580 miles hiked
I’m warm and cozy in our tent but wake again and again to knock the snow off the cuben walls as it accumulates, and by morning I am exhausted. Our sleeping bags are wet; every time we knocked snow off the tent in the night the fabric rained down condensation onto our bags. A dim light shows that snow has piled up high enough to bury the lowest part of our tent; I push the snow off and open the vestibule to a fresh white world robed in heavy fog. I heat water for tea. At least there is tea. We put on all our layers and slip plastic bags over our socks. Here goes.
It starts to snow again as we’re hiking. Still, it’s not so bad- I’m warm, the forest is beautiful, and snow is drier than rain. We just have to make it 17 miles through the accumulating snow, to the privy where we rescued our friends. We can spend the night there. I have my doubts, though. Our sleeping bags are wet, and there won’t be any sun today to dry them. And the forecast for tomorrow at 9,000 feet is the same- snow and cold. Dan jokes that winter thru-hiking is all the rage.
“Yeah this multiple days of snow thing wouldn’t be so bad,” I say, “if we actually had winter gear.” Instead, we have seven-ounce puffy jackets and membrane-thin rain jackets we’ve already ruined while bushwacking through thorns. I’m wearing all my layers on account of the cold, which means that as soon as my clothes soak through today I won’t have anything dry to sleep in. And my sleeping bag is wet. And the tent is soaked…
I am usually the first to wimp out in this relationship, but it’s Dan who proposes the idea. For a little while the trail meanders alongside hwy 67, the hwy to the North Rim that’s currently gated. But it’s turkey hunting season and they must’ve started letting people through the gate, because cars have been blowing past on the regular.
“We could hitch back to Jacob Lake,” says Dan. The snow has started falling more heavily, big wet flakes that soak my jacket. A bitter wind blows the snow into our faces, and Dan’s beard is full of it. The sky is so dark it seem as though it’s already evening.
“Yeah,” I say.
Mark and Sue are from Kanab, and we don’t even have to put our thumbs out- they see us and turn their big pickup around on the highway, open up the doors and welcome us into their warm dry world of safety and carheat. (Thank you Mark and Sue!) Before we know it we’re back at Jacob Lake, ordering burgers (they have GF buns!) from the earnest young mormon waiter and then watching My Cat From Hell in our motel room with the heat way up, our things hung over all the furniture to dry. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much like a failure, as a hiker. We are both kind of depressed. I’ve tested the limits of three-season gear before, though, and I learned my lesson. I don’t want to do that again. But still.
We text DropNRoll’s delorme inreach, which has become something of an inside joke. We learn that those three made it to the bottom of the canyon yesterday, from 9,000 feet down to 2,500. It’s raining heavily where they are, but not nearly as cold. Our goal tomorrow will be the same- to finish the high part and get as far down into the canyon as we can. The cafe was crowded with turkey hunters as we ate our burgers, and we hope we’ll be able to hustle a ride from one of them in the morning, down hwy 67 back to where we got off the trail.
Bonus: I had so much extra time that I put the photos right in this post. Usually wordpress makes em shitty. We’ll see what happens…
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