Donner Pass

“Well, we were hungry, and Blaze couldn’t walk anymore… so now she’s gone. Oh, and I’m hungry again.”

Wait.  That’s not how this story really happened.  I guess I timewarped for a moment to an incident that involved wagons and snow.

This is how it really happened:

Blaze was hungry.  She packed a lot of food.  Her pack weighed her down and she hurt her other ankle.  She struggled on for a couple more weeks, until her ankles said, very loudly, ‘We Quit!’

Or something like that.

Blaze got her first ankle strain a couple hundred miles into the hike.  Rest days off involved ice.  It would get better, then worse.  We would take some weight out of her pack every few weeks.  It would get better again.

She has the stubborn red head gene and wasn’t going to give up walking.

Leaving Tuolumne Meadows (after our 18 day stretch where we survived off of hiker boxes), her pack was loaded with food.

This time it turned out to be too much.  The other ankle rebeled.     

A few days off at Sonora Pass,  then she joined us again at Carson Pass (arriving with sandwiches and cookies!)

We kept hiking.  We survived another lightning storm on a ridge.  This time there were trees we hid out under.  Blaze and I had our umbrellas up and the rainfly stretched over them.  It was cozy considering the wet world around us and lightning striking the peak above us.  After the lightning ceased, we continued on to Whiskey Creek, managing a 19 mile day despite the weather stop.

A couple weeks before (when both legs were hobbled), Blaze had decided that Donner Pass would be her new end point.  Friends were meeting us there.  She would then go on a road trip journey on her way North.  Her ankles had other ideas.

On our way to Donner Pass for the night.  Four miles in.  We hit a trail junction that leads to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort.  Take a break to see how she’s doing.  It doesn’t look good, but she thinks she can push on.  We don’t know what the trail to the valley will be like, better to stay on the trail we know.

Blaze stands up ready to march on, sits down again in tears.

Her ankle doesn’t want to walk 11 more miles.  The pain today is more than its been the whole trip.  Backtrack and I look at each other with an ‘oh no’ expression.

We pull out a water bladder to use as an ice pack.  Sit and think up a contingency plan.  The side trail looks doable. It would be a 3-4 mile hike instead of 11 miles.  We’re considering options.  What more we can do to doctor her up that doesn’t involve what she really needs, the first part of RICE: Rest.

I’m sitting in the middle of the trail taping up her ankle when three fluffy dogs appear.  A woman’s voice says ‘Watch out. Attack dogs.’ as they come up to us, tongues hanging, to sniff us and flop in front of us to get pet.

Blaze’s Angel

An angel has arrived to save Blaze.  She is from the area, on her way to Truckee that afternoon, and gives us her number so we can call when we get down the mountain.

Saved again.

It’s decided.  I’ll hike out with Blaze, we’ll get to Truckee and friends, and Backtrack will meet us that evening at Donner Pass.

It’s a sad goodbye.  A sad way to leave the trail.  It was her last day out, just 11 more miles to go, but her ankles had other ideas.

For her eulogy, I will say this:

Blaze hiked 1100 miles of the PCT.  Most of the way with an ankle injury.  The rest of the way with two. (And she says I’m one of the most stubborn people she knows.)

She earned her trail fame with having the prettiest toes on the trail (always brightly painted), hiking in Chacos and for her amazingly dirty face with a huge smile.  (She impressed a couple of hikers so much with all her dirt, that they’ve been telling everyone they meet about her. People know who she is before she arrives at a town.)

We wonder how morale will be kept up without her.

Team No Hurries is down to two.



About Natalie

Natalie Fisher is a dancer, teacher, silk aerialist, and choreographer. She is inspired by the wilderness. Her work involves finding the seam where her worlds of dance, aerials and the wilderness meet.

6 thoughts on “Donner Pass

  1. Sorry to hear about the ankles. Blaze you looked strong at Echo Lk Chalet.
    Just an ol ranger tip though, I cringed when I read about the shelter under a tree on a ridge in a lighting storm. But, you guys seem to be doing just fine. I was wonder how you were doing when those storms started coming through here. Thanks for the update.

  2. Ouch! I have one bad ankle right now, can’t imagine two. Good work on all the miles Blaze! Best wishes for Team No Hurries on the rest of the way. Still enjoying the stories.

  3. hey nat,

    good to hear of your latest adventures(except hiding out under trees in a lightening storm!). sorry to hear about blaze. sounds like the right decision, however. blessings as you continue. was hiking in new york a few weeks ago and talked trail with some AT thru-hikers. that was fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *