It's been one year since I reached Canada.
I kept telling myself I'd do a post a month later, or a quarter later, or ... but here we are, and I'm going to write this.
written Sep 7, 2018 @ 06:44 AM after hiking 10.00 miles
It's been one year since I reached Canada.
I kept telling myself I'd do a post a month later, or a quarter later, or ... but here we are, and I'm going to write this.
I spent a year trying to outrun my post-trail depression. Unsuccessfully, but it's still been a great year, filled with amazing people.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I think about the Trail every day. Not because I'm moping around and feeling sad; it comes up in places I don't expect it. I'll be in IKEA rebuying all the crap that one "needs", and find myself with an unshakeable aversion to it. "I don't need this junk," I'll tell myself. "Remember when everything I had was less than 58 liters? And I used that to literally climb mountains every day?"
I still talk to Peanut a lot; it's hard to find other people who Get It. (Plus, he's awesome and just such a wonderful person). He sent me a post that his friend @jesskraft posted on Instagram, and it's something I can't stop thinking about. I'm reposting it here in full because I don't want her to close her account and lose the content, but I recommend you swing over to Instagram and check out her feed.
Being a thru-hiker is like being a captive orca, born and raised in a tank at Sea World. One day you are put in one of those ocean pens, the big ones for orcas they want to try to rehabilitate and return to the wild. For the first time in your life, you're in the ocean! You're home and, while not completely free, you can sense how big and wild it is. You have room to move, room you never realized you lacked back in the tank. You live out there for five months, interacting with other orcas (also from sea world) and other marine creatures. You can't live fully free in the ocean because you would die out there; you have no idea how to survive totally on your own, but you can sense how vast it is, how amazing life would be if you were free. You feel so alive, no longer having to perform tricks for trainers and crammed in such a small, lifeless space.
Then, one day, you're put back in the tank. And you suddenly realize that your entire life you've been captive, trained to perform tricks in a small, crowded tank devoid of life except for other captive orcas. The other orcas ask you how your trip was, what it was like. You have no idea how to describe what you experienced and no idea how to tell them what you know now. To tell them there is so much more to life outside the tank, that they are unwitting prisoners unable to live full lives like wild orcas. You're depressed, but they tell you to get used to being back in the tank, that this is the REAL world and that pen in the ocean was just something fun you did that one time.
But you know. You felt the tides, met incredible creatures, were no longer controlled by trainers.
And every once in a while another orca comes back and you look at each other and wonder... How do we get out this tank? And how do we wake up the others?
Author: Kristin Marie.
One year ago today, I became a member of a very elite group of hikers: thru hikers of the PCT in 2017, one of the hardest years on record.
One year ago tomorrow, I became a homeless man in Vancouver, with a single set of filthy clothes that didn't fit on his withered frame.
Today, I'm home -- camping in an absolute downpour.
Tomorrow, I'm going back in the tank.
written Sep 8, 2017 @ 01:54 AM after hiking 8.81 miles
The PCT ends at the border. That's where you hike your last steps. However, the monument on the border is in the absolute middle of nowhere. Once you reach the monument, you have a few choices:
Now, I've done my homework, so I have my passport and authorization from the Canadian government to enter Canada via the unmanned border crossing at the PCT. So northward I go!
These miles were awful because they don't count. I'm done. Why am I hiking for another 3 hours?! Ugh.
Oh well, I eventually reached Manning Park Resort, where I took a shower, got food, got frustrated with the Wi-Fi, and bought tickets to go to Vancouver via a bus that shows up at 2:00am.
And just like that, my adventure came to an end. I still have 117.44 miles to fill in (Crater Lake and Mt Jefferson), but that probably won't happen this year.
I'm still processing everything that's happened and everything I've been through and everything that's coming, but it has been an awesome summer. I still can't really believe it was real.
What a trip.
written Sep 8, 2017 @ 06:11 PM after hiking 10.96 miles
My alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, but I didn't need it -- I was already awake. Partly, it was because it was a cold and windy night, which didn't bode well for sleeping in a hammock, but mainly: I wanted to hike. One more time.
Let me just cut to the punchline you know is coming anyway:
I made it to Canada.
The hike in was spectacular -- the wind cleared out much of the smoke, and the valleys were filled with clouds.
After 11-ish miles, I reached the monument signifying the end of the trail. I sat down for a while, read the log book, signed it, ate cookies, and just generally lost myself in thought.
Around 11:30, I decided it was time to pack up and head out, because I'm not actually done hiking...
written Sep 7, 2017 @ 03:41 AM after hiking 29.05 miles
I had planned on ending with three easy, leisurely days -- 24 miles, 13 miles, and then a 4-mile day. But then I realized: wait, if I do another 30, then I'm only like 10 miles from the border!
So, that's what I did. Well, I did 29, so I camped 11 miles from the border, but whatever. Tonight was definitely my last headlamp hike. And I definitely won't be doing another 30, because I don't have 30 miles of trail left.
After a while, I reached Harts Pass -- the final road that the PCT crosses. This is the point I've been racing towards because, if the fire closes the trail, this is where I'll need to bail. This is where my trip would end.
But not for me!
As I got to camp, the wind was picking up. It was cold and very windy -- I just hope it doesn't start raining. This wind is a double-edged sword: it might clear out the smoke, but it might spread the fire. We'll see tomorrow.
written Sep 6, 2017 @ 03:34 AM after hiking 28.28 miles
Today was another typical Washington day: lots of climbs, lots of descents, over and over and over. However, I'm almost done with the big climbs, though!
Thankfully, I reached Rainy Pass today, the last paved road that the PCT crosses. There was a notice there letting us know that the Diamond Creek fire was not currently closing the PCT, so I pushed on.
written Sep 5, 2017 @ 04:09 AM after hiking 17.00 miles
Today is an important day: not only is it my last town stop on the PCT, but it's also home to the bakery. The bakery of legends. The bakery that Martha Stewart gushed over, allegedly. In short: the bakery.
I was five short miles from Stehekin when I woke up, which meant I could hobble to the trailhead in time for the 9:15 shuttle to town, which stops at the bakery along the way. This is an unusual experience for me on the trail, because I wasn't hitchhiking. This is because the town is only accessible by foot (that's me!), float plane, or boat. The few vehicles they have were brought in on a barge at great expense. So: you don't hitch here. But anyway, back to the good parts.
I loaded up on food and headed back to the bus to eat it in town.
Once I had my fill of sugar, I went and talked to the rangers about the smoke. It turns out that most of the nearby smoke was caused by a fire on the lake itself that is quickly growing. However, the Diamond Creek fire is also massive and growing quickly, but they're not expecting it to close the PCT in the next few days. Phew.
I picked up my resupply -- my last resupply -- and sorted it down by the lake.
I then took a quick nap and got back on the bus to head back to the trail. But not before stopping at the bakery for lunch, of course.
After all that, I got back to the trail a bit later than I wanted, but oh well. It meant I got to camp late -- I guess last night wasn't my last headlamp hike after all... Maybe this one.
written Sep 4, 2017 @ 04:27 AM after hiking 31.53 miles
Today was an important milestone: less than 100 miles left. I remember when I crossed the 100 mile maker, back in the desert. Very weird.
After a while, smoke started to roll in. Heavily.
I got to chatting with another hiker, and wondered if it was smoke from the fires up in British Columbia. She said that it was probably from the massive fire (Diamond Creek) up near the border. Yikes -- I hope it doesn't close the trail.
When I reached camp, I also realized that this might be my last thirty-mile day. I hope it's the last time I hike by headlamp, too! I've got some easy days planned coming up, so I should be reaching camp nice and early from here on out...
written Sep 3, 2017 @ 03:25 AM after hiking 26.46 miles
Today was the day of infinite switchbacks. I had two major climbs to do, with accompanying descents. Today was really going to be the test to see if I've still got it.
After a long lunch, where I just took in the sights and marvelled at my life, I started hiking, and immediately regretted eating lunch up there.
If I had hiked another, like, half a mile, then I could've had lunch at the prettiest of the gorgeous lakes I've been seeing for weeks. I mean just look at this water:
I really wanted to stay and swim and just hang out here for a while. Sadly, I also wanted to keep hiking. I should've planned for a more leisurely pace so I could enjoy gems like this, but Canada is calling, and I want to answer.
Next time, maybe.
written Sep 2, 2017 @ 03:54 AM after hiking 30.12 miles
Today was a long day, with lots of climbing, and tons of very pretty views. So, here's another picture-heavy post.
Today was a ton of vertical, but it's nothing compared to what I have waiting for me tomorrow...
written Sep 1, 2017 @ 03:08 AM after hiking 14.34 miles
I'm not zeroing in Leavenworth, but I still wanted to explore the town. Leavenworth is a great little Bavarian-themed town in Washington, meaning it's pretty touristy, but oh well.
So, I wandered the town for a while, mailed home some gear that I won't use for the rest of the trail (such as my bug net), sorted through my resupply, called home, and just generally took it easy. After Leavenworth, I won't have cell service (or Wi-Fi) until after I'm done with the trail.
But, after a while, I got antsy and stuck out my thumb. After a bit, a guy who hiked the PCT in 2015 named Roadwalker gave me a ride back to the trail, and off I went.
One thing that amazed me was in the evening, I was climbing up a mountain and looked south. From my vantage point, I could clearly see the fires that were raging behind me, causing all sorts of trouble for hikers.
I wanted to go farther, but I got distracted talking to hikers for a good while, and ran out of time. Oh well, camping at the top of Grizzly Peak was cool too.
written Aug 31, 2017 @ 04:51 AM after hiking 24.35 miles
Arriving in Stevens Pass was a huge push -- farther than I'd like, with a ton of elevation change. I made it though, and picked up my packages and scored a hitch into Leavenworth. I'm also exhausted though, so I'm just going to do the picture thing again.
written Aug 30, 2017 @ 03:27 AM after hiking 31.96 miles
For the last few days, I've wound up calling it quits a few miles short of my goal. Partly it's because I find a good campsite, and partly it's because I'm just tired. But either way, I still need to make up those miles at some point. And it's annoying because I feel that, like Stanley Hudson, I've lost a little of my speed, a little of my fire.
Today, I'm gonna make up those miles. And along the way, I'm going to see lots and lots of beautiful sights, so let's just cut to the pictures.
At the end of the day, I hit my ~32 miles (with almost 15,000 feet of elevation change), and was pretty proud. I can still pull hard miles when I need to.
written Aug 29, 2017 @ 02:03 AM after hiking 15.03 miles
I'm not zeroing in Snoqualmie Pass, so it's back to the trail today. After an intentionally slow start, I packed up my gear and started hiking.
Leaving Snoqualmie Pass involves a big climb right out of the gate, but you're rewarded at the top with a walk across a narrow ridge called The Catwalk. It normally provides stunning views, but it was shrouded in smoke for me. Oh well.
Eventually, though, I began the inevitable descent and passed by some alpine lakes, which were beautiful (like always).
When I finally set up camp, it was in a tight cluster of bearded trees. It was pretty cool to lay back and look up at it and watch the sky darken.
written Aug 28, 2017 @ 05:34 AM after hiking 8.79 miles
After a few miles, I reached Snoqualmie Pass, and promptly sat down at the amazing food truck there, The Aardvark.
After breakfast, I made the decision: screw it, I'm getting a room. I'm gonna ice my foot and walk as little as possible for 24 hours. Aside from hitting up The Aardvark for dinner and second dinner, and getting a pint of ice cream for dessert at the gas station, I was immobile and horizontal all day. I'll do my laundry in the morning before I leave.
written Aug 27, 2017 @ 03:44 AM after hiking 30.06 miles
I always underestimate how much elevation gain Washington has. I'm always walking up a mountain or down some face. There doesn't seem to be five miles of flat ground in this whole state.
So anyway, at the end of today (14,000+ feet of elevation change), I'm tired. So very tired.
Oh, and at camp tonight, there were three southbound hikers, and we got to talking, as one does. It turns out that he knew about me from Peanut's blog! I never saw that coming.
written Aug 26, 2017 @ 02:34 AM after hiking 28.57 miles
So much smoke today. I guess that makes sense since I went right past a fire that's threatening to close the trail (but hasn't yet!) but still: smoke everywhere.
I'm definitely ready for a break, but I don't know when that's going to come. My next opportunity is Snoqualmie Pass, but I think I might skip that one, and just head out on the same day I arrive. We'll see how my body feels, though.
written Aug 25, 2017 @ 02:40 AM after hiking 30.84 miles
Today I entered my sixth (and final) National Park: Rainier National Park. Other than that, today doesn't really have any stories to tell, so I'm just going to give you thousands of words in the form of pictures instead.
written Aug 24, 2017 @ 02:33 AM after hiking 25.51 miles
Awesome: another town! And it's only 25ish miles away! Now I just have to get there before they close. (You might be thinking "but Evan, how can a town close?!" Well, it's pretty easy when a town is just a gas station.)
The good news is that today is also probably one of the most-anticipated sections of the trail. So I'm just going to dive into pictures, so I can show you why I was a little disappointed.
Okay so I crossed the Knife Edge today, and it was totally covered in clouds. Honestly, it was pretty cool, but probably not as cool as on a clear day. You can ask Google for pictures of that.
I did get some pretty good views though, so it honestly wasn't all bad -- I just like being sarcastic from time to time.
Anyway, long story short: I got to White Pass before they closed, got my resupply and some food, and headed back to the trail to camp in the parking lot. All in all, a great day.
written Aug 23, 2017 @ 03:10 AM after hiking 30.37 miles
Today started off with a great thing: a clear stream! You might think this is a given, but you'd be wrong. I'm not going to say that they're rare, but since the Cascades are a volcanic mountain range, a lot of the streams are chock full of silt, like this:
It's not a huge problem, because I have a filter, but filtering this crud out is hell on your filter, so it's best to skip water like this if possible.
Right as the day started heating up, some clouds rolled in and cooled things down -- perfect!
As long as they don't bring weather, they're welcome to come along. So far, so good. And they create some pretty wonderful vistas, too!
During the day, I met up with a couple I hadn't seen since before the aqueduct: Pickles and Fancy Pants! That was a neat reunion, except that she's hating everything right now because her IT Band is causing issues. Thankfully, I have some experience with that, so I showed her the stretches that worked for me and whatnot. I hope things get better for her -- I know the agony firsthand.
At least we have pretty things to look at, right?
written Aug 22, 2017 @ 03:12 AM after hiking 20.25 miles
Today's another good day: I get to eat real food! After a short ten miles of hiking, my plan was to go into the tiny (extremely hiker-friendly) town of Trout Lake. I had a resupply package waiting for me there, and they also have a cafe there. Perfect.
Oddly enough, I showed up to the trailhead and there was a car about to depart with two other hikers. They agreed to give me a ride, and off we went. It turns out that I'd first meet these hikers (Cookie Monster and Laura (still no trail name for her)) back in Sierra City -- small world.
Once in town, I headed to the cafe and got that party started. It turns out that Trout Lake is obsessed with huckleberries, so everything has them, which I'm okay with.
After that, I went to the general store and went through my resupply. I then got sucked into the vortex of talking to other hikers and wound up resting until 3:00pm. Looks like it's gonna be one of those days.
By 4:00pm, I was back at the trailhead, and there was a sign saying that a mile down the road held more trail magic. Well well well. It was another hiker who broke his foot back in the desert and had to leave the trail, so he's up here paying it forward. We chatted for a while, and I ate the pineapple and watermelon and guacamole and everything else. Finally, though, I had to face reality: I gotta make some miles today.
