Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 30th - Mt Whitney (or) "Day of the Marmots"

The day of the Marmots.  Lots of deer again in Crabtree meadow this morning and again at night.  Met up with Tuscan Raider and Smiles who went up Whitney yesterday.  Saw at least 10-12 marmots.  They are everywhere and what to get in your food.  Lots of climbers on Whitney and JMT hikers on there last leg of their adventure which slows me down because I always end up talking to everyone.  The views climbing above Guitar Lake and up the ridge line of Whitney were stellar!  Orders of magnitude better then I remember from our first climb years ago and that's why I went - because I remember how nice it was.  Spent over three hours on the summit in the sunshine and another hour sitting in the window of the spires emailing and texting down to the cell tower in Lone Pine.  The climb was fun but somehow I ending up being on the mountain from 7am-6:30pm despite climbing very fast.  Too much talking and enjoying the mountain!  The Crabtree meadow was filled with deer, marmots, chipmunks, and picas.
Sunrise over Crabtree Meadows

Traverse by Trail Crest on Mt Whitney

Mt. Whitney Summit -Highest point in lower 48

Lower Crabtree Meadows

Jun 30 - Summit of Mt Whitney

Summit of Mt. WHITNEY! June 30 12am

Jun 30th - Trail Crest

Ah, Guitar Lake, from just above Trail Crest. 11am June 30. On to Whitney

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29th - Having a morning COW

Woke to the sounds of cattle this morning.  Putting on my glasses I see a whole herd of cows hiking down the trail, ten feet from my tent, and down to the spring before sunrise.  The noise and cloud of dust was disappointing to say the least.  Not many of us hikers are happy about the leasing of these high meadows to ranchers.  Great views above Cottonwood pass and above Chicken Spring Lake.  Entering Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks!  The the views from Crabtree meadow were grand.  Lots of deer and marmots too.  Hiked for a while with Jason today.  Lots of weekend hikers now that we are in holiday weekend.  Set up my tent tonight so I could leave gear in a base camp for a side climb of Whitney in the morning.  Only my third time setting up the tent on the entire trip so far.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28th - Olancha Peak

Lots of deer in the meadow this morning.  Did a side hike up Olancha Peak - at over 12,000 feet it's the first high peak leaving Kennedy Meadows.   A very cool, but steep, off-trail bolder bushwhack climb.  Steep drop offs and great views.  Thank's to San Gabriel for the suggestion.  Met up with a trail crews support team  with mules and horses which was very dusty.  Met up with Legs and Powerhouse at the Dutch Meadows spring with lots of cattle in the meadow.  Camped above the meadow.

Jun 28 - Olancha Peak (12k) side hike

Steep bolder hopping bushwhack to the summit of 12,123 ft Olancha Peak! Thanks for suggesting this one SG.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26th - Kennedy Meadows

Right now I'm in Kennedy Meadows where a guy has set up an old gutted trailer, off the grid with solar power, and converted it to an Internet cafe.  It has four computers on the Internet and an Internet telephone in the non-working bathroom - kind of like a phone booth.  Pretty cool for the wilderness.

Sunday I passed an empty soda/beer cache in a cold stream.  Of course all there was were empty cans and a log thanking the trail angel for the cold beer and soda.  No problem - my notes say the Chimney Creek Campground may have a concession stand with burgers - WRONG!  I had bad info.  No sign of ever having such a thing.  The campground didn't even have water.  Toward the end of the day I caught up with one of two brothers hiking the trail together.  Brian?  They hiked on heading all the way into Kennedy but I thought 26 miles was plenty and saved the last nine or ten miles for the next morning.  Nice camp spot on the river and I'll catch them at Kennedy on Monday.

