Pacific Crest Trail Journal 2002 – Part 1 : California

Here is my 2002 journal of my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. It was four years since I took a long walk on the Appalachian Trail, so the theme of this hike was "Another Long Walk"

And a long walk it was. From desert to alpine, from sea level to over 14000 feet it was a journey that I will not forget.  The Pacific Crest Trail was just not 2700 miles of hiking, it was 2700 miles of unforgettable memories.

 

Fri  February 22   Boulder, CO    Mileage 0.0

Typing this entry brings back many of the feelings I had at this time four years ago. Before I started my hike of the Appalachian Trail, felt a mixture of anxiousness, happiness and excitement.  Could not wait to begin my walk

on the “AT”. But, some feelings are a little different. Unlike four years ago, I am not as anxious to leave my current life behind. I am employed in a position that

while it does not make me rich, certainly makes me comfortably middle class.

The mountains are now in my backyard. I can look out my bedroom window and see the foothills of the Rockies, and just beyond them, the crest of the continent.

Almost every weekend has brought a new place to discover, something beautiful to see.

After almost three years in Colorado, I am now at the point where I have some great  friends and have made a life for myself in Boulder.

So the question is, as it was four years ago, why go?

Why give up half a year’s salary to get sunburned, become thirsty, get rained and snowed on?
Why walk day after day with chafing and sore muscles?
Why be hungry all the time, only to have yet another mass of a soggy noodle dish for dinner?

Because the body heals. The pain is forgotten. The stomach eventually has its fill of food.
But the memories linger on:
A sunset at Greenleaf Hut at the base of Franconia Ridge.
A quiet campsite at the shores of a lake in Maine.
Seeing ponies graze in the Grayson Highlands after a snowstorm.
I am going for the new memories I want to create. The new experiences I have yet to have.
Four years ago, at about this time, I wrote an answer to the question of “Why go?”
Four years later, the trail may be different, but the sentiments still hold true:
“The most asked question about my hike is a simple “WHY GO?”  I have several reasons, but I think the best answer is for the journey itself – all the pains and joys, all the experiences that comes with a 2160 mile walk in the woods”.

Two more months until I take another long walk. Can’t wait.

Mon  April 1   Boulder, CO    Mileage 0.0

“The true harvest of my life is intangible… a little stardust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched”  –Thoreau, “Walden”

The words of Thoreau echo through my head as I write this journal entry. For it is the intangible things in my life that have made life worthwhile.  As I handed in my notice

to end my employment today I did not think of the lost income from not working for six months or how my career would be effected, I thought of how I now truly have the freedom to do what I want. Income may be lost and so-called advancement in my career may be curtailed, but what is gained from this decision is immeasurable. What is a view off  Mt. Whitney worth?  Can attending a meeting on how to market a new software product really be the equal of the Cascades in the Fall?

Thoreau’s words also ran through my head this evening. To celebrate the soon-to-be-joined ranks of the gleefully and gainfully unemployed, went on a “Foolish Night Hike” to the aptly named Poorman Hill just outside of Boulder. What I thought was going to be a fun and goofy hike at night turned out to be much more. At the summit of this hill, my friends had hiked up the week before to plant a “register”. Tonight, I looked in this register to see my favorite quote of Thoreau and the famous poem by Robert Frost about the road less traveled. As if this was not enough, I turned around to see my friends pull out  bottles of wine, chocolate and other goodies to celebrate to start of what seems to be the true beginning of my journey. I can’t help but think of how enriched my life is not because of what I may own, or how much money I may make, but because of simple pleasures that seem to enrich life. And having friends who are there to help me celebrate the start of my walk on the Pacific Crest Trail truly make this life a life worth living.

Weds   April 24  On a train somewhere in New Mexico    0.0miles

Traveling by train is a way that allows me to transition from my life back in Colorado to my new life that awaits me on the trail. I do not think traveling to San Diego by jet would have the same effect. Something about the cadence of the wheels on the track, seeing the distant mountains on the horizon and watching the sun set seems to encourage thinking and letting my thoughts wander.

Already the events of the few days seem a distant memory: friends taking me out one last time, calls to my family and friends back in Rhode Island, moving my belongings into storage for the next few months. Last week was I really working on a computer solving some arcane technical issue?

Time goes more slowly traveling this way. Time to collect my thoughts and think about the months ahead.

Thurs   April 25   Pine Valley, CA   0.0 miles

After one year of saving money, planning, nearly thirty hours of traveling by bus and train And some last minute preparations, I will finally start the Pacific Crest Trail.

Today started the first of what should be many pleasant memories associated with the trail. Tim Wilson, a fellow AT hiker from 1998, met me at the San Diego train terminal with his Dad and His Dad’s girlfriend. Not only did I get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, but Tim’s Dad insisted on buying us dinner in addition to already generously transporting us to the trailhead. Trail Magic even before starting the hike!

Pine Valley is less than thirty minutes from Lake Morena. We decided to swing by and see who was there Tim and I both grinned when we saw our first PCT marker. The planned hike that was theoretical a year ago is now about to become reality. Well, off to bed I go. After all this traveling I am tired. At sunrise I start another long walk. A walk I have been dreaming of almost since the long walk I started four years ago ended.

Fri.  April 26   Lake Morena Campground   20.2 miles

A running joke among the ’98 AT thru-hikers was the sheer amount of rain mixed in a day of sunshine every now and then. Tim and I joked that it would probably rain on our first day on the PCT. But the stretch of trail is in Southern California – what’s the chance of it raining?

Apparently very good! A cold damp drizzle was the weather for the day. As I write this journal entry, the wind is blowing hard and fog is enveloping the campground. Despite it all, though, I am the happiest I have been in a long time. Seeing the border monument and hiking on the trail

left a grin on my face that would not go away. The entire focus of my life this past year has been to hike the PCT. Finally out on it! Another dream has become reality.

Today is the start of the ADZPCTKOP – an alphabet soup of a phrase that basically means a kick off party to start the PCT hikers on the right note. Food, tips and good company all before we set out to hike the trail. A little rain, some good people and smiles all day. Perfect start for another hike.

Sat  April 27   Camped on a rocky outcropping   27.0 miles (approx)

The second day of the kick off party happened today. Saw several people I know from the hiking community and a few hikers I haven’t seen since we did the AT back in 1998. I was enjoying myself quite a bit. But I kept on having a nagging thought – “All these people starting the PCT at the same time is overwhelming. Not quite ready to see all these hikers at once.” So I picked up my gear, said my goodbyes and hiked out by late afternoon. At once, I felt I had made the right decision. I need the calm and the thinking that comes with solo hiking. When I am with a group I notice less. Hiking with that many people tomorrow morning

would skew what I had set out to do on this hike. Hiker “get-togethers” are very enjoyable for me – just not when I’m hiking.

Sun  April 28  Campsite near G.A.T.R. road   49.1 miles

Long distance Hiking has a rhythm to it that I had forgotten. The easy camaraderie among hikers, the routine of cooking dinner and writing in my journal, eating the right amount of gorp throughout the day. But it is a rhythm that I fell back into easily. My feet are a bit sore, my legs are stiff, my clothes already reek of stale sweat, but I am content. This hike  feels like the right thing to do and at the right time in my life.

In addition to enjoying my hike today, I was also amazed at the scenery. Having lived in Colorado for almost three years now, I’ve become a bit of a snob when it comes to majestic

scenery. Today I was awed at the sight of the Anza-Borego desert. In the space of a few miles the green of the mountains gave way to the desolate yet striking desert. Will be hiking through a small portion of this desert in the coming days. Part of me dreads carrying two gallons of

water, but part of me welcomes the chance to be in this unique environment.

