Shakedown Hike of Misery

We have made a few new purchases in between Alaska and our potential start date of the PCT (March 20).  First, we upgraded our sleep system:  sleeping pads and sleeping bags/quilts.  I actually dove into YouTube and looked up a few DIY (Do It Yourself) ideas for a summer quilt and made one.  We then upgraded Sierra’s pack & base-layers.  Lastly, we replaced our tent and my trekking poles.  With all this and the new addition of a GoPro Hero 4 Silver, we were excited for our weekend in the backwoods!  …Or so we thought.

What a nightmare of a weekend!  Murphy’s Law:  What could go wrong; went wrong, all of it.  But, you would have never known from the start though.  Our first few hundred yards down the trail were met with light patches of snow that were easily walked over.  As we started our climb, the trail slowly turned to slush, then to ice.  Prepared for the ice, we donned our mini-spikes and continued our hike upwards, back into the valley.

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I thought about how much I didn’t want to go, that I knew it would suck for two days.  I had this thought:  what if I didn’t want to go because it would remind me of the life I had before Florida, and I would miss it all over again.  That turned out to be more true than I could ever imagine.  I had missed hiking, being alone in the woods, alone with my thoughts.  For someone so extroverted, I missed the solitude.

We passed the day hikers for a bit and soon found ourselves completely alone in the wilderness.  The trail of all ice was easy going to a point, but I could tell we weren’t hiking as fast as I remember going.  After about three miles we came to an impasse in the trail:  footprints led in three directions for quite a distance.  Not knowing which was the right way, Sierra took off down to the right to get a better view.  I stayed to survey our surroundings.  Her trail teetered out about the same time I noticed the telltale signs of stone work.  We then visually tracked the stones back down the cliff side to where we were and found our way, through a foot and half of snow.

This slowed us down even more as we climbed the cliff side.  The sun getting low, we talked about finding camp soon, since setting up our tent in the dark with all the dead trees would make it harder to find a safe spot.  Onward, I post holed for the two of us.  Post holing is exactly like what it sounds.  You are plunging your foot straight down into the snow as if you are making a hole for a post or sign.  Each step is deliberate and requires more energy than walking.  In doing this, the person behind you steps in your holes, making it easier for them to walk.

This did not last too long before we were back on ice and rocks.  With the sun going down, we hoped we’d reach our alternate campsite soon.  Just as we rounded the next upward bend in the trail, we were greeted with a sign of relief and despair.  We had reached a campsite, relief.  The campsite was 2 miles from where we thought we were.  We hadn’t gone as far as we thought we had, and that just sucked.

Quickly dropping our packs, we started to make preparations for camp (stamping down the snow to make a firm bed for our tent).  Then it hit me– I forgot to bring tent stakes.  What an idiot I thought, I should have known better.  The truth was our tent did not come with stakes like most others did.  So I take partial blame, but still I should have known better.  Making our Deadman Anchors in the snow would suffice for the night.  We had the tent up quickly and I was outside cooking dinner in no time at all while Sierra prepared our home.

Once dinner was ready, I crawled into our new tent to find it surprisingly slippy inside.  The smooth material had our pads sliding around a bit and the tent floor itself also slid easily in the snow beneath.  After eating dinner, we went to bed, at 5 pm.  Yep, it was pitch black by 5 pm and we were tired.  From here, our night went from bad to worse.

Neither one of us slept well; we just couldn’t get comfortable.  I had all my clothes on and wasn’t finding the right spot to lay as I kept sliding to the outside of the tent.  Sierra was warm as could be in her new bag, lined with the one I made, but couldn’t find a comfortable side to sleep on either.  By the time dawn rolled around, everything was coated in several millimeters of frost.  Our breath and the sublimation of the snow had coated our bags, tent walls, boots, and any other exposed surface.

I quickly crawled out of the tent and got my boots on so she could stay warm inside while she packed.  As I danced and danced to stay warm, all I could think about was just getting home.  Once we were packed, we started down the trail back to our car.  That is when it got even worse.  We, rather I, had woefully underestimated Sierra’s tolerance/layering system.  Even as we hiked at a brisk pace, she felt colder and colder.  (I’m sure being slightly dehydrated did not help either.)

You would not have believed it unless you saw it.  With every layer I removed, we put them on her.  At one point I was down to a T-shirt, shorts, and silk-weight layers.  She had on all of her gear, plus my down jacket, both sets of gloves, and hats.  She looked like the marshmallow man, yet somehow she was still cold.  We had gone 2 miles or so by this point and she was just starting to warm up.  We stayed this way all the way back to our car:  me half-dressed and her wearing everything, struggling to fend off the cold.

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Upon reaching our car, we miserably put our gear inside and headed for breakfast.  We had concluded that this was a great learning experience and we should plan another.  Our attitude for the day was getting better and we were looking forward to seeing what we had done with the GoPro.  But upon bringing all the gear in the house, we couldn’t find it.  The GoPro was missing.  With that swiftness of a thought, our day came crashing down around us.

We hurriedly drove back to look for it, but to no avail.  It was gone.  No one had seen it.  It never made it into the car.  Yet, we were certain it made it as far as the last hundred feet of the trail.  Our crap weekend just took a depressing turn and we were too exhausted physically and emotionally to handle it.  All we could do was put our gear away and go over in our heads what happened.  To make matters worse, I hadn’t seen my watch in over a week.  The cost of a new one, same model, would be about $300, a new GoPro would be $350, plus what ever the tripod was, and our external battery would be another $30.  In one weekend, we now had to replace almost $800 in gear we were definitely not expecting.

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