Day 6: Batten down the hatches!

Mile 73.9 (14.4 miles)
Highest elevation today: ~4250 ft

Well, holee crap. There are ways to die on this trail. I mean, the AT has dangerous parts, and certainly the cold can be serious if you start early. But day to day on the PCT, there are at least three or four different deadly things that are just status quo. Today, it was wind–easily 30 mph sustained, with gusts up to 70 (via a guy who just came out of Julian and heard it on the news).

Literally every step today was a fight. The wind kept chucking me off the trail like I was a ragdoll. Bit the scary thing was that last night and today involved probably 10 or 12 miles of trail that were a ribbon carved in the side of a mountain. Out east, if you go over the edge, a tree will eventually break your fall. Here, if you go over, you’re done. It’s nearly vertical boulder walls All you’d do is bounce your way to the bottom. Luckily, the wind was mostly pushing me in the other direction. Mostly.

Last night, my tent survived. Many didn’t. I was hearing all day about disasters. One of the New Zealanders, a guy named Weta, said his tent collapsed three times, but after that he stopped trying to put it up.

This morning it was still ferociously windy. I kept asking myself if it was dangerous. Should I stay put, move out? Those are the times I really wish I had a hiking partner. Eventually, at around 7 AM, I checked the elevation profile. It was all dowhill to Scissors Crossing. So I packed up and hit the road.

Today was HARD. It was, of course, uphill a lot of the time. But fighting that wind! It was slow walking, taking extraordinary care with balance. I got off trail once and wasted a half mile. (That’s the third time. The trail is marked at road crossings, but the signs are subtle and I’m not used to them yet.)

I made it past 14 miles, which is encouraging. And half of that was with a ton of water. There’s a 23-mile waterless stretch coming up. Some people are relying on a note in the water report from a couple if weeks ago that there’s a little stream a couple of miles from here, but I don’t trust anything out here, unless it’s marked ‘reliable.’ I sometimes think I’m too tightly wrapped for this trail; others are pretty happy-go-lucky about things. Or maybe I’m just old. πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’ll get right to the disaster. I found a sheltered spot among big rocks and decided to set up camp. I got the tent set up, staked down, and weighted with rocks…then when I reached for my pack, one of those giant gusts came, knocked my pack over, blew me onto my ass, and sent my tent flying up in the air like a balloon, over past my heaf and away. The rocks and stakes popped into the air like confetti. “That’s it,” I thought. “Hike over.”

I was too tired to even care. But now I had a safety issue. This wind has been cold. A lot of people were hiking in puffies today. The tent had hung up in a mangled mess on a rock I could reach. I brought it down and found some of the stakes.

I thought about cowboy camping, but it’s freezing. No sense in putting up the tent in this gale with not enough stakes–or even with enough stakes, obviously! And I was too beat to walk another 3 miles down to the road crossing, with the heavy water carry. It’ll be dark soon, and down there lies a hitchike I didn’t feel up to. So I decided to put the tent up without the fly.

And here we are. It’s still gusting hard, but a guy said it’s supposed to stop right after dark. He said also it was supposed to rain starting at 4:30, though, and that hadn’t happened. The sky is cloudless.

So here I am, sleeping in my clothes and hoping the tent holds up. (There was a small hole, which I repaired. Six days in, and this trail is just destroying my gear!)

It continues to be an international experience. At the water hole at mile 68, there were two women from Mexico, a guy from Japan, a guy from Israel, a guy from New Zealand, and me–the only American. πŸ™‚


13 thoughts on “Day 6: Batten down the hatches!

  1. You are incredible and an inspiration. The winds are pretty fierce up there. Stay safe! Thank you for the updates!!!! πŸ™‚


  2. I wrapped up in my tent like a burrito One night because I was so sick of it collapsing on me in the wind – then I had my support person send me my old heavier freestanding tent to the next town. It’s incredibly frustrating, I feel your pain!


  3. You’re lovin’ this. It’s going to be a real adventure. Last time I bring this up until you’re done. What you are experiencing and are about to experience when you get to exposed altitude are what made me paranoid before I jumped on the AT. I just could not believe the AT is as civilized as it is. Desert pavement can be pretty rocky. Sometimes you can bury your ten guy lines in the sand (tied to rocks of course). Other times, you’re f-cked. Hope you don’t run into talc. It is a fine dust that desiccates your skin – sucking all the moisture out. Then you get to shrivel up and die as a raisin.


  4. Sounds scary!! But you survived!! I remember one run was so windy I swear every step I took forward lifted me up and push me backwards! That was here in town with sidewalks and roads and lawns all around me. You are one brave woman! Beautiful pictures!


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