Miles 967.5 – 982.3
July 14th, 2017
Before we set out for each day, we go through our maps and look to see what kind of day it’s looking like it might be. Today didn’t look too rough, a nice five-mile downhill stretch followed by a smaller than usual climb up towards Seavey Pass (1,500 feet). There was nothing that stood out to us, nothing out of the usual, at least on paper. Little did we know that there would be nothing typical about this day . .
Climbing up towards the pass was nice; there was snow every so often but it wasn’t debilitating by any means, just some tricky maneuvers and stand up glissades, which to me was always fun. We got up to Seavey Pass and quickly realized that our day was about to change. The descent was steep and covered in snow, constantly zig-zagging from side to side between trees and rock, and it eventually led straight down to Kerrick Creek. There wasn’t a trail, or even a defined path in the snow at this point, we just knew that our maps told us to head south along the side of this dangerously fast flowing river. At one point the path led straight in-between a massive granite rock wall and ice, where we had no choice but to climb up the ice and then walk up on top of the spine of this ice. One slip to the right and you are in the water, hoping to not drown, and one slip to the left you would fall in between the rock and ice about thirty or so feet. BOTH options were not an option, this was a moment where none of us were speaking. We had to keep 100% concentration on the task at hand.
I read later on that a female PCT hiker from China, Chaocui “Tree” Wang, just 27 years old, passed away at this very water crossing. It is believed that she more than likely died on July 17th, just three days after we had passed through.
After we got through Kerrick Canyon, we had a steep 850-foot climb straight up followed by an even steeper descent down towards the creek in Stubblefield Canyon. Everyone was a bit confused on how to approach this crossing; the water was raging and had different legs and stretches of the river to choose from. Dixie and I were looking for a mellow point upstream to cross while Lt. Dan, Rooster, Pacman and Pistons decided to put on their micro-spikes and cross over a log that lay just underneath a fast flowing portion of the river, by about an inch. I watched as Lt. Dan went first, thinking of just how stupid this decision was. Everyone made it across that sketchy fallen tree, but Dixie and I decided to continue searching for a safer place to cross. She wasn’t going to take that route, and I wasn’t going to leave her behind to fend for herself. This group is a ‘leave no man behind’ kind of group, the only way it should be. We ended up trying our luck a bit downstream, and thankfully Pacman had an inkling that we might need help so he decided to head down to lend a helping hand. As we stepped into the fast flowing river he appeared in true savior form from the bushes on the other side and reached out to me as I crossed over. Just as I grabbed his arm I felt the sheer force that this river had, there was a good chance that if not for Pacman being there I would’ve gone for a little swim. When I locked arms with him I turned back for Dixie and locked arms with her, and using a human chain we both pulled Dixie in. We thought this was it, but on the other side of this canyon was yet another stretch of river. This leg of the river was by far the deepest we would ever encounter along the entire 2,650 miles of trail, but luckily it was also one of the slowest moving stretches as well. The river was about fifteen or so feet wide, and about six feet deep, so you had no choice but to swim across . . which was extremely difficult to do when wearing a heavy waterlogged pack. Pistons went first, followed by Rooster; the two tallest people in the group, and I went in third. We all made it with relative ease, except for Lt. Dan and Dixie. Lt. Dan’s issue was that he stands in at a whopping 5’5, so deep crossings aren’t really his thing. Dixie . . well Dixie just made a poor attempt to get across, but it’s a good thing we love her because we were all there watching to make sure she made it. She entered the river and instantly started floating downstream, luckily just before she attempted I thought it may be a good idea to go a bit down the creek in case she didn’t make it right away. As she floated down the river, I reached out and grabbed her arm and pulled her in.
Watch the video of this day on Dixie’s YouTube channel and go to minute 12:20 in the video to watch myself and her cross the river.
Directly on the other side was a tent site that could fit the five of us comfortably. We were all ice-cold from the crossing, so before setting up our tents we started a fire. I think one phrase was said a few times over about our days travel that night around the fire: it was a great team-building experience.