Monday, February 6, 2017

Morena Butte

8.33 Miles
All photos
Track Log

This was my first "real" hike in a long time, pretty much since stepping off of the PCT, and it felt great. Thanks to a certain somebody for the inspiration to get out and hike but also to start Saturday Morning Hikes (SMH) again and to start blogging about the hikes.

Last Saturday (2/4/17) I did Morena Butte in the Cleveland National Forest. Most of the trail is on the PCT, so it was a very familiar trail to be on. In fact, parking for this trail head happens to be at the Lake Morena Campground, which is just about at the 20 mile marker on the PCT.

I started my hike at about 8:15a and right from the beginning it starts to go up. No sooner than taking my first couple of steps on the trail that the common aches and pains came back. I know they only last for the first couple of miles, so I just have to push through it until I get warmed up.

Where Lake Morena used to be.
Love the Lichen on the rocks.

It was a nice morning, a little over-cast which helped keep the heat down.

I'm not sure who left this sleeping bag and bag next to a fire-pit, but all of that is a no-no.
I left it there just in case it was for a PCT hiker.

The beautiful PCT.

I am pretty sure the three photos above are Cougar tracks.

I know there is lots of snow in the Sierra, but all this water is fantastic for San Diego and
the NoBo hikers.

The start of the Butte Trail. Everything was peachy until this point; where the trail goes straight up.

I couldn't tell if this was water or poop cascading over the rocks, turns out is is poop.
Something good lives there.

These mounds remind me of something. 

I made it to the top. Beautiful day but it was windy and chilly up there so I didn't stay for long.

Look for the Cairns on your way up and down. They will help you stay on-trail.

The PCT is out there, just above the road.

This just seemed like a great place for a Cougar to nest.

Fuck these rocks in particular. With noodles for legs, a pack on my back, and my camera hanging in front, it was quite the challenge getting between these two rocks.

Pix of the trail coming down from the butte. It was rocky and steep.

Back on the PCT!


Screw you Dan! Nobody cares that you were there on 3/15. Show some respect, and LNT!

Just some Hummingbird medicine.

I'd tap that.

Gettin' artsy.

Hard to see/picture, but the ground was covered in gold. It was fabulous!

Murica! Looked like a Bald Eagle to me.

Pretty sure the tracks in the two photos above are Raccoon.
Please correct me if I am wrong.

I am thinking that this is Cougar scat, as well as as some dig marks; like he was doing a burn-out on it similar to what I've seen dogs do. Please correct me if I am wrong.

There was a squirrel perched perfectly on that stone but he didn't stick around to be photographed.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day - (6/14 - 6/15)

0 miles

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there. 

We are zeroing today taking care of the usual things, laundry, resupply, rest, and eating. Neither of us is looking forward to going up Kersarge Pass to get back to the trail which makes it easy to stay in a motel room. 

We have a mission for when we return back to the trail. One of Mandie's friends lost his wedding ring camping near a lake that is just off the trail. We are going to go over there and see if we can find it for him. It might be a long shot but ya never know and it is much easier for us to go there and look than it is for him. My gut says that we will be successful. I hope it is a titanium ring, gold is heavy. 

After that we will be on the trail for about 8 days hitting a mountain pass almost every day. We are going to try and resupply at Muir Ranch or VVR with a final destination of Mammoth. During that time we will have no cell service. It is going to be a tough and beautiful section. 


Zeros and neros
A vacation from the trail

I Schat In Bishop - (6/13)

7 miles over Kersarge Pass to trailhead

We woke up early in our secluded piece of paradise under a frozen tent. It was very cold out but so beautiful. The lake was like a mirror reflecting the surrounding mountains that were just starting to be warmed up by the morning sun. It is surreal. 

The trail up and over Kersarge Pass took us past Bullfrog Lake and Kersarge Pass Lakes which were all equally as beautiful as the lake we camped at. It is a magical area that I would recommend people come check out. You have to do a bit of hiking to get there, 7 miles, but it is so worth it and will give you a taste of the Sierra. 

