Craig Wisner

Black Friday on the PCT. (11/27-11/28 2015).


A drive into the high country, watching clouds brewing over Mt. San Antonio in the distance, a considerable amount of fresh snow left behind.



Five miles of northbound hiking on the PCT, the air feeling especially brisk this weekend.  He’s as fast as me now, doesn’t complain about his pack or shoes anymore.  We can get places.



I wasn’t quite prepared for temperatures below 20 degrees.  It was one of those nights when the cold hurt, when you need the fire and fear having to step away from it.  He had my 5 degree bag; his heavy, slow breathing and stillness were all the reassurance I needed that he was warm.  I shivered in my bag with all my clothing on, counted the hours, watched the moon arc over our tent.  The type of night that brings renewed appreciation for every comfort of my house.



By 4:30AM I couldn’t take it anymore, crawled out into the painful dark and prayed for a quick starting fire.  Ice crystals glittered on everything in the headlamp light.  I roused him long enough to get the unfrozen water and fuel out of the foot of his sleeping bag, got the pot boiling and stoked the fire in a cold panic, making quick work of my first two cups of coffee.  Something resembling warmth finally came, with it silence, a few hours to myself under the pre-dawn sky.  At first light he joined me for tea; talk of life and friends, ideas and happenings.  His world increasingly revolves around people and places I do not know.  Here, we can get back together.



There are mornings when it seems the sun will never come and when it finally does you open yourself to it wholly, absorb it as deeply as you can.  So often I run from it; this morning I couldn’t meet it fast enough.



He set a surprisingly fast pace getting out, hearts pumping, air stinging our throats, stopping only to touch the moss and lichen he is so fond of.

Sipping tea and looking over the trip’s pictures, feet finally thawed after a hot shower.  Nothing else to do.





4 responses

  1. Nice TR, but sounds freaking cold. 🙂 Maybe time for a second winter bag.


    November 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    • Yeah, it was pretty cold for our local mountains, especially for only ~6000 feet.
      My son used my WM Antelope….Nearly $500!!!! I think my next “winter” bag will be a $20 Costco down throw combined with my WM Summerlite!

      November 28, 2015 at 8:37 pm

  2. Really great post. You bring much more to the table with your insightful writing than mere mileage, elevation gain, and directions. Worthwhile stuff.

    November 29, 2015 at 7:34 am

  3. michael

    I second the motion from the Wild Southland. Twas brillig on the Cali Coast!

    But I would add, being I was also on the receiving end of the freeze this weekend, that our tigoat bivies and my microfiber bag liner did much to stretch the summerlite… as did that 4oz overfill from WM.

    December 2, 2015 at 10:53 am

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