Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Chester Pit Stop

Day 78-June 30th
Destination: MM 1327ish
Miles: 16.5
Cumulative Miles: 1035

It was not a very eventful day. We woke up and hiked down to the highway to Chester. Along the way, we passed through the Dutch Line Ditch, which was not anything spectacular, but we did notice that the trail was manicured differently than usual. Apparently, we were walking along the old remains of a hydraulic mining operation, which was shut down in the 1880's when California outlawed hydraulic mining.

A few miles later we arrived at Highway 36, where a water cache awaited our arrival, with phone numbers to call for rides in to Chester. Old Scout called and set up a ride with "Piper's Mom", an avid PCT enthusiast since her daughter hiked the trail two years ago. Thirty minutes later, we had a ride in to Chester where we picked up resupply packages. One friend sent an mp3 player loaded with books, while another sent a solar charger, to keep it charged. (Thank you Cody and DK).

After the post office, we ate a hearty lunch, and grabbed a few groceries before heading back to the trail. Coincidentally, the driver who picked the three of us up was "Piper's Mom's Husband". He drove Old Scout, Apricots, and Psycho back to the trail. At the trail head we bumped into "Compass" a fellow flip flop southbounder, and "Adelveiss" (sp?) a northbound jumper who did three weeks in the Sierras before jumping up to Belden. She told us of trail conditions ahead, and then we parted ways.

Seven miles later and 1500 feet (or so), we pulled in to a reasonably flat site to camp at. The four of us enjoyed dinner together, while Apricots and Psycho enjoyed a bottle of wine for the 1000 mile celebration.

Tomorrow...a forecast of snow and blowdowns..... It never ends.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bubbly Mud

Day 77-June 29th
Destination: Feather River
Miles: 16.5
Cumulative Miles: 1018.5

Rising and moving fast, we were met with the expected snow. Our progress was slowed, but the trail was easily followed, as the snow was only patchy. We made our descent down to the Kings Creek crossing, which we had heard to be difficult. We sized up the creek, and found it to be fordable. Psycho crossed first and put his pack down on the other side, braving the cold water to offer a helping hand to Apricots.

As the water turned out to be nearly waist deep, as opposed to what we expected to be shin deep, Apricots had become a little anxious when she stepped into the deeper faster portion of the crossing. As Psycho stepped back into the stream to help out, he nearly lost his footing, but Apricots was able to keep him from falling in. Once his footing was regained, he helped Apricots finish the crossing.

On the other side we thawed out our frozen legs and toes, and made the final two mile walk to Drakesbad Guest Ranch, a place purported to be very hiker friendly. It was. Upon arriving, employees dropped whatever it was they were doing to help us out. The proprietor greeted us with a hug, and offered us showers, and laundry service if we needed it. All this kindness, and we were not even paying guests.

We ate a large buffet style lunch after taking a shower down by the hot spring fed pool. Psycho ate a salad, two servings of fruit salad, two enormous sandwiches, and five cookies. This may seem like a lot of food (and it is), but this type of gorging is typical in trail stops. Despite the quantity of food consumed on a regular basis, Psycho still has lost 20lbs so far, and Apricots has lost 10lbs (much to Apricots' chagrin, "Men Suck.")

After leaving Drakesbad, we were treated to one of Mother Nature's festering wounds. A milky blue sulfuric lake with bubbling gurgling mud and water gave us a more complete experience of the volcanic nature of Mt. Lassen National Park. As we walked by, we could here the earth churning just a little bit away from the trail.

Eight miles later, we arrived at Feather River, where we enjoyed our dinner with "Old Scout", before the mosquitoes overwhelmed us, and forced an early retreat into our tent. Tomorrow, we will roll in to Chester for a quick resupply, and then start our next leg to Belden, another short leg with stretches of difficult snow.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

1000 Miles Baby!

Day 76-June 28th
Destination: Swan Lake
Miles: 17
Cumulative Miles: 1002 Miles

After the Heitman's spoiled a small collective of hikers to cheeseburgers last night, they continued their gracious offerings by making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. It's amazing the energy the 72 year old lady has for hikers. Her and her husband are Grade-A trail angels.

After breakfast they returned us to the trail for our continued trek. They even sent us off with left over biscuits which were enjoyed later in our day. We began our hike with a gradual easy climb skirting Hat Creek, which is swollen above high levels due to the snow melt off Mount Lassen. Georgi "Firefly" Heitman said she has never seen the creek running so high.

The heat was not too bad, but we were thankful for it. The heat wave passing through this area is doing a great job at melting the abnormal snow quantities. The most recent report said that we would be snow navigating the last three miles of our day, and while there was snow, the trail was easy to find. Overall, today's hike was the easiest we have had in a month.

We hiked with "Old Scout," a middle aged man (and scoutmaster), and "Wyoming," a quiet lady our age. Both made similar jumps as us, and are the only other thru-hikers we have met thus far (outside of "Colter"). Taking lunch with them, and generally hiking the latter part of the day in their company brought back a bit of the trail culture we have been missing since the jump.

Tonight we are camping with them at Swan Lake, just past the 1000 mile mark for us. The frogs and birds at the lake are engaged in a rather heated debate about who's the appropriate resident of Swan Lake. It should be a fantastic night of "soundfull" sleep.

--side note--

Today we walked past a series of 15 foot wide clear cut strips of land...stretching straight as far as the eye could see, all spaced evenly apart... One every hundred feet or so... About 10 of them, all total. Kinda curious what they were.

Any ideas?

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Northern California Photo's - Batch 1

Hiking the PCT in 2010, we jumped from Independence up to Ashland, Oregon to allow more time for the snow to melt in the Sierras. Confronted with more snow we skipped a portion of the PCT in the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains.

This is a collection of photo's covering Ashland - Seiad Valley, and Castle Crags to Old Station.

Kennedy Meadows - Independence Photos

This is a batch of photos taken on our Pacific Crest Trail 2010 Thru-Hike. The photos cover the miles from Kennedy Meadows to Independence (Via Kearsarge Pass). Due to heavy snow conditions, we have opted to jump from Independence up to the Oregon-California border to hike south, allowing for more snow melt time.

Hiker Hideaway

Day 75-June 27th
Destination: Old Station
Miles: 15
Cumulative Miles: 984 Miles

We woke this morning before the sun rose, and were treated to a beautiful display of the full moon descending over the mountains to our west. The sun had not yet risen, and it cast a beautiful orange pink glow on the horizon as we began our 15 mile descent down to Old Station. Breaking camp, we were moving before 6am to beat the heat of this dry stretch. It is a strange sensation bouncing between snowy cold mountains abundant with water, and hot dry stretches where you hope that someone has provided a water cache to lighten your water load.

Our descent took us along the Hat Creek Rim which continued to offer us excellent views to the west of Mt. Shasta, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Mt. Lassen (which we will be passing by in a few days time). The walk traversed terrain which was relatively flat, aside from the cliffside we flanked, but the tread was overrun with rocks providing great variations for our feet. Every step required thoughtful placement, lest we roll an ankle. This mental fatigue was annoying, but a welcome respite from the snow and fallen trees we have become accustomed to experiencing.

Before long, the trail entered into a burn zone. The blackened trees stood out in contrast to the snow covered Mt. Lassen to the south. The black-brown ashen soil was a welcome tread after the rocky terrain we had just come through. By 10am, we had covered 11 miles, and only had four more to go before we arrived in Old Station. Once we arrived at Old Station, we went to a store to grab some ice cream and treats, as the day was already very warm. We sat outside the small store enjoying our cool treats while talking to a small collective of Bikers who had traveled from Idaho down to Old Station on their way to Reno, for a 10 day Bike tour. It wasn't long after we told them that the temperature was supposed to climb to 100 degrees before the turned on the motors and moved along.

We finished our drinks and headed to Hiker Hideaway. The Heitman's, Old Station locals, have opened up their home to take in hikers and treat them with the gracious kindness of a well-practiced Trail Angel. Out back they have several tents, a tree house, a couple hammocks, and a refreshing creek to soak in (should you wish to brave the 40 degree water). Tonight we will barbecue some hamburgers and continue our "in town consumption" trend. We plan on rolling out early morning tomorrow, but the Heitman's hospitality might force us to linger longer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hat Creek Rim... Where's the creek?

Day 74-June 26th
Destination: MM 1392ish
Miles: 22.5
Cumulative Miles: 969 Miles

Hiker Tip:
When camping in an area infested with ants, do not leave your pack outside the tent over night. We woke this morning to Psycho's pack so covered in ants, we were surprised the collective of ants did not carry the pack off into the forest. Psycho spent the better part of twenty minutes beating ants of all kinds and sizes off of all the nooks and crannies with his socks. Even later in the day, he kept finding more ants crawling all over it.

