From Squaw Creek to Donner Pass
The heavy thunderheads of the day before never broke on us in the night, but they still hang over us, low, swollen. 13 miles by 1 pm – that’s doable. Jule will be picking us up at the pass, and then it’s friends, food, rest. I can actually see it in front of me, a dangling carrot to chase across the mountains, and J and I pack up our stuff and get moving.
It’s spectacular country out here, and almost more so with the theatrical skies. One hard climb, then we’re out on a ridgeline all the way to the pass. The weather can’t decide if it wants to rain on us or not, and we pull out our umbrellas, put them away, pull them out again. Most of the time I’m pretty sure that the umbrella is a stupid piece of gear, so I jump at any precipitation. I would have mailed it home months ago if it fit into a flat-rate box, but I can’t justify throwing away a perfectly good piece of gear just because I don’t like carrying it. (This is why I’m not ultra-light. My inner hoarder.)
It’s a good thing there’s not too much uphill today. It all seems unbearably difficult. Even so, I can’t help but be impressed with our narrow ribbon of dirt, as it winds over steep volcanic ridges, the rock weathered in stripes of pink, green, and blue, views big to the east, wide to the west. (I can’t wait to be in a house.) It’s the weekend and day hikers pass us going the other direction, trail runners with giant quadriceps blast down the trail. One stops to talk – he’s a PCT alum himself. Perhaps that’s next for me, after this adventure – ultra-marathons. Ha!! I’ll probably never walk again; I’ll collapse in a heap at the Canadian border.
Coming down the last downhill is like trying to swim upstream in a river of spawning day-hikers – this place is a zoo. A mother-son duo stops us, asks if we’re thru-hikers, then pulls out cold beverages, fig newtons, and an apple for each of us. Huh! Thanks! Trail magic strikes again!
More trail magic awaits us at Donner Pass, and Reno Dave gives us some more cold drinks while we wait for Jule. My phone rings. “Where are you guys?”
“Uh, Donner Pass?”
“Yeah, but where? What do you see?” Jule asks. This is the start of a half-hour drive-a-thon, where I give Jule bad directions, and she consistently fails to find me. (“So you’re next to a brown building and Sugar bowl?” …every building is brown… Sugar bowl is huge…)
We finally reunite. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other in almost seven years, but old friends are the best friends.
Back in Reno, her dogs flip out when we walk in the door, but calm down after showers. Jule tells us we didn’t smell nearly so bad as she would have thought, but we must’ve smelled wild. Like outside.
This couch is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My feet hurt unbearably, and Jule winces as I wince walking around the house. No hiking tomorrow, hurrah.