The Journey of Hammer and Corky through the Central Sierra on the PCT June 2016

The Central Sierra PCT, June 2016 – Sierra Rec is following a couple who have been on the PCT over the last month and have been sending out updates from the trail over the last week in the Central Sierra. We would like you to meet Hammer and Corky . Mike (Hammer) is a high school science teacher, a keen cyclist, a natty surfer and a marathon runner.  And Stef (Corky) is a marine scientist by training and shares Mikes running obsession. Corky is  also a keen art collector and photographer, which has made following them online while they travel the PCT very rewarding experience. Corky posts a new update whenever they reach areas where there is service and they can download the photos to their website/blog pages.

I reached out to Hammer and Corky as they started to reach Yosemite National Park in hopes of meeting them once they reached Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, our timing, didn’t match as I was in Leavitt Meadows for the weekend when they arrived in South Tahoe for the weekend. However, Corky did respond and give me permission to share their story and images with you for this story.

In the last two weeks, I have seen many reports from people we know who have tried various parts of the PCT only to find deep  snow drifts still and often dangerous conditions that are amplified by large volumes of snow melt run-off running down the mountains in the warm summer heat. So it  really was not surprising to see Corky publish that the days leading up to their arrival in South Lake Tahoe were not only some of the toughest to navigate but freezing cold in the evening as well to stay on the PCT.

Ever since we’ve been in the Sierra mountains hiking the PCT has been a challenge  and today was no different. Our challenge today was a lot more snow to navigate through and combined with the coldest and strongest wind we’ve had since Tehachapi. The howling of the wind this morning drowned out the roar of the nearby river. At one stage while hiking, the wind was so strong it felt it would knock you sideways. Each mountain side we would go around we hoped the wind would be blocked but it just was as strong as ever. ~ Corky

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As Hammer and Corky passed through the Sonora Pass region into the  Carson Pass and Blue Lakes Region the varied terrain and colder temperatures  provided their challenges:

The geology was not as varied as yesterday but still presented a walk through time.  I wish I knew more about the geological history of the valleys and the canyons we have been passing through.

Today is the coldest we have been while hiking. We stopped when we lost all feeling in hands and feet despite having dry feet. We set up  camp before 5 p.m. and were asleep half an hour later. ~ Corky

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Just last week Sierra Rec heard reports of a group of young ladies that tried to cross from Ebbett’s Pass to the Carson Pass along the PCT, only to have one of them have the snow give way and she fell 200 feet, fracturing both hips and ending their trip. The PCT is such a beautiful and challenging course through the Sierra. From Yosemite through Lassen National Park, residents of this region have multiple access points to hike the PCT for day hikes, or short 2,34, or 5-day backpacking trips, but being prepared for weather and conditions in early summer are crucial to a successful journey.

On June 15th Hammer posted one of my favorite reviews titled ” The Hills are alive” as many of us know locally June is a great time to hike in the Sierra because the spring / early summer flowers start blooming an the variety of yellow, purple, pink and red flowers are absolutely beautiful.  Corky seemed to agree and caught several of our local favorites as they traveled through.

Once we were off the snow, the hiking was absolutely delightful.Flower filled mountain slopes and the most wonderful aroma of herbs as you brush past.  The hills are alive after the big thaw. ~ Corky

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South Lake Tahoe was the destination of choice for Hammer and Corky. As we hear so many times from stories of through hikers, a huge meal adn warm bed for an evening every so often is probably the only way most ever make the entire journey.

We only had 6.5 miles to reach Highway 50 and hitch a ride into South Lake Tahoe where a hamburger and chocolate milk shake awaited. For the last few nights I have been waking up in the middle of the night, dreaming of a bacon hamburger while Hammer for some reason was thinking of lasagne.

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Hammer and Corky See Lake Tahoe For the First Time

We  booked a hotel and on the way to our accommodation finally stopped for a burger and shake. It tasted unreal after waiting for so long. Hammer did not have enough and ordered a chocolate brownie with enormous scoops of ice cream.

The scenery has been spectacular and the trail tends to constantly surprise, delight and challenge us every day.

The people we are  meeting have also been  fantastic and in some sense the universe keeps looking after us. For instance we had just come off Senora Pass which had been  quiet difficult. We were on our way to have lunch. When we passed the trail marker there were 2 beers sitting there in the snow which made a welcome addition to the lunch.

Thinking I would have to carry the empty bottles for  the next 5 days. A lady out for a day walk with her dog asked if we needed any food or if there was anything she could do for us. She not only took the bottles but also our empty stove fuel canister and our other rubbish. We felt quiet blessed.

The whole trail has kind of gone that way. When hitching into town’s we  have been  getting rides quickly and with really interesting people.

The Sierra mountains were amazingly beautiful with the snow and the mosquitoes will become more prevalent as it warms up.

Life is just grand. ~ Corky

As Corky and Hammer left South Lake Tahoe, there stay a little longer than originally planned they headed out near Echo Summit again and wondered if summer was finally their friend on this journey through the central Sierra.

They posted a couple great shots of Echo Lake and Aloha Lake that looked like early June Summer vacation. But at Mile Marker 1097 the holiday ended as they hit snow again in the form of 8-10 foot snow drifts. Ah, life on the PCT when the Sierra actually gets a winter. Thank you El’Nino!

 

Today was wonderful, almost made me wish we had started earlier. We had sunshine and  clear trail. We don’t need much to make us happy.

By the time we reached Echo Lake I was convinced that summer has finally arrived. Here we joined quite a few day hikers on the lakeside trail enjoying this beautiful setting on such a lovely day. ~Corky

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Echo Lake

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Hammer at Lake Alhoa

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Today was wonderful, almost made me wish we had started earlier. We had sunshine and  clear trail. We don’t need much to make us happy.

By the time we reached Echo Lake I was convinced that summer has finally arrived. Here we joined quite a few day hikers on the lakeside trail enjoying this beautiful setting on such a lovely day. ~Corky

The Desolation Wilderness and the Granite Chief Wilderness Area are some of the Central Sierra’s most cherished wilderness experiences. Visitors to Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Truckee take a variety of different access point into these remote areas every summer. However Navigation can be tricky and in heavy snow seasons such as these, even traveled veterans on the PCT can easily leave the trail and find themselves looking for looks at Lake Tahoe and trial coordinates along the way.  Hammer and Corky also found difficulties with the trail in the snow this year, but look at some of the images they captured:

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Heatehr Lake

Heather Lake

Lake Fontanills

Lake Fontanills

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As of Tuesday Hammer and Corky were just above Tahoe City. and about to move across interstate 80 into the Northern Sierra. We will be following their story and provide updates on our social media channels, but if you would like to see an adventure like Hammer and Corky’s play out this year we encourage you to check in on this crazy couple at https://hammerandcorky.com/ There you can see their entire journey and the amazing photo images.

We will close with a few more images captured by Corky of their Central Sierra Visit. Hope you enjoy your summer and find an adventure, maybe on the PCT this summer.

Photo Credit: All images captured in this Story were provided with permission from the Adventures of Hammer and Corky at https://hammerandcorky.com/