The smoke from the nearby wildfires leads to really cool late afternoon vistas, if I'm lucky enough to be high up, which I was.
Finally, with a view of the sun setting on Mt Adams, it was time to call it a day.
written Aug 21, 2017 @ 03:07 AM after hiking 31.65 miles
Today's the day that the US has been going bananas for: eclipse day!
Now, I'm not in the path of totality: that was the plan, but it went up in smoke when Mt Jefferson went up in smoke and they closed the trail. So, here I am in Washington with 90-something percent occlusion. Good enough for me!
This is going to be an easy morning: hike until about 9:15am, then find a clearing and sit and watch the eclipse through some eclipse glasses I got before Shelter Cove and have been carrying ever since. They're awesome.
After that was over, it's time to hike. My foot is feeling pretty good, but it's not 100% (and won't be for a long time, so I'll stop making that update) so I'm going to take it pretty easy this afternoon, too.
Oh, and the eclipse was really really neat -- I'm very glad I had clear skies and glasses. It was a really cool experience but I don't have any pictures of it. My Pixel has a great camera, but not for things like this. Instead of bothering, I just watched the eclipse. I'm sure you can Google for better pictures of the eclipse.
Shortly after the eclipse, I came across a car-accessible established campground that was packed with people, and someone was offering Magic to hikers. Might as well grab some and do lunch at a picnic table!
Then it's just hiking and hiking and hiking, interspersed with great views of nearby mountains.
Eventually I arrived at Blue Lake and decided that was far enough. I meant to do an easy day but did almost 32 miles. Oops.
written Aug 20, 2017 @ 02:04 AM after hiking 28.67 miles
Today was more of the same: lots of hills, and lots of descents. I also took lots of breaks, so that helped -- about a fifteen-minute break every two hours or so. I'm hoping this will let my foot heal faster. During one of these breaks, I even soaked my foot in ice cold water, since I don't have an ice pack.
I don't think it actually helped, but it felt good to try anyway, haha.
I wound up calling it quits a few miles early today. Not only do I not want to push myself too hard, but I found a great campsite and just didn't really feel like hiking. I'll make up the miles tomorrow.
Or next week.
Oh and I saw a truly amazing sunrise over the Colombia River Gorge this morning:
written Aug 19, 2017 @ 01:13 AM after hiking 11.56 miles
Well, today's the day: I'm starting my third and final state on the PCT -- Washington!
But first, let's go with David and Jan to the farmers market, so I can eat all the things.
After that, it was off to FedEx to mail my final resupply package -- yay! Finally: time to hike!
The border between Oregon and Washington is a metal bridge known as the Bridge of the Gods, and it's quite the experience to walk across it. There's no pedestrian route, so you just hug the side and hope no one hits you.
In the middle of the bridge (duh) there's this sign:
Crossing the Bridge of the Gods was a surprisingly kind of overwhelming experience. I haven't really sorted it all out yet, but I think it's just that I'm finally here, after months in California and flying through Oregon, this is it.
505.74 miles to Canada.
Hopefully before the snow falls.
I only hiked a few miles in -- there's a big climb immediately (it's a river gorge, so that makes sense) and I wanted to get that over with, but not much more. I'm going to take it easy for a bit, for the sake of my still-healing foot. The new shoes are wonderful, but there was still damage done.
written Aug 18, 2017 @ 06:16 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
First things first: new shoes. Well, first it's breakfast, but then it's time for new shoes.
I called the Fleet Feet store in Portland to make sure that they had my shoes in my size (they did) and then headed over. I limped in, told them what I was looking for, and they brought them out.
It's not an exaggeration to say it was like night and day. I hobbled into the store, but walked out. Not buying new shoes in Ashland -- or Medford! -- will be something I regret for a long time. Oh well, hindsight is 50/50 or something like that.
After that, it was time to head to the store and purchase food. I was planning on buying and mailing my food for all of Washington in one shot, so it was going to be a big one. After picking out 24 days of food, it came out to around $7/day -- awesome! (I've been averaging around $10/day for the trail)
After popping over to USPS to mail everything, it was time to stop looking at food and go eat some food. A day hiker I'd met recommended this Indian place called Bollywood Theater, but also said there's a great Thai place next door. Perfect -- I'll go to both.
After that, I was pretty far into a food coma, so I headed home and passed out. At 7:00pm. Ah, zero days.
written Aug 17, 2017 @ 05:33 PM after hiking 8.22 miles
I'm fairly sure that I've got tendonitis in my foot (extensor tendonitis), after doing some serious googling and self diagnosing today. I suspect that it's because I've been wearing these shoes for way too long -- they have almost 1,100 miles on them, and you really shouldn't expect more than like 500 miles on a pair, given the lives they have to live.
So anyway, after 8.5 absolutely miserable -- sometimes excruciating -- miles, I arrived in Cascade Locks, at the south end of the Bridge of the Gods.
I did it. I completed two states of the PCT.
The hike wasn't all bad, though -- some parts of it were really stunning.
Once I reached Cascade Locks, it was time to hit up the diner for breakfast. Starting with an Oregon specialty: marionberry pie!
With that done, it was time to go to the parking lot and wait for David and Jan (they shuttled me around the Jefferson fire) to pick me up. But in the parking lot, there was a little miniature farmers market! And they gave me a free peach! So, I got some dessert and munched it there in the parking lot.
On schedule, David showed up to pick me up and take me to his home, where he and Jan have made another extremely generous offer to host me for as long as I want. I don't know if they realize how dangerous it is to make that offer to someone who is actually homeless (and injured!) but I don't plan to test the limits.
Besides, I only have 505.74 miles until the Canadian border -- I suspect I'm going to be very antsy.
written Aug 16, 2017 @ 02:04 AM after hiking 24.45 miles
What a day! My last full day of hiking in Oregon! I can't believe it's already here -- even with my injuries, this just flew by. Though after California, I suppose that it makes sense that Oregon and Washington will seem to go quickly.
To celebrate this leisurely day, I had my latest start in a while: I wasn't hiking until 7:00am! After that, it was pretty much more of the same boring forests without much scenery. I definitely took a lot of leisurely breaks, though -- I'm not in much of a hurry.
One disappointment is that there's a side trail which is supposed to be incredibly scenic, called Eagle Creek or Eagle Falls, but it's closed because of a forest fire. Boooo.
Anyway, I was able to get to camp at the normal time, except that it was the wrong camp. I wound up camping 8.5 miles out from Cascade Locks, when I wanted to camp about 3 miles out. My left foot started really hurting when I'm walking, and I'm not entirely sure what's going on. All I know is that it's really painful to walk, so I decided to stop early and let it rest up overnight.
I can't wait for diner breakfast tomorrow morning, though!
written Aug 15, 2017 @ 04:33 AM after hiking 22.69 miles
Okay, so: Timberline Lodge. This place is essentially Mecca for PCT hikers. It's a ski lodge, just a half mile off the PCT, and they offer breakfast. But not just any breakfast.
An all you can eat breakfast buffet.
With amazing homemade food.
I don't remember if I went back for fifths or not -- I was pretty food-drunk at this point, and starting to settle into a food coma.
So, I did the sensible thing and got back on the PCT, hiked a mile, and napped for an hour while my quilt laid in the sun and got microwaved. After that, I hiked on -- I wanted to be some 15 miles past Timberline Lodge by evening.
Oddly, I passed 2,100 miles and there wasn't a marker, but here's a picture I took at 2,099.99 miles:
written Aug 14, 2017 @ 04:07 AM after hiking 33.24 miles
Yep, winter is definitely right around the corner. Last night was cold, with lots of condensation. I'll need to find a sunny lunch hour to dry out my quilt soon. While hiking, I saw my breath until around 10:00am -- brrrr.
One thing that warmed my heart, though, was amazing trail magic. These women camped at this horse camp for about a month and would host (feed) hikers all month.
In the horse trailer, they also had their massive Mastiff whose name escapes me but he was so sweet, of course.
After that, I began the approach to Mt Hood, which was striking:
To a hiker, this means one thing: Timberline Lodge tomorrow! If you don't know what that means, then keep reading.
written Aug 13, 2017 @ 03:01 AM after hiking 20.08 miles
Sadly, I'll not staying in the paradise that is Big Lake Youth Camp -- I gotta mosey. But not without breakfast, which includes ice cream!
After that, it was time to walk the six miles to Santiam Pass, so I can hitch around the fire that's closing Mt Jefferson (which is the band of totality for the upcoming eclipse, sadly). However, once I reached Santiam Pass (mile 1,998.4), I just had to hike another 1.6 miles...
Then I returned to Santiam Pass and waited for my ride. A few days ago, I'd arranged to meet some of my parents' friends (David and Jan) who made the extremely generous offer to shuttle me around any fire closures, so I took them up on it. Right on schedule (early, actually) they showed up, loaded me up, and off we went for the couple-hour drive to Olallie Lake -- the northern end of the closure.
After bouncing on some dirt roads, lunch from them, and parting hugs, I was back on the good ol' PCT.
After hiking another 12 miles, I called it a night and set up my hammock in the night which was rapidly cooling. Winter is definitely right around the corner...
written Aug 12, 2017 @ 03:34 AM after hiking 28.80 miles
Okay, 28.80 adventure-filled miles until Big Lake Youth Camp -- let's see what's in store!
For starters, a big waterfall in an area just covered with obsidian.
And then big lava rock valleys:
And then I hiked to Mordor. Seriously, miles and miles and miles of lava rocks and sun and heat and no water.
I've never wished more than now that I'd purchased new shoes back in Ashland. Or when I went back to Medford. My poor feet!
And then I got the most bizarre trail magic yet from some day hikers up from Sisters to escape the heat: fried chicken. They were going to have a picnic and he just handed me a hunk of fried chicken. Incredible.
Then I approached another Sister, which had a wildfire burning at the base of it -- maybe a half mile from the trail. It has started during last night's lightning storm. (I would find out a few hours later that they closed the trail that afternoon. Bummer for everyone behind me!)
Eventually I reached Big Lake Youth Camp, where they're totally amazing -- you can send packages there, take showers (towels provided), eat three meals a day, they'll do your laundry for you, camp, charge your electronics, get water, ... all for free. Such generosity! All they ask is that you don't drink, do drugs, or swear. Can do!
written Aug 11, 2017 @ 03:36 AM after hiking 30.98 miles
When my alarm went off this morning, the very first thing I did was put on my awesome bug repellent. Not today, skeeters.
With that out the way, Scrappy and I hiked the boring 18 miles to Elk Lake Resort. There, she'd find a hitch to town because sadly, today is her last day on the trail. Her real life is calling and she must answer. Oh well, I've been solo for like a thousand miles -- what's another couple hundred? :-)
Once we got there, we immediately set about getting some lunch, naturally. We also met up with a fellow hiker that I hadn't seen since ... before Belden, I think? It turns out he's also leaving the trail (temporarily) and can give Scrappy a ride! Thanks, Skyhiker! With that sorted, we ate.
After lunch, Scrappy and Skyhiker headed off to find a hitch into Bend, and I headed back to the trail. Tomorrow, I want to be at Big Lake Youth Camp, and I want to get there early -- I'm not camping more than 30 miles out tonight.
Thankfully, as soon as I left Elk Lake, the trail got really pretty, which made it much more fun.
The reason it was so pretty good because I'm finally in the heart of the Three Sisters Wilderness area, and above the tree line.
After dazzling sunsets and fields of flowers, I bedded down (hammocked up?) a short 28.80 miles from Big Lake Youth Camp.
There's a lightning storm going on just around the bend, but I'm too lazy to set up my tarp -- I hope it doesn't come this way in the middle of the night!
Oh yeah, and while at Elk Lake, I was texting with Monk and learned that Crater Lake has been reopened! Great news for him, but it's selfishly very irritating for me.
written Aug 10, 2017 @ 03:06 AM after hiking 28.66 miles
First, this post needs a soundtrack. While you're reading it, have this video playing -- maybe a hundred instances, all playing at once.
Okay, now that you're situated, I can begin to tell you about the uneventful day filled with mosquitoes.
Oh and we met some weekend hikers and I fell head over heels for Silver.
But then we found this very pretty lake:
And thankfully, I remember the name of this one! In fact, it came in handy to remind you all what I look like after living in the woods for four months.
Anyway, we finally arrived at our goal: Stormy Lake, which was nothing of the sort. However, there were even more mosquitoes there. I was absolutely losing my mind, and camp got set up in record time.
Ugh, worst creatures ever made.
written Aug 9, 2017 @ 02:13 AM after hiking 27.24 miles
Today has a similar goal as the other day: reach the next resort. I needed to get there because I had a package of food waiting for me, but I also wanted to not eat rehydrated mashed potatoes again.
Eventually, it started sprinkling just as we reached the parking lot. As soon as we got under the roof of the building, the bottom fell out of the sky and I had my first real PCT thunderstorm. Not only was it just a complete downpour, but it started hailing, too!
Thankfully, as soon as I'd arrived, I'd placed an order for a pizza, which was soon ready. And holy cow, let me tell you: this is the best pizza I've had on the trail, bar none. And for a long time before the trail, too. It was amazing.
By this point, other soaking hikers had arrived and we all hung out on the porch while we discussed plans, fires, and so on.
Finally, the rain let up, and Scrappy and I went back to the trail to set up camp. I set up my giant sheet of Tyvek in case it rained again, and it was big enough to cover the both of us. Secretly, I was hoping it would pour again because I like the sound it makes, but I didn't cooperate.
written Aug 8, 2017 @ 04:39 AM after hiking 24.28 miles
In the morning, Stephen drove us the 2 hours back to the trailhead, giving us a great tour of the North Umpqua River along the way.
Once we got to the trail, I ran into someone that loyal readers might remember from a loooong time ago: Hot Sauce Monologues! The last time I saw her was Silverwood Lake, 1,500+ miles ago! It turns out she is up here, shuttling people around the fire. Crazy.
So anyway, Scrappy and I hiked in some 24 miles, and here are the pictures because nothing else of note happened.
written Aug 7, 2017 @ 05:18 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Today was a streak of unbelievable luck. Thankfully, Scrappy chronicled it, and I'll present it here, tweaked to be from my perspective.
I hear Scrappy wake up per usual and eat something in her tent. Crinkle crinkle crinkle.
woke up, packed up
we moved to picnic tables outside closed cafe
Scrappy gets a hot cup of coffee (and free refill!)
Get a hitch to Medford from an employee at the resort who was going to run errands anyway. Score!
Go to REI. Wander around aimlessly until we realize we don't really need anything. Scrappy gets some new socks and I get a roll of Rock Tape to help with my tendonitis. While sitting on the ground outside, trying to figure out which trail angel will be helping us, a generous stranger gives us a bag of chips and some Justin's Peanut Butter Cups. Then the trail angel in Roseburg calls and agrees to help us out. He'll pick us up in Roseburg, give us a place to stay, and drive us to the trail in the morning.
Go to Enterprise, get told that they don't have any one-way rentals. Fall back to Plan B: Greyhound.
Go to Chipotle. Get a burrito and a beer. Yay!
Go to Trader Joe's and resupply. I discover the best cookies ever created (see below).
Spread out gear to dry on the lawn of the bus station like a couple of hobos. Pick up tickets.
En route via Greyhound to Roseburg.
Picked up by Stephen, dinner at Jersey Lilly.
