Monday, May 30, 2011

New Pictures

Hopefully this public link works:

I'm having issues about which uploading site I should post to. For now, Facebook because it's easy. Sorry the quality sucks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Special Thank You!

So, we're here in Agua Dulce, CA, staying at the famous Saufleys' house, and I thought I'd make a special post thanking everyone who's helped us so far. I'm trying as hard as possible to remember everyone's names, but fortunately there have been soooo many people who have helped us along the way that I can't remember them all!


Lonnie Schwirtlich, for giving us a job so we could pay for this.
Jordan Schwirtlich, for being our resupply person so we can eat and be warm!
Cindy and Rich Rockwood, for sending us delicious goodies along the way (wow those muddy buddies and bread are tasty - we got your second package). 
Scout and Frodo Mann, for immediately pushing us into the deep end of trail culture.
Breeze, for bringing me my sleeping pad and trekking poles when I forgot them.
Pheonix Rising, for lunch and goodies at Kick-Off.
Dr. Sole, for taking care of our disgusting feet. 
Nitro, for everything you do.
Boomer, for rides and good company.
Mark Van Egmond, for sending us money for pizza!
Greg Baxter, for rides and having a ridiculously awesome beard, and helping Nitro and volunteers make the trails passable.
Sugar Moma, for being awesome and helping out everywhere.
Tabasco and friend (can't remember, dang it), for cold drinks near Eagle Rock.
Tarzan and friend (again, can't remember), for omelets at Pines-to-Palms Highway.
Princess and the crew, for chilidogs, beer, and clean water at Barrel Springs.
Buck-30, for burgers and hotdogs at the Trout Farm.
Jan, for showing up everywhere with water and brownies in the first 100 miles.
Laurence the Spring Guy, for spring info and a ride to Scissors Crossing.
Carol Goss, for letting us do laundry and take showers in Wrightwood. 
Israel, for cold (!) Gatorade and Snickers.
The Saufleys, for opening your house to all these dirty hikers!

I'm sure I'll remember more later.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28

Start: messenger flats campground
End: in a canyon with a great view of highway 15
Daily: 19.5
Total: 449.8

Today was Popsicle Day. By that I mean there were a lot of obstacles. See, one day I saw a downed tree on the trail and said "Obstacle!" and Chilidog thought I said "Popsicle!" So now every obstacle is a popsicle.

Anyway, first there were a lot of downed trees. We were still in the Station Fire area and there are a lot of burned trees that fall. Some of them were really big.

Then there was the fact that the trail basically slid off the trail in some areas because it hasn't been worked on since the fire. Not too bad, but not good for making miles.

Then there was tons of poison oak all over the drainages. We'll see whether we avoided those popsicles tomorrow.

Then there was Poodle Dog Bush. It's this really poorly named plant that does not resemble a bush or a poodle. When it blooms, the flowers feel like stinging nettle. And it tends to bloom right at hand/face level, which are also the only exposed parts of most thru-hikers. Neither of us got stung, but there was a note left by Bubbles, I'm assuming, that warned us of the plant. She must have asked at the ranger station we passed. Under her note someone wrote "Umm... Poison oak all over the trail?" which I thought was funny because Bubbles never notices poison oak even though we've passed tons of it.

Then there were the bees in the trail. IN the trail. There was another note, this one old and yellowed, that said "CAUTION: BEES. In the ground. Go around." I peeked around the corner and saw that there were indeed hundreds of bee-sized holes in the tread of the trail. Since I tend to get really painful reactions to bee stings, I bushwhacked up and around the bees nests. There were bees for about fifty feet of the trail... Ugh. Chris just jumped over one group of holes to see what would happen, but it just pissed them off so I was too scared to go over too. That was my least favorite obstacle.

I think that was all the obstacles. The day got better when we made it all the way down to the road and a Forest Service guy named Israel gave us cold Gatorade and Snickers and talked to us for a while. He'd done a couple of sections of the PCT but said he couldn't do the whole thing at once because he'd just gotten his permanent position with the Forest Service. Congrats, and thanks, Israel. (Permanent positions can be hard to come by for seasonal employees.)

Then we walked another five miles to where we are and set up camp. We're setting ourselves up for a lot of time off at the Saufleys' and/or Andersons'. Our feet and legs really need it.

To answer Rich's question: our feet and legs are holding up pretty well, but we haven't had a full day off since Idyllwild, so I can tell my legs are really tired on the uphill. Our feet and ankles need a break every so often too, or they feel bruised on the bottom and just plain sore. I can tell it's not just me, Chris feels really tired and hurting by the end of each long day too. Every time we sleep they get a little stronger. Apparently your muscles adapt first, then tendons, then bones. I can tell my tendons are lagging. Also, on a side note, women who thru hike are less likely to get osteoporosis when they're older, because their bones are stronger.  Hooray! Finally, we didn't start with 20 mile days. We started with a 14, then a 5, then a day and a half off.

Chris says one day of this finishes him off too, but then he wakes up and wants to do it again... And by the end of that day he's done again. Also, we usually go to bed saying we'll take it easier the next day, but the next day it just makes sense to go the extra miles to get water/a good camp spot/burgers.

May 27

Start: .1 mi past sulphur springs
End: messenger flat cg
Daily: 23.4
Total: 407.2

Longest day yet. It was well timed. We woke up at 6:30, and took off right when the sun hit us at 7:20. We actually heard about 5 people pass us while we were still trying to sleep and heard the same conversation twice: 

"Oh, there's a tent there."
"It's huge!" (in the case of the Brits they said it was "jolly big")
"That's a Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo."

