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. 

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Zeros and neros
A vacation from the trail
Rejuvenating 



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!!!

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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. 

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Communication
Is way harder than it sounds
But try as we must

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lone Pine Zero - (6/8)

0 miles

If you are a fan of NWA, you might recognize this. If not, well it just a lyric or two that I have been singing for a week or so now...

Letting the Lone Pines play
Pumping new sh!t by the PCTA

A zero in Lone Pine to resupply and rest a bit before hiking into the goo stuff. 

Ya'll know what we so on zeros, eat, sleep, and rehydrate. We relax in our room and watch movies, eat ice ceam and enjoy now being on our feet. 

We are back on the trail tomorrow. 



---

Resting and eating
What we really like to do
But we must hike on

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's Up Doc - (6/7)

750.9 to Cottonwood Trailhead
3.5 miles 

Last night after I finished writing the blog post Mandie and I were talking about thoughts and concerns about the upcoming sections; we have Forrester Pass to do in the next couple of days, the highest pass on the PCT at over 13,000 feet. 

She was worried about the elevation and the extreme hike up to the top. We were both having problems hiking at 11,000 feet, how are we going to do 2,000 feet above that. I feel like we will be fine with the trail but the elevation might be a bit of a challenge. My concerns were with my body and the pains I was having. 

I was still having foot pains, pain at the base of my big toe that would come and go as I hiked. It seems to hurt worse at night and I can't bend my big toe. There was also some other pain in an area that I was more conceded about. Around 6 months before we left for our trip I had Inguinal Hernia surgery and I was experiencing pain or feelings in that area. Feelings that reminded me of the feelings I had just before the surgery. 

We have some pretty gnarly hiking coming up with few options to bail out and get into a town if something were to happen. So, we decided that in the morning we would hike back a half mile to the Cottonwood Pass trail and take it to trailhead where we could get a ride into Lone Pine. From Lone Pine we would have to figure out how to get to Bishop, a bigger town, where I was hoping I could see a doctor. 

Now that we had a plan it was time to go to bed and execute said plan tomorrow morning. Easier said than done. I spent the majority of the night thinking about what the doctor would say. I knew for sure that there was something wrong with my hernia and I would have to have surgery again and my trip would be over. This wasn't how or when I wanted the trip to be over. I wasn't ready for it to be over. We had just gotten to the most beautiful part, the part that I had dreamt about for so long before the trip. All these thoughts were swirling around my head making it impossible to fall asleep. It didn't help that the wind had picked up making the tent rattle and shake. 

I eventually did fall asleep, sort of, and morning came as it always does. We got things packed up and headed down the trail. The hike down Cottonwood Pass trail had a somber feel to it. I felt like I was doing the walk of shame or something like that. Like this was the beginning of the end. I tried to make the most of it and absorb as much of the beauty that I could. There were meadows covered in soft green grass, rivers with little fish swimming in them, and bunches of Corn Lilly glowing from the morning sun.

Just before we reached the trailhead we saw a few day hikers coming our way. As they got closer we realized that those day hikers were Rosel, Walter and Home Girl. We havn't seen Home Girl in a while so it was nice to catch up with her. Before saying goodbye I snapped a couple pictures of Rosel and Walter. 

A few minutes after getting to the trailhead a truck rolled up and out jumped Pesky, who we hiked out of Kennedy Meadows with. I went over to him to say hello and to maybe get a ride back down the mountain with his ride. We lucked out and we were able to get a ride down from Dance Party. The ride down the mountain was spectacular and we were amazed at how high up we actually were. 

Dance Party dropped us off at the local outdoor store, called altitude, which was perfect since we needed a few things. After that it was time to get something to eat and then figure out how to gt to Bishop. The buses were not running on the weekend so our only option was to hitch. 

We stood on the curb holding our 'Hiker To Town' sign and our homemade 'Hikers To Bishop' sign for quite a while. Lots of traffic but nobody wanted to stop. A local elderly man walking down the street stopped and started chatting us up. He had lots to say.  I asked him if there was a doctor in town. He said that there was a hospital a couple of blocks away with an on-call doctor. Perfect! We put our signs away and headed towards the hospital with emergency care. 

After a couple of back and forths with the hospital and my insurance I was eventually seen. The prognosis... 

I have tendinitis in my foot, common with people who do a lot of walking. I need to stretch it out a lot, take more breaks while hiking, and take a bunch of Advil to deal with the inflammation. 

