Archive for March, 2010

March 31 Critters Part One: Bears

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Bill and I spent the whole day yesterday hiking with packs loaded as if for a “4 day run” on the PCT–we were out at Point Reyes National Seashore–and it was a great day for training!   During just the 9 hours we were out on the trail, we got rained on, hailed on, sunshined on, and “winded” on.  The wildflowers are really geared up–there were whole hillsides of Douglas Iris in every color that iris come in, the ceanothus (wild lilac) was in full bloom so that every time the wind blew (and it did blow!) we could smell the sweet scent.  In places the trail looked like there’d been a BLUE snowfall from the ceanothus petals.  The ocean obliged as well, by turning a deep blue color (though Bill says it “ain’t nuthin like” the blue of the ocean when you are way out of sight of land! And he should know, after being a graduate of the California Maritime Academy and spending several years going to sea as a ship engineer) . 

Point Reyes has such a wide variety of plants, terrain and scenery–it is glorious!  And the ocean is an ever-present, ever-changing factor.  Depending on where you are, you can hear the roar of the surf, or else just get incredible views of the rocks, beaches and foaming white waves as they sweep in.

In spite of the crazy weather (we had to duck under a tree when the hail came by!), the animals were out.  We saw a pretty good sampling of all the Point Reyes “critters”, from quail and bunny rabbits to deer and hawks and lots of other birds.  It reminded me of when we were on the PCT up in northern California in 2005,  and came across a freshly-logged area where a guy was clearing out all the “logging mess”.  When he saw us, he stopped work for a minute to talk, and one of his questions about our Mexico to Canada hike was, “Y’seen any critters?”   We assured him that yes, we had–bears, elk, marmots, badgers, deer, even a kangaroo rat, and of course, plenty of rattlesnakes.

And we’ve found that when we mention to people that we are going to do the PCT, one of the common questions is, “But aren’t you scared of the___(bears/rattlesnakes…)____?”

The answer is “Nope.  We RESPECT them but we don’t fear them.”  So let me comment on one of the “critters” of the PCT….BEARS!!

Remember, the only bears you meet on the PCT are black bears, not grizzlies.  And the key to dealing with black bears (which I learned from a camp host at Lake Tahoe years ago, and also from other “mountain men” I’ve met since then),  is that you need to immediately establish yourself as the “ALPHA” bear and let them know on no uncertain terms that YOU are the BOSS.   This means to use your whole body and your voice to say, “Hey! Yousa!  Get outta MY space!”   This means YOU “charge” the bear and stamp and yell and act aggressive.  Above all else, NEVER take a picture of the bear when the bear knows you are there.   This makes you look cowardly and submissive.    So many hikers act so submissive and cowardly that the bears lose their fear and respect for people.  Don’t stand there banging things and looking scared.  Charge that bear!  

We were camped at Lake Tahoe many years ago;  Bill and our daughter went for a hike, while I decided to take a nap–I was totally wiped out from having stayed up way late the night before, packing everything for the trip.  After awhile I heard a strange noise, and looked to see what it was.  Even though it was 2:00 in the afternoon, there was a large bear at our campsite, about 15 feet from me.  It had opened a small cooler we had brought along, and was happily eating the cheese and salami (package and all!).  I had always been told “Once the bear has your food, there is nothing you can do.”  So I stupidly stood there helplessly.   Just then, along came the camp host.   He took one look at what was happening, jumped out of his little “golf cart” and CHARGED the bear, yelling and stamping.   The bear immediately scooted off.    Then he sat me down and said I needed some “How to deal with a bear” lessons.   He  told me that bears have a very strict “pecking order” among themselves, and the “Alpha” bears are totally respected by all other bears.   He told me I needed to act like an indignant Alpha bear anytime I met another bear.   And he was right.   The very next day, I was out hiking with our daughter (just the two of us; Bill had gone off to hike in the Desolation Wilderness) and on the trail we met a bear, right in the middle of the path.  He glowered at us like he owned the trail.   But remembering what the camp host said, I “charged him”, stamping and yelling and acting indignant,  “Get offa MY trail!   This is MY trail, and I am the boss!””   And it worked.  Grumping and huffing, the bear got off the trail and moved into the woods, while we sailed on by.

On the PCT, most bears do fear people, and run for it when they see you.  The only place we SAW any bears was in Southern California, near Mt. Baden-Powell.  

