Stealthsite(2363.3) to Stampede Pass(2372.4) 9.1 Miles
This was exactly what I was worried about. Today is the reason I killed myself to make miles through Northern California. I wanted to finish before I had to deal with weather like this. It began to rain at two am and it continued for more than twenty-four hours straight. I woke up at six o'clock and decided to sleep in. I usually have pretty good luck with this strategy. The majority of the time it stops raining or the rain lets up in intensity. Today I lost that gamble. It actually began to rain much harder. Trying to pack up a wet tent when it is pouring is not a whole lot of fun. I really miss my hammock. It was easy to pack up everything from under my tarp. Most of my belongings stayed dry. Packing up my tent was exactly the opposite. I did manage to pack almost everything into my backpack while I was still inside of my tent, but it was like playing twister to move around while packing inside the coffin shaped tent. I had originally planned on hiking somewhere between 22 and 25 miles. That would leave me with an easy morning hike into town the next day. I immediately amended that plan. I decided that in this kind of weather it would be better to hike the full 27 miles into town so I could get a hotel room. I would be able to warm up and dry all of my gear out. I headed out in to the storm. I hiked as hard as I possibly could. I stowed my cell phone away in a ziplock bag. Smart phones are useless in the rain. Even if you keep the phone screen dry it won't recognize wet fingers. It was liberating not constantly checking my mileage and elevation profiles. I just hiked the trail as it presented itself to me.
After a few miles of hiking the rain began to let up a little bit. It was something between a sprinkle, a drizzle, and a steady rain. The only way I can describe it was to have you imagine a grocery store. In the produce aisle there are misters for the veggies. Imagine those misters turned up to a ridiculous level. I walked through that for about thirty minutes before it began to absolutely pour. I really thought that the Appalachian Trail had prepared me for anything, especially hiking in the rain. I really thought that I had pro-level experience dealing with how to survive crappy miserable rainy days. I guess I forgot how or this was a whole new level of miserableness. As the rain began to increase in intensity the temperature began to drop. It was only forty-five degrees out. I was managing it ok. I still don't have gloves so my hands were freezing and my rain jacket is no longer waterproof, but other than being soaking wet and my fingers not working properly anymore, I was managing. I had made it almost six miles when I saw a van with a canopy set up by an abandoned jeep road. I figured I could sweet talk them to let me hangout there until I warmed up. As I was approaching I noticed a small sign stuck into the ground. It said PCT detour and it was pointing to the van. I couldn't believe it... Trail Magic!!!! Roger, who lives in Seattle, came out to provide trail magic just because the weather was bad. He had a fire going, cold beverages, which I wasn't interested in, and hot beverages, which I was totally interested in. I enjoyed a hot cider and banana while I warmed up and dried out next to the fire. Trail angels are amazing people who I really appreciate, but this took things to a whole new level. To come out and offer support in the middle of a horrible storm was just unbelievable. I seriously almost cried. Once I was warm again and feeling had returned to my fingers I headed back into the storm. I still had twenty-two miles to go and I didn't want to be hiking after dark.
As soon as I left Roger the wind began to pick up. I had just gotten it through my head that I could deal with the rain and the cold, but I hadn't psyched myself up to deal with all three. I hiked another three miles, most of which was downhill, before I crossed another jeep road that lead out into the wide open. The wind was really howling, I would find out later that the wind was blowing at 20 mph. I was just pleased that I didn't slip and fall on the downhill section. I could see marks in the mud where whoever was in front of me wasn't so lucky. As I approached another road I saw a car parked almost in front of the trail. It was a strange sight. They had three beach style umbrellas set up and a light tarp up as well. Could it be possible that it was more trail magic? Yes, it was!!! This time I did cry a little.
Theresa had come out to feed hikers. She lives about forty-five minutes away. She says she likes to come out on the bad weather days because it is more helpful. She bundled me up in a blanket and let me sit in the backseat of her car. She wasn't concerned that I was a muddy wet mess. She made me a cup of homemade hot chocolate. She also fed me homemade sweet bread. I had my choice of huckleberry, blueberry, apple walnut, banana walnut, and zucchini with or without nuts. All of the ingredients either came from her garden or were freshly picked in the same mountains I've been hiking. I couldn't decide which flavor to try so she gave me a slice of each one. She lathered each piece with homemade butter. It was amazing!!! Unfortunately, she was setup in a wind tunnel. The longer I sat there, the colder I became. Theresa offered to take me into town, but I doubted that I could find a ride back to the random gravel road that we were on. I'm glad that I decided to stay the course. I would find out later that the only motel in town was completely booked for the night.
I was beginning to think that it was a bad idea to continue hiking in these conditions. I was soaking wet, the wind had increased, and the temperature dropped a few more degrees. I decided that I would find a spot sheltered from the wind and set up camp. I could change into dry clothes and snuggle into my sleeping bag. I said goodbye to Theresa and she gave me a hug and wished me luck. I hiked another half of a mile when I came through another exposed area. I was absolutely shivering at this point. I began to run towards tree cover. I was hoping that I could find a place to setup camp soon.
As I was running along the trail I saw what looked like a white awning. I figured I was beginning to see things. Sometimes when I'm tired boulders look like cars or downed tree trunks look like structures. I kept running and burst into a clearing at full speed. I was brought up short... Trail Magic!!! Stumbling Norwegian and his wife Honey Bee have been providing trail magic at this location for several years. They had two huge tents set up with insulated lawn chairs. I was greeted with hot chocolate, the offer of beer, whiskey, and something called tasty goodness. The bartender in me was intrigued by the tasty goodness. I had a shot and immediately felt the warmth spread through me. The concoction was basically kahlua, 151, and lots of sugar. Tasty goodness it was. Stumbling was grilling hamburgers and hotdogs for us. I settled in and enjoyed a hot chocolate with my burger. As I began to warm up I knew that decisions needed to be made. There was no way I could make it into town and it didn't seem very smart to continue hiking on. Stumbling Norwegian offered to have all of us hikers stay. Dinner and breakfast were offered as well. It wasn't a tough decision to stay.
I set up my tent when the rain settled down to a drizzle. About fifteen other hikers all decided to stay as well. I ate a ton of food and got to meet some really cool people. Stumbling Norwegian and Honey Bee told me about a long distance trail I have never heard of, The Pacific Northwest Trail runs from Glacier National Park all the way to the coast, following the border for 1,200 miles. I went to bed relatively dry and completely stuffed. It was the best worst day I've ever had on the trail.
“We begin from the recognition that all beings cherish happiness and do not want suffering. It then becomes both morally wrong and pragmatically unwise to pursue only one’s own happiness oblivious to the feelings and aspirations of all others who surround us as members of the same human family. The wiser course is to think of others when pursuing our own happiness.”
- Dalai Lama