Getting to the top of Kersarge Pass was a bit of a climb but we did it. The back side was not quite as steep but was a bit longer. The trail took us past Big/Lil Pothole lakes, Heart Lake and Flower Lake all of which were connected to each other by rivers and waterfalls. On the way down we passed a lot of day and thru-hikers going up; one of them being HomeGirl. It was nice to see her again. 

Once at the trailhead it was time to find a ride to. Independence so we could catch the bus to Bishop. We sat on a couple of Bear Boxes watching people arrive and get their gear ready to head up the trail. Nobody seemed to be leaving. Eventually a hiker came down the mountain and headed towards his car. I quickly hopped off the box and headed over to him so I could ask for a ride. He was in a hurry but agreed to give us a ride all the way to Bishop. Score! 

Along the way we learned that he was from Ashland, OR  and was in town helping a friend who was trying to break the JMT speed record. The JMT is 221 miles long and the record is just under 4 day, which is just mind boggling to me. 

We made it to Bishop and after failing to get a room at this one particular hotel we decided to get something to eat at Erick Schat's Bakery, a must visit place. With a full belly we were better equipped to find a place to stay, which we did. 

We have to resupply here and do some errands. To no surprise the sewing job I did on my shorts in Bakersfield did not hold up. Also, Mandie needs a new rain jacket. Things like that. 

To the shower!!!


Yummy bakery
Filled with lots of things to eat
Just give me the sweets

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Forester Pass - (6/12)

Mile 774.2 to mile 788.8 (plus 0.5 miles towards Kersarge Pass)
15.1 miles

Today was an amazing day. We had unbelievable sights and a very tall hiking accomplishment. It was easily one of the best days on the trail so far. 

We woke up early this morning because there is snow on the North side of Forester Pass and we needed to get through it before the warm sun softened it up. It was a cold morning which we are learning means that we move a bit slower. That meant that we didn't hit the trail as soon as we had hoped. 

A mile from where we camped was the full flowing Tyndell Creek that we needed to cross. It was a fast flowing river and wide. We walked up and down the banks trying to find a good place to cross without getting wet, even getting half way across at some points and then having to turn back. There was no good place to cross. We finally had to suck it up and just tromp through the river with our shoes on. Oh my gosh it was cold. Painfully cold. There is nothing like crossing a frigid cold river on a cold morning to wake ya up. We crossed safely and then quickly found a place to sit so we could ring out our shoes and socks.

With squishy shoes we headed across the barren landscape towards Forester Pass which we could see off in the distance. We soon realized that it wouldn't matter that we had wet shoes on as it would be nearly impossible to keep them dry out here. The ground was overly saturated with water, like walking through a marsh. Little streams, creeks, and tributaries streaked across the landscape connecting the many puddles, ponds, and lakes. Waterfalls created from the snow melt high above replenished the pools of water below.

We slowly made our way towards Forester Pass, a small notch at the top of a vertical rock wall. I know I haves used the word 'wall' to describe steep mountains in the past but this truly is a wall. Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet and would easily surpass the highest Mandie and I have ever been at 11,503. 

As we got higher and closer to Forester our path would take us across several snow fields. We walked across them with light steps so we wouldn't posthole. One of the larger snow fields had a river flowing under it which we could see through a large hole in the snow. It was around this time that I had these thoughts that I was way out of my league here. What was I doing here in this extreme place? I sat in front of a computer for most of the day not too long ago. It is a trip and a huge contrast that is hard to wrap my head around sometimes. 

It was now time to climb up this wall. The snow field had made it impossible to stay on the trail so we first had to find the trail again. We did some rock hopping until we saw a cairn indicating where the trail was. Now back on the trail we followed it switchbacking up this rock wall. The switchbacks were well graded which made the climb that much easier. It was the elevation that was making the hike so difficult. 

We eventually crossed the snow chute that could be seen from the bottom and then completed the last few switchbacks to reach the top. It was an incredible feeling to have reached the top and to be there. We watched a bunch of PCT videos before starting this trip and Forester Pass was always a highlight or focal point. To actual be there was a wonderful, surreal, and emotional feeling. 

We sat on Forester Pass and had a snack while watching a couple of JMT hikers come up the South side. There was a lot of snow on the South side and it had taken us longer than anticipated to get over the pass. The snow was starting to melt and get slushy. That meant that the likelihood of us postholing was growing. I took a few steps across the steep snow covered embankment and immediately slipped. I have been carrying Microspikes since Kennedy Meadows and it was time to put them on for the first time. It wasn't necessary, Mandie didn't use hers, but I had them so I might as well use them. They helped but I still slipped and slided a bit. I also postholed twice; dropping down into the snow up to my groin. 

The rest of the day was pretty much spent hiking down to the valley floor, a beautiful 7 mile journey. Granite mountains were on either side of us and Bubbs Creek flowed down the middle. It was easy walking and having an abundance of oxygen was certainly nice.

After crossing the valley floor we started climbing again towards Glen Pass, the next pass we would have to make it through. It would have to wait though. Next on the agenda was a side trail, over Kersarge Pass, that would take us into town to resupply.

We arrived at the trail junction and started looking for a place to camp. The only decent spot was already occupied by a couple of PCT hikers, Magic Stick and Laugh Track. We chatted with them for a while, asking them about Kersarge Pass before continuing on. Ten minutes later we came to a wide flat spot that looked good enough to pitch a tent on and water was close. Something that I have learned on this trip is, before setting up camp, take a few minutes to explore the area. There is almost always a better spot near by. With that in mind, I walked around a blind spot on the trail and found paradise. 

Around the corner was this amazingly beautiful glacial lake surrounded by green grass and tall trees. It was tucked away with small foothills on three sides, which meant little to no wind. The water was so crystal clear; I could easily see the bottom. I have never seen a clearer body of water. It was the perfect area, postcard picture perfect. We spent a little time walking around the lake looking for a good place to camp. Eventually, we found a nice secluded place and set up camp. The rest of the evening was spent doing little chores like drying out shoes and socks and filtering water for the next day. 

Tomorrow we will finish walking out Kersarge Pass and figure out how to get to Bishop from Independence. 


Up Forester Pass
Way high in the morning sky
Kissing the heavens 

I Never Liked The Rain Until I Walked Through It With You - (6/11)

Mile 761.8 to mile 774.2
12.8 mile

Surprisingly, we woke up to a dry tent, inside and out. With all the moisture we got yesterday I thought for sure we would have condensation in the tent this morning. Not a drop. 

We got a bit of a late start this morning though, it probably had a bit to do with the argument we had. It was nice not to rush. I even had time to make a cup of coffee, or something coffee like. I used cold water and added a Startbucks Via packet, a Carnation Instand Breakfast packet, and some of Mandie's orange flavored Acli-mate. It was gross and tasted like orange flavored chocolate. I drank it anyway.  (Acli-mate is a blend of herbs and vitamins that you add to water which is supposed to help with altitude sickness. It is yummy and tastes like Tang.)

From Guyot Creek we headed towards Crabtree Meadow and Whitney Creek, some 5 miles away. First, we had to finish climbing the rest of the hill that we had to prematurely stop climbing yesterday.  There was only 600 more feet of elevation so it wasn't horrible. After the top the trail would level out before dropping down to Crabtree Meadow. 

As we were descending we had some amazing views of Mt. Whitney. Seeing what an epic climb it would be made me really want to do it. But, we needed to stick to our original goal of doing the PCT. We will come back another time and make a weekend trip out of it. 

Crabtree Meadow has got to be one of the more spectacular sights we have seen so far. It is a huge green, lush, masquito infested, meadow with Mt. Whitney as its backdrop. On one side there is a massive granite wall and on the other a forest of pine trees, down the middle runs Whitney Creek. To top it off, there were about a half a dozen deer grazing in the meadow. It was one of those postcard sights.

A little further down the trail we ran across the family of hikers that we met at Guyot Creek. We made some small talk with them, asked them how they faired during the storm, and then continued on.  

