Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 42 - Kennedy Meadows At Last

June 6-8, 2012
Day 42-44
Miles: 21
Total Miles: 702
Chilling in front of Tom's "Internet Cafe"

Kennedy Meadows!  After 702 miles of Southern California desert hiking, I have finally arrived at the "Gateway to the Sierra's".  This marks the entrance to the Southern Sierra Wilderness and the end of hot deserts, cactus and carrying liters of water.  In the desert we often carried four or more liters of water to get us through long dry stretches.  In the Sierra's, I will rarely carry more than 1.5 liters, and often less!  The weight I save in water (2 lbs per liter) will be replaced with extra food (longer stretches between resupply) and a bear canister which is a required food storage container that is bear-proof. (well...some brainy bears have learned to break into these canisters but the majority can not.)  Bear canisters are required until we exit the Yosemite Wilderness, 400 miles north.

But first - some well deserved R&R...and some beer and ice-cream...

Siddartha and Ben at the KM General Store & Cafe

Hiker Trash enjoying coffee at Tom's Place
My heaviest pack yet - 43 lbs!

Day 41 - Thirty Mile Club!

June 5, 2012
Day 41
Miles: 30
Total Miles: 681

Ben keeping the pace with his american flag

My first thirty mile day!  Ben T. and I hiked out of Okie Girl's camp after coffee and donuts.  From the start I had the energy to keep up with Ben - probably due to the donuts and coffee breakfast.  We hit three large inclines today but kept the pace up to pull thirty miles out by the time the sun set at Chimney Creek Campground.  At the campground we both threw down our bags on top of picnic tables and rested for the next days hike which would take us all the way to Kennedy Meadows.  Sierras, here we come!

Mile 666...

Day 40 - Okie Girl

June 4, 2012
Day 40
Miles: 20
Total Miles: 651

I got an early start this morning, started climbing at 5:30 up from Willow Spring Road (I think), and was rewarded with some amazing views.

At the end of the twenty miles today, at Walker Pass Campground, another trail angel - Okie Girl - had tents setup and was feeding hikers soda, beer, chips and lots of other good grub.  She gave me a ride into a small town, Lake Isabella, where she dropped me off at a cafe with a two-sided list of milkshake flavors.  I enjoyed a cheesecake/chocolate milkshake and a hot beef sandwich with potato salad.  That evening, back at the camp, Okie Girl fed us rice with breaded chicken and beer.  The wind picked up and did not stop all night.  I hunkered down in my tent and made the best of it while the wind flapped my tent all night long.

Day 39 - Golden Boy Comes Through Big Time

June 3, 2012
Day 39
Miles: 22
Total Miles: 631

Joshua Tree Forest
I woke up at 6:30 again and, as usual, I was the last one to leave camp!  I hiked down from mile 609 to 616 out of the trees and into the desert again.  At the road at mile 616, Glitter Boy was there once again with his rental car and several coolers full of soda and gatorade!  He also had large muffins and cinnamon rolls in his trunk - truly a treat!  These processed sugary foods powered me through the hot miles that followed.  It's incredible what a couple of sugary muffins will do for energy.  These are the kind of muffins that all health experts urge us to avoid - the large over-sized chocolate or blueberry ones pre-packaged at the grocery store. But when you're burning thousands of calories a day hiking through the desert, it's just what the body needs

At mile 631, Glitter Boy brought five pizzas to greet hikers.  I arrived just in time to snag a couple pieces.  His new trail name - GOLDEN BOY.  (He was upgraded due to the awesome trail magic of pizza on the trail!)

What a fantastic sunset tonight combined with a full moon.  you look east and saw a full moon rising over the desert.  Looking west the sun was setting in the hills.  I cowboy camped near the road with Bronco, Yankee Son & Hallmark, Wade, Glitter Boy, Macho Taco and Stacie.

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click to view full size

Hiker Trash enjoying Golden Boy's Offerings

Day 38 - Trees Again!