And we never, ever had a bear visit our camp during the night, because we were careful never to camp near water, or near where anyone else had camped.   And we NEVER, ever cooked where we camped.  We cooked at noon,  or occasionally at 5:30 pm, then hiked on for many, many more miles before making camp.   Bears are not stupid.  They don’t waste their time wandering all over the mountains at night hoping they might find some backpacker’s food.   They know where people like to camp–by lakes, by rivers, where it’s pretty, etc.  So the back country bears are sure to visit THOSE places.  Also, they can smell your dinner cooking from MILES away.  You have to be smarter than a bear, and that means you DON’T camp where backpackers would normally camp, and  with the “NO cooking at the camp” rule, they will never find you.We carried the obligatory bear cans in Yosemite/Kings Canyon, but the cans could only hold a fraction of the amount of food we needed.  The rest was in our ordinary food bags, which we kept right next to us.  We had our trek poles handy just in case, “for whomping bears”, but never needed to do that.

In places where the bears were less of a problem, we did hang our food, IF we could find a proper branch to hang it from (not always easy to do!).  And a few times in the High Sierra, we put our food in a backcountry bear BOX.   I will never forget the day we went over Forester Pass and came down, down, down into Vidette Meadows, where to our horror, we found a bunch of other campers all cooking dinner.  The sun was going down, and we had to stop, but grrrrr!   We managed to locate a bear BOX, but when we opened it, we found it almost full of bear CANS!   How dumb can you get?   The whole point of a bear CAN is then you don’t need a bear BOX!   I managed to squeeze our food bags into the box,  while our cans we kept with us at camp.   That’s another dumb thing a lot of hikers do.  They put their bear cans way far from their camp.  If a bear finds the cans and messes with them,  it might be hard to find the can in the morning. 

So here are our “bear basics”:  1) If you meet a bear, don’t be a wuss!   ACT LIKE AN ALPHA BEAR!     2) Never, ever cook where you camp, and never camp near water or where other people have camped.     3)  Keep your food WITH you (yes, that means right next to you where you are sleeping!),  or IF you can find a good “hanging branch”, hang it.  (Note: this does not work in Yosemite–the bears there are too smart)

I have read other PCT hiker journals where they did have bear problems, and the bear/s got their food, but in every case,  they had not followed the above guidelines.

March 26 Hygiene

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Bill “White Beard” and I are toting a pretty decent amount of weight around with us now, everywhere we walk.  I’m at 20 pounds and he’s at 35.  When we were training for the PCT before, we thought that the key was DISTANCE, so we constantly pushed for more mileage, while our packweight was pretty light.  Now we know better.  WEIGHT is more important–it’s what toughens up your feet and knees to be ready for the trail.  Distance comes naturally once you are on the trail–though I have to say, we are putting in 40 miles a week, distance-wise, split into one 22-24 mile day, and the rest in 10 mile increments.  And most of that is on hilly terrain, not flat. 

After a long, cold, wet winter, we are finally having a few warm, springlike days.  This past Tuesday, we were hiking at Annadel State Park again (one of our absolute favorite local hiking places, along with Point Reyes Nat’l Seashore!) and it turned into a rather warm afternoon.  For the first time in months, we actually worked up a sweat!  Till now, we would just barely manage to stay warm by hiking fast!  The scenery this time of year is spectacular–green hillsides everywhere, the creeks all running instead of dried up, wildflowers of all sorts, oak trees starting to leaf out,  animals out ‘n about, birds, and also a lot more people on the trails.  We were on a trail called “North Burma Trail”, out in the middle of nowhere in the woods on the backside of one of the mountains, when we heard the sound of bicycles behind us, and stepped off the path to let them go by.  The first rider to go by noticed our packs, trek poles, etc. and yelled, “You guys training for something?”  “Yes!” we shouted back, “Pacific Crest Trail this summer!  Mexico to Canada!”  “Man, I so totally want to do that!” he shouted back.  “Have a great time!” 

At home that night, Bill decided to check and see if the ADZPCTKO site was organized yet for us to sign up.  We’ve been checking it periodically, and nothing was ready.  But oh, wow!  Seems that the site went up, and got inundated already with folks who want to be there!  Yikes!  We are talking HUNDREDS of people!   So we quickly signed up as Class of 2010.  Hope there will be room for us!  Worst case scenario. we will camp up on the hill before we ever get to Lake Morena.   Scanning the list of who had signed up already, we were pleased to see a number of people we know. As for me,  of course I looked for the other two “Montys”, and yes, there they were.  In fact, WS Monty is in charge of the kickoff this year!   I will definitely look him up, and Mad Monty as well.   Hopefully we can get a picture with all three of us Montys.

