Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 26 and 27 - Road Walking

May 22, 2012
Day 26 and 27
Miles: 47 (over 2 days)
Total Miles: 431

Rattler poised to strike!
Did some good miles these last two days!  Yesterday, May 21st, I did 23 miles to Sulphur Springs CG - an old abandoned campground with no water but a flat space and a big shade tree.  I was the only one camping.  Other than running across Ben T. back at the boy scout campground at mile 401, this was a solo day of hiking.  A hiker named Bear, who is not hiking the trail this year, left a nice cache of bananas and apples on the trail.  I ate two bananas and took an apple to go.  What a great suprise and really helped me feel like things are starting to look up.  Thanks Bear!

Many of the miles today and yesterday were road walking due to an Endangered Species detour put into effect a few years ago to bypass the breeding area of the Mountain Yellow-Legged frog, and because of the Poodle Dog Bush Detour.  The endangered species detour added an extra mile of walking and a 2.7 mile road walk on Highway 2.  The highway was not busy so this was not a bad road walk.  The PDB detour, however, resulted in dirt and/or paved road walking for 18 miles.  This plant is apparently all over trail in places and there is no way to avoid it unless you walk an old mountain road that parallels the trail.

I hiked mostly alone today as well but met up with Eddie at Messanger Flats CG.  He is section hiking through to Tehachapi I believe.  He carries a bible and holy water and blesses the ground each night before sleeping.  He is also a Boy Scout (Eagle perhaps) and is an active leader with his troop.  Nice guy!

Burned trees from the Old Station Fire in 2009

Day 25 - Mt. Baden-Powell

May 20, 2012
Day 25
Miles: 19
Total Miles: 384

Feeling almost 100% today!  Made it nineteen miles, up and over Mt. Baden-Powell, named after one of the founders of the modern boy scout organization.  Mt. Baden-Powell reaches 9,399 feet and has some great views in all directions.

Also was able to catch the partial solar eclipse tonight on my way to the Little Jimmy CG.  My Canon compact camera did an ok job of capturing the eclipse but ultimately I was let down by the event.

This is the best I could do with my Canon S100

Little Jimmy Spring - one of the better springs I have come across

Day 24 - The Big "D"! - Part 2

May 19, 2012
Day 24
Miles: 2
Total Miles: 365

Soon after the sun came up I realized that regardless of these episodes of explosive diarrhea, there was a more insidious and sly process occurring.  Slowly and as I hiked, the brown excretion was dripping out even as I did everything in my power to regulate an impenetrable barrier.  Before I realized it my base layer was soiled and stinking and a slick slimy fluid had soaked in and I had no choice but to remove it and stuff it into my Sea-To-Summit dry bag alongside the ziplock containing my underwear from camp that morning.  I continued hiking with nothing between my zip-off hiking shorts and my dirty ass.  Things went downhill fast after this:  my precious TP was quickly depleted, the water I had been careful to conserve now had to be used to rinse my backside after every nasty episode, was running low.  This was doubly disheartening as I was quickly becoming dangerously dehydrated now that the blazing sun was mercilessly beaming down on me in the late morning heat of the high desert.  The hotter it got, the more I realized that I smelled...really bad.  There was no way to stay completely clean without water and TP, and my sleeping bag was not contained in a dry bag but merely rolled up and stuff into my backpack.  The air about me was rank as I approached a couple of hikers a few miles from the Acorn Trail that lead down into Wrightwood.  I maintained a safe distance from the two German girls, Repunzel and XXX as I described my condition, down-playing how serious things were, and then quickly passed them.  I must have had a ghostly look on my face because a mile later they found me passed out beneath a big tree, unable to continue for the time being, and offered to carry my pack down to Wrightwood, "or anything in your pack.  We can carry your tent and your sleeping bag to lighten your load?"  "Nah, you don't want to do that, I'll be fine." I told them and then encouraged them to move on.   I had hiked almost 17 miles that morning and had skipped breakfast and dinner the night before.  I knew the down-hill side trail would be no problem - I was almost home.

