Thru hiking the PCT

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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by NapalmMan67 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:53 am

If it hasn't been mentioned prior, another good resource for information on keeping things light. http://www.backpacking.net/bbs.html


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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat May 30, 2015 11:53 pm

OK...all the resupply boxes are filled and labeled, the bag is 95% packed and it's only the trivial last minute details that are left to nag me. D-day is planned for Friday; still need to find time to wash the sleeping bag...
Those half-gloves have ended up being replaced by a fleece vest, as previously hinted. The natural water situation is now even more in doubt, however. All monitor stations along my route now read 0', 0" of snowpack. Yikes.
Civilization is a bit farther and fewer between in NorCal then SoCal, so updates from the trail may be fewer then last year. Lets just hope this hip holds together with a lighter load and less strenuous pace, eh? I may not be just two miles from a road next time...
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by Halfapint » Sun May 31, 2015 1:21 am

Good luck man! Should be a great hike, but you're correct about the water situation. I'm sure you'll still find water most places, it'll just take a bit longer to hydrate.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:42 pm

Sorry about the delay, but reliable internet is quite sparse in this neck of the woods. Kicking back in a hostel in South Lake Tahoe for the next few days to recuperate from the usual wear and tear of the trail.
So far things have been going quite well, relatively speaking. The scenery is much better then SoCal, for sure. Weather has been clear, averaging 75-80 degrees with moderate to low humidity. Injuries have been minor: limited to 3-4 minor blisters (one of which has torn open), moderate pack strap chafing, several altitude induced nosebleeds and the usual sprains, strains, contusions, bites, scratches, etc. The mosquitos have been quite aggressive in some areas, though. A late storm 3 weeks ago provided plenty of snowmelt for the little buggers to all hatch at once, just when I'm there of course. That same storm has caused some confusion on the trail. The main hiker pack was split up by weather, some being delayed and some skipping around it. The number of North-bounders has been steadily increasing and I expect to start seeing the main pack in another week or so. Water has not been an issue, surprisingly. Many of the small seasonal creeks are trickling and muddy, but only one major natural source was dry and that was near the start. Perhaps it's worse further North, but in the mountains most places are still flowing strong.
Even since last season the trail has been changing. Many trail angels, especially some of the large operations in SoCal, have shut down due to population pressure and politics. Hiker numbers (due to the Wild effect and other factors) are overwhelming the family based operations that have been instrumental in shaping the trail's character. I see a more commercialized system taking shape now and over the next few years.
That first week out was a bit rough. Apparently I needed to get the stupidity out of my system early on and did a full night hike, covering 32 miles in 24 hours. I would like to state that I did not get lost this time, but was so trashed that it took four zero days to recover and necessitated skipping the 90 miles from Belden to Sierra City. Still pushing the limits and paying the costs, I know. On the bright side it did put me ahead of schedule and has allowed more down time then originally planned for. The suck has been kept to manageable levels unless I forget myself and try to be a high milage hiker.
Warning: when visiting Desolation Wilderness, stay in the South section! It's very nice there, all high alpine lakes just begging for a swim break. The North 10 miles are a swampy, mosquito infected mess that could only be sanely visited after several rounds of DDT saturation bombing.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by Boondock » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:09 pm

Great stuff. Thanks for the update. Good luck.

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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:41 pm

That last section went relatively smoothly, despite unforeseen variables. There's a gianormous uncontained fire (20k+ acres) just East of Ebbetts Pass that was causing much concern. Fortunately the winds have been pushing it away from the trail and all I got was a lot of smoke. There's also a much bigger fire in San Bernadino that's closed 100mi of trail, but since I won't be there, and there aren't any hikers there now, it's of no immediate concern.
The feet are holding up fine for once, but these old joints are complaining greatly. Kicking back for a few days with the same people I stayed with last time in Nevada. This is a scheduled rest, fortunately. I have a feeling I'll need it, because everyone I've met agrees that Yosemite valley is mosquito hell right now. Three guesses where I'll be my second day back on trail (and the first two don't count).
The going should be smoother once I pick up the John Muir Trail. Most of the thru-hikers will be past me by that point, in fact, I've been starting to pass through the main horde all week. No idea what the JMT culture is like, but I'll know soon enough.
Speaking of which, going Southbound has serious downsides. Sure, I get to see lots of people going the other way, be a trail messenger, always asking what's up ahead. But it's all in passing and I don't get to know many people unless there's a congregation of us at some point. Being divorced from trail culture detracts a great deal from the experience, in my opinion. Another snag is that I don't know if it will be possible to finish this season according to plan. Natural water sources in SoCal will be long gone by August and water cashes for the full SoBo hikers won't be layed out for another month. Until I see the water report when I get out of the Sierras it's still up in the air.
Water is exceedingly plentiful in the meantime, however. There's nothing in the world that wakes you up faster then plunging into a snow-cold waterfall on a hot midday. With water comes bugs, though, and while they may not be large or smart, they are numerous and persistent. Need to find some gloves...
Have been meeting many older hikers in the last week, some of them with serious creds. A woman who hiked the triple crown in her 60s and a triple AT hiker in his 50s stand out, but most make me feel better about my progress. Mainly because getting passed by all these 30mi/day young whipper-snappers in their prime makes me feel so damn old. Hell with it, hike your own hike. 15-20/day is good enough and those young ones will be worn out that much faster. I see hardly anyone in their 30s and 40s though, it's all either disgusting youth or retirement age.

It's a small thing yet so large, this narrow strip of packed dirt that brings us together. USA, UK, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, New Zeland, Australia, Germany, France, Finland, Russia, Japan, Israel, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Micronesia, Canada and nearly everywhere else. The trail makes us all one, forged into a single tribe by common purpose and experience. Operating by the Golden Rule, it always provides whatever is needed most. Just pay it back, pay it forward and good things will come.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:13 pm

It's been a while and there's quite a bit to tell, but I'll have to make this short since the library computers here are on a timer.
First off, Desolation Wilderness holds nothing in the bug department to that 75 miles between Sonora Pass and the start of Yosemite. Lived under my headnet for the entire three days it took me to run the section. Not exactly angry black clouds of death, but enough to cause madness in a short time.
The Yosemite valley is on the one part of the JMT not also shared by the PCT. The valley makes an excellent day hike though, if one can make 23 miles in a day with time to hitchhike back. Unfortunately I did it on the 4th of July. The trail itself was very fine, but within 5 miles of the trailhead it was standing room only with tourists.
Stayed in Mammoth at the Davidson Hostel for two days, one of which I got reimbursed for doing worktrade. The water must be ridiculously chlorinated though, because I got itchy, puffy rashes all over (and I mean all over). A nice town, very clean and catering to the extreme outdoor sports crowd, but incredibly expensive.
Took my time from Reds Meadow to Muir Trail Ranch, but then I had to really hustle to get to my resupply in Bishop in time. I was led to believe that a full resupply out of the hiker boxes at MTR was like diving into a mountain of Mountain House meals, but I could only scrounge enough for four days with all the competition.
That's the reason I've just done nearly a hundred miles and five passes through the heart of the Sierras in 4.5 days. It was either linger and enjoy the scenery, or starve. Made it to Kiersarge Pass with literally trash and crumbs in my bear can. It also means I'll have to come back and do the JMT again sometime, because that was highly unsatisfactory.
Kicking back in a hostel in Bishop right now for a couple of days to recover from the weight loss and numerous low grade injuries incurred over the last week. Unfortunately I won't be completing my plan for this season, due to the heat and total lack of water in SoCal this time of year. Alternate plans are still in the works since I have till the end of the month.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:45 am

I had thought about posting an update when I got back, but waiting till the journal was typed up hasn't killed anyone (least of all me). If it seems choppy in places it's because I have edited it to protect certain individuals, situations, locations and opinions.

6/5: We got started around 9:30, just in time to avoid the family fair-well committee. Made it to Red Bluff in 3.5hrs with two stops. Temps are about 100*, but the air is cleaner then home, sadly enough. Went to the restaurant next to the hotel for both lunch and dinner, but it was so-so. We then shopped for a few supplies ($12) and went to a meeting. Tim was tapped to speak, which was the high point of the day. My sleeping bay mostly finished drying on the way up, but is still a bit lumpy.

6/6: Drove to Chester early in the morning, but expectations were dashed when the Kopper Kettle didn't live up to memory. Got dropped off at the HGWY 36/PCT crossing (mi 1335) at 9:30 and immediately met two hikers who gave me most of the trail dirt I needed. The going was slow due to the relatively late start, uphill, frequent rest stops and suppressed pace. Made Soldier Creek springs (mi 1331) at 11:30 and the PCT halfway marker at mile 1325 about 15:00. Didn't take enough water from the spring, as my campsite at Carter Meadows (mi 1321) was dry. Dry camped on a Snickers and Advil dinner, as the bad hip and ankles were flaring. Weather was 80* and sunny, changing to a muggy 70s* with showers.