Anyway, with a few warm days of hiking (at last!) I was reminded that staying clean on the trail is an interesting challenge.  At the kickoff, of course, there are showers, but you will not find such amenities out in the middle of nowhere.  So how to stay reasonably clean?  Here are the basics of what we do:

1)  At the end of the day when we camp, we wet our “camp towels” (8″ square piece of very absorbent cloth) and use very minimal amounts of water from our water bottles to “sponge bath” any parts of us that need it, depending on trail conditions.  (Dusty trail means very dirty feet and lower legs, while rocky trail just makes you sweat!)  I also use one premoistened towellette from a package to wipe off other parts of me.

2)  If possible, we stop near water at one of our breaks during the day.  Here, we get out our little “washtub” (cutoff bottom of a 1 gallon water jug) and rinse out our yesterday’s socks as best we can.  Then we pin  the socks on our packs to dry as we walk along.  We also wash our own feet & legs, face, etc.  We do NOT use any soap!  No way do we want to mess up a mountain water source!  If the day is warm enough, and the water deep enough,  we take off our shoes and go for a swim, clothes and all.  This washes both us and our clothes!

3)  We brush our teeth a couple of times a day, using our little cut-off toothbrushes.

4)  When “nature calls”,  we head off the trail, and of course, well away from any water source.  We carry a small plastic shovel for digging holes as needed.  Toilet paper-wise, our “ration” is 4 squares a day each, but usually we only need 2.   We do carefully bury the bit of  used toilet paper.   Obviously, we are only using it for when we “do a No. 2.”   The rest of the time (and for us ladies, this takes some getting used to) we just “drip dry” or find a leaf to use.   By the way, one of the effects of thruhiking is that eventually your body gets into an elimination rhythm that is quite predictable, and boy, when you’ve “gotta go”, you SERIOUSLY have gotta go, NOW!   Last, but not least, we carry Purel alcohol gel, and clean our hands with it every time we “visit the bushes”!

5) In town, we wash our clothes in a washing machine (note: finding small amounts of laundry detergent can be a real difficulty in some places!  I send a premeasured amount in our resupply boxes that are going to Warner Springs,  Big Bear City, Cajon Pass, Tehachapi, Mammoth, Donner Lake, Belden, Etna, Crater Lake,  White Pass, Snoqualmie, and Stehekin.)   Be awfully careful, though, NOT to send detergent that is scented!   In 2005, I stupidly just measured out the right amount of the detergent I usually used, dropped it in the resupply boxes, then was horrified on the trail to find out that the scent of it had penetrated much of our food.  Yuck!   It is no fun eating stuff that tastes like soap.   This time, I am using UNSCENTED (though even that does have a faint scent) and wrapping it up so thoroughly that there is no way it can affect our food!

Also, if the weather was warm enough to do this, when we came to a campground along the PCT, we would stop and rinse out our clothes at a faucet or bathroom sink.  Then we would put them back on, still damp, and keep on going.  We did this in very hot weather at Walker Pass, and boy, did it feel good!

But bottom line, you just have to get used to being dirty a lot.   When we first started on the PCT in 2005, we did a lot of timewasting going offtrail to take a shower, because we were so used to taking showers regularly at home, and it felt so yucky to be dusty and dirty.  On ordinary backpack trips, we had always gone where there were lots of lakes and rivers, so we could swim every day and stayed clean.   But the PCT does not offer such amenities.   So just get used to being dirty, and clean up as best you can when you get the chance.   Personally, I hate it when my hair gets really grimy, so sometimes when we stop to rinse sox,  I will also rinse my hair, just so it feels better.   But mostly, I just figure, “Oh well!   I’m on the glorious PCT!   Who cares about “eau de trail”?”

One caveat:  We do try our best to make sure that PCT hikers have a GOOD REPUTATION in trail towns.  So when we are about to come into town, we stop and “spiff” ourselves as best we can, to look as presentable as possible.  And once we are in town, laundry and showers are at the TOP of the to-do list, so that we don’t give people the impression that PCT hikers are dirty bums!

March 25 Gear List

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Since I am mostly a technopeasant, I don’t know how to add a “Gear” category to the menu on our blog,  and our very websavvy person who set everything up for us is unbelievably busy, so….I shall do my best to list our gear.  If I have time later, I will try to add the weights in oz.  for everything also, but for now, with ten zillion things on my to-do list, I will stick with gear only, except where Bill has already figured out weights.

