Friday, April 30, 2010

She Has Huuuge Granite Boulders.

Day 16-April 29th

Today we set out to begin our attempt of the San Jacintos. Given the shortness of the leg we skipped, our packs are lighter, and our pace is slower. It is nice though, as our days are more playful.

Despite my general proclivity to sleep in until 10am or later, the trail has shaped us into day creatures quickly. It is difficult to sleep past sunrise, even when staying up late (10-11pm) in trail towns. Apricots and I woke around 7am. Shortly after our showers and packing up, we went to a local coffee shop for a morning treat.

We milled about town, and did the last of our errands, before enjoying a tasty breakfast burrito and hitting the road with our packs and our thumbs.

Sitting just outside of the small downtown area of Idyllwild (population 3500 approx), we held our thumbs skyward. Ten minutes later, a lady in a jeep pulled over. Apparently she was driving west when she saw us. She turned her jeep around to drive us east. She felt that it wouldn't ruin her day errands to drive us out of Idyllwild. She drove us halfway to our destination before dropping us off and turning around to go back to her daily business.

Standing on a new pad of land with skyward thumbs, we awaited our next ride. Another westbound driver turned around to talk to us. She said she was running up to Idyllwild on a quick errand, but would be returning eastward directly afterwards. If we so desired we could go up and back with her. We politely declined, stating that if we were around when she came back we would love a ride.

As luck would have it, three cars later, we had a ride back to where we left trail. Apricots and I climbed into the mini-cooper and rode the remaining 17 miles, talking to the driver of his work in Outdoor Education.

Soon we were dropped at the trail head. The temperature was barely 50 degrees, and we knew that the sooner we got moving, the sooner we could get warm. Just as we were set to go, Team Megatex (Uncle Tom, The Mayor, Dick Wizard, and General Lee) arrived.

As we are planning to cross San Jacinto together, our course is fairly prearranged. We only set out to do seven miles, and we stuck to the plan.

The hike took us past amazing red granite boulders, some larger than houses. The serpentine trail traveled between larger boulders, making for a fun walk. The temperature was low, so the hike was enjoyable. Soon the red granite boulders were overrun by large grey granite boulders. Legend says that the boulder fields we walked through were a result of an epic battle between a warrior, Algoot, and a banished murdering evil chief, Tahquitz.

In the evening, we found a camp next to a spring, nestled under Gold Cup Oaks and Box Elders. The tree we camped next to was an enormous Oak, pictured below. After setting camp in the early afternoon, General Lee built a fire. We spent the evening watching a very light snow flurry blow in from up the hill, while we enjoyed the heat of a very nicely built fire.

Tomorrow we have another casual day, which should set us up for a snow filled saturday. Hopefully the sun continues to melt the snow down for us. Today was a little cool, tomorrow is supposed to be warmer.
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Idyllwild Hitching

Psycho demonstrates the hitchiking dance.
The movie doesn't show it, but the first car that passed (a blue mini-cooper) actually turned around and picked us up.

And for those getting this via email, heres a fun link to follow:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

IMG-Tahquitz Peak

This is the west face of the mountain we will be going over friday and saturday.
All the snow is on the north side... Where we will be crossing.

Wish us luck and safe travels.
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Sometimes you walk through flowers

Sometimes they walk through you.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is there danger up in 'dem 'dere hills?

(So I messed up on days...oops)

Day 14-April 27th

Given the snow fall in the Laguna Mountains, and down at 3000 feet, Apricots and I were hesitant to cover the San Jacinto peaks. The latest news brought harrowing stories of hikers sliding down slopes of snow, using a leatherman to self-arrest, turning back, and generally being less than enthusiastic about the trail conditions around Apache Peak, and Tahquitz Peak.

When I hiked in 2005, similar stories existed, but I went through two weeks later in the year, and there was no recent snowfall. When I went through, wind was heavy, rain was real light, and the trek was adventurous. Debi showed early signs of hypothermia, and probably me as well (if I weren't in denial). It was my first time I questioned what I had gotten myself into.

Naturally, this time, our course of action was up in the air. Today, we hiked 9 miles to the highway. When we reached highway 74, we chose to head into Idyllwild early. From Idyllwild we could get the latest weather reports, and hear what other hikers had to say about the pass. After a time consuming hitch into town, we arrived in the super hiker friendly town. Most every store here offers thru-hiker discounts, and business cards are laid across backpacks; locals offering rides and assistance to hikers who might want help.

The first hiker we saw was Trailhacker. He was on crutches, after taking a 100 foot plunge down the mountain, and getting a helicopter ride down. Sadly, he has to leave the trail while his foot heals. Fortunately he lived to share his story.

After showers, ten of us went out for pizza. While at the pizza joint, several of us saw someone who looked like a thru-hiker, but she was wearing jeans (not typical hiker clothing). Halfway through the meal, she approached us and asked if she could join. Luca sat down and introduced herself. She planned to hike this year, but life sent her on another path. Ideally she plans on making it out next year.

