The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.
The WildeBeat edition 88: Out in front on the PCT
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When you're out ahead of the pack, you've got stories that could help the people behind you. This week on The WildeBeat; Out in Front on the PCT.
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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.
This is program number eighty eight.
I'm Steve Sergeant.
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STEVE: Last week, I promised something about bears. But I ran into a more timely story in Yosemite National Park this past weekend.
MICHAEL KOJACKI: My name is Michael Kojacki. I'm the Tuolumne postmaster. I am here basically to accommodate the PCT hikers. The Pacific Crest Trail hikers that come through here... so these guys get here, they mail all their packages ahead of themselves ...So all these boxes you see behind me are all packages of food, basically.
STEVE: And how many have been picked up so far?
MICHAEL KOJACKI: So far, only about three. I just opened today, maybe two hours ago, so while we were still setting up the store and opening up there were a couple of guys coming through, but most of them know that... we're not really expecting them until they expected us to be open, which is really in about a week. So in a week we'll probably have like, probably like a hundred a week, maybe two hundred a week.
STEVE: The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the triple crowns of our national scenic trails. It runs a little over twenty six hundred miles. The south end is on the Mexican border east of San Diego. The north end is in a provincial park in Canada, just across the border from Washington State. Every year about three hundred hikers set out to walk the whole thing, end to end. It sounded like I stumbled across the front of the pack. In the campground, I met the first three hikers of the PCT class of oh seven. One of them gave me a full report.
CHARLIE GUYER: My name is Charlie Guyer, and I am from Charlotte, North Carolina.
STEVE: When did you start out?
CHARLIE GUYER: We started out on March ninth; tagged the border, and got hiking.
STEVE: And so... When did you get to... Warner Springs, the first big town?
CHARLIE GUYER: Ahhh, Warner Springs, I think we got there in five and a half days.
STEVE: How was water along that section?
CHARLIE GUYER: Water was actually, I mean, there were a lot of spots that were dry that were allegedly supposed to be always running. But we were OK. I'm more worried about the people behind us that are going to have to hike through the desert in the coming summer months.
STEVE: OK, and beyond Warner Springs, the next big landmark everybody thinks about is Idylwild and San Jacinto. How was it getting up there?
CHARLIE GUYER: It was really great. It was nice to get up into the mountains out of the desert for a little while -- little bit of cool weather. Got some snow up in the San Jacintos, our first snow experience and we had a great time in Idylwild. It's probably my favorite town along the trail thus far.
STEVE: So... you get down the mountain and you cross ten, and ...you proceed up into the San Bernardino National Forest, and the San Gorgonio Wilderness, and you kind of skirt the high mountains there, don't you?
CHARLIE GUYER: We... saw some nice snow-capped peaks for the first time. But it was really gorgeous down there going up into the Mission Creek Canyon, and the Deep Creek going along behind that. It's a really beautiful area.
STEVE: Charlie and his companions passed through the San Bernardino and the Angeles National Forest. That whole section, he said, was no problem. They were the first group of the year to get to the hiker's hostel in the town of Agua Dulcé.
CHARLIE GUYER: ...We went out from Agua Dulce, got a resupply in Lake Hughes, and then we actually cut straight through Antelope Valley in a big old fifty mile an hour wind and sand storm. Which was pretty cool. We found an abandoned double-decker bus and kind of just, moseyed our way on through the Joshua Trees until we got up into the Tehachapis.
STEVE: And you get to Kennedy Meadows. Did you see any other hikers there?
CHARLIE GUYER: We did not see any other hikers, although we met a bunch of great locals. They actually let us into the store when it was closed, got us our box, let us buy some beer. Great stuff. Great people.
STEVE: What date did you leave Kennedy Meadows?
CHARLIE GUYER: It was April 26th, I believe.
STEVE: One of the first real high-points you hit is going over the shoulder of Olancha Peak.
CHARLIE GUYER: I remember coming up there we saw our first real views of like the high Sierra mountains and just above tree line and all the gorgeous snow caps and got some fantastic vistas from there. ...I think our first significant snow was the day after that, and maybe trekking through Bighorn Plateau. Although we definitely had some minor post-holing that we had to do before that, but that was the first time that the trail was covered for a significantly long period of time. By the time we got up to Mount Whitney and Crabtree Meadows we were having to deal with some pretty significant stuff. Bighorn Plateau was bad for us and then going though that day, I forget, Tyndall Creek was where we first started having to go up those big long valley bowls up to the mountain passes that were pretty much exclusively covered with snow from there on out. We had to drop down into Lone Pine and ended up, to resupply we actually had to carry a guy out that we met on the mountain on our backs for four miles, because he had pulmonary edema, and we had to call search and rescue and go meet them. That's a long story, but anyways, once we got back up the mountain through Shepherd's Pass we managed to find our way up to Forester Pass. Switchbacks were fairly still covered in snow and we pretty much -- it would be hard to do it without crampons, in my opinion.
