PCT hiker survives fall into river, night in wilderness
Marcus Mazzaferri was pretty excited to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in such an epic snow year—the 25-year-old from Northeastern Ohio started his trek on April 1 at the trail’s southern terminus on the border of Mexico. “I was very much looking forward to it,” said Mazzaferri. “It was definitely a special year to do to this, it would be a challenge, but I would be able to see sections in a way that nobody has ever seen them before.”
He made quick progress in the first few hundred miles, but once he hit the snowbound Sierra, his pace slowed significantly. And on Friday, June 2, his PCT adventure almost came to a tragic end, when Mazzaferri, attempting to ford Return Creek 15 miles north of Tuolumne Meadows, was swept off his feet and into the gushing stream. After losing his backpack to the current, he was left with nothing but his clothes and his running watch. Somehow, he managed to retrace his steps and find rescue by the National Park Service crews plowing the Tioga Pass Road.
“Every day is a good day right now,” he said in a phone interview from Portland, Oregon, where he is recuperating from his experience. “I’m crazy lucky for sure.”
Mazzaferri said there was “a pull to hiking alone,” but that he wouldn’t recommend it to those traveling in the more hazardous sections, like he was.
“I think if you’ve hiked a long distance, you feel like you have so much momentum behind you…in a way, you’ve made it over so many things, you kind of feel like there’s almost nothing that you couldn’t get over.”
He’d started his morning in Tuolumne Meadows, and had made fifteen miles of northward progress that day when, around 6:30 p.m., he made the decision to ford Return Creek.
“Luckily, I had unclipped my waist belt and loosened the straps on my pack,” which is standard practice for fording streams that come above one’s knees, Mazzaferri said.
“A quarter of the way through I could feel [the current] was strong. I made it to the strongest part of the flow and I’m holding on, but I go to take another step and I think I’m on a stable rock, but the rock slips out from underneath me and I instantly get taken by the current and start heading down stream.”