PCT mm 643.7 – Wildfire!


A wildfire started in the afternoon during my siesta and I was unsure which direction to head to escape it.


Today was a little different.  It started the same as most of the others.  A pre dawn wakeup, followed by a quick and cold breakfast, and then go hike.  I liked my little one person spot on the side of the mountain last night.  About a half mile up the trail I ran across Breadstick who was packing up and he asked where I camped, I described it and he said he almost stopped there.  Lucky me he didn’t.

Views like this are why I hike in the early morning before sunrise.

It was eight or so miles to the water cache.  It was quite breezy so I was using my trekking poles and not the umbrella.  But it was starting to warm up by the time we hit the cache.  It was also less breezy.

Early morning hiking is still cool and shady as the mountains block the sun until mid morning.

The water cache was awesome.  The caretaker was actually there restocking it when I arrived so I got a chance to talk to him.  He had over 100 gallons of water there, a box full of snacks like peanut butter, tortillas, pop tarts, granola bars.  He also had a solar charger, batteries, charging cables, duct tape, all sorts of things to borrow.  He had little signs all over the place explaining everything.  Quite the spread.  It’s 21 miles to next water and I planned to camp, so I needed to head out with six liters.  Water sure is heavy.  I look forward to the territory where I only need to carry two.

An unusual style in areas where motorcycles are a common problem.

I hiked three or four miles to my siesta point.  I found nice short trees thinking I’d have to move less as the sun moved, but that was not the case.  I ended up moving three times.  I was able to doze off in small spells, though.  I have not been getting enough sleep racing across the desert.

Another day in paradise. Hot paradise.

About 4:30 I awoke to the smell of smoke.  That’s never a good sign in southern California.  I packed quickly and got moving so I could get to a high point and see where the smoke was coming from.  I did not like what I saw.  Smoke was everywhere and getting quite thick.  The wind was blowing 25-30 mph and the smoke was spreading to every canyon.  It seemed to be a little thicker from where I came, so I decided to move forward.

I awoke to thick smoke in every direction.

After about an hour, the smoke was still getting thicker with no clear indication of the source.  I could see a cell tower so I tried the phone and was able to get data.  I looked up the incident page on the forest service website and found the fire that was near me.  It was just south of lake Isabella to the southwest and I was hiking northeast so that was a good move to keep going forward.  At 6 PM it was a 1500 acre fire and they were going to be evacuating residences.

I hiked another few hours and the smoke seemed to clear in the immediate area, but in the distance everything was still thick.

A recheck of the incident page said that the fire had grown to 2500 acres and they had started to post some pictures.  They also closed part of the highway and evacuated four or five towns on that road.  That’s the road at Walker pass, my next destination.  The towns to the left of the pass are all affected, but the towns to the east are still open.  It looks like I have gone far enough North that I am no longer in one of the canyons downwind of the fire.

I decided to make camp as planned, about eight or nine miles from the next water and the highway. As I was cooking dinner, another hiker arrived and started asking about the fire.  She was also awakened from her siesta by the smoke only a few hundred yards from where I was.

During dinner, we noticed that we can actually see a red glow in the direction of the fire.  They are actively dumping water on it and each time they do, it makes a huge smoke and steam plume that reflects the glow of the fire.  It’s kind of creepy and kind of cool at the same time.  I know the fire is twenty miles away, but it looks like it is only two miles away.  If I had not read the incident report and only saw the glow, I would be heading on to get out of here, but I need the sleep badly.  I can see it from my tent so I will be keeping an eye on it all night long.


  1. Jim, please be careful!! You appear to be smack in the middle of the PCT section closed due to this fire. I am at least a dozen hours after your post so hope all is well and you’re out of there by now!

    From PCT website:
    Sections: Section F / Southern California
    June 24th, 2016
    The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Jawbone Canyon Road (mile ~602) to Walker Pass/Highway 178 (mile ~651). Do not head into the area.

    • Yep. Can’t upload yesterday’s entry yet, but their closures don’t help if you’re already in it. Just met two hikers last night that bypassed that whole section.

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