Date: Friday, 22 September 2017
Start: Camped by the trail at Mile 1027.8, 8829 ft
Finish: Camped by the trail at Mile 1048.4, 8727 ft
Daily Miles: 20.6 PCT
Total PCT Miles: 2369.1
Weather: Very cold and sunny in the morning, with cloud, fog and snow flurries in the afternoon.
Dinner: Rehydrated macaroni cheese
Aches: Nothing new
Highlight: Probably the stillness and silence of the snow-covered forest during the early morning walking.
Lowlight: None really
Pictures: Click here.
Position: Click here.
Map: Click here for Google Map
All but one of my fellow campers, were up and gone by 5:30am on a freezing cold morning, and he was gone by soon after 6:00am. They were keen to get to Sonora Pass and out of the cold and snow by hitching to a town for a few zero days. It took a lot of willpower for me to get out of bed at 5:30am after a bitterly cold night, during which I had added my Goretex rainjacket to the things I was wearing in bed to keep warm. I knew that if I stayed in bed any longer, I would reduce my chances of getting to my next town, and zero day, on Sunday. After yesterday’s poor mileage, it was starting to look dicey. For each section, I generally work out the minimum acceptable distance each day to reach the next town, and then if I can do more, then I increase my time off in town. However, yesterday I fell short of my modest target by four miles and can’t afford any more slippage, or I will be out a day longer than anticipated and getting low on food. For today, my target was twenty miles and that would still leave me four miles in deficit, but twenty in these snowy conditions was going to be a big challenge.
The snow-covered forest was eerily still and silent as I set out, giving me plenty of thinking time to ponder whether I should have made a smarter decision yesterday about setting out during a winter storm warning. The bitterly cold nights were no fun, and neither was slogging up hills through soft powder snow carrying a pack. On the other hand, I didn’t want to lose a day from my schedule, and even if I had waited a day, I would still be getting the snow conditions I was now dealing with. Exacerbating my funk was the occasional difficulty following the trail. It was a bit of an art form, anyway, given that the overnight snow had pretty much obliterated the tracks of the southbound hikers I had camped with last night. It was just possible to determine a faint depression in the snow, but I often had to stop and look more closely, and on one occasion did get a long way off track, wasting about 30 minutes I could ill afford. A distraction was trying to work out which animal had made which tracks in the fresh snow. There were many different kinds crossing or following the trail. One set looked like some kind of large cat, but I didn’t see any animals all day, apart from some cattle in one valley. Of course, there were also occasionally some great views to mountains near and far, all looking cold and forbidding.
I stopped for a late lunch about 1:30pm, still disappointed with my rate of progress, but when I resumed walking I began to find some parts of the trail were now snow-free for the first time. It gave me encouragement that the hiking might get easier, and I felt more positive about my rate of progress. It was hard to work out why parts of the track were clear, but probably lower altitudes and maybe less snow had fallen further north.
Late in the afternoon, near the top of a long climb, I saw my first and only hiker for the day, and he said I was the first he had seen for two days. This encounter was good for both of us because it now meant we had each other’s tracks to follow in the snow, and that made life easier. I pushed on until nearly 7:00pm before stopping, happy with my 20 miles, and hopeful I can cut into the four mile deficit tomorrow. It looks like being another freezing cold night.