Monday, April 30, 2012

30 April - PCT humor photos

So after we left Scissor's Crossing and its cache of water, we came across what appeared to be another type of cache -- maybe candybars or snacks or something. It was alongside the trail north of the Crossing:

We were learning to expect bounty in the oddest of places -- so finding this up the trail among the cacti and rattlesnakes was delightful.

So we opened it.

Too funny.

30 April - Day 10 - back to the blooming desert

Scissors Crossing (Mile 77) to campsite above 3rd Gate cache (mile 94).

Total PCT Miles today: 17

Seano and Dionysus (Chris) under the protection of those fab umbrellas.

Charles here and this is just a quick note. We are behind in our journaling but these days are so full of hard work and stunning beauty ... No amount of journaling would do this justice.

My feet better. We get through.

Amazing terrain today in the arid San Felipe mountains. Cactus all in bloom. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Blooming prickly pear, beaver tail, chollo, ocotillo (not a cactus), many agaves in chartreuse bloom (also not cactus), etc. A Martian landscape full of strange alien lifeforms we marvel at. Our ultra lite reflective parasols allow us to move through the day's heat with much less wear and tear (it seems to us) than the many hikers who do not have them. But the San Felipes treat us well.

There's Scissors Crossing & the bridge we slept under before ADZPCTKO. Those are the desert mountains we came down, the valley we have crossed, and we're heading up the other side.

Charles (Pan) and Chris (Dionysus) under reflective umbrellas.

We climbed higher up out of the arid mountains on the far side of the San Felipes to where chaparral took over the landscape.

At the Third Gate Cache we hoped to get resupplied with water -- this area simply has none. Yes, there was water! This is how it looked:
Charles & Seano refilling our water bottles from the cache. Thank you Trail Angels!!

Supper at the Third Gate Cache -- Christo and Charles making up mac & cheese with tuna. [We will shortly swear off Kraft's Mac & Cheese forever ... ]

Here at the Third Gate Cache we met Christine and Louisa, German graduate art students. (They will wind in and out of our travels for the next 650 miles, as it turns out).

We hiked a few miles higher into the chaparral -- and not far from where Tina and Louisa were camped, we cleared room in the dense manzanita scrub for a cowboy camp under the stars.

Photo courtesy of Rattlebee.

The wind roared like crazy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

26, 27, 28, 29 April - Zero days

Charles here.

We catch a ride from the Scissors Crossing highway bridge overpass with the fab trail angel Symbiosis to attend the several-day gathering of current and past PCT hikers -- thru-hikers and section hikers -- as well as Trail Angels. This is the "Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off" or "ADZPCTKO" for short.

Here I spend time getting my feet to heal. Sean and Chris are hale & hearty and having a great time. Chris ends up taking me to events piggyback since walking is so difficult for me. Soon, strangers are coming up to me from out of the blue and asking, "Are you the one with the terrible blisters who made it as far as Scissors Crossing?"

We see our beloved trail angels and section hikers Jan and James, as well as our equally adored Frodo, and we get to meet her husband, Scout (a great guy who, unbeknownst to any of us, is the Board Chair of the Pacific Crest Trail Association).

"Dr. Sole" operating on Charles's feet at the ADZPCTKO
Sean and Christo in our Kick Off campsite.
Wild turkeys wander past the tents ... clearly unconcerned that Tom of Kennedy Meadows is smoking turkeys nearby ...
The Gay Caballeros. As it happened, Freebird, a thruhiker we would see over and over throughout the coming five months, and even finish on the same day with, was one of our campsite neighbors, and he took this photo.

Charles practices walking trying out various insoles. Chris isn't hopeful.
Hungry hikers lined up for dinner. Photo by The Donald, intrepid and speedy thru-hiker who was even older than Charles. We came to know him later.
Here's the PCT Class of 2012 (not counting the ones who are already on the trail or arriving later)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

25 April - Day 5 - Desert Blooms & Hobo Camping

25 April - Day 5 - Desert blooms & hobo camping

Sunrise Trailhead (Mile 059) to Scissors Crossing (mile 077).
Total PCT Miles today: 18

Charles here.

Sean breaking camp while Charles makes breakfast.
Broke camp under darkening gray skies. Still no rain.

Came across a young thru-hiker (I won't name me him since I didn't get his permission) leaning against a post - his knee duct taped. Turns out he had fallen with his heavy pack and wrenched his knee & twisted his ankle. Despite the pain ( and the crushing disappointment that his hike might well be over for this year) he was showing real composure and even a wry sense of humor. I checked his knee for swelling, for signs of meniscus tear, for any sign of a break. None of the above as far as I could see. So there was hope it was just a minor sprain. Ankle was also twisted but zero swelling. Once his ride out was confirmed, we headed on.

My feet were bad. But we needed to get in more than 20 miles if we were to hope to get to Warner Spgs for our ride on the 27th. Descending zigzag into stunningly beautiful mountain desert, we put up our umbrellas (cool ultralite reflective ones) that let us pass right thru the day's heat. Sean and Chris took lots of cool cactus shots.

But my feet are now blistered beyond use. Need to heal up. All our best efforts are doing some good but the damage of the day's hike makes things much worse. Time to give up on the "plans" and take time off to heal. Frustrating.

Ended up camping under a hwy overpass as a rain storm blew in. We are true "hiker trash" now. Geez.  As the wind whipped sand through our tunnel, and we tried to cook, another thru-hiker arrived -- Golden Ray. He communicated with us by writing in a notebook, as he's deaf. Other thru-hikers (or section hikers) camped beyond the bridge among the trees.

Chris peeking out of his swank accommodations. Charles's kitchen in the background.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24 April - Day 4 - the Laguna Mtns

Mile 043 to 059. Mt Laguna to Sunrise Trailhead.

Total PCT Miles today: 16

Charles here.

Late start getting out of the cabin. My feet are still a blistered mess. I tape and re-tape, bandaging them up. We move out across trails leading along thru Jeffrey pines and here & there past a Coulter pine with its huge clawed heavy "widow-maker" cones. Our trail took us high up into the chaparral above the pines. A blooming forest of manzanita, ceanothus, mtn mahogany, and buckthorn - all of it shoulder-height, and sculpted in endlessly interwoven Bonsai shapes. Below bloomed Baby Blue-eyes, Popcorn flower, & Calif Peony, among others. It would be so easy to make these daily posts into lists of the botanical, ornithological, zoological and physiographical marvels we encounter with such cheerful wonder. But this space isn't the place. We'll make note of some as "flavoring particles" for memory, though.

Yucca sending up its blooming stalk.

We spent all day in bright sun working our way north along the crests and edges of the Laguna Mountains-- always about 5400 ft elevation or so.

Seano pointing past the Anza-Borrego to distant San Jacinto.

From Foster's Point we could look north and northwest across the brown and chalky expanses of the Anza-Borrego Desert to the arid and tectonically active San Felipe Range (that we will soon ascend in a few days). Beyond them we can see on the distant horizon the blue silhouette of Mt San Jacinto ( over 10,000 ft tall ) that lies on our trail. In fact it is the north end of the Peninsular Ranges we are hiking in - a range stretching from the southern tip of Baja (Chris & I hiked the southern end in Baja about 5 yrs ago). Beyond San Jacinto we can just make out the distant hump of Mt San Gorgonio (above 11,000 ft). We can see snow there still.

 It is dreamy and lovely walking and walking - and when we meet other thru hikers we all exchange a knowing - almost conspiratorial - smile & nod. We get this. All this is ours and for seemingly endless days and days and weeks and months to come it will be ours. The great sky, the gardening of the gods, the light, the willfull winds, the mica-sparkling trail, and the land rising ever up before us. Glorious.

Charles and Seano at Pioneer Mail Park
We lunch at a park near Garnet Peak trail head where we meet other thru hikers - then hike on and on. We make it to Pioneer Mail Park as the sun is leaning way over westwards. The trail angel who supplies that site with drinking water happened to be there - and she had so many interesting stories of the Indians who lived here. We were fascinated. We were also most grateful for all the gallons of water she had brought. Wow!

Seano and Chris hiking the ridge.

Having loaded up on water, we continue on into the night, hiking with headlamps on to the turnoff to Sunrise trailhead. We arrive late in the dark - with wind and clouds forecast for tomorrow evening since the news on the trail is that a big Pacific storm is on the way.

I cook up garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes in the dark, while Sean and Chris get the tents set up. We shelter behind the tents for the meal. With Slim Jim sausage sticks. Oh man!

Windy night. And I can no longer walk on these feet.

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23 April - Day 3 - Into the pines

Cibbets Campground (Mile 33) to Laguna Mountain Lodge (Mile 43).

Charles here.

Today we hiked up higher out of the blooming chaparral above 5000 ft elevation & into the Jeffery pines, cedars, and leafless blooming black oaks. Always like coming home when we enter piney woods. The fragrance of the Jeffery pines in the sun was remarkable. Chris said it was like butterscotch.

Chris and Seano as we got up into the pines. Oooooooh, so fragrant and cool.
 We keep bumping into other thru-hikers who are either NOBO (northbound) and others who are SOBO. The latter are on their way to the big gathering of thru's & former thru's, section hikers, & trail angels (all things PCT) at Lake Morena on the 26-29 of this month -- the ADZPCTKO. Many of the NOBOs are going to catch rides back, as we are. We are meeting interesting and engaging (& accomplished) hikers of all ages and walks of life. But maybe we actually for this time all have "walk of life" in common. And maybe we always shall. We are finding the trail to be the walk of life that matters.

After 10 miles and topping out at 6000 ft my blisters became unmanageable.

Chris & Sean overruled me and insisted I take a Nero (near zero) day. So they rented a cabin we could stay in. Chris became surgeon general working on my feet while Sean pulled laundry duty. For lunch Sean & I split a locally made peach & apple pie and a pint each of ice cream. Chris had a combo of other yummies.

Tomorrow we have to make up for lost time.

22 April, Day 2 - Up into the higher chaparral

Lake Morena to Cibbet's Campground on Kitchen Creek
Mile 21 to Mile 33.
12 Trail Miles.

Charles here. Shorter day today. We planned it this way. My blisters are worse. More journaling to come. It's nuts how much there is to do. No time to journal.

What a pleasure Cottonwood Creek was. We drank and bathed and cooled off. Our chum, Thomas ("Rattlebee") from Berlin hiked most of the day with us.

In Cottonwood Creek
Chris among the flowers called "gold fields."

Charles with blooming gold fields behind.

Then we hiked up higher and higher into the chaparral, until we were seeing Steller's Jays and big live oaks.

That's the campground below.
Here we turned aside and camped at Cibbet's, a campground on a creek off trail a bit. My blisters are pretty bad, and I feel bad that I'm holding everyone back from our goal of more miles. arrggh.

Cooking up dinner under live oaks. 

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

21 April - Day 1

From the Southern Terminus of the PCT (Mile 0.0) to Lake Morena Campground (Mile 21).

Scout drove us from her home in San Diego to the Southern Terminus to begin the hike. There were five of us in the van, and we were jabbering a million miles an hour, we were so excited to be on the way!

Frodo took photos of us at the terminus. Here we are:

From left to right: Thomas from Berlin (whose trail name will become Rattlebee), Charles (who will become Pan), Chris (who will become Dionysus), Alex (a veteran of the Appalachian Trail), and Seano (who will be Seano).

That's the border fence running into the distance with a dirt road beside it for the Border Patrol. That's Frodo's van parked in the dirt parking area behind us. [Photo courtesy of Rattlebee].

After reaching through the barrier fence and grabbing a handful of Mexico -- and after Sean led us in a short ritual to leave grief and bitterness behind us as we begin this amazing trek, we headed out through beautiful blooming chaparral. And lo! There's sweet water to be had! We see chamise, ribbonwood, manzanita, scrub oak, some toyon, etc (all the usual suspects in the chaparral). They are a marvel to me.


Chris and Alex on the trail. The chaparral hills are a green delight for us. Later in the summer, much of this burned.

Thomas, Chris, and Alex taking the shade for a bit. Look how green!

I can tell my feet are in trouble -- so I bathe them in water whenever I can, like Yogi said to do.


We first get to use our reflective ultralite umbrellas. They make a difference!

Lake Morena, our destination! That's our trail, the PCT, on the right of the pic
Temps in the 90°s. Despite best efforts my feet are starting to roast. The track is hotter than the Rockies. Chris & Sean are better, though Sean has contact dermititis like blazes ... but no itch.

Sean, Chris, and I walk past a beehive in the rock wall -- and they pile out and harry us. We run!

We get into camp pretty exhausted -- the camp is full of weekend campers, trailers, etc. -- and I walk on my blistered feet another mile to a convenience store to buy ice cream. A gallon. Three spoons. Sean, Chris, and I ate it all as an hors d'oevre.

Thomas arrives later, after dark -- and we were worried about him. He had a misadventure -- walking past the same beehive, he got stung several times. Swatting the bees away, he knocked off his glasses -- but couldn't look for them for all the bees. He ran from the bees down the trail and nearly stepped on a rattler that curled up and buzzed like crazy. Bees & rattlers from two directions -- Thomas climbed up a rock and waited it out awhile. This is how he got the trail name "Rattlebee."

I made some dinner for Thomas, and Christo gave him some tequila for his stings. "Tequila?" Thomas asked. "Chris is a sort of Dionysus."

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Friday, April 20, 2012

20 April. Ouverture

Charles here.

We flew bright and early from Colorado to California. Our backpacks were fully packed and in duffel bags. Chris's dad Scott drove us to the airport (thanks, Scott!)

At the San Diego airport, we met up with Thomas from Berlin (whose name later on the trail would be "Rattlebee") and liked him immediately. We yacked together enthusiastically until Jan, a wonderful trail angel, came and picked us up in her van.

She whisked us off to the home of Frodo & Scout -- where we got lots of logistical care, and we were immediately taken into the logistical care. Frodo and Jan were taking care of most everyone -- Scout was away, so we didn't get to meet him until later in our travels.

Wow, what deeply caring & dedicated people. Their home is set up as multifaceted hostel & transport hub facilitating every aspect of getting hikers from all over the world ready for their amazing adventure by seeing to it they are fed, equipped, informed, updated, registered - & then transported to REI or Von's or shown the way to the post office - and then to the Southern Terminus of the PCT.

The garage has shipping boxes, Ziplocks, tape, scales, and stacks of packages sent by hikers who will arrive any day now.

The backyard has a large flat lawn for tents, plus out front a tent trailer provides beds ... And there's even a treehouse in the strangler fig out back. Bedrooms, couches, - wherever space can be found. Beautiful home with a huge PCT banner over the front door.

Frodo & Scout have the assistance of warm & welcoming friends like Jan and her husband, and of volunteers like Tristan. A labor of love by folks dedicated to helping people realize a mammoth dream - and tackle what will likely be the most difficult, painful, beautiful, and transformative endeavor these hikers have yet engaged.

We were frankly in awe at such a selfless gracious open-handed spirit in action.

Thomas, and we three headed off to the grocery store to get supplies ~ and we mailed our bounce box ahead to await us with materials we didn't need to lug on our back (maps, some warmer clothes, etc.)

The table was full with 15 tonight (other thru-hikers and friends headed out for pizza elsewhere) – and laughter, stories, wine & song accompanied the lavish meal cooked by Frodo and Jan.

Hospitality chez Frodo the Incomparable (standing left). At the table, in the foreground, the fabulous Jan and her mountain-climbing hubby James. On right, in tan shirt, Dayhiker. Further down the table, Peter (from NZ), hidden behind him is his son Hamish, then Sean, Charles, and Chris. On left side of table, Joker in the blue. Other names I've forgotten. [Photo courtesy of Thomas "Rattlebee" Schiegg from Berlin].


As we headed to our tents, the house hummed with the eager conversations of not only US hikers, but of Germans (Nuray and Thomas), Kiwis (Peter and Hamish), and Brits, as well.

Our adventure has begun at an oasis of hospitality and empowerment.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

14 April ~ Hiking and Concocting "American porridge"

Charles here. That's Seano, there. We were just assembling breakfasts for our nine days while it is raining and snowing a little outside. Some of this breakfast we're mailing ahead to ourselves. The rest we're carrying.
Here's Seano helping me assemble 27 breakfasts (9 days x 3 men).
It was back in 1991 when Sean and I were working on the first scientific survey of uninhabited Henderson Island in the far reaches of the Southeast Pacific that my oatmeal got dubbed "American Porridge" by our intrepid expedition leader (and world-renowned boffo ornithologist), Dr. Michael D. L. Brooke of Cambridge University. For some reason he objected to my presenting this as "porridge" -- and was quite sure it was not porridge. If it was anything, it was "American Porridge" -- since I was adding walnuts, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, brown sugar, milk and butter (and a dash of salt). Six days of this we're carrying to Warner Springs, 110 miles along the trail. At WS we'll pick up mail packages, including the breakfasts that will take us up out of the chapparal- and sage scrub-covered Peninsular Ranges and into the Transverse Ranges -- with pines and snow and rocky Mt. Jacinto. There at Idyllwild we'll have more dried milk and fuel to pick up -- and more breakfasts and suppers to assemble (but they have supermarkets there).

Today "Mouse" phoned -- Matthew Zion -- and asked us if we'd like to get in a hike before we fly out. Our first hike with a fellow PCT-hiker!! (yay).  He's a former student of mine, but he's no kid. He's a Navy veteran, and a veteran of the AT (Appalachian Trail) and the CT (Colorado Trail) the latter of which he yoyo'd (hiked out and back 1200 miles) last summer. We bumped into him on the CT while we were section hiking last year. While he was in my class a year ago at university, I'd pick his brain like mad since we were both planning separately this year's big PCT hike.

"Mouse" (Matthew Zion) and Charles at Chautauqua Park
Mouse is just getting over an IT band injury that's on the mend. He can't get out to start the trail, however, until the semester finishes around May 10 -- about three weeks after us. We're attending KO, so that will knock us off by a few days. I'm guessing we'll have a 275- or 300-mile lead on Mouse when he starts, but that he'll catch us up in no time -- he's fast and light (a master of UL backpacking) and a consummate athlete.

Spring is thoroughly sprung all around us: sand lilies, wild plum, golden currants, wax currants, white, purple, and yellow violets, columbine, mountain candytuft, chickweed, endless Oregon grape, chokecherry just about to blossom, wild apple a riot of pink/white blossoms, etc. 

Today's hike was a breeze -- the four of us hiked and chatted, and we moved along at a pretty good pace -- and we ended up shaving off 30 minutes from what it usually takes us (so, 13 miles in 4 hrs). And that's counting a fifteen minute dawdle at Eldorado Canyon Creek while I soaked my feet, washed my socks, and slurped the delicious artesian water. Four hours? WTF? I've been more than two weeks out of commission with bronchitis (zero exercise), and Sean and Christo have been snowed under with writing, and packing, and logistical stuff. In fact, Christo had to get back to the car to get to work, so he and Seano headed out before I was done at the creek, and Mouse and I came along afterwards. Christo and Seano managed the round trip in 3 hrs. 40 minutes -- a 50-minute improvement on their best time previously. Geez. We must be getting even stronger. Our legs feel just fine tonight -- and our feet aren't hammered.

But the movers come in two days. So tomorrow, all righteousness must be fulfilled. And then we attend Chris's graduation party at his parents' house (double yay). He'll be wearing his graduation gifts from us, including a 2200-year-old Dionysos silver tetradrachma mounted as a necklace. We're pretty sure Dionysos is Christo's patron Greek god. If I told you how many times we came home to find Christo with grapes and grape leaves woven into his hair, sans toga, reaching to pour us the fruit of the vine from a goatskin ... well, you just wouldn't believe us. But those of you who get to meet him on the PCT will. Oh you will. :-)

Six days from now we're on the plane. Wowie.

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