April 27, 2021
Last night I was asleep by 8:30pm and then I woke up again when my wet tent was sitting against my head! Um, what? My tent was covered in snow, so I knocked it off from the inside and looked at my phone. Only 10:30pm! Ugh. It felt like I’d been asleep for way longer than that. Oh well. I didn’t sleep much after that, maybe dozed, and around 11:45pm Ghosthiker came over to wake me up. She said her tent had collapsed under all the snow and she’d decided to pack up and bail out and that I should as well. My tent hadn’t collapsed yet, but she could tell it was about to. Shit. I’d never camped in this much snow and though my tent walls were sagging a lot, I didn’t know how close they were to collapsing. It didn’t really matter. I wasn’t going to let Ghosthiker hike in the dark and snow alone.
We packed in a hurry. The snow was still coming down heavy and wet. I rearranged some things so I’d have two big zip-loc bags to put over my socks before I slipped my shoes on, per Ghosthikers recommendation. I learned this trick from my dad years ago, but I’m glad Ghosthiker said something because in my sleep-deprived state I wouldn’t have even thought about it! Thank God, too, because I wouldn’t have made it far otherwise. My shoes were soaked shortly after I climbed out of my tent.
My tent was drenched. I couldn’t shake the wet off, so I just rolled it up and shoved it into my pack. Not the smartest thing to do, really, but we had to get moving and I decided the wet tent in my pack would be a problem for Future Trooper to deal with.
It was a long, hard slog. Ghosthiker had looked at Guthooks before we set out and thought the Kaibab Lodge was only a mile away via the nearby dirt road, but it ended up actually being about a 4 mile hike with several uphill climbs in the dead of night, in the snowfall, in at least 6” of snow and some high snow banks and post-holing. It would have been eerily beautiful if we weren’t in such a precarious predicament. I was leading us because I have the stronger headlamp, and for the most part we were fine except for one wrong turn that added about half a mile to our hike. Once we were back on track, it didn’t take long for small buildings to start emerging from the darkness and snow like phantoms.
It was freezing. We inspected a closed gas station with a pretty exposed overhang and considered cowboy camping there for about .01 seconds before moving on to the lodge, hoping beyond hope that there would be open bathrooms there, or something sheltered where we could get a few hours of sleep without getting buried under snow. We crossed highway 67 in the pitch dark, guided primarily by Guthooks, and then we came to the Kaibab Lodge. Everything was locked up tight and even some of the windows were boarded up. Our hopes were getting pretty low at this point, but we started checking for unlocked doors just in case.
After checking several buildings, I found a very small shack that looked like some sort of information booth, and would you believe it? It was unlocked! The inside was dry and sheltered, and I called out into the darkness to Ghosthiker that I’d found us a place to sleep.
It was very small but just spacious enough for both of us. It was enclosed and dry and looked absolutely luxurious in our exhausted and sleep-deprived state. We had so much snow piled on our heads, shoulders, and packs that we had to brush each other off thoroughly before stepping a single toe inside, and knocking the snow off our shoes took some doing. Honestly, the snow was so wet and thick that we still managed to track a lot in, which we felt really bad about. Fortunately, there was a broom inside that we used to sweep all the snow out and some rags we later used to make sure the floor was good and dry. We were technically trespassing, but we knew there was nowhere else for us to go at this point without risking needing an emergency evac later.
We were doing all this with our headlamps when I noticed the light switch on the wall. Thinking we couldn’t possibly be so lucky, I gave it a try. Yatta! We had power! The light came on and we were so thankful to be able to save our headlamp batteries that we didn’t immediately notice the small space heater sitting under the information counter.
A space heater.
At a closed, abandoned campground in the middle of nowhere, with power!!
We just couldn’t believe it.
I might have felt a little faint. We definitely both laughed.
Everything really does work out.
We spread our things out a bit because so much of our stuff was just soaking wet. I left my tent rolled up in a wet heap on the counter because there was nowhere else to put it. The shelves in the closet were wood and the floor was wood laminate, but the counter was laminate and that felt like the best option so the water wouldn’t ruin anything.
Ghosthiker and I ate some food, laid out our sleeping mats and quilts, and were tucking in for a few hours of sleep by 3:45am. Plus Ultra, indeed.
We woke up with the sun around 6:30am and then slept for another hour or so. Our little hut was almost too warm from the space heater. It was glorious. We spent a slow morning melting snow with our camp stoves so we could make coffee and have some water to hike while discussing what we should do. Ghosthiker is pretty sure highway 67 is closed for the winter, eliminating any possibility of getting a hitch, so we’d need to hike the 26 miles via road into Jacob Lake because the trail is covered in snow.
With that plan in mind, I went for a little jaunt around the grounds to see if I could find running water anywhere (there was none) and while I was out I saw a snowplow pass by! Surely that meant the road was open, at least to locals, right!? I hurried back to tell Ghosthiker. While we had our coffee and ate some breakfast, we saw a few other cars pass by. Maybe hitching wouldn’t be so hard after all.