I still don't get why people are SO loud around tents in the morning when they can see there's someone sleeping in them. A little courtesy, people.

I'm also not a morning person. Surprise!

Anyway, we walked until we came to the start of the Station Fire detour. A large area burned in the fall of 2009, so last year people had to road walk something like 47 miles around it. Gross. This year, though, we only had to road walk 5 miles on a dirt Forest Service road, which is way easier on the feet than a paved road. Still not fun, but Chris and I are pretty good at entertaining ourselves. 

After we passed a ranger station, we climbed a little, then found a shady spot to sit down and take lunch and a nap. The best nap I've had on trail yet. We also watched a couple of hawks courting each other. 

Then we walked and walked and walked. We knew we had to make it to this campground, because this is one of two the USFS had approved in the burn area (they're afraid fire-damaged trees will fall on us in the night - a valid fear). It just took a while to get here. 

We also made a couple of mistakes regarding water. Both of them turned out to be okay. 

First, we misread the map. We thought it said the next water was 17 miles from where we got water, when it really said it was 25 miles. So we didn't get enough water to let us drink all day and cook food as well. We were conserving water all day, worried we would run out.

Second (and this fixed our first mistake) we didn't pay attention to the water report when it said there was a stream about 5 miles from this campground. So hooray, we drank a bunch there and then got some more, and then we enjoyed pine nut parmesan cous cous and an Annie Chung's soup plus pudding for dinner. 

Oh, and the scariest and coolest part of today: I was walking ahead of Chris a ways, looking at the trail right in front of my feet like thru hikers constantly do, when suddenly a pair of small black eyes met mine from less than three feet away. My subconscious registered a pair of white stripes on a black body and I immediately yelped and ran back along the trail as fast as I could. I don't think my mind even had time to form the word "skunk" before I was at least five feet away. I just knew those stripes meant bad things and I had to get out of there. It turned out to be a baby skunk, about the size of a small cat. It eventually waddled away off the trail. I don't know if it knew that it should be scared of me, or why I was scared of it. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 26 (being so close to LA means I have 3G service 90% of the time)

Start: little Jimmy campground
End: about .1 mi past sulphur springs
Daily: 19.2
Total: 407.2

Today was not our favorite day on the PCT. It started out at 8:30 with a short downhill, and then immediately started uphill at the same grade we went for most of yesterday - just up enough to make me have to stop every 10 minutes or so. The stupid thing is, we started this up when we crossed highway 2, then went up and over a giant hill, then came back down to highway 2. I hate it when big ups are just to do big downs right after. 

After that we crossed the highway again, and then we started a detour to bypass the breeding area of the mountain yellow legged toad. Yes, really. The Forest Service closed about 4 miles of trail so that we wouldn't upset them while they're doing their business. We had to walk on the highway for about two miles before we were supposed to go up the Burkhart Trail to meet up with the PCT again. But there were signs all over saying the Burkhart Trail was closed to hiking. We didn't know what we were supposed to do, so we did what we thought was the right thing and stayed on the road another 2 miles until the trail crossed it again. It was really frustrating because there were absolutely no signs from the PCTA in the area telling us where the detour was. We had maps with the detour on them but they didnt say anything about the Burkhart trail being closed. Oh well. So our daily mileage and total mileage doesn't match up, but I can't help that.

Then we walked a few more miles, got confused by signage once again, and ended up doing a tiny bit of bushwhacking to get down to where we're camped. It's a nice campsite next to a (mossy and slightly gross) stream that has some cleaner sections, so we got to take hobo baths and I cleaned my socks. Hooray. I love clean socks. So this evening is definitely way nicer than the rest of the day has been. Here's hoping tomorrow's easier. 

Even on crappy days, I still feel really lucky that I get to do this. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 25 - Mt Baden Powell

Start: wherever we were last night
End: little Jimmy campground
Daily: 11.1
Total: 384.1

We climbed another mountain today - Mt Baden Powell. Named after Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. It was 9402 feet. It was a hell of a hard day.

I don't know why people make such a fuss about Fuller Ridge. Today was harder, mile for mile, than either climbing San Jac or doing Fuller Ridge. Which is why we only did 11 miles - last time I was in a bad mood after such a hard day.

Anyway, I feel I should take a moment to salute the dumb questions we've gotten while hiking.

First three are from a lady checking me out at the supermarket in Big Bear (she lives in town, there is no ocean for a hundred miles):

"So are y'all doing the Pacific Coast Trail?"

"So do you like to hike?"
In my head: "Nope not at all. That's why I chose to HIKE a 2650 mile trail."

"But wouldn't you rather sit at home and watch TV?"

These were all serious questions.

Then today, from a day hiker climbing Baden Powell, after he noticed our packs, asked if we were camping, and we explained to him that we were walking from Mexico to Canada:

"So did you leave your car at the (Baden Powell) trailhead?"

Response: "No, we left our car in Texas."

Anyway... We ended up making it to a campground with a bunch of other thru hikers, with a nice warm fire. We also packed in a small box of wine, which was enjoyed by all. Good night!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24 - Wrightwood

Start: Guffy campground
End: err um like 373?
Daily: about 8
Total: 373 ish

We think we missed Jackson Flat Campground which is why I'm a little confused. I guess we were moving faster than we thought. Oh well. We weren't the only ones.

So Wrightwood is an AWESOME trail town. We didn't know much about it so we were only planning on neroing. When we hiked from the campground to Hwy 2, which is where we were hoping to catch a ride, there was absolutely no traffic for a good 10 minutes, and then only traffic headed in the opposite direction. We thought about walking but it would be a 6 mile roadwalk. So we waited a little longer and a guy drove up with his two toddlers in the car, told us he had room for one, and then said the only traffic coming by was locals going to walk their dog because the highway was closed three miles up. Crap.

