tiffany's pct journal

California Section J: Echo Lake (South Lake Tahoe) to Highway 108 (Sonora Pass).

Days: 81 - 84.
Dates: September 22 - 25.
Trail mileage: 1563.1 - 1636.2.
Distance: 73.1 miles.

A minor note, but we actually began at Echo Summit about a mile south of the Echo Lake trailhead here.

My partner dropped Yahtzee and me off at the Echo Summit trailhead after many lovely zeroes in South Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, I wouldn't see Blue again on the trail. (Fortunately, he'd move to Seattle after the trail, so I'd get to see him there!) Yahtzee realized when we got out of the car that her poles weren't expanding properly, so she and my partner flagged down a maintenance truck driving around the trailhead parking lot, who let her borrow some tools to fix it.

view from the trail
Getting high enough for snow again

The climb out of Echo Summit was tough. It wasn't very long, but got annoyingly steep at times. I got super lost at some point because I took the wrong turn at a (not well-marked ahem) junction. I know other people had gotten lost here in the past so it wasn't just me! I ended up a couple of miles off the trail, and only noticed when I finally pulled out my phone to check where I was. After that, I would check all junctions carefully before making a turn.

I didn't make it to camp until it got very dark, and that would become my daily routine as the days got shorter. It was time to get used to night-hiking.

Hiking into the night means some epic sunsets on trail

We were reaching high elevations now, which made everything harder. Climbs were tougher, and it was difficult to breathe. That next day, Yahtzee and I had grand plans to hike a full 29 miles, but halfway through the day, we decided that was a terrible idea because of how much harder hiking was getting to be.

But we officially hit the 60% point for SOBOs on the trail! We had skipped about 65 miles, but we had still made excellent progress, and I was very proud of myself.

60% completed point for SOBOs
"PCT SOBO 60%!"

The next day, we ran into Dave and Dani again, who I had met for the first time at Hart's Pass. It was a really tough day. Remember how I was able to sustain a speed of about 2.7 mph in parts of Northern California? Well that day, I was able to keep about a 2 mph speed. I got the sense that I was going to be pulling long days in the Sierra. At camp, we met Birdbox, whom we had inadvertently camped with all 3 nights past South Lake Tahoe so far, but whom we hadn't actually introduced ourselves to.

view from the trail
Nice weather, nice trail, hellish elevation

Side note: I also started dreaming of savory snacks around here, literally. My body was getting sick of eating sugary bars and trail mix, which I had been doing for the last 1500 miles. Quoted from my journal: "Been craving potato chips and tortillas all day. Decided I'll be probably getting tortillas in Bishop. Maybe some refried beans and cooked rice?? God that sounds so good right now. So tired of sweet things right now."

sign for Sonora Pass
Getting closer to the High Sierra

Sonora Pass Resupply was a service we had in 2019 that would bring you a resupply box right on the trail at Sonora Pass. Unfortunately, they longer operate, but this is where I started having to carry my bear canister, which we're required to carry through the Sierra section of the PCT. I can't say I was that excited about carrying another 2 pounds, but I definitely was excited to reach the High Sierra.

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