Getting back to California felt like I was in the home stretch, yet I knew there was still a lot of trail to be hiked. Throughout the last few weeks in NorCal, there have been beautiful views, fun alternative routes, interesting weather, and many burn zones. The final stretch of NorCal consisted of two parts: 135 miles from Chester to Sierra City, and 100 miles from Sierra City to South Lake Tahoe. The trail transitioned from the Cascade Mountains to the Sierra Mountains, and the distance left to hike quickly decreased.
The stretch of trail from Chester to Sierra City included a large burn zone and a huge descent (then a huge ascent) out of a town called Belden. This was technically the official geographical change into the Sierra Mountains. At the top of the climb, there was an amazing camp spot and sunset. The views after the climb out of Belden really started to change. The trail started to look like how I expected the Sierras to look (without all the snow I saw in June).
The stretch of trail from Sierra City to South Lake Tahoe was one of my favorite sections on the entire trail. For one, the trail was so beautiful, and it joined another trail (Tahoe Rim Trail) for a bit that I want to hike someday. The second reason this stretch of trail was one of my favorites was because I became an aunt, which I will cover later.
The trail climbed out of the valley Sierra City was in up to a ridge line with views of lakes and granite in the distance. The second day of this stretch went by quickly as the gang and I had a goal to make it to Donner Ski Ranch for a free 40oz hiker beer. We stopped in at Donner Pass hungry enough to eat….well you know the story about Donner Pass. The bartender checked our PCT permits and handed us our free beers. We ordered some pizza and chocolate cake, and after a couple hours decided we would hike a little further. The sun lit up the sky with pink and orange as we hiked across a ridge line before setting up camp.
The next day we made a quick side trip up Tinker Knob where we enjoyed leftover pizza and amazing views of the big mountains in the distance. We then continued on through Lake Tahoe ski resorts before camping just before the Desolation Wilderness on the Tahoe Rim Trail. When I decided I wanted to try backpacking, the Tahoe Rim Trail was one of the first trails I considered. It’s a 160ish mile loop trail around the rim of the mountains surrounding the lake. The Desolation Wilderness is a 20 mile section that requires a bear canister for overnight camping. We decided to hike through the section in a day to avoid carrying the extra weight of a bear canister.
The Desolation Wilderness is insanely beautiful. The trail winds around numerous alpine lakes surrounded by granite and climbs up to Dicks Pass where there are 360 degree mountain views. It then reaches a lake called Lake Aloha that is incredibly blue and too stunning to capture in a picture. The Desolation Wilderness ends at the highway into South Lake Tahoe after passing by Echo Lake. If you are sneaky, a boat taxi is available from one end of Echo Lake to the other shortening the hike by a couple miles, and providing a fun adventure.
The Desolation Wilderness was everything I hoped it would be and more from pictures I have seen and stories I have heard about the trail. The Desolation Wilderness will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where I was at the time my nephew was born. Before staring the trail, my sister found out she was pregnant and she would be due mid September. I hoped to push the pace throughout the trail and make it home in time to see the baby when he was born. However, he got to arrive a little early and while it sucks to be away, I can’t wait to share my adventures with him someday.
I have thought about and prayed for the health and growth of my nephew every single day since I learned my sister was pregnant. I have seen rainbows, sunrises, sunsets, and amazing starry nights that made me think about him. I wondered about what he would look like and who he will become. I often found myself getting choked up thinking about him while hiking.
About a week before he was born, my sister told me she had a date to be induced. It would be on the evening of August 30th, and he would most likely be born sometime on August 31st. It would be before I was home from the hike, but I was excited to know he would finally be here. On the evening of the 30th I had a single bar of phone service where I was camped. Being two hours behind everyone at home, I kept checking my phone all night waiting for a message. As morning came, I packed up and began hiking with no news yet. I no longer had service, but I turned on my Garmin inReach to message my parents. I was nervous and excited hoping for everything to go well. I hiked as fast as I could all morning trying to get to town as early as possible.
At 1 pm central time, I received a message on my Garmin inReach that my nephew was born and I was an aunt. Everything seemed to fade in the background at that moment. This life that my sister and her husband had created months ago was finally here.
In my sisters words:
“And then, all of a sudden, the pain and intensity was gone. I looked down to see that my heart was outside my body, resting peacefully in my arms. Rather than pumping blood, my heart had sprouted arms and legs. My heart had a nose, eyes, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. My heart locked eyes with me and yawned, as if nothing had just happened and simply couldn’t be bothered by bright lights and a loud world. This is when I realized that my heart had grown its own heart, pumping blood and functioning without my help. My heart was a whole person now.”
A lot of people that I have met along the trail have told me that what I am doing is inspiring. Today I am inspired by the incredible strength and courage my sister displayed while creating and giving birth to her baby.
Everett, I have loved you from the moment I knew about you, and I have spent every day since praying for you. I hate that I wasn’t home for your arrival, but I am finishing up living out my biggest life dream. One day you will read about Auntie Meg’s adventures, and as you grow up you will develop your own dreams. I will always be there to help you chase them with unconditional love. I can’t wait to meet you, I love you❤️
A little over 300 miles of trail remain and arguably the toughest and most amazing 300 miles of trail. This adventure has truly been indescribable, from the views to the growth I have seen in myself, it has been an incredible few months. I can’t wait to get home to my loved ones, but for now I have a couple more weeks of adventure. I have made it this far, some days feeling less encouraged than others. There were many times I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the end, but I always found something in me to keep pushing.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Only the Sierras remain.
Let’s do this!