Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Day 29- Zero At Hiker Heaven

May 31, 2016
Hiker Heaven(454.4) 0 Miles Hiked

One of my favorite pictures to date

I had a pretty good zero day today. I tried to sleep in, but by 7:00 it was really hot inside my tent. I finally pulled myself out of my tent to find a cooler place to sit. I finished my blog post from last night and made a list of things I needed to get done today. It was a long list. I sorted my laundry and cleaned my gear. Around ten o'clock I caught the shuttle into town to grab some breakfast. I found Outro and Evac at the cafe and caught up with them. Yesterday I only knew a few people here, but going into the cafe was like a family reunion. Everyone from my bubble was finally rolling into town. Evac and Outro caught the shuttle into Hiker Heaven and Uturn and I enjoyed a great breakfast. I had a chocolate milk, bacon, eggs, and two blueberry pancakes with chocolate chips. I love being able to eat whatever I want without gaining weight. 
Unfortunately I left my phone behind to charge so I don't have any pictures. 

Uturn and I caught the next shuttle back to Hiker Heaven. We sat around with Evac and Outro for awhile to catch up. Eventually we all went about getting our town chores done. I attempted to upload all of my photos into a slideshow, but I couldn't get it to work. I fixed my MP3 player. It wasn't playing any of my audiobooks. This took longer than I thought it would. I sewed a hole in my pants pocket, repaired a hole in my food bag, attempted to fix one of my dirty girl gaiters, but I couldn't find a hook to make it work. I sent a few items home that I wasn't using. I fixed a problem with my blog. Apparently I changed a setting that allowed comments to post. I waited all day for my food mail drop to arrive, but by 6:00 it still wasn't here. I spent a lot of time talking to people I haven't seen for awhile. Around 6:30 we decided to go back into town for dinner. We went for pizza and it wasn't great, but it was cheap and big. I gave away my last piece so I would have room for ice cream. Once my belly was full we went back to Hiker Heaven to relax by the fire pit. 
My food drop finally arrived so I went through it, repackaging food and trying to figure out why food weighs so much. I accomplished almost everything on my list. 
Part of hiker heaven 
Me and L-Rod(Donna Saufley, owner of Hiker Heaven) and my new friend Tiny
We fit 20 hikers into the truck 
Only 2,196 miles to go. 7 more miles than the AT 
Waiting for the shuttle home

Zero days are never as relaxing as I want them to be. I assume they are pretty boring to read about. It's pretty much chores, eat, chores, talk to other hikers, eat, chores, talk, eat. 

Here are some stats from the trail so far

Miles hiked: 454.4 
Miles remaining: 2,195.6
Zero days: 3
Average miles hiked w/ zeroes: 15.7 miles/day
Average miles hiked w/o zeroes: 17.5/ day
Average start time: 6 am
Average stop time: 5:30 pm
Nights camped solo: 0
Nights Cowboy camping: 6
Nights in my tent: 14
Cabin/Motel/Hotel: 5
Trail Angel: 4
Lost gear: 1 lost contact lens
Broken gear: hole in food back, ripped pants pocket, broken gaiter, broke tent stake
Longest mileage day 24.9
Shortest day 1.1 
Times I've fallen: ZERO!!!!! 
Blisters: ZERO!!!! 
Weight lost: 18 lbs
Person I've hiked the longest with: Hawkeye/Evac 

I'll head back out tomorrow night. The next few days we are under a heat advisory, with temperatures topping out at 110 degrees. I'll probably start hiking from 3:30 am to 11:30 and taking a siesta from 11:30-5:30, hiking a few more miles and then going to bed. The next 150 miles promise to be very brutal. 

"There are two types of seeds in the mind: those that create anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, hatred and those that create love, compassion, equanimity and joy. Spirituality is germination and sprouting of the second group and transforming the first group."
- Amit Ray

Monday, May 30, 2016

Day 28- When Did 18 Miles Become A Short Day

May 30, 2016
North Fork Ranger Station(436.1) to Hiker Heaven(454.5) 18.4 Miles

This was probably the earliest I have woken up yet. I was up at 4:45 and on trail by 5:30. My goal was to make it into Hiker Heaven by 2:30. I also wanted to stop by the KOA in Acton to get a Gatorade. I've been doing a great job with staying hydrated in the heat, but I haven't been maintaining my electrolytes very well. As I result I haven't felt very well the last few days. 
Sunrise from the trail

