Tackling Saddleback with great views and a bad evening.
The shuttle left late so I arrived on trail a little after 7am and set off north. The trail immediately started climbing, eventually taking me up 2500′ over 5.6 miles to the summit of Saddleback Mountain (4120′). On the way up I had great views, just reward for a day with 9000′ of elevation change.
Finally it was down to where an old blocked-off logging road led down to a gravel road the hostel could pick me up from. Incorrect instructions from the hostel meant I left the trail 0.6 miles too soon and ended up bushwacking for 30 minutes before reaching the correct blocked-off road, still needing to go a further half mile to the rendezvous. Worse, when I get back on tomorrow I will have to go back 0.6 miles south on the AT to where I got off, making a total of 2.4 miles miles walked before getting back to the place I first get on the trail! Although I had called the hostel at 2pm to say I was going to be ready by 5pm, and had reached the pickup point at 4:30pm, the shuttle still arrived at the originally agreed time of 6pm. Stacey, the hostel owner, hadn’t got the message but had generously brought Chinese food for me. Another hiker, southbound, was also due at 6pm so we waited for him. And waited. At 7pm she started walking up the track with her two kids, who were going stir crazy, to look for him. Apparently they’d had to send out two search parties for late or stranded hikers twice already this season. Sunset is now 7:22pm.
An older hiker had been seen coming down the track at 6pm by a couple camping at the intersection with the AT and the track. But he hasn’t appeared and it was now 7:30pm. Stacey had now walked all the way to the AT and back again. It’s a mystery. After moving all day I had then been in the same spot for over 3 hours.
The two hikers she had brought food and packs for arrived. Grizzly Adams and a Triple Crowner called Inspector Gadget. They elected to set up a tent, pad and bag for the missing hiker and come back to the hostel rather than go back into the woods, so he would not be out in the cold if he ever appeared.
Stacey left food and a note and at 7:45pm we started the long drive back to the hostel, arriving at 9pm. A message had been left by the missing hiker saying he had not found the pickup point (that I can sympathise with, they need to be much clearer) and that inexplicably he had hiked on to spend the night at the next shelter. Not sure how comfortable he will be without gear. Anyway. If only there was cellphone service around here.
With the supermarket now closed and down to the bare bones for snacks I will have to zero the day after tomorrow to resupply when earlier I was hoping to hike on. Tomorrow is the hardest day left on the AT – 11000′ of elevation change and with 2.4 extra miles to do as well it will be 19.8 miles of walking with a late start due to the long drive to the trailhead. Time for sleep.