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PCT 2019: Day 29, Swarthout Canyon to Guffy Campground

Well, I wouldn't be here trying to sleep in this cold iron bed

Hike with Gravity

The air overnight was damp and cold. This seemed out of place, considering I was camped in an arid desert valley.

Nevertheless, the conditions were much like I felt yesterday morning. Clouds hung low over surrounding mountains, forcing cold, wet air close to the ground.

This made my tent wet from condensation.

Weather Foggy, then clear skies; high temperature in the low 60s
Trail Conditions A continuous climb, a couple of eroded sections and a couple snow patches to add difficulty
Today's Miles 17.1 miles
Trip Miles 364.3 miles

I knew nighttime temperatures in the desert often dropped into the 30s and 40s. The added moisture was a surprise.

I should have opened a couple tent flaps to keep condensation from collecting, but I didn't.

After packing my damp gear, I left camp at 6:45 a.m.

I only walked a hundred yards or so before I discovered Second Chance Hiker had camped near us. He was just rolling out of his tent when I walked by.

I waved and said to him, “Keep on truckin’.”

The trail continued through Swarthout Canyon, but right away it began to climb. At first, the elevation change was barely noticeable. It would soon become obvious.

From where we camped, the next 15 miles would be a continuous climb. The trail would ascend nearly 5,400 feet today.

When I saw what the climb looked like on a profile representation in the Guthooks app, it seemed daunting, but that didn’t matter.

There was no choice. To keep walking, I had to follow the trail upward.

The sky began to clear around 9:30 a.m., but the clouds didn’t completely lift away until 10:30.

Mount Baden-Powell came into view about three hours into the day. This was the first time I had seen it since four days ago.

Then, as now, I was seeing the mountain from the east. That might seem odd.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a south-to-north or north-to-south trail, but I was approaching the mountain in a westward direction.

It’s understandable, however, if you know that starting where the trail passed Big Bear Lake it has been following an east-to-west path. It will continue this way for a total of about 175 miles.

A couple sections of today's long climb were a little difficult to walk. The trail had become badly eroded after all of the vegetation was burned in a wildfire.

While walking in this burnt area I caught up with MJ and we walked together the rest of the morning.

The trail was especially scenic as we continued our climb. I thought it was unfortunate to find the trees were all burnt, but because they had burned the views were more open.

MJ and I stopped for lunch at a spot that offered a wide-open overlook of a valley. We could see a trail making a descent, but we wouldn’t be going that way. We were only going up.

Some trail magic was stashed nearby, but it had been mostly picked over by the time we arrived.

MJ walked faster than I did after lunch, and before long I lost sight of her.

Mount Baden-Powell and other snowy mountain tops came in and out of view as I made my way up the trail.

The climb had by now taken me above 6,200 feet. That was still far short of the 8,200 feet I would need to hike to today.

Late in the afternoon I began to find patches of snow across the trail. These weren’t as difficult to traverse as the ones I had crossed over the San Jacinto Mountains. They were certainly not as dangerous, but as usual, I took my time crossing them.

When I reached a campsite I found my tramily friends had stopped there to rest. Plenty of sunlight was left in the day and another campsite was just an hour away, so we agreed to push on to that spot, called Guffy Campground.

I walked with the tramily the remainder of the distance to the campsite. When we made another snow crossing I noticed that a couple of my friends slowed to check on me. I took this as an act of kindness, not a worry that I couldn’t handle the snow. Still, it made me feel like the old guy of the group.

While it’s true I am the old guy of the group, I just don’t always want to acknowledge that fact.

Besides, sometimes I’m slower because I choose to be, especially on snow.

Guffy Campground was operated by the U.S. Forest Service. It featured picnic tables and a privy, which were real luxuries compared to most of our campsites.

About 20 minutes after we set up camp, Simple Man arrived. It had been several days since I had last seen him.

At 7 p.m. when I crawled into my tent and quilt, everything felt cold and damp. This wasn’t just because the night air was chilled. I had failed to dry out my tent and quilt after the foggy morning. They weren't soaked, but they were not dry enough to be warm.

I needed a long time to warm up. I shivered for a few minutes, but my body heat was eventually enough warmth to help dry my quilt.

Once the dampness was gone on the inside of my quilt I was able to fall asleep.

Wish I had listened to, oh, what mama said
Wish I had listened to, oh, what mama said
Well I wouldn't be here trying to sleep in this cold iron bed


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