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[pct-l] Jeepers

I was the original poster of "A nice summer walk" on July 16, at which time
I posted to the list my plans for hiking Section A, and asked for
recommendations regarding water stashes.  This post is a trip report of my
experiences, but having been publicly warned about posting to this subject,
I guess I am at risk of being dismissed from the list.  If that is the case,
then so be it.  Goodbye, be safe, hike your own hike.  I appreciate the
forum the list provides for a free exchange of information regarding the PCT
or backpacking in general.  If this actually gets posted, then what follows
is an account of my experiences with Section A in summer conditions.

First off, I want to thank each respondent who offered advice and
encouragement.  I tried to follow all your suggestions, except, of course,
the ones telling me not to go.  Perhaps that was the best advice after all.
People who responded to me by email and those who posted to the list all
gave excellent advice for which I am grateful.  You know who you are, so
please accept my thanks without giving credit to you by name on the list.
Trip report follows:

Monday I stashed the water, took temperatures and checked for cell phone
coverage.  I fussed around way too long Monday evening packing and such.  I
stayed up way too late to execute my intentions to start hiking at first
light.  In retrospect, this was a mistake, for which I would pay later.  I
got a full night's sleep Monday night, got my ride out to Campo, and started
walking from the monument at 8:30.  Temp was 85.  I was carrying 2 gallons
of water. I made excellent progress in the early going.  I reached Highway
94 at 9:15, temp 92.  During the next hour, I wasn't feeling the heat as
much as I was feeling a hot spot starting to form right in the center of my
right heel.  I am right handed, and I may have been inadvertently planting
my right foot a little more firmly than I should have.  Being conscious of
this, I varied my foot plant and continued on without too much discomfort.
I reached the creeklet (map A1, page 49) at 10:30 and discovered to my
delight that it was flowing nicely.  Probably due to the recent rain.  I
should have taken the water temp, but it felt cold.  I would guess 70
degrees or so.  I had not planned on replenishing water here, but I did
refill the half gallon empty container I had used so far.  Temp in the shade
was 85.  I rested an hour, duct taped my heel, added a semicircle of 1/2
inch carpet pad to my shoe, and put a second sock on my right foot.  My
original plan was not to hike during the heat of the day.  Had I started at
5:30, I would have been 3 hours further along, and I was feeling some
pressure to get to Hauser Creek, which was flowing according to the Border
Patrol.  So I broke with my plan and started hiking again at 11:30. Temp in
the shade 90.  I soaked my hat and bandana in the creek.  About 20 meters
out from the shade, the temp hit me like an oven.  After 5 minutes I took a
look at my thermometer.  100 degrees.  The thought that came to mind was my
motto of sorts, "Press on regardless."  This was penned by Elija Donner in
his journal in 1846.  I failed to recognize the necessity of considering the
source.  I was resolved to make Hauser Creek, but equally conscious of
staying within 4 hours walk of reliable water, so with the foot feeling OK,
and once again carrying 2 gallons, I continued on.

The trail on map A2 could be renamed The Trail of Discarded Stuff.  I found
clothes, soda cans, and way too many water bottles to pick up.  It is my
custom to hike with a litter bag on my belt and do my part to clean up the
wilderness.  I had my little bag overflowing after 1000 meters, so I had to
decline to pick up any more.  I determined by fresh footprints that I was
following 3 illegals, 2 men and a woman, who joined the trail at the first
jeep trail on map A2.  They were discarding clothing (belts, shirts, 3 pr of
underwear) a Mexican Airlines ticket from someplace to Tijuana, (1299 pesos)
and lots of water bottles.  The water of choice of illegals was Palomar Moun
tain, 1.5 liter bottles, which all still had a few drops in them.  I counted
14 water bottles that I could not pick up.  The pack of choice for these
three was plastic grocery sacks, of which they used and discarded 6.

Knowing that I should not be hiking in the heat of the day, but feeling
pressure to make it to Hauser, I decided to hike slowly, drink as desired,
and rest frequently.  I slugged it out up Hauser Mountain, stopping 6 times
for 20 minutes each. I drank what I figured I needed, and laid down in the
shade at each stop.  I should have paid more attention to the crows circling
overhead, reminding me of buzzards.  I wanted to apportion my water to last
until I was certain of reaching Hauser Creek, but that plan was quickly
abandoned out of sheer need to drink.  Although I wanted to drink more, I
drank sparingly, but in fact, I was going through water at an alarming rate.
At my rest stop overlooking the two lovely ranches, I placed my thermometer
on the ground on the trail.  Ground temp exceeded 120, air temp in the sun
105, temp in the shade, 97.  I was grateful for the breeze, which was pretty
steady.  The soaking wet hat and bandana that I put on at the creeklet had
dried in 20 minutes.