Here's where it gets good. Then he said, don't worry, people from town know you're here, they'll be heading up to offer hikers rides in a little while.

Not five minutes later a guy drives up, gets out of his car in a green Marmot DriClime Windshirt (this automatically makes him hiker trash), and says he has room for four. We let The Germans and Rockfish go first because they got to the pass before us, then another car with two hikers we know named Eggman and Mouse Strap (a mouse chewed through his shoulder strap) and a lady named Carol. Carol, an 84 year old woman, takes us back to her house, lets us do laundry and take a shower, apologizes for having no food (previous hikers ate the soup she'd made) and then refused any money we offered her. She had been a political science professor at CalTech (?) and said she missed being around young people. We helped her set up her composter and move her furniture so she could set up a pen for her dog.

Then she took us to a restaurant called the Evergreen, where we enjoyed a delicious (and cheap) brunch before  meeting up with Bubbles, Boots (now Megaphone - he has the loudest voice ever), and 8-mile. We went shopping (during which we were stopped by three people asking us if we needed any help, a ride, a place to stay, anything) then got free coffee at the coffee shop (for thru hikers only). Next, we attended a pizza party for Gourmet, held in the Baha'i meeting space behind the pizza parlor.

Finally, we were dropped off at the trailhead by another hiker who was given the keys to a section hiker's car and told to use it, then let the section hiker know where he parked it and hid the keys.

Seriously. I feel damn spoiled. It's all just a recipe for paying it forward. Chris just said it felt like in the movie Hot Fuzz where the town is trying to win Village of the Year. "The Greater Good."

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23

Start: San andreas fault
End: Guffy campground
Daily: 17.5
Total: 364.5

Cold again. Ugh, today was all up. Up up up all the time. I'm amazed at our legs. They've gone 98 miles in 5 days. And today we give them over 5000 feet of elevation. 

Were back in the mountains, near Mt. Baldy. It's really pretty and steeeeep. Although most of today we were socked in. I feel like part of the reason today felt so long is that all we had to look at for most of the day was clouds, and the occasional eerie flock of ravens floating through the mist. We did break out of the clouds as we got higher, but they found us up here at the campground. The wind found us too, which makes having a fire difficult. The embers were flying all over the place and making us nervous, so we put it out. 

The mental part of this trip started to get to me today. Nothing to look at but shrubs and white...  I was really wishing for an iPod. But even if I got one it wouldn't have any music on it. Meh.

Anyway, a nero in Wrightwood tomorrow. I'll be glad for the break. 

May 22

Start: campsite in silverwood lake 
End: San Andreas fault
Daily: 18
Total: 347

Chris says this is the first day in a long time that he feels really full. He also thinks it felt like two days. I agree. This morning we were so focused on getting to good old McDonalds that we didn't take the time to enjoy the scenery, which was often vey beautiful (and often obscured by high voltage power lines). There were bright pink poppies and vividly violet and blue flowers and snow-capped peaks and lake filled valleys... and OHV roads and power lines. That's how we could tell we were getting closer to LA. 

Oh yeah, even though we're trying to get to Canada, the PCT goes west for a while now. It follows the San Andreas fault, which is where we're camped now. 

Anyway, the major driving force of the last couple of days hasn't been a shower or laundry, but McDonald's. Everyone looks forward to it so much that there is an official PCT sign that says "McDonald's .4 Mile -->". Normally Chris and I avoid McDonald's like the plague, but even vegetarians give in to this one. I didn't eat as much as I thought I would, but the Angus 1/3 Pounder, fries and a shake were sooooo good. So much better than they will ever taste to a non-thru hiker. :)

The second half of the day was a big change. After we bought enough food to get us to the next stop in a couple of days, we  left, expecting our friends to be having another troll party under the I15 overpass. But they weren't there. After we passed next to a beautiful waterfall surrounded by green plants, between a road and some train tracks (it was weird to see the waterfall and stream and plants, but hear the screaming train... My brain couldn't reconcile the two), we passed through a couple of crazy tunnels before climbing through hills with amazing rock formations. They reminded me of a place in Turkey called Cappadocia. Then we walked along a ridge as thin as a knife's edge for a while until setting up camp on the fault. 

I had fun talking and hiking with Dr. John today. He's a geology professor and had lots of advice about applying for grad school. He also had some funny stories about working in the Arctic and Norway. The miles go by so much faster when you can pick someone else's brain.

Anyway, now we're camped on the fault (Chris likes the word "rift" better than "fault"). Hopefully no earthquakes tonight. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 21

Start: deep creek hot springs
End: horse camp at silverwood lake
Daily: 21.4
Total: 329.3

Today was a hard day for everyone apparently.

It started out nice though. We woke up early and spent two hours in the hot springs. Hotrod tried hard to unmotivate Bubbles, Boots, and 8-Mile, to no avail. They left a a full two hours before us. When we left, though, it was already getting hot and we were drained from the hot springs, so the miles took forever.

We were in the closed section of trail, though, so we kept looking for the reason for the closure. Eventually we hit two washouts that took us approximately 30 seconds to cross, each. There was a path through the washout already, and although the hill was steep, it wasn't scary. I don't know how they expect us to go through the Sierras if they don't think we can handle that.

Eventually, after crossing two dams, we got to a third dam around mile 17, and who alwas there but Bubbles and Boots and 8-Mile. They were planning on doing 5 more miles.. So we did too. It took us until 10:45 to get down to the Silverwood Recreation area's campground. We were lost for a while, and a cop or ranger or something eventually told us through the megaphone on his car "the PCT goes down this road, there's water on the left and a campground on the right." it was like a voice from nowhere since we couldn't see the guy's face.

