Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 29

We took the day to hang out at Kick Off. Kick Off is amazing. It's a bunch of people who you don't have to explain yourself to. That is so nice. Not that we don't love spreading the word of long distance hiking, but it's nice to be around people who get it. It seems like everyone is so easy going. It's like we're already friends, all we have to do is meet each other.

Not only are there other hikers at KO, there are also tons of people who just get their kicks from helping you. I feel like I'm in debt to the hiking community already, which is kind of the point. Being nice to people because that's what they would do, and paying it forward when you're helped yourself.

Seriously though, at lunch we were all avoiding thinking about the packages of tuna in our food bags when a past thru named Phoenix Rising afford us sandwiches. While we were eating sandwiches, another guy, Doctor Sole, invited us over so he could take care of our feet. I'm conditioned to say no when offered something because of mall kiosks and timeshare salesmen, but then I realized they don't want anything other than your company and for you to help others when you can.

So many Tarptents

Okay I'm tired!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28 - Kick Off

Starting point: hauser creek
Ending point: lake morena
Daily miles: 11
Trip miles: 26.3

Another beautiful day. The weather is awesome - not a cloud in the sky and warm and sunny. We woke up, hung out with people we camped with, then headed up the hill to Lake Morena. No snakes today, just some up!

When we got to Lake Morena at about 10, we spent the morning lounging around and meeting people, then grabbed a ride from Molasses at the next campsite over who helping out her boyfriend, Jackass, but not hiking this year. She drove us up to Boulder Oaks campground and slackpacked back up (meaning hiked without our packs) back to Lake Morena. We were really peppy at first, playing squirt guns and bubbles frolicking and having fun, but we only brought water and no food so by the end of it I was SO hungry. Not going to do that again.

One thing that surprises me is how fond I feel of my feet. They're what makes or breaks this trip so every hour I stop and take my shoes off and give them a break. no blisters so far, which isn't the case for most. Just sore muscles.

Well I have to shower (like Chris is doing right now) and then go watch a movie. We're really roughing it here. :)

April 27 - Southern Terminus

April 27

Starting point: southern terminus
End: hauser creek
Daily miles: 15.4
Trip miles: 15.4

Team Clean Fun at the Border

Starting the trip with desert wildflowers

Chris and I had this idea in our heads of the first 20 miles of the PCT as a hot, ugly slog through cow fields and cactus. Something you just have to get through.

That is so not how it is. There were so many flowers! Everything was so lush compared to Texas right now. They have had a really wet spring, so everything's flowering and all the springs and creeks are running. Normally people leave with about 4 or 5 liters of water, we would have been fine with 1 each, but we took 3 each. It's paradise.

This morning, Yogi drove us to the border. Meeting her was kind of exciting, because she put together the first thing I ever read about the trail - her PCT Handbook.

Then I realized I forgot my trekking poles and sit pad at Scout and Frodo's. Which was an annoying start. But I was able to email them and they're going to bring them to the Kick Off this weekend.
Because they're awesome.

We're camped here at Hauser Creek. It is beautiful - oaks and manzanita and lupines and lush green grass and a flowing creek. Were in the canyon between two passes. The frogs are loud in the creek - Erin, who's camped nearby and has never done any backpacking before just asked if they would keep it up all night. She cracks me up.

Oh! We saw our first rattler today. We were told it was a western diamondback but I'm not convinced.   Lisa, another girl camped near us, ran out of the bushes when another started rattling at our campsite. We decided not to cowboy camp.

Okay I have to brush my teeth and read the map and sleep!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26 - Flying to San Diego

Everything I'm bringing

Waiting for the plane

Today we got up ridiculously early (4:30), got on a plane, and flew to San Diego, so that in less than 12 hours, we can take our first step on the Pacific Crest Trail.

That is exciting, but only slightly less exciting is the treatment we have gotten when we got here. Holy crap, who knew people could be so nice? Scout and Frodo (also known as the Manns) picked us up from the airport, took us back to their house, gave us access to their entire (well labeled) kitchen ("we want you to act like it's your parents' kitchen, or how you want kids to act in your kitchen when you're a parent") and then provided dinner and a singalong to over 30 people. They gave us a bed to sleep in and are going to provide breakfast and drive us to the trailhead at 6 am. What an introduction to the thru-hiking culture. I hope I get to pay it forward along the hike or after.

