RT Part 10: Driving East

Oct 7 Auburn, CA

I woke up in the middle of the night and my legs didn’t hurt too bad. I laid comfortably in the hotel bed for awhile then I got up to walk to the bathroom. Once I stood up my legs felt like they were put through a garbage disposal. I hobbled around a bit and made it back to the bed to sleep for a few more hours before I was up for good.

Today would be a rest day. Sara was in the same boat. We both needed rest but also had to at least walk around and do the best we could to stretch the muscles in our legs. We got breakfast in Hayward then started making our way east to Sacramento. There’s this little tourist trap section of the state capital called Old Sac. They have old buildings, a railroad museum, a bunch of T-shirt shops, and people walking around vaping(that’s not part of the allure, I just saw a lot of vapers).

After a lap or 2 we were done there and drove further east to do the same thing in Nevada City and Grass Valley. These are both similar little towns with old buildings made famous during the days of the California Gold Rush.

Tonight we’re staying in Auburn, CA with our friend S+M who I hiked a lot of miles with in 2015 and some more miles in 2016. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years and in that time she joined the peace corps and did a year and a half in a small village in the West African country of Guinea. She told us some crazy stories of her time in Africa, dodging riots in the capital, wild moto trips through the rice paddies, village life in a foreign land and her more recent trip to Malaysia and Singapore with her Guinean boyfriend, Siradio.

Great to see her and also to get some more rest in a real bed, hopefully my legs will be back to regular strength in another day or two.

Oct 8 Tahoe Meadow Trailhead, NV

S+M lives in a house with her landlord Bill and his wife Debbie who split their time between Auburn and Cupertino in the Bay Area. The last time I saw them was 3 years ago when I stayed at this house while hiking PCT. They’re here for the week, so we all had coffee this morning before going our own ways for the day.

Sara and I went into town to run some errands for our upcoming hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail(that’s the plan anyway). We resupplied in Auburn, got our gear and clothes squared away then headed to Truckee to get permits from the ranger station. Too bad I didn’t realize it was Columbus Day until it was too late. The ranger station is closed as well as the PO which I was hoping to use, no big deal.

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing in a coffee shop and resting these legs. It would have been nice to get started on the trail tonight but we both needed another day of just going easy. We parked at the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead right over the state line in Nevada and spending the night here in the car. We’ll start the Tahoe Rim Trail in the morning.

Oct 7 TRT mile 29.2

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a National scenic trail that forms a 170 mile loop around Lake Tahoe. I’ve done about zero research on this so I can’t really give you any more facts since I don’t know what I should expect. I have done the western side of the trail before because it coincides with the PCT for awhile but I don’t remember specifics. Let me try to paint this picture though; if the loop was a clock we started between the 12-1 and are traveling clockwise around the lake.

Last night was a cold one in the car. We woke up to frost on the windows and the car thermometer said 29 degrees. Because of this I added my sleeping bag liner to my kit, kind of wished I had that thing during the Sierra High Route. Once we started walking, the trail was pretty cruiser. A nice easy grade through pine trees and big granite boulders. It warmed up in the sun but not substantially and because we were in and out of a cloud for most of the morning I was off and on with my jacket a handful of times. It was smooth sailing all day except for a detour around a heli-logging operation. So we had to deal with the noise of a chopper chopping and walk 6 or 7 miles on dirt road. No. If deal though, the aspens along the road were bright yellow and we had no choice but to leaf peep all along the detour.

This afternoon back on trail it got super windy. We walked along an exposed ridge for awhile and got awesome views of Lake Tahoe but it was a lot more comfortable once we got lower and into the trees again. Tonight the wind died down and we found a nice cozy site surrounded by trees on a bed of pine needles. It’s chilly out but as of right now I’m super comfortable in my sleeping with the additional fleece liner.

Oct 10 TRT 31.9 miles

We got an earlier than usual start this morning and just crushed all day. It was a rather uneventful day, all we did was walk big miles. So far I’ve been enjoying this trail. There hasn’t been anything that’s been spectacularly mind blowing, it’s just been really really nice. And super cruiser trail. It’s especially nice to be able to walk all day and accomplish bigger miles opposed to on the Sierra High Route last week where we’d walk all day and wouldn’t have as much distance to show for it (not knocking the SHR though, that Route was absolutely incredible and gave a different feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day).

We did see a fox today, that was cool. Sara said it was a grey fox which I guess are far more elusive but I’m not 100% it wasn’t a little red. It was at a bit of a distance. Decidedly it was a grey fox. And we crossed state borders which is always a big deal on a hike, maybe not so much on this trail as it goes through 2 states in 170 miles, but still cool.

We got to RT 89 near Big Meadow and got a hitch from a hunter, Nathan, into South Lake Tahoe. We quickly wolfed down some fast food and took a city bus to Stateline just back over the border in Nevada where we’ll stay for the night. It’s only been 2 days on trail but spending a night here just made sense. We got a room at the Hard Rock Casino for next to nothing and we’ll resupply in town tomorrow for the rest of the Loop. Plus, right as we were getting into town it started to rain.

