Today is my 100th day on the trail. For the most part, it went well, and after yesterday’s detour to Truckee and resulting short day, Quoi and I returned to our newly-quickened pace, going a bit over 23 miles to a campsite more than halfway to the next town, Sierra City.
I got started hiking shortly before 7, to the smell of bacon in the air (which I hoped was drifting in from the Donner Ski Ranch restaurant). The trail was somewhat rocky, but it mellowed out into forest after not too long. Donner Lake was visible early on.
I passed a broken ceramic pot sitting on a rock next to the trail. Proper LNT (“Leave No Trace”) practice would have been to pack it out, but it looked pretty heavy, so I opted to leave it where it was as a curiosity for the next hiker to come past. Passing by a small pond, the extent of the pollen released by trees in the past few days was quite evident: bathtub rings of pollen lined the rock and dirt around the pond.
The first stop of the day was a rest area on I-80. After going through a pair of drainage tunnels, the trail parallels the road for a short distance, with a short spur trail that leads to a picnic area at the rest stop.
Although a bit early for a break, not even four miles into the day, my hope was that there would be vending machines, so I could get a soda (and maybe even ice cream). But, out of the five vending machines there, only one of them worked, and it was filled with snacks I didn’t want. At least the toilets were working. I caught up with Quoi there, and then went on ahead while she was on the phone, taking advantage of the cell service along the interstate.
After another few miles, the trail passed a grassy meadow, and a very short side trail led to the Peter Grub Hut, built and maintained by the Sierra Club as a winter ski hut. While not the first hut I’ve passed on the trail — the Muir hut on Muir Pass holds that distinction — this is the first one that allows overnight camping. (The Muir hut is intended as an emergency shelter.)
The Peter Grub Hut, named for an active Sierra Club member who died at an early age, is an impressive structure, as trail shelters go, and its design clearly reflects its intent as a ski hut in an area that gets a lot of snow. The shelter is two stories; a steep ladder leads up to a sleeping area on the second floor, and an interior ladder leads down to the first floor, which has two rooms: a kitchen and dining area (with a propane gas stove, a wood stove for heating the hut, and two picnic tables), and a firewood storage room. The ground floor exit has two doors; an interior door that opens to a small anteroom used for tool storage, and a sliding door that leads to the outside. A sign warns to leave the outer door closed in the winter to prevent snow from entering the hut. The hut also has solar-powered lights, which are able to provide a few hours of lighting at night.
Likewise, the privy is a two-floor design. It has two privies; a ramp leads up to the second-story privy, which would be the only one accessible with any significant snow on the ground. A sign asks that toilet paper not be thrown in the privy, but instead, in a wastebasket so that it can be used in the winter when the hut’s wood stove is in operation.
I took a break at the hut, and Quoi caught up just as I was getting ready to leave. The trail continued to follow alongside the meadow, before climbing up and away, eventually going back into forest.
About six miles after the hut, I stopped for another break at a creek. Shortly before, in a small patch of snow next to the trail, someone had drawn two sad faces. I’d like to think the sad faces represent the snow being sad that it’s melting away, at an increasingly rapid pace as the weather gets warmer.
After a climb, the trail briefly skirted the upper edge of a canyon, with a very steep drop down to a meadow at its bottom, almost 500 feet down.
I stoped for dinner about an hour after that, around 3:30, at a small campsite at Lacey Creek. While I was there, there was a chirping contest between Referee Bird (sounded like one, or usually two, whistle blasts); Baby Bird (which sounded like a baby crying); and of course, Cheeseburger Bird. I think Referee Bird won; the other two stopped chirping long before Referee Bird did. One of those birds, though, had the audacity to poop on my food bag, so even if I were enjoying the tweet-out, I still lost.
After Quoi caught up, we set off for our next campsite, about five miles later. While not the greatest campsite (the spots were small and tilted somewhat), it was located just past two relatively short climbs (about 1100 feet combined), which gets them out of the way for tomorrow’s hike, making tomorrow almost entirely downhill. Assuming the trail is favorable, we’ll make short work of the downhill, and get to the next town, Sierra City, relatively early in the afternoon.
Not long before we got to our campsite, we passed two lakes off to the west. To the north, a jagged mountain came into view: Sierra Butte. We’ll be hiking alongside that in two days, after we leave Sierra City.