Arrive at Stephen's amazing orchard. Set up charges, take showers, organize gear and food.
After that, the timeline stops, because the day stopped. We both passed out, extraordinarily pleased with the kindness of complete strangers.
written Aug 6, 2017 @ 05:12 AM after hiking 30.70 miles
When Scrappy and I started hiking, we had one goal: make it to Fish Lake. It's like 30.70 miles from Hyatt Lake, and if we hurry, we might get another cooked meal!
Plus, we're hearing rumors of wildfires up ahead and we need to reach cell service (or Wi-Fi) to figure out what's going on.
But first, a sunrise!
Then came wastelands.
Then forests, again.
Then lava rocks. Seven miles of lava rocks.
Finally, we arrived at Fish Lake just as a rainstorm started. We huddled in the porch to the bathroom structure while we did research on the trail ahead.
It turns out that the fire near Crater Lake has continued spreading, and has finally closed the rim trail. As a result, we'll have to skip Crater Lake -- one of the highlights of Oregon.
This is really sad for me because I have a continuous path of footprints stretching from the Mexican border, and it ends here -- after almost 1,800 miles. Oh well, I guess. I'm not willing to do the, like, 50 miles of road walking to go around Crater Lake, so this is the price I'm paying.
Our tentative plan is to hitch back to Ashland, get to Medford, then rent a car and drive to Roseburg or Bend or Eugene. We've put out feelers for trail angels in those cities to get us back to the trail, and we'll have to see who responds.
written Aug 5, 2017 @ 04:20 AM after hiking 24.00 miles
Today was another relatively uneventful Oregon day: hike, look at the occasional pretty view, and keep hiking.
Eventually, I reached Hyatt Lake Resort, which was 1.5 miles off trail. The chance to buy real food was definitely worth the road walk, though!
written Aug 4, 2017 @ 06:01 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Ahhh, zero days. Especially solo zero days -- nothing specific to do, no one to meet for lunch, no schedule to keep.
First things first: laundry. I did a prewash of all of my clothes in the shower, to get the majority of the literal dirt out of them, and then headed next door to the laundromat. 45 minutes later, my clothes were spotless! It was amazing -- I feel like a real member of society (except for looking decidedly unshorn, of course).
I then walked to the highly-regarded local sandwich joint, Sammich. Their pastrami did not disappoint!
After that, it was time to hit the grocery stores and mail myself food for Oregon. With an extra two packages, I think I can feed myself for the whole state. Woo!
After that, it was time to hitch back across town to get some pizza and beer before I called it a night. This took a while, but it let me see the sunset, at least!
I also got to watch dogs watch me.
written Aug 3, 2017 @ 04:02 AM after hiking 23.65 miles
One goal today: get to Ashland.
But first, a sunrise needs to be admired.
Okay, with that out of the way, it's nonstop to town!
Except for this great trail magic at the top of the climb, with soda. And chairs! What a treat.
Okay, for real now -- no more stops. Okay maybe a quick picture of this just because.
Enough delays, let's get to town. Once I finally reached the highway, I got exceptionally lucky with a wonderful lady who appeared over the hill exactly as I stuck out my thumb. Perfect! This couldn't go any smoother.
She popped the trunk and I put my pack in, and then walked around to the passenger seat to get in and she held out a bottle of ginger beer. What world am I living in? I don't understand what's happening.
Anyway, this saint took me to my hotel, where I'd splurged and booked a room all to myself, which let me examine my feet. Ew.
After showering, I popped over to Goodwill, bought a clean shirt (I only have one shirt), and went next door for sushi -- yum. And bibimbabap! And gyoza! And then a quart of ice cream to take back to the hotel and eat while I watch TV.
I'll miss this.
written Aug 2, 2017 @ 03:36 AM after hiking 32.25 miles
I did it. After 1,689.17 miles, I'm finally out of California! Through the desert, the high Sierras, the low Sierras, the NorCal river valleys -- all of it.
All that's left now is two more states: Oregon and Washington. These total a mere 960 miles, though -- they should be much faster than California. Phew.
written Aug 1, 2017 @ 03:44 AM after hiking 13.43 miles
After a quick -- yet quite interminable -- 6.5-mile road walk this morning, I arrived in the town of Seiad Valley. This town, pronounced "SIGH-ad", is noteworthy to me because of one important attribute: it's the last town in California. I'm almost done with my first state.
Also, it has amazing milkshakes. I would drive a considerable distance for one of these. It's hard to explain what makes them better than all of the other milkshakes I've had, but they're easily the best of the Trail (so far?).
Another thing about this town is that it is dreadfully hot. As in, a high of 106°F today. This normally wouldn't be a huge deal except that, being on the Klamath River, there's a massive climb out of here. Across 6 miles, I had to climb from 1,300 feet to some 5,900 feet. On exposed hillsides. With only two piddly low-flow springs.
So I waited until it cooled down to a chilly 98°F at 4:00pm and then hit the trail. Yeah, it was a brutal climb.
Oh yeah, and they're trying to secede from California and convince the bottom of Oregon to come along.
written Jul 31, 2017 @ 04:33 AM after hiking 30.95 miles
I have definitely entered the Pacific Northwest. Today was a day full of climbing hills, following streams, and dripping sweat though steamy forests. It reminded me of my trip to the Amazon a few years ago.
In fact, around 6:00pm, I looked at the map and realized that the next campsite want for another eight miles. Given that my ankle is still healing (slowly but surely!) and I had already done 23 miles, I decided to stop and set up camp early. However, as soon as I got in my hammock to relax, I just started beading sweat. Ugh, no thanks. I would rather hike late into the night than sweat while just laying there.
So, I packed up my stuff and hit the trail and cranked out another 7.8 miles, arriving in camp by headlamp, at 9:20pm. Hey, miles I hike today are miles I don't hike tomorrow, right?
written Jul 30, 2017 @ 02:24 AM after hiking 18.74 miles
Yay, I'm heading back to the trail today!
But first, a last shower and then breakfast -- especially one that involves a cinnamon roll that I'd been hearing about.
Once that was done, I hitched back to the trail and was hiking around 10:00 am. My leg seems okay -- perhaps 75%. I'll need to baby it for a while, but it's not nearly as painful as the hike in had been. I'm hoping it'll be fully healed within a week.
I also entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness area, and it's absolutely astonishing. I know I say things like that a lot, but I can't help it.
The haze you see isn't fog -- it's smoke. There are a couple of nearby wildfires, and the smoke is pooling in the valleys. It's not bad yet, and the fires aren't expected to close the trail, but it's something to watch.
I also came across something I haven't seen in a while: snowmelt rivulets and waterfalls giving me wonderful clear water source right next to the trail. Yes!
Finally, I hit another milestone today: 1,600 miles!
written Jul 29, 2017 @ 04:39 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Another day, another zero. Except this one is unplanned and not desired.
Oh well, might as well lay around and rest and try to recover so I can hit the trail again. So that's what I did all day (while I caught up on this blog).
And I did some resupplying and some chores too.
I can't wait to hike tomorrow.
written Jul 28, 2017 @ 05:43 AM after hiking 9.00 miles
After a very painful 9 miles, I arrived at the road that leads to Etna. This road is very low-traffic, but apparently every car that comes by will stop for hikers. Time to put that to the test.
Twenty minutes later, I was robbed of this. Some mountain biker came in off the trail and offered me a ride -- I didn't even get a chance to stick out my thumb!
Half an hour later, my hitch dropped me off at the local burger joint, where I got a burger and shake and then headed to the local park. There's a rodeo in town, so all of the hotels are booked, but their park offers hiker camping, backpack lockers with outlets inside, showers, water, and bathrooms. It's pretty awesome.
Once I was settled, I headed to the new brewery, where I had a nice dinner while I watched the staff figure things out (it was only their third weekend being open).
Back at the campground, I met to other hikers (Scrappy and Rocketman), one of whom (Rocketman) was also injured. They were fun to hang out with and we played cards late into the night.
Even though I don't want to be here, I guess I've had worse nights.
written Jul 27, 2017 @ 03:29 AM after hiking 21.88 miles
Oof, my ankle hurts like hell. Despite going to bed hoping that it would magically get better, that didn't happen. Oh well, gotta hike.
No, really -- being out here is no longer optional. I'm like 30 miles from the nearest road in any direction, so the only way for me to not hike on this is to hike those miles. Hikers gotta hike.
Thankfully, the Trinity Alps Wilderness area is spectacular, and that helped make it okay. I wish every step didn't hurt, but it does, and that won't change, so it's best to ignore it.
After a while, I left the Trinity Alps Wilderness area, and entered the Russian Wilderness area. While not as Alps-y, it has huge river valleys that were just incredible to look at and into.
I ended the day on the side of a valley that was essentially a cliff and it was really cool to walk across and see all of the tributaries flowing down, eventually forming the river at the bottom, making the canyon deeper and wider, one millimeter at a time.
I finally entered a forest and camped 9 miles out from the road to town -- a town I was going to skip, but will now likely zero in. Such is the PCT.
written Jul 26, 2017 @ 12:22 AM after hiking 21.87 miles
After packing up my rain fly (ugh, what a pain) this morning, I hit the trail and just crushed the miles.
For a few hours, anyway.
Then, my ankle decided enough was enough and started hurting a lot with every step. I took a break and rolled my shin muscle with my tennis ball and it helped somewhat, but it quickly returned. Crap.
A few miles later, I was on top of a ridge and I had cell service, so I decided to spend some battery and try to figure out what was going on.
I'm pretty sure it's a case of anterior tibial tendonitis. I'm also fairly sure what it's both treated and prevented by stretching my calf muscle. This seems to help a bit, but I need it to heal.
Ugh, it's like pre-Tehachapi all over again. Oh well, I had over a thousand miles of good health -- I guess I should be thankful for that. Since I have fewer than 1,100 miles left, maybe I'll get out of this without another injury!
I did have some awesome trail magic though! In a parking lot, I ran into a wonderful retired couple from Colorado who offered me a handmade turkey sandwich, some Ritz crackers, some chocolate-covered raisins, a Hershey bar, apple juice, milk, water, and snap peas! If the Wests are reading this: thank you again!
As I'm writing this, some nearby clouds are thundering, but they aren't overhead. I'm hoping they stay that way so I don't have to set up my tarp again...
written Jul 25, 2017 @ 02:26 AM after hiking 25.28 miles
Since I worked so hard to get to 1,516.34 last night, I figured I'd take it easy and give myself a late start -- no sense leaving before the sun is up!
Finally, I started hiking at 7am. And I quickly ran into some friends I hadn't seen since ... well before Yosemite? -- MegaMan and Dasani! We hiked for a long time and caught up about who is where, who quit, what's happened on the trail, and so on. It made the miles fly by until we got to Porcupine Lake, where I went swimming and did laundry (of sorts) and bathed (of sorts).
When we started hiking again, we hiked into some scary clouds. These dark clouds eventually started dropping huge raindrops, but really infrequently. It was very strange. Then every other one was hail, so we stopped under some trees for dinner.
Then after dinner, we heard thunder and decided to just call it a day and set up our rain protection before it started raining.
Also, my ankle has been hurting and I don't know what's up with that. An early bedtime should help, though.
Oh yeah, and today marks my third month on the trail. :-)
written Jul 24, 2017 @ 04:52 AM after hiking 31.53 miles
Since I worked so hard to get set up for Castella, it was pretty easy to get into Castella and pick up my resupply package. I have enough food now to make it another 6 days to Seiad Valley! (Ugh, it weighs so much.)
After packing my resupply into my bag, eating lunch, and waiting out the heat under a tree, it was time to hike again. So, I managed to leave without charging any of my batteries, despite being there for 3 hours.
I was texting with Haymaker, who is slightly ahead of me, and he told me I should absolutely push and make it to the campsite at 1,516.34 -- the view is allegedly the best on the trail. So I pushed and pushed, and climbed a huge mountain and made it at 10pm.
This sunrise better be worth it.
Oh yeah, and Castle Crags State Park is incredible. I suggest you visit if you're ever in northern California!
written Jul 23, 2017 @ 04:07 AM after hiking 36.14 miles
Okay, big day: I want to get in position for a quick Castella visit tomorrow. That means doing 35+ miles, and a lot of elevation gain and loss. That means I get to see a sunrise though!
The good news is that I was hiking with Crash, who pulls like 3.8 mph, even (especially) up hills. This meant that I reached my goal, even if it was tiring.
36+ miles; 8,366 feet up; 10,582 feet down. Oof.
written Jul 22, 2017 @ 04:08 AM after hiking 32.89 miles
Shortly after I left camp this morning, I reached Burney Falls State Park. I almost kept going, but figured that I might as well go see what the big deal is.
Okay, these 129' waterfalls were pretty awesome. I also really wanted to go swimming, but it was 6am, and I'm also not entirely sure that it's allowed. So, instead, I kept going.
I wound up meeting, and hiking with, this guy Crash. He's really fast, but also a great guy to chat with, so I pushed myself. Strangely, while it was faster than my natural pace, I was able to keep up without overexerting myself.
I wanted to do another few miles, but all of this hill climbing took it out of me, so I called it good enough (rather than do night hiking). Tomorrow's gonna be terrible tough -- lots of hills.
written Jul 21, 2017 @ 03:57 AM after hiking 35.90 miles
Here's something I haven't done for a while: wake up at 3am in order to hike. And yet, there I was.
Oh well, at least it let me see the sunrise in all of its glory!
Oh yeah, and then I found a hiking cat! This girl, YadaYadaYada, found this kitten in the desert and they've been hiking together ever since! <3
A few hours per day, the cat will him alongside her, but the majority of the day, she'll ride on top of her backpack.
When I said that this was a 30-mile waterless stretch, that wasn't technically true. About halfway through, there was a water source, if you wanted it.
Thankfully, I had water, so I skipped it and kept on trucking.
All the way to mile 1,400!
Eventually, I reached Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, which is run by a wonderful couple who gave us free ice cream and I waited out the heat of the day. I also bought lunch and dinner there because it was home-cooked and not dehydrated.
They also have some cats that I got to hang out with, which passed the time.
Then I kept hiking another few hours, and I saw this sign near my campsite. It kind of blew my mind because all of the sudden, the "Canada" number is smaller than the "Mexico" one. Like, a lot smaller.
written Jul 20, 2017 @ 03:35 AM after hiking 32.43 miles
Phew, I don't have to backtrack 19 miles today, so I can do what I wanted to do: go through Lassen National Park. If I make it through in one day, then I don't need to carry bear protection for my food.
Sadly, while Lassen is beautiful and unique, the route that they chose for the PCT was ... generic. I mean sure, it was pretty, but it totally skips all of the volcanic features. Oh well, stunning quiet lakes will have to do.
Around 11am, I finished the 17-mile stretch and exited Lassen. Next stop was Old Station, where I could get dinner at a great little place called JJs Cafe.
After dinner, I stopped by a nearby geological curiosity, called the Subway Caves. These are some lava tubes that you can walk through, with the help of a headlamp since it's pitch dark down there. As such, I don't have many pictures from down there, but if you just close your eyes, you'll get a pretty good idea.
Finally, I started the climb up to the start of the next (last?) hot, dry stretch of trail: Hat Creek Rim. It's a 30-mile piece of trail without water, and it gets brutally hot during the day. My plan is to do some of it this evening and then get up early and do the rest before it gets hot. Plus, I'll get to watch the sunset from the rim!
written Jul 19, 2017 @ 04:16 AM after hiking 18.95 miles
Oh boy, what a day.
