Last September (2008) I hiked 5 days solo along the Pacific Crest Trail from Barker Pass (up from the West shore of Lake Tahoe) to Sierra City, about 73 trail miles North. It is probably not a section of the PCT most people would choose to hike, but for me it was perfect for a couple of reasons. First, I was having some knee/IT band issues and the route crosses several roads that make good bail out points if I needed it. Second, my father lives roughly between the starting point and ending point, so I could park at his house and he could do the drop off and pick up. Anyway, I was surprised by the beauty of the section, and I discovered that I enjoyed the hike partially because, rather than in spite of, the fact that it crossed civilization several times (even so, I saw zero hikers on the trail the last 2.5 days). I hope you enjoy the pictures. I apologize in advance for my amateurish camera skills (point, shoot, aim, and not very often).
Dad dropping me off at Barker Pass.
At the trailhead, I met Dave from the midwest, another solo hiker who had started at Echo Summit and was also taking the PCT north. We leapfrogged each other a few times on the trail for the first couple days, and had lunch together on the second day. Dave was a laid back wandering soul piled high with K-Mart gear that made me almost embarrassed to be going ultralight (i.e., expensive).
My first view of Lake Tahoe. For the first 5 or so miles of the hike, the PCT shared the trail with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
More Lake Tahoe.
This is looking West into the Granite Chief Wilderness. The PCT follows a ridge that skirts the Eastern edge.
A broader view of Lake Tahoe.
Upside down sign as the trail skirts inside the boundary of Alpine Meadows ski resort.
I ended the first day at Whiskey Creek Camp, an old horse camp. There were good campsites among a grove of trees near these old cabins.
The PCT passing under the chair lift at Squaw Valley. I had probably skied over the PCT many times in the winter and never knew it.
From the pass just below Tinker Knob, looking back at Granite Chief Wilderness and the ridge that borders the ski resorts.
Donner Lake viewed from just North of where the PCT crosses Donner Pass Road.
The PCT hiker's tunnel under Interstate 80. There are two tunnels, one under each side of the freeway. It was getting close to dark and I was out of water. I filled up in a nasty pond behind a rest stop and then found a granite bench a little way North and settled in for a cold clear late-September Sierra night.
Frost on my bivy after a below freezing clear still night.
Castle Peak from Castle Pass just before heading down into Paradise Valley.
Looking West toward Grouse Ridge.
White Rock Lake with Mt. Lola behind it. White Rock Lake can also be reached by a 4x4 road and has primitive campsites with room to park a car. There was only one other person in the campground, however, because summer was over and hunting season hadn't started yet. The only person there was an interesting character named Bill who was living out his VW bus and fishing every day. I had to take a slight detour from the PCT to reach the Lake, but it was worth it.
Frost trailside. I started day 4 early because I had more than 20 miles to cover without a drop of available water. I wanted to make sure I covered the distance in daylight. This day of mostly ridgetops was when I finally hit stride and enjoyed every moment of the walking. Up until then, my knee had been giving me some trouble, but I had gotten through it, and now really savored the time on the trail.
The Sierra Buttes in view. My final destination, Sierra City, lies just below them, so this was to be my beacon for the rest of the trip.
Interesting rocks with a hole through them. Kind of a mini arch; or nature's doughnut if you prefer.
Approaching Jackson Meadows Reservoir, where I spent my fourth night. It's road accessible, with regular campgrounds. I met a very friendly and generous father and son, Jorgen and Derek, who were on a fishing trip throughout the Northern Sierra in Derek's Sportsmobile. They hosted me at their campfire and generously kept me going with good conversation, beers and appetizers (Derek runs a catering company in Tahoe City, so everything was delicious) until I was ready to go back to my bivy and sleep very soundly.
Leaving the PCT after about 70 PCT miles (plus short side trips to Whiskey Creek and White Rock Lake) to take the dirt utility road the last couple miles toward Wild Plum Campground and Sierra City. My feet were looking forward to a rest.
The Sierra Buttes over the dirt road to Sierra City.
I spent a night resting and getting cleaned up in Sierra City, a nice little mining town along Highway 49. Mike and Lindy Terwillinger of the Buttes Resort were great hosts. Lindy let me use their phone (no cell reception) and Mike drove me down the road to a restaurant I wanted to try when he could see that I needed a break from walking.
It was overall a fantastic trip, though reality came back in faster than I expected. I called home excited to tell my wife and kids that I had made it to my destination, and got the news that our family dog Ernest was diagnosed with cancer. We would have to put him down less than a month later. Life keeps coming, ready or not.