Tag Archives: hiking

Colorado: Indian Peaks Wilderness

This is a video of a backpacking/mountaineering trip I went on a couple years back in The Indian Peaks Wilderness area in Colorado.  Enjoy!

 

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Adventures in the Sequoia National Forest

This weekend was a good one, full of well-documented adventure.  Oh how I love to get out of this terrible, oppressive sprawl.  It’s not so much the density of people, or even the urban-ness of an existence here.  Honestly, it’s the air, stagnant and thick with hot exhaust and particulate.  I’m certain that I’m shaving years off my life every time I take a deep breath of this city’s vapors.

Andrew navigates the craft.

Andrew navigates the craft.

We found ourselves packed like sardines into the black GTI.  It’s elegant German engineering lost beneath the provisions and equipment for four of us to enjoy a weekend of camping.  We sacrificed ergonomics and leg room (temporarily) for a taste of the natural world which exists somewhere outside this concrete labyrinth.  Speeding North, the early morning pinks and reds slowly began to illuminate the sky.  Every now and again I caught a glimpse of the PCT as it paralleled parts of our trek to the Southern Sierras.

Breakfast found us in an outdated beige and tan building serving Mexican inspired cuisine.  Juevos rancheros filled my belly and would give me some discomfort later.  Over cups of coffee my travel companions and I discussed the details of life.  We also discussed whether or not the painting of the waterfalls on the wall behind us had the ability to turn on, projecting tranquility on the patrons of this affordable dining establishment.  We never could find the switch.

The Desert

After eating up miles of asphalt through the desert and hugging the corners of a winding canyon, the People’s Car zipped us through the isolated town of Kennedy Meadows.  We blinked and it was gone, Tom’s disc gold course a blur on the side of the road.  Jeremy recorded high-definition, time-compressed video while Andrew piloted the black rocket ship through the pines.  Marcy and I grasped the ‘oh-shit’ handles and felt secure under the groceries and other assorted wares.

Choosing our campsite and erecting tents, we explored our new surroundings.  A curious place, this forest.  We found ourselves perched on the edge of a large meadow, three strands of barbed wire separating us from it’s golden openness.  Trees rose up giving luscious shade, shelter from the alpine sun and it’s radioactive ways.  We walked amongst these elements concluding that we were happy and eager to trek.

We began by eating, a great way to begin.  Setting off on foot, our objective was clear – a rocky outcropping rising up from the far edge of the meadow.  We chose it because it was a high point and we explorers are always drawn to these types of places.  You know what I mean.  A place high above everything that surrounds it.  A place aching with the freedom of unbridled views and brisk winds.  From this aerie perch we viewed the landscape as if it were a model, a perfectly represented miniature world stretching out below us and outward to the horizon.  We ate more food.  We scrambled across and gripped at the rock with our talons.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Upon returning to camp, we promptly assumed horizontal positions on the ground or in a hammock.  The shadows lengthened, the sun turned more golden.  The woods embraced our tired souls and comforted us with a quiet that only a living landscape can provide.

Waking abruptly, we got back into our transportation and drove on dirt roads, upwards to the Bald Mountain Fire Lookout.  A brisk walk saw us to the base of a steel tower rising upwards into the afternoon sky.  Our natural instinct as adventurers is to climb upwards, upwards, higher!  And right there, at the top of this metal geometric fortress was a man.  His duty: viewing this stunning landscape of granite.  He watches the heavens, carefully identifying Vulcan’s electrical outbursts, plotting the locations where they smash into the earth.  This wonderful BLM employee is named Tom.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

A day fully enjoyed.  We retreat to the comfort of our dirt patch to kindle a fire and fill our stomachs.  All manner of fancy appetizers whet our pallets for some schlongs which Marcy tosses on the cast-iron grate above our flame.  Wine is uncorked.  Memories are shared.  In this tradition of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of others, great bonds are forged between friends.  We take time to play with the camera at night, truly a fun group activity.  Later, as the last one awake, I bask in the warm glow of the coals, red and orange, pulsing radiant heat.

Day two greets us travelers with cold morning air.  Reluctantly our entourage breaks camp, eats cold yoghurt (Noosa, the best), and piles back into our vehicle.  We’re rolling further West through the forest, over a mountain pass, and into the Kern River Canyon.  The landscape is changing.  Gone is the dry, thin air that once desiccated our lips and noses.  Now, the shadow of large trees holds in the damp smell of the forest floor.  Lime green moss clings to the red, deeply-furrowed bark of old giants as we turn at a sign labeled ‘Trail of 100 Giants’.

