Hiking the high country
Sunday started with a motivational rap on my front door delivered by my neighbor, J.R., followed by a reminder invitation from Saturday to go on a hike; the day concluded with sore feet and breathtaking views stamped vividly in my brain.The trek from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley – I think it was about 16 miles – was well worth the two blisters and countless tight muscles.
Lagging just a bit, J.R. (John Read), two of his buddies, Bret Michaelsen and Eric Hurst, and I hit the Pacific Crest Trail just before 10 a.m. Our pace, set mainly by J.R., and sometimes by Hurst, was far from sluggish.Our quartet arrived at the Benson Hut, which was crowded with Sierra Club members, in excellent time. After scarfing packed lunches while gawking at the grand view of Schallenberger Ridge, as well as Northstar, Truckee and well beyond, we parted from our shaded spot and headed south in the direction of Anderson Peak – and zero shade.Steady quad- and glute-burning progression up the treeless ridge brought us to 8,949-foot Tinker Knob before dropping into a canyon thick with vegetation and abundant with trickling creeks. The largest of the creeks, a tributary of the North Fork of the American River and the point where the trail bottoms out, provided great feet-soaking opportunity and much-needed drinking water.
That was the last of our two lengthy breaks.From the creek, the trail sent us meandering back up a hill until reaching the northeast shoulder of Squaw Valley’s Granite Chief, where we had to abandon the Pacific Crest Trail in order to descend into Shirley Canyon and to the base area.About that time, my feet and slightly bum right knee were getting tired of the hike, especially the downhill portion. The four of us made it back to J.R.’s van some time around 6 p.m., all exhausted.
Luckily, the hike was as scenic as it was tiring. It also served as a reminder that I’m not, and never will be, one to compete in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.