Kennedy Meadows marks the end of the deserts of Southern California and the start of the Sierras. I'll likely not get decent service again for a couple weeks, when I reach the other end of the mountains.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Kennedy Meadows marks the end of the deserts of Southern California and the start of the Sierras. I'll likely not get decent service again for a couple weeks, when I reach the other end of the mountains.
I tried getting some phone service on Walker Pass just above the campground so I could publish several blog posts, but no luck. Around mid-morning I stopped for a break and met a hiker named Knute (not sure if that's how he spells it, pronounced Ka-noote). He saw a small bear just a half-mile or so behind me. As I walked on I could see some bear tracks on the trail. It had been walking up the trail, somehow I went by it without seeing it.
I stopped at a spring for a couple hours for lunch. The spring was flowing well when I got there around 1:30, but by 3:30 it was barely a trickle. I was surprised how quickly it could slow down during the hot part of the day.
The day started with a climb, with another climb after lunch, ending with several miles of downhill; a fairly nice flow for the day and I ended up doing 30 miles, my first 30-mile day, and longest since doing 27 on day 3. I reached a creek at the end where I got water and found a beer/soda cache, keeping cool in a crate in the creek. So I got to have a Coke with my dinner at a little campground nearby. A 30-mile day, a Coke and a picnic table to cook on made it a good day.
The next day was my last day in Southern California. It was about 20 miles to a little community called Kennedy Meadows. I arrived around 6:00, too late to visit the store but just in time to eat some tacos, made by Tom, then some fried chicked made by Dr Sole. Tomorrow I'll pick up my box of food and other supplies and hopefully my shoes will make it here too. Planning on at least one zero, maybe two.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A woman pulled over to pick me up in her truck and just then I saw Dayman running towards me, just in time to share the ride. So I stood there an hour and he didn't have to wait at all. The woman was a biologist who worked for one of the windmill companies. She goes out to see how many birds are getting killed by the windmills, though I'm still not sure what they do with the bird death rate data once they've collected it. She said that some of the windmills reported wind speeds of 108 mph on the day we were walking through the flat desert. That's 150 feet off the surface or so, but that's still rediculous. No wonder we almost got blown away. Oh, here's a picture of some windmills, there's just a few out here.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Some may be wondering what sort of food I've been eating while on this hike, so here's a picture.
Breakfast this week will be 2 Pop Tarts and a Snickers Bar. I like to eat the Snickers early because they tend to melt during the day. In the morning they're back to a manageable state, just a little mushed looking. That comes out to about 680 calories, with a lot of sugar to get me going.
Lunch will consist of snacking throughout the day. I'll have a bag of nuts, Corn Nuts or sunflower seeds, a granola bar, a Clif Bar and a Power Bar, and either a packet of Ramen noodles (cooked or dry) or a peanut butter and honey tortilla or two. Maybe some jerky, chips or crackers. In all, about 1500-1800 calories between breakfast and dinner.
Dinner will be instant Idahoan potatos with chunks of Tillamook cheese (good to be back on the west coast!), mac and cheese with a packet of tuna or salmon, or a couple packages of Ramen with tuna. I also got one bag of tortallini and some alfredo sauce mix. I'll have to beg some instant milk off someone I think since I'm all out. Usually I'd have a summer sausage to chop up in whatever I'm eating for some extra fat and protein, forgot to get one though. Dinner should be about 700-800 calories.
Daily total looks like around 3000-3300 calories. It's really not the most balanced diet, but it's high calories and low weight. Probably still fewer calories than I need, but it's been enough to keep me hiking all day without feeling tired and hungry (not too hungry anyway). I can tell I've lost some weight and I've never had much to spare. I could probably double up on Snickers bars or something. I've also got some olive oil coming with my food box to Kennedy Meadows. That's an easy way to add a few hundred calories to a pot of potatoes or Ramen. Hiker food is like an anti-diet at times.
And yes, I do brush my teeth.
Friday, May 25, 2012
We were very fortunate with the day we picked to cross this section. A huge cloud hovered over the desert floor, shading us from the sun nearly the entire day. We did, however, have some wind.
Have you ever been in wind that blew your hat off? Or got sand in your eyes? That howled in your ears? With occassional gusts that made you have to lean into it. Yeah, probably. That's not what the wind was like in the Mojave.
