Smart enough to know when I'm doing something stupid - or - optimism doesn't pay off 
Wow, now THAT was/is one heck of a snow storm for the first week of October! I'll get some photos up tonight of my rental car buried in snow, among other snowy shots.

So I hit the trail around 6am, beginning with a 1 mile road walk followed by a walk around Echo Lake. I say walk, but it was more of a "trudge". You see, there was indeed 1 foot of snow as a base, but on top of that was another 1 to 2 feet depending on the drifts that formed. At one point I was up to my waist - even with snowshoes. After a few hours, with cold, wet feet, the sun still hidden, and snow still coming down, I decided I was being stupid and should turn back. Especially since I would be going up 1000' in 10 miles to go up and over Dicks Pass.

And so I headed back to the road, hitched down to South Lake Tahoe, and then amazingly found a hitch not just to the exit where my car was, but to my car AND he helped shovel it out and make sure I got to the road safely. Whew!

So I'm back with Jim and Jackie in Carson City and will be meeting up with Andrea in Reno tomorrow. I am OFFICIALLY DONE WITH MY PCT HIKE! I am ultimately somewhere around 95 miles short of hiking the whole thing (40-ish between Kennedy Meadows and Lone Pine, 55-ish between Echo Lake and Truckee), but I am content. I primarily wanted to hike the PCT to get good photos and views, and I got that. And now I have another excuse to come back to Reno!

More of a recap later, I just thought you should know I'm DONE and I'm ALIVE. :)

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The Storm and the Plan 
The storm has hit. From the valley I can see lots of snow on the mountains, and the clouds are certainly thick and ominous. South Lake Tahoe itself did indeed see several inches, while other parts of the lake saw no accumulation.

Around 4pm today Jim and I were up above Truckee, CA, near Donner Pass, shuttling my dinky Chevy Aveo rental car to the trailhead so that I can hike to it. The local road to the trailhead had not been plowed, and there was about 12" of really dense snow on the ground - all fresh from this storm. My Aveo definitely could not make it down the road... heck, we spent 10 minutes digging and pushing out a Camry that somehow thought it could make it down the road. Anyhow, one of the locals had apparently gone to get a giant construction vehicle with a large plow blade to do a "mercy run" (as one of the local businessmen put it) down to the trailhead. "It won't be pretty, but you should be able to drive it." Soon the "plow" appeared, and disappeared down the road. When it came past us on the way out we quickly took advantage of the mostly cleared road before it covered over again and drove down to the trailhead.

Fortunately the trailhead has a large parking area, but the plow didn't clear any of it. So Jim and I took to digging out a parking spot to which the Aveo then went sliding into. Without sand/dirt or a lot of shoveling, the Aveo is pretty much stuck where it is, and by the time I hike to it on Friday it should be melted out enough that I can back out of my makeshift spot and cruise on down to Reno.

A hunter we ran into said there was 2' of snow at the top of the nearby mountain (one of many I would be hiking over). Fortunately I am able to borrow a pair of snowshoes from Jim and Jackie - not so much for floating on the snow (it's dense enough anyway) but to help obscure those crevices, gaps and bumps in the trail that I might otherwise find myself stepping into. I will be hiking bright and early Thurs morning, and I will definitely be carrying my long johns, rain gear, and gloves. I know my feet will be wet for most of the next 2 days, but they should at least be above freezing.

I'm optimistic that I can make good time despite the conditions. Wish me luck!

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Weather update as of 3:15 PM PDT on October 04, 2011 
12 hours later we have a slightly larger storm predicted, hehe. From my view here in the valley floor, there are definitely large, black clouds lingering up there in the mountains. For your information, the trail from Echo Lake to Donner Pass (the 60 miles I have left) is all between 7000 and 9000 feet with one pass a little over 9000. So, yes, right in the brunt of the storm. There are a few huts that I can take refuge in, and side trails or forest roads I can use to escape down to the lake level (Tahoe) if it should come to that.

No matter, my current course is to hit the trail Thursday morning and just deal with whatever lingering mess is on the ground. Or in the air. It's certainly easier to hike on 15' of snow than it is 10 inches - since 10 inches won't quite smooth over all those gaps and crevices in the rocks/trail. Heck, it will probably feel like being back in New York!

Winter Storm Warning remains in effect from 11 PM this evening
to 2 PM PDT Wednesday above 7000 feet...

A Winter Storm Warning above 7000 feet remains in effect from
11 PM this evening to 2 PM PDT Wednesday.

* Timing: heaviest mountain snow late tonight into Wednesday
morning... with snow showers continuing into Wednesday

* Snow accumulations: 6 to 12 inches above 7000 feet... with a up
to 3 inches below 7000 feet.

* Winds: southwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph
below ridges. Ridge gusts near 100 mph tonight and early
Wednesday morning.

* Snow levels: 7500 to 8500 feet falling below lake level by late
Wednesday morning.

* Impacts: slick and snow covered roads will make travel hazardous
over the mountain passes above 7000 feet. This includes... The
Mount rose Highway... Donner Summit... Echo Summit and Carson
Pass. Highway 4 may close during this storm.

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The bad news is that Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon there is a winter storm warning for the Tahoe area - where I am - with 100mph winds and 10" of snow (the worst of it Tuesday night). The good news is I am comfortably holed up at Jim and Jackie's house in Carson City, NV. I have had 40-60mph winds the last couple days and nights and it's been hard on my tarp and sleep - but fortunately no rain/snow at the same time.

I'm going to wait and see how the storm develops before spending a night on the trail but I might try to piece together several day-hikes to finish my LAST 60 MILES! I'll know more tomorrow (Tuesday). The good thing is that Jim and Jackie are nearby if I should run into trouble - and cell reception is pretty good.

No matter what, I am committed to being finished by Friday when Andrea arrives for a Reno vacation. If I have to come back next year to hike Echo Lake to Donner Pass, it wouldn't be the end of the world. But, I am optimistic that I can find good (i.e. safe) weather Wednesday and Thursday.

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