Saturday, April 1, 2017


Earlier in the day heading for Fuller Ridge
On the late afternoon of 3/24 I received a text from Dick "Mile 178 coming out have some problems will call you later"  Great! More information please!! Then two hours later "Heading for Humber Park trailhead near Idllywild might make it tonite or morning will let you know." Fortunately, when he reached the Humber Park trailhead a car pulled in. Dick asked the couple if he could get a ride to Idyllwild. They were kind enough to help him out. They dropped him at the Idyllwild Post Office where they knew he could get a phone connection. I made it to him before dark. He did not look good. Below is what he wrote and put on the Pacific Crest Trail site for other hikers.

Dick's Blog:
I misjudged the elevations in Southern California and reached my first nemesis (Fuller Ridge) Mt. Jacinto only 180 miles along the PCT. I was carrying micro spikes (crampons) and tried crossing the sheer, hard packed snow. I did okay for awhile, but it only took one slip. I got religion very quickly. I should have brought my ice axe. It could have reduced a lot of pain. My first pole broke, the second was not hefty enough to dig into the snowpack, as hard as I tried. I was sliding out of control and bouncing off rocks and trees. It all happened so fast I just reacted by grabbing for whatever I could to slow me down or stop the madness. My spiked boots caught in the snow and turned me face down. I saw an outcropping of rock that looked like my last chance before a much longer ride with a scree field at the bottom. You might say I was Romancing the Stone.
My pack took most of the abuse, thankfully. I watched my water bottles and broken pole continue on down into the rocks. I was able to save my good pole to help get me out of this mess. One bump along this human pinball ride tore my pant pocket apart and cracked my iphone case. In a daze I felt for broken bones, looked for my glasses and tried to gather gear that was within reach. 

All I could find wrong was the skin was badly scrapped off my left arm and elbow, blood coming from my forehead and a couple of fingers hurt bad and swelling a bit. Once I knew I was physically alright, I started questioning my sanity. "What the hell are you doing?" "You are a freaking nut case." "I'm too old for this shit."
Once I got all that frustration out of the way I knew I had to get out of this somehow. I had spent a lot of time and effort kicking steps into the snow to get this far. I had to get back up the grade without falling again, and back to the last trail junction that would take me down to Idyllwild, Ca.
It took me almost 12 hours of constant focusing on each and every step. I would rest on rock outcroppings and sun wells around trees. I was so glad to get back to real trail and drop down below the snow line. A couple at a trailhead parking area offered me a ride into town and dropped me at the post office where they assured me I could get cell reception to call GAILA911. Luckily, right next to the post office I was able to get emergency care. There was pizza, beer and coffee to medicate me until Gaila arrived.

Views of Fuller Ridge from the reroute

Heading to Black Mountain rd an alternate route - longer but safer

After 3 days R & R (rest and replacement) Dick felt good enough to hit the trail again. 
I was glad to get some much needed R & R (rest and relaxation) myself. Jojoba Hills RV Resort is very nice. I'm learning new card games, pickle ball and enjoying the heated pool. Lots of other things I've signed up for. Everyone here is very friendly and always make me feel welcome.

BOO is saying, "Don't leave us again, we don't want you to get hurt anymore!"

The desert surrounding Borrego Springs has magnificent metal sculptures by Ricaro Breceda. I was surprised to find his studio is located next to Jojoba RV Resort in Aguanga, where I am staying. Amazing work.

A new lease on life - a superbloom of Brittlebush
I took three days off to recoup, fix gear, resupply and lick my wounds. Okay, I'm ready to go again. A friend, who had hiked this area before, emailed me directions that would take me up a 10 mile Forest Service road that would let me skip the several miles of Fuller Ridge. The road still had plenty of hard packed snow but wide, and no place to take a slide. Once it intersected with the PCT again, it was all day down out of the snow. I went from 8600 ft to about 1200 where I crossed Interstate 10 into a super bloom of Brittlebush. I was feeling good, a bit sore from the fall but mentally I had a new lease on life. In fact I texted Gaila and said, "Great trail, great weather, new lease on life, thinking about section hiking and flip-flopping to do this trail."