After asking us many questions, it was unveiled that today is her birthday. Ten thru-hikers sang her the birthday song and toasted to her. We sat around for an hour after dinner talking, and eventually invited her back to the cabin we are renting. The birthday girl arrived with two six packs of beer for us to enjoy. Happily consumed, we sat by the fire place and talked late into the evening.

Tomorrow the Portland resident will make her drive home. I hope that fate gave her the whim to spend her birthday in Idyllwild, specifically to give her the opportunity to see some trail culture, and inspire her to get out next year, or hit some sections this year if she can.
(Good Luck Luca)
(Hope I spelled it correctly)

Day 15-April 28th

Today, we are taking a zero. Temperatures are high, and the snow is melting fast. Apricots and I have gone back and forth a thousand times debating a logical course of action. Ultimately, I believe we will hitch back to highway 74 and take a shot at the mountain.

There is a group of about 15 of us who are all going up at the same time, and by now a trail is solidly blazed through the snow. It is our belief that the extra three days of melt afforded by this unplanned layover (plus ascent) will enable us safe travels. I have procured extra maps, and we have looked at all possible routes through, as well as backup routes in case we find the path to be too dangerous.

Tomorrow we will hike three miles. Friday we will make the ascent up to about 8000 feet and set up camp. From there we will be able to look over the snow traverse and decide whether to go for it, or back down. If we go for it, I anticipate getting back down to Idyllwild saturday afternoon.

We are leaving most our resupply food and extra gear down here in Idyllwild, so our packs our lighter. It should be a fun adventure. Try not to worry too much. I feel pretty comfortable that by saturday most of the snow will be easily managed. Besides, if Apricots and I just skipped trail here, now, it would set us up for bad snow outside of Big Bear. Covering these miles now allows for more melt time at the next pass, and the opportunity to do both passes in a larger group.
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The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure trail system.

Day 13

Back to the trail.

We rose early and caught a parting breakfast from the ADZPCTKO. Shortly after 7am, "Squatch" (a trail celebrity of sorts and past hiking mate) drove us over Mt. Laguna and back to where we left trail at Warner Springs.

The first couple of miles cut across a large grassland valley, crisscrossed by numerous foot paths. Every five minutes, the trail split into two paths. Fortunately trail markers were placed every couple hundred yards, so if we weren't too busy staring at the wildflowers, or near wild horses, we could make our way across the land without too much frustration.

Shortly after crossing the highway, we began skirting Agua Caliente creek. About one mile down the creek, we caught up with Uncle Tom, The Mayor, Dick Wizard, and General Lee; a four person group, three of which hiked the Appalachian Trail together, the fourth being a brother joining up for this adventure. After hopping the creek three or four times, we made a small climb out of the valley, back to the standard shadeless desert we now call home.

Midday, we hit a spring shortly off trail, where we replenished and sat out the afternoon heat. The three guys from Israel pulled up and shared a very enticing trail rumor. Squatch told us that there was a trail angel seventeen miles from where we started the morning at. The Israeli trio (now called D'Israeli Gears) told us that "Gourmet", the cook at ADZPCTKO, was bringing leftovers to the trail angels house to do a few nights of Barbecuing for thru-hikers.

Our general pattern of hiking four to five miles before a rest was ignored. We made the seven mile stretch without a break. As we hit the road, we turned the bend and were greeted to a stereo blasting Michael Jackson. Ten minutes later our boots were off, and we were being spoiled with BBQ hot dogs, chicken, and ice cold beer.

Casa (Mike) Herrera, Inc. came equipped with a sleeping shed, a pool table, several hammocks, as well as a vast surplus of dining delights. This sort of treatment is always well loved on the trail, but results in excess food (read weight) in our packs. I suppose we'll just have a couple double-dinner nights.

Day 14

We woke to breakfast burritos. Gourmet was cooking eggs and beef. Apricots and I supplied some tortillas and hot sauce. After the tasty breakfast, we donned our packs and headed back to the desert. Camp Mike Herrera turned the speakers on, and pointed them to the desert. Our ascent was easy with the tunes of Michael Jackson cheering us the first couple miles.

Sing us in... Sing us out.

We hit the trail at the San Diego County line, and entered into Riverside County. Our walk took us through the standard desert chaparrel we have grown accustomed to. With my limited flora knowledge, I tried to point out the vegetation I knew to Apricots; Chemise, Yucca, Manzanita, Ribbonwood, Prickly Pear, Barrel Cactus, and Cane Cholla. But, soon my knowledge was exhausted. For trail humor, we have taken to creating our own plant identification. I generate a latin name, and she generates the common name.

We have passed great purple flowers aptly named "that purple plant back there" (Laurnatum Purpleipsis), which should not be confused with "that purple one up ahead" (Apricotus Purpleitum). A new plant appeared after Casa Herrera, Inc. We named it "Weed-Psyche" (Adobus Herreras). One other newly named plant yet to receive a common name is the "Legus Ripus" which belongs to the "Don't-eff-with-us" genus, along with Poison Oak.

