They were less than 10 miles to hike before I'd make it to South Lake Tahoe. Just before I got there, my first "true" Trail Magic. A PCT alumnus named Coppertone travels up the trail each summer in his van, handing out cookies, granola bars, and most notably, root beer floats. This was the first time I'd caught him. He tends to move up the trail at the pace of an "average" hiker, and likes to see the same people multiple times. Since I was now much closer to the bubble, and I planned on slowing down, there was a good chance I'd see him again.
After scoring a hitch into town, the first stop was the post office. After the post office lost my previous package, I never got the new shoes I was planning to wear for the second half of the hike. Instead, I ordered a new pair and arranged to have them sent to the South Lake Tahoe post office, with specific instructions how to do so. Naturally, they weren't there. They had been shipped by UPS to a USPS post office, which doesn't work, and got returned to sender. Never mind the instructions I left in the event they were shipped UPS. after two attempts, I still hadn't received new shoes.
After the post office, I went to the home of John and Kathy, my hosts for the next two days. Immediately, I took my first shower in 650 miles and did laundry for the first time over the same distance. John and Kathy lent me a comfy T-shirt and sweatpants to wear while the was was going. It felt good.
Almost as soon as I stepped out of the shower, who should show up but Bandit and Big Feet, two great guys I'd hiked with for the past few days. not only was I glad they had found a place in Lake Tahoe, but I was glad it was the same place I was staying. Later, Flame would arrive, as well as a guy I hadn't met before, Rowdy. We now had four countries represented: France, Denmark, Finland, and Texas.
Rowdy disappeared for most of the day, supposedly meeting friends down by the beach at the lake. He told us he was going to a buffet that evening, but still wanted to get a text when dinner was about to be served. At dinnertime, he showed up, but promptly fell asleep on the couch and stayed that way throughout dinner. The rest of us had a great time with each other's company.
The next morning, Rowdy, who had been sleeping on the deck outside, woke up at 5:00 AM. He then went in and out of the sliding glass door five or six times, about three meters from where Flame was sleeping on a pull-out couch. He then proceeded to pull out his iPad, watch videos, and laugh loudly while sitting at the dining room table, now two meters from where Flame was "sleeping."
Flame tried clearing his throat once or twice, then finally asked, "I was trying to sleep, could you keep it down?" Rowdy barely reacted.
Later, Rowdy would tell us he started the trail about two months before I did, but also claimed he was averaging 32 miles/day, which would mean his average would match my longest day. Yeah, that's not what's going on. From the start, it was clear that he was on the trail to party, not to hike, but the more I learned about him, the more I began to suspect he's not hiking the trail at all, but rather spending the summer hitch-hiking up and down the trail, while claiming to hike so he can get free places to stay.
Big Feet and Bandit both decided to get back on trail the next day. John and Kathy were nice enough to allow Flame and myself to stay two nights, which meant I'd be taking my first zero on the 4th of July. Rowdy didn't get that offer.
John and Kathy took Flame and myself to the town parade, which consisted of one marching band, one dance team, and an endless stream of honking cars. Guess which 60 seconds I enjoyed and which 30 minutes I didn't?
That afternoon, nine more hikers showed up. Two of them had a habit of shouting every word they spoke. I began to wonder if I should've gotten back on the trail already, but once I learned how to avoid them, my mood improved.
Before dinner, John and Kathy were nice enough to let me take one of their mountain bikes out for a spin. If I don't do much for more than a day in a row, I start to feel weird. I chose a 27.5" hardtail, mostly because I'm intrigued by that wheel size, and I wanted to give it a try.
I don't mountain bike much at all, so I'm timid when I do. But man, what a rush! I probably wasn't going all that fast, but when you ride on trails, everything is closer to you, so it feels fast. I need to get me one of these. It's a strong possibility that I'll do a bike tour in Africa next summer, and if so, I'd need a mountain bike. After that ride, I couldn't wait to start building one out.
I probably felt as refreshed from the bike ride as I had from the shower the day before. And after that, the cheeseburgers John and Kathy had made tasted even better. That night, John and Kathy put all 11 hikers in their cars and took us down to the beach to watch the fireworks over the lake. An impressive show, longer than I expected it would be. When it was done, I might've enjoyed dancing in the sand with my fellow hikers even more.
Envisioning about 200 hungover hikers hitting the trail at the same spot at the same time, Flame and I asked if we could be taken back to the trail as early as possible the next morning. John obliged.
With plenty of rest, and my feet mostly healed, I cranked out 45 km, an unusually long day, over difficult terrain. It didn't even feel hard. Flame was particularly impressed, breathing, "Tu as mange un lion!"
For the next few days, along Lake Tahoe, there were a ton of day hikers, as well as people doing a quick overnight or 2-3 day hike. Sometimes I'd be asked where I came from that morning, and the best answer I ever had was, "From that way." After being out for a while, it gets hard to remember the names of any lakes or mountains or anything.
Late in the day, there was a huge flat area next to a tranquil, inviting pond. I stopped, ate dinner, and considered setting up my tent. I thought about the horde of partiers less than a day behind me. I decided to keep going.
Three km later, I made it to the next viable campsite, next to a stagnant stream. Needless to say, there were a lot of mosquitoes. We got to know each other and didn't become friends. Still better than being around a bunch of loud people.
At this point, not only are there more people around, but more of them move at my pace. I get passed from behind every so often, and others are harder to pass. Even more noticeably, I'll see the same people several times per day, or even several days in a row. Most of the time, that's not such a bad thing, because most people that move my pace enjoy hiking, and we share a certain mentality and kinship. Every so often, one of those "other" people happens to be fast, which makes you hike even faster.
from PCT South