That sense of insignificance we all feel in the presence of great things is washing over me from high above.  This colony of giants is both welcoming and unsettling.  Are these trees happy or vengeful?  Would they say to us, ‘thank you for preserving this grove’?  Or maybe, ‘fuck you Henry Ford’.  I’d like to think the former.  I just hope they don’t drop an un-needed branch on my head in an attempt to settle the score.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Our troop frolics and meanders through the ancient sentinels, heads cocked at an awkward angle to glimpse the highest reaches of the canopy.  Some of these trees are over two-hundred and seventy feet tall.  Strolling right up to them like they are old friends, we run our hands over their spongy bark and duck under their exposed roots or into their burned out centers.  This amusement park beats the hell out of anything made by the hands of men.  Individual cells organized themselves over millennia into these magnificent organisms.  How humans could commit such a crime as defiling this amazing planet that has nourished and provided for us is beyond my capacity of understanding.

The weekend is coming to an end and we must return to the coast.  We would love to remain in this mystical place, among rocks, sticks, and soil.  These places are not ours to keep.  Embracing the impermanence of ourselves we can embrace the impermanence of the world, the dynamic and chaotic collection of matter that makes up our reality.  Organizing and reorganizing, elements and thoughts blend together into a collective consciousness which vibrates and echoes out into the black void of the cosmos.

Photo Credit - Jeremy Rousch

Photo Credit – Jeremy Rousch

Jeremy’s photo really shows just how large these giants are.

Patagonia Mens Simple Guide Pants review

Material: Stretch-woven polyester (w/ DWR treatment)

Features: Elastic waistband with draw-cord, 2 zippered side pockets, 1 zippered thigh pocket, gusseted crotch, articulated knees, reverse fly zipper, cuff securing tabs

Cost: $99


I’ve wanted to do a review of the Patagonia Simple Guide pants for quite a while now.  I realized that I don’t have a single review concerning pants – this was the catalyst.

On to the review.  The Simple Guide pants are a light-weight, technical softshell pant that will perform in a variety of conditions.  They have well-designed features and an athletic fit that makes them a great choice for almost any outdoor pursuit.

Climbing The Yellow Spur in Eldorado Canyon SP

I’ll start off by saying that I REALLY like the material that Patagonia chose for these pants.  It is surprisingly light-weight, stretchy, and very comfortable.  Breathability is stellar while durability is fair.  Initially water resistance was sufficient but with any regular use, the DWR treatment wears off quickly and will need to be re-applied for continued weather resistance.  Getting back to durability, after 3+ years of use there are no holes, all seams are intact including the welded thigh pocket, and the zippers still function like new.  There is apparent wear on the seat of the pants from glissading, rock climbing, and sitting that has led to faster water absorption.  Bottom line, even when new, don’t expect to stay dry with continued contact with snow or water.  But don’t look at this as a failure – these are light-weight softshell pants, they should only be expected to shed minimal precip at best.  They do however dry very quickly, off-setting the fact that they will get wet easily.

Pockets are on the smaller side, leaving room for small essentials like a compass, lip balm, small camera, or car keys.  Having zippers on all of the pockets helps to keep your items from falling out while climbing, skiing, or hiking.

Out for an early Winter trail ride

The articulated knees, gusseted crotch, and stretch of these pants allows for a wide range of movement (think figure 4’s, high-stepping, and other acrobatic feats of alpinism).  Keep in mind that these have a slim fit and some folks may want to size-up to feel comfortable (unless you like the slim euro look).  The reverse zippered fly is a nice feature, zipping up to open.  This gives you easier access to your ‘delicates’ while wearing a climbing harness.  The cuff tabs have small metal grommets so you can attach your pants to your boots with a piece of cord.  I have never used this feature and don’t really see the point (unless you are performing some extremely acrobatic movements and your pant legs start to ride up?).  The newest version of these pants has a separating waist with a button.  My pants don’t have this feature but it has never been a problem.

All things considered I think these pants are a great buy at $99.  Patagonia has a great warranty to back up their products (in case these didn’t perform well).  Some great thought and design went into creating these versatile pants.

