Day 47: Winter Wonderland

May 31, 2017: Hiked Miles 745.3 to 759.1 + 3.2 to get back on trail (17 total)

We woke up bright and early in our hotel room this morning. I have permanently given up on sleeping in. We watched some YouTube videos on self-arresting with an ice ax. Better late than never. We packed up, ate some donuts and cereal and took off. We returned Colton’s crampons and exchanged them for some microspikes instead. Hopefully this will be a good choice. We got a ride up the mountain from our new friend, Nick. He was the same one who brought us down the day before and had ever so kindly offered to take us back up. On our way up the mountain, we got a good chance to see how dark and cloudy the sky was. I knew it was supposed to be cloudy today, but the sky was looking a little bit darker than just cloudy. Nick dropped us off and we started hiking into the campground. It was definitely cooler than the day before, but it felt refreshing since we had a good uphill climb in the snow to start the day off. We put our microspikes on for the first time and were happy with how much added traction we had. 

The snow was already a little soft so we still slid around a bit, but they definitely aided in walking. 

We made it to the top quicker than expected and got back on the PCT. We kept climbing and before long the sky got darker and it started to snow. 

We put on our rain jackets and beanies and kept going. We ended up on some decent slopes so we traded out our hiking poles for an ice ax, just in case things got hairy. But soon after, we made it to the top and crested over to the other side of the mountain which was much safer. We had some good views on top of the approaching storm.

Snow is exhausting to walk in and we were famished. We demolished a couple donuts that we had left over from this morning and decided to try and push on and hope the weather improved. The snow came and went and our shoes and socks became soaked fairly quickly. As long as we kept hiking we could stay warm enough so we took quick breaks and decided to push through and try and get over our next mountain before things got worse. 

Well of course things did get worse. The snow started coming down harder and harder. Our microspikes are not supposed to be used in fresh snow, they work best to dig into frozen snow. So the snow and ice kept clumping up on the spikes and making walking very difficult and very slow. We knew we had a long way to go to get to somewhere without snow to camp tonight so we decided to skip a lunch break and devoured a few pieces of pizza we had packed out in about 30 seconds. We went higher and higher. The snow got thicker and thicker. 

The trail became non-existent and previous footprints started to disappear. 

I started getting nervous. Not about the hike, but about what would happen if one of us were to get hurt post-holing or start to get hypothermic and we couldn’t find a dry place to set our tent up. But we knew the best thing to do was to keep moving and get to lower elevation so that’s what we did. 

Even with all the craziness, we still managed to enjoy ourselves. The snow was beautiful and we were on an adventure like no other. 

After hours of chugging through snow, we crested a hill and were met with a view of a beautiful valley and a tiny ray of sunshine. It was the best feeling ever. The snow turned to a light dusting and we even passed a couple tents, the first people we had seen all day. They must have decided to wait out the storm. Probably a good idea. 

We made our way around the valley and had some gorgeous views.

After an hour of partial sunlight, the sun really started coming out and illuminated a gorgeous snowy valley. We started to smell smoke and eventually stumbled on a few of our friends who had decided to also wait out the storm and make a fire to try and warm up. We chatted with them for a bit, but decided to push on since their campsite looked pretty wet. 

The rest of the day was wet and slow. Any trail or footprints had disappeared so we had to use our GPS and crisscross the trail so many times trying to stay on track. We were determined to find a dryer camping spot at a lower elevation. As we made our way down, the snow was so soft and we ended up sliding down a ton of hills. We would try to ski down with our shoes and poles, but ended up on our butts a lot. Eventually we got to an open area with semi-dry ground and I insisted that we stop since the sun would be setting soon. We took our soaking wet socks and shoes off and set up our tent. Our jackets and Colton’s sleeping bag had got a little wet too so we attempted to dry them out. We threw everything in our tent eventually, hung our wet clothes on a makeshift clothesline inside our tent, put all our warm, dry clothes on, and got inside. We were starving so we chowed down for forever and talked about what a crazy day it had been. 

Our first day in decent snowpack in a blizzard with no trail to follow and soaking wet feet all day with basically no real breaks all day. I felt like I was in a winter storm most of the day, not hiking at the end of May. We got our first taste of how crazy the Sierras are going to be this year and I think it was definitely a good wake-up call. I just got out of my tent to pee and move my bear canister away from the tent and the sky looks clear so hopefully the storm has passed and we will see what new adventure tomorrow holds for us. Just have to live one day at a time out here. 

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