Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poopin In The Woods - Day 25 (4/29/2014)

Day 25
A zero in Big Bear

I dedicate this post to my good friend Robert, who said it would be okay to write such a post. 

Since we are zeroing today and not doing anything except for resting and doing chores, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about digging Cat Holes, or pooping in the woods.

It isn't the most wonderful topic to discuss but I thought y'all might like to know how things go down, out here. I will, of course, keep it as clean and respectable as I can. 

I would also like to mention that I have a slight phobia against using public restrooms to go #2 and this trip is quickly getting me over that phobia. 

Okay, onto the topic at hand, pooping in the woods. I will try and break this down as it happens. 

When you are in the woods, one usually waits until it is critical to go to the bathroom. It is such an ordeal that you don't want to have to go more than you have to, so you wait until you can't wait any longer. 

When that time comes you must grab three things before heading out. 

Backpacker's lightweight poop trowel
Deuce of Spades - Newly funded kickstarter Poop Trowel
weighing in at 0.6 oz.
1) You need toilet paper. Some people choose to use rocks, sticks, and leaves but I am not one of those people.
2) You need your poop trowel to dig a cat hole with. Some people use sticks or their trekking pole for this but, again, I am not one of those people. 
3) You need a soiled TP bag. Do not put your soiled TP in the cat hole, even biodegradeable TP. It won't degrade fast enough and some animal will come along and dig it up and allow the wind to spread it all over the wilderness. Pack it in, pack it out. It isn't as bad as you think. 
3.1) Baby wipes. This is optional but if you want that extra clean feeling these will help. Pack these out too. 

Now that you have your supplies,Right Spot and you just know that's it. That is the place I am going to poop. It is like two old friends coming back together after being apart for many years. It is that kinda feeling.
you gotta find a place to go. This seems to be the most interesting part of the process, for me anyway. I find that you do not pick a spot but the spot picks you. I have wandered around the wilderness looking for the right spot, passing many spots that will do. But then you see the

A good spot usually consists of a solid structure next to soft soil. The solid structure can be a tree, a downed log, or a rock. You want something to either hold onto, rest your back against, or to sit between, like the Y section of a downed tree branch. The soft soil is to make digging your cat hole easier. 

Now that you have the spot it is wise to look around to make sure nobody can see you and make sure the trail doesn't loop back around. Once the coast is clear, dig your cat hole. It must be at least 6 inches deep, so that animals are less likely to dig it up. The diameter doesn't really matter but the wider the better especially if your aim is off. 

Now drop your drawers and squat. If you have a rock to lean against or tree trunk to hold onto it makes things much easier and less straining your legs. Remember, you just walked here so your legs are tired. Take a moment to make sure your pants/shorts are out of the way of falling debris. 

Do your business. 

When you are finished it is time to clean things up. Personally, I use heavy duty paper towels that I have previously cut into squares. They are more durable than normal TP so you can use less of it. I think in the Cotton World we wad up our TP to prevent a finger from poking through. With the heavy duty paper towel you don't have to do that. Again, the soiled TP goes into a sealable plastic bag that you pack out with you. It gets dumped at the next physical toilet that you come across. 

Now that you are all clean it is time for the best part, pulling your pants back up and knowing that you are pretty much done with this chore. The only thing left is to fill back up the hole you dug and to place a rock on it. I also add a couple of sticks sticking straight up out of the ground. The rock and sticks let somebody else know what happened here. The rock can also help prevent an animal from digging things up. 

You now make the trek back to your pack with that small sense of embarrassment. You are carrying a trowel and toilet paper so everybody know what you just did. (The bag with the solid contents is usually in my pocket that I discreetly slip into my pack when nobody is looking.) And, if you are luckily there won't be any extra people around that have shown up while you have been gone. That just adds to the embarrassment. 

The final and most crucial step is to apply hand sanitizer to your hands. And you are done. 

That wasn't so bad, was it?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Bear Blisters - Day 24 (4/28/2014)

Day 24
Mile 249.7 to mile 266
16.3 miles

Today we actually started stirring in the tent at 5 am. Woohoo for us! We were stirring for most of the night too. It was a bitter cold night at elevation, 8000 feet. It is hard to get going when it is so cold out. Everything is telling you to stay in your sleeping bag, but those miles beckon!

Shortly after hitting the trail we came across the private zoo that I mentioned in my last post. It was pretty much what you would expect to see, huge chain link fences surrounding smaller cages that housed large animals. From what we could see from the trail there was a grizzly bear, a lion, a tiger, and a black panther. Sitting next to one of these cages was a guard dog, part German Shepard and part some other huge dog we couldn't identify. He sat there very stoically looking out over the trail; nobody was going to mess with these animals on his watch. This dog meant business. 

Mandie and I wanted some better pictures of the animals so we cautiously approached the outer most fence. As we tip toed closer to it we sweet talked the guard dog as much as we could so he didn't try to attack us. He eventually got up from his post and came over to say hello to us. He was missing a back leg, which I can only imagine was taken by a caged animal, so he walked with a limp. When he got to where we were standing I expected him to start growling and barking. Instead he rubbed up against the fence and sniffed and licked Mandie's hand. The sniffing and licking then turned into head pets and ear rubs. Finally the dog turned around and gave Mandie his rear-end to scratch. Mandie says, 'Once that happens you are in.'  

It was a neat experience with the dog but a sad one to see the caged up animals. Although in this instance I am glad that there was a fence between me and them. The sound that a lion makes is scary, it is a deep, guttural sound and you know it means business. 

A couple of miles after that we hit the Onyx Summit water cache. It was a large construction grade tool box filled with soda, cookies, and a log book. Next to that was a couch. We grabbed a couple of pops and Mandie sat down to sign the log book. The log book is nice to browse through and see which fellow hikers have passed through before you. The sodas were a nice treat and were still cold from the previous cold night. 

A few miles beyond that we hiked down into a valley which had a small stream running through it. We paused shortly to admire its beauty and began hiking back out. A minute later Mandie stops and says, 'My foot just blew up!'  I knew that meant that one of her many blisters had popped. We dropped our packs and sat down in the middle of the trail to assess the situation. With her shoe and sock off we could see that it was the blister between her big toe and adjacent toe that had popped. We cleaned it up the best we could there and then walked the short distance back to the stream so she could soak her feet and do damage control. 

My feet had been bothering me too so I decided to take my shoes off and soak my feet too. The water was so cold that we could only keep our feet in for a few seconds, but it still felt so good to cool them off. While we sat there letting them dry off we had a bite to eat and made small talk with hikers that passed by. After taking a deep breath we put our shoes and socks back on and headed back up out of the valley. 