We started our hike this morning with a short three mile walk to the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery. Along the walk, we passed a deer who seemed lost. She kept walking back and forth, with little concern over our presence. Briefly, we felt that the deer was more interested in following us, rather than doing whatever it was doing.

At the hatchery, we loaded up on water for a 30 mile stretch of no water. Not wanting to put on our extraordinarily heavy packs, we lingered for 90 minutes before facing the reality of the trail ahead. As we made a small climb away from the hatchery, we approached Lassen National Park. The landscape was overrun with lava long ago, and so the vegetation was interrupted by sink holes of porous brown-black lava rock.

Roughly ten miles into our day, we ran into some northbound section hikers. They told us of a water cache which was well stocked, and only eight miles away. We immediately sat down and drank copious amounts of water to lighten our load. We even offered some to the local vegetation. After the short re hydration break, we climbed up onto the Hat Creek Rim. With the valley floor below us several hundred feet, we walked along a cliff side of lava rock with stunning views of the mountains around us.

At 5pm, we arrived at the water cache, located just off Road 22. The cache supplier has creatively named the cache, "Cache 22". Lawn chairs, plastic flowers, and pseudo garlands awaited us under a built up canopy of sticks, twigs, and branches.

We pulled into camp a few hours later, where we watched the sun set over the hills and mountains. Tomorrow, we will rise early, to beat the expected 100 degree temperature. Ideally, it'll be a quick 15 miles down to Old Station.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Back in it

Day 73-June 25th
Destination: MM 1414ish
Miles: 9
Cumulative Miles: 946.5

After a good restorative half day in Burney yesterday (all you can eat BBQ ribs, yumm) and a late start today, we returned to the trail. To avoid the heat, we lingered at the state park until after 5pm to start our hiking day. First we wandered over to admire Burney Falls, and then we hit the trail; flat, downed tree free, and not a lick of snow.

Following the creek which feeds the falls, we crossed upstream over a bridge and began this leg of the journey. At first the trail went along the edge of Lake Britton, where the hillside dropped dramatically to our left. Moments later the trail passed a wall of volcanic rock, where the hill climbed dramatically to our left, all while the trail remained flat.

As if the red volcanic rock were not red enough, as the sun set, it cast brilliant golden flames across the landscape. A vast heatless energy tangling itself with the elongated shadows. Our shadows stretched several yards from our feet, reminding us that the end of each day we have grown stronger and closer to nature.

We wandered past several varieties of flowers, one of which was particularly soft. Its gentle purple-pink hue looked like a tiny cloud stuck to the end of a skyward reaching stem. Other white and purple flowers showed signs of regeneration after the Hat Creek fire which passed through this area recently.

When we pulled into camp, the sky was so rich with color, it seemed unreal. It was as if someone had stretched a canvas across the sky and painted the sort of prismacolor sunset you see in idyllic paintings. As the clouds faded into the night, the near full moon rose, casting a new illuminating light upon our canopy of endless sky.

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day. We have full packs, and a thirty mile stretch without water. One day at a time... That's the best way.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting out of the Mess

Day 72-June 24th
Destination: Burney Falls State Park
Miles: 14
Cumulative Miles: 937.5

It's sad to say, but Section "O" of the PCT will probably go down as one of our least favorite. It is not that it was not a pretty section, because it was fairly beautiful. It is the fact that we hit it at the wrong time. Snow, bugs, downed trees, and copious amounts of overgrowth lent the trail to trying miles.

We met some people from the forest service who were cutting downed trees. They said that the two of them can usually clear the trees over Girard Ridge in two days time. This year, it has taken six people more than five days to clear half the downed trees. As our arrival in this leg was prior to their completed work, we had to scramble over, under, and around several hundred trees.

Added to the trees, was the heavy snow fall this season. We had several miles of navigation and snow walking, complete with the first serious mosquito hatch of the season. A slow moving hiker is an easy target for blood sucking fiends. As such, our tired legs and feet are riddled with red welts from voraciously hungry bugs. We know the snow we dealt with is nothing compared to our friends in the Sierras, but is tiring to say the least.

Recent emails from fellow hikers have enlightened us to the woes of the Sierras. Calorie (the 16 year old hiker) fell while glissading and had to be helicoptered off the mountain. Another hiker, 10 Spot, fell in Tyndall Creek and lost his backpack, forcing a 30 mile walk over two Sierra Passes relatively free of gear. Uncle Tom and General Lee climbed up a treacherous pass, only to find that they summited at the wrong point.

Read about Uncle Tom's (and our old crew MeGaTex's) harrowing adventures on (search Uncle Tom).

As a result of the brutality of this leg, Apricots and Psycho beat feet down trail this morning to Burney Falls State Park. It was one of those days where the scenery was nice, but we were too dedicated to moving to slow down and take pictures. As we descended out of the bugs and pine trees, we were dropped into a valley overrun with oak trees.

Four hours into the hike, we walked across the dam which backs up water to fill Lake Britton. A construction crew was doing repairs to the dam, probably routine, but perhaps a result of the excessive precipitation the area received this winter and spring. The crew offered us ice cold water, which we gladly took to help fight off the heat.

A couple miles later, we were relaxing at the state park, eating ice cream and drinking a beer. Oddly enough, the restorative nature of a town stop actually motivated Psycho to want to hike a little more this evening, and start the next leg of our journey. We, however, need to head into the town of Burney to handle some loose ends resulting in our flip-flopping of the trail.

While resting, Colter (another thru-hiker) walked up. We shared our stories of peril and triumph, and our distaste for bugs and fallen trees, before heading to the road to catch a ride to Burney. A car pulling out of the park offered us a ride to town.

While Apricots cleans her shoes in the bathroom, visions of all you can eat BBQ ribs dance through Psycho's head. Shortly we will go satiate our hungry bellies.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So Many Bugs

Day 71-June 23rd
Destination: Peavine Creek
Miles: 20
Cumulative Miles: 923.5

Last night as we were falling asleep, we heard something nibbling on our gear. Psycho looked outside and saw a small bunny hopping around outside the tent. Knowing all our food and gear was safe, we went to sleep. It WAS a bunny after all.

We woke this morning, and the bunny was still hanging out. Not shy at all, he hopped up to our backpacks and tried chewing on them, while we were six inches away. It was nice to have the cute company this morning, as the rest of the day was pretty much dominated by bugs; very few of which were the beautiful butterflies we have seen so frequently lately, chasing one another effortlessly over the hill that we struggled to get up and down.

We chose to follow a road today, rather than the trail, for a few miles. It was going to be the same distance, but the road stuck mostly to the south side of the ridge, thus resulting in less snow. It didn't really work out that way, as the entire top of the hill was covered in snow. Navigating our way across the snow covered land, we worked our way up and down the ridge.

At times, we had to pull out our ice axes and use them to cut steps up the frozen over snow. Psycho moved up the hill quickly, as his boots grab the snow better. Atop the ridge, he grew crazy as bugs swarmed him while Apricots put more effort into cutting sensible stairs up the steep hillside.

Constantly wandering between the trail and a road, we made slow progress. The road should not even be considered a road, as it is wide enough for a motorcycle, and overgrown so much, that at times we had trouble seeing one another, let alone the tread.

In the first three hours of the day, we covered only three miles and swatted three million bugs. Fortunately, the entire day was not slow going. Once we were past the snow, we were only slowed by the occasional blow down and frequent over growth. The incessant humming of bugs in our ears kept us moving.

Early evening, as we walked through a clear cut (perhaps the only clear cut we'll be thankful for), Psycho spotted a bear. This time he was able to take a few pictures as it milled about oblivious to our presence. After we had taken the pictures, we made a noise to let the bear know we were around. He stared directly at us, and we both thought for a moment "uh oh, this one's not skittish." We made more noise, and he stared at us. Fortunately, as soon as Apricots started walking forward, the bear shot off down the hill, fast and far.

We pulled in to camp around eight, beat and ready to eat. Just before setting up the tent, Psycho saw another bear looking down the road at him. As soon as Psycho moved to get a picture, the bear disappeared. We set up the tent, and prepared a dinner, where we dined while mosquitoes dined on our exposed skin. Barely able to enjoy a dessert, we quickly brushed our teeth and dove into the bug free comfort of our tent.

Tomorrow we head to Burney Falls State Park, 14 miles downhill from here. Ideally, no snow and no bugs.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trees, Bugs, Cuts, Splinters, a Snake, and a Bear

Day 70-June 22nd
Destination: MM 1458ish
Miles: 19
Cumulative Miles: 903.5

What a hard day.

There are a few hard things about hiking in a forest. First of all, all the trees block the view. Seldom does a hiker get to look back and marvel at the distance they have covered. Yet today, a few times early on, we had great glimpses of endless tree covered hills, and later in the day, we had climbed to an elevation and location relatively free of trees, thus resulting in a very scenic panoramic of the mountains to the south and at times Mt. Shasta to the north.

The next hard thing about walking through a forest is the potential for blown down trees. And while the trail crews have been out working to fix that in this section, there still have been hundreds of blow downs, slowing our progress. It's not just the fact that we are slowed down, it's that dealing with the trees is very tiring. When we hike, we get in a rhythm, and if something interrupts the rhythm, our bodies get tired.

That was the case today when Apricots was stepping around a downed tree and miscalculated, thus scraping her knee causing blood to flow. Also climbing over trees can cause splinters. Psycho got a splinter in his finger that made it painful to use the trekking pole, so we had to stop to pull it out, just 15 minutes after cleaning the cut on Apricots. All while dealing with both of these incidences, we were swarmed by countless varieties of loud biting insects.

Speaking of insects, this morning we started our hike by climbing up Centipede Gulch. Moments after we both simultaneously said "Centipede Gulch," we passed two centipedes on the trail; one dining on the other. Later in the day, we passed a large gopher snake on the trail.

Just prior to reaching our camp, five miles shy of our goal, we entered a wasteland of trees. The wooden graveyard was littered with endless piles of sticks, twigs, branches, limbs, and bodies of those who starved after not packing enough food to make it through these blowdowns. While sitting among the hundreds of topless trees, Apricots noticed a bear fifty yards away. Before Psycho had a chance to snap a picture, Apricots made a noise in an attempt to scare the bear. He quickly fleed the scene.

We hiked the final two miles to camp and had dinner as the blue grey sky turned pink and purple. We have now passed the 900 mile mark, and are 1/3 of the way done with the trail.

On a side note:

Section O is ridiculously overgrown in places, often lending itself to bush whacking through shoulder high and higher vegetation. It is also a sunglasses vortex, as we passed a pair on the first day and the second day, and lost a pair on the third day.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Nekkid Landlubbers

Day 69-June 21st
Destination: McCloud River (MM 1476.5)
Miles: 20.5
Cumulative Miles: 884.5

(In honor of "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and "International Hike Naked Day" we present you nekkid(ish) pics of our intrepid explorers)

Arr, thar be trees in the way mates. Our two intrepid landlubbin explorers woke this morning to continue their walk through the forest. Like yesterday, the ship drifted slowly due to all the flotsam and jetsam debris littering the trail.

We had lunch among the butterflies, eating our couscous and drinking our electrolytes to ward off the scurvy. The stream flowed idly by, reminding us of our sea days. Crossing a bridge, reminded us o the day we almost walked de plank.

We came across two other sea dogs who were running the trail wherever there was no snow. Their landlubbin route was more convoluted than a recipe of bootleg rum, and involved more hops than a good IPA.

Finally arriving at camp on the aqua silty McCloud river, our two wary travelers were exhausted and barely managed to eat grub before bunking.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Jump (and some trees)

Day 68-June 20th
Destination: Mile 1497ish
Miles: 9.5
Cumulative Miles: 864 miles

We jumped the still snow covered Trinity Alps and Marble mountains. After being spoiled by the Trail Angel Extraordinaire yesterday and this morning, he returned us to the trail about 150 miles south of where we left the trail at Seiad Valley yesterday. On the hour drive south to Castle Crags State Park, we stopped in the small town of Mt. Shasta City and picked up a new fuel canister and some coffee before hitting the trail.

Jim was happy to drive us back to the trail, as he will use the opportunity to go hike to a waterfall he has been wanting to see. As an avid bird watcher, he likes to spend time outside looking for birds. Apparently, there is a bird there (the Black Swift), which nests under the waterfall. They fly straight into the waterfall and nest behind it, providing safety from predators.

Once dropped at the trail, we began a relatively easy 2300 foot climb. The forest floor was covered with lush green vegetation, and the pine trees provided us ample shade from the sun. A cool breeze blew through the trees as we climbed.

The trail would switchback up the hill between the sunnier southern aspect, and the shadier northern side. As we went back and forth, we were shaded alternately by pine trees and oak trees. The oaks left crunchy dry leaves over the rocky tread, whereas the pines left a soft needle duff over a relatively rockless soil. Halfway up the hill, we paused long enough to enjoy a fantastic view of Mt. Shasta.

At a water source, we stopped to have lunch. The hill was steep, so we had to sit down on the trail. Just as we began to eat, a trail crew on horses and mules walked up. We had to quickly pack our gear and step off trail so they could pass. They told us that there were several downed trees (which Psycho had heard about on the PCT-L). Little did he expect what was really out there.

Our pace dropped dramatically. It took us 3.5 hours to go two miles. We usually can cover that distance in less than hour (even with patchy snow). We scrambled over and under hundreds of trees. We climbed uphill and downhill to avoid impassable trees, and we had to take our packs off probable twenty times to fit through the dangerous nooks and crannies.

We were shooting for at least 13 miles today, but stopped shy of ten as we were beat, and beat up. As we arrived at camp, we cleansed our battle wounds, which left blood on the trail. At first we thought the trail declared everyone must face snow in the third month, now we feel that the trail just asks that everyone slow down for the third month.

We found a decent flat spot and set up camp and ate dinner as the sun set. A small wind blows, as we lay in our tent hoping that all unsteady trees in our area are all ready blown down. Hopefully, we are past the majority of the blowdowns, because it's never fun wishing that you were actually hiking through a clear cut. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trail Angel Extraordinaire

Day 67-June 19th
Destination: Seiad Valley/Yreka
Miles: 12

"Whenever I hear of someone trying to do something, I do whatever I can to help them out." -- Jim F.

The fog rolled in last night, and was thick this morning. We had 12 miles to go, mostly all down hill into the valley, except the first four, as they climbed a bit from camp and followed a ridge past Lily Pond. We woke early to ensure that we could make it to town on time to catch the Post Office in Seiad Valley before it closed.

Breaking camp and moving by 6am was difficult as it was early and cold. To make matters worse, the thumb to Psycho's new glove had unstitched, so his thumb was freezing, and the glove was not retaining heat. But, the promise of warm valley air, hot food, and a shower motivated him.

We walked out of camp and were immediately met with some low sloping snow. The air was still very cold, so we crunched across it with ease as we made our small climb around to Lily Pond lake. Once we reached the lake, we saw steep chutes of icy snow, which offered us a great opportunity to smash against jagged rocks and stiff trees, just before sliding all the way down into the nearly frozen mountain lake.

As we started to cross the chutes, we realized the snow was too hard and too steep to try crossing. After spending the last ten hiking days worrying about our lives with every step, we chose to back down. There was still four miles of possible snowy dangerous conditions before we would be back to a possibly safe location, so instead we decided to back track to the road Jim had told us about.

It is never fun backtracking, but the trail back down was easy and snow free. It offered an alternative that was equidistant to the trail, easier than the trail, and dropped us right in Seiad Valley, our destination. When we arrived at the road, we unloaded our packs of food, eating a very early lunch before making the roughly ten mile walk down the road.

The difficult part of road walking, particularly downhill, is the heavy beating our feet take. Every step hits on cushion free tread, made worse by the pack weight. Fortunately, we were at the end of a leg, so our packs were at their lightest. As a gravel road into the mountains, there was no traffic to catch rides from. Psycho complained of throbbing feet, and held on to hopes that the weekend hiker we met yesterday would come driving down.

As we dropped in elevation, the fog lifted and our hands thawed out. Fortune favored us. After several miles down the hill, Jim (the weekend hiker) came by in his car. Without hesitation, Psycho employed the use of his now thawed thumb.

What followed could only be described as something paralleling Odysseus and The Sirens, minus the danger. Jim drove us down to Seiad Valley, and enjoyed a hot meal with us. Informing us of the conditions ahead, he offered us a place to stay, laundry, and a ride back to the trail south of the snow covered Marble Mountains. Discussing our options over biscuits and gravy, we opted to take Jim up on his offer.

After grabbing our resupply package at the Post Office, we drove the ninety minutes to his house outside of Yreka, CA. After arriving, he started spoiling us. He helped us set out our gear to dry, he asked if we needed to repair anything, he let us do laundry, he provided a shower and a bed for us, and he let us borrow his car to drive to the store for buying a few extra supplies.

When we returned from the store, Jim had prepared a dinner of grilled salmon, tamales, and a fresh salad picked from his extensive garden. Over a bottle of wine, we discussed our adventures and his life. At 63, he has raised two adventurous kids (daughter in Ecuador, son heading up the outdoor program at a nearby college). He spent most his life shoeing horses, now he manages money helping people save. His wife does physical therapy, and the two of them do whatever they can to help people who need help.

