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California Section L
Donner Pass (near I-80) to Sierra City (Hwy 49)

    It was hot. We were in the middle of a summer heat wave.  The heat was tolerable though.  As long as I had water and some occasional shade, I was fine.  We hiked the short stretch between Donner Pass and I-80.  There were people all over.  The area  was nice enough, but there were so many other beautiful trails which were just as accessible.  I didn't understand why there were so many people hiking this stretch.  I'm sure it had to do with the proximity to Lake Tahoe and I-80 - this was an area people were familiar with, and they never bothered to venture out further.  Or perhaps it was busy everywhere, and this is just where I happened to be.  The terrain was a mix of big granite boulders, shady trees, and scratchy dry brush.  Before too long,  we arrived at I-80. We took another long break there, not looking forward to climbing up in the heat of the day.  After about an hour of hanging out at the interstate rest stop, we drug ourselves north once again.  The climb north of I-80 wasn't difficult.  It took us about an hour to reach a little backcountry cabin - the Peter Grubb Hut - where we cooked dinner & made small talk with a couple other hikers who were there.  One of them was planning to hike up Mt. Whitney later that summer.  After our third break in as many hours, it was time to get moving again.  The mountains became more gentle, but the north sides of them were still covered in snow.  We headed "over the ridge, down the snow, across the creek, and up the other side" a few times in rapid succession.  By the time it got dark, we were 30 miles from Sierra City.  

    I decided to get an early start the next morning.  For me, that meant heading out at 7am.  My dad was supposed to arrive in Sierra City that afternoon, and I didn't want him to have to wait for me.  The trail went over the tops of more rolling hills.  We passed by large fields of flowers,  and had views of the Sierra Buttes in the distance.  The Sierra Buttes are a small group of jagged peaks a couple thousand feet higher than anything else around.  Sierra City is right at the base of them.  At the start of the day, they looked far off - too far to reach in a day.  But, after zoning-out for a good 8 hours,  I was almost there.  I took few breaks that day, but during a couple of them I was introduced to a new menace - giant orange horseflies.    These flies didn't waste any time. As soon as they spotted their victum, they'd latch onto some bare skin and bite. If I brushed them off, they immediately came back for another try.  Luckily, they weren't too fast or maneuverable.  I squashed them with vigor.

    I finally arrived at the trailhead and found a note left by my dad.  It had the name of the hotel he was staying at in town.  I started walking the mile or so to Sierra City.  I stopped at the first place which had a phone, but for some reason the owner wouldn't let me use it.  Just about when my frustration with him was turning to anger, he offered to drive me across town to my dad's hotel... in a bright yellow dune buggy no less!  How could I pass this up?  A minute later, I was at my destination.  My dad was just heading out to look for me when I strolled in front of his car.

    His was the first "familiar face" I'd seen since leaving the border.  He had been (along with a little help from Mom) coordinating all my resupply mailings, paying my bills, developing my film, and looking out for me "long-distance" since I left the border.  I must say that he did an excellent job.  A lot of the hikers had numerous problems with screwed-up packages and missed deliveries.  All my stops went fairly smoothly.  It was a lot easier to concentrate on hiking when I didn't have to worry about the logistics as much.  My parents had been following along with some of the on-line journals of some of the other hikers.  I think they got a little wrapped-up in the adventure as well.  My dad was growing a beard in support of me (he'd never had one before).  He now looked a little more like Santa Claus then "Dad".  He got to meet a bunch of the other PCT hikers who were in Sierra City.  There were probably a dozen of them coming and going while we were there.  Sierra City was a completely "typical" PCT town stop.  About a quarter-mile of various inns and stores along a stretch of highway, and that was about it.  We spent the next day relaxing, visiting, and driving around the surrounding areas.  The break in Sierra City didn't last long enough though.  By the next morning, it was time to climb around the Sierra Buttes and continue the ever-northward trek.


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