June 30 – When to Turn Back

The phrase “do not be afraid” is written in the Bible 365 times. That’s a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless.

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PCT Mile 1854 to mile 1858 plus unknown miles cross-country to Diamond Lake
Daily total = Unknown miles

I don’t even know where to begin. Giving up is not something I do often. But one thing this trail has taught me is to be aware and listen to my inner voice. Especially when the voice whispers, “Stop this, it is wrong and dangerous.”

I had a great night. After being on the trail for some time my body has a new rhythm and the every day nagging aches and pains are less bothersome. A natural sequence of daily routines has become automatic. It is at this point the thru-hiker emerges.

I knew I would be encountering solid snow early on because the route through the Mount Theilsen Wilderness travels up to 7400. My experience from yesterday led me to believe that solid snow started at 6900 feet. This is everywhere, not just on the typical north side of the mountains. The ranger at Crater Lake said they had a late winter and a very cool and rainy spring, hence the snow. He thought it might take another month for the snow to melt. My strategy was to go at least 25 miles in and see how it went.

As the morning continued, the trail was progressively harder to follow with no evidence of any one having passed before me. I soon was frustrated and simply picked the best route rather than to try following the trail.

I know this is not a new fact, but Oregon has A LOT of trees of all sizes and they are scattered everywhere. When it snows the small ones just kind of lay down ready to be unleashed at any moment. The little trees simply spring back into place. I now call them mouse traps. The hiker steps anywhere close to them and they spring to life, cutting and bruising the daylights out of the traveler. At least that is what happened to me.

After a few miles I was bleeding, one knee was hurting, and my wrist ached and I had not even fallen. After turning a corner and the distant view was clear, all I could see was snow under trees for miles, I knew I needed to turn back and find a way out.

Using Halfmile’s paper map combined with Topo Maps on my iPhone, I charted a cross-country route down to Diamond Lake plotting way points on my iPhone. This usually is a very bad idea in the back-country going off trail, so I hiked up the mountain for just enough service to text and let Wired and my husband know at what mile I was leaving the trail and where I was heading. I would not have left the trail if I was unable to notify someone of my intended route.

It took a few hours picking through downed trees to make it to highway 138. After road walking south for a couple of miles, I walked into the Mount Thielsen trail head parking lot. A group of hikers were there and I knew to ask for help. It turns out they had hiked in and had to turn around because of snow and were trying to decide what to do. They were very helpful and gave me a ride to Diamond Lake Resort. After looking at maps, I determined it was safest to come back to Southern Oregon in a few weeks.

The group offered to give me a ride back to the now stormy Crater Lake where I could get transportation to where I needed to go. I know I am so being watched over.

I weighed out all of my options: going south bound in Oregon from the Oregon-Washington border (I have always hiked northward), skip up to where there is no snow in Oregon (but I would be too early to hike Washington, they got a lot of snow), or go home to my super loving husband. Not a hard decision. So back I go home by trolley and train.

I am really bummed and bruised, but so very thankful for my safety, support of so many people, and for the opportunity to even be on the Pacific Crest Trail. It is early in the summer and what better opportunity to get in some climbs and visit my grandkids before hitting Oregon again.

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21 Comments

  1. I think the admin of this website is actually working hard for his site, as here every stuff is quality based
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  2. I am overwhelmed by everyone’s words of encouragement. Thank you, this was a true humbling experience for me. Mother Nature sometimes cannot be messed with. It is so important to have a wake up call once in awhile.

    Now that I am rested and re-energized I am heading to Idaho to do some mountain biking, backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains, and of course see my daughter and grandchildren. I might even sneak a little overnight tent sleepover with the adventuresome twosome. I can’t think of a better way to set the stage for trips when the kids are older.

    I then am going to get back on the trail in Oregon the week of the 16th and strike ahead once again. My plan is to bring micro-spikes (lightweight crampons for snow traction) and take one alternate route around the worst snow. My hope is that some of the snow has melted by then and that some of the PCT hikers will be hitting this section and I won’t be the only hiker up there.

