Idyllwild to Big Bear

Idyllwild to Big Bear

April 27, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0179.5
End: Halfmile 0193.0
Distance: 13.5 + 5.0 + 4.0 = 22.5 Mi
Cumulative: 202.5 Mi

Left Idyllwild at 8a this morning. Pleasantly surprised at how dry my gear was while I packed up. Unfortunately, the strap on one of my gators was torn clean through. Ah well, I’ll have to get ’em replaced at my next stop in Big Bear. Better to hit the trail, since I was already getting a late start.

The Devil’s Slide Trail re-joins the PCT at Saddle Junction, which is about 2 miles north of the northern boundary of the official fire closure. I backtracked to the fire closure, hoping to get some cool photos of the burn perimeter. I was frustrated to find that the closure wasn’t at the interface. I couldn’t see any sign of last summer’s fire. At least it was a pretty detour.

I knew that I needed to cover some ground this afternoon if I was going to camp below the snow. The upper ridges got 4-6″. Some of it had already melted out but much of it still obscured the trail. I was skeptical of the footprints at first, but the front runners actually did a great job keeping to the elusive PCT. It was a long, steady slog through the slushy mess. It’s 8p, and I’ve only just set up camp. By “set up camp,” I actually mean “rolled out my sleeping bag.” I’m cowboy camping tonight. Got a nice little nook out of the wind. I’m tucked between two boulders with trees at my feet and an upward slope over my head. Quite a find given the late hour and long, steep descent ahead. I’ll drop about 7,000′ tomorrow morning, all the way to the desert floor.

April 28, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0193.0
End: Halfmile 0220.5
Distance: 27.5 Mi
Cumulative: 230.0 Mi

Lost my hiking buddies yesterday. I was fairly certain Phantom was just ahead and Mammoth just behind. Barely managed to catch Phantom at Ziggy and the Bear’s home around mile 210 this morning. Still no sign of Mammoth.

Not having gators has really put the hurt on me. It wasn’t bad yesterday in the snow, but being in the desert today has been rough. I’ve had to stop constantly to clear my trail runners of sand and rocks. And still it seems I haven’t stopped frequently enough. My heels are tender from the constant friction of the sand, and I’m experiencing sharp point pain in the balls of both feet. The chafe comes and goes but mostly seems to be improving (thanks to a hearty helping of Gold Bond). It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love being out here. Blisters, chafe, sunsets, and snow. If it goes like this until Canada, I’ll make it. This is my life. And it ain’t bad.

April 29, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0220.5
End: Halfmile 0245.5
Distance: 25.0 Mi
Cumulative: 255.0 Mi

Trekking through such a gorgeous and familiar area is comforting. I love Mission Creek. I’ve been looking forward to this day since I first realized that this would be the year I’d be back.

This was one of my very first trail hitches. This is the place where I learned about check steps and retaining walls, the very structures that I’ve built a hundred times since. It’s surreal to be back here for the first time in three years. Being in this place and seeing what we accomplished made me think of some seriously awesome folks. That was a good year filled with incredible opportunities and exceptional people. Wherever you all are, I hope you’re loving this life as much as I am.

I’ve often wondered how our work was holding up. Now I know; it’s totally bombproof.

April 30, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0245.5
End: Halfmile 0266.0
Distance: 20.5 Mi
Cumulative: 275.5 Mi

Now, that’s a blister! Hiking 20 miles today wasn’t nearly as painful as you might think, but I’m feeling it right now. That thing is huge, and it’s right in the spot where my toes curl under.

Mammoth told me to hike until it burst. “Just keep going until the thing gets out of control and takes care of itself,” he said. Personally, I don’t really like the idea of that thing exploding in my dirty, nasty sock when I’m 50 miles from the nearest town. That’s inviting an infection.

Nah, instead I chose to try something that I’ve always kinda wanted to try but also always hoped I’d never need to. I threaded it. I sterilized a needle and thread, sewed it through the base of the blister, and tied it off in a loop. For the most part, it drained when I punctured it. I can still feel some fluid in there, but that’s part of the advantage to this treatment. The thread helps absorb the excess fluid. And using the needle means that the old – dead – skin will still be in place to protect the raw skin underneath.

It’s still pretty tender to walk on, but it should start healing in about 36 hours. My tentative plan is to take my second zero of the trip tomorrow, then head out first thing Friday morning. I hate zero-ing again; I wanna be moving! But I know it's important for me to focus on being healthy, especially this early on. Gotta start forming good habits. Besides, I'm pretty excited to be trying this treatment out. How cool would it be if this works? Stay tuned!