Just beyond the family the trail was intersected by Whitney Creek. We each took off our shoes and socks and wadded through the cold, but shallow creek. Once safe and sound on the other side we dropped our packs and sat down for a while to enjoy the scenery. We also had to eat, drink, and do some laundry. Pine trees make a great clothesline and give our socks a fresh pine scent. 

The mosquitos were getting to us so we didn't stay as long as we wanted to. Back on our feet, we would start walking on a new trail, the John Muir Trail (JMT). It is still the PCT but it is also the JMT, for some 200+ miles. There will be times when it splits apart for a short time, and we will probably take the JMT because of its beauty. 

Since we are now on the JMT, I would like to recommend that you read some of John Muir's short stories. He is an amazing story teller and writer. He can be a little long winded at times, a whole chapter on a tree, but the way he describes things is incredible. If you can, read the story about the dog Stickeen. 

We had a couple more stream crossing on our way to Tyndall Creek. One was a seasonal stream that was flowing pretty well for a seasonal stream and the other was Wallace Creek. I took my chances hopping from rock to rock when crossing Wallace Creek but Mandie just went for it and walked through it, shoes and all. I think she might have regretted that decision a little later on in the afternoon. 

From Wallace Creek we climbed for a while getting spectacular views of the High Sierra. We would climb to just under 11,500 feet, above the tree line. Just before we broke out of the trees the sky opened up again and it started raining and hailing on us. We found a large tree and busted out our Tyvek groundsheet to huddle under to protect us from the elements. 

Mandie, with her wet feet started getting really cold. We had two options, break out the tent so she could warm up, or start hiking again. It looked like the rain was starting to let up so we opted for the later. We broke out of the tree line and hiked along a wide open ridge for a little while. I believe the area was called Big Horn Plateau. It was another amazing sight. We had a 180 degree view of the sun lit Sierra mountains. They were partially covered in snow which makes us think that they look like those iced oatmeal cookies. Whitney was behind us covered in clouds and rain. I wanted to spend more time up here but we were trying to out run the storm. I still couldn't help myself and took way too many pictures. 

The tree line was in sight and we hustled to get to it. As we approached It the sky decided to open up again, more rain and lots of hail. We eventually made it to the trees and took cover under the first decent sized one we could find. It hailed a lot. It eventually let up enough to where we could make a break for lower ground. We made a break for it. 

It was about a mile further to Tyndall Creek, which is about the closest we can get to Forrester Pass before having to go up and over. We need to go over the pass early in the morning when the snow is hard enough to walk on without post-holing. 

It was a planned short day with lots of exciting weather and beautiful scenery. Tomorrow is a big day for us. I am both excited and nervous. It will be amazing. 


Crossing creeks and streams
Do it right and you stay dry
Otherwise splish splash

The Thunder Rolls - (6/10)

Mile 750.3 to mile 761.8 (plus 3.5 miles up to Cottonwood Trail Pass)
15 miles

The morning started where last night ended, with us fighting. At least we were talking now and got everything out into the open, which was a good thing. 

Now that we were back on speaking terms we got packed up and hit the trail. We busted out the 3.5 miles back up to Cottonwood Pass in no time. Along the way we happened to come across a Grouse. A Grouse is a chicken like bird that makes this incredibly low 'Wooo, wooo, wooo' sound. My understanding of those birds is that they are very private and shy, so it was cool to actually see one. 

The first time Mandie and I heard a Grouse was when we were backpacking in the Mineral King area and it freaked us out. Every time we would walk by this grove of pine trees we would hear this low pitched 'Wooo, wooo, woooo' sound. We had no idea what it was or what it was coming from. When we returned to the trailhead, we stopped and asked the ranger what the heck that sound was. He of course said it was a Grouse. 

Back on the PCT, we hiked to Chicken Spring Lake to refill water bottles and have a bite to eat. For there the trail would climb a bit and then level off for a while before dropping down to Rock Creek Camp. It isn't much of a camp, just a bear box and a few flat spots, but it is next to Rock Creek; our first decent sized river crossing. It wasn't the raging river I was hoping for but it did have a nice flow and was pretty wide. We hopped from rock to rock and then across some logs to get across it. 