As a result, Jim actively worked to make sure we had everything we needed. Apricots immediately connected with Jim, talking about holistic health, home fermenting (Kombucha), gardening, and a healthy relationship between the body and our environment. His property is outside of town next to a cattle farm, with relaxing views in all directions, and relax we did. After being spoiled for a half day, we felt as rested as if we had a full zero day.

Tomorrow, Jim will be taking us back to the trail at Castle Crags state park. Fully rested, and ready to return to hiking, we both are very thankful for running into this Trail Angel Extraordinaire.

(Thank you Jim, we hope to catch you when we pass through again)
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Friday, June 18, 2010

...More snow

Day 66-June 18th
Destination: Bee Camp
Miles: 21

It would seem that the nature of the trail is to provide most every hiker with snow in early June. Those who go through the Sierras deal with snow, those leaving Manning Park (Canada)deal with snow, and those leaving Ashland north or south have to deal with snow.

It is not that we don't want to deal with the snow, but rather it is fatiguing, and such a large part of the day, it is hard to avoid talking about it. So...we dealt with snow most the day, now that it's said, let us move onto other topics.

Last night as we pulled into camp, Apricots saw a doe deer and her fawn at our campsite. Upon hearing us, they sprang up the hill and disappeared. This is not the first deer we have seen, but it was the first fawn, and so it was special.
Today, Psycho caught a distant glimpse of what he believed to be a bobcat; small and laying close to the ground it slinked away stealthily like a cat before Psycho could get a solid look at it. When we approached the area the cat was seen, we saw fresh prints in the snow. We also saw multiple prints in the snow and mud from bear in the area.

Looking at the ground, which we saw more of today, than yesterday, we noticed a subtle change in the rocks. Occasionally, white patches would pop up, which were first thought to be snow patches. Very quickly we realized that the white rocks were filled with dark veins, and are very likely some sort of marble rock. Also today, we noticed a beautiful rock, flaky like a croissant, and shining gray black. Light reflected off the rock like light off wet pavement, and the rock flaked from it's parent rock with the gentlest touch from our trekking poles. We are camped just below Red Butte, upon a hillside covered with it's orange-red intrusive rocks.

Prior to finishing our day, we ran into a weekend hiker, Jim F., who told us of a road out to Seiad Valley five miles ahead. He had come up the road to find a place to camp free of snow. Apparently this section as well as what we will be hitting after Seiad Valley are both packed with snow. We have dealt with a fair amount of snow so far, and the road was as about as long as the trail, so we debated taking the road out.

After hitting the road, we scanned the map; all south facing, all below 6000 feet. We figured we would be okay, so we continued the trail. Three miles later and 1000 feet higher, we set up camp at the rocky butte. From where we are camped, we see a little on trail snow, but it is patchy and relatively low sloping. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back to California

Day 65-June 17th
Destination: Bearground Springs
Miles: 21

Today was virtually all snow. Last night when we set up camp, we almost went further, but decided against that decision. It was a wise decision, because the first several miles offered no good camping, and really only offered snow and lessons in navigation.

We slept later than normal as the sky around us was a dense fog cloud when we first woke. As the morning progressed, the sun rose and burned off the fog. About the time the sun hit our tent, we were packed up and moving. Immediately we were on snow and the trail disappeared. Yet, unlike in the Sierras, where we had footprints to follow, there were none here.

We looked over the map and developed a plan of attack. We followed the area of the trail, losing it often in the dense trees. Eventually we decided it would be easier to follow a road than a trail, as the cutback vegetation would help us keep on track. We skipped uphill to a road and used it, even though it was all snow covered as well.

This was the pattern for the day: follow the trail, lose the trail, follow what we thought was the trail, jump over to a road and follow it. Constantly navigating along the way. Fortunately, Psycho's parents gave him a GPS as an early birthday present for the trail. Without it, both of us would have been inclined to turn back, and let the snow melt for another week.

At one point on the road walking, Apricots fell and slid down the hill. When Psycho turned around to check on her progress, she was gone. He called out to her, and she responded that she was okay, a tree stopped her fall. When Psycho backtracked to her, he too fell, but slid to a stop on a flat spot. We brushed ourselves off and carried on, trudging through the snow.

Late in the afternoon, we crossed the Oregon-California border, marked with a small wooden sign. We are heading southbound from Ashland, OR, so now we have re-entered California with hopes of finishing the state in early August.

Five miles after entering California, we set up camp next to a spring. The brush around the spring is tall and leafless. The thousands of twigs knotted in every direction makes the collective look like a dense dark fog rolling down the hill. We watched the sky dim over Mt. Shasta, as the sun set during our dinner.

Tomorrow we climb again to 7000 feet, and likely will encounter more snow navigation. The register at the border indicates a few people ahead of us, most by a week. So, aside from the two section hikers we passed today, the trail is still very isolated.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back to Trail

Day 64-June 16th
Destination: Grouse Gap
Miles: 10.5

It's nice to be out hiking again, but what a different world it is. We made the decision to leave the Sierras so the snow could melt more, and the snow fed streams would be safer to cross when we return. We jumped north to the Oregon - California border to hike southbound. As far as trail culture goes, it is virtually non-existant here, as there are next to zero hikers who have made a similar decision. We saw no one today, and we expect that to be the case for the next month or so.

We woke this morning at the hostel, and went straight to a coffee shop. Apricots moaned, "Yes, sweet glorious coffee, no longer do I need to add sugar to the coffee to hide it's bad taste."

After coffee we went to the Post Office and grocery store to resupply. Then we went to an outfitter to buy some new insoles for Apricots, as her last pair suffered from a bad case of too-close-to-fire-itis. We also picked up a new drip filter, which should make re-hydration more relaxing.

After the outfitter, we dropped our rental car off at the airport, where a kind trail angel met us, to return us to the trail. Sue has been "angeling" for ten years now, and has given too many rides to count, yet she is still happy shuttling stinky hikers to and from their home that is two-feet wide, 2660 miles long, and has wrap around windows. (Thank you Sue).

Back on the trail by noon, we made our ten mile ascent up Mt. Ashland, which offered us frequent views south to the snow capped Mt. Shasta, North California's gem. It is strange to be in a new world, with new vegetation, but it is our home and carries an air of familiarity for us.

The typical granite of Southern California has been replaced by thick basalt. The Foxtail Pines have been replaced by Douglas Firs (the Oregon state tree), and mountain hemlocks. The abundant sage is substituted now with frequent ferns, particularly Bracken Fern. The tread is now largely composed of dirt, rather than decomposed granite.

There is still an abundance of snow, as it is early season up in Southern Oregon. Unfortunately the days are colder, as the air has a much higher content of moisture. Our hopes of making larger miles may be interrupted by an inability to get out of our warm sleeping bags in the morning.

Tomorrow we will continue our climb past Siskiyou Mountain, and likely spend the majority of our day wishing snow was warm rather than cold.

A sad note:
Some hikers carry a totally useless item, that helps keep high spirits, be it a stuffed animal, a wrist-rocket, or a plastic sword. Psycho has been carrying a plastic sword he picked up in Idyllwild. The Sword of Doom (known as "The Dagger with Swagger" on trail) had an unfortunate run in with a downed tree. The tree won, separating blade from hilt, and rendering Psycho's masterful dwarf defense mechanism useless. A memorial service was held for The Dagger with Swagger this evening as the sun set on Grouse Gap.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A couple videos from the Sierras

These videos were shot by the SuperPeople duo of Justin and Melissa (Swift and Buckeye)

Please check out their blog and their cause

Traveling to Ashland

Day 63-June 15th
Destination: Ashland
Miles: 0

We woke this morning, knowing that we were planning on driving north to Ashland today. Psycho's aunt and uncle took us to the Atlantis Casino to take advantage of the breakfast buffet. Strangely enough it was hard to eat a lot of food, as the ribs were still sitting heavily on our stomachs from last nights late dinner. To add to that, we tend to have small breakfasts on the trail, so an endless supply of breakfast food was hard to handle.

Yet, we still ate a large meal before being dropped off at the airport to pick up a rental car. After grabbing the car, we drove the five hour drive north to Ashland. Once in Ashland, we went straight to the library and managed some online paperwork before settling into a hostel.

After finding the hostel, we put our gear in the room and went out for dinner. While enjoying dinner, we caught the second half of the NBA finals (game 6). The Celtics lost, so it looks like the series will go to a seventh game. Normally, we are not basketball fans, but Uncle Tom's enthusiasm for the Celtics rubbed off on us.

