Saturday, Sep 2nd, 2023, 0740-1730
8 miles past Sierra City to Peter Grubb Hut
26 miles, Gain 5030′, Loss 3650′, elevation 7810′
Wetness management is a hard skill to figure out and even harder to get right in all circumstances. There are many factors that play into it. Thinking back on my experiences with multiple days of rain on the AT, in New Zealand, and the Colorado Trail, it can feel like a losing battle to keep stuff dry. You fight the good fight but after a long enough timeline, everything becomes either damp or completely saturated.
We were optimistic that it wouldn’t rain overnight, given the clearing skies the day before. Inevitably, the rain began around midnight. At first it was light, but later an absolute downpour. I felt like I was back on the AT, worrying about puddling under my floor and ingress from anything touching the walls. Even allowing a sleeping pad to push against a tent’s bathtub floor can turn it into a true bathtub, holding water. Needless to say, my sleep was fitful. Still, I managed to keep everything toasty and dry. My site over lots of duff and at a slight incline ensured good drainage. Poor Out Here was not so lucky. His site puddled big time, soaking through his floor and getting his quilt wet. He had an uncomfortable night and decided to bail back to Sierra City first thing in the morning.
I’d expected to part ways with him anyway, as I intended to get a later start, enjoying my dry refuge as long as I could manage. It must have rained over an inch to cause so much flooding, way more than the tenth to a quarter of an inch that was predicted. The puddling problem happened to me on the AT several times and it was only by the grace of my thermarest that I managed to keep the water away from my quilt. Thankfully my newer Plexamid tent had a more solid floor, as I’d been meticulous in preserving it. Out Here’s thermarest also had a leak, which meant he hadn’t been able to use it as an island as I had mine. It’s funny how all these little things compile to add up to a big mess. It only takes a few factors to tip the scales between continuing on and calling it quits.
I was glad he had an easy option to head back to town. My focus was on getting a very wet tent packed and not freezing throughout the day. Not having shelters to take refuge under, as on the AT, turned out to be a very significant factor during multiple days of rain on the PCT. Ironically, there was one shelter in 25 miles, the Peter Grubb ski hut. But on Labor Day weekend and in these conditions, I was sure it would be packed to the gills. Still, I hoped at a minimum I could dry my tent there. That was my biggest goal for the day…besides staying warm and dry.
I finally got moving, cringing at the mess that was my tent and ground tarp. At least the rest of my stuff was all dry. I set out with my umbrella up, as it was still raining. It stopped after an hour or so, thank goodness. There were some light showers throughout the day, but nothing like the downpour overnight. I’m not sure how far I might have made it in such heavy rain, even with the umbrella. There were a lot of exposed and windy ridges along the trail this day. They were uncomfortable in the cold and wind, but probably would have been unbearable if the rain had been coming down hard.
My thermometer read 48 degrees all day. To think, the highs had been in the 90s and 100s just days before. I struggled to stay warm and only took a brief 20 minute lunch break around 2 p.m. Not surprisingly, I also only saw one NOBO up until the last 4 miles near Paradise Lake. There I suddenly passed about 10 backpackers, but most looked like they were only out for the weekend. This made me all the more nervous about the crowds I would find at the hut. Even if the weather had been crappy for several days, or especially because of it, people would be seeking refuge. It seemed out of the question that I could find a space there.
I topped out and over the last climb of the day, my legs feeling pretty beat. There had been a lot of ups and downs and the cold also took it out of me. Not to mention my lack of sleep. I was not looking forward to crawling into my damp tent. I cleaned up a little at the last little creek, collected some water, and approached the hut. All was dead quiet, no tents or packs outside. Well of course, everybody must be inside in such bad weather. I slid the door open (it had been left unlocked) and…nothing. Not one person! How was this possible I wondered? I just couldn’t believe my luck. I quickly set about claiming a spot in the loft above and hanging all my crap to dry. This was an incredibly perfect outcome to end the day, compared to the rough start. My tent was so wet, it would have made for a pretty bad second night in the elements.
Instead, I enjoyed a warm meal inside and went to bed so cozy, listening to the wind howl outside. How incredible that one of only about 6 or 7 huts\shelters on the entire PCT lined up with my daily distance goal during terrible weather AND was empty on Labor Day weekend. I had stayed overnight at 5 huts and cabins on the PCT up to this point. Now if only the weather could cooperate the next day.