Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 39- Nero into Kennedy Meadows

Mile 699 at the Kern River to Kennedy Meadows at mile 702
 
Once again I was camped on a slope.  I need to test out these spots before I'm cozy in bed.  It wasn't bad though.  I listened to the river and had stars to look at overhead.  My alarm went off at five a.m. for a four mile hike to Kennedy Meadow.  I wanted to be there early--breakfast if there was any to be had.  Although I ate breakfast of a sort in my sleeping bag.  I had a bit of chocolate peanut butter left, a handful of chocolate chips, and a few spoonfuls of oatmeal from my last resupply.  I mixed it all together and tried to pretend it was some kind of no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.  It was okay, and I figured it would get me pretty far into my four miles.

I left camp before six.  There was a tiny uphill that took me away from the river and within ten minutes of hiking I crossed the 700 mile mark.  I guess I hiked a little farther last night than I thought.  It felt nice to shave off a mile from the hiking day.

The trail continued through the same valley I ended in yesterday.  It was really pretty in the cool morning light.  The mountains were light up.  I was motoring along through the valley.  It's hard to enjoy the beauty when there is somewhere you want to be.  Luckly at 3 mph it is easy to take it all in.  The trail was still sandy--it feels like the desert isn't going to let me go--but I didn't have to look at the tread very much as there was nothing to really trip over.

I could see where I was going and the trail kept taking me away from where I wanted to go, but we've been 700 miles together and I trust the trail to take me where I want to go, even if it takes me away from where I want to go to begin with.

I hit a paved road, walked east for a half mile and there was Tom's place with hikers meandering about drinking coffee and waiting for breakfast.  I plopped down in a chair at Dr. Sole's and was soon offered three breakfast burritos, which I ate greedily.  Then it was pancake time.  Then time to relax and enjoy a nero and a zero day at Tom's.

(A note:  From Kennedy Meadow I will hike into the Sierra Mountains.  For six days I'm expecting not to have any cell/ internet service on my phone.  So that means no blog entries, but I will be writing them at night still.  I will be hiking into a town on the sixth day and if I have phone service with internet I'll be able to upload blog post.  If there is no service I'll have to wait five or six more days to upload my entries.  Happy hiking.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 38- Kern River

 Mile 668.7 to South Fork of the Kern River at Mile 699

When I put up camp last night it didn't feel like I was on a slope, but all night I kept slipping to the end of my footprint and had to scoot back to the top.  Still, not a bad night's sleep.  I woke up before my alarm went off ready to beat the heat.  First thing in the morning was a long climb and I wanted to do as much of it as I could before it was hot, and it starts getting hot as soon as the sun touches you.

I was out of camp before 6 and was at the next water source in just over a mile.  I had thought about camping at the spring last night, and it would have made for a pleasant spot.  It made a nice breakfast place instead.  I drank a liter of water and refilled.  The water report sounded very iffy so I wanted to camel up and take as much as I could.  Four liters of water feels so much lighter when the food bag is so close to empty.

It was almost cold enough for mittens on the climb, but I'd rather be a tad cold than hot, so I hurried onward.  I felt like I was making good time and maybe I could get thirty miles down the trail to the South Kern River if I stayed focused.  The climbing was going great.  I was well over halfway up before my hands were warm.  The sun was coming up behind the ridge that I was climbing so the trail was completely in the shade.  I reached the top before the sun showed its shining face.

The trail crested the ridge and went down the sunny side and cold hands were no longer a concern.  My concern became snack and I stopped and ate a package of peanut butter sandwich crackers and drank some of my valuable water.  Then continued to slowly make my way down around 9:30 already thinking about lunch time.

At the bottom of the ridge a small creek flowed just before a dirt road.  In the creek was a create with a few sodas and a few beers, and a bag with a couple of grapes so mushy not even thru-hikers would eat them.  I helped myself to a Sprite and more water.  This water was unexpected--it hadn't sounded like it was flowing on the water report, but I'm glad t was.  I took close to four more liters in case I ended up dry camping.

After another snack I left the creek not feeling all that ready to climb a few thousand feet in a few miles as the day worked its way to its hottest hours.  There were enough pine trees that it wasn't that bad.  Some of these climbs the desert blends with the forest and there will be pine trees with cacti growing at the base.  I enjoy the mix, especially when it brings about more shade.

At 2:00 I was still climbing, slurping on my drinking hose trying not to drink too much, but needing the water.  The trail crossed a rutted jeep road and set off into a burn zone.  I knew after a quarter of a mile that I had made a mistake by not eating lunch in the shelter of the trees.  There was no shade and no prospect of shade for as far as I could see.  The trail followed the ridge, and would give a view of nearly a mile of more burned ridge.  It felt like lunch was canceled.

At quarter of four when I had given up on lunch and was roasting I found a small pine tree that had a nice little patch of dense shade.  I dropped my pack, kicked off my shoes, re-hydrated some lunch and mixed it with my last tuna packet, and ate.  It was just short of wonderful.

It was a short break--I still had far to go if I wanted to get thirty miles to the river.  Each time I came around a bend in the trail and saw more trail on the burned ridge I started to get annoyed.  I couldn't believe I was still so short on the day's mileage.  It felt like I was pushing and moving along, but it was five o'clock and I still hadn't done twenty miles.  Dry camping was seeming like a sure thing, and I wasn't happy about it.

Finally just before 5:30 I saw trees and the trail came off the ridge into a valley.  There was a nice little creek that was bubbling away and ice cold.  I stopped for a snack and to drink another liter of water and to pack another liter.  While I ate my last Snickers bar I looked over my maps.  Numbers started to fall into place as I looked at where I was and where I wanted to end up.  If I had just five miles to the river, and the river was thirty miles from where I camped, than I had done twenty-five miles, and when I was getting annoyed at not having yet done twenty I had probably done about twenty-three.  I blame the hot desert sun on my failed math.

With five miles left I decided to hustle and get the thirty miles done.  I only took one liter of water from the stream to insure that I had to make it to the river and I set off across the valley.  The valley was beautiful:  full of shrubs with yellow flowers, pine trees, ringed with mountains, and I could see an occasional glimpse of sliver water in the distance.  I felt like I was flying, too.  The sun was hot, but the trail dipped into the pines every so often.  My pack was light.  I was going to get my thirty.

The trail followed the river for nearly a mile.  It was green and everything was lush and smell fresh--better than fresh cut lawns.  The river sounded wonderful to me--it sounded like it did in the dreams I've had in the desert about water.  It looked cold and dark and it would have been a great place to swim, but not with night on my heels and an empty stomach crying for attention.  The trail started to climb away from the river, and I stopped, realizing any further and I'd have gone too far.  On a small knoll overlooking the river I was home for the night.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 37- Longest Yet

Mile 640 to Mile 668.7

I woke up early to hike down to Walker Pass where there was hopefully water and to continue on a rather long day.  It was mostly eleven miles of downhill--which always means there will be a few small surprise up hills.  I was out of camp at six and enjoyed the cool of the morning.

It wasn't long before I came to the road leading to a spring at a cabin.  I ate breakfast there and debated going the .2 miles off trail for water.  As long at the campground at Walker Pass had water than I had plenty.  If there was no water at the camp ground than I'd be in trouble and from the sounds of the water report there was a 50/50 chance of water.    I decided to risk it, and pressed on.

The trail followed a woods road for awhile.  I'm starting to get used to having a couple of miles of dirt road to walk on every day.  It really moves along the miles.  Right after the road ended I saw the same two section hikers that I've been seeing for the past couple of days and another hiker, Wrongway, caught up with me.  I hiked the rest of the way to Walker Pass with Wrongway right behind.  We chatted about the A.T.--we are both southbounders--and other hiking related topics.  We caught a quick glimpse of the Sierra's in the distance.  They had some snow that shown against the blue sky.  It won't be long until I'm in those mountains.  It's something to look forward to.

At the Pass I met up with Samwise and a handful of other hikers.  There were jugs of water on the picnic table and one beer waiting just for me.  Wrongway was heading into town and he gave me three extra candy bars which I ate one right after the next.  I would have eaten more if I had them.  I stayed at the picnic table for way too long, not leaving until 12:30.

