When we last heard from Zac he was having a hard time finding the trail in the snow. Around 10:30 this morning I finally got a spot from him. He had moved about a quarter of a mile from the last spot but he was moving. It was good to see that he was on his way again. As the day went on I waited for another spot. After five hours with no spot I began to wonder what was going on with him and his GPS device. Another three hours passed and still no spot, 5 hours, 7 hours. 10 hours had passed since his last spot this morning. Checking his bank account on line about 8:30 pm showed that he had just purchased a giant deluxe pizza from the Idyllwild Pizza Company. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ……
Zac’s sister Erin called his cell and surprised him with her physic powers about his dining practices. I still don't think he has figured out how she knew that he was chowing down on a super supreme pizza. He was doing fine and out of the weather eating pizza with old friends and new ones as well. I called him shortly after and got the scoop on his ordeal over the last 24 hours.
Zac hiked up the ridge with little problems for most of the day. The weather was nice and he had met two other hikers along the trail and things were going smoothly. The group hiked most of the day until the two through hikers pace put them ahead of Zac and out of sight. The snow at the higher elevations was patchy and the trail was easy to make out. At 8000 feet, Zac was alone now and the snow was getting deeper. By 5:30 the snow was four foot deep and every step was a chore. The trail was covered and if it were not for the tracks of the hikers ahead of him, it would have been impossible to follow. The tracks of the two hikers split at one point and Zac decided to follow the tracks that were most prominent.
He walked and walked following the one set of tracks for a few hours until he found that he had walked in one big circle. Zac had been following the tracks were of a hiker who was as lost as he was. Luckily for Zac the other hiker whose trail he had been walking was there as well. The two soon found the third member of the party and all three agreed that they had to try to find the trail before the sun went down. After trying to read a map and follow a compass using head lamps, the three decided that a camp should be made. After a night’s sleep the trail might be easier to locate in the morning.
Setting up a tent on top of 5 feet of snow with only one pole for support will not work. Zac had no choice but to lay the tent down and use it as a ground cloth. For dinner he cooked up some Ramen noodles in melted snow and a Snicker bar. Then he brought some more snow to a boil and filled a Nalgene bottle and tossed it into his sleeping bag to warm it up. This is an old trick her learned while working at Yellowstone. His sleeping bag served him well and he stayed warm through the night.
The morning brought new hope and better light and after an hour or two the trail was picked up and Saddle Junction was in sight. Getting there entailed hiking along a snow covered cliff side where just days before a hiker had fallen and had to be rescued by helicopter. The steps had to be dug out and the going was very slow. The group reached Saddle Junction and the town of Idyllwild was only a few miles away. They picked up a dirt road and walked until the town sheriff stopped them and offered them a ride into town. He dropped them off between the pizza joint and the grocery store. Sort of like Rambo but with a less violent ending.
Zac made some new friends at the pizza place and they invited his group to share their cabin with a full kitchen, TV, fireplace, and running water as well and free laundry service. So tonight he is in a safe, warm cabin with 14 other hikers who will share their own stories of the PCT.