Monthly Archives: May 2014

Day 30 – to the Saufley’s

May 23rd
Miles: 444 to 454.5

Woke at 5:30 am and got out early and hiked with Ray, whose trail name is now Juneau. We walked through crazy fog with crows sitting on the top of yucca stalks caw cawing at us while strange frog songs echoed in the fog like oboes played under a bed. We blazed to Vasquez rocks super fast, 30mph easy pace.

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Met up with Refills and Guage there and continued on the last couple miles.

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We got into the Saufley’s just in time for an REI run, I got my new tent, new shoes and some superfeet insoles.

Got back and tested out my new tent, packed up my old one and mailed it from here. Then we got on bikes to get pizza.

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Back at the Saufley’s I am in dire need of a rest day tomorrow to recharge and heal my feet. This place is called hiker haven, it really lives up to the name.

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I will take tomorrow to do a full post about here and the absolute wonder that is this place.

Meanwhile,  I am going to chill and get a good night sleep.

Lots of hummingbirds here.

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Sat up late around a fire, 20 of us drinking beer because tomorrow us a rest (zero) day, everyone talking, everyone laughing. Old and young, foreign and domestic. 

Life is good.

Day 29 – to the KOA campground

May 22nd
Miles: 430.6 to 444

Woke before the others and made coffee with hot chocolate and chocolate flavored Carnation instant breakfast.  It was amazing.

Tomorrow I will be at the trail angels in Agua Dulce which is exactly matching my projected schedule for the trip which is unexpected.  If I am on schedule here then later I should be ahead of schedule. We will see.

Hiked out through the Station Fire burn which feels like it will never end.  It is kind of depressing to walk through a tree graveyard for days.  It us like “The Road” where everything is dead and falling over. The fire itself consumed 600 square miles of forest and claimed the lives of two firefighters. There are many many dead trees and the slopes are choked with poisonous plants though there are sections of flowers.

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We hiked the the north fork ranger station seven miles past messenger flats. They have cokes here for donation,  paid $2 per. So nice to have sugar. One of the Rangers here has been coming to tall with us. This is pretty far off the beaten track.

The KOA in eight miles has Wifi, laundry, a store and reataurants down the way that deliver Chinese food, Italian food etc. I am excited to get delivery to my tent.

Hiked in, Refill had read that Scott Williamson said the KOA was a dump and refused to stay. A storm started rolling in and I know better than to go out in one so stayed, I tried to warn the guys who wanted to leave.  Refill and another dude went on and did some miles.

“idiots!!!” I exclaim.

“30% chance of rain and any thru-hiker knows to grab his rain jacket,  we had 50%” … I grumble.

The camp manager gave us the lodge to sleep in because of the storm.  I ordered a pizza,  some beers and got my laundry done and got a shower. All done padding around in my camp shoes (flip flops) and umbrella,  chatting up the locals.  A storm will always bring people together. Meanwhile the storm raged outside, another expected tonight. I am so so glad I know my weather patterns in the west coast and did not follow my hiking partner.

Nice to have a roof over my head for a night and dry and clean clothes for the morning.

And beer.. blue moon in the bottle.

Heaven.

Day 28 – detours and poison plants

May 21
Miles: 407 to 430.6

Today I woke up and my tent was frozen and I had got condensation on my sleeping bag. This is a serious issue because I keep my bag in a 2 after proof stuff sack and if I put it in wet the whole thing might end up wet.

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“I think we should wait for the sun to get over the hill and melt these” I tell Refill.

“Wait for mid day break, it will be hot and they will dry fast.” He rattles off in his German accent. Always the one trying to be pragmatic.

I am not excited about packing up wet gear but I acquiesce and off we go.

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We hike through, all day, what is know as “The Station Fire” and it is huge.

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A lot of the area is choked up with a poisonous plant called poodle dog bush and it act like poison oak on people. Nasty stuff and we have some detours around it to take later.

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We make out way down to the fire station and get water and I sit on a picnic table and explain that in two miles there is a paved road we need to take.

My hiking partners all missed it today, of course. They were ahead and I started down the bad section and backed up and road walked to avoid the mess. After a time I realize they did not make it and so I jump back onto the PCT and did a couple of the very last miles in the detour section and it is crazy. It is like an army obstacle course, you climb over log, through logs, under logs, up and over, lift you arms going through thick poodle dog bush and wondering if you can touch anything later. It is nuts and you can not go fast. I out on music and jammed it.

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Finally I make it down and spy picnic tables from the trail, 24 miles, time to sleep at the Messenger flat campground, there are some other thru-hikers here, but none of my crew. Perhaps they will roll in late, everyone knows I adore picnic tables and will camp near one at any chance.  Seriously, sitting on the ground sucks, logs are okay, rocks as well, but a picnic table means business. Hell, I dried out all my stuff in one today.

