Chasing the Snow

After a double zero waiting out a storm in Julian, I was antsy to get back on trail. When we finally got back to trail after a road walk and hitch to scissors crossing, I was practically running up the mountain out of pure joy. It felt so good to be back to crushing miles.

Cruising through meadows

That night at camp, I overheard whispers of an incoming storm set to hit Friday. After already taking two zeros within the first ten days of trail, I was not excited to take another zero. But the other option was hiking through the snow storm with a predicted high of 33 degrees and five inches of snow.

After chatting with the 6 other hikers who have become my tramily (named the bandits), we decided the only option was to outrun the snow. We had to push three 20 mile days in order to get to Idyllwild before the snow hit. Determined and excited for the challenge, I set off on our first 20 mile day. The terrain was smooth, and the sun was shining. The end of the day was perfect; I hiked the last couple of miles through the golden hour glow that sets the forest on fire. The warm evening air flowed past my salt covered face, like a warm hug. Once at camp, I learned that I could order a breakfast burrito to be delivered at the road in the morning. I immediately put in my order, a bacon, ham, sausage burrito and went to sleep dreaming of home cooked food.

Golden hour

The next two days were challenging. After only being on trail for 10 days, hiking two 22 mile days after a 20 mile day made my feet ache and my blisters sore. The final 5 miles into Paradise Valley Cafe were absolutely brutal. The tramily split up, everyone hiking on their own, facing the pain in their own way. I was the third to arrive to the road, the last mile road walk breaking me down more than I thought possible. I plopped down at PVC with Poppins and Disco, too exhausted to even order the burger I had been dreaming about for the past four days and 75 miles.

20 miles into a 22 mile day

I woke up the next day on the floor of an Airbnb in Idyllwild squished between the wall and Poppin’s sleeping pad. I had slept through the entire night yet still felt exhausted. I looked out the window. Snow had fallen and more was coming down. I let out a sigh of relief; we had outrun the snow and I had a roof over my head sturdier then the one wall trekking pole tent. The day in Idyllwild was magical with snow covered trees and the mountain town out of a fairy tale. I checked off the Idyllwild essentials: I met mayor max, ate too many doughnuts, and went to the brewery.

Seven hiker trash in a room for two

Meeting the mayor of Idyllwild

Although the zero day was perfect, the towering San Jacinto mountains loomed over Idyllwild and the tramily. It was time to decide whether I was going to take the alternate around the snow, or attempt the PCT. The conditions of ice under powder snow made it especially slippery, combined with the trail following along steep cliffs meant that a fall could potentially mean death, or worse.

I decided to continue on the PCT, and wait to see how the conditions were for myself. There is so much fear mongering on trail from other hikers, trail angels, and locals in person and online so it is hard to truly know the conditions. I wanted to see them for myself before making a decision. Once again, I was chasing the snow, this time snow that was already on the ground.

Excited to be heading towards the snow

The evening before I was planning on summiting Apache peak and reaching the first section of sketchy snow, Two Speed got a text from Long Nose who was a day ahead of us. The text read “I wouldn’t try past mile 169, trust me. Don’t come, take the alternate.” The message was clear, and coming from someone who had hiked the CDT, I trusted his judgment. Moments after receiving this text, a search and rescue helicopter flew over us, the red cross on the bottom of the helicopter reflecting in the sun like a warning sign. An hour later, a solo hiker walked by. She told us that her group had gone ahead and summited Apache peak that morning, multiple of them having to self arrest in the process.

Some of the first snow

The decision was obvious. Without mountaineering experience, I knew I didn’t have the ability to ensure my safety. I thought of something my mom had said to me the week prior: “if you are asking the question, you already know the answer.” The instant I questioned whether I should attempt the next 20 mile snowy traverse, the decision was already made. When in doubt don’t, and I was in doubt.

I, along with 5 of my tramily members decided to bail down Spitler peak trail the next morning. Although I will never know for sure if I would have been able to get across the next 20 miles of trail, I have over 2,400 more miles of trail that I want to hike, so I am choosing to be safe rather then sorry.

Looking out at the snow covered mountains on the way down Spitler trail

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Comments 4

  • Kevin McClure : Apr 9th


    Like your mom, my father had a similar saying when it came to decision making. A similar saying he taught me, that I’ve found myself saying to my teenage son, is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    No need to take unnecessary risks, sounds like you made the right call.

    Stay safe!

  • Jeff Greene : Apr 9th

    Remember, whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you… possibly maimed. Better safe than sorry!

  • Russ1663 : Apr 13th

    Trek on Spring. You cleared the AT, you will be fine.
    Best of trail luck to you😎


    Nice to see you back on trail and making smart decisions, I had read quite a few of your posts when you did the AT. Be safe and keep making those educated decisions on safety and the total picture.


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