Sunday, May 01, 2016

Slow going up Refrigerator Canyon (PCT d - 17)

My friend Marie and I decided to go up Refrigerator Canyon (, part of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area. The first quarter-mile is interesting, as it enters a narrow canyon (10 feet wide) with 200-foot high limestone walls and a small, shallow stream running through the middle of it.
Fallen trees everywhere

Just like my experience at Bear Trap Canyon, three weeks earlier, the trail was full of fallen debris, only this time is was mostly fallen trees not large rocks. There must have been a dozen or more places in the first couple of miles where very large trees had fallen across the path, necessitating either climbing over the large obstacle or walking around it. It was not always easy.

Me, with a 32 lb backpack
It felt like we were constantly walking uphill, which 98% of the time was accurate. It wasn't super steep in any one place, but it was uphill all the way. In broad figures, the trailhead was at about 4,647 feet elevation, and the point at which was stopped was at about 5,270 feet. A quick bit of math here: a 623 foot gain over 10,560 feet is equal to a 5.9% grade (that's quite a bit). We had to stop after a couple of miles because of a large fallen tree blocking the way and because of the light rain, which was making the trail a bit muddy and slippery. We decided, afterwards, that it had been the right thing to do to turn around. We still gotten a really good workout. Our heart rates had gone up to aerobic levels, and our legs had definitely felt the three and a half hours of activity.

Female Rocky Mountain wood tick
After I got home, I discovered yet more fellow travellers, as I spotted a couple of small female Rocky Mountain wood ticks (I think that's what they were).

So, we walked 4 miles altogether in 3.5 hours - not especially fast. Would I do it again - sure! Later in the season, when the fallen trees have been cleared, and when it's not so muddy. I'd make sure to set off very early in the morning, to give myself the maximum chance to hike the entire 9.5 miles that I had plotted out, including making time for a picnic/lunch at Bear Prairie (near the end), before returning the same way to the beginning again.

There are signs warning of the presence of bears, and I did have my bear deterrent spray with me, but we didn't see any large animals. I did have an opportunity to discharge the spray for a fraction of a second, just to make sure it actually works. In fact, since I was practicing for my Oregon hike, I took an almost full backpack with me yesterday to emulate conditions there. It weighed 32 lbs.

There are more photos at

GPS tracking points recorded every minute