By the way, on the trail, it is totally fun to “talk gear” with the other thruhikers!  We learned a lot, and got lots of interesting ideas.  We also saw gear that made us think, “No way would I ever bother with THAT!”

Shared gear (we split these up between ourselves):  Tarp (10.5 oz), net tent (13 oz), ground cloth (4.6 oz), stakes (2 oz),  “bear rope” (for hanging food in trees–1 oz), spare rope (.5 oz), Cooking pot containing stove, pot stand, cups, spoons, matches (14 oz),  fuel bottle (1 oz, empty), camera (9 oz), spare batteries (2 oz), toothpaste (2 oz), “wash basin” (cutoff bottom of a 1 gallon plastic water jug–we use this to rinse sox or do “dundo” baths on the trail–1 oz), duct tape (2 oz), “Toe bag” (white tape, 2nd skin, bandaids, Tinactin–3.5 oz), “Medicine bag” (Motrin, antibiotic ointment, allergy medicine, ace bandage–1.5 oz), “Emergency bag” (fire starter kit a la Ray Jardine, heavy thread, 3 safety pins, 2 needles–3.5 oz)

We each line our packs with a trash compactor bag (to keep the contents dry in the rain).

We each carry:

Sleeping bag, closed cell foam pad to sleep on, silk long johns (for pajamas),  & sleeping sox (Monty also carries an extra plastic garbage bag to put her pack in at night to protect it from the dew)

(For cold & rain):  Rainjacket, pants, mittens;  Polyester long johns (top ONLY), lightweight fleece jacket, balaclava (Bill) or fleece hat (Monty), fleece mittens; in High Sierra only, an ice axe.

(For heat & extreme sun conditions): Umbrella, sun mitts

(For food & water & hygiene)  2 platypus water bladders (2.5 liters each), 1 liter water bottle; 1 strong plastic food bag (And in High Sierra only, a bear can and a nickel to open the bear can) ; “camp towel” for dundo baths (very small!); small plastic shovel (for digging holes)

(Spare clothes):  Bill brings one extra pair of sox;  Monty brings 2 pairs of WrightSox and 1 pair of “regular” sox.

(For town): Town shirt and shorts, made of very lightweight fabric.

In addition, we each carry a fanny pack.  Bill’s contains: compass, knife, flashlight, toothbrush, sunglasses, nail clippers, comb, money, credit card and driver’s license.  Mine contains: camera, small New Testament, knife, tweezers,  toothbrush, sunglasses, money, credit card and driver’s license.  I also carry a small headlamp, but not in the fanny pack.  And I have a little bag for carrying what I call my “girl stuff”.  Being POSTmenopausal is nice in one way (no worrying about menstrual periods on the trail), but it has its own set of issues, and I have to bring stuff to deal with those.

OK, I think that’s it!  If I think of anything else, I’ll add it on!

March 19 Hot weather challenges

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The weather here in the San Francisco Bay Area has suddenly gone into “summer mode” for the last two days.  It was 86 degrees in the shade at our house yesterday afternoon!  After weeks of weather in the 50’s, that sun feels good!   We had a great time for 2 and a half hours today,  hiking up hills with packs around 20 pounds, and had the fun of meeting several of our friends from church out for a hike, too.  They all cheered for us as we breezed by them in our “hiking garb” with trek poles, packs, etc.

Meanwhile, our garage has gone into “PCT Prep” mode.  We are collecting boxes, and they are sorted into which box goes where, and soon we’ll start filling them.  I just finished figuring out all our food so that we know what we need to buy.  The numbers get a bit scary, though–how does “474 Snickers” sound to you?   Or “35 granola-with-apricots-&-almonds”?   Our vacuum sealing machine is now out on the counter in the kitchen, and Bill is experimenting.  Last time, he gave our food a minimum amount of “seal” on the machine, and some of the seals failed.  This time he is going to give everything more “sealing time.”  

Meanwhile, the permits and paperwork are getting lined up.  We have our thruhiker permit, campfire permit, Canada paperwork and  passports.  Exciting times!

Well, the hot weather reminded me that it would be good to mention how we handle hot weather challenges on the trail.   When we hiked in 2005,  we made some mistakes on this.   Hopefully we won’t make any this time!

