On the last evening of my hike I struggled up a rugged overgrown trail towards a high ridge. I had left the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that afternoon for a side trail. The new trail would eventually lead me to a trailhead where I would meet my brother and sister, but the word “eventually” was taking new meaning. The trail had not been cleared of fallen trees in several years and brush had overgrown sections. Whereas the PCT was known for its overuse of switchback (making for longer, gentler climbs and descents) the new trail was what I called a “billie goat trail.” It climbed straight up the ridge, as if made for billie goats and not humans. I missed the PCT.
It was about 6 pm when I reached the top of the ridge and found a place to plop down. The spot was semi-flat and a potential camping spot for the night. I decided to make dinner and then decide if I would camp or hike further. The rest and food restored my energy level and I decided to push on. “There will be another camping spot on the next ridge,” I thought.
As I walked down the trail into the next valley, I encountered a solo hiker, only the second party I had encountered since leaving the PCT. We chatted for a moment. He was climbing to the ridge top to take some pictures of the evening sunset and had set up his tent in the small valley towards which I was headed. “That’s the last water source before you reach Devil’s Basin. There are a couple of open campsites there if you want to stop.”
I hiked on down to the small stream and refilled my water bottles. I saw his tent, but no other campsites were visible from the trail. There was still an hour of sunlight and I prefer to camp high for the morning vistas, so I pushed on.
The trail to this second ridge was gentler, but when I reached the top there was no obvious campsite. The trail was built into the side of the ridge with no level spaces in view. Darkness was coming on and I kept hiking, hoping that I would eventually find a workable spot for my tent.
The trail up the scree field in the morning light
Earlier I had heard that the trail had a tricky spot. The trail climbed a third ridge but made the climb through a scree field. A scree field is a collection of loose rocks, smaller than footballs. Imagine climbing a pile of rock and gravel. Now I was approaching the scree field and saw no visible trail. Darkness was deepening and I did not want to climb the field in the dark, even with a headlamp. No level spot was visible around me.
So I did the only sensible thing.
I camped right on the trail in the midst of the rocks.
It was not totally level, but it worked for one night. I had a new air mattress that would smooth the rockiest ground. I set up my tent, inflated my air mattress and crawled in for the night.
Throughout my hike, I embraced the serenity prayer. First to be at peace with whatever I encountered; to have serenity about the things I cannot change, such as lack of camping sites. The second was the courage to change what I could, which was my attitude. Instead of despairing that I was camping on rocks, I saw it a new adventure, a test of my camping skills.
Tent, air mattress, jacket and pack in the morning.
Though I would not recommend camping on rocks, sometimes it’s the only choice. In the morning I was rewarded with a spectacular view.
If you would like to see a video of the trail and campsite, click to my YouTube video
Night on the Rocks