Josh with Michael Daniel Thomas aka Lion King
We reached a small plateau where there was another hiker laying down in the shade of a Juniper Tree. The hiker happened to be Michael Daniel Thomas aka Lion King. In my eyes, he is a legend of the hiking world. Mandie and I had watched all of his
hiking video in preparation of our hike and were friends with him on FB. We made some small talk with him, discussing places to stay in Big Bear. I asked him for his photo, I am a little hiker star struck, which he obliged. We shook hands and carried on up the hill. 

When we crested the hill we were greeted with beautiful views of the Mojave desert and surrounding area. In a week or two we will be walking through that desert, it looks pretty barren. 

We hobbled along for the next han
dful of miles until we reached the trailhead parking lot at mile 266. We briefly stopped in the parking lot to clean ourselves up and figure out a game plan. Our next destination would be the post office. We then walked across the two lane highway and stuck our thumbs out for any passing car. The third car to pass by stopped and a nice young man, named Gary, jumped out of his car and made room for us and our gear. He was returning from playing golf down the mountain where it was cheaper. 

The post office we were dropped off at happened to be the wrong PO. It was our own fault, this is where we asked Gary to drop us off at, but we now needed to find a way across town to the PO that had our box. 
A man who was behind us in line at the PO over heard what had happened and offered us a ride to the other PO. We thought, 'Well cool. That was easy.'  We walked over to his car where he soon learned that he had locked his keys in the car. Bummer. 

It was getting late and the PO was going to close soon so we gave up on the PO and decided to get something to eat at a nearby shopping center. As we were walking down the sidewalk we saw a familiar figure standing on the corner waiting to cross the street, it was Pillsbury. We had separated from her a few days ago and with us zeroing in Big Bear we thought we might not catch back up with her. We stood on the sidewalk and chatted for a while. She had been in Big Bear for a couple of days now, waiting for her resupply box, so she was able to give us the low-down on what was where in town. We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. 

After stopping at CVS for drinks, snacks, and bathroom break we headed over to the bus stop with the intention of going to a more populated part of town. As we waited for the bus we used our phones to find a place to stay in the area. It turned out that there was a hotel a half mile from where we were standing. We wanted nothing more than to get off our feet and get a real meal so we headed off for that hotel. 

After getting checked in we immediately ordered some food for delivery. While we waited for it to be delivered I headed back out for something more to drink, 7-Up and Gatorade of course. Oh, and we needed some Epsom salt to soak the feets. 

The rest of the evening was spent watching Pretty Woman while we ate, drinking fluids, popping blisters and tending to our wounds, and relaxing. I have a couple of huge blisters on my heels. 

It feels so good to be in a warm bed with soft pillows but at the same time I miss being on the trail. I guess the trail has become my home and I am feeling home sick. I had read about these feelings in other hikers' blogs but didn't expect to feel them myself. It is an odd feeling. Life on the trail has been hard but at the same time so wonderful and simple. I feel like I am changing... into what, I have no idea, but my previous life is slowly melting away. 

I miss my cats, my friends, and my family. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Look At All Of These Beautiful Vistas - Day 23 (4/27/2014)

Day 23
Mile 235.5 to mile 249.7
14.2 miles

Let's see here... This morning was a continuation of yesterday, rough.

We set the alarm on our phone to get us up at 5a but somebody turned the alarm off instead of pressing snooze. No big loss there, who doesn't enjoy an extra hour of sleep.

Hitting the trail around 7 am,  my calves were up to their usual pain in the... calves again. But this morning there was something extra to add to the misery, I was not feeling well. I felt like I was coming down with a cold and we had to do close to 15 miles today. Things were not looking well. 

The first 5 miles of our hike was all uphill. I had to stop many times to let my calves calm down but not long after I would start walking again they would tighten up and start burning again.

I am not sure what to do about my calves and I am open to any suggestions. I do stretch and it doesn't seem to help a whole lot. I am naturally a tight person, and not very flexible. Tonight, I did some stretching when we were done hiking to see if it will help me in the morning.

We stopped for water towards the end of this 5 mile section. It would be our last water source for the next 25 miles, so it was important that we fill up. Like yesterday, Mandie was in charge of filtering water while I found a place to dig a cat hole. :-) While there we also ate a snack and drank as much water as we could. 

When it was time to push on we packed up, put our packs on and headed up the hill. I started to notice something odd happening with my pack. I could feel the load shifting against my back which I had never felt before. I thought something was sliding down between my back and my sleeping bag, which compresses so I didn't think much of it. A few minutes later I noticed that my lower back and bottom of my pack was wet. 

Oh snap, my bladder is leaking! 

I quickly got my pack off and got everything out of it as fast as I  could so I could get my bladder out. The tube was still attached and there was no evidence that there was a hole in it. In fact, when we last got water neither of us took my bladder out of my pack. So, I am not exactly sure what happened to make it leak. In any case, I now had to make the schlep back to the last water source to fill up my bladder. I was not a happy camper. 

Once we reached the top of the mountain I started to feel better. My cold symptoms seemed to go away, they were probably from allergies, and the flat/downhill part gave my calves a much needed rest. Also, we were now at a high enough elevation to be walking in snow patches which was fun and probably helped to take my mind off my body. 

As the day progressed I felt better and better. We enjoyed amazing views of a snow covered San Gorgonio Mtn. and San Jacinto Mtn., and Palm Springs. All of which we had just come from days ago. It blows me away to see how far we have come. 

When we reached Coon Cabin we took a short break to check it out and have a snack. While we were resting an SUV pulled up and four men jumped out. Three of them came over to talk to us while the fourth laid in the back and rested. The three men were amazed at what we were doing and asked all kinds of questions. They soon went off to check out the old cabins and we returned to our snacks. When the men return Mandie asked them if they had any water to spare. They said, 'Yes. We have only been drinking the beers in the cooler and have lots of water.' They gave us a gallon of water and drove off. Score! 

Another vehicle shows up on the scene and two men hop out and survey the area. They ask us about our trip and even take our picture. It is like we are celebrities. When they start to leave they offer us a couple of Gatorade. Double score on the trail magic!  

Mandie and I split a Gatorade and offer the other one to another hiker who showed up. We take two liters of the water and leave the rest for hikers that are behind us. We believe in good karma and know this type of generosity will come back around when we need it most. 

We are now tucked away in our sleeping bags on a very cold and blustery evening. About ten minutes ago we heard the sound of a bear or tiger, yes tiger, off in the distance. It scared the crap out of us and we both sat straight up. There are wild bear in the area but what we probably heard was from the private zoo that is not far from where we are camping. At least that is what we are going to believe it is from so we can sleep tonight. We will pass by this zoo tomorrow which from what I understand is kind of sad. These amazing animals in small cages for the rest of their lives. I believe they are animals that were in the motion picture industry. 

