Wingman from the Roadside:
When we replaced Runningbird’s tracker I neglected to check the last interval settings we had programmed into our account. Unfortunately the intervals were too far apart and it had been really hard to get a decent fix on where she was or where she had stopped. It was easy enough to change the settings on the account but the tracker itself then had to be synched to the account and the new settings. We would have to wait until Runningbird got to the next resupply to fix that. In the mean time cell communication was a reliable option.
The town of Bridgeport, about 16 miles from the campground, is a real town. It has a bakery, AND they have WiFi. In the morning I drove to the town of Bridgeport to “scout out” the bakery and check to see if the local sporting goods store might have a mosquito proof shirt for Runningbird (not a chance). In town I picked up two PCT hikers from Pennsylvania headed back to the trail after having a short chill day in town. They told me the last part just before Sonora Pass had been difficult with snow fields obscuring the trail and some steep terrain. On the way up to the Pass we came upon a semi with a 52 foot trailer stuck sideways on a hairpin turn. He had obviously missed the three huge signs that said no semis with trailers over 38 feet. At the direction of the trooper, we were able to get around with a bit of off-road and get the boys back on the trail north. On my way back down I had a 40 minute wait while the tow truck pulled the semi and trailer back down to a turnout and back down the road. Sure wish I could have heard the conversations with the driver and the trooper.
Without a decent track on Runningbird and having failed to contact her by cell after several tries, I had no way of knowing when or even which day she would arrive. I decided to put some food together so she would have something to eat when she arrived, got my pack ready, grabbed my down coat and would go park at the trailhead right where the trail crosses the road and spend the night. That way I would be there regardless of when she arrived. As I drove up the road in the evening and was passing the turnout where I get 3 bars, Runningbird called. I pulled over and she told me where she was and that she planned to come out this evening. I parked at the trailhead and threw my pack on and headed out to meet her.
It wasn’t ten minutes before I realized I had lost the trail in the snow. After walking around in circles and trying to make sense of the two different PCT apps I had on my phone, two hikers came walking up to me. They pointed to a glissade chute they had just come from and pointed to two different directions where they had seen pieces of a trail. I started the long slow trek straight up a mountain alongside the glissade chute. Sonora Pass is at 9,000 feet and I was heading straight up from there. Runningbird was doing this kind of stuff constantly; I wouldn’t feel sorry for myself. After what seemed like an hour I was at the top of the chute (later it would take us about 3 minutes to come down this on our butts). I crossed over a crest and had to put my coat on from the cold wind. On the back side of the crest it was awesome beauty! The sun was going down in the west and the mountains seemed to go on forever. The trail proceeded fairly level along the crest of the range, there were no trees, and the vegetation was sparse. The view was spectacular. In a while I came around a corner to find Runningbird standing mid-trial, gazing off to the west with her camera in hand, appreciating the same vast beauty. We shared the moment briefly in a hug and then proceeded back the way I had come, enjoyed the long but quick glissade, did a much better job navigating back to the trailhead, and arrived at the truck just before dark. It was about 9:00 PM when we arrived at the trailer and she decided tomorrow would be a Zero day. Everything on her and in her pack was wet and needed to be dried out, and she had completely depleted her food supply. Tomorrow would be a day to rest and to reset her tracker – on the WiFi at the bakery of course.
The vastness to the west on the back side of the crest south of Sonora Pass.
Finding the trail after the glissade down.
The trailhead at Sonora Pass.
Still smiling after a 25-mile day; Sonora Pass at Highway 108.