It was no surprise that after the pass was a major climb, but I wish the timing had been better.  I felt like I was melting, so up went the Chrome Dome.  I pretty much only use the Dome when I feel like I'm going to turn into a melty puddle of hiker in the middle of the trail.

Near the top I stopped for another snack break thinking I'd hold off on lunch for a little bit.  I wanted to get closer to my end point before stopping for a lunch break.  I had to make it to at least 668.7 for water--my longest day so far, and I felt like I needed to keep pushing to make sure it happened.

A couple hours later I did stop in some shade on the downward side of the ridge and scarfed down a quick lunch of summer sausage and cheese.  I didn't even stop long enough to take off my shoes.  Although at that point I had 10 miles and one uphill standing between me and camp.

The trail continued down all the way to a muddy little stream that was my back-up camping option.  I had another snack--I was pretty determined to have no food left when I arrive at Kennedy Meadows.  I drank nearly a liter of water to lighten my pack some more.  Than it was onward and upwards.

This climb was nothing like the climb after Walker Pass.  It was just a quick two miles of gentle up.  It was five o'clock and the sun was still baking the trail, but not enough to still have the Chrome Dome out.  I kept wishing for shade, but didn't want to wish too much, or find myself hiking in the dark.

At the top of the ridge I was hiking so in my own thoughts that I didn't see a hiker set up for camp until he said hello.  It's not often that I'm hiking so lost in my own thoughts like that.  I chatted for a bit, again about the A.T. which we'd both done.  It looked like a nice spot to camp, but I had almost no water and had to push on two more miles.  I regret a little that I have done any spontaneous camping yet.  The other day there were great camping places at the top of the ridge, but it was only two p.m. so as nice as the spots looked, I pressed on.  It would have been nice to stop, but it also would have been slightly boring to spend the afternoon sitting and trying not to eat too much food.  In this section, water really does rule, and that extends to where I camp.  Soon that will change, and I'm sure there will be time to camp in beautiful places.

The trail took its time going down the ridge.  I could see trees below me so I had a pretty good idea of where I was headed.  The sun had finally dipped its head below a ridge and the half moon was pale in the blue sky.  Around seven I came across Samwise, Sweet-As, and Action all cooking dinner from their sleeping bags.

I had been looking forward all day to camping next to water and maybe washing away some of the grime that had built up since my shower in Hikertown over a hundred miles ago, so I was a tiny bit disappointed by the tiny stream that I found.  Not too disappointed--I did after all have water to drink and cook with and carry for the next day, but I really wanted to hear water flowing to fall asleep to.

I was also disappointed that I was a mile and a half short of hiking a thirty.  The water report listed another spring in a mile and a half, but I decided not to push for it.  I didn't know if there was water or some place to set up camp.  Where I was I had those things, and I didn't want to risk having to hike anything past thirty miles.  So I set up camp and started my dinner pretty content to call it a day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 36- Kite Flying

Mile 617 to Mile 640

I didn't sleep as well as expected, but around three a.m. I did look at the stars for a bit and found the Big Dipper easily.  Stars are so much brighter when there isn't another light to be seen.  Some time after that I had a trippy dream about a sea serpent trying to crush a guy on some beach and somebody else taking a shovel to the serpent.  I woke up at six with the dream fresh in my mind.

Packing up was delayed by a wet sleeping bag-downside to cowboy camping.  There was at least sun to dry the bag with.  It seemed like the last of the wind had died overnight and it seemed warmer-it seemed like the desert again.  I was out of camp at seven with a mostly dry bag.

I stopped at eight for breakfast.  Apparently when I packed this last resupply box I had meant a jar of chocolate peanut butter to be breakfast, because I had packed no oatmeal and not enough bars.  I had forgotten that and had been eating the peanut butter as a snack.  But know its only for breakfast, and I might just have enough.  My hiker hunger seems to have developed-at least.  I bet I'll go into Kennedy Meadows with an empty food bag.

To be continued...

(Due to not having any cell or internet service on my phone since leaving Tehachapi the second half of this blog entry is lingering on my phone.  Once I have service again I'll be able to finish uploading it, but until then there's nothing I can do about it.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 35- Snow and Ice for the Start of Summer

Cow pasture at mile 593 to Mile 617

It snowed a little bit just before dark-not a cowboy camping kind of a night.  My tent pole fell down twice in the night because of wind.  I stayed warm and slept pretty well even in the bad conditions.  I stayed in my bag for awhile in the morning.  I was kind of hoping that the weather would improve if I delayed getting up by an hour.  It was not to be, but at least it was snowing anymore.

There was no snow, but there were chunks of ice falling from the tree branches.  It was cold-hat, mittens, jacket kind of day.  The trail was mostly treed in, but that just meant more ice was there to fall on me.  It was beautiful trail, but I was moving too fast to enjoy it.  The trail did seem to be done with the wind farms, thankfully.

Again the trail merged with a woods road.  It seemed like the road was going to be mostly up, so I took off my rain jacket.  This was probably the fifth time I took off a layer knowing it wouldn't be long until I wanted it back on.  Shortly after that I met some day hikers and remembered that it was a holiday weekend.  Snow and ice for the unofficial start of summer.  I chatted with the day hikers for a bit-answered the usual questions about start date and miles per day-all the while hoping they would ask what every thru-hiker likes to here:  I have some extra food, would you like...?  I was hoping fruit-I was still day dreaming about the banana I had the other day.  Sadly we parted ways without any mention of fruit.

I continued up thinking about fruit and how long until the next water.  Turns out I hit water just at lunch time and my thoughts turned from fruit to cheese and summer sausage.  Robin Bird Spring was 100 yards off trail just a couple miles over 600 miles done.  The spring was flowing well inside a fenced off area-lots of cow patties outside the fence.  I filled up and treated two liters and got down to the business of lunch.

It was too cold to linger over my meal.  I didn't even take my shoes off.  I ate, checked the water report on my phone, and decided I needed another liter of water to get me to the next water cashe.  Then it was time to go, and for once I was hoping for an uphill to rewarm.  And I got my wish.  At the top of the short uphill I stopped and finished my cookies that were supposed to be part of lunch.

I wasn't feeling motivated after lunch at all.  The trail traveled through a pine forest that was studded with boulders the size of a dog house to the size of small houses.  It was easy walking, and had a quiet earthiness about the area, but I still wasn't feeling it.  And then the sun came out.  The miles started to roll by again and I started to feel warm for the first time in a couple of days.  I took an afternoon snack break in the sun-I even took off my hat and mittens.  Only to put the mittens back on when the sun ducked behind some clouds and it wasn't warm any more.

After awhile the trail left the pines and climbed up into a burn area.  It was actually very pretty-more boulders, dead trees bleached white, thousands of purple flowers all with a blue sky backdrop.  At the crest I was close to my end goal for the day-just had to go down a few miles.

And down.  And down.  And down some more.  There was no camping to be had as the trail dropped back to the desert.  Dinner time came and went with nothing more than a handful of sunflower seeds.  It became clear I was going to the road where the water was cashed.  Once I excepted that, the mileage wasn't so bad.
I took two liters and walked on.   Surprisingly there wasn't camping at the road-at least none that I saw.  It was past seven, pack was heavy with water, and I was walking on fumes.  It seems so unlikely that a flat spot six feet long by three wide would be so hard to find, but that's the truth.  Finally, after about a mile, I saw a spot for me on this little spit of land that jutted out over the valley.  With my trekking pole I flipped away a very dry cow pie and set up my cowboy camp.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 34- Storm's Coming

Mile 570 to cow pasture at mile 593

I think I might be caught up on sleep now.  I didn't wake up when Alice and Steve's friends came into camp and I woke up just after five feeling rested.  And cold.  I delayed getting up until six, but I was out of camp just before seven.

Shortly after leaving camp I saw a huge desert rabbit with comically huge ears.  It was bigger than any house cat.  It scampered away just as soon as I saw it.  Moments later I saw another one with slightly smaller ears.  That one sat still long enough for me to get some photos of it-which was very nice of it.

