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PCT Missing Link 2014: Section Near Squaw Valley

57.5 miles
June 20-22, 2013 (weekend trip)
Dave Sholer, solo-hike

This little weekend trip was designed to pick-up about an 8-mile segment of missing PCT trail that I hadn't previously hiked. I had hiked north from Squaw Valley to Old Donner Summit Rd as a kid and I'd completed most of the western side of Tahoe via the Tahoe Rim Trail Thru-Hike. That left in-between a gap of incomplete PCT. I could have started at Squaw Valley and taken the tram up to the top, but that seemed too easy. I decided to make a weekend of it and do a yo-yo style from Donner Summit, "tagging" the Tahoe Rim Trail trail sign, then returning back to Donner Summit. It was Summer Solstice weekend, so I had plenty of light. The map below shows the isolated (red-circled) section that I hiked from Donner Summit to reach.

Daily Journal
June 20, 2014 (16 miles)
I left work just after noon, drove up to the Donner Summit PCT trailhead, arriving around 2pm. I was hiking by 2:20pm, and got to the actual PCT at 2:30pm. There were lots of dayhikers. The section from Donner Summit to Old Donner Summit Road was new for me, then I continued on the trail. I accidentally summited Mt. Judah because the trail markers heading south are poor, so this probably added an extra 1.5 miles round trip. I passed lots of thru-hikers that were headed northbound, and a few headed southbound as well, probably 15 in total this evening. It was extremely windy from Mt. Lincoln to the far side of Tinker Knob, at which I arrived just after 7pm. I made couscous in an area near the summit, mostly sheltered from the wind. I was hiking again by 7:30pm, down the back side of Tinker Knob. I passed several ideal campsites since, being Summer Solstice weekend, it was still too light out to stop. Sunset was after 8:30pm, and I kept hiking, past the Painted Rock Trail, and found a great campsite at a higher elevation, but still sheltered from the wind. I arrived at 8:45pm and was in my shelter by 9:15pm.

June 21, 2014 (28.9 miles)
I woke up at 5:10am and was hiking by 5:40am. I got to the Squaw Creek campsite area before 8am, then descended toward Granite Chief. I saw a bear on the trail just ahead of me before I arrived at the bottom of the canyon, but he didn’t give me any notice, as he slowly wandered up the hillside and back into the woods. I got to the Five Lakes Trail at 9:15am. There was lots of wind up on the exposed ridges as I walked during the warm morning, past Sugarloaf ski resort and beyond. At 11:10am, I got to my end goal, the Tahoe Rim Trail, where I had last left off on the PCT during my 2012 TRT Thru-Hike. Just as I arrived, a group of nude hikers approached from the opposite direction. I politely declined their suggestion that I join them on “Summer Solstice, a.k.a. International Hike Naked Day”. Since they were now going the same direction as I (since I’d be returning back from where I came) I decided to take a 5-minute break and give us some distance. Just as I was "enjoying" an energy bar, another nude hiker strolls by and gives a “howdy”. I gave them another few minutes, but shortly after hiking again, I found their group breaking under a tree, at least fully clothed this time (their explanation: “It’s hike naked day, not break naked day.”). I got back down to the Five Lakes Trail at 2:30pm, feeling pretty depleted from energy due to being exposed to the bright sun during the hours of ridge walking. I finally got back up to the top of Squaw Valley at 4:15pm and took an uncharacteristic break for about 75 minutes, then got back on the trail. The now-clothed group of nude hikers, who explained how they’d been burnt by the hot sun on the ridge, asked me to join them for the night at their camp. However, it was only a few miles past Squaw Valley at it was still only 6pm, so I politely declined again. I kept hiking back up to the base of Tinker Knob, then camped in a small, slightly sloped space just off the trail. I’d thought about hiking up past the summit to the only campsite up on top, but I decided not to get greedy since I only knew of the one potential camping spot I saw the day before. I set-up camp around 8pm and relaxed for a bit before getting to sleep at 9:15pm.

June 22, 2014 (12.6 miles)
I got up around 5:15am, was hiking around 5:45am, and up to the Summit of Tinker Knob about 20 minutes later. I got to Mt. Lincoln around 9am, passed lots of dayhikers on the way back to Old Donner Summit Rd., and got back to my car at Donner Summit around 10:30am.