PCT 2018: Lake Tahoe

Days 70-87

Day 70: Hiked 0

Rest, ice cream, resuppply, dinner and a movie.

Day 71: Hiked 7 | 906.6

Kim and CJ hiked the PCT! We exited the Sierra through Mammoth Pass because the Reds Meadows shuttle was closed. Nicholas suggested that we all hike to Reds Meadow. That way we could hop on the PCT at the same spot as Milkshake and Cowboy.

We hiked 7 miles to Reds; after CJ and Kim treated us—even Milkshake and Cowboy—to pizza.

Day 72: Hiked 0

The main reason we extend our 3-day zero to seven days was Milkshake’s birthday. Cowboy said, “she’d cry if she didn’t see us on her birthday.”

The celebration consisted of watching Oceans 8, going to the local brewery, eating ice cream, and watching a red box.

Day 73: Hiked 10 (PCT + rainbow falls trail) | 913.6

Our morning slipped into afternoon. Our hike out of Mammoth started with a side trip to Rainbow Falls and the Devil’s Postpile.

Day 74: Hiked 16.8 | 930.4

Island Pass didn’t seem like a pass. It was gradual and devoid of snow, not the usual fare.

Donahue Pass was the last hurdle of the day, and of course, it consisted of a never-ending set of rock stairs, a brutal, quad-burning grind.

Day 75: Hiked 12.1 | 942.5

Milkshake asked us to brainstorm ideas for a birthday gram; she wanted to make a music video for her friend Sandra. Eventually we met up in a meadow after a few hours of hiking and planning raps. Cowboy filmed our genius and Sandra reaped the benefit.

The flat hike into Tuolume Meadows was lush and green. Vast meadows and rivers were only improved with a bear sighting. I saw a large cinnamon-colored bear run 20 yards ahead. He crossed the trail and started to make a B-line towards me. I slammed my poles together and yelled as I walked, half scared and half excited. I saw a bear!

We had been hiking in Yosemite National Park since we crossed Donahue. I saw everyone gathered on a wooden bridge, tourist teaming about. Nicholas asked me if I was jumping in. I was hot and the water looked refreshing.

Nicholas jumped, followed by Cowboy and myself. I put on a slight show with my squealing and hesitant giggling, but ultimately took the plunge.

The trail continued past the permit office. So, naturally, Nicholas inquired about Half Dome permits and was able to score three and was put on a waiting list for one.

We set up camp in the backpackers’ section of Tuolume Campground. Nicholas convinced others to hitch to The Whoa Nellie Deli at the Lee Vining Mobile Gas Station. We quickly found a hitch and dined on fish tacos, huckleberry ribs, and mango margaritas. A sweet dad band serenaded us with Van Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl.”

Day 76-77: Hiked “0” (22 miles to Clouds Rest and Half Dome)

Nicholas was able to get a fourth permit for Half Dome. Milkshake, Cowboy, Nicholas and I set out for Clouds Rest at 1 p.m.

Clouds Rest was a haul. The narrow peak of stacked granite provided an epic view of the Sierra, Yosemite’s valley, and the Park’s famous Half Dome. We enjoyed snacks and the view for an hour before hiking three more miles.

Milkshake and I voted for a sunrise hike up Half Dome. Not only were the views better, but the steel cables would be free of people. Every time I thought of the cables I recalled a ranger’s story how hundreds of people got caught up on Half Dome during a thunderstorm and then flooded the terrifying cables. People stacked upon each other clinging to the cold steel, hair standing on end from the electrified sky.

Our journey began under the stars. Headlamps guided our steps as we climbed. The rock stairs and granite scramble popped us out in front of the notorious steel cables.

Nicholas and I had climbed Half Dome two years prior, two days after we got married in the park. We did it with our bulky packs. My 35-pound pack pulled me backwards the entire trek up the smooth granite surface.

Although I learned from my first climb, and was not carrying excess weight, I recalled my dread vividly. I donned a grippy glove and ascended the granite dome. Milkshake exclaimed, “holy shit this is steep!” Nicholas and Cowboy laughed at our displeased grunts. My legs trembled and my arms felt bloodless, but I continued, pulling myself to the top.

The sky changed as we walked atop. The deep indigo shifting to azure. Pink and gold pierced the peaks, sending shards of sun in our eyes. The morning magic made my jelly limbs worth it.

