Dang, That Was Unfortunate

By Ray

Hello readers, 

This is Ray, and I’m starting to write my second blog. Since my last blog, I’ve hiked the Lost Coast Trail, planned a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and hiked in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.  

 The Lost Coast was a really nice way to re-enter the backpacking world. I went with one of my close friends; we finished the 26-mile trail in three days and two nights. We finished our four-hour drive Saturday afternoon and hiked 9 miles or so. We then trekked 17 miles the second day, and barely hiked anything the third day to finish early in the morning. Some of my highlights were jumping into swimming holes, eating dinner after a long day, and tidepooling. The lost coast is normally super foggy and cloudy, but we had clear skies the entire trip. The views were crazy! 

Our First Campsite

After the Lost Coast trip, I was super excited to keep on backpacking. I set my sights on the Tahoe Rim Trail – a 160-mile loop around Lake Tahoe. I planned on finishing the hike in eight days, hiking 20 miles a day. It would be my first-time solo trip, and I was pumped for it. I made myself a resupply box to pick up in Tahoe City and got my permits. Instead of a tent, I brought g a bivy sack (an enclosed sack for your sleeping bag – there’s only room to lay down). I don’t have claustrophobia, and I don’t really see the purpose of hanging out in a tent by myself. My back welcomed the change from a 3 pound tent to a 1 pound bivy.  

A day before I wanted to leave, everything took a turn for the worse. Wildfires in California were absolutely destroying Tahoe’s air quality. The idea of inhaling smoke 24 hours a day for a week wasn’t super appealing, I’m not going to lie. I called an audible to shelf the Rim Trail and wait out the smoke. (California is still on fire, so we’ll see when this happens). This is/was a huge bummer and very unfortunate. On a broader note, my trip cancellation is trivial compared to the people who have lost their homes and their lives from the fires. I need to be aware of my privilege.  

After postponing the Rim Trail, I started to research the air quality in the rest of California. While cross-referencing air quality maps with open space, I found the Trinity Alps Wilderness – a small wilderness by Mt. Shasta. The mountain and the current wind conditions had created a small pocket of breathable air. I found a weather report, a trailhead, and left the next day with four days of food. I was itching to get out of the house.  

“I’ll get a map on the drive up,” I hoped as I pulled out of the driveway.  

 I arrived at the Trailhead late at night (with a map) and prepared for an early morning. At 5:30 am, the air in the Trinity Alps wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than the rest of California. I reached a lake two hours in and stopped for breakfast: cold instant oatmeal, a bar, and some jerky. Breakfast of champions. 

From a high ridge, I could see heavy smoke in the distance. The smoke on the horizon combined with an uncertain air quality forecast pushed me to turn my trek into a day hike and find my way back to the car that night. I let my mind drift while I hiked: calm hiking is fast hiking. My water filter proved its worth at multiple streams and lakes.  

I finished 12 or so miles by noon. After a snack, I stood up, took a swig of filtered creek water, pulled my pack on, and continued to walk. I passed more lakes, traversed more ridges, and saw fewer people. After hiking many more miles and jumping into a lake, the sun started to set. With five miles left, I started to hustle. Hiking sucks when you start thinking about how much you have left. The last five miles sucked. I expected to see the trailhead at every turn in the trail. My calves cramped.  

I was ecstatic to finally reach my car. 14 hours and 25 miles later, I was wiped out. While I thought it was an awesome experience, my calves disagreed. See you all in the next blog! 

 Best, 

Ray