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Time to eat and have a small drink I found in Wrightwood and have been carrying for a good time to have a drink, this qualifies. Actually, given my experiences so far, this is tame.

My friends show up at 8:30pm, Refill and then Ray, who I started with at the southern monument.

Day 27 – climbs, roads and rain

May 20th
Miles: 380 to 407 (27 oh yea)

Woke cold and hiked in the clouds, took a long time for my feet and legs to really start going.

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We dropped to a stop and then another 1800 foot climb in freezing fog.  I found a nice log to eat breakfast on.

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We hit 400 today. Serious hiking going on.

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We were climbing another sister mountain which is shorter but there was think freezing fog. The fog was so thick I missed the trail and did a full summit of it. I have never been so cold as in the desert.

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Finally had a road walk to go around a endangered species closure.

Then got rained on.

I am in my tent trying to warm up.

My tent froze.

I despise being cold, I hate it.

Day 26 – Wrightwood to Baden – Powell

May 19th
Miles: 369.8 to 380 (insane climb)

Wake on with the birds, like normal. Watch a bit of movie, it is one about fate and all that in a real world setting with magical elements, I like those normally but I am a bit tired and weary, the trail has given me time to think on things and think on thinking of those things. Magical realism always makes me thoughtful and a touch wistful.

On the topic of magical realism, to explain better, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez always leaves a little hole in my heart and I hate when his books end, the same is true of some movies which wrap you in a new world and explore them with you. It is easily my favorite genre, a blend of the real with the fantasy creating in a way that is like repainting your favorite town for one night and making it fresh and new.

I am dwelling on it because the PCT is kind of magic like that.  Nowhere else do I know of with such a huge support structure to make sure us crazy people have water and rides and places to stay. Trail magic happens as needed at times and people say “The trail provides” and they belive it. Trail angels post their phone numbers in the woods, really. It is begging for a travel book which invents. I mean like how Bill Bryson invented his hiking partner, but better.  When I found that out about his partner it blew me away.

Anyway.

Today we need to wrap town chores and get back on the trail to do Mt Baden – Powell which has a crazy elevation profile.

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Went to breakfast with Happy Man and Cheese burger in Wrightwood and now everyone is off doing town chores and I am siting in the Evergreen cafe, which still has a ton of Easter decorations up.  Little bunnies and eggs everywhere .

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Well, time to down coffee and get things done.

Got my resupply,  my bag is heavy again, like every time I leave a town now. I am dreading the haul out of Kennedy Meadows, I don’t know how much stronger I can get in the next three weeks but it better be a lot because ten days of food is going to kill me with the climb into the Sierra.

Waiting on my hiking group to buy stuff, sitting in front of Jensen market considering just hitching out myself now as the ride would be easy as a solo hiker. Though I am kind of watching bags here and it is nice to have time alone. I realize on this trail I am very comfortable with myself and have zero issues camping solo or doing any of the tasks associated with a thru-hike solo. It would appear I am a capable person with no codependent issues. A lot of hikers, that is the “thing” they learn. I may be slightly more leaning the other way, where I enjoy solitude and my own autonomy and prioritize it. Possibly the reason I have no desire to stay with trail angels who host hikers. I don’t want to talk trail when I get in town,  mostly I want a shower, laundry done, a meal with beer (with friends usually), resupply from P.O. or store and then to watch a movie and try to update here, which I mostly do on breaks. Usually i do these in just about that order. Those are the “town chores” I talk about. I think perhaps my lesson here is that I am learning how good people are, in general. How much a whole town will band together and help out a bunch of stinky hikers. Maybe this is undoing some of my New York jaded exterior, or at least softening it partially.

Well, time to hitch and then go hike a mountain.

Got a ride from this nice lady Joan who worked in Yosemite many years.  We talked straight hiker trash talk with her,  it was great.

“Assume you boys carrying a bear can when you get North” she says.

“Yes BV500!” I reply, mentioning the largest one made, and most secure. Refill mentions the same and that he used an URsack in “oh – seven”

“They had some failures in the BV’s in a section around Independence, eight total thus year.” She rattles off. “Though it seems to be only one bear who figured them out, smart sucker. Not sure if he is still around. Check the boards on your way up.  Remember,  no URSsacks, those are bear bait,  the O rings fail”

“A bear ninja’d a BV?!?!” We both reply, shocked. 

“Yup, let’s hope he didn’t show the other bears”

This is big stuff,  it could change our hike this year if bears have figured out the food vaults we all carry. It would turn us into walking vending machines.

