Finally finished those pesky 64 miles around Tahoe! 
After a long hiatus from the PCT, I finally got the opportunity to fly out to Reno where I meet up with my friends Jim and Jackie and together we tackle the 64 miles from Echo Lake to I-80 that I was unable to do last year.

On the first three-day weekend, we hike the 32 miles from Echo Lake to Barker Pass. The mosquitoes are out, as are the hikers, and the nights are actually warmer than we were anticipating.


Attempting to hike around Echo Lake, October 2011.


Successfully hiking around Echo Lake, June 21, 2012!

On the second three-day weekend we manage to finish our 32 miles a day early and decide to drive up to the Sierra Buttes to camp and then day-hike the Buttes on Sunday. It's a great chance for me to compare the snow pack from late June 2011 with the bare trail of late July 2012.


A view of the Sierra Buttes North peak, June 22, 2011.


The same view of the Sierra Buttes North peak, July 29, 2012.


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Some Thoughts 
I've been decompressing and readjusting to civilization for a while now, and doing a lot of reflection on my hike. Here are some categorized thoughts...

Raw Facts

I still need to comb through my journal for exact specifics, but roughly here are the statistics from my hike.

- Flew out to the trail: April 25, 2011
- Flew back from the trail: October 9, 2011
- Days away from home: 169
- "Zero" days: 10
- Hiking days and zero days: 109

- Days off to move house from DC to DE: 29
- Days off waiting for spring snow storms to stop: 19
- Days off waiting for Lake Tahoe snow to stop: 2

- Miles hiked: 2,550
- Miles skipped: 100

- Most miles in a day: 48
- Target miles a day: 32-36
- Average (days hiking + zero days) miles per day: 23.4

- Photos taken: 3,500 (about)
- Weight lost: 20 lbs (170 to 150)

- Nights camped in the rain: 4 or 5
- Nights in town in the rain: 5 or 6
- Days hiking in the rain: 3 or 4

- Highest point: Mount Whitney, 14,497 feet
- Highest mountain pass: 13,153 feet

Reflections

- The PCT is more populated than I expected. It generally felt just as crowded as the Appalachian Trail - which means seeing anywhere from 1 to 50 people a day and rarely going a day without seeing someone.

- The scenery was certainly gorgeous most of the time. Sunrises and sunset didn't seem as colorful as the ones on the Appalachian Trail - not sure what that implies. Every region of the trail (southern desert, high Sierra, volcano country, north Cascades) was memorable and worth the time. It's hard to think of skipping any one section, but I do admit that the most memorable was where the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail travel side-by-side in the high Sierra. I guess I like being above 10,000 feet for long stretches of trail, surrounded by clear blue alpine lakes.

- I was hungry most of the time, and partly I am to blame for that. I generally didn't eat enough calories per day in order to carry less food and because I could fill up in town once or twice a week. I was hungry a lot on the Appalachian Trail, but on the Pacific Crest I'm guessing I was hungry 90% of the time. My stomach rarely ever gurgled or felt empty (it was trained pretty well), and I rarely ever felt depleted of energy, but rather would daydream endlessly about foods. I would dream of hitting up a Taco Bell, or pizza joint, or all-you-can-eat sushi, or just downing gallons of ice cream.

- I looked forward to towns a lot more on the Pacific Crest than I ever did on the Appalachian Trail. I believe this was entirely related to being hungry.

- My favorite trail town was Mammoth Lakes, CA. It had everything a hiker could want (including a movie theater) and a great (free) trolley to take you all over town. It had a good down-to-earth charm about it, friendly people, and a great mountainside location. I do wonder why there are more teenage skateboarders here than anywhere else I've ever visited.

I would love to get back to...

Here are the places I'd really like to get back to.

- Crater Lake, OR. A gorgeous and unique site. The crater, the lake, and the park were all amazing. Hiking is all over, but primarily you come to hike around the lake.

- Drakesbad Guest Ranch + Lassen Volcanic National Park. The ranch has a great hot spring fed pool, cabins and restaurant, surrounded by all kinds of hiking trails. Short walks can take you to hot springs, mud pots, and toxic lakes. The national park itself has a lot to offer, but it was closed when I was there due to snow. I really want to see the rest of the park.

- Sisters. Near Sisters, OR are three old volcanoes that make up the Sisters chain and some phenomenal hiking trails. I wouldn't mind returning to do some several day loops.

- Mount Adams and Goat Rocks, WA. The Goat Rocks Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail includes some amazing views of volcanoes (Mt Rainier, Mount Saint Helens) and a nice stretch of a very steep, very narrow, very loose rock, ridge. Unfortunately it was pretty populated with hikers and campers, but it would be a great stretch to camp nonetheless.

- Let's just say that anywhere of the 400 miles between Lone Pine, CA and Lake Tahoe would be worth visiting again. Rae Lakes, Muir Pass, or around Tuolumne Meadows (in Yosemite) in the southern half - day hikes around Sonora Pass, Carson Pass or Ebbetts Pass in the northern half. Desolation Wilderness around Lake Tahoe is the section I skipped and is supposed to be a really neat area.

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Snow Shots 
The colors are all wonky because I haven't had time to work with the raw images to set it straight. Here are the last few photos I took of my aborted attempt to hike from Echo Lake to Donner Pass in 1-3' of snow. It was fun at least!


Hiking around Echo Lake.


Hiking around Echo Lake.


I found the trail! Sign post right above Echo Lake.


Chevy Aveo!


Bear!

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