Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 87 (8/12) The Postal Sprint

24 miles to walk by 5pm. Make that 4pm because I have a 10 mile hitch at the end of the 24 miles. Better make it 3pm just to be safe since it isn’t a heavily traveled road. If I was getting up at 3am that wouldn’t be too much to ask. But after a 26 mile day of hiking yesterday my body wasn’t going to settle for anything less than nine hours of sleep. Period. End of story. So my 7am departure was just about as early as I could hope for. That means I have 8 hours to walk 24 miles, just 3 mph. For the whole time, assuming no breaks. Not impossible, just improbable without some major willpower. I didn’t worry too much though, and got going right away. As I walked I set up checkpoints for myself to see if I was staying on track with the miles I needed. By 9am I was a mile behind. At 10 that had crept to a mile and a half. I was pushing myself as hard as I could, but unfortunately the terrain was pretty rocky, and the faster I walk the more often I have rocks jab me in the feet when I can’t find the perfect spot to step down. By 11am I was in trouble. I’d held things together and was still only a mile and a half behind my 3pm arrival, but my right foot was excruciatingly painful. Between the time off and the constant wet shoes in the Sierras all of my hard-earned callouses had been worn away. One spot in particular was giving me trouble and I was unable to properly walk on it without pain. Just between the ball of my foot and the second toe at the very front of my foot it had first blistered two days ago, then that had broken and the skin torn away. Now there was just raw flesh, and it was not getting along well with the ground. AT ALL. I was forced to change my gait to shift weight to the outside of the foot on the rocky sections if I wanted to keep hiking at this speed.

By 1pm I knew this wasn’t sustainable. I was hoping to push myself and get through the rocky parts onto smooth tread, but I had no such luck. Though I was trying to will myself through without breaks, the constant battle with my foot had taken a serious toll on my mental state. In frustration I shrugged out of my pack and sank down against a log, a full 9 miles from the destination. After a few minutes of glorious bliss off my feet I began to reassess my situation. Clearly, I was in no shape to continue this death march, and I would have to accept that I would miss the post office’s 5pm closing. Rather than being a depressing thought, it was actually a huge relief. I have no idea what kind of scenery I passed this morning because I’d literally put my head down and walked as fast and hard as I could. It really wasn’t why I was out here, and in no way did I find it enjoyable, especially with the addition of the foot pain. The ONLY part that stands out was a section where I walked past four waterfalls in a row alongside the trail and was able to reach over and fill up my bottles with icy refreshing water without ever leaving the trail. Everything else blurred together as a mix of pain and perspiration. Once I decided to let the deadline go, the burden was lifted from me and I was free to enjoy the experience again. After a good 30 minutes rest I resumed walking, albeit at a much slower pace. These last 9 miles weren’t necessarily any more pleasant walking on my foot, and it even gave me the motivation to write an ode to callouses in my head, which I repeated in my head in the vain hope that it would help heal my foot. During this part of the journey I was surprised to come across a hiker with his tent set up at the early hour of 3pm. I stopped to chat, and it turns out that he left Etna yesterday evening, started having stomach problems a few miles out and spent the entire day in the tent today recovering. I offered him some of my extra food and water, but he said he was all set, so I wished him the best and walked onward. I’m sure thankful I haven’t dealt with that yet on this trip, because despite how much foot problems hurt, its infinitely worse to try hiking when your insides are all scrambled.

Mt. Shasta off in the distance
Way closer than the first time I saw it from Crater Lake
My pace in this section was pretty awful, probably under 1.5 mph, and I started to wear thin on patience. Lifting my spirits was the constant stream of northbound hikers who had left Etna this morning. From the numbers that I met, I would reckon there had been 25-30 hikers in town two days ago, and they had slowly made their way back to the trail and run into this lone southbounder. It was fun giving them all reports about the people ahead of them that they were trying to catch, and I loved seeing their reactions to how many or few miles so-and-so had done already. Finally I came around a turn that indicated I had 4 miles to go. I’d been warned there was no cell service at the trailhead, and additionally I was given a number for a local who gives rides back to town if you call. That was perfect since I would be arriving later than usual and I couldn’t count on people driving past at that hour. With about 2.5 miles to the trailhead I found a good overlook with service and called Keith for a ride. I said I’d be at the road in an hour and I’d be glad to pay him for a ride down the hill. I turned my phone back off then resumed this final leg of the hike. I walked out to the road at exactly 7:20 after one of the most trying days of the trip (aside from the fracture), hoping to see a car waiting for me. Well, there were three forest service trucks there, but no Keith. I waited a good 20 minutes without any activity before a packed car passed me going towards town. No luck hitching. Then a car came from town and stopped. I figured this was Keith so I picked up my pack as the car rolled to a stop. But no, it was a couple asking for directions, and I was the last person with any clue about the roads around here. “I’ve just spent 3 months in the woods, sorry I don’t know how to get to that lake, in fact I’ve never heard of it.” Next a forest service helicopter touched down to refuel and took off again. I hoped they would drop off the people who belonged to these trucks, but no luck. It had now been most of an hour and I was running out of hope. I would have no problem camping here at the road, except for one problem. Water. I’d planned on my next drink coming in town, and the nearest on-trail water was a good 3 miles away in either direction. The half liter in my pack could keep me hydrated, but forget cooking dinner... Great.

I climbed up a nearby hill hoping for a cell signal, to no avail, and my frustration level began to rise again. Had I walked all that way today, enduring serious pain for no reason? Should I have just taken a mulligan on the day, walked a dozen miles and called it a healing day to let my foot recover? As I was sinking into a black hole of this second-guessing I heard a diesel rumble coming the right way. I jumped up and stuck out my thumb while striking a winning smile. It worked, and the truck pulled over! I was offered a prime seat in the back among a bunch of tools and coolers, and the man confirmed my earlier concern, that he figured he was likely the last one to drive this road til the morning and that I was lucky he’d been coming the right way. I agreed, and happily tossed my pack in, and jumped in right after it. We roared down the hill, and now I understood why it was not more heavily travelled. It was a narrow winding road going waaay down the mountain into the desert where the town was located. Though it was only 10 miles, I think it took nearly half an hour to drive that distance, and I was dropped at the grocery store in town. I thanked the driver profusely, then walked over and met a few hikers stocking up on food. They gave me directions to the hostel, and I set off on my way. It was a good mile walk over there, and for $25 I was able to get a bed and shower. Perfect. There were about 6 hikers there, the tail end of the massive group from two days prior. The priority for the night was a shower, which felt fantastic, though I’m not sure it was enough to remove over a week of trail grime. I’ll have to shower again in the morning. The evening’s entertainment was the TV and VHS player, and we watched Transylvania 6-5000 (from 1986), which was  absolutely hilarious. Plus, it had a great cast of future stars like Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr, plus once character who looked just like the character who plays Lupin in Harry Potter (IMDB shocked us when we found out that they are different people). It was a great way to decompress after a long and stressful day, and I slept soundly on my pull-out sofa sleeper.

I swear, if I write a book about this whole summer experience it'd be something along the lines of "No Adventure Goes According to the Plan". What a day.
Miles Today: 24 (+1)
Trip Mileage: 1254
PCT Mile Marker: 1606

Trinity Alps - I'll come back there some other time for sure. Anyone else interested?

Day 86 (8/11) Going the Extra Mile(s)

After the town-stop shortened day I had a few miles to make up today. Plus, as I mentioned yesterday, the menu for today was a massive climb of 6,000 feet over the next 20 miles. This meant I’d be slowly working my way uphill all day without any super steep sections. The day started out with a climb up the Grider Creek valley, crossing the creek four separate times as the trail weaved around solid rock bluffs on each side of the creek. This was highly reminiscent of the hiking I did with David in the Ozarks last year over Thanksgiving, with the only difference being the altitude out here, and the scale of the climb. Cresting a ridge I had a short reprieve before I starting switchbacking up another adjacent ridge. About 8 miles in I took a short lunch break, then pushed on higher and higher. I didn’t want a long break as anything more than 20 minutes would give my legs too much time to cramp up and I didn’t need that today. Near the top of this ridge I came across a trail crew working on putting up new trailhead signs with maps of the area on them. And right after that I entered the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

This was one of the three areas I’d been told about by northbound hikers. They all raved about either the Marble Mountains, the Russian Wilderness, or the Trinity Alps. Well, as the first of the three, I relished the opportunity to see what all they were talking about. At first this seemed to be no different than any other part of the trail, but slowly I came to see what they were talking about. There were a bunch of marble pieces littering the trail and I was tempted to take one as a souvenir (I didn’t because that is against Leave No Trace; plus its extra weight!). A few miles in I ran into an interesting problem. I was looking for a small unsigned spring, and the directions I have are for a northbound hiker. Therefore, any landmarks described would necessarily be PAST the spring I’m looking for. My solution was to walk a ways, then look back to see if anything matched what I should be seeing as a northbounder. This went on for a frustrating mile as I looked for the “large 3-forked tree” which should be just off trail before the turnoff to the spring in a large meadow. I became frustrated, and wondering if I may have passed it, considered my options for other water sources - none were good choices and would require that I ration heavily on the way. Walking along in this contemplative state I suddenly came to a new wooden sign pointing straight to the spring! Turns out the guidebook wasn’t quite up to date on this improvement. I got water then came back to the trail, where I looked up and saw the MASSIVE 3-forked tree. Had I understood exactly how big this tree was, I would’ve been absolutely sure I hadn’t missed the spring. Each of the three forks was the size of a normal tree. Pretty awesome, especially with the campsite right underneath. I stopped there to treat my water, and chatted with a local hiker who had already made camp there. He was recovering from back and knee problems and this was his first trip back out on trail. Good to see him out, and we had a nice chat about all kinds of things. Though I enjoyed his company, it was far too early to stop, and after my requisite 20 minutes to purify the water, I drank my fill then headed off again. Many, many miles were still ahead of me.