Mistake No. 1    “In the middle of the day when it is horribly hot, we will stop and put up our tarp and wait till it’s cooler to hike on.”  NOT a good idea when your tarp is a superlightweight, WHITE spinnaker cloth tarp!   The heat  went straight through it, and it actually got hotter under the tarp than it would have been if we just kept going.   I guess if you can find a nice tree to wait under, you would be OK, but the places that get horribly hot are also treeless.   We learned that it’s better to put up your BLACK or SILVER hiking umbrella and keep on truckin’.   When we were climbing up alongside Mission Creek, it was HOT and we stopped in the middle of the day in the shade to wait for cooler temperatures.   But duh, we were hiking right by a CREEK!   Now, what we would do is periodically just take off our packs and lie down in the creek, clothes and all, for a  couple of minutes, then hike on, all nice and cool.

Mistake No. 2    Not having shoes BIG ENOUGH to cope with the large amount of swelling your feet experience in very hot weather.  This was a problem for Bill, and he ended up with horrible blisters because his feet swelled so much.  I managed OK, by switching my shoes to “desert lacing” (more on that in a minute).

So here’s what we DO know.

1)  Protect yourself from the sun.  For us, this means long (but loose) pants and longsleeved (loose) shirts of “sunrepellant” fabric.  This literally keeps your skin cooler than when it is exposed to direct, very hot sun.  We carried umbrellas to provide our own portable shade.   Make sure your umbrella is BLACK or SILVER-coated.   White or light-colored umbrellas do not protect you from the heat.   I wear a double layer of socks all the time, and I noticed that in the desert, this did help protect the bottoms of my feet from the heat of the ground.

2) Switch your shoes to “desert lacing” to allow your feet to swell.  Basically, you pull the laces out till you are about  1/3 of the way down, then really loosen the bottom lacing so your toes have the maximum room possible.   TIE A KNOT in the laces, then re-lace them back to the top.  That way, you can have the laces tight around your ankle for support, but very, very loose lower down where your feet swell up.  The knot totally separates the two “zones.”

3) Start hiking really early, by headlamp (we used to start at 4:30 if needed) so you have more time hiking in the cooler temperatures.  You can also hike at night, by headlamp, but then you have a much higher risk of running into rattlesnakes out hunting.   (They like to go out when the ground is warm, but the air is cooler).   

4) Rest whenever you need to (I need to rest much more often when I’m hiking in heat).  Drink plenty of water BUT ALSO GET ENOUGH SALT/electrolytes with it!   You can actually make yourself dangerously sick in hot weather by drinking too much water and not getting salt.   We  carry a stash of salt tablets for this purpose.  It is NOT an “old wives’s tale” that salt is important.   If you are semi-crazy hikers like us,  and you do like we did and go “rim to rim in a day” at the Grand Canyon (despite all the warning signs not to do it!), you will find bottles of saline solution at every water hole, with warning signs about drinking some saline if you start having symptoms of serious electrolyte imbalance.  People have DIED from drinking loads of water and not getting enough salt with it. 

5) If you do come to a water source that’s not a water cache  someone labored to bring in, pour water all over yourself, clothes and all, to cool down.   We did this at Snow Canyon faucet (San Gorgonio Pass) and Walker Pass Campground, plus various other places.  We have learned when hiking in heat, if you come to a pond or lake, take off the pack,  take off your shoes and just jump in, clothes and all.   Your clothes get the sweat and dirt rinsed out of them, you get a bath, and it feels WONDERFUL!  You then put the shoes  and pack back on, and head down the trail, dripping wet and comfortable!

6) We normally cook dinner at noon, but in hot weather, we wait till late afternoon, when it’s much cooler, and cook then, before putting in a few more miles and making camp.

Last but not least,  dealing with hot, hot weather is a good chance to practice the skill of being cheerful no matter what, of  looking for the beauty that is all around you (hey,  in triple digit temps going up into the San Felipe Hills, I got to see an ocotillo IN BLOOM!  Awesome!   It looked like the bush had flames coming out the tips of the branches! ), and gives you a chance to rejoice at every bit of breeze that comes your way.  “Hey, it’s a breeze!” we would cheer, and keep on going with smiles on our faces.   Yes indeed, coping with the heat DOES build character!

March 13 Cold weather, snow

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I (3rd Monty) just got back from a weekend in Sacramento. coaching high school Awana kids.   It was awesome!   Our kids totally outdid themselves in everything they entered, from music to Bible quiz, to AwanaGames competition.   We are so proud of them!

