South Lake Tahoe to Donner Summit

Pacific Crest Trail -

South Lake Tahoe to Donner Summit

We headed out from South Lake in the afternoon, only getting in 6 miles that first day. Our pace slowed down a little bit in this section, the terrain wasn’t too difficult but we did have some bad weather. It got pretty cold during the day and anytime it would start to rain, we slowed down a bit. The wind whipping the rain in your face through these exposed areas didn’t make us want to book it to get though. It made me want to hide inside my sleeping bag and not come out. But, we pushed on in good spirits knowing the bad weather would clear up and for the next few days it did.

On the last day of this stretch we woke up with 18.4 miles to hike to get to the road and down into town. It was raining when we awoke, this did not encourage any of us to get up and get moving. Instead, we tried to wait out the rain out for a while, hoping it would stop. After a while we knew we just had to go for it, rain or shine, we had 18.4 miles to get to town and that was our plan. It continued to rain off and on for most of the day, never really warming up or getting sunny. We pushed on. Thoughts of hot food and a hotel bed kept us warm and happy throughout the day, moving at a pretty good pace. It was getting late and the sun was beginning to set as we started to see lights off in the distance. We knew the trail crossed the road at Donner Summit and once we got there we’d have to hitch to get down into the town of Truckee. I assumed that Donner Summit would have its own restaurant or store we could stop at if we got to the road too late to get down into town. As we began heading downhill toward Donner Summit, it started pouring. We ran as fast as we could to get to the road, hoping to find somewhere to get out of the rain. When we arrived at the pavement it was completely dark and we had no idea which way to go. There weren't any signs at the four way intersection we hit and it was raining too hard to take out my iPad and check. We turned right and kept on running, hoping we were headed out to the highway. There were no cars coming by, the lights we had seen off in the distance were now gone. We spotted a few dilapidated buildings in a parking area up ahead and sprinted to get there. 

We quickly realized there weren't any cars passing by this late at night. Besides, it was pouring too hard to stand out and try to hitch. They probably wouldn't have seen us through the wall of rain. All day I was so pumped to get to town for hot food and a warm bed, now I was just ecstatic to be sitting under a three foot wide awning of this closed service station - not getting poured on. Knowing we didn't have any other options for shelter we set up our sleeping pads in a row, 15-20 feet from the highway and tried to sleep. Eventually a few cars did start to pass by. Every time I would begin to nod off one would whip by, reminding me of where we were. I was feeling pretty upset about being stuck here, so close to civilization but unable to get there. Dion and Buddy, as always, were unfazed by our spot for the night and slept soundly until the sun began to rise. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny morning - not a cloud in the sky. We quickly packed up before we were spotted sleeping on the side of this highway. Just as soon as we got our packs on the crowds of people began arriving at this parking area. 

Getting a ride down into town was much harder than we had expected. There was a lot of traffic passing by but it took almost an hour before we caught a ride. Down in Truckee we treated ourselves to coffee and hot chocolate from Starbucks, used their internet and charged our electronics. People in this town stared at us like aliens, I guess they're not use to seeing PCT hikers in their town yet. After a few plates of Chinese food, some grocery shopping and one more coffee we headed back toward the trail. This is a pretty big town and we thought hitching back to the trail would be just as difficult as it was to get down here. But as soon as we started walking down the road this sweet lady pulled up, asked if we were PCT hikers and if we'd like a ride. Sometimes you just luck out. 


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