6/7: The first night is always poor, and those damn F-ing noisy deer didn't help. The spring a few miles up was good, so I had my first trail breakfast there. Moved on to Humboult Trailhead (mi 1315) and wasted too much time looking for the water there, only to be told it was twice as far up. How did it take all morning to get there, but only 3hrs to get to Cold Springs (mi 1308)? Time warp? In the 70s* all day and clear, saw only 7-8 people. Washed up and had dinner at Cold Springs; yes, it's cold coming out of that cattle tank. Met an old timer from the Valley who was also filling up. His groundwater is so polluted he drives 90mi every two months for drinking water here. Started off again at 20:00 to find a campsite with no mosquitoes. (Note: from now on, all biting/bloodsucking insects shall be referred to collectively as bugs.)

6/8: Me and my bright ideas. No place was bug free, so I just kept going. I was just flying most of the night, finding my way by feel, moonlight and astral projection. The stars were fantastic. Made it into Beldon (mi 1290) resort at 10:00 exhausted, dehydrated, crashing, sore in every joint, left hip on fire, blistered and chafed. Walking all night on two combat naps, 2L of water and a bag of GORP has downchecked me for 2-3 days. Because I could? Keeping a timetable? Don't know. The resort's food is OK ($9.75) and I got a ride to the Bratton's Little Haven. Everything needed is here except a working hot water heater. “Papa” Joe Anderson, Superclassy and a Japanese couple came in later and we spent the day hanging out and comparing trail notes. The milkshakes at the Caribou Store are trail famous, not a bad burger either. Not too bad for maybe 2hrs sleep in 2 days. Just my luck though, high snows down south and a heat wave up here. At least the weather has broken up the main horde.

6/9: Tried to make pancakes for breakfast, but the crappy stove here is totally FUBAR. After half an hour of fail I held the pan above my camp stove (using a hiker box fuel canister) and got it all done in 15 min. Joe has just quit trail angeling after 16 years of flipping pancakes for us ravenous hikers. Donna Saufley has shut the doors to Hiker Heaven, the Brattens here may close before the horde arrives and Ziggy and Bear have now been robbed several times. Politics and pressure are destroying the old trail culture these family oriented trail angels helped create. Perhaps they'll all be replaced eventually with business oriented operations like Hikertown. Popularity carries the seeds of it's own destruction. Everyone got an early start and split on the 6 and 8 o'clock shuttles. Got directions to Sierra City from the resort staff and caught a ride almost immediately. A dentist from Louisiana who was doing hiking sections with his thru-hiker son in between work. Plans changed in route and he took me all the way to the Reno airport. Caught a shuttle ($24) to Carson where G and P took me in as usual, bacon included.

6/10: Checked for trail updates and doctored myself today. I made the right choice coming here, there are thunderstorms all up and down the central mountains.

6/11: P gave me a ride to Sierraville and I instantly hitched a ride to Sierra City with some yuppie scum parents of hiker trash. Sierra City is very quiet and boring, with a Pop. of 250. My box at the store was soggy and ant ridden from a hole in the GORP bag. Had lunch at the Red Moose Cafe ($10.75) an BSed there for 3-4hrs. The previous owners had given the place a bad trail rep, but the new ones will mend that quickly. North Bay ex-pats, no less. Hung out with a party of 4 for a few hours, then went rambling before dark. Housing prices are cheap, many Bay Area ex-pats, nothing around but mountains, and the locals know everything and say little. I'd move here in a hot minute.
Last edited by kvetch on Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:48 am

6/12: We all camped on the church lawn, though my comrades slept in hard. Had breakfast at the Red Moose ($9.68) and was leaving just as the others were walking in. Mostly uphill all day in the mid-80s*. Heavy tree cover allowed a full hiking day, except for 2hrs spent at a small lake (1190). Had dinner at Henness Pass Rd. (1186); the first time I've had Top Ramen in years! The first crop of blisters are coming in, so I don't want to push too hard for now. Went a few miles further and found a nice overlook shared by three other hikers. We BSed and swapped trail stories till dark.

6/13: Temps of 75* with a stiff breeze all day. Say my first snow, a few scrappy patches. Leftovers from the storm in the Sierras, maybe? It was supposed to have been dumping several inches to several feet a day, depending on who I talk to, and caused loads of hikers to flip up North. Took a nap around Meadow Lake Rd., but after that it was all bug infected meadows and exposed ridges. There's plenty of water, but I have to stop and be eaten alive to get it. Had to push far too hard, rehurting my left hip and causing several new blisters. Made it to the Peter Grubb Shelter Hut (1163) by 19:30. Fortunately it's undergoing renovations; the work crew already had dinner on and I got a share for a few songs.

6/14: Got up the same time the crew did and add some of their breakfast to mine. By paying it back I stayed through the morning and helped them re-mortar the western wall. Sand Ridge Lake was a bit of ways, but a nice day hike and well worth it. There are an awful lot of mountain bikers out though, mad bastards all of them. The crew pulled out at 14:30 and I followed a half hour later. Then it was humility time; at the trail intersection before I-80 I managed to take both wrong turns. Things were complaining after just that much, so I called an Angel in Truckee named Freeloader. He picked me up at the I-80 rest stop, we went grocery shopping ($21.23) and then to his house for dinner and a shower. Really should have checked those tincture of benzine swabs, as they made something of a mess.

6/15: Got up early, stretched, checked email, had breakfast and took off. Freeloader took me to the same trailhead at 9:00. Gave him my info, as he's moving to the Bay Area soon, and the usual $20 tip. Finding the trail after HGWY 40 was a bit troublesome, but the route was clear all the way to the Benson Ski Hut (1150) after that. Lots of ridge running and scree, weather was 75* with gusts of 50+mph. Got to the hut at 14:30, then ate/napped/lazed around till 17:30. Started to put on some more miles, but then lost interest after doing one and turned around. Getting into the sectioner mindset of not having to hurry so much is freaking hard! Came back to the hut to find a drinking game in progress between a slum Irish kid and AT vet named Misery and a German student who looks way older then 19. Both are high mileage types and trash to the core. Things got pretty funny after they had killed a whole quart of whiskey between them. Maybe that's the secret to speed hiking: just stay drunk and loaded all the time so there's no pain?

6/16: Good thing I was alone in the loft, that dehydrated split pea soup tore me up something awful. Have to be careful what you take out of hiker boxes... The bathroom was easy though, one of the windows opened out right onto the hillside. I'm pretty sure the Irishman won last night: he's up and off early while the German was still unconscious when I left at 7:00. The day passed quickly. Stopped to eat and wash up above Squaw Valley Resort and at Whiskey Creek (1140). Stopped and visited with two oldtimers who have been doing the trail in weekend sections since the iron age. Other then that and dinner, the day was nonstop. Maybe I've hit my stride after that rest, cause 20mi of switchbacks and ridge running later things are fine except for being a bit footsore. The blisters and rashes are going down too. After dealing with an altitude nosebleed I found a good campsite sheltered by a manzaneta grove. It's a good view of Lake Tahoe, but the bugs are huge!

6/17: Got an early start and made Barker Pass trailhead (1128) by 10:00. Had breakfast, stretched out and was about to leave when Nona From Nowhere showed up with a carload of trail magic. A truly outstanding old lady, who did the triple crown in her 60s and supported Scott Williamson on his yo-yo hikes. Also met a hiker named Breeze who makes medicinal hash oil in Colorado; $15/hr + $1.5mil/year on the side, 90% THC content? Holy shit! 3hrs and lunch later I finally moved on. Hit Desolation Wilderness (1120) and knew it instantly. It's desolate because nothing can live there and survive the constant aerial assault. Saturation bombing with DDT seems to be the only answer. Following the advise of a group of rangers, I've stayed on the ridges tonight. Dinner was good though: a packet of mysterious bean curry mix, olive oil and some potato flakes for body.

6/18: Last night wasn't very restful. I've found that headnets do double duty, however, preventing both disease and suicide. Started at 5:30 to beat the bugs and a good thing too, cause the first 7mi were a snow-melt fed swamp. Then I hit Fontanillis Lake (1111) and BAM!, clear water, glacial rock, mountain wind and no bugs: it's high alpine. A very long climb over Dick's Pass (1107, 9400') and BAM! again, green turns to brown and I'm in central CA. Was stupid again and pressed on all day down scree choked trails to get to Echo Lake store (1094) before closing time. I did, at the cost of my knees, a broken blister and that damn hip. Someday I'll learn to control these self-competitive urges. Got my box from the store and called up an angel who took me to the Mellow Mountain Hostel ($25) in South Lake Tahoe. Unpacked, called home and went off to find a very large pizza. It was found not two blocks away, but was quite pricy ($27) and had to put up with a truly terrible lounge singer (as if there's any other kind). The trail is such a visceral, elemental place that it makes everything in the other world seem drab; revealed as the phony, 2D, shallow, petty construct that it is. Living with only what you need for months teaches what's really important, how little we need to be happy.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:52 am

6/19: A good nights sleep and a fine breakfast from excess supplies. Between those and the wealth of communal food in the kitchen, I don't see the need to eat out again. Took the bus ($4) to the other end of town to run errands: check out the outfitter, stock up on Subway sandwiches ($16.42), do some grocery shopping ($29.37). Lake of the Sky outfitters is very cool. There's a hiker room in back fully stocked with scavenging, info and a free soda to boot, the trail angel contact list is a full page long here. Got back to find nothing to do except meet my new roommate, an Aussie climber. Got some additional trail dirt in the common room, showered, shaved and crashed ($28).