On Monday morning I tried my new batch of plain oatmeal - boring.  What to do?  I added dried pineapple.  Not bad, the sugar sweetened it and the pineapple rehydrate a little. A new food invention or am I just suffering the hiker hunger and it really isn't any good?  Does it matter?  On to Kennedy Meadows!  Arriving at about 11am and first order of business is raiding cold breakfast leftovers of sausage, bacon, hash browns, eggs, pancakes, and a meat hash.  Even ice cold they were very good.  Then a shower, laundry and picking up my bear canister and first and only planned mail drop.  Picked up a six pack of local micro-brew beer, Mojave Red, and spent the afternoon sitting on the porch of the general store, drinking my beer and charging my gadgets.

Monday night I got to spend in a bunk in an old trailer at Trail Angel Tom's Internet Cafe.  It's cool camp right near the Kennedy Meadows General Store with trailers, a camp kitchen, and places to hang out in old chairs and such.  There was a big group of thru-hikers here but most left late afternoon.  Four of us spent the night: Gonzo, Legs and her boyfriend, and myself.  And Jason came by but spent the night elsewhere, returning on Tuesday morning.  I helped make spaghetti dinner then last night we watched a movie outside where he has a small theater setup.  A wooden screen and speakers in the trees with it surrounded by old sofas and chairs like an amphitheater. We watched a comedy about bowling called Kingpin I think.   In the morning I spent a couple hours cleaning up the mess in the kitchen as a favor to our trail host.  It looked like no one had cleaned the kitchen in days.   Took me few hours as you had to boil water and move it from the well.  I'm taking today, Tuesday, as a zero day then heading back into the next section of the High Sierra's in the morning. Looking forward to what this next exciting section has to bring.  It should be fantastic!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jun 24 - last cell coverage till Kennedy Meadows

Last cell phone coverage for a while. I'll try to update blog at Kennedy Meadows on Monday. The Owens Peak segment of the PTC was fantastic! Currently at mile 673. Not bad for day 33. It's another great day to be in the REAL world.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 23rd - Walker Pass and Owen's Peak

It just keep getting better!  Saw a deer frozen in the middle of the trail in front of me this morning.  Cute little guy.  Found an unexpected water cache at Walker Pass that also included tubs of oatmeal.  Odd, I would have thought animals would get into it.  But it didn't stop me from grabbing a big bag full for the mornings breakfast.  The views were absolutely the best so far after Walker's Pass as I climbed up the side of Owen's Peak.  Should have tried to find a way to climb to the summit, as the trail bypassed the true summit, but it was another 1200 feet of elevation and I didn't see a very well defined herd path leading the way.  What a fantastic day - each one better then the day before.  Did another 30 mile day and thought I was off somewhere when I rolled into my camp/water destination a good 40 minutes earlier then I expected.  It's a weird feeling doing that because you are so psychologically prepared to hike farther that it feels off to stop.  I hiked the 30 miles because I didn't want to bother stopping at the earlier spring that people claim is contaminated with uranium.  It sounds like many people do drink the water there though.  It was a great day hiking today!!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jun 22 - One Month on the Trail Today!

I have been on the trail for one month, 31 days.  I can't believe my adventure is moving so fast.  Time is just slipping by and I want it to last!  Today was another exciting day of hiking; each day seems to get better and better.  Jason, who I met at Hiker Heaven, caught up with me and tented here last night but I didn't notice till this morning.  Today the wind is unbelievable.  Found a way to make a chin strap for my sun hat but I have to still hike with my head down and facing into the wind.  I am afraid I'll take off into the air like "The Flying Nun".  Sometimes I even have to put my poles sideways, at an angle of 35 degrees into the wind, to keep from blowing sideways as I hike.  It's like hiking in a tornado but it makes it very exciting and you don't notice the heat that much.  There are lots of warnings that hikers get ill after leaving this section and to be careful about the water but I don't think that's the problem.  I think it's the wind and terrain.  The water sources are mostly springs and the water caches are unlikely the problem.  But the high winds, dry ground, and cow dung are everywhere.  Everything (people, clothes, and gear) are covered with dust and we are all coughing up dust.  I think people get sick from the cow shit blowing around everything: in our food, on our bodies, and in our mouths!  It's not from not filtering water.