Sure, it did all that, but that was when we were sheltered by a steep embankment next to the trail, or behind a big bush. The walk in the morning, while fairly windy, was hardly a whisper compared to the afternoon. After an afternoon break in a lean-to shelter near a bridge, we set out to face The Wind. The Wind was strong. After climbing back up to the road after the break and feeling it fully, I wondered if we were just in a bad spot and it'd calm down ahead. It was easily a constant 35-40 mph, though I'm no wind guaging expert, and it only got stronger as we went on. A gust could hit at any moment, sending us staggering a few steps sideways off the trail. Crouching low was the only way to make decent progress through it. Even then we'd get pushed, or shoved, around. And anytime we crested a low rise or hill the wind would increase. Some of the areas were at a point where the wind was channeled up a small ravine, focusing it. Usually there'd be a dirt or gravel road there, leading to one of the many windmills in the area (all of which were off, it was too windy). At those points the wind felt like you'd expect it to if you were standing in the back of a truck going down the freeway at 70 mph. The whole afternoon was a struggle, but the road crossings were actually challenging. I stopped as I approached one, got spun around and nearly fell over.
At another road crossing I stopped and turned around to watch and laugh at the hikers behind me as they crossed it. Then my hat blew off and went sailing back down the hill. I found a bush to drop my pack next to so it didn't blow away as well, then ran (the wind wouldn't let me walk) down after my hat. It's dark green, so I thought it may be hard to spot even if it wasn't a mile away by now. Fortunately, it was stuck in a bush not too far down.
We finally got up into some hills and into a ravine where a creek was flowing down. There were 8-10 of us in that area and we scattered about to try and find decent playes to sleep. I found a nice low spot surrounded by bushes. It wasn't big enough for my tent, but a tent wouldn't have survived the night anyway. I just kicked the dirt and dead grass around until it was fairly flat, laid out my ground sheet and cowboy camped. While sitting there making dinner, I heard 2 trees fall over on the hill just on the other side of the creek. Opus actually saw them fall. They were dead trees that had burned in a fire there years ago. We both made sure we hadn't camped under any that looked ready to fall as well.
The next morning the wind was still for a few hours. It picked back up some but there were enough hills around to make it not nearly as bad as it was down in the flat desert. I reached a highway in the early afternoon and hitched a ride into Mojave with a couple other hikers. The guy who picked us up said this was some of the worst wind he's seen around here. He dropped me at a motel with a grocery store and restaurant right across the street. That was the reason I had chosen to go go Mojave instead of Tehachapi, where most of the others I had been hiking with went. I had a big cheeseburger, fries and chili dog at the restaurant, then went and bought my food for the next stretch into Kennedy Meadows. Six more days of desert until the Sierra mountains!
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The next day the trail went down out of the mountains. I met back up with Stride and a few other hikers I'd met. We dropped down into the start of a long flat section that goes through the Mojave desert. We stayed the night at Hikertown, a trail angel who has a western style town set up on his property. There were several more hikers hanging out in the garage, some who planned on hiking out that evening to walk through the night. Some hikers do this part at night to avoid the heat, but the weather was looking like it'd be more windy than hot. I made dinner, had a shower and slept on a couch in a little house.
Here's one of the water sources, it was a large concrete tank, used to refill fire trucks. After swirling away the junk floating on the surface, the water was actually fairly clean.
Monday, May 21, 2012
The next morning I set out for the Anderson's, another trail angels' house also known as Casa de Luna. It's more of a party hangout spot. On the way there I stopped at another cache run by the Andersons. It was set up in a rare cluster of trees among miles of thick bushes.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
I took a zero day on Friday, sleeping in to a very late 6:30. I bought my food that morning, sorted through my gear to try to find stuff to send home and lighten my load. I didn't find much, a couple books and a shirt. I hadn't read a single page from my book yet, always too tired to read at night and never felt like digging it out of my pack during the day breaks. It's the first book in a long series and i'd already downloaded the next several in the series as audio books. I gave up on trying to read it, sent it home and downloaded it instead.
Later that day I called a friend who lives in LA. We'd been planning to meet up for a while and Agua Dulce was closest to where he lives. He came and picked me up and we met another friend for dinner. They also gave me a quick tour of Hollywood, then finished off the evening with frozen yogurt. It was great to have the chance to hang out with them and get off the trail for a while.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Stride and I stopped for dinner at a spring where we were soon joined by a trail runner. He has been training for an upcoming race, a 100 mile trail race. He's doing 25-35 miles a day, several days a week up and down the mountains we just hiked over. The race will start in Wrightwood.
Joe and Opus joined us for dinner, then we all went up the hill to an old campground. Dave had a fire going and offered us all hotdogs. There ended up being 18 or so camping there that night.