6/20: I reserved one more night ($26.40) and got to witness a full hiker breakfast, in which 4 eat enough for 12. 3 packs of bagels, an 18 egg omelet, 2 jumbo packs of bacon, avocados, fruit and 2 gallons of orange juice. These people don't screw around. As a reward for finding a guy's Ipod, I got Klondike bar, some snacks and a beach pass from management. It was an enjoyable 3hrs of people watching at the beach, including two wedding nearby. I was waiting for them to call out “We need a minister!”, but it never happened. Did my charitable duty upon returning and gave a newly arrived pilgrim some dinner company. Just another lost soul in need of an attentive ear and an instructive tongue. Things quickly deteriorated from there. When I got back my roommates had changed to two doper dropouts who stunk up the place so bad with their unsecured stash that I had to request a room change. The roommate now is a drunken homeless writer who has been living here for the last 3 months, waiting for his work to be discovered. Some kind of sports rally in going on this weekend and the town is going batshit crazy, with the hostel booked up. The party scene is split between the USA/German drinking faction upstairs in the commons and the French/Brazilian barbeque drinking party downstairs. So glad I'm going back on trail!

6/21: Many people were afflicted with the blind staggers this morning, as predicted. Hiker trash, like most extreme sports enthusiasts, are not generally known for moderation in these matters. Superclassy has shown up again. She had slowed down to babysit a casualty from the Tahoe Rim Trail into town. This guy made every classic blunder of a greenhorn hiker: too much gear, too little prep, too high expectations. He had made only 50mi over 4 days, half of that on day one; had only eaten 2000 calories in that time and was severely dehydrated from keeping his water in his pack where it wasn't easily accessible. With our encouragement and advise, however, he will be coming back next season much wiser. An angel took me back to the trailhead at 9:00 and I was able to go for most of the day. After all morning stair stepping out of the valley, it was nothing but alpine meadows. I'm huffing/puffing/pausing up the incines and all these young whipper snapper ultralighters are racing by. Then I think “I can still kick their asses” and damn, does that make me feel old. Until I meet someone who actually is old like Pappy, who's 65 and only doing 5-6mi a day. Had dinner near the Meiss Cabin (1081), a turn of the century homestead site. Went on to Carson Pass/HGWY 88 and found a good camp at mi1077. The bugs are less but temps are dropping at night. I think it's the solstice today, which also makes it hike naked day, though I have seen no proof so far.

6/22: The valley I crossed this morning was supposedly the last bug pest hole for a while. It's not so bad if I'm on a ridge by evening and don't stop in between. A 2hr siesta helps too, even though midday is a reasonable 75-80* now. Found a nice little stealth camp above a creek at mi1060. A SoBo hiker's dog that had passed earlier was making such a fuss that I followed it all the way up the next ridge in case it's owner was in trouble, but found nothing. Good news: I can breath again! The pine trees in Tahoe were dropping; great yellow clouds on the wind, covering everything with a layer of tree semen. More bad news: I'm hungry. 3500 calories a day isn't enough now. Also, the knees are complaining greatly.

6/23: Started off the day by saying goodby to the massive fire that's been burning to the East for the last several days. It supposedly evacuated Markleyville, but HGWY 4/Ebbett's Pass (1050) is still open. Still, spending the morning in a smoke choked valley breathing through a wet bandana isn't my idea of fun. Both smoke and bugs cleared up after the pass. Soaked in a snowmelt creek for an hour, saw some lovely sights (twins, petite, pigtails, sunbonnets, short dresses...oh my) and had a good dinner atop a smaller pass (1045). A Korr Mexican rice packet, potato flakes, olive oil and sausage. Hiked on for a few more miles and saw that it kept descending, so I quickly bushwhacked up to higher ground and donned bug protection.

6/24: Hit the trail at 5:00 to get to HGWY 108 today. The trail was good, meaning it wasn't full of rocks, mud, snow, creeks and bugs. Until the last few miles climbing out of Carson River valley, of course, where it was all of them at once. Met a triple AT veteran in his mid-50s aptly named Flacco, who looked like a strip of overdone jerky...in a grizzled, badass sort of way. There haven't been as many hikers in the last few days due to the fire scare. Trail rumor being what it is, even I'm not sure if things are closed or not now. Maybe that deputy let me through cause I'm SoBo? It's uncontained, but not a serious threat unless the wind changes. Not like the fire near Big Bear which has closed 100mi of trail. Got off the ridge and to the Sonora Pass trailhead (1018) totally beat up and broke down, level 6 suck factor. It took 20min to hitch a ride to the Kennedy Meadows pack station with a carload of other trail trash. It's a dude ranch/resort, overrun with weekenders and overpriced. Dorm rooming, shower and dinner was $50, but I'm with my tribe for another night.

6/25: Everyone tried to sleep in. breakfast ($10.75) Cliffhanger, Superclassy and I got a ride from one of the ranchhands back to the trailhead. Sonora Pass Resupply was set up by the time we got their. It's a box truck packed full of everything a hiker needs at reasonable prices. He's only been in business for one season, but it's already a family operation with dealer status from several gear and food companies. Found a trail angel who could take me all the way to Carson ($20), along with a woman named Ci-Ci with a possible broken foot who needed to go to Tahoe. We caught up with Cliffhanger at the 108/395 junction; the coward is skipping ahead to Tahoe to avoid the fire. The folks will be meeting me here tomorrow with the bear can and resupply. Groceries were $24.36. It's a small but big thing, this strip of packed dirt. It takes people from nearly every country on Earth and forges up into a single tribe by common purpose and experience. Working in the Golden Rule, it always provides what's needed when. Pay it back, pay it forward, and good things will come.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:55 am

6/26-28: Did all of the usual things to do in Nevada: shooting, 4x4ing, mining town tours, being stuffed with bacon. Found some gloves for the bugs and wax for my staff ($26.75). Trivia: New Zealanders don't believe in switchbacks, they call them “sissy turns”.
Being out here proves the lie to the progressivist gospel that great power or complex social/governmental systems are necessary to promote “good”. Small, everyday acts of kindness and consideration by ordinary folk are what keep the forces of darkness and barbarism at bay. Proof of this is here on the trail every day.

6/29: Got registered at the collage for next semester, had breakfast, said goodbye to the folks and took off for Sonora Pass. Pat got me there by 10:30, but lunch and hanging out delayed departure till 12:30. Progress was slow due to elevation, broken/rough trail and old snow banks. Made Kennedy Canyon (1009) by 18:00 in time for a brief shower. There have been massive thunderstorms to the East all day, but they've been moving North rapidly. It was a good place for dinner, but the bugs closed in as soon as I dropped off the ridge. Pressed on maybe 3 more miles, finding a good campsite after dark. Met a young Latino hiker (the first Mexican I've seen on trail) who had only been out a week and was already full of doubt and homesickness. I'd like to think that my advise helped, but who knows.

6/30: Got an early start and booked it all day. Trail conditions are improving now that I'm getting closer to the more “civilized” parts. Bugs are a real PITA, but not the angry, black clouds of death that I'd been warned of. Just don't take the headnet off and don't stop for anything, or swarming will be immediate. Stopped for a dip in Dorthey Lake (998) and had a rousing chat with a redheaded firecracker appropriately named Sass. Made it to the next ridge and found a South facing shelf to camp on, after a ball busting 2mi/1500' climb. Had my second wind when I started, but lost it halfway up and never quite got to my third. Painkillers, regardless of form, chemical composition or legality, are rather mandatory for thruhiking. 20's are ok, but 24mi just trashed me. The average modern human body just isn't able to maintain that pace without quickly breaking down.
Gear win: The full size Sawyer filter is x5 faster then the Mini and does not clog; again, headnets save lives. Gear fail: A trash bag poncho going over a pack is a two man operation; I will finally destroy a pair of Keen sandals.

7/1: Encountered my first group of JMT hikers today. Mostly out of shape, overloaded, looking far too clean and like they've just stepped out of an LL Bean catalog. Though we're going the same way, I couldn't be mistaken for one of them. All hiker trash that have gotten this far share common traits: A manic determined look, trashed gear and not a lot of it, perpetual grime, long hair and a general grodyness that could drop a bear at 20 paces. With the exception of early morning and the approach to Benson Pass, the day was mostly bug free. I remember a blur of valleys and ridges, most of which have let their impressions on my knees and ankles. Camping on top of Benson Pass is mostly exposed, but unwelcome deer and bugs are not deterred. Several thunderstorms passed this afternoon, spiking the humidity. They cloud cover is welcome though, as temps haven't broken 80* all week.

7/2: Last night officially sucked. Winds kicked up and a very close sound and light show forced me down into the next valley. Had to huddle under a tree for an hour till I was sure it wouldn't rain before making camp again. Working on 5-6hrs of sleep total, but except for one ridge climb early on it was downhill or flat all day. These bugs have run me ragged; it's hardly possible to eat, sleep, rest or fill my bottles. There's nothing to do but walk and keep ahead of them, leading to high mileage days and a great weariness. The usual afternoon thunderstorm brought me the first sight of Yosemite Valley. First thought: “Wow!” Second thought: “It's about damn time!” Strolled into Glen Aulin camp (948) around 16:30. Spent most of the evening around the fire at the lower camp, gabbing with hikers of all stripes. Made my camp high up and finally got a decent night's sleep, despite getting rained on slightly.

7/3: Got up late, walked slow and went skinny dipping under Tuolumne falls this morning. Chatted with a volunteer ranger for about an hour at one of the little cabin museums and eventually got to the Tuolumne store/grill (942) about 11:30. Had two burgers right off the bat ($24.19) and hobnobbed for the rest of the afternoon. A girl from S. Carolina got her trail name of Shark Lightning early; carrying a bright blue travel guitar with an unsuccessfully defaced decal will attract attention, despite it being a $10 China craptar. Being a new couple, Dustin and Kathrine were undoubtedly the most amusement I've had in two weeks. First the 2hr drama of packing two bear cans with three cans worth of food, then wheedling some JMTers for replacement food for what they dumped, then mentoring Littlefoot on successful trailmancing at the hiker campsite that evening. Me, giving advise to a girl on how to catch a guy whom she accidentally flaked (chickened out?) on the first time. It's all so wrong. Dinner was another burger with a hot dog and ice cream ($16.39) just before the cafe closed. There was a song and story event around the main fire pit, but it was for kiddies and tourists.

7/4: Got up early to prep for a dayhike into the valley. Clipped a bottle and filter to my belt, tied some rations into a bandana, slung it on my staff hobo style, cashed my gear in a bear locker and took off. A straight shot downhill for 12hrs took me through 23mi of the best country in creation. Stopped for an hour lunchbreak with an REI weekend “expedition”; we talked gear and I help them “clean up” their leftovers. Power hiked with a really fun Australian climbing couple for 8mi or so, mad bastards. Still, except for a few pitifully loaded down JMTers I had the trail mostly to myself. It was quite fun to watch their heads go “tilt” when they saw my load. “Yes, I'm a thruhiker...though I usually carry a little more gear then this.” The 4th of July crowds exploded 4mi before Happy Valley trailhead, mostly Indian and Chinese. The squirrels are obese and totally fearless, even the bugs are fat and lazy. A SoCal trail angel and a harried transit worker named Charlene helped guide me through the F-ed up valley bus system. It took another half hour to hitch a ride out from the Valley Village. Funny, these same people who smirk and scowl at me from their cars were stepping out of my way with awe and fear on trail. Do cars automatically turn people into assholes? It's an interesting role reversal. Got a ride with an auto shop teacher and family from Washington who are doing a tour of the Western parks. He took me all the way back to Tuolumne, arriving at 21:30, where I crashed hard despite the hiker parties all around.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:58 am

7/5: Didn't get up till 7:00, and I was an early riser in comparison with most there. Hit up the cafe at 9:00 for a passable three course breakfast ($22.79), Then hung around till 11:00. Talked for a while with an Armenian hiking group out of Glendale who were doing El Capitan and got a brick of crap cheese from the store ($4.75) to last until Mammoth. Made super time the rest of the day and through the next valley, reaching Donahue Pass (mi930, 1160') by 18:00. Met a squad of Scouts from Troop 116 Connecticut while I was taking a break by the Tuolumne River. Now that I've busted so much ass to get here, all I really want to do is plant it for the day beside this river. A month would be better to do the JMT in instead of two weeks. Met with PCTer Happyfeet and JMTers Barista and Horse With No Name at the last lake before the pass. Had my dinner there, then backtracked to where they were camping and contributed to their potluck night. Featured dishes were Goldfish mashed potatoes and tortellini with an unfortunate helping of dirt. Good times, including my sort of best rendition of Old Man River. Singing at high altitude is no cakewalk, believe me.

7/6: Stayed at the camp till 8:00 so I could get a group pic and some needed intel. Found how Barista got his name, he carries a backpacking sized espresso maker. The pass was easy and it was downhill the rest of the way. Not much company up there except for hordes of marmots; they're so comically stupid, I saw one fall off a boulder. The hardest part of the day was having this conversation at least 20 times: “Which trail you on?” “PCT, SoBo.” “Wow, you're the first South bounder I've met!” “No, I'm just a section hiker.” “...Oh.” Thousand Island Lakes is spectacular, but I took the PCT alternate to make up time. Not as many views, but it got me to the bus stop in Agnew Meadows (915) at 16:30, about 30 seconds after the bus passed through. The next one in 45 minutes ($7) was actually the one I needed. With the assistance of two friendly drivers I changed at Mammoth Ski Lodge, got to town and walked to the Davidson Guest House. $56 for two nights, a shower and a pot of stew later I'm mostly Human again. The place is crowded with back of the pack yellow blazers, most of whom are upstairs marathon watching shows on Netflix. Not my kind of trash.

7/7: Turned out the room I claimed was private, so I got booted into one of the dorms. The manager was cool though, we went to breakfast ($13) and then hit up the post office. He's leaving to do the North half of the PCT in a few days and was two weeks behind me in SoCal last year. Got back and spent 2hrs cleaning the place in worktrade for a nights fee. Then went out to find the biggest pizza I could, did, and lost the contest...though I may have done better without the buffalo wings. John's Pizza Works is expensive ($47.17), but they don't mess around. Cruised Vons for supplies ($15.98) then played musical buses getting back. Between shopping, resupply and the hiker box my bear can was completely packed, but then I took out half when told by several people that I could fully resupply at Muir Trail Ranch. From what I hear the yellow blazers are quite bad this year; fortunately most of them have moved on by now.

7/8: Last night was terrible. I don't know what it was, but something has caused itchy welts to break out all over. And I mean all over. Plus those spiced buffalo wings are tearing me up something awful, as they are wont to do. Finally got a few hours sleep near morning and didn't end up leaving till 10:00. The manager Andy is beta testing a prototype line of Ray Jardine style packs from Big Agnus. Will have to look into those when they come out next year. The buses cooperated and I was on trail and passing Red's Meadow (905) by 14:00. Decided to brave the tourist hordes and took the alternate past the Devil's Postpile, which wasn't very exciting. Reached what I think is Deer Creek camp (901) at 16:30 and decided to call it a day for my feet's sake. Got brushed by a thunderstorm on the way up, but nothing severe.

7/9: Another storm started at 3:00 and lasted till 6:00. Got a bit wet, but there was a group of JMTers 2mi on who shared their fire (and a bite of oatmeal) with me. It got quite cold later in the morning, with rain turning to hail and snow inside of an hour. Eventually had to take shelter in a cleft and wait for it to pass. Had an hour or so of sun to dry my gear in, then lost 2hrs chatting with a PCTer named Robert at Lake Virginia. He was a bit light, so I gave him $2 for bus fare to Mammoth. Things got worse when a new storm blew in. Was starting to get chilled when I started praying fervently for the rain to stop; 15min later it was answered and the sun came out. Hope it stays that way, as it snowed here last night. First I found a small cave in the cliffside that took some climbing to get to, but then decided that being a bit wet was preferable to rolling out and falling 15'. Found another camp not 200yds further on next to Squaw Lake (886).

7/10: Last night was the first time I've had to fully zip up this sleeping bag. Ever. It was F-ing cold, wet and frosty; the stars become magical above 10k', though. The going was slow over Silver Pass (mi885, 10750') due to ice, mud and crusty snow. It was a long day, with only two stops. First was in late morning before Vermillian Valley Resort to dry out, then dinner at 17:30 with an old geezer and two grandkids from Utah. The rain cut in again right then, but passed in an hour leaving blue skies. Finally made camp when light was failing by Marie Lake, right before Seldon Pass (mi866, 10900'). I may have isolated the prime difference between PCTers and JMTers. JMTers still have fucks to give; PCTers ran out somewhere around Mohave. Crap I need better gear: my drum liner is getting munged already and a shelter would really be nice. Cowboy camping is only good when it's good out.

