Mile #1100, Aloha Lake

Happy Independence Day!  I’m celebrating this evening on the rocky shore of beautiful, sparkling Aloha Lake, eating a salami and cheese sandwich with a mini travel bottle of red wine, with instant pudding for dessert.  I just returned from a three-day hiatus in Lake Tahoe.  It was an extremely relaxing and satisfying three days off-trail.

Justin, Me, Speedstick, Thomas
L to R: Justin, Me, Speedstick, Thomas

Thomas, Justin and I made it to Tahoe in six days, picking up a hiker named Speedstick (‘cause she wears it) after four days.  On getting to Echo Lake / Tahoe, we toasted over a six pack of Corona that Thomas bought at the store, since this marked the completion of the PCT for him.  In a few hours we were picked up by Fish, a local ex-PCTer who took us 1 1/2 hours to his house in Reno for the night.  My face grew a little long as we descended down, down, down to the desert again.  We all were pretty wiped out on getting to Fish’s place at the edge of town, but summoned enough energy to hit a 24-hour Mexican place after showers.

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep on Fish’s couch, omelets à la Justin, and a quick REI stop, I was off to the airport to surprise Mom and Dad.  Thinking they were going to meet me in Tahoe, the ‘rents were glad to see me waiting outside the gates, although Dad did a double-take, as I look a little different from the last time he saw me.  Harrah’s in Tahoe had someone waiting to drive us, so we rode in style back to Tahoe.

The next few days were full of drinking, eating, shopping, and gambling; about as far from trail life as one can get.  We were up until the wee hours playing craps, blackjack, and the occasional roulette game.  I couldn’t eat enough as Mom and Dad watched disbelievingly while I plowed through two all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets and steaks for dinner.  I got the chance to pick up some shoes and said goodbye to my original pair of Salomons which I had worn from Mexico and utterly demolished.  I bought some dental floss and sewing needles, stitched up the gaping hole on the right side of my pack, and seam-sealed portions of my tent.  The big highlight of the weekend was winning a good bit of cash at the tables and learning that my wallet had been found and returned to the Park Service.  Hopefully, if I can ever get through to the Park Service on the phone, I’ll have my wallet and meter back by the time I get to Old Station.  Also waiting for me there will be an iPod Shuffle, a gravity water filter (getting sick of iodine), and a Bush Buddy stove.


Colored Lichen on Rock south of Lake Tahoe
Colored Lichen on Rock south of Lake Tahoe

I picked up Temple Grandin’s book “Thinking in Pictures” as a little entertainment while on trail and I’m looking forward to reading it.  Oh yeah, and I happened to catch the Transformers movie while in town.  (Having been a child raised on Transformers, I was obliged.)  Cool movie if you can get past the tacky dialogue, clichés, and shameless product placements.

So now I’m back on trail.  No cocktail waitresses here and the only sounds are birds, wind, and water lapping the rocks in front of me.  The wine is in a plastic bottle and the pudding is runny, but it all tasted great.  It’s good to be back.

P.S. There was some discussion as to how I was going to get back to the trail.  Mom and Dad wanted me to take a taxi ($45).  I think, however, that taxis to and from the trail are very un-thru hiker-like (unless, of course, you’re in Cabazon.  In that case, though, the “taxi” is some dude with time and a car that works…and you have to wait for his niece to pick up a slurpee.).  So, I hitched out of town and got a lift from a Western-looking dude (picture the cowboy-narrator in “The Big Lebowski”) who sharpens knives for a living.  Gulp.  A nice fellow, he lives pretty much out of his van and travels Central California peddling his services to restaurants and hair salons.  “The money’s in scissors,” he says.  I also got a lift from a friendly family with a dog who vacation near Echo Lake.  Thanks!

P.P.S. There’s now lively debate about me keeping my beard and ‘stache on my permanent return to civilization.  I’ll trim it of course.  Thoughts?

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