The higher up I went the more the wind felt like yesterday's wind.  I didn't even hike for an hour before taking refuge behind a juniper shrub to eat breakfast and add a layer of clothing.  The trail kept following the ridge up and most of the way the ridge itself gave me some protection from the wind, but the trail crested out at one point-there was about 20 feet of trail where the trail was on the very spine of the ridge.  I could hear the wind howling there while I stood just a few steps back trying to steal myself.  As soon as I stepped out into the exposed area I was blown 10 feet off trail and had to fight to not go further.  Shoving back against the wind I got back on trail and back to the semi-protection of the ridge.

I stopped for a snack break just before 9 and again just before 10.  I had eaten every hour I had been hiking.  I think the cold and the energy sapping wind was giving me a thru-hiker's hunger.

The trail dipped into some trees and the wind vanished.  I thought I had been happy to see trees in the desert-that was nothing compared to the last couple of windy days.  The trail stayed in the trees for the most part as it followed an old forest road for a few miles.  It made for easy walking being on an old road.

It was a wildlife kind of day.  First the rabbits and I after the trail left the old road I saw a deer-or I saw some animal that was tan, deer sized, and jumps when it ran away from me.  Pretty sure it was a deer.  The first one I've seen on this hike.  This trail hasn't had much in the way of wildlife yet.

For lunch I made it to the Golden Oaks Spring-a nasty trough full of murky water with things floating in it.  There was a pipe on the side that had water flowing out of it.  When I filled my bottle it looked mostly clean.  There was some debate among the hikers taking lunch break there if the water from the pipe was coming out of the trough.  No conclusion was reached.  I treated it, and it tasted pretty good.

I took enough water to dry camp.  The next water was eighteen miles away.  The trail was nice-even if it was kind of cold.  I wore my mittens for most of the afternoon.

The trail went by more wind farms.  The wind was nothing like it was even that morning.  There had been some clouds hanging over the ridges that I had come from all morning.  They had slowly drifted towards the ridge I was hiking on.  In town we had gotten a word of caution about a storm-wind, cold, and rain.

Around five when I was at the last high point of the day the clouds reached where I was hiking.  I thought at first I was seeing pollen float past.  I stopped, watched the sky for a moment thinking I couldn't be seeing snow, and then a flake landed on my lip.  Snow indeed.  It didn't last long, and it wasn't more than a couple dozen flakes of snow, but it was snow.

I didn't really have a place in mind to camp as long as it was more than twenty miles from where I slept the night before.  I was hoping to find a spot that was out of the wind, flat spots, and at a low elevation.  I was hiking along and saw a tree with a grassy patch around it.  It just looked like home for the night.  And so it was.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 33- Breakfast

Mile 558 to mile 570

I don't think I so much as moved last night.  That was the best night of sleep I've had on trail, but I don't want to have days like yesterday to get such good sleep.  I woke up hungry-good thing too, with breakfast waiting for me in town.

Alice, Steve, and I packed up and walked the ten minutes to the road.  There was a good deal of morning traffic.  We were picked up pretty quick by a man that had a GoLite Jam pack and hiking poles in his trunk.  He asked how I was liking my Jam pack and I told him not very much.  He asked where we wanted to go, Alice told him breakfast, and he said he knew just the spot.

He dropped us off at Kelsy's-a small popular with the old timers place and the three of us settled into a booth.  I agonized for awhile over hot chocolate or chocolate shake, and settled on the shake-I have coco all the time in camp. It was the right choice with my french toast and hash browns.  It was as good as the meal that I dreamed about while fighting against the wind.

I think everybody at Kelsy's came by our table to ask how the hike was going and tell us how they used to hike.  Thru-hikers really stand out.  Everybody was really friendly and one guy there offered us a ride to the post office-Tehachapi is a very spread out town and that's not easy when on foot with a long list of errands.
I was basically along for the ride with hardly any errands of my own.  All I really wanted was a new hair brush to replace the one I had left at Casa de Luna.  I found that no problem.  After going to the Post Office twice and the grocery store our ride dropped us off at the camber of commerce and we hung out on their lawn for a few hours.

We arranged a ride out of town for 1 o'clock from a trail angel and was back on trail before 1:30.  It was a longer town stop than I expected, but an enjoyable one.  I met up with Stride at the trail head.  She's going to continue to be a day behind.

The trail went off through more wind farms.  Most of the turbines were spinning.  The wind was nothing like the day before, but the trail was nowhere near as elevated as yesterday.  The trail did start to climb, and still the wind wasn't bad.  At the top of the ridge I stopped with Alice and Steve for a quick lunch break.  I think we all regretted not eating lunch in town.

For two miles the trail went down to a highway crossing.  Just before the road there was a surprise cashe of water and a cooler of goodies.  I ate a homemade chocolate chip cookie and then a perfectly ripe banana.  I ate the banana with a smile and realized it had been way too long since I had fresh fruit.

The trail followed a small road for a bit and then crossed the highway and there was another cashe-this one was on our water report.  I took a liter bringing me to four liters for dry camping and hiking 16 miles.

The trail followed the highway for a bit before turning away and climbing up a ridge.  According to Alice and Steve's guide book there was camping three miles after the road and we reached the spot just after 6 p.m.  They are having two friends join them here for about 80 miles of the hike so the didn't want to get too far from the road.

It was nice to get into camp early and not feel beat up.  The three of us cowboy camped behind a cluster of Joshua trees and chatted for an hour from our sleeping bags before getting down to the business of dinner.  Alice and Steve aren't expecting their friends until late, but I'm guessing I'm tired enough that I won't wake up when they get in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 32- Hat and Mittens for the Desert

Cottonwood Creek Bridge at mile 534 to Mile 558

(Sorry no pictures for the next handful of entries.  They will be added when I have cell service, or the next time I'm in town.)

Before sleeping I told myself to sleep in and not to worry about hiking in the heat.  Five a.m. I woke up to a sunrise that turned the clouds orange and pink.  I felt like I hadn't slept, and after taking a couple pictures of the splendid sky I hunkered down into my bag.  I was up twenty minutes later-sleep was apparently done with me.  I was on trail before 6:30 feeling like it was going to be a short hiking day.

The trail left behind the aqua duct and headed into the wind farm.  It was breezy, but nothing extreme.  Most of the turbines remained still as I walked the miles past them.

At 8 I stopped for breakfast under a juniper shrub.  The one cloud in the sky had parked itself over the sun at sun-up and hadn't let the sun peak past it yet.  Breakfast was short to avoid a chill.

But an hour later the wind had picked up some and I couldn't deny that I was cold walking through the Mojave Desert.  I guess I had waited too long to put on hat and mittens-my fingers were clumsy with cold.  It didn't take long to become warm enough, but it was a little hard to wrap my mind around the weather-this wasn't the desert I had heard about.

Seven miles from where I camped the map listed a canyon and creek.  About a mile before it I started hoping for a sheltered spot for a long break-I was needing a nap and a hot meal.  My hiker hunger was showing itself and it wasn't pleased it had been denied dinner the night before.

The creek had water, but no shelter from the wind.  Nap time was canceled, but I managed to make a hot meal followed by some peach gummies for snack.  I stayed for a cold windy hour before giving the break up as kind of miserable.

At least while hiking I was mostly warm so hike on I did only to stop three miles later in a little bowl that didn't have much wind and was almost warm.  Nap time was back on.  I didn't want to head into town today like many f the other hikers, so I had time to relax.  I dozed off, but not for very long.  It made a difference though-I wasn't feeling like I was going to fall asleep on my feet anymore.

At first going up hill wasn't that windy, but on the third switchback the wind went from blowing towards the mountain so it was just hitting my side to blowing head on.  Between the slick soled shoes and the strong gust I slid back a step or two.  It still wasn't that bad-it was almost funny.

After a couple of miles up the ridge, around 2 p.m. the sun finally managed to break away from the cloud and about forty minutes later I was finally able to take off my cold weather clothing.  Not long after that I made it to the top of the ridge.  Some one had cashed two packages of bottled water for the hikers.  I drank the half liter in seconds-I hadn't realized how thirsty I was until I was halfway through the bottle.  I sat at the cashe for awhile thinking about doing just a handful of miles more.  It was nice there-sun shining, wind not too bad.