This afternoon I started climbing up Skinner Peak in unbelievable wind - totally amazing!!!  It was like being hit with a freight train.  At one point the trail rounded a false summit and made a sharp hairpin turn of a switch-back.  As you came around the false summit the wind hit you full force.  I had my head and body bent down in the wind and crested the knob, passing the turn by 30 feet before I realized I was past the trail turn.  I almost couldn't climb back the 30 feet in the wind - almost crawling to make the bend around the mountain to get back on trail.  A very great day of exciting hiking and views!  I did end up hiking over 30 miles because you never wanted to stop long in the wind - why do I do this to myself?  Hope I didn't mess up my feet again - but I feel pretty good.  Perhaps I'm finally toughening up my feet.  The wind is still gusting in my high, but slightly wind protected, camp spot I found just before mile 639.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jun 20-21 - Hiking on the Solstice - from mile 609

So, I have a dilemma; is the solstice on June 20th or 21st this year?   No cell coverage so I can't check.  So it's a good thing I have sun screen with me for these past two days.  Wednesday was a good day hiking.  It was hot with a little wind but still every ridge had wind mills.  Just when you think you are done another set of them comes up around the next bend.

Met a girl named Dizzy?, who just started hiking the trail the day before.  She has 30 days of food.  I passed her and two other hikers who joined her to hike together for a while.  They asked me how far the next spring was and I told them 10 miles and asked if they needed any water and they said they were fine.  When I reached the spring I rested out of the sun for over three and a half hours and never saw them catch up.  Hope they are ok. 

Thursday is day two of my so-called Solstice hiking: time for more sunscreen!  Meet a section hiker, who said he found Dizzy and one of the other two laying on the side of the trail exhausted and out of water still far from yesterdays spring.  He gave them some water and later found the third hiker near the spring who was planning to bring them back more water.  He said he got to the spring about an hour after I left yesterday.    Good news is they are fine.  And even better news is that he confirmed, he checked by car before starting his hike, that the next two water caches are fully stocked with water.  As I enter the wooded area I plan to camp in I have this feeling of being watched.  I stop and look into the woods and see strange looking tree limbs - no wait; they are deer feet.  There are deer hiding all around me!  Very cool.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jun 19th - Through the WIND TUNNEL

Woke up to find Tortoise-Express and I think it's "I'm fine" camping right beside me.  Never heard them hike in last night.  I said hello to Tortoise but never saw who was in the other tent.  The trail ahead had dozens of PCT signs, sometimes three of them within a few feet of each other and no intersecting trail or other reason to need a sign.  Considering the day before there were many places I was unsure which way the trail went I'd like to suggest they take some of those signs and relocate them back a few miles.  LOL.   Crossed a ridge and smelled the unmistakable smell of Poodle-dog-bush.   It has been days since the Poodle-dog-bush had been seen and I thought I was finally safe of them.  Sure enough ahead was a new patch of the beast.  Hope it's the last of it.  At Casa de Luna, Terri said that last year several hikers had to be taken to the hospital for steroid shots because of the poodle-dog, and one person, who thought a young plant without the flowers on it was a pot plant, actually smoked it and his lips swelled up to six inches.  Sounds like rumor to me but she said it was true.  Nice unexpected water cache on a hill with a chair under a blanket hung in the trees for shade.  Yesterday the wind farm was depressing with none of the blades turning - today made up for it.  Tahachapi Pass has miles and miles of of them.  There must have been thousands of them.  On every hill and bump were rows of wind turbines; old and new.  The wind was roaring - very exciting to hike through.  Kept loosing my hat and despite sun screen; my head and face is sand blasted, wind burned, sun burned and whipped with my own pack straps.  A very neat day hiking through the wind farms.

