Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day Three: To the Saddle Beyond Lacy Peak…

Awake early, but again, out of the sleeping bag late. I made camp last night at 7,600 feet elevation. I make my breakfast coffee and oatmeal, fill three liters of water from the creek (I used the iodine tablets this time). Packed everything up.  Experienced PCT hikers will tell you that you should get as many miles as possible in by noon. This sleeping in and out on to the trail late is highly frowned on in PCT culture.

But I’m on vacation.

This is where things started to go bad for me. First off, if I would have spent more time reading the map, I would have noticed that there was only one water source for the 15 miles I planned to do that day. Secondly, the weather turned miserably hot. Even though I was at the 7 to 8 thousand foot elevation, temperatures soared and I was in the sun much of the time. It was much too hot to hike comfortably or even safely.

The hiking was beautiful though. They don’t call it the Pacific Crest Trail without due cause; I hiked along magnificent vistas. I also noticed that I wasn’t hungry. Thirsty? Yes; Hungry? No. I barely touched my lunch bag. I drank my water sparingly.

After four hours of hiking, I finally made it to Lacy Creek. This was my one chance for water over the next 12 miles. I only had a liter of water left and I dared not to miss this water hole. The problem? The creek was dry. Close to the creek crossing, there was a sign that said: “There is almost always water if you follow the creek bed down ½ mile”. I abandoned my pack and did what the sign said. Sure enough, after climbing down the mountain for a considerable amount of time, the creek finally had a seep in it where I could just barely get my fill of water. Again, I cameled up and filled two liters of water and climbed back up the mountain to my pack.

Decision time. It is late afternoon and I have a climb to get to the top of Lacy Peak. There are storm clouds gathering much too close for comfort. Do I want to take a chance on being in the wide open, on top of an 8,000 foot peak, in a lightning storm in the Sierra? Ah hell, why not.

So I climbed to the summit, which was gorgeous and a table top type of mountain. No water though. I called Joni (and work) from the top of Lacy Peak. I had two liters of water left with another nine miles to go before I would find water again. I hiked down the other side of Lacy Peak and decided to make camp in a saddle between two peaks. I didnt' have the legs or the heart for another climb. My tent was perched a little too close to a thousand foot drop off on one side. The other side offered extensive views of wild lands. When I set up camp, I had 1 ½ liters of water left. I was so thirsty I could have drunk the whole thing then and there. I felt so parched that the backs of my eyes felt like sand. My lips cemented together because of the lack of moisture. I checked my own skin turgor, hoping that I wasn’t that dehydrated.

I made supper, beef stroganoff, and made an effort to finish off the Crown Royal. Whiskey is liquid. It should help.

Just then two hikers came down from the peak I had yet to climb. Youngsters. A male and a female. Looking fresh with their backpacks and titanium poles. They wore the correct sort of garb that you find amongst the serious hiking crowd: green hiker pants, nylon under shirt, tan Patagonia long sleeved hiking shirt, safari hat. Both genders wearing the exact same hiking garb. 
Now I was a bit into the whiskey at the time. I hollered enthusiastically to these first two humans I’ve seen that day. They stopped. The male had all the high tech gee whiz stuff: he wore a Garmin attached to his bicep; he had the PCT programed into his smart phone on 2 different programs. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was micro chipped too. His girlfriend was much more intuitive. I asked them how far to the next water: the girl said without hesitation: four miles. The guy said, “Let’s check the Smart phone” and so we looked at the trail and the blue dot which represented where we are. The next water would be at Mule Ear Springs, which was: 3.7 miles away. The girl said: “be careful, it is easy to miss and the next water is another six miles or so beyond that”.
They headed off, even though the sun was close to setting. I guess they didn’t want to camp with a half ripped, smelly, 51 year old male who looked like he might be undergoing the first few signs of a dehydration psychosis. (More on that later).

Only one more mountain to climb and then water. After that the book says it is downhill all the way to Jackson Reservoir. Should be doable to make it to Sierra City tomorrow. That thought was a mistake.
Again, I lay out and watched the night sky. Then off to bed in the tent, with my hiking stick as protection from all the sounds in the night.


  1. Fun story Allan. You have a way of making your hardships seem a bit more fun than they probably were. And I am certain that walking stick will protect against those pumas that roam the area.

  2. Hi Larry,
    I learned from this trip that you really have to physcially ready to take on such an endeavor. So should we ever attempt the John Muir thing, well, best to be well prepared for that. And yes, I suffered. But that is part of the fun.