About the Author: Deborah Peel is a writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. Her passion is writing to build a better world and sharing her backpacking and hiking adventures, one step at a time.
To see more from Deb, including other posts from this trip, click her name above!
It was first light of day 2 and I was alive! Not a critter disturbed me in my isolated bed in the forest. I was quick to pack up, eager to hike to Rock Creek to filter more water after dry camping and I promised myself a long break to cook a hot breakfast. I was excited to be back on the trail, descending through cool tree cover. I decided to use my GoPro and live with the ghostly lines across my images.
I came to a strong creeklet flowing down the mountainside, the perfect place to filter and fill both my bottles with ice-cold water. I drank liberally as I finished the trek to Rock Creek campground (elev. 9,700’), passing other hikers concentrating and huffing and puffing on their way up. I did the right thing and boiled water to make a scrambled egg breakfast. It tasted great, but the indigestion wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse! Most disagreeable and it hurt my chest. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered reading a bit about indigestion and altitude sickness. No, it couldn’t be!
I had come 4 miles, had breakfast and topped off my water by 11:00 a.m. At the Rock Creek crossing, I watched a girl scamper over the trail of boulders despite the water rushing over them, her hiking companions stopping to remove their boots and camera equipment before they crossed barefooted. I unbuckled my pack for safety and stepped up onto the first rock, slipping off the innocent looking slime immediately. The jig was up. I crossed the creek in my boots, resting on a boulder to remove them, remove my socks and liners and my waterlogged insoles. The guys were already back in their boots and scrambling up the trail after their girl. I changed into dry socks and headed somewhat hesitantly up the switchbacks, tuned into the fit of my boots as it altered just slightly with the removal of the insoles. I knew this could be a blister problem waiting to happen.
The hot sun did its magic, drying my wet socks hanging off the back of my pack. The insoles, despite squeezing, remained wet. I willed myself up, up, up, trekking over rocky switchbacks and was soon stopping at every crook in the trail for a rest. Then I was halting almost every 25 feet in the shade to breathe. Then I was simply grinding to a stop in the sun to breathe and let other hikers pass me by. This wasn’t getting easier, but I reminded myself my body would continue growing stronger.
I was so relieved to get to a plateau and come down to Guyot Creek, a rushing water world of its own with an easy log crossing. I had a liter of water and determined it must be enough to finish my hike to Crabtree Meadows. But I didn’t see the trail leading up the other side. I walked to the left and didn’t find it. I walked upstream and found a tempting tent site, but not the trail. I was feeling a bit of panic and was just turning on my phone (usually off to save the battery) to consult my Guthook map when I spotted the trail leading up and away from the creek, plain as day. How could I have missed it?
With renewed resolve, I continued to ascend on a gentler plain and gave myself a rest break on a log to eat a snack. I skipped lunch and just couldn’t force the whole protein bar down. The cold breeze whipped up and I faced into it, arms extended, reveling in its cool embrace. Surely I had to be nearing the top.
Wrong. I was just heading into the next set of relentless switchbacks, about 20 of them represented by a few squiggly lines on Tom Harrison’s print map. I moved like an old woman, slowly, resting on my trekking poles, using them to balance and help push me forward. I met ranger Christine Gooch fairly sprinting down the trail and she asked how I was doing. “Struggling, actually,” I replied. She turned serious eyes on me and suggested I take a long break at the top (I was almost there!) and decide if I should come back down to camp at Rock Creek, her station. She was off on an emergency call which I later learned was a man with a broken leg, resulting in air lifting him out.
After a 1,360’ climb in 3.4 miles, I rested at the top of Guyot Pass (elev. 10,900’) admiring the talus of Mount Guyot. I met two guys who came scampering up the trail, also headed for Crabtree. They had smartly cameled up at Guyot Creek and topped off my water, sure I would need it for the remaining 3.3 miles to camp. I didn’t know yet how right they were and how grateful I would be.
Trail Tip: Don’t skip the chance to top off at a good water source!