I managed the last couple miles to the Acorn trail and made my way down two and half more miles, descending 2,500 feet, to the town of Wrightwood.  A last humiliation almost befell me in Wrightwood as I searched desperately for a hotel with an available room.  Checking on the Pines Motel, one of the few motels in this small town, I found they were booked!  I was panicking as it was a Friday and hotels book up on weekends.  Across the street I found the small - 4 room - Canyon Creek Inn and praying desperately to the trail gods I called the number posted on the door to the office and spoke to a genial woman who advised me that YES, there is a room available, the price is $79 per night (almost twice the rate of the hiker friendly Pines Motel), and YES it has a private bathroom with shower and tub!  "I'll take it!" trying to disguise the simultaneous desperation and relief in my voice.  "Use this code to access the key inside the lockbox and go ahead and check yourself in" she told me as I impatiently relayed her the details of my Visa Credit Card.

I took the most glorious, long shower that day in the Canyon Creek Inn motel room.  I washed everything that could be washed and slept on a comfortable mattress until dinner time.  I managed to meet other hikers at a mexican restaurant that night but could only stomach a couple bites of my carne asada dinner.    I was happy to shower again before bed and pass out watching tv content to have a toilet a few feet away.

The next day, May 19th, I took some Immodium A.D. and it worked like a charm to kill worst of the diarrhea.  I hung out as long as possible at the hotel and then crossed the street to the Pine Hotel's common picnic area and lounged for most of the afternoon with other hikers.  The PO was right down the street so I spent a couple hours updating blogs and emails.  At breakfast that morning I was able to stomach a full meal for the first time in several days at the Evergreen Cafe.  At 4 I prepared for the long hike back up the Acorn Trail and made camp just a couple miles past the trailhead at the Guffy Campground - needing a slow start back on the trail.

Day 23 - The Big "D"! - Part 1

May 18, 2012
Day 23
Miles: 16
Total Miles: 363

Sick, dirty and generally feeling, and smelling, like shit!

This was easily my worst day of the hike so far.  Warning, this journal entry is DESCRIPTIVE and DISGUSTING, so if you are my mother or anyone who would rather not read about these kinds of hard-ships on the trail, please stop here!

Food poisoning at McDonalds yesterday caused diarrhea last night in the middle of the night.  Let me be clear, I shat myself in my sleeping bag last night, and then proceeded to wander into the dark thorny desert to find a spot to relieve the rest of what was dripping involuntarily through my sphincter!  I believe I woke up from the rank odor in my bag, and a warm wet feeling in my shorts, and was therefore spared a full-on soiling of my bag.  It was three in the morning, I had dirty underwear and sleeping bag and wasn't quite sure I could trust myself to sleep while at the same time control this onslaught of diarrhea, so I decided on a plan of action - pack up and hike all morning and get to Wrightwood by lunch so I can check into a room and take care of myself while this passes.  I also wanted to be alone for obvious reasons.  I changed out of my underwear and rolled them up into a tight ball stuffing them into a ziplock bag that I had been using to store food, and simply wore my Patagonia Base Layer during that chilly morning with no boxer-briefs beneath (I only hiked with one pair of underwear).  I quietly packed up the tent and sleeping bag trying desperately not to wake the others camping nearby.  The sleeping bag was stuffed into my pack but only after a futile attempt was made to clean the soiled part with sticks and brush, and started making my way to the base of the morning's climb up 5000 feet of elevation to the Acorn Trail leading down to the town of Wrightwood, about 17 trail miles away.  

I was in a more dangerous situation than I realized, for not only was I sick but I was about to under-take a 5000 foot climb in a dry desert setting while succumbing more and more to dehydration brought on by the diarrhea that had begun yesterday.  My last meal was yesterday's lunch at McDonalds for in my misery and nausea I had skipped last nights dinner.  As I walked I constantly scanned the terrain in an effort to find a place to jump off trail.  When switch-backing up a mountain this can be particularly challenging as more often than not one side of the trail is a rocky slope angling steeply above me and the other side drops off treacherously down the mountain so that there is no level place to hide.  If I did manage to climb up the slope to a tree or large bush, such would be the angle of the hill that squatting down to defacate in a hole while grasping at whatever scratchy and thorny branches were nearby would take extreme concentration and leg strength, that which I did not possess in my state.  I did once manage to make the climb up to such a bush but by the time I reached it, the expelled exertion was so great that the reaction of my body was to speed up the diarrheal urge, so that I barely had time to scratch out a target in the dirt about a half-inch inch deep before pulling down my pants, my chest heaving from the effort, sweat now dripping off my brow, my legs bent and trembling in a squatted position, and completely missing my target.  I loosely covered up what I could with sticks and other plant debri and cautiously slid down the hill to the trail.

