PCT Mile: 962 – 1,090
So much has happened in the past week that I’ve decided to make it into a little story. I hope you find it interesting. It certainly has impacted me in many ways. I’ll add my photos at the end. Enjoy!
In my last post, we were headed to Yosemite Valley for our resupply. We had descended to lower elevations giving us a break from the treacherous conditions in the high Sierras. The hiking was easy allowing me time to reminisce. I have such fond memories of Yosemite. Jennifer and I we’re married there in March of 1995. That’s a cool story for another time but we go back frequently and stay at the Awahnee. It has always been a wonderful time of year to visit. We have climbed Half Dome and Yosemite Falls numerous times with friends and family. When Andrea was young, we took her Indian Princess tribe to climb Nevada and Vernal Falls. These pleasant thoughts were a nice break from the trail. What I’m also saying is that I was feeling more positive about the trail and that things might be getting a little easier. I quickly found out how wrong I was.
After Tuolumne, the trail ascends to Benson and Seavey Passes. They are South facing and didn’t pose the usual challenges of the previous passes. However, the descents were the most challenging and intimidating that I have ever encountered on the trail so far. They were very steep, full of trees, and almost completely covered in snow…soooo no trail again!!!
Mentally and physically I was pushed to the limit hour after hour. There were many situations where one mistake could be the end of the trail for me…one way or another. Fatigue was setting in and I was becoming a Zombie. I was giving the PCT everything and it just kept taking. It was relentless.
For example, I was alone on a treacherous descent and ended up on steep slushy snow traverse. To my left, a sheer cliff. To my right, a raging river. The snow sloped steeply to the river with a five foot drop and no exposed riverbank. The snow field was no more than 30 feet wide. One slip and I would fall either 10 feet between the cliff and snow or slide to the river and disappear forever. I slowly planted my poles and jammed one foot after the other into the slushy tracks. I couldn’t feel the weight of my pack or think of anything but my next step. At one point, the peak of the snow became a knife edge that was no more than 4 inches wide. I carefully balanced myself thinking of nothing else but planting my foot firmly before making another move. Suddenly, the snow trail ended leaving me with a 45 degree dirt slope to crawl up using my hands and knees. Additionally, my day was not over. I had to keep going. I realized with great clarity that there is a very thin line between success and serious peril. In this situation, there really was not much room for doubt or fear. These situations are frequent and can really wear a person down.
Another example was Sonora Pass. There was a very sketchy snow bridge that we had crossed. It didn’t look like it would be safe for much longer. Sure enough, a kid fell through later that same day and fractured his leg. He had to be air lifted out. We got lucky!
Last example, the snow melts unevenly leaving large 2-5 feet mounds to climb and descend. It takes 2 or more energy sucking, waste high, pole jamming steps to conquer…and I’m doing this for hours and hours. At one point, the snow turned into a steep rock scramble. As I slowly picked my way down, I somehow lost my footing. I really thought that I was done in. I rolled over a couple of rocks and then free fell about 5 feet landing flat on my backpack and left butt cheek. Calming myself, I couldn’t believe it. I’m okay!!!!! I ended up with only a bruise and a shattered plastic jar of peanut butter.
Have you ever tried to wash globs of peanut butter from a pack with ice cold stream water? Well, it doesn’t work. With all that’s happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bear eats my pack.
The PCT has pushed all of my emotional buttons…love, admiration, anxiety, triumph, anger, frustration, apprehension and respect. I keep telling myself, “I can only succeed if I believe that I can get through this challenge in front of me.” Oh, and a lot of luck. I find myself saying “Thank you!” out loud many times a day.
As I write this, tears well into my eyes. I am focused on one thing…seeing my wife and daughter for the first time since I began this journey. I need lots of hugs from them.
I look at these young kids on this journey and they are much more agile than this old man. I’m twice their age and don’t have the legs and spring In my step like they do. Some just really embrace the challenge and don’t appear to consider the consequences. They just power through it. In the beginning, I thought that I really was embracing this journey. Lately, I just want to survive it. I know this attitude will change. Hang in there Kevbo!
I’m writing this on July 12th and the hike today was relatively mellow compared to previous days. It was a nice break. As I come over a small rise, I hear my Trail Kids laughing and talking loudly. They are swimming and floating on their air mattresses in Lilly Pad Lake. It’s shallow and about 70 degrees. I sloughed my pack, undressed to my underwear and joined them. The water felt wonderful and refreshing. The setting was beautiful. I guess it was nature’s way of saying “Nice job old man!”
One more day to South Lake Tahoe for a much needed recharge. Honey, I’m almost there!