Day 91, July 23rd
Start: camp in small grove with Guthrie, mile 1,968
End: sisters via Mckenzie pass, mile 1,990
Miles hiked: 22
The storm rumbled a few hours last night, light drizzle on and off throughout the night. I set my alarm for 5:15, as I want to get out and catch the others, who I assume are just a mile and some change ahead, and see if they’re alright. It’s overcast when I wake, but nothing threatening.
I find carrot, JrSr, pockets, and sheriff woody all camped at a beautiful creek. They all got in before the storm, running to tree cover much the same as I did last night. I want to hike with them, but carrot is the only one who’s up, and she’s making breakfast and hasn’t packed anything. The Mosquitos are horrible, so I tell them I’ll hike on and take breaks until they catch me.
As I hike on, the clouds start to drop, and soon I’m walking through a misty forest. I hear deer running from me in the woods, and it startles me as I can’t see anything. The cloudy mist turns to a drizzle, and I put on my emergency rain poncho over my bro tank and bug net. I realize this emergency poncho doesn’t have sleeves. It’s like a rain vest. Stupid.
I start climbing and the temperature starts dropping, fast. I get cold, even climbing uphill. It’s just rain, I tell myself, it could be worse. It could be windy, or exposed. No more than five minutes go by and I leave the protection of the woods, greeted with a strong gust of wind. The rain starts coming down harder, and at this point it’s a downpour. And all I have is a two dollar torso trash bag. It helps a bit, but it won’t get me to big lake youth camp, some 28 miles further.
As I hike on, cursing my stupidity of not bringing a rain jacket, sheriff woody catches up to me. He’s drenched, soaked from head to toe. But he says his rain coat is keeping him dry underneath, at least for now.
“Sisters of bust!” He says. “It’s only 15 miles from here. Carrot and JrSr can’t be more than 5 minutes behind me.”
“I’ll hike with you.” I reply.
I want to wait and hike as a group, but I can’t. I need to keep moving. And I know woody and I will bust ass, 4mph pace. It has to be done.
We fly up and down the slopes, not able to see more than a hundred feet in front of us. I’m getting colder, the winds getting stronger, and the rain is relentless. Soon woody breaks to eat some food.
“I can’t stop. I have to keep moving!” I tell him as I hike on, already shivering with my bare arms and legs fully exposed to this madness.
I get a few more miles on my own and begin shaking uncontrollably. It seems like déjà vu from the desert. I know I need to set up the tarp. I see a patch of trees and try to open my backpack but I can’t. My hands won’t work. I put them between my legs and squeeze when I hear my name calls from the forest far away.
I yell back. And see woody emerge soaking wet.
“I’m about to have a panic attack. I didn’t know where the trail went and I’m getting hypothermic.” He tells me.
“Me too. I’m setting up the tarp. I’ll need help.”
We take turns tying knots and staking the tarp. One warming their hands while the other does work. It’s a crap job of setting it up, but it’ll do for now. I lay down my ground cloth and we have trouble setting it out. Our hands are useless. The next five minutes are a struggle to get things out of the pack and set up, but we manage.
As I lay there, shivering like crazy, carrot walks by and stops to look into our tarp.
“Aww twinkle, you’re shaking so bad!”
“It’s good to see you!” I say as I shake.
She’s going to hike on, and we say we will as well once the storm breaks or we warm up. We all have what we like to call our ‘super powers’ out here. Carrot doesn’t feel cold. She’s a badass about it. Born in Alaska, no cold can stop her. She bathes in icy streams before bed, no joke. The same ones I can barely get my feet in. She also can hike through any freezing rain storm like a total boss. Today, she’s beating the storm.
Meanwhile, the storm is destroying me. Woody and I sit and shake, and soon JrSr walks up and get under the tarp with us. We all curl up in our bags and curse the weather. We talk about leaving if it breaks at all. By it doesn’t, and we get more and more wet. Luckily my quilt is synthetic, and my core warms enough to stop the hypothermic shaking. After another half hour, I even nap a little bit.
The ground starts to flood, and the bottom of my quilt is in a puddle. Same for woody and JrSr. Not a chance and Mac pass by. They look cold. We tell them that carrot kept hiking, had her down puffy under her rain coat. Not a chance follows suit, and they take off.
It’s 8.8 miles to the road, but it’s exposed lava fields. The rain has only gotten worse, so we decide to wait it out more. 6pm, we say. That’s our cut off time. If it’s still raining, we won’t go.
We all huddle together, trying to conserve our body heat. We collect rain water off the tarp and JrSr cooks a mountain house. After hours of struggling it’s six pm, and the rain is at it’s worst. Looks like we’re staying here. I turn on my phone and call my dad to check weather, but all he can get is sisters, which is sunny, before the call drops. Just after I get a text from carrot egging the group on to keep moving. I call her, and she tells us we need to hike. Need to get to the road. It’s 6:20, nearly 9 miles to hike… We won’t get there will 9:15. Carrot promises us a taxi at the trailhead. I trust her, as we all take her advice. We’ve been laying here, miserable, cold, wet, but we’ve gotten warmer. We’ve been eating.
I put on all of my warmest layers. All of them. Throw everything in my bag as quickly as possible. Then we run. Like scared kids, we run. Through pouring rain and open fields. Then we climb, and the rain turns to sleet, then full on snow. Snow all over the lava field. It’s crazy looking, and I wish my hands were warm enough to take some pictures. Woody takes a few (see below), and we press on up the mountain. I don’t feel that bad, since we’re climbing. Then it’s down, and we start booking it. Fast. Every downhill stretch we run, over snowfields and roots and rocks.
I begin getting cold a mile from the road. It’s still windy, but the rain has let down a bit. We reach the road at 8:45, two hours and twenty minutes after deciding to take off. Nice! We shiver in the bathrooms at the observatory for a half hour when Bianche picks us up. Yes!!! A trail angel, warm car. It is the best site ever, to see the headlights coming up in the dark. She’s so nice to us, cranking the heat and telling us how happy she is that we made it out of the rain. I am too, I am too.
We get to the room and thank carrot for the motivation. She’s got the tub full of hot water and we all soak our feet. Then I get in bed. Under covers. And all is right in the world.