On that happy note, I bid you a roaring good night. :-P

All This Walking Is Tough - Day 22 (4/26/2014)

Day 22
Mile 230.1 to mile 235.5
5.4 miles

I am sure that you can tell by the low mileage day that something was off today. Remember that rain storm that I talked about yesterday, well it hit us in the middle of the night. It wasn't a torrential down pour but it was enough rain and hail to keep us up. That is not entirely true, I was sound asleep until Mandie tapped me on the shoulder to tell me it was raining. Being our first time in this tent in rain she was concerned, and rightfully so, that water would get inside... and it did. 

The tent itself did pretty well in the rain and the liner we had just  purchased did its job. The two reasons why water entered the tent was 1) we did not have the liner and 'bathtub' bottom set up correctly and 2) I was using my pack, which was at my feet, to keep me from sliding down my sleeping pad. Doing this pushed my pack against the tent so much that the tent couldn't do its job. 

The result of all this was that we had some drops of water hitting us and the bottom of my pack was soaked in the morning. To add to this, the rock I used to hold the vestibule stake in the ground was not heavy enough with the gail force winds we had. Thus, the stake came out of the ground, letting the vestibule collapse and allowing my shoes to sit in the rain all night. It sucked to have to put on wet shoes in the morning but honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. 

When we woke up around 6 am, it was still raining and hailing and neither of us wanted to get up. We went back to bed and waited for this skies to clear; which didn't take too long to happen. 

While Mandie packed up our stuff, I wiped down the tent the best I could so that she wasn't carrying a tent covered in water.  All packed up we hit the trail around 9 am. Shortly after hitting the trail we spotted a dear meandering around the wash we were heading into. As soon as it spotted us it took off up the canyon wall. I think that was our first real/big animal sighting on this trip.  

We needed water, so we stopped to fill up where the trail crossed a stream. I needed to go dig a cat hole so Mandie was in charge of water filtration. In her morning fog she accidentally dipped my bladder into the stream instead of our 'dirty bag' thus contaminating my 'clean bag'. It wasn't a huge issue, we just can't use that bladder again until we get to Big Bear and can disinfect it with bleach. We have other containers to carry water in, they just aren't as convenient as a bladder, not a huge deal really. 

I am trying to manage my calf pain/tightness so I set a slow comfortable pace for us. (I actually think it is my Planter Facitious (sp?) muscle that is tightening up on me now. With no cell service I have no way to look it up. Ugh!) The slow pace helps a little bit but not much, my calves are starting to burn. 

I am starting to feel down and aggravated about my calf pain and for some reason I had no tolerance for the pain today. It wore me down and it made me second guess what I am doing here. What makes things even more frustrating is that yesterday I was feeling pretty darn good and even thought that my legs were starting to come around. 

The physical pain was having an affect on my mental game. I was in no mood to hike today, had no energy, and my legs felt fatigued to the max. I had to stop so many times and walked so slow that we were averaging one mile an hour. Mandie was also in the same boat so a lot of this could have had to do with our poor night's sleep. Whatever the reason, we were not making good time. 

We saw another Gopher snake on the trail today. 

It was a little after 1 pm that we decided that today was a bust and that we needed to stop. Besides, we needed to lay the tent out in the sun so it could dry out. We found this nice little tent site nestled in a few oak trees and made camp. The rest of the afternoon was spent drying things out, washing socks, getting water, and most of all resting. 

It wasn't the day either of us had in mind but what ya going to do. We are listening to our bodies and today they most certainly said, 'Rest!'

Somewhat related and somewhat not related to today is a conversation that Mandie and I have with each other almost every day. That conversation has to do with comparing us to other thru-hikers. Whenever we meet a new person on the trail the question that almost always gets asked is, 'When did you start [walking the trail]?' These days it seems that the people we are meeting started walking a week to a week-and-a-half after we did. We know it is not a competition to get to Canada but it is very discouraging to be at the same place as somebody that started much later than us. It has almost come to the point where we don't want to tell people when we started. 

Our pace will pick up, our bodies will eventually cooperate, and we WILL make it to Canada. We may not be fast but we are stubborn. :D

Racing The Rain - Day 21 (4/25/2014)

Day 21
Mile 216.8 to mile 230.1
13.3 miles

Today was a pretty uneventful day compared to some other days on the trail. We broke camp around the usual time and finished the last few miles to where the PCT drops into Whitewater Preserve. 

When the trail met the river for the first time we decided to take a break, have something to eat of course, and fill up on water. I also took this opportunity to go off and dig a cat hole. While walking around looking for the perfect spot I noticed some bear, and other small animal, tracks the sand. Every time we come to this area we see all kinds of animal tracks but never any animals. Maybe one time. 

As we hiked along there were hundreds if not thousands of caterpillars with horns on their butts cruising around. Mandie says they turn into Sphinx Moths. There were so many of them it was amazing. You almost couldn't walk without stepping on them. 

Nine miles from where we started this morning we arrived at Mission Creek. A great place to stop and rest, refill water bottles, etc... There are several other hikers there including Pills. We lay around for a while and watch the thunderhead clouds grow around us. There is supposed to be a storm coming which will drop some snow in Big Bear.  Eventually get up and get going around 2:30p. 

The sky is looking more and more ominous as we hike on. We have been hiking up a wash for most of the day and decide, with a storm coming, it is best not to camp in the wash. We find some higher ground and set up camp a little earlier than normal. I am sure neither of us want a repeat of last night and so we don't mind getting off the trail a little early. 

It is close to 9:30p as I write this and not a drop of rain has fallen yet. It is windy though, as it always seems to be in the desert. I enjoy the rain and have never been in a tent while it is raining so I am torn on if I want the storm to come or not. I'm sure it sucks but right now it seems so cool. 

Ziggy And The Bear - Day 20 (4/24/2014)

Day 20
Mile 207 to 216.8
9.8 miles

I would like to start this post with a great big birthday wish to my nephew Jordan. Happy Birthday Jordan!

We left the hotel at 7 am, swinging by 7-11 for some additional snacks and coffee. Mandie's dad dropped us off exactly where he picked us up like we asked him to do. It is important for Mandie and I to leave a continuous path of footsteps from Campo, CA to Manning Park, BC. No hitch hiking around. 

After finishing our coffee and getting our snacks packed up we hit the trail to cross the desert floor. A 3 mile walk to Ziggy and the Bear's house; our first real Trail Angel's house. We started off on a paved road which turned into a dirt trail and soon after it turned into a wash. The wash was sandy and very hard to walk through and was aggravating Mandie's feet. She even tried walking without shoes on to see if that would help. 