 

Rab Alpine Trek Pants review

Material: Polyamide softshell fabric w/ cordura reinforcements (knees, seat, instep)

Features: Built in belt, multiple pockets (thigh, two side, one back, all zippered), articulated knees, reinforced inseam, UPF 50+

Cost: $80

The guys across the big blue pond know a thing or two about quality gear.  Rab is a UK company that I am coming to appreciate more and more for their well-designed, versatile, and quality items.  I personally dig the ‘techy’ appearance of their gear, allowing function to dictate form (but their stuff looks good too doesn’t it?).  And while I don’t own any super-expensive clothing items (except for stuff that I’ve managed to get for less then retail), I think Rab is appropriately priced for what you get.  After owning the Baltoro Alpine softshell jacket from Rab, I expected that anything else they made would be of similar quality.  I was right.

Getting on to the topic of this review, the Alpine Trek Pants – so far I’m happy with my purchase.  I decided to buy these as a multi-use pair of pants for any outdoor activity.  Based on their design I think they will be most useful for hiking and seem versatile enough to do other things as well.  From the description of Rab’s website I assumed these would be a little stretchier, one of the key defining characteristics of think of when I think ‘softshell’.  I was slightly surprised when I received these pants in the mail (ordered them online) because they have a distinctly nylon feel with very little stretch.  I was a little disappointed that they weren’t what I was picturing although I had never bothered to find a pair at a local retailer prior to ordering them.  Oh well, I decided to try and keep an open mind.

One of the other things about these pants that surprised me on initially receiving them was how light-weight they are.  The polyamide ‘softshell’ material feels exactly light some light-weight nylon hiking pants from Mountain Hardwear that I own.  In addition, when I read the description of these pants noting the ‘Cordura reinforcements’ on the seat, knees, and instep, I imagined a super burly, rough nylon material (similar to ski pants maybe?).  While these reinforcements are more ‘durable’ feeling then the rest of the pants, they are also light-weight.

So my initial assumption of what these pants were going to be was incorrect.  Even though these aren’t exactly what I had in mind, I’m still happy with them.  My initial test was taking my dog for a hike at Settler’s Park down in Boulder.  Temps were in the 60’s with a 10-20mph breeze (would have gotten a more comprehensive and accurate weather report but I haven’t received my Kestrel yet!).  Settler’s Park is pretty much all up-hill from the parking lot (Red Rocks trail).  I busted up the trail without taking a break, until I reached the high point.  Usually I work up a descent sweat on the ascent but I was pleasantly surprised by the breathability of the Trek pants.  No sweatiness, very comfortable.  I was also happy with the wind-blocking ability of the pants and was surprised that I didn’t get overheated wearing pants, hiking in 60 degree temps.

The Alpine Trek pants have some other notable qualities worth mentioning.  First – the waist and fit.  When I initially pulled these out of the box they looked huge (size small).  Upon putting them on I realized that the fit was just right – not too lose and baggy but with enough room to move and not feel restricted.  The waist has elastic built into the sides to help the pants fit snug without having bunched-up material around the fly area.  As I mentioned before, the pants have a built-in belt which works well and is not bulky like a leather belt.  Finally, they are rated at UPF 50+, offering great protection from UV.  This is a worthy design feature if you are planning on spending significant time at high altitude where the suns rays are stronger and more likely to give you a sunburn.

Finally I will mention the main limitation I see with these pants.  Because of the light-weight nature I wouldn’t recommend using them for rock climbing or any activity where they might see significant abrasion.  I may be wrong but the materials seem like they wouldn’t hold up very well on rock, and at $80, I am in no hurry to trash these pants by ripping holes in them.  If you want a light-weight, quick drying, comfortable pair of pants for hiking, trekking, or camping, the Alpine Trek pants will fit the bill.  I’m happy with them and looking forward to putting them through their paces in the backcountry this summer.

 

Two days in the Lost Creek Wilderness

Granite towers!!

Start/Finish:  Goose Creek TH

Route:  Goose Creek Trail to McCurdy Park Trail to Lake Park Trail to Hankins Pass Trail

Mileage:  15.5mi (appx.)

Highlights:  Enormous pink granite domes and spires, caves, historic structures, Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pines, alpine parks (open meadows nestled in valleys), secluded stands of Aspen.

