Monday, April 16, 2012
Haven’t written since I back on the trail Saturday. Pretty interesting weekend. Mom and Michael dropped me off back at Noble Canyon TH (mile 49). It was blowing 30 mph and sprays of frozen rain. They asked if I was sure I wanted to go, said I could start tomorrow. But I was up for the challenge. I mounted my pack and started walking. As I was leaving, Michael said if I wanted to stay at the lodge that night, he’d pay for it. Psh — I don’t need no cushy lodge. Quickly I realized what I had walked myself into. The wind seemed to intensify on the ridge and the raining slet became nearly constant. As I circled around the back of the relative protection of the peaks, I would soon be blasted front-on with tiny hail blowing at 50 mph. As I began to become perpendicular again to the force of the storm, the wind funneled between the peaks and would catch my pack and spin me into the bushes. I managed four hellish miles before I made it to Pioneer Mail Campground and decided to try to hitch back to Mt. Laguna.
I danced, shivering with my thumb, out for 45 minutes before someone stopped — a dad in a minivan with four little kids in the back. They were trying to find a good sledding spot! Thank God! My feet were soaked and slowly becoming ice cubes and my fingers were totally stiff. I was beginning to wonder what I would do if nobody stopped.
I made it to Mt. Laguna minutes after the lodge had closed. Some people on the porch suggested I try across the street. They had a small cabin for $99 (thanks Michael) :-). Pretty dirty, but I slowly defrosted my feet in the shower, then made dinner with my little alcohol stove: Gnocchi with broccoli and Mom’s homemade Tomato Sauce! Best meal yet on the trail. Well-worth the extra fuel and water to prepare it.
There was a small wall outlet, so I plugged in my phone, and was surprised to see I had full bms 3G service — WOW! I decided I’d watch a movie as I lay in my (very dilapidated) bed. I logged into Netflix and was soon watching “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” — great movie. Animals, Nature, Love — what more could you want? After the movie was over I slept fitfully on the old mattress, waking up at 7:30 to eat breakfast, but then going back to sleep till 8:30. Loitered around the store across the street, trying to find a ride back to the trail (where I got off). Finally got one from a cross-country skier; back on the trail at 9:30.
Beautiful day today! Sun’s out, blue, clear skies. One problem: the snow’s melting. In the morning you could still kinda walk on it, but you’d sink in a few inches. By noon, it was so slushy, the trail had turned into a stream of snowmelt and every step was squishy splash of icy, muddy water ~ into one shoe; out the other shoe, up the pant legs. Made the walking pretty unpleasant and slow-going. Did 11 miles, ending up at a beautiful little sopt in the valley between two mountains and a small seasonal stream running through grassy banks. A few other hikers — Michael and Stephanie were there already. I sat down and chatted with them for awhile, we had dinner together, and made a nice campfire. Michael boiled water for me on his Jet Boil, a pocket rocket that boils 1 1/2 cups in 45 seconds.
I had discovered as I unpacked my pack that my alcohol stove fuel had exploded and I had lost about 3/4 of it. Probably the big altitude drop from 6000 to 4300 and temperatures rise from 30 degrees to 80 degrees had created so much pressure in that little bottle that it just popped. I had wondered why one side of my back has felt so cool while I was hiking that day. The alcohol fuel is a methanol-based HEET, a fuel-line antifreeze had also rubbed up against my water bladder delaminating it. It’s till functional, but slighly deformed and now you have to suck really hard to get water out. It also soaked into my tea bags, which I had to throw out because I don’t want to drink methanol-laced tea — that’s a buzz I don’t much care for. Thankfully, the rest of my food and gear was properly bagged up, so it was spared. Now, though, at least until Warner Springs, where I have more HEET waiting for me in my maildrop, I have to bum fuel off my friends, or just have them heat me up some water on their stoves.
It’s actually nice to be among a group. We all hiked our own pace today, but hung out during breaks and at water stops. Nice to have people to commiserate with about blisters, and fantasize about food. Tonight we’re camped out at Scissor’s Crossing on the way to Anza Borrego Desert, underneath Highway 78 overpass. A car rumbles overhead every 10 minutes or so, but for the most part, its cool, quiet spot. Nate carried a 50 lb. pack today, made himself miserable, but that pack included an amazing dinner of couscous, onions sautéed in sesame oil, salmon and a whole can of coconut milk. He made about three serving of Coconut Curry, so we all got to try some. He also had a bottle of Jim Beam, and some Crush menthol cigarettes.
While we were eating dinner a local trail angel came to refill the 30-gallon water tank he caches here for PCTers. Without that, it’d be 37 miles between (natural) sources. He lives 3 miles up the road, loads the huge tank into his car, fills it at his house, then drives it back. We helped him unload it from his car, put it on the dolly and wheel it over to it’s hiding spot in the bushes. Thank you Larry!
Tomorrow we start the day with a 1000 foot climb, then 14 miles to our next water source — gonna be a long hot day! Peace. Love. 🙂