Sunday, June 6, 2010


It seems strange writing a post about a blizzard after having sweated my way through a weekend of yardwork and home repairs.  But as Mark mentioned in his last dispatch, he and Dan unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of one shortly after beginning their hike from Idyllwild.  You won't see much of the peril faced by our hikers in the photos below.  In fact, the images don't seem all that extraordinary.  They surely don't tell the real story, however.  I know from two weeks kayaking in the Everglades spent fighting high winds and rough seas that rendered my left arm useless from tendinitis for a week, that all my peaceful photos of nesting birds, tranquil campsites, and postcard perfect sunsets had very little to do with the battles I fought on the water each and every day.  When you're preoccupied with fighting the elements, there isn't much time to stop for pictures.  There's probably plenty more to this scene from the PCT that only words could make real.  I am sure these pictures just scratch the surface.

The blizzard pictures and story remind me of something that happened to me several years ago.  On a solo vacation in Southern France, I decided to take a day trip into the French Pyrennes, to a ski town called Cauteret.  Being late October, it was cold, but not too bad.  For the most part, a long sleeve t-shirt was enough, particularly in Lourdes where I was staying.  Lourdes was only in the foothills of the Pyrennes, not ski country.  I thought it might be chillier in the higher elevations of Cauteret, so I purchased a pair of fleece-lined pants and planned to a take a hike when I reached town.  Once there I bought a map, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, some cigars and a Swiss Army knife and headed into the mountains in a long sleeve t-shirt and shorts.  After a couple hours, and as I gained elevation, it started to snow.  So I put on the pants and a thin raincoat.  The higher I went, the colder it go, and the more it snowed.  I was caught completely off guard (thank goodness for the wine purchase).  Once the trail started to disappear, I decided to head back, and luckily was able to make out the trail and get back below the snow line without getting lost.  I survived, but there was a lesson to be learned about being prepared.  The raincoat and fleece lined pants wouldn't have done much good if I had lost my way and had to spend an extended time on the mountain.  Back in town, I shook off the experience, and went in search of some hot chocolate to warm back up.  Unfortunately, I discovered that at 4pm in France, everyone is in the middle of a two hour midday break.  Instead, I headed to my bus stop and sat unsatisfied in the chilly mist cursing this no good cultural tradition.

The Boy Scouts' motto "Be Prepared" is no joke.  Mark and Dan luckily recognized the danger the blizzard posed and remained in communication with a friend below who monitored the weather.  I'm sure there will be other spots on the PCT where Mark and Dan see "red flags" and will need to make decisions that may prevent bodily injury.  Both are experienced enough in the outdoors that they are likely prepared to make the right choices.  Glad they passed the first test and are continuing the journey!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Michael, you hit the nail on the head. I would have taken many more pictures but my hands were frozen and I did not want to lose any unnecessary heat!