Big Bear Zero

Big Bear Zero

May 1, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0266.0
End: Halfmile 0266.0
Distance: ZERO
Cumulative: 275.5 Mi

While it’s really great to be in town and have so many amenities at my fingertips, I find that zeros just make me miss the trail. (And I spend way too much money in town!) Seems I’ll have some serious withdrawal come September. Ah well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In the interim, I’ll just appreciate every moment. I’m already 10% done, which I can hardly believe. Seems like a moment and an eternity all at once.

Today has been refreshing. I’ve been running some errands, staging resupplies, coordinating with Cassie, and backing up photos at the library. I’m getting antsy already. Looking forward to getting back on the trail tomorrow!

My blister looks good today. The pain is a fraction of what it was last night. I can’t believe the recovery time. It’s not totally healed but certainly manageable. Above is an after photo. I’ll leave the thread in for about a week to keep the air cavity moisture-free, then clip it and pull it through. For the next section, I’ll treat it with Bacitracin and cover it with gauze and athletic tape. I’ll take it a little slower into Wrightwood and hopefully be 100% in a few days.

Big Bear to Wrightwood

Big Bear to Wrightwood

May 2, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0266.0
End: Halfmile 0288.0
Distance: 22.0 Mi
Cumulative: 297.5 Mi

It was a late start this morning. The shuttle back to the trail didn’t even leave the hostel until 830a, so I wasn’t hiking until around 9a. I made up my mind to take it slow. I was “only” planning on 20 miles. After a few miles, I was back in the swing of it. I hardly even noticed my recently drained blister. I was raring to go! I had to keep reminding myself: “What’s the rush? There’s no hurry. Slowwww down!”

The trail felt crowded, because a bunch of people left Big Bear this morning. Seems we tend to bunch up in towns. Guess in a way, I was searching for solitude, which I ultimately found this afternoon. Haven’t seen a soul since about 1p.

Spent much of the latter part of the day hiking through an old burn area. I really enjoyed the change of scenery. Ended up camping in a huge boulder field after covering 22 miles. Found a nice spot atop a big, flat rock outcropping. I was totally alone. And loving it. Set up my cowboy camp, made dinner, wrote in my journal, enjoyed a nice sunset (probably made so by my proximity to the LA smog), and gazed up at the stars until I fell asleep. Not a bad life.

May 3, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0288.0
End: Halfmile 0313.5
Distance: 25.5 Mi
Cumulative: 323.0 Mi

This morning was pretty cool, but the really good stuff started after lunch. I got to hike maybe 12 miles through a gorgeous canyon filled with swimming holes. I even ventured off trail a few times to explore. Shortly after lunch, I dropped down a steep slope to a quiet, sunny beach. Took a dip and lounged around for about an hour. Figured I’d cruise up to Deep Creek Hot Springs and have a soak, but that was before this guy Eric caught up to me a few miles later. (I must’ve spent hours taking probably a hundred photos in that canyon.) He told me about a secluded hot spring pool that was off trail a couple miles before the main springs. Sounded like another adventure – maybe even a wild goose chase, but what the hey. We found a well-worn side trail that we figured might be it, so we ventured down the steep ravine. At first, it just looked like another swimming hole. But then we spotted it: a solitary built up pool. That was it! We enjoyed the quiet, refreshing tub for a while before finally deciding to cover a few more miles.

We hiked together the rest of the day and camped just beyond the canyon near a dam. We bypassed the main hot springs, obviously. It was hopping with college kids in swimsuits and old naked dudes. No, thanks. Probably wouldn’t have experienced the hot springs at all, if not for Eric. A different kind of Trail Magic at work.

May 4, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0313.5
End: Halfmile 0343.5
Distance: 30.0 Mi
Cumulative: 353.0 Mi

Today was cool, but yesterday was a tough act to follow. Got going at 5a this morning. The game plan was to cover 28.5 miles and have dinner at a McDonalds right by the interstate underpass. Fast food isn’t usually my thing, but I’m craving it out here. And I don’t feel bad about it.

It was a hot one today after the sun came up. I stopped for lunch at a picnic area near Silverwood Lake. It was only 1030a, but I couldn’t say no to flush toilets, clean water, and a covered picnic area. There was almost no one around, so I had the covered group gazebo all to myself. So freakin’ awesome. I even took an hour nap. I didn’t wanna leave. I made great time this morning, so I wasn’t in any rush anyways.

