Distance hiked today: 23.7 miles / 38.1 km.
I passed through two ski hills, skirting the "Out of Bounds" signs, their chair lifts quietly hanging motionless.
As I was having lunch, a thunderstorm was rolling in. I still had to make it up into the alpine and down over the ridge, so I rushed to finish eating and huffed up the mountain.
I was only semi-successful - while it didn't rain on me a whole lot (a bit of heavy rain on and off and hail for 10 seconds) the storm was raging down in the valley next to me. It seemed like I was at eye-level with the low clouds pouring dark sheets of rain down below, and flashing with lighting. I counted the seconds between the lighting and the thunder to know how far away it was. 14 seconds… then 7… then 4.
With thunder at my heels, I held a brisk pace for 10 miles straight, nervously keeping an eye on the storm. My stomach knotted with my rushed lunch, adrenaline depriving my digestion. After one sketchy snow traverse, the trail finally started descending off the exposed ridgeline towards the Donner Ski Ranch.
It's a hiker-friendly place with a small bar and restaurant open in the ski chalet, and bunk rooms. Perfect timing for a night indoors. I secured a bunk, picked up my free PCT hiker beer (40oz of King Cobra.... It was huge), and had the best cobb salad of my life (it wasn't just the hiker hunger, it was amazing).
The bunk was in a room with 7 others and came with a shower and laundry. I almost didn't do laundry, it's only been 3 days since I did it last. It felt gratuitous… But another hiker offered to throw my stuff in with theirs, so why not. Plot twist: the dryer didn't work, so I used my bear hanging rope to make a clothesline on some workout equipment in the living room.
As I sat in the restaurant later, it felt like 2am as the bar crowd had already raged and died out, but I looked at the clock and was shocked it was only 10pm. "Hiker midnight" is essentially sunset when everyone's normally tucked in for the night, so it pretty much was 2am for us. Slowly, those without a bunk filtered out back to the trail to find the nearest flat spot they could pitch a tent in.
Total trail mileage: 1153.4 miles / 1855.8 km