Monthly Archives: July 2014

Day 85 – down to the feather river

July 17th
Miles: 1225.9 to 1251.5

Woke early by the stream, crammed some food into me and started hiking strong.

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Made it ten miles before we knew it, and stopped for a bit before hiking on to Alder Springs for lunch where we had little caterpillars dropping down on us all over from the tall pines by the spring, they could crawl surprisingly fast.

Alder Springs has some of the best spring water on trail I have had in a while. For thru-hikers the natural ‘drinkable’ water scale goes something like Sierra-snowmelt > ‘good’ spring water > good creek water > spring water > creek water > river water > lake water and rounding out last place would be ‘pond water’ which can screw up Gatorade powder sometimes, avoid it if possible. Obviously I am not listing any totally stagnant sources or things like potable taps.

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From Alder Springs it was thirteen miles down to the Feather river which has small leeches but otherwise tastes ‘okay’. There is a large group of older hikers from Tahoe here who had a blast chatting us up about the trail.

We are down to 3700 feet elevation,  it is hot and humid, we all got into the river to cool down and did laundry. For the first time in a long while all my socks are clean(ish) and both my t-shirts are also clean(ish).

Realized I have had the bottom of my feet being numb for days now, the pad part not the heel. Not sure if that means anything serious, I hope not.

Tomorrow up early … more miles, more miles, more miles.

One stop at Bucks Lake, there are trail angels there and also a restaurant and small store, I need sugar.

Realized that the first month on trail I was low blood sugar,  which is why I was having issues talking about complex topics.  Now I am all jacked up with sugar again I am babbling about projects and ideas.

I still need to do a full post about food, and one for my friend Sean on “pooping like a bear: number two and you, on the trail”

Day 84 – back to the wilds

July 16th
Miles: 1200.8 to 1225.9

Woke slightly late, got ready and made coffee and got on trail. Long ridge walks that continued upwards for a long time.

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Lunch at Summit lake (mile 1211.9) stopping to eat and get water in this dry section.

Saw a doe with twin fawns early on the trail.

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Passed a spot for mountain bikers to gear up before heading down.

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There are a lot of Indian artifacts in this area, they do not want you to disturb.

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There is a tree up ahead ; )

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I discovered a new way to hang my clothes. I did this before but remembered it again.

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25 miles per day leaves us pretty tired.  I can do more but it is good right now I am not, I need to acclimate to new mileages slowly.

About 60 or 65 miles to Belden, I have packages there with food and shoes. I don’t need the shoes right now but will carry them, after seeing Bugs issues and blisters from a shoe change I am not going to dream of changing.

Talking today about how strange it will be to be back in the world and have clean clothes that smell like laundry sheets and not have to wear socks crusted up and sleep covered in three days of sweat.

The normal world scares us a bit now.

We have become a bit feral I think. Sleeping better on trail than on town and worried about freaking out about cleanliness and smells.

Ahh the world of the thru-hiker.

Day 84 – back to the wilds

July 16th
Miles: 1200.8 to 1225.9

Woke slightly late, got ready and made coffee and got on trail. Long ridge walks that continued upwards for a long time.

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Lunch at Summit lake (mile 1211.9) stopping to eat and get water in this dry section.

Saw a doe with twin fawns early on the trail.

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Passed a spot for mountain bikers to gear up before heading down.

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There are a lot of Indian artifacts in this area, they do not want you to disturb.

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There is a tree up ahead ; )

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I discovered a new way to hang my clothes. I did this before but remembered it again.

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25 miles per day leaves us pretty tired.  I can do more but it is good right now I am not, I need to acclimate to new mileages slowly.

About 60 or 65 miles to Belden, I have packages there with food and shoes. I don’t need the shoes right now but will carry them, after seeing Bugs issues and blisters from a shoe change I am not going to dream of changing.

Talking today about how strange it will be to be back in the world and have clean clothes that smell like laundry sheets and not have to wear socks crusted up and sleep covered in three days of sweat.

The normal world scares us a bit now.

We have become a bit feral I think. Sleeping better on trail than on town and worried about freaking out about cleanliness and smells.

Ahh the world of the thru-hiker.

Day 83 – Sierra city

July 15th
Miles: 1186.9 to 1200.8 (+3 side)

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Woke up and on the walk into Sierra city spotted some deer tracks on the PCT,  this is not unusual but these looked off. After watching them for a while I spotted new tracks, a mountain lion .

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Then we saw a big rattler, then another later on. (Videos on FB, will add here later).

Afterwards crossed the north fork of the Yuba river which had a great swimming hole.

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The general store has all that I need and more. Was so thirsty getting in that I drank multiple sodas and got a huge burger.

Don’t want to sleep here, will spend some time to rest and eat, then back to the trail.

Found out that Waffles met up with Giggles in Tahoe and they are now about six days behind us. In PCT terms that is a long ways back.

Caught up with a bunch of hikers, want to move up another few days to catch up with some friends from way back.

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Have a lot of ground to cover still and I want to get to Oregon soon.

Hiked out and did the climb out of town, found camping on a high ledge that looks like a park.

