PCT 2019: Day 145, Ashland to Grouse Gap

And isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Snow-covered trees

Before I started hiking the PCT in March, I already thought my thru-hike wasn't going to be a traditional south-to-north hike. I had seen reports of near-record snow levels in the Sierra and Northern California. I expected some flipping would be necessary to stay on the trail.

At first, I only thought a flip to Washington would be needed. My plan was to hike south from the Canadian border to Kennedy Meadows, where I stopped when I finished the desert.

Later, I joined Sunkist and Bluejay. When they suggested a second flip to hike the Sierra before Northern California, that made sense to me. We assumed if snow was to come early, the Sierra would be the place for it.

That had been a lot of effort to ensure a successful hike, but now our second flip was done. Bluejay and I were ready to finish the remaining 550 miles.

DateSaturday, September 28, 2019
WeatherCloudy and cold, with light rain turning to snow; about four inches of accumulation; temperatures range from low 40s to mid 20s
Trail ConditionsContinuous climb, sometimes steep
Today's Miles9.5
Trip Miles2131.2

After eating breakfast at our motel, we went shopping for four days of groceries. That would be enough to get us to our next resupply stop, Seiad Valley.

We then returned to the motel to repackage our food, finish packing, and check out. Before returning our rental car, we stopped at a Subway restaurant to purchase sandwiches for today's lunch.

A Lyft driver picked us up at the car rental office and took us back to the trailhead. The trip took about 30 minutes, and he dropped us off at noon.

Bluejay hikes on the PCT

As soon as we arrived at the trailhead, I realized I made a mistake the last time I reached this spot. When I was here before, I turned down an offer for a ride and walked to Callahan's Lodge.

I should have known it would have been more convenient to be dropped off at the road, not at Callahan's. If I had accepted the ride then, I wouldn't need to walk the same mile of trail I was about to do again.

To be sure, I see some absurdity in this. I'm willing to walk 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, but walking an extra mile feels like a burden.

Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road

After completing that extra mile, which I didn't include in today's mileage total, Bluejay and I found a spot to sit and eat our Subway sandwiches.

About the time we finished eating and resumed walking, a light rain began to fall. It was one of those off-and-on rains, falling only a few minutes at a time.

The trail crossed a dirt road, which at one time was part of the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road. It was constructed between 1858 and 1860. The last time a stagecoach rumbled through here was 1887.

The road continued to be used until the state constructed the Pacific Highway in 1915, which was the road where we started from today.

Bright yellow leaves on the trail

Bright yellow leaves began to appear along the trail as we followed it up the side of Ogden Hill.

The trail then continued along a high ridge. In the first 3.6 miles, we climbed 1,200 feet.

A view of clouds in the distance

There weren't many views during this part of the climb. One gap in the trees coincided with a break in the rain, and I could see dark clouds and more rain in the distance.

The temperature was dropping, but I wasn't thinking about snow. It wasn't mentioned in the forecast I had looked at this morning.

Light snow begins to fall

By 1:45 p.m., however, I noticed a few icy flakes mixed with the rain. There wasn't enough snow to accumulate on the ground.

I may not have noticed the snow if I hadn't seen some flakes landing on my rain jacket.

The climb was now a little steeper. The next 6.8 miles went up nearly 2,000 feet.

Snow accumulated on ferns

Within the next hour, small patches of snow appeared on ferns and bushes, but none accumulated on the trail.

A hint of sunlight

Thirty minutes later, sunlight began to poke through the clouds, and I thought the worst of the weather had passed.

My mind was changed when I got another chance to see nearby ridges. This time I saw rain falling on them.

When I discovered I had cell service, I decided to take another look at the weather forecast. It now showed more snow for tomorrow, but then a gradual warming trend for the rest of the week.

Snow on the trail

The sun disappeared within a few minutes, and snow soon began to fall again. It also started to accumulate on everything, including the trail.

Heavy snowfall

The higher I went, the heavier the snow fell. The temperature was also falling, and the wind was picking up. I knew the temperature was dropping into the 20s because the snow was powdery and crunchy underfoot.

A snowy slope

Bluejay and I were heading to a picnic shelter. It was located on the side of Mt. Ashland, but I never saw the top of the mountain because of the snow. I also didn't know ski slopes were nearby on this mountain. The trail was well-located to avoid any view of them.

When I crossed a stream, I failed to realize this was the last one before the shelter. I should have stopped to collect water, but I kept going.

I caught up to Bluejay a short distance past the stream. We walked together to the shelter, which was about a tenth of a mile from the trail.

The shelter was made of stone and wood on a concrete pad and was open on two sides. Snow blew into the covered portion, so it wasn't the ideal place to sleep we had hoped.

Bluejay and I set up our tents next to the shelter, hoping it would block some of the wind and blowing snow.

While we were setting up, a hiker named Curmudgeon arrived. He decided to set up his sleeping bag on a picnic table underneath the shelter. This seemed to me like a colder place to sleep.

I then walked back to the stream I had passed nearly a half-mile before the shelter. By now, about four inches of snow had accumulated.

On the way to collect water for dinner, I decided the weather wasn't as bad as I thought. Yes, it was cold and windy, but I wasn't uncomfortable. Knowing there wasn't anything I could do about the weather, I tried to put myself in a positive frame of mind.

Still, I couldn't help but note the irony in this situation. I had spent much time, planning, and expense navigating around snow-covered sections of the trail. Now, just when I was on the cusp of finishing, I was hit with a snowstorm.

A traffic jam when you're already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn't it ironic, don't you think?
A little too ironic
And, yeah, I really do think

It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
And who would've thought, it figures

And, yeah, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.