Snow Day!

Yesterday, Saturday April 13 was forecast to be rainy.  While I could see clouds and precipitation in the distance, mostly to the west, at my locations for most of the day it was clear and nice.  However, toward sunset the weather took a turn for the worse, becoming windier with just a bit of snow flurries.  I was making an ascent past Kelso Road up to Piute Mountain Road near 7000 feet.

Now, if I had been intelligent, I would have continued pushing through the wind and the small bit of blowing snow for about a mile more in order to get to a suitable camping location.  Instead, I just pitched my skinny, one-man tent on the trail at a location that looked level and wide enough.  I figured I would block no one’s path because I hadn’t seen anyone hiking all day and because of the weather.  I’ve done this many times on Arkansas trails during the winter.

It was a lot of trouble to fight the wind and get the tent placed, but when I got in I found that it was not very level in the left-right direction, slanting a fair bit down the hill and making it difficult to sleep.  So it was a miserable night – wind and snow outside the tent while I was not able to get in a comfortable sleeping position inside.

By morning the wind had died down, and there was a coating of wet snow over everything, including my tent.  I got dressed and out of the tent, brushed off most of the snow on the tent, then decided to take the picture below.

After cleanup and breakfast of 1-minute oatmeal and sugar, I hiked the rest of the way up, past Piute Road, into the forest, and to the turnoff to Landers Camp and Landers Meadow Spring.  The snow had started again, and it was starting to stick to the sandy ground.

I met an older hiker, probably a few years older than I am (63).  He was standing and shielding himself from the snow with an umbrella as he ate ramen noodles from a cup.  He told me that he started from Campo in mid-February, but that he spent a week in Idyllwild and a week in Wrightwood “picking up chicks.” That’s 60’s talk, calling young women chicks.  He said that there is plenty of snow and water in the direction I was walking, so I did not need to detour a half-mile to the spring and back.  Landers Creek was so swollen that I would probably get my feet wet.

I thanked him and continued on, with the snow falling thicker and thicker and getting ankle deep.  I had to look hard to find the trail, and a couple of times I walked the wrong way and needed my FarOut app to get back on the trail again.

I reached Landers Creek, and it was wide.  It also looked way deeper than my boots were tall.  So I sat down and spent a lot of time getting my boots off, pants rolled up past the knee, and my Crocs on.  Wading across the creek, I saw that the water reached higher than mid-calf.

I knew I had to cross the creek again, so I just kept going, walking on Crocs with bare feet and carrying my boots.  My feet didn’t feel very cold during the half-mile “Croc walk,” but my hands sure did.  I found my gloves in my chest pack to alleviate that problem.  The second crossing of Landers Creek, pictured below, wasn’t as deep since it was the upstream crossing.  I might have been able to cross with boots and not get my feet wet.  In any event I was able to get my boots back on because the creeks coming up were smaller.

Eventually, I arrived at Robin Bird Spring.  A tent was already there, and a middle-aged German guy popped his head out.  We talked awhile, and I found that he started at Big Bear Lake with an itinerary to hike to Lake Tahoe in the two months that he had available.

Unfortunately, a lot of snow had fallen since he made this plan, and he had trudged through heavy snow in the San Gabriel Mountains, putting him behind schedule.  He was thinking about hiking to Walker Pass and getting himself back to Big Bear Lake to hike south to Campo (the town at the Mexican border).  I told him that his plan sounded great but that he would probably be back in Germany before I got to Big Bear Lake, which was 350 miles ahead of me.

I looked at the paltry amount of water coming out of the pipe from the spring and asked if I could try to improve the flow.  This was a situation where the spring itself was private property and behind a barbed-wire fence, but the pipe carried water to PCT hikers.  So I shifted the pipe around until I got a respectable amount of water flowing.

Unfortunately, when I collected water into my Sawyer filter bag, I saw that there were a lot of dirt particles in the water.  The filter produced clear water, so I backflushed the filter to clean it out.  I apologized to the German, and told him that maybe the flow would settle down and be cleaner by morning.

Meanwhile, I set up my tent on a flat spot in the snow near the German’s tent.  I knew the snow would melt, but I sleep on a big REI air mattress, so I would stay dry even though the floor of my tent would be wet.  I put on a light down jacket and insulated pants over my underlayer because it was cold and my sleeping bag was rated only to the mid-20’s. This worked well and I slept well.

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Comments 1

  • Alex Culp : May 3rd

    Welcome to Castle 🏰 of Camelot


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