- A flat mattress weighs more than a patch kit.
- If you are smelly and dirty, you become invisible.
- Ice Cold Beer is proof God loves us!
Within minutes of bedding down, Paul’s mattress goes flat. We search in vain for the source of the leak, but without water for which to submerge the mat, we can not find an obvious leak. We inflate it two more times and apply duct tape to areas we think air is escaping. (We had wrapped a foot or so of duct tape around one of our poles…just in case something needs a fix’n) We meet with abject failure, and swear that when we do the PCT, we will carry a patch kit, or maybe we’ll just switch to an airless mat like we have seen many a hiker (much younger than us) carry. Most seem to use a Therm-A-Rest Z Lite SOL (Z-Pad for short) as their night’s padding against the cold and lumpy ground. Luckily we had taken a full Z-Pad and halved it, giving us each a spacious sit pad to use on our numerous breaks. Looking back on it and how we carried our halved Z-Pads, many thought we were hardcore ultra-lighters who had reduced their unnecessary weight and cost by sharing one full mat,and assigning it multiple uses. We wish this were the case, but we just don’t like sitting on the dirt. In any event, Paul now had something to put between him and the hard ground, besides the tent floor. This worked out good, in that Paul had actually been considering dumping his air mattress all together when we do the PCT as a means to reduce pack weight, and just using his over-sized sit pad. At least he will get an opportunity to try it out. Fast forward to the morning. My pad is now flat. Serves me right for snickering at Paul’s predicament, and rafting back to shore through the pongee sticks. Turns out, Paul’s “good night’s sleep”, was not so good on the Z-Pad. “I don’t know how they do it”, was Paul’s assessment after slumbering fitfully upon what really amounts to a yellow, light-weight yoga mat. An air mattress is a must, he surmised, but there has got to be something lighter than what we are carrying (ExPed SYNMAT 9 PUMP DLX) Later we would discover so many options, it would be overwhelming. As our last night’s sleep was fitful, we awoke to our first sunrise of the entire trip squeaking through the trees. Maybe it was good that our mats had gone flat and we were woefully uncomfortable. We packed up, giddy with excitement and like horses poised for the barn, trotted down the trail.
The down the trail, turned into an up the trail, and then parted with the PCT and back down again, followed by a roller coaster of ups and downs, in brown talcum powder like marble littered dirt, to a meadow and eventually the Truckee River. How or why we thought it would just descend into Tahoe City, we haven’t a clue. Oh ya, we had thrown out the “worthless” guide book at Echo Lake, and just had the trail map from the TRT Association having visited their headquarters before we started. We could have sworn that once we reached the meadow that we had arrived. We could hear the traffic, and had seen many a day-hiker, but NOOOO. The heat was exhausting. Our temperature gauges read 104 degrees. We stopped and rested against, what we discover too late, a pine tree oozing pitch. It was like sitting on several freshly discarded wads of Bubblicious bubble gum, with one thrown in your hair just for good measure. At least we smelled better…people pay good money for that piney fresh smell. As we sat, Paul spied what looked like a trail sign 100 yards away. Maybe it could tell us how much further we had to go. Paul hurried ahead, and upon reaching the sign, began to laugh.