We took a long siesta in a small shade patch next to a barely running Tule Creek, before continuing our northbound walk. After dipping down into Nance Canyon, we made a grueling ascent out of the small desert Canyon. We really should have had dinner at the bottom of the canyon, because we were both exhausted for the climb out.

Shortly before sunset, we arrived at a water cache. We ate dinner and set up camp. With our surplus of food, we prepared a second dinner after sunset, and dined with the Uncle Tom quartet. They are a fun group, and I hope to hike a distance with them. Uncle Tom looks like David Carradine (who played Bill in Kill Bill), and General Lee looks like General Lee.

We went to sleep under a near full moon.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Town Daze

After 110 miles, we spoiled ourselves to a five day vacation (from our vacation). It was supposed to only be four days, but we arrived early to Warner Springs, and the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off party, was not willing to adjust the event to meet with our needs. Oh well, I'm not complaining.

Zero days are a lot of boring relaxations, so I won't go into detail, but just share highlights.

Day 8-9
Warner Springs

-Pulled in a couple hours before the rain hit.
-Showered, Laundered, Dined.
-Relaxed in natural hot spring.

Someone asked Apricots and I how long we had been married. We told her that we were not married, but just a serious couple. Hence forth, every time she saw us at the resort, she called us the cute couple.

Day 10-12
Lake Morena - ADZPCTKO

Thursday morning, we woke to snow in the desert. Thursday afternoon, a trail angel picked us up in Warner Springs, to drive us to the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) party. This is a weekend long event, where several PCT enthusiast and backpackers, get together and share ideas, give mini classes, and reconnect with previous hikers.

The first evening was pretty informal. As only about 100 people were present so far, they did a fun mock jeopardy game show. They needed 3 current thru-hiking volunteers to be contestants. I volunteered, and competed against Liz and "Sub-Zero". I have the unfair advantage of having hiked 1100 miles in 2005, so when the questions started rolling, I was on top of them. I felt a tinge of guilt when I won, but graciously accepted my trail mix and dried fruit winnings.

Friday and saturday consisted of looking at Vendors gear, and attending mini classes. We listened to small lectures on Desert Hiking techniques, Flore+Fauna, Mountaineering, and PCT closures. The first evening we watched videos put together by other hikers, and the second evening we saw the first screening of the National Geographic special on the PCT (due out in september).

With over 400 people there, it was a bit crowded, but it was still fun. On sunday morning after an early breakfast, "Squatch" drove Apricots and I back to Warner Springs so we could start hiking.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

The ol' thumb workout

Day 7

We didn't sleep well last night. The wind beat furiously on our tent all night. It was a flat spot, and we were both comfortable, but the wind still kept us up. It was okay, because we were going to town, and no blisters, no lack of good sleep, no heat, no scratching brush was going to stop us from our "Town Pace."

"Town Pace" is a strange hiking phenomenon that results in several side effects, inclusive (but not limited to):
Increased Speed,
Increased Interval times between breaks,
Decreased food intake,
Decreased concern of proper Hydration practices,
Irrational fantasies of 20 course meals,

Despite the apparent "Town Pace" that guided our movement down to barrel springs, our pace came to a crawl when we hit the low grassland valleys overrun with flowers. Every pasture we walked past carried their own variety of daisies, daffodils, and poppies. It was amazing to see such an vivid display of color in an otherwise monochromatic landscape.

Four miles before reaching the road, we took lunch at Eagle Rock. When I hiked in 2005, I blew past this landmark. I thought, "big deal, a rock that looks like an eagle. I'm tired, I'm sore, I want to get to town." When I got to town, I saw a photo of the rock, and I have spent the last five years regretting that decision.

After lunch, and a series of pictures, we finished our section A leg (110 miles). We intercepted the highway shortly after one. We set our packs down for a break. As soon as we did that, a car was coming down the road. I put my thumb out, and he pulled over.

What luck!! Two minutes on the highway, and then we were rolling in a car to Warner Springs resort for some serious food, and hot spring relaxation.
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Need a little lead in your pack; Redux

I forgot to mention why the last one was called "need a little lead..."

I mentioned the Water Cache at Third Gate. A cache is basically a storage place to put food, water, gatorade, beer, etc. on trail so hikers can easily replenish water on dry stretches, or revel in the kindness of others (see also Beer Cache).

Generally all caches are refilled by people who volunteer there time to do this. We can not rely on water being at a cache, and should not. It is a privilege to get the benefits of a "kind neighbor."

There is a cache mantra that says, "Take only what you Need, Leave all that you can."

Just past third gate water cache, there was a small box sitting in the desert called "Lead Cache." Inside was a note that read, "take only what you need," as well as lead fishing weights, varying in size up to a full pound.

Looking back, I (kind of) wish I actually took one. Then again, do I really need to add more weight to my pack?