In the midst of all this I experienced one of the most beautiful desert sunrises.  The morning sun was just beginning to illuminate the valley fog below me which had rolled in during the night and covered my hiking comrades thousands of feet below me in a cold misty fog.  I was above the weather though and graciously allowed the sun to wash over me as it peaked out from behind the San Gabriels.  I caught some beautiful pictures as the sun came up and also took a picture of myself in the early morning light thinking I needed capture this low point on film, for this blog, to help portray this misery.  The picture captures me looking weak and dirty with a tired hallowed look on my face.  It fails to capture the utter desperation I felt at that time due to the circumstances described above.

Click Here for the continuation of this story.

Beautiful sunrise over the San Gabriel Mountains

Day 22 - McDonalds (!?)

May 17, 2012
Day 22
Miles: 11
Total Miles: 347

Justin, 3-Bears, Matt, Ben and Christina enjoying lunch 
In the "normal" world I avoid McDonalds as much as possible.  I'm a health nut and prefer almost anything to eating at a fast food restaurant.  However, on trail, these notions change quickly.  The McDonalds at the I-15 crossing in Southern California is a beacon for all thru-hikers.  The thought of an Egg Mc-Muffin spurs many hikers to great mileages.  In my case, the big miles came yesterday (28 miles) and I was left with only a six mile hike to reach I-15 and McDonalds for breakfast!

First came the double Sausage McMuffin w/ Egg meal with a large coffee and hashbrowns.  Two hours later came lunch:  a grilled chicken salad and large strawberry milkshake.  Two hours later came the...indigestion, ill-feelings and general desire to lock myself in a dark, quiet room and sleep!  The food was not settling but I had already spent 5-6 hours here and needed to move on lest they decide to put me to work!

It turns out that ill-feeling was not just a case of greasy food shock to the system.  I had contracted food poisoning!  Two miles out from I-15 and it hit fast with the big "D".  I had no time to dig a cat-hole - I barely had to time to run off trail behind a bush.  I SHOULD have turned around and run back to the freeway and stayed at the Best Western down the road, but I convinced myself that it would pass quickly. Big Mistake!  I went another mile and had the urge to lay down and take a nap, where in the midst of this misery, a solitary humming bird floated above my face in mid-air and examined this new creature who had invaded it's territory.  I momentarily forgot my misery and delighted in the presence of this other sentient being observing me.

Humming Bird in the Desert

  After the nap I hiked on another 2-3 miles to a wonderful water cache by a dirt road - complete with lounge chairs and Calistoga water.  Here I made camp and after a few words with some other hikers, turned in early to try and sleep it out.  Little did I know that later this night would begin one of the most miserable 24 hours on the trail yet.

Unfortunate Graffiti on a trail sign looking down on Deep Creek

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 21 - Deep Creek Hot Springs

May 15, 2012
Day 21
Miles:  23
Total Miles:  308

I took my time this morning with breakfast and coffee - the last one to depart from the camp site.  I started walking at about 7:45, at least an hour past my preferred starting time.  I passed Desert Fox and Masa again.  Masa is a Japanese hiker who I've been skipping around the past week or so on the trail.  He is easily identified with his bright pink shorts and tall gaiters up to his knees.  He is short and carries a 60+ lb pack under his small frame.  Somehow, through, he is always ahead of me on the trail.  I've learned to recognize his footprints in the dirt and everyday I seem to catch him in the afternoon (after my late start) and pass him a few hours before camping.  I usually pass him on the uphill sections and I pass him with a smile  as he says to me "I'm tired" with his strong Japanese accent and usually big smile.  He speaks just a little english but his facial expression says it all for me.


Sand Bags at the Hot Springs
Gopher Snake?

I had lunch at the bridge at the deep creek - a nice scenic spot with shade, sand and a shallow, cool creek to wade into where the knats are not so ferocious.  By evening I made it to the Deep Creek Hot Springs - a clothing optional hot springs that has several springs forming hot pools that flow into the creek.  Sand bags have been used to block the flow so that pools of several feet deep form to soak in and relax.  I caught up to Three Bears, Ben, Justin and the Three Gay Caballieros here.

Hikers lounging at the hot springs

Day 20 - Burned Forest

May 14, 2012
Day 20
Miles:  19
Total Miles:  285

Ten people riding to the trail - with gear!