It turned out that while the trail was definately overgrown and needed work in places where it was eroding, it wasn't so bad I wished i'd stayed on the road. I did have to fight through a lot of poodle-dog bush though. It smells awful and the leaves are a bit sticky. When I finally got back to the road, where I found the others for lunch, my pants and hiking poles were all sticky from it. We stayed the night near a ranger station. A guy named Todd lives there. He keeps several big jugs filled with water next to a small camping area so there's water to drink.
The next day we had about 18 miles to go to get to Agua Dulce and a place called "Hiker Heaven", a large hiker hangout owned by the Saufleys. There were a few clouds in the morning that kept it from getting hot before 8:00, like it had been the last few days. But they didn't last. The last 10 miles were hot. Much of it was with no shade to be seen, much less hide in. I had run out of snacks and stuff to eat for lunch so I just pushed straight through it without stopping. I caught up to Dayhiker a couple miles outside of town where there was finally some shade. We walked by the Vasquez Rocks and into town. We found Stride at the store. I got a big lemonade and a pound of strawberries for lunch. After a shower at the Saufley's we went back to town and had pizza. Planning on a relaxing zero day tomorrow.
Sunday morning we hiked 17 or so miles down to Highway 2 to catch a ride into Wrightwood. On the way we passed a trail that drops down 2500 feet or so off the side of a ridge directly into the town. But most of us didn't want to hike back up that crazy trail the next morning to return to where we left off. So we opted to go until we hit the highway, then hitch the 6 miles back to town. When Stride, Dayhiker, Caveman and I reached the road we found a group of 4 trail runners relaxing after their run. They'd just done 20 miles and all acted like it was no big deal. Sure, I can do that many miles, with a pack, but I'm certainly not running. And it takes me all day. Unfortunately they didn't have room for us, but they did give us some bananas.
Caveman hiked on but we were joined by Dayman and Castle. The 5 of us moved up the road to start trying to get a hitch. After a few minutes a large, white van pulled up. The couple driving it were on their way back home from some chainsaw training; they do maintenance on the trail. The van was all fixed up to be an RV. They made room and we piled in; "piled" is a perfect word for how crowded it was, but we made it to town.
I bought a few days' worth of food at the store, then we went to a restaraunt for dinner. There we met a couple, Tracey and Brian, who had earlier given Opus and Joe a ride to town. They generously offered us showers, laundry and a night at their house. They drove Joe, Opus, Castle and me back to their house. A shower felt great, I focused a lot of attention on my feet. Clutch, Dayhiker and Dayman came a while later. I got to sleep on the hide-a-bed which had an air mattress and was super comfortable. I can't say enough about how awesome it was for our angels to host all 7 of us like they did. Tracey even gave us a ride back out to the trail the next morning.
Monday, May 14, 2012
After a bunch more miles I came around the corner of a hill expecting to see Silverwood Lake and instead saw another big dam rising a hundred feet above me. I hadn't realized I was below the level of the lake at that point. There was an old road with a bridge, under which I found Dayhiker and Stride having lunch. We hung out there most of the afternoon as more and more hikers showed up.
The next morning I had 10 miles until McDonald's. It may seem strange for people to look forward to McDonald's a couple days before getting there, but that's what we do. It was at the I-15 crossing at Cajon Pass. Stride and I made it there at 9:30. We took a table in the shade outside in order to not make the place smell like hikers. We were planning on staying there much of the day since the next stretch was going to be hot and had little water. So, I had breakfast and lunch there. A dozen or more other hikers also rolled through that day. After the shade went away several of them brought out their umbrellas for shade. We turned a lot of heads. People stopping off I-15 to eat there probably aren't expecting to see a bunch of hikers hanging out on the McDonald's patio.
Friday, May 11, 2012
This morning there wasn't as much traffic headed up the highway as I thought there would be. So rather than try to hitch, I just started walking. It's about 4-5 miles back up to the trail. But fortunately, a truck pulled over after a couple miles and gave me a ride the rest of the way. I started up again, feeling the weight of all the food I got, at about 9:00.
I stopped for lunch with Dayhiker and Stride, two more hikers I met around Ziggy and the Bear's. They had stayed a couple nights at the hostel in Big Bear Lake, a few miles from where I was in Big Bear City.
