I probably should have stayed in Wrightwood on Friday May 25. The weather was supposed to be bad: cold, with winds gusting to 65 mph at the high elevations, and possible snow down to 6500 feet. But I was getting antsy to hike after my zero in town, and figured I’d be down to just about 6500 feet that night, and a forty percent chance of precipitation meant probability was still on my side.
I got lost once in the morning, losing the trail in the fog for two miles, until I reached a stream that I knew was not supposed to be on the pct. I reached the base of Mt Baden-Powell at about 12:00, 2.5 hours after I’d hoped to be there. The cold wether worked partially in my favor, as I climbed the 2600 feet of switchbacks in just about 2 hours, but I started shivering if i sat down for more than five minutes, and the wind would knock water and ice out of the pine trees onto me. I climbed the last 200 feet to the summit (9399 feet) because I was there, struggling against the winds and being pelted by ice chunks, reaching the wind-scoured, fogged-in summit just for the sake of being there. The wind practically pushed me off the summit, and as soon as I was back in the non-windy side of the ridge, I took off my gloves and tucked my hands under my armpits for a few minutes to warm them up. After a couple if miles I finally started descending from the 9000-foot ridge, on the sheltered side of the mountain – I was so relieved to me descending! I got to the road in about two miles; first I noticed that it was wet, and then I realized that I had completely missed the campground i was supposed to have passed – I had taken the wrong trail again! There was no way I was going to climb back up to that cold, windy ridge, so I sat down behind the guardrail to figure out where I was and what to do. I had taken the Dawson Saddle trail down from the ridge instead of the PCT, and could get back on track by getting a ride about 5 miles down the road to Islip Saddle.
I stood up and flagged down the next car that drove past. I noticed with some dread that the back seat was full, but I explained my dilemma and the ladies were sympathetic, making enough room for my pack and I to squish in. Vicky and her mother Fran were headed to the camp Vicky works for, Angeles Crest Christian Camp, for a volunteer work weekend, and I told them about my hike as they drove to the trailhead. When we reached Islip Saddle, Fran asked incredulously whether I was going to just put my tent up under a tree for the night; when I answered affirmatively, Vicky offered to take me to camp instead, for a night in a heated cabin instead of the freezing weather. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and twenty minutes later we pulled into camp an I was situated in a cabin full of empty bunk beds. Later at the dining hall (they were feeding me too! I felt like the luckiest hiker in the world that night!) i met brothers Bill and Alan Doll, who were volunteering for the weekend, and other members of the camp staff and community.
I woke up the next morning thankful to be cozy in the cabin, packed up my backpack and diligently checked my maps for any side trails that might cause me to get lost. As soon as I walked into the dining hall again and saw all of my new friends and perused the project lists, I realized that I’d have many more opportunities to hike 18 mile days on the trail, but only one chance to be at camp, and I felt like staying to help out would be an appropriate way to repay the hospitality that Vicky and everyone else at camp had shown me. So it is that I spent the morning varnishing giant bear statues and the afternoon painting boards, and was Vicky’s only “kill” during an evening game of Crossfire. Everyone at camp was as interested in my PCT hiking adventure as I was grateful to be rescued from the storm, and I chatted with them throughout the day, sharing info about my hike and the equipment I was carrying.
Sunday morning breakfast was the best of all possible send-offs, with omelets and waffles for breakfast, and good-bye hugs all around before I was dropped off at the Three Points trailhead for my day of hiking. I missed eighteen miles of trail because I needed to meet a friend later that day, but I was full of good memories from my weekend at camp.