Driving to Sacramento, with a carful of kids, I was dealing with heavy rain for much of the way, that made it sometimes even hard to see on the freeway.  The signs about having to put chains on your car to cross the Sierras up ahead were all lit up.  Oh joy.   That means another big dumping of snow we have to get through in a few months!    Next morning, all the clouds were gone, there was a cloudless sky, and the Sierras on the horizon were totally white.   Most of our highschooler’s families were planning to “head for fun in the snow”  right after the AwanaGames finished up.

Well, maybe White Beard and I will be having  “fun in the snow”, too, this year.  Hmmmm.  So, I thought I’d lay out what we do about cold weather (and snow).   The key to being comfortable on the trail in the cold is LAYERS.  We have our basic hiking clothes, of pants and shirt, but when a cool breeze blows, we may add a layer of the top only from polyester long underwear.   That usually takes care of things quite well, but if it is colder yet, we have lightweight fleece jackets to put on, and fleece mittens and fleece hats.   If it gets colder still,  I put on my raingear, and that does it.   Once I have that many layers, I have never been cold, as long as I keep hiking and don’t sit around very long.  

Snow on the PCT can vary from bits and patches to totally burying everything.   Depending on the time of day, it can be hard, icy and scary or so soft that you posthole.   When I KNOW there will be nasty snow (like near Tahquitz Peak or on Fuller Ridge or Mt. Baden-Powell or the High Sierra) I like to have an ice axe just in case.   But trek poles usually handle it pretty well.  I get out the ice axe when things are steep and icy.  Sometimes, like at Sonora Pass, we looked at a steep icy snowfield and said “I don’t think so!” about trying to cross it.  We scrambled down AROUND it instead.   You don’t want to mess with really steep icy snow.  Just last year,  Bill and I were preparing to go up ‘n over Old Army Pass, south of Mt. Whitney, when another hiker we met warned us, “Don’t try to cross the snowfield at the top of the pass.   A lady DIED up there yesterday, trying to do it.   When you get to the snowfield, shinny up the rock chute right next to it.”   Well, we did “shinny up” and avoided the steep snow, though the “shinny” part was totally terrifying for me.  Bill just chugged right up it, but I’m height-challenged.  I ended up taking off my pack, climbing up a bit, then reaching back down to haul my pack up before going on.   I did that enough times, and finally reached the top.

When the snow isn’t icy, and is nice to walk on, but the hillside is steep,  Bill often goes ahead of me and then I can just step in his footprints. 

Postholing is no fun.   Snowshoes of course would pretty much solve the problem, and we do use snowshoes for snow camping,  but for the PCT,  they are too heavy to be worthwhile.   But I have hiked in snow without snowshoes, and  done my share of postholing, and all I can say is,  “You just deal with it.”

Route-finding in lots of snow is “fun”, if you have enough time and enough food so that if you are lost for awhile you are OK.    If the snow is not too deep, you can look for sawed/cut logs (very good indicators of “trail here!”).  If the snow is deep enough to cover the logs,  you can look UP for signs of branches that have been trimmed off above the trail to allow horses to pass through.  Of course, if you have decent weather (meaning, you are not dealing with rain and clouds) and landmarks, you can figure things out that way, too.  When Bill and I were in a puzzlement about where the trail went to under the snow, we would fan out (staying within shouting distance, of course) to hunt for it.  Usually one or the other of us would find it that way.    And if you are hiking along and it starts SNOWING, actually that’s not a problem at all, as long as you can make out the trail.   Even a foot or more of snow on the ground–no problem!  

But if you are on the PCT, hiking in snow, one thing is for sure.  You CAN’T camp on the snow, not with the lightweight equipment PCT hikers carry.   The snow is just too cold.   When we snow camp, we bring SEVERAL insulating, closed cell foam sleeping pads to insulate us from the cold snow we are sleeping on.  One is not enough.  On the PCT, you have got to find some clear ground to camp on, even if it’s a flat rock.   Several times in 2005, we had a bit of a tough time finding a snowfree campsite, but always found something, usually in a grove of trees.

So far it’s been a very cold, very rainy spring here in California.   We will see what that translates into once we are on the PCT.   I have a feeling it may be colder than usual in general this year.  (Gee, back when I was younger, the fear-mongers were pushing the idea that “Oh, no!  We are going into another Ice Age!”   That  got replaced with “Oh, no!  Global warming!”  and now it’s Oh, no! Climate change!”   What will be next?  Anybody got any new scary slogans?