Since starting the second leg of my PCT adventure, I have had one faithful companion: a podcast named This American Life. Hosted by the amicable Ira Glass it’s a story telling program on American Public Radio that each week touches upon a different, interesting subject. Before leaving San Francisco I downloaded about forty episodes and I’ve listened to almost all of them by now. They’ve been an amazing distraction when the hiking becomes harder or a good story at night during dinner. This weeks blogpost will be structured in a similar way. Stay with us.
Act 1: Hospitality
I’ve been incredibly fortunate with all the people I’ve met on and off the trail. I’d like to share a story about an amazing couple I met in South Lake Tahoe. After coming off the trail at Echo Lakes, the people running the shop out there were closing up because of the upcoming winter. However they gave me a free can of soda and showed me how to get to the highway. Once I got there, I did a small attempt at making myself look presentable and then put up my thumb. After about fifty cars had passed, a car came back from the opposite direction and made a U-turn. The driver jumped out and threw some of his gear in the backseat to make room for me. Whilst driving into South Lake Tahoe, Nicholas – the driver – and me got more acquainted. He’s 26, married and working as a waiter whilst getting ready to study for his medical exams.
Once we drove into town, he invited me to stay at his house instead of going into a more impersonal hotel, off course I agreed. We picked up some sandwiches for lunch and went to his home, where I got to meet his lovely wife Kadi. Afterwards we went out to play discgolf and swim in South Lake Tahoe. In the evening we got pizza and watched Death Proof. It felt like spending a day with friends I just had never met before. The only difference was that at night, Nicholas – who is a devout christian – spent a couple of moments praying for my health and success in this undertaking. A small but very moving gesture.
Act 2: A lonely hiker
I’ve been out on the trail for two weeks now and I can feel that the solitude of being out there by myself sometimes gets to me. There are some other long distance hikers out there around me, but I haven’t met up with them yet. Since the days are becoming shorter and the weather is getting colder, there are less day-hikers out there as well. So I’ve spent several days out there not meeting a single soul whilst I’m hiking the trail. Sometimes it becomes a bit hard on me, missing human contact or just a listening ear for all my plans for the future that run through my head. I guess that I’m not the hermit I once thought I was and that’s not a bad thing.
Act 3: A change in weather
Leaving Nothern Kennedy Meadows, the last weather forecast gave a 20% chance of a little snowfall for the next day. Hoping the prediction was only a false alert, I set out for the next stretch of hiking. Unfortunately it turned out to be true. The following afternoon started of with a drizzle and then some hail. After hiking for three hours in near freezing temperatures I decided to call it a day and put up my tent. It turned out to be a fortunate decision, the weather turned for the worse and when I woke up in the middle of the night I was surrounded by a nice 10 cm / 4 inch layer of snow. Breaking up my camp to go out again proved to be a long task with freezing cold fingers. However beautiful the snow might be, it also slowed me down for my hiking the next couple of days.
Fortunately I could bail out to Lee Vining, a small town on the East side of the Sierras, before I ran out of food. I got here yesterday (Tuesday) and will eventually spent two unplanned nights in this sleepy town. I hope that by tomorrow the early fall storms have passed through and a spell of dry, good weather will come in (at least that’s what the locals are predicting).
So tomorrow I’m heading out again for what should be one of the most beautiful stretches, up in the the high Sierras, straight through Yosemite National Park. It’s also the stretch that will take me over several passes above 3000 metres and some nights the temperature might drop till -10 Celsius.
I’m hoping for a lot of sunshine and other hikers to run in to.