My first snow storm
April 28, 2014
Big Bear is nice but after 3 nights not even the threat of a snow storm could keep me from the trail. I hiked up Van Dusen canyon rd to meet the PCT and about midway a fellow hiker, Lightning Rod, with his own personal trail Angel came up behind me in a truck. They asked of I needed a lift and I politely refused, they started up the road and quickly doubled back to let me know a storm was coming. I knew this but they had a little more info; 6 inches, high winds.
I figured no matter what I would make it through the night and this would be a great test of my sleep system which I had hoped would keep me warm below freezing. It was supposed to be 20 degrees that night and my bag was rated for 35. Parting, we exchanged numbers so I could reach him if I wanted to get off the mountain and to check-in the following morning.
I hit the trail and about an hour in I caught up to a hiker named Barrel, short for Barrel Cactus, a young guy from Arizona. We struck up a convo and stuck together for about 10 miles when the dark clouds started in on us. As we came through a canyon with mellower winds we decided it’s better to stay dry and setup camp. Soon as I had my bed setup I crashed out immediately. I awoke several times in the night to the howling of wind that threaten to send me to the land of Oz. Eventually the thudding of snow could be heard and between 60 mph winds and snow things got a little frightening.
You could hear the wind coming from a distance, a weird experience but it gave you time to brace as it ravished by the tent, the nylon making ripping noises as it passes. I knocked snow off the sides a few times in the night and slept in till 7am not wanting to bear the cold. Eventually a started packing my gear thinking about how wet I’m going to be walking in snow, and wondering if I can even find the trail.
When I stood up outside my tent I was greeted with something unexpected. Beauty. It was beautiful outside, calm, cold, and beautiful.
We packed up and started the task of trail finding, which turned out to be easy because only a few hundred feet away we were following the footprints of another hiker who stayed ahead of us the entire day.
We eventually dropped low enough in elevation that the snow dissipated. My feet were wet but I didn’t care, the beauty was worth it.
I sped ahead of Barrel with a destination of the Deep Creek hot springs as my camp for the night. When I arrived I found the hiker who had carved out the trail through the snow the entire day, to my surprise, it was Burning Daylight. We all soaked in the spring and chatted with spring goers enjoying the day. A 25x PCT hiker named Captain Kirk offered up his wine to me, some others a bit of herb (works better than vicodin) and I settled into my sleeping bag happy and tired.
I woke that morning at 2:45am and could hear people laughing around the spring. Tried as I might, I couldn’t get back sleep so by 3:45 I said screw it and packed my stuff. By 4:05am I was on the trail.
I like watching the sun rise, it’s always beautiful. Hiking in the morning is cool and quiet.
Eventually I made it 5 miles to the spillway and could see my destination far off in the distance, a few snow covered peaks.
I passed a hiker I had leap frogged with the day before, Stampede, who poked his head out of his bivy to say hi. (Pictured)
I went into zen mode shortly after and hiked nearly without stopping till 5pm. 34 miles later I was eating McDonalds and decided to treat myself to a real bed at a nearby Best Western at Cajon Pass. Right before getting here I was awarded with some amazing views.
The last 3 miles may have been some of the best. So I sit here now, the following morning waiting for clothing I just washed in the sink to dry feeling pretty good considering the 34 miles I did. Contemplating if I should take a zero or hit the trail and start the climb back up into the mountains. I’m feeling pretty good, I think I’ll head out once things dry.
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