Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 63-72 - More Sierras, 9 days outside, Zero in Mammoth Lakes

Hi all, just a quick update, in Mammoth Lakes taking a zero, which is almost over.  Blogging is getting really hard!!!  I may some day come back and write this stuff up.

We have now done most of the John Muir Trail.  The PCT follows it for 175 miles, plus we did Mount Whitney. We will likely not go out Yosemite Valley to finish, as we have already viewed half dome and it sounds like a crazy hellish crowded place, and the John Muir Trail has been crowded enough! (but still great)

Scenery continues to be stunning, though I don't get totally jaw dropping ecstatic constantly. I am able to hike through it, instead of stopping for hours.  I guess I'm jaded.  I think it gets more dramatic the further South you go, so we hit the best stuff first, but it's still been great. It's also been physically challenging, trying to make at least 14 miles a day so as not to run out of food.  many people did run out of food on this stretch, hiker hunger taking over, people bailing in unplanned places, or full on hiking 20 mile days with nothing in their bellies.  Crazy!

I should have been documenting what altitudes we have been at.  Basically  we have mostly been above 10,000 feet for weeks.  The trail goes straight up, then straight down, then straight up, etc...They have built huge stairs into the trail which is wrecking my knees, especially with all this weight.

This is about all I have time for. Forest fire ahead, about a mile and a half from the trail, so we don't know what the near future holds.  Below are some stats:

Day 63 - Kearsarge Pass to Charlotte Lake for bear food storage box = 8.3 miles
Day 64 - Glenn Pass - .8 miles Charlotte Lake trail plus mile 788.9 to 802.7 = 14.6 miles (really hard day for some reason)
Day 65 - Pinchot and Mather Passes - Mile 802.7 to 818.8 = 16.1 miles (another really hard day)
Day 66 - No passes, should be easy, but it's not. My body aches and is really run-down. - Mile 818.8 to 833.6 = 14.8 miles
Day 67 - Muir Pass - bad mood for some reason. Scenery Hangover? Mile 833.6 to 849.9 = 16.3 miles
Day 68 - Another No-Pass day. Very rude girls roll in at 9:30 giggling and waking us camping right next to us. At Salley Keyes Lakes; Mile 849.9 to 864.1 plus .6 for water because we screwed up = 14.8 miles
Day 69 - Selden Pass - wake up at 0500 and make tons of noise for paybacks to the awful giggling girls next to us.  hahahahahaha!!! Fair is Fair. Motivated for miles to get out early on Monday to Mammoth, fantastic campsite above waterfall,  so mile 864.1 to 882.1 = 18.0 miles
Day 70 - good walking, easy fords, forgot to write anything, camp near Deer Creek - Mile 882.1 to 900.9 = 18.8 miles
Day 71 - Out to Reds Meadows, bus to Mammoth - Mile 900.9 to 906.7 plus 1/2 mile Reds Meadow Trail = 6.3 miles  Mmmm...beer, food, and hot tub
Day 72 - Zero in Mammoth, hard to get chores done!!!  But here I am

photos on instagram

p.s. You might be wondering how our bodies are changing. I have no idea how much weight I've lost, but I can definitely tell that my calves are giant, and my thighs are lean and strong.  I still think I have a huge beer belly, but whereas I started out between a size 6 and 8, my pants quickly loosened on trail, so I bought a size 4 a few weeks ago, something I haven't been in quite a while.  Well, the past few weeks those size 4 pants and shorts have also become quite loose. Today in Mammoth I tried on a size 2 pants, and they fit just fine.  A size 2! I will order size 2 pants for a few weeks from now. 2!!! I was never a size 2, even when I was 10, probably. Definitely never in High School or Middle School. At 34 I am much smaller and stronger than my aneorexic teenage years, only I am a healthy strong small. So though I still see a flabby beer belly, obviously there has been major change to our bodies the past 72 days. Grant will be turning 40 in a few weeks (sorry honey), and is crossing this milestone the strongest and fittest he has ever been in his life, even when he was a teenager pounding nails for a living, telemark skiing, playing soccer, and rock climbing in Jackson Hole. Quite amazing. With about 1,750 miles to go, I am sure we will be nearly unrecognizeable to our family and friends when we see them next.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 54 - 62

Hi All, I don't have time to do a real post.  I made it to the High Sierras, really high!  Summited Mt Whitney 14,505' and highest mountain in the lower 48 states, climbed over Forester Pass where the views were so stunning I cried. We earned those views, and it was overwhelming.  Made it over Kearsarge Pass to resupply in Independence.  Now well over 800 miles on our feet, and loving it.  Please see photos on Instagram. I may flesh this out tonight, but library does not give much time on the computer.


Day 54 - .8 miles down road, mile 702.2 to 704.3 - 2.9 miles, but hey, we left Kennedy Meadows!
Day 55 - mile 704.3 to 721.5 = 17.2 miles
Day 56 - Mile 721.5 to 741.7 = 20.2 miles
Day 57 - mile 741.7 to 757.8 = 16.1 miles
Day 58 - Mile 757.8 to 766.3 plus 3.5 miles alternate to Guitar Lake = 12 miles - blizzard Camp
Day 59 - summit whitney, hike out to mile770.1 = 16.3 miles (did I mention we summited?)
Day 60 -Forrester Pass - Mile 770.1 to 785.4 = 15.3 miles (did I mention Forester Pass?)
Day 61 -  Kearsarge Pass to Independence - mile 785.4 to 788.8 plus 7.6 miles kearsarge pass = 11 miles
Day 62 - zero in Independence

Day 51 to 53 - Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows

After a nice day off away from Hiker Trash, we hit the trail again.  Busride to Lake Isabella, then bus to Onyx, then hitch to trail head. Water situation not too bad.  Got to Kennedy Meadows at about 1pm June 4th, where Mama Goose and Cavalier were still there!!!  Clapping, cheering, beers all around.  What a great place :)  We got them wasted before they had to hike.  Hahaha, fair is fair.  Grumpy Bears for dinner and a good time.  Not much time to blog, so this is what you get :)  May update later, so check back.  Below our mileage:

Day 51 - Mile 65.3 to 664.4 = 13.1 miles camp just past Joshua Spring (plus half mile for water, but whatever)
Day 52 - Mile 664.4 to 687.4 = 23 miles  Hike hike hike!!!, two big hills to climb, people at summit, so move on and camp in the rocks near a mine
Day 53 - Mile 687.4 - 702.2 plus .8 miles up road to Kennedy Meadows = 15.6 miles  700 mile mark and official end to the Desert!!!

Ok all, pictures on instagram

Day 49, 50 - zeros in Kernville

We Zeroed in Kernville.  It was really nice!!!  River, food, etc...  Ok, that is all

Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 48 - walker pass, lake isabella, phil, andhiker trash party

Mile 643.1 to 651.3 = 8.2 miles Nero

Made it to walker pass campground at 9am. Read the trail register and saw mama goose had made it!!! And there was Pabst! Drank a Pabst with the three amigos, then a lady pulled up dropping a hiker off. Three amigos said she was going to lake Isabella so we asked her for a ride. Three amigos said they would tell cavalier. Unbelievable luck
Wandered around town, ate lunch, did laundry with cavalier, drank beer at the local dive bar, resupplied a little, then rolled into the hotel, ride with cav's friend. Party central. Crappy rooms, pool. Phil shows up, party til midnight, holy crap. Can't blame mama goose this time :)

Day 47 - desert hellscape

Mile 621.9 to 643.1 = 21.2 miles
Up at 0400, hiking at 0515. Hot day ahead. Make it to a water cache 9.5 miles later at 10am, recently stocked by an amazing person. We had lunch and decided to take the water and skip the 1.5 mile detour to the spring fed mud seep water source. Enough to dry camp and make it to walker pass!!!
Next was a 3.4 mile slog up a steep mountain hellscape, temps soaring close to 100, maybe more. We make it to the summit at about 1245,/then start hunting for shade to lie in under. Plenty to sit under, but took awhile to find a sleeping spot. After resting a few hours, all our friends start passing us having climbed the mountain in the beat of the day. Mama goose, who had camped 7 or 8 miles behind us said she was going all the way to walker pass, 18 more miles and a 34.4 mile day! I knew she would do it, crazy awesome lady! (She did!)
We had hopes of getting within eight miles of walker pass so we could hitch a ride with cavalier's friend, and we did.
OK desert, I'm going to sleep you away for a few hours.

Day 46 - camp past robin bird spring to some other dry camp

Mile 603.9 to 621.9 = 18 miles

Seeing as the forecast was more of the same only hotter, I set my alarm for 0438; in like weird times. We were up and attem all morning chores done by 0535. Not bad! 

I forgot to mention something...but hey, is their a doctor in the house? 'Cause my PCT has an AT infection. How can you tell if somebody as hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT)? Oh, they'll tell you.Mama goose excused, but Appalachian trail people, we had faint curiosity at the start of the trail and an ability to laugh off all your introductions "hi. I hiked the AT", but after 600 miles through the desert, now we just want smack your kneecaps with our hiking poles when you slip it into the first sentence. We have all payed our dues and its a different trail!!! We don't give a shit if you hiked he AT. Whew.

Back onto the PCT, where I'm hiking, we had a beautiful morning hiking in a nice forest with boulders for interest. Even the burn area was alive with fragrant purple flowers, such as I've never smelled. Our noses do not detect our own or others body odors anymore, bit are becoming highly sensitized to other smells.

We did finally come over a ridge and had a look at the brown desert hellscape ahead, realizing the nice walking was all scam. One more kick in the ass from the desert before Kennedy meadows. We grabbed what looked like the last shade tree before desert hell, and took a nap. There was rumor of trail magic ahead (don't ask me how news travels backwards without southbounders, it just does) so we got up at 2:30 and continued into the heat.
Sure enough, a half mile later was a guy and his parents handing out tuna sandwiches, craft beers, snacks, Gatorade, soda, cold water, everything, and they had made a little shade to crawl under with lawn chairs and everything. B It was their last hours of trail magic after a few days, and so they encouraged us to drink and eat everything plus hike out with the canned beer....so we did :) than you Matt!
We left at 4pm, hiked another six to 8 miles or so, camped in a sandy wash with our friend topper. Pretty sweet day. I love trail magic!

Day 45 - Golden oaks spring to robin bird spring and beyond/ darwin's theory

Mile 583.3 to 603.9 = 20.6 miles

I'm not going to tell you about my day, I'm going to tell you all about how this trail is not a joke, and how certain sections are not for beginners, end of discussion.

I joke that grant and I are two of the fat, old slow kids on trail, because we only do 20 mile days, and we like to drink beer, but really, we are well oiled machines at this point.  We also had previous trekking experience before the start of the trail. We have upped our game considerably in the past  45 days, and approach each day's challenge calmly and confidently.

Tehachapi to Walker Pass is one of the most challenging, hot, dry, sometimes steep sections of the entire trail. After Landers camp spring, 7 miles past Robin Bird spring, the next water source is supposedly a mud seep where you must dig a hole and wait for a puddle to fill before scooping it into your water filter bag; and that is 26 hot miles away plus a mile off trail to find, that is unless you go to a scum covered cow trough 1.5 miles off trail with dead rats and birds floating in it, also with sketchy flow at best.

We know this because there is a "water report" - a freely available, well published, crowd sourced resource detailing where all of the possible trail water is and how good it is.  Almost everybody knows about the water report and carries it with them, either on a smartphone or in paper form. It is also "easy" to deal with finding water because we are all strong hikers who have hiked 600 miles through the desert to get to this point.

There is a certain book/ movie out there that I loved, and has inspired many people, women in particular, to get outdoors and do something bold with their lives. Unfortunately, the author started her journey at this challenging section, so there are tons of people following her footsteps exactly.  But this is one of the biggest droughts of California's history.

One lady in particular we met stands out, and is so upsetting I can't even begin to process my feelings. We met her at the end of the debacle, so didn't witness it all firsthand but this is her story:

She set out from Tehachapi having never even been hiking before (according to her, that is first hand conversation). Her husband dropped her off, and that was it. She is very overweight, and had bought all her stuff at big 5 including a bear canister. I don't mean to be a gear elitist, as their are many people who look down their noses at my off-the-shelf rei purchases, but you might imagine they sold her one of everything and the weight added up.

I don't know how far she made it before my friend got to her, but I believe it was about two days and 15-20 miles in. Her knees were destroyed and her pack felt so heavy that she decided to lighten the load by throwing all her food and cookset by the side of the trail and kept going.

I believe at this point other hikers had already given her water (putting their own lives in danger), but even if she had had the physical ability to carry the proper amount of water (at least 5-6 liters at her slow pace and for dry camping) she only had a 2 liter capacity and had already run out several times. She was encouraged by other hikers to turn around early on, but she wouldn't, and was even found considering wandering down an abandoned dirt road to try to get back to town. Other hikers again rescued her from herself telling her it didn't go anywhere, there was obviously no traffic, and no known water. I should mention she had never heard of the water report, had no maps, and her cell phone was dead after the first day, not that there was service after the first day anyways.
So she keeps going (!)

