PCT 2019: Day 166, Tentsite at Mile 1315.5 to Willams Cabin Site

You got exactly what you wanted; what the hell is that?

Looking at the sky last night, I thought there was no possibility of rain or snow soon. I left my vestibule door open to help with ventilation.

At around 2:30 a.m., I had to close the door. Freezing rain began to fall. That didn't last for more than an hour, but it was a sign of things to come.

After the rain ended, a breeze picked up. Even with my tent flap closed, the wind was enough to make my tent completely dry within an hour.

DateSunday, October 20, 2019
WeatherSnow, rain, and fog in the morning, then becoming partly cloudy and warming to the low 50s
Trail ConditionsEasy elevation changes, rough and rocky at times, then a long descent
Today's Miles22.8
Trip Miles2546.7

When it was time to pack my gear and get going, I told myself, "Today is my last Saturday on the trail."

I didn't really know if that was true, but I wanted it to be true. I was tired and sore. I missed my wife. I was ready for this hike to be over.

I intended to do everything I could to finish by Friday. If saying this makes me sound like I was miserable, I wasn't. I was feeling positive about where I was.

By the end of the week, I would be finished with my second long-distance thru-hike, and that was a good feeling. A year ago, I didn't think I would be doing this hike, and now I was grateful for a chance to finish it.

So no, I wasn't miserable right now. That would happen just a couple of hours later.

The sky was still dark when I left my campsite.

Starting at 6,266 feet in elevation, the trail followed the top of a ridge. It climbed about 400 feet in the next mile, with short drops in between.

Each time the trail dropped into one of these gaps, I was blasted by a cold wind.

Light snow began to fall within the first hour, just as the sun was beginning to rise. This happened as the trail went around and just below the summit of Humboldt Peak.

The trail climbed some more to go over a shoulder of Humboldt Peak. As it did, the snow became a cold rain. For the next three hours, the precipitation switched between rain and a snow/rain mix.

Then the rain began to fall more heavily. I failed to notice until it was too late that my mittens were becoming soaked. Soon, they were not doing me any good.

The rest of my rain gear held up reasonably well. My clothing wasn't soaked, but I was becoming dispirited by the bad weather. This is when misery set in.

"This is not good," I said to myself as I began to shiver.

If the weather got any worse, hypothermia could have become a risk. I tried to pick up my pace, hoping the extra effort would generate more heat.

When I arrived at Cold Springs at 11:15 a.m., I stopped to filter some water and eat a snack. The spring's water gushed from a pipe, which made collecting and filtering it easy.

The snack helped my mood and my body's ability to create warmth. I needed those calories.

What would have been more helpful, I thought, was some sun. I said several times to myself, "I need some sun," as if that might make it happen.

The rain had diminished to a light mist, then eventually stopped. For the next two hours, though, the sky remained cloudy.

Finally at 1:30 p.m., I had some hope for sun. I didn't see sunlight right away, but a small patch of blue sky appeared as the clouds started lifting and breaking up. The temperature was also warming a little more.

Where the trail passed through a burnt forest, I noticed new growth. The small, green trees helped make this section a little less gloomy.

The weather was gradually improving, and so was my mood. I entertained the idea of trying to hike all the way to the town of Belden tonight. Based on the distance, it seemed that I might be able to get there before 8 p.m.

I decided to pick up my hiking pace to try for that. I wasn't sure where I might be able to stay, though. It might not be easy to find a place after getting there in the dark. Still, I thought going there today might be worth a try.

The sky finally brightened with sunshine after 2:45 p.m. At last, I was beginning to dry out and warm up.

The trail crossed a meadow and in the middle of it was a sign that I was surprised to see. It marked the northern boundary of the Sierra Nevada. I didn't realize I would be hiking in that mountain region again.

I have always thought of the Sierra Nevada as most PCT hikers do. For us, it's a mountain range stretching between Kennedy Meadows and Sonora Pass. We think more about elevation changes and weather conditions than ecological regions.

The boundary marked by the sign uses an ecological definition. Plantlife is considered, and not just geology. The region's northern line follows an irregular path from the Susan River to the North Fork of the Feather River. The southern boundary is at Tehachapi Pass.

After walking through the meadow, the trail became rougher than before. There were also some tricky stream crossings. These forced me to slow down.

Before long, I realized I was going too slowly to reach Belden by 8 p.m. The earliest I could get there was 9 p.m., and I didn't see any point in that.

I decided to set my sights on a campsite about six miles before town. It was the last one listed in the Guthooks app before Belden.

One of the streams that required some care to navigate across should soon become easier to cross. Footings were being constructed for a bridge over Chips Creek. A new section of trail had already been cut to reach the new bridge when it was finished.

I had to take the old route across the creek. The rock hop wasn't easy to do without getting my feet wet, but again, I made it across without falling.

The campsite I selected was called Williams Cabin Site. I arrived there at 5:50 p.m., about 30 minutes before sunset. No cabin was located there now, but I could see how the spot next to the creek would have been a nice place for one.

By the time I finished my dinner, darkness had set in. I was sitting on a rock putting my cook gear away when I thought I saw light shining ahead. It seemed to flicker for a minute or two, then disappeared. At first, I thought I had just imagined seeing the light.

Then the light flickered again, and I realized it was a hiker heading toward me wearing a headlamp. When the northbound hiker reached my campsite, he told me his name was Full Moon. He was from the Czech Republic. By his trail name, I took it that Full Moon liked to hike at night.

We exchanged some information about the trail ahead. He asked me about campsites I had passed and said he wanted to continue hiking for another hour or so.

I wasn't disappointed about not making it to Belden tonight. It would have been nice to add a few more miles to today's total. Still, it was hard to complain about completing nearly 23 miles in difficult weather and terrain.

Worry and confidence. Suffering and joy. I had gone through a range of emotions today. Yes, I am ready for this hike to be finished. Yet I'm doing what I came here to do.

As I wrote months ago, I felt a need for a challenge after finishing the Appalachian Trail. I'm getting what I wanted.

And soon, I'll have time to figure out if it was worth the pain and separation it took to get it.

I hope you find your way for the sake of what we’ve lost
And that there comes a day
When you realize the precious cost
Yes, I remember smiles
Yes, I remember wiles
Behind the Square of Sloane
Under the English moon you in your disguise

So much
You got exactly that
You got exactly what you wanted
What the hell is that?

From “Damsel in Distress” by Rufus Wainwright


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