June 9, 2017
Today was a rough day. Gummies got worse over night, and by morning he was coughing constantly and struggling to breath, and couldn’t walk 20 feet to go to the bathroom without having to sit down and rest. There was no way we were moving anywhere today, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew Cougar and Dr. McDirty would be passing by before too long, so we decided to just sit and wait for them so we could make a plan together. We had already looked into possible bail-out points to get off the trail, but we’re in a pretty remote spot with no roads anywhere nearby.
The morning passed excruciatingly slowly, with Gummies feeling sick and miserable and me feeling useless and wishing I would magically figure out what to do. People started hiking past the campsite, and we asked each of them if they had seen Cougar and McDirty, but no one had. That seemed strange, as they shouldn’t have been that far behind us. Midday eventually rolled around, and there was still no sign of them. I was starting to go crazy from sitting around feeling helpless, and was also getting seriously worried that they had somehow passed us by without noticing. We were potentially going to meet at the point where the PCT meets the JMT, which was only 0.7 miles away, and there was a ranger station just a mile up the side trail. I decided to head there to see if I could find them, or help.
I had to cross Whitney Creek right away, and it was deep and cold but luckily slow flowing, with a nice smooth bottom. I hurried up the trail to the JMT junction, but there was no sign of Cougar and Dr. McDirty. I left a note at the junction in hopes that they would see it if they had decided to go up to Guitar Lake, and then pressed on to the ranger station. Just before I got there, I had to cross Whitney Creek a second time, but this time it was flowing much faster, with a rocky bottom, and snow on all sides. Luckily it wasn’t super deep or wide, but it was still a bit scary crossing all by myself. When I got to the ranger station, there was only a locked and empty cabin. I quickly headed back, feeling a bit defeated and worried about the fact that I had left Gummies at the campsite alone.
The way back strangely felt much longer than the way there, but when I arrived at the side of the creek opposite the campsite, my heart leapt with joy when I saw Cougar and Dr. McDirty sitting there. I seriously almost cried, I was so happy to see them. Turns out they had camped a bit off trail, which is why no one had seen them, and got a late start, which is why it took them so long to get to us. They’re both doctors back home, and thought Gummies’ condition was pretty serious. It was possibly being caused by, and definitely at least being exacerbated by the altitude, so he needed to get down out of the mountains asap. But there was no way he was getting out on his feet. So we did something I really never thought I would have to do: pushed the SOS button on my InReach.
The InReach worked amazingly. We were in contact with emergency services within minutes, and after a while they let us know that a helicopter was on route to our location. It took a little over two hours for the medics to actually reach us, but when they did they were super friendly and efficient. Watching a search and rescue helicopter circle and descend over our campsite was pretty surreal. The medics gave Gummies an oxygen mask and some medications, and then took him up to be dropped off at a hospital somewhere down below. It was super sad to see him go, and I feel so badly that he was forced to get off trail. Hopefully he’ll recover quickly and be able to join us again before too long.
Cougar, Dr. McDirty, and I debated for a long while what our plan should be going forward, and we eventually decided to push on tomorrow morning and finish out the section to Bishop. It should take us another 3 days to get into town. That means tomorrow will be spent setting ourselves up to climb Forester Pass, the highest point on trail. I’m super excited and definitely a bit nervous. It’ll be weird doing it without Gummies. Our trail family has a little hole in it now. What a day.