As I approached he covered the sign, and said, “Guess how much further?”. ‘Let me guess, 2 more miles’, I reply. “No…THREE”, he laughs and uncovers the sign. It figures, that it’s the one time when 2 more miles would actually be welcomed. Once we get to the Truckee River, my face is flushed red and my feet are on fire. All I can talk about for the last mile is how I am going to walk into the water (with my boots on) to cool my feet once we reach the Truckee River. We finally reach the river. Paul drops his pack and heads off to where our car has been left for us by our trail angel neighbors, Vern and Patrice. As Paul goes for the car, I nestle our packs together, apparently talking loudly and possibly incoherently to myself. A sustained argument ensues with myself about whether to actually walk into the river with my boots on or to take them off. Mind you, I haven’t combed my hair, nor showered in over a week. My shirt is dirty and stained with sweat, and I’m pretty sure that I smell like my son’s hockey bag. A young couple with a small toddler at the water’s edge, conspicuously scoops up their child and begins to hurriedly collect their belongings as I approach barefoot holding my Crocs, now scolding myself for not keeping my Crocs on till I hit the water as small stickers burrow into the naked soles of my blistered feet. I see obvious fear in both their faces, and look over my shoulder ready to defend them from danger (as I have training in that sort of stuff). It is then that I realize, it is me that they are fearful of, and I start to laugh, which in itself does not improve the situation. I look at the woman and smile as I sit down on the river bank and ease my feet into the water. She sheepishly smiles as she drags her child up the river bank, and says, “The water feels really nice”, while her husband gives her a look like “don’t encourage the crazy woman”. I respond, ” I hope so. I’ve been waiting 165 miles for this!” With that she pauses. “A hundred and sixty-five miles?”, she asks. “Yes”, I reply. “My husband and I just finished thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. He’s off getting our car.” I now see in her eyes, that she realizes that she has misjudged me, and is a little embarrassed, so she strikes up a conversation as her husband, who has not heard the exchange, due to his scurrying to collect their belongings, stares in horror. I apologize for my appearance and obvious stench, and she tells me “it’s not that bad”. LIAR! She releases her toddler who wanders back toward the water’s edge. We talk about the trail, and what possessed Paul and I to do such a thing. I’m asked the obvious questions, “Was it hard? Did you see any bears? What was your favorite part?” and so on. Paul finally arrives and we load up the car. The couple bids us farewell, and congratulations. Our first stop is the Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, for an icy cold beer that we have been pining for, since we started, as our reward for finishing without injuries or serious mishap, which is unusual for us and our adventures. We pull into the parking lot. We consider changing our shirts, but then Paul reminds me that we have “earned this dirt”, and we swagger into the brew pub. Seeing as we only want a beer, we saddle up to the bar. The bartender makes an about-face and moves to the other end of the bar. We try and catch his attention to order a beer. With the exception of a lone man “trapped” next to the wall and where we have parked ourselves, everyone “discretely” calls for their bar tab and clears out to the other side of the bar. Either we have become invisible ,or with great stench, comes great power! We wait patiently for the bartender to notice us and ask us if we would like to order. As I tell Paul the story of the young couple by the river, I realize that the bartender probably thinks we are vagabonds without money. I place my cell phone and wallet, pull out a credit card and do my best to get the bartender(s) attention. Finally Paul has had enough and shouts, “What’s it take to get a beer around here”. The burlier bartender spins towards us and gives us a look like ‘Can I help you…outta here?’, and asks how he can “help” us. Paul explains that we have just finished thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, and are dying for a beer. The bar collectively sighs, and the bartender announces to all the patrons, “Check it out, these guys just finished the Tahoe Rim Trail!”…nothing to worry about, they wont hurt you (the last part was implied). A series of congratulations ensue, followed by the “obvious questions”.
We are served our beer and suck it down with reckless abandon. The bartender asks if we’d like another. We do, but we have some driving to do before our day is over. We pay our bill and head back to our car. Now it is time to change our shirts! Tonight we will drive to Mammoth Lakes for a shower and a meal at Roberto’s Mexican Cafe . As we drive I search online for an available room. We had always thought of Mammoth Lakes as a winter destination, and had never really thought about it being “crowded” during the summer months. Silly us. We really need to get out more. We find a “just released” room at the Shilo Inn , park our car and grab a fresh set of clothes…and a heavy duty trash bag to sequester our hiking garb. An hour and a half later we are squeaky clean, so we think, until we notice that the towels we have dried off with are anything but white. No matter, we are hungry, and “clean enough”.
*Just a reminder, this was a trip we did July 9-17,2013. It’s a trip we’d encourage anyone to take, especially if you are training for the PCT or any other long distance trail.