June 12, 2017
Total daily miles: 7.0 miles
Total PCT miles: 795.5 miles
Start: Sierra City (mile 1195.4)
End: mile 1202.4
Total elevation gain/loss: 2788.7/436.7 ft
Today’s a great example of the PCT showing who’s boss. Short answer: the PCT.
For the first time in the PCT, I slept through our alarm this morning. My guess is that it’s because I still had the headphones plugged into my phone and so it didn’t vibrate. Even after realizing what had happened, we continued to snooze until 6am. It’s hard to be motivated to get out of the tent when we can hear raindrops dripping onto our tent. It had been raining lightly off and on all night.
Finally we bit the bullet and packed up our stuff. Last night’s weather report showed rain until 4pm today, so waiting wasn’t going to help anything (and we didn’t want to take another zero). Turns out that the raindrops were mainly from the tree that we were camped beneath, outside we were greeted by a heavy fog.
The PCT passes about a mile and a half from Sierra City, so we started heading up the road. Not long after, a truck pulled over and asked if we’d like a ride to the trailhead. Yes, we’d love one! Our ride was from a former PCT thru-hiker and he gave us the scope on what to expect in the coming sections.
By the time we hit the trailhead, the rain had turned to snow. We were in the middle of our own winter wonderland — never mind that we’re well on our way into June! Unlike the snow we’ve seen thus far, this was the light, fluffy kind. And instead of being consolidated on the ground, it was hanging onto the trees and bushes as well. It was a magical effect! Even when those clumps of snow sometimes randomly came crashing down on us.
The first part of the trail was gentle switchbacks in the woods. I could tell that the snow beneath my feet was all fresh powder, there was no consolidated snow here! After following no footprints for awhile, I took extra notice when some footprints appeared on the trail in front of me. But they weren’t from a hiker — they were from a bear! The prints looked fairly fresh, but were walking in the opposite direction as we were. I kept scanning the forest just in case.
For the first few miles I was happy with our decision to hike out of town today despite the gloomy weather. And then we crossed onto the other side of the mountain. We left the protection of the trees. The wind roared. The day instantly became a lot less comfortable. My hands turned to ice and my feet started to go numb.
Despite the recent snowfall which slowed our progress, it was relatively easy to follow the trail without additional navigational efforts. And that’s what we did. We hiked on in the hopes of warming up. Except my right foot refused to warm up and became a numb stump. Not ideal when you’re trying to navigate a rocky trail that was just covered in a few inches of snow. It didn’t seem to be raining/snowing hard, and yet I seemed to be wet from top to bottom. We needed to warm up.
With no let up in the weather in sight, we stopped at a dirt road just before noon and set up our tent. I needed to get my wool socks on ASAP. As soon as I sat down in the tent I realized that I’d also need to inflate my pad to create a barrier between myself and the frozen ground. Soon enough we were both wearing all of our cold weather clothing and wrapped in our sleeping bags. Hot soup for lunch hit the spot.
It seemed like it took forever before my feet lost their icy edge. I found myself drifting off to sleep while listening to an audio book. Soon enough it was 3pm and we had a decision to make — do we pack up and try to get a few more miles in or do we stay here for the night? We decided to stay in the warmth of our sleeping bags and tent. It was still sprinkling, and sun is in the forecast for tomorrow. We’d likely only end up with an even wetter tent if we were to pack it up again today. As it is, we’re mopping up puddles in the tent that come from who knows where.
What’s funny is that the trail that we covered today probably didn’t have any snow cover yesterday. There’s no evidence that we were walking in consolidated snow, just fluffy (and very wet and cold) snow. It’s just a case of bad timing (and stubborn heads) on our part. As lame as our 7 mile day was today, I’m grateful that we got to glimpse the wonder wonderland today and hopeful that the heat wave over the next couple days will make the going easier.
Michael: cold feet and hands, weak fingers.
Update: we heard from Matt, who hiked this section after we did, that the fresh snow melted. There is (probably) still snow up higher but this section should be clear.