June 9, 2011

Letters from the Pacific Crest Trail #4


Dry Feet – For Now

Hello Friends –
Unexpectedly I sit in front of a computer this afternoon – we; Ben, myself, and 3 new hiking partners departed from Kennedy Meadows on June 1st - planning to reach Vermillion Valley Resort, 177 miles further north on the 10th or 11th of June. We were entering the Sierras much earlier than any other hikers and we knew we would encounter some snow, so we planned for reducing our daily mileage from 25-30 miles per day to 15-18; a reasonable estimate one would think - oh, but how wrong we were.

After the first 6 days and having traveled just over 60 miles from our starting point, we all quietly knew that we would not make it to our resupply point before running out of food - Ben and I had already recalculated our rations to try to make them stretch further, each consuming under 3000 calories per day, and with 14 hour days of snow navigation and route finding, breaking trail, waist high post holing, river fords with water as deep as my waist and with only trekking poles to prevent me from being swept away in the rapid current - our stomachs were growling louder than the thunderclouds overhead and the spirits of all five of us were dropping (just from reference, we are spending our days between 10,500 and 13,000 ft and should be consuming between 5-6000 calories per day).

Our small, but determined party is the first to set out over the Sierra this season and with no tracks to follow and only maps and compasses to rely on, the going was slow, mush slower than expected... then it happened. We completed our 5th major ford of the day and with wet shoes and dark clouds overhead, we all looked at one another and knew deep down, beyond our pride, that a decision had to be made. The silent voice in each of our heads had to be sounded; we were hungry, running out of food and were getting only further behind schedule - why were we doing this? Were we having fun? Were we even taking the effort to look around at the beautiful place we found ourselves? The decision was immediately unanimous - we would take a 20 mile hiking detour (plus 100 miles of hitch hiking) to resupply in Bishop, CA, were I now find myself.

Once the cards were on the table and we could rest knowing we would soon have full packs, the mood lifted and the excitement and life came back into our troop. The following day we conquered Forrester Pass in the middle of a snow storm and found the valley on the other side snow covered and endured a thunderstorm as we made our way across meadow after meadow of thigh deep slush - but we were smiling and laughing and enjoying - we had found our spirits again....... making the decision was not an easy one, it forced us to push our plans and our pride aside, make the smart choice and rediscover the true meaning of the trail - the PCT is not a race, it is a journey, with lessons to be learned along the way that no one could ever justly explain.

Eight days of wet feet and frozen shoes can teach a person something - I haven't not yet deciphered the code, but the lessons are becoming clearer everyday - I am changing, I think - I look in the mirror and do not recognize myself, I am now unaccustomed to my appearance, from the outside in and now know it much better from the inside out.

I want very much to share so much more with you, but my computer time is running short and I feel at peace just knowing that I can express a bit of my heart with those that care for me. We head back into the snow tonight, expecting the unexpected and prepared (as much as possible) for whatever the mountains have in store.

I thank you all for reading and supporting our somewhat insignificant, but powerful movement North. My love to all, Scarecrow.
Smiles among the snow

Yet another river ford

Sketchy traverse toward Forrester Pass

Forrester Pass

Frozen Frog Lake = Frozen Shoes