As you may know, she has had issue with her feet from day one and it is starting to wear thin on her. She is in pain, of course, but is also feeling very frustrated with the whole foot pain thing. I don't blame her one bit for feeling the way she does. She still pushes on...

Close to a mile from our destination we would have to go under the I-10 freeway. Nothing spectacular but there was some Trail Magic waiting for us in the form of cold water and bananas. Mandie and I took a moment in the shade to rest and empty the sand out of our shoes. On the way out we grabbed a couple of bananas to have with our peanut butter and hamburger buns that we got at 7-11. 

Once we figured out where Ziggy and the Bear's house was we  walked through their side gate and were greeted by close to 10 other hikers and of course Ziggy and the Bear. A very nice older couple that helps us hikers get through the desert section. Pills was there as well as Mighty Mouse and her husband Tom Cat and a few other hikers that we met the other day. 

When you get to Ziggy and the Bear's you are first offered a Gatorade and then they give you the lay of the land. Shower is over there, laundry facility is here, sodas are in this cooler, fresh fruit in that one, etc. At 1 pm they do a Burger King run for us hikers. They have it down to a science by having us write our orders on BK bags, total them, and place our monies in the bag. He then takes the bags to BK, drops them off while he goes to the Post Office to get hiker boxes, and returns to get the food. It is really a well oiled machine there and their gracious hospitality is off the charts. 

After filling our bellies and going through our resupply boxes that we mailed there (thank you mom for the yummy snacks) we laid down in the shade and waited for it to cool down. It was way too hot to go out and hike. 

We did some research while we were there with free WiFi and the snake we saw the other day was not a Rosy Boa, but was a Gopher snake. Reader Patrick F. also pointed this out. Thank you Patrick. 

At 5 pm we donned our gear and headed back to the trail. Our packs were incredibly heavy as we were carrying 4 days of food to get us to Big Bear so we moved at a snail's pace. When ya move that slow you have time to think and you have time to look around. Mandie spotted on the ground a small animal skull of some kind. There was too much of it missing for us to figure out what it was from. We would find a couple other jaw bones further up the trail. So cool. 

As we continued to walk slowly I had a thought that Mandie and I should try swapping shoes to see if my shoes would alleviate her foot pain. A few minutes up the road was a place where we could sit and do the exchange. This place just so happened to be the beginning of a new section for us, Section C. More on Sections later. We sat on a rock and swapped foot wear. Mandie took my Trail Runners (tennis shoes) and I took her hiking boot. Her big as a boat and 10 pound weighing shoes. :P I tease but I was more than happy to take her shoes if it allowed us to figure out her foot issues. It actually did seem to help and she is having her brother send her Trail Runner shoes to Big Bear. Her fourth pair of shoes this trip. 

With her feet feeling a bit better we were able to pick up the pace a bit more, our heavy packs still slowed us down. A couple miles later we would pass a power station for Mesa Wind Farm; they collect the power generated by the wind turbines. Shortly after passing the power station the trail went up and up at a very steep incline. We moved even slower now. It was by far the hardest and steepest section of the trail we have encountered so far. It took every bit of energy and strength I had to get up this bad boy, Mandie too. 

We finally reached the top and we were both exhausted. Because we had been moving so slow it was starting to get dark and the wind had picked up. Both of us have night hiked before so we weren't terribly worried about it. We descended the back side of this 'wall' as quickly as we could but by the time we reached the bottom we had to break out our head lamps. The wind had picked up even more and was blowing pretty strong now. 

My legs are toast by now and I really want to set up the tent and call it a night. We look around for a suitable tent site but find none. Having no other choice we push on. The longer we push on the darker it gets and the stronger the wind gets. We are now hiking in pitch black with only our headlamps illuminating the path.  We come across what looks like a place, and we set up the tent. There is a Buckthorn bush to one side and the trail on the other. 

We take out the Tyvek ground cloth and attempt to get that laid on the ground as best we can, fighting the wind every step. We find some rock to plant it to the ground and break out the tent. We fight the wind some more trying to set up the tent, which is acting more like a sail, and eventually have to call it quits. Feeling very tired and defeated, we throw everything into our backpacks and decide to push on. We know there is a safe place to camp 3 miles away, Whitewater Preserve, if we can only get there.

The more we walk, the worse the trail gets. We reach a point where we are walking with virtually a wall on one side of us and a cliff on the other side. We decide this is way too dangerous and we have already lost the trail twice. We happen to come across a place where the tent will fit but it is covered in brush and cow patties. Whatever, it will work. 

By the time we get the tent set up and get cozy it is getting close to 10 pm. Way late by hiker standards. We have a bite to eat and call it a night. Despite the heavy winds and slanted tent site it was probably the best night sleep I have had on the trail.

It is always an adventure out here. 

Sections: The PCT is broken into sections, California has sections A-R. Oregon has sections A-G. Washington is broken into sections A-E. I do not know off the top of my head how many miles are in each section or if it is divided evenly. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Beautiful Fuller Ridge - Day 19 (4/23/2014)

Day 19
Mile 190.6 to mile 207
16.4 miles

We passed the 200 mile marker today. Woohoo for us!!!

The winds didn't let up very much last night but that didn't stop me from getting some sleep. Neither did the bitter cold. It did make it that much more difficult to get up in the morning though. Like all jobs, yes hiking to Canada is my job now, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do. 

With coffee and breakfast in our bellies we hit the trail close to 7 am. We left Pills, what I am calling Pillsbury now, at camp to finish packing up. Everybody else that was there when we went to bed was already gone, and we wouldn't see them again today. 

We had heard a lot about Fuller Ridge, which is what we hiked down today. We heard that is was this gnarly, brutal, knee crushing, 19 mile down hill section of the PCT. With this information in mind, we were expecting the worst. 

Close to 15 minutes after hiking out of camp we were greeted with spectacular views of Cabazon and San Gorgonio Mountain. Clouds were partially filling the sky, the sun was coming up, it was amazing. I took picture after picture of the view and it got more and more amazing around every corner. 

I had to stop soon after to dig a cat hole. I guess the beautiful views were too much form my tummy. It was then that Pills was able to catch up with us and she stopped to chat with Mandie. I returned shortly after and joined the conversation. Pills then headed off while I packed up my stuff. 

As Mandie and I hiked down the mountain the spectacular views continued. The terrain was also starting to change from mountain pine trees to desert cacti. We were no longer walking on soft pine needles and dark brown dirt but instead on rocks and gray colored pebbles. The desert was fast approaching. 

