Pacific Crest Trail: The Mountains are Changing

Leaving Bridgeport was something out of a dream, to be honest. The town was phenomenal as far as accommodations went, but it was quite pricy. We ended up taking a night there and hitching the following afternoon. It took us quite a bit of time to get out of town, but when we did, it was the dream hitch. An RV pulled over with a Geo Tracker on the back and offered us a ride up to the trailhead, 30 Miles back to Sonora Pass where we left off.

Smokebreak napped while Beehive, Scooter and I chatted with the driver. When we got to the trailhead, it was around 4:30 and there was a breeze in the air. Some storm clouds holding cold precipitation lingered in the distance in the direction we were heading.

We decided to head out after a quick smoke, and within a few minutes we were climbing up switchbacks towards the pass. They led along the mountainside as the granite quickly turned to sandstone and much, much softer rock. The grey, neutral color tones turned to rich red colored rock as everyone made their way towards the top of the Pass.

Scooter and I have always made an effort to do some off trail scrambling to get photos, so when we approached the top, a huge cliff face appeared out of the mountain and I immediately knew I had to wait for Scooter to catch up so I could have him scramble to the top. A few minutes later he approached and I proposed the idea. Immediately he agreed and sped off to the top.

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We snapped photos as the storm clouds brewed in the distance, beginning to drop a bit of precipitation as snow fell from the sky.

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I got to the top after I finished up the shoot and we cruised down into camp not too much longer. The first few miles out of

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Bridgeport was everything I had wanted for the evening. To top off the wonderful day, when I got to camp, Taco was waiting with a massive fire. I hadn’t seen him since I got off Trail in Bishop, and when we finally saw each other at the campsite, I got really emotional to be honest. We embraced with a hug and he looked me in the eye and said, “Welcome Home. Welcome home.”. I had to turn away and walk towards the trees as my eyes teared up and I began to realize that everything I had felt over the last few days was gone. The anxiety, the second guessing. Everything. Those words impacted me more than I could have imagined.

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The idea of ‘home’ is subjective to pretty much everyone. Some identify the word with family, friends, and familiarity. Some identify that with where they grew up. Me personally? I relate the idea of ‘home’ to anywhere I feel at peace. Anywhere that gives me the ability to finish a thought without interruption. The places where I feel most comfortable in the most uncomfortable of situations.

That place just so happens to be on the long distance hiking trails I’ve been on.

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We knew we would be taking a day off in Tahoe, so we took our time and managed an easy average of about 25 miles per day to get there. The allure of town was especially strong in Tahoe as the options for lodging, food, and even a bit of gambling were pretty prevalent. All of us had been looking forward to SLT for awhile, so we decided to end the push with a 32 mile day to set us up for an easy 9 into town.

We woke up early and began our easy push, actually running the last half mile into town to try and maximize our time in town. We got to the road early in the morning, but without a real plan to get in, we threw our thumbs out. Car after car passed by as we stood in the baking sun on the black pavement. Two and a half hours later we found ourselves in a car, crammed in with our backpacks and everything else the guy had.

We talked as the traffic slowly moved, and within a half hour or so we were dropped off at the breakfast place and we began to feast. All of us had been pretty calorically deprived in that stretch, so with an empty stomach, we pretty much cleaned the place out.

I had originally planned to stay in Tahoe with the boys, but as I putted around on the electric Scooter, I got a message from Ducky that she would be in town. I could write an entire narrative of my time in Tahoe with her, but I’ll save that for another day.

We enjoyed a lovely two days though, I will say. More food than I could imagine. The beers were flowing and the scooters were rolling. Tahoe was fun. It was probably my absolute favorite town stop of the entire trail. Bishop is a close second, though. 

I made the tough call of leaving the next afternoon. We all hitched out at different times, and as Ducky and I sipped our last bit of coffee, I made the call and hopped on a scooter and sped down to the intersection to  start hitching. 

Like I said, I could write an entire piece about her. 

I hopped on tail and headed towards Echo Lake Chalet to grab some snacks and talk to Catfish. We caught up and had a good conversation and eventually I headed onward. I eventually ran into where Beehive and Scooter were camped about 12 miles out of town. I found a nice spot by them and set up, doing anything I could to escape the mosquitos. 

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We knew we had to catch up to the boys the following day, so we headed out early in the morning to get a start on our 32 mile day to catch them. The day ended as beautifully as it started. I ended up on the ridge line at sunset, hiking down the ski mountains as the sun dipped below the horizon and began to change the colors of the sky. 