June 2, 2012
Day 38
Miles: 23
Total Miles: 609

Some really nice hiking today!  I woke up at about 6:30 and watched as others walked by me having hiked three miles already before I got out of my tent.  I enjoy a coffee and hot breakfast - what can I say!  I had to hand wash some clothes using a Tide single sink wash packet.  I then hiked out with damp, but clean, underwear!

The trail took me through some really nice forested areas - a great contrast from yesterdays dry hiking.  Others saw a small bear about a mile from where I was sleeping this morning - just a juvenile they believe.  When I reached the road at mile 602, Glitter Boy (Macho Taco's brother who had quit the hike due to an injury) gave some great trail angeling - he had a cooler with gatorade and soda!  Soda is an amazing thing after several days of sucking down just warm water from your platypus.  I am not a big soda drinker so it surprises me that I dream of a cold coke on the trail quite often.

The last seven miles were quite peaceful through the woods to Lander's Meadow.  I camped here with Tortuga, Macho Taco, Bronco and others.

Deer on the Trail

Day 37 - Dehydration in Tehachapi Mtns

June 1, 2012
Day 37
Miles: 21
Total Miles: 586

It was a long and dry climb up from Hwy 58.  This is one of the longest dry stretches, with eighteen miles and no water, I carried about 3.5 liters from the highway.  This was an under-estimation.  I ran out of water 3-4 miles from reaching the spring.  Many others proclaimed that this was the worst section of the hike for them.  The heat really makes a difference and on reflection, I should have carried more water and possibly done some night hiking to avoid the heat altogether.

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After leaving the spring at six I found a spot about three miles farther on a mound under some giant wind turbines that were whirling above me.  The first spot I chose was decent looking but after setting up and cooking some food, I noticed the little roving red ants coming out around my sleep pad.  I tried putting tent stakes in the ground to set up a tent, but this mound might as well be concrete because nothing was getting into that ground - and so I packed up and hiked on in the dark with my headlamp looking for another place to camp.  A mile down the trail I found a suitable site next to a fire ring.

Day 35 - A Wind Swept Town: Mojave

May 30-31, 2012
Day 35-36
Miles: 24 (over 2 days)
Total Miles: 565

I hitched for the first time on the trail into the town of Mojave.  The nice guy below (forgot his name) gave me a lift and took me on a tour of the desert town.

Thanks for the Ride!!

Wind Turbines are big business here in the desert

The most memorable thing about my stay at Mojave - the Roadhouse Cafe and Primo Burgers.  The mile walk to The Roadhouse Cafe was either leaning into the wind or being pushed along by the wind - I am guessing sustained 30 mph winds!  I went to both places twice to load up on calories.  The Motel 6 was descent and I was able to run a load of laundry and walk across the street to resupply with food to get me to Kennedy Meadows.  All in all, I was happy to leave Mojave the next day and I don't plan on returning anytime soon.

Cowboy Camping with Iceman in a wash near Hwy 58

After getting a ride from Jayne, who works in Mojave and offered to provide a ride after she left work, Iceman and I climbed just seven miles from the Tehachapi road to Highway 58 in preparation for a grueling climb into the Tehachapi Mountains the next day.  We cowboy camped in a wash (no tent) along with Garden Nome.  The Tehachapi Mountains are technically the beginning of the Sierras - some call them the tail - but they are hot and dry and have little in common with the grand mountains we will be seeing in the coming weeks past KM.

Day 34 - Wind and Canyons

May 29, 2012
Day 34
Miles: 23
Total Miles: 541
View for much of 23 miles of hiking through Antellope Valley

I cowboy camped by a stream after hiking through Antellope Valley - a western arm of the Mojave Desert.  This was a very nice spot down in a canyon and out of the wind that roars through and powers the hundreds of wind turbines dotting the landscape.  The trail through the valley was a flat fifteen or so miles following the California Aquaduct most of the way.  I took a siesta under a bridge near the wind farm - the only shade in 15 miles (not counting the Joshua Trees: I chose to stay away from their dangerous spine covered trunks)

I took a siesta under the bridge to escape the heat and had a good conversation with Bannana Pants about his plans to paddle a home-made sea kayak from Seattle to Alaska and then hike the Brooks Range.  This got me thinking and now this is on my "bucket list".  Bannana Pants is here from Austria and has a back injury from an earlier lifting accident.  He has made it over 500 miles with this injury and plans to make it to at least the top of Mt. Whitney at close to mile 800.

