5. Utah, Nevada, California & Colorado…May/June/July.2018

Day 34 6.23
This morning was a beautiful sunny day & we all headed down to the Pickle Ball courts.  I always meet someone new each time I go.

After about 2.5 hours, the games were ending & we all headed into Arcata to try out the new Burger Joint (that’s was it’s name) in town.  It was great food & good beer, but after sitting out in the sun & eating all that food, we were all tired (of course, they’d played about 5 hours of Pickle Ball in the last day…but I’m not sure why I was so tired.  Watching doesn’t usually suck my energy!)  We headed back to the house, & just chilled.  Some took naps, some gamed, I worked on Tripscribbles.

Then we took all the dogs for long walk along the Mad River, which is just a few blocks away from the house.  It makes me so very sad to watch Blue grow older.  He’d played a lot last Sunday when they all spent the day swimming in the river & has been sore all week from too much play.  He’s the senior of the group, slowing down his walk toward the end.

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Luke gave him a lift in the end.

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Back at the house, we all just visited…love, love, love these moments!  Leia made a yummy spaghetti dinner with huge salad & cheese bread & I drank more of the Port…Delish!  Pete & Leia  were headed out about 5:15am in the morning for the long drive to Redding for Leia’s tournament.  I was going to try to go by & see them in Redding, but couldn’t resist hugs of good bye to them in case my plans changed overnight.

Day 35 6.24
I started packing up the things I’d brought into the house, then sat for about an hour & had coffee with Luke.  He’s a huge soccer fan & has been keeping me informed about the World Cup.  Soccer was Pete & Luke’s sport growing up…that’s how they ended up here in Humboldt…playing for HSU their Junior year in college.  But I seem to have forgotten more than I ever knew about the sport…not surprising, when something goes off my radar, it’s gone!

Danny had me check the oil before I left Luke’s house & it was low (I’d just had in changed!)  This kind of stuff sort of freaks me out…I’ll admit I don’t know a ton about cars & how they work; although I keep trying to learn more & more all the time.  But, I thought the oil was a done deal…& I’ve been faithful about checking under the car for any leaks (none), makes me cringe when I think about driving with it low.  I’m diligent about my 4Runner…it’s old but we keep it running great, but I’m so hard on her with my trips!  I’ve climbed up & down a ton of elevation, taken her on rough roads & pushed her through the heat, & driven miles & miles & miles. She’s just keeps being awesome & that’s the way I want to keep her!  So, after big hugs to Luke, Blue, Dexter, Chloe, & Kelso, I gassed up, bought more ice & headed to the auto parts store for oil.  Once she drank up 1/2 quart, we were on our way East.

It’s always so hard leaving my kids (warning, eye leakage!!)—never mind, can’t write about that.  So, I’d been toying with the idea of taking a different highway back East, but in the end decided to go thru Redding by way of the 299 (all the highways in California seem to be preceded by the word “the”) & the magnificent drive through the beautiful forest & along the wonderful Trinity River.  I wish I had pics to show, but the drive isn’t one that lends itself to stopping & jumping out take pics…but it’s a great drive through part of this awesome state!

I made it to Redding around noon just as Leia & her Dad were finishing up the tournament.  It was about 100 degrees here today…ugh!  I got to meet her Dad & then he had to leave, but the three of us went out for ice cream at Dairy Queen…one of Pete’s favorites when he lived back in Kansas & there’s not one near where he lives now.

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We all went to Trader Joe’s together…I stocked up on groceries for the next leg of my trip.  Then it was time for good bye hugs all around.  I’m so happy the boys are so happy!  They’re doing great & it’s always so fun to see & catch up with them.  They have their own travels coming up later this summer as Pete & Leia are taking 6 weeks to travel to Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah & Montana.  They bought a Westfalia Vanagon that Leia is restoring & the trip includes several Pickle Ball tournaments.  Luke is flying to Utah to play in one of the tournaments with Pete too.  Later in the fall, the three of them will head down to Orlando to meet Emma & see Sara, Kevin & Claire & then head to Miami for a cruise.  Life seems good when your kids are good!

While I’d taken the same route to Redding, my plans changed going forward.  I’d wanted to visit Chico.  Sierra Nevada brewing is there & the second largest city park (next to NY Central Park).  But the temps were going to be around 100 & I didn’t want to hike through the park in that heat.  There wasn’t any forest camping around there, & it would have been too hot to sleep in the 4Runner anyway.  So, I headed towards the mountains going east on highway 36.  Right before I’d left Redding, Leia said there was on fire on highway 36…we could see huge billows of smoke from the parking lot.  But, that fire was west on 36, so I thought I was fine heading east.

About 40  minutes into my eastward trek, I noticed a bunch of Caltran vehicles & fire work trucks passing by.  I never saw smoke, but then I came around the bend to a fire that had also started on the eastern side of 36.  I was driving through a fire zone & it was eerie & sad to see the forest on fire.  All of a sudden, I was surrounded by all things that had burned.  Helicopters & planes overhead; the sides of the roads covered in pink dust, burnt areas, & tons of fire equipment.

