this is going. I remembered looking at the mirror back in South Lake Tahoe and thinking that I didn’t have much body fat left to lose and thus justified my choice, but promised myself not to eat it all at once so that I wouldn’t be able to hike out. I ate half of the pie. The pie was okay, but the pie in Julian still is the undefeated champion of the trip. The other half I divided into two ziplock bags and saved for later.

During the feast, quite a few other PCT hikers had come in. I think it was the most I had seen since Kennedy Meadows, just south of The Sierras, as we had been mostly scattered since then. Many were dirty and wearing quite ragged clothing. My clothes are still in good shape, well, except for the fact that my shirt has lost quite a bit of color in the sun exposed areas. As discussed before, we probably also stank.

Donner Pass was the setting of a tragedy in the pioneers where some settlers, “The Donner Party”, got stuck in the snow and died of exposure and/or possibly resorted to cannibalism before they could be rescued. Not a great party they had there! There was a commemorative plaque for them near the trail.

Anyways, I got back to the trail and thought, well I already don’t feel full anymore and ate another quarter of the pie. Bad idea indeed. I was now very full, the midday sun was baking, the trail going quite steeply uphills, and the beer hadn’t left the grip of me. I had the opposite problems of the Donner Party: too much food and too much heat, though my problems of course paled in comparison. After crossing into a new valley I came by a rest area next to a highway and took a break with a coke that I got from a vending machine. That made me feel better, but it was not until much later in the day about four pm that things got back to normal. I had lost a lot of time and energy on this and had to camp before doing as many miles as I had hoped for if I didn’t want to disrupt my sleep schedule too much. I now need to have 28 miles done tomorrow to make it to Sierra City before a shop closes (might not be open tomorrow if I miss it due to Independence Day). Hope that works out and that I have learned a lesson. Let’s finish on a slightly more positive note for once, though: Nice scenery. Check. Burger, beer, and socializing with other hikers. Check.

Today’s miles 1144-1169

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