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Once we all caught up, the boys were back in town. Miraj got back on trail and it was time to have some fun. We mobbed out of town towards Donner Pass and began to fantasize about dinner at the ski ranch. The ranch offers an amazing selection of food, but most importantly it hands out free 40oz’s of beer to PCT hikers. We all ran into the ranch and began to shovel the food and beer down our throats. I was ravenously hungry. We decided that a nice nap was in order before heading back out. I found a nice cushioned bench to lay on and proceeded to sleep. And I mean sleep hard.

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When the time came to hike out, we packed up and headed towards the first shelter on the PCT we would be staying in. The Sierra Club had built a beautiful cabin about 7 miles out of the ranch, so we headed there with great anticipation. The hikers piled in and we enjoyed a communal dinner, quite reminiscent of the AT. It was surely one of my favorite nights thus far on the trail. 

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Our next stop was Sierra City, so the following day we woke up and decided to push to get in. Once again, we would set ourselves up for an early morning into town to get breakfast. It was beginning to feel like the desert again, as we had so many options for places to resupply and eat. 

I arrived at the road and immediately began to walk and hitch at the same time. It was a casual 2 mile road walk, but of course, any extra miles are bad miles, right? I ended up walking all the way straight into the Red Moose Cafe to demolish a $20 breakfast. Scooter and Smokebreak were already almost done when I got there, but I made haste of the breakfast and it was gone almost immediately. 

 We walked on over to the general store and post office to retrieve or packages and hang out. We hadn’t planned on taking a long break, but seven hours later we finally found ourselves ready to hitch out. I got new socks courtesy of Balega, an INSANELY awesome carepackage from Manager, one of my best friends from the AT, and a new trekking pole, compliments from Jonathan over at Gossamer Gear. 

The climb out of Sierra City led us up 3,000’ vertical over 7 miles, so we got a start on it around 4:30. Beehive decided he was going to hitch to Reno to get his phone fixed, so we  said our goodbyes for the time being and started hiking. Slug, Kyle and I got to the top and proceeded down to our campsite where we found everyone set up as the sun was setting. We camped by a nice, peaceful, serene lake and quickly fell asleep. 

Ducky and I had been in contact to meet back up in Quincy, 72 miles away, so I decided to push the next day with a 35 mile day, leaving me another long day into town, but manageable. I got up early and by 6 I was walking. We all had plans to get some miles in, so everyone began their day in good spirits. The early morning miles flew by, and by lunch we had already covered 21 miles. We were cruising at a nice 3mph for the day, and with only 14-15 left, we took an hour long lunch. 

To say I hit a ‘wall’ would be an understatement. The following miles took everything I had. The climb to the ridge was entirely exposed, and with the sun beating down on me, I could feel the heat exhaustion coming. I stopped for a quick break, and eventually slug and I finished the miles to get to the Spring, 31 in for the day. We hydrated, and all of us ate dinner as it was the last water for 10 miles. Scooter, Kyle, and Slug and I ended our night with a nice 4 mile push to our campsite. Smokebreak was set up, and we enjoyed what would be our last dinner as a full group. Scooter was planning on skipping Quincy, so we had a good night and said our hypothetical goodbyes. The night ended and we all slipped into sleep. 

 I got into Quincy yesterday after pushing the last miles by 2:00 to get into town early again. I’m here currently enjoying a nice coffee at a shop with Ducky and Slug. This town is relatively nice and had some really cute shops and restaurants, but not much else. The Safeway is on the other side of town and the laundromat is even further. Although it’s not too convenient, we are enjoying our time here. 

These last couple hundred miles have been challenging, rewarding, and mentally straining at points. I’ve loved some of the miles while some others, not so much. 

Time has been something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about while hiking. How it affects decisions, and how it most importantly, affects people. Time is essentially irrelevant on Trail. Minutes turn to hours as time moves at an unnoticeable pace. Hours turn to days as my mind cycles through an immense amount of thought. I find myself mostly in routine, feeling each step, being as present as possible with each moment. Life is slow out here on Trail, and with good people, it seems to only slow down more. 

Ive realized that although everyone out here is on trail for their own personal reasons, and fulfillment, the people that are met along the way can truly change the outcome and and motivations behind a trio of this stature.

Ill be honest, my goals and motivations have changed. They’ve changed drastically, truthfully. Things I once cared about on Trail no longer matter, and vice versa. Things that I once never considered have all of a sudden appeared in my head. It’s a strange world we live in, but walking long distances makes it a little more tolerable. 

The mountains are changing, and with them, so am I.