Day 54: hailstorms and sleeping in the gym

June 17
Mileage 30
Mile 1125 to mile 1155

We wake and it’s so cold and my sleeping bag is soaked in condensation. Why is it so cold right now? What is even happening? We switchback up onto the cold bright ridge, the fields of yellow mules ears, the empty space and the mountains, rolling away. Lake Tahoe in the distance, blue and gunmetal. What a big place. Late morning we switchback down to a stream and catch up with Notachance and Mack, making sandwiches- Guthrie is there too, shirt off, soaking up the sun like the texan that he is. Guthrie! We haven’t seen him since Echoe Lake. Everyone is fragmented this section- Woody, Coughee, Bear Claw, Wiki Wiki, Twigg and Lead Dog behind, the five of us ahead, leap-frogging each other.

In the afternoon we’re back up on the ridge (ridge walking! Northern California! I love it) and we find a nice sun-soaked slope and post up to write our blogs. Guthrie hikes on and two hours later, when we’re ready to go, we realize- we’ve got to hurry if we want to make it to Donner Pass, our destination for the night, before dark. We’re speeding along the narrow ridge way above the whole world when storm clouds gather overhead, whipped into place by the cold wind, and hail starts to fall. The rocks turn slick, the mules ears tremble. I stop to put on my rain jacket, shivering as I dig it out of my bag. Twinkle gets ahead of me and then I’m rushing after him, down the mountain. The trail is big, tilted slabs of rock, and the hail is still falling. What if the hail doesn’t let up? What if all my stuff gets wet? I have a trash bag to use as a pack liner, but I don’t want to stop long enough to repack all my stuff inside of it. I look at the dark, clotted sky. Blow over, I think. Blow over.

I catch up with Twinkle and we turn on our phones- there’s a text from Guthrie, Mack and Notachance- they got to Donner Pass and caught a ride to Truckee for the night. So it’ll be just the two of us, camping in the cold.

The hail lets up and the last of the light filters through the trees, throwing yellow bands across the trail. The final mile is beautiful and rocky and steep and then we’re at the narrow highway, an empty concrete lot and a couple of shuttered buildings. The temperature is dropping and we’re exhausted- I poke around one of the buildings and discover that the back door is open. It’s some sort of gym inside- weights, machines, exercise balls.

“Hey Twinkle,” I say. “You want to sleep in a gym?”

“Yeah,” he says.

There’s a little room to the side with outlets and we plug in our dying phones, spread our bedrolls on the clean black floor. We fix our dinners in the corner as the sun sinks outside. It’s supposed to be twenty degrees outside tonight and we’re safe in here, between four walls, curled up on this good flat floor. We sleep.

Photos on instagram

2 thoughts on “Day 54: hailstorms and sleeping in the gym

  1. What luck you found that shelter for the night!
    I’ve been going over your blogs to see when you might have been on the trail to Baden-Powell. I was on that trail May 22. I spoke with a number of thru hikers. Most of them related they went to the McDonalds on the I-15, in the Cajon Pass. What a wonderful group of folks I had the pleasure of meeting!
    I live in the high desert, not too far from the Cajon Summit.

  2. Hi Carrot. It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday at the Sierra City Grocery Store. You have been an inspiration to us for over a year now and because of you, I am gathering up a few of my friends to begin hiking the PCT next year. And because of you, I have purchased a couple pairs of Cascadia along with some Dirty Girl Gaiters and so have my friends. Hope Brooks gives you a lifetime’s worth of shoes. Thank you for your lively and vivid blogging about your experience. Happy Trails!! Becky and Chuck Murphy and Gary Sims

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