I was glad to get an early start. By 7:30 it was already uncomfortably hot outside. The Acton KOA was only eight miles away and I made it there by eight o'clock. I found a place to rest in the shade and bought two Gatorades, a Starbucks coffee drink, a hostess cupcake, and a package of skittles. My new favorite Gatorade flavor is Lime Cucumber. It is delicious. Unfortunately the KOA didn't have that one. I had to settle for lemon lime strawberry. I thought it was hot outside, but sitting in the shade was almost cold. It is amazing how much heat is reflected back at me off of the desert sand. 
RV's at the KOA

I didn't get back on trail until almost ten o'clock. After rehydrating and topping off my electrolytes I felt much better. It is starting to get even hotter and I had 10.4 miles left to hike. After leaving the KOA I had a 1,300' climb to make. This section of trail is brutal because it is totally exposed. I can usually go 2-3 hours without taking a break, but today I had to stop almost every hour to cool down. 
Hard to find shade
Shade at last. I felt like a troll 

The highlight of the day was Vasquez Rocks State Park. When Hollywood needs to film desert scenes or anything from a different planet they come here. One of my favorite movies, Blazing Saddles, was filmed here. 
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area

After leaving Vasquez I only had a few miles to hike until I made it into Agua Dulce. Donna Saufley is an amazing trail angel who runs one of the best hiker hostels ever. I'm not sure hostel is even the right word. She has a few acres that have been turned into hiker trash heaven. She has a communications tent with six computers. Another tent holds two sewing machines to fix gear. A double wide trailer with a/c, tv, movies, and a shower. There are several RV's and campers or you can set your tent up. There are horse corrals for hikers traveling with pack animals. She also does your laundry for you. Last night there were close to 60 hikers here. 
Small percentage of the yard
My new best friend

As soon as I arrived I put my name on the shower list. It took about three hours before I got in. My laundry was actually ready before I got out of the shower. I got a ride back into town and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The food was really good and the portions were gigantic. 
This was after I had already eaten half

I walked back to Hiker Heaven instead of taking the shuttle. I was stuffed and needed to walk off my food high. When I got back to my tent it was after dark. Hikers were sitting around the fire playing guitars, drinking beer, and swapping stories. I went to bed smelling good with freshly laundered clothes and a full belly. Once again life is good! 

Never was so much owed by so many to so few - Winston Churchill 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Day 27- A Tedious Day

May 29, 2016
Tentsite(411.8) to North Fork Ranger Station(436.1) 24.3 Miles

Today I'm going to try something new, I'm not going to go into much detail about my day. Honestly is was pretty boring. I'm going to discuss some of the things I was thinking about. 

I was up and out of camp by 5:45. The other hikers were all impressed by how quickly I break down and head out. I was treated to another great sunrise. 
View from my tent at 5:15 am

The view from the ridgeline was also spectacular. The day started off so well that I honestly was surprised when it went to shit. 
Panoramic from the ridge

I made it to my first water source by 7:45. I was greeted by several other hikers and offered a beer. If there is one thing I have learned after hiking over 2,600 miles is that you never turn down a beer. I usually don't drink IPA's, but I gulped one down this morning. When I finally got back on trail at 8:45 I had a slight buzz. 
Hiker trash getting drunk at 8 am

I was immediately greeted by a steep climb through heavy sand. Imagine walking on the beach, but uphill. It wasn't very much fun. The next seventeen miles were grueling. There was poodle dog bush everywhere. The trail was also very overgrown so it was hard to see. I think I managed to avoid it all, but I guess I'll find out in a few days. It was also incredibly hot today and there was no water for seventeen miles. Watching for poodle dog bush and rattlesnakes through dense brush made for a very tedious long day. 
Dense brush
Poodle dog bush(PDB) everywhere 
Great views 

I hiked my 24 miles and got into camp before five o'clock. Doing back to back 24 mile days was tough. I'm pretty exhausted. Usually when I hike I am able to zone out and let my mind wander, but I couldn't do that today. As a result the day went by really slowly. One of my favorite things about thru-hiking is hiking alone and letting my mind wander. Out here we have very few distractions. It is easy to remain in the moment. Without tv, internet, and social media the world slows down and becomes very large. Walking 24 miles takes all day to accomplish. My mind goes to amazing and sometimes weird places. People in cars can cover the same distance in twenty minutes, but they barely have time to contemplate what to buy at the grocery store. In a typical day I see more beauty than some people see in their whole lives. I meet new and interesting people daily. People who work the typical 9-5 can go years without meeting as many people as I do in one day. When I was in Wrightwood a few days ago somebody asked me why I thru hike. I didn't have a very good answer, but I have had 67 miles to think about it. I am lucky enough to be in a position where nobody can tell me what to do or how to do it. What dictates my day is water, food, and shelter. I am surrounded by beauty and amazing sights all day. I meet fascinating people who are all like minded. They range from young to old, skinny to fat, different religions and ethnicities, from around the entire world. I feel like I am living life the way it is meant to be lived. Somewhere along the way modern man forgot what it is like to be so closely in touch with nature. I think in doing so we lost a little bit of our humanity. 

