Monthly Archives: April 2014

Greetings from Idyllwild, California

Well my friends, followers, family, and anyone else stumbling across my writing here, I am in Idyllwild, California.  We (Roi, Sarah, Blake and I) arrived yesterday, driven by our trail friend Evil Goat.  Since getting here, we have eaten ice cream, cooked on a real stove, slept in beds, and resupplied ourselves with the essential items to continue enjoying our lives on the trail.  I personally have had some time to catch up on my journaling, something I am doing daily to document my adventure, a tangible, written memento of what has been.  Some more creative writing in a bit, but for now, here are my journal entries from the past few days.

Desert floor far below.

Desert floor far below.


4/17/2014 Day 7 – Zero day (resting, no mileage)

Very chill day – relaxing with foot baths, food (amazing breakfast scramble), beer, live music courtesy of Roi and Monty and reunions!

After relaxing most of the day, Amanda and I went into town to pick

Sarah, Sunbeam, Amanda, Mike and the famous Monty.

Sarah, Sunbeam, Amanda, Mike and the famous Monty.

up Sunbeam and Mike.  Not too much else today.  Mailed out a resupply to Ziggy and The Bear.  Dinner at Monty’s and back on the trail in the morning!


 

4/18/2014 Day 8 – Warner Springs to Mile 127 (trail angel Mike’s) – 17 Miles

Staying with Monty was a really wonderful experience.  It’s not often you meet someone so selfless, who spends his time and energy helping other people achieve their goals.

After our zero at Monty’s house, we were anxious to get on the trail and bust out some miles.  But of course, we needed to eat a huge

Following Roi on a longer climb in the desert.

Following Roi on a longer climb in the desert.

gut-bomb breakfast.  Spinach and cheese omelets and biscuits and gravy…sausage gravy – the best I’ve ever had.  I had a second helping and coffee as well.

In a blaze of gear-shifting and glory, we braced ourselves for warp speed.  We rocketed towards Warner Springs in the bed of the old pickup, arriving at the trail head in a fury, ready to move.  We thanked Monty for his hospitality and began another day.

The hiking went by as if we were floating, our legs and feet energized and restless from rest.  Before we knew it, the map confirmed 15 miles.  After suggestions from multiple people to stop in at trail angel Mikes, we knew where we were headed.

I ran into Blake at the top of the ranch driveway and neither of us knew what to expect.  We heard rumors of beer, music, food, and

Lots of new faces and good company at trail angel Mike's house.

Lots of new faces and good company at trail angel Mike’s house.

good company.  We were not disappointed.

Everyone I have met in the past week was already telling tails from the journey.  Many new faces showed up today too which is always and enlightened social experience.  There was beer, food, we played music, we met new faces and had a grand time.  Now we sleep.


 

4/19/2014 Day 9 – Miles 127 to Paradise Cafe – 25 miles

Long day – 25 miles.  We stayed at Mike’s place last night and slept out on the porch.  We awoke early to the smell of food cooking.

Tom had the stove up and coffee slowly brewing.  Most other hikers left before sunrise but I took my time.  I drank three cups which woke me up.

Evil Goat, watering his blueberries, what a great trail friend and host!

Evil Goat, watering his blueberries, what a great trail friend and host!

I said my goodbyes and was out the gate running (not literally).  The weather was nice and the first ten miles went by easily – made it to Tule spring by 11:30.

I took a nice rest, filtered water, ate food, washed socks, and dried out the feet.  Roi and Sarah caught up and after some discussion, we decided to push another 15 miles to the Paradise Cafe.  A big burger was in our future.

The last miles dragged a bit but some iphone music helped with that.  Finally we climbed up the side of Table mountain and the road came into sight.  I practically ran down the last mile of trail and was thrilled to see a sign offering free rides to the Paradise for hikers.

We waited a short while for Lee, Brent, and Blake before calling for our ride.  We joked about how we must smell as we loaded into the

GoPro selfie in the desert

GoPro selfie in the desert

van.

As we ate huge (HUGE) burgers and drank IPA, Evil Goat arrived and told stories while we got stuffed.  He offered to let us spend the night at his place.

Blake and I got the RV and Roi and Sarah got the guest room.  We all shared a beer before passing out.


 

4/20/2014 Day 10 – Zero day – Ride from Anza to Idyllwild, CA

We were up around 7 and drinking coffee in Goat’s kitchen shortly after.  He treated us to coffee cake and Mexican breakfast with chorizo sausage.

