Winter wonderland (PCT days 23-26)


After dealing with my blister I took a few short days and prepared to meet up with my parents who were flying out to join me in “sunny California.” Although I’d hiked with snow covered mountains in the distance and had occasionally run into some patches of snow in the trail, the weather for the last week had mostly been sunny and warm.


The day my parents met up with me the sun was shining and everything was right with the world :) After our reunion we made plans for mom to do some hiking with me and for dad to provide ground support and trail magic. Ahead of us on the trail there was a nice easy stretch of trail that mom could hike to get used to higher elevations and then the following day was one of the prettiest and hardest climbs on the PCT in Southern California, Mount Baden-Powell (elev 9,407 ft). Though it would be a hard day I was confident that if we took it slow mom could do it… No problem!

The trial hike went well, so we prepared for our ascent of Baden-Powell. Even though they say it’s always sunny in California and California is known for it’s lack of weather, I’d been rained on and hailed on enough that I still didn’t trust the weather, so I took advantage of the fact that I had cell service and checked the weather.

What I discovered was not what I expected, not only was a storm supposed to move in the following night, it was supposed to be a snowstorm!! At least it wasn’t supposed to snow until after 8pm, so it looked like we would be able to get up the mountain and down it before the snow came! We would delay our hike if we had to, but waiting until after the snow would mean that we would have to hike through the snow the following day and I wasn’t sure we were prepared for that either!

With bad weather in the forecast we double and triple checked the forecast before starting our hike. It still looked like we should be able to get both up and down the mountain before the storm arrived so we made sure we got an early start.20140501-211903.jpg

For the first half of our hike the weather was gorgeous, cool and sunny with clear skies. Mom didn’t have any trouble with the altitude and the summit of Baden-Powell was absolutely gorgeous!!!20140501-212218.jpg

As we began our descent, however, the clouds began to roll in and the winds picked up. Before we knew it we were enveloped in the clouds/fog. “I thought Southern California was supposed to be warm and sunny!” Mumbled my mom as it became clear that the winds and mist were going to stay. “California is just trying to make you feel like you’re back at home in the white mountains of New Hampshire,” I countered as the winds picked up.


A couple of hours later and our cloud was getting damper… Occasionally even coalescing into tiny rain drops. “Don’t worry mom, it’s Southern California in a drought, I’m sure it’s not going to rain or snow on us… Not much anyway.”

This time I was pretty sure that rain/snow was coming, it was just a matter of when. In Southern California anytime it said that there was at least a 20% chance of rain I got wet and they were predicting a 90% chance of rain/snow that evening.

When we finally reached the road, we were met by our night in a shining red suburban, my dad. We piled into dad’s car and were really glad to be out of the whipping winds and mist/rain. Not quite snow, not yet anyway, since the temperatures were hovering at 34 degrees. I checked the forecast and the radar again from the warmth and safety of the car. We were definitely going to get rained on. 20140501-214636.jpg

I’d brought my parents out to sunny Southern California and into a snowstorm! Though it was perfect timing for me, I’m not sure that it was what they were expecting! As dad drove us out of the cold nasty weather my parents were definitely my heroes… Giving up their vacation to rescue me from a surprise winter storm and to bring me to a soft warm hotel bed.


From our hotel room it was clear that the mountains had a beautiful fresh coat of snow on them the next morning and since the forecast said that even more snow was expected later that day we decided to have a nice relaxing day away from the trails and mountains to give the roads plenty of time to clear.


When I first got to California I brought some rain storms with me. My parents come to visit and an even bigger and more unusual storm arrives… I’m beginning to wonder if rain clouds follow my family around when we are on vacation. The most memorable example of that was when our entire family flew to glacier national park in August for vacation and it rained for the entire two weeks we were there. It’s kind of awesome that when we are on vacation and under less pressure, but it would be nice if the local weather patterns didn’t go through the same low pressure swings especially since low pressure areas tend to bring rain/snow/clouds!


P.S. Congratulations to mom and dad for surviving their first PCT adventure!

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