It seems that all things in the desert are sharp and out to get you. Every animal, tree, or brush seems to have spikes or thorns on it, this includes the Buckthorn plant. The Buckthorn plant has huge thorns on it, over an inch long, and sharp. The trail was over grown with this plant and we were forced to walk the gauntlet. Luckily, doing our best Matrix moves, we escaped with only superficial wounds to our legs and hands. 

We eventually caught back up with Pills and we all hiked together for the rest of the day. Pills is an excellent athlete, having done several triathlons, a 50-mile race, and a 100-mile race. Her feet and shins were really hurting her today which says something about how demanding the trail is. It also explains why we were able to catch her. :P

Along our mountain decent we saw some amazing creatures. The first one we saw wasn't alive -- a dead bird laying on the side of the trail. No idea how it died. The next critter we came upon was a nice sized horned lizard. I of course tried to catch it and of course failed. Next was a beautiful rattle snake that Pills was fortunate enough to spot as she was leading us down the mountain. The snake slithered under a rock as fast as it could. I  was able to get a couple of pictures of him before he did though. Finally, while Mandie was in the lead she almost stepped on what we think is a Rosy Boa snake. It was long, slow, did not have a diamond shaped head, and had beautiful markings on it. I wasn't able to get a picture of its head but I did get a couple pictures of its body. We also saw a lot of lizards of all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are some really huge lizards out here!

We finally reached the bottom of the mountain 9.5 hours and many many miles later. We were all hot, tired, in pain, and thirsty when we got there. We all had been rationing our water since the afternoon before where we were able to fill up last.  Lucky for us, the water district has set up a water fountain at the trail head for us thirsty hikers. 

We had discussed going an extra few miles to a Trail Angels house in Cabazon to relax and pick up our resupply box but neither of us really wanted to do more miles. We were just about to find a place to camp when Mandie decided to text her dad and see where he was and what he was up to. He just so happened to be in Cabazon and agreed to come pick us up. Twenty minutes later Mandie and I were being whisked off to Palm Springs and being put up in the Hard Rock Hotel. He even treated us to dinner. It was an awesome surprise and we thank you very very much Trail Angel Carl. 

I am in an air conditioned room laying on a plush bed writing this thinking life couldn't be better. This is livin!  :D

Our bodies/muscles/feet seem to have done much better today. Neither of us were in too much pain today and we hope this is the start of our bodies starting to gel. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lead Jello - Day 18 (4/22/2014)

Day 18
Idyllwild to PCT Mile190.6
About 12 miles

This morning we woke up a bit later than we wanted to, 7 am, and got our things ready. It is nice being in a bed and we didn't want to get up but we had to. Since we were still in town we stopped at the Red Kettle for a delicious, reasonably priced breakfast. 

It wasn't until to 9 am that we started our short 1 mile road walk to Deer Spring trailhead. We would take this trail out of Idyllwild to where it meets back up with the PCT, a very steep 4 mile (+/-) trail. The trail kicked my ass and my legs felt like 'lead jello'. 

My calves started tightening up on the road walk despite me telling them not to. I tried to slow my pace, shorten my gate, and adjust my posture but nothing seemed to help. So, when we finally got onto the trail I was already having issues. Not to mention we were coming out of town so our packs were full of food and water. Because of all of this I was forced to hike slow and we had to take many breaks along the way. 

About 3/4 of the way up we bumped into Pillsbury. She had just gotten up from eating and a nap so it was great timing. She too was hurting and hiked with us the rest of the way to the trail junction. Once there we took another break, we like taking breaks, and had something to eat. We spent close to an hour there chatting and munching. From this point forward the trail would be a little bit easier with only a few uphill sections. Our next stop would be in about three miles where there was a water source and we could fill up. 

When we got to the stream it was just a trickle, enough to get water from but not a great flow. There was another stream 0.7 miles ahead that sources said was flowing better. We did not want to take water to water so we opted to bypass this first stream and fill up at the second stream.

This second stream was the place to be. When we arrived there were 6 other thru-hikers there replenishing their water supply and taking advantage of it all to make dinner. This would mean that they could carry slightly less water into camp. Camp for us, and everyone else too, would be another 4.3 miles down the trail at a larger campground.

The 4.3 miles would mostly be a downhill hike except for a couple of brutally steep uphill sections. (Again with the going up to go down.) The wind had picked up and fog was rolling in fast off the Southern face of the mountain. It was very chilly especially when the fog would block out the sun so we hustled. Luckily we are camping on the Northern side of the mountain and the wind is a little less harsh. 

Once we got to the campground we spent some time picking a spot that had as much wind protection as we could find. Once we had the perfect spot picked out, up went the tent, and in we went to get out of the cold. We quickly changed out of our wet, sweaty clothes and started making dinner. 

Tonight's dinner was a new concoction made of pre-packaged Asian noodle dish to which we added teriyaki beef jerky and some pepper flakes. The noodles did not cook all the way but it sure was tasty. 

As we were eating dinner we were researching tomorrow's game plan and noticed an error in our calculations. From where we picked up the PCT, mile 183, to our next resupply point, mile 209, is only 26 miles. We figured we could easily do that in two 13 mile days. We did not take into account the miles we walked to get to the PCT. Therefore, we either do a 19 mile day tomorrow or we break the next section into 2 days, which we really don't have the food for.

Tomorrow will be interesting. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Zero In Idyllwild - Day 17 (4/21/2014)

Day 17
Zero in Idyllwild

Today we rested and had a pretty uneventful day other than a few things. 

1) We got laundry done. The Idyllwild Inn has been wonderful,  they offer to do one load of laundry for free to their guests. A wonderful gesture, especially for thru-hikers. Stay here if you visit Idyllwild. 

2) I got all of my pictures uploaded to Flickr, 

3) Mandie and I got an appointment for a foot massage and it was the weirdest massage I have ever had. Mandie says that it was just the type of massage but I think it was inexperience. For one, she talked through the whole thing. Second, she used an electric vibrating back massager. Something I could have done myself. Finally, she used a metal coffee spoon to massage my feet. What is that about? If you are a fan of the show Friends, you might remember the episode where Ross gives a massage using wooden spoons and a Tonka Truck, this is all I could think of. It was not the relaxing or soothing experience I was looking for. 

4) We ate pizza! 

5) The 'Razor' snake is actually a California Racer snake. At least that's what it will be until it changes. :)

We are all packed up and ready to head out early tomorrow. We have a steep climb up Devil's Slide trail out of here and want to beat the heat. I am looking forward to getting back onto the trail. 

Idyllwild Baby - Day 16 (4/20/2014)

Day 16
8 miles off PCT to Idyllwild

I had this post mostly typed out when my battery ran out and my phone shut off causing me to lose all my progress. My own fault for not saving, I thought the Blogger App auto saved. 

We woke up when the sun came up and illuminated our tent as it always seems to do. I slept much better than the night before but still felt a bit groggy. 

