Started: 08:15 @ MM 357.2 – Random flat bit of ground near dirt road (Elevation 6,468ft)
Finished: 18:15 @ MM 5 on Endangered Species Alternate (Equivalent to PCT MM 380ish) – South Fork Campground (Elevation 4,548ft)
Water: Drank 3L … Too cold for drinking!
Food: Oatmeal, Jerky, Trail Mix,Protein Bar, Nakd Bar, some sort of Thai Beef & Noodle thing.
Wildlife: 0 Snakes and 0 Bears … Everything gone back into hibernation!
Health: 0 Blisters, just the usual aches and pains.
I woke late by hiker standards … 6.45am !! In spite of the altitude and frigid air I had slept remarkably well, probably still catching up for the aircon debacle of the previous night. The sun was already up and warming my tent when I emerged and The Flash were just about ready to set off. We said a fond farewell. Their resupply would take them into Wrightwood today and so our paths diverged and there was never any certainty that they would cross again. The trail is very transient like that, but I’m kind of use to transient so it is okay.I was in no real rush to set off. I pottered about my camp, cooking my oatmeal in its little ZipLoc bag and drinking gnarly coffee with chunks of floating milk powder. Zucchini left, then Jet Pack and Day Hike. By 8am I was all alone. I switched my phone from “Airplane” to check the weather … Snow was coming … Rats !!! I also received a wonderfully motivating and very touching message from a friend and fellow scuba diving professional. It really helped to lift my spirits, which the snow had threatened to dampen.
The morning began with a further 2,000ft climb before dropping 3,000ft, only to go back up another 4,000ft in just 4 miles to the summit Baden-Powell … The stupid pointless ups and downs. It was going to be a tough day! The sun soon vanished behind a blanket of storm clouds, the temperature plummeted and by 11am I was walking in a snow cloud.Much to my chagrin the first line of The Snowman song and the voice of Aled Jones started playing on a perpetual loop in my head. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how or why my mind had allowed this one line of a song from a sheep-shagging Welsh choirboy to take up valuable space in my memory bank. I pledged to eradicate the wailing Taffy from my cognisance and replace it with something more useful, such as the conversion ration of Celsius to Fahrenheit or how the Imperial system of weights and measures works. Thankfully my sanity was saved by the only encounter I would have with another PCT hiker for the entire day. I came across Beast Master and we hiked together for a while.Beast Master was a pretty typical thru-hiker but he had a most refreshing attitude to life on the trail. He didn’t care for big miles or deadlines, he was just enjoying the wilderness and the journey. The destination was simply not important to him. His approach made me re-evaluate my own reasons for being here and I had to concede that I had become caught up in the sometimes competitive aspect of thru-hiking. I decided that it was time for a few changes. Today I was on my own and it was the perfect opportunity to start doing things my way!The snow showers persisted for much of the day. The easy, and some might say more sensible option, would probably have been to head into Wrightwood with Beast Master, find a hostel and take a Nero. However, I was feeling brave. I had plenty of food and all the necessary equipment to deal with the conditions. I procrastinated briefly at the trail junction but boldly decided to continue. At the Grassy Hollow Visitors Centre I ran into a couple of day hikers. I couldn’t help but think they could have chosen a better day for it! They seemed horrified that I was walking to Canada on my own. I tried to explain that I wasn’t technically on my own. The woman looked confused but too be honest it was hard to tell. She was wearing sunglasses! I wondered why. When they wandered off into the fog it occurred to me that she way probably wondering why I was wearing sunglasses too. I took them off and instantly it seemed like the weather was brightening up … Funny that!I reached the foot of Mount Baden-Powell at around 2 o’clock. I read the sign and suddenly felt not quite so bold! Officially it probably wasn’t a winter month but it was definitely winter weather. I concluded that with nobody else on the trail it would be plain foolish to head up there on my own. I bravely ran away. Thankfully there was a low level alternative, the Manzanita Trail which scooted round the base of Baden-Powell and joined back up with the PCT further north. The purists would be horrified but I really didn’t give a hoot. It was my journey, my way and I was still hiking and still moving forward.The Manzanita Trail was easier in that I didn’t have a 4,000ft climb to deal with, however it did present other challenges. Large chunks of the trail were completely washed away and I frequently had to scramble down into deep gullies, across rocks and boulders and then back up the other side. Finally, after 10 hours and 21 miles I reached South Fork Campground. I was the only thru-hiker there. By 7 o’clock camp was set, I was in my pyjamas and eating re-hydrated Chilli Beef Mac and Cheese out of a ZipLoc bag with my long handled spoon. I had Gummie Lifesavers for pudding and was fast asleep by 9. All alone but proud as punch … I’d made good choices, I’d survived the snow and I’d done it my way. Tomorrow I had to deal with an endangered toad!