a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
starts with a single step.
SOBO Mile 534.2 to 551.4 (17.2 Miles) - Windy camp to Mt Jefferson View camp
When we hear the alarm clock going off at around 5.30 in the morning, we realize that our bodies still haven't quite adapted to hike 10 to 12 hours a day, and in a rather dizzy state or as I would call it, "my zombie mode", we decide to snooze for another hour.
But what a good night we actually had! Totally different to the one before. So now we feel kind of recovered again and pack up everything in again less than 40 minutes!
We calculated that now it is only around 22 miles to the famous Timberline Lodge, the place where they shot "The shining" with Jack Nicholson in 1980. Which also happens to be place where we had to take a cab to Cascade Locks the year before, since we felt so miserable of being snowrained on for the last couple of hours and not being allowed to dry all of our wet gear in the lodge. If you would like to have a more detailed reminder of last year's Timberline experience, here‘s the link to our post of September 12 of last year...
As I mentioned it is only 22 miles, but Jerry King, who works for Search and Rescue in the area, told us that there is still a lot of snow at elevations over 5400 feet, so the last 7 miles of the trail are supposedly all covered under 4 to 6 feet of snow, which is equal to 1.2 to 2 meters of snow... yaaay... and you wonder, why he knows that? Well, Iwas asking myself the same question. Turns out that he and his team had to rescue 2 hikers from a terrible situation the weekend BEFORE. That didn't sound very promising, but Jerry calmed us down and assured us that they were two 19 year old guys and were rather inexperienced and furthermore they got caught up in really bad weather.
Another hiker we spoke to about this only said: "And after all you are from Switzerland, so you should be familiar with snow, right?!" Ahhh right, we deal with lots of snow back home, especially when we are going to ski in the mountains. Oh and of course, there is this annoying snow layer of five centimeters for two days in December, which makes your feet wet when walking to the bus station!
So in short, it is one thing to have been skiing in snow in a resort and a complete different thing to be out there in the wilderness with no signal and only your phone to navigate your way through ice and snow. But we are confident that we can do it. And thanks to Jerry we know what to expect, which is really helpful! Thank you so much, Jerry!
Right now in the morning there are some clouds in the sky, but in the afternoon we are expecting blue skies - so all good for our first real snow adventure. As we continue our hike we are rewarded with some beautiful views of Mount Hood in the South and Mount St. Helens, the famous volcano, which erupted in 1980 (apparently didn't stop Jack Nicholson meanwhile chopping the door in the Timberline Lodge saying "here comes Johnny!"), Mount Adams and Mount Rainier in the North.
At about 11am we stop under a powerline (it was the only place with a little sun, that's why) and have a late breakfast accompanied by the monotone buzzing of the powerlines. We still enjoy our breakfast, finally again as much Nutella as I want, without worrying about all the calories!
We hike on for the next 3 hours, enjoy it lot and suddenly the sun is out again and temperatures start to rise. After descending to the deepest point on this stretch (only to ascend three times the amount later) we cross a bridge over a small creek and rest for some time. It is so beautiful out here! Everything shines in this lush green and looking so fresh and new and there is still no snow! From here it is supposed to be about 6 miles until we should hit the first snowy patches. Hard to believe but we are at the lowest point, so yes, it makes sense. From here we split up, we agree to meet again in around 2,5 miles next to a river we have to cross (no bridge according to our navigation app aka Guthooks). I go ahead and soon lose sight of Maya. From here we start to climb again (really...) and after a while the trail branches off to the right towards the river. And of course from here it is all down... again!
Soon I reach the river and meet two guys having late lunch there under some trees. They tell me that they just came down the mountain to here, so they know exactly what the two of us will encounter. I ask them "how was it?", both of them answer "oh it was terrible! Still a lot of snow, we couldn't find the trail most of the time and had to check all the time using our gps. But you can follow our footsteps now." It took them 9 hours to do the 8 miles or so from the lodge to here, pretty much all downhill for them. That's going to be...interesting. And above all we have to go up, not down like they did. A couple of minutes later Maya also arrives at the river and has the same talk with the guys.
But problem number one for now is how to cross that river! There is no bridge and the water is raging, especially now that it is already later in the afternoon and the sun is melting snow fast. We go up and down the river shore and finally find a more or less promising spot to cross it. There is a small log, around 3 meters long (9 feet) but not very thick. I go first and use my poles to slowly balance my way to the other side. Here I take off my pack, go back on the other side and bring Maya's pack to the other side. So now it is Maya's turn. She slowly balances over the log and with a big jump gets to the other side as well.
Cool, no we are ready for the big climb towards the snow. And we still haven't eaten any lunch. But that is okay, we first want to do the big climb.
And indeed it is a rather big climb. For the next 2 hours we climb and climb and... climb. Soon we encounter pine trees covered in old men's beard, a moss that is acid green and grows up to 2 meters in length. We take some funny pictures of me with my new green beard. Kind of reminded me of one of my favorite commercials as a child, starring an Alp-Oehi (basically an old, beardy guy living in the Swiss Alps), wearing glasses and saying with a very Swiss accent it's cool man! Here, it's this one.
So now we continue and reach the first snow patches. Not very big ones but from here it starts. And after another 10 minutes the snow becomes deeper and deeper. But at least we don't sink in the snow as it is still pretty compact. But from now on the trail is covered in snow and we hardly see any footsteps. The sun must have melted them away by now. It now gets really sketchy. We pass a steep face covered in snow and have to traverse it. Maya doesn't pay attention for only half a second and slides down the snow fast... luckily only for a couple of meters into another tree. But still it is dangerous now and we now realize we HAVE to use our microspikes and the ice-ax. So now things are going a bit better and we eventually reach a small creek where we have to get water from. The creek is mostly covered in snow as well. And again it is Maya who slips while trying to cross over a snow bridge. The bridge collapses, she screams and falls into the creek still wearing her pack. I immediately run over to her and finally we manage to get her out of the very cold creek. Luckily only her butt got wet and she managed to save the phone from falling into the water as well.
From here on we continue and are now a bit scared to even find a spot not covered in snow to pitch our tent. Also navigation is not easy, almost none of the trail is snowfree and it’s a lot of up and down in the snow. But somehow me manage. And then we suddenly are not sure where to go, left or right? I start going right, Maya goes left..and booom, she falls again. This time it is a hidden tree that created a hole in the snow, in which she fell into. Luckily she is also fine this time, and for now takes the clear lead in numbers of falling.
We discover in Guthooks that there is a potential campsite only half a mile from here and it is all downhill now. We are hoping so much that the site is free of snow and it turns out our wishes are fulfilled. There are two tent sites looking west on top of a very steep wall, which is going down for 200 meters. Not only does it provide an amazing view of Mount Jefferson and the sunset, but it is also snow free! Jackpot! We pitch our tent, cook dinner dry our soaking wet shoes and enjoy a spectacular sunset! What a day and tomorrow we only have to do 4.3 more miles. But the trail also passes the exact place where the two guys had to be rescued the week before... Oh boy... But that is a problem, future Maya & Dario can deal with... at least for now :)