September 12th, 2018
Five Lakes Creek mm 1136 to Middle Velma Lake mm 1110
Distance: 26 miles
It was much warmer overnight than I anticipated. The wind continued to blow all night but I was snug as a bug. It was still hard to get up and go. For the first time in the hike, I started out wearing my puffy, in addition to my other 3 layers. I quickly got too hot and had to shed it.
Then I got up on the ridgeline and was blasted by the chill wind. The trailed followed the ridge for 6 miles. All that time, I was working hard to stay upright and to keep warm. I had to put my puffy back on under my wind jacket, along with my rain mitts. And I was still cold. It’s probably the most miserable I have felt yet. And yet, the views were still great. Lake Tahoe was very prominent.
Finally the trail dropped down into a valley and I began to de-thaw. The sun was just starting to warm the air. I had seen no one on the ridge but began running into lots of backpackers approaching it. I warned a few about the wind. I passed by some who were just starting to pack up at 0930 am. I stopped to get water at a creek and one of these guys caught up and congratulated me on my nice campsite (assuming I had just broken camp, like him). Yes, 3 hours ago and 10 miles back, I did have a nice campsite.
I walked the rest of the day with basically no breaks. I neglected to get water at a lake and then the next 2 streams were dry. I walked to the first potential lake campsite and decided I at least needed to get water. It was late in the afternoon and I was already cold. I had never really warmed up all day. The wind really took it out of me.
A cloud bank had moved in, obscuring the sun. It almost looked like it could rain…or snow. Even though it was still very early, I searched around for a protected campsite. My usual 30 miles would have landed me on top of Dick’s Pass, over 9000′ and fully exposed. No way!
I had wanted to at least go to the next lake, but the map indicated that it might be pretty exposed. Also not good. So I found a spot wedged in the trees and in a bit of a depression. Not a very scenic spot, given the many beautiful views other spots had of the lake. But as a chipmunk will tell you, sometimes a hole is best.
I cooked my weird dinner of instant mashed potatos, refried beans, and tuna…it was leftovers night. The combination sounds disgusting but wasn’t bad…you’ll eat anything when you’re starving. Then I battened down the hatches by extending my storm flaps on my tent. I did this the night before, too.
I hadn’t needed them since the first couple days on the trail but they help to keep the wind out and heat in. I used them about every day to keep out the rain on the Colorado Trail last year. I prefer keeping them rolled up when I can, as it’s easier to get in and out and I have views of the stars. But I would do anything to stay warm on this cold night.