Oct 11 Spencer Hot Springs, NV

Shortly after waking up we decided to scrap the Tahoe Rim Trail and start making our way east. We’ve both been feeling a little beat up from the run last week and 4 more 30 mile days wouldn’t be doing our feet any favors. Also this way we’ll have more time to enjoy our ride back east instead of just driving more or less straight home. Don’t get me wrong, the Tahoe Rim Trail is sweet and not only do I recommend it, I’ll probably come back here and do the whole thing or at least complete the sections between what we did here last week and the PCT.

Around 9 AM we walked out of the Hard Rock and to the edge of town before we got our first hitch up the lake. We had a very enjoyable ride with Tori, a Seattle transplant to the area, who drove us about 45 minutes then quickly got two hitches from Victor and Demaris and were back at Tahoe Meadow trailhead and the car.

It was cold this morning! Like 30 degrees at the car. From Tahoe Meadow we started driving east with quick stops in Reno then Fernley, NV to run some errands and gear up for Highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America.” At least that’s how they bill Highway 50 through Nevada. It really wasn’t all that lonely, Sara and I had each other. And it was awesome! We drove through a big empty sagebrush desert for over a hundred miles with massive mountains in the distance before we reached the next town, Austin. There seemed to be absolutely nothing for the hundred+ miles between the tiny towns of Fallon and Austin except for a roadside pull off to the ‘Shoe Tree.’ This is a big old cottonwood with hundreds if not thousands of old shoes thrown up into it. It was quite a sight, smelled like feet though.

About a half hour after Austin we took a dirt road 10 minutes into the middle of the desert and found Spencer Hot Springs. What an awesome spot! The pool we went in was the perfect temperature, a litttle mucky on the bottom, and big enough for at least a dozen people comfortably. We spent a few hours relaxing in the spring and watched the sunset over the snow capped Toiyabe Mountains and then an absolutely incredibly starry sky take over the sky. The stars were twinkling. I don’t remember ever seeing stars twinkle like that, and there were lots of shooters. Quite an evening soaking in a hot spring in the middle of the desert and looking at the Milky Way, pretending I can spot constellations, and watching shooting stars while listening to the wild donkeys communicate with each other nearby. There were others here but with plenty of parking and camping in the area we got a good spot and crashed out in the car for the night.

Oct 12 Murray, UT

Sleeping was cold last night! I mean not too cold, we were comfortable enough in the car and everything. Luckily we were parked right next to a hot spring so right away I was able to soak in some hot water this morning.

We left Spencer Hot Springs which are in the geographical dead center of the state of Nevada and began driving east along Highway 50. Still ‘The Loneliest Road in America.’ It was nice and stuff, we went through a couple tiny towns and by early afternoon we got into Utah and onto interstate 80. It was cool to drive through the salt flats and in the distance we could see the snow capped Uinta Mountain Range. Then drove through Salt Lake City and just got a quick look at the famous Mormon Temple.

We’ve got friends, ‘The Eggs’, in Murray, UT just south of SLC and they put us up for the night. Johnny and Karla or Mr. and Mrs. Egg hiked a bunch of the PCT in ‘15 and wore matching pastel hiking gear earning their names (short for ‘The Easter Eggs’). I walked through a lot of the desert in Southern California with these two when we were all cutting our chops in the thruhiking world and none of us knew what we were doing. I haven’t seen them since the fall of ‘15, the last time I stayed here, when I unsuccessfully tried to hitchhike across the US. Great to see both of them and catch up with each other’s lives and of course to look back on all the fun we had in the desert that year.

Oct 13 Fort Collins, CO

Johnny cooked us sourdough pancakes this morning and we enjoyed breakfast with the Eggs before leaving Salt Lake. Heading east from the city we drove I-80 through the mountains and the ski resorts looked as if they had enough snow to be open. Crazy, right? Eventually we got into Wyoming and drove through relatively boring terrain. It would have been nice to get out and go for a run somewhere but it was cold and windy all day. Plus there didn’t seem to be any good trails nearby, mostly desert.

We crossed the Continental Divide and the town of sp’Rawlins where we stayed last summer while walking the CDT. We then took a detour to another CDT trail town, Saratoga, and enjoyed the Hobo Hot Springs there. These are some really nice pools, they’re built up like resort style but open to the public. It was fun to lay down in the cold water of the North Platte River then hustle back into the hot water and feel tingly all over. Try this out if you’re ever at the Hobo Hot Springs in 30 degree weather.

From Saratoga we drove RT 130 through Medicine Bow National Forest during a legit snowstorm. Didn’t expect this, being mid October and everything, but Sara was driving and took it nice and slow until we dropped lower and were out of harm’s way.

We got into Fort Collins, CO tonight and are staying here with our friends BK and Prickly Pear.