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I had to drive super slow, so I just grabbed my phone & shot these photos from the 4Runner.

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I was thinking I’d drive all the way to Truckee today, but the drive was super slow.  First I had to get out of all the smoke, but then I was back in the lovely forest.  While the drive is slow, the scenery is fantastic.  Thousands of pine trees…so much forest & creeks & rivers flowing.  I passed tons & tons of camping in the Lassen Forest.  Finally, deciding I wasn’t going all the way to Truckee, I picked a camp spot for the night & enjoyed the evening air as it was cooling off.  I am planning this trip only a few days at a time, so I spent some time with my Nevada, Utah & Colorado atlas.  I had cell service so I talked to Danny for a long time.  He’s on vacation this week at the lake where his Mom lives in Missouri.  When the skies grew dark, I tucked myself in under the canopy of the forest.

Day 36 6.25
I spent a leisurely morning in camp talking to Danny & drinking coffee.  Then I packed up & got back on 36.  I turned off on 89 heading south when I started seeing this huge lake between the trees to the east.  It seemed to go on forever.  About that time, my phone rang & it was Jill & at the same time, I spotted a turn off for Lake Almoner…it took both the phone call & the turn off.  I drove to the beach parking area & chatted with Jill awhile.  After our phone conversation, I got out & looked around…this was a big lake!  Very pretty too!

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I knew there is this zone around Truckee…no camping in the forest for about 10 miles around the town.  It took me going up & down a few forest roads before I found a spot for the night.  It was pretty early for me to be camping, but too late to hike any today.  No point in driving into Truckee to do what? then coming back to camp late.  So, camping off highway 89 it would be for tonight.  One picture today…that tells you what an uneventful kind of day it was.  Pretty & got some driving miles in, but I prefer hiking miles any day.

Day 37 6.26
Woke up at 3amno apparent reason, but just couldnt get back to sleep.  I made coffee very early & left camp, ready to check out Donner Lake which sits below the pass.  While it was a little before 7am when I got there, people here are active.  The day was beautiful & there was already activity on the lake.  I pulled out my chair & sat in the sun (still chilly this morning) read my book, drank my coffee & watched the morning progress as SUPs, kayaks, canoes, boaters & even one water skier came out to play in the bright blue crystal clear water.  It was a lovely morning!

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The lake sits off Donner Pass road.  Donner Pass was the place where the trailhead was located for the trail I was hiking...or so I thought.  Its funny how great being clueless works out sometimes.  I decided Id stay on this road to see where it wentI couldnt imagine how it intersected with the huge crazy I-80, but I was in no hurry.  Turns out this road is also called the Historic highway 40& it was a beautiful twisty drive up to the original Donner Pass.  There was a great lookout back down to the lake.  Along the road is a place called the China Walldont know about its history, but the rock climbers were out & about loving the day!


I came to the pass, went over it & ended up in a huge parking lot at Donner Ski area.  A big OPEN sign was in the lotalong with WE SERVE BREAKFASTOPEN 8am.  I wanted some information, but could be coerced into some eggs & bacon.  I parked & walked up the steps to the restaurant, but the it was locked up tight.  Sitting there smoking a cigarette, was a thru hiker.  He told me they don’t open until 11am & we both laughed about all the signage in the lot.  The PCT crosses the road at the pass & we were just about 1/4 mile below it.  I asked him how his hike had been so far & we had a nice chat.  When I asked him how Sonora pass was, he said it was horrible!  We talked about the fires now currently in Mammoth (it began after I left) & he told me about a snow storm high up around Bishop that kept him & some other hikers laid up in Bishop for 4 days…wow!  I have such admiration for these hikers.  I waved good bye & wished him happy travels.  I drove back up to the pass & back into a parking lot & found someone to answer my question.  


I’d read about a Tunnel hike…walking though several old railroad tunnels that were built along the side of the mountain way back when, but didn’t exactly know where it started.  With directions from a guy in the parking lot, I headed back down the road & walked about 1/3 mile & found the first tunnel.  It was super creepy.  The first tunnel isn’t the longest, but it’s the only one made totally out of the rock…so not one tiny piece of light was filtering in.  I already had my pack on & hadn’t taken out my headlamp.  I didn’t want to do it in here..there was standing water in the center of the tunnel, so I used the flashlight on my phone to light my way & try to stay on the dry parts of the ground.  


The above photo doesn’t make the tunnel seem too long, but about 1/3 of the way through, I started counting steps.  I got to over 1,000…not sure what that means distance wise, but it was long & very, very dark.  The photo below is one I took of the first tunnel on the way back.  Its interesting how the camera makes the inside of the tunnel look brightbecause it was no where near this brightthis first tunnel was pitch black inside.