Then as we were trying to find a place to set up camp, we stumbled on a bachelorette party tha had rented out the group sight. A couple of girls we talked to were really helpyl, but the guys in the background were drunk and unhelpful. We asked if there was a place to camp and they said, "nope, but we're having a great time!"

Eventually, we found a spot full of Double Rainbows and Big Agnes tents, so we laid out our cowboy camping stuff and fell asleep. I was too tired to journal so this is written at sweet, sweet McDonald's the next day.

May 20

start: hill near Holcomb creek
End: deep creek hot springs
Daily: like 21 miles, but only 17 PCT miles
Total: 307.8

Today was all about Seahorse being in water. We woke up late and left around 8:40. We kept crossing Holcomb creek and at one point I told Chris that we were going to swim today. The water looked so nice and inviting.  We were taking a while to get anywhere though. We felt really lazy and tired. I think it was from sleeping too much. We both had dreams where we were in danger of being killed too, so we definitely shouldn't have slept so long.

Eventually we made it to the bridge over Deep Creek and I immediately plunged in. It's always a little awkward when there are day hikers around and you're swimming in your undies. Mine look like a bathing suit (that's why I brought them), but still. 

Then we had a choice: original deep creek trail (which had a bridge down and rock slides), or official detour. We chose the detour, because we're good law abiding citizens, but after walking on OHV trails and pavement for three hours, we came to a note that told us about a back route to the hot springs on deep creek. There was also a note from Katie (Bubbles), Boots,  8-mile and Pepe saying they went to the hot springs. So we decided to join. It meant another 3 miles, though. The last mile was basically like jumping off of a cliff. Straight down. 

The hot springs are amazing! We heard they were crappy. I don't think they are. They are clothing optional, however. It's always weird being chatted up by naked dudes in the dark. I'm glad Chris was there. I didn't feel threatened - it's just like being at a nude beach (which I've never done, but I've heard) - but still. 

Now were cowboy camping, hoping rangers don't come to give us tickets at 5:30 am like the naked dude said they had in the past. Apparently the hot springs are closed after dark. How dumb is that?

May 19

Starting point: Doble camp
Ending point: a hill near Holcomb creek
Daily: 21
Total: 289.5

Today was pretty. Perfect weather. We woke up in the mood for a 20 mile day, so we did one. Chris's knee was being uncooperative at the end, but other than that, we're doing well. I bought fancy new gel insoles so my feet are happy. 

Really the only noteworthy parts of today were that we sat down for lunch an ended up taking a ridiculously long nap, and that we saw a ton of beaver dams on this creek we're by. Also, we're in a huge burn area. 

All in all, an uneventful day. It's kind of nice... I feel like a lot of the PCT will be like this. Just "spectacular monotony."

May 18

Start: hwy 18
End: Doble springs camp
Daily: 2.5 yeah big day
Total: 268.5 ish?

Eh. Too lazy to write much and it's cold. When are we gonna have warm nights?

1. Big bear hostel is awesome. They really do treat you like family. 
2. We passed a zoo with wolves in it on the bus today.
3. Big bear itself was like a less cool, trashier/touristier version of hood river. 
4. Boots, bubbles, Pepe, chris and I hiked to a campground far enough away from a road to make the handicap accessible pit toilet we found there kind of ridiculous. Then we had a fire. Fire is amazing. Cold now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17 - Big Bear City

Start: wherever we camped last night
End: Hwy 18 near Big Bear Lake, CA (mile 266)
Daily: 4.2
Total: 266

I just wanted to put it out there that I type out my journal entries on my phone at night and then post them days later when I have service. And I'm too lazy to fix all the typos. And sometimes the iPhone gets a little crazy with the autocorrect. So sorry if you're reading a sentence and all of a sudden there's like some insane word you've never heard of before. (This is how I learned the word colophon. Useful, eh?)

Last night was a very windy night. Then we woke up at 5:30 to push to the highway because we knew that there would be a car dropping hikers off between 7 and 8 am, and we were 4 miles away. So we packed up really quickly (I didn't eat breakfast) and booked it. We actually kept up a faster than 3 mile an hour pace (which is amazing for me). The weather is AWEFUL today.  It's not raining so much as misting, but it's crazy windy. It's like being in a windy cloud that sends tiny wet needles into your skin at 40 miles per hour. Terrible. Only, there was a rainbow, so that was fun.

So we got to the highway at 7:18, pulled on our raingear anticipating a long wait (we didn't know if the car was coming or had already came) and started trying to hitch. The wind was magnified at the highway, and we were standing there in full rain gear being blown around looking really pathetic and cold, and about 6 cars drove by in the right direction, without stopping. Multiple cars were SUVs with only one person in the car. Really, y'all? We don't look like we're homeless.

Anyway, the car we were waiting for actually pulled up and took us into town. Thank GOD. Someone else waited for 1 1/2 hours for a ride. He got here soaked and unimpressed with Big Bear.

So, if you live anywhere near a trail, pick up hikers! If they're good hikers, they'll offer you money for gas! Especially in the rainy wind. You can tell them because they have backpacks and they don't wear cotton. Trekking poles are a dead giveaway, too.

Anyway, we checked into the hostel in Big Bear, took showers and did laundry, then headed over to the Grizzly Manor for brunch. The portions were HUGE. And delicious. I was amazed when I finished my plate and still wasn't full. So I ate my toast, and then I was comfortable. I can't imagine how much I'll be eating after the Sierras. Chris got something called "The Mess: Don't Ask." He liked it.

