Day 71: All the Rain and S.A.R.

This morning did not start out as the usually sunny cloudless mornings we’ve become accustomed to in the Sierra’s. The sky was grey and filled with clouds that hid the ridge lines from view.

We began our hike with an easy mike or so from camp where we came to a creek we couldn’t rock hop across so we hiked up our knickers and kicked off our shoes to wade across. After that we began a climb of about 1,000 feet to get up and over to the next canyon. When we reached the top of the climb we heard what sounded like a helicopter. As we hiked over the small pass and started to descend into the next canyon the helicopter sounded like it was headed right for us. Pie checked his inReach to make sure he didn’t accidentally hit the S.O.S. button, which he didn’t, so we kept on hiking. After a little while we had to cross a stream that had over run part of the trail’s rocky steps and just after this somewhat dubious crossing we actually were able to see a helicopter that had landed on a large rock toward the bottom of the canyon. We soon realized that the trailers headed right for the helicopters location and when we arrived we found 4 guys in bright yellow shirts setting up a hiker on a stretcher and another hiker looking on. The second hiker, Kinetic, eventually came over and talked with us, letting us know that he came upon the other hiker the previous evening. Apparently the injured hiker had slipped and fallen at the aforementioned dubious stream crossing coming down into the canyon. Kinetic used the S.O.S. button on his Spot device to signal help and the helicopter came the next morning. The injured hiker was a larger fellow going by Panda, who Poe and I actually met in Mojave at a restaurant. The emergency crew enlisted Pie, Kinetic and me to help lift the stretcher back over to the helicopter, some 100 feet down the trail where it was clear enough to land. After the helicopter had taken off we sent a satellite message to Kinetic’s parents letting them know the emergency signal on his Spot was used for another hiker and that he was fine. Then, we ate a snack and tried to resume life back on the trail after a very strange morning.

We hiked for maybe another hour or so before it started to sprinkle on us. The sprinkle soon turned to a steady rain which saw Pie and I into our rain jackets, rain pants and pack covers. We stopped under a tree that had some dry ground around it to eat our lunches and get a break from the rain. Then we hiked on, making our way through our new canyon, past a wide lake that was growing wider with every hour it poured on us. Eventually we came to another creek crossing that didn’t have any rocks or logs above the water so we, once again, kicked off our now already wet shoes and waded the creek. It was now just after 3pm and it was still raining. We had been in a constant downpour for the last 4 hours with now sign of letting up. After we got across the creek we decided it was time to dry out and maybe just call it for the day. We set up our tents under some large pines and, at 4pm, were in our tents and sleeping bags the earliest we’ve ever been. Even in the week of snow we trudged through we never packed it in this soon, but we were drenched from head to toe by the time we crawled in our bags today. Hands and feet wrinkled by the constant soaking. So, that means we didn’t manage our 21 mile day to get to Sonora Pass in 4 days. We are almost exactly 30 miles from the pass now which means if tomorrow is a dryer day we can do a 20 mile day at least and set up to get to the pass sometime in the morning on day 5. Between the search and rescue helicopter and hiking in the downpour, this was easily one of our weirdest days on trail.

Godspeed.

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