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Crossed 1200 today,  very soon we hit the mid-point.

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Day 82 – the big drop down and ‘the why’

July 14th
Miles: 1161.0 to 1185.9 (25)

Today we drop down low, really low, down to 4641 ft elevation.  For us this is really low and hot now. Elevation is something I worried about at the beginning of the trip but I was concerned about going up into elevation not about coming out of it. 

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Coming down, the heat is pretty rough as you are from where there is still snow. And when you do, your water bottles crush and you feel like you drank a ton of coffee because you have so much oxygen. On the plus side, injuries heal faster at lower elevation and you can hike like mad.

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I mentioned I would touch on “why” I am doing something that many consider arguably crazy. On many days I honestly do not have an answer to that and I walk along thinking “what on earth am doing!?!?” But the ‘before’ the hike “why” was different than my why now.

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My hiking partner Bugs has a great story for his ‘why’, he had sent himself one of those emails to your future self and it read “if you are still at that job and still doing nothing then you need to get out and do something crazy” and so he did. My personal “why” is a bit more nuanced.

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Basically I was sick of ‘someday’, and also I was bored.  After I quit smoking a lot of my ‘someday’ things started to come up as suddenly ‘possible’ somehow.  Things like going to see the ‘night of 10,000 lanterns’ during Loy Kratong in Chiang Mia to taking up biking and running to this, the mother of all “someday’s” I had told myself.  17 years in the making, I followed a few blogs almost every year and had always dreamed of it as the ultimate get away, the summer of heights and getting to hike every major national park and wilderness area in the west. By ‘bored’ I mean I have always judged my personal worth and identity on my job, and I loved my job but I needed a change,  something to mix it up, something radically different. However, right now I would not mind being back at work, there is a nice value to steady and smooth.

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Is it what I thought and what I wanted out here? Yes and no, ‘yes’ in that I have seen amazing things and feel changed, I feel different,  like a new person, a better me. A happier me indeed, one who has truly rambled and enjoyed every second.  ‘No’ in that it is not a “get away” in any way, you need to schedule time and ‘do your miles’ each day. Even days you don’t feel like it, or don’t feel that good. And town stops you have town chores like resuply and mail, charging electronics and Internet stuff. And now at this, the halfway point  in time (mileage halfway point is in a week or two), the trail is a determined march to Canada (some say “death march”) trying to bust out 25 and 30 mile days each day to make it before the snows.  I am exhausted right now, everything hurts and I want to eat everything and sleep for a month.

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Note: Interestingly we found out there are no southbounders this year, the snows in Washington put a halt to all southbound progress and there is still snow in passes in Washington and even in some Oregon passes so I will not get to meet any southbound thru’s.

Day 81 – the big game

July 13th
Miles: 1146.1 to 1161.0

Walked to Donner pass ski lodge and watched the world cup final.

Hamburgers, sodas, blueberry pies! Some trail angels swung by, and some off trail hikers were giving rides.

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Saw a ton of day hikers on the way in, a lot of runners and prior year PCT’ers who loved to chat. Got asked by young female runners what I named my pack.

Saw some PCT hikers I know who flipped and are doing this section south now, got the skinny on where everyone is at on the trail. Need to speed up and catch up with people.

Day 80 – walks and water

July 12th
Miles: 1125.6 to 1146.1

Each day at lunch I sit and at the top of one of these journal entries I write the date and the mileage at the start of the day and then write the “to ” and leave the rest empty for me to write when evening comes. Then I write my first few paragraphs.

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Today I was walking and thinking about what exactly I am doing out here. When I set out on this journey I had assumed I would spend a lot of time thinking, thinking about my life and thinking about what I want and what I need. I had felt like I was simply passing time, that I played games and watched a multitude of television shows to just get through the day.

The PCT is not a thinking kind of walk, those are strolls where you don’t pack a PLB device. The PCT is a “chop wood, carry water” experience.

“Chop wood, carry water” is a zen thing I read about a while back, meaning, more or less, “take care of the basics with attention/mindfulness and your problems will right themselves”. (That is a very rough version of it that I am paraphrasing for my purposes.)

The thing is you wake up and walk, that is your job for the day, that and eating and making and breaking camp. You get really good at all these things, scary good to the point that you can set up camp and be moving to the “dinner place” before you even think about it.  The walking, it is 6 pm and I am at nearly 21 miles for the day (1146.1) but stopped at the last water for 13 miles and am waiting on Bugs to see if he needs to camp as his new shoes are giving him blisters and hurting his feet. Probably wise to call it okay at 21 and be good and not push him to injury.

Anyway,  you do not get a lot of thinking done out here, you spend time worrying about water and planning food. You spend the time walking paying attention to the trail because falling sucks and you hear stories about people with sprained ankles hobbling around on the trail for days.

I had wanted to think, to go over a lot of things, but instead those things are now like a background process, they are being worked on while I am preoccupied with my feet hurting and food and water.

What did I want to think about? Well, that is a longer story and I will need a separate entry of this blog to properly explain.

Perhaps tomorrow, time for dinner, looks like we are staying here.