Despite starting late I managed to fit in a whole day of hiking, getting close to 20 miles in. I camped near a decent sized creek. As I walked up to it I saw a few fish zoom away. So after setting up camp and eating dinner I made a pole using a willow stick and a hook and line I brought. Got a couple quick bites on a piece of summer sausage and one on a bit of gummy candy, but couldn't hook anything. Could be my pole wasn't long enough, I'll use a 12 footer next time. Or my salmon-sized hooks were too big, probably need super tiny hooks for these minnows. They were going after bugs on the surface too, so it was probably not summer sausage time. I'll think up more excuses of why I didn't catch anything tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I'm just finishing up a day and a half off in Big Bear City. I decided that since I hiked 10 miles to get here on Monday it wasn't really a day off. So instead of getting up, trying to finish my resupply, hitching a ride back to the trail and hiking 10 or 15 miles, I told the manager of the inn I'd be staying a second night.
I hitched a ride on highway 18 about 4 miles from town. A couple other hikers who'd been near me since Fuller Ridge arrived just in time to get a ride to town as well. I was planning on getting a room at Nature's Inn, Opus and Joe agreed to join me and we split the room. The inn is great, king size bed, 2 futons, kitchen, spa bathtub... all for $25 per person.
We ate lunch yesterday and breakfast this morning at Thelma's, one of the required restaurant stops according to my guide book. Lunch was a western cheeseburger and fries with a huge chili dog on the side. For dinner tonight I went to a mexican place for $1 taco Tuesday and had 9 tacos. I think the hiker appetite has kicked in.
I bought the next several days' worth of food at a couple stores, and rested my feet. The hiker next door has a blister the size of a quarter on the side of her heel. The few small blisters and sore spots I get aren't really that bad in comparison. While hiking your feet get into a rhythm and you don't notice how sore they really are until you stop for a while and try to get going again. My feet have definately swollen a bit. I got shoes a size and a half bigger than I'd normally wear in preparation for that. May try to find a wider pair next time. Steve got new shoes at Kickoff that were 12 EEEE and said the extra width helped a lot. Mine still have some miles left in them for now though.
Ron offers each hiker a foot bath when they arrive. Ziggy was at the store when I arrived and offered to pick up orders from Burger King on her way home for the 5 hikers that were there. So I got there just in time to order a Whopper and fries. They also made a big salad, had fresh fruit and ice cream and cake later. Ron provided the entertainment by telling a bunch of stories about hiking and a hostel he used to run on the Applachian Trail. There were 9 of us that stayed the night and several more who passed through. We moved the chairs out of the big tent and most slept in there.
After Ziggy brought us coffee, OJ, fruit and cereal for breakfast I headed back out to the trail. It wound back up into the hills on the other side of the valley, past a bunch of wind powered generators. It crossed Whitewater Creek, which was about 10-12 feet across. Most people looked for logs or rocks to cross on, but I found it much more enjoyable to take off my shoes and soak my feet a bit while crossing. Then it was a few hours of steady but not steep climbing with little shade. Around 2:00 or so I reached Mission Creek and had lunch with several other hikers. The trail follows the creek up into the mountains. I called it quits at the 20 mile mark for the day along with a few others.
On Sunday the climb continued and got steeper. The last several miles of following the creek were pretty rough. After 8 miles of climbing the trail leveled out a bit, there were pleanty of pine and redwood trees and the weather was perfect; which was nice because the next good camping/water spot was another 17 miles. They flew by fairly quick though and I reached Arrastre Trail Camp well before sunset. On the way I was coming down a hill toward a dirt road and heard a loud roar/bellow, clearly a bear and right in the direction I was headed.
A little ways down the hill I noticed some buildings and chain-link fences. As I walked past the fence I spotted the bear. It was in a cage in a high-security looking area. I learned later that there may have also been a lion and a tiger, though I didn't see them. The guy who owns them trains them for movies.
I camped about 10 miles from a highway that goes into Big Bear City. Planning on some downtime and resupply there. You know you are close to a town when the water cache has a couch.
Monday, May 7, 2012
It was a beautiful day and I wasn' t rushing up the trail at all. I stopped for a while at a place where several springs are flowing out of the side of the mountain in an open area, almost a meadow. There was some snow on the climb up, mostly on the North-facing slopes. It wasn't too bad though. A couple men in their 70's were doing it, though not all the way to the top.
Near the top was a stone shelter with a couple bunks and a bunch of random emergency supplies left by climbers and hikers. I would have liked to spend the night there but it was barely noon so I'd be wasting half a day stopping.