I stayed for about an hour and hiked into a burn area.  It seems like there is a burn area at least every 100 miles.  It was while going down the other side of the ridge that the wind went from occasional gust to nonstop howling wind.

This wind pulled, pushed, and shoved me around.  It blew grit in my face and tossed pebbles hard enough they stung my thighs through my pants.  The head wind stopped my forward progress and the tailwind pushed me forward.  And it wasn't gust, it was a constant force that was fighting me.

I quickly grew tired of fighting back.  My goal was to reach a broken water tank-I hoped it would be sheltered.  My progress was so slow.  A mean little voice kept asking if I was having fun on my little hike with a face scrunched up against grit, clothing snapping in the wind, and crazy wind blown hair?  And I wasn't having fun.  Not even a little.  I was tired, hungry, gritty, my face and hands felt raw from cold wind and sand.  I put on my mittens and my hat that has a face masks to protect from the wind and the dirt it threw at me.  I didn't like my short easy day becoming anything but.

I found a burnt tree to hide behind from the wind and ate a quick candy bar snack, and that really boosted my spirits.  About a half hour after that I was low enough to see trees on the desert floor.  I knew from my guide there was a stream near the road into town and those trees had to be near the stream and they would give me shelter.

In true PCT style the trail wasn't about to take the quick way down.  Nope, instead it continued to hug the edge of the wind farm-most of the turbines were still as I was blasted by the wind.  The trees stayed tantalizing close, but so far away.    For a half hour I thought about bushwacking down, but that didn't feel like an option.

At sunset one last gust of wind blew me into a stump, smacking my shin, and I was in the trees.  I wasted no time setting up as it got dark.  Just before full dark I was joined by Alice an Steve who had seen my light and did bushwack a bit to my camp.  We talked bad about the wind while it continued to howl around us as we made dinner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 31-Hikertown and Night Hiking

Pine Canyon Creek at 511 to Cottonwood Creek Bridge at mile 534

I guess I was camped on more of a slope than I realized-I didn't sleep well, but it was far from my worst night out on the trail thus far.  On the plus side I was up and out of camp before six.

I've heard that when this section of trail was being built a land agreement fell through so for about seven miles the trail is on private land and it takes the most up and down way possible to the highway.  I didn't mind the section too much, but I can see how it would get to a hiker at the end of a long day when all she wants to do is get to Hikertown.

At one point on the way to Hikertown I remember thinking it wasn't that hot out-maybe I didn't need to night hike the Aqua Duct.  Then I looked at my watch and it was only eight o'clock-it was going to be another typical day in the desert.

Hikertown is this odd little compound on the corner of the highway the trail crosses.  It was completely fenced in with a tall chain-link fence with a big old gate and a friendly welcome hiker sign.  Hikertown was once used in old western movies as trail legend goes.  A dozen buildings built for people under five foot tall lined both sides of a dirt road.  I was met at the gate by one of the operators and brought to the mail room where I quickly found my heavy resupply.

I was given a quick tour that ended at the hiker lounge.  It was nice to be inside-this area is known for its wind, and for good reason.  The last mile to the town I had the wind slamming into me, making me stagger.  Inside the lounge all the doors rattled from the wind.  The bathroom door rattled like someone was frantically trying to get out of a locked room.

The place was mildly creepy, but full of hikers that I knew.  Someone said breakfast was being made and even though there were two showers we all sat around stinking waiting for food to appear.  We are not always a polite crowd when it comes to food:  if a hiker happens to be in the shower when a meal is served, that hiker runs a great risk of not getting any food.

A toaster, two loaves of bread, and two sticks of butter on a plate where brought in and we desended on it.  I haven't had toast since Idyllwild and only the day before I had been longing for toast.  We went through a shocking amount of butter for half a dozen people.  The rest of the meal shortly followed:  scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns, and orange slices.  There were no leftovers.

The rest of the day was about chores and relaxing and everybody was hoping for a nap before night hiking out.  Showers were taken, laundry done, resupplies crammed into food bags, and blogs updated.  Sadly no nap was had by me.  A few hikers were able to find napping places-on the lawn in the shade like giant toddlers.

Right before leaving I was able to catch up with Stride who had just hiked in after a 24 mile day.  She would be hiking out in the morning.  I hiked out solo, hoping to meet up with others before dark.

The first couple of miles along the aqua duct the water is uncovered.  At some point a river was harnessed, contained, and sent to LA for the city's needs.   And then someone else thought it would be funny to have hikers walk along all that water for 17 miles through the desert and not let them have a drop.

The sun set soon after the duct made a sharp turn and became a covered duct.  I missed most of the sunset-the covered duct blocked the view from the dirt road I was walking on.  I could see hikers ahead and behind me- I know them by sight, but I wouldn't say I know them.

I do catch up with the hikers in front of me as the moon, just a couple of days past new, comes up and it really starts to get dark.  It's about that time I remembered that I don't like night hiking-especially when the trail is on roads and turns are easy to miss (that sums up the Aqua Duct section of the PCT).

Hiking with two couples I feel like the odd one out and I lag behind until the first snack break at 9:30.  There is no long break-stop too long and it's cold.

About an hour later, the moon is gone and the stars are bright we make a wrong turn.  With two GPS's in the group we don't go far on the wrong road and we get back on track without much trouble.  Once back on trail we figure we will arrive at the water source around 1 a.m.

Even in the dark-our head lamps have been off most of the time- there is plenty to see off the ridge.  A town in the valley is bright the entire time it's in sight.  Looking at it messes with my night vision.

The wind wasn't bad since living Hikertown, but it starts to pick up.  I'm wearing pants, but I can feel fine grit blast. Its way to my legs.  About this point I start feeling done.  If there's anywhere to camp in the brush next to the road I can't see it.  Two in our group have already called it a night, and I want to do the same, but I want shelter.

Right then a light shed appears with a sign next to the road directing us to water.  Water has to wait until morning.  I'm so tired I'm staggering-but that could be the wind's fault.  It's quarter til one when I slip into my sleeping bag.  Overhead, among the stars, I can make out motionless wind turbines. It's windy where I am and I use my pack to block the wind from my face and finally sleep.



Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 30- 1 Month 500 Miles

Red Carpet Cashe at mile 486 to Pine Canyon Creek Road at 511

I woke up at 5:15 to a half empty camp.  I don't know how this group gets up so early.  I felt like I could sleep a few hours more, but that sun was already peaking into the sky.  It was a cold morning though.  It warmed up fast, of course.  I'd say by 6:30 the chill to the air was gone.

Near the top of the first uphill of the day I met up with P-Tracks who had just finished his breakfast. Right behind me was John Wayne, Karata Kid, Cool Ranch, and El Capiton. We hiked in a group for a bit in the hunt for shade and found some at a jeep road.

While we were standing there, much to our surprise, we were joined by four other hikers that had left Casa de Luna before us the day before.  Now we set off as an even bigger herd-this time on a hunt for water.  We had only gone six miles, so I was still had plenty of water.  Good thing too, because the first of the guzzler tanks of water was gross.  It was three miles to the next one.

Three slow miles with a gnat cloud around my face the whole time.  That reminded me of the AT.  They would land on my cheeks and nose and on my sunglass lens.  None got into my eyes thanks to the sunglasses.  Beyond the gnat cloud I could see where the trail was taking me-the Mojave Desert was waiting.

At the water tank I filled up two liters and drank most of what I had already.  I also had a second breakfast-it is try to eat down the food bag day. Its still to heavy for resupplying tomorrow.

The next five miles to water had more desert views and more gnats-very much like the miles before it.  Those miles also had the 500 mile mark.  There's been a lot of talk about when we will get the first glimps of the Sierras.  At 500 miles they seem much more real than they did at mile 100.

At the next water there was a tank that was filled by water collected from the roof above it.  The roof was about four feet above the ground, the tank was sunk into the ground, and hikers surrounded the tank lounging in the shade.  I got there at 1 and I was there long enough to have lunch, take a nap, have two snacks, and then migrate to a different patch of shade for about 20 more minutes.  It was a great three hour break.