It was a cold morning which made getting out of the sleeping bag that much harder. There was fog hugging the lake and a man sitting on the bank getting his fishing reel ready to cast. It was picturesque. 

We got things packed up and headed off to the small store to get a few more supplies before starting our walk. I wanted to hike on something more than Poptarts today. It is hard to resupply at these small grocery stores; their choices are always so limited. But, we are getting better at it. 

Having resupplied we headed down Hwy 74 towards Herky Campground, a 0.4 mile walk. We would then cut through the CG and pick up a bicycle trail at the North end of the CG. This would allow us to walk parallel to the road and not actually be on the road. Much safer way to travel. 

I was not feeling particularly good today, I just didn't have it in me to hike and my calves were burning like crazy. We stopped at the top of a small hill to rest and do some stretching. Mandie offered me a caffeine pill since our coffee was not our usual. I needed all the help I could get and so I took one. Twenty minutes later there was a pep in my step and I was feeling much better. 

We eventually came to a meadow and cut across it to hook up with the highway again as the trail we were on was veering away from where we needed to be. We took Hwy 74 to McCall Park road and walked it until it dead ended. There we would pick up McCall Park trail. As we hiked on the trail Mandie spotted two small whiteish Horned Lizards. We tried to catch them but they were too quick. The hunt continues.  The trail eventually dumped us near Hwy 243, which we would take the rest of the way into Idyllwild. Highway 243 is a dangerous road walk because there is no shoulder. We felt that we had bypassed the most dangerous sections and would be safe to continue. We were right and lived!

Once in Idyllwild we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check into our room. We headed off to the local pizza joint and discovered that it was closed for Easter Sunday. Big bummer for us. Our next choice of restaurants was also closed when we got there. Hungry and discouraged we went to the next closest place that we could see that was open. Finally, we could take our packs off, sit and have something to eat. 

It was time to check into our room at the Idyllwild Inn. As we walked up the the building there was a huge sign in from that said, Welcome PCT Hikers. In fact there were a bunch of signs around town welcoming us. They made me feel special. Once in our room, Mandie hit the shower and I headed back out for drinks. We needed water, 7-Up, and Gatorade, of course. I returned shortly, set the items on the floor, kicked my shoes off and crashed onto the bed. The rest of the night was filled with resting, cleaning our gear, and of course another meal. :) We ended up falling asleep watching Shawshank Redemption. 

Life is good. 

Side note: there seems to be an issue posting replies to comments on Blogger. Mandie is experiencing the same issue so it is not just me. Please keep commenting though and I will answer your questions in posts. 

Erin B., the Double Rainbow Tarptent is a good tent, nice and light tent with two doors. It is only a single-wall tent so and condensation that gets on the outside permeates to the inside whenever anything touches the tent wall. It sucks. So, we ordered the liner in hopes that it helps. The only other issue we had with it was that the cross bar/pole is hard to take out and put in. We like to stuff the tent into a stuff sack and so removing this pole was important to us; I don't think it is really meant to be removed every time. To fix this issue, I just cut the fiberglass pole a half-inch shorter so it was easier to get into it's sleeve. 

A Sleepless Road Walk - Day 15 (4/19/2014)

Day 15
Mile 152 to 9 miles off the PCT

Last night was an absolutely horrible night's sleep. I probably only slept for 3 or 4 hours. There were several things that I believe contributed to my sleepless night; for one there were several people who snored on the patio sleeping with me, for two there were cars driving by us all night, loud cars and motorcycles with big exhaust pipes, and for three there seems to be a lot of energy in the air.

Normally when I have a hard time sleeping I can usually go to the couch which I find helps. Not this time. I did get up and go to another section of the patio but that didn't last long. In any case I was a tired boy today and my fog-headed mind has made communication with Mandie challenging. 

Mandie and I woke around our usual time and hit the road close to 7 am. Today would be a 9 mile road walk to Lake Hemet campground. Why the road walk? The Mountain (Center) Fire closed a section of the trail that would take us to Idyllwild, so we had to take an alternate route. The alternate route that we chose took us down Hwy 74. The PCTA has yet to come up with an official alternate route. 

As we walked down the side of the road Mandie played music, we danced, I practiced my juggling, and we picked up any road-side treasures that we came across. There were lots of corralled horses, cows, dogs, a few chickens, a goat, and even a pig along side the road to make our journey that much more enjoyable. 

Close to half way through our march a US Forestry truck pulled up and a tattooed covered man hops out of the vehicle and runs across the street to where we are resting. He asks us 'if we are PCT hikers', and if we are 'hiking the highway as an alternate'. We answer 'Yes' to both questions and ask him, 'Why?' to which he replies, 'The original PCT trail is open to thru-hikers, just not to campers.'  Mandie and I both look at each other with a shocked look on our face. We were at that trailhead yesterday and there are signs up that say the trail is closed. The US Forestry man mentions this and says that he is going to work on getting those signs corrected. Mandie quickly posts an update to FB and we continued on with our walk. Whatcha going to do?!?

As I briefly mentioned earlier, you find some interesting stuff along side of a road. The two things that we kept was a small posable Bugs Bunny toy (which will probably be featured in many photos now) and a handful of DOT approved reflectors. Why the reflectors? They are like stickers and thus have an adhesive backing which we can stick to our packs and make future night hikes/road walks safer. Safety first!!! We also saw two snakes, one was dead though. 

We finally arrived at the Lake Hemet campground, which also has a small market near by, and grabbed something to eat and drink (7up and Lime Gatorade of course. Mix them and drink, it is delicious.)  Being Easter weekend we were lucky to get a camp site. We hit the store one more time to stock up on food for the night and for tomorrow's trek to Idyllwild. 

The rest of the day was spent in the tent and it was glorious. We nodded in and out of sleep, massaged each other's feet, ate, and drank the day away. Mandie was a little productive in that she did some laundry. I created a DIY clothes line for her that I am very proud of. Two trekking poles and a sleeping pad strap is all it takes. 

Despite not sleeping well it was still another glorious day on the trail and hopefully a better night's sleep tonight. Sweet dreams all. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hiking To Paradise - Day 14 (4/18/2014)

Day 14
Mile 143 to 152
9 miles

Well we didn't get attacked by a 200 lb house cat last night, thankfully, but we were short on water this morning so coffee was out of the question. The good part about not having to make coffee is that we were on the trail earlier than usual, 6:45 am. 

Pillsbury gets up and going early and was on the trail a good thirty minutes before we were. It was a nice cool morning with overcast skies for the better part of the day. As per usual the trail climbed and fell throughout the day. I have finally come to accept that the trail isn't going to be flat. 