Got a late start today after the ride from the hostel was running late.  We managed to fit 9 people + the driver into the station wagon that served as the ride to/from the trail!  I started walking at about 10:30 AM and punched out nineteen miles to get to the camp site ("something" Trail Camp).

The area I hiked through was burned from a recent fire that left miles and miles of land scarred and blackened.  The views were still stunning and there was plenty of evidence of life coming back as the wild flowers were blooming! 

At the hostel I met the Three Gay Caballieros - a trio of gay guys hiking the trail together.  They made it up to the same camp site that night along with Desert Fox and a few other hikers and we all spread out and found quiet spots to settle down. 

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Wild Flowers blooming beneath burned trees

Day 19 - A Little Civility

May 13, 2012
Day 19
Miles:  0
Total Miles:  266

Taking a zero day today at Big Bear Hostel to let my Achilles Tendon heal.  I went to the theatre near the hostel to watch The Avengers, with Pop Star (Carl).  It is very strange to be in these two worlds - the trail world of dirt, dark sun-burned skin and dehydrated meals; and the normal world of clean, shaved, white-skinned and jeans-wearing tourists and week-enders going about their lives.  Sitting in the theatre with Pop Star I started looking around at the audience and everybody seemed so clean and smelled of cologne and shampoo.  Even after a shower and laundry I know I still smelled like the trail. I certainly felt like the trail in my cut-off shorts and sweat-stained hiking shirt and puffy down jacket.  I pulled out the trail mix I had snuck in the theatre in my puffy jacket and enjoyed a little civility, for tomorrow I knew I would be huffing and puffing up or down another mountain.

View of Big Bear Lake from the trail

Day 18 - Big Bear Lake!

May 12, 2012
Day 18
Miles:  14
Total Miles:  266

Big Bear Lake!  I arrived at Highway 18 at noon after punching out 14 miles before lunch.  As I write this, I am sitting at Saucy Mama's Italian Restaurant where I am enjoying a pizza and salad with beer!  I am staying at the Big Bear Hostel for at least two nights to let my right Achilles Tendon heal up.  The hostel is very nice with common rooms, multiple showers, washer and dryer, outdoor seating areas and a full kitchen - everything a dirty hiker needs.

I had a vivid dream this morning before waking up to the sunrise at 5:30.  The dream was about Des, my ex-wife.  Our divorce was finalized in January of this year.  It was a long emotional 9 months leading up to the divorce and I am still second-guessing it.  She died in the dream and I opened my eyes with tears streaming down my face.  I continued to be emotional for another 30 minutes after getting up.  I'm not sure what this means, but I do miss her a lot and hope we can find a future together at some point in the future.  We are still friends but I feel like our relationship is not over - time will tell.  It's not often I have dreams I can remember more than just a few minutes after waking, especially emotional dreams.

Almost to Big Bear

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 17 - Achilles Pain and Poodle Dog Bush

Day 17
May 11, 2012
Miles:  23
Total Miles:  252

Poodle Dog Bush - Best to Avoid
After leaving Ziggy & The Bears house I began climbing up toward San Gregorino - the tallest mountain in southern California.  I hiked with a new group of hikers yesterday and today:  Alasdair and Sarah from England, Gecko, Jasper and two girls from Germany (Juliana and ?).  I also met Ben today after the long hike up at a shady parking lot and picnic table camp site area.

The long slog up from the I-10 corridor was hot and windy.  I was able to pull out 18 miles yesterday and then made camp next to the stream on a rocky and grassy site place right off the trail.  This morning began the big uphill section and I attacked it with everything I had.  From mile 229 where I camped to mile 240, it was all uphill, hot and dry through a winding canyon as I followed the stream from a wide river bed to the trickling north fork stream near the top.  After a well deserved three-hour lunch break, I put in another 12 miles of much easier miles.

I felt pain in my right Achilles tendon today for the first time - not good.  My other foot pains are all normal muscle pains.  I was unable to find the right shoe insert in Idylwild so I've been hiking on some sore feet in the heels and balls of the feet.  The pain seems to move around during the day but it's nothing serious...just toughening up and breaking in the trail legs.  I am worried about my Achilles Tendon so I will probably take at least a couple nights off trail in Big Bear.