Made a dinner of black beans, fresh vegetables (cabbage, red sweet peppers, carrots), sausage and cheese on tortillas last night.  Tasted great and glad I had eaten them because today with the gusting head wind I needed the constant flow of gas out my back end to keep me level in this wind.  Peeing in the wind became a new art form - but no worries; I think my pants are cleaner now where the pee landed on them.  Not many places out of the wind to camp.  Yesterday I had to put rocks on my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in order to get up to go pee at night.  Otherwise it would have blown away.  I finally scored a good spot out of the wind and I can hear the wind turbines whine and the sound of the wind gusting but I am mostly sheltered.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jun 18th - Entering the Wind Farms

It was cool this morning until the sun came out then it got very hot but with a strong gusty hot wind that kept you dry of sweat and comfortable enough considering I'm in the high dessert.  Saw another rattle snake this morning.  Hiked along the Aqueduct which was flat and made good mileage.  At first it was uncovered and the water was nice to look at but then the trail turned and followed a covered aqueduct that was more like dusty road.  Meet another thru-hiker, Tortoise-express, at a water cache around 1pm and we stayed together under a wooden artificial shade structure for two hours before I decided to hike on.  I hiked through a ridge filled with 100's of non-turning wind turbines.  Wind was gusting strong and the head wind slowed my progress down but it was exciting to hike between the windmills.  It was a little depressing to see so many wind turbines not turning.  Every time I see one that is not turning it makes me sad.  They looked new but perhaps they are not finished yet.  Camp was by a nice stream but it was very windy.  A fun day.

Jun 17 - Hiker Town, sunday, mile 517

Very hot today. Should have carried more water. During a break, with
my shoes off something stung my foot. Red ant? Or a bee or even
scorpion? What ever it was it hurt like hell for several hours. Got to
hiker town, guys yard looks like a movie prop western town, early
afternoon but it was too hot to want to hike. Stayed for dinner,
(salad, steak, veg, potato, ice cream) I'm Fine and a section hiker
stayed the night with me and Coyote and Tombstone hiked on through the
evening. It's fathers day and I also crossed the San Andreas fault
again today.

Jun 16 - Stephanie's Birthday - mile 502, saturday

Today is Stephanie's Birthday! Finally got cell signal late evening after a wonderful sunset.
Only 1-1/4 liter water left at cache today. Hiked next 10 miles with
one liter, an apple, and some carrots for moisture. Dead animals
floating in next two water tanks but water is water. Did I mention why
they call it Casa de Luna? Because it takes 30 days to reach here on
the trail. Her house is filled with hike photos of people mooning on
the trail.

Guzzler rain water cache

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jun 15 - Casa de Luna, mile478

Made it from Agua Dulce to the Anderson's Casa de Luna Friday. Had my
first red bull, found on a pct marker.
Nice views down into Bouquet Reservoir with its islands. Oasis cache
had soda. Had a rattlesnake sit right in the middle of the trail and
take his sweet time moving. And he didn't even have a PCT permit. Hitched ride to Anderson's and
had taco salad and plenty of beer. Neat mangrove camping but I crashed
on the sofa in the yard. Back on the trail after pancakes in the morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jun 14 - Hiker Heaven, Agua Dulce, Mile 454.5

Taking my first zero day after a two 30 mile days to bring me here to Hiker Heaven in Ague Dulce. Tuesday I met Todd and Spot right before the station fire detour. Because of the amount of environmental efforts and warnings about violators I decided I should take the station fire detour. A road walk on rough dirt roads but mostly parallel to the trail with all the same views. Nice ridge line.