Once satiated in calories, and fine northwest Ales, we returned to our hostel for much needed sleep. Tomorrow we have to run a couple errands and then we return to the peaceful existence of trail life, made much more peaceful by the near complete absence of other hikers.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Traveling to Reno

Day 62-June 14th
Destination: Reno
Miles: 0

Psycho has an Aunt and Uncle on his mother's side who live in Reno. After learning of our decision to jump up to Ashland, Psycho's uncle was kind enough to make the five hour drive from Reno to Bishop to pick us up.

While waiting for his arrival, we went to the Loony Bean for a morning coffee, and a little pastry free of ravenous oblivious customers. After a relaxing coffee, we returned the motel where we packed up our gear and waited for Psycho's uncle to arrive.

Around noon he arrived, and we made the five hour drive to Reno. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of ribs, corn, and salad, which seemed endless as Psycho kept eating rib after rib. After dinner, we enjoyed a coffee with chocolate cake, raspberries, and strawberries. It's nice to live a life where it's not necessary to "watch what you eat."

Tomorrow we will be renting a car to drive north to Ashland.

(Thank you Tom+Diane for your serious generosity on short notice. It was a pleasure sharing a little time with you...maybe we will see you again in two months.)
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zero in Bishop

Day 61-June 13th
Destination: Bishop, CA
Miles: 0

We woke this morning and went straight to Shats, a bakery in town famed for its food. It was sunday morning and the place was packed. We grabbed our food and sat down to eat. When we were paying for our food, some lady pushed her tray at the cashier, squeezing us into a food rack. It's as if she did not even see that we were busy paying the cashier.

While sitting and trying to enjoy our food, we were overwhelmed with the quantity of people rushing about the store. Standing in stark contrast to the general serene life that we eat most our meals in, we were unable to enjoy what was probably pretty good food. We put the latter half of our meal in a bag and left to eat at some place else, some place not inundated with ravenous oblivious customers.

We ate at the Laundromat where we were busily washing our clothing. After eating and doing our laundry, we returned to the motel, where Psycho investigated re-routing options. Apricots called her family and shared the latest news.

In the afternoon, we took a semi-relaxing swim in a cold swimming pool. Afterwards we vacantly stared at a TV screen while the Celtics beat on the Lakers in game five of the playoffs. After that, we went to dinner with Buckeye and Swift at a pizza joint, where most of us plowed through the Salad bar.

After dinner we returned to the hotel. Buckeye and Swift packed up, while we went over to "the boys' room" and said our goodbyes to Uncle Tom, General Lee, Wizard, Axilla, and Train. They are continuing through the Sierras, while we have made the decision to jump north to Ashland and hike south. This enables more time for snow to melt in the Sierras, and hopefully will allow for a less anxiety-filled hike when we get back to the Sierras.

We should be seeing our old friends again when we pass them in a month or so, and ideally again when we repeat the drive back to Ashland after finishing California.

For now, we are off to have a good (relatively) solitary two months of hiking. If you are planning on sending a care package, please let us know, as we have not had the chance to update our itinerary on our blog.
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kearsarge Pass

Day 60-June 12th
Destination: Bishop, CA
Miles: 10

The rest after yesterdays climb was much needed, but we still stayed up later than usual around the campfire. We knew that plans were changing around that campfire. We knew that some of us had seen the Sierras in their magnificence, had experienced serious fords, and teetered on more than necessary danger. We knew that today when we hiked out of the Sierras, it was feasible that not all of us would be returning for the next leg. As such, we spent extra time chatting around the campfire.

When the sun rose in the morning, we lingered in our bags, hoping to stay warm a little longer. Before long, we heard the crackle of a campfire. Uncle Tom had built a morning fire. Moments later we were out of our tent, cooking up a warm breakfast and drying our boots and socks a little more before the climb out.

With only 10 miles to do, we were not in much of a rush to get moving. Yet on the flip side, we needed to start to avoid any late day post holing, should there be more snow on the east side of Kearsarge pass. Yet on the flip side, we had a warm camp fire to talk by. Eventually we had to go. Around 9am we began walking, our latest start yet.

Immediately, we were met with a stream crossing. Fortunately, with a little exploration we found a few logs and rocks that enabled us to hop across without getting too wet. After tackling that small obstacle, we began our climb to Kearsarge Pass, close to 11,800 feet. We were required to get off the PCT, to take a side trail out to Independence, our resupply town. With two possible trails, one more scenic and slightly shorter than the other, we, naturally, took that one.

Climbing up from Bubbs Creek, we hit the side trail to Bullfrog Lake and Kearsarge pass. We took the trail, and were quickly greeted with snow. Fortunately, there was footprints to follow to guide us out. Without footprints it would not have been difficult, as the trail skirts a couple small lakes, and the pass was fairly visible once we were out of tree cover.

We passed by the frozen Bullfrog lake which offered a stunning view to the rocky pointed Kearsarge Pinnacles, just west of the trail. The snow we crossed had the deepest sun cups yet, which we stumbled across before making the initial climb up the pass. Fortunately, the pass was 1500 feet lower than Forester Pass, as well as south facing, and on the eastern side of the sierras. As such, the last stretch of the climb was snowless.

We did not know what awaited us on the other side of the pass, but when we reached the top, we could tell that it would not be too difficult to handle. From the top, we saw two day hikers climbing towards us. Once they arrived, they gave us the low down on the trail out to Onion Valley. We put our packs on, grabbed our ice axes, and crossed a long simple snow field.

Seven of us (General Lee, Axilla, Psycho, Apricots, Uncle Tom, Wizard, and Train) marched down in train fashion. Step by step, we followed G. Lee down the hill. Once across the field, we reconnected with the trail which made countless switchbacks out to Onion Valley.

Halfway down, Psycho noticed a sudden drop in temperature. He looked up and saw a lake and realized he walked into a micro-climate created by the large body of water. We took our packs off and sat on a rock, staring out at the large fish swimming in the lake.

It wasn't long before the call of town pulled us away from the lake, and the rest of the way down. Once at the trail head, we all shed our wet boots and began working out a plan to get to town. We found a motel to stay at in Bishop, CA. Now we just needed a ride. Suddenly, a couple driving a truck came up and asked if we all needed a ride. The seven of us piled ourselves and our packs into the bed of the truck, and rolled slowly off the mountain.

Seventeen miles later, the couple dropped us off in Independence. Five minutes later, we were enjoying big sandwiches and beer. By this time is was getting a little late, so we walked out to the highway, and hitched the remaining 42 miles north to Bishop.

Tomorrow we will take a zero day. Apricots and Psycho will discuss our potential re-routing plans.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Forester Pass

(It's a long one, but a good one)

Day 59-June 11th
Destination: Middle Vidette Meadows
Miles: 13

Last night we went to bed filled with anxiety over the coming day (today). From where we camped, we could virtually hear the roar of Tyndall Creek, which we saw from above crossing Big Horn Plateau. After an early morning crossing through vicious rapids, we would be required to climb 2000 feet to go over Forester Pass (the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet). So, naturally we were very anxious.

When we woke this morning, our boots were frozen solid. We were shocked to find out that Ishmael, Rally, and Furniture rolled out at 5:30am. It was 7am, and everyone was moving slow, because no one wanted to ford Tyndall Creek. We built a campfire and warmed our boots by the small flames in a weak attempt to thaw them from their solid state. Moving like molasses in ice capped sierras, we packed our gear away. At the last minute we slid our trail worn feet into our semi-solid boots and hit the trail.

We walked the mile to Tyndall Creek which was swollen from snow melt to a virtually unfordable state. After studying the map, we realized we could follow the stream uphill for a couple miles before crossing it. As we trudged uphill toward Forester Pass, the flow decreased and fanned out into several smaller feeder streams which were more manageable. We hopped over one, and crossed over another via a snow bridge. It was comforting to know that we had faced the first challenge of the day with little problems. Next up: Forester Pass.

We continued our climb across a vast snow field riddled with sun-cupped snow. As the sun beats on the snow every day, it melts in a pattern which creates an unlimited supply of dips and rises of a few inches to nearly a foot. Our feet would slide into pits, causing us to stumble as if we were drunk. Fortunately, it was early in the day, so we were able to avoid post-holing across the field.

As we climbed the trail became steeper... Or rather the snow field covering the trail became steeper. We reached the last part of the climb where the ascent became a climb up a 50 degree face, and steps were straight up the snow. Fortunately, people ahead of us had carved an effective staircase up the mountain. We put traction devices on our feet, pulled out our ice axes and braved the ascent.

After crossing three patches of rock scrambling, we hit the final switchbacks of the ascent before the dreaded ice chute. At this point the trail crossed a fifty foot wide swath of snow on a 70 degree slope in a near sunless crevice of the pass, generating iced over snow. We walked carefully placing each step, not looking down the chute for fear of getting vertigo and losing our footing. Once across, we hit two final small switchbacks and a small rock scramble before summiting.