I saw Poodle Dog Bush for the first time today at mile 235.  This is a poisonous plant that has been described to me as "poison oak on crack"!  Apparently it can put you off trail for up to a couple of weeks if you are unlucky enough to run into this plant.  This is the first occurrence and now that I know what to look for, I'll be keeping my distance when it makes it's re-appearance in about 100 miles down the trail.

Day 15 - Down, Down, Down!

Day 15
May 9, 2012
Miles:  27
Total Miles:  211

View of San Jacinto from the north side about half-way through my descent
From my camp site last night at about 9,600 feet near the summit, I descended toward the desert floor all day today to a low point of about 1,200 feet.  Yes, that's right, it was a jarring and hot 8,400 foot descent in one day!  No wonder my knee pain is back!  If you don't hike or run often, you may not realize that it's the downhill portions that are often the most painful and difficult on your joints and feet.  It was also VERY hot (I don't know how hot, but others who knew say 100+) with very little shade once I descnded down below the tree line.  This was also my longest mile day so far at 27 miles.  I really did not have too many options but to get to I-10 where I knew trail angels Ziggy and The Bear would take me in and provide shade and water.

They actually provided much more - a hot saline foot bath, ice-cream and brownies!  I cowboy camped in their back yard with other hikers.  I believe I was the 286th hiker they had taken in this season so far - with the big wave still a few days behind me.

In Ziggy's registration form they asked my name, email and another innocuous request that gave me pause:  "Purpose for Hike".  I wrote, "to find my purpose in life."  This is not truly accurate but I did not know of an easier way to express why I am doing this hike.  I could fill pages with a response - and maybe I will at some point but that will have to do for now.

Ziggy & The Bear

Day 14 - Summiting Mt. Jacinto

May 8, 2012
Day 14
Miles:  5
Total Miles:  184
San Jacinto Peak!

An amazing day!  I summited my first major peak on the trail - Mt. Jacinto.  Mt. Jacinto is the second highest peak in southern California at approx. 10,800 feet.  The miles above do not reflect the miles hiked today as they exclude the 2.5 mile climb from Idylwild to the PCT.  From the junction, the trail continues on an alternate PCT route that is 6.2 miles (skipping about 4 PCT miles) that summit's Jacinto.  The trail reconnects to the PCT at mile 185.  So in total, I believe I hiked close to 10 "vertical" miles before camping about a mile or so before the alternate trail reconnects to the main PCT trail.

I arrived at the summit late - at about 7 PM - which forced me to make a quick decent down the other side to find a flat place to camp before it got completely dark.  Snow covered up to 50% of the ground at that altitude and often disguised the trail's zigs and zags, forcing me to carefully observe footprints in the snow to avoid going off trail.  This can be a bit scary when you're the only one at the top of a mountain in the dark with the temperature beginning to plummet.  I missed the main spur trail connection coming down off the peak and went a quarter mile in the wrong direction (which would have brought me down the mountain the same way I had come up) before I realized my mistake and backtracked.  Even a quarter mile is a costly mistake when you have to climb UP in the dark to find the correct trail and you are already dead-tired.  I found the sign marking the western descent just barely visible a foot above the snow line with a red hanker-chief tied to the top.  Relieved, I quickly moved down to find a suitable camping spot which I found at 8 PM in a designated camping area requiring a state permit.  Nobody was there and most of the ground was covered in snow, but I decided that to keep hiking in the dark could be a big mistake, so I setup my tent and set in for the night.

Just a day earlier near this same spot a hiker had gone missing and search teams were sent out.  This same night as I began to fall asleep in my tent, I heard a helicopter fluttering above in the dark and mega-phone blaring into the night.  I could not make out what was said but I can only imagine another day hiker lost and cold and without the proper gear stumbling around in the cold dark forest.  I slept comfortably knowing I had everything I needed in my pack.

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Cabin built by the Peace Corps on the top of Mt. Jacinto

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 13 - Idylwild

Day 13
May 8, 2012
Miles:  0
Total Miles:  179
Breakfast demolished at Red Kettle

I did the final four miles to Saddle Junction yesterday and took the Devil's Slide Trail down to Idylwild - a 2.5 mile side trail.  Idylwild is a very nice, walkable town and  I split a two-bedroom cabin with another hiker.  First stop in town - Red Kettle Cafe for a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon - and hot coffee.

After picking up my resupply package today, I have more food than I can carry for the next section of the hike.  I unfortunately had to ditch a bag of snickers and half a package of dark chocolate covered mint espresso beans...shame!

