I eat a predawn breakfast on my campsite balcony, enjoying the spectacular view.
Today’s trail is mostly one long climb, dipping down below 7000′ before going back up to 9500′. I get to the Brockway Summit road crossing at 9AM, where trail angels have left jugs of water and someone else has left baggies of dog poo. I’m already carrying about four liters of water for the next 11.5 miles, but I’m happy to pause and pour myself a liter for electrolyte mix and drink it while sitting in the dirt next to the trailhead parking.
I pass one solo woman backpacker going counter-clockwise and lots of day hikers out with dogs—which makes sense, since the trail is close to lots of dirt roads with easy access to spectacular Lake Tahoe views. At one point I pause to listen to what sounds like some sort of weird, single-note bird call—before realizing that, nope, it’s actually just 4×4 brakes whistling nearby. My deep trail thoughts include making up a palindrome (“Emo trail, liar to me!”) and wondering what the SPF of dirt is.
I eat lunch right before the California-Nevada border (regretting my failure to bring mustard, mayo, and sweet relish packets for my tuna-in-tortillas), but disappointingly there’s no sign to mark the third state that I’ve walked into via trail. (The first two were Oregon and Washington on the PCT—and I guess it’s the fourth if you count British Columbia.)
But boy howdy, Nevada is in it to win it. Suddenly the trail is snaking along ridgetops and cruising through fields of rustling mule’s ears with huge views of Lake Tahoe stretching out below. Rounding a corner I surprise a coyote, who whips around and disappears down the trail. THIS is hiking.
I’m headed for a “Reliable Spring” at Mile 31.3, which hiker comments in the Guthook app said was still flowing—as of two weeks ago. I’m passing up other water options including a side trail down to Grey Lake (minuses: elevation loss/gain, people, bugs) and the enticingly named Mud Lake. I’m placing my bets on “reliable.” The next water source after that isn’t for another 6.3 miles, with over 1100 feet of climbing, so I really want to find water there.
Water planning is a tricky thing out here: you always want to be carrying exactly as much water as you need. At 2.2 pounds per liter, carrying too much is a real pain in the pack, but carrying too little can be anything from annoying to seriously dangerous. On the PCT I had a pretty good sense of how much water I needed to carry, averaging about 4 or 5 miles per liter depending on elevation gain and temperature. But so far on the TRT I’ve been blowing through my water supply and still feeling thirsty—probably because of sweaty uphill hiking and extremely dry air.
Calculating how much water to carry involves mileage, elevation, and the often imprecise art of interpreting water reports: look for recent comments; decide how to parse “trickle” or “grassy puddles” (Would I drink from grassy puddles? Do I care how brown my water is?); and if there are no recent comments, then what were the reports at this time last year or the year before?
I reach the spring and have a brief oh-shit moment when the only thing visible from the trail is wet mud, but sure enough a few yards downhill there’s a little rivulet with a leaf already in place to channel the water. I collect enough for dry camping and 6 miles of hiking the next morning (about three liters) and head up the ridge to find a campsite.
Speaking of water, one of my gear innovations this trip is a homemade adapter to secure my inline/gravity filter to my water bottle. I drilled a hole through a Smart Water bottle top and connected a Sawyer Squeeze hydration pack adapter to it. When hiking, the water bladder is in my pack with a drinking tube connected to the inline filter; when I stop to treat water I replace the drinking tube with this adapter, hang the whole thing from a tree with the water bottle sitting on the ground, and let gravity do the work. Is the adapter necessary? I mean, not really—previously I used quick connect adapters in the drinking tube and just let the drinking tube dangle into the water bottle. But this is definitely more satisfying.
Trail company: 1 coyote, 1 backpacker, 0 bikes, lots of day hikers, and 1 fighter jet.
Lessons learned: It takes two days and 31.6 miles of hiking for me to start fantasizing about hamburgers. My Ziploc brand quart freezer bags have some sort of micro-holes in them that ooze precious buttery fluids when I add boiling water to my dinners (frowny face). And camping 2000′ feet higher than the previous night means it’s gonna be colder!
- August 21, 2018
- 16.3 miles / ~3,700′ ascent, 1,700′ descent
- Mile 15.3 to Mile 31.6, camped on a ridge