At the top, we all gave high fives and hugs celebrating our accomplishment. Psycho handed his camera to Melissa ( ) and told her to start snapping pictures. At this moment, he walked over to Apricots, dropped down on one knee, and proposed to her. She knew it was likely to happen some time on the trail, he knew she knew, but it was still a surprise as we had spent the whole day concentrating on just surviving.

Apricots laughed and said, "I guess I should put my snot-rag down"

"I don't think that is the answer he was looking for," chimed in Uncle Tom.

Apricots said, "yes, yes of course," to Psycho, as a crew of fellow hikers began to realize what was happening. We stood up with hugs and kisses as those around us celebrated the occasion and congratulated us.

Then, bundled up, we still needed to make our descent down from Forester Pass. The north side of the pass was far less steep, and less treacherous, but still required our attention. We dropped down a ridge line too far, over shooting the hidden trail. As a result, we had to turn around and climb several hundred feet back up the mountain side.

We dropped off the snow covered ridge by scrambling over and down some rocky terrain. Each step more precarious than the last, we moved slowly. Soon we returned to the familiar terrain of snow, which we eventually glissaded down. As we slid on our butts down the hill, using our ice axe as a break, we had to stop and redirect our path to avoid hitting rocks. Also it gave us a chance to let our cold butts thaw out a little, as the snow did a good job at numbing them.

The afternoon weather was very cool, which had the benefit of not melting the snow as much. This was good because it meant we post-holed far less frequently, and we were able to move faster. We even felt like playing in the snow a bit, a pseudo-dance off and a race were held. (videos coming soon)

Justin and Melissa (Swift and Buckeye) continued to guide us down the mountain with their keen sense of direction and navigation that was so good, we believed they could smell the trail. Towards the end of the day, the trail started peaking out under long patches of snow, and we were able to move a little faster.

We picked a camp that sets us up nicely for a morning climb over Kearsarge Pass tomorrow, and out to Independence. This evening we had a campfire and marveled at what we had all just accomplished. Apricots and Psycho drank some mini's to celebrate the occasion as all our boots made a collective of steaming "rocks" around the fire pit.

A soft intermittent snow falls as we head to bed.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Day to Remember

Day 58-June 10th
Destination: Mile 774ish
Miles: 13

We are in a true Sierra experience. Sadly, we did not summit Mt. Whitney today, but we did not really try. Last night during dinner, Pat Burglar came down and said, "Mt. Whitney - One, Pat - Zero." He then proceeded to tell us how difficult an ascent it is with the snow. Shortly after he retired to his tent, Missing Link and Johnny Law came and told us how it was hard but doable. The entirety of the trail surrounds polar opposites like this. It is difficult to ever know what something is like, and as such you are generally forced to just ignore everything you have heard, and just see for yourself.

So, that is what we did. We woke up this morning and started walking towards Mt. Whitney. Scrambling across a hillside, and over snow patches, we lost valuable time just trying to find our way to the trail. Once found, we climbed about 500 feet, before running into Uncle Tom. He had camped further up, and had given Whitney a try. After listening to his account, we concluded that it was best not to bother trying. We turned around and headed back to camp.

On the way back, we saw four deer grazing in the meadow. They were not spooked to heavily by us. They kept there distance, but they also continued dining on fine alpine grass. After passing them by, we reached our campsite, where we casually packed our gear, and dried our wet clothing in the sun. Around noon we returned to our hike.

The hike was steep at first, on a south facing dry slope. Yet once we reached the ridge and dropped to the other side, we were faced with our usual north facing snow covered slope. We plodded through, constantly checking the GPS to ensure we were traveling in the right direction. Eventually we just decided to go straight down the hill. At the bottom, we reconnected with the trail at Wallace Creek.

We made an easy crossing of Wallace Creek, and stopped on the other side to eat second lunch, and wring out our wet socks. While resting there, Justin and Melissa walked up. They went up Mt. Whitney at 2am. We continued on, hiking with them just ahead of us, as we climbed another dry south facing slope.

Halfway up, we re-connected with Uncle Tom, who was waiting by Wright Creek, the next ford. He had spent an hour walking up and down the creek, looking for a good crossing point. The best was where the trail hit the creek. Justin went across and dropped his pack. He then helped the rest of us cross. Uncle Tom nearly lost control and fell in, but Justin helped him regain footing. Psycho got across with little folly, almost falling when his trekking pole collapsed. Justin carried Apricots pack across, and walked downstream from her as she forded Wright Creek. She fell, but Justin was there to grab her and pick her up.

Finally we were all safely across the creek, and ready for whatever laid ahead. We continued our climb up toward Bighorn Plateau. From there, we had our most expansive unprecedented view of the Sierra Range. All around us we were seeing massive snow capped peaks, and a vast barren field of snow.

We walked across the snow field, post holing every few steps up to our knees or more. It was incredibly difficult, and we are questioning what we have gotten ourselves into. Justin and Melissa guided us down the hill to our camp at 11,000 feet.

Tomorrow we ford Tyndall Creek (which the guidebook describes as formidable). After the ford, we climb up Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. It should be a difficult day tomorrow, and we are both very uneasy about what lays ahead.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our First Serious Ford

Day 57-June 9th
Destination: Near Crabtree Meadows
Miles: 17

We are sitting here just upstream from Lower Crabtree Meadows. We did not make it as far as we wanted, but that was not because we didn't have time or energy. The stream we needed to cross is running too high now, as we arrived too late in the day. The heat of the sun causes serious snow melt during the day, and so it is important to do the stream crossings as early as possible.

Upon further inspection, we could have managed avoiding the crossing altogether, but our tent is up now, and we are fine with trudging on in the morning. Besides, we are being treated to an amazing scene, as the sun sets, casting a red glow on the snow capped mountain pictured above.

Last night, Psycho woke a couple times feeling short of breath. It would seem that we are still acclimating to our elevation. We don't move as slow though. Most of today was spent above 10,000 feet, and we still walked faster than we did a couple days ago at 9,000 feet. It is a comforting feeling to know that every day we are getting stronger. It will be tested tomorrow when we take a shot at a Mt. Whitney summit.

When we left Kennedy Meadows, we had to leave Train behind, as his packages were lost in the mail. His brother was driving gear and food up to him, but we wanted an early start. Leaving a half day before him, inevitably required him to play catch up. Today, he caught up, and what a treat it was. He was carrying fresh fruit and hordes of cookies. Naturally, we helped lighten his pack weight.

After sharing stories with Train, realizing he was camped a couple miles behind us every day, we continued our descent to Rock Creek. While we have done a few stream crossings to get to the Sierras, this was our first serious stream crossing. Train, Uncle Tom, Psycho, and Apricots fanned out along the stream, looking for a safe place to cross.

Eventually Psycho crossed a high log over serious rapids, while Train and Tom forded the river downstream. Apricots continued to search for a place she felt comfortable crossing. At one point Psycho walked across the stream where Train and Tom crossed, to help Apricots cross. He carried her pack across, and went back to try and help her cross. The current was too fast and strong, so we returned upstream to the two logs offering potential crossing.

Apricots was facing a serious fear of crossing, as Psycho went back and forth taking her trekking poles and boots. She felt safer walking across the fallen tree barefoot. After nearly two hours of trembling legs and unsuccessful attempts at inspiring courage, Train came across and suggested that the three of us make a butt-scoot-train as we slid across another tree.

Psycho led, with Apricots in the middle, and Train pulling up the rear. We sat on the log, legs draped to each side, nearly skimming the vicious rapids below, as we slowly skirted our butts across the log. Once across, Apricots and Psycho gave a strong hug to one another, and thanked Train for being a motivational speaker.

On the other side, with squishy wet boots, we made a steep climb back to nearly 11,000 feet, as we rushed to get our miles to Guitar Lake. At the very least, we believed we could make it to Crabtree Meadows. Train was far ahead of us, as he moves quickly, so we took a quick lunch at a saddle next to Mount Guyot. Shortly after we made a short snowy descent to Guyot Flats, and then made record time crossing the land.

Before we knew it, we were just shy of Lower Crabtree Meadows, which required a short snow glissade to reach the bottom. We sat on the snow with our ice axe's in hand, sliding down the hill. At the bottom of the snow slope, we picked up the trail, which would have been switch-backing down the hillside. We put our ice-axe's back on our packs and hiked the half mile up to Lower Crabtree Meadows. It was our plan to go 3.5 miles past the meadows to Guitar Lake.

Once at the meadows, we saw that we had another stream ford, this one being far less dangerous. The water flowed slowly, and it was shallow. We walked in without a pause, as our boots were already soaking wet. Once across, we realized we forgot to empty the granola bars, chapstick, and toilet paper from our pockets. The bars and chapstick survived, the toilet paper did not.

