PCT 2019: Day 49, Tentsite at Mile 604.4 to Abandoned Mine Site

Nothin' to worry ‘bout but the worries that you make up yourself

Once again I was the first to leave camp, which has been out of character for me. I normally take my time in the morning and don’t worry about leaving by a specific time.

Ever since we left Tehachapi, though, I’ve been intentional about the time I get up and get out of camp. I’m sure my self-imposed deadline for getting to Kennedy Meadows has something to do with this.

I won’t say I worry about getting there on time, but I definitely focus on it. I’ve been counting down the miles and the days.

DateSunday, May 12, 2019
WeatherRain overnight, partly cloudy in morning, then increasing clouds; brief afternoon thunderstorm; high temperature in the low 60s
Trail ConditionsModerate ups and downs, followed by a bigger climb
Today's Miles20.2
Trip Miles625.8

In the meantime, there were plenty of other things to worry about. One was the weather, which had become surprisingly rainy. Rain fell again last night and my quilt had become wetter.

Paradoxically, we were entering the longest stretch of dry trail we would encounter. Or I should say, it would be dry if there weren’t any water caches put out for hikers. We hoped there was one ahead, but everyone always says to not rely on them.

Sunshine filtered through the trees when I left camp at 7:15 a.m. I was glad to feel a little warmth radiating from the sky after yesterday’s misty gloom.

When I reached a spring about 4.5 miles from camp, I stopped to top off my water bottles. While I was there, I opened up my quilt to let it dry out.

Rainbow Sherbet and Ringmaster arrived a short time later and also collected water. Falls did too, and it seemed clear he had not left us to join the Oregon boys.

When we left, I walked for much of the next few miles with Ringmaster. We chatted some as we followed an easy stretch of trail.

The trail was making a modest climb to 6,600 feet in elevation on St. John Ridge. With an open view to the north, I could see Olancha Peak. At 12,123 feet, it is the tallest of the mountains on the southern end of the Sierra Nevada. The peak was covered in snow, as was at least one other nearby mountain.

If I could have traveled from where I stood on the trail to the top of the mountain, I would need to go 57 miles “as a crow flies.”

Or, I could reach Olanche Pass in roughly 110 miles if I were to keep walking north on the PCT. That is the closest spot on the trail to the mountain.

But while this was interesting to think about, I won’t be flying or walking north to get to that part of the Sierra. Assuming I make it that far, I will be approaching it from the opposite direction. To get there I will need to walk a little more than 1,990 miles.

As we continued down the trail, Ringmaster and I discovered a message written in sand next to the trail. It was from MJ, whom we hadn’t seen since Tehachapi. The writing looked fresh, so I wondered if she had been through here recently.

I only had to walk a short distance for the answer. She had been just ahead of Ringmaster and me.

As she usually did, MJ walked faster than me and she was soon out of sight. Ringmaster and I continued to walk together until he got side-tracked by an outcropping of rocks that he wanted to photograph.

He might have been even more interested if he had known that St. John Ridge was the site of a mine that produced nearly $700,000 of gold between 1860 and 1875.

I continued on toward Kelso Canyon where a water cache was said to be located.

When I arrived at a road at the bottom of the canyon, I found the cache was there.

Just as I did a couple days ago, I decided to cook my dinner here for lunch. The circumstances were the same today. I was not going to see another water source until tomorrow. Cooking dinner now meant I didn’t have to carry an extra liter for tonight.

There was a potential problem, though. I didn’t like the look of the sky. Large, dark clouds were building and it appeared a storm was heading our way.

I worried the storm would come while I was boiling water and eating my dinner, so I rushed through it. The storm held off and I finished my meal without a problem.

Meanwhile, the other tramily members arrived at the water cache. They too noticed the storm building to the west.

As soon as I resumed walking I could see and hear the thunderstorm was still some distance off but approaching fast. Within 15 minutes I was pelted with freezing rain.

The freezing rain lasted only a minute or so, then rain continued to fall for 15 minutes more.

Once the storm passed, everything dried quickly. Before long you would not have known a storm blew by.

Two hours later as I was making my way up a long climb, dark clouds began to build again. It looked like another storm was forming.

At about the same time, I saw MJ again. She had stopped and was trying to decide what to do. She told me she was worried about continuing too high up the mountain and being exposed to the approaching storm.

I told her I wasn’t sure this storm would hit us because it seemed to be tracking away from us. She stayed to look for a suitable place to pitch her tent and I continued up the trail.

Within a few minutes, MJ had changed mind and she caught up to me. We walked together until we spotted Rainbow Sherbet. She said she intended to pitch her tent there, which was at the side of a gravel road.

MJ said she would stay there with Sherbet, so I continued on by myself.

A mile or so farther I saw Just Awesome. He had also stopped before reaching our intended campsite. He said he was done walking for the day.

As I walked I continued to keep an eye on the sky. The storm clouds were not only staying away, they were breaking up. When sun rays broke through the clouds I knew I was in the clear for this evening.

I kept thinking as I walked I should be reaching the campsite at any moment, but I didn’t see it. What I did see was a rusted, derelict bus at the bottom of a ravine. I had no way of knowing how it got there, but this area was dotted with gold mines, so it may have been left over from a mining operation.

The time was now getting past 6:30 and I wondered if I had missed the campsite. I knew it was near a dirt road, but there were many in this area, mostly used by off-road vehicles.

A few minutes later, however, I saw Falls, Captain, Gilligan, and Spamala camped just off the trail. Ringmaster was there too.

Where they were camped was actually about a mile farther than the spot I picked in the plan I put together in Tehachapi. That didn’t matter because the site worked well. There was plenty of room for our tents and it also provided a break from the wind.

The site was at what appeared to be the entrance of a large, abandoned mine. The entrance had been sealed with massive blocks of concrete.

This turned out to be a day of surprises. I didn’t anticipate seeing the Sierra. I thought we had lost MJ and Falls from the tramily, but they were still with us. Getting pelted by freezing rain was also unexpected.

It was another good day. Sadly, though, there aren’t many more of these to come. I expect to be finished with the desert in five more days.

Believin' in you is believin' in me
All the same circle game that makes us feel free
So much behind us so much to do
Some days you eat the bear
Some days the bear eats you

Nothin' to worry 'bout
But the worries
That you make up yourself

From "To Mama From Christopher And The Old Man” by Stephen Stills


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