Echo lake – tent site
22.1 miles. 4541ft up. 3131ft down.
Normally in a town I spend way too long on my phone and end up not going to sleep until really late. But not last night. I was asleep by 9:30 and I slept like a log. The bed was so comfortable and it was covered in soft sheets and cosy blankets and about 12 pillows. I didn’t even hear Catwater when she decided to eat a midnight snack and she broke into her cookies!
The alarm went off at 6:30 and Catwater called a taxi to take us back to the trail. She hates hitchhiking even more than being cold! We had been told by lots of people and we had seen on the weather that yesterday was the worst of it and it was supposed to improve today and going forward. I optimistically dressed in my shorts and got a bit of a shock when I stepped outside and it was -2°C / 28°F. It was really cold!
The taxi lady, who thought I was Australian, put the heat on in the car, but also said she didn’t want to make us too warm so we would feel colder when we got outside. I didn’t even think of that. I just though – blast me with the heat!
8am, back at Echo lake it was glorious sunshine, what a difference from yesterday, but of course it was still freezing cold. I put all my layers on. The waterproof trousers are great for keeping the wind out and they do keep my legs warm but the feeling of them against my bare legs is just on the edge of ok. It’s not the most wonderful feeling in the world but it’s tolerable. I’m looking forward to getting some long legs to wear.
In the short walk between Echo lake and Highway 50 there is a raging river that we had to cross on a log. So something went wrong with our GPS yesterday. It was struggling to find me and when it said the next water was 11 miles it was lying! But, the water is probably coming from the lake so it wouldn’t have been that desirable. After crossing the highway we were out of the trees and into the sunshine and I could finally take some layers off. I left on my vest and gloves though, it wasn’t that warm yet. The trail climbed up through huge rocks and it was fairly steep with big steps made out of rock which was our first taste of what’s to come in the Sierra. It dipped in and out of the shade and in the shady bits there were still patches of snow and bits of ice. It would have been a cold night up here last night. And then I met a man who was heading north, doing the PCT in sections and he was in his fifth year. He was camped up here last night and his air mattress failed him, sprang a leak, so he slept on the ground. Brrr.
I was struggling a bit today. Every step hurt my knees where I had bruised them when I fell over yesterday. They are very sore, there is a bit of swelling and a little discolouration but bruises don’t show on me which has always annoyed me because you have nothing to show for the amount it hurts! I also have a sharp pain in my shoulder, just to the left of the back of my neck. And I can just put it down to jarring it when I fell over. It hurts to turn my neck a certain way and to lift my arm. I have taken a painkiller but it still hurts.
So I go slow and enjoy the views, there are patches of snow on the mountain side which I am surprised to see still there, I thought it would have all melted away by now. After 10ish miles I find a patch of sun to sit in out of the wind and Catwater is only 2 minutes behind me so we eat lunch. I have extra food since we ate in town last night so I had a string cheese and cheeto wrap, 2 actually. Other than being a bit dry it was cheesy and filled a hole.
We moved on, it was nearly 1pm already. Slow going today. The trail opened out into a meadow and it got really warm so I could finally completely delayer. Catwater went ahead of me and she later said to me she was trying not to let me catch her by trying to go fast and be in the front for a change. This made me feel bad! I know what it feels like to think you’re always really far behind, I felt like that most of last year so I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel like that. I don’t always have to be in front, but she always tells me to go ahead, then I have to go really quick to put some distance between us because I keep farting. So much wind, not sure what’s causing that, just the diet in general I guess.
So she basically runs to Carson Pass and I don’t keep up with her, I also stop a lot to take photos so I got more behind. I saw her chatting to two guys up ahead and when they passed me they asked me if there were any more hikers behind me. Well, I hadn’t seen any but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. They said they didn’t want to scare anyone with their guns, which was when I noticed they were carrying massive guns, or rifles I guess they were. It’s hunting season. They were off to hunt the deer. And of course when I heard a shot about half an hour later, I jumped out of my skin.
At Carson pass the visitors centre was open and there were a couple of old ladies in there who were lovely. After asking if I was Australian they offered to fill our water bottles and offered us a snack from their Tupperware box of snacks (I think all old people have a Tupperware box or a tin of random snacks) and we signed their trail register. They said another southbounder had passed through about an hour ago. It he didn’t stop, or engage in conversation or sign the register.
After I had used the facilities (surely releasing the hostages will stop the wind?), as we hiked out we wondered who that hiker could be. Could be Kangaroo? And sure enough we started seeing his footprints, he has quite distinctive prints. We applauded ourselves for being über-trackers.
Now I don’t remember much about this section, other than mine and Growlers poor decision when it came to not camping at Frog Lake and carrying on to a terrible campsite by the road, so I was surprised to find the trail so beautiful and so grand. Everything was on such a big scale I felt suddenly very small. I was happy that it was warm enough to hike in my basic clothes and the sun had a bit of heat to it. The trail gently rolled all the way to the camp site about 6 miles away. It got really rocky in some places and that was not good for my knees, which I could still feel with every step, now I was having to tense everything as I went over the rocks. My shoulder pain was getting worse and I just had to focus on getting to camp. Catwater was ahead leading the way and it did help that the trail was so beautiful, if we had been trudging through trees or it had been icy cold I think I would have had a great big sense of humour failure, but I kept it together. I was glad to stop at the last water, 2 miles before camp at 5pm, and take off my pack for a moment. Catwater has to wait 2 minutes for her water purification stuff to do its thing so I lay in the warm evening sun and watched as it illuminated the hundreds of silvery cobwebs. I tried to give myself a little shoulder massage. I’m not sure it really did anything.
I got a bit of a march on for the last 2 miles. I was powering up the hills and cruising over the rocks, simply because my shoulder was hurting and alI wanted to do was put my pack down. We made it to camp just before 6 which was good. We are up at 8841ft and worried it was going to be super cold up here. It doesn’t seem too bad so far and we are sheltered from the wind in the trees.
I ate dinner of avocado, Spanish rice, string cheese and Fritos. It wasn’t the best. I don’t think I was hungry enough for it, and the Fritos were too salty and they hurt my sore lips, the Spanish rice was tasty but still a bit crunchy (those knorr side are so difficult to cook properly) and by the time I ate the second wrap the rice had gone cold.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.