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She drops us off, and up up up we go. I just want to say for the record that I am a beast climber now.  I did the entire trip to the top of Baden – Powell in one go, no stops and at 2.5mph with a 30+ pound pack.  I am blown away how strong I am now. Eat your heart out stair climbers in LA.

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Yea, I walked up that in about an hour and a half.

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1500 year old tree I sat on and ate junk food.

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It was cool at the top.  By that I mean cold, very cold.  We got out and checked the maps and decided to camp at about 8400ft

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I made some super strong hot and sour to replace my salt losses and warm me up. It is going to be a very cold one.  I am in the tent for the first time in a while.

I used my dynema wire to secure the tent to a boulder.

Let’s hope it stays, there is no wind so far.

Day 25 – blue ridge to Wrightwood

May 18th
Miles: 347.3 to 369.8 (22.5 miles)

Woke early, cold and my bag needs to be aired out, I realize this this morning, I have been sweating at night it has been so warm.

“No matter” I think out loud, “today we climb!”

And climb I did. 3,000 feet altitude to 8,500 feet altitude and back down some. I passed many people and had some pass me.

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Eventually caught up with 55 and top shelf who were resting near the top and motored up the rest of the way chatting about fires and Silverwood lake bathrooms.

I left them near water and continued on literally through ski lifts, raised like ancient monuments to an unknown summer sport. Or perhaps some kind of ward for spirits of the mountains.

I had a choice to make, get to town quick down the Acorn trail and then ‘v’ out of town and miss six miles of the actual trail but get in early. Or I could do the miles and hitch into Wrightwood to avoid doing off PCT miles I would have to hike back up. Seemed like a plan, do the six.

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The six sucked, really, it was infuriating and the trail seemed to meander randomly at times and made sure to not miss a single anthill to climb.

I got down and asked these nice people for a ride and offered money, they didn’t accept money but gave me a ride. These poor people had to keep the windows down, five days in the woods does a ripe man make.

I got into the ‘downtown’, spied an “Asian fusion” place on the way.

Got some hot and sour before we went to pizza.

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Pizza and beers were good, but my laundry was being done and I was cold. Went back, got my laundry. A shower had me feeling like new and I stopped to see friends from Belgium and discuss the detour we have I in coming miles.

Made my way back to my cabin and layed down in a bed that was too soft, tried to watch a new movie out from the genre “magical realism” but felt kind of depressed and tired.  I tossed and turned on the fluffy bed and eventually got fitful sleep and dreamed of life in a magical realism world.

When I become an author, that will be my genre I think.

Day 24 – McDonald’s … seriously

May 17th
Miles: 333.9 to 342 then 347.3

“Holy crap, that was a huge bug!”

We stop to do a perimeter check, ants and beetles all over.

I saw three different large bugs I cannot name. One had huge pinchers, one looked like a three inch long beetle that was moving fast and I saw huge moths that were acting exactly like hummingbirds.

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Today is McDonald’s day, we are 9 miles out and I want a milkshake. I actually saw hikers running to get there in time for breakfast.

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Got here and we basically camp out, eating everything. McDonald’s is not my favorite, but seriously after days in the woods it is perfect.

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Everyone keeps coming up to ask us about the people at the lake yesterday. Hiker rumor mill is amazing.

Still need to stop and get some stuff at the store, I need new Gatorade bottles, mine are nasty now.

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We all sat under trees digesting the bounty of junk food, happily. Some went to the Best Western for hot tub and showers. We got fresh cherries and threw the pits in the street. Eventually when actual homeless showed up we b got water and bailed.

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Some had left early so I left on own, making good time I ran into 55 who was waiting on people and we hiked on. I noticed a train track we were on had a train coming and so 55 set up his gopro to film it as it passed and I set up Lapse it pro so I could get a time lapse.  Then the train stopped just ahead around a curve.

“Dude, are we on camera?” He asks.

I run up to the light posts ahead and look all over for cameras but see none.

“Maybe we just flagged some terror thing and DHS is on the way?” I ponder.

We pack up after a bit and hike up the ridges joking about PCT hikers causing major terror issues.

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At the top 55 decides to wait on his friends and I need to continue on to find mine. I power down the ridge to a valley floor as the sun is setting and learn that Refills is just ahead, but then come to the start of what I know is a long long uphill climb. I do not ridge walk at night so I backtrack to a nice spot I noticed just before and set up camp and eat my big mac u got before leaving McDonald’s.  I had heard coyotes from the descent into the valley and here I am munching a stupid big mac.

“I hate coyotes. ” I mutter.

Luckily my buddies showed up. Brian and waffles from Belgium, Mike from Sweden and Giggles.

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Not sure where Refills ended up, but I don’t ridge walk at night.