May 16

Start: mission spring trail camp
End: ehh 262 ish?
Daily: 21.something
Total: 262.something

It's not as cold as last night but still freaking cold. We've managed to find a break in the wind provided by juniper bushes on all sides of our tent. We're only 3 miles from the road into Big Bear but we wanted to give ourselves as much time in town and spend the least amour of money. So we made a reservation at the hostel for one night and are going to get there by 9 at the latest hopefully. Then we'll spend all of tomorrow getting things done and leave sometime in the afternoon the day after tomorrow. 

Today was our biggest day yet but it didn't seem too bad. We didn't plan on going this far but when we didn't find any good campsites at our goal mileage and we realized our feet still had a few miles left on them, we pressed on. 

We were rewarded with an amazing coyote sighting. I saw it bounding around in the bushes and told Chris, who looked up while I was getting my camera out. The coyote had climbed onto the top of a rock outcropping on the top of a small hill and was staring at us from above, about 40 feet ahead of us. It jumped off the rock too quick for pictures, but it was amazing. I love coyotes. 

Now we can hear dogs barking and car engines in the little community down the hill. We're back in the desert after being surrounded by huge pines and cedars for most of today and part of yesterday. Oh well, town and showers and laundry tomorrow. 

Oh! I almost forgot! We passed the animal cages today. Someone who trains huge carnivores for movies keeps them literally feet away from the PCT in too-small cages. There were lions and tigers and bears, literally. Oh my. And scary attack dogs (the jack russell terrier yapping at me from behind the fence was really terrifying, believe me).

May 15

Start: mission creek
End: mission springs trail camp
Daily: 13.6
Total: 239.9


Today we walked up mission creek all day, which was really nice because the grade was gradual most of the day and we didn't have to worry about water. Chris and I both love stream crossings too, so we got our fill of logs and rock hops. 

Five of us (us two plus Katie (now Bubbles), Pepe, and Mark) stopped for long siesta and at the en of it Katie spilled boiling water on her leg. She has a huge blister now, but it's covered so it doesn't get infected. Ouch. 

Chris and I stopped early because the temperature plummeted from the mid 60s to the mid forties in less than half an hour, with the sun still up. It's now below freezing. What the heck happened? The place we stopped had fire rings. That's pretty much why we stopped.

Gentle Spirit, Red Blaze and Half Fast, and Hotrod all rolled in right after us, so we enjoyed a fire for a while, and listened to Gentle Spirit talk about his mishaps in the Marines. Most of his talk is 21+. Entertaining, though.

Cold fingers! I hope it warms up tomorrow and I hope Katie made it to where she wanted to go and her leg doesn't hurt too bad.

May 14

Starting point: I10 overpass
End: mission creek
Daily: 16.8
Total: 226.3

Never a dull day on the Pacific Crest Trail. We woke up after a wonderful (for me) and "eh, okay" (for Chris) night's sleep under the overpass and walked 4 miles to the office of a wind farm, where the workers there have set up a palapa and water cache for hikers. There's a trail register too. It amuses me that plenty of people said something like "boy, it was really windy when I was here" in the trail register AT A WIND FARM. 

Anyway, then we hiked another five miles or so to what used to be a trout farm and is now a nature preserve. That place was heaven. There was a pool of clear river water that was fed by Whitewater Creek, bathrooms, plenty of day hikers and a trail angel who cooked us all multiple burgers. It's been burger heaven for the last couple of days. Thanks, Buck Thirty!

We spent most of the hot hours near the pool drawing stares from day hikers and people who were in a wedding on the other side of the day use area. We heard one lady as we were passing by say to her husband, "Wait, WHO'S walking to Canada?" so we stopped and explained to her that we were. She was incredulous. 

We left around 3:45 and hiked 8 miles to our campsite next to Mission Creek. We did hike through desert most of the day, so it's nice that there's a creek nearby. It's still deserty, but water makes it way more bearable. 

My leg really hurt today on the uphill. I think I pulled a muscle in my lower calf. Chris also broke a trekking pole, but being the resourceful guy he is, he fixed it with a stick. Hopefully it lasts. 

May 13

Starting point: fuller ridge trailhead
Ending point: I10 overpass! Yeah! Troll party!
Daily: 19
Total: 209.5

Yup, we are sleeping under an overpass tonight. By choice.

We got walking by 8 this morning, about 45 minutes later than anyone else. By the end of the day, we had passed almost everyone. Today was 15 miles of stupid downhill - not just regular downhill. The maps we have have a little blurb on them about how the actual distance to the bottom of the hill is 4 miles, but the ridiculous switchbacks and roundabout route the PCT takes is 11 longer. We were so sick of it that we just tried to see how fast we could get to the bottom.  That meant we passed everyone but a couple people.

It was hot today, but as soon as we got to the bottom, clouds started rolling in and it sprinkled on us. When we were told by a security guard that locals sometimes put trail magic under the overpass, we decided to push those four miles. We decided that also partly to get out of the wind, because, you see, this valley is called Windy Pass. There are hundreds wind generators lining the valley ridges and floor. The last four miles were flat and on sand and facing a strong headwind. Ugh. It's so hard to walk on sand already.

So when we got here and about 6 or 7 people were already here.  One of them, Mr. F***ing Gentle Spirit (the name's a long story), hitched into town, saying he was bringing back burgers. Meanwhile, there were sodas and cold beer in coolers under the bridge. In an hour or so, Gentle Spirit came back with literally enough to fill about 15 thru-hikers stomachs and have some left over. Something like 30 burgers, 12 apple pies, and a bunch of fries. It was amazing. Burger King never tasted so good. I love how happy hikers get when they get some magic.

