PCT 2019: Day 121, Sherrold Lake to Carson River

Hope you find your paradise

The day started like most days hiking with Bluejay and Sunkist. It didn't end that way.

DateWednesday, September 4, 2019
WeatherGradually increasing cloudiness with a few brief sprinkles, high temperature in the mid 70s
Trail ConditionsTwo long climbs to above 9,000 feet, sometimes steep
Today's Miles22.9
Trip Miles1797.8

As usual, Bluejay and Sunkist were ready to go before I was. They said goodbye to me when they left, just as they always have.

There was one notable difference to this day, however. As I said goodbye in return, it was the last time I said it to one of them. I just didn't know this at the time.

There were a couple of reasons why I was slow to leave this morning. For one, the sunrise was so beautiful I needed time to take some photos.

The sunrise was especially photo-worthy because bands of clouds glowed bright orange. The clouds were what remained from yesterday's storm, which thankfully never crossed the mountains to where I was.

I was delayed again when a mule deer wandered into camp. It didn't seem right to leave without politely greeting it and taking a photo.

When I finally left the campsite on Sherrold Lake and just below Ebbetts Peak, I followed the trail over a short up-and-down. It then crossed California Highway 4.

Two more up-and-down sections followed. These weren't steep, and I had no trouble with the higher elevation.

While ascending the third of the three climbs, a herd of mule deer stopped their morning meal to watch me pass by. They appeared to be only a little wary of my presence because they didn't flee, just wandered a short distance away.

By mid-morning, the clouds that earlier had filtered the sunrise were now lifting. It seemed there would be no chance of rain today.

The trail made one more descent, this time taking a couple of wide switchbacks before dropping into Noble Canyon.

This drop of 500 feet in 1.5 miles went to the bottom of the canyon where the trail passed a small lake, which had some small pools nearby.

From there, the trail immediately began a long climb out of the canyon.

When I reached the top of this climb, I was at 9,347 feet. That was my highest elevation on the trail so far, but not nearly as high as the trail would take me in the coming weeks.

This vantage point offered the best view of Silver Peak and Highland Peak, which stood on the east side of the canyon. Those were the mountains that appeared to hold a thunderstorm from reaching me yesterday.

On the descent from that high point, the trail entered Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The next 26 miles would be in this protected area.

Near the boundary, the trail passed through a gate. Or at least that's what it was called in the Guthooks app. To me, the gate looked like broken tangles of sticks and barbed wire. I couldn't see how it would reliably keep livestock from wandering away.

Still, I closed the gate after passing through by reattaching the wire to the stick intended to hold it. This involved a careful maneuver to avoid snagging my pack on the barbed wire.

I presumed the gate was intended to keep livestock out of the wilderness area, but that was wrong. Before long, I saw cattle clustered in the distance among some trees. Actually, I heard them first and had to look around to see them. What I heard was the clang-clang-clang of the bells they wore around their necks.

This was unexpected, as I thought livestock would be prohibited in wilderness designated areas. I later learned that was not the case.

Surprisingly to me, livestock production is allowed in 330 designated wildernesses. A congressman from Colorado was able to hold up for three years passage of the bill that created wilderness areas until a provision was inserted to allow livestock grazing. As a result, ranchers are allowed to install fences and create other development for their livestock, even though these are obviously contrary to the intent of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

I stopped for lunch by a stream below Arnot Peak, then began another climb.

Clouds had begun to build again and after I resumed my hike I could see rain falling on a distant ridge.

Cowbells rang through the valley for much of the afternoon. Sometimes I didn't see the cattle, only heard them.

Some cattle settled down in a meadow when a few sprinkles began to fall. Fortunately, the rain didn't last long.

Leaving the valley, the trail made another big climb as it followed the shoulder of Disaster Peak, going up to above 9,300 feet.

That mountain was given its unusual name in 1877. A large boulder rolled on a topographer there while on a surveying expedition and both of his legs were broken.

After reaching the top of the climb, the trail continued mostly above 9,000 feet for the next 5.4 miles, then dropped some but stayed above 8,500 feet for the next 4.5 miles.

Through this section, there were several ups and downs. Occasionally, I could see Stanislaus Peak. The campsite I was heading to was at the base of that mountain.

Standing beyond it and about five miles away from me was Sonora Peak. The trail will pass near its summit tomorrow before dropping down the other side to Sonora Pass.

The last descent of the day wasn't long but it was the steepest of the others today, dropping 750 feet in 1.4 miles. The trail headed down to the East Fork of the Carson River, which is where our campsite was located.

The campsite was located about three miles from the headwaters of the river, so here its flow was like an average creek.

When I arrived at the campsite, I only saw Bluejay and she looked sad. She told me she had a tearful talk with Sunkist, who had decided to leave us. Sunkist said she felt a need to hike alone.

I understood why Bluejay was feeling hurt by Sunkist's sudden departure. They had hiked together for nearly the entire distance since starting in Washington. It would be hard not to feel rejected after being together for two months.

I tried not to take offense at the way Sunkist left us, and as we talked about it, so did Bluejay. We agreed that Sunkist had been giving us hints that she preferred solitude. That was especially evident while we were in South Lake Tahoe.

Sunkist needed to do what would make her happiest, which is the attitude every hiker should have. After all, one of the most common phrases heard on the trail is, "Hike your own hike." I hoped she could find the peace she sought.

A concern came to mind, however. What would Sunkist's split from the group do to the rest of our hike? This turned out to be no concern at all. Bluejay reassured me that she wanted to continue hiking with me and I did the same for her.

So now we're a team of two, and ironically, we'll continue hiking the plan Sunkist devised. We can make this work.

I'm grateful to have Bluejay's friendship. She is a strong and experienced hiker and is committed to finishing this hike.

It was an early morning yesterday
I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay
But I must be moving on

Like a king without a castle
Like a queen without a throne
I'm an early morning lover
And I must be moving on

Now I believe in what you say
Is the undisputed truth
But I have to have things my own way
To keep me in my youth

Like a ship without an anchor
Like a slave without a chain
Just the thought of those sweet ladies
Sends a shiver through my veins

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I'll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

Goodbye stranger it's been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true

From "Goodbye Stranger" by Rick Davies (Supertramp)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.