Day 25: Into the Mist

5/6/17 10 miles PCT mile 394.0

It was a cool night but not the coldest and the sun was beginning to creep up over the hill and shine through our tent. We slowly got our things packed up and set out around 8am. It was cold enough that we kept our jackets on but the sun was shining so I was feeling optimistic that the storm was not going to materialize. 

Then we dropped about 800ft to a layer of clouds and constant mist. At first I thought ok this isn’t so bad we can handle this. As the sun disappeared our puffy jackets began to get wet so we stopped at Islip Saddle to put them away and get our rain jackets on. I soon needed to dig out my gloves and hat as the temperature continued to drop. Just 3 days ago it was 90 degrees and I was dying of heat, now it was in the 30’s and I was missing the heat. We soon began to climb a ridge, which helped heat us up just in time to descend and get chilled again. 

Around noon we reached the section of the PCT that is closed due to the endangered yellow legged frog. From what I can tell the trail has been closed for over 7 years, maybe longer. Four miles of the trail are closed so these frogs can bang or do whatever they do to repopulate above extinction levels. There are two options for detouring around this closure. The official detour is a 20 mile series of trails that bypasses 7 miles of the PCT. We were already wet and cold so this option was not even considered. I wasn’t about to walk extra miles with a snow storm headed our way. The other option is a 4.8 mile detour that involves 3 miles of walking on dangerous hwy 2, as described by my maps. We chose danger!! The hwy was dangerous mostly due to the extremely low visibility and constant curves. I would have taken a picture but at this point I was wet and cold and my phone was tucked away in a ziplock bag. We decided to avoid the dangerous hwy we would hitch. Seems easy enough except there were very few cars on the road and the people in these cars probably had no idea what or where these wet idiots were headed. After about ten minutes we heard the first car coming. I got excited and yelled to Matt, “stick out your thumb.” His hands were covered in his black socks so it looked like he was just waving. The car slowed and I yelled, “yes.” Before I could finish the car sped up and took off. What the hell?!?!? After that demoralizing experience we knew we would have to walk. The walk was fine and we tried to hitch with each passing car, maybe 5 total to no avail. The road walk left us more exposed to the elements and misery was setting in and taking our spirits with it. I was instantly angry at the stupid frogs for making us walk on the road. I cursed the frogs every step of the way, it helps to direct your anger at something. From the hwy we took another paved road to Buckhorn Campground where we would find a trail that leads back to the PCT. We encountered a surly forest service worker shoveling gravel off the road, who offered no help but only severe warnings and lectures. He said, “thunderstorms and snow are coming, hope you have warm clothes.” “Snow anywhere above 4,000 ft. The trail ahead would not dip below 5,000 for about 35 miles and for all we knew was along exposed ridges. We continued on to the campground that wasn’t even open yet where we found a bit of shelter next to the self pay area. We stood there shivering in our wet clothes trying to eat something. I felt too cold to eat. A couple with a dog appeared and asked what we were gonna do. We said we weren’t sure but were thinking of hiking on. They said they were gonna hunker down and ride out the storm in the campground. The guy said, “well do whatever you want, hike your own hike man.” Four others hikers passed us determined to continue on down the trail. The thought of being couped in our tent for 36 hours was a concept I didn’t want to endure if I didn’t have to. I know this is a possibility given the high snowpack year in the Sierra Mts, but I’ll worry about that later. After much debate we decided to walk back to the hwy past the surly guy and try to get a ride back to the closest town. When I say hwy it’s a two lane road through the Angeles National Forest that just opened the week before, so there are very few cars passing through. We stood on the side of the road with our gloved hands hoping for a ride. After about 30 minutes and two cars driving past we figured we would not be able to get a ride. If this failed we would stay in the campground until the storm passed. We were across from a closed road where several cars were parked and one man appeared and was getting into his car. Matt went over and asked him where he was going. He said, “I came out here to do a rain hike” and he drove off in the other direction. Meanwhile 3 hikers passed us asked if we were ok and what we were doing. I said we were fine but would rather wait out the storm in town. The woman said she was cold, agreed with me and said that was a good idea. They said they were gonna probably camp at the campground and try to get warm. Another guy from the same road across the street got in his car turned our way and with frozen thumbs out he stopped for us. He said he would give us a ride back to Wrightwood as he lives there. He said the weather in Wrightwood was sunny when he left and he was gonna take a hike until he encountered all the rain and fog. He said the views were amazing on this part of the trail but we wouldn’t get to see them today. If it wasn’t for him I’m convinced we wouldn’t have gotten a ride and we would have had to stay freezing in our tent for 2 days. The drive back to Wrightwood was scary enough there were rocks on the road and the visibility was limited. Matt and I were both shivering and still cold once we got back into town but luckily the sun was out. We found a place to stay which was good as most places were filling up due to the influx of hikers coming in off the mountain. The “cabin” we booked was fine except for the fact that the heat didn’t work. I didn’t even want to go to dinner because I didn’t want to leave the bed. Then the owner knocks on our door waltzed in and lite the pilot light on the furnace. He told us not to leave the heat on when we leave. “Turn it off not down.” Ok we said. “Turn off not down.” Sure thing. He shut the bathroom door looked at the disastrous mess covering the entire floor and left. As we were walking to dinner it started to snow and we could see snow in the surrounding hills. At dinner we tried to figure out what we should do tomorrow. Go back to the trail or take a zero day and let the storm pass. 

6 thoughts on “Day 25: Into the Mist

  1. Matt, I have been catching some of your pics on facebook but just found the blog today…. I have to tell you I am impressed! Who would have thought all that walking due to an empty tank in the Caddy would turn you into a full blown mountain god!

    I put on about 25 hard miles in the mountains this weekend, and it crushed me. What you guys are doing is awesome, and you have my respect!

    Drive on brother!

    Dan French


  2. Oh, you poor dears. I know you are okay, but I’m just shivering thinking of what you are encountering along the trail. Those damn frogs just spoil everything. Thanks for the post card. It was delightful! So proud of you! Love, Your Auntie Sandy


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