I made I-15 by 530p, then I gorged myself on McDonalds. So gross; so amazing. Shortly after I walked in, I met Joy and Gini. We talked for a bit, mostly about the trail and my experience on it. Before they left, they extended an invitation to visit when I get closer to Lancaster. I wrote down their phone numbers and have every intention of calling them when I get close. How cool is that?!

I thought about camping right by the highway but decided I didn’t wanna trek through the creepy underpass before dawn. I ended up covering another 1.5 miles and closing out my second 30 this summer. I’m camping at a switchback just above the train tracks overlooking the highway. It’s noisy but cool. Looks like the trains are gonna be cruising through all night. I wouldn’t wanna camp here every night, but it’s a pretty neat experience. I’ll just plug in my headphones and see how it goes.

May 5, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0343.5
End: Halfmile 0369.5
Distance: 26.0 Mi
Cumulative: 379.0 Mi

Long, epic ascent this morning. It was steady up and up. Loved it. Took lunch near the saddle around 130p. The views were vast. It was a little breezy, which was nice on the climb, but made for a chilly break. I took my time getting going anyways.

I wanted to save some money, so I’m camping at Inspiration Point, where the PCT meets the scenic Angeles Crest Hwy. I’ll hitch in first thing and hopefully get a zero. I’m planning to camp right back here tomorrow night, but the weather may push me beyond Baden-Powell (another 15 trail miles). We’ll see how long it takes me in town. It may be too late to make it once I’m done. Don’t wanna get caught up there. Case in point, the weather tonight is a bit sketchy. It’s windy and cold. Looks like a 50% chance of rain and sleet overnight, and more of the same tomorrow night. Thick fog is already settling in. Guess I’m setting up my tent. Seems the toughest times out here are also the most stunningly beautiful. I’m not complaining. If a little rain is my biggest concern, I’d say I’m doing just fine. Besides, it should make for some great photos.

Wrightwood Fiasco

Wrightwood Fiasco

May 6, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0369.5
End: Halfmile 0369.5
Distance: ZERO
Cumulative: 379.0 Mi

It was a chilly morning. Sleet covered the south-facing aspect of many of the trees and plants. Testament to the windy night. It hammered my tent all night long. I wasn’t sure the little abode would hold up, but she did. I slept in this morning and caught a ride around 9a with Trail Dancer. I was playing pick-a-boo with the sun attempting to dry out my gear when he managed to flag down a jeep. I wasn’t about to turn down a ride on this lightly-travelled highway, so I shoved my gear in my pack and hopped in.

I’ve since hit the PO, signed the PCT register, bought my resupply, and backed up my photos. I’ll have some lunch and hopefully catch a ride out of here in the next hour or two. Blogging and backing up photos, that’s where I’m losing most of my time in town. But they’re both necessary. And I seem to be getting more efficient overall. Taking the time to do these things is part of my hike. I think that’ll make it hard to find a hiking partner, since those going at my pace seem to need far less time in town. Ah well, I like having the trail to myself.

May 7, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0369.5
End: Halfmile 0369.5
Distance: ZERO
Cumulative: 379.0 Mi

Well…I’m stranded. I had big dreams yesterday. I was gonna be quick in town and hit the trail in the afternoon. Yeah. Well, I went to grab a bite after I finished up at the library and met a few folks at the local pub. They bought me lunch and we got to talking. I spent a few hours there and the weather was nasty anyways, so I figured I’d camp up at Inspiration Point (where the trail crosses Hwy 2) and get going first thing this morning. I even got a ride back up there from one of the locals I met. Well shortly after she dropped me off, I realized that my phone had fallen out of my pocket in her car. Eff. All I know is her first name and that she said she’s from Oak Hills. Or, wait…Pinon Hills? Oh man. Well at least I know she’s 38. And she drives a red Mustang. It’s not much to go on.

I’ve spent all day today trying to track her down. I facebook stalked like crazy, talked to the bar tender at the pub, ravaged the local phone book, called Verizon, and even contacted the local Sheriff’s office – all to no avail. My phone is on Airplane Mode, so I can’t call or track it. The Sheriff’s office says I don’t have enough information. I’d need to know her full name and date of birth. Yeah sure, I should totally know that about someone that I knew for a couple hours.