A few miles from our camp we hit an unexpected treat in the form of Trail Magic. We didn't want to get the water filter out and we had enough water to get us the 9 miles to Paradise Valley Cafe. Especially since we didn't have any coffee. 

We leap frogged with Glimmer, Teddy Rose, and Happy Feet for most of the day. We only saw Yuke (not Juke), Prestige, and Cash once towards the end of the day. They must have gotten a late start. 

The nine miles we had to do ended up being a hard nine miles. Two things seem to happen on the trail... One, a short mileage day never seems to be as easy as it seems it should be. Two, there always seems to be a huge mountain or obstacle at the end of a day, just before our destination. We are learning not to anticipate what the trail has in store for us, but it is hard not to. 

Finally arriving at Hwy 74 with very sore feet, we did the mile walk to Paradise Valley Cafe. There were many other hikers here already including the groups we had been leap frogging with all day. We sat down amongst the other customers trying not to let our filthy clothes and stench set us apart. We ordered an amazing coffee milk shake and two burgers. Still not as good as the burger we had at Lake Morena but a close second. 

After our bellies were full we filled up our water containers with their hose and hiked the mile back to the trail were we rolled out our sleeping pads and let the food coma overcome us. 

We laid there for close to an hour before we noticed storm clouds getting closer and closer. We checked the weather  report and asked a couple of day hikers if rain was coming and everything said that it wasn't. Everything was wrong. 

We are now back at the Paradise Valley Cafe watching the rain come down, the lightening strike off in the distance, and listening to the huge claps of thunder. The Cafe has been wonderful and is letting us and any other hiker that wants to sleep under their patio, which is what we are doing tonight. It might be a cold, hard, and wet concrete slab but it is out of the rain, which our tent can't take. We promptly placed an order with our tent manufacturer for a tent liner, which should make our tent more water repellent. 

In case you missed it, we did that mile walk to and from the trail  and the Cafe three times. We welcome extra miles. :)

My nachos are here now so I'm signing off. Stay safe, stay dry, and eat at Paradise Valley Cafe!

Lizards, Snakes, And Cats - Day 13 (4/17/2014)

Day 13
Mile 127.1 to 143
15.9 miles

We did almost 16 miles today. So much for shorter mileage days, huh? Despite how we have been feeling on the trail we had to push it today in order to have a low mileage day tomorrow. We needed a low mileage day tomorrow so that we could make it to Paradise Cafe, yummy foods, and then onto Idyllwild to resupply.

We set our alarm for 5a this morning so that we could start hiking sooner than previous mornings. After some snooze button pressing we finally got up and were on the trail by 7 am. 

Right off the bat the trail picked up where it left off and climbed for a couple of miles and then dropped considerably for several miles. There was a small plateau at the top which offered an incredible view of Anza. We sat on a rock and enjoyed the view for a moment before heading down the mountain. These views really are what this trip is about. They have been amazing so far. 

About 1/4 of the way down the mountain we stopped in a shady spot to rest and to take care of some morning business. As we sat there, several groups of hikers passed by and we exchanged names and other pleasantries. We would leap frog with most of these people for the rest of the day. 

Around mile 130 I noticed that there was a Horned Lizard off to the side of the trail. I tried my best to catch it but it got away from me. That totally bummed me out because I want to catch one so badly. I almost had it. 

Around mile 134 we encountered our third snake for the trip. The snake was the same kind as the first snake we saw which I labeled a Corn snake. I have learned that it was probably a Razor snake. It was laying in the middle of the trail trying to make a home for itself under a rock. It would stick its head and part of its body into a hole and return with a mouth full of dirt, which it would promptly spit out. We watched it do this for a good minute before it got spooked and sped off into the nearby brush. 

At mile 136 we came to a junction in the trail that would take us 1/4 mile off trail to Tule Spring where we could replenish our water supply. As we arrived we saw most of the group that we had been leap frogging with was already there, including Pillsbury. We filled up all of our water containers and pulled up a sleeping pad next to the rest of group. (We use our sleeping pads to sit on so we aren't sitting in the dirt.) The group included: Juke, Cash, Teddy, Prestige, Acorn, and Estero. I love trail names :). Shortly after we got there Happy Feet showed up and joined the party. We were glad to see Happy Feet, he is a great guy.

A short time later Happy Feet was laying on his sleeping pad while we were all talking and he jumps up and shouts, SNAKE!!! Sure enough this beautiful rattle snake was coming out of the brush next to him like it wanted to join the group. We all jumped up, grabbed our cameras and took as many photos and videos of this amazing creature as we could. When the snake would get too close for comfort Juke would use his umbrella to steer it away from us. The snake eventually slithered back into the brush and we all continued on with what we were doing. I have some great video and pictures that I will share. 

After our lunch break we busted out another 5 or 6 miles to bring our total to 15.9 miles. It was a hot afternoon, around 91 degrees when we broke from lunch but we were fortunate to get some cloud cover and some nice gusts of wind as we started hiking. 

We both felt really good today and hiked at our usual pace today. Our feet were still sore but nothing like they have been over the last few weeks. I hope we have turned a corner in our hiking health and more great days like this are to come. 

We are camping at a water cache called Hikers Oasis and Pillsbury has joined us this evening.  I think this is mostly due to the large cat-like paw prints that Mandie saw in the wash not too far from here. I am sure the prints are from a 200 lb house cat and not a mountain lion. 

Sleep tight all!

A Hot Climb - Day 12 (4/16/2014)

Day 12
Mile 114.7 to 127.1
12.4 miles

I mentioned this in an earlier post but in case you missed it, Mandie and I are going to be cutting back our mileage and taking things a bit slower until our feet and legs catch up. We were pushing it too hard before and it was taking its toll. Plus, we weren't really enjoying the hike like we should be. 

Today was a shorter mileage day so we got a later start than normal, hitting the trail around 7:45 am. The trail crossed San Ysidro creek several times as it meandered across the valley floor. As we walked along we encountered another thru-hiker named Pillsbury.  She is named after the Pillsbury Dough Boy, a stuffed animal she has attached to her pack. We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way. 

The trail then began to climb and climbed for most of the day. We hiked through oak groves and areas covered in manzanita, creosote bush, and chaparral. It reminded me a lot of where I grew up in Agoura Hills. My friends and I would spend countless hours in the hills behind our house playing, building forts, and riding motorcycles. Those days would also be my first encounters with Poison Oak. I enjoyed this part of the hike as it was mostly in the shade. 

This area that we are in gives off a weird vibe to me. I feel like the area is home to a lot of animals, large animals. For that reason I kept a vigilant eye out for mountain lions and of course rattle snakes. None were seen today. 