I am going to catch a ride to the trail parking lot today at two and then hike up to the junction to find a place to camp for the night before tackling the peak of Jacinto tomorrow.

Day 11 - Climbing Hell

Day 11
May 6, 2012
Miles:  18
Total Miles:  175

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Hikers enjoying dinner at camp 4 miles from Saddle Junction in the San Jacintos
Today was the most physically challenging day yet.  I climbed up into the San Jacinto Mountains (San Bernardino Forest) from 5500 feet elevation to about 8200 feet elevation.  The entire day was one steep section after another.  The original plan was to get to mile 179 at Saddle Junction, but a few miles early and after an exceptionally steep section, I crawled into a nice camp site that looked too good to pass up.  Each mile up here is like 2-3 miles on more level terrain.  Each step is like climbing stairs - and often you find yourself using hiking poles to literally pull yourself up the trail.  Each short level section holds brief moments of release when your legs can relax and, for a few seconds, you can stand upright instead of in the forward hunched-over climbing posture. 

The site had amazing views from over 8000 feet above the desert floor.  Water was short - I barely had enough to make dinner - but tomorrow would bring water only a few miles down the trail at a spring.

Day 10 - Paradise Cafe!

Day 10
May 4, 2012
Miles:  23
Total Miles:  157
Tarzan and Little Steps cooking up trail magic

I did eighteen miles before one o'clock and it was so worth it!!  Seeing the highway from a few miles back up the trail, I noticed a couple of campers and tents - trail angels!  As I limped toward Highway 78 and the tents, Tarzan and Little Steps asked me - "would you like an omelet?" do you answer that when you just hiked eighteen miles over some of the driest terrain so far on the trail with only food bars and nut mix to feed your hunger?  I dropped my pack and Tarzan handed me a mushroom spinach omelet wrapped in a tortilla and topped with salsa.  Little Steps handed me a margarita.  These guys must get a kick out of seeing the faces of dirty staggering hikers come to the end of a trail when they have just been handed what he/she desires most in the world.  I got a laugh from the others when I exclaimed enthusiastically, "Why yes I WOULD like an omelet!"  Dr. Sol also had his tent setup and was doing foot repair for in-need hikers. My feet, other than being sore and sensitive, were fine.  No blisters yet!

What drove me to do these 18 miles before lunch, however, was a little place down the highway called Paradise Cafe.  The thought of this place and the lore of the "best burger on the trail" had been fueling me for the entire morning.  After the omelet and margarita, I walked the half-mile to the cafe and ordered a chocolate milk and a "Jose Burger" with sweet potato fries, and a Paradise Amber beer to wash it down.  All was VERY Delicious!

At 5 o'clock, I begrudgingly left the tents at the highway and ambled down the trail another two hours where I camped near the trail.

Day 9 - A Guy Named Mike

Day 9
May 4, 2012
Miles:  21
Total Miles:  134

"A Guy Named Mike's" water tank
Well, yesterday was supposed to be a zero day at Warner Springs but I hiked another two miles after leaving the Community Center and camped out at mile 113 near a babbling brook, along with several others.  Today I had a blistering morning after starting out at 7:30.  I hiked fourteen miles by 10 o'clock and rested in "guy named Mikes" yard up in the hills.  He wasn't home but he opens his porch and water tank to thru-hikers.  The yard is a little suspect, with saws and hatchets hanging up and a skeet shooting setup.  But it was greatly needed after a long morning of hiking with minimal shade.  I headed out at 3:45 and put in another seven miles before hunkering down in a sandy spot by the trail. 

Word from others is that at mile 152 there is a cafe that has a great reputation as a great place for burgers!  I am so looking forward to it!  If they smell me they may turn me away!  Eight days without a shower - another milestone!! 

A couple more days to Idylwild!

Day 8 - Nero in Warner Springs

Day 8
May 3, 2012
Miles:  12
Total Miles:  113

Posing in front of Eagle Rock at mile 106
Took a "Nero Day" today in Warner Springs.  The community center here really set us up:  bathrooms, burgers for $5, internet, coffee, a small supply room and a hiker box.  I was able to resupply for the next few days to Idylwild using the small supply store and hiker boxes.  Unfortunately, no camping or showers here tonight so I hiked up the trail a few miles to camp.  I'm hoping my feet are less sore tomorrow after a half day off the trail. 