STEVE: You go over Forester Pass, and then you come down into the Bubbs Creek basin, and then you go over that sort of knife-edge of Glenn Pass.
CHARLIE GUYER: Yeah, Glenn Pass was pretty cool, we uh... Hiked up to the bottom of Glenn Pass and did it in the morning because we had crampons by then, and, Glenn Pass was pretty easy to get up from the south face, but on the north face we definitely used our crampons to get down and then actually slid down the bottom half, which was pretty cool.
STEVE: You go by the ...Rae Lakes, and down across the bridge, and up toward Pinchot Pass.
CHARLIE GUYER: Yeah, Rae Lakes was kind of hard for us to get down cause it was kind of getting on towards the afternoon and we definitely our snowshoes came quite in handy, but you know, there's a lot of trees and kind of un-level ground, so it's hard to find your way sometimes. A lot of post-holing there. Pinchot Pass was pretty accessible, again you know, the trail was still covered in snow, and it's pretty icy, but it would be defintely do-able.
STEVE: How about the stream crossings up in there? Some years there they're just about impossible.
CHARLIE GUYER: Our hardest one was Bear Creek, ...I mean, it wasn't any more than waist deep that I can recall. And, we were able to do it without too much difficulty.
STEVE: The Bear Creek I'm thinking of is between, Selden and Silver Pass.
CHARLIE GUYER: At this point, all the passes are kind of blending together. They all had a lot of snow on them, and they all had a lot of snow on either sides on valleys of that pass.
STEVE: So then beyond that you got your next resupply after Kennedy Meadows.
CHARLIE GUYER: Ahh, yes... We did our resupply at Vermillion Valley Resort, and then the next day after that was getting back to Mono Creek on the trail and then going up over Silver Pass.
STEVE: And from there ...you're at Red's Meadow, Mammoth Lakes, and did you go into town there?
CHARLIE GUYER: We did not drop into Mammoth. We stayed the night at Red's Meadow but it was actually still all boarded up, the store wasn't open yet, so we were just kind-of kickin' there in the deserted campground. We took a rest day, went to the hot springs, it was cool.
STEVE: And so you got about two or three days, and you went over Donohue Pass, which was when?
CHARLIE GUYER: That was, I guess, three days ago for us, so that would make it about May 20th.
STEVE: And you told me the story earlier, before we were recording about trying to find your way up Donohue.
CHARLIE GUYER: ...We camped just sort of at Island Pass, which is labeled as such on the map, but not really much of a pass. Anyways, we came up kind of high on the ridge of where we were supposed to go, and then checked the map, picked out on the valley where we were supposed to head up because the trail was basically covered with snow, so we kind of had to orient by topography and compass, and kinda the way we'd been doing it, which was sort of stupid in retrospect, is that we would just sort of find our way and eventually we would would all find the trail and then meet up. Well, I didn't find the trail, I hiked my own way on the wrong side of the creek, and then got up there, and was giving lots of calls and just because of the odd ways that the sounds can travel in the forest and in the mountains my companions did not hear me, so I assumed they had gone ahead. I went up to the top of the pass and they were not there. And unbeknownst to me they had assumed I was lying face down in the creek somewhere and went back down the valley to go look for me. And it was quite a stressful, and pretty scary day, being out, you know, alone and separated from your group in the wilderness. But I went back down the pass, all the way down to the bottom of the valley, and eventually we heard each other and we all reunited and made some coffee and chilled-out and then walked back up to the top of the pass and camped there.
STEVE: And so how was that coming down into the Tuolumne?
CHARLIE GUYER: It was really nice actually... Snow line was only at about ten thousand feet, so we only had to drop about eight hundred to find it, and that was a real gorgeous hike down Lyell Canyon and the Lyell Fork River. Saw a bear for the first time and it was a good little hike.
STEVE: So you're here in Tuolumne Meadows on the evening of May twenty fifth, and you're setting out tomorrow for Tahoe.
CHARLIE GUYER: We have a resupply at Echo Lake, at the Echo Lake post office. We gave ourselves ten days to get there, it's a hundred and fifty miles... We've taken a lot longer than we expected, but we are trying to get there in eight days, and we think we can do it.
STEVE: By the time you hear this, Charlie Guyer, and his traveling companions Ryan Kern and Lee Neil, will probably be almost to Lake Tahoe. We wish them luck on the rest of their journey. We hope that their report will help the other hikers who come along later on the trail.
STEVE: We'd like to hear your comments about this show, or your experiences and reports along the trail. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find links to information about the Pacific Crest Trail, and an extended version of this show, on our web site. Members of the WildeBeat can download an additional bonus segment, in which Charlie and his companions tell about some of their most harrowing incidents.
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Next time -- Natural Sounds.
Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. We need your help to make future shows possible; please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.
This has been The WildeBeat, program number eighty eight. Thank you for listening.
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