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8/14 Mile 2544-2568

I woke up at 6:30am in a grumpy mood today.   Last couple days have been through overgrown trails and over a bunch of fallen trees.   Adding to my distress are these constant descents deep into river valleys followed by 4k climbs back out.  Was looking at my plan today and took a pic
Another Shitty Salty Climb
I packed all my crap, rolled out of the tent, took that down, and finish packing.  The gal I camped near last night climbs out of her tent after I put my pack on.  She introduces herself, Jessie.   She looks to be late 20’s / early 30’s and is full of questions.  I yank my pack off and start talking.  First thing she asks is “Do all you PCT’ers arrive late and get up early like this every day?”   “Yup, it is all about getting the miles in”, I reply.  We talk about gear for a bit.   She is Southbounding the Washington section of the PCT which is around 500 miles.   She is close to the start so probably has only been on trail for a few days.   I have a look at her setup.  Ultralight tent, bag, foam pad, etc.  A long-distance thru-hiker in the making.
Bunch of questions about how many miles I average, where I started yesterday, etc.   Then comes the the question everyone asks…. “What do you like about the trail and the experience?”  I start down my usual spiel.  “You meet wonderful people on the trail, interesting folks off the trail, everyone helps each other, beautiful views, blah blah. ”   Then my bad mood takes me WAY off script and this comes spilling out with no filter:    “…flies biting your ankles, inhaling clouds of mosquitos, 4k climbs up and down mountains sweating your ass off, fucking trees everywhere that are either blocking the trail or blocking the view…..Man, I just want to go home.   I want to sit on a couch with my wife and watch movies for a week.”   
I stop ranting and just look at her.  She is processing.   Finally she says, “It sounds like you are getting a little homesick.”  Heh.   Yes I am.  I pick up my pack and mumble a “good luck”.  Enjoy the outdoors.
In my darkened mood, I head off to climb YA4K (Yet Another 4,000ft hill).   
The Magical Forest
I climb over a bunch of these leviathans

I’m bitching to myself into a negative spiral.  Why the hell do the trail maintenance crews have to use two person hand saws to cut this stuff?  It would take all day to get through the log pictured above…..if there is even a saw long enough.   Give me 2 days with a can of gasoline and a decent chain saw, all of this would be cleared.  Stupid Forest Service.  Stupid trail.   Then I hit this carnage. 
Junk Yard
Yes, the trail goes right through the center of that picture.   Takes 20 minutes to pick through this mess and get to the other side.   When I finally get there, I drop my pack and sit on one of the many logs available to me.   Never a shortage of those.  A black fly lands on my arm.   I watch it bite a chunk of my skin off.  
I need to change my mood.   I dig around my food bag and discover I’m all out of candy.  My remaining meals consist of disgusting Breakfast Skillets and one Spaghetti which I’m saving for dinner.  I have this taffy I bought somewhere and try it.   Ugh, it it black liquorish variety and it tastes like dirt.  I’m becoming desperate….this is a Bad-Mood-Emergency and it is time to bring out the big guns.  Back when I started the trail in Oregon, I visited a Cannabis shop to buy a couple joints for special days.   Before I left, I also bought one edible on a whim.
For Emergencies Only ! 
A few puffs of a joint is one thing.   Edibles are a whole different level because the effects last all day.   I never consume these things.   Well, the day can’t get any worse and I need a reset.   Plus, it is made with dark chocolate which is top on my list of things-I-wish-I-had-right-now.  Save me, Han Solo !  
I eat that, put on my 60’s hippy music playlist, turn the volume up to 11, and continue climbing.   I finally get out of the dense forest and get some better views


Around 1:00 I cross this. 
The Finish Line is Near
Yes, I’m in double digits now !   Counting down from 100.   Cresting the Cloudy Pass, the trees fall away and I get some spectacular views.

Even the creek crossings are cooperating.   
Don’t Get Swept Away !
After cresting at 6k, I’m on a long descent that will eventually end at 1,500 and the intersection to Stehekin.   I figure if I do another 25 mile day, that will put me 5 miles from the Stehekin shuttle which picks up a little after 9:00 AM.   
Dog Bite catches up with me later in the afternoon when we hit a big creek crossing.   The bridge here is washed out, but fortunately a large log crossing is available.   This one is a layup.  Wide with plenty of traction.    When I get to the other site, I video Dog Bite coming across. 
Moving on are a few more easy crossings and good trail.   The recent deadfall has been cut off the trail.   Near the end of the day, I reach Agnes creek which carves a deep canyon through the valley.   There is a pretty waterfall that I video. 

Shortly after taking this video, I saw a couple stop at the side trail leading to the water fall.  Both wearing light packs, the guy has an Orange hat.  It is Endless and QB!   I met those two at Scissors Crossing when I was doing my May shake-down hike in the desert.   He is a firefighter from Boston and she is from Queens NY.  He’s got that thick Bahhston accent, which I always find groovy.  Super couple.   Stormtrooper thought they might catch me before the end, they have been doing 30’s for most of the summer.   We spent some time catching up, hiked together to the next camp spot, and setup.   Spent the evening over dinner trading stories about folks we met on the trail. 
And that is how it goes out here.  Truly one of the things I love the most about thru-hiking.  You meet someone you like, get separated for various reasons, then months later turn a corner and, there they are again.   My day went from a lonely funk to hanging out with some old friends.   Thank you Han Solo ! 

8/13 Mile 2519-2544

I left a few minutes ahead of Dog Bite this morning and headed up the 500 ft climb to Fire Creek Pass.  The pass is at about 6,300 ft.     
Ready for Today’s Activities

Once I hit the top, I stopped to eat a little breakfast and dry out my ground sheet.  It got soaked last night from the grass.   Dog Bite shows up shortly after and I get a hero shot of him on the pass.  
Dog Bite
Next up is a 4k descent to the Suiattle River at 2,300 feet.   Shortly below the pass is Mica lake.  A pretty little alpine lake.   Wish I would have camped here last night.  

Heading down is a long drop through a million short switchbacks.  As I lose altitude, the terrain changes from rocky, alpine meadows to overgrown, muddy, wrecked trail spiced with lots of fallen trees.   The biting flies are back to munch on my ankles. 
Climb This
It is hot and getting hotter the lower I go.   Mosquitoes join the biting fly party.   I try to time my slaps so I can squish both a fly or two and a mosquito in one slap.  Bug parts smear my hands while I’m stumbling through the now invisible trail.   All the while, I’m hearing the increasing roar of the Suiattle getting closer.  I can also here the low thump of boulders being rolled downstream.  There better be a bridge over this water….   Once I’m near the river, the trail turns west and follows it for 3 miles.
Apparently, the old PCT route had us fording the river.   Now it is routed to add 6 miles taking us to a bridge.   I found out a few days later that two guys decided to cut that route short and did the ford.   They said it was terrifying.   
Walking along the river, I’m in a old growth forest filled with huge trees.  Alice is furiously sending me messages on my inReach that I’m “off trail”  She must be looking at the old route…you know the one where you try to cross the river and die.   After a few exchanges we have that settled and I carry on.

This next photo captures just how old the forest is.   Take a look at these trees.  They are over 6 feet in diameter.   I spot a couple that look like Treebeard.   
The Ents Live Here
Dog Bite catches up when I reach the bridge.   He tells me it had been washed out and rebuilt recently.   Wish I’d taken a video of the river when I crossed.   it is a churning mess.  I can both see and hear the boulders getting shoved down the channel.   Can’t imagine fording this beast.  


The highlight of the day starts with this sign

And ends with a with a satisfying trip to my forest throne. 
Enjoying Nature
Dog bite is going to call it a day and is looking for a camp site.  I decide to press on for a couple more miles.   I want to be setup for the climb tomorrow.   I reach my target site around 8:30pm in the fading light.   There is another tent here with a gal in it.   I say hi, setup, cook some dinner, and crash before 10.  Another 25 miler.    

Day 41 – Trying to Get the Rhythm Back (June 6)

Woke up a bit late. Last night I set my tent on a slope so my legs were elevated. Trying to keep the swelling down on the right one. Seems to work, but every time I roll over, I slide downhill until my head is surrounded in tent. Maybe all that blood flow to my brain is making me smarter 🙂

Plan was to do 12 miles to Golden Oaks Spring by 12 pm and wait out the heat. That didn’t work out very well. Starting late, 85+ by 10, exposed trail. The trail designers didn’t disappoint. It was 2,300 up and 2,300 feet down. Thanks.

I hiked with a couple of guys for a few miles. Turns out one of them was a dude I ran into during one of my worst days days where I got lost over and over again. I had intersected him after saving No English from a similar fate. He has been hiking 10 to 15’s the whole trail….slow but steady I guess. Would have liked to chat with him longer. He is from Torrance and had a lot of interesting stats about his generation (he is 23). Said that Millennials are generally not interested in restaurants and night clubs, preferring to cook in with a group of friends. If folks are ordering stuff from Amazon AND not going out to eat, a lot of traditional retail businesses are drying up. Knew that was the trend, but I wonder how folks actually socialize with strangers. Maybe it is replaced with all the social media outlets.

I’m Trying, Rock Artist, I’m Trying !!

I outpaced those guys and hiked a bit with a couple of gals who just graduated from college. They decided to start at Tehachapi for their thru, so this was the first day on the trail. One graduated in environmental science and was doing some research for the forest service, which she will continue when she gets back. Her research is tree coverage in the Philadelphia area for each decade from the 60’s to today. Looks at old photographs counting 10,000 points in each decade. Covered 7,000 so far. Apparently it has increased from 17% to 23% today. So I guess that is good.

Arrived at Golden Oaks hot, exhausted, and thirsty. Had maybe a liter left. There must have been 20 folks all clustered around the water. Small flow coming out of a plastic pipe into a big concrete trough. There are tadpoles and scummy algea growing all over it. Fortunately the the flowing water was clear, so I filled up and lounged with the rest of the crew.

There is a dude there who has been barfing for the last day or so. He definitely caught something nasty….which I don’t want. Most of us are thinking the same thing. There is a 5 foot open space around him. Heh.

Loaded up at 5ish to do a few more miles. Hooked up with an English dude named Mayo and a guy named Baton for the last 2 miles. Mayo and I camped at a spot around 587 next to a load of windmills. Mayo is an interesting character. Just retired from the National Health Service. He hiked the AT about 10 years ago and wanted to do another one, so here he is. Gave me the scoop on hiking Scotland. Says that it is nice in May and June. After that, you are followed by a cloud of these biting bugs that rise up from the ground to follow you around. I’ll definitely remember that.

These must be older versions of the wind turbines. The things are loud. Sounds like I’m next to a factory. Mayo says I should imagine it the air conditioning in a hotel room. Whatever.

Adding Noise to the Desert Misery

16 miles today. My mileage is sucking.

It is getting hard to adjust being in a different hiker bubble. All the folks I got to know over the past 4 weeks are now way ahead of me. Now I have to learn a whole new set of names again.

Day 40 – Back to the Trail (June 5)

Alice and I left the house at 3ish to head back to the trail near Tehachapi. I was driving. Alice doesn’t like canyon roads, so I tried a different route on the 5, down the grapevine, and catching the 58 South of Tehachapi. That turned out to be a bad move. It added an extra 1 hour to our trip and 1.5 hours of Alice complaining. She thought I had some secret agenda (I didn’t).

Finally we got to town and headed out on Willow Springs. From Willow Springs it is an 8 mile hike to the point were the trail crosses the 58. I had hoped to drop some water at the 58 before hitting the trail, but since we were running late that was not happening. So Alice dropped me and 6 gallons of water at the trail head and took off. Figured I’d leave the water for other hikers.

My pack is super heavy. I’ve 5 liters of water and enough food to get me almost 150 miles at what will likely be a 15 mile a day average given the condition of my right leg. This section is notorious for sucking. Very little water, exposed climbs, very windy, lot of crappy sandy trails sucking up each step.

Then I got some major trail magic.

Magic is Within

A dude named Legend and Coppertone were setup near the trail serving up spaghetti and smoothies. I was in a hurry to get on the trail, but Legend convinced me to come sit for a few minutes. Glad I did. There was a group of folks there milling around and he offered to slack pack all of us to the 58! Hell ya!!!! I gave him my 43 pound pack, grabbed my bladder, and took off a little after 5.

Hiking the PCT with a Bag of Water and some Starbursts

This 8 mile bit was a bunch of gentle climbs and descents among low hills. The winds here are relentless, hence all the wind turbines. Seems there are all types of the things out here.

The Wind Turbine Tinkerers
Turbines Here


The terrain is, well, unremarkable. In my excitement to take Legend up on his offer, I forgot to ask him where he was going to meet us. I think he said something like 9:00. Hmmm. I gave that a couple minutes of worry and forgot about it. I was blasting through the hills with my ~3 pound “pack” and loving it. Some rock artist seemed to agree.

Yes I Am !
Wonder if My Pack is Down There….

Crossed a bridge on the way down. It was surrounded by white buckets. Trail Magic? Nope, just full of sand. I can tell hikers have opened each one checking. That is just cruel.

Buckets of Disappointment

At the bottom of the valley, the trail follows a paved road to an overpass. It was getting dark and had not seen a soul yet. Turns out Legend was setup on the North side. The whole crew was there chit-chatting and loading their stuff. Got a picture of Legend before I took off.

My Hero

I was feeling pretty good, so it was time to do some serious climbing. Put on the headlamp and followed the 58 for a mile until the switch backs start up. The wind was crazy. Started as 20 mph gusts and kept getting stronger. I hooked up with a couple of gals and we hiked for a few miles together. One of them decided to setup a tent halfway up….good luck with that.

The cool thing was a nearly full Moon rose and soon headlamps were not even needed. Passed this dude cowboy camping in the wind tunnel. Looked miserable. Found out later that his inflatable pillow flew off into the emptiness. The wind slacked off a bit near the top of the canyon and I found some good protected spots around mile 570. Setup at 11ish and had a good night’s sleep. 12 miles for a half day, that seems respectable.

Day 30 – Acton

Woke up early and packed.   Dexter was still in her tent getting ready, so I took off.    Nice to be beating someone to the trail 🙂    Blasted lower and lower.   It got hotter and hotter.

I was down to 1 litter of water when I passed a small running stream at 431.    I only added another liter thinking I’d find more….but that was not to be.   All the other streams were dead.  

Made it to a fire station and fortunately they were angeling some water and sodas.    A lot of us stayed there through 2 drinking, eating and sleeping.   Including myself. 

Didn’t realize it, but my water deficit was building up from yesterday.   I’ve been trying to hike with less water to reduce weight.   It was starting to snowball on me though. 

Got back on the trail around 2:30.   Just another 6 miles to go to Acton KOA.

If you look in the distance, Flame is standing on that rise.

Hotter and more exposed sun.   I think it was close to 95 while I was hiking this bit.

That green spot is where I’d like to go
But this is where the PCT says I’m supposed to go

This part sucked.   4 miles of switchbacks.   Ups and downs over crappy scenery when I can see shade and water below at every turn.   Talked to some others later and we all thought the same thing.   This was torture. 

Finally made it to the campground around 5.   That makes 19 miles today (mile 444).   Guzzled two 12 ounce cans of some kind of juice while waiting to pay for them at the mini-mart.   Almost passed out waiting in line.   Then it was two microwave cheeseburgers, a couple of rainbow popsicles, and bottle of gatoraid.

The campsite was hiker crazy.   Here is a pic

Hiker Madness

Ran into a bunch of folks here who were all sharing beers.   Then I saw this dude walking around with a cooler who looked familiar (not a hiker).   Wasn’t sure, so I followed him to the office and discovered it was Alex, a guy I with whom I ride off-road motorcycles.   

He was hauling some beers as well.   Had been following my dot and saw I was pretty close to his house so he bounced down to say hi.    It was great seeing him!    Wish I had a picture.   Here is Alex with his sister (who is also a good rider).  

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, indoor

Anyway, Alex got to chat with some of my hiker friends and feed his desire to hike the PCT some day.   Go Alex !

Got a shower, did some laundry.    Only 8 miles to Agua Dulce tomorrow and I get to go home with Alice for a few days !!!!!!!!