The Desert Sessions
Day three, 10am. Misty cool morning at Mt Laguna, 41.5miles in to the PCT. Water topped off, food too. Weather not looking fantastic for crossing the pass by Mt Garnett. As the four of us stand around and get ready to push on I turn to the others and excitedly state, “Poor decisions make for great stories boys, lets get after it”, the girl leaning against the wall near us laughs. As I sit here recounting this (mis)adventure, I’m shaking my head, like my mum used too when I was a kid and got in to trouble every 30 seconds, in fact even at 29 years old she still gives me the same look.
Let me set a bit of context to the situation. Firstly yes the name “The Desert Sessions” is completely plagerised, I’m not even ashamed to admit it (you should probably look it up, it’s some great music). I started hiking the PCT on the 29th of April. Along with a few guys that I met at ‘Base Camp’, we blasted through the first couple of days, doing huge days in the desert carrying 6L of water trying to hike from water to water, so about 19miles (30km) a day. So from the get go I blew my whole ‘slow and steady’ tactic, to prevent injury. Those who know me, that won’t surprise.
It had been about 30°C everyday from 10am in the morning, so you know, quite warm. The plan usually consists of hiking from 7am till 12, break in any shade available, then continue on in the late afternoon. This day was a little different, we passed through Mt Laguna which is a small resupply point. The weather was cold and a little rainy, forecasted high winds and rain. Problem 1, we didn’t check the weather report. We were given some advice to not attempt the ridge unless we were able to make the ‘bolder field tent site’, and even then probably not a great idea to go up. Problem 2, we ignored the advice, being 4 men, we clearly knew better.
Around 12pm we started heading out, walking straight in to 60kmph winds. No problem, this is exciting, having a great time wooo. Winds increase to 100kmph. Whoa this is intense. 5 hours and 22km later. We reach our spot amongst a boulder field. Problem, its at 1670m on a ridge line above the desert. We try set up tents behind the shelter of the boulders. I manage to get my tent pitched, the wind disagrees. Kicking it up a notch. At this point three things cross my mind. 1. My 3 day old super expensive tent is about to rip and snap one or all the poles. 2. Its raining and everything I own is getting soaked. 3. We cant sleep here. We pull our sopping wet tents down in record time and decide we’re going to have to hike in the dark for another 15km to get off the ridge.
After sitting in the rain with our packs feeling sorry for ourselves eating cliff bars we decide to leave. As we hit the trail we see our friend Tiger walking by herself, apparently not listening isn’t just a man thing. We walk for 15 minutes and find a questionable spot out of the wind to camp. Another problem, if it rains heavy, we’re in a flood path. We decide to take our chances. No floods. Also no sleep, out of fear of being washed away.
Next day we all pack our bags, put on our wet clothes and walk 30km. Straight out of the storm, down off the ridge in to earthquake valley in the middle of the desert. 30°C again. No water again. But at least we got to dry everything we owned at lunch time.
That night as we camped on earthquake valley floor, was probably my favorite moment of the PCT so far. Not only did we get away with murder, we were treated to a chorus of dozens of Coyotes howling at the moon from the cliffs surrounding us at 3am. From there it was a pretty uneventful albeit ruthlessly hot walk to Warner springs, where we hung out for the afternoon, had a beer, got our resupply and packed to ready to get back out there.
Moral of the story. Bad decisions make great stories kids, don’t listen to your parents. I would do it all in a heart beat.