She must have made it to Golden oak spring, again without capacity to carry enough water. Past here is about when our friend found her. Here she was in no condition to safely go back or be alone, and he didnt want to hike backwards with her, but he knew another friends parents would be trail angeling ahead, so he fed her, gave her water, carried extra for her, and hiked her speed  for two days to Robin Bird spring, amounting to something like 9 miles a day. At one point he tried carrying her pack for her, but gave up soon as it was ridiculous. She was so slow, that the last three miles he ran out of water and had to leave her for his own safety saying he would come back for her if she didn't make it by dark.

She made it out, got her ride, even got some pain meds for her knees. I assumed she was on a short first time trip and before I knew all the details laughed and said she had picked a pretty gnarly section for her first time hiking or backpacking, but when I asked her how far she had planned on going, she said she didn't know!!! Nothing she said made sense, so the best we can surmise is that she thought she would just keep hiking the trail towards Canada!

One of the "humorous" parts of the story is that somebody picked up her kitchen gear thinking a thru hiker had accidentally forgotten it, and carried it up to bird spring where she got it back!

OK, so anyways, I love that "Wild" has inspired people, women, that they can do something big, get outdoors, take care of themselves, but Cheryl Strayed was not this  unprepared. She had been hiking and was physically fit, just hadn't been backpacking. Part of why her pack "monster" was so heavy is because she carried a ton of water. She had maps, a plan, and in those days did not have a thousand other hikers to bail her out, nor a smart phone and water report (point being it is much easier for us 15 years later). She was much better prepared and stronger than she makes herself out to be in the book and movie. I am sad that so many elitist pct hikers say negative things about her (guess they are sad they suck at writing) but unfortunately the so-called Wild effect is a real and potentially deadly phenomenon out here.
The other sad thing is that woman likely will never go hiking again. You tube videos are no substitution for experience (yes, she said that's how she learned about/trained for backpacking), and the way you learn is by starting small for f's sakes! Backpack three miles to a god damned lake! Have so much fun and let your body recover, then go from there. Don't start from Tehachapi during a drought in 90+ degree temps!!!

Look folks, hiking in the desert is no joke. You can easily die. Our friend and other hikers saved her life, and she might not even know it.

Thanks readers, this shite scares me, and worrying about myself is hard enough. Now everybody drink a beer, hike, and go jump in a lake.

Day 44 - tehachapi hwy 58 to golden oak spring

Our friends wrangled an early ride for us out of tehachapi, so we met mama goose and cavalier at the teepees (the scene of the crime) at 6:20 am with four gallons to cache for them at hwy 58 as they were starting 8 miles back at willow springs road. For us it was a 17 mile waterless stretch, so 25 miles for them. We were lucky though because the pcta had recently fixed the trough that had cracks in it, and do other work with the piping etc... so golden oaks spring had recently become a reliable source of water again. For months we had been told/ read that it would be 44 miles without water, but because we hiked the extra eight miles earlier, and because volunteers worked their butts off for hiker trash like us, it was a paltry 17 miles...
Though it was not easy. After enjoying seemingly weeks of unreal cool weather, we were hit head on with 90degree temps with it forecast into the 100's as the week progressed, thereby increasing our water consumption, wreaking havoc on our feet again(in combination with new shoes and fine dust) and worsening our outlook on life. On the flip side, though yogi's guide says it is hot hot hot section (yes) there was far more shade opportunities that we expected.
We caught up with a warrior we hadn't seen in awhile (rather he caught us).  And we told him he was actually  ahead of everybody, so he took a nap to wait for them.
We rolled in to golden oaks spring about 5:30pm where our friends were camping (yes, they overtook us despite starting 8miles behind us) and we ended up staying there too. Peer pressure! Our hangovers didn't protest.

Competing bullfrogs in the cow polluted spring fed trough, redneck camper garbage everywhere...sleep

Day 43 - tehachapi zero

Miles- ZERO

Almost got hit by car going for Mexican food, thought we were going to be hit again but it was just somebody offering us a ride...

Memorial day parade, warrior hikers marched with their american legion hosts in their hiker trash uniforms. Dropped my phone and smashed it right before they walked by, so no picture and no more phone.

We got goosed! In the teepees. That is all