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Need a little lead in your pack?

Day 6

Today it was my turn to struggle. Yesterday I helped motivate Apricots, and today she helped me. It'll be a grim day indeed when we both struggle.

Knowing the climb up the San Felipe hills offered little to no break from the beating desert sun, we chose to get a very early start on the day. Sadly though, I got little sleep last night because halfway through the night it started hailing. This produced some wonderful noise around midnight, waking me, but not Apricots.

It would seem the trail was going to have Apricots lead my complaining body for a day, teaching us the general give and take of energy.

Anyway, we walked across the valley floor with our head lamps shining at our feet for the first thirty minutes. As the sun rose, we were treated to a beautiful display of colors. Shortly before we hit a water cache, we passed a rather bizarre piece of "art". Perched upon the barb of the barbed wire fence we were paralleling was the head of a barbie doll. In the light of dawn, her shaved head and deep blue eyeliner added to the eerieness of it all. The body-less head stared intently upon the San Felipe hills.

After a refill at a friendly water cache, Apricots and I started our ascent up the hot waterless stretch. Early on we started passing several different types of cactus, including prickly pear (with its rich magenta flowers), cane cholla, and barrel cactus. We also noticed a plant (whose name is escaping me) that looked like a goliath asparagus. The guidebook states that they leaf after rain, and as a result can leaf several times a year, each time loosing its leaves to the following days of heat.

We passed another hiker on the way up, who was carrying a larger pack, yet somehow felt that 1.5 liters was enough water. Apricots and I were carrying at least twice that, and drinking sparingly. Further up the ascent, after we took second breakfast, we passed her again. She had one quarter of a liter, and at least six miles to go. I gave her some of my water, but she refused to take too much of it, for fear of "too much weight."

Around two in the afternoon, we arrived at the much desired "Third gate cache", a water cache maintained by a very dedicated volunteer. Every year, he walks up the hill from his property carrying four gallons of water in his backpack, and one in each hand. Repeating this 50lb hall about seventy times, he slowly replenishes over 400 gallons of water every hiking season. There is no thanks that would ever match the generosity of this man.

After nearly two hours of rest in minimal shade, Apricots and I prepared a lunch, as the parched hiker pulled in. Our water did not last her the last stretch, and she nearly drowned herself in water as she stumbled in in near delirium. The ground temperature (not air) was 124 degrees. The beating sun on the exposed trail, and the radiating heat from the ground surface amplified what was a pretty mild temperature in the 80s.

After she asked if she could get sick from not drinking enough water, Apricots and I talked to her about the importance of hydration, and electrolytes. We gave her two packets of electrolytes to help her retain what she was consuming.

As the temperature faded, I trimmed part of the back heel off my shoe insole. This modification did wonders for my feet (or so it seems, so far). Apricots and I set out after the heat dropped, and a breeze picked up.

We settled a nice flat campsite four miles past the water cache.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010


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Barrel cactus and cane cholla, I believe.
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The Entrepreneurial Trail Angel

Day 5

Today was about yellow and struggling.

We rose before dawn, so I could take pictures of the sunrise and we could get an early start on the sunny descent down.

We were still running more or less parallel to the Sunrise Highway in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Our descent continued to offer great views down into Oriflamme Canyon and across to Oriflamme Mountain. Sadly these views were largely ignored due to the overgrowth of desert flora. Our early morning walk was filled with a constant assault on our legs by the fiercest and pointiest plants of the desert. At least our legs were only somewhat sunburned, so the soft parts of the plants only caused shooting pains.

We made it through with minimal blood loss. Apricots and I took breakfast three miles down at a trail junction. We had only been walking for a little over an hour, but her boots were wearing on her ankles, and the uneven rocky surface was getting under her nerves. She had poor sleep last night so the boots added to her difficulties.

I encouraged her along, and we slowly descended the rocky terrain. Soon, the landscape opened up in brilliant displays of wildflowers. We counted at least six species of yellow flowers. The most predominant was a particular variety that grows several feet high and has many large yellow buds. As we made our steep drop into Rodriguez Canyon (an area frequented by prospectors), we were enveloped by these plants. We paused a moment to watch several large birds (maybe turkey vultures) glide on the wind 10 feet away from us.

At the bottom, we made a short steep climb out of the canyon onto the flanks of Chariot Mountain. By this time, Apricots was ready to be done with the day. I motivated her with promises of a potential shower four miles down the trail.

Pie Town Gear, in Julien, set up a pseudo-hiker store in the middle of the desert. From 1.5 miles away you could see several tents and a car parked next to a large water tank. When we arrived, Wayne offered us seats, solar heated water for showers, wash basins for our clothing, and a store packed with thru-hiker delights: beer, gatorade, snickers, energy drinks, fruit juice, etc.

After a surreal shower in the middle of the desert Apricots and I lounged in the shade, waiting for the heat to drop. We chatted with a few other hikers before leaving this desert oasis.