Got to Mill Creek Ranger Station and they said everyone just hikes the dirt road all the way to Messenger Flats, bypassing 10-12 miles of PCT, to avoid the dense Poodle-dog-bush. My notes say it's not too bad till you get to mile 425 so I hit the trail instead of hiking the road. Lots of Poodle-dog-bush and really slowed me down but was doable. At least I think it was. I'll know in a day or two. Was heading for Big Buck Trail Camp but it looks like it was taken in the fire. All I saw was a field of Poodle dog. Finally found a spot to camp away from Poodle-dog at the junction of a dirt road and the trail. The dirt road was my out if the Poodle dog got to bad but at this point, the area that was rumored to be the worst, but Wednesday I decided to brave on. I think someone had tried clearing the trail last year as there was parts of poodle dog plants littering the trail but at least not brushing against you. You still had to keep your attention against stray plants but very doable. It got worse toward the end of the 10 miles section but I'm glad I did the trail instead of the detour. I think almost everyone is doing the road walk and assuming it's worse then it is. PS. that poodle dog really smells bad!

Hiked out to the KOA campground and bought an ice tea and ice cream. I was tempted to spend the night but it was early and the Hiker Heaven was only 10 miles. Figured one last push and a zero day would feel better then another 10 miles in the morning. Vasquez Rocks was a very cool place. Meet a local hiker and he suggested I deserved a break and I should take this shortcut on the road around this next section. What is with all these people trying to talk you out of hiking the trail? Finally made Hiker Heaven around 7:30pm but the two days of 30 miles might have been a bad idea since I now have another blister. I thought I was feeling so good after Tuesdays 30 mile day that I was over my foot problems. Oh well, Guess a zero is the right medicine. Still having a great time! Meet Coyote and Miner.

Today, my first zero, started with lots of chores: breakfast in town with Coyote and Miner, resupply shopping, washing out gear including my backpack, email, etc. A few more hikers have shown up: Tombstone, Spot, and Todd, and I'm Fine. So far I still have a hole camp trailer to myself. Found a frozen lasagna to cook for dinner and Todd left me two beers! Life is good at mile 454.5.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 11th PDB Update from mile 412

Sunday I crossed the San Andreas fault safely! First major patch of
poodle dog and didnt take the whippy detour. Climbed back up to 8500 feet and across ski area.

Then Monday down and then back up to spur trail for Mt
Baden Powell at 9399 feet. 1500 year old tree and monument to boy
scouts on top. Great view and ridge hike down. Took the old endangered
species detour (endanger people, not frogs detour) it's anouther
fantastic day on the trail.

The Wally Waldon Tree, 1,500 years old. Near the summit of Mt Baden-Powell, 9,399 feet.

Back in ski country. Should I take the black diamond Inferno Ridge or the easy way down? Ski patrol, are you in control? 'Ski patrol - to the rescue!'

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jun 10 - Bees, thorns, poodle dogs, and trains in the dark

Forgot a few things in my last post. Must be the chemicals and corn
sugar from McD. Yesterday I tiptoed through a buzzing swarm of yellow
jacket bees. Very carefully, scary for someone with an expired epipen.
No stings thankfully. Then I hit this section of dense brush. I had
to push through thick branches of thorn bushes and holly that racked
your arms and gripped your pack. Hard to believe at least 500 hikers
passed though this overgrown mess. I wonder how many hikers skip or
hitch around sections. The cache owner I met at McD offered to drive
me to the cache to save hiking the trail but I didn't go for it. Besides I
already forgot about the hard parts because scenery is so good.

Back when I meet 'Paint your Wagon' I asked him if this plant was
poodle dog. He grabbed a big handful and sad no. So now I am not sure.
Sure looks like the picture but it might be because its not with
flowers yet. Guess I'll just keep avoiding anything that looks close
to the picture. Last night as I left route 66 I crossed under and
over the road and train tracks. The tunnel under the road was long,
windy, wet, and pitch black. At one point you couldn't see either ends
opening. Then while under the train tunnel a train came thru. Both
tunnels were scary. Seems like trains come though constantly and i
had to wait to cross the tracks. Well, better get back to hiking.
Will loose signal over next hill.