I don't know when the next update will be but it won't be more than a few days. Hopefully we can get some sleep (we're pretty tired) so we can get a good start tomorrow!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mailing Addresses

Hey all!

I've been asked by a few people if we're going to have addresses for people to send us letters and/or care packages along the trail. We've finally got that set up, so here is a list of some of the easiest places to send us packages. I also included an arrival date - so if you want us to receive your package, make sure it gets there by that arrival date! Use USPS, it's more likely to be accepted where you're sending it. Also, use my name, because there are a million Chris Clarks in the world, but as far as I know, only one Hillary Schwirtlich. :P

If you do send us things, be aware that we are trying to carry as little as possible. So please don't send us trinkets or gear or anything that isn't food, really. Please no canned food. Stuff we get sent will be sent home, and canned food will either be eaten at the site or put in a hiker box for other hikers, but it's more hassle than it's worth. We like cookies! And brownies! And trail mix! And happy notes with your handwriting!

Arrival Date: May 7
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery
Warner Springs, CA 92086

Arrival Date: May 19
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery
Big Bear City, CA 92314

Arrival Date: May 28
Hillary Schwirtlich
c/o The Saufleys
11861 Darling Road
Agua Dulce, CA 91390

Arrival Date: June 13
Hillary Schwirtlich
c/o Kennedy Meadows General Store
96740 Beach Meadow Road
Inyokern, CA 93527

Arrival Date: July 14
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery
Sierra City, CA 96125

Arrival Date: August 10
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery 
Ashland, OR 97520

Arrival Date: August 21
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery 
Sister, OR 97759

Arrival Date: August 29
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery
Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Arrival Date: September 19
Hillary Schwirtlich
General Delivery
Stehekin, WA 98852

Hooray, only two days til we leave! Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


A week from right now, we will be sleeping out our first night on the Pacific Crest Trail. İnşallah, we will be sleeping feet away from our friends Wayne and Katie.

I can't comprehend that fact. We've been planning this for more than a year, never spending more than a few hours not thinking or talking about the trail, and in less than a week, the waiting and planning will be over. I'll need to keep a running tally of unmet/exceeded expectations, because as much as we've talked and read about it, we really won't know much about thru-hiking until we've done it.

Two more days of drilling wells in drought-ridden south Texas. Although it does look nice here with all the pecan trees leafed out, and I love getting to spend most of the day in the woods, I'll be ready to go. It's been nice being so close to my family, though.

Speaking of family, my sister just made cheerleader at my old high school last Friday. She's never cheered before, and beat out some of last year's cheerleaders for a very coveted spot. I'm so freaking proud of her! And not at all surprised.

And I took the GRE last weekend! I really must have been lucky on the guessing. I'm really just glad to be done with the studying. And happy to have a score that is an asset and not something I have to mitigate on a grad school application.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

PCT Primer

So, I don't know how many people are actually going to read this, but probably most people who do won't know much about the PCT. So here's some information that might make reading this journal make more sense.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650 mile trail that starts at the border of Mexico and ends at the border of Canada. It follows mountain ranges through California, Oregon and Washington, and passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks. It passes through varied terrain including desert, forest and alpine meadows.

People who hike large sections of the trail at a time without going the whole distance are called section-hikers. People who plan to hike the entire trail in one season are called thru-hikers. It takes about 4 to 5 months to complete a thru-hike, which usually starts in late April and ends in September. Chris and I are shooting for a thru-hike. Three hundred people try to thru-hike each year, and the success rate depends largely on weather, weight of gear, and lack of debilitating injury.

Trends in long-distance hiking have been moving towards carrying less, and lighter, gear. Since this trend was popularized by a man named Ray Jardine, the success rate of thru-hikers has risen from about 10-20% up to around 50%.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will you be walking the whole way? 
Yes. We'll need to get into nearby towns sometimes, so we may hitchhike then, but when we're on the trail, we'll be walking.

Will you be walking on the beach a lot?
No. People often get Pacific Crest Trail confused with Pacific Coast Trail. The trail stays at least 150 miles from the coast at all times. Which is good. I really don't like camping in beach sand.

What will you eat?
Mostly lightweight hiking foods like instant potatoes, pasta, and nuts and stuff. It's not really as bad as it sounds. We try to shoot for as many calories as possible per ounce of food, because we have to carry it on our backs. It can be hard to find these things in a supermarket of 100-calorie snack packs and diet everything. It's been funny to us to notice how often companies charge more to give you less food. We'll be shooting for over 4,000 calories a day.