More angels came up the trail today bringing gatorade and lunch to Eagle Rock back at mile 106.  I missed lunch but they filled my mug with lemonade!

Day 6 & 7 - Wind!

Day 7
May 2, 2012
Miles:  23
Total Miles:  101

A couple of crazy days of wind!  Yesterday, at the Sunrise Trail-head campsite, I only got a few hours of sleep due to high winds throughout the night.  My tent blew down on top of me several times due to the sandy ground not holding tent stakes.  The early evening was peaceful and I did not expect the wind to pick up in the night.  Let me tell you, it is extremely frustrating and uncomfortable to have to get out of a warm sleeping bag after hiking poles fall on you, put on warm clothes and run around your tent in the middle of the night, in the dark, in the wind, trying to secure it while the wind throws it this way and that.  I finally determined I needed to turn my tent 90 degrees so that it wasn't acting as a sail in the wind.  I also tied the leading side to my half empty pack for additional security as an anchor! 

I woke up miserable with a few hours of sleep and packed up in the still gusty wind and trumped off down the trail cursing.  No sleep, no breakfast...what kind of experience is this?  Well, a little misery is all part of the experience and I can look back on this a week later with a smile.  Hiking took me many windy miles this day across the mountain to a water spigot where I cooked up some instant potatoes and tuna and ate them in tortillas.  Then came the ten mile descent down into the San Felipe desert to Scissors Crossing at Highway 78.  I ended up camping near the overpass in some trees and bushes to protect from the still ferocious wind.  Magellan, Laura, IPod and the Kiwi - Trip were also at the underpass.  Trip hitched to Julian and brought back a whole apple pie, which he shared with hikers!

In the morning on May 2nd I started off at seven AM and hiked five hours up out of the desert to a water cache.  The afternoon was spent hiking the remaining ten miles to Barrel Springs near the town of Warner Springs, just nine miles away.  An amazing thing keeps happening in these first few hundred miles - trail angels!  Fantastic trail angels were waiting for us at Barrel Springs in a couple RV's in a parking lot off the side of the road with beer, gatorade, CHILI DOGS and a seat by a fire!  What an amazing treat after completing my longest hiking day yet, 23 miles.  They had coffee and bagels for breakfast - who could ask for more?  Sometimes I feel like I'm being treated like a rock star while hiking the trail.  So much generosity.

The Barrel Springs Trail Angels

Another first - I crossed 100 miles today!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Days 4 and 5 - Mt. Laguna

Day 5
April 30, 2012
Miles:  17
Total Miles:  59

Tonight I setup camp near Sunrise Trailhead at approx. mile 59.5.  The camping is in a field next to a water spigot powered by solar cells.  Apparently, the solar power draws up water from a well beneath.  There are numerous other campers here tonight including Mike(Just Retired) who I shared a campsite with at KO.

I hiked mostly on my own today and enjoyed the solitude.  Scenery north across the desert was amazing! (trying to post video to this blog but having technical difficulties...)  The scenery changes everyday and even several times a day so it's exciting to see what's next.  There are approximately 3 more days hiking to Warner Springs where I will resupply at the Community Center in town.  My feet and legs are strong - feet are sore but no blisters after the initial two small blisters on Day 1.  The left knee that was concerning me is giving me no trouble now.  I am trying to do some stretches each night to keep the joints flexible but i am more likely to just lay down and crash after a long day of hiking.  Since Warner Springs is closed besides the post office and community center, it looks like Julien is the place to take a zero day.  I may or may not do that.  My clothes need to be washed and a shower would be really nice, but not essential.  After four days without a shower, I am learning to embrace being dirty and smelly.  After a few days you just don't pay attention anymore - an interesting transition from a daily shower habit.  I'm sure I will test my limits of cleanliness this summer more than once.

Yesterday, Day 4, I camped at Mt. Laguna at the Burnt Rancheria Campground.  There was a group of us including Magellan and Breeze, Pekka (Oreido?) and the orignal group that I started off with out of Lake Moreno.  The campsites were $20/night but can include up to 8 people per site.  The father of another hiker booked two sites in advance and refused reimbursement when I offered.  Another example of trail magic. 

View of the desert from Mt. Laguna
Dinner last night was a beef burrito from the Mt. Laguna store, and dinner tonight was dehydrated chicken burritos and rice (burritos seem to be a theme so far...)  I am saving the Bananna Pudding desert from Mountain House for another day.  Weather is sunny but not too warm - the Marmot Sawtooth sleeping bag is keeping me cozy at night - almost too warm!