We made the descent down Granite mountain, a long rough drop, that can only be described as irritating. The entire descent offers views across the valley floor to the San Felipe hills, tomorrows climb. Sadly, due to politics and stubborn land owners, the trail is forced to take a more lengthy route over a dryer hotter mountain.

Just after sunset, we reached the bottom, and set up camp on the valley floor. My feet were exhausted, and Apricots was more than ready to get out of her boots.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Milk Jug Washing Machine Lady

Day 4
We slept in (until 7am) this morning and descended two miles down to Mt. Laguna Lodge. The general store and post office did not open until 9am, so we made use of the facilities at the visitors center. Apricots sat at the far end of the parking lot. Casually perched upon her z-rest sleeping pad, she hunkered over an empty milk jug cut in half. At the last minute, I decided to add half a gallon jug to our gear to serve this purpose. She sat there washing clothes in the bottom half of the jug. Meanwhile, I ran water bottles to her, and rinsed out the clothing. We laid all our clothes out on on the wheel-stops in the parking lot, to take in the sun (our own ultra-lightweight dryer).
By the time we were finished, the store had just opened. We walked up there and began our three hour rest, relax, and dine time. Tasty breakfast burritos, oranges, and tomato juice accompanied our obvious morning coffee. We have weened ourselves off of caffeine, so that we don't need/want it while hiking, but that does not mean we don't want to enjoy it when we can have it. After walking our first leg, we realized we were somewhat short on snack food items, so we bought a bit of food to complement our standard resupply box.
As we enjoyed our morning meal, with peanut butter cup desserts, other hikers ambled about arriving and going about similar tasks. While "grazing" on the porch of the Mt. Laguna Lodge (which has 3 large yellow signs that say "No Loitering"), we talked with other hikers. Jackass & Molasses were there, as well as Terrapin Flyer & Granite, and Fidget & Riffraff. After we had our fill, we sorted through all our food, packed up, and went back to the trail.
As opposed to yesterday, most of todays walkin was gradual downhill. Easy going, with amazing views out into the Anza-Borrego Desert, and Cottonwood Canyon. The PCT followed the contours gently downhill, roughly paralleling the Sunset Highway.
Late in the evening we arrived at Pioneer Mail campground. The water source there is labeled as non-potable, so we were happy to find that some Trail Angel had left four gallons of water for thru-hikers. After Apricots and I had taken our fill of water, day hikers and bicyclists were returning to their parked cars. I approached some of them to ask for water. We refilled the water I had taken from the cache, leaving water for the hikers behind us.
Early evening, we began our ascent up Garnet Mountain, along an old unpaved section of the Sunset Highway. The views were spectacular, and it would have been nice to take them all in while relaxing, but we had about an hour left of daylight and a couple miles yet to go. Eventually, we arrived at a tiny flat-ish spat (which serves as a campground for us) just as the sun was setting.
At 56 miles in, Apricots now exceeds her previous "longest hike" by several miles, and we are approximately two percent done with the entire trail. At this point, we have hiked through the desert a distance roughly the equivalent of running a half-marathon, four days in a row.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My new Arch Nemesis - the Desert Turkey

Day 3

Last night we camped next to a highway. You would think that we would wake to the sound of semi's an un-muffled cars, but instead we woke to:


A turkey. It woke us maybe three or four times last night. What a "treat" of nature. Rising early to the natural sounds of nature (read sounds of the turkey I will kill if I ever find), we broke camp as "Jackass" and "Molasses" passed us by. We were walking by seven, looking forward to a day of uphill climb; over 3000 feet, we climbedup onto the south side of the Laguna mountains.

The hike took us under interstate eight, and up Kitchen Creek. It was still early morning, so the heat was not bad, but another hiker at a later time could easily get frustrated by the sounds of water just far enough down hill to be unreachable. We left the creek at Kitchen Creek Rd., where a father was with his three year old son., wanting to try out the boys new backpack. The father sadly looked over my maps and concluded the distance to water was too far to walk with his son. Meanwhile the little boy ran around in a green dragon hat, spikes pointed slightly off to the left, probably questioning why his dad would think coming to the middle of a rocky hot desert was a "fun" idea. After a short chat we began our final ascent into the shady pines. Large red rocks lay scattered along the trail making our ascent tiresome on the feet, but the view down into Cameron Valley was the best view we have seen as of yet.

As we broke 5000 feet, we left the dense chaparral and chemise covered land. The sparsely populated manzanita gave way to a loose canopy of Jeffrey pine trees. The pine duff was a nice change from the standard rocky terrain we have "enjoyed" since the border. Shortly before reaching our camp for the night, we ran into three horseback PCT association members out doing trail maintainance. I try to always thank them when I see them, because we definitely notice a well kept trail from a deprived trail. It can get frustrating to walk for an hour with brush scraping your sunburned legs, or be climbing at a steady pace, only to have to slow down to navigate around a fallen tree. I have a hard time imagining the effort it took to make the trail, but I am very grateful. When we ran the marathon one and a half years ago, it was great to see thousands of people out supporting Lauren and I (and others) on our run; offering treats along the way. Similarly on the trail, I notice a well kept portion of the trail existing because of thousands of faceless bodies working the trail system to support my (and others) dreams.