    Washington is still socked in with snow. They had a late season and it has been cold and wet. It even snowed last week in the Cascades. Hard to believe when the rest of the nation is experiencing record high temps! I am just going to go as far as I can go until I have to be back to work the middle of August. Thank you all.

  3. Rattlesnake

    You made the correct decision and live to educate us all. Following from Gettysburg Pa.

  4. Yellowstone

    Rockin’ you did the right thing. The trail is so easy to lose, those patches of snow are tough to negotiate, and Mt Thielsen might have had some serious steep to it, as I remember. Better to regroup and return later than be injured or lost. I know how hard a decision it must have been… from experience.
    You’ll return later and love the hike. It is beautiful. Take care, rest up and eat well!

  5. Barbara Tieskoetter

    Welcome home, briefly–maybe “shoo snow!” will work?

  6. Teresa Skye

    Wise decision, but so hard, I know. The trails I suggested might get you through a few miles, but it sounds like lots of snow ahead, also. And as you say, WA still has lots of snow, too. Let’s keep in touch- any help I can give will be available. Are you still teaching- back in September ? This is my last year. Next year I’m ready to hit the trail again, and go into September, when it’s more snow free.
    You are awesome!!!!
    Skyward

  7. Wow! Fantastic, you know how to trust yourself as a hiker. That is key. You always have amazing adventures every time you attack a section of the PCT. And your experience always leads to your becoming a stronger and smarter hiker. Congratulations on completing so much and loving it!

    Dot

  8. Glad to see you made the right decision. Pretty common for you. Look forward to seeing you on the trail here in WA. hopefully soon.

  9. Your final look in that picture at Crater Lake is a classic! I hope timing works out for me to still join you when you return.

  10. I love you mom and am so thankful you are safe!! And proud of you!! Now hurry up and come and see us!!

  11. Rockin’, so glad to see that the still small voice inside you was followed. You are now safe and able to return when conditions become doable. “”Do not be afraid” is written in the Bible 365 times” so that you get a daily reminder that He is always with you.

  12. Ahhh, Rockin’! You are a smart and courageous woman. I can only guess how disappointed you must be, but I’m glad that you listened to your inner voice. The first sight of snow and I would have been outta there. 🙂 (That applies to water crossings too–guess I’ll never be able to hike the PCT.) You have a wonderful spirit, and I know this won’t stop you for long. I look forward to reading more of your adventures in the future.

  13. snakebait

    Hey Rockin,

    Good decision. As an old climber once told me, the mountains will always be there. The trick is for you to continue to live to climb them. So it is with the PCT.

    Have a great couple of weeks. I look forward to seeing you back on the trail – when it works for you to be there. In the interim – enjoy, recover, and continue to dream.

    Warmest regards

    Noel and Ulrike

    • Just thought I would let you guys know I just purchased Airstash that transfers photos wireless from the camera to the iPhone. Wish me luck on that new learning curve. Thanks for the tip!

  14. Very wise decisuon, most folks don’t listen to that small voice!! Wow whata hike!!! I have a friend that is dying to do the PCT!! He is on the east coast lovin the AT! You are very blessed to be able to do what you have done!!

    Blessings from the Saylers! We will miss your posts!!

  15. I think it’s a wise decision, to many people have accidents and to be a statistic at the end of the year won’t be nice. So good luck for the next time and I’m sure you will make it then 🙂
    Hope your recovery is fast.
    cheers

  16. Christy, you are brilliant at many, many things but one of those is that you make really smart, well thought-out decisions. i know how bummed you must be about the delay but there’s no doubt you will make the most of your extra time and be back on the trail before you know it! 🙂

    • Ya well bummed is an understatement. I always say that just when you think you have smooth sailing, something else WILL happen and prepare. I so did not want to be in the news being rescued portraying some old woman hiking solo in the snow. How embarrassing would that be? Not even on a climbing exhibition on an exotic mountain doing something cool!

    • Thanks again for supporting and cheering me on! Hope your adventures in Mexico are just the best.

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