7/11: A beautiful, clear morning, but also cold and wet. This pass was easy and I made it to Muir Trail Ranch (877) by 10:30. Rows of labeled hiker buckets awaited, the promise of prepackaged treats hung in to air, Beethoven’s 9th played in the background...revealing nothing but oatmeal and granola. Blarg! Hardly the mountains of Mountain House I had heard of. Stayed for 4hrs and eventually gathered resupply for 4 days from hikers passing through. All drops to MTR and VVR must be in 5gal buckets; space has a tendency to be filled; JMTers pack too much in the first place and don't eat enough; only so much fits in a bear can; they hate what they've packed by this point. It turned out to be a good time, with lots of hiker trash “resupplying” like me. VVR doesn't allow this: they confiscate and resell hiker's unclaimed food, only allowing paying customers to go through whats left. Ate 4 tins of sardines, a big bag 'o banana chips, and 3 powerbars in that time, felt like I had swallowed an anchor by the time I left. Only got as far as the South Fork San Joaquin river camp (852) before dinnertime. Shared space with a father/son team from Livermore and a mother/daughter team from Orange County. All are JMT vets so we all swapped stories around the lantern till after dark.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:59 am

7/12: Happiness is a good nights sleep, without bugs, rain, dew or other forms of unpleasantness. Set off along Evolution Creek with a will and got to Evolution Basin (844) by 11:00. The most gorgeous place on trail so far and perfect for a lunch break. The good times paused for the very long ascent up to Muir Pass (mi838, 12k'), along a trail in name only made of various sizes of loose rock and other glacial vomit. There was no view from the top, only a small shelter hut with amazing acoustics. The way down was slightly better, though into a biting wind. Had dinner with some more JMTers and bummed a few bars off of them. These people really have more food then is good for them and a little guilt goes a long way. I, on the other hand, will go hungry if I don't reach resupply by Wed. Sucks that I have to hurry through the best scenery on the entire trail and wear myself out on these passes, but it's going to very tight. Stopped at 20:00 and made camp right before Big Pete Meadow on Kings River (833). Hello bugs, I've missed you!

7/13: The first half of the morning was a pleasant stroll up Kings Creek. The second half was a painful slog up the Golden Staircase, roughly 2k' of gain in 2.5mi. Bless that Forest Service workcrew, they're the ones who really keep the trail open. Reached the top and Palisade Lakes by 12:30 and promptly collapsed for an hour. The feet aren't too good at the moment. Multiple raw/hot spots, both heels cracked, an infected ingrown toenail and the usual sprains and strains. It's also 80* out instead of the 60* of the past few days, doubling the dehydration risk. Compared to the Staircase, the ascent to Mather Pass (mi817, 12100') was relatively easy, despite being mostly loose rubble. After some fast switchbacking the trail smoothed out, cutting straight through Kings Canyon Upper Basin. Had dinner with a JMT vet, trash to the core, who told me all the best places to score food up ahead. Sharing a campsite currently (811) with a JMTer named James; lifetime hiker, family man and a good Christian. The bugs are out, but temps are dropping fast enough to banish them soon.

7/14: Lost time but gained fun tickets talking to several JMTers this morning. A female PCTer from West Ireland who was wondering where all her former hiking companions had gone to. It was my sad duty to inform her that due to her 10mi/day pace, everyone she had started with was now twice as far uptrail as her; probably nearing Oregon by now. Pinchot Pass (807, 12100') was easy since I was already near elevation. At the top I met David and Emerald, who had just gotten engaged last night, and another couple who had done the same three nights before. I offered my services as a trailside minister (nondenominational, rates reasonable), but they declined the prospect of immediate matrimony. The trail was very good and they were all strong hikers, so we bombed it all day at full cruising speed. Until, of course, the week caught up with me and I sprained my ankle 2mi past the rickety looking, but sound, suspension bridge at mile 800. With appropriate determination, tape and painkillers I hobbled to Rae Lakes (793) at 17:30 and found a quiet spot to collapse. Ate, washed up and crashed. Good thing I have a few zero days imminent, because total physical breakdown is a serious threat.

7/15: I didn't get to see David and Emerald before I left camp, though I did leave them a “Mazel Tov!” note at the Kearsarge Pass trailhead. Topped Glen Pass (791) first thing in the morning. The path was narrow and somewhat treacherous both ways. Went off trail and over Kearsarge Pass (789, 11200') by 11:30, reaching my exit at the Onion Valley trailhead 3hrs later. Snagged a ride all the way into Bishop with another hiker; first 15mi East to Independence, then 35mi North to town. The Hostel California is great: clean, full amenities and diversions, free afternoon hot dogs, right downtown across from the library and a freaking bouldering cave all for $20 a night! Best deal I've found on trail! ($60) Got all my errands done this afternoon: replacement fuel canister ($7), the P.O. for my package and Vons for groceries ($58.85). Had a huge burrito ($11.45) at a trashy little Mexican place across the street, picked on the resident banjo a bit, showered and crashed.

7/16-17: Ok, I am so ready to leave this place. Endless sloth, the forced gluttony of four meals a day, dealing with dopers, neo-hippy freaks and yellow blazers, constant noise and music; it's all quite exhausting. Met a volunteer ranger whom I had talked with on trail a few days ago. It was funny for both because neither of us recognized the other without our respective uniforms on. Some of these people party till 5:00, so earplugs are a must. Online and first person reports have decided me against doing SoCal; South of Kennedy Meadows there's almost no water and triple digit temps. Made contact with my trail buddy Mermaid from last year, so it looks like I'll be bumming around the LA area for a while. At least my dormmates are ok, all the dopers sleep outside on the patio for $10/night.

7/18: It was a trying day. Left the hostel at 8:00, got a light breakfast at a cafe ($5.94), looked in vain for a ride board at the various outfitters, got some more tape ($3.50) and stuck my thumb out. 4Hrs later a local wised me up to make a sign and move out of downtown. Done and done, I had my ride in under 5min. Turned out to be an old Mexican woman who had come North to follow Caesar Chavez and had been a pro horse packer in the Sierras for 50 years. Many stories there, and a knowledge of every secret place in those mountains lost to modern hikers. From Independence it took another hour to hitch up the mountain, narrowly missing a dust storm blowing up the valley. This ride was from a professional climber taking his 13 year old daughter, appropriately named Sierra, for a week of rambling. Got up to the trailhead at 15:00 and came over the pass into a dry thunderstorm, meeting Shark Lightning and her brother on their way out. It stayed dry (mostly) and hit the PCT again at 20:00, finding a perfect campsite right at the Bullfrog Lakes trailhead (788).

7/19: The entire morning was spent on the climb up to Forester Pass (779). Straight for the most part, but a 7mi grade and highly monotonous. Reached the top at 10:00 sharp, but didn't have much time to admire the view as it started hailing soon after. At 13200' it's the highest point on the PCT, so everything is downhill from here both literally and metaphorically. The trail afterwords was good all day and by night I had almost made it to Crabtree Meadows. There were scattered showers through the afternoon, with the main front dumping from 16:30 to 19:30. This is supposedly leftover from a typhoon down by Baja.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:10 am

7/20: Predictably, I had camped only 100yds from the Mt. Whitney trailhead (767, 14500'). Started the 8.5mi ascent at 5:00. It wouldn't have been too bad but for the freezing horizontal rain, small rivers where the trail should have been and snot slick granite. Rain turned to snow about 12000' and visibility became very poor. Several others and I stopped at the Whitney Portal trail junction (13500') and decided not to continue on the 2mi ridge run to the summit. The way down was fast but perilous, it was so cold the fresh powder was already freezing on the trail. That rainstorm was still waiting at the bottom. Upside: I had cashed my bear can on the ascent; downside: my drum liner has definitely seen better days, though it did prevent any serious hypothermia. Reached Crabtree ranger station at 13:00 as the storm broke, chilled, wet, exhausted and starving. Stayed there for 2hrs drying gear, warming up and chatting with the resident ranger. The show was free: a large robber bird stealing the chicks out of a smaller bird's nest. The rest of the day was taken slowly due to injury flareups. The weather has downgraded back to thunderheads and should start drying up tomorrow. Dinner and camp are on a small plateau overlooking Rock Creek. All the gear in ziplocks that got wet anyway is already dry. Between scrounging in bear lockers for discards and mooching off JMTers headed up to Whitney I should have enough to make it to KMS.

7/21: A bit of a late start this morning. Got to Chicken Spring Lake (751) at 12:30 and had lunch for an hour with two horse women, mooching snacks shamelessly. Cottonwood Pass came 1mi later, and the end of the Sierras. The way was clear but sandy till 18:30, when the thunderstorm that had been pacing me all afternoon opened up full force. The show was close enough to rattle my teeth; Mr. Murphy apparently demands that I be on ridgelines for all such concerts. Despite the parting salvo, I am sad to leave the mountains. It's truly a cathedral of nature; God is closer and more available here then anywhere else I've been, even the Old City. Though my prayers are usually “Please God don't let me be struck by lightning!” or something else rather immediate. Waited out the worst of it under a tree and camped at mi740.

7/22: The night was quite cold and dewy. Not a lot of elevation change except in the late afternoon, dropping me into cow country. Mostly ridge running all day, the weather being warm and humid from passing showers. The Sierras have spoiled me with it's 1L water carry the last few weeks. After Cottonwood Pass nearly everything is dry; I had no water until a tiny spring near Death Canyon Creek (731). After seeing several thousand hikers in the last two months, it's suddenly odd to only have seen six in the last day an a half. Is this really so different from the old pilgrimage routes? Both are highly social affairs, according to Chaucer at least. It differs only in the form of the objective perhaps, a mile marker instead of a holy site. The spiritual aspect certainly holds, in spirit anyways. Made the last camp at a boulder outcropping about mi718, with a good view of the Kern River and hopefully away from those idiot disgusting cows. Feels like I'm being held together with tape, superglue and Advil. Normally this pace with these injuries would be courting disaster, but I have half a day of food and am nearly out of painkillers.

7/23: My sleeping bag starting soaking through from the dew about 4:00, so I decided some night hiking was preferable to freezing. The trail was clear, but navigation was difficult due to heavy tulle fog. Was out of water and dehydrated when I got to the Kern River (707), being only the 4th water source since Crabtree. Pulled into the Kennedy Meadows store at noon with temps of 85*, it's quite a shock coming from the mountains to the high desert. Ate 2 burgers and a pint of Ben & Jerrys, got my package and sorted the excess into my bear can to be sent home ($46). Inside of 2hrs I was down the road with two angels from Walker Pass. First we went to Ridgecrest, where public transit to anywhere was found to be a no-go. It's true, that town really is a cultural wasteland! For $30 they agreed to take me all the way to Tehachapi, and after some minor misadventures got me to a place I had stayed before. Got in touch with my buddy Marc from last year and says his partner for a three day spiritual retreat in Malibu canceled due to health problems and I can step in for $200! Hooha, it's happened again! Am staying at his place for the night and will be leaving “early”. This trip has felt like a hero's journey, a la Joseph Campbell. The conflict set by the disastrous first night hike, casting myself as both the pro and antagonist; the rising action of the journey itself; the climax of overcoming self will to back down from Mt. Whitney; now the resolution and denouement.

7/24-26: We rolled out at 7:00, met up with Marc's buddies Bart and Jack, then were eating lunch in Malibu by 11:00 ($16). Spent some time on the pier seeing the sights (mostly of the young, female variety) before heading up into the hills. The Serra Retreat is a Franciscan operation, which means the landscaping is immaculate, the buildings are clean and the food is terrific and plentiful. With only 94 people it's quite intimate, but very low key and the same spirit pervades as on the trail. This transition time has been both valuable and well spent. They kicked us out Sunday noon and I got a ride down to Santa Monica, then a bus to downtown LA where I got in touch with my cousin Phyllis. Her and a friend picked me up and brought me to great-aunt Elaine's house in Manhattan Beach.

7/27-28: The women have been on a two day shopping expedition, leaving me to a quiet house. Catching up on the news, researching ultralight gear and studying the LA public transit system mostly. Mermaid came over Tuesday evening and we spent a delightful time at dinner catching up. Found that Ashley, who I met on trail, lives in Irvine and not Idyllwild, which make life much easier.

7/29-31: Had to wait till 13:00 to get a ride to the LAX/Metro station, then changed to the Orange County bus at Norwalk station. Minor excitement en route, the EMTs got called on an unconscious homeless guy at the terminal. Looked like he was just sleeping something or other off to me. It was a 3mi walk from the bus depot in Fullerton to the Metrolink station in Fullerton, then a 2hr wait before Ashley came and shanghaied me to a swing dance club. Though it's been a few years, I probably didn't embarrass myself too badly. Her roommate joined us for dinner at Dennys, then crashed at their place. The two of us walked a 6.5mi loop next morning, proving that this ankle will take some time. Got to the Irvine Metrolink station after lunch, switched to the light rail via bus in Fullerton and was back in Manhattan Beach by 19:00. Walked to the house and was up till 23:00 planning the return next morning. A 4:00 wakeup and a $30 cab ride got me to the Greyhound terminal downtown with too much time till the 7:15 to Oakland. It left 45min late, but still caught the connection to Santa Rosa. Tim picked me up and we went to Lumberjacks for dinner. Another adventure survived.
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Overall I'd say that went much better then last year. Next year's objectives:
-Reduce total pack weight to 25lb max, probably using a frameless sack pack for bulky gear and separate hipbelt for water and essentials.
-Make a tarptent shelter.
-Invest in real ultralight raingear instead of a drum liner.
-Downgrade to a 30* synthetic bag; this 15* down bag is too warm and isn't suitable for the cowboy camping I like.
-Switch to sneakers instead of Keens; I love those sandals, but they're too heavy and have poor cushioning.
-If all goes well, the rest of the trail!
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:08 pm

Had to have something to do over spring break, so it was back down to wonderful SoCal. The plan: Kennedy Meadows (702) to Tehachapi (558), or however far I could get. Time was limited and the water situation almost completely unknown. But it was an excuse to get away and also gather intel for the PCT water report.

3/19/16: Left Bakersfield at 9:00 after a disappointing breakfast. Got to Kennedy Meadows (702) by noon, though the drive was very stressful. I owe Tim big time for this one. Last minute deliberations, being that this is a chancy section in the best of times. Started off at 13:00 and immediately started off down the wrong side of the Kern river. Lost an hour backtracking, but not as bad as it might have been. Stopped for dinner at 17:00 (698), then made another 3mi or so before dark.

3/20: Didn't get much sleep. The moon was so bright you could nearly read by it and temps were down around freezing. Started off early at 4:30. Heard water in Rockhouse Basin, but didn't investigate (694). Took a break at 10:00 and reached Fox Mill Spring at 13:00 (683, flowing well). Had to rest again just past Chimney Creek campground (680) as my ankles and numerous hot spots are complaining greatly. Weather is overcast, cool and windy. Had a quick dinner, set out again and immediately, and loudly, went to pieces. It's good to have these nice, violent nervous breakdowns when no one else is in the way. Just let everything catch up all at once and deal with it then. Didn't make it much farther, literally camped out on the trail to keep out of the wind.

3/21: Slept much better last night and started at 6:00. There are many blowdowns and a gale wind, gusts of maybe 60mph. Lost my stove and had to backtrack ¼ mile to find it. Spanish Needle Creek (670) was barely flowing, small pools. Rested for an hour under some oaks, forgetting this is SoCal, and found 4 ticks on me. None had bitten yet, though. Thought that I had made it to Joshua Tree Spring (664) and spent an hour cursing because I couldn't find the trail down. Moved on and found a clearly marked trail 1mi later. Had dinner there flavored with the local radioactive water, entertained by the many warning signs posted. Mmm, uranium. Made it a few miles further to the ridge top and found a place mostly sheltered by the wind.

3/22: Wasted no time getting up this morning. After what amounted to a forced march of 10mi made it to Walker Pass (654). In the face of a hellish, biting wind and a rocky downhill trail which savaged my knees. End result: two open blisters and severe muscular skeletal complaints. Hitched 2mi down the road to Walker Pass Ranch and met with Rick. He was surprised to see a hiker so early but let me stay in the guest house ($20). Three strikes and I'm out, won't be doing Section F this time either. Rita was late getting back from LA, so Rick and I had plenty of time to chat. Well, yell at each other actually. He's mostly deaf from a long career as a machinist. It was a late dinner and a late night. Got in touch with home and replanned.

3/23: Last night was the best night's sleep I've gotten in months. Had a pancake breakfast, then went up to the campground to check on the the water situation there. The main trough is flowing well, 5L per minute. Met an old timer named Fridge who had done the triple crown in the 80's; a been there, done it, no nonsense vet. He was scouting for a hike/bike summer with his deaf/mute buddy. Went back, cleaned the place and slept till dinnertime. Spent the entire evening lecturing on geo-politics and giving ideas on improving their trail angel operation.

3/24: We all left for Tehachapi and made a day of it. Hit up The Appleshed for lunch (I picked up the tab, $34), the train museum and then a drive up the mountain to a convent. We had heard they have a cheese making operation up there, but there are no tours and they are not licensed to sell. Went back to town and was dropped at the the Clubhouse. Got an offer from a guy named Fred to stay the night. Good guy, we stayed up late chatting and watching “100 Rifles”. Burt Lancaster, Jim Brown and Raquel OhMyGodSoHot Welch, all in their prime.

3/25: Got up early and walked the dogs, then came back to the house and waited until Tim arrived. We went to meet him at the hotel, then went to The Appleshed for dinner, where I picked up the tab again ($24.71). Met up with some old buddies back at the clubhouse, then crashed back at the hotel.
Last edited by kvetch on Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:24 pm

This season was unfortunately abbreviated, but it did give me the opportunity to field test several new pieces of gear. Earlier in the year I had ordered the tarp-tent, frameless backpack and sleeping quilt kits from Ray Jardine (http://rayjardine.com/index.shtml) and assembled them with the help of a local seamstress. Some of it worked, some didn't. A full review will be coming soon. My future kit will be using those same gear concepts but from commercial sources. Base weight: 10lbs. Average total weight: 20-25lbs.
A decision that would later cause complications was to do the Northern half in one season. This would have put my return date two weeks into next school semester. Fortunately all the resupply boxes that were already shipped will be returned to sender at the end of the hiking season.

Sat 6/4: Were supposed to leave yesterday, but Tim had a bad night. Used the day to make final checks and do a shakedown run. Left at 5:30 and made it to Sierra City (1197) in 4 hours. I'm one of the first hikers through this season too, so everyone in town remembers me. Had breakfast at the Red Moose; got snacks and a Gutbuster burger at the store; a tour of the Lodge and hung out with hikers until 14:30. Many are skipping the Sierras due to high and late snows. Hit the trail and made Sierra Buttes Jeep trail (1205) by evening. It was slow going with a poor trail, soft feet, 2500' of gain and a blister from yesterday. Damn it's good to be back.

Sun 6/5: Spoke too soon and jinxed myself. No one told me about the snow warning in effect (though I should have checked). Missed the trail in the snow and most of the day was spent lost ridges, passes and jeep trails. By the end of it I may have covered 20 miles but may have only been near mile 1213. A thunderstorm blew in through the evening, but my umbrella had me covered. Note to Self: Snow navigation without GPS = dead reckoning.

Mon 6/6: Navigated back to mile 1208 with the intent of pulling out and regrouping if no one with GPS happened along. Met Karen from England and later on Mitch, a pilgrim from Montana. Together we made it through slowly and got to A-tree spring (1215) by 19:30, all beat to hell. Other then a few aches I'm injury free so far.

Tues 6/7: Took off early and got lost in the dark and snowy woods again. After finding the ridge and the snow traverse on the other side, I decided to wait for the others. Mitch and Icebox, a former tax officer from Reno, and I got to the second traverse and it all went downhill. We were all separated in a nightmare of ice and slush, with no way to navigate the switchbacks or glissade down through the overgrowth. Icebox and I met at the bottom near noon. My ankles and knees are jacked, she had a nervous breakdown. The Super Sketchy Slope of Severe Peril may have been my worst trail experience so far. We met several sectioners in the afternoon and advised them not to push the envelope like we did. Kept an eye on Icebox the whole way to a jeep road at mi1227.

Wed 6/8: Unhindered by snow or companions and feeling good, I decided to take off the training wheels. Good weather and trail got me to Middle Fork Feather river (1250) by 16:00. Swimming and laundry time! Didn't make it far after that, camped at Big Bear creek (1254) at 19:30. Have met several more SoBoers who flipped around the Sierras to avoid the snow and and fire South of there. The feet are a bit chewed up and the left ankle is a bit cranky.

Thurs 6/9: Passed several more flippers this morning. Got to Bucks Rd and hitched the detour to Lakshore Resort and Restaurant with a UC Davis biology student. Friendly people and good chow, though in small amounts. A burger, some fish tacos ($29) and a nosebleed in the bathroom later, all is well again. Road walked a bit before getting a hitch with an old hippie who had hiked in '79. That tweaked ankle finally gave out 7mi later, about when the rest of me did. Dinner and vitamin I gave me a second wind to a ridge that wasn't mosquito infected (1283), where I camped on the trail.

Fri 6/10: Made the final push into Beldon, down 3500' of poison oak choked switchbacks. Got to the resort at 9:00 and and found their service to be slow and the chicken fried steak ($12.83) to be passable. The Brattens picked me up and the rest of the day was spent sorting/cleaning gear and reading. There was a like-new GoLite pack in the gear box, but no way to take it, alas. The shakes at Carabou Crossroads (plus a burger, $16) are as good as their reputation, though. Met a NoBo named Sprocket who had made it through the snows who informed me my three year old maps were 5-6mi off. As long as they match my trail data, oh well.

Sat 6/11: There's a one night stay limit here, so I was dropped at the Crossroads to hitch to Chester. I've already done the miles in between, so why bother? Hitched to Lake Almanor with an At&T serviceman in his company truck, then the rest of the way with a local woman. The pizza at the Burger Depot ($17) is OK, but not inspiring. Would have liked to have stayed the night somewhere, but every hotel in town was already booked. Made contact with home and hitched out to the trailhead (1335) with a couple from White Pass. Met a forestry ecologist there who was overseeing a controlled forest restoration project by the Collins Pine Co. Made it to the North Fork Feather River (1344), soaked my feet and again crashed on trail.

Sun 6/12: Got an early start through heavy skeeters and cruised into Drakesbad Ranch (1353) at 9:00. Showers, a hot springs pool, gourmet meals at hiker rates, free camping nearby; a little slice of Eden. Met a park ranger who turned out to be department chair for that program at West Valley College. I learned more in half an hour about the job and how to get into it then I could have in a month of web study. The rest of the day went by relaxing and answering stupid questions from the ignorant. Lunch: salad/sandwich bar $11.77; Dinner: Grilled lamb and palenta $14.51.

Mon 6/13: It was cold last night, down to 35 degrees I'm told. Took a hike out to Devil's Kitchen this morning to smell the farts of the earth. Sulpher pits make me hungry for some reason. Some rangers were out for a code inspection, which revealed just how hard it is to run an operation this complex in CA, not to mention on Federal park. Maintaining separate regulations on lodgings, the restaurant, stables and trails must be nightmarish. A few others rolled in this afternoon. Two college mates from back East who just started and Trailbagger, a well known speed hiker with company endorsements. The differences in gear, physical ability and mindsets between us is astonishing. The Easterners are set up for the AT, Trailbagger just pushed through the Sierras with his 6lbs of base weight and I'm rather in the middle. We swapped trail stories all evening over glaved pork and palenta ($28.48). Since I wasn't alone anymore they charged us full prices, but still worth it! (Breakfast+lunch: $21.13) On the way to camp we were accosted and waylaid by the Bloink family, who insisted we help them consume their organic fruit and aged beer. A right good father/daughter team.

Tues 6/14: Got just a bit carried away today. Clear, flat conditions with a temp of 75 degrees and slightly cloudy; trail perfection. Got into the zone and made Old Station (1377)...by 16:30. Now there's a new crop of blisters and that bad hip is going wonky. Splurged on a campsite by the RV park ($27.50) because moving on wasn't a serious option. Met two more flippers who had gone up to Ashland. Spent the evening chatting with a retired career army man and his family before retiring myself. To cap it all, there's possible rain tonight and snow tomorrow.

Wed 6/15: Made a command decision to cut the trip short and return by mid-august. Road walked to JJ's Cafe and found a replacement greasy spoon for the memory that the Kopper Kettle has been. Little place full of old locals who know each others business, the waitresses are homely and snarky, mountains of cheap food with no pretense of health or quality. The Breakfast Benedict: 2 biscuits, 3 eggs, 2 sausage patties drowned in gravy ($15.04). Stuck out my thumb at the 89/44 intersection for nearly 3 hours and finally got a hitch at 11:00 with a Siek truck driver. He took me to Reno and the rest of the way was done in stages: first with an ex-CA stoner and then a county transit supervisor picking up his sons for the summer. Arrived at Bro. G's place around 15:00 and even on short notice (that morning) I was let in. Most of the evening was spent catching up.
Last edited by kvetch on Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thru hiking the PCT

Post by kvetch » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:27 pm

Thurs 6/16: It was a busy day getting logistics straight. #1: Greyhound sucks. I hitched here in 4 hours for free; a bus to Ashland takes 20 hours and $135. The tickets refused to print online and customer service is very unhelpful. Reached out to a Brother in Shady Cove who I've been meaning to see since the first season for local transport up there. Getting resupply recalculated and organized; seeing to lodgings in Ashland. Then sat down and read a pulp sci-fi novel. This evening Bro G. and I went to a meeting of Carson lodge #1. Dinner was simple but good; the ritual is crisp and the members have a good time at each others expense. Example: one of them is getting married and left the bachelor party to his best man...a Mormon. We got back and were pocking around on the PCTA blog when we found Icebox's trail journal. I'm mentioned in connection with the snowbank incident...what light I was cast in I'm still trying to figure out. This is the first time I've shown up on the E-Trail radar.