My hernia... is still in tact and what I am feeling is probaby the mesh, muscle, internal stitches, and scar tissue stretching. There isn't much I can do about that and the risk of reinjuring it is low but still a possibility. I'll just be careful. 

So, I pretty much have a clean bill of health and can continue hiking! That made both of us very happy. 

All the good news made us hungry. So before going to the motel we stopped for another bite to eat, Subway. We plan on zeroing here tomorrow to rest and get our heads wrapped around the difficult hike we have ahead of us. 

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Pain, pain, go away
I have lots to see and do
Advil helps a lot







Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mike The Marmot - (6/6)

Mile 736.4 to mile 750.9
14.5 miles

Todayis Mandie's sobriety anniversary, 9 years. Good job baby, I'm proud of you. 

Burr it was cold last night. I need to figure some way of staying warm at night so I can sleep. Maybe I just need to keep adding layers but I only have so many that I can put on. Hmmm.

It was a beautiful but chilly morning in our private little meadow. There was frost on the ground that sparkled in the soft morning sun and condensation on the tent. I am sure it glimmered too but I didn't want to look at it since it dripped cold water on me. 

We packed up, putting the wet tent in a bag, had something to eat and were on our way. The half mile back to the PCT was easy and we were on trail in no time. Our destination, Diaz Creek was some 5 miles down trail. Now that there is more water available we don't have to carry as much. But, it means we have to stop more often. It is better than carrying it!

At Diaz Creek we laid the tent and my quilt over a rock to dry. My quilt had gotten we from the condensation seeping through the tent wall. Since we had an abundance of water I took the liberty of washing my socks and my underwear. There is something about putting on clean sock in the morning that makes me happy. The underwear, eh, it was time for it to get a washing. While we waited for things to dry we ate and drank, of course. 

After we left Diaz Creek we spent the rest of the day climbing to 11,228, where we would camp near Chicken Spring Lake. The trail was nicely graded which really helped us in this higher elevation. We were both sucking air pretty hard. Along the way we ran into Rosel and Walter again, the German couple that is southbound section hiking the PCT. We were surprised to see them so soon and hope to see them again. Next time I will take a picture of them. 

The higher elevation did offer us some spectacular views of the meadow below. I wish I could have gotten better pictures of them but the trees obstructed the panoramic views. I know, what a problem. 

We made it to Chicken Spring Lake around 5p and where immediately awestruck by its beauty. It is a small arctic lake surrounded by massive walls of sand colored rocky mountains. The shoreline was lined with pine trees and boulders of various sizes that marmots would run around. It is our first high Sierra lake and it did not disappoint. 

After dropping our packs we immediately put our feet into the frigid water. I am still having feet/tendon issues so any chance I get to soak them I do it. We then grabbed some water to filter and walked around looking for the perfect camp site. With the perfect spot picked and camp set up we are some dinner while soaking in the beautiful scenery. We were entertained by the many marmots that call the area home. We call marmots Mike. They are all Mike 

The sun has just gone down and it is alread freezing cold. I am so excited about another cold night, not. We are going to try and get up early so we can do a few more miles than we have been. 

---

Above the tree line
I am huffing and puffing
The air is so thin

Death Creek Canyon - (6/5)

Mile 721.2 to mile 736.4
15.2 miles (plus 0.5 miles on side trail for water)

Last night was one of a hanful of nights that I have been warm and actually slept. It was quite nice to get some decent sleep. I think being exhausted from hiking all day helped too. 

After getting everything packed we hiked the half mile back to the water source I visited yesterday. We grabbed a couple of liters of water and continued hiking the rest of the way up the mountain. It was slow going but we didn't have much left to do since we did most of it yesterday. 

Upon reaching the top we found a wonderful spot to take a break, with a view of the upcoming mountains we would have to cross. We ate some yummy mixed but trail mix that my mom sent us to KM and finished it up with a Snickers. We have found Snickers bars to be a excellent fuel source, I'm sure the nuts help too. 

With around 7 miles to go until our next water source we got back on the trail. The trail decended down the back side of the mountain that we just finished climbing. Giving us more beautiful views of meadows and mountains. A couple of miles before we reached Death Canyon Creek we had the pleasure of walking through Gomez Meadow. A large meadow surrounded by ginormous rock formations that reached hundreds of feet into the air. 

This place is so grand and really makes you feel tiny. Everything here is so massive. 

