This hike was pretty unique. With my coworkers and partners from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, we hiked the PCT today from Carson Pass to Meiss Meadow and the Truckee River. It was a field day during a week of training about the science behind hiker’s impacts on trails. We brought out one of the world’s only Recreation Ecologists to do some extra professional development in light of the increasing popularity of the PCT.
I won’t go into what we talked about during the workshop (we’ll do a post at pcta.org about it), and instead just say that it was a beautiful day on the trail. I do love talking trail management and relish the few days I got to spend diving into it with other professionals.
Yesterday, some coworkers, volunteers and friends hiked the PCT south from Echo Summit. It’s always nice to get on the trail and out of the office. We met a few thru-hikers and more than a few section hikers. It sure is early to have so many thru-hikers this far north.
This turned out to be difficult.
The trail up toward Azure Lake from Bayview Campground is steep. The vast majority of people leave the trailhead going towards Cascade Falls. On Sunday we did the climb and spent a few minutes on the summit of Maggie’s Peak. There’s still a lot of snow at the higher elevations of Desolation Wilderness.
After returning to trail from the summit, we saw the side trail to Azure Lake and we wrongly decided that it wasn’t what we were looking for. By the time we reached the Eagle Lake trail, we’d gone too far. I really don’t recommend just cutting over from there to Azure Lake. But that’s what we did and it kicked off our afternoon of difficult cross country travel.
My legs are scratched, abraded and they still sting. That’s what it was like. Very steep, thick brush. Steep granite and cliffs. Steep water courses. I doubt that we took the best route at all times but that’s just sort of how these things go. You push through. When trail appeared, it disappeared quickly and was of pretty scarce quality.
All in all it was a fantastic hike. And arduous.
After being on the volunteer email list for far too long, I finally committed to showing up. Luck would have it that we’d be “finishing” the Pope to Putah Creek trail near Lake Berryessa.
Led by Bam Bam, the crew was a bunch of pros. It was great to meet the people that maintain the greater Bay Area’s trails. Out of the ten volunteers this weekend, at least half of them seemed to volunteer every other weekend. They’re the ones showing up, weekend after weekend, to retread, brush and log-out.
I sometimes complain about the condition of trails in places like Ventana. These were the people that work to fix it.
The Pope Creek to Putah Creek project has been ongoing for at least a few years. Yesterday, we extended the tread all the way to it’s destination. And then, at Putah Creek (flooded by Lake Berryessa), we drank champagne (8 ounces between 10 people) and went for a swim.
It’s an interesting trail. Brand new. Remote. Scenic. Backpackable.
Not yet really ready. I learned a fair amount about what it takes for volunteers to build new trail. At this point, there’s still quite a bit to do. Widen and re-bench it. Rebuild steep sections. Brush. Sign. In it’s current shape, it’s almost as if it’s disappearing. Some sections are definitely a first hash. Get something on the ground. Break through the brush. Make it to the creek.
We made it.
Props to all who regularly show up to build our trails. It’s an incredible, and important hobby. I had a good time meeting all of you on this stint.
For Valentine’s day, Lindsey and I went to Napa. We left on Friday after work and stayed through Monday. It was a blissfully extended weekend.
I pulled a new-to-me camping stunt by leaving my sleeping bag at home. Two towels, a yoga mat and a down jacket were finicky but warm enough. A quick trip past fancy wineries on Saturday brought me to a department store for a new blanket.
Unsurprisingly, it was a hiking trip. Wine tasting? Sit inside?
We ended each hike at dusk. The perfect time.
Saturday: an afternoon/evening loop around Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Sunday: the camp host (who saw stickers on my car, introduced himself as a PCT trail angel aspirant) shuttled us for a point to point hike. That coup saw us hike the ~11 miles from Highway 29 in Robert Louis Stevenson SP, out the Table Mountain Trail, across the Palisades Trail and then down the Oat Hill Mine trail. The Palisades portion is lightly traveled, narrow and really fantastic. Our time of year was just right. Green, wildflowers, and the Poison Oak was leafed out enough to see, but not huge enough to encroach.
Monday: hiked the summit of Mt. Saint Helena. Second to last party to summit. Shared it with a dust devil (how cool!). Drove home via Middletown and Butts Canyon Road (how neat!).
Beyond that, it was a great date weekend. Lots of good food, good times, time around the campfire and games.
Lindsey and I headed to the rain shadow for MLK weekend. It’s mid-winter, but it’s a drought and temperatures are mild. We had a great weekend.
With ice and snow at elevation, and curiosity trumping fitness goals, we did more exploring than exercising. The list of places we visited is long:
- Travertine hot spring: where we soaked and camped the first night
- Lundy Canyon: where we drove over snow and then walked up canyon just a bit
- South Tufa: where we lunched and said hi to the lake
- June Lake area: where we walked up from Silver Lake, hit ice again and played a riddle
- Mammoth: where we went to the store
- the green church: where we went to Hilltop hot spring
- Mono Lake: where we returned to disperse camp
- Pickle Meadow: near the Mountain Warfare Training Center, where we walked, crossed the river and climbed a basalt monolith
It was a really rejuvenating and grounding weekend marked by good company, asking lots of questions and comfortable nights camping.