Mile 200 - beautiful hiking day
 I really thought I was out of the snow for at least a hundred miles or more. For two days I climbed back up to almost 9000 ft., but I was on a south facing canyon slope. It was pushing 90 degrees and I had little energy. I just couldn't get it into second gear. You need second and third gear every day if you want to do the miles it takes to make it to Canada in a season. Again, I started questioning my sanity. Why would I want to hike in this non-recreational backpacking terrain just to link Mexico to Canada? I can't explain it. I have done it before, but maybe I should be getting smarter as I get older. Maybe I should save my knees for pristine backpacking destinations that appreciate me more than California's hot, burnt-over scrubland, full of rattlesnakes with an attitude. 
Did I tell you I stepped on one? They can be ornery just walking past them, but when you step on them, they really get pissssed. The human body works in conjunction with the human mind when you step on a rattlesnake. The snake twists and turns almost in a rolling fashion, all the time shaking the noise making device hanging off his ass. The human mind instantaneously gives the body super human capabilities. Who says, "white men can't jump." I learned I could jump higher and make much higher pitched noises than I ever realized. 
Gaila will tell you I don't dance but you should see me do the rattlesnake twist. It is probably better described as a souix war dance, just before the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  

Hiking through a burned over scrubland for several miles
So, I climbed all the way back up to elevation, crossed over to the north side of the mountain and almost instantly the wind picked up, blowing a cold fog into the mountains. I hit hard pack snow that obliterated the trail, and it started snowing. 
I promised Gaila, and myself, I would not cross anymore slide areas, BUT! It was 20+ miles back to a junction out, or only two miles past this snow to a Forest Service road. I had an hour of light so decided to go for it. I put on my spikes and started kicking steps. This snow had softened all day and really didn't seem as dangerous. I knew by morning it would again harden up and I needed to get across before dark and make it to the Forest Service road in case the snow continued. I did make it, but ended up on a very exposed ridge. I have been forced to camp in high wind before and it's no fun. This was right up there with the worst of my backpacking experiences. Crystallized snow with a velocity of a wind tunnel. I managed to get my tent up and place rocks on each tent stake. It was cold, but once I climbed in and put all my layers on, I was fairly warm. The wind blew so hard all night my tent mainstay pole is now warped out of shape. I have a bombproof tent. It's a Hilleberg single person tent with a vestibule. I leave my pack, water bottles, poles and boots in the vestibule at night. In the morning everything in the vestibule was covered in dirty snow the wind had mixed into a mountain mortar. It was still windchill cold, but the sun was rising. I have designed my gear to be able to pack everything away inside the tent, then climb out and only have to deal with the tent itself. On a nice day this wouldn't matter much, but on the occasional day from hell, like this one, it makes all the difference in the world. I packed everything up and headed for lower elevation. I could see nothing ahead but snowpack and the elevation would not drop for another couple dozen miles.
I am afraid I picked the wrong year to do the PCT. I know I started way too early (seasonally) and perhaps too late (agingly). Everything started out fine. I still had the stamina to hike 25 mile days in the hot California sun, still had a positive attitude about long distance hiking and slamming out miles everyday for a few months, but things changed.  This is a challenging year because of the massive accumulations of snow California much needed and received in historic amounts. They are saying hikers won't get through the Sierra until July. Skipping ahead to Oregon/Washington is not really an option because they too have piles of snow. This is truly a hemorrhoidial snow year for the Sierra and Cascades with piles everywhere. Those that do will never see the John Muir trail because it will be under many feet of snow for most of this hiking season. 
ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm pulling the pin on the PCT at Mile 246. It's one of the wettest years on record and the snow is just killing it for me. It is not a total loss. I figure the foot and ankle part of the body have 26 bones, 33 joints, and about a 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. I don't think I usually use half of them, they get lazy, stop working and think they can retire. Doing big miles everyday is an awakening for all of them. You know you have their attention because they all hurt. This eventually goes away once they all wake up and start doing their job again. Mine are starting to feel pretty good so I know they have all been made well aware that I expect them to do their job and stop dreaming about the good life of sitting idle and just letting me drag them along. 
I feel bad for Gaila. She thought she was going to get more alone time throughout the next several months. Now she is reminding me that I have packaged up about four months worth of dehydrated food, so I see a lot of backpacking in my immediate future. I am already working on a plan to check off the Primo backpacking areas in the United States that are on my bucket list, and make it the best year to not hike the PCT. --Keep Smilin, Dickebird

Here's to more enjoyable hikes ahead

Finally, mom and I can relax for awhile!!
This is more like it!!