 

I got back yesterday and my legs are still tired, guess skiing didn’t get me in hiking shape like I anticipated.  After trying to plan an outing for quite some time, I found two days in a row to take a trip down to the Lost Creek Wilderness.  My friend Jason had been praising it for quite some time telling me how it’s a great early season hiking location due to the low amount of snow the area receives.  In addition to accessibility, the area features unique rock formations, huge domes, spires, splitter cracks (crumbly rock though), and house sized boulders.  A portion of the Goose Creek Trail follows Goose Creek (called Lost Creek also) as it winds through a narrow valley disappearing and re-emerging from the depths of huge piles of rock.  There are also secluded ‘parks’, open meadows bordered by aspen, nestled between ridges on both sides.

Hayman burn (a VERY small portion)

When I got home from work I was pleasantly surprised by a package from The Clymb.  I immediately knew that Dewbie would be my companion for this hike.  His dog pack from Mountainsmith (review to come later) had just arrived – perfect timing.  I wouldn’t have hesitated to carry his food and packable bowl, but I was excited at the prospect of lightening my pack just a little bit, while giving him something new to learn.  After putting his pack on and getting it adjusted properly, he just stood there and looked at me.  I knew it was going to take a little while for him to get used to his new gear.

Cave dog

I was also getting ready to test some new gear.  I have had a Granite Gear Vapor Trail backpack (that I also got from The Clymb) that I had received months ago but had never used.  Sure I’d used it for a couple day trips, but never with a full load and for multiple days.  Some other newer items that came with me were my AeroPress to make that coveted morning cup of coffee, Montbell travel chopsticks, and some Mountainhouse dehydrated meals.

He should be a Mountainsmith model

When I camp I am usually more then happy to prepare meals that are more complex them boiling water and pouring it in a bag.  I did however have some sample meals from Mountainhouse that I had been waiting to use on a trip just like this one.  To supplement the two dehydrated meals I also brought some Lara bars, Cliff bars, pepperjack cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, and some Emergen-C packets.

 

Historic structures

The drive down to our trailhead took about 3 hours so we had packed the night before and got on the road by 5:30.  I always question my sanity when I am driving somewhere at 5:30am and I’m not going to work.  Ultimately the lack of sleep and early start are worth the solitude and spectacular scenery.  Before turning off the highway onto the Forest Service road that would take us to our destination we began to see portions of the Hayman fire scar.  Holy crap – I had heard of this fire being a Wildland Firefighter myself, but the scale of it had never been clearly obvious.  Over 130,000 acres burned, most of it nuked, nothing left.  The last 45 minutes of my drive was in or within view of the burn.

Finding Goose Creek trailhead was fairly easy and there was ample parking.  Upon arriving I gave Dewbie his breakfast and got his pack loaded up.  Strapping it on produced that same look on his face, I laughed a little, “you’ll get used to it,” I told him.  As we started our hike, the trail descended through a portion of the burn, down into the drainage to meet up with Goose Creek.  Towering snags loomed all around us and I was thankful that there was no wind.

Funny tongue

The first mile or so of our hike followed the water with the occasional campsite located just next to the creek.  Then we began ascending into the hills above the water.  Through the trees we would catch glimpses of the rocky terrain we were hiking towards.  Dewbie began to find his stride with the saddle bags that hung on either side of him although he never really got used to the extra clearance he needed, constantly bumping into logs, trees, and rocks.

The further into our hike we got, the greater the view.  Towering domes and towers were visible on the opposite side of the creek.  After having spent so much time in the mountains West of Nederland,

 

View from Refrigerator Gulch

this new landscape looked alien.  We came to a sign on the side of the trail that read ‘historic structures’.  I almost passed them up but seeing how early it was, we decided to hike down and have a look.  We descended to some cabins that were originally housing for people working to construct a dam to harness the power of Goose Creek.  They didn’t succeed.  We followed the trail a bit further and came to the ‘Shaft House’.  All that is left is actually some sort of motor/winch-looking thing.  It made a nice seat for us to enjoy a snack.

The rest of the afternoon we gradually ascended, staying above the creek the majority of the time.  We hiked through Aspens and rock outcroppings eventually descending into Refrigerator Gulch.  The hike in was steep as was the hike out.  In the bottom of the gulch was one of the cooler sights – a cave with Lost Creek (Goose Creek) flowing out.  There were nice looking campsites here but we wanted to camp higher.  We continued on (after some tough route-finding).  The rest of the day got a little tiring lots of uphill – the higher we got, the more snow we encountered.  By the end of the day we were post-holing (and cursing) on every step.  We eventually reached a nice level spot in a small meadow and called it quits for the day.  