Life is either a great adventure or nothing
- Helen Keller

Day 26- 400 Miles And A Lot Of Road Walking

May 28, 2016
Little Jimmy Campground(383.9) to Tentsite(411.8) 27.9 Miles*
* Missed pct trail miles due to endangered species trail closure. Actual daily mileage: 24.9 Miles

I woke up this morning very well rested. It was cold out last night, but the wind wasn't too bad. I actually slept warm for only the second time this whole trip. It made a huge difference to my day. I woke up and felt like crushing some miles. The first two miles flew by. Before I knew it I was at the beginning of the endangered species closure. I chose to do the seven mile road walk instead of the twenty mile alternate trail route. I picked the road because I didn't want to walk twenty extra miles for a five mile closure. I also didn't want to carry an extra days worth of food to do the trail alternate. The road walk wasn't too bad. The views were pretty, there wasn't a lot of traffic, and I had a decent sized shoulder to walk on. 
View from the road
Sweet tunnel I walked through
Random chair lift off of the highway
Only sketchy part of road walk

The seven miles went by quickly. Once I rejoined the pct it began to get very hot out. I managed to miss a reliable water source and I was starting to get nervous about finding water. I was down to 1L when I got to Camp Glenwood. I wasn't 100% sure I could get water there. When I walked up to the lone cabin off of the trail I saw four backpacks up against the cabins wall, but I didn't see any hikers. This was strange because it was a private cabin that hikers don't have access to. Upon further investigation I discovered that the cabin's owner was doing trail magic. He invited me to join the others and cooked me two hotdogs! I didn't pack enough food for this section and those two hotdogs helped to bridge the gap. 
Thanks for the trail magic Brad

After filling up my water bottles and eating lunch I took a lot of breaks hoping that my group would catch up to me. I had no such luck, I wouldn't see them for the rest of the day. I'm almost out of the high desert and the terrain is starting to look more desert-like with every step. I hit a ten mile stretch that was covered in poodle dog bush, but luckily it was easy to avoid. 
The last of the high desert terrain 

Early in the day I hit another milestone, the 400 mile mark. Once agin the marker had already been made. Whoever is making them is doing a great job. I couldn't even "Yodafy" it. There wasn't anything I could think of doing to make it better. 
400 miles in 26 days

I leapfrogged with a bunch of new faces today. I'm so used to being in with my group that I momentarily felt out of place. Neon, Toogle, Aaron, and Wolf did a great job of making me feel welcome. We are camped at the same place tonight. We had a great dinner together and everyone was in their tents by 7:30. I'm looking forward to getting to bed early. I hope to do another 24 mile day tomorrow. There is another long stretch of poodle dog bush and a 20 mile dry section. Unless I want to carry five liters I need to hit 24 miles so I can camp at a water source. I miss my trail family, but I also enjoyed meeting and hiking with new people. 

Somedays, I grow tired of life, and long, for the next great adventure
- Atticus

Friday, May 27, 2016

Day 25- Who The Heck Is Robert Baden Powell

May 27, 2016
Wrightwood(369.3) to Little Jimmy Campground(383.9) 14.6 Miles

Today didn't go exactly the way I had planned. I wanted to get out of town early, but that did not happen. Somebody set their alarm for 4:10 this morning. They didn't get up that early, but unfortunately I could not go back to sleep afterwords. The majority of the group was up by 5:30, but we didn't leave Kathy's house until 9:30. I'm still not sure what we did all morning. 

After leaving Kathy's we went to the bakery for breakfast and then sat around talking with other hikers. Around 10:00 I was done waiting for everyone else. I was just getting ready to hitch back to the trail by myself when Amanda and Sasha offered me a ride with a trail angel they stayed with last night. I didn't get back to the trail any earlier this way, but our driver Rueben was entertaining. 
Rueben and his awesome Jeep

I didn't start hiking today until 11 am. We had a very difficult Appalachian Trail like climb today. With the late start I felt pressured to hike as fast as possible to make our daily miles. Mount Baden Powell was no joke. I am absolutely worn out. We gained 2,600 feet of elevation in just under four miles. I was hoping to finish the climb in two hours, but I managed to finish a little faster than that. 
Making some headway 

Mount Baden Powell was amazing. I enjoyed the climb more than I thought I would. I was really dreading it beforehand, but it was a challenging and beautiful hike. As to my original question, Who the heck is Robert Baden Powell? For the benefit of those of you who didn't google the answer, he was a British general and the founder of the modern Boy Scouts. 

