Flipped to Walker Pass and hiking south toward Hikertown. Hiked 16.9
PCT miles. At mile 566.4.
Today was to be my day of rest. I would sleep late, take a long breakfast, and leisurely break camp before hiking a few miles to a tent site that would leave me a couple hours hike the next morning for a meet up with cousin Margaret with resupply, trail magic, and town food.
The weather didn’t agree with these plans. It was cold and windy and although I stayed in the sleeping bag longer than usual, the biting wind urged me to quit this place and get moving. As I hiked, I tried to slow down by taking an abundance of breaks and I succeeded at first.
I also had to use extreme measures to conserve my phone battery. The previous night I had discovered that my external battery pack was dead with my phone battery in the low teens. I hiked with the phone powered down; meaning fewer photos no Guthook for reassurance that I had not strayed from the trail. I concentrated on looking for the few PCT logo trail markers. I followed a dirt road MK10 for what turned out to be 4.4 miles, always looking for boot prints in case the trail turned off road. Areas where trails intersect and follow dirt roads are the easiest places to miss a turn. I think I may have mentioned U-Turn, a young Belgian, who did just that, finding himself 4 miles off trail before he made a U-turn to retrace his steps. I wonder how challenging it was to hike the PCT before GPS devices. There was few other hikers with which to share information and few water caches. Since few people had ever heard of the PCT, trail magic was really magic because it mostly didn’t exist and seemed to appear out of thin air.
After the long walk on MK10 ( I don’t like walking these deeply rutted uneven rubbly steep 4WD roads that make it easy to lose your footing.) the trail hit open ridge line. Clouds were sweeping over and the wind increased. The wind was stronger than the day I hiked into Wrightwood. A little bird by the trail was hopping up a foot or two, launching itself against the wind. I was thinking how it could do that without being blown away. Each time it struggled a few seconds, then dropped to the ground in the same place. On the fourth try the bird hopped up and was suddenly blown off the mountain, completely out of site. It was a strange thing.
For long distances it was an absolute struggle to walk. This was not playing around.
Photo below looks innocent enough, but wind is harder to photograph than snow. The trail curves around point on far left. The steep slope is what worried me.
I tightened up backpack straps and belt for better center of gravity. I choked up on my hiking poles, lowered my stance with knees bent. Picture a Sumo wrestler who is fighting to be kept from being pushed out of the ring. Even with this stance, I was pushed around and off the trail. My knees became a little sore with the struggle. The relatively flat open meadows were one thing, but where the trail crossed steep terrain it was another matter. I concentrated harder than ever to stay on the narrow 3 foot wide path to keep from being pushed off steep slopes. After what must have been mile or two of the worst piece, I dropped to areas that seemed a little less intense. At that point I was surprised to see a couple of backpackers struggling in the wind as they made their way up to me. I didn’t expect to see anyone attempting this ascent in these conditions this late in the day. It would be miles of climbing and high winds before reaching any reasonable camping spot. Only a few hours before, a NOBO was pleading for info on any camping sites up ahead that were out of the wind. Reaching the pair, I was surprised to find underneath all that wind gear none other than Michael and the Professor! These two determined German men are in their late 50’s or 60’s. Although I hike faster and carry a lighter pack, they seem to persevere and catch up through what must be sheer willpower. I have seen their suffering. Others would take a zero day or at least a shorter day. We exchanged greetings. Michael doesn’t speak English so the professor does the talking. We passed and the pair proceeded upward into ever fiercer winds as I soon dropped into relative calm. As I walked on, I thought of Michael’s tiny pup tent. It always stood out among the better and bigger tents because it looked like a tent that you expected a kid to use for a backyard camp out. How would that tent, or any tent for that matter, hold up in that wind. I worried about Michael and the Professor.