Dewbie getting comfortable w/ the tent

This is why it’s called Lost Creek

After dinner out of a pouch (and a good one!) I enjoyed a couple cups of tea and Dewbie and I tucked in for the night.  This was his first experience sleeping in a tent and although he was a little apprehensive to get in, he got comfortable with the idea of having shelter.  The temperature dropped into the 20’s and I woke up to Dewbie shivering next to me.  After covering him with some of my extra layers and playing big spoon I tried to get some more sleep.

Sunrise came too soon, as it usually does when you are comfortable in your sleeping bag trying to get a few more minutes with your eyes shut.  Breakfast helped us warm up.  Hot coffee from my AeroPress tasted pretty damn good (that thing makes great coffee at home too!).  After packing up camp, Dewbie and I got back on the trail and continued ascending.  Within thirty minutes we were at McCurdy Park, an open meadow close to 11k feet.  The center of the park had some rock towers and surrounding us were McCurdy Mountain and McCurdy Park Tower.  The climber in me wanted to get on a rope.

Just past McCurdy park we reached the high point of our circuit and began descending…before heading back up hill to get on the Lake Park trail.  This was supposed to take us down to through Lake Park and then down to Hankins Pass.  Unfortunately, I managed to loose the trail prior to Lake Park due to the snow on this part of our route.

Rock features on McCurdy Mountain

They say that when you get lost you should stay put instead of moving.  If you keep going you risk getting yourself further from where you want to be.  I ignored this.  It wasn’t that I felt I would randomly find the trail, I had a strategy.  My map was of little use because the scale was so large that smaller features were almost non-existent.  This made locating my position difficult.  I was on a ridge looking down at the valley that I had hiked up from the previous day.  I knew roughly where I wanted to end up at the end of the day.  Unfortunately, going through Hankins pass was the easiest way to arrive at my desired destination.  The alternative was a horrible bushwhack.  I followed the ridge I was on to some rock outcroppings to try and get a better view of my surroundings and try to locate Lake Park so I could get to Hankins Pass.  No luck.  With the odds of finding the elusive park, I decided to head downhill, attempting to follow a drainage to Lost Creek  which would then allow me to get back on the trail.

Tower in McCurdy Park

As we headed downhill into the drainage, we encountered snow.  Lots of snow.  Knee deep, unconsolidated, sugar snow.  This is the worst possible kind of snow to try and travel through without skis or snowshoes.  We kept going.  Dewbie surprised me with his energy, literally leaping from one spot to the other and then sinking back into the snow.  The further downhill we got, the less snow we encountered until we were on dry ground.  We kept heading down, eventually encountering those huge rock domes we had scene earlier in our trip.  House sized boulders occasionally blocked our progress and forced us to contour around the drainage to more reasonable terrain.  The whole time we kept heading downhill I had visions of us being cliffed-out within view of the creek below.  Somehow we managed to make it to the bottom of the valley where we crossed the stream and got a much deserved break.  Back on the trail we picked up the pace and made it to the car by two o’clock.

With Dewbie sleeping (instantly) in the back seat, we drove back out through the burn area, happy not to be spending an unplanned night in the woods.  Our trip was fun, with a little unplanned adventure, and amazing sights.  I’ll go back to the Lost Creek Wilderness, and hopefully the creek will be the only thing getting lost next time.

Rab Neutrino 600 sleeping bag review

Material: Pertex Quantum shell, 800 fill power down

Weight: 37oz (+3.5oz if using included dry-bag stuff sack)

Features: Draft collar and hood draw cords, trapezoidal baffles, small pocket near head, YKK zippers

Temperature rating: Comfort = -5c, Limit = -12c, Extreme = -31c

Cost: $420


 

I’m not sure why this piece of gear escaped review for so long seeing as I use sleeping bags frequently.  If you have followed this blog at all, you may have noticed that I have reviewed multiple pieces of gear from UK manufacturer Rab.  As I’ve mentioned before, they make great products at reasonable prices.

Before discussing the design features of the Neutrino 600, lets discuss the temperature rating system Rab uses for their sleeping bags.  Without getting into too much detail, this system is called EN 13537 (Wiki article), and it breaks each bag down by providing 4 different temperature ratings – Upper Limit, Comfort, Lower Limit, and Extreme.  The Comfort rating is going to be the most useful number for anyone planning on using their sleeping bag for a normal night of sleep.  When you get into the Lower Limit and Extreme ratings, there are certain assumptions about sleep position, duration of sleep, and possibility of cold-weather injury (all things most of us do need want to concern ourselves with).  I’ll get back to temp ratings and my personal experience after discussing some of the design features.

Right out of the box, this sleeping bag seemed well designed.  The Neutrino 600 lofted up very nicely within a short amount of time, looking almost exactly like the picture on Rab’s website.  The baffles function well so far, keeping the down evenly distributed and where it belongs.  There is a nice little pocket near the hood for your lip balm or car keys or whatever small item you care to store there.  The draft collar is large enough to actually be functional, especially when you cinch it down with the elastic drawcord.  The hood also has an elastic drawcord to keep it close to your head.  There is a small velcro tab to keep the bag from unzipping during sleep.  Small nylon tabs on the foot of this bag make hanging it up in your closet easier (storing you sleeping bag UNCOMPRESSED is vital for proper loft and product function).

My field test of the Neutrino 600 was a 5 day 4 night fall (or was it winter) backpacking trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Northern Colorado.  Temperature ranged from 60F during the day to low teens at night.  Elevations ranged from approximately 9500ft to 12000ft+.  In addition to the Neutrino 600, I used a Silk, mummy-style sleeping bag liner and wore at a minimum, socks,  pants, base layer top, and fleece top during sleep.

Staying warm during some nasty weather at Lost Tribe Lakes

Considering the fact that temperatures were slightly below the comfort rating every night, I was pleased with the warmth of the Neutrino.  It should be noted that I was using a 4-season tent which completely cut all wind and insulated a small amount.  I was able to sleep comfortably (although I did wake regularly – more a personal condition regardless of warmth).  Since I was using this bag closer to the lower limit rating, I opted to put a synthetic jacket over the foot of the bag (which came up to my knees) as well as drape my down jacket over my chest on 2 of the 4 nights.  The Neutrino didn’t feel too confined but did feel snug, especially around the feet.  The draft collar and hood functioned well without covering my mouth and nose or restricting my breathing and also sealing in a good amount of heat.  Condensation formed every night near my mouth where my breath contacted the outside of the sleeping bag – something I have experienced with ALL sleeping bags in colder temperatures.  Even with the below freezing temperatures at night, the Neutrino did absorb a bit of moisture.  This was remedied with a warming fire and sun exposure when the opportunity existed.

Overall I was happy with the Neutrino 600’s performance.  Rab’s temperature ratings seem to be fairly accurate for me.  The design features of this sleeping bag are functional and useful.  Some more water resistance in the shell material would be nice considering this is a down bag.  I feel this sleeping bag is above average in my overall experience and I would definitely recommend it.  If there are any design features I have not addressed or questions you have, please leave a comment and I will be happy to respond!

Thoughts and ideas on the PCT: Lone Pine, California

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

Just outside Big Bear City.

Just outside Big Bear City.

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.

Banana Boat trying to get us a ride out of Lake Isabella, quite challenging.

Banana Boat trying to get us a ride out of Lake Isabella, quite challenging.

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.

In the pavilion at kick off, waiting out the rain.

In the pavilion at kick off, waiting out the rain.

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

Eating some lunch with Banana Boat and C-Lion

Eating some lunch with Banana Boat and C-Lion

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.

Me reclining by the 1/4 distance marker.

Me reclining by the 1/4 distance marker.

Making our way back to the trail from kickoff proved more difficult then I originally anticipated.

Resting after 6000 feet of climbing.

Resting after 6000 feet of climbing.

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

Near Swarthout Canyon, just passed Cajon Pass.

Near Swarthout Canyon, just passed Cajon Pass.

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

Climbing a nice old tree on Mt.Baden Powell.

Climbing a nice old tree on Mt.Baden Powell.

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,

Hiking through wind farms is pretty cool.

Hiking through wind farms is pretty cool.

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.

Hiking through Vasquez Rocks outside Agua Dulce.

Hiking through Vasquez Rocks outside Agua Dulce.

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

Having fun near Silverwood Lake State Park with C-Lion, Pilsbury, Star Rider, and Dawn Patrol.

Having fun near Silverwood Lake State Park with C-Lion, Pilsbury, Star Rider, and Dawn Patrol.

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

Outside Wrightwood, CA.

Outside Wrightwood, CA.

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

On the summit of Baden Powell with Banana Boat and C-Lion.

On the summit of Baden Powell with Banana Boat and C-Lion.

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.

Sunrise on the Tehachapi wind farm.

Sunrise on the Tehachapi wind farm.