There are three things that I really can’t just leave behind: my camera, my journal/wallet, and my phone. Anything else, I would’ve just said “Ah well, such is life” and kept hiking. It’s not so easy to walk away from my phone, because it has all of my maps/guides backed up on it, my spending notes, my todo list, my phone numbers and email, my logistics plans for the rest of the hike, my application and interview notes for the job I hope to get post-hike, everything.

I figure I’ll camp up at the trail in the same place tonight. If she realizes she has my phone, she may try to find me there. Otherwise, I’ll hitch back down to Wrightwood again tomorrow morning and check one last time at the pub and library, then head on to Oak Hills (or was it Pinon Hills?!) to sketchily see if I can spot her car, then hit the Verizon Store in Phelan as a last resort to buy a cheapy phone. Oh, the trail. It’s all part of the experience, yeah? I’ll give it another day or two to see if it works out, then I’ll have to cut my losses and be on my way. Wish me luck!

May 8, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0369.5
End: Halfmile 0369.5
Distance: ZERO
Cumulative: 379.0 Mi

Well yesterday morning was gorgeous, but the weather rolled in again last night. I hitched down to Wrightwood again this morning to check in at the local pub – no luck. Ok, Plan B. I hitched down to Phelan where I caught a bus to Hesperia. From there, I walked another 4-ish miles to Oak Hills. I guess I was hoping blind faith might lead me to her. Oak Hills didn’t seem very big, but it was extremely rural and sprawled. The high school was way bigger than I expected. Still, I spent a few hours there. I checked at the local gym, but they didn’t have any members named “Michelle” (or “Michele” or “Me-shell” or whatever) who matched the age she had told me. Who knows; that may not even be her age. Haha, this is so random!

As you can imagine, it’s been a long, anxious day. Once I came to the conclusion that my situation was hopeless – and that I’d done everything that I possibly could – I was satisfied with my effort. I finally made the courageous (haha) decision to let it go. I stopped in at the Verizon store and bought a way-too-expensive burner phone. It’s possible that my smarty pants phone will come back to me eventually, but I’m not holding my breath.

And now, unfortunately, I’ve missed the last bus back to Phelan. Oh, it just keeps getting better and better! I’m camping in the open desert adjacent to a mall / shopping center. My biggest concern out here is getting mugged. Give me bears and pumas any old day.

Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

May 9, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0369.5
End: Old Endangered Species Re-Route Mi 3.0 (of 6.0)
Distance: 20.5 + 3.0 = 23.5 Mi
Cumulative: 402.5 Mi

Well, I had to let it go. I took the bus back to Phelan at 530a this morning, then hitched up to Wrightwood. I dropped a few items in the mail (yay, lightening the load!), left my new number at the Yodeler in case she ever comes back, wrote a note and pinned it to a post at the trailhead where Michelle dropped me off the other day, then got going. Finally.

I was northbound by 10a. I hate that I’ve lost over two days in addition to the original planned zero. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of it, though. The day started with a pretty big climb. I labored up and up and over Baden-Powell. It was stunning. Again, one of my now-new favorite sections. I’ve been so impressed by these first few hundred miles.

I was still inside my own head about this phone business as I reached the ridge. When the views opened up, it hit me. Perspective. Sure, I hated to lose my phone. But of the three things I never wanted to lose, that’s the one I would’ve chosen if I’d had to pick. It could totally be worse. And this incident had already robbed me of time and money. Why should I let my mistake take anything else from me? I wasn’t hiking in the moment this morning. I was seething. When this epiphany finally struck, it brought me back to the present. I was maybe 15 miles from Inspiration Point, and I finally began to let it go. There are worse things.

I made it nearly 24 miles today, ending at the Buckhorn CG after a 3-ish mile road walk around an endangered species detour. It was after dark, so I was quite lucky to meet a big group who had purchased an extra site. Something about having too many vehicles. They let me crash there for free. It’s an awesome gesture. And having this place to myself is awesome. And the moon is awesome. And being back on the trail is awesome. Awesome.

May 10, 2014

Start: Old Endangered Species Re-Route Mi 3.0 (of 6.0)
End: Halfmile 0419.0
Distance: 23.5 + 3.0 = 26.5 Mi
Cumulative: 429.0 Mi

Slept in this morning, which was a nice change. I was planning to get going around 530a, but didn’t even get up until 7a. It was just too dang nice in that campground. And I got in pretty late, so that made it easy to justify turning the alarm off and rolling over.

