Steele Outside

PCT 2016: the grande shit show spectacular

Day 37: Pissing into the wind

mile 521.5 – 545.3
23.8 miles 

Sometime last night the wind picked up. When my alarm went off at 3:45 this morning, I was braced against the wind. I hit snooze about 10 times, hoping it would calm down enough for me to get a comfortable start to the day. 

I had great service, so I scrunched down into my sleeping bag and texted Hunter. Realizing the wind wasn’t going to die down, I decided to get moving when a sliver of light peeked over the horizon. I was up and walking when the sunrise really got going.

I knew I had a long, exposed day and I wanted to get the bulk of the walk out of the way in the cool morning hours. I had the trail all to myself, so I bopped down the trail talking to Hunter in the phone and eating pop tarts. 
It was a gorgeous morning. The bright moon still hung in the sky behind me. Clouds draped over the mountains in front of me like your grandmother’s afghan. To my right, a soft pink sky illuminated hundreds of Joshua trees. 

Blazer, then Heartbreaker caught up and passed me, then I them. We all did 10 miles by 9:30. Though the sun was out, it was windy, so it felt cool most of the day. 

Around 11:30, we made it to our water source. A large group of us filtered water and then made lunch under a lean-to. The wind had picked up, which made sense because we had been walking toward a wind farm all day. Blazer and I took naps while Heartbreaker journaled. 

It was time to go around 2:30. We were hoping to make it 10 more miles for the day, but decided to reassess when we made it to the next water source only 6.5 miles up trail. 
Then, we started walking through the wind farm. Much like many other disasters, it started out as a charming adventure. Ha! 
Oh, look at the windmills! Cool! Wow, the wind is so strong! This is different! How interesting!

Four hours and six miles later, I was so beaten down by the wind that I could barely speak. At one point during the trek, I just stopped and screamed at the top of my lungs, so frustrated and sick of having to fight for every step. 

I reached Tylerhorse Canyon (mile 541.5) around 6-ish. Blazer, Heartbreaker and I had wanted to make it a few miles further than this, but I had already decided that I was stopping here no matter what. It was lower in elevation, down in a canyon, and near water, and I was so done with this day. Twenty miles is a respectable day. However, when I arrived, the wind was as strong as ever. Noooooooooooooo! 

I looked around. People were struggling to put up their tents. I decided to get water and then try to outrun the wind. When will I learn?
Blazer walked over from his tent site just as I was finishing up gathering my water. He looked shaken and said that there were times in those last miles that he wanted to just cry. See? It’s not just me. He was camped further downstream, so I walked down with him to see if it was more sheltered. Not really. And besides, once I have made up my mind and get my momentum moving in a direction, I don’t change course easily unless there was doubt to begin with. 

I hoisted my pack and began the ascent, heading for a tent site in another canyon about 3.5 miles up trail, still being tossed around by the wind. As I reached the top of my climb, the sun was setting and the wind picked up even more. I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but I was actually afraid for my life. I was being pushed clear off trail, the trail was very soft and sandy, barely trail in some places, and I was losing daylight. I kept having to stop and just brace myself with my trekking poles until the wind would break for a moment. 

I had to pee, so I stopped for a minute. I took my pack off and sat down to think about what to do. Would I be able to make it another two miles? I sat crouched behind a bush and my backpack and made myself some dinner- cold instant mashed potatoes in a tortilla. I knew I couldn’t stay where I was. I had to keep going. 
I rallied, packed up and kept going. As fast as I could. Almost running. It was beautiful trail, except for the places where it was eroded. Too bad it was so miserable with wind.

A little after 8:00, I began the descent into the canyon. It was dusky outside, but still light enough to see without a headlamp. The trail was like a sandbox. I actually had to stop once and check my GPS to make sure I was on actual trail. 

Camped far below, I could see someone with the same tent as me, so I thought maybe I could pitch my tent when I got to the bottom. I felt some relief. When I got to the bottom, however, it was just as windy. I had just seen a man duck into the tent from high above, so I yelled a hello and asked the couple how they got their tent pitched in the wind. They said it wasn’t that windy when they got there. Ugh. 

I found a little washed out ditch about 50 feet from them, anchored my tarp with some rocks and blew up my sleeping pad. Cowboy camping for me tonight. This is one of the drawbacks to having a non-freestanding tent- they are a giant pain in the ass to pitch in the wind, if it’s even possible. I positioned my backpack at my head, thinking it might block some of the wind and sand. 

I’m hunkered all the way down into my sleeping bag, only the tippy-top of my head peeking out. If I had it to do all over again, I’d go up a size in length and width in my sleeping bag. I’ve had too many nights where I’ve needed to be all the way inside and there’s just not enough room. I can feel the wind rippling my sleeping bag all around me and whipping sand at my head. At least it’s pretty warm tonight. 

Today, I met some people, but we didn’t talk much. 

Today I learned:

– The true and literal meanings of the phrases “May the wind be at your back.” and “Pissing into the wind.”
– You can’t outrun the wind!

Today’s hike was powered by the belief that I can outrun the wind. (See above)

   
 

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Day 36: Mile 500

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Day 38: Tehachapi 

3 Comments

  1. Dawn Henrichon

    You use your words so pretty. I felt like I was there. Without the heart attack I would have suffered down in Campo. Hugs.

  2. Leigh

    I guess “grit” has many meanings for you now – so with all due respect to not being able to escape wind and sand I gotta say that you ARE gritty to your core. Which is a really good thing. I know you can do this and I’m looking forward to hearing your amazing stories in person

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