Day 160: Carson Pass

22.6 miles (1066.9 to 1089.5)

Once again, my platypus water tube freezes while I hike. I’m so cold, I begin to consider getting off the trail at Echo Summit (Highway 50). After all, I’ve hiked the Echo to Donner section twice before. If it’s going to take more than one year for me to complete the entire trail anyway, why not count the miles I’ve already completed? I can reach Echo Summit tonight, Greg can pick me up, and I can be warm. But I already know that I’ll regret skipping those miles. As soon as I leave the trail, I’ll start scheming to get back on.

I cross a dirt road, and almost immediately after I see a pickup driving slowly along the road. It’s unnerving seeing cars while I hike, especially after not seeing them in the High Sierra and in Washington. A little later, I see a Jeep traveling even more slowly along the road, like the driver is scanning for something to shoot from the window. I don’t like this.

Soon the trail peels away from the road. I can still see the road off to the right, but at least there’s some space between us. I hear a loud explosion that my brain interprets as a massive rock slide before I realize it was a gunshot echoing like crazy against the rock walls of this canyon. There’s a second shot, then nothing. I walk for awhile before I hear more shots. I long to be away from roads.

I climb toward the slopes of a mountain called Elephant’s Back. There’s a false summit, followed by more climbing. There’s a patch of snow across the trail. My mind wants to panic at the sight of snow, but the crossing isn’t bad at all. I don’t need spikes or poles. At last I reach the top of the climb and begin the descent toward Carson Pass and Highway 88, which Dad and I drove through only yesterday on our way to Ebbetts.

Snow on the slope of Elephant’s Back.

Suddenly I’m passing a stream of people hiking uphill on the trail. I consult the map. Everyone must be going to Winnemucca Lake. The stream of traffic continues until I reach the trailhead. The parking lot is stuffed. I’m surprised so many people are out hiking at high elevation (>8,000 feet) on a cold day in October.

I cross the highway and continue on. At the top of a mild climb I get my first glimpse of Lake Tahoe. I descend a bit and join the Tahoe Rim Trail. I pass day hikers, lots of them, though as not as many as on the other side of the highway.

First glimpse of Lake Tahoe.

The trail does lots of ups and downs through forest and meadow. My goal is to camp just south of Highway 50. Shortly before 6pm, I arrive at my intended campsite. The temperature has already fallen, though today it never really rose. According to the forecast, tomorrow should be 10 degrees warmer. I hope this comes true. Being cold is exhausting.

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