Oh Hail Snow! Will We Ever Dry Out?

Our canyon campsite, next to a stream, was a soaking mess when we woke up, as condensation covered everything. In that situation we have two choices – stay put until the sun dries everything out, or pack up and go, setting up at lunch or late afternoon and letting things dry out before we settle down for the night.  Neither was a viable option, so we carried the wet gear.

By mid-morning the thunderstorms surrounded us again.  Little did we know that when it started, we would endure six non-stop hours of rain and thunder. As the storm overhead moved north and the thunder faded in the distance, we would hear the next storm coming from the south. We would know the next storm had arrived when the hail started to fall again.   Luckily it never got any larger than pea-sized.  But there was enough to accumulate in spots.

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Here I am, modeling the latest in hail-repellent gear.

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Sponsor-provided gear pictured: Euroschirm umbrella, Leki trekking poles, Lightheart Gear rain skirt and Dirty Girl gaiters.

Some have already cracked wise about my wearing a rain skirt.  Whatever.  Rain pants mean my shorts are soaking wet from sweat within minutes, defeating the purpose of the pants. The skirt provides plenty of airflow, preventing those swampy conditions.  I will never wear rain pants again.

The umbrella was great in the hail.  I would laugh watching the stones bouncing in all directions off Jennifer’s umbrella.  But none ever came close to touching our head.  Hikers that had only a hood were definitely feeling them after an hour or two.

Regardless of the conditions, we could still appreciate the volcanic landscape. 

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We made it camp and found another couple already had a fire going.  That was a pleasant surprise and very welcome.  We don’t normally get a fire going, because as soon as we have camp set up and have finished eating, we’re in bed.  But since they had one going, we took advantage and enjoyed the warmth for a bit before bed.

Day 88 – 18 / 1,040

Soon after we woke up we gave up any expectations of drying out.  Thunder rumbled to our south as we packed the tent.  Within 30 minutes of starting our hike, we were back in our hail-repellent gear and hiking in the rain.

While we knew it was a cold night before, we didn’t realize how cold until we saw that the snow line wasn’t far above us.

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The rain didn’t stop us from appreciating the beautiful trees.

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By late morning the rain gad stopped and breaks were appearing.  By lunch we were able to set some things out to dry while we ate.

But that was short-lived. Other hikers were rejoicing that the rain was done,  but we knew better as the sun was just heating everything up.  You could look everywhere and see the water vapor rising off of everything. Within an hour the afternoon showers had started.

Then the wind.  Then the walks along exposed ridgelines, feeling the wind-driven rain sting every inch of exposed skin.  Then the loss of dexterity. Then the concerns about hypothermia.

Afters days of this, even a dry sleeping bag in an almost dry tent didn’t seem to be sufficient. But it would have to be.

Once we picked a campsite and got set up, the sunset once again provided hope that we would dry out soon.

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With the clearing skies, we hoped that we would have the opportunity to get the sun on our gear in the morning and dry us out.

We have got to realize that hope is not a technique.

Day 89 – 21 / 1,061

A 5am look outside showed clear skies, a bright moon, some stars and the hints of a bright morning.

With sunrise came the clouds, dashing that hope.

A morning visitor to camp was a surprise. A ground squirrel that we would call Scritch came for a visit.  We weren’t worried, as all of our food was packed away in our bear canister. But Scritch wasn’t interested in food, we soon realized.  Scritch was looking for a spot to take a dirt nap.

Which he did.  Right in front of the tent.

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It really was an inconvenient place, as we had to step around him.  To avoid any messy mistakes, we set rocks around him until it was time to leave.

Alas poor Scritch, we barely knew ye.

It was during this time that I learned that I was to never mention a certain Elton John song, not even the title.  Those with children now in their early- to mis-twenties know exactly which one I am talking about.  Well, it’s a song that I can’t mention in front of Jen.  Bit she never said that you couldn’t mention it, so if you can, share your favorite version with her.  Just don’t mention that I told you to.

It never did rain on us, even though it threatened most of the day.  But it was humid all day and nothing really had a chance to dry out, even with our late mid-morning start.

Many of our views reminded us of the Scottish Highlands.

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Crossing the meadows was fantastic,  as they were in bloom.  The downside was that the plants overgrew the trail, meaning a fresh soaking.

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This meadow surrounded the headwaters of the Upper Truckee River.  I really got interested in trout fishing as a kid while fishing the lower Truckee River, so I made sure I dipped my toe in the “mother river”.  Heck, everything was still wet, so no harm.

Even with out late start, we kept focused and moving, knocking out 21 miles before sunset, when we found a campsite near a lake that was reported to be very beary, populated with “problem” bears relocated from Yosemite. We never saw a single one.

The view while collecting water to filter.

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The clearing showed promise, but we didn’t have hope that we would dry out. 
We took all the steps we could minimize condensation, but everything in sight was still sopping wet, so there couldn’t be much hope.

Day 90 – 21 / 1,082

We woke up to a surprise.  There was enough of a mountain breeze all night long to keep the condensation at bay.  We weren’t any drier, but we weren’t any wetter.  That was a good start.

A short day, we just needed to get to Highway 50 and catch a ride to South Lake Tahoe for resupply. We had some nice views along the way.

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We got to the trailhead to find a nice couple from Berkeley set up with fresh fruit, baked goods and beverages, all for PCT thru-hikers. What a welcome surprise. We caught up with hikers we had met along the way, including one we last saw over 800 miles ago.

A short stand by the side of the highway and we had a ride in a great old Volkswagen bus.  The driver was a local who, we found out, hiked the PCT back in 1998.  We were regaled with stories from the trail in a heavy snow year until he dropped us off at a casino in Stateline, NV.

Our dinner view at an all-you-can-eat buffet, where our intents were larger than our stomachs.  But I did some damage to their prime rib supply.

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Day 91 – 11 / 1,093

A Zero day of chores, equipment repairs and resupply.

That and a morning of watching the Team Time Trial (TTT) stage of the Tour de France. For me, there is little more beautiful in the sporting world than watching a well-executed TTT.  I was not disappointed.

Day 92 – 0 / 1,093

Please helps us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

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