Coming out of this break I had a fantastic vista of the trail winding around the side of a ridge with the large Marble Mountain standing across the valley. I took it all in with a huge grin, then was off again. Over the next two hours I started running into all the folks who had left Etna yesterday morning. This was not good news for me. The Etna Post Office doesn’t have Saturday hours, so I need to be there by Friday at 5pm to get the box with all my food. All these people have spent 1.5 days hiking to get this far out, and I have just about a day to do that section in reverse... I decided that merited a strong push into the evening to make a few more miles. My stomach though was unwilling to go along with that plan without first being fed a full meal. I usually prefer to eat around 6 or 7, then get a couple miles of hiking done afterwards, but that does mean valuable daylight hours are spent on dinner. Today I would’ve liked to walk until dusk then made camp and eaten, but it just wasn’t going to happen as hungry as I was.

Following dinner I ran into more of the hikers who departed Etna yesterday, so it seems like I’m coming across another big cluster of people. They report that a whole bunch of people are behind them yet. Around 8pm I found one of the most beautiful spots of the whole trip; a field of white wildflowers with a scattering of blue/purple flowers, accented by a few red ones. What a great sight, and I literally walked straight through this field as I followed the trail. And just minutes later I had a good laugh as I had the opportunity to yell out “It’s August 11th in California, and I’m still walking on snow!!!”. Granted, this was only 100 yards of trail covered by snow, but nonetheless I was amazed that it had managed to stick around for so long. That’s just a testament to the amount of snow they got this year, and why its been such a struggle for thru-hikers to stay on track and finish on time this year. At the 26 mile mark (another marathon, yay!) for the day I called it quits, leaving a full 24 mile day ahead of me tomorrow to reach Etna.

Miles Today: 26
Trip Mileage: 1229
PCT Mile Marker: 1630

Moon over Black Marble Mountain

Day 85 (8/10) Racing for Lunch

When I went to bed I figured I had about 12 miles to town this morning. When I woke up I looked at the maps again and realized that town was actually further than I had thought, and that it would actually be 15 miles to get my resupply parcel and lunch at the diner. It was a slow morning, partially because of the location of my camp. Usually sunrise around 6am starts the process of waking me up, but I slept on the westward face of a hill, so the sun wouldn’t be shining directly on my sleeping bag for hours and hours. Left to my own devices to rouse myself, it was nearly 8am when I took off for Seiad Valley. Early on I ran into a few folks who mentioned how steep the descent would be for me. Of course, the PCT is still a well graded trail designed for hikers as well as equestrians. That means steep is anything between 500-600 ft of elevation gain per mile, and you usually don’t find anything beyond that. By the same penchant anything less than 200 feet per mile feels essentially flat (and thats pretty rare out here most of the time). I personally prefer gentle descents and steep climbs because I can’t hold a good pace on a steep descent while maintaining balance and control. On the uphill its easy enough to power through it, and it seems less exhausting when you can get the climb done in a hour or two rather than stretching it over most of a day.

Seiad Valley and the Klamath River
This particular descent was a monster. I would drop 4,500 feet over the course of eight miles. Ouch. I would much prefer to be a northbound hiker in this situation, one of the few times I’ve noticed a difference in the flavor of the trail for southbounders. Past Seiad Valley I’ll climb 6,000 feet, but this time over nearly 20 miles while descending only about 1,000 feet in that time. That’s a mile net gain that I have to look forward to after dropping into the valley. On the way down I ran into Sniper who had left from Seiad Valley early this morning. She was 6 miles in and I had only 6 miles to go, and we shared intel on the trail we would each encounter. She was particularly interested in water reports for the coming section, so I gladly let her know which springs were running well and which weren’t worth visiting. She gave me the tip that the cafe closed at 2:00, so as we parted ways I redoubled my pace in order to make it in time. Going down a steep descent is always a little unforgiving on the knees, but this time because I was moving faster I started having  pain in the front of my toes as they pushed into the front of my shoes and jammed my nails. I walked through it, but was slightly concerned about the possibility of damaging my toenails and giving myself worse problems in the future. The descent was pretty neat, and I got some great views of the valley ahead of me. The Klamath River is huge, and it turns out that it was a huge area for gold mining up until that was banned for environmental protection a few years back. There are still big piles of tailings on the side of the river from the dredging operations to pick up large amounts of rock and dirt then sort through it to find the gold. Now that people are banned from doing that, the area has slowly dwindled and the few local shops are struggling to survive without the influx of 49ers every year.

State of Jefferson Post Office
At 1:00 I hit the road at the bottom on the descent, and was given a warm welcome to the 51st state. Rather, make that a hot welcome. At 1,400 feet this is the lowest elevation in quite awhile, and the oppressive heat was plenty of evidence for that. Oh ya, back to the 51st state thing. For over 100 years there has been a movement to create the 51st state in this area out of counties from Northern California and Southern Oregon. The rationale is that these rural mountainous areas have been poorly represented at the state level and they would be better served as part of their own independent state. Back in the 40’s this came to head with a full vote for separation and the creation of a new state, but it fell by the wayside when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and after the war things improved and the movement lost traction. The independent spirit of the State of Jefferson movement is definitely alive and well in the area though, and you see plenty of signs proclaiming the unofficial state name. The other signs in the area are the prominent “NO MONUMENT” signs. An environmental group has petitioned to make hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Siskiyou Mountains a ‘National Monument’ to give them similar status as a National Park. The difference - a National Park needs congressional approval, a National Monument can be created by presidential signature. In a county that consists of over 60% federal land, it is understandable that there may be resistance to this plan. It doesn’t help that it isn’t clear what happens to private land and water rights if the National Monument is approved. I chatted with a few hikers and a few locals, and it was clear that this was another big mess that had been brewing for a few years without any clear resolution in sight.

Fortunately for me, that had no impact on the quality of the food at the diner. I got in around 1:30, got my resupply box and was surprised to find a letter from my Grandmother in the box from home, and it was really cool to ready that. Plus, she gave me money for a treat, which was immediately converted into a burger and malt at the cafe. Thanks Grandma! Absolutely fantastic, and a welcome refreshing treat on a super hot afternoon. After lunch I started sorting through my food for the next three day section, and I got to meet a minor trail celebrity. Balls and Sunshine are a father/daughter hiking pair that has made it all the way so far. The neat thing is that Sunshine is only 12! She worked out a deal with her school to let her work ahead to get done in time to start hiking this year. Next year she plans to do the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail the following year, which would make her the youngest person to do all three of the US long distance hiking trails, the triple crown of long distance hiking. She’s about 4 months too old to set the age record on the PCT, but man, I was sure impressed by not only her maturity by her dedication to this challenge. At that age I can’t imagine committing to a four month trip like this. It was awesome to actually meet them after hearing a few stories along the way about the youngest member of the PCT Class of ‘11.

I was extremely unmotivated to get back out on the trail after lunch. The heat wasn’t helping anything, and I slowly worked through my food resupply, then took on a very necessary task. The dirt and grit in this section had been some of the worst and was seriously abrading my feet through my socks. So I took on the task of washing my socks so that they at least had the illusion of being clean. It took about 30 minutes of scrubbing to get the three pairs to a point where they were acceptably clean. Once they had air-dried (amazingly fast) I slipped them back on and forced myself back onto the trail. Rather, the road. The trail follows a 6 mile section of road through this town because it has to use a bridge over this wide river. Because of my 4 hour break, one of my shortest all trip, I wasn’t looking at a full 20+ mile day of hiking. I decided hiking out to the end of the road and to the campsite there would be a good plan. That worked out perfectly as the sun was setting just as I reached the camp, where three other hikers were already camped, ready to head into town tomorrow. I quickly made dinner then chatted with Kenneth for a bit before retiring to my sleeping bag. This low in the valley between mountains the sunset comes earlier and I was definitely out by 9:30 this evening.

Miles Today: 20
Trip Mileage: 1203
PCT Mile Marker: 1656

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 84 (8/9) Scariest Morning Ever

It is quite common for me to wake up in the middle of the night out here, so I usually don't think anything of it. That's how it was around 3:30am when I woke up to get a drink of water and relieve myself. I drifted back off to sleep, but came awake again shortly after 4am. I was on edge, so something external must've disturbed me - probably a cool breeze across my face I thought. Then I heard it and everything froze. Somewhere just north of me I heard the sound of wood being torn apart; maybe a big branch falling? Then it came again, Kra-Kraack-Krunch! My mind raced to figure out what it was. Not many things were that big out here, and it took me a few long moments before I settled on a bear rooting for bugs in a downed tree. I waited and it came again, louder this time, and maybe closer, but maybe I was just fully awake now. It was close, but I had no idea how close. It could be 30 ft, it could be 300, but either way, I was scared. That bear would be hungry, and I happened to have a good bit of food right here. I didn't want anything to do with this massive creature, and it probably wasn't afraid of me, or at the very least was unconcerned by my presence. In the dead silence of night its very rare indeed that a person could go unnoticed by one of the forests' many residents. Between their hearing and smell, I knew it must be aware of me. Determined to calm my racing heart, I whipped out my headlamp, and banged my trekking poles together a few times. I didn't see anything from my position on the ground, but the sounds stopped. After a pause the sound of wood being ripped or crushed came back, and despite fear gripping me I stood up, banged my poles, and took a look around. Nothing within sight, but in the depth of night my headlamp didn't penetrate all that far. I crashed my poles together and in response two huffs, then the noise of it moving away from me.

I wasn't satisfied that I would be safe with something like that so close and potentially interested in my food bag, and there was no way I would fall back asleep now. In true record time I packed my bag, tied my shoes and set off down the trail following the bobbing circle of light from my headlamp. This is a tough way to walk, as the soft white light paints everything in dulled colors and provides little depth perception - making it easier to stumble over a rock or unexpectedly step into a divot. Your pace slows so you don't outrun the circle of light ahead of you, giving yourself just enough time to process what is ahead before placing steps. For nearly an hour and a half I carried on like this  until I finally came to rest alongside the trail to get breakfast. I peacefully watched the sunrise as the adrenaline crash sent me into a mild stupor. As I sat there basking in the moment I was startled back to reality by a crashing noise uphill from me. Though I couldn't see it, it sounded like a boulder coming down the slope. There was a massive downed tree a few feet up, and I braced myself to dive out of the way if this boulder cleared the tree. Before it came to that though it suddenly changed course and the crashing sound followed a new route and then out to the trail. And with that there stood one deer and then a second, just staring at me. I couldn't help but laugh as my heart best through my chest for the second time this morning. Its always something new out here, and today was definitely a first for me.

I got going again shortly thereafter, but by 8:30 I felt exhausted. The early start and shortened sleep were taking a toll, and I wasn't going to fight myself. I laid down beside the trail, put my feet up on my pack, then drifted off for a perfect hour-long nap. Felling refreshed I pushed on inti the morning. Based on talking to Jamz yesterday I figured I would probably see Noah today, and wondered when I'd run into him. I kept working out where he would be given this or that starting time in the morning, but as the day wore on I still didn't see him. In fact, compared to yesterday I saw very few hikers. Funny how packs form out here clustering a dozen or more people into a couple miles, and then you get long stretches without anyone around. Near 5:00 I was closing in on 20 miles for the day, and heard the sounds of two hikers ahead. Purring through the trees I recognized Noah and called out a greeting. He was hiking with Honeybuzz, who had been with him for a couple hundred miles now. Its awesome that he find a good hiking partner with a comparable pace for so long.

We found a shaded spot along the trail and sat down to chat. It was really neat to catch up abs compare notes on some of the things we'd both seen. I got to hear about the section I missed north of Yosemite, and their endless struggle with snow. I gave Noah a hard time for blasting ahead into the Sierras when I arrived later the same day to Kennedy Meadows after such hard work to gain a day on him in the last 150 miles. It was fun to catch up, reflect and reminisce. I'm going into the last week of my adventure, but these guys still had just about 1000 miles to go. I'm just a little envious... It really does put into perspective how long this trail actually is. That's something I never could've comprehended before coming out here. Two and a half months in and Noah was just now finishing the state of California, and he's been no slouch about making miles or minimizing days off. Even the fastest trip on the PCT was 61 days, and that is still a crazy long time to spend out here. Its really something else. Finally after an hour and a half we got a photo and posted ways; we both still had miles to make today. For me I put in another two or three before dinner, but afterwards was too beat from the stress of the morning plus the lack of sleep that I decided to call it a night. I'm 12 miles out from Seiad Valley, so I'll be making it there in the early afternoon tomorrow for the restaurant and post office.

Miles Today: 22
Trip Mileage: 1183
PCT Mile Marker: 1676

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 83 (8/8) Like a Walk in the Park

Ten days left. 210 miles to go. And what do I do but sleep in this morning! I think the problem is the final destination. When I was trying to reach Canada I had a strong motivation to get up early and walk fast because of how aggressive that goal was. Now, when I have to average only 21 miles a day I've become complacent, knowing it should be easily achieved. In comparison to my earlier goal, this should be a walk in the park. Well, that attitude is going to put me in a tough spot, especially if it keeps up for the rest of the trip. It was unbelievably disappointing to be injured and face the fact that I wouldn't achieve the 2,663 mile goal I had set for myself. After that, my end point was merely another town I should've passed en route to our northern border, and it doesn't have the same allure as a complete thru-hike did. The funny thing is that this last section is a good long hike in and of itself (340 miles), and is nothing to laugh at. Everyone says the Marble Mountains and the Trinity Alps are fantastic, so I am looking forward to those.

As I got going today I noticed a particularly worrisome weather pattern approaching. White clouds had been building all morning and now were coalescing into darker storm clouds. At home this would be a guarantee of rain, but with a pair if ridgelines between me and the storm, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I passed a couple local folks, and  they said not to worry about it. "You'll know when its gonna rain" wasn't all that reassuring, but I took it to mean that this would blow over without causing much trouble.

Around 11am I had the most pleasant surprise of the last few days. There on the side of the real was a cooler packed full of pop for hikers as a 'Welcome to Oregon'. I had a nice morning Mountain Dew, which gave me a massive sugar rush as ij haven't had pop for a few weeks if not longer... Today turned out to be the biggest day for meeting northbound hikers yet. Turbo cranked past early this morning, probably amped up from his soda at the cache. Then I proceeded to run into 5 hiking pairs, including Matt and The Escalator who I had met back at the Anderson's. Turns out they had also bailed through Kearsarge Pass for an injury; Matt dislocated a shoulder and needed to come off to recover. They jumped ahead to regain the pack and plan to do the Sierras once they hit Canada. Not a terrible plan since it gets you through Washington before the snow flies in October. Everyone else was new to me, though I recognized some names that I had been catching up to before I got hurt. Turns out Jamz had hiked in the Sierras with Noah, and he should only be a day or two behind. How cool would it be to side him again 1,000 miles after splitting around Wrightwood.

As the day progressed the threatening clouds looked less and less threatening until finally they broke up entirely. I guess everyone else was right after all. Around 3 I came to a section where the trail climbed while winding along the side of the mountain, and I could see it all the way to the top. I started grinning - this is one of the kinds of vistas I enjoy the most, looking out at the trail stretched before me, prickly and mentally prepared to tackle this next challenge. Shortly afterwards though I came to a less pleasant and much more unexpected challenge. A 12 ft high snow bank engulfed the trail, and I had to figure out a way across. Northbounders had it easy because they could just slide down, but I would be working against gravity. The slope looked to be 70-80°, do far steeper than I would like. Each end disappeared into the trees, leaving little hope of a good way around. Just like in the Sierras I told myself as I started kicking steps into the snow wall. 5 feet up I decided it was nothing like the Sierras which had been soft and mushy melting snow. This was a hard, consolidated drift in the shade, and kicking steps HURT. I longed for my ice axe which would've made short work of this. Instead I had two nearly useless trekking poles. They did come in handy as I neared the top though; I planted the handles (and my hands) as solidly into the top of the snow wall and pulled. My body rolled up onto the top and I let out a sigh of relief. Phew, that was dicey.

Shortly thereafter I got a real treat. I came across the "All Downhill Campsite," constructed by none other than Sourdough, Turtle and Magellan three days prior. They had talked about clearing this site when I saw them at Callahan's, so it was really cool to actually find it. Plus, it came with a full detailed map courtesy of Magellan (he is a map-maker in real life). It was too early to camp there, but I did take the opportunity to stop and cook dinner, smiling at the little jokes they had left. On the back of the map was queen that this site was built solely for the use of Pacific Coast Trail hikers, playing on the common mistake about the Crest Trail's name. Apparently Sourdough still hasn't been able to get his family to say it right. For me its been people like Kenny who are generally sharp but can't quite figure this one out...

From there it was all easy cruising, and I got a great sunset view on my way out of Oregon. It was like one of those paintings where each later of hills is a different hue - I counted 7 tonight. Continuing on I made it to the OR/CA border right after dusk and took a bunch of photos to commemorate the occasion. Its bittersweet since I didn't walk all of California to get here, but it is a big milestone nonetheless. Plus, this marks 300 miles without any problems resurfacing in my fractured ankle, so that's worth celebrating in and of itself. I walked about another mile by headlamp before finally giving in to fatigue and calling it a day. Finally out of mosquito territory, I happily slept out under the stars.

Miles Today: 22
Trip Mileage: 1161
PCT Mile Marker: 1698

Photo: All Downhill Campsite & map
Photo: Oregon / California border!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 82 (8/7) The Final Countdown

There are now just 11 days left in my trip - a sobering thought. I woke up rested and refreshed this morning, and the only sign of yesterday's endeavors was the pair of raw spots on my heels, easily remedied with tape for now. I guess the other less visible sign was my appetite. Breakfast featured unlimited pancakes, and I put away three stacks on top of the eggs, hash browns, bacon, and numerous cups of coffee. Turtle and Magellan were taking a few days off to visit with friends, and Sourdough had plans in Ashland; none of them would be hiking out today. Nice & Steady had taken off bright and early at 6:30, before breakfast! Mathias cruised out the door around 9 on his way to a 30+ day. He somehow manages to clock 5mph on the downhills, and I really wish I could see him hike to know what he dos special or if he resorts to jogging. That's one of the great benefits of ultra-light backpacking is that it allows you to be more nimble, and I know a number of people who employ a semi jog that would kill myt knees with the weight I'm carrying... For the record, ultra-light is considered less than 8 pounds of gear, where I have around 15. I do know where I could cut 3 pounds if I shell out some more $$... New down sleeping bag, down jacket and I'm knocking on the door of the single digits. That's just a matter of money I'm not willing to spend at the moment.

As Sourdough, Turtle, Magellan and I are breakfast we were treated to a curious display. There was a jay raiding the sugar packets from each table as the patrons left. The staff seemed overwhelmed again this morning (despite only a dozen tables...) so they weren't bussing tables fast enough to jeep this jay away. The most interesting part was that it would pick up a set of packets, and if they were artificial sugar, the link and yellow ones, he would drop them. The real sugar, the white and brown packs were taken away to some secret stockpile. Amazing that or could tell between sugar and splenda. Easily the funniest part was an hour later when three jays were hyper all over the back yard, flying this way and that making a giant ruckus. Quality entertainment right there.

After breakfast I took advantage of the shower, then started to catch up on email. Mike had worked out our apartment situation, so I just had to sign the lease. This turned into quite the ordeal as I got it printed and signed, but then the fax machine wouldn't work. After a few tries I gave up and emailed photos of each page to Mike. What a headache, but at least thats one less thing to worry about when I get home. With the lease stuff resolved I moved on to packing my food. This was a box that had been forwarded from Echo Lake, soit didn't perfectly match my needs. Plus I had some leftover food from the last section due to several restaurant meals so I wanted to pare down my stash. No need to carry ahl that extra weight. It took about 30 minutes, but afterward I was happy to see all the stuff I wouldn't be putting on my back.

Finally I was ready to go, and I took off back along the road towards the trail. It seemed so much shorter this time when my legs were fresh at the start of the day... Right around 4:00 I hit the trailhead, and I knew I was in for a short day. The while way I was climbing, and my legs weren't exactly feeling the best after the punishment from yesterday. I made 5 miles by 7pm when I stopped to make dinner. The Ashland Inn was right there and they generously allow hikers to get water from a spigot out front. Plus the picnic table was perfect for making dinner. One of the dogs harassed me while I ate, I think because he wanted some tuna or rice. When I left I felt weighed down and bloated, and despite my intention to tack on another 4-5 miles I only made one before calling it quits on account of my disagreeable stomach. I'll really have to make up miles tomorrow to compensate for this near goose egg of a day.

Miles Today: 6 (+1)
Trip Mileage: 1139
PCT Mile Marker: 1720

Photo: Sourdough was in Ashland!

Day 81 (8/6) Marathon Man!

So I'm on a bit of a schedule to finish in time for the start of school, so there isn't too much room for short days like the ones early this week. Plus, there is afn all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at Callahan's, so I had double incentive to make up for lost time. I was on my way at 7:45, south 29 miles of trail and one mile of road between me and dinner. The morning was a blur as I churned out 18 miles by 3pm when I stopped for water. The big highlight of the morning was running into Forever & Ever who I had met back at Kennedy Meadows. Their ice axes and crampons were list in the mail, so they took it as a sign to avoid the snow in the Sierras and jumped up to Old Station. How cool to see familiar faces again on the trail! I wished them the best and we all walked away with smiles.

So at 3pm I took a 30 minute break for the health of my feet and for my sanity. You can only go for so long in one stretch... The water source was a black pipe running into a stagnant pond, thankfully above the surface. Apparently it is spring-fed, and it was actually great water. I assessed my situation at this point and realized I had to get in by 8:30 if I wanted dinner. That meant holding a 2.4 mph pace for the next 5 hours - no small task. Nonetheless I was committed and driven by the thoughts of good food.

Fantasies of pasta and meat sauce danced through my head as I pressed ahead, and by 5:30 I had picked up 20 minutes, ETA now 8:10. Every hour I took a five minute break, devoured a snack and elevated my legs. By 6:30 my feet were complaining loudly, and around 7:00 my legs threatened to give up.  However I kept walking and they never followed through on the threat. At 7:15 I got a good view of the highway not more than a quarter mile away. My body breathed a collective sigh of relief, almost there. Then my heart sank as the trail turned to the southwest and started climbing. Callahan's was to the northwest and down, so two of three were the wrong direction. I cursed at the trail designers, and willed myself to keep going. This is what I get for not studying the maps more closely... I continued my progress southwest and just felt crestfallen as the minutes passed. I hummed the song 'Sanctuary' to take my mind off the pain below my waist. Its only 8 lines so I repeated it many, many times... Finally when I had nearly given up hope of making it on time, I saw the flash sunlight off a car parked along the road. My pace quickened and I jumped up onto the asphalt and hurried to get to dinner. It was 0.5 miles to the place the PCT leaves the road, then another one to the lodge. I was numb as I walked the shoulder, totally shutting out my screaming feet. Before I knew it I came around a corner and I only had to walk an underpass to get there. That may have been the longest 200 feet of the day as all the hurt came rushing back.

I limped to the front desk and asked fie the hiker special; $40 for AYCE spaghetti dinner, shower, laundry, camping in the backyard, and AYCE pancake breakfast. The host wanted to show me around first, but I insisted that could wait until after eating especially since the restaurant would close in just an hour. She didn't quite understand how urgently I needed food but consented to letting me eat right away. Dinner for me is usually between 6 and 7, so by 8 I was HUNGRY, despite whatever energy bars, candies, etc I may have eaten during that final 12 mile push. She said there were a few tables of hikers, so I would have my pick. Once I saw them though, the choice was simple. At a take with one open seat were Sourdough, Turtle and Magellan! Sourdough I had met at the snow course, and I briefly met the other two in Kennedy Meadows. Sourdough was delighted to see me and announced that this proved the trail is like a rubber band. I got further evidence of that when Pat & Sandy  (also from snow school) walked up, now called Nice & Steady. They wouldn't day who was which as it apparently changes based on each of their moods. How neat to see them again, especially this far up trail.

Service was atrociously slow, allegedly due to a party of 15. But after waiting 30 minutes without ever seeing a waitress, I finally begged the busboy to drop in my order. It seemed that they were just understaffed by one or two people... When the food finally came it was good, and two and a half plates banished any thoughts of hunger, and I enjoyed another hour of conversation with the other three hikers. Finally we tired and each went to a spot on the back lawn where we pitched our tents on perhaps the softest bedding of the entire trip. My feet were throbbing but I felt great about having just finished my first 30 mile day since returning from injury. Rock and roll!

Miles Today: 29 (+1)
Trip Mileage: 1132
PCT Mile Marker: 1726

Photo: Ashland, OR

Day 80 (8/5)  The Info Sherpa

As planned I woke up early today, but I was still passed on trail by a hiker cruising by at 6 something. Either he camped really close to me or he's one of those 5am guys... I packed up quickly but dawdled over breakfast, and then got to chat with another northbound hiker in his 11th year of section hiking the PCT. Thus year he's stepping it up and trying to all of Oregon in one shot. I have a lot of respect for guys like him because somehow they've remained dedicated to this goal over years and years. He was anxious for news of Crater Lake, and I informed him that it was totally passable, though the snowy forest section was frustrating.

Shortly thereafter I ran into Steel-Eye, another prolific PCT-L poster like Shroomer. Neat to put a face to a name and talk for a little while. After that I needed to start picking up the pace, and set cruise control to 'fast'. For awhile at least I can just focus on the trail and zone in, humming away and cranking out miles. Today the song of choice was Nightwish's 'Creek Mary', to which I know almost no words but it has a phenomenal score. I actually think I like the orchestral version more than the original track. And yes, I do make the distinction to call it orchestral and not instrumental because the score was played by the full London Philharmonic. Epic music for sure.

Sometime after lunch I ran into Wrong Turn, who was glad to hear firsthand news of the trail ahead. Apparently for the last two weeks southbound hikers who started in Ashland had been trekking horror stories of the snow at Crater Lake, despite not having seen it. He said most claimed that 'the roads were just plowed yesterday!' and that it for old real fast after hearing that 4 days in a row. I was glad to provide what info I could, with the caution that there would be a week off difference between when we each saw it. We talked for awhile longer as he waited for his current hiking partner Robbie who had been having trouble with his pack falling apart and had stopped to sew it up (again). Turns out he said Sourdough should be a few data behind, so I'm looking forward to running into him again. Finally Robbie caught up and wanted to ask the same questions about the trail north. Wrong Turn said he'd fill him in, so we parted ways and I looked to make some big progress yet today.

The trail was nicely graded the whole way, so I had no problem holding a good pace for a few hours. I stored for dinner on a wooden bridge over a marsh, and was staked halfway through when a squirrel popped out, screeched at me for 30 seconds, then turned tail and ran. I laughed at the unusual experience, finished diner and got going again. Around 7 I ran into Dirtmonger and Rhino, who wanted the full report on Crater Lake. By this point I'd gotten pretty good at my role of information carrier, or info sherpa as I jokingly referred to myself. I'd followed Dirtmonger's journal early on since he started before me, and it was good to see he was still moving along well. As for me, I was moving pretty well too, and managed to put in an extra mile or two before darkness fell. Its definitely happening sooner because I had to call it at 9 where I used to get at least another 30-45 minutes.

Miles Today: 23
Trip Mileage: 1102
PCT Mile Marker: 1755

Photo: Mt Shasta far, far, far off in the distance. My final destination this summer...

Day 79 (8/4) Footsore (But on Track!)