The final stretch of the old re-route was on the Buckhart Trail, which was such a gorgeous section. Still, there is nothing quite like getting back on the PCT. Pretty much cruised the rest of the day. Had to dodge some more Poodle Dog Bush, but it wasn’t as bad as the water report made it out to be. I was thinking crazy Cirque Du Soleil moves, but it was more like I imagine tap dancing would be. NBD.

I spent most of the latter part of the day in an old burn area. I think the Poodle Dog Bush is one of the first pioneer plants to re-vegitate after a wildfire, or at least those seem to be the areas where I see it most.

Camping at a local fire station tonight. I recognize this road crossing. (We’ve crossed the Angeles Crest Hwy 6 or 8 times today.) Kelly and I got picked up here after we brushed a section of trail during one of our NWSA-PCTA training hitches. Looks like I’ll be hiking over some of our work again tomorrow. It’s nothing exciting: brushing, tread, drainages. Still, we were here. And that’s cool. Can’t wait to see our awesome work in the Northern Sierra later this summer.

May 11, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0419.0
End: Halfmile 0444.0
Distance: 25.0 Mi
Cumulative: 454.0 Mi

The wind was howling all last night, but I hardly noticed. My sleeping bag is the best. Love that thing. Got outta there around 530a; that’s my kinda start! The wind continued blasting until well-after lunch, nearly 20 miles all together. More than once, I was going downhill and just flung my arms out and had to put all of my weight into the wind to make any progress at all, my trekking poles flapping violently in the wind behind me. It was that insane. I just had to laugh. It’s the kinda thing that might’ve really stressed me out earlier in my life, but now it’s just second degree fun. The best kind, if you ask me.

What do you mean, “What is second degree fun”?? There are three degrees of fun: first, second, third. First degree fun is the kind of thing that’s just fun. Swinging, or dancing, or eating ice cream. Second degree fun is more subtle. It’s the kinda thing that isn’t really fun while you’re doing it, but it’s your favorite story to tell later. Breaking your leg on an epic backcountry summit, or cycling 110 miles into a gnarly headwind, or staring down a cougar. It’s miserable or terrifying while it’s happening, but when it’s all over and you’re ok, it’s the coolest and you’ll never forget it. And never stop telling your friends and family about it. Third degree fun just sucks. It sucks while it’s happening; you never talk about it. But you almost certainly learned something from it. There is very little fun in life that is strictly of the third degree. It sounds crazy, but second degree fun is my favorite. When I learned about this way of seeing the world, it totally changed my life. It made it easier to laugh at myself, to appreciate difficult experiences, to see the fun behind the misery. It’s brilliant.

Since we’re talking about fun, I also got to have some first degree fun today. Just before I arrived at the KOA, there was a road crossing. Posted up in the adjacent parking area was a Trail Angel offering hikers root beer floats. When he shouted my way, I thought he was kidding, like it was some kind of cruel joke. I wasn’t sure what to say, but he seemed so genuine.

“Hey, you want a root beer float?”
“Um, yes?”
He laughed and said, “Well, you don’t have to!”
“No, no, please!”

Coppertone was a rad dude. He just travels around – hiking, biking, chilling. That’s the life. Maybe I’ll see him again up the trail somewhere. Now, that would be cool!

Today was a good day for Trail Magic. Remember those folks I met at McDonalds last week? I called them today when I hit the KOA. I was a few days later than they were expecting, and I had no idea whether they were free or how inconvenient picking me up would be, but I’d really been looking forward to seeing them again, so I gave Joy a ring. She sounded surprised over the phone, but made time to swing by and get me. She and her husband (Curtis) are awesome! They let me do laundry and shower; they grilled burgers and made guac; we swapped stories about our travels and backpacking. It was really great. If you guys are reading this, thank you so much!

May 12, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0444.0
End: Halfmile 0454.0
Distance: 10.0 Mi
Cumulative: 464.0 Mi

I only put in 10 miles today. Ten by ten, actually. “Ten miles by 10a.” I mean, it’s basically a zero. I got to hike through the gorgeous Vasquez Rocks Co Park. The user trails made it a little bit confusing, but I didn’t care. I was barely paying attention to the trail to begin with. Beautiful.

My original game plan today was to cruise the 10 miles from the KOA, grab my package at the Saufley’s, then move along. But then I arrived. It’s just too good. And an REI run?? I was set; another nero (i.e. near zero – ten miles or less). I’m hoping to hit the trail early tomorrow, but we’ll see. I got a cot, so I’m pretty much staying at the Hilton. And who rushes out of the freakin’ Hilton?! Again, what’s the rush? The Sierra aren’t going anywhere.