Before hitting the trail, Tom and I went to the post office so I could send myself some food for upcoming sections. After paying, we got in the car and hit the road. In the car, I ordered a new sheet of Tyvek because I want to make a new (lighter) rain tarp for my hammock.
Once we got to the trailhead, Tom walked me around briefly and educated me on the various trees -- he used to work for the Forest Service, so he has a ton of fascinating wisdom to share, and I was happy to absorb as much as I could before I head for Lassen National Park.
After hiking 15 miles through forests, I arrived at Lassen and decided to stay at the campground and split a site with some other hikers.
Since it was $16/site and there were three of us, I reached in my pocket to get $5 and found ... nothing. Where my wallet has been for more than half of the trail, I found some lint.
Of course, the campground is in a valley without cell service for like 10 miles, so I ran over to the nearby Drakesbad Guest Ranch and begged the use of their landline and called Tom. I had two theories:
I got him on the phone and he went and checked his truck and found ... nothing. Eff. Looks like I'm hiking back to the trailhead tomorrow! Ugh, off to bed I go.
I fell asleep thinking through the logistics of how I'm going to get new credit cards, a new ID, cash, etc before I hit the next town, let alone Canada.
Then I'm startled awake by someone saying "Evan!" This caught me totally off-guard because not only was I asleep, but basically no one out here knows my real name. And those that do are like 200 miles behind me. And no one calls me Evan out here, anyway.
I respond "yes?" and poke my head out of my hammock to be blinded by a headlamp, and then find my wallet thrust into my lap. What? How? Who?
It turns out that Tom and Lois had driven to the trailhead late at night to see if I had dropped it there. When Lois got out of the truck, she found it tucked in a pocket of the door (remember when I ordered that Tyvek?) that Tom had missed during the initial search. Then, knowing I didn't have cell service, they drove to Drakesbad Guest Ranch and just wandered the nearby campground until they saw a hammock and guessed it was me. At 10:30pm.
Tom and Lois: thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.
Everyone else: this is a longer story than I usually tell, but man was this a big one for me. Thanks for your patience. Have a picture from the other day as compensation.
written Jul 18, 2017 @ 04:17 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Another zero means one thing: few pictures.
In short, I resupplied, sent home a bunch of gear, ate a bunch of food, and recharged my batteries (and myself).
Oh yeah, and in keeping with tradition, to commemorate reaching the halfway point, ate half a gallon of ice cream.
written Jul 17, 2017 @ 05:07 AM after hiking 30.83 miles
First things first today: get to the midpoint! The PCT is recognized as being 2,650 miles long, so that means that reaching 1,325 miles is cause to celebrate!
With that being done, let's get to town! There's family to meet and food to eat! My dad's cousin Tom and his wife Lois have wonderfully agreed to host Hiker Trash Evan for a zero day, and I can't wait.
On the way in, I also startled a bear that was napping by the side of the trail. Truth be told, we were both startled, but it was otherwise an uneventful encounter. Phew.
Tom and Lois met me at the trailhead and took me to their house where I had a wonderful dinner, a glorious shower, and then an indescribably amazing soak in a hot tub. Is this what life is like off the trail?!
written Jul 16, 2017 @ 03:25 AM after hiking 21.71 miles
First order of business today: descend 6,000 feet across 6 miles in order to wind up in Belden in time for breakfast.
Once I was there, we stopped in for breakfast and I got chicken-fried steak -- a decent calories/dollar deal.
In Belden, I ran into this girl Stretch that I hadn't seen since Tehachapi, which was neat. She joined Haymaker and I for breakfast and we all caught up about what we'd been up to, what the trail was like (she had skipped around, waiting for the Sierras to thaw), and what our plans were going forward.
All in all, a good breakfast.
Then Haymaker felt the need to make hay, and went back to the trail. I figured that if I stayed for lunch, then I'd win on two fronts: I wouldn't need to carry that food and I would also get a cooked lunch!
So that's what I did.
While I was eating lunch, a few biker gangs rolled in and hung out, which was .... interesting. These weren't weekend warrior people -- they seemed like the real deal. I felt like an extra in Sons of Anarchy. Belden is a strange place.
After lunch, it was time to hit the trail, in the heat of the day. Ahead of me was a 14-mile long climb up a few thousand feet. Oof.
Thankfully, a mile in, I found a glorious swimming hole! I bathed (of sorts), did laundry (of sorts), and generally just hung out in the sun.
Afterward, I resumed the brutal climb, ultimately finishing way up on top, at mile 1,298.00 -- I'll hit the midpoint tomorrow!
What a day.
written Jul 15, 2017 @ 04:34 AM after hiking 31.11 miles
Today was a short day -- only 31 miles! -- so I let myself sleep in. At 6:00am, I was starting the annoying 6,000-foot climb, as seems to be common in NorCal. At the top, we had a great view of the valley and got to talking. Haymaker informed me that there's a town, Bucks Lake, just a few miles off-trail where we can get a burger and a beer. Since I had time to kill, I fully supported this idea.
After that, we hiked up to the edge of the ridge just outside of the next town, Belden. Here, we were greeted with an amazing sunset.
Oh yeah, and after the burger, I ran into some day hikers who wished me the best and gave me a plum to speed me on my way. Fresh produce is always amazing.
written Jul 14, 2017 @ 04:56 AM after hiking 41.12 miles
So today, I hiked forty miles in a day. Specifically, 41.12 miles.
My plan had been to go for 30 and change, but around 10:00am I decided to just go for it. It'll set me up for a short 30-mile day tomorrow, which will be awesome.
I'm pretty tired though, so here are some pretty pictures to look at.
I did wind up hiking with this guy I met in Sierra City called Haymaker. He has a tiny pack and hikes super fast. In fact, he started over a month after I did, and he caught up to me.
Anyway, he left Sierra City a few hours before I did, and camped farther down the trail that night. Today at dinner, he walked up behind me! We looked quizzically at each other and were like ".... ??? ... This isn't possible ... ???"
Turns out, he'd taken a nap today and I'd passed him somewhere along the line. Classic "Tortoise and the Hare" story, here.
written Jul 13, 2017 @ 04:04 AM after hiking 19.18 miles
Today was a nice and leisurely start -- I didn't even set an alarm! I only had 7.4 miles to go before I reached Sierra City. Here is where I would resupply (top off, really -- I left Tahoe with too much food), get lunch, and then hit the trail again. I had no intention of lingering or spending the night.
I had heard about their famous "Gutbuster", a fully-loaded massive 1-pound cheeseburger, and I had to put it to the test. After ordering one (and waiting an eternity for it to cook), it arrived and looked like a softball covered in various veggies, barely contained in a bun.
Honestly, I ate it in like three minutes flat, and I'm not proud of that. In fact, by the time I thought "I should get a picture", it was almost gone. Sorry, everyone.
I did go back for a milkshake, an ice cream sandwich, a liter of ginger ale, and a package of Oreos, and that is something I'm mildly proud of and disgusted by. Such is PCT life, I guess.
I then just lingered around with other hikers until around 4:00pm since it was hot and I had 3,700 feet of vertical to climb. Then I got a hitch and, well, started working on that.
And passed something cool after climbing for a couple miles.
Unfortunately, the trail was really annoying -- it was entirely loose rock. Sharp, big, small, loose, crappy rock that slowed me down. Oh well, I got up it all the same with minimal cursing.
written Jul 12, 2017 @ 03:24 AM after hiking 27.08 miles
The trails are fast now (see the earlier post) but man are they boring.
Don't get me wrong: they're pretty!
But they're also boring. It's just easy and so it's tedious.
Maybe I miss the snow.
I'm definitely back to hiking -- the price of admission has been paid.
written Jul 11, 2017 @ 03:47 AM after hiking 22.30 miles
Today started with something exciting (to me) -- hiking through Squaw Valley! Despite being the middle of July, they're still open (on the weekends).
Once leaving Squaw, though, the scenery rapidly changed as the snow disappeared and the greens took over. Here's where I saw Lake Tahoe for perhaps the last time on this trail:
Then it was time for lunch on top of a ridge! Pretty much on a peak, actually. And it was also time to drink that beer that I'd been carrying for miles and miles. But first, I gotta make it cold.
A short time after that, I crossed Donner Pass, and figured I should head over to Donner Ski Ranch and get an afternoon snack -- hopefully a burger. Turns out, they had Reubens and jalapeno poppers and pies, so I got some of each. This was all well and good and I was ready to hit the trail, but the bartender reminded me that thru hikers get a free beer. Yay! Then another patron bought me a beer because I survived the Sierras. Yay!
So when I left, I immediately found two trees, set up my hammock, and napped for an hour. It was amazing.
Then it was time to hike. But first, let me explain something: getting your feet wet sucks. A lot. You go out of your way -- sometimes a lot -- to avoid it.
So it was really annoying when I reached I-80 and they had helpfully put in a tunnel underneath it (so I didn't get pancaked by a truck) and it looked like this:
Sigh, oh well. I'm almost done hiking anyway. Slosh through, do another few miles, and watch a sunset. I guess things could be worse.
written Jul 10, 2017 @ 04:01 AM after hiking 31.97 miles
The trails out here -- after the desert, after the High Sierras -- are fast. For example, today I didn't really set an agenda for myself and I stopped when I wanted to stop and took an hour for lunch and dinner, and I unintentionally did a 31.96-mile day.
So here are some captioned pictures from today because I don't really have anything to say.
Oh yeah, one thing that won't fit in a caption: for the first time, I made a mistake. Well okay, not my first mistake, but it's the first time I made this mistake. I forgot to allocate water for dinner. So I had to have dinner next to a snow bank and boil some. Thankfully I have extra fuel, but still, it took forever and was annoying. I won't make this mistake again. Hopefully.
written Jul 9, 2017 @ 03:18 AM after hiking 13.40 miles
After being dropped off back at Echo Lake, I resumed hiking. This is my first time really hiking through the Tahoe mountains, and they're really pretty. I know I say that a lot, but it applies to a lot!
I even ran into a skier, which didn't give me a good feeling about the trail ahead of me.
Around Aloha Lake, the snow picked up, but it thankfully wasn't bad.
And then this happened!
It's now been 300 miles since I've seen a milestone marker. Oh well, I won't let me stop that from marking the occasion -- maybe 1,200 will be visible. I ended the day on Dicks Pass, which was of course pretty.
written Jul 8, 2017 @ 05:30 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
Zero #2! Double zeros are the best. And worst, because I should be hiking.
But first, let's bike to Squaw Valley and check out the wine and art festival that's going on.
Then stop for a quick dip in the trailside stream on the way back.
More dinner, more drinks, more games, and it's time for more hiking tomorrow.
Oh yeah, and Tyler let me borrow a laptop, so I spent a few hours and fixed my blog! Now it no longer takes forever to load! Sorry, folks :-)
written Jul 7, 2017 @ 05:30 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
The first Tahoe zero day starts with business: resupply. After that was done, I had to patch my hip pouch where a rodent had chewed through it the other night (grrrr). Tenacious Tape to the rescue!
After that exhausting day, it was time for some hard core chilling.
.... Until we naturally went for a hike. Ugh.
After that, it was dinner, beers, games, and eventually bed. Fun times.
written Jul 6, 2017 @ 05:30 PM after hiking 4.52 miles
I started by doing the 4.5 short miles into Echo Lake, where Jessica picked me up from the trailhead. It turns out that after she left the PCT, she decided to go backpacking for a weekend around the same place where I'd be hitching. Neat!
After that, we drove up to Tahoe City where we joined up with some other friends (including Tyler, my resupply coordinator) and had a stressful day.
Three more days of this? Hmmmmmm
written Jul 5, 2017 @ 04:35 AM after hiking 30.27 miles
Today, I was finally within sight of Tahoe!
This has been a long time coming, and I was really excited about it because this is the first region of the PCT that I've hiked before. It's like my turf!
Of course, I didn't get here without hiking through and past gorgeous valleys!
This also means I get to see more friends from Before ™ -- my life before I disappeared into the woods. Tomorrow will be interesting!
written Jul 4, 2017 @ 03:20 AM after hiking 9.05 miles
Okay, I have 44 miles to go, and two days to do it. Time to hustle.
First, we have to hitch two hours south, then forty-five minutes west, get Jessica's car, and then drive the two hours back to Markleeville and drop me off.
Thankfully, we found some kind strangers who picked us up for each of those legs without too much trouble, getting us back to Markleeville around noon -- perfect! I can have a real lunch!
Around 3:00pm, I was back on the trail -- which shortly looked like this:
It didn't last forever, but it was nice while I had it.
Every though, I found myself a nice ridge which overlooked a valley. According to the map, this valley contained Markleeville and a few other towns, some thirty miles away -- my plan is to watch all of their fireworks shows.
When night fell, the cities illuminated -- my plan was going to work! Shortly after that, fireworks started going off in a handful of separate locations. I couldn't hear any of them (or get decent pictures), but it was still really cool. The neatest part was that I was around 4,000 feet higher than the towns, which meant all of the fireworks were exploding below me.
Happy birthday, America.
written Jul 3, 2017 @ 02:44 AM after hiking 13.20 miles
Well, it was decided today: after 31 miles and one inured knee (hers), Jessica had had enough. Today we crossed a road (which had just opened three days before), so we hitched into the nearest town: Markleeville.
I don't have any pictures of this tiny, quaint, kinda redneck town, so here are some pictures from our 13+ miles before we hitched in. Tomorrow we hitch back to Bridgeport and retrieve her car.
written Jul 2, 2017 @ 02:08 AM after hiking 15.00 miles
Jessica might disagree with me (she agreed to write a guest post, so we'll find out then), but I'm cautiously optimistic that the snow is ending ... soon.
I mean, just look at this creek crossing! There's, like, almost twenty feet of dirt!
I mean, we still have scenes like this:
But still, I can feel it in my bones: it will be dry trail soon enough.
written Jul 1, 2017 @ 01:35 AM after hiking 4.90 miles
This next section is going to be interesting -- I have a visitor! A friend from my pre-PCT life is going to be hiking with me and I can't wait. It's going to be fun to show her what it's like out here and what it means to hike all day long.
After a breakfast at a local bakery, it's time to hit the trail and get in some miles.
Shortly after hitting the trail, Jessica got a crash course in what the PCT has been like: snow, steep hillsides, and routing around impassable sections.
After almost five miles, we decided to call it a day and set up camp. Long day tomorrow, though -- these miles won't hike themselves!
written Jun 30, 2017 @ 01:35 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Another town, another zero day. I normally wouldn't take a zero here, but I needed to kill time anyway -- my friend Jessica is going to meet me in Bridgeport tomorrow and hike with me for a stretch!
So here I am, exploring the various culinary institutions of Bridgeport and hanging out with other hiker trash. And resupplying!
Oh and while I was relaxing in my room with the door open (in order to avoid the inevitable Hiker Funk), I had a visitor! The hotel's owner's dog wandered in to say hello <3
written Jun 29, 2017 @ 10:18 PM after hiking 15.48 miles
Today was a momentous day: not only did I have to climb a huge ridge which took forever, but I also left the High Sierras, officially.
After this, I will never again be above 10,000 feet. I thought I would be happy about this, but it's pretty sad -- there's a lot that I'll miss. For one, once you cross 9,500 feet or so, it's like someone flips a switch and there aren't any more mosquitos, which is awesome.