Then it was time for eight more miles.  The trail went through a wooded meadow.  It looked like a place that should have swings hanging from tree boughs and paper lanterns strung from tree to tree.  It was very peaceful and cool in there.

From the ridge going down I could see the pond that was my end point for the day.  It looked like a little swampy pond.  The water report said it smelled like rotting leaves-I could hardly wait to drink a liter. The water report also said the pond was hard to get to and the better bet was to go to the road just after it, go down the road 100 yards and get water from a stream there.  I ended up following those directions and had no problem getting water there.

I did have a little trouble finding somewhere to camp.  The trail entered unto private property after the road and the maps say no camping.  I found a mostly flat spot for camp.  I had a good dinner and then probably the best pot of hot chocolate I've had on the trail yet.  At the Saufley's I traded Clutch a Snickers for some dried full fat milk and I put a tablespoon in my hot chocolate.  Fantastic.





Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 29- Eclipse

Mile 478 to Red Carpet Cashe at mile 486

I've learned with the desert that I have to get up and hike or hike late.  To start hiking at noon is a good way to have a hard day.  When I arrived at Casa de Luna I was planning on another zero day, but by the time I went to bed I was planning on hiking out late in the day.  So I slept in (6:30), drank tea, eat pancakes, and just lounged about.

Lots of people made it out of the vortex this morning-it sounded like some people had been there for days.  Around 11 other hikers arrived to fill the gap.  Most of those people were my group from the Saufly's.
I was packed up and ready at 4 with the goal of leaving at 4:30.  Leaving took a little longer than expected, but we were in the car just after 5 and on trail not long after that.  For the second time in two days I've left my group behind with no idea when I'll see them again.  The group I left with is the same group that I road with to Casa de Luna.

The sun was still mighty hot as the group started up the trail.  There was a partial solar eclipse that started around 5:30.  It had been talk of the trail for a little while.  Glancing up ever so quickly while cruising along I could see the shadow of the moon eating into the sun.  It was neat, but not nearly as cool as I was expecting.
Everybody I left with was planning on doing eight miles to the Red Carpet water cashe and we pretty much stayed within sight of each other.  I arrived at camp (water in cashe, flat ground, picnic table) at 8:15 hungry and tired.

I put my tent up instead of attacking dinner, and the it was time to eat.  I made a double dinner of cheesy broccoli and couscous soup.  It hardly fit in my pot and the couscous was undercooked, but it's still one of my favorite meals out here


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 28- Going to Casa de Luna

The Saufley's at mile 454 to Casa de Luna at mile 478

It wasn't easy getting up at 5:15 this morning, but I managed.  It was cool enough out and it was only going to get hotter.  That more than anything got me up and going.

The day's hike started off with a two mile road walk through town.  Road walks are a lame way to start the day, but it's better than having a road walk in the middle of the day.  I saw some hikers walking the road the day before around 11 and the 3 guys had soaked their freshly laundered clothing with sweat-clean doesn't last long when backpacking.

I had 4.5 liters of water on my back for this hot, dry, and exposed section-I think the guide book has said that about every section since leaving the San Jacinto Mountain area back before mile 200.   The water report listed one spring that was 9 miles into the day as very sulfur tasting and barely flowing.  Right after the road walking the trail went up-for miles-and I started to regret being a water snob.

For six miles the trail slowly went up giving me views of where I came from and where I was going.  About a mile from the top the trail went throw wild straw as tall as I am.  I heard a noise I couldn't place, but something was moving down the trail towards me.  It was a group on bikes and I brought them all to a halt-the trail isn't even two feet wide.  I slowly lumbered my way pass them and continued my slow way up the hill.

On the other side of the mountain I stopped for snack and a map check.  And then it was onward and downward.  I passed the spring with a pack still heavy with water.  At the bottom of the mountain was a road and a water cashe put out by the Anderson's-their house was my goal for the night.  I drank half a liter, replaced it, then onward.

Again the trail slowly snaked its way up the ridge.  I could see a hiker in front of me and one behind me and both had out their Chrome Domes.  It was noon and I was going uphill.  I really felt like I was melting. Out came my Dome and I enjoyed its shade for the next 12 miles.

Around 2 I started looking for a good shady spot for lunch.  I wasn't liking the ones I was finding-nothing flat and full of poison oak.  I could see a tree in the distance and I got the feeling that was going to be my spot-and it sure was.

I heard voices first and then a pink plastic flamingo stood watch over the Oasis cashe.  Lawn chairs, coolers, jugs of water and cool shade.  I grabbed a cold beer and a chair and joined the others for a break.  I had my shoes off, lunch, and a couple of sodas.  We wondered how long we'd have to stay there until somebody came to resupply the cashe and if we couldn't all stay until then.

At 3:15 I left to finish the last 7 miles of the day.  I still had my Dome out-it was 90 in the shade of the Oasis and much hotter away from it.  These miles went slow.  it kept giving me the weird feeling that I was in a old cartoon where the character is walking and the background is being looped behind him-I felt like I was seeing the same thing again and again.

When I was in Wrightwood I mailed a new pair of shoes to Kennedy Meadows at mile 700.  The shoes I had seemed to be doing well, feeling good.  I've slipped four times since then-two of those ending in a fall.  I slipped in the sandy trail and pitch forward, barely avoiding a face plant.  I was very happy to be wearing pants-my knee stung, but was unharmed.  I seem to have lost on my shoe gamble.

The trail went over one more ridge, then down to the road.  I could see a van in the ranger station parking lot and I knew that was my ride to Casa de Luna.  I tried to pick up my pace-without slipping-and hustle the last mile.  And made it just in time.

When the van pulled up to Casa de Luna the hikers already there started to clap and whistle.  We unload, we're given a tour, and then it was time to mingle.  I had left my group asleep at the Saulfly's so it was a whole new group of people.  I was given more trail names than I can possibly remember.

Dinner was served at sunset-taco salad.  I had two huge plates, and was actually the last one done eating.  Lunch on the trail I can hardly manage, dinner I like.  For dessert-hot from the oven cookies.

The tenting area is in what everybody calls Narnia.  Beyond the backyard there is a tangle of maneneda trees with tenting spots under them.  Back here I can't hear the people in the front yard-it is like being in a different world.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 26-Hikers Invade the Pool


Mile 425 at the Ranger Station to mile 445
Rock formations along the trail
For some reason I slept really badly last night, so I was up pretty early.  And it was hot early.  There was a short climb up in the sun and then the trail mostly leveled out in the shade with huge views all around.  It was a nice way to start the morning.

Eight miles into the day was the last water of the day at a KOA .2 off trail.  Rumor had it there was shower and a swimming pool.  There was about eight of us milling around in the shade eating ice cream looking longingly at the beautiful blue water of the swimming pool.

After ice cream I took a quick shelter-everybody figured we shouldn't turn the pool water brown with our hiker funky-ness.  Did a little hiker laundry in the sink and then with a bit of a run and a jump it was into the pool.

Some of the guys enjoying the hot tub
Then it was into the hot tub.  Then the pool.  Repeat for an hour and throw in some guys doing cannonballs for good measure.  Drying off and packing up took forever-it was too nice of a place to leave.

It was ten miles of hot and exposed trail with no water to look forward too.  The guide book said there were at most two trees for shade.  The first four miles were mostly uphill too just to make things more challenging.

Four miles from town there was a drainage tunnel under an interstate.  It was nice and cool in there.  I took a short break in there, but with only four miles to go, I didn't want to linger long.

Vasquez Rocks
The next stretch of trail was almost otherworldly.  The trail waved through Vasquez Rocks-huge sandy rock mountains.  They looked impressive against the clear blue sky.

Vasquez Rocks
Towards the end of the area the trail got a little hard to follow.  There were a lot of social trails cutting through the scrub.  I was hiking with Tommy at this point and we could see the road we were going to and just followed the different paths to get there.

My KOA water ran out almost as soon as I hit the pavement.  Not long after that a pick up truck full of hikers pulled over.  It was being driven by L-Rod, the women in charge of the Hiker Heaven-my home for the next two nights.  Super Girl, Tommy, and I piled into the truck for the short drive up the hill to the Saufley's.




