June 30, 2017
Mile 1141.5 – Donner Pass (1141.5 – 1153.38)
I was really worried that we would be traversing steep slopes again all morning, but the trail today ended up being really nice. It was snowy for the first bit of the morning, but it wasn’t steep at all and there were footprints to follow most of the way so we didn’t have much difficulty navigating. We descended down to a creek, and then had mostly dry trail for a long while as we climbed up and around Tinker Knob. We stopped to have breakfast mid-way up the climb with a great view of the snowy mountains we had just left behind. We tried to call ahead to arrange accommodations for town, but everything was either full or outrageously expensive. The realization dawned on us that we were entering town on Fourth of July weekend. Fantastic.
After we reached the top of the climb, we were treated to an amazing ridge walk, almost all on dry trail. The views were absolutely beautiful, and the anxieties of the day before were all washed away. The trail had my soul singing once more. I think Northern California took my heart in that moment. We did have a few steep snow fields to traverse, but it felt so much better than it had the day before. We stopped after one of the larger snow fields to eat lunch in a shady spot on top of the ridge (with an awesome view of course).
After a while, the trail approached a ski hill, but instead of going up and over, the trail cut across an extremely steep snow field. We could see some foot prints going across it, but it looked pretty sketchy, so we decided to just climb up to the top of the ski hill. It was a really tough climb, but it was snow-free, and when we got to the top we were able to slide down a snowy hill that wasn’t too steep. It ended up being really fun, rather than pants-shittingly terrifying and possibly life-threatening. Definitely worth climbing up a ski hill.
After we descended, the trail wound through a snow-clogged forest for a while (everyone’s favourite thing) before we finally got low enough to have dry trail. Since we weren’t able to secure any accommodations in town, we decided to just set up camp at the Donner Pass trailhead and head into town first thing in the morning. We set up our tents and then walked over to the Donner Ski Ranch to get some food.
I ate an absolutely ridiculous amount of food, and wasn’t even totally full. I had a beer, a quesadilla, and shared nachos and a piece of pie with ice cream with Gummies. Everything was sooo good. After we had finished eating, a local guy came up and started chatting to us about the trail, and then bought us all a round of beers. Our first trail magic in a while! I’ve been so hungry this stretch for some reason, so it felt amazing to fill my body with warm food. We headed back to the trailhead ready to fall into a food coma. Town tomorrow!