Monday, Sep 4th, 2023, 0700-1850
Benson Hut to the Oven, TRT
25.5 miles, Gain 4200′, Loss 5510′, elevation 6900′
It was surprisingly quiet in the hut all night, plus toasty and cozy with the fire going for awhile. I could hear the wind outside and it just made me feel so lucky to be shielded from it. I woke early with everyone else but worked on my phone until they were all packed. It was still cloudy at dawn but the sun was just burning through the clouds as I left. The trail climbed higher, which was nice for a warm up. I passed a tent site with 4 tents squeezed in…the site I was originally aiming for the night before. All the tents were drenched in condensation and directly exposed to the wind. I would have rather put up with a noisy, smelly, packed-to-the-gills hut than camp in that spot. But the hut wasn’t any of those things, just perfectly pleasant. I was so grateful I decided to stay there instead.
I caught up to Marmot Punch mid morning and started hiking with him. I met him at the lodge the day before and had seen his name in registers and also from comments on Far Out. I couldn’t help but notice his trail name…he got it from punching a marmot through his tent while hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2022. I guess it was sniffing around and startled him. He was a pleasure to talk to and gave me some good tips on the TRT. I started the day only 20 miles from the turnoff and all too soon, I was there, not quite ready to say goodby to the PCT. I took solace in that I would be back on it for the final leg of the TRT, as it coincides for 70 some miles.
I gained another buddy as soon as I turned left onto the TRT, a day hiker. He worked at a nearby conference center (Stanford Sierra) and was planning to hike the PCT the following year. Seeing as how he was already doing a 25 mile day hike, I was confident he would be well suited for the challenge. We both wanted to do the scramble up to Twin Peaks, so it was nice to have some company. It was less than a quarter mile scramble but involved a good amount of scree and boulder hopping. I was glad I dropped my pack at the bottom.
The TRT left the ridge and descended into the valley. Good thing, since it was well into the afternoon and I was out of water. I took a late lunch break near a creek, admiring views of Twin Peaks from below. The stretch of the TRT from the PCT junction into Tahoe City was only 11 miles, but I planned to stop short of town. Since Chester, I’d been on sort of a deadline to make it to town by the 4th. That’s when I’d told my friend Sky that I would arrive, since they were hoping to join me on the TRT. Sky also went to Burning Man and well, then the rain started. As much as it was a pain for me, the storm had stranded all the people at the festival, including Sky and their partner. So I no longer needed to make it into town this day. It was just as well, since hotels were still expensive\booked over the holiday weekend.
I continued down Ward creek on a dirt road, collected some water for the night, then climbed a hill to find a dry camp along the trail. Mosquitoes had been chasing me as I walked along the creek, so I wanted to put some distance on them. They still found me at my camp but weren’t the worst. If there’s anything I hate more, it’s mosquitoes in September. They should be GONE by the end of August, but I guess all the rain had given them new hopes. Plus the Sierra had so much snow, perhaps they had been able to persist far past their usual annoying timeline. I drifted to sleep early, excited to take a nero into town the next morning and finally get a hotel room. I really wanted a hot shower.