When we arrived at Death Canyon Creek a couple of friends, Happy Nomad and Butterfly, were sitting under a tree. They had left Kennedy Meadows hours before we did and they usually do much higher mileage days that we do, so we were surprised to see them there. The reason we caught them is that Happy Nomad thinks he broke his foot and is in a lot of pain and therefore they are doing really low mileage days. They are trying to reach Cottonwood Pass and get into town ASAP. How he is hiking on a broken leg is beyond us. We can hardly get up these mountains with two good feet. We are hoping for the best and he can return to the trail soon. 

While we rested under a tree next to Happy Nomad and Butterfly we talked about our plans for the next four days including Mt. Whitney. No surprise here, but, months ago when we packed up our resupply box for this section we forgot to include an extra day of food for Mt. Whitney. We thought about rationing our food but we are already so hungry as it is that it would greatly impact how we hiked the rest of the days. Also, we are struggling with these heavy packs and steep terrain that it would probably be best if we didn't add more to our plate. We would like to have been able to do Whitney since we are here but it doesn't look like it is going to happen. 

It was now getting time to leave and we needed to figure out where we were going and how much water to bring. The Water Report said that there was a somewhat reliable stream five miles up trail and then a half mile off trail. There were no comments in the report from other hikers that said if the stream was flowing or not. We toyed around with the idea of staying there at Death Canyon Creek but it would make it only a 9 mile day. We really needed to do more miles than that. We crossed our fingers and set off for the stream. 

The trail climbed and climbed as it so often does taking us over 10,000 feet, again. The elevation, on top of everything else, is really slowing us down but we did it. Sure we hike slow and have to take a lot of breathers but we do get there. We feel like the Sierra is kicking our butts though. The heavier packs is making it especially hard. 

We made it to the side trail and took it a half a mile. There we would find a small meadow with a tiny stream running down the middle of it. Our gamble had paid off and there was water here! That meant that we could cook some food, wash some socks, and of course hydrate. 

We have the beautiful meadow to ourselves an we are listening to the sounds of Mandie stomach growling. It took us a few minutes to realize it was her stomach and not some animal outside. I swear, those night time sounds freak us out

---

We heard sounds at night
That gave us a great big fright
Turns our it's Mandie 


Mountains, Meadows and Rivers, Oh My - (6/4)

Mile 703.8 to mile 721.2
17.4 miles 

Just a little side note here... My feelings about my shoe color have changed. The neon orange and yellow shoes are growing on me. The color has dulled down a bit now that there is some dirt on them. Also, they are the only bit of color I have on me. Everything else is is a drab khaki or dirt color. It is nice to see a bit of color when I'm looking down at the trail. 

Onto yesterday. It was another freezing cold morning. I was up off and on starting at around 3a trying to get warm. The silk sleeping bag liner that we got didn't seem to help as much as I would have liked. I think part of the issue is that I toss and turn a lot in my sleep which let's the hot air out of my quilt. I will have to stop doing that.

The morning trail started out in a large meadow before taking us into some foothills. There we would enter the South Sierra Wilderness. At that point we would meet up again with the Kern river. We found a spot that was good enough of trees to where we could actually get to the river. I took the opportunity to soak my feet in the friged cold water in an effort to help the foot pain I have been having. Getting my feet in some water  probably helped with the foot funk too. 

Back on the trail with clean-er feet we would follow the Kern for several more miles before crossing it. There was a beautif wooden bridge placed at just the right spot on the trail to help us get across. At that point the trail began to climb through a burned out area. 

We stopped off at Crag Creek to have some brunch and to refill  our water bottles. As we sat there enjoying our mashed potatoes we saw a bat flying around the creek catching insects. Neither Mandie or myself thought they came out in the day time. It was cool to see none the less.

We continued to climb and climb. It was our first ful day with our heavy packs and it was taking its toll, especially going up hill. The trail was steep and rocky and because there were no trees there wasn't any shade.

We eventually got to the top of the pass at which point we were amazed to see this huge meadow in front of us. I love the meadows and wish we could walk through all I them but this isn't the Pacific Meadow Trail. We were allowed to walk through a part of it before heading into the hills again. With only 250 feet of elevation to climb before heading back down it was manageable. The decent down the mountain would take us to another crossing of the Kern river made possible by a metal and wooden bridge. 

This crossing was too beautiful to pass up. We bypassed the bridge and went down to the banks of the river where there were other hikers enjoying the grassy area and warm water. It was one of those magical places that we could have spent all day at if we didn't those pesky miles to do. We will have to come back at another time. We did spend an hour or so there though refilling water, eating, resting, and soaking our feet. 

While we were resting on the banks we witnessed something interesting. A hiker was was washing their socks in the river, which we are not supposed to do. The interesting thing was that a second hiker was gathering water down stream from aforementioned sock washer. We actually saw two hikers get water down stream and were amazed that neither of them thought to go up stream. Just seemed like common sense to us.

We crossed the bridge and hiked through another meadow for a short period of time before the trail made a right turn and started up another mountain. Our goal was to walk another 4 miles to Cow Creek, a reliable water source. The trail was steep and would eventually take us over 10,000 feet, 9000 being the elevation we would camp at. It would cross a slow flowing Cow Creek several times as it went up the mountain. We reached our 4 mile goal and there was no water. Thinking that maybe the water just went underground in that section we went up trail a little more, still no water. The water report, which has been accurate up until this point said that there was water. We checked our app and it said that we were off trail even though there were signs around us that said we were on the trail. We pushed on and up a little further. 

We eventually came to another hiker who was camped near the trail. We asked her if there was water in the area to which she said, 'Another 0.7 miles up trail.' But our app said that we had already passed it. We pushed on and up a little further. 

A quarter of a mile later we were both done and still had no water so we decided to drop packs there. Mandie would set up camp and I would set out to find some water. A half mile later I found some water and filled up our dirty bag to bring back to camp. The extra mile to get water was well worth it. 

Back at camp Mandie made us some dinner, Mountain House, while I filtered the water. Since we are really In bear country now we ate outside of our tent for the first time. Eating while sitting on a bear can isn't as enjoyable as laying down in a tent but we gotta be safe. 

Tomorrow we have to finish climbing this mountain and move onto the next one. 

---

My pack is heavy
Full of gear, food, and water
Uncomfortable





Clapping At Kennedy Meadows - (6/3)

Mile 694.4 to mile 703.8
9.4 miles

Last night was a beautiful night with just a slight breeze. It was cold though which made it tough to get going in the morning. We aren't sure what we are going to do when we get into the higher elevation where it will be much colder and we could have wet clothes to put on when we get up. 

We were up early with the thought of reaching Kennedy Meadows in about four hours, 8 miles. Kennedy Meadows is the start of the Sierra in our eyes and the end of the desert. We are so excited that we shoved some hanfuls of food into our mouths and got packed up. It was a good morning. 

A couple of hours later we met up with the Kern river, walking along side of it for a while. We found a huge granite boulder next to the river and stopped to have second breakfast. It was a wonderful place to stop and take in the beauty of the area with the sound of water flowing by in the background. It is so nice to be around water, in that quantity.

Twenty minutes later we were back on the trail. Soon after we came across a mylar balloon that had gotten hung up in some out of the way bushes. Both Mandie and I stopped and looked at each other. She then asked me, 'Should we get it?' I said 'Yes' and we both went over to the balloon. It was stuck high in some tall bushes so I had to use my trekking pole to fish it out. It wasn't coming out easily and I started swatting at it to hopefully get it caught on my trekking pole. Well, one of my swats dislodged it and sent it flying, and it went up up up and away. We both stood there laughing as it slowly got higher and higher. Oh well, we tried. Keep an eye out of a 'Best Of Luck Grad' balloon. 

Shortly after that we crossed another milestone, 700 miles. It was much more of a celebration than the 600 milestone. We took pictures, and I guess you could say we sent up a balloon. There to help us celebrate were thousands of Saccade (sp?) insects clicking, or clapping, as they do. We took pictures with them and before heading off. 

Two more miles. 

We finally reached the Kennedy Meadows General Store. As we walked up the dirt road to the store all of the other hikers that were there started clapping for us. It is an awesome feeling. I know I have said that before but it really and truly does make us feel so special and welcome. 

We found a bench out front and dropped our packs. We then went inside and got several drinks and an ice cream sandwich. We had several, 10, boxes to pick up of supplies shipped there that we needed to get. We gave the clerk our name and waited outside for our name to be called. Eventually, our name was called and we dragged all of our boxes of food, gear, and sundries over to the bench and started sorting it all out. While we were sorting through everything the restaurant side of the store opened up and a grande food order was placed and then soon after consumed. 

We needed more space to sort through all of our boxes so we moved our haul to the camping area where we could sprawl out. It was a much quieter area away from all the other happenings. 

Some of the new things that we have to carry for the Sierra are: a bear can that we have to store our food in. Much heavier than the nylon sack I was using. Microspikes, to help us walk on ice. Our stove, fuel can, and cup that we sent here from Tehachapi. We also have a few extra articles of clothing, including socks. My other two pair of socks were disgusting, had huge holes in them and were crusty. I am very excited for new socks. I also got a new pair of shoes that are bright orange. Not the color I ordered but whatcha gun a do. 

Around 5p we were all packed up, with heavy packs, and headed back down to the trail. I think we were one of very few people that escaped the KM vortex so soon. We heard other hikers talking about being there 3 and 4 days already. As we walked back to the trail another hiker, who had escaped, caught up to us and we chatted for a bit while hiking. His name is Pesky and he seems like a great guy. 

We got a mile or so down the trail from KM before we found a nice campground next to the Kern river. There we found a wonderful spot to set up the tent and enjoy the rest of the evening. It is so nice being here, in the Sierra. This place has good juju.

Mandie suggested that I write a hiku at the end of every post for the Sierra. I liked that idea so here is a silly but true one to start out with. 

My feet smell funky
I hope my new socks stop that
Otherwise nose plugs



Peanut Butter And Skittles - (6/2/2014)

Mile 676.3 to mile 694.4
18.1 miles

No, not a couple of trailnames but a delicious combination of fruit and nuts. 

This morning I didn't wake up in any better of a mood and Mandie waking me up at the crack of dawn didn't help either. She was being her usual cute self and I just didn't want any part of it. I slept okay, but not great and wanted to go back to sleep. I eventually gave in and got my butt up and ready to hike. 

We had a leisurly 6 mile hike down hill from where we camped. Because of my crappy mood I gave Mandie plenty of space as she walked in front of me. I wanted to sulk by myself, uninterrupted. A few hours later we reached the 6 mile mark, our water resupply, and the Chimeny Creek CG. We blew by the water source and went straight for the CG which was a quarter mile off trail. When it comes to a bathroom there is no distance that is too far. In most cases anyway. These bathrooms were disgusting and I would have preferred digging a cat hole. I went anyway. 

We then sat at a picnic bench and had second breakfast. A yummy salami and ramomo cheese sandwich on a bagel. The CG had nothing else to offer us, no water and no trash receptacle so we went back to the trail to get some water. The stream was a little off trail but not too far. Far enough so that we didn't see the Trail Magic that was sitting there when we first went by. Two coolers filled with all sorts of chilled beverages. Just what I needed, some sugar and caffeine!

All topped off with water we hit the trail again. We had this one big mountain that we needed to ascend before the trail would level off for the rest of the day. We could do this. We have hiked bigger mountains on hotter days. I know we can so this. Up we  went. 

The trail up the mountain did not have any switchbacks, it was pretty much went straight up, 2500 feet over 6ish miles. We got to see some beautiful views of the area, some old broken down cars, and what we think were the remains of an old mine. We also crossed paths with an older couple, Rosel and Walter, who were from Germany and had section hiked close to 900 miles of the PCT. 

We finally reached the top a few hours and several breaks later. My foot was hurting a lot and we needed some nourishment so we laid out the sleep pad to sit on and took a break. I was leaning against my pack, as I normally do, and started to notice that my back was nice and cool. It had been a hot hike so I figured the sweat was evaporating in the wind. I was wrong. As I laid against my pack I also laid against my bladder's bite valve allowing it to empty out all over me and my pack. Completely empty, close to two liters of water gone. I was pissed and it didn't help my mood at all. I hopped up, picked up my pack and wanted to throw it across the mountain. I restrained myself and tossed it against a tree to dry out. I then proceeded to go sit on a log and sulk some more.

I was not having a good day. 

I knew I couldn't just sit there the rest of the day, we had 6 more miles to do before the next water source and camp. I had to get my head back I the game. I had to eat something to get me through the next six miles. I had to do something. So, I went back over to where Mandie was sitting and had a bite to eat with her. That's when we tried/invented peanut butter and skittles. Skittles are fruit flavored, like a jam or jelly, so it made perfect sense to put the two together. It was delicious. That yummy snack and Mandie's silliness helped turn my head around. 

