Chapter 10: Military Grade Cheeseball Container

You know those insanely large containers of cheeseballs that exist at Sam’s/Costco? (Sure you do.) Imagine one of those, but heavy-duty. A military grade cheeseball container. Why? (Glad you asked.)

Turns out, that is essentially what a bear canister is like. You store your food in it, and presumably a bear can’t break it open. It could however roll it down a mountain (like I saw happen to a ranger on the Appalachian Trail.). But hey, I have a Tile bluetooth locator in mine. Cause I’m a dork. An overly prepared dork.

(5-days of food. Heavy. Bleh.)

All hikers going through the Sierra are required to carry these bulky polycarbonate overpriced beasts. So for the next 300-ish mile stretch at least I’ll always have a camp chair. The ironic part is, all the hikers coming out of the Sierra that I am passing (cause I’m still going south/backwards) did not see any bear. Meanwhile, I have. In sections that did not require a bear canister.

About a week ago, just north of Truckee, I did my usual go to sleep with no rainfly routine. It pretty much never rains out here, so air flowing through a screen tent is nice. This also means I am much more likely to wake up at sunrise. So… 5:30am I am laying in my sleeping bag, debating when to start packing everything up (the usual dilemma). Eventually I lean up and look over towards a huge overlook to my right, thinking I will catch a glimpse of the sun. Instead I caught a glimpse of a large brown bear facing directly at me about 25ft away. Cool.

On my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I saw about 12 black bear. All of them fairly small (few hundred pounds). Also, all of them were super skittish and ran away. So black bear do not concern me. They are just annoying to be honest. Brown bear. Well, they are no grizzly, but still large and new to me. This sucker was a good 500lbs.

So here I am, having a stare-down for 10 seconds, debating all the scenarios. I figured it’d be smart to give Tumbleweed a heads up. Cause you know. Manners… as soon as I call out her name, the bear bumbles down the mountain. Her only concern was if I captured a picture/video, ha!

This was also around the time old hiker friends from early on started to intersect my southern trajectory. Pretty wild seeing these faces for the first time since April/May-ish. Many looked drained from their grueling Sierra experience. One guy had lost 45lbs so far. Crazy.

Pretty much everyone talked about ridiculous postholing in snow and swarms of mosquitoes. However, at least the snow should be mostly melted now. Most of the hikers just finishing the Sierra are saying snow and water fording was not dangerous. Awesome.

Speaking of awesome. I have the good fortune of experiencing some long distance trail magic at Echo Lake.

(Thanks Craig and Myra!)

Also awesome, Lake Tahoe. Tumbleweed and I took an unplanned day off to get out on the lake. Beautiful blue water.

Since Lake Tahoe, the trail is taking on a new look. It’s starting to become more vast. Less trees. Bigger mountains. Bigger valleys. Bigger views. (Bigger physical pains.) I am finally starting to experience the Sierra.

The next 300 miles are widely regarded as the toughest, but most beautiful section of the entire PCT. After which, will be a side trip to climb Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48), and then back to Ashland, OR to hike the final 950 miles north to Canada.

Sounds like a lot is left, but also a lot has happened. I am sure it will be over before I know it.

Time to dump…

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