Just before reaching the summit I was really struggling to catch my breath. As soon as I hit 7,500' I start to struggle with the lack of oxygen. The summit was at 9,406'. It wasn't the highest peak I've climbed so far, but it is the highest in the pct to date. 
Almost there
View to the east
The upcoming desert looming below
View to the west. The pollution from Los Angeles obscuring the view of the ocean  
Yoda pose
Random rock Uturn found
Current group L-R
Yoda, Sasha, Evac, Amanda, Outro, Spacemen, Warren, Hawkeye

We spent about an hour relaxing and enjoying the view. It was almost 3 and we still had six more difficult miles to go. On the way down from the summit we passed the "Wally Tree". It is a tree that is estimated to be 1,500 years old. It was pretty neat to see. 
 The Wally Tree
Wally Tree covered with hikers

We hiked past a few areas that were still covered in snow. Today was great hiking weather. It was slightly cool out, but while I was hiking I was comfortable. Two weeks ago the summit still had a lot of snow. Now it was just tiny patches we cut across. 
Do you want to build a snowman 

The remaining five miles were predominantly downhill. By the time I made it into camp my legs were shot. We are camped in a backcountry campground which had a few amenities such as picnic tables, pit toilets, and fire rings. It is cold enough tonight that a fire is fantastic. Before we decided to start one, I roamed around warming up at complete strangers fires. By the time we started ours it was already nine o'clock. After getting almost no sleep last night all I wanted was my sleeping bag. While I'm writing this Evac, Outro, Warren, and Hawkeye are sitting next to a fire drinking beers and listening to music with some locals. 
Home tonight
Sweet fire

I'm hoping to get up early and make some miles. Early in the day I have a long road walk due to an endangered species detour. Some type of toad is causing a 5.8 mile section of the trail to be closed. We can either hike 26 miles of trail to get around the closure or hike a seven mile road detour. I choose the road. 

There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free. Don't miss so many of them.
Jo Walton

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Day 24- Another Town Day

May 26, 2016
Campsite(361.7) to Wrightwood(369.3) 7.6 Miles

Today was my best morning on the trail so far. I didn't get the best nights sleep last night. I pitched my tent on a very big slope. As a result I kept sliding off of my sleeping pad and hit the front door of my tent. There were better places to set up, but I wanted the best vantage point for the sunrise. I do not regret my decision. As soon as I opened my eyes this morning the sun was beginning to peak above the surrounding mountains. 
Best part of waking up is not Folgers in your cup 
30 seconds later
My camp spot 

I took my time packing up. We had less than 10 miles to hike before getting into town. I was on the fence about spending another day in town. Today was pretty interesting. For almost the entire hike we went around and through a ski resort area. After spending a winter in Telluride I had to laugh at what they considered to be blue runs. 
Chairlift selfie

I couldn't see where we had hiked yesterday. As we left camp we started walking in a different mountain range. We are now in the San Gabriel mountains. They are very beautiful, cold, and have a steeper elevation gain. For a good portion of the morning I could see the moon. It made for some great pictures. 
Barely visible moon
One of my favorite pictures so far

After hiking a short day I found myself at Highway 2. Wrightwood was 5.5 miles down the road, but it was a very easy hitch. Spaceman and I got down to the road crossing and immediately we were offered a ride into town. We didn't even have to stick our thumbs out. We got a ride to the local hardware store. They had a great selection for thru-hikers and were very hiker friendly. Next we went to the market/gas station. They had free hotdogs for us. Score!

Hikers outside the market

Of course our next stop was to get real food. We went to a local cafe for breakfast. The portions were huge and the food was really good. The place was packed with hikers and locals alike. 
Packs galore 

I was absolutely stuffed after breakfast, but I still managed to find room for a milkshake. I've been dreaming of one for weeks now. 
Strawberry Milkshake 

Since I was so full it was the perfect time to do my resupply shopping. If I go into a store with my full blown hiker hunger I buy way too much food. This time I think I got it just right. While we were doing our town chores we met back up with Outro. She had secured a place for us to stay at a trail angels house. 

Kathy and her daughter Scout host a few hikers every night during hiker season. They graciously agreed to host all six of us. We stayed in a camper in their driveway. It was a tight fit with all six of us, but we made it work. We did laundry again and took showers. We got pizza and brought it back to the house. We sat in the driveway and hungout way too late. Uturn took advantage of the kitchen privileges and cooked peach cobbler. All in all it was a very relaxing early day. 
Our home for the night
Cozy Accommodations

Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into - that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.
Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit