Losing Quarters on the Ponies

Day 82 South Lake Tahoe, CA Mile 1093

The snow is finally starting to relent.  I’ve made it to the big blue of Lake Tahoe and have met some great folks in the last couple days.  The trail is becoming more like itself again, and the miles are coming easier.  All the hikers seem anxious to put away their gps and start some real hiking again.  I’ve also noticed in the last few trail registers (few and far between during the Sierra) that there is a new mantra for north-bounders: “no skips, no flips”.  From possible 500 that started at the border several months ago, many have dropped out, many more have skipped around snow, and the ones left are now advertising their purist nature.  Luckily I can still count myself among this group, though I give anyone credit for completing the trail this year, whatever the fashion.

I caught up with some friends in the last few days, Rocklocks and Mr. Fox, after several days more solo.   Originally I was planning on blowing straight on through Tahoe, but after I tweaked my quad on a steep downhill, I decided to use the local facilities to rest up.  I’ve been able to meet several locals in the last section, and had some home stays because of it.  First there was Steve in Bridgeport, who passed me at the burger joint and instantly offered up his place to crash for the night.  We spent hours talking about highlights of the Sierra, and all his favorite spots with only the knowledge a born and raised local could have.  Thanks to Balto for the Swedish pancake mix and lingonberries for breakfast and to Steve for the kitchen; my alcohol stove wouldn’t have been up to the task.  Upon reaching Hwy 50 at Echo Summit, a note on the pct sign said hikers could crash at a nearby house, and Mike turned out to be a perfect trail angel.  Hot tub in back, chill on the couch, use the car to the post office, and all 100 yards from the trail.  I headed into town to resupply and when I mentioned to the guy who picked me up that I was headed to the buffet, he wanted to join in the eating frenzy.  So that’s when I found myself at the Montbleu Casino in Stateline, NV with Hotrod, Seahorse, and Chilidog packing down the calories of every shape and size.  I think I was agape the entire time.  The neon lights, slot machines, endless food, luxury even in the bathrooms.  Coming from the trail, entry into Nevada is pretty surreal.  After stumbling away from the buffet feeling worse than when I started, I was introduced to Superman, an AT hiker recently moved to Tahoe.  He gave Hotrod and I a dollar or so in quarters, and I proceeded to lose each one on an antique pony racing slot game.  Apparently there are only several of these left in the country.  Mechanical ponies race around a miniature track while you bet the odds.  The benefit of pretending you are playing are the free drinks from roving waitresses, though I was too stuffed to take much advantage of the opportunity.  Superman invited us back to his place, where I could ice my quad, chill in front of the tv, and swap endless stories about the trail.  We’re stoking his pct dreams, and he’s planting a seed for the AT.  He was glad to be able to host hikers, and we were happy to receive such hospitality and a power-packed plate of potato pancakes for breakfast.  The quad is starting to feel better, and the miles are calling.  Next stop, Donner Pass.   Note to other hikers: I haven’t lost much weight, but I’m still not worth it.


4 thoughts on “Losing Quarters on the Ponies

  1. From the trail to a casino; such a life that you are leading these days! Stay away from the evil witch, Hansel!

  2. still enjoying following your hike. such a small world…i know superman from my ’06 AT hike! i knew from fb that he had moved out to tahoe. don’t stress about the calendar too much, you are going to fly once you get out of that snow. nor cal and oregon miles come easy!

  3. Dave,
    I have loved reading your messages all summer. Such wonderful writing.

    Today I found something that reminded me of you:
    “I travel alone at ease with nature,” said Japanese artist-poet Fukuda Kodôjin. I believe you and he are fellow travellers.

    Love from Iowa,

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