Fri 6/17: Didn't sleep well. Me, Bro. G, his wife and one of his co-workers went to the cafe at the airport for lunch. There was a small airshow (a B-17, B-24 and B-25), but it was $12 just to look at them. Got to the bus stop in Carson City an hour early, but in vain. Eventually I took a RAPID bus to Reno and hoofed it across town to the Greyhound terminal there. Turns out the tickets were on will call and the correct shuttle bus was 1.5hrs late in Carson. Again, Greyhound sucks. Managed to leave on time at 8:30 and on the right bus. My seatmate was a neo-hippie banjo player, so we could talk shop a bit. The 3 hour layover in Sacramento wasn't nightmarish, but certainly unpleasant. Between homeless people wandering in and out, downtown Sac after dark right outside the walls and a despondent black family from Alabama it was not a happy place. Apparently communications had broken down and they had been stuck there for two days already. Have I mentioned Greyhound sucks?

Sat 6/18: Got into Medford on time at 9:00 and instead of waiting for the connector to Ashland, called my local contact and was picked up in short order. It was a breakfast morning at Medford lodge so I schmoozed with the Brethren and feasted on leftovers. We got to Callahans Lodge (camping/dinner $26) and I find that #1: I'm now uncle to a niece; #2: there's a wedding and the entire lodge is booked, 3#: my box miraculously arrived two days early. Between fatigue, dealing with drunken wedding guests and more long distance logistics; blarg. The “bottomless” (and they mean it!) pasta dinner was the final straw. A good place and recommended, but I still prefer Drakesbad. That may change as more come through and the early hiker welcome is worn out, though. Must really break this cycle of excess and injury, even if it is in character. New guidelines: stick to 20mi/day, stretch and exercise, proper hygiene, eat enough. Another downfall of distance hikers, they don't take care of themselves in the long run. AT vet Checkerboard Red showed up late, so we swapped dirt and stories while he ate. Crashed on a lawn lounger outside while ignoring the wedding reception/lounge singer going full bore inside.

Sun 6/19: Despite preparing for the wedding breakfast and a Father's Day BBQ, the kitchen made our bottomless pancakes to perfection ($13). Red is here till tomorrow, so I gave him my old shoes and some other things to mail home. Got a ride to the trailhead (1727) with one of the owners and of course I left my staff behind, making me walk there and back again. Was on trail by 11:00; the knees and ankles are worn, but serviceable. All the tick, 'skeeter, black fly and spider bites are healed, even the one that melted a chunk out of my left calf. Took it easy and made Hobert Bluff trailhead (1740) by 17:00. Had an ealry dinner and got some genuine German chocolate from a dayhiker. Camped at a parking lot on Highway 66 (1743).

Mon 6/20: Made the Hyatt Lake resort (1750) via a bit of roadwalking by 9:00. Breakfast ($12) was passable and the showers at the campground were lukewarm. Rested there till 13:00 and got some apples from an RVer. OR is better then NorCal in every way. Better and easier trail, more diversity, the views, cleaner air, etc. Both ankles are giving me a great deal of trouble, though. Reports of 3' of snow and killer 'skeeters ahead aren't helping Stopped for dinner at mi1758 where another hiker was camping. A middle school English teacher, three days into her first hike. Afraid of mice, she had hung her food bag...a good two feet off the ground. Never go going again and spent the night there.

Tues 6/21: Woke up late after a 9hr sleep, not tat I'm any better for it. The trail was cluttered with larger blowdowns and the 'skeeters are increasing in numbers and aggression. Got to the South Brown Mountain shelter by 13:30. Quite snug, but not enough to be a ski hut. Had lunch, a nap and an early dinner. Had to beat the heat as it's been in the 90s the past few days. Moved out at 17:00 and met Red coming in, we agreed on breakfast at Fish Lake. Hiked on through boulder fields and volcanic gravel till dark to wait out the 'skeeters. Camping only half a mile from Highway 140, so sleep is difficult.

Wed 6/22: Slept poorly. Took the 2mi side trail to Fish Lake Resort, got there 2.5hrs before opening. Another sectioner named Maiden showed, she had started in Ashland a few days before. The chicken fried steak ($11.50) wasn't very good, but there were 3 hiker buckets still packed from last year! Washed up and read another pulp Western novel to wait out the afternoon. Fortunately the worst of the heat wave seems to have broken. After a long, hot road walk back to the trailhead, my decent into Hell started at 15:30. Major blowdowns every 25-50yds obscuring the trail, sweating buckets under full 'skeeter protection, them thicker then grass on a lawn and joints that won't keep quiet. After 2hrs and maybe 2 miles I redoubled my efforts and rapidly advanced in the opposite direction. Got lost going back and bushwhacked for another 2hrs before finding the trail further on. I could have pushed on through, but I also know what kind of shape I'd be in after. Maybe I'm just not as into suck as I used to be. Exhausted, made camp back at the highway trailhead after a bite of dry ramen and sausage.

Thurs 6/23: Maiden and I have decided to skip up to Bend, past the pests. 180 miles of 'skeeters, snow and unmaintained trail after severe winter storms. We easily hitched East to Klamath Falls with a local one-legged Mexican woman. Got some maps and tips at the chamber of commerce, then breakfast at a grill on Main St. Definitely a different attitude here; I was chastised for not returning someone's hello. Maiden wanted to see Crater Lake, so we walked nearly out of town on Highway 97 and tried hitching. 4 hours in the sun for nothing! Went back into town and did some research at the library. The Amtrak shuttle to the Lake doesn't start until the 1st, but we did get $46 tickets for Bend. Walked to the other-other end of town (the crummy end) and got fleeced for a site at the KOA. $32.70 split between us, plus ice cream and a can of beans to go with my dinner ($5). Between 2 days of almost no food or sleep, making all the decisions for my travel partner and dealing with open sores on my legs, I'm a bit fatigued.

Fri 6/24: Made it to the Amtrak with 10min to spare. Even in riding in coach is so much better then a bus. There was a delay transferring to the bus in Chemult due to a medical emergency on the train. An old veteran had his meds stolen and since he could only refill through the VA, he'd had a bleeding ulcer for 4 days. Maiden continued on to Sisters and the trailhead while I stayed in Bend. In the space of an hour I had it made. Have been invited to a double 3rd degree at the Bend lodge tomorrow morning. Went to a sandwich shop for lunch ($16) and was invited by a total stranger to stay at The Shepard's House Christian Shelter that night. The local trail contact Catdog called and said trail conditions are just as bad North as South. It's too early in the season for the trail to have been cleared of snow or debris. Nothing exciting for the rest of the day, except that they wouldn't let me into the shelter with my walking stick and had to hide it outside. “Dangerous weapon”...harumph. Got to know some of the guys, stayed up for movie night and crashed at 22:00.

Sat 6/25: Breakfast was good but brief, like my sleep. Walked over to the lodge 1.5hrs early. The other visitor was the road-tripping Texan Brother who I'd met in Carson a week ago! Crazy! Counting the lunch hour, Lodge was working from 10:00 to 15:00. A great bunch of guys, young and old, with laser crisp ritual. Between the hours and the food coma everything was wonky near the end. Got a ride to the library with one of the candidates (the Naval recruitment officer for central OR) and booked an Amtrak ride to San Francisco ($86). McKenzie Pass is still closed, my box doesn't arrive until Tuesday and further plan changes are too delicate to do long distance. Took a walking tour of downtown and a gay pride festival at Drake Park before heading to the bus hub for the 18:00 connector. Bend is a mini-mountain version of San Francisco. Expensive and trendy, filled with hipsters and homeless. Amtrak is just better then Greyhound. Staff, service, being on time, cleaner, comfort, price, speed...and it sure as hell beats dealing with TSA.
Sun 6/26: Time from Chemult to Emeryville: 12hrs. Had culture shock coming from a place as clean and civilized as Oregon; The Bay Area really is a dump. Getting across the city was the hardest part of the entire trip. There was a massive Pride parade shutting down the city center and I had to hoof it 2mi to find where the buses had rerouted to. Wackos, tourists, cops and DHS goons were everywhere, but in the back alleys existence goes on. Homeless guys taking a dump in a dumpster, shooting dice, shooting smack, the usual City pastimes. Found the right bus and walked home from the local depot. Got in at 13:00, took care of the essentials, took a nap at 15:00 and didn't wake up until 6:00 next morning. It's been a hell of a ride for just three weeks.

Postscript: So I never did get back on trail this season. Things kept coming up, then it was way too hot in NorCal and there were fires everywhere. In retrospect I should have gone out and done something besides go stir crazy for the rest of summer.
I have cracked a part of the speed hiker code. Lighter gear=faster=less time between resupply=less supplies carried=lighter gear. Cutting back on base weight can only do so much; consumables are also a part of the equation.
In retrospect, haste seems to be the root of most injuries. I really need to learn to take it easy. And go back to poles instead of a staff for increased ankle support.
Hippie (hip'e) noun. Unwashed, organic Zack snacks.

Transparatus, Veritas.

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