Jacob Leistra / "Game Boy" / PCT 2019

Days 68 - 71: Family and Friends in Tahoe

Day 68: Mile 1087.4 -> Mile 1092.3 -> Hitchhike into South Lake Tahoe -> Ride out with friends -> Mile 1101.7

After an easy descent to HWY 50, I grabbed a quick hitch and went to the Starbucks at the Y in South Lake Tahoe. I drained the biggest cup of coffee they sold and started charging my electronics. At 10:45 AM a couple of colleagues met me at a local eatery and we started to catch up.

It was so nice seeing friends and familiar faces! We talked about my former employer, life, their kids, and just about everything in between. We ate some great food and I felt at home for the first time in a couple months.

They dropped me off at the trailhead off HWY 50 in the mid afternoon and I put in another 8 or so miles. The next two days will be rough as I’m looking to get into Donner on Saturday to meetup with more friends and family.

Day 69: Mile 1101.7 -> Mile 1132.3

Being in Desolation Wilderness again is a great feeling. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking out here, including the full Tahoe Rim Trail in 2017. This is a great wilderness area with some incredible diversity of mountains, rock, lakes, passes, and forests. But it’s also a ways from Donner, and super busy with day/overnight hikers. For those reasons I’m jamming through it today.

Last night I camped near Susie Lake and was moderately swarmed by mosquitoes. Today I’m going over Dick’s Pass and out of Desolation Wilderness, into Granite Chief Wilderness and past the Tahoe Rim Trail split.

I had a long but generally good day. There was a few garbage snow sections that I slipped on. A couple times I lost my footing and slid down snow into mud and trees. Yup, I’m definitely over the snow at this point.

At the end of the day I had a nasty shin splint on my left leg, but I also found an amazing tentsite on the ridgeline before Squaw Valley. I had an amazing view of the northwest side of Lake Tahoe. It was windy as hell, but I had the one spot behind a large block of stone. The wind died down right at sunset and I had a great night’s rest.

Day 70: Mile 1132.3 -> Mile 1153.4 -> Walk to Clair Tappaan Lodge

As good as the golden hour was yesterday, the sunrise the next morning was even better.

Today was the day to crush miles and get into Donner for a shower, laundry, and beer. My shin was killing me but it was only a nuisance, not a showstopper.

The day was filled with ridgelines and wildflowers. I passed Tinker Knob and some other amazing rock formations. I hiked past the My. Judah loop, a hike I’ve done before, and started to see friendly day hikers. Donner was just around the corner.

I got to the Donner Ski Ranch and asked about a room. They and just about everywhere else was booked for a triathlon in the area. I dejectedly got my free beer and ordered a whiskey cocktail. I looked for a bit but the only option was the Clair Tappaan Lodge down the road. It was $75 a night, much more than I wanted to spend, but it included three meals and free laundry.

It ended up being an amazing change of plans. The lodge was run by the Sierra Club and had all the amenities a hiker (or skier, or snowboarder) could possibly need. The entire grounds were gorgeous and I imagine they’re even better surrounded by feet of snow.

I took care of all my chores so I would be free to spend time with friends and family tomorrow before getting back on trail.

Day 71: Hanging with friends and family -> Mile 1155.9

I love being on trail for all the obvious reasons. Fresh air, scenery, exercise, guiltlessly consuming endless calories, etc. But hiking for months provides perspective on how important “home” is.

Today I got picked up by close friends to go (watch them do some) climbing. It was so great seeing everyone and catching up. It didn’t really feel like much time passed at all. We fell into natural conversation and hung out as we always would. And it was great.

Then we went to eat in Truckee at Alibi Ale Works. They treated me to nachos and salad (thank you so much!), and I treated me to a pint (maybe it’s Truckee but since when did pints of session beers become $7?). Then my mom and brother showed up to take me shopping. But not before stopping for ice cream!

I embraced late stage capitalism by heading to Reno, as it had the nearest Walmart. Since I was resupplying for 4 full days to Quincy, I wanted to say as much money as possible, as well as get some odds and ends. Unfortunately, that made Walmart a good choice.

I got back on trail after handing off my bear canister, ice axe, microspikes, warm layers, and other stuff. My pack–with 10 pounds of food and 2.5 liters of water–is now about the same weight as my Sierra setup without food or water. I’m going to fly down the trail.

Seeing everyone the past few days was great, but it also ached a bit. Not like I ever doubted it but 1100+ miles of hiking has made me realize how much I love these people (and many of you reading as well). My general plan was to move from Sacramento after the trail. I’m not sure how feasible that is at this point. It’s still the plan, but I don’t know how to. My friends and family, who I realize more and more are quite dear to me, are in Sacramento. “You can make friends anywhere,” some might think. Yeah, but I don’t think I could find these friends anywhere. I’ve lived many places, and it’s Sacramento where I’ve met them.

Main Photo: Some of the last Sierra wildflowers in bloom outside of Squaw Valley on July 20.