August 25 (~09:05 – ~19:25)
Echo Summit Trailhead (mi 1090.0) – after Lost Lakes (21.2 mi / Total: 1068.8 mi)
Total PCT miles: 2286.6
Weather: Hot, with a little wind now and again.
It feels great to wake up on the trail after two days off, so I decide to enjoy the morning after my double zero – and sleep in. The sun warms my tent and it feels amazing to just lie there, turn from side to side, be comfortable. I’m so happy to be here, and I’m excited about what’s to come. It’s the start of the Sierras – although technically the High Sierra doesn’t really start until Sonora Pass, which is still a few days away. But I’ve got my bear can and I’m ready for it. I’m ready for the views.
When I hit the trail I immediately find myself going up in the midst of increasingly more rocks, and some of the mountainsides look as though they’re comprised of giant stacked boulders only. It gets taxing quite soon – my pack is heavy with the food and bear canister, and I have to rest a lot, but at least I do feel significantly less tired after two days in town. I could never have done this right after finishing Northern California.
When I go down the mountainside on the other end, I’m surprised by the wholesome views: green rolling hills with snippets of snow, wildflowers as high as myself and an incredibly detailed landscape of rock in the distance, with a shimmering lake in the middle. It’s a fairytale.
Next the trail levels out, there is some forest and then an expanse, such spaciousness, and I love it. There are quite a few people but they are mostly spread out, so it doesn’t feel too cluttered. I pass a hut at the end of the overlap with the Tahoe Rim Trail and have a peaceful lunch in the grass. I’m 10 miles into my day and I’m so happy I don’t have to rush, I don’t have 25 or 30 miles to do. I’m so happy I can enjoy the Sierras. I’m sure some days will still end up being long, but not consistently, not like the last few weeks I’ve had.
I continue through the meadow, and climb out towards Carson Pass. There’s a small visitor station and a car park, and I cross the road, it’s busy here. Tons of day trippers are here to visit a lake, and I’m happy to move further and further, where the trail gets more quiet and I turn into yet another landscape. Here it’s dry, my feet slipping on the gravelly path, and everything is barren, the vegetation that faded colour of olives. The rocks are almost volcanic, and dry grass makes way for a colossal wall of rock – it looks impressive.
I scramble around the very last of the snow and follow the trail as it leads through sweeping views of heather populating the rolling landscape. I break again at the last water source of the day, and realise it’s already 6 – it’s late, and now I feel like I’m in a hurry again. But that was bound to happen.
I hoped to walk a few more miles because are no tentsites where I’d planned to stop for the day, but the hours are slowly escaping me. I figure I might just as well try and find a random spot next to the trail instead. I don’t want to be out walking until late, so I follow the trail up an exposed mountainside with no vegetation, the views onto the lakes on either side darkening swiftly. I keep on walking, the bear canister weighing me down as the trail continues to lead up, revelling in this ridge walk until I spot a level, rocky area, and decide that’s it.
I quickly pull out my tent and begin to set up. Unfortunately it doesn’t take long to realise I made a mistake selecting this site – the gravel underfoot seems to be a thin layer on top of solid rock, and my stakes don’t stay in. I wonder if I should move on but there’s no way I’m going to pack up again and walk another few miles to get off this mountain. I’m sticking with it. So I push in the stakes as far as I can and layer rocks on top of all the stakes, hoping they’ll stay put in the strengthening wind.