The top of the peak is about 10800' and has a great view of the valley ahead. I cooked some ramen and enjoyed the view for a while. I only planned on hiking to the end of Fuller Ridge that afternoon which was only 5 or so miles plus a couple from the peak back down to the PCT. Unfortunately there was a lot of snow obscuring the trail so it took forever to get down. Much of the snow was packed hard enough to walk on, but I'd still break through in spots and end up with snow up to my knees or hips. I eventually left the trail and just fought my way straight down toward the PCT. After a lot of sliding down a steep slope in 3-4 feet of snow I made it the first 2 miles for that afternoon.
The rest of the day was spent on steep switchbacks and big patches of snow. I made it to the end of the ridge and a primative campground, just before sunset.
After eating lunch I pushed out across the flat valley. It was extremely windy, fortunately not enough to kick up the dust though. I headed for the freeway crossing several miles across the sand and sagebrush. I got there just hoping for a bit of rest from the sun and wind so I could dump the sand out of my shoes and get a drink. Turns out there was some trail magic waiting under the bridge. There was a cooler of sodas, water, oranges and cookies. It was a nice surprise.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
On Monday we hiked about 7 miles to reach a highway. One mile to the left was Paradise, a roadside cafe with great food, of course any food is pretty great at this point. I waited for Steve and Single Malt at the highway but the prospect of breakfast at the cafe kept me from waiting very long. I grabbed a root beer from the small water cache at the highway and made a run for the cafe.
Black Snake, hiker from Dublin, was there. We shared our campsite with him the night before. Rather, he shared; he was there when we went zooming past it. We went back and he invited us in. I had an omelete with biscuits and gravy. Steve and Single Malt arrived about the same time as my food. Soon a biker named Dan joined us and a handfull of other hikers who had been staying in Idyllwild, a town up the road a ways. Dan started his month-long bike trip in Death Valley, decided it was too hot, rode over to the Grand Canyon and was working his way back over and south towards the border.
I'd put up a picture of Single Malt's poor toe, but I don't even want to see it, betting no one else would either. He bashed it pretty hard on that rock and had to do a bit of trailside surgery on it Sunday afternoon; something about a blood blister under the nail, a mushroom shape, a scalpel from his snakebite kit and lots of clean water. From the sound of it he's a pretty tough guy to hike out all those miles to the cafe. It's a shame though because he'd planned on going farther during his several days with Steve. They caught a ride with some guys at the cafe into Idyllwild and checked into an inn.
I pushed on from the cafe that afternoon, after some apple pie and ice cream, solo for the first time. It's funny because while planning this trip a common question was "you're going by yourself?" Well, I went to San Diego by myself. From there I've met people and haven't really been alone much, just while walking, I'd always camped near at least 2 other people.
The trail from the cafe leads into the start of the San Jacintos, the first batch of mountains on the PCT. It was hit hard by snow a couple weeks ago and caught a lot of hikers off guard. I'm not sure how prepared I would have been for that much snow had I started earlier. I didn't hit any until Tuesday. Monday night I camped about 12 miles from the cafe. Tuesday I had about 16 miles to go to reach Devil's Slide Trail, which goes down to Idyllwild, where Steve and Single Malt were staying.
The San Jacintos have been awesome so far. The trail follows the ridge around 6-7k feet, though not over the peaks. It's steep and rugged. Most of the water sources are springs .5-1 mile down off the side. I took enough with me from the cafe to only have to stop at one of them though. The water from it was great, the spring welled up inside a 3x3 foot box, making a small pool of cold, clear water. It was a half mile and 500 feet of elevation back to the trail though. Black Snake was at the top when I got back up. He had the idea of leaving his pack at the top. I probably should have done that but I wanted to eat an early lunch at the bottom to fuel up for the return climb.
Tuesday night I camped at the top of Devil's Slide, then hiked (jogged actually) the 2.5 miles down to the park at the bottom. Usually during the day there people around to get rides from but I was there early. I walked about 1.5 miles down the road and found a trail angel named David who had a sign in hid yard offering rides. He was sitting on his porch and offer to take me the last few miles into town. He even had a log book to keep record of people he's given rides to. He gave me a tour of the town and dropped me at the campground where I'm staying tonight. I texted Steve to see if he was still in town, sure enough, he and Single Malt were at a restaurant nearby having breakfast, so I walked over to join them. Later I went to the store and probably bought too much food for the next leg of the hike. Single Malt went back to San Diego for his flight home. Steve and I shared a pizza for dinner, we ate with a few other hikers. Going to try to get up early and back into the mountains tomorrow. Steve has to catch a ride back to the cafe and start back up from there after his few days off.
178.6 miles up the trail. Idyllwild is a cool town, lots of restaurants, great gear shop. I bought some thin gloves to hopefully stop sunburning my hands.