September 17, 2011 The only constant on this trip is unpredictability. While we know that Sam is headed south on the PCT (hopefully), we can never exactly pinpoint where he is going to be and when. We use the “Sam Factor,” I mentioned in a previous blog post, which is a combination of his pace depending on day or night, the type of terrain, and nowadays, how tired he seemed starting out that day. This calculation gives us a window of opportunity to capture him in motion, but all these factors are pretty shaky making the margin of error pretty big (thank god I took statistics in high school, thanks Dr. Mikhail!).
So, two days ago, the morning after Sam’s portion around Crater Lake, we calculated that he would be at Devil’s Peak in the Sky Lake’s Wilderness around 1p.m. that day. Crater Lake, a 25 mile day, which was light for him (and unfathomable for normal people) was supposed to be one of his easiest days, but the crowd of tourists and paved road paralleling the trail proved to be extremely distracting for Sam. He says that this actually turned out to be one of the most challenging days and was mentally exhausting. Predicting that Sam might be starting a little later than he planned, we aimed to be at the top of Devil’s Peak by 11 or 12, giving us ample time to scout out the best place to shoot.
The 7-mile hike to Devil’s Peak was uneventful, yet beautiful as always and we enjoyed the part of the trail that took us across a field of rocks that were flat and brittle making it sound like we were walking across hundreds of ceramic bowls and cups. We reached our destination in 3 hours, just before 11 a.m. set up our equipment, and began to wait. Devil’s Peak is a rocky ridge comprised of these same brittle rocks, which are stacked on top of each other like thin bricks. We soon discovered that these thin flat rocks, when thrown off the ridge, shatter dramatically, providing endless entertainment. Every now and then, a thru-hiker would walk by, either amused or horrified as Ben and Jeff caused a mini rockslide. The rock-throwing/waiting carried on until around 2 o’clock, when a cold fog steadily rolled in. Still no sign of Sam, and we were picking up a Spanish speaking couple on our walkie instead. We decided to get footage of the area, and if he didn’t arrive by 3, we would hike down.
Wonder what we were talking about
As 3 o’clock approached, the wind picked up and visibility turned bad. We wrote a message for Sam on a rock with a sharpie, left him some mini Reeses and granola bars and hiked down. Half an hour later, we heard Sam on the walkie saying he had reached the beginning of the ridge. We were too far away at this point and continued down. Later, Sam said that he reached our message at around 4:30 and by that point it was really cold and raining. So because we didn’t have foul weather gear, we had made the right decision to leave.
The view before the weather got bad
Back in our RV a few hours later, Marion cooked a pot of chili, as we parked in a restaurant parking lot of a ghost town, and tried to pick up a wireless signal. It had been a long day and my sore hips and knees felt like our 14-mile hike had yielded disappointing results. As I tend to do now, I thought about how this would only be a fraction of Sam’s day, and while I am comforted by steaming chili and a plastic cup of wine, Sam often has to stop and sleep only for a few hours right on the trail. Sam arrived at the support point later that night refocused and determined to spend more nights on the trail and less in the RV. He believes that being deliberately uncomfortable will maintain his motivation and deter distractions. Now that we are close to the California border, and almost halfway, it’s important now more than ever keep sight of this goal.
Until next time,
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran