Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 9 (5/26) Jose Burger in Paradise

The big draw for today was the Paradise Cafe. Just 20 miles down the trail, it was quite the motivation to keep moving throughout the day. Out of camp by 7, and eight miles down by 10:00. Pretty good start, but that was mostly downhill. Hit a nice water cache at mile 10 which helped revive my spieits for the coming climb. Man, that was a rough one. You could see the highway.for the last few miles, building the suspense. When I finally hit the road, it was still a mile walk to the cafe, but oh, so worth it.

Cold Coke and water in unlimited portions. I must've downed at least four glasses of each. And then there was the burger. Lettuce, tomato, onion, guacamole, jalapenos, cheese, and of course a delicious patty. Soooo goooood! I washed it downwith a cup of ice cream, and then was on my way.

I ran into Adam and Noah on my way back, and heard the craziest story from them. They had arrived at Herrara's shortly after I left, and things had escalated a bit. They did get a steak dinner out of the mix, but long story short, there was a physical altercation between housekeepers, and police were involved. Crazy stories out of that one, and I'm sure it will generate a trail name for each of them. I'm just glad I left when I did... Just goes to show that even our here you can't escape the insanity of the real world.

I tacked on a few more miles in the evening, and after counting the two mile round trip to Paradise, I finished my first marathon!

Daily mileage: 24.2 (26.2)
Trip mileage: 155.5

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 8 (5/25) On the Trail Again

After the day off, it was good to be back on the trail. I'm now a full day behind my original schedule, but I'm not too concerned yet. I think the real key now is to stay healthy and ramp up the miles, so whether I'm exactly on schedule is less important. Around week three I'll start worrying more about my timing and how close I am to my target pace and location.

Today was pretty near as it started out behind a famous old church where the local indians and the government negotiated a deal to set up the reservation next door. From there it was out into the woods, which once again seemed out of place in southern California. The trail crossed agua caliente creek at least a dozen times before finally climbing into the hills. And oh, what climbing. Over the day I gained over 2,000 ft while crossing essentially all of that range. One highlight of the day was catching up with Malto, who had left Warner around 5, two full hours before me. Add to the fact that he is a faster hiker and I didn't expect to be seeing him again. Well, he spotted me coming around the trail, so he hid in the bushes and made growling noises as I came close. Yeah, he got me...

Turns pout he had just spent the last few hours relaxing at trail angel Mike Herrara's house, where Mike wasn't in but three house sitters were. Malto warned me of the odd dynamic between the group before he took off and I went for water and rest. The threw people there were really quite interesting. Mario was the 60 year old Hispanic house sitter, and he was joined by two friends of Mike's from Florida, Alex, and a woman who's name escapes me. The two from Florida didn't get along with Mario at all, yet he was the one in charge. I got to witness one of the strangest arguments I have ever seen in person where neither side uses solid logic or reasoning, and instead they resort to insults. I stuck around for awhile, but tiring if their banter, decided to head out. On the way back up the road I ran into Alex from Warner, and have him the low down on the group in the house. He was excited to check out the fun. Sadly Travis hadn't made it with him, as his knee was still hurting and he was headed in to San Diego to get it checked out for tendonitis. Poor guy, I hope he can get back on the trail soon.

I knocked out another few miles for the evening and retired by 8:00 to my sleeping bag. 22 miles today, and man, I'm beat. Tomorrow is the famous Paradise Cafe, and a delicious burger. Plenty of incentive tho get up early!

Miles today: 22.1
Trip mileage: 131.5

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 6 (5/23) Walking on (or in) the Clouds

Despite the fact that I was only around 4,000 feet, I awoke to a cold sensation. Looking I realized the whole mountain was shrouded in mist... It was too early to worry about it, so I just buried my headin my sleeping bag and got another two hours if shuteye. Up at 6:30, walking by 7:00. In retrospect it was a perfect day to wear my rainpants, but I didn't think of that until I had spent an hour brushing past wet plants and getting my pants soaking wet. I got one awesome video where I came around a turn right as a cloud was about to blow into the mountain, and hopefully it captures the way the seemingly solid cloud blew straight through me and over the hill I was on. I was making fantastic time though, as this section was mostly downhill. In just threw hours I cruised through the 10 miles to Barrel Springs, where I relaxed for a bit in a chair someone had left. This was also a momentous time for me as I had now completed over 100 miles on the trail! This is officially now my longest ever continuous hike, and I still feel pretty great.

On the way, I once again ran into Noah's dad; this time he was day-hiking southbound, and he snapped my photo to email to my family when he gets back. He related the story of one hiker who upon reaching third gate and finding it empty, decided to hike the whole 10 miles to Barrel Springs to fill up on water before sleeping. Apparently he hadn't noticed the shorter route I used to the ranch to get water an easier way... It sounds like Noah is still a say behind me, so we'll see if he catches up at Warner Springs.

Speaking of Warner Springs, that was today's destination. It is a small town with a ranch/resort built around the hot springs there. What a goal for the endof the day! Well, on the way I was treated to quite the interesting landscape. Right after Barrel Springs, you cross a road and within a mile the terrain has transformed into a prairie or grassland with rolling hills. Quite shocking to see the transition. Sadly my phone was dying, so I only have photos on my camera. The PCT meanders its way through this area, and it was really neat to be able to look across this expanse and see a trail marker at the next ridgeline. The native inhabitants were interesting too. I think they were related to prairie dogs, though they looked awfully similar squirrels to me. They would go scampering off as I came near, do it became a game to spot them before they bolted for cover. There were apparently also coyotes out there according to Trish and Chance, but I didn't happen to see those. And if course, the cows. It took quite awhile before I saw my first chow, but I sure knew they were there long before that due to their abundant pies all over the area. Cows are a bit creepy actually, and several other hikers shared this opinion, because as you walk past they will stop and state at you until you are completely out of sight. Its as if me walking through with my backpack was the most awesome thing to happen all day. Well, I guess maybe it was, but nonetheless, creepy.

Out in the middle of this grassland was one landmark I had been greatly liking forward to seeing - Eagle Rock. Its a natural formation that looks just like an eagle with outstretched wings. Once again, phone was dying, so if you want visual proof, I suggest wikipedia. This was really cool to see, but after that I was ready to hit town. I rolled in to Warner around 2:30 (whoo 3mph pace!)

What a place. I got my room then immediately took a bath and a nap. After that was diner with Trish and Chance, and an hour in the hot spring-fed pool. There were a few other new hikers there: Joshua, Rory, and Fool - the first guy I've met with a trail name already. By 10 when the pool closed I was beat so that was all she wrote for the day.

Today's mileage: 18.2
Trip mileage: 109.4

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 5 (5/22) Cache Time

This was my fastest morning out of camp because I didn't use the tent. Up at 6:10, walking by 6:30. I made the 5 miles down  to Scissors Crossing in a few short hours and ran into Roger just as I was getting to the water cache. A water cache is where folks drop off water for hikers on the dry sections. You aren't supposed to count on then in case the specific one wasn't restocked lately. In this case I was on luck and didn't have to treat water out of the nearby, slow flowing creek. I picked up 6L - enough for the 14 mile hike to the next cache, plus enough for the 2 mile hike to the next source if that were empty. I also ran into Trish again at the cache, and it was cool to chat some more with her. I took off while she and Chance were still taking care of their morning duties with the horses. Funny how the majority of their work is when they aren't moving as opposed to how the majority of my work is to keep moving. Curious.

The interesting part of today was looking at all the interesting plants and animals - the animals were avoiding me, and I was doing my best to avoid the plants. Yesterday I saw my first cactus of the trip, and today was full of all types. The weirdest looking ones were barrel shaped and they would just dominate while hillsides, but only the southern facing ones. Other ones grew in more interesting shapes, which made them slightly more of an impaling threat. I managed to dodge every single one until a late night bathroom trip broke my streak... It was also neat to see all the wildlife. I saw my first horned lizard today, but didn't manage to snap a photo. I also saw a ton of lizards, rabbits and birds. Its interesting how they all seem to use the real as well. I had one rabbit run 200 yards down the trail as I kept walking towards it before it finally darted uphill. The ants may be the most prolific trail users as you can generally find a line of themgoing or coming from somewhere on this walking path. Its an awfully dangerous place for ants though as hikers come plowing down the trail with little regard for the wellbeing of those underfoot.

It was quite the day overall. When I got to the cache at third gate, it turned out to be empty. Trish and Chance arrived shortly after me, and they decided to push for Barrel Springs. I didn't have that jobs of water on me, so I stuck with the plan of making the trek down the hill to the faucet at the ranch. Since I was coming right back I had the luxury of dropping my pack and just carrying water containers. It took about 30 mon to get down and another 45 to climb back up... Since I was going and had the time, I filled up my full capacity and added the excess back into the cache for the next folks to come through. On the trail the term is posting it forward, that is, instead of paying back those who help you our, you should pay forward to help out other hikers. Hopefully those 6L go to someone who really needed them.

I cowboy camped again tonight, but this time a small mouse decided to join me... I was too tired to move on, so I packed away all my food and left the garbage bag as the most accessible object. Sure enough, he worked on it through the night despite my efforts to scare him away. At least my food was secure and made it through unscathed.

Daily mileage: 19.2
Trip mileage: 91.2

Day 4 (5/21) Into the Abyss

Based on my observations yesterday, today was the first day I would step into the real desert. I was up at 7:20 and out by 8. Lots of walking through supposedly dry miles. While it was more dry than the previous few days, there was still some water to be found in little creeks. My first human contact for the day came when I met a 3 man trail crew clearing overgrowth from the path. I thanked them for their work and upon chatting further found that this was in prep for a 100 mile race through the desert. I couldn't believe anyone would want to do that, but they  said the same about my hike. I guess we're all just crazy in our own n ways...

It was nice in the early afternoon when I took a break to find that I had a strong signal. I took the opportunity  to call Mom & Michelle on their way to Michelle's internship. It was real nice to hear their voices and I think I'll call Dad tomorrow if I get a chance. Have to space them out to save battery on my phone

For the last few days I had been seeing horse tracks and droppings on the trail and suddenly when I came over a ridge there in the midst of the trail were three brown horses and one white horse. Man, I was shocked too come on them like that. Got to meet Chance briefly and Trish was taking care of the horses so I didn't get to chat with her. They're riding the trail just l like I'm walking it, so out was best to meet my first thru-riders. I carried on while they tended the horses, but soon enough they caught and overtook me on an uphill section. Wow, that looked effortless. I only saw them again from a great distance when they were down at the Rodriguez Spur Tank and I was still on my descent. As I was coming down in to the tank, for about the last mile I was listening to the sound of several men practice shooting cans with all sorts of weapons. Quite a variety of pistols and rifles, including some that absolutely made the hills ring. They kept this up for the best two hours as I relaxed in the shade by the water tank. After awhile, a father and son section hiking pair came up and we chatted for awhile. They do landscape contracting further up north and are working on their hike on the weekends. That probably takes more work and dedication than a thru-hike... Russell was super nice and he gave me a fee Jolly Ranchers, which I now crave more of. They both carried on onto the next climb, but I debated camping at the tank for the night. The deciding factor was the continued shooting in the distance, so I packed up and hit another three miles in the evening. There weren't many good camping spots so I was very glad to find one when I wanted it. I decided to try sleeping under the stars, ' Cowboy Camping' and so far it is pretty near to be able to look out at the sky with no trent in the way. Full report on that tomorrow.

In other outside news, my cousin Wes just had his third child, a baby girl named Kate, so congrats to him (even if she does break the all boys streak...) That's it for now, time to pass out.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 3 (5/20) Hitting Twenty

Because the title is a but of a spoiler, yes I will confirm that this was in fact my first 20 mile day on the PCT. But how did it happen and how did it feel? Well I got up again at 7 buy this was a slower morning especially with the group and my sore legs, so we didn't hit the trail til 9. That was painful soon into the day as we embarked on a half mile of climbing over the 10 mile trip to Mount Laguna. For the first few miles Gabriel and I went ahead at a faster pace while Mitch and Adam came a bit slower. Adam's blisters were still bothering him so he was wearing sandals again today. At about mile 6 the guys stopped for water but since I had taken more this morning I said my goodbyes and kept going as they went down to soak their feet. I blasted through the remaining miles to Mount Laguna, but on the way had time to take in some magnificent scenery. First off, there were some areas that could have been taken straight out of the hills of Wisconsin. Oak, pine, soft trails of needles - nothing I would expect in SoCal. Then suddenly around a ridge you could see it change. I was looking from the Cleveland National Forest into the Anza Borrego Desert. That's desert with one 's'. But that would be part of some other day, today I would take a few hours off in the town for some dessert, that's with an 'ss'. I picked up a cream soda, an ice cream bar, an arizona tea, an orange, and some lemonheads. Delicious. As I was getting ready to head out the three Canadians made it in, so we chatted a bit before we posted ways for good. They were spending the night at the lodge to let their feet heal up. It was good to have some camaraderie out there for a day and I wished then the best. I also r ran into Bob, Noah's father, who is supporting him for the first few days of his hike. He was 15 miles behind me yesterday and now only 10 today, so it sounds like I'll have company again soon enough.

I took off from Laguna around 3:45 and pushed ahead into the afternoon. I had the most stunning sight when I came upon the true edge of the desert and was able to look down into it. That's for tomorrow I told myself. There was a real nice section hiker there at the lookout, though for the life of me I can't remember his name. He was kind enough to snap my photo there and we ended up at the same campsite, Pioneer Mail st the end of the day. I was shop best though I just quickly made dinner and passed out. Phew, 20 miles, especially with all that elevation gain sure took it out of me. First day over 6000 feet, so that felt good (aside from the slight shortness of breath at the altitude).  Trip mileage now stands at 52.3 miles complete.

If you're curious as to the posting delays, there are a few factors. First I have to have the energy to write the journal, which may mean it doesn't get finished for one or, hopefully not more than, two days. Then I have to actually find a good connection which can be a task all in itself. Later on in the trip I do expect to backlog about 10 days in one section, so that's when I'll be using the SPOT more to keep in touch.

Day 2 (5/19) Finding Friends

My first day waking up on the trail! Well it wasn't quite that joyous... Due to my nap in the afternoon yesterday I had a tough time sleeping through the night, which was made worse by the constant call and response of two frogs in the creek. I did manage alright and was up before 7. Took about 40 min to get going partially due to condensation inside my tent. I forgot how cold it would get and didn't put up the inner liner. That won't happen again! It was pretty foggy to start out but I didn't mind as tit keeps the heat in check. Had an 800 ft climb to start the day around Morena Butte and man was that a killer. In a few weeks I'll be able to look back at that one and laugh. It was quite a drastic change between yesterday's terrain; as soon as I crossed the creek the dirt took on a rusty tone and this was mainly shrubs. I dropped down into Lake Morena at the 20 mile mark and 4.6 for the day. I had to get a soon so I walked down to the store and grudgingly bought a cup of ice cream. Cookies & cream. Two scoops, and I mean real scoops. Ya, that was a real hard way to get a spoon haha. Back at the campground I got a hot shower and then got back on the trail. At my first stream crossing I looked on the other side to see three guys just putting their shoes back on. So I quickly looked for a good way across the two foot wide waterway. There were no routes that didn't involve getting my shoes wet, but I was write fortunate that someone had forgotten their sandals the previous day. I grabbed then meaning to give them back if I ever meet the owner, but until then I'll be putting them to good use keeping my shoes dry. On the other side I found out these guys were all friends from vancouver out on the trail for 5 months. Real nice guys and it was god to have company for a change. They started the day before me but took a real easy day 2. I was surprised I had caught them already after seeing their footsteps yesterday but the big difference was that they took a late start today which gave me the time to make up some of the miles.

I definitely find it easier to hold a steady pace in a group and being with them helped me push a bit further than planned. We ended the night at Fred Creek, where we built a fire and I had my first hot meal of the trip. So good after a long 17 miles of hiking. We sat up and chatted for a bit before I had to call it a night and I retired to my tent just after 9pm, which truly does seem to be hiker midnight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 1 (5/18) Water, water everywhere!

Finally the day six months in the making! I woke up about every two hours hoping that 6am had arrived. Of course this meant I actually slept thru my 5:30 wakeup time. Haha. I have to give the sincerest thanks to Halfmile & Deb for their hospitality. They treated me to burgers last night and then a bacon and egg sandwich this morning. That's the way to my heart 100% of the time :-) Deb was gracious enough to drive me to the trailhead and snap a few quick photos. It must've been a three hour commitment after we lost about thirty minutes deporting around an accident. That was just fantastic of her and I want to repeat my sincerest thanks to both Deb and Halfmile.

As I saw in the forecast, today we had rain and fog, and plenty of it. I didn't figure I'd need my rain gear right away in the ' desert'. I made it about 500 yards down the trail before I came to a spot where it turned in to a gently flowing stream. So much for water scarcity today. All of the seasonal creeks were flowing well and there were quite a few that weren't even marked on the map. It was 15 miles to Hauser Creek which was my goal for the day. No problem (sorta). The miles didn't bother me and my training paid off for general endurance. Unfortunately as I was well aware, I had very little training with elevation given the topography of Illinois. I'd done as much as I could using the angle settings on the treadmills our climbing the ramps at the local parking garage, but it was clearly insufficient. I could use the walking poles to power through short uphill sections, but a few of the extended climbs killed me. Then the downhills added to the fun as I had to cut my pace to maintain secure footing and not overload my knees. I probably held around a 2 mph pace including breaks, so that's acceptable but nothing spectacular. Hopefully as I get my legs under me that will increase even as the climbs become more challenging. Tomorrow I start out with a long climb past Morena Butte and down to the lake. I've ben informed they have free hot showers so that will be fantastic. They also have a store where I'll be able to pick up a soon cuz I apparently forgot mine :-( That meant no cooking sloppy foods tonight, instead I ate only those no cook foods. Beef jerky was a great idea to include. Currently camped out at Hauser Creek and I think in calling it a night. Take care all!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Final Day at Home

So the most amazing thing has happened over the last five months. Somehow I've managed to spent that time wrapping up my undergrad and prepping for this massive summer undertaking. I've gathered up 90 days of food, boxed it up, ready to ship to myself on the trail. I developed an itinerary for how I plan to cover 2600 miles of trail in just three months. I've put in nearly 350 miles of training, and feel pretty good about my physical condition. I've assembled all the gear that will keep me safe and warm over the course of this adventure. And somehow through all of that, this day seemed to be exceedingly far away. Suddenly, yesterday, as I walked back from receiving my diploma, it was here. Whoa, that hit me fast, because part of me never really wanted, or even expected this senior year to end. I was just having too much fun with everyone, and the end was always weeks or months away, then BAM! Game over. Undergraduate life has been forever locked away in our photos, transcripts, and memories. Now its time for things to get real.

I'm home right now looking at everything that come together for this trip (including a frantic rush to postpone jury duty that came up in June!) For anyone who hasn't followed me from the start though, let me give you a brief recap. This summer I plan to hike the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, starting at the Mexican border in Southern California and working my way up to the Canadian border. I follow the mountain crest up the center of the state, so no, I will not see the ocean. You can see the route below.

I'll be starting out in the high desert, and will be there for about 700 miles before transitioning into the Sierra Nevada mountain range, including a short detour up to Mount Whitney, the tallest point in the lower 48. After several hundred miles there I will move into the volcanic areas of Northern California, winding around massive volcanoes such as Lassen and Shasta. At the 1700 mile mark I will have finished my first state, and will head into Oregon and the Cascade mountains. As the trip winds to a close I will come through Washington, up to the Canadian border, and just across to catch a Greyhound bus back to the states for my flight home.

If you were wondering, no I'm not crazy, just ambitious. I'm looking to push myself to the limit as I need to walk an average of 28 miles per day in order to finish this before grad school starts again in the Fall.

I'm starting out solo (much to my mother's chagrin) but I fully expect to run into other hikers and spend time hiking with them if we're going the same pace. About 400-500 people attempt the full thru-hike each year, so I won't be the only one out there.

Yes, I do have a satellite emergency button, and I hope never to need it. The nice thing is that it lets me send 140 character check-in texts w/ my GPS location, so that will let me stay in touch even out of cell range. If you want to be on that list for text messages, please message me and I'll make sure to add you to my account.

For supplies, I clearly can't carry 95 days of food with me, so the plan is to box up 5-7 days of food and ship those boxes to post offices near the trail. I'll just have to walk in, show my ID, and I'll be all set for another week of hiking.

In terms of keeping everyone up to date, this will be my primary location for updates, at least when I have cell service. I'll try to post as many photos and entries as I can.

I think that pretty much covers it, so I'm off to pack my bag for the flight tomorrow. Thanks everyone for your support, and I'll see you all in a few months!