We pulled into Burnt Ranch campground, which has had significant renovations since I was last here five years ago. We spent the evening there, eating most of our remaining food, as we only had two miles to walk in the morning for resupply. Just as we were getting finished with dinner, three more thru-hikers arrived and set up camp a little further down the road from us. After a quick chat regarding water, we found out that they are from Israel.

We are now going to sleep, free of highway noises, free of crack-cocaine induced turkey garblenarble's, but not free of screaming five year old kids, and glowing orange street lamps that come with drive up campsites. We don't mind though. We will be sleeping in.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Skipping Beer and Ice Cream?!? - Must not be in thru-hiker mode yet


OK, we went a little more than 9. It was our goal to only do 9, but we wound up doing 13.5 miles.

We woke shortly after "Amoeba", a section hiker we met last night. After breaking camp we meandered through dense chaparral, until we heard voices (not the crazy kind that suggested we hike in the first place, but the "real" kind). We stopped for breakfast and chatted with our first Thru-hiker hopefuls; "Shroomer", "Grammelissa", and Sandy (who may be now called "Yowsers")

After breakfast, we started our descent to Hauser creek, all while looking over at the sun beaten rocky climb up Morena Butte on the other side of the creek. On the final descent, "Shroomer" pointed out poison oak (which naturally filled Lauren (Apricots) with a little fear). Consequently, every plant that looks remotely like poison oak, results in a paranoid "is that poison oak?" question.

We took second breakfast at Hauser creek, which sparkled in the sun from the granitic sediment that made its shallow creek bed. after eating, Apricots and I donned our packs and started the ascent out of the valley. thirty minutes later, we reached a saddle near the high point for the day.

We made our gradual descent down to the Lake Morena campground where we intended to camp for the night. this campground will be the site of the ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) in a weeks time. We took advantage of some of the rare on trail showers (complete with hot water), after enjoying lunch.

Not long before our showers we met "Jackass" and "Molasses." Similar to me, they hiked close to 1200 miles previously on the PCT, but had to leave due to finances (and other factors). These two hikers plan to go all the way this time, recovering some ground they hit last time. I don't really understand what motivates us to hike the "full" trail, especially with the hot arid desert that has few water sources. One would think that after doing one portion once, we would be inclined to try and cover the portions we missed, but that does not seem to be the case. I am coming back to cover the parts I missed, but I want Apricots to see what I experienced, so I am sharing those portions with her (even if they are hot and difficult).

Molasses asked if we wanted to walk to the store with her. This would have been prime opportunity to go grab an ice cold beer, in the hot afternoon sun, and ice cream...but we passed on the offer because we were gluttons for punishment. We chose instead to hike out into the desert again, rather than shower again in the morning. With a few hours left in the day Apricots and I decided to tack on another four miles, finishing our day at a calm creek bed, filled with the sounds of croaking frogs, chirping birds, and the highway traffic.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Margarita without Tequila is Not a Margarita

Mark greeted Lauren and I at the airport, after the delayed flight finally arrived. Pulling into Lauren's brothers place after 11pm, he treated us to a tasty drink, and a midnight california burrito. He told us his goal was to pump us so full of fat, carbohydrates, and calories that we would be able to walk the first 500 miles without stopping, and the first 1000 miles with nothing to eat other than the leftovers from the meals he would drop upon us.

Our stay in San Diego was largely about eating and relaxing. Monday morning we went to a favorite breakfast joint of Mark's. The line was too long, so we continued to another favorite, only to find it was closed for remodeling. We ended at some 50s diner filled with Hollywood memorabillia. Post caloric intake we headed home for a nap.

And then we ate again, at a neighborhood sushi joint. It was nice to have a "light" meal, after the indulgences taken with Paul, and now Mark. Post sushi, Mark took us on a short driving tour of San Diego.

Tuesday morning, we went to Old Town San Diego, where we enjoyed some authentic mexican cuisine. Being over filled, I could not finish my quesadilla appetizer. Mark said I would be wanting it 300 miles down the trail. Well, I am ten miles down the trail, and it is sounding mighty tasty right now.

Wishing to stay properly hydrated for the hike, I went with a "virgin" margarita, assumint it would taste good. We were at an authentic restaurant after all. Turns out, I was very wrong. Halfway through the meal, Lauren orders me a "real" margarita. Much better (even if I was carded).

After a hearty mexican brunch, we drove to Balboa park. We spent a couple hours walking around. We ducked into the Botanical Garden.... And looked at a beautiful array of plants.

After the walk, we returned home, where Mark cooked up some fierce salmon, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. We chatted late into the evening with a movie playing in the background, and crashed just after midnight.

