We caught our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe as we came over a rise in the trail in the early afternoon, lurking as a giant blue blur in the distance. Even from far away, I felt a happy familiarity: here we are, back in a place I’ve been to many times…but this time, we’ve hiked there from Mexico. That’s kind of crazy, and makes me feel proud.
And, to tell you the truth, the last few days have been feeling more and more like Tahoe, and less and less like the High Sierra we’ve (sort of) left. Tahoe’s a slightly gentler place, more full of hills and small mountains than great granite domes, and our trail’s been the same way — plenty of up and down still, but broken up into finer chunks, which feels much better.
Today we came over Carson Pass, which was also incredibly familiar because that’s where the snow-camping course we took earlier this year had taken place. It was weird to come back through the exact same terrain, only now lacking the several feet of snow it’d had in February, and see the same landmarks. It felt like a different planet: you could see the trail, for one, and actually recognize streams and lakes. I’m so glad we took that course for many reasons, not least of which is the confidence it lent us in our ascents of Mt. Whitney and Forester Pass, even if — thankfully — we haven’t had to use those skills more than a tiny amount this year.
I hadn’t realized that Carson Pass — where the PCT intersects CA–88 — was nearly as popular as it is, but, as we got within a few miles of it, we started seeing scads and scads of people. Families out for a short backpacking trip, day-hikers cruising right along, folks out walking their dogs…it was kinda cool to see so many people, and especially people other than fellow through-hikers. I’m not going to lie, either; it’s a lot of fun to be something of a celebrity among other hikers. “Where are you headed?” the question comes. “Canada”, we answer. “Whoa!”…and then the conversation unfolds from there.
Today we had a great conversation with four women of retirement age, who seemed both really impressed with what we were doing and with our umbrellas. The best moment: when one of them high-fived each of us for daring to do the whole PCT…then, after high-fiving me, suddenly looked taken aback, exclaimed “you’re dirty!” — and then wiped her hand on my shirt. She didn’t mean any offense at all, and I took none whatsoever: I am really dirty, and, although some Sierra grime isn’t going to hurt anybody, I was perfectly fine with it. I’m laughing about it still.
The visitor center at Carson Pass was a wonderful place for us, too. The volunteer guides there so clearly were delighted to have through-hikers to talk to (as opposed to, I imagine, answering the same dozen questions over and over again), and were happy to give us anything we needed. There was trail magic, too: a fresh peach that, dripping down my chin, was pretty much heaven…and homemade cookies. We sat and ate lunch there, so happy for the help and the attention.
The trail itself continues to be most impressive because of all the wildflowers out — they’re everywhere — and we continue to look deeply forward to our upcoming zero, and our first chance at showers, laundry, and a real bed in nearly two weeks. We’re camped just five miles from the road into South Lake Tahoe tonight, and plan to be there bright and early tomorrow. After a couple of hundred well-earned miles on the trail, we’re looking forward to some downtime!