We spent the morning talking with each other, hearing many storied from Goat’s experience working in Iraq.  We relaxed.

Enjoying the spoils of a 'hiker box' outside of Anza, CA.

Enjoying the spoils of a ‘hiker box’ outside of Anza, CA.

Before long we were in the car making the climb to Idyllwild where we thanked and said goodbye to Goat.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring town.  We ate ice cream and I found gaiters and sandals.  We also got some beer.

Our room at the Idyllwild Inn is surprisingly nice.  Wish I had more money saved to indulge a bit more in town!

Arctic aka Blake going through his bounce box (or bucket!) in Idyllwild.

Arctic aka Blake going through his bounce box (or bucket!) in Idyllwild.


 

Some additional thoughts…

For anyone hiking the trail this year, I have some advice.  Learn about and visit any and all trail angels.  In my planning process I put very little time into learning about the trail angels that give so much of their time and energy to us thru-hikers.  These people go out of their way to make the experience of hiking much more then just getting from point A to point B.  They are a diverse group of people who all share one common quality – they love the trail and actively support us in our quest to hike it.

The first trail angel that I want to give a special shout out to is Warner Springs Monty.  This former through hiker has a big heart and welcomed up into his home without hesitation.

I first saw his name on a piece of paper that was taped under the overpass at Scissors Crossing.  It was upside down on the concrete wall in front of me and initially, I didn’t even take the time to read it.  After camping near the highway that night, I was preparing my pack the following morning when I finally cocked my head sideways to see what was printed on this piece of paper.  The gist of the note was simple – Monty would pick you up, give you a place to sleep, food, shower, and laundry.  There was no fee although it was suggested that you make a donation based on what you could afford.  In all honestly I thought of this opportunity as a great way to save a little bit of money getting some of my needs met.  I copied down the phone number on the piece of paper before setting off for a long day of hiking.

Eventually I made it to Warner Springs and after a double cheese burger from the resource center, I decided to give Monty a call and see if he had room for me at his house.  A quirky man answered the phone and after I introduced myself, he said something like, ‘I bet you’re looking for some food, a shower, some laundry, and a place to sleep, right?’.  Of course this was exactly what I was looking for and after Monty explained that his house was not a ‘party house’, he said he would be more then happy to pick me up.

Roi and Sarah had already talked to Monty earlier that day and they were planning on going to spend the night at his house also.  We all agreed to a 2 o’clock pick up time and made sure we were all there when Monty arrived.  Another hiker by the trail name Santa’s Helper decided to come with us as well.

When Monty finally rolled up in his old, brown pickup truck, he was not exactly the man I had pictured in my head.  Younger and more spry then he sounded on the phone, Monty burst out of the driver seat and introduced himself.  We asked if we could get a ride to the post office to pick up our resupply packages and he quickly agreed and told us to load up.  I couldn’t immediately locate my ID and fumbled with my pack while I heard Monty say something like ‘I should know better then to wait around for hikers’.  HAH!  I didn’t want to be left behind so I grabbed my whole pack and tossed it in the bed before quickly hopping in myself.  Roi and Blake also jumped in and we were off.

Without going into every other detail of our stay with Monty in painstaking detail I’ll distill our experience into a final paragraph.  Monty turned out to be an amazing host.  His impatience is simply his nature and I learned to love this quality and almost find some humor in it remarking to Amanda, ‘When Monty is ready to go, he is READY TO GO.’  He cooked us breakfast and dinner, piling food on our plates multiple times until we had no room left.  He told us stories of his life, hiking long distances with little weight.  Monty turned out to be an awesome musician, jamming with Roi for about 3 hours, having us sing along with some classics as well as some of his own original songs (all stolen from other musicians he joked).

As Monty drove us back into town so we could continue our hike, I realized something (I think I actually realized it sooner).  This experience was MUCH more then just having an inexpensive place to eat and sleep.  This was the experience of a human being, selflessly sharing his love of something with other people who have that same love.  Travelers and adventurers seek experience, not tangible things.  Monty is that traveler and that adventurer.  He has been formed by the amazing experiences and interactions that only the trail can offer.  He has sought to provide these same experiences for those of us following in the footsteps that he and others have pioneered.  He asks nothing in return.  Enjoying the experience is his toll and it is a rich bounty that money could never purchase.  I want to say, THANK YOU Monty, a hundred times over.  Your caring and enthusiasm has enriched my experience and I only shared your company at mile 109!  I have 2500+ more miles to meet other people like yourself.

