Hiking, snow, wind storms, heat waves, bears, giant trees and one improptu 1200 mile (1900km) road trip.
After taking a couple of zero days after day 14, I leave Captain Nav behind in town suffering from some back issues. I’m sad to hit the trail without him, but have teamed up with a couple of Americans (R snr and R jnr) to hike the next section through yet more desert. Leaving town we encounter the most insane wind storm with 100km/ph plus winds and I become a human kite. It takes every bit of strength to not be blown off the mountain. Decidely dangerous, we pull off the trail after only 6 miles and make camp for the night. After the most horrible night, I thankfully don’t suffer the same fate as Dorothy and wake up in my own tent in the same place! A couple of extremely cold uneventful days of hiking follow. Strangely, the scenery changes to alpine for most part of those days, and we wander through misty forest for a couple of days. The cold weather in addition to the hiking, makes me insanely hungry, and it takes all my willpower not to inhale all my remaining days food supplies!
By day 3 we return to the bleak and desolate desert. It is searing and relentlessly hot, and the distances between water are long, forcing us to do 10-12 hour days, covering 30+ km’s each day. The climbs continue, and at times I feel like just laying down in the middle of the trail. Our days are the same, wake before the sun rises, hike and hike and hike. Find shade and wait out the heat. Then hike and hike until the sun begins to set.
By day 6, I am exhausted. But it’s resupply day, which means town! Which also means a shower, the chance to do laundry, and eat ‘real’ food, including a ton of ice cream. There is something about ice cream amongst hikers. I’m not talking an ice cream on a stick. I’m talking tubs of the stuff! It’s also the point at which I will meet back up with Captain Nav, and I am anxious to see how his back is.
We are now at the end of the desert, and it’s decision time. We are at the start of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. California experienced a record snow fall this year. This means there is a HUGE amount of snow up in the mountains, making for some very dicey hiking. There is also as a result, HUGE snowmelt making river crossings incredibly dangerous. This year’s snow fall has been the hot topic of the PCT, and there has been much debate amongst all hikers as to whether they will attempt to go through the Sierras now or jump ahead and rejoin the trail in Northern California, and then come back and attempt the Sierras in another month. After days of debate, listing pros and cons, and hearing of rescue after rescue, a ton of serious injuries, and most hikers having to bail out, we make the decision to skip the Sierras for now. We decide to jump ahead to Northern California to rejoin the trail there. The majority of hikers on the trail have made the same decision. I am disappointed, but knew there was a chance of this before I headed over here. We intend to head back down to the Sierras mid July or so and hike through then, hopefully after snow melt has peaked. The Sierras are the highlight of the PCT and a large reason why I selected to do this trail so I’m not giving them up without a fight!
We organise to hire a car to drive the some 800 miles north. As we have the car, I decide it would be a good opportunity to go via Sequoia National Park to see the mighty and majestic Sequoias. Some 3000 years old, they are the oldest trees on earth. Incredibly, they are resistant to fire and parasites / disease. They have a very shallow root system, and so only die when they get too top heavy and topple over. It is indescribale how enormous these trees are and it is so humbling to stand in their shadow.
We had split up to each wander through the trees, and on my way back to the car, I hear a rustle off the trail to my right. I turn, and it takes a few moments for my eyes and brain to recognise what I’m staring at…. a giant black bear. My heart immediately starts pounding. I completely forget what I’m supposed to do in this circumstance, and instead simply turn around and run. Thrilling and terrifying all at the same time!
It has been a day of new sights and experiences and a great off trail adventure. It’s also a reminder of those magic moments that can happen when we release control, give in to what is, and not resist or struggle.
The next day we head to a pre-organised resupply point that had gear and other bits, including new shoes, that we needed to grab and sort out before we could head north. Once done, we drive through the night, eager to return to the trail. We have driven a total of 1200 miles (1900kms) over 3 days and I can’t wait to stretch my legs back out on the trail.