Walking into the Clouds

So, I leave Warner Springs around 8am, after my zero day, feeling Great!  I had a good lunch the day before and a huge dinner at a neighboring school’s charity function.  I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.  My pack felt so much lighter on my back after going through it and cutting some things loose, and re-thinking my food.   It was slightly overcast, cool, and a great temp for the uphill climb I had coming.  I was ready for the days hike.  The first few miles were easy, and mostly flat.  I passed through a livestock area, and next to some dried out streams, and eventually got to the start of the ascent.  It was chilly so I put on my down coat over my normal button up polyester shirt.  (A mistake I later learned)  I was cruising… for me.  I was moving well and my shirt and down jacket were getting wet from me sweating.  I hadn’t really noticed the transition, but at one point I had entered the cloud cover.  I was getting hungry so I sat down at a small side section of the trail, removed my now wet down jacket, and started making my hot lunch.  As I sat waiting for my water to boil to mix in with my rice and noodles, I started noticing a peculiar sound.  I couldn’t understand what it was at first.  I turned my attention to my down jacket next to me when I realized it had started raining lightly and the sound was the drops landing on my down jacket.  Not too concerned I finished making my lunch and dove in.  Behind me and to the right there was a small campsite that I could have squeezed into, and thought that maybe I’ll pitch my tent there and wait out the rain.  But I thought better of it because I was moving so well today, and wanted to keep putting on the miles.  After finishing lunch I got up, packed everything away, put on my rain jacket (I wasn’t carrying rain pants), and got moving up the trail.

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It wasn’t long before the rain starting coming a little more steadily down, sometimes a little hail with snow particles mixed in.  With the rain, came quick gusts of cold wind.  The trail, although being covered by the clouds, wasn’t hard to see and I pressed on.  After a very short time on the trail my pants had already become soaked all the way through.  Every time I walked by a low bush, and there were countless, the rain that collected on the leaves would dump onto my pants and drain into my shoes.  I was now walking with small puddles in both of my shoes.  Making a decision to keep going a few miles to a campsite that I saw on my phone app, I pressed on.  Just before reaching the area of boulders where the campsite was supposed to be a guy in shorts and short-sleeve t-shirt comes up behind me moving at a fast pace.  We chatted fast about how he’s heading toward Mikes’s place, and how I was thinking on stopping short in this boulder campsite area. Mike’s place is a hiker stop where you can usually get a meal and re-fill water and camp for the night.  Currently his place was another 5 or so miles away.  He took off at a brisk pace while I started to look for this campsite.  While looking at any potential spots to camp, I kept noticing that each one was not protected from the wind and it’s gusts.  New decision…. get to Mikes.

I pressed on, this time faster, because it was getting colder and darker, and windier.  At every corner I kept expecting Mikes place to shine like a beacon.  It never did, but there was a path eventually that led to his place.  Out at the front of a long drive was a large water tank.  It was placed there in case you didn’t want to head all the way to his place and just needed some water.  I kept going down his drive.  When I walked up, I was completed soaked head to toe with either sweat or rain.  Immediately I saw a bunch of cold wet faces I knew, many of who I met at Warner Springs the day before.  Some yelled out, ‘Slim Shady!’, lol!  I couldn’t help but laugh and smile at my situation.  I was soaked to the skin, it was still cold, raining, and everything was getting muddy around Mikes place, but I was here, safe and about to have a hot meal and some coffee, both provided, graciously, by Mike himself.  I chatted everyone up, they were like me, cold and wet.  They huddled around a patio table while I ate my meal of chicken, rice and fried egg.  My buddies, Doc and Amnesia, were hanging with the caretaker in a garage and called me over.  I was standing soaked, laughing at how I must look.  Eventually I got my dry clothes out of my pack and changed into them, and felt a 100 times better.  Most of us hung our clothes on lines strung throughout the porch and garage.  (nothing dried because it was too cold out) We were all in for a long night.  It never stopped raining and eventually it turned into snow overnight.  Some, who had come earlier, had posted up in an old RV on the lot, or the camper out back.  Myself, I pitched my tent right next to the front of the house trying to stay out of the wind.  We all retired and headed to bed…

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This picture was taken a few hours after waking, and after a lot of the snow had melted off already.  I had continually kicked the snow off the top of my tent’s rain fly all night long, which created a snow drift about 6 inches outside the doors of my tent which I had to push out of the way to get out of the tent.  That’s also my green down jacket which was only mostly dry by this time.  It never really dried up there, but it was still doing a decent job of keeping me warm.  What this doesn’t show is that it was still snowing during this picture and continued to snow large flakes all day.  Many of the hikers who had been there when I showed up the day before got ready to hike out and took off within a couple hours of waking.  Their gear and clothing was drier than mine, and so they made their way down from here.  My clothing I wore up here was still soaked.  It just wasn’t drying.  One of the hikers, Lego, had also gotten up early and started making breakfast for everyone in the outdoor kitchen.  Potato’s, with onions and egg on a tortilla.  Delicious! Thanks Lego!

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During the day, hikers, who had not made it to Mike’s place, kept arriving.  They were all pretty wet and cold.  Most had spent the night camping somewhere along the trail to here.  They all got snowed and rained on.  I would have too if I had stopped at my lunch spot.  Turns out that most of the first 700+ miles of trail, maybe more, got hit with rain and snow at the higher elevations. Many hikers throughout these sections of the trail were battening down and making the best of it.  I noticed even pictures coming out of the start of the trail near Campo, hikers were wearing heavier clothing and jackets.  Oh Mother Nature, you are so funny!

So, what did I do? Well, I grabbed a ride out of Mike’s place after the first night of snow and stayed a few days in Idyllwild with a cool German couple at a nice rental cottage.  There I waited for my next re-supply which was on time, but I was early into town.  I dried out my stuff, gear, tent, and got my clothes laundered.  Took a real shower.  Saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 in a cool old theater called The Rustic, where you can buy beer for the show and they give you blankets because it gets cold inside the theater. Caught up with other hiker buds in town and discussed where to next, and just generally rested.  The PCT is constantly changing, and changing the rules… it’s pretty cool.

2 thoughts on “Walking into the Clouds

  1. Wow! Your trip sounds amazing and so fun!! Love reading about all the cool people you meet along the way and the places to stop. Especially Mike’s place, so cool to have people like that out there. Take care…. Happy Adventures!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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