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 25- D is for Detour

Mile 412 to mile 425 at the Ranger Station

I woke up just as the sun peeked over the ridge and almost everybody else was already packed and about to head out.  I thought I was an early riser, but not compared to this group.

The trail right now is in section D (each section is about 150 miles long) and after looking at the maps and guides Tommy decided D is for detours.  First was the 2009 Station Fire detour than there was the poodle dog brush (can cause a horrible blister rash bad enough to go to the ER) detour.  It was going to be a day of walking on roads.  We were going to cover 25 trail miles with only 8 of those miles being on trail.

The first detour was in less than a mile from camp.  It was a dirt road-so much easier on the feet and body than pavement.  It went down the ridge in long switchbacks.  It was shorter than the real trail, dropping us off at a pit toilet and water faucet way earlier than first expected.  Everybody tried to hydrated for the next long waterless stretch of trail.  I drank about a liter and a half before leaving the shade over the toilet for the hot sun.

Pit toilets make the best shade
I got on trail for 3 miles, doing the poodle dog brush dance most of the way, and then it was back to the road walking.  Everybody who had a Chrome Dome had theirs out, and the bubble of shade on shadeless road was great.  The Dome was really worth its weight today.  The road was paved, sadly.  Clutch and I walked it chatting about the AT-he hiked it last year and I knew a lot of the people he hiked with.

The miles were slow and hard on the feet, and hot on the body.  The road was in the same burn area as the first detour so there wasn't a piece of shade to be had among the blackened trees.Around noon we hiked into what looked like an old burned prison complex-only to be told by Super Girl (a guy) who is from the area that it was an old jail-and stopped for lunch under a burnt pine tree.

After lunch there were miles more of road walking.  Super Girl and I headed out together talking about where we'd rather be than on a hot paved road.  If there was a place with water and food we wanted to be there.

We jumped on trail a little earlier than everyone else and the Poodle Dog wasn't that bad, but I only stayed on trail for a mile before dropping back on the road for another two miles of road with Clutch.  Then it was finally time for four miles of trail to get to camp and water (wonderful water).

As nice as it was being on trail those miles dragged.  I think most of us were hurting.  No one really knows what our mileage has been for the day or yesterday.  And even if we did, road is so much different (harder in many ways) than trail.

I walked the last mile to camp with Clutch and we both went straight for the well-stocked water cache.  I drank a liter quickly and grabbed a couple more for dinner and drinking.

It's a little buggy here and on the warm side.  I'm hoping it cools down enough to make the bugs go away. I'm cowboy camped again with trees over me-no stars tonight.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 23- 40 Switchbacks to Baden-Powell

Wrightwood at mile 369 to Little Jimmy Springs Campground at 384

I hitched out of town after breakfast out and hanging around the post office repackaging food around 11:30.  I left town before the rest of the group I've been with.  With my supper heavy food bag I wanted to get a head start on them.

Only 2277 miles to go
The trail followed the highway that lead into town for a mile or so, and then climbed uphill and away from the road.  The trail gave glimpses of Baden-Powell with a few veins of snow o9n it still.  Then the trail dropped down to the road again at the Baden-Powell trail head.

I took a little lunch break on a bench in the shade and the others (Clutch, Day Hiker, and Tommy) showed up.  I was a little surprised to see them-I thought there was a good chance they would stay in town.

Baden-Powell
We didn't break long before starting the climb up.  We had heard that it was 4 miles up over the course of 40 switchbacks.  The trail up was on the gentle side with long switchbacks.  At number 14 there was a spring just off trail.  It was a seeping spring that I had to dip my bottle in, and there was nearly no floaties, and it was very cold.  I only took about a liter-although I didn't really need that much.

Near the top there were patches of snow.  It was pretty clear from the foot prints where the trail went.  There was no slipping or sliding, but there my feet did get damp.

The top was on a very short side trail off the PCT.  The view was fantastic from the top.  Desert off in one direction forested ridges in the other direction.  It's my new highest point on this trail or any others.  We stayed for awhile, but had 6 more miles to go, so off we went.

On the top of Baden-Powell with snowy Baldy Mountain behind me
The miles seemed to go by slow.  There was unexpected uphill-I thought all our climbing for the day was done after Baden-Powell.  Next time I'll look at my profile maps.

When the trail finally did reach Little Jimmy Springs both springs were gushing water.  It was a cute set-up with benches and a basin full of cold spring water.  I filled up four liters so I wouldn't have to come back in the morning.

Water for the night
Camp was just minutes away and it was full of people when we arrived.  Pretty much the group from town ended up at the camping and there were a lot of people I didn't really meet.  There was a campfire to eat dinner around and chat.

It feels like it's going to be a cold one tonight.  I'm in my tent instead of cowboy camping.  Some people are still up around the fire, but I'm so tired it's an early night for me.




Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 22- Hot at Sun Up

Mile 352 to Wrightwood at mile 369
Sun up from the jeep road 
It was already hot out at 5:30 when I was watching the sun come up while eating breakfast.  It was hot and still.  Perfect for a long uphill.

The profile map called for about 11 miles of slow uphill.  The tree went up high enough to get back into the pine trees and their wonderful shade.  It got cool as the trail climbed.

My pack got lighter as I drank my 4 liters of water, but it still felt too heavy for going into town.  My food bag was still bulbous with food.  I probably still had three days of food left.  Every time I ate I ended up just wanting water and I was going through my rations too quickly.

Even though the guide books says there was no water to be had between McDonald's and Wrightwood it also list a spring 5 miles outside of town.  The water report said it was flowing and when I got to the camp ground where the spring was I had about a liter and a half left.  I hiked down to the spring, probably one of the nicest off trail spring yet, and got two liters of icy water.

I drank one with lunch.n. there were a handful of hikers having lunch at the camp ground.  I finished off my summer sausage and cheese but it hardly made a difference to my food bag.

Our ride to Wrightwood
The last five miles flew by-I do like going to town.  My heel started to hurt in the way it does when my socks are ready to die on me.  I'm regretting leaving a pair of socks drying on a bush in Idyllwild.

Hitching into town was quicker than Big Bear even with less traffic on the road.  There were five of us trying to get in.  We saw a van coming and out went the thumbs.  They pulled into the lot-the back of the van had a PCT sticker on it.  They had to shuffle some stuff around to make room for us.  It was a real tight fight.  I was perched on a bucket for the 6 miles in-really uncomfortable, but better than standing on the side of the road.  They let us out at the hardware store where we met up with more hikers.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Day 21- Don't Think About Water

Silver Lake at 328 to jeep road at mile 352

I woke up to a very damp sleeping bag-a down side to cowboy camping.  I took as much time as I could getting ready without packing my bag.  I think the sun hit the area right after I loaded my pack.
It seemed like most of the hikers today were on a tear to get 13 miles done and be eating McDonald's by lunch time.  The trail intersects with I-15 at Cajon Pass and .4 miles from there is the McDonald's and a gas station.  And I knew from the guide book that there was also a Subway.  It's a little hard to resist.

The trail was good for making the miles.  It was nothing too interesting until mile 10, or so.  The trail climbed to the top of what looked like a sand stone canyon and from the lip I could see ridge after ridge.  I haven't seen anything like it yet on this trail.

The whole hike to the pass I tried to make up my mind between a sub with my favorite veggies or a chicken sandwich with fries.  It was a great way to keep my mind occupied.

On the way I was passed by two new hikers, both in a hurry to get to the pass.  Tommy and I walked the final mile with Caveman.  Right at the sign pointing towards McDonald's somebody had left trail magic beers.  11:30 after 13 miles didn't seem to early so we all had one.

Subway won and the three of us braved the traffic to walk the extra .5 miles to Subway.  I-15 is a huge interstate that I could hear for miles-thankfully there was a walker friendly way to get over the interstate and on to food.  It was a tiny gas station Subway that was busy when we came in, but seemed to clear out by the time we had our food.  I can't imagine our hiker funk had anything to do with that.  My sub was so good I got a six inch one to pack out.

