Thursday, June 30, 2016

"We Are Not Through With You!"

Day 85 - June 29
Mile: 1101.7 to 1120.4
up/down: 2700/3500

New trip bird: Evening Grosbeak. 
New Eldorado County bird: Cassin's Vireo.
New Placer County birds: Evening Grosbeak, Osprey, Williamson's Sapsucker, Warbling Vireo, American Robin, Orange-crowned and MacGillivray's Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Cassin's Finch, Pine Sisken and Common Nighthawk. 

The high snowy pass mountain gods had their way with us one more time. At 9,400 feet elevation, Dicks Pass will be our last time over 9000 feet on the trail. The short climb up from camp was pretty with great views. As a south facing slope the snow was minimal to the top. But at the top everything  changed. 

The north side was completely snow covered down to about 9000 and intermittent after that until we were at Dicks Lake. The traverse at the top was very challenging with some exposure, many trees and lots of big rocks. We carefully picked our way down aiming for a large switchback in the summer trail below. The snow was soft on the surface and mostly held a shoe edge as we kicked in steps in the traverse for a while. Finally it was over and we were on dirt trail again. 

The next lake down in the basin was Fontanillis which was pretty enough to hold us for an early lunch. With only 6 miles done at 11am we would have to work hard in the afternoon to make our miles. 

A short ascent out of the canyon got us to Middle Velma Lake and the start of a long stretch of relatively viewless woods walking. The fir and lodgepole forest was pretty enough but can get old quickly. By late afternoon we were down to 7000 feet and passing the small forested Richardson Lake. Still needing a couple more miles we moved on and crossed into Placer County. Susan hasn't birded mountain habitat in this county so quickly tallied a bunch of new county birds. Virtually the first bird in the new county was also a new trip bird - Evening Grosbeak. We stopped at a small creek with good water and camping even if there are a few more mosquitos than we would like. Tomorrow we continue our northward trek along the west side of Lake Tahoe passing through some of the ski mountains. Two nights in a row we've been bedtime serenaded by the loud PEENT of Common Nighthawks right over the tent. Very cool. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In and Out

Day 84 - June 28
Mile: 1090.0 to 1101.7
up/down: 1650/1225

New El Dorado county birds: Sooty Grouse, Golden Eagle, Rock Wren, and Calliope Hummingbird 

The little motel was positioned perfect for us to get everything done. Across the street was a diner that specialized in breakfast so we put away a couple thousand calories there. There was a grocery store and pharmacy within a five minute walk for our last minute supplies. Twitchy (yes, that is Susan's trail name now) was her usual self when she's ready to go - twitchy. She called  a trail angel from the list at the resupply outfitter. First call - score a ride. Richard and Carol were virtually on the way out the door to go hiking right where we needed dropped off. How perfect is that?  They picked us up at 10am and half an hour later we were hiking. The Tahoe trail angel list is pretty large, we were Richard and Carol's first "customers" of the season. The ride was fun with them and we really appreciate the effort. Thanks Richard and Carol!


We had hiked the piece of trail from Echo Lake Resort to Aloha Lake back in the fall of 2014. That was toward the end of the long drought and the lake was very low. It's not that way now. The hike up was dry and hot, even we can't escape the heat wave gripping the west. But we slogged it out and had a late lunch by the shore of the lake.  


With the relatively late start getting over Dicks Pass fifteen miles out wasn't happening. So we pulled up short at Susie Lake at the base of the pass. Besides, how could we pass up a lake with that name?  It pleasant here with a bit of afternoon thermal breeze and we have our own Sooty Grouse booming from a tree not too far away. On the way into the lake Susan picked out a soaring Golden Eagle which is alway fun. 

Oh yes, 1100 mile tick today. Hooray!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Magic Everywhere Near Tahoe

Day 83 - June 27
Mile: 1073.0 to 1090.0
up/down: 2500/3375

Up and at 'em early we climbed out of Forestdale Canyon almost immediately. Our next destination in just a few miles was Carson Pass on Highway 88. We knew that our friends Chris and Rosie had passed that spot the night before and hoped for a chance encounter with us. They did not know that we stopped short of the pass at the only decent camping and after 20 didn't have the energy to continue. After waiting a while they left a care package on a trail sign with our name on it. It was still there this morning and we definitely enjoyed. Thanks C & R !


The Carson Pass Visitors Center is super hiker friendly. The staff just couldn't do enough for the three of us (Tall Boy was there too). They showered us with coffee, snacks, and conversation. We spent an enjoyable hour. 

With a date for town food we pushed on through the remaining 14 miles between Carson Pass and Echo Summit on Hwy 50 into South Lake Tahoe. There was a bunch of snow but we still managed to make it to the highway by 3pm. It only took 15 minutes to get a ride (I had my "Hikers to Town" sign and Susan smiled and stuck out her thumb). Mike, who is a hiker and lives in SLT stopped for the pathetic looking vagabonds. He was very friendly and took us right to the outfitter where our resupply box was waiting. Thank you Mike!

A short walk down the road got us to the Apex Motel and Lake Tahoe Pizza Company directly across the road. We were set for the evening. 

Speaking of Tall Boy, it has been such a pleasure to hike and camp with this young man from Cleveland for the last 10 days. Besides being there to help me get Susan across a hard river crossing many days ago, he has just been good company. I hope we stay around him going forward. 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Between The Passes

Day 82 - June 26
Mile: 1053.2 to 1073.0
up/down: 3950/4100

New Alpine county bird: White-headed Woodpecker 

We got our 20 miles and paid for it with 4000 feet of climbing. A ten hour effort that got us within 17 miles of highway 50 and a hitch into Tahoe. Showers, laundry, and town food await so you can be sure we're up and out early tomorrow. 

The scenery continued to impress today as we moved along the crest between Ebbetts and Carson Passes. Mid morning we went through a gap in the crest and dropped into what my map tells me is the upper reaches of Pleasant Valley. Continuing on we passed through a lakes basin outside the wilderness complete with cars and a few people. Coming to "civilization" like this can sometimes bring a surprise. Today it was a handful of sodas left in an ice cold creek next to the trail. Magic like this is fun and nice. I will pack my empty can to the next trash, I hope all hikers do the same. 

Pushing on out of the lakes basin we crossed a paved road complete with much Sunday afternoon traffic heading home from Blue Lakes. Spend enough days in the wilderness and just a little traffic can be intimidating. Up we went again to the crest this time passing Lost Lakes and crossing at the Forestdale Divide. We are camped a couple miles below on Forestdale Creek in a lovely canyon. Town tomorrow!


Better View Desired

Day 81 - June 25
Mile: 1034.2 to 1053.2
up/down: 3325/4025

New Alpine county birds: Sooty Grouse, Mountain Quail, Hermit Warbler, Calliope Hummingbird, and Pacific-slope Flycatcher 

Yesterday's views were somewhat pedestrian for the Sierra. We hoped for better today and we sure got it. Plenty of snow on the trail to start the day in the dark recesses of the forest. We worked our way to Wolf Creek Pass and on to another unnamed and much higher pass in the crest.

From the pass to the road at Ebbetts Pass was fun hiking and fantastic scenery. And once across the road the views and flowers just kept getting better.  We made 19 miles today in sometimes challenging conditions and are still on track for Tahoe on Monday. Hopefully we can knock out a 20 tomorrow and seal the deal. 


Please excuse the brevity for this post as we had way too much fun chatting around the campfire with Tall Boy and Bulldog (a young lady we just met today from New Jersey). It's already well past hiker midnight and we need some sleep.