As many of you know, my daughter, Anna, and her husband, Daniele, began hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on Friday, March 27th, beginning at the metal fence that marks the border with Mexico and trekking north. They began in the town of Campo, about sixty miles inland from San Diego.
Last Tuesday they called to say they had left the PCT and hitched a ride to Idllywild, because snow was expected the next day. This first part seemed easy: Their guidebook suggested making a sign so they ripped pages from their journals (I think) and scrawled “PCT through hikers” which is code for those who are hiking the whole length of the nearly 3000 miles long trail in a single continuous journey, as opposed to those who hike sections at a time.
At first they despaired of finding a ride because cars were whizzing by too fast to read their tiny sign. In fact, they agreed that they would not stand there forever, they would wait for one hour and one hour only. But within five minutes, car that had raced past them, turned around and circled back. As they ran up to meet it they noticed a fish, an ixthus, a ancient symbol of Christianity on the bumper sticker, and smiled at the thought of being blessed by a fellow Christian. Although dear Daniele eschews all things ‘chee-vo”–his term for “cheesy evangelical”–he is still a follower of Christ, and I like to imagine he looks like our Lord with his Italian good looks and shoulder-length curly hair (Did Jesus have ringlets? I hope so!).
Once they got to the village of Idllywild, Dan and Anna set up camp in a campground at about 5000 feet elevation to wait out the snow. But Wednesday dawned bright and sunny. As did Thursday. Now snow was predicted for Friday. The library in town was only open every other day. The campground shower was tepid and the outside air too cold to emerge wet and not take a chill. On Friday afternoon Anna, who had not bathed in a week, took the plunge. They were eager to be on their way, but at last late on Friday it snowed, about six inches in town and 3-4 feet on the mountains at 10,000 feet. Anna said they were cozy in their tent, then in the same breath mentioned waking up several times during the night to knock snow off that same tent.
On Saturday they could wait no longer, but the PCT was covered in snow so they took off along Black Mountain Road, a logging road at lower elevation which was still closed from winter. Anna called me from the trail to report that they were walking in slush, their feet were soaked and to make matters worse, at regular intervals they had to scale piles of logs left in the road.
After we hung up, I looked up Black Mountain Road on the Internet. I am good at reading maps after seventeen years as a field geologist, so I brought up the PCT map in topo version and compared it to the street map that showed Black Mountain Road and then traced up to to where it joined the PCT . . at nine thousand feet elevation on the back side of Mount San Jacinto. Gulp!
I remembered driving to Palm Springs as a teenager with a boyfriends whose best attribute was his white Cadillac. It was sweltering, I believe the temperature that day topped 110°F. Yet gazing up at Mount San Jacinto I saw snow on top. In the dessert elevation is everything.
The view of the ground from the weather satellite looks quite white. Either there are some very white rocks in the area (limestone perhaps?) or there is snow on the ground.
Their next stop is Big Bear Lake, a place I frequented as a child for an afternoon of sledding. In L.A. you “go to the snow” it does not come to you. I am looking forward to hearing from them. I am trying not to think of icy paths, wet feet or high mountains.
All those summers in Alaska, carrying a rifle in case of bears (after a friend’s arms were consumed by a juvenile black bear) I did not think of my mother. I never occurred to me that she might worry. . .