Days 85-87 – lookout rock to Tahoe national forest
July 3-5 | SOBO Miles 1393.2-1475.7
We woke up to an outrageous sunrise and all I had to do to see it was roll over in my sleeping bag. All three of us booked it out of camp that morning by 6AM.
I made killer time rolling downhill all morning to the Middle Fork of the Feather River, crossing bridges over raging waters on the way.
Then the incline began–about 4000 feet in total when all was said and done. These NorCal climbs are not kidding around.
On the way up I ran into a pair of blond West Virginia twins named Frick and Frack who are trying to complete the trail in under 100 days. I found it hilarious to see another pair of twin dudes out here. When I caught up with the guys later I learned that of course both of them had gotten pictures with The Other Duo.
As we relished a moment of shade by the only water source for 10 miles, we were visited by Highlander, a real character of a dude. Hailing from Germany, he wore a red wool kilt with no shirt and some kind of medallion, and carried one of the biggest packs I’ve seen. He guzzled a few liters of water in the most comical way, making giddy noises and ridiculous gestures (honestly everything he did cracked me up and I had to try very hard not to seem like I was laughing at him) before informing us of trail magic 8 miles ahead.
We sped along through the forest sweating our butts off as we made our way there.
Two lovely ladies by the names of Goldilocks and Matthew’s Mom had parked their trailer at a road crossing and were planning to stay the weekend there, dishing out burgers, pancakes, and cold beverages to weary hikers. We chatted them up and lounged in the shade with their two silly little dogs for a few hours. I snarfed a veggie burger with spinach, potato salad, olives, watermelon, and a root beer before we bid our goodbyes to the angels. Noticing my beat-up legs, they reminded me to try my best to stay upright. Funny ladies.
The following day brought a small stretch of dry trail, but then a good serving of snow.
We ran into some old friends after one of the morning’s traverses–Lullabye & Butch (who had shared our In-N-Out moment with us on the acqueduct) and Mom’s Spaghetti (who the guys had hiked with early on and who I had met around day 7 when he split off from them and who had also told me that day that a “fun group” was ahead–uncanny foreshadowing). It was like a high school reunion, but fun.
We slogged through about 8 miles of soft afternoon snow and were beat by 5PM. We took a break at a picnic table to evaluate our odds of continuing on. As exhausted as we were we planned for 2 more miles. But you know what happened next… 2 turned into 5, which turned into 7, which turned into 1500 more feet of elevation gain and “let’s camp at the fire lookout on top of the Sierra Buttes!”
It being the Fourth of July, we wanted to commemorate the day with a fitting adventure (and one, might I add, that’s not on the official PCT, so few actually have the desire or energy to complete the side trip).
The sun was setting as we made the final push to the top. It was brutally challenging after another day of a cumulative 7000+ feet of climbing… but worth it!
Special shout out (as requested) to Store Brand for the wild idea to go up the Buttes (and also thanks to him for this picture I’m stealing).
We climbed up a few of the sketchiest flights of stairs I have ever walked and reached the old fire lookout, peeking out at everything the light touched. I was the first to quickly scramble (backwards) back down the stairs.
We set our tents up on a narrow saddle at 8500 feet, cracked open a Coors I had carried out from the previous day’s trail magic, split it three ways, and watched as at least ten cities surrounding us put on spectacular fireworks displays. Sacramento and its suburbs went all out for us. It was an unreal night, even though poor Trashcan ended up being assailed by the wind at midnight and had to get up and move his tent to avoid blowing off the cliffside. These things happen sometimes.
Morning came and we were dead tired albeit thriving on the coolness of our big butte bender. The descent, however, was unkind: miles of (gorgeous!) exposed, rocky switchbacks under the blazing sun, which tested the feet and the mind alike. I got so frustrated that at one point I actually picked up a rock and threw it against a boulder. It didn’t shatter like I wanted it to, but I guess that’s the way it goes.
We descended to a highway only to shoot straight back up the mountains on the opposite side. More heat, more exposure. I have no photos of this climb for a reason. And that is because the only way I could get through it was to leave my mind for two hours while listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Judy Blue Eyes” on repeat.
At the top, we broke for nap and snack time. Hiking is not that different from preschool. Except preschoolers don’t have war-torn grime-caked legs like these:
I realized that that this was the filthiest I had been in quite some time when a Dutch friend of ours–a middle-aged woman named Luxury who section hikes with fresh produce and a rental car in tow–couldn’t stop staring at my grubbiness (a side note–my left leg here has one “clean” spot. This area was sanitized by a sweet chocolate lab named Petunia whom we met that morning). Luxury shared with us a blueberry scone she’d bought earlier in the day, and with that we were off and climbing again.
The afternoon took us up a beautiful ridge with stunning scenery all around.
We camped atop a hill with 360° views. Trashcan here models the Quarter Dome 1 in anticipation of his REI sponsorship:
Sunset was, as is par for the course here, unbelievable. Tomorrow it’s on to Truckee and our final section of Northern California.