Another thing I'll miss is the cooler air -- I love sleeping in the cold and fresh mountain air. Oh well.
I won't miss the sun cups or the hours spent finding the trail, though.
I definitely will miss the views though.
So anyway, with a simple hitch into Bridgeport, my High Sierras adventure more or less comes to an end, and soon I'll start the NorCal chapter of this!
written Jun 28, 2017 @ 03:26 AM after hiking 19.27 miles
After a few miles of following bear tracks through the woods, I was once again back on the PCT!
After following one of the raging creeks that my alternate allowed me to skip, it was time to start today's slog: trudging over the extremely disappointing Dorothy Pass.
After that, all I had left for the day was crossing an important milestone and then setting up camp and falling asleep.
written Jun 27, 2017 @ 04:01 AM after hiking 25.50 miles
Okay, part two of the unmaintained trail. Except, as I quickly found out, "unmaintained" here means "imaginary", more or less.
After 5.5 miles of bushwhacking, I finally arrived at a sight so pretty that I almost cried: a Jeep road with a sign saying "Hetch Hetchy: 7.9"
After 7.9 miles and 1.5 miles of road walking, I finally reached Hetch Hetchy, which is much prettier than I thought it would be! Even the dam was pretty neat.
After a huge climb, I was where I wanted to be: a few short miles from the PCT! Tomorrow is a big day: I'm hoping to get back on the PCT and get out of Yosemite in one day.
written Jun 26, 2017 @ 03:06 AM after hiking 23.80 miles
As mentioned previously, I'm taking an alternate route through Yosemite in order to avoid some very hazardous creek crossings. Well, today is the start of this journey!
Additionally, I'm going solo, so this will be a new experience.
First off: climb Yosemite Falls at 4:00am to beat the heat.
Once I had climbed like 3,000 feet, it was time to turn west and hike to El Capitan. This wound up being unimpressive because I didn't see it from the valley floor, so it was just like any other vista point for me. Oh well.
Then it was time to start the cross-country hike to Hetch Hetchy. This was very scenic and very pretty.
All told, this unmaintained trail was awesome. It was easy to follow the trail, despite having been unmaintained for several years due to a forest fire. I made good time and wound up not quite making it all the way to Hetch Hetchy, but I was close.
I'll reach it tomorrow morning.
written Jun 25, 2017 @ 03:40 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
I took an accidental zero today in Yosemite, so this will be a quick and boring update.
The short version is that Peanut and I decided to skip ahead to Sonora Pass, past all of the super dangerous river crossings and flood zones, and then we'll be back to fill it in later on.
Then we talked to a ranger who had just finished a patrol of the Hetch Hetchy watershed and we schemed up an alternate route which skips the dangerous zones, has minimal road walking, is five miles longer than the PCT, and then rejoins the PCT before leaving Yosemite.
So, game on! However, Peanut already had bus tickets to visit family for some time, so I'm flying solo on this one. Back to ninja camp at Camp 4 and hit the trail at 4am. I've got this.
I've dubbed this route the "Hetch Hetchy Alternate", for those that are curious. Here's the basic plan:
written Jun 24, 2017 @ 12:50 AM after hiking 22.00 miles
Since Peanut and I had decided to bet it all on Tuolumne, and we were at Tuolumne, that meant one thing: we needed food. Since the Tuolumne Meadows post office hadn't been reassembled yet (because the road was still closed), it meant we needed to hike the 22 miles down into Yosemite valley to pick up our packages (and visit the store).
So off we went. I walked along the highway for 14 miles and then the trail for 8 miles, hoping it would get me to the post office in time to pick up my package before they closed (since it's Saturday and they'll be closed tomorrow). Peanut decided to take the more scenic JMT in, understandably.
Eventually I reached the trailhead, though. Only 8 miles to go!
A few quick (it was dry trail! Yay!) miles later, I saw Half Dome for the first time, which was really neat.
And then suddenly, I was standing on Yosemite Point! The whole valley was spread out below me, and it was absolute stunning.
Then the hike in took me right down Yosemite Falls! I had no idea this was the route I chose, but I was really glad about it!
Eventually I reached the bottom, found out that the post office closed at noon, met some hikers, and shared some beers, snacks, and laughs with them and Peanut. Then we ninja-camped at the famous Camp 4 and decided to come up with a plan tomorrow.
This plan may involve skipping ahead to Sonora Pass, sadly. We'll need to talk to the rangers and see what they know about the river situation back there.
written Jun 23, 2017 @ 03:52 AM after hiking 27.88 miles
Well, we finally did it: two PCT passes in one day!
First, we had to actually get back to the PCT, which meant hitting the trail at 3:00am in order to finish the JMT section so that we could rejoin the PCT.
With that out of the way, we did our first (tiny) pass: Island Pass. The guide notes that many people cross this pass without noticing that they actually crossed a pass, which kind of blows my mind. Not because this is impossible (I can totally see it -- it's not a very noteworthy crossing) but because this year, you're glued to your map/GPS/compass and always know exactly where you are. Without a trail to follow, you have to be hyper vigilant of your position and what's upcoming.
After that, was the big one: Donahue Pass. This pass is important because not only is it substantial and pretty, but it also takes us into our third National Park: Yosemite!
After slogging through miles and miles and miles of slush, we finally were on the top of the pass with a breathtaking look down Yosemite Valley.
Next, we needed to hike the 13 miles into our next (yet closed...) resupply at Tuolumne Meadows.
Once I made it to the valley floor, it was only 8 more miles of beautifully boring hiking.
Once we got to Tuolumne Meadows, it was pretty obvious why everything is still closed: the winter hit them hard. Oh well, we'll solve that problem another day. Like, say, tomorrow.
With a 22-mile hike down some 4,000 feet of vertical.
For no reason.
written Jun 22, 2017 @ 02:40 AM after hiking 11.40 miles
After a few miles today, we got off-trail -- intentionally! Just half an hour off the PCT is Rainbow Falls, and we figured that would be a great place to have breakfast.
We were right.
A short while later, we reached Minaret Falls, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. These were huge, beautiful, and problematic. The issue is that the recent heat wave created a huge river, and washed out the pedestrian bridge. And, being a waterfall, it's hard to hike around it.
We got out our trusty water report and read what people had said (a week+ ago) about this creek, and it wasn't pretty. In order to get around it, you have to hike a few miles upstream to the headwaters, and then come all the way back down. Then there are lots of similar rivers coming up that involve lots of hiking or getting wet (or both!)
So Peanut and I made a decision: we'll backtrack a few miles to where the JMT and the PCT diverged, and take the JMT route for this section. They're both 13 miles long, but the JMT stays in the mountains while the PCT takes the valley.
When we reached camp tonight, we had service (we could see Mammoth Mountain ski resort), and so we started doing homework. It turns out that Tuolumne Meadows -- where we were planning on resupplying next -- was still 100% closed.
Our only option is to hike the 22 miles down into Yosemite valley.
written Jun 21, 2017 @ 10:25 AM after hiking 14.84 miles
Today was the first day that we hiked what I have done to refer to as the "mid-Sierras" -- below 10,000 feet. It was interesting leaving the snow, but I honestly think I prefer the snow. When things aren't frozen, everything is wet and muddy and hot.
written Jun 20, 2017 @ 01:49 AM after hiking 17.80 miles
To get back to the PCT, we were taking Goodale Pass, since it completes the detour, dropping us just after Silver Creek. Annoyingly, that means we climb from like 7,000 feet, up over 11,000 feet, and rejoining at 10,540 feet. Oh well.
Eventually, we got back to the PCT! It felt good to be back where we were supposed to be.
The snow was soft by the time we did the merge, so we called it a day and set up camp in some dirt we found under a couple of trees.
It's good to be home.
written Jun 19, 2017 @ 02:34 AM after hiking 6.00 miles
From Mono Hot Springs to Vermilion Valley Resort, it's only 6 miles, which means one thing: sleeping in! We didn't get started until, like, 7am. It was glorious.
The walk in, however, was not.
However, after six miles of pretty much just dirt roads, I saw a wonderful sign:
After that, we entered the amazing resort and I totally forgot to take pictures, so I'll just list some highlights:
written Jun 18, 2017 @ 04:46 AM after hiking 25.11 miles
There are three upcoming creeks (Bear Creek, N Mono Creek, and Silver Creek) which have been reported to be "impassable". Rather than take that as a challenge, Peanut and I have decided to take the (very boring) suggested alternate, which involves a lot of road walking. Oh well, such is the 2017 PCT!
Our first stop off the trail was Florence Lake. Normally this has a ferry running, but since the maintenance guy only got there yesterday, it looks like we're walking the 8 miles around the lake.
Then it was time for the 7-mile road walk to stop #2: Mono Hot Springs. This quaint little resort also only just opened two days ago, but they're at least ready for business.
After hitting up their restaurant for their specialty -- buffalo burger -- we went to the general store and purchased some overpriced food for lunch and dessert. Then we snuck off to the woods to stealth camp, since the campground was flooded (and we didn't want to pay anyway).
There are some gnarly thunderstorms going on in the next valley over (about 15 seconds between lightning and thunder) as I write this. Peanut looked up the weather and he says that there's a 0% chance of precipitation. I hope he's right...
written Jun 17, 2017 @ 12:10 AM after hiking 18.64 miles
Not what you want to hear when you're supposed to start hiking at 2:30am and have a huge day ahead of you. Thankfully, we hit the trail at 3:45am -- only a little late. We can recover that time, though.
Despite sleeping relatively close to the pass, it still took most of the morning to actually get to the pass; ugh. However, after a long time walking, we were finally hanging out in the Muir shelter at 6:33am!
A quick breakfast, and we're back on the trail -- you won't make miles without hiking!
After walking along some spectacular frozen rivers for many many miles, we finally arrived at the big one: Evolution Creek.
When I say "big", I mean it. It was too deep to ford and too wide for there to be a log crossing. So, we swam it. Packs and all.
I obviously don't have any pictures of that because my phone was safely sealed away in a bag in my bear can, but we quickly reached camp and spread out everything to dry while we still had sun.
To answer questions:
written Jun 16, 2017 @ 01:53 AM after hiking 18.34 miles
There's only one way to make up for an early stop: an early start the next morning! So, the trail called to us at 2:30am, and we answered.
This allowed us to set a new personal record: we crossed Mather Pass at 3:43am!
At the bottom, we followed a gorgeous valley for a while, doing our normal hiking thing.
Eventually we turned a corner and had a has-been view of the vast and spectacular Palisades Canyon:
After some more log crossings and valleys, we finally called it a day once we were at up for Muir Pass, 18.34 miles later. This is another new personal record for us in the Sierras!
Tomorrow will be even longer, though -- in addition to doing the interminable Muir Pass.
written Jun 15, 2017 @ 02:00 AM after hiking 12.97 miles
Alright, two PCT passes in one day. Let's do this! Starting at 3:00am.
Two and a half hours later, we arrived at the foot of Pinchot Pass -- allegedly one of the hardest passes on the trail.
It turns out that the steps were well-cut, solid, and clear. We crossed the pass in no time -- it was pretty anticlimactic.
No time to gawk at the view -- we've got 10 miles to go until the next pass, and the snow is softening by the minute! So off we went, hustling along.
Until some creeks needed to be crossed.
That slowed us down some, but we pressed on, and we soon reached the approach to Mather Pass: miles and miles of soft, melty sun cups.
For two hours, we fought through this, trudging along, twisting our ankles constantly, until we finally arrived at the foot of Mather Pass. And we were completely exhausted.
We decided to admit defeat and cross the pass at 4:00am the next day instead -- going over now would be pointless, dangerous, and only satisfy our own egos.
So instead, we set up on some rocks right at the foot of the pass and head to bed early. Damn.
written Jun 14, 2017 @ 01:41 AM after hiking 9.69 miles
Since The Chairman wasn't leaving until later, Peanut and I slept in -- we didn't get started until 5:00am! Up first, not twenty feet from where we slept, was a ford between two lakes. Oh well, a mild inconvenience and then we were on our way!
Shortly, we came to our next creek. Thankfully, this one had partial ice bridges on it, but nothing complete. However, it was a narrow gap, so Peanut jumped across, then I threw him our things, and followed. I have videos that I'll post ... in the future. If I remember.
Then we crossed a sketchy, swaying suspension bridge that was clearly marked "one person at a time", and for good reason.
Then the highlight of the day:
Then another highlight: an absolutely raging creek that was totally awesome.
Now that we're set up for the unthinkable tomorrow (two passes in one day!) I can take a break.
written Jun 13, 2017 @ 02:01 AM after hiking 3.87 miles
3:30am, and we have two passes to do. Let's go.
First up was the dreadful Kearsarge Pass. After a lot of trail blazing, we found ourselves back on the good old PCT.
After we were back on the PCT (or the snow on top of it), it was only a few miles to one of the steepest passes on the trail: Glen Pass. This pass is the exception to the rule -- since it's so steep, it's recommended to do it in the afternoon instead of the early morning. We were only happy to oblige.
Then began the descent. It was steep and slushy and pretty scary. Eventually the footholds gave way, so we decided to climb the rocks.
Finally we were at the bottom, and found the trail! This is 100% of the PCT hard pack that we saw today:
However, at the very end, we had an incident: The Chairman took a tumble down some cliffs! He's okay, but banged up a little and may have broken some ribs. He took it as a wake-up call and decided to call it quits and hike out tomorrow. As a result, Peanut and I also called it a day (we're not quitting, though) and spent the afternoon with him by the side of a lake.
Tomorrow, we push on to set up for Pinchot Pass, said to be the most difficult pass. Let's find out if that's true.
written Jun 12, 2017 @ 01:37 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Today's finally the day: after reloading our food, recharging our batteries, bodies, and spirits, we head back into the battle with the Sierras.
But first, lunch:
Then we (Peanut, The Chairman, and I) got a ride the 13 miles to the trailhead and did a whopping 3 or so miles in -- we stopped when we hit snow and set up camp.
Peanut and I had the genius idea of ordering a pizza to go and packing out four slices each, so we ate real food tonight. What a way to start the trip!
Tomorrow is a long day: we're hoping to do two passes -- the monsterous Kearsarge Pass followed by Glen Pass, which is the steepest on the trail.
20+ miles: we got this!
written Jun 11, 2017 @ 04:50 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
When we woke up and looked at the mountains, it turned out that the forecast had been accurate: there was a big storm dumping snow in the mountains. Combine that with the fact that we needed to send ourselves our next resupply (it's Sunday), and we decided to take a second zero day.
So off we went, to do nothing (our chores were done yesterday) except just relax. Lazy breakfast, lunch at another Mexican restaurant, watching TV, ... it was a tough day.
In fact, it was so thrilling that only pictures that I took were there crummy one of the storm above and this one from dinner, where I got a hot fudge sundae the size of my head.
All in all, a good day -- but I'm looking forward to heading back to the trail tomorrow.
written Jun 10, 2017 @ 01:28 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Today started with the best part of any hiker's day: a continental breakfast! Once we'd had our fill of make-it-yourself waffles, cereal in styrofoam bowls, and premade muffins, it was off to the store for more food. This is pretty boring, so I'll let these two pictures fill in 1,000 words each:
We also stopped by the outfitters and got some new toys! I bought some new (more comfortable) crampons and, after 679 miles, decided my shoes needed replacing. I went ahead and downsized them to 13s -- I might even go to 12s the next time I need a new pair!