From that point on from under the bridge, the wind did not stop until I got to my camp in the canyon 8 miles later (eight windy, dusty, hot, uphill miles).  Others were camped but were already settled in their bags for the night.  I ate my fill of dehydrated chicken burritos and Mountain House blueberry cheescake.  I have to say that Mountain House makes some great deserts, but the cheesecake and bananna cream pie are my least favorite - too much for one person and the consistency is not great.  The Berry Cobler, however, is fantastic!

Joshua Trees line the route through much of the Mojave

Antellope Valley with wind generators

Day 32-33 - Shake Camp and "Hiker Town"

May 27-28, 2012
Day 32-33
Miles: 39 (over 2 days)
Total Miles: 518

500 Miles in 32 days!

I left late from The Andersons this morning due to a bit of ride confusion.  A few of us finally piled into Little Steps car (Honey Bear, Oasis and Garden Nome) and stopped off at the mini-mart before heading to the trail two miles down the road.  Little Steps is the same Little Steps who, along with Tarzan, gave some amazing trail magic back near Mt. Laguna - Omelletes and Margaritas.  She is up here today giving rides to and from the trail - and enjoying the atmosphere at the Andersons.

On trail I climbed a steep several miles up into the hills and then wove through them for the rest of the day, eventually climbing into a pine and juniper forest to find a nice place to camp (just past Shake Camp).  Others who were making toward Shake Camp and missed it like I did also stumbled on the same camp site and by the time the sun went down there were 4-5 tents in the little grove by the trail - including Honey Bear, Oasis, Wooly and Darkness and Garden Nome.

on the next day I crossed a milestone - 500 miles!  I've come so far on this trip but still have more than 75% of my hike left to go - 2,150 miles to be precise.  The high Sierra starts at Kennedy Meadows at mile 702 which means I am only a week away from leaving the desert for good!

I walked into "Hiker Town" this evening, at seven, after climbing down the mountains into Antellope Valley - the Mojave Desert.  It is a strange feeling walking through the gates of this private property, with a half-dozen dogs sniffing and barking, and nobody around.  "Hiker Town" reminds me of an amusement park attraction - resembling a small western town with several building labeled "Hotel", and "Saloon".  The owner was not there, but a caretaker takes donations for a bed, shower and laundry for the night.  I gladly "donated" ten dollars for the privilege of sleeping on a couch and doing laundry.  The common area also had a kitchen with stove and couches and tables to rest.  I would be out the next morning to cross the hot Mojave Desert...the flattest stretch of the trail.

"Hiker Town"

Day 30 - Trail Angels - Part 2 (The Andersons)

May 26, 2012
Day 31
Miles: 25
Total Miles: 479

Terrie and Joe Anderson - What you can't see is that Terrie Anderson is feeling me up
The Andersons "Casa De Luna" is the polar opposite of the Saufley's "Hiker Haven".  The Saufley's is a well-oiled operation.  The Andersons is not an operation at all...but an all-out anything goes gathering of hikers on their front lawn with coolers of beer and bowls of weed being passed around a portable metal fireplace, with burgers and dogs being grilled to feed the masses.  I don't want to portray my hike as a party, or that hikers are just out to party and get high and drunk.  Most of my hike has been the opposite of that - one of physical challenge, reflection and enjoying the beauty of the wild outdoors - but at places like the Anderson's, it's nice to have a few beers with your friends and celebrate hiking 480 miles through some of the harshest desert in the country.  Some choose to avoid the Anderson's because of the party atmosphere while others come and relax and just watch the craziness.  If you come, you're bound to have an interesting experience - one that you won't have again anywhere on the trail.