Oct 14 Fort Collins, CO

Winter came early overnight here in FoCo and we had ourselves a nice little snow day with BK and the Pear. The girls made French toast, we played games, went to the climbing gym, then BK’s folks took us all out to dinner at the Charko Broiler. It was a great day.

Oct 15 Denver, CO

It was 17 degrees this morning in Fort Collins. Sara, me and the Pear went downtown to a free yoga class. BK elected to stay in bed. Namaste.

I went for a short run around town to stretch these legs, the girls made lunch and cookies then Sara and I headed down to Denver.

In Denver we’re staying with Cheese, Analiese, and Joel(Halftime). The five of us met Speed and Galaxy Girl at a bar down the street, Station 26. Speed just got home from the ALDHA West Gathering in Oregon where he received his Triple Crown Award. Station 26 is a former firehouse and a bit of an unofficial thru hiker bar. Besides all of us, both of the guys tending bar, Grundel Hammer and Kyle, hiked the PCT in ‘15 and we hiked with Kyle again last year on the CDT. It was a fun night catching up with all these guys. Denver has got to be a great place to live and these guys are all digging it out here. I know this because every time I’m here somebody is selling me on Denver and trying to get me to relocate.

Oct 16 Kansas City, MO

This morning we met Speed and Galaxy Girl for coffee before heading east from Denver. Our next stop is Nashville so we figured we’d just try to get as far as we could along I-70. Originally I was in favor of detouring south through Oklahoma and Arkansas since I’ve never been to either of those states but it added multiple driving hours and I really had no particular place in mind to go to other than just drive through the states.

I-70 through eastern Colorado and Kansas is objectively boring. I’ve been on this road twice already, once driving and once hitchhiking. I knew what I was getting into and that didn’t make it any more exciting. We did see a bobcat though, and that was awesome! I’ve walked an above average number of miles in the backcountry and never seen a big cat in the wild until today, in the median of a major interstate in the middle of Kansas. This thing was the size of a coyote with a cat face and a bob tail, just trying to get across the highway. Really hope he or she got home safely.

Last September we met this couple Nick and Sarah at a hot spring in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. When we parted ways we all told each other, “if you’re ever in town, make sure you get in touch.” So we did and they put us up in their sweet guest house in Kansas City, MO. They recently converted their garage into a tiny home and host guests all the time. A DIY TV show actually did a bunch of the work but Nick and Sarah finished it and the tiny house came out incredible. It was a great place to spend the night and I’m totally inspired to do this when I get home. And oh yeah, we ate some delicious Kansas City BBQ tonight at Slap’s.

Oct 17 Nashville, TN

We went to breakfast with Nick this morning then blasted east out of Kansas City. In 4 short hours we were in St. Louis and stopped to walk under the Gateway Arch. What a behemoth! Last time I was here it was getting fixed or something so it wasn’t as impressive, but today damn! That thing is massive.

Just outside of St. Louis we stopped for BBQ again and they do it right down here. We stuffed ourselves with ribs and pulled pork sandwiches before driving through southern Illinois and into Kentucky. A new state for me, even though we were just passing through.

Tonight we got into Nashville and met up with friends Garbelly and Critter(M.E.). I first met Garbelly just briefly on the PCT and then hiked with both of them last year on the CDT and even finished the trail through Glacier with these two. We met for pizza and crashed at their place tonight.

Oct 18 Nashville, TN

Today Garbelly and M.E. and their dog Milo, took me and Sara out towards northeastern Tennessee to see some of the highlights of the state. We got to Big South Fork National Recreation Area and walked the Honey Creek Loop Trail. It was so cool! The trail drops down from The Cumberland Plateau and goes alongside these huge sandstone cliffs and right by easily accessible caves. I guess there’s something like 20,000 caves in Tennessee. Garbelly says the whole state is like Swiss cheese. We walked up Honey Creek going under and over tons of huge boulders and walking by a bunch of little waterfalls. When we got back to the car we drove over to another trail to see the Twin Arches. These are exactly like the name implies; two huge natural sandstone arches. A little different than St. Louis’ Gateway Arch and more similar to the arches you might find in southern Utah.

I never knew how much Tennessee had going on out here, and I don’t think many other people do either since we only saw 2 other people all day. It was a great day hanging out with these 2 and exploring Tennessee which I know consider a very underrated state.

Oct 19 Wantagh, NY

We drove all day from Nashville to Long Island. Over 900 miles from 7am until midnight when we made it to Sara’s parents house(although we did lose an hour going from central to eastern time zone).

This will be the last entry for the blog. The plan is to hang out here tomorrow and into Sunday with Sara’s family and some friends and drive home to Massachusetts Saturday morning. It was a great trip, but it’s time to get back home for awhile.

Thanks for reading! And especially thank you to everybody that put us up, had a meal with us, or just took time out if their lives to come see us on this trip. It was great to spend time with so people throughout the country.

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