Dinner at another local Mexican joint rounded out the day, and then Peanut and Monk went to see Wonder Woman while I went back to the hotel to organize my resupply since we're leaving tomorrow and I was stressing about it.
written Jun 9, 2017 @ 01:28 AM after hiking 10.83 miles
Today was another 3:00am alarm for a 4:00am hike. However, today wasn't any other day. Not only did we camp at 12,500 feet, but it was Forester Friday!
At 13,200 feet, Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT, and we wanted to be there for sunrise.
Forester Pass is the border between Sequoia and King's Canyon national parks, which are some of the most beautiful parks in the trail, and reportedly the country. So sitting on the divider for sunrise was incredible.
After the pass, it was a 9-mile hike down and back up Kearsarge Pass, so that we could exit and go into town for more food. (This was desperately needed -- we were all down to scraps)
Kearsarge Pass was absolutely miserable because it is a 7.5-mile climb from 9,500 feet up to almost 12,000 feet, then back down to like 7,500 feet, and we didn't get there until 11:00am, so it was slush the entire way.
In fact, I was in such a foul mood that this is the only picture I took during this slog.
But I ultimately made it to the trailhead at 2:45pm and hitched the 13 miles into Independence -- when did summer in the desert get so hot?!
I was able to pick up a package from the post office before they closed and now it's off to get Mexican food before resupplying tomorrow!
written Jun 8, 2017 @ 01:50 AM after hiking 7.12 miles
This post is going to sound pretty negative, but just bear with me. It's been a rough couple of days and it'll all tie together, maybe.
Today started with a 4:00am hike because that's when you need to start, while the snow is frozen. And of course, it started with a barefoot ford across a river in below-freezing ambient temperatures. (While we were thawing, my water bottle froze.)
So basically, the Sierras got hard. Really hard. All of the sudden.
I was warned about this, though. Back in Kennedy Meadows, there was a Facebook post by one of the first teams to make it through the Sierras and they said:
I don't mean to frighten anyone with this post, but to be clear: it's not hiking back there right now, it's mountaineering.
It's a lot of 3:00am alarms with 4:00am hikes, followed by a thawing around 11:00am, followed by stomping through slush until you give up. Throw in waist-deep river crossings, crossing passes at 11,000+ feet, and you've got a complete day.
Oh, and it's bear territory, so we have to carry heavy bear cans that hold a very finite amount of food, so you're rationing yourself because you don't know how long it will take to get to civilization again since the miles are so unpredictable.
On days like this, I think back to a letter that Peanut's dad wrote him at Kennedy Meadows, the start of the Sierras. It had a quote in it that went something like this:
[Peanut], I believe you are about to see some of God's glory in design and creation as you enter the Sierras. I also believe it will be quite difficult. Consider that difficulty as your price for admission. A price few others can or will ever be willing to pay. It will be the greatest ticket you have ever purchased!
-- Mr. Peanut
I've never been mountaineering, so I can't speak to that. I can vouch for one thing though: this is not hiking.
This is the price of admission.
written Jun 7, 2017 @ 03:43 AM after hiking 3.34 miles
Today started with an alarm going off at 12:15 am, but I was already awake. Today was a big day: it's Whitney Day!
Just 8.5 miles off the PCT is Mt Whitney -- the highest point in 49 states (Alaska has higher ones). Naturally, I'm gonna climb it.
We wanted to watch the sunrise from the summit of Whitney because why not? People in camp, some of whom did it yesterday, and some of whom were doing it today, told us it wouldn't happen. People had tried, leaving super early, and they'd all missed it. Oh well, we're headstrong and gonna go for it.
So that's why we were hiking at 1:00am -- it's about a 4-hour ascent, and the sun should hit the peak around 5:30am. Perfect.
Off we went, hiking by headlamp and the almost-full moon. After getting lost numerous times because the trail is covered by a field of snow, we started the climb. Toward the top of the climb, we could see other groups starting to make their way across the valley, headlamps lighting the way. They were too late, though -- they'll miss the sunrise! Not like us.
To cut to the chase, at 5:04am, I was standing on the marker of the summit, indicating that I stood 14,505 feet above mean sea level. At that moment, I was higher than every other person on US soil, except for a possible handful of people climbing mountains in Alaska. Neat.
For almost three hours, Peanut, Monk, and I had the mountain to ourselves, where we watched the sunrise and illuminate the Sierras. It was spectacular.
After the mountain, it was time to hike! We had ambitions of going another 6 miles to a campsite, but those were quickly squashed -- not only was the snow far too soft, but we had a surprise ahead of us: our first ford.
I don't have any pictures of it because my phone was safely sealed in bags, but we had to ford through thigh-high icy water -- brr!
Afterward, we just gave up and built a fire to try to dry out our things (mainly shoes and socks).
A side note: you might notice that this post says that I hiked 3.39 miles, even though I said I climbed Whitney, which was a 17-mile round trip. This is because I only count PCT miles -- miles which put me closer to Canada. Whitney didn't do that, so those miles don't count.
written Jun 6, 2017 @ 01:16 AM after hiking 12.77 miles
Today, we reached our first major creek that we needed to cross. I say "creek" because it's called Rock Creek.
However, it was the most raging creek I've seen. Let alone crossed while balancing on a log.
After that, it was onward to the top of a ridge, where we took a nice long siesta while we waited for the north face to soften so that we wouldn't have to put on spikes to descend.
After that, it was a second sketchy log crossing and an early bedtime because we want to summit Mt Whitney tomorrow morning!
written Jun 5, 2017 @ 10:32 PM after hiking 13.81 miles
Monk, Peanut, and I agreed to be hiking by 4:00am, so that meant early alarms needed to go off. We planned to do 22 miles, which is a lot for the Sierras. We'd been told to expect 8-10 miles/day, but we have been pulling 20+ miles so far, so let's see if we can keep that up.
So anyway, off we went, while the snow was still frozen from the night before. This was fine (we didn't see much) until we hit the north face of a ridge we needed to traverse. Walking across frozen snow, in the dark, on a steep slope didn't sound like fun, so we stopped for a minute and equipped ourselves for the first time in the Sierras.
After several hours of (much safer!) hiking, we reached some snow fields, that had been heavily sun-cupped, which made walking really tedious. Oh well, the show must go on!
Eventually, we reached out highest climb yet, some 11,600 feet along a ridge. It would've been exhausting under normal circumstances, but wearing crampons, being at elevation, and wearing a heavy pack made that a certainty. Phew.
Oh well, we finally made it over and were rewarded with this beautiful alpine lake.
We were also beat, and the snow was melting, making walking just totally draining, so we called it a day after only 13.81 miles. Oh well, you can't win them all.
written Jun 4, 2017 @ 10:49 PM after hiking 18.90 miles
Tonight, for the second night in a row, we're camping above 10,000 feet. I don't know why, but that's neat to me.
It's been surprisingly good hiking -- not only have we not hit any major snow (no crampons required so far!) but the higher elevation hasn't really impacted anyone too badly. There's the obvious "this is harder to climb" effects, but no altitude sickness, headaches, dizziness, etc. Let's hope this keeps up!
And now, some pictures from today that I want to share just because:
written Jun 3, 2017 @ 03:50 AM after hiking 20.32 miles
Shortly after leaving camp, I was presented with a strange sight: a bridge!
I guess it's definitely true: we're out of the desert. Finally. So much water everywhere!
After sliding around in the melting snow for a while, we arrived to camp. There was an established fire ring, so we put it to use (for the first time on the trail, for me). It helped dry out our wet shoes and socks and then we headed to our respective shelters for sleep -- we needed it, since we had an early morning ahead of us. (Ideally you're hiking before dawn because the snow is firm and frozen still)
written Jun 2, 2017 @ 03:25 AM after hiking 2.43 miles
After spending the night behind the Kennedy Meadows general store, it was time for our pre-Sierras near-o.
First things first: a breakfast featuring all-you-can-eat pancakes (with eggs, bacon, and potatoes). The pancakes were enormous, but I still managed to pack down 1.5 of them somehow. (I'm grossly proud of this.)
Then it was time to pick up our packages and sort through our first food-containing maildrop (which, also included all of our Sierra gear, like a mountaineering axe, crampons, and a bear can).
I sent myself too much food, so a lot of it was then re-mailed to myself later down the trail so I don't have to buy yet more mashed potatoes.
I also sent home a fair amount of gear that I won't use again, like my warmer-weather sleeping bag and my tent -- now that I have trees, I can use my hammock!
While that was happening, we did laundry -- never pass up an opportunity to wash the only clothes you have and wear every single day!
Finally, it was time to load up our massive packs (tons of gear, but not quite as heavy as when we were in the desert, so that's a plus), hitch a ride to the trailhead, and start hiking toward the Sierras!
I can't believe it's here already, but I'm totally excited.
written Jun 1, 2017 @ 04:03 AM after hiking 21.34 miles
Today, I crossed 700 miles! This is an ordinary milestone, except that mile 702.2 marks the end of the desert!
Now is when things get hard. But hey: no more water issues! Well, issues with not having enough water, anyway.
First things first: pick up my 6 resupply packages, which contained my mountain gear. In the mountains, I'll be switching from my tent to my hammock, adding a mountaineering axe and crampons, upgrading my sleeping bag, and getting warmer clothing (gloves, etc.)
Next it was time to hear to the local bar and get a burger.
On the way back from the saloon, we stopped by and chatted with the author of the definitive guidebook to the PCT: Yogi! She was super nice and we bought some gear from her outfitting store that she's starting. (Side note: as of right now, she's the only female double triple-crown holder, meaning she has hiked all of the Appalachian Trail, the PCT, and the Continental Divide Trail. Twice.)
Tomorrow is when we go through our food supplies and then hit the trail again!
written May 31, 2017 @ 04:20 AM after hiking 29.88 miles
Another day, another thirty -- sort of. We did 29.88 miles, but water was 0.25 miles each way off the trail, and camping was another 0.2 miles.
However, those weren't PCT miles, so they don't really count. Whatever, we still did a lot of miles and tomorrow, we'll officially be done with the desert!
We weren't planning on doing this many miles today, but it was cloudy, so I reminded Peanut of the old saying:
Make hay when the sun shines.
And the addition for the desert:
And when it doesn't, make miles.
So, we took advantage of the cooler, cloudy, and eventually rainy weather and just did a lot of miles.
written May 30, 2017 @ 04:21 AM after hiking 21.00 miles
We hit Walker Pass campground today, which was unremarkable except for two things:
There's still desert ahead, plus a dry stretch in northern California, but this one is over!
written May 29, 2017 @ 05:56 AM after hiking 31.16 miles
This morning started with a top-off at a creek, where we loaded up to capacity (8 liters). This is necessary because this also began the longest stretch without reliable water -- 35 miles!
These miles wouldn't hike themselves, and we wanted to minimize our time in them, so we started hiking at 5:00am, and planned to do 31 miles -- Peanut's first thirty!
After seeing maybe our last windmills of the trail, we took a long siesta since it was -- again -- almost 100°F.
We then finished out the hike at night, which reminded me how much I hate night hiking. This was especially bad because the trail was this deep, loose, slippery sand, and tons of uphill and downhill. It was like walking on a beach, but trying to climb 5,000 feet of elevation at the same time. Ugh.
We finally got there, set up camp in the middle of a dirt road, set an alarm for 5:00am, and called it a day. But hey, we made some serious miles!
written May 28, 2017 @ 05:08 AM after hiking 22.67 miles
I'll probably regret saying this soon enough, but I think I'm ready for this desert to be over. Specifically, I'm getting tired of:
Just to clarify though: this is still a great time! And the desert is surprisingly vibrant and just teeming with life!
I love that the scenery is constantly changing. For example, you'll be walking through high desert chaparral, and then all of the sudden find yourself in an oak or pine forest, like this:
Or a grove of Joshua trees:
But don't forget to look down, because the prickly pear cacti are still blooming:
Plus, night hiking means I get to see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, so there's that, I guess.
written May 27, 2017 @ 03:44 AM after hiking 18.62 miles
Alright, time to hit the trail and see how this new-and-improved knee handles it!
With regular stretch breaks, and rolling with the tennis ball every time I stopped it held up! At least 90%, if not 95%. Enough to go almost 19 miles, anyway.
Sadly, I think we're leaving the windmills behind. I'm gonna miss them, if for no other reason than they imply a breeze. Oh well.
written May 26, 2017 @ 01:06 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Today was zero #4, and my second consecutive zero -- it felt amazing to not have to pack my bag and hike anywhere. Is this what my life used to be like?
There was really only one chore: resupply with enough food to get us to Kennedy Meadows, 136 miles away. That turns into a lot of heavy food, even when repackaged into freezer bags and all excess discarded. Add onto that the fact that leaving Tehachapi is the driest stretch of the PCT -- at the worst spot, we should be prepared to go 35 miles without water.
After hitching all over town to hit the stores we needed for resupplying, including picking up a tennis ball and a foam roller to keep my knee in check, it was time for dinner and a Harry Potter movie marathon. It's so easy to not hike, but I also want to get back out there where life is simple.
written May 25, 2017 @ 04:24 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
Yay! My physical therapy appointment is here! Let's go figure out what's wrong, how to fix it, and how to prevent it.
For starters, I was correct: it's an IT Band issue. So, that's good news! The therapist gave me lots of good stretches to do to help treat it as well as prevent it. It's also not serious -- yet. If untreated it will cause kneecap issues in the future.
Other than that, today was a total zero day -- it was time to meet up with Peanut and start icing my knee and stretch some things so I can hit the trail again.
No pictures today, so here's one from the other day on top of San Jacinto.
written May 24, 2017 @ 04:28 AM after hiking 23.58 miles
23.5 miles until Tehachapi (and physical therapy!) I can do this.
But first, a beautiful sunrise over a wind farm!
Okay, time to hike. Or hobble, whatever. The PCT goes directly through the wind farm and right next to active windmills. I've never been up close to them before and they're so cool. The sounds they make, the movements, everything.
After a few miles, my knee crapped out again. Oh well, I'm just gonna push on. It was pretty uneventful and hot and waterless, so I'm just gonna skip most of the painful hiking.
At mile 549 (9.5 miles left!) there was some amazing Trail Magic! Some kind souls left water, shade, chairs, cookies, juice, cherries, apples, and oranges. After hanging out there for half an hour, I pushed on -- and my knee felt better! Magic!
My knee lasted another mile or three, but whatever -- it's the home stretch. Just keep hiking, Evan.
Eventually, I reached the road and stuck out my thumb. Ten minutes later, I was in a truck, headed to Tehachapi! I'd made it!
Yay, PT tomorrow! <3
written May 23, 2017 @ 01:08 PM after hiking 24.02 miles
Today is a day that many people fear and gnash their teeth about: Aqueduct Day
For like 20ish miles, the PCT follows the LA Aqueduct through the desert. This stretch is hot, dry, boring, shade-free, and interminable. But hey, it has to be done so let's get cracking.
At first light, we hiked into the start of it, which has a spot called Hiker Town. This welcomed relief is your last chance for water and shade for until you're back in the mountains. So virtually everyone stops here on the way.
Upon arrival, we had plans to head out immediately, but the forecast called for a high of 98°F, which is way too hot to be walking 20 miles on a concrete strip without shade.
After going to a diner, getting breakfast, and hanging out hydrating all day, Monk, Peanut, and I headed out at 3pm -- these miles won't hike themselves!
