Friday, May 28, 2010

Mile 560; Mojave, California

I got into Mojave yesterday and only have a few minutes on the library computer! Wyoming and I walked along the Los Angeles Aquaduct for a day and then up over some mountains and to the road where I hitched into Mojave and she into Tehachapi for packages waiting for us there.

We've been walking through stands of Joshua trees, many species and colors of wildflowers, and continue to hike from desert to moutain forests and back. We've seen many quail and birds, as well as ground squirrels, but except for deer not many large animals. We spotted what looked to be wolves in pens a couple of days ago and got a tour of the wolf hybrid kennels. There were some super cute wolf puppies and a huge white wolf. It was interesting to see him "smiling" like a dog, a far cry from wild wolves when they encounter humans.

It has been running very cool and we walked in a heavy mist for hours yesterday in our heavy jackets and rain gear, up in the clouds. There are thousands of wind turbines around here, some of them are simply huge.

I'm thinking of "flipping" up to Ashland, Oregon, once we get to Kennedy Meadows, and then walking south back toward Kennedy Meadows to give the snow time to melt, but we'll have to see what the snow is like when we get there.

Gotta go, have a good day!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wrightwood, CA; Mile 370 Pacific Crest Trail

I'm at the library in Wrightwood with the "time remaining" clock winding down on the computer.

It was a beautiful and easy walk out of Big Bear City, back into some big trees, then through a huge wildfire burn from a year or two ago. The next day there were three creek crossings of about knee deep. There was a long walk along a canyon with the trail dropping off steeply to one side. Wildflowers are profuse, especially in places, with numerous lizards for entertainment.

I spent a day at a hot springs. An infinite supply of hot water in the backcountry is a genuine treat. Many thru-hikers stopped for a soak while i was there. What a relaxing day. I hiked with Joker and Motor for much of the next day. I camped in a canyon just above the trail. An anticipated landmark was reached the next day. There was an official sign on the trail that said "McDonald's, 1/4 Mile." I ordered every item off the dollar menu, 7 in all, and ate them no problem.

After that was a major reroute caused by another big fire from last year. It was some hot walking but with some scenic spots. Several thru-hikers and I camped in Applewhite? Campground. Water out of spigots was nice to have, the shade even moreso. I was surprised to experience the first heavy fog of the trip, things were dripping in the morning.

Yesterday was a major climb, over 5,000 vertical feet, not counting all the lesser ups and downs. It was another desert to mountains day, with hours up in the big trees and with significant snow in places. Around 5 PM I hit the road the same time as Happy Feet. We got a ride into town with the second car. I ate four tacos and an order of nachos for dinner, with a big helping of ice cream for dessert.

Southern California has big a big surprise. My impression is that it was mostly desert. There has certainly been plenty, but on this route there's also been a great deal of mountains. The variety keeps things interesting.

There are thru-hikers all over town. I saw them at the hardware store, (run by a retired smokejumper of my era, Mike Troeger!) the post office, the eateries, the grocery store, etc. There are always many errands to run in these busy town stops.

I've been getting up at about 5:30, and starting to hike about 6:00 before it gets hot. I take breaks when I need them. Most full days of walking I'm doing about 16-20 miles of walking, with my longest day on this trip about 28 miles. The pace is much more relaxed than my other hikes as there is still mountains of snow that need to melt ahead of me. Just ahead there is supposed to be deep snow.

Well, that's it for now. The next major stop is Agua Dulce. Enjoy your day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big Bear City, California: 265 Miles/10% of the PCT Done!

I hiked down to Highway 18 at about noon today, and it took only about 15 minutes to get a ride down to Big Bear City. The lady delivered me right to the door of Nature's Inn, where I'm staying.

The hike is continuing to go very well. My knees and feet are doing great. I really like my shoes, they are a perfect fit for me. My equipment has been peforming well too with one exception.

I hiked out of Idyllwild and was soon back into the deep snow. I found a bare place to camp and when I was chopping snow to use for cooking my ULA Ice Axe broke!! I couldn't believe it. I had stopped early in the afternoon so I spent a couple of hours making a very servicable repair. The next day was a long one of traversing the famously steep Fuller Ridge. I'd bought micro-spikes for traction and by using caution and by doing lots of map reading and floundering around by the end of the day the Saddle Junction to Fuller Ridge traverse was completed. And I was glad.

I camped by a giant boulder and had an excellent sleep. The next day could hardly have been more different. For hours there was an "endless" descent with a series of countless switchbacks. From the deep snows to baking heat. From big trees to cactus. Half way down I ran across a wildfire. It had been started by a PCT hiker, as I had feared, a fellow I had met many times along the trail. He was using a cook stove, and the high winds just blew the flames into nearby grass and the wildfire raced up the hill. He reported it and identified himself, an honorable man. For me it was a "collision of worlds" when I came through the smoking fire as both a PCT hiker and a recently retired firefighter. The sound of aircraft and the smell of smoke and the crews were all very familiar.

The trail goes through the underpass at Interstate 10. There, a hiker from the 2006 Class of PCT Thru-hikers, trail name "Chai Man," had a keg of beer! The hikers acted with remarkable constraint. ANOTHER Trail Angel, Dave, also showed up, and drove four of us to the A&W a few miles away, where we all bought ourselves a huge meal. The icy rootbeers in that heat were awesome. That eveing, I hiked to the Mesa Wind Farm, where they kindly allow hikers to get drinking water. I could see desert, dozens of wind turbines, and snowy mountains from my sleeping bag. Nearly every night I just roll out my sleeping pad and bag in a nice looking spot so camping is easy!

There was another day of very scenic desert hiking, then I climbed thousands of feet back up into the snowy mountains. There was some more easily crossed snow patches. The afternoon became windy, and I actually moved camp after it became intense. I found a place in thick scrub oak on the lee side of the ridge. It froze last night and that with the wind called for my down jacket, balaclava and long underwear in my sleeping bag.

This is a nice place to stay. I'm splitting a room with two fellow hikers, Old Scout and Danny. I got a giant burger, did my laundry, got partially caught up on email, and still have shopping and other chores to do.

I'm still ahead of schedule. There's big snow ahead in the Sierras so I don't want to go any faster, but want to give it plenty of time to melt.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Idyllwild, California

I am in this nice little town trying to update on a tiny borrowed IPhone. Yesterrday I got into deep and steep snow. It was nice having an ice axe. The trail disappeared in the snow and I saw a guy whose tracks I was following. We finally figured out where we were and headed cross-country, doing a remarkably good or lucky job of finding the "saddle" the trail ran through. Lots of beautiful big trees and dramatic mountains. The first car gave us a ride to town, people have been great. This is about 180+ miles. Feeling greT and enjoying a day off with hiker friends. Ate a half pizza and a pint of ice cream last night!