Crossing Interstate 80
Pacific Crest Trail Quest '08 - Page 18
I reached Highway 40 at Donner Pass early this morning. From there, I-80 is about a mile
away, but the trail manages to take 5 miles to get there. All it does is go back and forth
pointlessly, and the interstate is right there, so there's no way I could pretend I was going
I finally crossed under the interstate in a big culvert. I was only about a quarter miles from
the rest area, so I walked up to get a Pepsi. I don't know if I've ever been to a rest area that
didn't have vending machines before, but there wasn't a pop machine to be found at this
one. I emptied my trash and headed back to the trail. I walked for about 5 minutes before
seeing a note on a tree inviting hikers to stay with some trail angels that lived nearby. I
called the phone number on the note, and half an hour later they picked me up at the rest
Bill and Shirley are a retired couple who live in a cabin by a lake. There were a few hikers
at their house already when I arrived. They took us to the grocery store and fed us a great
dinner. Most importantly, I got a shower and washed my clothes.
About 6:00 tonight, a hiker I can't stand showed up. I met her at Kennedy Meadows and
couldn't stand her then, and I still can't stand her. She's about 40 years old, very loud, and
obviously a very important person with very important things to say. I wanted to slap her
even more than the hotel clerk at Lake Tahoe.
I've been hiking hard since Kennedy Meadows, and I didn't think she had what it takes to
keep up with me. She had me hanging on her every word with her thrilling stories of how
important she was when she hiked the Appalachian Trail, and how much more important
she is now on the PCT, and oh, by the way, she's driving her car and doing short day
hikes. She's never thru hiked anything. She hopped in her car and left a few minutes ago
- had to put in a few more miles today. I really hope I never see her again.
I'm glad I stopped though. My stomach is full and I'm clean. I am looking forward to
getting back on the trail. I'm getting really close to half way done, and I want to put in some
big mile days to get there.
Bill drove me to the trailhead this morning. On the way out he told me about a big fire
burning on the trail north of here. I'm used to fires now. California has been on fire since I
got here, but this one must be really big. Apparently, there's nearly 100 miles of trail
closed north of Sierra City. I'll be in Sierra City in the morning. I've heard the trail was
closed lots of times, and it wasn't. I'll just have to see.
There was thick smoke in the air all day and the trail was awful. It meandered pointlessly
all day. I ran into switchbacks in a flat field. Why would you do that? I took countless
detours to climb all sorts of random hills. I don't mind winding around every now and
then, but this section, like a few back in the desert, was clearly designed to add miles. I
guess it doesn't matter. Every mile I walk is one closer to Canada, even if it's pointless.
I checked my email last night and caught up on all the latest gossip from back home.
None of it was all that important except that one of the guys at work is losing his wife to
cancer. Cancer sucks, and it's not fair. I don't know why God lets it happen to good
people, but this is what I believe; None of us is given more burden that we can handle in
life, but the strong have to bear more than the weak. Mitch is strong. I don't know his wife,
but I'm sure she's strong, too. They have a fell of a load to carry in life, but if there's one
thing the trail has taught me, it's that the longer you carry something heavy, the easier it
gets. Be strong!
I walked into Sierra City today wanting to accomplish two things. Number one was getting
something to eat and number two was to find out about the fire. I had a nice omelet at a
café and started asking about the fire. There are currently 1500 fires burning in California,
so getting information about the PCT was really difficult. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in
the neighborhood of 100 or 200 miles of trail is closed right now.
My plan is to wait until tomorrow, then start hiking north from Sierra City. I think I can walk
30 miles to a jeep road where I know the trail is closed. Then I'll have to roadwalk 15
miles to the highway, then hitch to Belden. The trail should be open from there and I'll only
skip about 60 miles.
I've rented a nice room above the bar for the night. I'm all showered up and my stomach is
full. I'll worry about the fire in the morning.
I went to the café for breakfast and found out that Belden is being evacuated and the fire is
spreading north from there. I guess I'll have to change my plans. There are 6 other hikers
in town and we all came to the same conclusion. They aren't fighting the fires on the trail
and they will probably burn for weeks. We'll have to skip 150 miles of trail.
I set out hitching at 10:00 am with two other hikers. We made nice cardboard signs that
said PCT fire detour, and it was an easy hitch. Our first ride was with an older gentleman
in a Ford Mustang. It wasn't easy, but the three of us and our packs all fit in the little car.
He dropped us at highway 89 where we were picked up by a young man headed to a
music festival in Quincy. We all fit quite comfortably in his extended cab pickup. One of
the hikers stayed in town to listen to the bands. The two of us that remained caught a ride
40 miles into Chester with a man in a jeep who drove way too fast. We arrived safely in
town and I went to the grocery store while the other hiker went to Subway.
I walked out of the store and a guy asked if I was on the PCT. I said I was and he gave me
a beer and drove me to the trail head. From there, it was a short walk to a great campsite
next to a cool clear spring. There's even a wooden chair to sit in and the mosquitoes
aren't bad at all. I feel bad about skipping 150 miles of trail, but there wasn't really any
other option. I'll still get to do plenty of walking this summer.