After a ride from Little Steps two miles from the trail to the Anderson's I was shown the way to the Manzanita forest that is their back yard.  I then made my way back through the maze to their front yard and the 30 or so other hikers.  It was an unusually cold day so everybody was bundled in down jackets and blankets while others were cooking burgers and dogs on the grill.

At some point, Terrie Anderson brings out a plate of weed and starts passing it around.  I decided early on that my hike was not going to be about smoking, so I passed on this each time it was handed to me.  However, I have no problem with others enjoying a smoke.

The atmosphere was beginning to get "stupid" after about 11 so I headed back to find my tent to sleep - but not before I went several wrong directions and ripped a big hole in my down jacket on a jagged manzanita branch.

Hiker Party at the Andersons

The Anderson's Manzanita Forest

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 29 - Trail Angels - Part 1 (The Saufleys)

May 24, 2012
Day 29
Miles: 10
Total Miles: 454

hikers invade the mexican restaurant in Agua Dulce
If you've never hiked a long-distance trail, you may not have heard of Trail Angels.  I had no idea how generous people could be in this hiker community before this trail.  The Saufley's at "Hiker Haven" in the town of Agua Dulce are the best example of the trail angel community.  They started hosting hikers in 1993 and since then have developed a system that allows them to host up to 50 hikers per day at the peak of hiking season - and they have it down!

They have an amazing setup with a dozen or so large tents on their property with cots.  There are bicycles available to hikers for rides into town.  There is a fire pit, a trailer with full kitchen and a selection of movies.  There is a shower and laundry and rides into town to the closest REI for resupplying gear.  They also receive and send packages.  In short - they have everything a hiker needs for a day off the trail!

I spent a couple of days here relaxing with several groups that I had been hiking with - as hikers seem to converge at these stops in what's often called a vortex.  It's sometimes hard to break free of the vortex after you've been sucked in, but at some point you decide that you need to move on and hesitantly begin the next section of your hike and leave behind the comforts of town and trail angels.

Pop Star, Gecko, Matt, Alisdair and Sarah all came in on my second day here and they kept us all up drinking wine by the fire pit.  I also met Oasis and Honey Bear here, two girls from either Portland or Seattle (seems like a disproportionate number of hikers come from one of these two places!).  Ron, another trail angel, took several of us in his van to REI and In-n-Out Burger and I was able to replace the insoles of my Cascadia 7's with new SOLE brand insoles from REI.

But the best part  - FOOD!  I ate at the mexican restaurant twice, the breakfast cafe once, and trips to the market for ice cream.  I typically share a large meal or have food left for a take-home box, but on these trips to the mexican restaurant I ate a full meal with a large bowl of fried ice cream, and I still did not fill this hole in my stomach.  I'll keep trying!

The Saufley's Fire Pit

Day 28 - Pizza at the KOA

May 23, 2012
Day 28
Miles: 13
Total Miles: 444
click to see full size

After Mission Flats, at mile 431, I hiked the trail-proper again all the way to the Acton KOA Campground.  I am here with a group of twelve others who are holing up at the campground because the Saufly's (Hiker Haven), Trail Angels extrordinaire, are ahead in ten miles but have exceeded their 50 hiker limit and are asking hikers to arrive tomorrow morning.  Tortuga hitch-hiked into the nearest town about ten miles away to pick up beer and was able to get a ride back from the pizza delivery man!  We all definitely owe him a few beers.  I plan on getting up early and hiking to the Hiker Haven by 10 AM.

My hunger is getting more and more ravenous every week.  Today at KOA I enjoyed half of a large pepperoni pizza and three beers in addition to ice cream and other snacks from the small KOA store, and was hungry an hour later!  I handed Q-Ball and Beardo a couple of my beers as they just hiked in and looked voracious!

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!