The 40th month

The first two weekends in April arrive with winter storm warnings, so we wait for a storm-free weekend to complete our 40th consecutive month of backpacking. When Earth Day weekend promises sunny weather, we make plans to snow camp along the Tahoe Rim Trail. Then, we both catch a cold.

For me, the symptoms are minor. After fighting off the worst flu of my life in January 2013, I rarely get sick; when I do, I develop mild, fleeting versions of the usual symptoms associated with colds and flus. This might sound like a blessing, but I’d much rather have the full effect: fever, congestion, and cough would be welcome signs that I’m not having a Lyme relapse. I’d rather spend a week knocked out by a cold than spend months cycling through Lyme disease.

Because the symptoms I experience when I’m fighting a cold mimic the symptoms I had during Lyme flares, I’m never certain if I’m actually sick, or if I need to drag myself back to my doctor for an evaluation and, possibly, more antibiotics. This time, however, one of my co-workers comes down with symptoms identical to mine – right down to having to run for the toilet. Hurray! I must be sick!

The day after I start feeling sick, Greg starts feeling horrible, so we revise our April backpacking plans. Instead of a long day of snow-shoeing the Rim Trail, we’ll take the PCT north from Highway 49.

Early on Saturday afternoon we begin hiking. The climb is continuous but well-graded. After the first two miles, we find snow across the trail. The snow patches grow and deepen as we climb. We pass a few day hikers coming down.

After 3.5 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain, the trail reaches a saddle under the Sierra Buttes with spectacular views into the North Yuba River Canyon. We’ve reached our destination.

On this trip, we each have our own tent. One reason: I don’t want to share a tent with someone who will be coughing and blowing his nose all night. Another reason: Greg wants to test drive the tent he’s making, a roomy one-person cuben-fiber shelter still under construction but nearing completion. Nostalgia hits when I pitch my little Copper Spur tent for the first time since finishing my thru-hike in October.

We eat dinner. Greg goes to bed early. I stay up to watch the sun set. The Sierra Buttes cast a dramatic shadow on the opposite wall of the canyon. The shadow creeps upward as the sun sinks.

In the morning, Fox Sparrows are up and singing before I emerge from my tent. Greg and I have breakfast, then pack up and begin the descent. It’s a quick, easy hike down to the trailhead. Soon, we’ve completed our 40th month.

(In January 2015, Greg and I began backpacking at least once per month, year-round. April 2018 is our 40th consecutive month with at least one backpacking trip.)

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