Thanks to a lack of information, I made a poor decision this day.
A chill wind blew across the parking lot as I got ready to hike again. It was chilly enough to lose feeling in my fingers as I rolled up my mattress on the picnic table. I did the later parts of packing up, including removing my extra layers, in the foyer of the privy for the added wind protection.
I knew I couldn’t keep going south on the trail. There was a burn closure on most of the Hwy 2 corridor where the PCT followed, all the way up to at least Mt. Baden-Powell. Like the section I had to skip below Mt. Hood in Oregon, the trail would probably be a smoldering mess even if I violated the ban. It didn’t sound like fun.
Todd at the North Fork Ranger Station had advised I nope out right here at this busy road crossing where I’d camped. But I looked up the closure boundary and saw that the trail was not closed between here and CA Hwy 2. So I thought maybe I could just avoid having to get off the trail at all by hitching a ride on the highway to the other side of the closure. As long as I got to the highway with a few hours of daylight left, it should be no problem right? A highway should have plenty of traffic.
So I set out bright and early to do the beautiful and relatively easy section over Pacifico Mountain. There was not very much snow on the trail, and only about a thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. I made it to Three Points before 4pm.
There was very little traffic on the highway. What I learned by stopping cars coming through was that the highway was closed in the direction I wanted to go. I also learned that no one wanted to give me a ride down in the other direction even when asked point blank, even knowing I was stuck in a dead end.
When the traffic decreased even further, I realized my options were either to camp here and try again in the morning or hike back over the mountain to Mill Creek the next day, or to try to find someone to come up and take me down.
Communication with my mom via Garmin was too slow (and, at 50 cents a text, too expensive) so I started walking down the hill to the cafe just a mile away. The signs showed an emergency phone was there. Dark had nearly fallen by the time I arrived.
It turned out to be a disconnected pay phone, but the cafe proprietor, who lived there, turned on the wifi so that I could make proper calls.
I started by calling a taxi, but because they were incompetents or barely understood English and because the restaurant I was sitting outside did not have a real street number address, they couldn’t figure out how to get to me, even with hours of leeway. I started discussing rescue plans with my friend in LA. My mom called the Sheriff’s department in Pasadena.
A car with three guys pulled in trying to get into the clearly closed restaurant for drinks. They claimed to be trying to get to Las Vegas via the highway and were stymied by its closure. I was glad I wasn’t the only one who made a stupid routing mistake that night, but I wasn’t about to ask them for a ride down. There wasn’t room for me and they didn’t seem particularly safe or likely to be amenable in the first place.
I added more layers as the temperature dropped and eventually started cooking supper and hot drinks just to keep warm and energized. No sooner had I done that than a police truck arrived.
It was able to get to me far sooner than expected because the cops could unlock and drive straight through the part of the highway that had been closed below where I was. (The traffic I had seen had had to use an alternate route that was over a half hour longer.) In an hour, I was in Pasadena being dropped at the motel I had booked. NACAB.
Since I had already eaten, as soon as I checked in, I cranked up the heater and went straight to bed. I don’t even remember if I wrote for this blog before I went to sleep. Research on how to get to the other end of the closed section of trail could wait until the morning.
Total distance: 15 miles