• Blaine Hoppenrath

On to NorCal

Disclaimer: I get that I did a terrible job updating you through the Desert and The Sierra, hopefully you will get to read about those later (I did jot down a lot of notes).


The last few days heading into Lake Tahoe were both happy and sad. Happy because we were really able to up our miles. Sad because leaving the Sierra means leaving some of the most beautiful land on the whole trip. Nevertheless, we got to South Lake Tahoe!


The night before we we were headed into town we made camp about 10 miles from the pass. While we were sitting in camp a dog came rushing towards us. And before I had time to realize what was going on Diamond had stood up to greet the dogs owner. Turns out, it was his Uncle who had tracked him down. It was his uncle’s birthday and he lived near the trail and wanted to meet up with Diamond. The two of them hung out for a while and then offered to drive us into South Lake the next day.


We crushed miles that next morning and got a ride into town, found a cheap motel, ate some real food, and enjoyed a little more than 24 hours of rest. We found a ride back to trail the next day and had our first experience with electric scooters. We hiked about 6 miles to an alpine lake, officially said goodbye the the Sierra and had one of the best sunsets on trail.


The next morning was filled with lake after lake after lake, which wasn’t surprising because we were also on the Tahoe Rim Trail. We also had entered the Desolation Wilderness (we joked that the Desolations Wilderness was the start of a really good horror movie) which was so stunning. The days flew by as we were trying to time getting to Donner Pass in two and a half days.



The first full day at camp we were at another lake. We were just about ready to go to bed when Belay got to camp. She is a SOBO and finishing her PCT jorney after three seasons. She has endless happiness and we figured out that we were both Midwesterners. And not just that but she was from Wichita, a city I had been to dozens of times.


We kept moving the next day. I saw the sign for Barker Pass where I could have gotten of trail to see Liz and her family. Liz and Mike were on my first commercial Grand Canyon trip back in 2013 when I did the lower canyon with my family. Liz offered me a place to shower and eat but I got there a week too early so I missed them, but the fact that she offered meant the world. This trail has shown me how the outdoors brings people from all over together. We met on one of the most amazing trips of my life and years later the outdoors is bring us back together. It also makes me more excited to get to Washington where hopefully I’ll be alone to meet up with the other Mike from the same trip!



The second full day we set up camp about 10 miles out from Donner Pass and passed out about as quickly as we had in a very long time. The views had taken my breath away, but I was ready for town. It had been about 250 miles since we had taken more than 24 hours off trail.



The plan was to get to Donner Pass, get a free beer they offered hikers, and then head to Reno. That plan went off without a hitch, and the next day Diamond‘s friend Shelly picked us up and we made it to Reno.


Reno was great. Well, Shelley and her husband Vinnie were the real heros. The gave us a place to stay, shower, and do laundry. They also took is out for a night on the town (most of which I don’t remember) and let us chill while nursing our hangovers. It was back to trail to get a few more miles in and keep heading north!










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© 2020 Blaine Hoppenrath