The Sierra Problem

Spending a couple of days off trail in Santa Clarita was always in our plan. However, because of the heavy snow pack still remaining in the Sierra Mountains, we were forced to make some modifications to that plan.

From day one of the PCT, the daily chatter has been about the Sierras…will you attempt to enter? Will you flip to Northern California or even up to Oregon? Will you take time off to allow for melting? Our intention was to attempt entry and continue to hike the PCT in one continuous path. However, as we approached Agua Dulce where Kilo’s brother would pick us up, we decided to take some time off trail in hopes the melting would start. We left the trail at mile 454.4, and that is exactly where we will re-enter the trail. We decided to take a two week road trip to Utah. There are many places we have wanted to see in Utah and now we have some time to explore.

We spent the first day off trail at Kilo’s brother’s hosing down all of our equipment in the backyard and washing and rewashing our clothes (which still have a slight stinch to them). Oh, and eating everything in sight. I weighed myself and in just 38 days on trail I lost eight pounds (despite all that pizza we have been eating).

On Sunday we left for Utah. While in Utah, we visited/did the following:

Zion National Park: Angels Landing; just about every other trail in the park was closed due to winter storm damage. Apparently Utah had a rough winter as well.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Fairytale Loop Trail. This hike was one of my favorites during this road trip. There is no where else quite like Bryce Canyon with the bright orange hoodoos. The weather at Bryce was schizophrenic. A park ranger told us it is normal to experience all four seasons in 20 minutes in Utah. We certainly did while at Bryce. We were rained on and then we were snowed on. Once we put all of our warm weather gear on the sun would come out, we start sweating and have to take it all off only to put it back on five minutes later.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument: Lower Calf Creek Falls. I wished we could have spent more time here, but it was pouring rain the two days we were here. There are many rugged backroads to explore, but when raining the red dirt turns to a thick clay and we could not risk getting stuck on a backroad. Former President Bill Clinton proclaimed this area a National Monument in 1996. However in 2017, the current administration reduced the size of the monument by 47 percent. I wonder if the folks who made this reduction have actually been to this land? Surely anyone who has been here and seen how beautiful it is would want to persevere this for future generations, right?

Capital Reef National Park: Sunset Point, Hickman Natural Bridge, Grand Wash Trail to the Cassidy Arch Trail, Cathedral Road (need four wheel drive vehicle) to Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon

Goblin Valley State Park: They call these rock formations “goblins.” There could be alternate names for them, but you go and see for yourself.

Arches National Park: Delicate Arch Trail. We stayed in Moab which is an awesome small town in the desert of Utah with sweeping views of snow covered mountains in Colorado. And of course we visited the Moab Brewery.

Antelope Island (the largest island in the Great Salt Lake); Antelope Island is beautiful with views of the surrounding snow covered Wasatch Mountain range. Also, one of the largest herds of American buffalo live on the island. The island was nearly empty of tourists while we were there. We were the only ones camping in the Ladyfinger campground. I kept saying to Kilo, “This place is amazing. How is it not more crowded like the National Parks?” And then I got my answer…. First, was the relentless wind. We tried cooking tacos for dinner, but Mother Nature said, “not today” as she flung the taco meat from the grill to the ground. Second, at dusk and dawn the gnats come out. Swarms of little Satans biting us. We had read bugs might be an issue on the island, and in anticipation of this we stopped by the Salt Lake City REI and purchased bug nets for our heads. They certainly helped, but our arms and legs are still covered in itchy bites.

Ogden, Utah: Ogden has become a hub of outdoor activity, so we put this last on our agenda before returning to Cali. Unfortunately, it has been pouring rain and even snowing since we arrived. There will not be much adventuring here this time, but at least we were finally able to do some laundry.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we drive back to California, and on Tuesday we will head back to the PCT in Agua Dulce. There certainly has not been any melting in the Sierras, and snowpack remains 161 percent above average for the year (which is great for the state of California). While we were in Utah, it literally kept snowing in the Sierras. We will likely have to flip up above the Sierra Mountains from Walker Pass to South Lake Tahoe (or even more North) to continue hiking. When we reach the Northern Terminus of the PCT, we will then come back to hike the Sierra section. This is obviously not ideal, but for our safety we feel it is likely our best option. The Sierra Mountains is one of the primary reasons I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for its granite towers and alpine lakes. Coming back to do this section in September, we will at least get to see those things rather than just feet of snow.

The road trip to Utah was amazing, but I am ready to get back on trail. Leaving the trail in Agua Dulce was sad as we said goodbye to the bubble of hikers we had been hiking with since almost Campo. Everyone had different plans or solutions for the Sierra Problem. Some (from the East Coast) went to hang out in Los Angeles for a week. Our friend Bart from Germany went to Hawaii. Our friends Sunbear and Cheers went to a wedding in Mexico. Hopefully we will all meet back up in Northern California or Oregon.

The break has been good for my feet as I am still perfecting which hiking shoes and what size (my feet keep growing) work best. The bruises on my hips from the Beast (my backpack) are gone. And I have surely put those eight pounds back on. While we have remained active on this trip, getting back on trail will likely be a shock to our bodies as we readjust to trail living again. I cannot wait (this is not sarcasm).