We hiked down to Rock Creek so that meant we had to hike up to get away from it. We also didn't get any water there, who wants to carry heavy water up hill, so that meant we had to stop at the next creek to get water. Guyot Creek was only 1.5 miles away. 

We reached Guyot Creek in no time and started filling our water jugs. As we were doing so a family of Mt. Whitney hikers came and chatted with us for a while. As soon as they left Mandie and I started to feel rain drops. Not a lot of them but enough for us to take notice. They were also big rain drops. Then we heard thunder and lightening. We quickly picked up our stuff and started looking for a suitable place to pitch the tent. Guyot Creek was as far as we were going today. 

We found what we thought was the best spot and pitched the tent. Soon after we started seeing white stuff bounce off the tent and hit the ground. At first we thought it was snowing but on closer examination it was sleet. The thunder, lightening, rain, and sleet went on for a couple of hours before letting up allowing us to escape from our tent and make some dinner. It was a scary and exciting storm, our first High Sierra storm. It was a nice change but hopefully we won't have too many of those. 

Tomorrow we hike to the base of Forrester Pass. I can't wait to see what that looks like. 


What dazzling beauty
Views of meadows and mountains
How lucky am I 

Communication Breakdown - (6/9)

Breakdown 0 miles

Today we had every intention of hiking back up Cottonwood Pass and getting back of the trail. Yeah, that didn't happen. 

The morning started out with us going to get something to eat and then returning to the room and packing up. We then ran a couple of errands; I mailed home my bladder whoohooo! So sick of that thing and so happy to have gotten rid of it. We then had the task of getting a ride back to the trailhead. 

We stood on a corner in downtown Lone Pine for quite some time trying to hitch a ride. Nobody seemed to be going to the trailhead. Finally, a nice gentleman who lived at a bit closer to the trailhead stopped and offered us a ride. He brought us to the last intersection before the road went up to the trailhead. That way, anybody that passed us was definetly going to the top. The only problem was that it was in the middle of nowhere on a hot day with no shade around. Beggars can't be choosers    I guess. After a couple of cars went by without stopping a nice young lady in an awesome lifted truck stopped and picked us up. She was heading to the top to do some trail running. 

Once at the trailhead, we said our goodbyes and she took off. Mandie and I hung back for a while drinking water and trying to get the moivation to start hiking. We finally had what we needed and started off down the trail. About five minutes later Mandie said that she wasn't feeling good and wanted to sit down for a minute. We found a nice shady spot and sat for a few minutes. She then said that her stomach wasn't feeling well and needed to go back to the trailhead and use the bathroom. No problem. While she left I picked apart a downed log looking for grubs. 

She returned shortly after leaving and asked if we could camp at the trailhead for the night. I had no problem with that since it was only 3.5 miles to where we were going to camp. No huge lose there. We found the perfect camp site, protected from the wind, and Mandie laid down in the dirt. She laid there for a few minutes before she decided that she wanted to be in the tent. While we were laying in the tent I started to feel light headed and a little queazy so I got out of the hot tent and laid in the ground in the shade. 

It could have been the Chinese food that we ate the night before but we think not feeling good was from the elevation. We zoomed up to 10,000 in the car from Lone Pine which might have been too much for us. 

The night ended with us fighting about getting up early and taking breaks while on the trail. Since I don't sleep well at night it is hard for me to get us early. So I mentioned, without thinking, that if we take less breaks while hiking we wouldn't have to get up so early. I didn't stop and think about what I was saying and didn't think about how Mandie feels about those breaks. She feels sensitive about them, like she is the only hiker that has to take them, and she feels like she is slowing me down. I can understand that and I honestly don't mind taking breaks with her. I feel like we are a team and we travel together. I never like to get too far ahead of her in case something were to happen. I just wasn't thinking when I made that comment. 

The evening ended with a lot of silence. 


Is way harder than it sounds
But try as we must