Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Arrival in Agua Dulce

Wrightwood is a vortex. I could not escape. It felt like Groundhog day.

The Tretters were a great family to stay with. So generous with their living space and food and everything. But after 3 days I feared I'd never leave.

Tony arrived on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It was snowing. We sat around the house. On Saturday the weather was still bad. We took a day hike to do the section of the PCT between Inspiration Point and Vincent Gap. The snow was slushy and wet but I had a warm home to go to to dry my socks and shoes.

The next day I had a feeling I had to get out or I never would. So Tony and I packed up and left early. It was sunny. But the clouds came in before we got started and it was cold. We drove to Vincent Gap and Tony convinced me that if the snow was wet and slushy at lower altitudes it would be drier and better at higher altitudes. So we decided to try the trail.

At Vincent Gap the trail heads up to Baden-Powell, which is over 9000ft elevation. We climbed the million switchbacks and the snow got deeper and deeper. Toward the top the foot steps we were following started to look confused. But we reached the top where the PCT meets with the side-trail to the summit. We didn't summit but instead went down the PCT, following much fewer footsteps now.

The snow was very deep. We were postholing up to our thighs. The footsteps we followed seemed to get lost every now and then. It was really difficult. My feet were getting wet.

I told Tony I was scared I would get lost because I couldn't see anything that looked like a trail. We tried to just follow the ridge for a while, aiming for Dawson Saddle Trail that would take us back down to the road. Then Tony stood above a snow chute and said he could see the road. Why yes, there it was. We decided to head down the chute.

It took us about 1 and 1/2 hours postholing down this gully. Straight down. Toward the bottom the gully narrowed and I began to get nervous. What if we reached a cliff and couldn't get past it? There was a little creek and a small waterfall. It was scary going over this stuff.

Soon the snow was very deep and the gully very narrow and I was afraid I'd fall up to my neck in one of the holes on the sides. Then a miracle: The gully emptied out to a wide area right next to the road. We were saved.

I immediately turned right, toward the Vortex of Wrightwood. My feet were wet, my legs were wet, my back and butt were wet from falling in the snow. I wanted to get out of there. I declared that I hate trees, I hate forests and I hate snow. Get me the heck out of here away from the snow and away from Wrightwood.

So we walked back to Vincent Gap. By the time I got there I was so cold I was wearing all my clothes and still shivering. We got in the car and went for Yodel burgers in Wrightwood. While there Hotel California played on the jukebox. How appropriate.

We drove south on 138, through the Cajon Pass on I15 and over to the 210 to La Canada where we stayed in a little hotel with old-fashioned wall heaters where I dried my socks and shoes. Then the next morning, fortified with Jack-in-the-Box breakfasts, we drove up to Three Points and I continued my hike, feeling defeated at cheating but terribly grateful to Tony for rescuing me out of the Vortex.

Tony hiked with me for a few hours and then we had our tearful good-bye and I continued on. I planned an easy day but ended up hiking 22 miles to a little camp under some big cone spruce trees next to a tiny little creek. I had met Yard Sale and Weeble along the way but they never made it to the little camp and I camped alone. It was a cold, damp place and my sleeping bag was barely warm enough. My new sleeping quilt that is.

The next morning I continued on. The trail was so pretty with the oaks and big cone spruce. These two days of oaks and spruce were the prettiest in my mind so far. I ended up down in Soledad Canyon and slept at an RV park. Cost me $20 for practically nothing but it was all there was around the area that I felt safe in. Yard Sale and Weeble stayed with me and pitched in $10. I slept cold there, too. I worry about my new quilt.

This morning I loaded up for an easy walk through the Vasquez Rocks into Agua Dulce. It was a really pretty hike and the rocks were amazing. I took a lot of pictures.

Now I'm at the famous Hiker Haven in Agua Dulce waiting for my turn at the shower and a chance to go to REI for a new backpack. Mine only feels comfortable with about 22lbs in it. After that it's painful on my back and shoulders. I'll look and see if there's something better.

People have heard of my death-defying adventure in the snow before I even arrived. I don't know how they would have heard about it. They tell me I should be proud, that I hiked more of the trail up in the snow than most people, and in water shoes, not real hiking boots, too. So I won't worry too much that I skipped about 20 miles of the trail. Hike your own hike. This is my hike.

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