At the switchbacks where the trail turns south, I took stock of my
situation.  Progress was slow, but the trail ahead was downhill.  My Timex
Expedition watch had stopped running, despite having a fresh battery
Saturday. It stopped telling time, but the alarm was going off constantly,
and I could not shut it off.  I think it was dying in the heat.  The watch
had stopped at 3:10, but it was really more like 4:30.  Heat was high, water
consumption was alarming.  I had a half gallon left of the 2 gallons I had
at the creeklet.  It appears I had covered about 3 miles in 5 hours.  The
time for a prudent decision had long since passed.  At the point where I had
consumed a gallon, and had a gallon left, I should have assessed my ability
to make my destination.  I didn't think about it.  I just didn't think.  Had
I taken stock of the situation then, the only prudent thing to do was go
back.  But, I was hoping for some downhill. shady late afternoon walking,
and figured I could stretch it by dry camping, and making Hauser Creek in
the relatively cool early morning.  At the gate, I rested 30 minutes, had a
good critical look at the map, and decided that this was no longer a hike,
but rather a survival situation. I abandoned the trail and started down the
jeep road, in part because of the very fresh tire marks.  I was hoping for
easy walking, downhill, and a possible encounter with the Border Patrol.
After an estimated 30 minutes of easy downhill progress, I met a Border
Patrol Agent in a 4x4.  He gave me a half gallon of water, and we agreed
that I would hike on down another few minutes to a windmill and wait for him
there in the shade.  He said he was after some illegals who had tripped a
motion sensor up on the PCT, and he would come back and get me in an hour.
It was 6:00.  I walked on down to the windmill, drinking freely, sometimes a
pint at a time.  I finished all my water, but the Border Patrol Agent did
not return.  I thought at this point that I was in no danger.  But even
after drinking a over a gallon of water in an hour, and resting in the
evening shade at 85 degrees, I started feeling the nausea, cramps and
disorientation of heat exhaustion.  Every muscle and every joint ached, I
had a pounding headache, and a little vertigo.  For some reason, my watch
started telling time again.  It was after 9:00 and getting dark.  I pitched
the tent and got in, hoping that he would remember me later or in the
morning.  My plan was to stash my pack where it could be seen with a note
for the Border Patrol, and start down the jeep road at first light. At 10:00
he showed up.  He had gotten a radio call to rendezvous with the agent who
had been tracking the illegals all the way from the border.  This took a
while.  He gave me more water, and I broke camp quickly.  It was 4.8 miles
by jeep road out to Buckman Springs Road.  They took me to the BP station at
Campo, where I got another  gallon of water.  I called for a ride at Campo
store.  I drank a half gallon of Gatoraide on the drive home.

Many lessons to be learned from this:

Get in shape before you start.  I was a fool for thinking I would get
stronger in a few days if I took it slow.  On day 1, you don't have a few

Don't hike in the heat of the day.

Do not lose track of where you are, and your probability of making your

Mark up your maps before you depart with distances between landmarks.
Assess your progress at every opportunity.  Don't blindly plan on 2 mph.

Believe what people tell you about heat and water.  In an elapsed time of 15
hours, I walked about 8 hrs and covered 10 miles.  I drank 5 gallons of
water, 3.5 on the trail, and the rest after I came out,  and that wasn't
enough.  My body weight went down by 6 lbs.  I estimate my physiological
need for water was 6 gallons, and that amount would not have been sufficient
to make it to Hauser Creek.  I slept OK last night, but I was feeling the
effects of cramping stomach and mild headache all day today.

Planning for this hike was inadequate, the estimates all wrong. I don't
think you can carry enough water to make this hike safely under these
conditions.  In looking back 24 hours later, I do not know if I would have
been able to walk the 4.8 miles of jeep road out to the highway.  Without a
pack, after a night's sleep, and in the cool early morning, maybe.  But one
disoriented moment resulting in a wrong turn, might have put me walking in a
2 mile circle.   A badly sprained ankle might have done me in.  Oh, BTW, for
those of you who are screaming,"Use your cell phone," I checked on Monday
and had cell service at the monument, and in Morena Village.  The Airtouch
map shows continuous coverage all along this route.  I turned on the cell
phone at every rest stop, and had service once, on the top of Hauser
Mountain.  I tried calling 3 numbers, and got the message, "Call Not
Completed."  It turns out, Airtouch knows about an electronic conflict with
Mexican cell coverage in this area, but have declined to update their
coverage map. My phone is new, digital plus analog.

I have no Bigfoot sightings to report.

Hike on !! Bob Riess, back at the TrailHead (wiser) in San Diego.

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