But I’m really worried that being up so high on Koosah mountain that I’ll get rained on and get drenched. The sky has now darkened and I can hear thunder in the distance. The storm approaches. I’m in my tent, all my stuff is on my ground cloth inside, I’ve tied the back of the tent to a nearby tree with paracord, and the rain beak is down. The rain is just starting. Oh wait it’s not rain IT’S HAIL! Other than getting the heck out of here I’ve done all I can do. Time to sit it out and make dinner.
I’m not a very emotional guy, but this hike has effected me in deep ways. I have cried more in the past months than I have in years.
As I approached Tuolumne Meadows I stopped to talk to some day hikers about thru-hiking. As I explained how I had hiked all these miles and my son and partner were waiting for me around the corner I got all choked up and I told them I couldn’t talk any more and had to move on. Then when I finally found Justin and Strphanie I cried again. Not big crocodile tears but deep heartfelt ones of joy at seeing them after such a difficult journey. I felt I could finally relax. I had pushed myself to my limits to get to them on that date.
Then seeing Kathy, my sweetheart and life’s partner, after Justin and I pushed and completed our hike to Echo Lake I cried again. I have missed her so. A few minutes later I tried to explain my compass charm to an onlooker and couldn’t get the words out. I tried to say that Kathy gave it to me so I would find my way back to her after this journey.
At the PCT midpoint I cried at getting that far and how hard it had been to do that. At the California – Oregon border I cried that 1700 miles were behind me and I had completed a significant milestone.
Maybe it’s because I have done things that I never thought I could do. Each challenge I have accepted, solved and moved forward. I have not given up. From hiking in freezing 50-60 MPH winds to carrying a 40-45 pound pack to climbing high passes to negotiating my way across miles-long snow fields to crossing rushing frigid rivers this journey is the hardest thing I have ever done. Through all this it has made my emotions much closer to the surface.
The day started out normally with me hiking until about 3 PM. My campsite is on Brahma Lake and the mosquitos were almost non- existent. The lake’s water was warm and I was able to wade in to wash my clothes and ME! Clean hair and clean body, Wow, that felt so good. Right now I’m sitting in my tent in my new dry undies with my wet clothes hung on the line and eating my dinner. The temperature is pleasant, the night is calm, and all is good.
Note: Read no further if you are squeamish about vomit, poop, anal chaffing, etc.
Yesterday night I was sick at my campsite on the trail. I am still analyzing what happened to insure it won’t happen again. I was camping in an area where the mosquitos were particularly bad. About midnight my stomach churning woke me up. This is not normal for me. As the hours passed it got worse and worse. Finally at about 3 AM I unzipped my net door and crawled out of my tent. I wasn’t fully out when I vomited on the ground. I got all the way out and walked ten feet from my tent. I leaned over and vomited again. I dropped my pants and defecated diarrhea next. I was sweating profusely. I climbed carefully into my tent and got out toilet paper to clean myself and just left the dirties on the ground (I would wait for it to get light out to clean up the mess). In a few minutes I was feeling much better. Then I climbed back in my tent and zipped up. However since the net door had been opened the mosquitos had gotten in so I slept with my head net on. It was only about a hour and a half until dawn which always wakes me. So I got up after losing many hours of sleep. I felt OK. I cleaned up my various messes. Packed up and headed out without eating breakfast. After a hour of hiking I felt fine and had a Clif bar and some water. Both of which I kept down. After two hours I stopped and had my breakfast cereal without incident. The rest of the day was also fine.
I really am at a loss as to why this happened. For the past two days I have been filtering my water so I don’t think that’s it. I’ve had some anal chaffing so I cleaned and lubricated myself and I tried to clean my hands afterwards so that might be it. Also for lunch I ate some old sausage sticks from several weeks ago so again that could be it. Regardless of the cause I’m now fine but it scared me. Being sick is no fun and having it happen miles from civilization is even less so.
Within a few miles I found all these examples of Pacific Crest Trail markers. The first is the earliest where someone (typically a Boy Scout) would mark the bark of the tree with a hatchet. In this case the double vertical rectangle where the lower rectangle is bigger (like an upside-down exclamation point) is for the PCT. Next two are early PCT diamond markers (one painted and one embossed). Then there are wood ones with the PCT pattern pressed into it. I’ve also seen trail posts like this. Then there is the modern trail marker. Finally in many spots there are just diamonds which are either in painted or painted white.
Over the past month I have been drinking water without filtering it first. I know I’m taking a chance that I might get some intestinal bug. But there have been mountain springs which flow directly from the rock. It is those springs that I drink directly. If it’s a creek or it looks ucky then I filter it. So far I’ve been fine.
Today when I nearly ran out of water I drank directly from Thielsen creek. If I had to filter all the water it would have taken over an hour to do it. Oh, and the creek was moving fast, it was beautiful and it flowed down from Mt. Thielsen. So far I feel fine after drinking it today.
Later in the day I got to Six Horse Spring. Because it is a spring I thought I might be able to use it directly. But when I got there I was a series of mucky ucky pools that I didn’t even want to filter from at all, but I needed water so I had to use it. Ugh.
Like northern California southern Oregon is having a drought. What this means to hikers is there are long gaps between water sources. There was an especially long one of 27 miles from Crater Lake’s Rim Village to Thielsen Creek. So at the village I filled up my 3L Platypus bag with 2 liters and my three bottles with 2.4 liters. This should be enough. Typically you use 1L per 5 miles. I planned to “dry camp” somewhere midway and then the next day fill up at the creek.
At lunch I placed my pack so the solar charger would face the sun. I knew I had plenty of water so I guzzled down 1L of water in one of my bottles. However as I was packing up I noticed a wet spot on the ground next to my pack. Somehow the Platypus’ bite value must have been squeezed and leaked a little water. This has happened before when I’ve accidentally sat on the valve. However because the bag is inside my pack I didn’t check how much had leaked. So off I went hiking the trail.
I stopped 12 miles from the creek for the day. When I opened my pack I saw that the water bag was totally empty instead of having 2L. Yikes! This meant all I had for dinner, breakfast and morning snacks was 1.4L. And that’s less than I need. In other words I was going to run out of water (for the first time) before reaching the creek.
So I decided to push on 3 more miles to get closer to the creek. Also there was a major road crossing in that 3 miles and I hoped that someone had cached some water there since this was the longest waterless interval since the Southern California desert. However there was no cache. That night at camp I conserved my water usage using only one 0.7L bottle for dinner, cleanup and brushing my teeth. The next morning I used the minimum for my breakfast cereal which meant I had about 0.6L for the morning snacks and the hike to the creek. The 8 miles took about 3 1/2 hours and I arrived with 0.3L left. Whew!
Naturally at the creek I immediately chugged the remaining 0.3L of water. Then I filled it up and chugged an entire 0.7L bottle. Then I filled everything to the max of 5.4L. Now I could hike and not worry. Later I felt that I had over compensated, filled too much water and was going to dump 1L from my Platypus bag on the ground. Note: water is very heavy. Instead I chugged 1L at a mid morning non-snack stop with lemonade flavoring. Yum! It felt so good to have that water.