And then it was time to go get fries and a McFlurry.  I ordered and joined the dozen hikers on the patio to eat.  Those of us with Chrome Domes put them up.  There were 5 of us sitting under silver umbrellas-I can only imagine what we looked like to the other diners there.
Chrome Domes protect from sun, rain, and make you look cool

Food wasn't the only reason to go to McDonald's.  From McDonald's hikers have to take enough water to get them the 27 miles to Wrightwood and that would have to include one night of dry camping.  I took four and a half liters of water, or nine extra pounds on my back.  My pack went from feeling pretty light to rather heavy.

Trains where a constant background sound
For five miles I sipped sparingly from my hydration hose.  It was four o'clock, but the sun hadn't lost any of its heat and the trail just kept going up.  It was thirsty hiking.  Every time I thought about 4.5 liters for 27 miles my throat went dry-and it seemed to be all I could think about.

Cashe of water
The trail descended into a valley to cross a road and right before the road there was a water cashe.  Water in the desert is such a welcomed sight.  Whoever managed the cashe had lawn chairs and a table there and the cabinet was stocked with water, first aid, and other odds and ends.  I had a snack, drank nearly a liter of water, and hiked on.

About half the group I was at McDonald's with hiked on for another five miles after the water cashe.  The trail climbed up from the valley-it was a very long, slow climb typical of the PCT so far.  By then it was nice and cool out, the sun behind the ridge.  I tried to keep up my pace to get to camp before dark.  I could occasionally see the others who left the cashe before me one ridge ahead.

I arrived at camp for the night-a jeep road that we all hoped didn't get much traffic about ten minutes after the others and with enough light to spare to set up my tent.  

From camp I can look down into the pass where I came from. The interstate is a ribbon of red and white lights.  The train whistle has softened, but still easy to hear 10 trail miles from crossing under the tracks.  Its a calm, warm night.  I think it's going to be good sleeping.





Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 20-Nine Hikers Under a Bridge

Deep Creek Hot Springs at 308 to Silver Lake at 328

I woke up and had oatmeal in bed, packed up, and made for the hot springs.  Steam was floating off the top and the sun wasn't over the ridge yet.  It was the perfect time to hike, but an even better time to enjoy the hot spring.  I gave myself a pass on the up early out of camp early routine.  It's not often I get to enjoy a hot spring while thru-hiking.

As it was, I left camp at quarter of 8, so not exactly a late start.  It was hot though, and the guide book warns that the rest of the hike to Wrightwood is a hot, exposed one.  At least there was plenty of water today.

The first 10 miles went by pretty quick.  Four of us clustered up under a patch of shade right past the 10 mile mark.  I ate a protein bar that I didn't know I had until I started digging to the bottom of my food bag looking for a Snickers bar.  We thought we were about a mile from a creek, but it turns out we were minutes away from it, and it would have made a much better break place.  So I took a second break.  I got my water, put my feet in the water-not as good as the hot springs, but it did the trick.

Upon leaving I dunked my hat in the creek hoping it would keep me cooler-it was dry within a mile and I was cooking.  It was 12:30 and when it's that hot I can't help but think of the next break in the shade.  Every time the trail went through a shady spot I'd walk a little slower, maybe pause for a drink of water.  

The trail came down to a road that I had been listening to all afternoon and there was a bridge.  I saw Woodstock Willy's pink shirt from up on the hill and quickened my pace.  Where there's one hiker under a bridge there will be many hikers.  I think the most we had under there was nine hikers.  I stayed long enough to have lunch and then need a snack before setting off with half the group.

It wasn't long after leaving the bridge than we came across a cooler full of fresh fruit.  I had half a dozen strawberries and a couple pieces of pineapple.  It was a nice bit of magic, and really unexpected.

The trail followed some power lines and then cut down to this beautiful lake that took me completely by surprise (and this was after sitting under a bridge that looked at the backside of a dam and talking about Silver Lake camp for the night).  It looked like the trail was going to follow the lake for the last five miles of the day.

I ended up bushwhacking down to a boating picnic area and beach with Tommy.  We hung out there for awhile with a group of guys out with their boat.  At one point one of the guys pulled out a giant sub-they thing looked like a cake at first it was in a big plastic container.  He wanted to know if either of us were hungry, and of course I was.  It was a great pre-dinner dinner.

The guys ended up giving us a ride over to the day use area the trail goes past.  It was pretty fun being on a boat.  The lake was even bigger than I thought-it had all these little bays with beaches.  The guys said it is a real popular place for people to go to get out of LA.

After the five minute ride we found the rest of our group at the picnic area in the process of making dinners.  While my dinner cooked I took stock of my food-I have even more than I thought.  I have a bag with two dinners in it that I didn't know about, and more bars than I want to eat in the next two days.

A coyote ran through the parking lot at dust.  Most of us left the day use area and set up camp out of sight of the parking lot behind some willows.  It's a really warm night so far, and I'm hoping it doesn't cool off too much.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 19- 22 miles to the hot springs

Little Bear Springs at 285 to Deep Creek Hot Springs at 308

Woke up with frost on my pack.  I spent the night with my head inside my bag-a little uncomfortable, but warm enough.  One hiker said it was 24 degrees when he got up.  It wasn't a morning to linger around camp after emerging from the sleeping bag.  It was just as well-everybody was planning on 22 miles to the hot springs.

The morning hike was nice.  The trail has been so nice lately.   It crossed the little creek I was camped next to multiple times in the morning.  I think I like any section of trail with pine trees or creek crossings.

Lunch time at Deep Creek
At the last crossing of the creek I grabbed more water and a candy bar to get me the four miles to the first crossing of Deep Creek and lunch.  Lots of hikers were hanging out at the Deep Creek bridge-it's a new thing for me, hanging out under a bridge.  This was at least a hiker foot traffic bridge and not a car bridge.  I had lunch, then snack sitting on a log with my feet in the water.  It was chilly, but felt so good.

Crossing the Deep Creek Bridge
From lunch it was 8 miles to the hot springs.  Eight long, hot, exposed, miles.  Deep Creek was down in a canyon and the trail was up on the canyon wall.  It was almost a little unnerving, especially when the trail was crumbly and a step would send rocks sliding down the hill.

The miles to the hot springs felt a lot longer than the miles I hiked in the morning.  It was so hot and again there was no midday break.  Around 3:30 my body started looking for its break, but it wasn't happening.  The longer I had to soak in the hot spring the happier I was going to be.

After listening to the creek for hours and thinking about the hot springs for days I finally made it there around five.  It was better than what the guide book said.  The area seemed cleaned, the locals seemed nice, and there was a surprising amount of young people there soaking in the sun and in the hot pools.

Hot springs and cold creek
I went in the cold water first and it was take your breath away cold.  But it felt really good to be in the water after listening to it for so long.  It was great.  Then it was into the hot pools.  Someone said the first one I was in 107 degrees.  As hot as the day was, the hot water felt great.  My feet loved it, my legs loved it, my shoulders loved it.  There was nothing that wasn't awesome about that spot.

I stayed in the hot pool until dinner.  Ate, drink lots of water, and then back into the cold water and then hot.  Nine hikers in a hot spring pool taking in the night and the hot water.  I think every camp should have hot and cold pools.



Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Day 18- Nice Trail to Hike

Mile 265 to Mile 285

The owner of the hostel gave five of us a ride to the trail head this morning.  I have parted ways with Rattle Bee and Speed Bump for now, but I'm still with Threshold and Tommy.  Strides and Day Hiker also hit the trail today.  The 5 of us weighed down the poor little station wagon-it scraped leaving the driveway.

We arrived at the trail at 9:30- which is a late start when usually I'd have 5 or 6 miles done by that time.  That meant no long breaks at the heat of the day if I wanted to get to camp in the day light.  With no time to waiste, I hiked.

The first few miles flew by being mostly flat and had nice trail.  At 10 I stopped for breakfast-just a quick break to scarf down a Cliff bar, and then onward.  At that point in the day a 19 didn't seem like a sure thing.  It depended a lot on the trail and water, but if the trail stayed nice than it wouldn't be a problem.

