Monday, May 31, 2010

Back to the Mountain From Hell

May 10: The day before, I agreed to meet with Hiker 816 for the climb back into the snow. I felt good about him as a choice since he had a GPS device--a nice complement to my map and compass. And he seemed like a friendly fellow, even if he was a lawyer in the read world. =) I would have loved to have gone with Mad Hatter and Tomer as well, but they wouldn't go up until later in the day. They needed to pick up a mail drop from the post office now that it would finally be open (we arrived in town on Saturday after it had already closed), then Mad Hatter was having some leather work done on his pack to make it more comfortable, and that wouldn't be finished until noon. I didn't want to wait until that late in the day to get started.

Hiker 816 and I got a ride from the proprietors of the Idyllwild Inn to the trailhead at Devil's Slide, where we spotted Swazey and Dinosaur and the four of us decided to hitch our boats together. We went up Devils Slide at a our own pace--there wasn't any snow or problems on that section of trail, then stopped at Saddle Junction for everyone to group up and eat snacks. And rest. The climb up Devils Slide was long!

At the top, Dan joined our group. He sometimes called himself Danimal, which I found hard to say. Not because the pronunciation is difficult, but just because it seemed like a bad joke. He seemed a little less prepared for the rigors of snow travel than the rest of us, however, and I had reservations about him tagging along with us. But frankly, nobody should be traveling out on the snow alone. He really needed to come along with us or would need to wait to find someone else to hike with. Just as we were about to hit the trail, Hurricane came blowing in and joined our little hiking crew, now six members strong. Hurricane is from New Zealand, and I swear he sounds exactly like Russel Crowe. At least to my untrained ears. When I mentioned that to other hikers, they laughed and laughed and I think they thought I was joking. =)

The trail stayed mostly snow free for the rest of the day. There was a short section around an unnamed peak that still had snow as the sun rarely hit those north-facing slopes. Then, the last couple of miles of trail was largely on north-facing slopes as well. We lost Hurricane and Dan to some other hikers who set up camp earlier in the day than we wanted to do so, but they seemed in good hands. I was a bit glad to see our core group back to four people. We seemed to work best as a group of four. More than that, and decisions take longer to make and the hiking pace seems to slow down significantly.

The last mile or two, we started having quite a bit of fun in the snow. Swazey found a nice hill to slide down on his butt, while Dinosaur remarked that "clearly, when the rescue squad arrives, they'll see those butt slides and know we weren't in 'survivor mode' at this point." A little further on, while crossing an open area of untrammeled snow, Hiker 816 suggested that this would be a great place for snow angels. And I had to agree. It would be a great place for them, but I didn't want to get wet and cold playing in the snow.

But then I thought about all those hikers coming after me. They needed to see snow angels. They needed something to lift their spirits. So I dropped my pack and started making a snow angel. Dinosaur followed suit. And Swazey built a small snowman, perhaps six inches tall, in front of snow angels. Dinosaur found some twigs to add as arms for the snowman, and Swazey started having dreams of creating a "snowman army" of miniature snowmen. Hundreds of them, all across the open ground. It would have been awesome, but none of us had that kind of energy. But wow, that would have been a major talking point for people on the trail if we did so!

We finally set up camp, the four of us--Hiker 816, Swazey, Dinosaur, and myself--near Deer Springs Trail--on a patch of dry ground. The weather forecast called for strong gusts of wind (up to 40 mph) and a 30% chance of precipitation--probably in the form of snow at our elevation. The sunset was beautiful, though.

I set up my tarp next to a large boulder, hoping the boulder would help break the wind gusts predicted for the night. I managed to burn my mac 'n' cheese dinner, which seemed like it took me an hour to clean the pot from that disaster. The mac 'n' cheese actually tasted just fine, but the cleanup was terrible.

After sunset, we all headed into our respective tents and tarps. I wrapped up in my sleeping bag, and listened to the increasingly strong wind gusts outside, hoping it didn't get too bad.....


Okie Dog said...

Great group of pics there. Love the sunset. Good that you took time out for some fun.

Anonymous said...

except that I think Russell Crowe is Aussie, not New Zealander.
Or was it more than accent?

55 Steps said...

Good thing Hurricane laughed when you said he sounded like Russell Crowe -- most kiwis would be highly insulted if you said they sounded Aussie.

Anonymous said...

That sunset pic is GREAT!


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh wow! The snowman and snow angels are cute! But you really should have created the snowman army.
It would have become quite historic on the PCT, like the famous Chinese Terracotta Warriors!

And putting together 100 snowmen would have been a lot less work than creating over 8,000 soldiers and more than 600 horses made of terracotta. :D

8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses

The Coz said...
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