With my pack now 4 pounds lighter and a lot cleaner, we headed down the trail. This was the part of the trail that was mostly level with a slight downward grade. It also weaved in and out of every nook and cranny of this canyon. It seemed to go on and on forever with little to no change in scenery. It is the kind of trail that I like hiking least. It is like watching the same movie scene over and over again. Groundhog Day anyone? It still had to be done and it doesn't really matter where the trail goes, I still have to cover 6 miles. 

Ironically, I actually started feeling better, both in my head and my foot. I was actually able to cruise down the trail with little pain and with a bit of a bounce in my step. Could the slump that I have been in the last day or so be over? Was it from the sight of the big Sierra mountains and valleys that were coming into view? I'm not sure but at least I was feeling better. 

At the end of the 6 miles there was supposed to be water, a little trickle of water, but still water. We crossed a dry stream where the water was supposed to be flowing. Mandie read the water report which said to go up stream 50 feet to water, which I did. Nothing but pools of stagnant water. Our next source of water was 4 miles down trail. Not un-doable but neither of us wanted to do a 21 mile day. I decided to check the stream one more time, but down stream and bingo! Water. 

We filled up all of our water receptacles, all 8 liters (that is what the desert has done to us, made us scared to run out of water.), and decided to move down trail a bit more to find a place that was more sheltered from the wind. See, we are learning! Only took two months. :) About a mile further we found a very nice place that was tucked away in a small grove of pine trees.

We have plenty of food tonight, which seems rare for us, especially when we are about to go into town to resupply, so we ate like kings. Well, we ate more than we usually do anyway. I think our stomachs are getting smaller which is making putting away large amounts of food harder. We are still hungry like the wolf. 

8 more miles until the Sierra. (To be clear, we are considering Kennedy Meadows the start of the Sierra.)




It's Been A Hard Day's Hike - (6/1/2014)

Mile 659.4 to mile 676.3
16.9 miles 

... I should be sleeping like a log. 

Today's entry is going to be tough to write because today was a hard sucky day and who wants to write about that?

Last night the wind kept us up most of the night. At some point I had to get out of the tent to stake down the vestibule because I was sick of hearing it flap against the side of the tent. It was cold and dark outside and scary! ;) we figure we got about 4 hours of sleep. 

After breaking camp we hiked down Mt. Jenkins for 4 miles to Joshua Tree Spring. The PCT Water Report says that the water is safe to drink but there is Uranium in it. It is also a quarter of a mile off trail. The next Uranium free water source was 5 miles further down trail and we needed water. We lucked out when another hiker, Why Not, offered us some of his extra water so we didn't have to drink the tainted water. We of course took it and thanked him profusely. Thank you again Why Not. 

We busted out the 5 miles to the next water source, Spanish Needle Creek, pretty quickly. There was already a couple of other hikers there filling up on water and resting their feet. The spring's flow was a little more than a trickle and wasn't deep enough to fill up the bladder all the way. So, I had to use the Zip Lock bag we store our filter in to fill up the bladder the rest of the way. It is nice and convenient having a 3L bladder but can be a pain to fill up sometimes. We cameled up and filled up our water containers expecting to camp at the next water source, 11 miles away. 

The trail away from the spring took us up a huge mountain in the hot afternoon sun. It was steep, rocky, and exposed most of the way. On top of that my foot was throbbing and being more painful than usual. I think being so tired just exacerbated things. We took a few minutes to rest in the shade and let my foot simmer down before continuing on. 

Dripping with sweat, we eventually reached the top of the mountain/saddle. We found a wonderful flat spot that was in the shade and dropped our packs immediately. We stayed there for about an hour eating some lunch and talking about what we would be doing if not on the trail because I wanted to quit...

Today was the first day I had felt like quitting the trail. Sure there have need days that I wanted to be someplace else but today it was different. Today I am so tired of everything. Tired of being thirsty, tired of being hot, tired of having my ass kicked every day, tired of being in pain, tired of the desert, tired of it all. I miss being able to relax and not having to go go go every day. This trip is tough and it is not just your ordinary back packing trip. We don't get the luxury of getting to our destination, setting up camp, and enjoying the area. This trip isn't about that, it is about making miles and that's about it. 

I may feel like quitting but I am not about to. I am too stubborn and certainly not a handful of miles away from the Sierra. I am just having a hard, sleep deprived day and I am hoping a good nights sleep and a change of scenery will get me my mojo back. 

26 miles until we are in the Sierra.