Hikers taking a break at the Mt. Laguna store

Desert Wildflowers

Day 3 - Boulder Oaks Campground

Day 3
April 28, 2012
Miles:  6
Total Miles: 26

Yesterday (Friday) was spent at Lake Moreno enjoying Burritos for dinner and other trail-angel magic for breakfast (coffee) and luch (tacos from Thomas Figueroa).  Today, Saturday, after a few burgers cooked up at the lake, I took my first trepedacious steps north past Lake Moreno and am now camping with a group of about 6 in the Boulder Oaks Campground 6 miles north at mile 26.1.  Everything is going great so far and I am learning my way around my gear and how much water to carry.  I have the capacity to carry 6 liters of water (a 3 liter bladder, 2 liter platypus and 1 liter platypus).  I am finding that I  need approximately 1 liter for every 3 miles or so - give or take based on weather and elevation changes, etc..  It's a challenge to carry the right volume of water...too much and you end up carrying an extra several un-needed pounds and arrive at your next water stop with several liters.  Too little and you risk being dehydrated.  I think I'll take it cautiously for now and carry more than I think I need until I get the hang of what my body needs on these hot desert hikes.

View from the trail several miles north of Lake Moreno

Day 1 - ADZKO (Annual Day Zero Kick Off)!

Day 1
April 26, 2012
Miles:  20
Total Miles:  20

Today was a good day!  After starting at Campo under windy and rainy skies at 7:30 AM, I hiked the full 20 miles to Lake Moreno by 4:30 PM.  I think my feet and knees were just about at their limits as I could have stopped after 15 miles in.  It was a brutal descent and climb out of Hauser Creek to complete the day.  I have two or three days to heal and let my feet strengthen at the Kick Off Event at Lake Moreno.  My feet suffered only the start of two minor blisters between the big toe and the second toe, on both feet.  I have a big, big toe and this area always rubs on long walks.  I used moleskin at the half-way point to protect it from further blistering - worked like a charm.

I hiked near a woman named Gypsy Girl for much of the hike, but skipped around with the group as people rested and took breaks through-out the day.  I met Jeff Kish who blew past me midway through the hike...I had chatted with him online before the hike and had hoped to meet up with him at some point.  He had a light pack and was making quick progress.  Later I learned he had already been to Lake Moreno and was free of his tent and a few other items on this days hike.  At Lake Moreno I met others I knew only by their name and Facebook profile picture:  Kolby "Condor" Kirk and Andrew Schleff.  After arriving in Lake Moreno I shared a campsite with a great group of younger hikers - Laura, Bryce, Christy and others. 

View of Lake Moreno coming in from Campo

On a walk with Andrew back from the local store, a great couple pulled us over to their RV and fed us pork burritos and beer!  The Trail Magic on this trail continues to amaze me.  Another mis-step:  I forgot to pick up the two cannisters stoves I had reserved from Scout/Frodo that was going to get me through the first week on the trail.  Instead, I found a few at KO without any trouble.  The organization at KO was fantastic.  Everybody there - 2012 thru-hikers, past thru-hikers, trail angels and all others put on an incredible event and made sure we were all taken care of.  This amazing community has come together send us off in style on our five month walk to Canada!

Saturday Dinner of Burgers, Potato Salad and Brownies!

San Diego Pre-Hike Trail Magic

Day 0
April 25, 2012
Miles:  0
Total Miles:  0

Along with Scout & Frodo, Jim and Jan have graciously opened their home to hikers preparing for their epic hike.  They live in San Diego, just a block from Scout/Frodo - well known trail angels.  Together they are hosting 40+ hikers today (Apr 25th).  It will be a "crowded" start at the border tomorrow and then a 20 mile hike to Lake Moreno for ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off)!  I guess I will bask in solitude later, but for now I will enjoy the company of new friends.
My pack, which I checked-in, got mis-directed by SW Airlines after a mix-up in Las Vegas where we were directed to change planes due to a fuel leak.  To SWA's credit, they hand delived my bag to me at Scout/Frodo's after it had arrived on the next flight in.  Thus, my thru-hike will start on time Thurday morning.

PCT Northern Terminus

PCT Northern Terminus
On September 30, 2012 I reached the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Thanks to everybody who supported and followed my journey. It was a life-changing experience!