Day 135: Monday, September 16

Tenting near Fire Creek (PCT mi 2528.5), walked 23.9 miles today

There was a hellacious storm around 8 last night that blew right over the camp ... Thunder and lightning every few seconds, a fair amount of rain, some wind. I was cool with all of it because of my strong tent position until a few minutes after the worst of the thunder and lightning passed over, when all of a sudden an insane downdraft came and almost destroyed everything. I have no idea how hard the wind was, but I would guess something like hurricane-force (75mph) ... It lasted 30-45 seconds, completely caved in the tent, made the tent pole flex 90 degrees, and I figured that either the tarp was going to be torn to shreds, the pole was going to snap again, or failing that a tree was going to fall and crush me. But miraculously, none of that happened, and all the guylines and stakes held, and I lived to see another day. That was the most scared I've ever been on the whole trip so far, probably ever in the outdoors. I had been all ready to nod off before that, but sleep was forestalled for half an hour or so afterward. The wind never even came close to that intensity again.

Slept until 7:30 because I had earplugs in and was therefore out of touch with the world around me. Got going by 8:15 and even with the late start figured I had an easy shot at reaching Mica Lake, 26 miles away, by the end of the day. But I had not accounted for the extreme treachery of today's trail. It being relentlessly up-and-down for the entire day is one thing, but the tread being in horrible shape and frequently overgrown is another, and then the rain that came off-and-on at first, then just on for the afternoon, was another. So I couldn't go _anywhere_ today, no matter how hard I tried. Only took one sit-down break, for about 20 minutes in the late morning when the weather was almost clear and the views were exceptional, but I still only got 24 miles done in about 10.5 hours of walking. There were very nice views at times in the morning ... I was really enjoying being in the foggy/cloudy hills, in sort of the same way I enjoyed the fog and wind on Mt. Washington on the AT, because I know it's completely natural for the scene to be set that way, and it's still beautiful. However, the beauty more or less disappeared when the clouds intensified in the afternoon, and then it rained for a good 3 hours straight, and I wasn't so thrilled with the environment anymore. Not going to go into all the ways that the washed-out overgrown trench of a trail exacerbated problems, but suffice it to say I was thoroughly soaked, cold and very tired when it came to be 6:45 and I spied some campsites near Fire Creek, almost 3 miles short of my goal. All day, every time I looked up the remaining distance to Mica Lake and calculated an ETA, it got later and later because I could never get close to my usual 3mph. Had a brief rain-free window to set up camp in, which was the most helpful break I got all day ... I'm now dry and, if not toasty, then at least not cold, in my sleeping bag, helped by a fat meal of potatoes and sausage for dinner. Tomorrow the rain might, key word might, clear up, and with any luck I'll be at High Bridge in time to catch a bus to Stehekin Wednesday afternoon.