This morning, we ran a few small errands in town before Mark drove us to the trail head. It was nice to have someone see us off.

Today (April 14th) we started hiking just past noon. the weather was perfect, the temperature was better, and the company was the best.

Within the first mile, we spotted our first rattlesnake (and only for the day). The terrain was very mild, and easy on our non trail worn bodies.

Lauren and I took lunch after seven miles. We joked about how the rocks were our couch, and the view was was our wide screen TV. Lauren even commented about the quality of the surround sound, while I noticed the "central heat." As the wind picked up a bit, we finished our climb up the hill and took an early campsite at 10.5 miles in, leaving 9 miles for tomorrow.

Now, we sleep.

And we're off

Southern Terminus
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hippies in San Francisco, no way!?

Lauren (Apricots) and I arrived in San Francisco late in the evening. Due to a quick exchange on the freeway, we errored, and took 101 north, instead of 101 south. The highway died in some downtown section that was obviously not where we meant to be. Oh well, it was a little side trip that took us past Haight street, of the famed Haight-Ashbury intersection. Naturally I was filled with a teaspoon of euphoria, thinking I would be able to see a real life hippie in their natural habitat.

The excitement quickly died when I realized it was the 21st century, and not the 60's anymore. We circled around the block to get back on the highway. But, lo and behold, I spied a hippie, just before getting back on 101 southbound. I suspect she was performing some seldom seen mating ritual, because as I peered out the window, I caught a quick glimpse of the girl pulling down her shirt and exposing her breast to a wildlife photographer. What a rare treat to see these creatures in the wild.

Anyway, we continued onward, reveling in our unanticipated experience, until we arrived at our destination; Lauren's brothers place. Paul and his wife Kelly greeted us kindly, with welcome arms.

The following day was spent downtown by the San Francisco Ferry Terminal. After enjoying tasty pastries at a Boulangerie (next to the sculpture pictured below), we took a walking tour for a couple hours. We learned about Labor Strikes leading up to gun fights, earthquakes tearing down ugly downtown freeways, and mormons trying to establish their foothold in San Francisco through nefarious acts of business deceit.

After the walking tour we had happy hour appetizers at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (which I wanted to see to feed that inner architect). It was a pretty massive lobby, the likes of which were just beyond my comprehension of feasibility. Post happy hour we wandered home for a cat nap, before heading to "Pi" a pizza joint that opens daily at 3:14, and sells pizza by the slice for $3.14 (which I wanted to see to feed my inner math dork, and pizza consumption beast).

Post dinner, we spent the evening lounging at home, watching movies. In the morning Paul and Kelly treated us to another tasty meal at a small hole-in-the-wall diner called "toast". It was delicious, and helped Lauren and I load up on the pre-hike carbohydrates reserves. But naturally, big meals lead to sleepy heads. We all returned and lounged about at home.

It was windy and rainy in San Francisco, so we weren't missing much by staying in. Besides, Apricots and I had to pack up for our afternoon flight.

On the drive to the airport, we stopped at Target... a favorite of Kelly's, but we went to grab a cheap watch. I tried to convince Lauren that we should go with the butterfly watch (which has a butterfly for a second hand), but reason prevailed, and we got a digital watch, so that we could have an alarm on the trail.

Shortly after being dropped at the airport, the flight was delayed one hour... And after we passed through security, the flight was delayed indefinitely. Ultimately, our flight departed 2.75 hours later than expected. It left me wondering how San Francisco airport handles all the wind and rain that accompanies winter.

Thank you Paul and Kelly. :)

Stay tuned for our San Diego adventure... And while you wait, drop a lovely comment, or make a caring donation at our blog

Happy Trails, Inner Love, and Harmony

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Drive South

Yesterday Lauren and I left Portland. We took the drive to San Francisco to visit Laurens brother, Paul, and his wife Kelly. Along the way we passed over the PCT a couple times, and drove past one of the major sights along the hike. I took the below picture so that I could compare the changes Mt. Shasta will undergo, by the time we get back... Three months from now.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

T minus one week...and counting

Last night around ten PM, Lauren and I bagged our last batch of dehydrated apples. I don't know how we did it, but our food dehydration worked out nearly perfectly. All the food we had to dry seemed to take as much time as we had on the island. My parents neighbor's (The Walti's) lent us their dehydrator, so that we could dry more food. (Thank you)

Over the last week, Lauren and I went through our entire food supply, and hashed through our Itinerary until we had refined a simple process for resupply. Late last night, we sat my mom down and explained the process. She will be mailing all the food we pre-prepared, plus any gear we may need.

Lastly, we went through our packs, shedding ounces each time, until we reached a satisfactory level. Both of us are hiking with a base weight of around twenty pounds (varying with desert, or high sierra conditions).

What now?

Well, we drive south. We visit family along the way.

And April 14th, the walking hot desert. Thank you everyone for the well wishes. Sorry if we miss getting back to you. It's been go go go for the last two weeks.