Any hikers coming up the trail behind me, give Monty a call and if he has room, stay with him, even if it’s for one evening.  Put some money (it doesn’t have to be a lot) in the donation jug to help him continue doing the amazing things he does for us.

Siestas are a great way to dry out your nasty-ass feet and rehydrate without carrying excessive amounts of water ON the trail.  Tule Spring.

Siestas are a great way to dry out your nasty-ass feet and rehydrate without carrying excessive amounts of water ON the trail. Tule Spring.

The first 109 miles

Hello from Warner Springs!  I just finished hiking the first 109 miles of the PCT and it has been AWESOME.  I have come to a few quick conclusions.  First, hiking 20 miles (on average) a day is challenging but can be fun.  Second, keeping my blog updated is going to be a bit more challenging then I originally anticipated.  I am not giving up though, I just wanted you all to understand that the posts will probably be once a week, maybe a bit less frequently, it all depends on when I have access to a computer.  I AM keeping a daily journal so that I can remember everything I want to write about on here – basically daily notes to jog my memory and help me write for all of you.  So here it goes.

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Day one.  Go time.  Time to start the hike, the journey that I have been looking forward to for roughly 6 months.  All the planning and research and hours spent on the internet and reading books culminates in this moment where I find myself standing next to some white wooden posts in front of a rusty fence in the desert.  To be clear, this is the boarder fence, protecting our (once) great nation.  Maybe it still is great, right now I’m not sure but hopefully I’ll find the answer.  I mean, one would assume that walking across 2600+ miles would give me a good idea.

t’s easy to lose faith.  Just turn on the television or read the newspaper.  Endless piles of bullshit in all directions.  But I know there are amazing places and amazing people – they’re out there.  So enough of MY bullshit.  Here is what has happened so far.


 

4/11 Day 1 – Mexican Boarder to Lake Morena – 20 miles

I’ve finally started the quest.  The days leading up to today have felt a bit tedious.  I’ve been so close, just waiting to jump off.

And just like that, Dad and Susan were taking my photo, immortalizing this moment in time when I began what was once just an idea.  I’m kind of at a loss for words – shocked 20140417-090606.jpgthat I have begun.  A small part of me knows that there is always a chance that I will not successfully make it to Canada.  At this moment though, I’m ecstatic to have life simplified to the point of ‘one foot in front of the other’.

The weather today was quite nice – felt no warmer then 80’s.  Also looking forward to a cooling trend.  There was a little breeze most of the day.

Rolling terrain crossed train tracks and a small creek before climbing to a sort of mesa with evidence of recent fire and lots of wildflowers.

I met and hiked with multiple thru-hikers including Jonata (sp?), Brendan, George, Sunbeam, Meredith, Wilderness Bob and Lucky.

Big climb of the day involved descending to Hauser Creek and then climbing Morena Butte.

Climbed a knobby boulder before rolling into Morena Lake campground.  We received soda from other thru-hikers who will be starting tomorrow.

Tired and sore but very happy to be here and looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings.


 

4/12 Day 2 – Lake Morena CG to Mile 40 – 20 miles

Another day completed.  After a cold night, everyone awoke to uber condensation on inner tent walls.  The morning was typical – I cooked up a cup of cheesy grits and coffee.

20140417-090653.jpgSome folks left camp before the sun crested the surrounding mountains.  A veil of clouds hung low in the valley.

I was ready before the folks I hiked with on day 1 and I decided to hit the trail solo.

I met many other hikers today including the Israeli couple, Roi and Sarah.  Also met Birdman, Christian, Butters – I think that’s it.

It’s likely that I’ll take a shorter day tomorrow and kill some time in Mount Laguna.

Tonight I’m cowboy’d up just south of Burnt Rancheria campground in a beautiful stand of pines with a grass understory.  Tired.  Food.  More tomorrow!


4/13 Day 3 – Mile 40 to Pioneer Mail Picnic Area – 12.6 miles

After a beautiful & calm night sleeping beneath the stately pines, I woke at 6:45 to song birds.  After two twenty mile days back to back, I knew today should be a bit mellower.

I had a very leisurely morning – peanut butter bagel and coffee were enjoyed from the warmth of my sleeping bag.  When I finally rallied it was around 8:30 and I only had about two miles into Mount LAguna.  This little (LITTLE, less then 500 people) town is right off the trail and offers the thru-hiker many goodies.

I’m not craving huge greasy hamburgers yet so I opted out of either restaurant.   I did however stop into the gear shop which is run by Dave ‘Super’.  I swapped out my aluminum tent stakes for titanium and also got a 2 liter bladder, tyvek ground cloth, and20140417-090734.jpg a bottle for cooking oil.

Super gave me a shakedown and helped me shave a few ounces off my pack weight.

While talking with Super, Roi showed up and I returned his trowel which I found on the trail yesterday.

I spent another hour in town at the general store where I enjoyed a banana and root beer.  And Super bestowed upon me the trail name ‘Cheetah’.  I like it!

Hot hiking led to a few shady rests.  Views of the desert floor, Mt. Laguna observatory, and Garnet peak were superb.

Tonight dinner was cheesy pesto tortellini followed by hot chocolate.


 

4/14/2014 Day 4 – Pioneer Mail Picnic Area to Scissors Crossing – 24.4 miles *lunar eclipse

What’s with all the 4’s? Very strange – and a lunar eclipse to top it off.,,I don’t know.

So today, biggest hiking day of my life and I survived.  24.4 miles was brutal on the feet but perseverance paid off.

I woke up at Pioneer Mail early enough to catch the sunrise, beauty.  Bagel and PB for breakfast and coffee was a nice way to get the day started.  The horde of local woodpeckers kept me company while I packed up.

An early start made the first miles a breeze.  I ran into X-ray at the Sunrise Trailhead while getting water.  I also crossed paths with a couple young CA state park trail guys who were hard at work taking a union…haha.

The trail meandered before descending into Mason Valley.  There I met Kit, Backup, Coach, First Class, Mike and Amanda.  Snack and then some saywer squeezing before climbing again – yeah!  The views and nice breeze returned.

I passed everyone and saw amazing cactus blooms on the ridge top.  I eventually descended into Rodriguez canyon and caught up to Roi and Sarah at the fire tank.  They20140417-090810.jpg convinced me to continue to Scissors crossings.

Descending from Rodriguez canyon was AWESOME.  Real desert – cacti everywhere.  The heat increased.  Cacti blooms, sandy washes, other-worldly.

Trudged to Scissors and met Evil Goat, Blake, Seamus.  Roi and Evil Goat played strings while we drank tecate thanks to trail angel Houdini.  Fun stories were shared.  Now bed, exhausted!


 

4/15 Day 5 – Scissors Crossing to Barrel Spring – 24.1 miles

Another 20+ mile day.  Woke up early to the sound of traffic on the highway, time to get going.

Although I was last out of camp, I moved fast up into the hills.  BIG barrel cactus everywhere as well as Ocotillo.  Endless climbing resulted in nice views and a breeze.

Leap frogged with Roi and Sarah, Turkey Feather, Blake, Bilbo, and Seamus.  Everyone met up at 3rd gate water cache for a siesta.

Another 9 miles got us to mile 100!  Passed Billy Goat’s cave at mile 96 and counted to 1000 before siesta (earlier in the day).

Saw poison oak!  Look out.  Camping with whole gang at Barrel.  Evil Goat is playing 20140417-090628.jpgfiddle in the woods near by.  Great, long day – tomorrow leads to relaxation!

ps saw two snakes

pps got scared by a bird


 

4/16 Day 6 – Barrel Spring to Warner Springs – 8 miles

Short morning of hiking.  Only 8 miles from Barrel spring into Warner.  I hiked with Blake and we shared life stories.  The miles breezed by and before we knew it, we were at Eagle rock.

We took photos and hung out with Evil Goat and Santa’s Helper.  Green, rolling fields stretched out in every direction.

Three more miles of hiking got us to Warner Springs where we ate double cheese burgers at the resource center – a thru-hiker mecca.  They also have a small resupply store, ice cream, showers, laundry, etc.

Instead of staying there we called Warner Springs Monty, a trail angel near by.  He wisked us away to the post office to get resupply boxes, and then onto his house where20140417-090751.jpg he cooked us amazing bar-b-q chicken sandwiches.  Desert was ice cream sundaes.

Tomorrow will be a true zero day.  After having a shower, washing my clothing, and having good food and beer in my belly, life is good!


 

Letting some creativity flow

Home

The ceiling is about six feet above my head.  A smooth white surface, crisscrossed with a grid of dark, aged wooden beams, the echos of my typing fingers bouncing off of it back down at me.  I bring my gaze down to the ledge running the length of the wall in front of me which supports black and white images of a memorial and the interior an extravagant house.  The table which this computer rests on matches the color of the wood on the ceiling and has two abstract gold vases centered on it.  To my right are mirror-backed, lighted cabinets, no doubt intended to display something elegant. They are empty.

The hotel has been around for a while, exactly how long I can’t be sure.  The lobby hints at an earlier decade with it’s marble and brass.  Old elevators can’t deny their age either.  This temporary home would be comfortable for someone with much higher standards then myself. I am only a guest here.  A traveling passenger, living in this home away from home away from home.  Can I even call this state home?

The idea of home is a place that is always there, at least that is how I interpret it.  Our quest for something that doesn’t change in a world that thrives on change.  How natural is this scenario?When a mature tree crashes (silently?) to the ground in the forest, opportunists germinate and race to fill this sun-drenched void.  How warmly would we welcome those who, in the wake of a disaster, rushed in and built a house on our old foundation?  Can this succession that is the law of nature be tamed?

I’m about to carry my home with me for five months.  It’s really not too difficult.  It fits in my hand.  A home as impermanent as this is erected in two minutes time and disassembled just as quickly.  It offers a place to sleep and stay dry.  This is minimalism.  But it’s not just my ‘home’ that is simpler these days.  In six days I will become a nomad (more of a nomad anyway).

In six days I will place my hand on a cluster of wooden posts that rise out of the desert sands on the Mexican boarder and gaze North.  With an improbably small backpack, I will close my eyes for a fleeting moment and think ‘this is it’.  In six days I will begin walking and I won’t stop for five months.

As a traveler on the Pacific Crest Trail, I will sleep and wake on Gaia’s schedule. The straight lines and concrete and plastic of our civilized society will give way to salt brush, cacti, rock and sand.  The curving, rolling landscape which flows beneath my feet funnels me North.  An untold diversity of plants, animals, and landforms is waiting just ahead and I will see it all.

Gasoline-powered landscaping equipment is humming outside the wall to my left.  Water rushes through piping to a shower head down the hall.  On the sideboard that is level with my eyes, sculptures of ginko leaves, made from some silver metal reflect the searing white-yellow filaments of bulbs hanging above my head.  This ‘home’ is not my home.  My home is the trail, and I will be there in six short days.

…still touring Cali

Today I said good bye to my Aunt and Uncle who I have been staying with for the past three days in Gilroy, California. I had a wonderful visit.

The older we get, the more our relationships with relatives can evolve. I have always felt a strong connection with my Aunt and Uncle. They exude kindness and love for their family and having this time with them to talk about life, love, careers, and traveling has made me feel even closer with them. Their love for each other is evident every day. They just recently celebrated their fourty-fifth anniversary, a milestone for which their relationship has remained strong.  I am so proud of everything they have achieved together in love and life and I aspire to find the happiness that they share with one another.

After leaving Gilroy, I drove north to San Francisco where I will be for the next five days. I am visiting my friend Kristin and her mom Kathy as well as my friend Kate – all people I grew up with back in Connecticut.  It’s so nice to spend some time with friends before setting out on my hike which is days away…holy hell.

Our main goal is to get Kristin moved into her new apartment.  Luckily I have the forester for us to move large items. Going to keep this post short for now – will write something a bit more interesting in a few days.

Touring Cali

Well, here I sit, 9 days away from starting my hike and I can practically feel the energy vibrating, coursing through my veins. I’ve been folding maps for the past hour, stealing glimpses of iconic places I hope to visit on the ground as I follow that 2660 mile long corridor of possibilities North.
I am in Gilroy, California, garlic capital of the world, visiting my Aunt and Uncle, cousins, etc. The last time I was here was a previous decade and things were very different in my life. If you asked me then, I could NEVER have predicted my current situation or the events that led to this pivotal junction in my life. What was it that Robert Frost said?..

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Part of me always knew this was the path I was meant to be on, I just needed life to drop-kick me in the face to get on track. It hurt and there is still no certainty. But is there ever certainty? I ask myself this time and time again, hoping for clarity in a world that is obscured by layers of purple haze.
A trip to REI for some final provisions will hopefully leave me feeling properly outfitted. I can’t wait for this wild ride to get started.

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