Friends! Family! Acquaintances, hiker trash, travelers, walkers of all continents, hello! I’ve been looking for an opportunity to sit down and write for quite some time now, a difficult prospect given my current lifestyle. Walking along the PCT, the last thing I find myself wanting to do is sit
down and write although my head is filled with stories and ideas. There are worthwhile, interesting adventures around every corner, certainly worthy of my time for reflection. In this world of technology and modern conveniences you might think it would happen easily, but no! When you are walking 20 miles a day, life becomes simplified – wake, eat, walk, eat, sleep, repeat.
Here I am in Lone Pine, California, taking a break from my long walk North. I have covered some 700 miles by foot and find myself resting in this wonderful town on the edge of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. The massive granite monolith that is Mt. Whitney, among many other prominent peaks, stare down at us eager travelers. It’s as if they say, “come to this high wild place, bring only your sense of adventure”. We marvel at their beauty, we are drawn in like moths to a light. Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states and it’s not even on our immediate route but we are drawn to it. Before I elaborate on my current location and what lies ahead, I will get a little abstract.
Let’s address the idea of trail time – it’s a kind of time travel, alternate reality situation. I was in Idyllwild roughly a month ago. The terrain and time covered by foot since then has given me a sense of great distances that have been lost to modern modes of travel. It’s possible to cover large distances by car, train, or airplane in a single day. Traveling by foot however quickly transports us back to a time when the world was a BIG place. All of a sudden 20 miles has a much different feel – it’s not an easy distance to cover, at first. The hiker who is new to long-distance travel will quickly find that with determination and hard work, walking 30, 40, maybe even 50 miles in a single day is attainable. But don’t worry, the world is still a big place within the limits of walking.
Idyllwild was a great mountain town and I enjoyed the cool air and breezes there for two days.
Continuing North, I headed up over San Jacinto peak and then down Fuller Ridge into White Water, CA. There I stayed with Ziggy and the Bear, wonderfully elderly trail angels who greeted us with cold drinks and open hearts. My first big eat-a-thon at the Morongo casino was a welcome adventure before getting a ride with our friend Sandizzle back down to Lake Morena State Park for ADZPCTKO, the annual PCT kick off event. Backtracking the miles we had hiked from Lake Morena jolted us back to ‘small world’ as we moved at incredible speeds thanks to good old ‘Merican fossil fuel.
Kick Off was enjoyable but I think my favorite part of the event was seeing all the ultralight gear put to the test as a low pressure system moved through, bringing with it torrential rain and wind gusts up to the 50s. A $500 cuben fiber tent might weight 1 pound, but does it hold up in
these blustery conditions? I will admit, that evening when the weather was the worst, I awoke at 3am to my tent walls deflecting the wind and rain. As I lay there awake, two of my tent stakes simultaneously pulled out of the ground and my tarp collapsed on my face. Scrambling for my headlamp and rain shell, I jumped out of my former fortress in an attempt to re-pitch my house. I worked as fast as possible, the whole time thinking in my head, ‘don’t let your down bag get wet’. Although I got soaked in the process, all my gear that was under my tarp stayed dry and within about 20 minutes I was sleeping once again.
Making our way back to the trail from kickoff proved more difficult then I originally anticipated.
The ride board that was supposed to help us hikers hook up with people who might drive us to our desired destinations was not as useful as expected. I had come to kickoff with Roi, Sarit, and Arctic but I found myself driving North with a different group of hikers. I was sad to leave my friends but the opportunity of an open seat in a car could not be passed up. I took one more partial day off when I got back to Ziggy and the Bear’s house before sprinting North, covering 98 miles in 3 days.
From White Water I began the long climb to Big Bear, another small mountain town in SoCal. It was during this stretch that I reconnected with my friend Borealis who was also down at kick off. The two of us enjoyed an evening of camping together before the 6000 foot climb. I had an afternoon resupplying in Big Bear where I met a lovely trail angel named Alicia who offered to drive me back to the trail.
From Big Bear the trail jogged West and took us towards Silverwood Lake State Park and then down to Cajon Pass. My Dad and his Partner drove up from LA to meet me at this major road crossing and had lunch together before they took me to purchase more food. I was excited and
dreading the next section of the trail – the biggest climb on the PCT, from Cajon Pass to Wrightwood, over 7000 feet in one single push. Wrightwood was AWESOME. One of my hiking friends, C-Lion has some friends that live there who welcomed us into their home. Steve and Shannon fed us baby back ribs, tacos and beer. They brought us to their local country club for a relaxing afternoon. They made us feel like family and we will be forever grateful for their kindness and generosity.
We were apprehensive to leave Wrightwood but knew that we needed to continue North. We climbed out of town towards Mt.Baden Powell where the ancient trees showed their character. Days of hiking took us into the small town of Agua Dulce where the famous Hiker Heaven can be found. When I met Donna Saufley I was greeted with a big hug even though I hadn’t showered in a week. We were given showers, internet, mailing services, cots to sleep on, and rides into town. C-Lion, Banana Boat and I got a ride to REI to pick up some needed supplies. Banana Boat’s Aunts and Uncles meet us and treated us to a large Mexican lunch where we
feasted on burritos. We were amazed by our appetites and less then an hour after this meal we stopped into In And Out for burgers and milkshakes.
From the Saufley’s, we took one long day and hiked straight to Casa De Luna, aka The Anderson’s place. Terry welcomed us in and once again we felt the love. Dinner and breakfast were generously provided for us hungry hikers. Although we would have loved to stay we continued out the next day, making a brief stop into the Rock Inn for second breakfast. I let my friends get ahead of me while I made some overdue phone calls before hitching forward about 12 miles and then walking the last few miles on the road into Hiker Town. This funky little ‘village’ was a nice afternoon stop, but after raiding the hiker box for supplies, we continued hiking at 5 o’clock that evening to get some miles done in the cool of the evening. We hiked until 2 in the morning,
collapsing into a pile of unconsciousness, surrounded by wind turbines in the desert.
Continuing North to Tehachapi our friend C-Lion came to the conclusion that he needed to get off trail for a bit to deal with some real life stuff. He rented a car and Banana Boat and I drove down to San Diego with him to say good bye. We were welcomed and enjoyed a nice good bye dinner that evening before getting some good rest. The next morning we woke up very early so that we could drive through LA to stop in at my Dad’s house to wish him a belated birthday and enjoy some coffee and doughnuts. I grabbed a few pieces of gear that I needed and we made our way North, back to Tehachapi. Banana and I finished our resupply and did some night hiking that evening, again finding ourselves sleeping under wind turbines.
Walker pass was the next major milestone which we reached. This area was exciting in the sense that there are no natural water sources, just a couple caches. After some extended
waterless stretches of hiking, we made it to Walker where Banana and I hitched into Lake Isabella. We ate pizza and bought more food before attempting to get back to the trail. 2+ hours of attempted hitching got us nowhere until one of the guys who was working at the pizza joint saw us and gave us a ride 10 miles up the road. More unsuccessful hitching and eventually a couple that had driven by multiple times offered us a ride if we could just give them some gas money. We happily took this ride and ended up sleeping at Walker Pass that evening before getting back to our march North.
From Walker Pass we began the climb to
Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Eastern Sierras. We got very lucky with weather (we had mailed our tents and rain gear ahead from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows to save weight). As we walked into town a weather system moved through bringing rain (and snow to the higher elevations). Banana and I enjoyed the company of many other friends in town for two days at the General Store in front of the wood stove. Temperatures dropped into the 30’s at night, we were in the mountains again. Due to some personal obligations, I made the decision to skip the next 50 miles of trail and get a ride from Kennedy Meadows down to Lone Pine to take care of some legal paperwork (which I ended up not being able to accomplish, F you Boulder County court system!). I had also developed some painful shin splints in the last 100 miles of hiking and this was a good opportunity for rest
and recovery before my friend Megan arrives and we head back into the mountains on the John Muir Trail section of the hike that begins here.
Upon arriving in Lone Pine I met some very friendly climbers who welcomed me into their home and let me put my tent in their back yard. The experience here has been wonderful.
Wow, that was a lot of stuff to catch up on. Hopefully it didn’t get too boring although I’ll admit that after typing 1800 words I got a bit bored. It was fun to recall all of the events that led to this moment, a rare moment in every day life but quite a common one of the PCT. It really is amazing how complete strangers will relate to you like you are an old friend, doing what they can to make this epic journey a little more realistic.