Anyway, it was another great night ending a hard but good day. Tomorrow we will see a steam big enough to swim in. I'm excited.

May 12 - Mt. San Jacinto and Fuller Ridge

Starting point: saddle junction
Ending point: fuller ridge trailhead
Daily miles: 15.3 miles, 11.1 pct miles
Total: 190.5

Huge day today. We climbed Mt San Jacinto, 10834 ft. It's not officially on the PCT, but it's a highly recommended detour. The route was mostly covered in snow, which wasn't so bad on the way up but on the way down we needed to be able to find the PCT again, but we had no idea where the trail to get us there was. We were with a group of like 7, so it was kinda fun route finding. We used a gps on my phone that I thought I'd get to make life easier in the Sierra, and it worked perfectly. Found the trail and made it back so we could set up camp at the Fuller Ridge trailhead.

For the record, Fuller Ridge is my least favorite piece of trail engineering ever. There are so many unnecessary switchbacks... You switchback down below a boulder just to switchback back up again like ten feet later. And the switchbacks themselves are like five feet long. I was so annoyed by the end of the day.

Then we joined a ton of thru hikers around the fire and cooked dinner and talked about fun stuff. Sidetrack has been carrying a plastic toy of BeBop, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character, since Campo. It fell off his pack and I carried it for a while expecting to see him. Never saw him, but we left it on the trail in a place we thought he'd find it - only to see him today and have him tell us he skipped the section we left it on. Hopefully they are reunited soon.

Okay I need to save my battery.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 10

Starting point: fobes saddle
Ending point: saddle junction
Daily miles: 13.9 (+2.5)
Total: 179.4

In case there was any doubt, there are real mountains in Southern California. This morning we woke up to the sun trying so hard to burn the fog away, and succeeding every once in a while. Through the fog we caught glimpses of the mountains around us - Apache Peak and South Peak and others. The snow/ice storm that kept us up ALL NIGHT left the trees with a layer of hoarfrost that sparkled magnificently in the sun. It also melted in the warmer weather, which meant all day we were dodging falling ice that had broken off from the tops of 200 foot tall pines and firs. One piece of ice that fell on my hand actually drew blood.

Gorgeous views once the clouds lifted. But the walking was hard today - lack of sleep and a lot of elevation made me tired, so getting into Idyllwild was wonderful. We got a ride from a guy out for an afternoon walk, named Tom. He was really nice. The inn here has cabins, so we shared a cabin with another couple and brought some wine to a hiker potluck at another cabin. It was so much fun. One of the team leaders from the Mount Adams Center (where Chris and I were based out of for the last few years), Greg Baxter, was there. He works for the PCTA now.

Anyway, now it's the next day and we're taking the day off to rest our weary feet. Tomorrow we head up towards Fuller Ridge, which is supposed to be tricky.

May 9

Start: pines to palms hwy
End: fobes saddle? Ranch? Road?
Daily miles: 16?
Total: 166?

It is really too cold to get the map out and check where we are. It's snowing and windy and I hope our tent doesn't fall on us in the middle of the night.

It's SoCal in May. Why is it snowing? Because we're up pretty high. But seriously. One guy sent home his tent because it had been sunny and blue skies for a week and a half. I find it kind of hard to feel bad for him, but still do. That was dumb.

We spent until 12 at Paradise Cafe, warming up and waiting for the skies to clear up. They did, so we hiked til we got here. The day went fast cuz we were picking our friend PePe's brain about a wilderness therapy program he was in. Right before we got here it started hailing. Now it's snowing. I'm too cold to write anything else.

Idyllwild tomorrow. Now that it's snowing at high elevations maybe we shouldn't have said no to the ice axes. Oh well, nothing we can do about it now.

May 8 - Pines to Palms Highway/ Paradise Cafe

Starting point: 131.5
Ending point: pines to palms hwy
Daily miles: 20.4
Total miles: 151.9

Happy Mothers Day! Sorry I didn't get to call today, Mom. I will as soon as I get cell service, so you'll probably hear from me before you read this, but I know you got my card. I miss you!
Today was loooooong. We only meant to do like 14 miles but when we got to within a mile of our proposed stopping point, we realized it was only 1:30 and we could make it to the Paradise Cafe for burgers, but it would mean a twenty mile day. We ended up making it (amazing what the promise of burgers and beer will bring out of us). My feet hurt like hell today. I was feeling pretty crazy by the end of it, the way only hiking the more than your mind or body are ready for can.
Today was cold, and another reason to hike fast was that the sky looked like it could rain on us any minute. When we got to Paradise Cafe for our burgers, it started to rain and I realized our tent flaps weren't zipped. So I got a ride back from Boomer (thru '10) who happened to be at our campsite and ran back to the tent to close it up. Nothing got too wet. I would have been able to call Mom if that hadn't happened. Sigh.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7

Starting point: near agua caliente creek mile 114
Ending point: 131.5 next to a dry creek bed
Daily miles: 17.5
Total miles: 131.5

Mike Hernandez's house of hikertrash

Yesterday was mainly noteworthy because we sat around at the pool, mailed ourselves some extra food for Idyllwild since we sent ourselves too much food, and ran into Serenity and Erin (now 3 Times a Lady) on the way back to the trail from Warner Springs. So good to see them. We had hiked with them the first couple of days, but their pace was slower than ours, partly because this is Erin's first backpacking trip ever. Amazing!