After crossing, we started our climb to Guitar lake. The trail followed a fierce stream, which we feared we would have to cross. One mile down, we ran into Train who was coming back. He told us the stream is uncrossable at this time of day. We backed down, and set up camp. Tomorrow morning, the stream will likely be flowing low enough that we can hop across it.

Time for some sleep. Tomorrow we try climbing Mount Whitney.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Day 56-June 8th
Destination: Mile 753ish
Miles: 17

Today's hike was very gradual terrain, and we are mostly acclimated to the higher elevations, but we still struggled to put on the distance we wanted. Halfway through the day, a good part of the trail was snow covered. We had the time to keep hiking, just not the energy. With about two hours of daylight left, we called it a day.

The day started with a decent of roughly 1000 feet down towards Ash Meadow. The landscape was barren, except for the trees. Gentle rolling hills covered in granite and pine trees greeted our morning walk. It would have been easy to believe we were not in the sierras, if it weren't for the cool thin air that surrounded us. Fortunately, the thin air also let the sun in enough to keep us warm.

Once at the bottom, we began our slow eleven mile climb past Mulkey Pass, Trail Pass, and Cottonwood Pass. We had amazing views of Mulky Meadows, far below us, as we walked along the snowy hillside. Many of the trees are all short and stout, with thick twisting red trunks. At one point, it seemed all the foxtail pines were the same height.

Near the end of our day, Apricots postholed up to her thigh. She unfortunately became trapped in the enclosing snow and had to dig her foot out. Psycho tried to help, and then went to put his pack down. He helped dig a bit, but she was out briefly after he started helping. Seconds later, Apricots pointed to a snowless patch of flat-ish land and said, "That looks like a camp to me." Now we are laid out for a night under the stars at 11,300 feet.

The site is beautiful. We are on the southern end of a large rock bowl, partially enclosed by the granite cliffs which build the ridge to Cirque Peak.

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Monday, June 7, 2010


Day 55-June 7th
Destination: Mile 736ish
Miles: 15.5

Last night we slept at our highest camp yet (9250 ft). This morning we struggled to wake up. Once up, we continued yesterday's climb to approximately 10,300 feet, only to drop back down to 9000 feet and climb again.

The morning climb of about 1000 feet was very slow going. Our pack weight combined with the elevation, and annoying mosquitoes was very difficult. Fortunately, the mosquitoes kept us moving, even if it was at a crawl nearly half our normal pace. Nearing the 10,000 feet mark, we started to see some snow. At the top of the climb we had a close up view of the rocky Olancha Peak, as well as a magnificent view of the sierras, our next month of hiking.

We dropped down to 9000 feet, passing through sage covered hillsides and forested woodlands. Exhausted, we stopped two miles down, and again two miles further. Psycho filtered water while Apricots napped. One hour later, we walked another three miles, passing Gomez Meadow to where we had lunch.

After lunch, we took a long nap. We had decided it would be better to do this leg of the hike in seven days, rather than six. Our bodies are still acclimating to the higher elevation, so we move slower. Not to mention that starting tomorrow we should see a lot more snow, which will slow us down considerably. Fortunately, every hour we become more adjusted, and every day our food supply diminishes rendering a lighter pack.

Just as we were getting up to go, Axilla, General Lee, Wizard, and Uncle Tom walked up. We chatted briefly with them before starting our hot dry climb to 10,650 feet. The climb took us through several switchbacks of granite covered land, and offered us some of the most beautiful terrain we have encountered. Rich red stringy bark clung to trees, while other trees showed signs of fire damage. Their twisting bare trunks, and limbless bodies shot skyward like spires on a cathedral.

Large granite boulders were thrown across the trail, with over sized out croppings provided obstacles for the trail to wind around. Soon we reached the high point where views down to the valley to the east showed colorful fields and lakes.

One mile later we reached camp, where we fought off mosquitoes while we prepared dinner. Tomorrow we will climb to over 11,000 feet. Tonight's sleep should help us further acclimate to our elevation.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Entering the South Sierras

Day 54-June 6th
Destination: Mile 721ish
Miles: 19

When Psycho hiked in 2005, he jumped from Kennedy Meadows to Ashland to avoid the sierra snow. This time around we decided to face the music and dance. So, until we reach Ashland, nearly two months away, all that Apricots and Psycho experience will be new sights to the both of us.

We woke at 5:30, and rolled out around 7am. The change from Southern California desert to Central California sierras was gradual over the day. It was as though someone dimmed the lights on the desert over the day, while raising the lights on the Sierras, only they did not remember to lower the thermostat.

The day started flat but gradually climbed, until we reached a height of roughly 9250 feet, our highest camp yet. The trail took us through another burn zone, where dime size purple flowers accented the brown and black trail. Leaving the south fork of the Kern River, we walked up to Monache Meadows, the largest meadows in the sierras. For miles you could see the hot dry plants, as the trail wandered along it's perimeter.

We took our lunch with Uncle Tom in the some great shade on the trail. While filtering water during lunch, Psycho was inundated with a swarm of ladybugs. They all flew down the stream, riding on the wind as their red shells reflected scattered light.

After food and rest, we sauntered along until we reached the far end of Monache Meadows where the north fork of the Kern River wound it's serpentine path through the meadows. A bridge was built over the river in 1986, and we took our next break there. Swallows have moved in under the bridge, so the underside was riddled with stick and mud conical nests. The swallows came and went frequently, often in small flocks of fifty to one hundred flapping sets of wings.

The water was relatively warm, so we took off our sweaty clothes for a swim. Walking up stream to a sandy bar, we waded knee deep into the water and then took the full plunge up to the neck. As we floated downstream along a sandy bottom, our toes kicked up the sand. Tiny golden flecks drifted down the current with us, until we climbed out just down stream from the bridge.

Time was not favoring us, and we needed to get some more miles in, so we packed up and went on our way. Climbing out of the valley, we looked back as light reflected across our swimming nook. In a couple miles, we climbed out of the low laying brush and sage, into the shadows of the forest.

We were feeling the elevation, and mosquito's had reached a feverish frenzy of blood lust, so we were excited to stumble upon the campfire of two other hikers. We stopped two miles shy of our intended goal, but had a wonderful evening talking over the glow of the campfire with "Missing Link" and "Johnny Law."

Before we knew it, it was well past ten. We climbed into our tent, wondering if Psycho's shoddy bear-bagging would be put to the test. All four of us were curios about what all is supposed to be put in the bear canister (food, trash, toothpaste, vitamins?). We loaded everything we could and put the rest in bags which hung from trees.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Zero#2 in Kennedy Meadows

Day 53-June 5th
Destination: Kennedy Meadows
Miles: 0

Last night when we returned to the trailer we are staying in for our zeroes in Kennedy Meadows, we found the host, "Tom Bombadill", had placed a bottle of champagne on ice with two glasses in our trailer. We were delighted, as we had as of yet not bought a bottle of wine to celebrate this landmark.

We enjoyed the kind gift while sitting around the campfire enjoying s'mores. What a bizarre world it is when champagne, s'mores, and stinky feet come together to spell relaxation.

Today we woke to hot coffee, and wandered to the general store for some breakfast. It was followed by relaxation, rest, and more relaxation. Psycho spent the morning loading pictures online while Apricots casually packed her gear. In the afternoon we returned to the general store for more food. It's quite a shift from reality to focus your time on resting while eating as much fat and calories as you possibly can.

We enjoyed a card game with Justin and Melissa ( ), while chowing down on a double cheeseburger, a B&J Ice Cream, and a hot link dog. After feeling filled to the brim with food, we returned to the trailer to finish packing our gear, and rest a bit more.

After the rest, we returned to the general store for the community pot luck dinner which accepts donations to benefit the volunteer fire fighters. We enjoyed a large sampling of food from the locals, before returning to lay about in the hammocks.

Tomorrow morning, we walk into the Sierras. June 9th we will take a shot at a Mt. Whitney summit. Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous 48 states, and stands just under 14,500 feet. Tomorrow evening we will be camping over 10,000 feet. Our world is about to get very different.
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Agua Dulce to Kennedy Meadows Photos

This is a collection of photo's I have taken on the Pacific Crest Trail for our 2010 PCT Thru-Hike Attempt. This video covers the leg from Agua Dulce (mile 454) to Kennedy Meadows (mile 702). As always, sorry the quality is not too good.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zero in Kennedy Meadows

Day 52-June 3rd
Destination: Kennedy Meadows
Miles: 0

A well earned day of rest, packed full or preparation for the Sierras greeted us this morning. We woke this morning and enjoyed pancakes cooked up by Guino, a trail junky who has spent several years hiking large portions of the PCT in an eternal quest to ensure every hiker knows he has a medicinal marijuana license. We trepidatiously ate pancakes hoping that they were prepared free of medicinal additions.