Happy Trails, Inner Peace & Harmony
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...And the adventure begins (kind of)

So my folks were kind enough to host myself and Lauren as we finalized our trail plans. Below Lauren and I get a last picture taken of us before we hop in the car to drive south. We have stops in Portland, San Francisco, and San Diego before we set foot on the trail April 14th.

Thank you mom and dad. Without you, my dreams would never be realized.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Updated Gear List

After soliciting advice from other hikers on the PCT-L, I have taken about 4.5 lbs out of my pack.
Here is an updated gear list. I wonder what my pack will weigh at the end of the hike

This is my entire gear list. Some items will be shared, but the final weight is calculated as if I were to carry everything, because that always is a possibility. This is not an endorsement of any product, as not everything on this list has been used by me, but if you would like to ask me about any of the items on the list, I would be more than happy to give you my input on the items.


-Asolo Fugitive GTX boots
-Smartwool sock liners
-Smartwool Backpacking Socks
-OR FlexTex Gaitors (similar to link)
-UnderArmour Boxer Briefs
-Royal Robbins Convertable Pants (w/ zip off legs)
-Mt Hardware short sleeve tan hiking shirt (similar to link)
-Sun hat (similar to link)
-Trekking Poles

PACK (4lbs 10oz)
-Osprey Aether 70 (I may still switch to a lighter pack).
-BearVault (only where required)

-Smartwool sock liners
-Smartwool Backpacking Socks
-UnderArmour Boxer Briefs
-Long sleeve running shirt (washington only)
-Long sleeve linen sun shirt (California Desert Only)
-Mt Hardware Gore Windstopper Cap (similar to link)
-Patagonia capilene-2 long johns
-Patagonia capilene-2 pullover top
-MontBell Ultra Lightweight Down Jacket
-Frogg Toggs Raingear (pants only)
-REI Polartec Gloves (similar to link)


-2 Needles
-3 Safety Pins
-10 sq in mole skin
-1 oz foot cream
-2 oz DEET (in mosquito country only)
-4 sheets scrap paper
-1 oz toothpaste
-Dental Floss
-Toilet Paper
-Baby Wipes
-Sun screen
-Vaseline (first three hundred miles or so)
-AA Battery x2
-Sporteyz Sunglasses


-USPS Tyvek Mail Envelope
-Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe 65cm (15.9oz) (Sierras Only)
-OR Mosquito Headnet (2.2oz) (Mosquito Country Only)
-Petzl Headlamp (2.9oz)
-Joby Gorillapod (camera tri-pod) (5.8oz)
-32North STABILicers Lite (10.75oz) (Sierras Only)
-3 Mil Trash Bag (as interior bag liner)

-Titanium Spork (0.6oz)**
-Guyot Designs Squishy Bowl (3.3oz)**
-Platypus 3L w/ hydration kit (4oz + 3.25oz) (also empty plastic bottles in desert)
-JetBoil Cooking System (15.25 oz)**
-Katadyn Water Filter (11oz)**


-Marmot Sawtooth 15 (2lbs 14oz)
-Z-rest Sleeping Pad (10 oz)
-Double Rainbow Tarptent (2lbs 8oz)

-Garmin 60 CSx GPS (w/ 2 AA Batteries)
-Nikon Coolpix P100 Camera (w/ cables, extra battery, SD Cards)
-Blackberry Bold (w/ charger)
-Lowepro TLZ1 Camera Case

approx. 23 LBS

It is not perfect, but it is heading in the right direction.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Countdown... T minus 12 days

I am laying on the floor in my sleeping bag in my parents house. I drive south in one week, and start hiking in two weeks.

Finally, today, I felt that all things were in order. Lauren (Apricots) and I sat down this morning to enjoy our morning coffee...half caff, as we are weaning ourselves off of the caffeine addiction before the hike. While we enjoyed our coffee, we re-wrote our list of things to do (a near daily task), and laid out what we would do each day between now and when we drive south...and when our coffee was done, we tackled our day.

I bagged couscous and veggies, while she cut up bananas to dehydrate.

I updated my mailing address, and looked over business paperwork.

We cut up more bananas.

We drove to the store to buy vitamins and Ibuprofen.

We went to the bank.

We went to the pharmacy to get more fun drugs, supplements, and things of apothecarial delight.

We drove to the post office to get tyvek bags to carry gear in.

We went to the grocery store for more couscous and veggies, and bananas.

And we went home, where we died Easter eggs (not for trail consumption). I spent the evening refining the itinerary, while Lauren (Apricots) worked at shedding precious ounces from her pack.

And now, just before bed, we filled up our HEALTH bag; a bag of vitamins, electrolytes, and tasty candy coated chocolate orbs.

Its now 2am, and for the first time in the last three weeks, I feel like we'll get everything done on time. Now we just need to get Apricots into shoes that fit well.

Happy Trails, Inner Peace, and Harmony

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