The weather was great today. We woke up a little later than Katie (Wayne aka bloodbath was already about a half mile ahead of us and woke up before anyone else) but we ended up catching up with her at around mile 120. We gained a lot of elevation (well it seemed like it) and then lost a little before finding our way to a trail angel named Mike Herrera's house. There is a water tank there that is available to hikers and today also happened to be chicken cookout day. So we and a bunch of other hikers got a plate full of delicious chicken and cream corn and beans. Plus shade and a guitar to play with.

Wayne had made it there way before we did so he left before we got there. He left us a note saying he was going to continue on and start going at his own pace. Which is sad but necessary - we were all kind of surprised he waited for us this long.

We're camped now in a gully with a bunch of other hikers, all of which are fun to be around. We've seen the same people for the last four days or so, and if this keeps up it looks like we'll be spending a lot more time together. I'm happy about that.

Everybody has their hard days, and Katie's happened to be today. She hasn't had much of an appetite, mostly because of he heat, and I wonder if her metabolism had run out if reserves to keep her spirits up. I hope she has a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5 - Warner Springs

Starting point: Barrel Springs CG
Ending Point: Warner Springs Resort
Daily Miles: 8
Total miles: 109 (estimate, I don't have my maps with me)

So I thought I would take advantage of a keyboard and real computer to write some stuff that I keep forgetting to write about and to go into more detail about other stuff.

First off, we made it to Warner Springs, which means we've not only hiked over 100 miles, but we've also finished a whole section of the PCT (Section A). The PCT is broken up in sections in each state, and California has at least to Section O... I don't know after that. Anyway, we've officially done a section! Also, making it to Warner Springs means we get to take a shower and do laundry and swim in the pool and sleep in a bed! Katie and Wayne and Chris and I are sharing a room, which is nice because they're a little pricey, although they give us a hiker discount.

So here are some observations over the last few days:

1. We've officially seen or heard 4 rattlesnakes since starting the trail. We saw two at sunset the day before yesterday. Only one rattled, but none were aggressive. All three we could see were western diamondbacks.

2. The rocks and sand around here have a really high concentration of mica, which means it looks like someone has scattered glitter all up and down the trail. It looks like the trail is made partly of gold. It's gorgeous. Only it gets in your socks and never comes off your glittery feet.

3. Trail gossip. I've heard of this, but it's funny to actually experience it. We heard Osama Bin Ladin was killed the day it happened, even though we were nowhere near a town. Someone checked their phone, learned he died, and the whole thru hiker community knew about it by the end of the day. Also, there's an 11 year old hiking the trail with her dad, and she had a birthday two days ago, so when we met her last night we were able to say Happy Birthday even though we'd never met her. People just leapfrog eah other and exchange news at stops.

Now I can't remember anything else, but at least I got those things out. Hooray!

As far as today, it was my favorite day yet. We woke up to coffee made by the trail angels at Barrel Springs, and then hiked through GIANT meadows with Holstein cows and rolling hills and under huge oak trees and by a STREAM. The amount of water today was amazing. And the amount of shade. I can't help mentally noting all the shady spots after yesterday in the desert with NO shade.

We passed Eagle Rock, which, obviously enough, is a rock shaped like an eagle. It is way cooler than it sounds. I can't wait to post pictures, but I can't here.

Oh! Right after Eagle Rock was a group of thru hikers all sitting down... We were wondering why, since people don't usually stop unless there's water. Turns out there was another trail angel with iced Replenish (a gatorade-y drink), and cookies and snacks. It was awesome. I want to grow up to be a trail angel.

Oh! Chris and I both have our trail names now. I'm Seahorse, because I found a purple plastic seahorse sand toy at Kick Off and decided it was coming with me to Canada. So people would ask if I was Seahorse... and it just became my name. Chris is Chilidog, because at the trail angel party last night, his fork broke and the plate tipped all over him and then he had chilidog all over his pants. He ate it anyway, and someone pointed at him and yelled "CHILIDOG! That's your name!" So we're Seahorse and Chilidog now. Feels good to introduce ourselves as something other than our real names.
Okay I should let other people use the computer. Hope everyone has a happy Cinco De Mayo!

May 4

Start: 84.5 on the side of the hill
End: barrel springs cg
Daily: 17
Total: 101.5!! Woo!!

What a crazy day! We woke up after a beautiful night cowboy camping (there was a shooting star so long and bright I could see it after Chris told me to look, with my contacts out). We made it to the Third Gate Cache in time to meet trail angels who were there to bring up over 100 gallons of water for thru hikers. Without that it would be a 25 mile stretch without water (we're in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park). We were able to help them carry water up the .5 mile hill from their truck. They drive there from over 70 miles away just to bring us water in the desert.

Water caches are weird. They definitely encourage irresponsibility on the part of hikers to not carry enough water ... And they're often empty when hikers get there because other people were relying on the caches too. So then a hiker is stuck in the desert without water. Not a good situation. A lot of people got there completely out of water. I think that's irresponsible. I would never totally rely on a cache. But we did take a liter each to make the next 11 miles more bearable. I arrived at the next water source with over a liter left. So I could have left the liter, but it was nice to know it was there.

Another thru hiker was a huge jerk to one of the angels who brought the water (who also happened to be the guy who gave us a ride yesterday - he had pants on today). I asked the angel what the water was like at the next water source, because we had been told festering rats (ew) had been pulled out of the spring source. The angel explained that it was still contaminated and that the design of the pool made it basically a mouse trap. The thru hiker asked if the design could be fixed and when the angel started to explain that there was a lot of bureaucracy around that, the hiker cut him off and said to the rest of us, "I don't think he understands." Like he was dog who hadn't figured out a trick or something. I had gotten bad vibes from this guy when he pulled up. I spent the rest of the day fuming about that and thinking of things we should have said. I can't believe he treated a trail angel that way. The hiker acted like he was better than the trail angel because he wore better clothes or something - exactly the thing you go thru hiking to avoid. Ugh. I'm glad most thru hikers are awesome.

Anyway, so we left Third Gate, found a shady spot - which were few and far between - and waited out the hottest part of the day. Then we got up feeling the magnetic pull of Warner Springs (a resort with showers and laundry!!) but not looking forward to drinking rat water (we would have treated it, but still). We walked all the way down the desert mountains... And when we got close there was a sign that said "simpler times ahead... Bud too!" Then there were more signs pointing us away from the rat infested water and towards... We couldn't believe it was for real. There were motor homes with a grill with chili dogs and beer and FRESH water and a fire and everyone else who made it down the hill that day. We didn't have to drink rat water because these people brought us fresh water and chairs and food. I felt like it was April Fool's day - "You're going to have to drink rat infested water... Just kidding! Here's a cold beer." It was amazing.

Everyone's asleep now, so I should sleep too.

May 3 - Julian

Starting point: Rodriguez spur fire tank cg
Ending point: ? Side of the hill around mile 84?
Daily miles: 16 ish
Total miles: 84 ish

Yeah, I don't really know where we are. We got as far as we could and then grabbed the first campsite we found. Which was actually pretty hard to do since we've been sidehilling it most of today. A lot of people just camped in the dry washes, but I'm always a little wary of that. We're cowboy camping for the first time (Chris is kind of wary of not having enclosed walls - yes I will blame it on him). We'll see how it goes.

Today was deserty and warm. We slept in later than Wayne or Katie, then took off for Scissors Crossing to hitch into Julian. We used our umbrellas to block the sun and it was actually pretty pleasant. Hitching wasn't too hard, although we did have about 8 people waiting for a ride for a while. After a while we all got picked up and hitched into Julian for free food! Mom's Pies is majorly hiker friendly, so we left a big tip.

The hitch back was easier to get. A man in an ancient Winnebago pulled up in the parking lot of the post office and asked us if we were heading to Scissors Crossing. It was hard not to stare because he was kind of not wearing pants. He was literally in a shirt, socks, and underwear. Turns out he is a major trail angel who hikes water up to the ridges in the desert and gives people rides all the time. Another trail angel who knew him commented later "nice pants" and he said we were lucky, it's more than he usually wears. If it hadn't been like 6 people getting into his Winnebago with me, I wouldn't have considered it. Good lord, if you had told me a couple of months ago that I'd be getting into a van with a man I didn't know in his underwear, I would have laughed in your face. But it worked out and we're alive.

Okay, sleep.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 2

Starting point: pioneer mail picnic area
Ending point: Rodriguez spur fire tank campsite
Daily miles: 14.9
Total miles: 68.4

Today was WINDY! I literally got blown off course multiple times. One time was on a sketchy rock outcropping... The wind was gusting at 35 or 40 miles per hour. I wasn't scared, because it was only blowing up hill so it really wouldn't put us in danger. But we were slow today, partly from fighting the wind and partly because our feet hurt from yesterday.

We started the day ahead of the pack and now they're beginning to catch up. I don't mind because I feel like I'll feel more comfortable with the middle of the pack hikers, but finding a campsite might be difficult.

My eyes are dried out from the wind. I may wear glasses tomorrow. Ugh. I hate wearing glasses.

We could see San Jacinto and the San Gorgonios yesterday, and today they looked much closer. There is lots of snow on them...

There's a rumor of free pie in Julian, so we're going to hitch in tomorrow. I've never hitched more than two miles before. Should be interesting. My whole group wants to hitch with me because I'm the only girl with any hair to speak of, since Katie buzzed hers two days ago. We'll see how it goes.

May 1

Starting point: Fred canyon Ed
End: pioneer mail campground
Daily miles: 19.5
Total: 52.5

Today was a long day. Neither chris nor I have ever hiked longer than 18 miles in a day. My feet ACHE. We both have blisters under our little toes from them being squished in our shoes, which are a size larger than our feet actually are. I wish they made comfortable shoes with wider toe boxes. But our feet aren't as bad as Katie's. Hers are covered in duct tape.

The morning started out cold, but by the afternoon it was perfect hiking weather. We got out of the desert chaparral and into some sunny pine forest. It was a wildland firefighter's dream. All the trees were huge and spaced far apart with nothing but grass and the occasional bush in between. It was gorgeous and shady and cool. So nice to see trees again.

Other than that it was a pretty uneventful day, except that it was the longest day yet. Gorgeous views of the deserts and mountain ranges from the high points.

Okay chris is rubbing my feet so I need to focus on that now. :)

April 30

Starting point: boulder oak cg
Ending point: fred cyn rd
Daily miles: 7
Total miles: 33

Today was more kick off stuff (fun!) and then packing up and getting out of there. We got off to a later start than we wanted, but we got to avoid the heat of the day by night hiking up to Fred Canyon Road. We got up thirteen hundred feet or so and the lights twinkling in the cities below was really pretty. The night sky was gorgeous too. I'm not big on night hiking but that wasn't bad.

Update the next day: last night went horribly. We set our tent up in a trailhead, so we were picking up glass from our tent pad. We set up the tent but in the middle of the night the wind picked up and my trekking pole (it holds up part of the tent) broke. Chris fixed it with duct tape and then the stitching on the corner of the tent broke and pulled lose. Chris fixed that too... since I slept through both of those incidents. Then I finally woke up because the other trekking pole was blown onto me.  So Chris put the tent stake back in while I held the tent up.

We set up the tent better today (in relation to the wind direction).