We took a moment to rest in a Manzanita bush forest when Pillsbury strolled up. She sat down to rest and we spent some time talking and learning about each other. It was time to hike again so we packed up our stuff and continued to climb up and over this mountain. 

It was starting to get very hot out and we were reaching the mid point of our hike so Mandie and I found some shade cast by a huge boulder and tucked into it. As we were getting things out of our packs Pillsbury rolls up again and asks to join us for lunch. We spend the next couple of hours eating and chatting about this or that waiting for the day to cool down. 

Close to 2 pm it feels cooler so we pack up once again and start hiking. Up, up we go, it feels never ending but it eventually levels out and gives our calves a much needed rest. 

Mandie and I are both low on water and we have six long miles to go. We are both starting to feel like crap from lack of water and, well honestly, the food we have packed for this section is not the most nutritious. There isn't anything we can do about it now other than to promise each other that we will buy some better food when we can. 

The miles seem to go on forever and it felt like we would never get to our destination. We finally reached a sign that said our water supply at Trail Angel Mike's place was 100 yards up a side trail. That was like the best sign we could have ever seen. We all but ran those 100 yards to a water tank in front of a house that was over flowing with water. We filled up a Gatorade bottle with water and followed more signs that pointed hikers into the back yard of the house. It was like a white van offering kids candy; we had to go. :-) plus we needed to find out if the water should be filtered. 

There were several other hikers there including Pillsbury; Pillsbury's friends Sasquatch and Strawberry l, Timone and his group of friends. Pillsbury did not feel comfortable staying at this particular Trail Angel's house with all those other people and neither did we. So, we filled up our water bladders, grabbed a couple of sodas (I paid for them.) and headed down the trail until we got to a campsite. Pillsbury was thankful that we got her out of there but decided to camp a little further down the trail from where we are. 

That leads me to our night ritual of getting ready for bed. After making dinner and throwing the freezer bags that we prepared our food in, we get ready for bed. This entails changing out of stinky hiker clothes, which get put into a stuff sack and made into a pillow, and putting on thermal underwear. We then bust out the baby wipes and begin the cleaning process. It usually starts with the feet which, as you can imagine, get very dirty. It is important for us to have clean feet as the dirt can be abrasive and cause blisters. Then we wash our faces and then the rest of our bodies. We put some warm socks on, a jacket, sometimes a beanie, and climb into bed to write our blogs. 

I have talked a lot about our morning routine, I thought I would share our nightly routine. :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Brother, A Friend, and A Rattling End - Day 11 (4/15/2014)

Day 11
Mile 109.5 to mile 114.7
5.2 miles

We are back on the trail!!!

This morning we woke up in our hotel room and went down the hall for a Continental breakfast. I don't mind making tent coffee but it was nice to get a break from it. After breakfast we showered and packed up our belongings. Eli, Mandie's brother, and Carlos, a close friend, were on their way to take us back to the trail. 

When they arrived we all had a big group hug at the door. They came in for a bit while we finished packing.  Once out the door we headed off to Sports Chalet for some insoles and new shoes for Mandie. For those keeping count this is Mandie's third pair of shoes since hitting the trail. This new pair is a larger and wider version of her previous pair. Her shoes are massive now. :-)

After Sports Chalet we grabbed a bite to eat at 5 Guys Burger and then headed on over to CVS to pick up some last minute supplies before driving back to the trail. 

When we got back to Warner Springs we had to stop off at the Post Office to pick up a resupply box before being dropped off at the trailhead. Mandie and I said our goodbyes and watched the boys drive off. 

Mandie, Josh, Carlos and Eli, Warner Springs
I know it was a great moral boost for Mandie to get to see her brother and I know Eli missed her too. I think the visit will help her with her mental game while out on the trail. I had to say my goodbyes a couple weeks before we left on this journey, and it sucked, so it makes sense that she would be having a difficult time now. I don't blame her one bit. 

It was about 3p by the time we started hiking. The trail started with a nice level walk through a huge meadow before crossing the Hwy 79. Shortly after crossing the road the trail started to climb up the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains (I think that is what they are called. I will have to fact check that.) 

I was having a hard time today, emotionally and physically. I felt very quiet and lonely today for some reason. My feet were still hurting, despite the new insoles (black Superfeet) and my calves were tight from being off the trail. For those reasons I had my head down for most of the hike, only looking a couple of steps in front of me.

I was suddenly awoken from my zombie-like hiking style by the sound of a rattle snake shaking its tail. Because I had my head and eyes down I had no idea where it was. I wasn't sure if I had passed it already and should keep moving forward or if it was in front of me and I should back up. It took a while for me to locate the snake with my eyes even though I could clearly hear it. It was on the hillside next to me about 4 feet away. I quickly backed up and busted out my camera as quickly as I could. By the time I had the camera ready it was already slithering off into the bushes and I was only able to catch the tail end of it. It was very exciting and our first rattler for the trip. I am going to try and be more alert from now on. 

We gathered our wits and hiked the last 1.2 miles to a water source where we would also camp. The tent site is under two beautiful oak trees next to a slow moving brook. Unfortunately, the area is also covered in Poison Oak. So, we have to be careful where we walk and put our hands. Having had Poison Oak before, I think I am less worried about it than Mandie is. That doesn't mean I want to get it mind you. 

We are now laying in our tent listening to the sound of frogs, crickets, and other insects making the sounds that they do. It is wonderfully calming and makes me happy to be out here. We can also hear the sound of little things falling on our tent from the oak tree above but we are just going to ignore those sounds and hope nothing gets in the tent. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Zero In Temecula - Day 10 (4/14/2014)

Day 10
0 miles

Today was our first full day without hiking since we started and it was needed. The day consisted of us eating and sleeping so that our bodies could repair themselves. We laughed about the thought of little men in space suits carrying tools like chisels and jackhammers crawling around the inside of our bodies repairing the damage we had done. I am sure at a cellular level we are not too far off. 

I spent close to an hour on the hotel's computer trying to back-up the photos on my phone to Google's Drive but it was painfully slow so I stopped. Getting photos off of the phone has been very frustrating and the solution seems to change every day. Right now I am bypassing gDrive and going straight to Flickr. There they will be backed-up and viewable by blog visitors. This solution could change tomorrow though. So, check out my photos on Flickr via the Photos tab under the main blog image. More are uploading as I write this. 

I figured out why my phone wasn't capitalizing the letter 'I' so that should be fixed now. I needed to have auto-correction on as well as auto-capitalization on. I though all I needed was auto-capitalization on. 

Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank all of the people who have commented or replied both of this blog and on FB. Your comments and kind words mean so much to me. They give me the strength to keep going on the trail and to keep blogging. They are very much appreciated, keep them coming. I do read them. Thank you!