Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, it’s all the same day. – Janis Joplin
I want to establish this rule right from the outset – always, at all times, take earplugs with you wherever you go You will never regret it. We can, for the most part, close our eyes. But our ears pick up everything and Mellow Mountain is definitely not mellow if you enjoy sleeping. Oh, and everyone smokes.
But with my ears plugged up, I slept like a baby in my upper bunk. Mark told me to scope out breakfast at a casino, but I struck out and settled for cheap motel coffee and an English muffin. I did manage to get work done on the patio and shopped for resupply. My Indian roommate had really cool music cranked and was willing to place bandaids on my sore back. I hope David’s pieces of thermarest allow me to carry pain-free Olive Oyl laden with a filled up bear canister.
Mark makes the suggestion we slackpack thirteen miles to highway 88. We’ve picked up Callum at this point and he doesn’t want to hang anyone up, but if Mark is keen to hang out, I’m happy to leave most of my gear in his truck and only carry a snack, water and rain jacket. It turns out to be an awesome decision as the trail heads up steeply and relentlessly for miles. Klaus tries to engage Callum about Brexit, but loses him quickly in the unrelenting forest ascent.
It’s lovely in here, mountain chickadees filling the air with their happy calls, the sun coming out through soupy clouds signaling a change is coming in the weather. We walk up Inca-esque stairs hewn from granite as the wind begins to toss in the trees like ocean waves in a storm. The snow capped peaks look close enough to touch, but the trail continues its ascent.
But the PCT always takes me into the mountains and I soon come to a pass into a paradise of mountains surrounding a wildflower-covered valley. Snow melts like sugary icing on browned ridges, all of the plant life beginning to change into Autumn’s colors – gold and crimson. It almost seems impossible the deep purple lupine next to yellow willow. Lake Tahoe appears in the distance in a V of tree covered granite. The cliffs are eroded into fanciful castles, fortresses and ramparts. I meet a man all in camo who tells me he is a ‘private scientist’ trying to discover how things work. A hiker assures me the wind will build into a storm, another wants to know how far I’m going and my trail name.
I crawl out of this valley dressed in fall colors and come upon a mountain range in charcoal gray and snow white, huge, imposing and impressive. It’s Carson Pass where Mark meets us amidst wildly quaking Aspen.
It was beyond amazing to be taken into Nevada for the exceptional and unusual Basque meal. I am forever grateful he saved me a hard climb with my full pack. But he really outdid himself arriving with Lagunitas ale after a long, dry stretch. I sip a few as I tape up my feet and organize my pack. A couple tells us rain and snow are all but certain tomorrow and suggest hiking to a lake where we can hunker down in our tents taking a zero in case it gets really bad.
We meet a German brother and sister called – naturally – Hansel and Gretel with the same idea, so hug lovely Mark and take off, this time, fully loaded. I’m a bit tipsy and going slowly with so much weight, but the thermarest piece works great and the pack does not chafe. Yay!
The light is absolutely gorgeous, a kind of golden glow on everything. Again, it’s a magical paradise, this time high, almost a moonscape of mountains far into the distance, mostly barren and rocky except for huge pines, twisted and gnarled by snow and wind with nothing to stop it. The trail goes deep into a valley of thick foliage, streams and a few campsites, though there’s enough light and I feel good enough, so work my way up past tiny ponds over the pass.
It’s a moonscape here, just rock and wind building in intensity. My guess are gusts at about 60 mph or more, but as I hit the crest, it’s straight line wind I lean into, sometimes losing my footing. Soon, I’m back in trees and can see lakes below. I head closer to I can gather water and foolishly set the alicoop in the open with a view. It’s not long before she’s knocked over and I gather up all my gear to reset in a protected spot, though even here, the wind rattles her walls, sounding like a locomotive in the treetops. I’m nestled in tight with a gibbous moon peaking through clouds, casting diamonds on the water.
My eyes are heavy after a day filled with surprises and fantastic beauty. I may be here tomorrow, reading a book or hiking in rain gear. It all remains to be seen. At least I’m hoping the alicoop stays intact whatever I do. Good night!