So the title gives away the fact that I finally hit my mileage goal for a day (22 miles) and that I may be hurting a bit as a result. I generally don't like to write about minor pains while on trail because if I did you would just be reading about thousands of cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, blisters, etc. Hardly a day goes by without some sort of minor aches and pains from some part of my body, reminding me its still there and it doesn't appreciate being mistreated for 1000+ miles. Most of these go away after an hour or two and I don't bother to mention them. My feet are the worst culprit, but fortunately I haven't had many serious issues with them lately. But for once I will bring up pain in my journal because today my feet really truly do ache, and its somewhat cathartic to write about it.

So my feet do hurt for a good reason. I was out of camp by 8:30 - not god, but better than the last few days. From then on out I just kept moving, and fast. For starters out was easy, smooth trail, and once you find that rhythm you can just fly. We're talking 3mph, not my top speed, but definitely cruising. My first stop was 8 miles and less than three hours into the day at Cristi's Spring. There would be no water for 12 miles so this was a critical stop. Before I even saw the water though I was swarmed by hundreds of mosquitos desperate for a piece of me. Most earned themselves a piece of my palm as I slapped at any exposed skin. Once at the water I filled my bottles as quickly as possible, dumped that  two litters of water into the bladder, then picked up another two liters. In that short time I swear I lost at least a pint of blood... I practically ran back to the trail. Desperate to outrun the little bloodthirsty savages I picked up the pace until finally stopping for lunch at the 12 mile mark - just before 1pm. I ate hurriedly to avoid becoming lunch for a new wave of mosquitos, then continued my southward march.

Early in the afternoon I came around the flank of Mt McLaughlin, but the trees on its shoulders jealously guarded the views of the peak. Fortunately for me the PCT stays low around this giant and I didn't have to climb too high as we toured around the base. This is one of the smaller Cascades volcanos, with Rainier standing the tallest. Its almost like a family of them. Shasta to the south is an older brother, tall and proud, showing off for hundreds of miles. Lassen is like a younger teenage sister who has grown distant and stares of longingly toward the Sierras. Rainier would be the patriarch of the family, and Mazama would've been the matriarch before she blew top a couple thousand years ago. St Helena took after her mother and went up in smoke and ash a short 30 years ago. Theilsen never did stay on the straight and narrow, and his body of ash slowly wore away, leaving only his jagged core exposed. Adams is into looking trendy, and he makes sure to comb his glacier all over to one side. (I'm sure I could keep on going, but you get the point - each mountain has a certain personality to it, things that make it unique, and its fun to anthropomorphize a bit with those characteristics).

Anyway, back to the story about my feet. So by 3:30 I had finished a full 20 miles to highway 140. Just 2 mikes to the west was Fish Lake Resort, where I could get a tasty burger. Or, I could press on to make more miles... Tough choices, but specially since my feet were hurting, I decided to try my hand (or thumb) at hitching. I set a 40 minute time limit after which I should give up and hike on. 10 minutes and 15 cars went by with no luck. I pulled out my sharpie and write "PCT Hiker to Town" on the back of one of my maps. 15 minutes with no luck before ancient VW buys came rolling up. Bingo! Turns our this guy is 19, just graduated high school and moved to Oregon. From where? Park Ridge, IL, 45 minutes from where I grew up! He and his buddy had just finished an 8 he round trip climb up McLaughlin, so I got to see some sweet photos they took at the top. They dropped me off at the Fish Lake Resort where I immediately ordered a root ver floaty and burger, followed by a slice of blackberry pie. I'm not sure if this counted as lunch or dinner since its 4pm, so we're going with neither and having those meals too. I had a great chat with the waitress while I ate since it wasn't busy yet, and managed to get out just before the rush.

Overall it was about two hours off, but they were well worth it as my feet felt much better on the way out. I figured the chances o of a hitch back  were slim to none, so I opted to walk two miles instead. As I neared the trail the landscape changed rather abruptly. Lava rocks were everywhere in massive jumbles covering the hillsides. These black rocks were even noted specially on the map as lava. Upon reaching the trail it was evident that this transition occurred abruptly at highway 140, which was quite curious, though in retrospect out just means they routed the highway around the lava rocks.  The trail made no pretense of avoiding them though, and went straight down the center circling around Brown Mountain. The trail was cut onto the rocks and a  fine gravel/dirt had been laid over it, providing an excellent walking surface.

One of the neat things to see was how plants and trees are slowly retaking this area. There were patches with trees, and then some with only bushes and shrubs, or small trees. Over time the debris (sticks, leaves, roots, etc)  from these plants appears to fill in the spacious gaps between the rocks, likely catching more water and allowing the next generation of plants to thrive and expand their territory a little further. It must be a hundreds of years old process (I'm  actually quite curious how long ago this all formed), but inevitably the plants will regain this area until the next eruption wipes them out again. The only problem on this whole area was camping. I walked an additional trip miles after coming back to the trail, but there was not a single flat spot to be found. As I walked further the backs of my feet started tochafe around the achilles, and lacking a better option, for the first time in over a month I set up camp right on trail. I'll get out early in the morning to avoid being run over...

Miles Today: 22 (+2)
Trip Mileage: 1069
PCT Mile Marker: 1778

Photo: Lava field with Mt McLaughlin in the background (washed out)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 78 (8/3) Time to Find That Groove

I was determined to make up for lost time from yesterday, so I was on the right track when I woke up at 6am. That didn't last long as I climbed back into my sleeping bag for another two hours. When I finally left camp around 9, I was already miles behind where I should be. For this plan to work, I need to be doing about 22 miles a day, and I haven't gotten there yet in the first two days southbounding.

Fortunately it appears I got through the worst of the snow yesterday, and I only had a few sections to deal with through the morning. The big concern today though was water. This is a dry section (and I thought Oregon was all wet and rainy!), and I have no desire to face dehydration again. When the first creek I came to was dry, I assumed the worst about the upcoming creeks and detoured down to Middle Lake to fill up. Of course this meant being swarmed by mosquitos, so I took care of filling up as fast as possible - I probably escaped with a dozen bites. Turns out the next two creeks were flowing, but I was still glad to play it safe on this one for the sake of having enough water.

Shortly thereafter I ran into Don't Panic and Wing It, and we shared trail intel on what we had each just passed.  My next obstacle would be the snowy northern face of Devil's Peak which these two had happily just slid down. The mile of snowy ascent consumed over an hour, plus when I got cell service at the top I said goodbye to another 30 minutes. Twelve miles done by 4pm... Not good. I picked up my pace and rapidly moved past Lucifer Peak (I wonder why all the devil names for peaks?), and down Shale Butte. Somewhere in there I stopped for dinner, but wasn't hungry enough to eat more than half of it. Instead of saving it for later I opted for a walking dinner, taking a bite or two anytime I felt I could use it. I think this was a positive as it kept nge moving without cutting dinner short. At the bottom of the descent after Luther Peak I came to the perfect camp site, and gladly planted myself right there. It was only 17 miles for the day, but at least we're moving in the right direction and getting closer to that critical number.

The real cool thing to see today was a clear, close view of Mt McLaughlin, which I'll be walking past tomorrow. The north face is still snow covered and I wonder if any of that snow is a permanent glacier. Devils Peak did  have great views, and I was able to see way south to Mt Shasta, near my end point, and to the north Mt Theilsen, and Llao Rock over Crater Lake, near where I started. So from this vantage point I could see at least 350 miles of trail which blew me away a little bit. Maybe not quite the same top-of-the-world feeling I had at Mount Whitney or on Muir Pass, but pretty amazing nonetheless. Just one of the many reasons I'm having a blast out on this hike.

Miles Today: 17
Trip Mileage: 1045
PCT Mile Marker: 1800

Photo: Distant Mt. McLaughlin - my challenge for tomorrow

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 77 (8/2) A-Y-C-E! (to the tune of YMCA)

So I'm not too proud of how the first half of this day went. I woke up at 6:00, but rolled over and before I knew it I was still packing up camp at 9am! We'll chalk that one up to sleeping in the last couple days while in town. Then it was only three miles to the road, where I took a slight detour to Annie's restaurant. I hadn't planned on making this stop, but when I ran into Rockdancer he happened to mention the most magical for letter acronym know to thru-hikers. AYCE: All You Can Eat. So  it turns out Annie's is a buffet style AYCE, and there is just no way I could pass that up. Its practically a rule on the trail that I had to stop. On the way in I met Sasha who started at Yosemite and plans to finish at Canada. Also there was Beacon, a veteran of the Continental Divide Trail. For some reason he decided to start with the hardest trail first and work his way back from there.

We arrived around 10:30, which was terrible timing as breakfast was over and lunch didn't start til 11:30. We weren't interested in the omelets only option during this time slot, so we waited. Finally the clock hit that wondrous time and the eating began. First, to be healthy, a plate full of salad, followed by Hawaiian pork, scalloped potatoes, chicken & rice, and pizza. All washed down with apple cobbler and two generous servings of ice cream. Had I eaten any more they would've had to roll me out of there. It was 1:30 before I finally put my pack back on, and I had still only made 3 miles. Time to book it, right?

I wish it worked that way. I doesn't the next few hours on and off snow fields, but mostly on them. This wasn't like navigating snow in the Sierras where you could see the pass miles away and just make a bee-line for it. This was Oregon forests, where the only thing you can see is trees. Route finding is a bit more  challenging, but there are a few easy guidelines to follow. (Credit to Malto for several of these) First, the trail is generally worn down below the level of the rest of the forest. This means the snow was deepest over the trail and will melt the slowest. Therefore, if you see a snow bank, that could very well be the trail. By the same token, water seeks low points, so if you see or hear a small creek running, that could very possibly be the trail. Obviously there are no trees standing on the trail, but a long time ago they discovered the answer to the question "If a tree falls in the first and nobody sees it fall, where does it land?" That ones easy - the trail. Generally crews are god about clearing downed trees - once the snow is gone. Therefore if you see a downed tree, it very possibly means the trail is right there. Finding footsteps on the snow is generally a mixed bag - sometimes it means you're right on track, if the owner of those footsteps knew where they were. But more often than not it just means you're only as far off track as the last guy, not much consolation. With all this navigational uncertainty its a shock I made as much progress as I did. I guess the big thing was to crank out miles  as fast as possible while on dry trail to make up for the slow going through the long snowy sections. 15 miles today was not sufficient, but I'm confident without the distraction of food I'll be in much better shape tomorrow.

Miles Today: 15
Trip Mileage: 1028
PCT Mile Marker: 1817

Photo: The Oregon desert - pumice soil that sucks up water leaving long stretched without access to surface water.

Day 76 (8/1) Going the Wrong Way!

This marks the official start of my 340 mile southbound PCT section from Crater Lake, OR to Dunsmuir, CA. I'm going to have ti get my head around the concept of hiking south instead of north... You would expect me to get an early start for this, but the opposite was true. First there was the continental breakfast. Then some final packing and getting out of the hotel. From there I had some chores to do at the post office. Mail out postcards, and one resupply box to Etna, then work with customer service to have my two boxes at Echo Lake forwarded one to Ashland and one to Seiad Valley. That was an easier job than expected and many thanks to Rick from the Klamath Falls PO for his help.

After all that we finally started the hour drive to Crater Lake, where I had a final lunch with my dad before he dropped me at the trail. We also picked up another hiker who was going that way - he had started at the Oregon border and was going to Canada. It was neat already meet one of the northbound hikers and I knew there would be plenty more coming. When I finally did step foot on trail it was nearly 2:00! This would clearly be only a half day at best.

The trail officially hours around the lake to keep horses away from the rim, but there is an alternate hiker trail that follows the Crater Lake rim. Obviously I took the rim trail. As I climbed the flanks of this ancient stratovolcano I wondered how it would've been before the explosion spread a good portion of this mountain across the whole west coast. It is still high enough though that this year it still held an appreciable amount of snow on August 1st. I never once imagined I would still be seeing snow at this date... Not to mention trudging through it in slushy form. Just like in the Sierras my feet got soaked. But on the other hand I got to look out on one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever seen. For starters this lake is the deepest, purest blue you can imagine. Add to that the fact that it looks enormous, and that's before you realize its a quarter mile below you when you're standing at the rim. Then it takes on whole new proportions in your head. You might happen to notice one of the three tour boats on the lake, only they appear ant-sized and don't seem to make any progress across the lake. Only after watching for awhile do they seem to come closer to the massive Wizard Island. Reading a plaque I found out it was a 4 mile boat ride, and that's not even all the way across the lake!

Partway around I had the chance to climb the fire tower atop Watchman Peak. How could I pass that up? I had a great view of Shasta, McLaughlin, Theilsen, plus three other snow-capped behemoths in the distance, and of course the whole Crater Lake below me. What a view, and since it was snack time I spent a good while up there soaking in the sights. When I came down I didn't make it more than a mile before up the trail here comes none other than Malto.

For those few of you who haven't yet memorized every detail of my trip, I met Malto at mile 110 at Warner Springs. He started 3 days after me but caught up by doing mid-30's each day. He wanted to finish the trail in a timeline similar to mine, so we had emailed back and forth prior to the trip. I had followed his blog occasionally but was really curious how he had been doing. Apparently he was equally curious about my trip, and understood some if the challenges I had hit. He still advocated the ultra-light approach to me, and its grown on me over the course of the trip. While we caught up Redbeard came walking up, and we all talked for a bit more before we split ways to finish our miles for the day, 7 for him and 5 for me.

Miles Today: 12
Trip Mileage: 1013
PCT Mile Marker: 1832

Photo: Crater Lake panorama from adjacent to the Watchman

Day 73-75 (7/29-31) Moving the Fast Way

This morning Fool got off to a bit of a slow start leaving, but did depart by 8 or so. He has 1700 miles to go and about 75 days to do it; a 25 mile per day average. Being late will help him avoid some of the snow that slowed others down, but it is still a solid pace. I wished him the best of luck and then he was on his way. My heart sank as he left since from here on out I turn into a section hiker with no intention of finishing the trail straight thru this year... This has been obvious for weeks ever since I got injured, but skipping ahead really brings that home. I did over the first third continuous, and that section of the trip tallied over 1000 miles including the side trips I took. In a couple hours I would be speeding northward fie the final leg of my journey. What an amazing summer so far, and I hope this last section continues to exceed expectations

My dad left Sacramento around 8, do I was expecting him around 11. As I waited at the store, who showed up but Number One again! He had left a day later than us from VVR and despite our low mileage he only caught up now once I stopped. Goes to show how hard it can be to make up days on trail. We decided to grab a few beers and relax for a bit one last time before we went our separate ways. For awhile we got into a discussion with some other hikers about the PCT, which is always fun. We speculated about the status of other hiker friends of ours, and the general consensus is that many, many, many people dropped out or skipped around due to the record snow this year. It sure has put alot of people in a tough spot to finish because mid-October is about the latest you can go before hitting fresh snow in WA. Number One was unconcerned and said he would but snowshoes if that was what it took to finish the whole thing this year. Finally after an eternity my dad showed up at 12:30; he couldn't find Tuolumne Meadows and couldn't call for directions once he got into the mountains and lost service.

We grabbed burgers from the store, then went over to hang out with the other hikers whowere around. Erin and Chism were  getting ready to keep going north, and then Yoshihiro (a common PCT-L writer) was there getting ready for a trip on the JMT. He was joined by Shroomer (another PCT-L regular) and it turns out they are both my Dad's age. They all shared stories and the other two tried to convince my dad that he could do the whole thing sometime. I'm not sure I can quite imagine it, but I wouldn't be terribly shocked if he hiked some of it once (if) he retires.

After a good while we said our goodbyes and headed north, destination Echo Lake. We drove north out of the mountains and back to the 395, with clouds building to the east. As we turned up west towards Echo, the clouds seemed to close in and suddenly we were being pinged by hail. Poor rental car... As we made it further west we outran the building western edge of the storm, and made it safely to our destination. The first person I saw as I walked down to the lake was Canadoug! There were a few thrus during outside relaxing, and we spent a few minutes catching up. Turns out Steamy was a day past there and Positive ID a day back. I talked about my plan, and Canadoug cautioned that Washington was still socked in with snow and it would be slow going. He have me the idea of jumping ahead then southbounding to meet ALL the hikers still on trail. The siren had continued to build and dark clouds now threatened just to the east. We bid then farewell, got a few shots of the lakes and took off just in. to to avoid being drenched.

The second day featured plenty more driving as we worked our way up towards Crater Lake. En route I got to see Shasta and Lassen, two massive volcanos in northern California. Shasta particularly dominates the horizon, and I have to imagine seeing that everyday might inspire people to take up hiking or climbing or other outdoor sports. In Illinois we just have trees and skyscrapers, so its a wonder that anyone gets a passion for the outdoors.

We drove for hours to reach Crater Lake in the late afternoon. This wad one of the locations I had wanted to see all trip, so I wanted to make sure I would see it even if I was planning to jump ahead. This lake is something else, the largest, deepest lake I have ever seen. I marveled at the forces of nature that created this awesome place. As we drove around the park snow was still very prominent in a number of places. I could only imagine how WA would look a couple hundred miles to the north. A plan began to take shape, building off of Canadoug's suggestion. I would hike south from here and in the process run into all the remaining northbound hikers. Plus, after checking the maps I would be able to end at a town with a train station, so it would be easy to get to an airport for my flight home. Satisfied with the new plan I decided to start back on Monday the 1st and finish Wednesday the 16th in Dunsmuir, CA, 340 miles to the south.

Sunday was spent relaxing and preparing. I had to adjust my plans for resupply, sort through food, catch up on journals, upload  (a few) photos, do laundry, shower three times, and load up on calories. Also in there my dad and I managed to find time for a 5 mile hike out near Klamath Lake. He was struggling with the elevation (6,000+), and I was really enjoying walking without my pack or gear. For dinner I feasted at the Black Bear diner, a cool west coast chain. Its been a great 3 days with my Dad and I look forward to jumping back on trail tomorrow for this final leg.