Fortunately, we felt fine after consumption of two hefty pancakes. After breakfast, we walked up to the store and put our laundry in the wash and picked up our resupply packages. Once we were done at the general store we walked down to the place we are staying to organize ourselves.

A local in Kennedy Meadows has set up a place to host hikers. He started with hosting injured hikers a couple years ago, and has since grown his set-up to take in a many hikers a night. He has several trailers for hikers to sleep in, hammocks, several fire pits, internet stations, and free use of the phone. Hikers lounge out in the shade and swap stories of each hikers experience, Sierra plans, and general relaxed banter.

We walked over to our trailer and laid out all our gear and started sorting the food and cold weather gear. We have a six day leg ahead of us which includes a summit of Mt. Whitney, and several legs ahead of this one which require a little more forethought in planning. Vast quantities of food, and unexpected caloric expectations require more vigilant planning.

After arranging our gear, we wandered up to the general store for "Happy Hour". The store owners created an enormous quantity of finger food to enjoy on the deck whilst listening to old time music and drinking dollar beers.

The sun is fading fast, and the chores are mostly done. It's time for the real relaxation to begin.

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Gearing Up for the Sierras

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The End of Southern California Desert

Day 51-June 3rd
Destination: Kennedy Meadows
Miles: 19

Today we rose early with dew covered bags, and excitement in our eyes. We are finally in the foothills of the Sierras, and the desert is behind us. It would be a quick climb, a decent descent, and ten relatively flat miles to Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the High Sierras and a much needed zero (or two).

Apricots and Psycho set out just after Uncle Tom, and caught up with him near the top of the climb. At this point we entered a burn zone which covered most of the last 15 miles to Kennedy Meadows. The burn was a result of the 2000 Manter fire, caused by man, which scarred close to 68,000 acres of land. The sad result of this (for us), was a long shadeless stretch of what turned out to be one of our hottest days on the trail. Who knew that we would get snow the day before the Mojave, and blistering heat the day before the high Sierras.

We made do in the heat, as our legs were motivating us forward to the golden egg of a town stop, where much needed showers awaited us. By 10am, we had covered ten miles. Axilla, Uncle Tom, Apricots and Psycho enjoyed a quick lunch together under the scarred and charred remains of a massive tree.

After we ate, we tacked on another five miles to the Kern River, where we dunked our heads, our hats, and our shirts in to cool ourselves for the remaining distance. The trail had the peculiar routing of walking us toward the store, close enough to see it, and then dropping us further away from it, so that we could walk the road 0.7 miles to the store.

It was disgustingly hot, but we passed up shade one mile before the end, because we knew what awaited us. As we hit the pavement, Psycho commented that he had never been so happy to be walking on a road. Half a mile later, Axilla greeted us with waving arms and cheers to celebrate the huge milestone.

Moments later, our packs were tossed down, and The Mayor (who we haven't seen in a week) issued forth celebratory drinks. Thirty minutes later, we were showering our filth off in what was perhaps the best shower we have experienced.

In the evening, we all dined at the General Store on spaghetti, meat balls, salad, cake, and ice cream.

Tomorrow we will go through the long process of sorting through our gear and food, while finalizing our sierra strategy. The temperatures are high, and that means the snow is melting. Good things are afoot, and for the first time we are starting to feel excited rather than fearful about the Sierras.

Good Bye Desert.
Hello Sierras.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Passing 25 Percent

Day 50-June 2nd
Destination: Fox Mill Springs
Miles: 19

We woke this morning, without incident from the neighborhood bear. Excellent, we still have food to last us the last two days (today and tomorrow) to Kennedy Meadows. We rolled out of Joshua Tree Spring at 7am.

Today was a day of going up and down. We started with a short climb from the spring back to the trail. From there we dropped a couple hundred feet, before beginning our first climb of three for the day. Apricots commented that the trail is making us stronger, and ready for the Sierras. We have now passed the 25 percent mark for the length of the trail.

After the small climb of about 1000 feet, we dropped back down from the ridge to Spanish Needle Creek. Psycho and Apricots finished filtering water, as Uncle Tom arrived. The two of us enjoyed a Snickers, to power us up the next climb of roughly 1600 feet. This climb was far rougher than the first, and we took a short break about one mile before the top.

The rocks scattered across the trail were covered in bright green and deep orange lichen. Yesterday, Apricots commented about the lichen standing in sharp contrast to the stone it clung to, stating it looked like someone spilled a paint can down the mountain.

After attaining the saddle and admiring Mt. Owens peak from the north side, we skirted a ridge. We made a short small descent to the shade of oak trees, where we ate our lunch and took a nap. When we woke from the nap, we were surrounded by ants. A few seekers must have told the colony that food was in the area. After moving all our gear away from the ants, we packed up and made our descent.

To pass time, Psycho shared a story about how Goat and Hawk were best friends. The story also explained the origin of Egyptian deities, as well as the reason humans cannot communicate with animals. In no time, we made the drop down to a creek where we replenished our water supply.

We had one more climb of about 1100 feet to Fox Mill Springs. We had planned to go further, but the day was late, and we were hungry. We made a dinner, and as we ate we were treated to a beautiful sun set.

As we sit here talking about how four of us passed a lone grape sitting on the trail left behind by a snacking backpacker. After all chimed in and said they almost ate it, Wizard admitted that he picked up the grape to eat it. Oh, how the trail makes savages of us.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Expensive Viewpoint

Day 49-June 1st
Destination: Joshua Tree Springs
Miles: 20

We set the alarm for 4am, for another attempt at a long day. Apricots is trying to shorten the final day of the leg, but Psycho doesn't want to put more miles in the day than necessary. As a result, we have had continued aspirations of days with higher than average mileage, but the trail tends to hold us around 20 miles per day. This morning, the blowing wind had kicked enough dirt into the air to cause both of us to feel a little congested, and less than desirous of an early start.

When eventually left around 6:15, and made a quick 7.5 mile walk down to Walker Pass. The sky was overcast a little, so we were not really fearing the heat of the day for the climb following Walker Pass, so we decided to hitch to Onyx to get a little extra food, so we could have larger meals. Uncle Tom, Apricots, and Psycho went to the road and hitched the 20 miles to Onyx for a small resupply.

The gentleman who was kind enough to pick us up, turned out to be very accommodating. First he told us the first store had minimal supplies, so he took us to one a few miles further down the road. After resupply, he drove us part of the way back. When we were getting out of the car, Uncle Tom realized that he lost his wallet with ID, Debit, Credit, and cash inside it. The man drove Uncle Tom back to the store, while Apricots and Psycho hitched the rest of the way back to the trail with an 85 year old woman with a foot of lead, and grim historical knowledge of the area.

Once back to the trail, with stories of dead bodies, and suicidal women fresh in our brains, we cooked up a lunch to wait out the heat. The sun had burned the clouds, and it was shaping up to be another hot desert day, not something we would enjoy when coupled with 2000 feet of climbing.

After lunch we walked half a mile, and bumped into Train, Axilla, and General Lee, sitting out the sun under a large Joshua Tree adorned with a Tiki sculpture. We chose to join them for another hour before starting our climb. This of course meant that we would have to hike the 13 remaining miles quickly, if we wanted to arrive by sun down.

Shortly before 4pm, we started our ascent, which turned out to be both easy and stunning. We made a climb to a saddle and then wound around the side of Mt. Jenkins, named after a writer/naturalist who helped design this section of the trail. As we rounded the mountain, we were offered amazing views of Mt. Owens.

We walked over slides of Quartz Diorite rock, crunching under our feet like broken glass, as we stared with awe at the crooked tormented spine of granite outcroppings serving as a ridge to Mt. Owens. Cutting in and out of Mt. Jenkins, we were repeatedly given views of Owens, each more stunning than the last. The sun was low on the horizon, and the granite glowed a rich yellow.

As we made our final ascent, we climbed over the Jenkins/Owens saddle and dropped down towards camp. The sun lingered low on the horizon, and as we lost elevation it tucked behind the hills to our west. With fading light, we hiked fast. Three miles later, there was just barely enough light to see the trail at our feet, and the sign telling us we had arrived at the spring where we intended to camp.

We made the quarter mile steep descent down to camp, where a campfire greeted us. Axilla and Sir Richard Wizard had arrived earlier, and had rolled out the welcome mat. We chose to camp under the stars because it was late and the stars were shining very bright.

We sat around the campfire making dinner and sharing our stories of the day. Wizard saw a bear, Uncle Tom lost his wallet, and Apricots and Psycho marveled in a perfect sunset walk.

(Now we just hope the bear that was scene twenty yards from where we sleep stays away for the night.)

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