When we get into towns, we'll probably gorge on town food.

We will be picking up most of our food in towns, which means we won't be able to be very picky a lot of the time.

Will you be bringing a gun?
No. A gun isn't necessary on the PCT. Animals almost always leave you alone... unless you're an idiot who likes to feed bears and pick up rattlesnakes. And there aren't many crazy people out there. People in cities scare me way more, and I don't carry a gun in cities either. Anyway, guns are heavy.

You're going to be starting at the Mexican border. What about illegals?
Illegal immigrants don't want to mess with you, they want to get through without being noticed. I haven't heard of any stories of anyone being messed with by illegals.

Isn't that dangerous?
Statistically, hiking the trail for 5 months is way less dangerous than driving a car to and from work and the grocery store for 5 months. It's also less dangerous than crossing a city street.

Will you have a cell phone?
Yes, although I will be without service for periods at a time.

How heavy are your packs?
Without food and water, they'll be between 12 and 16 pounds. With food and water, around 35 pounds.

Where will you sleep?
We have a single-wall tent. Most nights we may sleep under the stars.

Are you crazy?

Can I come?
It takes about 6-8 months to plan for a thru-hike if you've never done it before. We're leaving in less than a month... So, probably not this year.

Why do you want to do this?
Oh jeez, where to start? Another thru-hiker, Yogi, says "If you have to ask, you won't understand."

To be out in nature, surrounded by beauty.
To live a simpler kind of life.
To be reminded of the difference between "want" and "need."
To step up to a challenge.
To meet new people and make new friends.
To be changed.
To have time to think about what the next step is.
To make great memories.
To do something not many people have ever done or will ever get to do.

PCT Glossary:

Thru-Hiker: Someone who attempts to hike the entire stretch of the trail, from Mexico to Canada, in one season (around April to October).

Section Hiker: Someone who hikes sections of the trail at a time. Their goals can be as small as walking a mile at a time or as large as the walking the length of the PCT in California.

Day-Hiker: Someone who isn't spending at least a night on the trail.

Zero: A zero day is a day not spent covering miles on the PCT. Zero days are usually spent in towns, although sometimes they are spent on trail, and they're used to rest, recuperate, and get chores done like laundry and shopping. A zero day doesn't necessarily mean we don't hike, because it can include mileage we walk to and from a town. It just means we haven't ticked off any PCT miles.

Nero: Near-zero day. Just means it wasn't a big day, usually because it included a town stop that used up a large part of our time. So we only got a few PCT miles in.

Trail Name: Most people on the trail go by trail names, when they have them. A trail name is given or taken to reflect who a person is on the trail. It can come from an incident, like when someone's hiking shoes failed them and they had to wear their moccasins, which they had brought for camp shoes, for part of the trail, granting them the name "Moccasin." Or it can come from a characteristic, like someone who really likes wild edible mushrooms having the name "Shroomer." Or it can come from any number of other things. Chris and I don't have trail names yet. I want mine to come naturally.

Trail Angel: Some people are awesome. People who are awesome to hikers on long-distance trails are called trail angels. They sometimes give hikers a place to stay or a warm meal. Sometimes they fill water caches in dry stretches of desert. Sometimes they pick up thru-hikers who are trying to get into a town. They can do any number of things that help a hiker.

Trail Magic: Sometimes when you hike a trail you come upon something unexpected that meets a need or a want. For example, often trail angels put coolers full of sodas and fresh fruit on the trail. On a hot day, you feel like you're dying of thirst and all you have to eat is salty trail mix, but you turn a corner, and there's an orange waiting to explode its juicy goodness on your tongue. Trail magic comes in tons of different forms, but its often perpetrated by trail angels, although there have been cases of trail magic that happened because a previous hiker was careless and dropped something that the person an hour behind them really needed.

Resupply: We hikers need to eat. Thru-hikers need to eat more. So we go into town for a resupply to... you guessed it, resupply our food bags.

Maildrop: A maildrop is a resupply where someone at home sends a hiker pre-prepared and packaged food because the hiker can't get the food he/she wants/needs in a certain town. Maildrops can also include gear, maps, and other things from home. My mom has been so kind as be our resupply person.

Okay, that's all I can think of right now. If you have any questions, ask!