Life, being what it is, I ended up doing the trip in five weeks and cutting out certain segments. None of this detracted from the rewards, or challenges, of the trip however. Following are some highlights.
Squaw Valley is located northwest of Lake Tahoe. A tram climbs three fourths of the way up the mountain and provides spectacular views of the surrounding area. After that, any climbing is done the old fashioned way– on your legs. Two friends, Cathy Coulter and Bill Braun, joined my wife Peggy and I for the first segment of our trip.
I had started my first trek here in 1974 and Peggy had started her backpacking experience with me out of Squaw Valley in 1990. At the time, Peggy’s 14-year-old daughter, Tasha, had serious reservations about me and had given her mom a sweatshirt that said, “Keep your hands off the Mama.” Not too subtle, that girl.
Our 100-K adventure in 1990 through the Granite Chief and Desolation Wildernesses had also included an 85 year old, Orvis Agee. Orvis Agee. He had walked into my office in 1974 wanting to go on our 100-mile trek and I had strongly suggested that the trip might be a bit strenuous for his 69 years. He had quickly pointed out that he had been on a 50-mile trip the year before and frequently climbed Mt. Shasta. The furthest I had backpacked at that time had been 30 miles– and I had never climbed Mt. Shasta. “Welcome aboard Orvis,” I had told him.
It was one of the better decisions in my life. Sixteen years later Orvis was still trekking with us and had raised our organization over $100,000. On top of that, he was one of the gentlest souls I have ever met. Peggy later noted that there was no way she could complain about the difficulty of her first trek with Orvis along.
Bill Braun had started hiking with me in the 70s and was/is one of my all time favorite characters. For six months out of the year he had worked as the chief mechanic on the huge container ships that ply the Pacific Ocean. For the other six months he did pretty much whatever he pleased. Cathy worked for the IRS and was married to Chuck Mawson when she started trekking. Chuck was the first executive director of Americans for Non Smoker’s Rights, the organization that was primarily responsible for making America smoke-free.
Some time after her divorce, Cathy and Bill had fallen in love while keeping an eye out for Orvis and helping him along the trail. At one point his cataracts had been so bad, Cathy had led him by hand over difficult sections of the trail. Given these connections plus the fact that Orvis had recently passed away, we dedicated our trip through the Granite Chief Wilderness to his memory.
The second part of my journey started at Carson Pass on Highway 88 and ended near Sonora Pass on Highway 108. This time five friends joined me including Peggy, our daughter Natasha, Nancy Pape, Ken Lake and Leslie Lake. Tasha had long since forgiven me for falling in love with her mother and now called me dad. Pape was an interior decorator out of Sacramento who could talk as fast as she could walk, which was really fast. I had hired Ken in 1977 to run my first 500-mile bike trek. He was a Vietnam Vet with a degree in health education but what impressed me was that he had ridden his bicycle across the US.