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The 2nd tunnel was short, no big deal.  The third tunnel. however, would be the longest I’d walk through.  I’m guessing it was about 3/4 or a mile.  One side was rock, the other was poured concrete that had these about 5” slits near the top so a tiny bit of light came through in some places.  I took off my pack before entering the third tunnel & took out my headlamp.  After the pack was back on I went to put the headlamp on & it promptly broke.  Not the light part, but the ‘head’ part.  This has been my original headlamp…I think it’s about 20 years old.  I’m not too upset to have to buy a new one…it hadn’t seemed to shine that bright in the past couple of years, but I was thankful for the light working today.  I started down this third long long long tunnel.

Then came to a fourth.  At the end of this one, there was a big dirt mover moving dirt around a ravine between the this 4th tunnel & the next one.  The ravine was about 15 deep.  He didnt really look like he wanted any hikers getting in his way, I didnt really want to climb down & then up the ravine, so I turned around.  The tunnel hike is interestingnot sure how they ever built these in old days (I wasnt even sure how that big earth mover got up there today); the graffiti on the inside is sad, but some if it is artful’; there were a few birds that had nested in the very top (I didn’t want to think about what other critters might be lurking in the cracks & crevices here); & it was something different.  But in passing in between each tunnel on the way back, I was glad for the sunshine & blue skies & couldnt wait to be on a bright beautiful dirt (not rock) trail again.  When I got to the last (which had been the first creepy one) tunnel, there were several people starting their trek.  I could see their silhouettes at the far end of the tunnel, but as we got closer, we couldn’t see each other.  It was their voices that made me stop, but since I wasn’t talking they couldn’t see me until they got so close & spotted my light.  Did I mention that tunnel was super dark?

Done with that hike…on to the PCT.  My car was sitting in between the south & north part of the PCT where the pass & the road intersects it.  The hiker I’d visited with told me the trail to the south was super rocky, so I decided I’d hike to the north.  But I couldn’t  find the trail. Am I really that much of an idiot?  I found one heading off the highway, but when I got up around the rocks, it disappeared.  There had been about 15 or so PCT hikers come up from the south, but they were all heading to the restaurant (which was now open) to eat.  I walked around for about 15 minutes but never found the trail.  I decided to find it from the I-80 entrance.  I went back to the 4Runner, & drove south to Soda Springs & found the entrance to the highway.  It’s just back up east to the top of the pass where there is a PCT Trailhead sign.  I took the exit, found the parking lot, packed up & got out.  From this TH there are several options & places to go.  It was easy to find the trail which was lined with wonderful tiny wildflowers!


 I came to the junction for the PCT & took it.  This would be my last opportunity, for this trip, to hike on this long distance trail.  It would heading north all the way to Canada, & I would be heading south east after today.  It was a pretty trail, & after not hiking for the past three days my longest time off the trail so farI was so happy to be back on dirt!  The trail heads north going under the highway, & there are two tunnels that you hike through so you dont have to cross the super busy I80.


I came to another junctionthe PCT went one way but I took the way to Summit Lake.  I had no clue about this trail, but there had been a great big map at the junction & it didnt look too far.  I hiked up & up, but it wasnt brutal & really pretty.  


Then I got to a really awesome lookout point over Donner Pass.


About 10 minutes later, I found the lake.


I sat for a bit, then hiked back down to the TH. By this time, I was tired.  Id been awake since 3am & hiked 10 miles.  I drove into Truckee looking for a Its It! which is the San Francisco ice cream treat I discovered at Echo Lake.  Pete & Leia asked me if Id ever had one & now I wanted another.  I stopped two placesbut no one had one (sad face).  So, I drove to the Fifty Fifty brewery for my second visit, sat at the bar & ordered an IPA which was very good.  Then I ordered fooda yummy chicken sandwich with salad.

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I had an interesting travel conversation with a guy named Eric.  He’s traveled all over the world.  His job lets him travel & he said everyday he tries to play & see something new.  We chatted about our kids (he has one in med school) & places we’ve both been & places one of us have never been.  It was a fun conversation for sure.  

Now it was time to find camping.  I was hoping to head south, but I didn’t think there was camping down that way, so I headed out towards Hirschdale road, where I’d camping the last time I was in Truckee.  I found a new & little closer spot that was just super wonderful.  A couple of deer have strolled though camp, but other wise it’s super quiet!

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I’ll be leaving this fantastic state of California tomorrow…I’ve been exploring here for 26 days!  And it’s been wonderful!  The plan to see what the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains were like & the drive up CA395 was majestic!  With so much amazing hiking & tons of free camping.  I would come back here in a heartbeat…it’s as great as everyone says it is.  Hiking everyday in the mountains fills my soul…it is truly my passion.

Spending time with Pete, Luke & Leia is always wonderful & I treasure each moment of conversation, their laughter, being around their friends & taking part in their activities.  

Good by for now California!  You are beautiful & I can’t wait to come back!

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