Apparently, my wet tent created a puddle on the counter that got Ghosthiker’s socks wet. Oops!! I felt really bad about that. I stuffed the sopping-wet tent into my food bag (which was pretty empty anyway) so it wouldn’t get anything else wet. We laid out our shoes and socks near the space heater to try and dry them a bit while we cleaned up everything we’d spread out in the shack. We wanted to make sure we left everything exactly as we found it, if not better. We knew darn well we were trespassing and felt really bad about it, but were honestly just so thankful we’d found somewhere out of the snow to sleep. Like I said, it really left us no other (safe) choice. There’s no way we would have fared well through the night outside with no tents. So, to any owners/staff at the Kaibab Lodge that might be reading this, we’re sorry, and thank you!!
We didn’t have enough water to hike 26 miles, but we didn’t really have a choice. After 7 miles along the road with inclement weather all around and on us, it was looking more and more like we’d be hiking the whole way into Jacob Lake. No cars going our way except a forest service vehicle, which didn’t stop. While road walking is never my favorite thing, it was fun hiking side-by-side with Ghosthiker. We watched a coyote slinking along an open field for a while. We also wondered where the boys (Cameron and Bass) are and hoped their tents held up in the night, unlike ours.
There were some spots with clusters of evergreen trees, but for the most part, we were very exposed out in the open. The road was slightly winding but oftentimes we could see for miles, which made the trek that much more daunting. Oh well, we soldiered on.
Out of nowhere (seriously, we didn’t hear them coming until they were right up on us) a yellow, mud-covered jeep pulled up beside us and the driver asked if we were okay and if we needed a ride! It was a group of Russians, two who were living in the US and spoke fairly good English, and two who were visiting from Russia and spoke almost no English at all.
Out here in the middle of nowhere.
On a closed highway!
With room in the back for two extra riders!
Seriously, how are we this lucky!?
They gave us a ride all the way into Jacob Lake, explaining that they’d been off-roading trying to bypass the closed roads to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or something like that, and they weren’t exactly sure where they were but were more than happy to squeeze two hikers into their loaded jeep for a quick ride into town. They were all super friendly. It was a very fun ride, lol.
About a mile from the center of “town” (Jacob Lake is not a town so much as a pit stop for tourists) was the road closure, and our gracious ride let us out there since they could go no further. They wished us luck on the rest of our hike and we wished them luck getting to the Grand Canyon safely. Then we walked into town.
When we finally arrived at Jacob Lake Inn, we were immediately greeted at the door by Willbo and Stumbles! We were literally just camping with other hikers at the North Rim but after the last 24 hours, it felt like weeks since we’d seen other hikers!
The main lobby of the hotel has a nice little area with a fireplace and couches and there were several hikers hanging out there. Ghosthiker and I booked a room at the Inn for two nights, picked up our resupply boxes the Inn was holding for us, I bought a 6-pack of beer at the little convenience store right there inside the lobby, and we joined all the other hikers by the fireplace to open our boxes and rest after a very long, arduous couple of hiking days.
It was kind of surreal to open my last resupply box for this hike. We had two beers each and I shared the rest with other hikers. Willbo, Stumbles, and I talked about our favorite TV shows (turns out, we share a lot of favorites!), I talked with my Mom on the phone for a bit, and slowly but surely, all our favorite hiker friends began trickling into town. Also located inside the same building as the lobby and convenience store are a gift shop and a small diner, so Ghosthiker and I grabbed lunch there and waited around until it was time to check into our room.
It was a super-cute room with a tiny shower/toilet combo. It feels early to be taking a zero but honestly, I feel like I’m dead on my feet. Ghosthiker suggested a zero, and I wasn’t about to argue with her! We exploded our stuff and set about hand washing our clothes and things because there are no laundry facilities here. I draped my wet tent over a chair because it was still slushy raining outside. After I was showered and most of my chores were done, I wandered over to the store to look around and maybe buy a snack for dinner. While I was there, Bass texted asking if we were going to the diner for dinner. 20 minutes later he and I and Stumbles and Willbo were all eating together. We talked about our hiking plans for finishing. Ghosthiker and I have determined that there is no way we can go back and pick up the miles we’d technically skipped after bailing out of the snow because the road was closed and therefore, we couldn’t get a hitch. That’s what the hotel staff told us, anyway (we were extremely fortunate with our hitch into town – that should not have happened, honestly). Bass kind of teased me about it, saying our hike wasn’t a true thru-hike if we didn’t do all the miles. I was kind of bothered by that but didn’t say anything. That whole attitude is a big part of what made the PCT so stressful for me and I really just need to not listen to that kind of talk. HYOH, bitch. (jk Bass but seriously).
Anyway, the rest of the dinner was nice, and I went back to the room after that and went to bed. Such comfy beds and super comfy blankets! I want one, lol.