Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward. – Hillary Clinton
It’s cold now. I sleep in all my clothes and wrap my raincoat over my legs and do just fine. Richard has sent a liner and merino and I hope it’s enough for the high altitude I’ll walk. An animal came close in the night and I tell it to go away. Klaus tells me in the morning they don’t speak English.
We are both ready to roll at the same time, even though our tents are far apart. It’s up and up into biting wind, frost-covered Mules Ears and fantastic views. Snow still clings to a few spots as we pass 8,000 feet in this pre-Sierra where the wooded slopes begin to show slabs of white granite. A bird sings Chucka-cheedee! capturing my mood.
I fall way behind taking photos and changing into my hat and glasses as the sun pours in. To my left is haze settling from a fire, but it’s clear ahead. I head off the ridge into forest and hear a chainsaw working away. Soon, I’m close enough to get a lungful of exhaust. When I see two guys, I ask if it’s safe to pass. Jacob and ‘Problem Bear’ turn out to be PCT Association workers making paths through trees downed on the trail. Bear is a bit gruff and know-it-all, asking how my ‘stroll’ is going and pointed questions on this trail and the Te Araroa. But he’s soft in the middle, and we connect well talking about the North Country Trail, which he did most of until black flies chased him off. He suggests I get a chainsaw and GPS mapping tool on the Kekekabic portion in Minnesota. Agreed. And he offers me two over-stuffed oreos. Friend for life.
I keep moving back on the ridge as views of even higher jagged mountains come into view, then down into a luscious meadow of purple, orange, yellow and white flowers bursting around a piped spring. I collect water and take it deep down to a lake, then back up to a view for lunch. Someone left a homemade soup in the ‘hiker box’ and I give it a try. It’s Japanese with shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. Intense, but a welcome change. Klaus and I share crackers and cheese and, again, I’m shocked by the bottomless pit of my stomach.
It’s ten more miles but Klaus tells me not to look at the hill profile, which I do anyway to see how much more up and down before we cross I-80. Not too much, really. I pass a hiker in a kilt and the Sierra Club’s cabin open for our use. It’s woods all the way to the highway rest area, where a hiker tells us all vending machines are down. But a lovely you man amidst trucks and tourists, offers olives and artichoke hearts before I call Jayne to tell her I’m on my way.
It’s just a few miles more from this highway, first through a tunnel to beautiful Donner Pass, crawling up and over exposed granite the entire way as the sun’s angle creates a soft glow on dancing firs. Stephen Paulis’ ‘Pilgrims Hymn’ is on my lips. The pass is rock lined, a railroad tunnel built by Chinese is here and likely the hardest work on the line. The automobile bridge is delicately curved, framing the lake below. Jayne is waiting for us and takes us to the ski resort for our free hiker beer. Klaus decides to stay in a bunk here as we head to Truckee, so lovely on the river and filled with shops and restaurants.
We choose to get food at Safeway and make a huge dinner of steaks, salad, corn and potatoes plus wine and ice cream sandwiches. Jayne’s home is gorgeous in the forest, especially her bathroom with a steam shower that pulls all the fatigue out of me as I scrape off the dirt. We connect like old friends talking non-stop, Ruby, the Australian Shepherd-doodle looking on like a tennis match. She’s a total, furry love. In the car, she noses forward and Jayne commands, “Paws down!” and she lays down immediately between driver and passenger.
My bear box is here, but I’ll slackpack to Ursula’s tomorrow and spend time with more of ‘The Ladies from Three Sisters.” I am so blessed to have met these amazing women who hike and love flowers and the beauty of this world. I had way too much to eat and drink, but sleeping in a bed is a miracle.