It was long, flat, and surprisingly pretty. There was a wind at our back that let us pretend it wasn't 95°F, which helped a lot.
About five miles in, my knee gave out on me, so I took fifteen minutes to try to recover in what shade I could find.
While laying there, I did some WebMD research and I think what I've got is IT Band Syndrome. The good news is that it's not fatal (for my trip), but the treatment is rest. And the prevention is basically "don't hike 20+ miles every day".
So that's no bueno.
It didn't help, so I just bucked up and hobbled on. After a while, I stopped for dinner and a bunch of ibuprofen. An hour later, I was able to walk again, which let me catch up to Peanut and Monk again, and my knee carried me almost all the way to camp before it died again. Oh well, at least I made it.
Just 23 miles until town tomorrow -- I can do this.
written May 22, 2017 @ 04:28 AM after hiking 21.00 miles
Earlier, I asked for my knee pain to go away and come again another day.. Well, today was that day.
As I mentioned yesterday, burning the candle at both ends might not be sustainable. Usually, my knee hurts when I go to bed, but after a night of sleep, it's good to go.
However, this morning (after 5 hours of sleep) it was still hurting. "Oh well," I thought. "Hikers gotta hike."
After two hours or so, the dull pain suddenly changed and my knee said "no more". Uh-oh.
It was suddenly very painful to bend my knee at all, making walking extremely difficult. Crud. I hobbled to a wider section of the trail (I was currently on a ridge, so these are few and far between) and sat for a bit to see if that would help. After fifteen minutes, there wasn't any change. Damn.
Thankfully, since we were on a ridge, I could see a desert town in the distance, which usually means I would have cell service. Thankfully I did, so I pulled up Google Maps and found myself a physical therapist in Tehachapi, the next planned stop. They had an opening for Thursday morning, so I took it.
Now all I have to do is get there. Okay, that's some 60 miles and I have like three days. I can do this.
Off I went, hobbling like a pirate down the trail.
At that day's siesta, I didn't move at all, hoping to get my knee good enough to get me to camp that night (another 9 miles).
Surprisingly, it sort of worked -- some rest (and loads of ibuprofen...) limbered it up a bit, and as I walked, it got a little more flexible (probably as the ibuprofen kicked in more) and I made it the 9 miles to camp.
Since I was feeling good, I pushed on to the next campsite, another 4 miles. Every mile I walk now is one I don't have to do tomorrow! (And who knows how I'll feel in the morning.)
Thankfully, it held together until the last mile, but I could hobble that. Totally worth it.
Maybe a night of sleep will help.
written May 21, 2017 @ 05:09 AM after hiking 27.59 miles
Now that the desert is starting to heat up (both because of the summer and because we're at lower elevation, it's time to switch into a desert routine. Here's our basic day-to-day:
It allows us to put in some big miles without getting heat exhaustion, but burning the candle at both ends will get old pretty quickly. Oh well!
written May 20, 2017 @ 04:09 AM after hiking 17.97 miles
After an 11-mile hike, I entered the very hot town of Agua Dulce -- the site of my next resupply. My package was waiting for me at this place which is aptly named Hiker Heaven. These people are sort of the original Trail Angels on the PCT, and they sure know what they're doing.
After picking up my maildrop and sorting through it (thanks, everyone who sent me birthday wishes!) it was time to go to lunch and then buy for for the next section (Agua Dulce to Tehachapi).
In order to avoid getting sucked into the vortex and taking a zero there, Peanut and I pushed off around 5, in order to miss the heat of the day. We'd hoped to do some night hiking and go about 12 miles, but we wound up calling it quits after 8 or so.
Can't win 'em all.
written May 19, 2017 @ 03:32 AM after hiking 25.69 miles
I've finally entered the desert.
Today was a long hike -- up, over, and down many ridges. It was also hovering around 95°F, which felt brutally hot, but is probably only a hint of what's to come.
The end of today's section was an oasis: a KOA!
They had frozen pizza, ice cream, soda, laundry, and showers -- what more could a heat-exhausted hiker ask for?
written May 18, 2017 @ 03:02 AM after hiking 28.31 miles
This morning started with an exciting road walk -- there's a section of the trail that goes through the habitat for some mountain frogs, which are endangered. As result, they've closed a few miles of the trail and replaced it with a thrilling road walk.
Shortly after that, though, it got exciting! Up first was this:
And then this:
If you don't recognize this, (I didn't until I started planning this trip) it's the feared and revered Poodle Dog Bush. It's apparently way worse than poison oak, and allegedly sends hikers to the hospital every year. If you have a strong stomach, Google for [poodle dog bush rash] sometime.
Anyway, it was all over the trail, necessitating careful stepping, and meaning I couldn't zone out.
Thankfully, it totally reeks of weed, so you have some notice when some is in the area. (And if you're claiming you don't know what that smells like, I don't believe you. If you really don't know, it smells like Poodle Dog Bush.)
After a long day of hiking, we got to a fire station which generously lets hikers use their hose hookup for water, laundry, etc. You can't camp on the premises, but there's an acceptable site some 100 yards away.
Early dinner and bedtime for me!
written May 17, 2017 @ 01:14 AM after hiking 20.82 miles
Time to hike.
But first, more donuts (hey, it's the only thing open at 5am!) And then another round of muffins and turnovers. Okay now it's time to hike.
First up is a massive climb up Mt Baden-Powell. When I say "massive", I mean 3,000 feet in less than 4 miles.
The climb was worth it, though! To the north was the Mojave desert, where we'll be in a week or so, suffering through brutal heat and long waterless stretches.
To the south was LA, though they were having a cloudy day.
It was weird to me to imagine millions of people below, caring about their lives and thinking "eh, what crummy weather" because to us, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Not above us, anyway.
After eating lunch above 9,400 feet, it was time to carry on and descend down the mountain. And then climb another one. And descend it. And then climb another one. And then descend that.
By the time I reached my camp, I had covered almost 12,000 feet of vertical (+5,595 / -6,316).
written May 16, 2017 @ 06:28 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
Now that we had spent a warm and dry night in a hotel with beds (for $100/night grumble), it was time to start crossing items off my to-do list.
Starting with breakfast at the diner next to our hotel. With that out of the way, it was time to be productive -- get more food to carry me the next 90-some miles, then catch a nap.
With those done, my friends let me know they were hosting a cookout at the cabin they'd rented. It was fun to see everyone and hang out (again), even if it meant sitting around in the dirt -- just like on the trail.
Once it was too cold for that, we walked to the local dive bar and shot some pool. At some point the karaoke started, but it was past 9pm, so I headed to bed.
It's going to sound weird, but zeros are exhausting. There's so much to do and everyone that was behind you on the trail shows up, so there's just always something going on. It's nice to get back on the trail and get back to a simple existence.
written May 15, 2017 @ 12:53 AM after hiking 22.15 miles
Pitter patter. Pitter patter.
Crap. It's raining.
With about a dozen hikers cowboy camping, a rainstorm at 2:37am is definitely not appreciated. And so began the scramble of everyone hurriedly setting up their tents before they got too wet.
Peanut, Slosh, and I were sleeping in our "peas in a pod" configuration (think enchiladas in a pan), so we just took Peanut's tarp and pulled it over us and called it good. Someone got a picture of it and dubbed it a "quesadilla" -- if I get it, I'll add it to this post. (Also, can you tell we think about food constantly?)
Around 5:30am, we finally gave up, hurriedly packed our gear, and started hiking. It didn't matter how poorly it was packed because we had a hotel waiting for us in the next town: Wrightwood.
And so began a beautiful, rainy, windy, and cold hike up 7,261 feet and down 3,457.
Around 11am, we were above the clouds (and weather) so we ate lunch until the freezing wind forced us to keep hiking.
Into the rain, which soon turned to snow.
Lots of snow.
What these pictures don't show is the biting wind on the ridge when we were crossing through Mountain High. Brrr.
Oh well, we eventually got to town, hitched a ride, and rounded out the night with some amazing sandwiches and beers at the Wrightwood brewery.
And a zero tomorrow. Yes!
written May 14, 2017 @ 03:59 AM after hiking 18.47 miles
Let me back up. So at mile 341.87, there is a side trail. This isn't just any side trail, though. If you walk 0.4 miles down this trail, you wind up at a magical, wonderful place -- McDonald's.
For a few weeks of the year, this particular McDonald's gets invaded by filthy hungry hikers who show up, eat their weight in McDoubles, chicken nuggets, McFlurries, and everything else on the menu. It's an amazing day -- your Hiker Hunger is just starting to ramp up, and you're presented with infinite cheap calories, paired with the lifestyle that lets you eat like you've always wanted to, and no consequences.
So anyway, we rolled in, ate like $25/person worth of McDonald's food, had a food coma, and then finally rallied enough to hike another 5 or so miles.
We chose this distance because there's a campground there, and the next one is 10 miles from McDonald's -- another 5 miles past ours, and all uphill.
Few hikers had the motivation (and ability) to hike 10 hard miles after eating thousands of calories, so the 5-mile campground became a natural meeting spot. It was awesome, because everyone congregated there and we had a big slumber party, with sleeping bag blankets and whiskey going around.
All in all, a wonderful day.
written May 13, 2017 @ 04:10 AM after hiking 18.67 miles
Our next day was going to bring us to Silverwood Lake -- I guess it's a touristy spot in SoCal? I don't know, I just follow the trail.
On the way out of the mountains, we passed something I have never had the chance to see up-close: a spillway! It was neat seeing this massive concrete chute and imagining the water levels necessary to cause it to be used.
Shortly after that, we met this great Trail Angel who was cooking breakfast burritos for us in her retrofitted Astro van -- the whole experience was as amazing as it sounds. Brenna, or Hot Sauce Monologue, you're a savior.
For my knee, I've been trying this new thing called "stretching" and it seems to be helping. Every hour (when my watch beeps), I stop and stretch my calf and my hamstring. IDK really what I'm doing or if I'm doing it right, but we'll see.
Eventually, we arrived at Silverwood Lake. There's a pavilion there that was full of hikers hanging out. Someone had tipped us off to the fact that a local pizza company will deliver, so you can guess what came next.
While on the phone, they let us know that they'll even pick up beer for us on the way if we put in a beer order. Well, when our order arrived, we headed to the beach and had dinner with a view of the lake and sunset.
When the sun went down, hikers started disappearing. It turns out that this picnic area doesn't allow for overnight camping, so everyone hid in the bushes and camped out of sight.
All in all, a good night.
written May 12, 2017 @ 01:36 AM after hiking 24.00 miles
What a great day.
Up first was a great swimming hole / creek that we found (well, that's a bit of a stretch -- it was right on the trail). It made for a fantastic lunch spot and we were able to refill our water bottles in no time flat. In fact, it was so nice that we even considered camping there and pushing the hot springs out another day. However, we ultimately decided to stick with the plan and moved on.
After a few more miles, we reached what we had planned on: the Deep Creek Hot Springs. I don't have too many pictures from here because it's one of those "clothing optional" deals, and I felt like a creep taking pictures, so you'll have to Google it if you're curious. (And for the record, we took the "clothing" option)
It was great, though -- lots of fun natural-ish pools of varying temperatures, lots of locals to talk to and impress with our journey, and a couple of awesome dogs to round it out. <3
It was definitely hard to leave, but after 3 hours, it was time to mosey on. Interestingly enough, my knee feels 100% better after that -- let's hope it stays that way.
written May 11, 2017 @ 03:30 AM after hiking 18.90 miles
After our scorcher of a day yesterday (all 9 miles), we decided to take it easy and only do 18 and change.
We got to camp and hung out with fellow hiker Michael, who is currently attempting his 8th thru-hike. He's a great guy, who also happens to hike with a violin.
During the hike, my knee was also giving me grief. I'm not sure what is up with it, but it's probably because of hiking like 20 miles per day. Maybe I slept on it funny last night. Whatever the cause, I was extremely painful to walk on, especially at the end of the day (in fact, it decided our campsite for us).
But hey: hot springs tomorrow!
written May 10, 2017 @ 01:24 AM after hiking 9.00 miles
After our zero yesterday, we planned on a big day to make up for lost time.
And then we did 9 miles and said "You know what? Good enough."
When hanging out around camp in the early afternoon, we had two Trail Angels come by and chat with us -- Mountain Lion and Teehee. They were both characters that sort of defy description, but she was named after her laugh -- "teehee!" -- so maybe that will help with a mental picture.
Then our new friend Slosh taught us a new card game which Peanut fell in love with. It's sort of like a hacked-up game of Spades, if you know how to play that. It apparently has many names -- "Oh Hell" and "Judgement" are two common ones if you want to look it up. Otherwise, just ask me to play it with you sometime and I'll be happy to teach you!
Capping off the day was a slumber party with another new friend named Sunshine. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day (which was nice to have after a zero)
written May 9, 2017 @ 01:26 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
Big Bear Lake isn't all chimichanga and cake -- we've got errands to run, laundry to do, and people to see. So off we went.
Up first, I bought a new (inferior) hat, to replace the one I'd left behind. The selection was lacking, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right? Then it was off to the wonderland: a real supermarket!
After wandering the Von's for a while, I eventually just panicked, grabbed what I hoped was five-ish days of random foods, and got out of there for $88 and change. I hope this works!
After everyone had their errands done, it was time to meet up at the brewery and celebrate! With real food! <3
Finally, it's bedtime. My knee was feeling a bit better and I was ready to hit the trail again -- all of this time in town was making me antsy. I saw more and more hikers showing up in town who I knew were behind me, so it definitely made me feel like I was falling behind.
Behind what exactly? I'm not sure, but something.
written May 8, 2017 @ 04:44 AM after hiking 26.19 miles
Boy howdy was last night cold. Like 20°F cold. This wouldn't be a problem except for my choice of sleep gear for the desert, mainly focused around my 34°F sleeping bag.
After a cold night, wearing all of my clothes, I woke up, hurriedly packed my gear in 25°F weather, and got to hiking in order to warm up.
The good news is that I found my sunglasses though! They wound up at the bottom of my pack and I missed them.
We were 26 miles from the next town -- Big Bear Lake. Peanut and I had to get to town because we had both run out of food, so staying another day wasn't really an option. So, off I went with two Cliff bars in my pocket and 26+ snowy miles to cover.
We made it to Big Bear Lake in the early afternoon, where we promptly went to a nearby Mexican restaurant and ate our weight in chips, salsa, and chimichangas.
Then it was time for dessert at the only place open in town, since it was approaching 9pm. Not only did they have an amazing painting in the bathroom, but they had a great molten chocolate cake.
I also took my second shower of the trip, and it was another wonderful feeling. I hope this never goes away.
written May 7, 2017 @ 01:50 AM after hiking 21.39 miles
Well, today threw me some curve balls. After a getting a surprisingly good sleep during the wind storm, I had a lazy start (7:20am) and realized two things:
Poop. Oh well, I guess I'm going without until Big Bear Lake, some 50 miles away.
After hiking for a few hours, we finally saw some material (non-wind) impact from the storm.
Yep, we got snowed on. A lot.
We'd had ambitions today of doing another 30 so that we could get to Big Bear tomorrow morning, but we got slowed down by the snow and the 6,800+ feet of elevation gain.
As a result, after only 21-ish miles we set up camp, cooked our dinners, and called it quits.
We have to reach Big Bear tomorrow though, because we don't have enough food for an extra day out here.
written May 6, 2017 @ 02:31 AM after hiking 24.93 miles
Oh goodness, what a brutal day.