And wouldn't you know it, it the trail did stay nice.  Near lunch time the trail treated me with a view of Big Bear Lake with snowy peaks behind it.  Unlike on most of the AT out here when there's a view you get to look at it for a long time, and it's not on a side trail.  But that holds true for walking through burn areas or along a ridge overlooking a creek.  Those sections just go on and on.

It was too late of a start to have a long mid day break, but luckly it wasn't too hot out.  The long break is good for more than just escaping the heat-I find it really helps my body, and lifts my mood.  But it wasn't that bad going without a break.

I got into camp just before 6.  And I was hungry.  I got my water, treated it, got set up at the picnic table, and started in on dinner.  I had a bag of soup that was supposed to have three dinners in it.  I dumped all of them in my cook pot.  I think it was half hunger and half desperation to lighten my food bag.  While my food set in its cosy I went in search of a flat spot.  I ended up near the creek and away from most of the other campers-hopefully a good night sleep is in store for me.

My three servings of soup hit the spot.  I may regret eating so many servings, but I'd be really surprised if I ran out of food.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Day 17- Always go a little further

The waning full moon 
Mile 252 to Mile 265 (Highway 18 into Big Bear)

Just as I feared, I slept terribly.  I don't know how many times I looked at my watch, but time wasn't moving very fast.  It's hard when the two things you'd like to do won't work out.  I wanted to sleep or get up.  Eventually it was time to leave the rocky slope and hike-and fast because it was in the low 40's.  I'd say not 10 minutes pass camp there was the water cashe.  It had soda, cookies, fruit, and of course water.  It also had great camping.  That stung a little.  Lesson:  Always go a little further.

Trail Magic at its finest
I tried to shake off my tiredness and plow ahead-town awaited.  While I don't think I have hiker hunger yet, I couldn't help but look forward to town food.  The idea of town makes me hike faster.  It helped that the trail was easy underfoot.  Breaks were kept short (I only ate half a Clif bar on the way in).
Not far into the miles for the day I met new people.  Three guys also going into town.  I wasn't planning on going into Big Bear until last night.  I couldn't think of a reason not to go in besides I hadn't planned on it and that didn't stand to reason.

The trail today had some of the biggest trees that I've seen.  Some of the pines  make the trees on the AT look like saplings.  It was a truly beautiful section of forest.  The trail stayed in he trees most of the day so it stayed cool out.

I could hear highway 18 since camp last night, and I could hear it for most of the day.  Just out of sight, just out of reach.  Around 11 o'clock six of us came to the road ready to hitch a ride to town for food, showers, and laundry-and that really was the order of business.

It took almost an hour for the six of us to get a ride in.  Rides are easier with less people.  So many cars slowed down like they wanted to stop for me and Threshold the sped up when the saw the four guys with us.  But we did all get a ride in, ate some food, and went to the hostel.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Day 16- In Memory

Mile 230 to Mile 252


For Grammy
September 2, 1919 through May 7, 2012

Sunset from a rocky sloped little campsite.
(I wrote a very long, detailed entry for this day and then the computer and the phone conspired against me and I ended up deleting the entry by mistake.  At mile 250 there was a grizzly bear--in a cage.  There are stunt animals for the movies and for some reason the PCT goes right along their cages.  It was kind of neat.  That was the unusual bit of the day.  The rest of it was the normal hiking, water drinking, ginger snap eating day.  Oh, and the day went from 20 miles to 21 to 22 and I wasn't too pleased by the end of it.  And I'm none too pleased that the really long entry was gobbled up by technology.)

Day 15-Water in the Desert

Mile 210 to 230

The full moon was as bright as someone shining a headlamp on my face, although that probably happened a few times last night, too.  Not a great night of sleep, but I did get up early and was hiking at 6:30.  Not early enough, though.  By 8:30 it was 83 degrees out and I was climbing steeply out of a canyon to the top of Mesa Hill Wind Farm.  It was a pretty rough climb with a food bag that was overflowing its confines: but my second breakfast was delicious.

The wind farm--it was a nearly windless morning
Things were better after the first climb.  The trail evened out some and I stopped working so hard and sweating so much.  Unlike on the AT sweaty clothing dries out while hiking on the PCT.  My shirt has rings of dry salt stains-the rings tell how many days it's been since the shirt was washed.

At mile 8 there was a .5 mile side trail to White Water Game Preserve.  There was actually flowing water in the desert today.  White Water Creek looked dry at first from the hill above, but going down to it I heard the sounds of rushing water.  The water was clear as crystal and sparkled over the river rocks.  The trail to the Preserve crossed the creek with a small wood footbridge.  The trail was lush and green and smelled of mud.  It was a nice change from the arid desert.  The Preserve had picnic tables under shade where I ate homemade ginger snap cookies and tanked up on water.  There was also a wading pool that had icy cold water that felt great on my feet.  They stayed cool for half of the walk back to the PCT.  I spent two hours there-too long for so early in the day.  Some hikers last night were talking about staying there all day for some trail magic hiker feed starting at 5 p.m

Back on the PCT I put up my Chrome Dome.  I think Chrome Domes make wind.  It was perfectly still while following the creek and then it was all windy.  The trail followed the creek for a ways.  The first crossing I folded up my umbrella and marched through with my shoes on.  There were four of us across the creek looking for the trail.  I think we scrounged around for 10 minutes before Rattle Bee found it.  The rest of the crossing we easy and didn't call for anymore wet feet.

The trail moved away from the hot shadeless creek bed and up a hot shadeless ridge.  The assent was gentle and perfect for using the Chrome Dome.  When cresting the ridge the valley below and the rest of the ridge unfolded with each step up.  It was really neat to see nothing in front of me but the ground I stood on and the sky to having the area unroll before me.  Best part of the day, I think.

The trail followed the ridge line for a bit.  Near the top I stopped quickly for a snack.  It was so hot I could feel the heat of the ground through my shoes like standing bare foot on pavement-breaks had to be quick.  From the ridge I could see where the trail was going:  to Mission Creek where there was shade and water to drink.

My thru-hiker hunger hasn't kicked in yet, I think its being suppressed by the desert sun, but water is something I always want.  At this point in the hiker there are few things better than sitting in the shade and drinking a liter of water with the source bubbling away near by.  The trail took its time getting me to that water source, but sure enough I got there.  Threshold and Dancing Feet had been there for a bit and Tommy and I found places in the shade followed closely by Kurk and Colors then Rattle Bee and Speed Bump.  There wasn't much unoccupied shade at this point. 

I took my shoes off and had lunch and drank water.  I ate some cookies, but mostly just enjoyed being still.  The break stretched out.  Some people snored as they took a nap.  We had five miles left-easy ones judging from the maps, and we weren't going anywhere until it cooled off some.  Clouds had gathered around the highest peaks and we all paused to listen to the rumble of thunder coming from where we had hiked a few days ago.  No rain for the desert, though.

Clouds gather over the high peaks
At 5:30 I was the first to leave the oasis of shade with Tommy a few minutes behind.  I'd probably walked 10 minutes before coming across a young rattle snake next to the trail. It coiled up for a second, but didn't rattle.  Slowly it uncoiled, tongue flicking to taste the air.  It moved slowly my direction.  It as just cruising, doing its thing, looking at me whenever I took a step away.  It slide through some dried leaves making a sound more dangerous than its rattle.  I was keeping a half eye out for Tommy to give him a heads up.  When he arrived he took a couple pictures, gave the snake a wide birth, and we moved on.

The trail crossed Mission Creek twenty times in a handful of miles and we were counting on camping on the bank near mile 230.  With no real landmarks we set the goal of hiking until 7:30.  At 7 after checking the maps we thought we were where we wanted to be, and we were both feeling done for the day.  As soon as Tommy said he was going to start looking for a campsite one appeared.  It was mostly flat, mostly grassy, had a fire pit, and the creek was right there.  Perfect.

After setting up and making dinner Threshold hiked by.  I called out to her and she joined us.  She said most of the others were camped a mile back.  We hung out until hiker midnight (full dark) and everybody crawled into bed.  I'm cowboy camped again.  The moon is full and bright overhead.  The creek is bubbling, frogs are peeping, and I'm exhausted.