Thou shalt not buy a double/double cheeseburger at Inn’n’Out with Animal fries and a chocolate shake in Sacramento (altitude 5 feet) then drive your fat ass up to 7,100 feet at Donner Pass (yes, THAT Donner Pass), pick up your brand new Osprey backpack that weighs sixty pounds--stuffed with 15 days’ worth of food, 20 year old Eureka two man tent, five dollar Walmart special sleeping bag (it’ll keep you warm down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit!) and a gallon of water in an old milk jug tied to the pack with a carabineer; find the Pacific Crest Trail and then climb up through Castle Pass (elevation 7,900 feet), five miles, uphill, hoping to make it to a Sierra Club Canyon hut before dark, burping up said burgers, fries and shake all the while. Fifty One year old bodies used to lower elevations and a mostly sedentary squishy life just shouldn’t do that in one day. It ain’t natural.
I did it anyway. Joni (my spouse) and two step grand-daughters dropped me off at the trailhead. We were amazed at the sheer bulk of my pack. A Himalayan Sherpa would have trouble carrying such a pack. Joni cries. “Be careful”, tears streaming down her cheek.
Off I go.
I grunted, farted, labored and sweated up the first mountain with the main continental east/west traffic of I-80 squarely in view behind me. I’m heading north. A smart man would have headed south to the more friendly inhabited vistas of Lake Tahoe. Better scenery in that direction; instead, I’m heading north with grandiose visions of walking from Donner Pass to Belden, California--which is a mere 29 miles from my off grid home. I’ve allotted 15 days for this 150 mile journey. That’s the plan anyway.
What’s to worry about? I’m headed north into a lonely, lesser travelled section of the PCT at the end of the season in extremely hot weather with three major forest fires burning to the north of me. I could trip, fall, be bitten by a rattlesnake, catch the bubonic plague from the chipmunks, breathe in mice poop and die from Hanta virus--not to mention catching West Nile Virus from the mosquitoes. The winter was warm without much snow, which means finding water might be a problem. Sunstroke and dehydration are high on the danger list. And with my added winter girth that I haven’t shed yet (plus fully loaded sixty pound pack), I need lots of water. I meant to get in shape for this trip that I’ve been planning for over a year. That was my plan. The reality is that life got in the way and I decided to let the trail do the training for me. Let the adventure do the work.
It is hot and early August. Beautiful views. I’m in alpine environment—high enough to enjoy a not too shy Pika. I’ve read that global warming will probably impact the high altitude Pika first; in fact, it already has as they need to climb higher and higher into the mountains to find friendly environs.
All these smart phones with their global positioning satellite readouts and Fifty Somethings with space age lightweight shoes and titanium poles make backpacking more of a weekend warrior sports competition rather than an authentic exploration of the wilds. Hobbies should be hobbies--not exercises in conspicuous modern consumption. All these gadgets! What would John Muir, the thin bearded walker, have to say about these petroleum based shirts that dry in ten minutes and dehydrated backpacker meals that were designed to feed astronauts? Muir did fine with just a loaf of bread. Getting lost is half the fun.
Back to the Peter Grubb Hut. Peter Grubb died back in 1937 at the tender age of 18 of sunstroke (let that be a caution to you Allan!). He loved hiking and skiing in these Sierra Mountains. His family built this fine two story cabin in tribute to him. A fine tribute it is. Set in a scenic valley just beyond Castle pass with tall Hemlocks surrounding, nay, protecting the cabin. I go inside the cabin. No one home. It is getting dark and I will have the place to myself tonight. I sign the guest log and read through the entries. Someone was here last night.
The Peter Grubb Hut
There is a field of granite boulders nearby. I sit on one, break out wine and cheese and watch the stars come out. I can still hear the freeway in the distance. I haven’t met one hiker these first few hours. Alone, I’m forced to drink the bottle of wine (somebody has to). I teeter off to bed in the hut, climb the ladder up to the second floor loft in order to be safe should a bear try to break into the cabin and fall asleep (quickly) on the wooden floor. During the night, I hear the mice breaking into my food that I thought I hung securely earlier from guy wires hanging from the ceiling of the first floor.
I am alone and happy.