DONNER PEAK (8,019'), MT. JUDAH (8,243'), PHIPPS PEAK (9,234') 4X July 17-18, 2003

With a wave of humid heat forecast for the next few days, I thought it was a good time to head for the mountains. Taking Interstate 80 east, Thursday, I was able to come to the PCT trailhead near Old Donner Pass. I began my short, 4.5 mile hike at 9:28 a.m., to bag both Donner Peak and Mt. Judah.

I figured that after a couple years of my absence, Donner Peak would need an improvement as far as the register. I was right. I stuffed all the older papers, still in the little tin box, into a large plastic baggie. A rusty set of small nesting cans I had placed, awhile ago, held my two old notebooks. All were full. How lazy can people be to not bring up some good materials and spare me the expense and work! An ammo box, with a composition notebook, would be great. I had to leave a larger set of nesting cans, all I have, with another cut notebook and pen. They are hidden behind a rock marked, "box," and in a sort of, foot high, ledge cave.

Having had a short discussion about local register policy with the local USFS supervisor, I reaffirmed that it was not a big priority with them. This here is not official wilderness, but registers are declared a "non-conforming use." Therefore they are subject to a special use permit. I deemed to slink away, not wishing to take any more time of the fine gentleman, and to not trap myself as the payee for this permit!

It was getting warm. I hiked up to the twin summits of Mt. Judah, and bagged both bumps. The higher, southerly bump now has a sign, "Mt. Judah," and the prayer flags are still up there. Seems no one has a problem with these.

Completing the trail loop, I hiked back to my car, finishing at 12:52 p.m., and motored east along the Old Donner Pass Road. I had ridden this highway as a small kid, and can remember when there was no Interstate!

Passing through Truckee, with a library stop, I made a visit to my favorite store. Then it was on to downtown Reno, NV, to secure a hotel room.

I was famished. Taking a quick shower, I had the lunch buffet (well before 4 p.m.), and then caught the evening news. I took a stroll over to the main Washoe County library, but found they were closed. I shot many scenes of the neon, and noted what was new in downtown.

Falling asleep early, I woke up at about 5 a.m., Friday. I made in-room coffee, checked out, and motored over to a fast food restaurant for breakfast. On the Interstate, then, I got plenty of gas (@1.579) and took the Highway 89 exit south to Tahoe City. I remeasured my mileage stat in my guide, and came to Meeks Bay Trailhead with a bit less, a fraction of a mile, than I wrote in my peaks guide. I did warn of discrepancies of up to 10%!

Beginning my hike at 8:10 a.m., I was set upon by mosquitoes. Giving another chance to my newer applicator bottle, it again failed to work. Later, when I was able to stop, I sprayed on some new, older formulation that cost me only $1.99 at a major discount house. That did the job.

But, I could barely stop for a picture without being pounced on by dozens of the hungry pests. The only defense, without repellent or heavy clothes, is to swat the little beasts. Appalling, yes, and an excuse for your being swatted, too, by some local CA extremists. Glad I'm hiking without them, today!

Several parties had backpacked to the lakes. I enjoyed the good time I was making. Soon, I was past the last lake, and climbing up the hill to Phipps Pass. Getting there at 12 Noon, I headed, cross-country, right, up some rock slabs, and onto the ridge. This took some navigation, and then I was atop the sandy plateau. The summit rockpile was straight ahead, and I topped out at 12:18 p.m. A view to the south (in the photo, above right) shows Middle Velma Lake, Dicks Peak (9,974'), Peak 9,967', and Mt. Price (9,975').

The views were hazy, and I could only see northward to Sierra Buttes, and southward only to these higher Desolation Wilderness peaks. I snapped away with my Coolpix. Even at 9,000 feet, it was warm! Due to be 107 degrees today in Sacramento, I saw the only big relief anywhere, below 10,000 feet, was to be indoors with air conditioning. Figuring on hitting some Stateline casinos, I left the top at 12:45 p.m., and returned to the trail by 1 p.m.

Backpackers going uphill had it rough. Some were perspiring heavily, and fortunately, there were plenty of opportunities for filtering water. Some residual snow could provide cold drinks, and mostly, the trail runs under trees for shade.

As typical for this time of year, the flowers were out. A leopard lily presents itself in the photo left.

Getting down further, a large group of trail runners came sprinting uphill. I figured this was, for heavy exertion, the worst time of day, in the afternoon, with the worst day, maybe for the year, for high heat.

I came back to my car by 4:13 p.m., and did I need a shower! It poured, in South Lake Tahoe, CA, for a few minutes due to some thundershowers, but by then, I was enjoying my air and grateful to be back safely. Scrapping my plans to camp out another night, I headed for home.

I hiked some 21 miles with 4,400 feet gain, total. For Phipps, I used three liters of water. I shot almost 250 photos, and spent some $70 total. I will make some minor revisions to my peaks guide notes, as there were new signs.