Miles Today: 600 (by car)

Photo: Driving through Northern CA and OR

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 72 (7/28) Salutations to You, Mr. Muir

Today we would finish the remaining 18 miles on the John Muir Trail. For Jeannie this would be her last hiking for awhile as she was going home to be with her boyfriend as he recovers from a series of foot injuries. We had celebrated her last day with the half liter of wine last night, and this morning a 6 point buck greeted her in camp. For once her camera worked and she was able to get a photo. I was still a little drowsy and never managed a good shot... We packed slowly, and I think despite all the hardship out here, it would be hard to cut it short at this point. I still feel like I have a lot of good hiking left in me. Within a short time though, I became quite jealous that this would be Jeannie's last day, as the mosquitos started swarming us and making life miserable. The worst was definitely Sunrise Meadow, where the trees each projected a high pitched hum, and hundreds of the pests buzzed around us biting at any opportunity. The meadow was gorgeous, but we practically ran through it to escape all 8 million of these evil guys. Actually, I think they were girls, because only the females need blood to feed their eggs. My humorous interpretation was that mosquitos are just like people, where the women all seem to be out for blood, while Jeannie said that 'at least mosquitos are the only creature where all the males aren't bugging you'. We had a good laugh over this one, while still trying our hardest to hike our way out of the swarm. Around noon I flipped on my cellphone to hear if my Dad had landed in Sacramento yet. Turns out he accidentally booked a flight for 9pm instead of 9am, so he was trying to standby on an earlier flight and would be here late tonight or tomorrow morning. Well that took all the pressure off me to finish today, but Jeannie still needed to catch teh 5:00 bus to Tuolumne and then on to Mammoth Lakes where she would start making her way back to L.A. As the day passed it was clear we would be fine to make it to the bottom by 5, but not necessarily to the bus stop, which was an indeterminate distance further from the trailhead. With about 5 miles to go Jeannie just took off, worried she might miss the bus, and I did my best to stay within sight of her. That was really tough, and the worst was when I lost her for a minute then came to a trail junction - one way was longer but was the official JMT, the other was shorter and more scenic. I figured she probably took the JMT, so guessed it would be the right way to go. I went another 20 minutes before I finally caught her resting on the side, and the whole time I was thinking she must've taken the other route.

After this she got ahead again, and coming upon a group of trail riders they let her pass but got going again before I could pass as well. I didn't expect this, but they were MUCH slower than my hiking pace, so I was forced to leisurely walk behind while chatting with a pair of hikers similarly caught. I guess the reason for the slowness was the inexperienced riders who were uncomfortable on their mounts. One was out from NY and the other came down from the Trinity Alps region of Northern California. When we could finally pass the riders we took off once more, and I was surprised that these two hikers could keep up with me easily, and in fact did much better on the downhills because they were more nimble without the big load I was carrying. At the bottom I caught up to Jeannie again, who had figured out where to go for the bus. Despite officially finishing the offical 224 miles of the JMT, there was no time for celebration as we had only 15 minutes until the bus left. The two hikers I had chatted with offered us a ride over to the bus stop, and we gladly accepted. They had been out for a week just driving around and hiking to different backwoods areas, including a couple sweet hot springs they told us about. When they dropped us at the bus stop we were loudly greeted by Fool and Joe who were waiting for the same bus as we were taking. We got to talk to them the whole way back up the hill for two hours. It was neat hearing about their hiking experiences, when they had been only a day or two ahead of us. Turns out that the tracks up the wrong pass next to Mather had been from Fool, Avocado and Muumuu, and that had been the major reason that Avocado and Muumuu decided to get off trail. They had hiked all day got to the top, realized it was wrong, turned back and hiked into the late evening by headlamp to net a total of seven miles. Wow, that sounded so much worse than the short detours that Jeannie  and I had taken... Fool would be heading north tomorrow, and Joe was also headed back to Mammoth Lakes, so at Tuolumne Fool and I got off while Jeannie and Joe continued on the bus. Neat how the pairings on trail can switch so quickly and seamlessly.

Fool and I grabbed some dinner food at the store, including my celebratory 22oz beer for finishing the John Muir Trail, then we  went over to the backpackers camp, where some nice folks let us camp at their site since we couldn't find one that was open. Tonight I wouldn't have to worry about my food since there was a bear-proof locker at the site, and everything outside my tent was crammed into that for protection from the wildlife. Tomorrow Fool would take off and I would meet up with my dad to get going on the final leg of my journey this summer.

Miles Today: (18 John Muir Trail)
Trip Mileage*: 1001^
PCT Mile Marker*: 942

*From here on out ‘Trip Mileage’ will be the total distance I have walked, and the ‘PCT Mile Marker’ will be my current location on trail. Up til now they have been the same, but that is no longer the case due to my impending jump ahead.

^Trip mileage calculated as 942 PCT miles Mexico to Tuolumne Meadows, 24 JMT miles Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, 18 miles out and back Kearsarge Pass, 17 miles up and down Mt Whitney, smaller side trips not included in the total)

Photo: Half Dome, which sadly I didn't have time to climb

Day 71 (7/27) Two-Owl-Um?-Knee

As planned we woke up today early and quickly broke camp, leaving well before the boyscouts had a chance to get going. Thats how thru-hikers do it. We had a real easy day planned, hiking down the length of Lyell Valley to Tuolumne Meadows - a 10 mile trip. From there we would assess our situation and if we have time, hoped to continue along the JMT to finish at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. I decided I didn't need much food for this morning as there was a grill at Tuolumne, so that also helped with the fast start this morning. Plus, I lost my spoon a few days ago, so eating has been a bit more of a challenge without that utensil. For the messy stuff I've been forced to borrow a broken spoon from Jeannie. That McFlurry spoon lasted about 550 miles from Cajon Pass, and I'm absolutely sold on using them in the future as a lightweight and durable alternative to expensive titanium spoons.

The miles went quickly past as we followed the downward slope of the valley and river into Tuolumne Meadows. Jeannie and I took a bet about how many times we would be asked about the conditions on Donohue Pass. She guessed four, and I guessed six. There were two early on, and I felt confident that as we got closer to the trailhead the number of questions would increase. Sadly, I was wrong as the number of day hikers increased and the majority of JMT hikers had already passed in the early morning. As we made it further down it became evident that Jeannie had been dead on with her guess of four, and I had little or no chance of picking up two more, even if I did try my hardest to get random people to ask about the pass. Walking along we wished we had a small raft to glide down the water, which slid silently past us, easily outrunning our respectable 3 mph pace. The only issue with a raft would be carrying it when not on water, but man it would've been awesome today... In the last mile from the trailhead we saw a number of families out hiking together, including some kids that looked totally dejected at the idea of hiking through the woods. I bet I did that occasionally, but I did feel sorry for them that they already weren't enjoying themselves only a mile or two in. It would be a long day for them I bet. At the bottom we followed the trail, and then ended up with a mile long trek over to the store. We were both hungry and impatient, so that walk seemed to take forever. Jeannie hadn't seen the maps, so every building we passed first raised and then dashed her hopes. Finally we came to the store where I picked up a burger and ice cream, along with my pair of resupply packages. These contained the seven days of food required to get me to Echo Lake, but I would instead be using part of it for the hike down to Yosemite Valley and the rest for Washington. There was no way this all could fit in the bear canister, so I did my best to cram in the smelly stuff and then everything else went into a different stuff sack which would hopefully not be raided by animals...

At the store I ran into Avocado, who I almost didn't recognize, and then Muumuu and another friend of theirs. We chatted and caught up - turns out they are getting off trail to go biking instead, so this was their last stop. They'd hiked a bit with Joe and Fool, who were both now on their way down to Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, so maybe we would see them on our trip if we hurried. I was in no hurry though, as it felt great to sit down and relax for a little bit. Finally after about 2 hours it was time to get going again, and Jeannie and I decided to pick up a little celebratory treat for this evening since it was her last night. The store happened to sell wine in bags, so we picked up a half liter of Sangria and set off on our way, bidding goodbye to our old friends one last time. The interesting part about this section is that since it is off the PCT we didn't have maps that covered it. As a result we weren't quite sure how far it would be, though we had heard conflicting reports that it was anywhere from 18 to 28 miles. I think we settled on 24 and figured it would be easy to do it by the 5:00 bus back up to Tuolumne tomorrow. The JMT around the store was pretty well signed, so we had no worries about staying on the right trail as we went forward. Additionally, we knew that we would drop a net 4,000 feet of elevation, so the terrain couldn't be that terrible, right? Early on we did a few short climbs followed by reasonable descents, all well marked with mileages to locations ahead. We settled on stopping at Cathedral Meadows / Lake after a six mile haul. I was aching more than usual due to the extra food load, and plus we weren't too worried about the overall mileage. When we got to the meadow we stopped and made dinner, and throughout the whole meal we were swarmed by mosquitos. That made up our mind to camp away from the meadow, so we walked 0.2 miles up before setting up under some scraggly pines. Hopefully they would provide enough cover to prevent the worst of the potential condensation. I was a bit concerned about the extra food outside my bear canister, but since we were camped away from where we cooked hopefully the lack of smells at our site would prevent a bear or other critters from becoming interested in my goodies.

Miles Today: 10 (+6 JMT)
Trip Mileage: 942

Photo: Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River

Day 70 (7/26) Who Said It’s All About Hiking Anyway?

This morning as I got up I was greeted by a new four-legged friend (my first of the day) who was out hiking with his owner. They both passed and I quickly began packing. It would be a big day, and I could potentially hit Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite by this evening. My dad will be there on Thursday, so I figure I’ll finish the John Muir Trail in the meantime as there is a 24 mile section that splits away from the PCT to drop into Yosemite Valley. My dad will be spending a few days out here and I think the plan is to drive up to the Oregon/Washington border with him and then hike north to Canada from there. Washington is by far the most remote, so it would be the hardest section to do in pieces later. Plus, I really want to get up there to see Rainier, Hood, and some of the other spectacular mountains in the Cascades. So, that's the incentive to get moving.

Look at that form!
Despite the desire to get going quickly, I did have a short intermission planned. Because we stopped shy of Thousand Island Lake last night and I didn’t get to swim / rinse off, I decided to do that this morning. First off, lakes are generally pleasant to swim in during the late afternoon and evening because they’ve spent all day in the sun. In the morning, they’ve been cooling off for the last bunch of hours, so they are nice and frosty. Okay, so resume story. Jeanie and I come up to the lake after an hour and a half of hiking, and there sits a whole troop of boy scouts. Undeterred, I strip down to my boxers and jump in, heading for the first island. There are a few caveats to this trip - for starters I’ve barely used my arms for the last two months (lifting my pack isn’t that much work...), and I have a terrible sense of distance over water, and that island was at least 100 meters away, if not more. I jump in and start swimming. I started out well doing a great frontstroke, but quickly tired and swapped to a sidestroke. At least Jeannie snapped the shot while I was swimming hard and with good form. By the time I hit the midway point, I realized this was COLD water, and wanted to hurry up, so switched back to a strong frontstroke. The distance slowly closed, and finally I put a foot down on a slimy rock, careful not to mash a toe into the granite. I hauled myself out of the water, raised my arms over my head, and gave a triumphant whoop of victory. Jeannie snapped a second great photo, and with that I dropped to the ground to rest and warm up. That was the biggest workout for my arms in awhile, and I was also pretty well chilled. The sun took care of the second problem, while my body rapidly worked to recover after the first. After a few minutes, I got up, surveyed my island, and spotted a MUCH shorter way back to shore on a different bank. Satisfied with my accomplishment, I dunked myself back in the water and quickly made my way back to dry land and walked the rest of the way back to my clothes. Okay, so I was pretty cold, and definitely had to take in some calories to get my body working again. So worthwhile, but I think next time I go for a swim in an alpine lake, I’ll make sure its above 45F...

Success! Notice, this was zoomed in pretty far and it still looks FAR away
We probably spent at least an hour on the swimming detour, but who said this trip is all about hiking anyway? As a good friend Sourdough once put it, in his wonderful Georgia accent, “Don’t let the hiking get in the way of your experience,” and especially since my injury I’ve made sure to take that to heart. How many times do you get to swim in a perfectly blue alpine lake anyway? So, with a smile on my face we both set off towards Island Pass, which really didn’t seem to be like a challenge since the terrain was mostly level going up to it according to the map. Well, maybe it was my recent borderline hypothermia, or maybe this just happened to be a difficult section to navigate, but somehow Jeannie and I missed a turn on the PCT when it went under snow, and we spent the next hour or so wandering around looking for this “Pass” which turned out to be nothing more than a low point next to a small hill. Some pass, and it definitely didn’t stand out like most of the previous ones. As we became more frustrated, we turned once again to the GPS - this time Jeannie’s didn’t work (I think I’m gonna rename her Fritz for all the faulty electronics) so I used my phone to get a fix. We were about a half mile away over rough terrain, so it took a bit to get over to the right spot. Finally, she spotted a faint hint of trail across the way, and we scrambled up to find it. Success! And with that, we broke for lunch, once again worn down after only a relatively short number of trail miles.

My new marmot friend. Marm't!
As we got going again the next checkpoint was Donohue Pass. This was a little bit more pass-esque, as we would climb a few thousand feet up to this one, crossing over onto snow about a mile before the summit. At one point before we got to the snow I stopped to dig a hole and take care of business, and was greeted by a friendly marmot who was interested in all the dirt I had dug up (presumably for ants or roots or seeds or something rather than what I had left). He was so bold, I was able to get within a couple feet of him by slowly progressing and waiting for him to accept that new distance. I yelled for Jeannie to come over and we each got some photos with our new four-legged friend (the second of the day). After we messed around with this guy for awhile, we finally decided it was time to head up the pass. There were several groups on their way down, and we had no problem following the “expressway” of footprints straight to the top. In a number of sections I questioned the judgement of those who had walked here before as they came quite close to the edges of rocks which can be melted out and fall beneath you. Last year a PCT hiker postholed next to a rock and tore open his leg from ankle to knee, requiring a helicopter ride out once they stopped the bleeding. I had no desire for a similar $15,000 trip, so I chose to detour around those questionable areas. I'm sure my mother is currently breathing a sigh of relief.

At the top we were treated to some sweet views of the valley ahead and behind us, including the Lyell glacier which feeds a fork of the Tuolumne River. We descended the snowfield and came to a quite unique sight - the very headwaters of the river. We stood at the base of the glacier where the water ran out from under the snow into a lake, and then slowly meandered out and down the valley, occasionally augmented by the flow from streams down the neighboring hills. We were a bit unsure of the trail location, but decided to turn back when we reached a snow covered cascade to the valley below. There were tracks traversing down, but we had no desire to mess with that. 45 minutes later we had worked our way around, following the PCT a bit more closely, but having overshot the descent trail, we found ourselves bouldering down to the base. So much for an easy route. The first creek (river) crossing was an easy ford, but it is always frustrating to soak your feet at the end of the night. We tacked on another mile down to a lower campsite, which coincidentally was shared by the same boyscouts we had seen this morning at Thousand Island Lake. We’ll have to get an early start tomorrow to make sure we aren’t shown up by these teenagers...

Miles Today: 12
Trip Mileage: 932

Headwaters of the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River

Day 69 (7/25) Devil’s Postpile & Devilish Junctions

Despite the late use of cars and trucks last night, the surrounding campers also were not shy about running them this morning. I didn’t mind the wakeup, and we quickly broke camp and headed to the diner for breakfast. A nice bowl of oatmeal was in store for me, along with some plentiful coffee. After the call last night with my parents, I hoped the short morning charging during breakfast would give it enough juice to get me to Tuolumne Meadows. Jeannie and I talked about her plans, as Mike’s MRI came back showing that he had heel spurs in addition to the stress fracture, and he definitely wouldn’t be back on the PCT this year. I felt really sorry for both of them, as she decided she would end at Tuolumne and then go home to do stuff with him that didn’t require such strenuous activity. She seems to be alright with it, though clearly disappointed that she won’t finish this year. I’m in the same boat of not finishing, but I think everyone comes to realize their own dreams in different ways and hopefully you can make the most of each of your experiences out here. If that means hiking 2,665 miles in a year, more power to you, but I’m absolutely convinced that I can have just as much fun in the 1,300 miles I get to hike this summer, and then maybe I’ll come back and knock out the rest at some other point.

On the way out of Red’s we saw LowTech hike in, and then as soon as we said hi the bus to Mammoth Lakes pulled up and she hopped and and disappeared. Crazy seeing her one last time, in a fourth separate location. We walked out past the pack station again, and took a bunch of photos of the mules. Apparently the teams here will bring supplies out to trail crews in the mountains or will actually support hikers who want food and other essentials brought out to the midway point of their trip. That would be an interesting way to do it - instead of stopping at towns just meet up with your hired pack team.

The big attraction around here is the Devil’s Postpile, an area of exposed basalt rock columns from volcanic activity. These hexagonal columns are at all different heights and many have broken off and lay scattered at the base of the pile. I think the choice of the name “Devil’s” is derived from the chaos of this natural phenomenon. We wanted to get some close up shots, so at a 3-way junction we dropped our packs and followed the sign to the Postpile trail. This was only supposed to be a half mile tops, but we watched as we first came close to the site, then slowly progressed further and further from it. Without our packs we were moving at a solid clip, and soon realized we’d gone nearly a mile. At a creek crossing I decided we must’ve missed the side trail to the postpile, so we should head back. Back at our packs we were frustrated, but got some distant shots (well at least I did - Jeannie's camera refused to work) and decided that was good enough. We came to the junction and took the third trail - assuming it must be the PCT. It was about a mile before I realized we were heading Southeast, when the trail should be going due North. I guessed our location based on the map, and Jeannie confirmed with the GPS. A mile off trail. Great, now we’ve wasted four miles of hiking, and we’ve only gotten a mile and a half from Red’s Meadow. We stopped, had lunch, then made our way back to that same junction. Here we realized that the Devil’s Postpile trail was in fact the fourth trail there, and that we’d totally overlooked it previously. To make it worse, we had first walked a mile up the PCT, then walked back in frustration. To say we were crestfallen would be an understatement. The plan for the day had been to make it a relatively easy 16 miles to Thousand Island Lake for a nice evening swim, but that now seemed far out of reach. Plus, our motivation was totally sapped as we retraced our steps along the trail to that same creek crossing.

Immediately afterwards was a set of signs instructing JMT hikers on one route and PCT hikers on another. For the next 14 miles the two trails are on opposite sides of a ridge - the PCT stays high and traverses another ridge while the JMT stays lower and jumps around between lakes in various glacial bowls. We chose to be purists and follow the PCT, partially due to stories of a bridge out on the JMT. The guidebook says the JMT is more scenic, but I have to say that there were some stunning vistas from the path that we took. My only regret was that we had to go through Agnew Meadow, which would be more appropriately named Agnew Mudhole. I managed to escape with one shoe fully coated in the brown muck, and the other only spattered with mud. This turned out to be neat later as I stepped in water and kept my feet dry when the now dry dirt absorbed a bunch of water and prevented it from penetrating to my socks.

We had a nice climb of 1,500 feet to gain the high traversing trail, and amazingly I hardly noticed this one. It made me reminisce about the good old days in the desert when a 500 ft climb was something to worry about. I guess it was all great training and preparation so that my body wouldn’t flinch when I got out here. Jeannie and I started getting pretty hungry around 7, and we found a perfect spot which I dubbed the “Overlook Restaurant and Hotel”. It would be a great spot to eat dinner and pitch camp, except that we were both a touch short on water and didn’t have enough to cook dinner. What a shame, and with a touch of remorse we forced ourselves to move on until we first found a stream and then a suitable flat spot on which to cook and retire for the day.

Miles Today: 13 (+3ish)
Trip Mileage: 920

 Photo: Shadow Lake in a bowl across from the PCT