The way down sucked. I announced I would probably never do the cables again. I joked that Nicholas could take our kids one day without me. But they had to wear rock climbing harnesses.

We ran into Maui and Giancarlo. I was shocked to see Giancarlo. He had discussed skipping Half Dome, but despite his grumblings about hiking on his “zero” days, he was here and doing it.

Our hike into the valley was crowded. The Mist Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite; it’s accessible to many park-goers and features two huge waterfalls. We were experiencing the “Disney” phenomenon. Lines up the trail as if for an amusement ride. I got separated from Nicholas in the confusion. Other thruhikers told me he was looking for me. Nicholas thought I was behind him, but I was actually ahead. I intercepted multiple day hikers to deliver a message to a red-bearded man with lime green shorts and Yosemite hat: “your wife is safe and ahead of you.”

Out of the seven hikers I sent, only two delivered my message.

Day 78: Hiked 0

We hung out in Yosemite Valley and took a bus up to Tuolumne.

Day 79: Hiked 17.3 | 959.8

Breakfast s’mores had everyone crowding the picnic table with white goo stuck to their fingers.

Our healthy breakfast powered us to a lake where we set up camp. Nicholas and I skinny dipped hoping to cleanse away our salty sweat. It felt freeing being naked in the wild—absent of eyes or cares.

Day 80: Hiked 16.2 | 976.0

So. Many. Mosquitoes. I had 100 bites covering my legs. Itching, red bumps on my thighs and calves. Why do mosquitoes exist? What is their purpose?

Day 81: Hiked 20.5 | 996.5

The 27th of June, our second wedding anniversary, was filled with love, romance, and mosquitoes.

Swarms of mosquitoes, lots of mud, and lots of miles, it was one for the books.

In all seriousness, I loved every second. It’s not every day you find someone who finds mosquitoes, mud, and miles sexy.

Day 82: Hiked 20.5 | 1017

Exposed trail to Sonora Pass made me experience vertigo for the first time while hiking. Coco pebble rocks made my steps awkward and the general slant of the path was down the giant cascading slope of the mountains’ shoulders. Glorious.

Oh, and there was wind, so much wind.

We failed at hitching to KMN, which meant setting our tents up next to the trailhead.

Day 83: Hiked 6.2 | 1023.2

Breakfast/resupply in Kennedy Meadows North.

Nice evening with Philly and Milkshake.

Day 84: Hiked 20.9 | 1044.1

Day 85: Hiked 18.9 | 1063

Day 86: Hiked 21.2 | 1084.2


Day 87: Hiked 5.8 | 1090

South Lake Tahoe was bustling for the Fourth of July. We scored free pizza from Base Camp Pizza, invaded Ken’s hotel to shower (sorry, Ken), resupplied, ate sushi, and started to hitch to Tahoe City to crash Steve and Deena’s Airbnb.

Milkshake and I consumed two bottles of wine during the hitching process. When all hope was nearly lost, two high schoolers came to our rescue. They picked us up in the pitch black at 11 at night. Thank you, Sam and Noah! We even ended the hitch with a Snapchat selfie. #killinit

5 thoughts on “PCT 2018: Lake Tahoe

  1. Valerie Willoughby July 11, 2018 — 9:34 am

    Sounds so amazing, love the pictures! I agree with you about mosquitos!! Love you both, be safe. Miss you❤️


  2. What an amazing adventure. LOVE Yosemite!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathryn Foster July 8, 2018 — 10:22 pm

    Julia; I give you so much credit!!!! Climbing those cliffs, legs aching beyond belief & blisters all over your feet. You truly never seize to amaze me😳😳😳 how rewarding to get to the top & see the rewarding views. I love you two. Take care & give a hug from me 😘


  4. You finally saw a bear!!!!!! I don’t know if I’m happy for you or scared out of my mind. The Mobile again???? Really Nicholas you are obsessed with that place! We were so very excited to hike the PCT with you! I would love to see that rap video? I can’t imagine you rapping. Lol. The pictures in this one are amazing!!!! I can’t believe you guys climes half dome in the dark. Please be safe. I miss you every day. I pray for your safety. I love you & am so proud of you. 😘💜💗

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Barbara MacKay July 7, 2018 — 7:20 pm

    I am absolutely blown away by your adventures! God bless you both.


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