The day started off with a 11-mile, 9,000-foot descent to the desert floor. Now, a quick point of clarification: anyone who tells you that going downhill is easier is mistaken. It isn't.
Once we finally got off the mountain, we had to cross the valley floor. Easy, right? Ha.
Not only was it loose sand, but the storm was starting to roll into the valley, which meant battling ridiculously strong winds for 5.5 miles until we sought refuge in the I-10 underpass.
Leaving that, though, meant another 9 miles of battling the wind, but this time it was up on ridges -- definitely not an even playing field.
Eventually, though, I reached the bottom of the valley, which was home to a wilderness preserve. The rangers here let thru-hikers stay in the day use picnic grounds overnight, which is super nice of them. They even let me cowboy camp (no tent) under the pavilion so my tent wouldn't get wet. All I had to do was sleep through like 30+ mph winds ...
written May 5, 2017 @ 03:23 AM after hiking 15.89 miles
When we woke up, the weather was clear, so we decided to summit the second-highest peak in Southern California -- the 10,834-foot peak of San Jacinto.
The truly breathtaking thing about this summit wasn't the elevation, but it was that you looked down into the 1,200-foot desert floor -- 9,600+ feet below you.
Furthermore, you could see the snowy peaks of San Gorgonio in the distance -- impossibly far away, but you knew you'd be there in, like, two days of hiking. Crazy.
On the way back to the PCT, we followed some old footprints and got totally lost. Thankfully I had a map and a compass (yay, Boy Scouts!) and we got back on track with a bit of scrambling.
Eventually we were back on the good ol' PCT, headed to Canada. We had our first major stream crossings from all of the melting snow, which was exciting.
The main reason for the schedule we chose was because we wanted to cross the infamous Fuller Ridge today. There was a big storm that was predicted to snow and rain for a few days, which could make the Ridge either impassable or dangerous. However, because we had timed it perfectly, we didn't have to worry about it.
written May 4, 2017 @ 03:05 AM after hiking 3.90 miles
We weren't in Idyllwild for fun and games and an early bedtime -- it's resupply time! We started off the day by meeting a bunch of hikers at a local diner and having a huge breakfast (<3). Then we went our separate ways -- some people went to buy new gear, some went to go nap, and I went to the store to buy enough food to get me to the next town, about 100 miles away.
Once everyone's errands were done, we got lunch (yum, pizza) and hitched a ride to the trailhead from a trail angel named Section Hiker Bill. After that, it was a grueling 2,000+ foot vertical climb halfway up Mt. San Jacinto, which we are hoping to summit in the morning.
It was halfway up this climb that I realized I'd left my hat in Idyllwild. Damn it. Maybe it'll find me on the trail.
Our camp wound up being next to a snowbank, which made for a night which was, er, refreshing.
Another beautiful sunset (are you seeing a theme?) with dinner and it's off to bed.
written May 3, 2017 @ 03:15 AM after hiking 24.00 miles
After our short day (not really a near-o) following Paradise Valley Cafe, we woke up at 4am because we had a huge day ahead of us. We needed to complete the 18-mile bypass around a wildfire that has had the trail closed since 2013.
The good news is that we saw a spectacular sunrise over Palm Springs from the ridge.
After that, we had a very long, very tedious, multiple-mile road walk to get to the spur trail that would take us into Idyllwild.
Thankfully, it led us past a market, where I bought (and ate) a pint of ice cream. In the 95°F heat, it was amazing.
On the way into town, we walked past a taco shop and naturally had to stop. It, like all other food in my life that isn't dehydrated, hit the spot.
Eventually, we reached Idyllwild, where a bunch of us split a cabin and had our first real showers of the trail. That poor shower had no idea what was coming and I'm sure it's still stained black.
Despite having 9 young adults in close of proximity, with two six-packs in the fridge, when Hiker Midnight (9pm) rolled around, everyone was too tired to do anything except crawl into bed and fall asleep.
written May 2, 2017 @ 03:36 AM after hiking 16.98 miles
Oh man, what a day! Today was Paradise Valley Cafe day!
Let me explain: about a mile off of the trail is a wonderful magical place called Paradise Valley Cafe. This place is extremely hiker-friendly and has amazing food. Their burgers are reported to be the best burgers on the whole PCT.
So I awoke early and eager and just crushed the 8 miles into the Cafe. When I reached the highway, I just hiked in instead of waiting for a hitch to come along! I got there shortly after they opened and immediately ordered an omelette. I scarfed this down in record time and ordered some french toast to go with it, which was also amazing.
After a while, my friends showed up and it was time for one of their famous burgers. And milkshakes. And a beer.
I can't say that it's the best burger on the trail, but I'll let you know in a few months.
After that, we pulled out the maps and started making plans. Then it was time to hike, in order to make those plans happen. We saddled up and hiked some 8 miles, followed by an amazing sunset and a slumber party.
It was a good day. Now it's time for bed because there's a 4am wakeup call tomorrow.
written May 1, 2017 @ 03:58 AM after hiking 18.00 miles
I've started hiking with a group of people -- we hike at roughly the same average pace, so we wind up in the same camps pretty often. They've become a sort of trail family. Here's a group picture we took today with some careful balancing and a self-timer:
Aside from my immediate family, there's also my extended trail family & friends. I see them on the trail too, but not as regularly. However, since it's so hot and water sources and campsites are so infrequent in the desert, we run into each other a lot. For example, we all wound up taking a siesta at the only water source from like 11:30 - 2:00 because it was just too damn hot to keep hiking.
This was also the only scrap of shade for probably 10 miles in either direction.
written Apr 30, 2017 @ 03:21 AM after hiking 17.42 miles
So you know how I said I was going to zero at Warner Springs? Well, I woke up at 6, laid there for ten minutes, said "to hell with it", packed up, and started hiking. I can rest in five months.
With my late start, there was only one other hiker leaving town at the same time, so we naturally hiked together initially. She (Shakedown) was really cool, so that turned into an all-day thing. Around lunch, we linked up with some hikers we had previously met, and we all hiked the remaining 8 miles to this Trail Angel's place -- Mike's Place.
Mike is a guy who lives just off the PCT, in a very dry stretch of the trail. A few years ago, some hikers came by his house, desperate for some water. Being a nice guy, he couldn't turn them down, and word got around. The next year, he decided to start having fun with it.
As a result, he will now host hikers on the weekends, offering them water, beer, soda, snacks, pizza, tacos, and a yard to sleep in. It's all donation-based, and from our chats, I think he winds up in the red, but not too far.
After spending the evening hanging out with my new trail family, it's time for bed since we have a lot of dry miles to cover tomorrow.
written Apr 29, 2017 @ 03:24 AM after hiking 8.37 miles
After my grueling 33-mile day yesterday, I hiked the remaining short distance into the town of Warner Springs -- my first resupply!
The first order of business was to pick up my packages (thanks, Tyler!) and sort through the goodies. After that was done, I limped next door to the only(?) restaurant in town and, being 10:45, had to order breakfast. While I was sitting there, other hikers streamed into town and did the same thing.
I wound up eating lunch with some fellow hikers. They were all planning on heading out the next day, while I am going to take a zero and nurse my feet back to health.
After lunch, I hobbled the 1.2 miles back to the campground, where I checked in, set up my tent, ate some Japanese KitKats that Tyler had snuck in, and did some seriously hardcore relaxing.
After a few hours, I put on my shoes (😩) and went to check out this outfitter that was set up in the parking lot in a Jetstream trailer. I wanted to see their opinion on my feet -- was it a "suck it up, cupcake" thing, or a gear issue?
Without saying a word, she took off my shoes and squeezed my size 11.5 feet into a 13 shoe and holy smokes! It was like night and day. She wasn't satisfied, though, and had me try on a 14. I walked around camp a bit, walked to my tent, and got my wallet. I guess they weren't kidding about your feet swelling.
After that, it was shower time! It may have been from a bucket, and using my dirty shirt as a washcloth, but I'll be damned if that wasn't one of the most-appreciated showers of my life. (I also did my laundry in the same bucket afterward)
Finally, it was time for dinner -- across the street, the local natives were selling tacos as a fundraiser, so for a few dollars I got a load of awesome food!
Shortly after that, I bedded down for my first (much-needed) zero day.
written Apr 28, 2017 @ 03:54 AM after hiking 32.85 miles
Phew, big day!
To follow up on the last post: I did it. I did 32.85 miles today, which I'm very pleased about. I also had a weird thought: on each of the last two days, I've walked more than 1% of the trail. Huh.
But this means that I'm only a few miles from the post office tomorrow -- if I play my cards right, I could be having a burger and beer at noon.
I crossed the 100-mile marker today! Wheeee.
Well, it finally happened: I got my trail name. I was crushing my miles (as I do, y'know) and I passed these two women who were hiding in the shade, eating their lunch. One of them said I was looking stylish, and asked if I had a trail name. I replied that no, I did not, and she named me "GQ". So, I guess that's how this works.
For reference, here I am:
This represents the peak(?) of 2017 PCT fashion, from their Desert collection.
I didn't see that one coming, but I've heard worse!
One thing I've done in the past few posts is talk about where I'm gonna be and when. I'm going to keep that to a minimum going forward, and since this is open to the internet and all of its weirdos, I'm gonna be turning on the fuzzing feature -- it won't post posts until a day or two after I leave that area. Can't have just anyone knowing where I'm gonna be and when! (Friends & family: just text me whenever)
written Apr 27, 2017 @ 03:55 AM after hiking 26.96 miles
I've been doing roughly 20-mile days, which is fantastic. However, my first maildrop is waiting for me at mile 109.5 (I'm doing this thinking at mile 41.5), which puts me there on Sunday (or at least after closing time on Saturday). I don't really want to wait around for the post office to open on Monday, so there's a problem.
Thankfully, this has an easy solution: walk more. If I do 30 miles on Thursday, then I'll only have about 30 miles left -- no big deal. So let's get to stepping!
To stepping I got! There was a campsite at mile 73, 32 miles down the trail, which was my target. Unfortunately, at mile 68 was a water source which distracted me. This water was important because it was the last reliable water for almost 40 miles! As a result, I decided to camp there and try to make up the miles tomorrow.
It sure was pretty, though -- I took this while laying in my sleeping bag.
written Apr 26, 2017 @ 03:41 AM after hiking 21.40 miles
After 21.4 miles, we arrived in another established campground just off the trail: Mt. Laguna.
This campground is pretty unremarkable other than the fact that I met someone who was laid up with an injury, and was entering week 3 at this campground, only 41 miles down the trail :-(
I also saw this totally remarkable sunset, which kind of blew my mind.
Oh, and I got rattled-at by a huge rattlesnake that was sleeping on the trail until I stomped along. If you don't like people, then get off of the people trail, snake! (But seriously, it startled me something fierce -- I've never heard a rattle in person before)
written Apr 25, 2017 @ 02:05 AM after hiking 20.10 miles
Day one was a 20-mile hike to the first town on the trail: Lake Morena. There's a hiker-friendly campground here, and I experienced my first Trail Magic, but more of that later.
On the way, I met up with an Israeli guy named Galy who hiked at my exact speed, so we banded together and just crushed the miles. Along the way, we passed a guy from Denmark, a German, and a couple that was also from Israel.
A previous hiker was there with a cooler of beers, soda, water, wine, cookies, hotdogs, and loads of other goodies -- Trail Magic!
After eating my fill and socializing well past my bedtime, it was time to crawl into my sleeping bag around 7:30 pm. Another 20-some miles tomorrow!
written Apr 25, 2017 @ 01:12 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
My alarm going off at 4am this morning meant only one thing: time to get to the trailhead and start hiking north!
My wonderful friend Stephanie agreed to drive me there, and off we went, with a bag loaded with 6 days of food and 8 liters of water.
After some quick pictures at the monument, it was time to hike, starting at 6:10am.
written Apr 23, 2017 @ 10:14 PM after hiking 46.00 miles
Well, the time has finally come: after moving out of SF, driving to Maryland, visiting Scotland for a week, and going to back-to-back weddings, I'm finally about to board a plane, headed to San Diego to begin the hike!
If you've been wondering when this would start to pick up speed, the answer is: now
written Apr 5, 2017 @ 01:16 AM after hiking 0.00 miles
I was asked to explain how maildrops work, and what's involved with mailing yourself packages. This is a huge topic, with much better resources out there than will be described here, but here's a quick overview of my plan.
This is your lifeline -- the person who will be mailing you stuff (gear, food) throughout the trip. Mine is my friend Tyler, who asked if he could do it as soon as I told him about my plan to do the PCT.
Next, decide when you'll want which things. My process for this was to split the trail into sections, based on gear swaps. My splits are: desert, high Sierras, northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
I then went through a list of all of the towns (I used the wonderful Yogi's Book) and picked some towns that looked like they would fit my needs.
Great, you've decided where you want want to receive gear (and food). Next, you need to set it up for your friend to make it easy on them. For starters, I packed my maps into sections, with pages from Yogi's book. Yogi recommends 28 sections, so I went with that.
Next, I packed all of my gear into separate bags and clearly labelled each one with its contents and a rough ETA. This way, I don't have to explain which one I mean, and I don't have to worry about being sent the wrong pair of gloves.
Next, it's a matter of actually having your gear sent. I'll have cell service periodically, so I'm planning on texting/emailing Tyler about a month before I want the items and saying "please send X, Y, and Z to [location]". Then he'll package it up in a box (typically a USPS Priority Mail flat rate box), and send it to me. Most of the time, it'll be sent to me via General Delivery, which is when it gets sent to:
PCT Hiker, ETA: mm/dd
Some Town, CA
Packages addressed like this will then be sent to that town's Post Office, where they'll hold it for roughly a month.
Sometimes, it'll be sent to hostels or stores or other hiker-friendly destinations, where they'll have similar policies, and sometimes they charge a nominal fee (typically $5) for pickup. Sometimes they're extortionate -- one place charges $75/box -- but I am not planning on sending things to those locations.
When I reach that town, I simply retrieve my package(s) and get my stuff! Some of these will be gear swaps, where I'll be mailing gear home because I'm done with it. Others will be bounces, where I'll mail it to myself on down the trail, instead of sending it all the at home.
Simple, right? (I hope.)
written Mar 19, 2017 @ 07:47 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
I finally took the food that I've been preparing (see earlier post) and started grouping it into packages. This package is destined for Kennedy Meadows -- the end of the desert and the start of the Sierras.
This point is also the start of an unbroken 204.5 miles of wilderness -- the longest stretch I'll face. Moving at an aggressive 20 miles per day (the record snow pack this year will certainly slow me down a lot), that still puts me at a minimum 10 days between resupply, or some 50,000 calories.
The store at Kennedy Meadows is decent, but reported to be small. If the hikers ahead of you clean it out, you could be in trouble. I asking don't know what they're going to have, so I wanted to mail myself around half the calories, so I'd at least have that to fall back on.
So there you have it: about 25,000 calories fits in 7 gallons of Ziploc bags.
Now, fitting twice that volume into my pack is going to be a problem for another day...
written Mar 18, 2017 @ 07:39 PM after hiking 0.00 miles
The PCT starts at the Mexican border, near a town called Campo. It then heads north towards the Sierra mountains, more than seven hundred miles away.
These 700 miles are through the high deserts of Southern California, such as the Mojave desert. These can be blistering during the day (well over 100°F) and freezing at night (20°F is not uncommon), which makes for a very tough gear load.
But here's my attempt!