Section K: Echo Lakes to Donner Pass

Are you familiar with the Donner Story?  I can’t recall when I learned it but I definitely am aware of it.  Funny thing is, of the Americans I’ve talked to about it, very few people know it.  It’s an interesting and tragic story of the emigrants in the Donner Party making their way West across America.  Spoiler Alert:  it ends in cannibalism.  Knowing this piece if history, I was quite intrigued when I first learned the PCT crosses directly on their same route and this milepoint became a definite point of interest and excitement for me.

Adam dropped me off at Echo Lakes and, of course, we were sad.  It was a wonderful 5 days and I’m so glad to have seen him but saying goodbye was difficult.  I actually found it harder saying goodbye than the first time back in Campo.  I though it would be easier since I’m now closer to the end and the fear of what to come is gone but I think the initial excitement and unknown of the start made the first goodby easier – I was embarking on a sweet and epic adventure!  This time, although no fear was present, all I could think of was “Here I go again…another 2ish months of the same thing and another 2ish months without Adam” so my hike out of Echo Lakes was tinged with sadness, in spite of the amazing beauty I was surrounded by.  But I hiked on and after passing a common day or overnight location, Aloha Lake (WOW!), the numbers of people on trail dropped and my spirits began to rise as the hiking euphoria set in.  Dick’s Pass was the only major climb of the day and it was gradual enough to be pleasant but the real joy occurred at the top.  I had taken a break and was just about to hit the trail again when I heard “Scorpia?  SCORPIA!!” I turned around to see Sweet Moonpie running up the trail!  Yay!  I hadn’t seen Sweet Moonpie and Quioxte since before Kennedy Meadows as they had to get off trail.  I had actually seen Sweet Moonpie’s parents more recently than them (totally missing your trail magic, by the way!!). Such a nice surprise on the day I had to say bye to Adam and I ended up camping just a wee past Fontilles Lake, about 17 miles.

The next day turned out to be a rough one for me.  I’m guessing it was a combination of being off trail for a few days with Adam so I was physically tired and missing Adam. It was a day when my physical, emotional, and mental well being all just collapsed.  It’s normal to have a day when you feel drained of one or even two of those components but when all three are down, holy, it was tough!  I can generally pull through by talking to myself with comments such as “heck yes, Scorpia!  You’re doing awesome – you’ve hiked x miles!” or “That’s it, every mile is one more closer to home!” or “Just keep walking! Just keep walking!”  Basically, you can usually find something to pull yourself up.  Not on this day – but I made it to a lunch spot, ate a decent lunch (my Mexican rice salad) and had a nap as the clouds began to gather overhead.  When I woke up, I wouldn’t say I jumped up full of energy but I did feel better.  I had a banana with the Reese’s Peanutbutter spread, ate some Skittles and packed up with the goal of making at least the 6 miles to Barker Pass.  Along the way, Quixote and Sweet Moonpie caught up and helped me along another few miles to MP 1127 to camp for the night.  As we were eating dinner, I heard a familiar voice call out “Hello? Is that Scorpia down there?” and along comes Patches whom I last saw in Tuolomne Meadows.  It was a great ending to a bad day and really shows you the importance of having great friends out here to help motivate and help you along.  I went to sleep confident the next day would be better.  I also met a woman named Spirit Bear – hiking south – this day whom would prove to feature prominently over the next week!

I didn’t exactly get an early start the next morning (9am!) but it was nice having a relaxing breakfast with Patches, Quixote, and Moonpie.  And this day would prove to be glorious!  My legs felt great, the weather was perfect, and (wait for it!)… Firefox and I were reunited at lunch!!!!! We’d been apart since I had to slow down to meet up with Adam, way back near Tuolmne Meadows!  Also with Firefox was Hufflepuff and Fill and, all of a sudden, I was back to hiking with my little hiking bubble!  Yippee!  20 miles after starting that morning, I was enjoying an incredible sunset with my fellow hikers and new friend, Spirit Bear.  Spirit Bear is a friend of Firefox’ from the Appalachin Trail and is out cruising around the US and happened to be in the area.  She has turned into an official trail angel and has been picking up us hiker trash and shuttling us around, along with hiking in and spending the night with us.

Only 7 miles out from Hwy 40, the historic Donner Pass, and the community of Soda Springs (or the larger town of Truckee, a little further away), I was hiking by 730, cruised into the Pass, got a hitch into Soda Springs, and was wandering the general store checking out the aisles by 1030.  I was eying up a rootbeer and a hot dog when a hiker-trashy person* came up to me (later identified as Daytripper) and asked if I was a hiker and would I like some breakfast. Ummmm…ok!  So I was brought up to an apartment filled with about 8 others; including 4 hikers, and was served a breakfast sandwich with fresh heirloom tomatoes, arugala, and a side of sautéed spinach.  I was in heaven!  After breakfast, it was time for a small resupply…and a hot dog and rootbeer!  The trail head is about 3.5 miles back so I sought a hitch and scored a partial ride (about 2.5 miles) on a tour bus!  It may be the swankiest hitch of the year (although I did see a hiker on the back of a motorcycle in Sierra City).  I attempted to get a ride the final mile but ended up just walking.  Note:  Please dont ever tell a long distance hiker “It’s just a mile.”  It’s rude and infuriating.  A simple “Sorry, I can’t” is totally sufficient.  As I walked up the highway, I heard “Scorpia!” From the deck of the Donner Ranch Bar & Grill, about 1/2 mile from the trail.  There were Quixote and Moonpie finishing organizing their resupply.  I hadn’t planned on getting anything but Quixote came out with the most delicious looking brownie sundaes!  Besides, wouldn’t it be rude of me NOT to order something?!  The brownies were huge and so worth it…especially since as we were sitting there, Spirit Bear’s van pulled up and unloaded Fill, Hufflepuff, and Firefox.  Fill hikered up and got the brownie but Firefox wimped out and declined (poor Hufflepuff was actually sick and they were trying to decide what to do).  Finally getting back on trail, I finished the day at the Peter Grubb Hut, another iconic spot along the trail, with Firefox, Hufflepuff, Fill and Rainbow and Love It or Leave it (a couple I met at Sonora Pass). It really is amazing to have been reading other blogs and information about these places and finally seeing them!

*It’s funny and true:  thru hikers (or long distance hikers) have a particular “look”.  Aside from smell (which can occur from a weekend trip), we have a certain haggard look with a dash of desperation in our eyes as we enter towns.  After eating, we tend to enter a food-coma state which Adam has described as very zombie-like.  It’s quite a distinct look and after only a day in Tahoe, even he could pick out the thru hikers.

There are 2 comments

  1. scotforscott

    Great read Tara, or should I say Scorpia!, With all the eating going on, glad you did not have to resort to cannibalism. Glad to hear it is going well. Your post makes me want to do it just so I can get a cool moniker 🙂


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