Mon  April 29  Rodriguez Spur Trail  68.9 miles

Yesterday at the Laguna Country Store a friend asked me if I had any blisters yet. I tapped my head and said “Nope. Knock on wood.” That was a bit hasty. Today, because of lousy foot

inserts and ill-fitting socks, my feet were in the starting stages of “Hamburger Helper.” The back of my feet were a bit raw had a large blister on each large toe, and my feet ached. At 4:30 in the afternoon it was a no-brainer to stop for the day. Some judicious use of duct tape

and some toilet paper to pad out my foot inserts should work out until I get to the outfitter in Idyllwild. Hiking twenty plus miles a day will quickly show any deficiency in the footwear!

But no complaints from me. I have a great view of the Granite Peaks in front of me, the weather should be perfect for sleeping, and I have another day of hiking. Not a bad life.

Tues  April 30  Old Jeep Road  91.7

Today was the day of many switchbacks. Up Grape Mountain for about fifteen miles to be camped at the base of the summit. Could see for many miles where I was headed and where I had been. Very dramatic views overlooking the desert. My favorite part of the day was not so much the dramatic views but the more subtle aspects of hiking in a desert environment: the varieties of cacti, the deep pink flowers, lizards scurrying across the rocks. Hiking in the California

desert is proving to be a unique and satisfying experience.

Today was also the first time I hiked and camped with a group of people on the PCT. All but one were of us were AT veterans. Interesting to see the almost reflex action of a camp routine.

Water is brought to camp, ground cloths laid down, clothes are changed, dinner is cooked, plans are made for tomorrow and the journal entry is written. A routine that seems natural out here.

Weds  May 1  Warner Springs, CA  110.6 miles

The diversity of the PCT in California continues to be outstanding. On one side of the Mountain, desert terrain. On the other side of the mountain grasslands with wildflowers,

small streams with glades containing many large oaks. The rainshadow effect was well shown today. On one portion of the mountain sparseness, the other side- lush terrain.

Today was my first town stop. I am in Warner Springs a day earlier than expected. Because of the treadway, miles are initially easy to pick up on the PCT! But that fact can be

deceiving. Mentally a trail becomes a grind, physically the body breaks down after miles and miles of constant 25 plus mile days. I am not at that point, yet. Part of me knows how when I am involved with something I tend to push myself to the max. On a long hike all that means is that instead of enjoying the gift that is a long hike, the hike can turn in to a worse routine than the 9-5 job I left behind. Perhaps being a little bit older than my hike of four years ago has lent me a different perspective, or seeing people already dropping off the trail has served as a warning, but I had planned this hike to be a more casual affair than

the previous ones. Relaxing in hot springs, letting my tired and sore muscles soak and looking forward to the next stretch of trail has proven how this sentiment seems to be the right one for me.

Thurs  May 2  Lost Valley Road  120.5 miles

Relaxing day. Hiked in ten miles to this spot. Plenty of water sheltered from the wind, nice View for sunset. All the basic essentials for another satisfying day.

Fri  May 3  Nance Canyon  141.7 miles

A postscript to last night’s journal entry: the sunset was indeed spectacular. The highlight Of last night though, was seeing the stars overhead. Countless and beautiful.

The weather is getting noticeably hotter, especially now that we are truly in the desert. Had a long siesta by a shaded water supply. After three hours of lounging around, the three miles  to this campsite was quite easy. And what a campsite it is. A patch of green in a canyon, surrounded by large leafy oaks.

My constant thought for the day is how fortunate I am to be on this trail. Though I have only been hiking for a week, I already have memories that will last for a long time.

Sat  May 4  near Little Desert Peak  163.0 miles

When long distance hiking some of the more interesting anecdotes happen off the trail. At a little café about a mile off the trail a group of us downed what must have been gallons of ice water, iced tea and lemonade. In between our mass re-hydrating an avid off-roader struck up a conversation with one hiker in our group who is also a ‘Jeeper’. A little later the jeep owner asked if we wanted a ride back to the trail. Yeah! Much better than a one mile road walk on hot pavement. So the jeep had eight hikers (with gear!) and one driver for an interesting ride back to the trailhead. Not sure who got a bigger kick out of the whole incident. The jeep owner now has a funny story to tell. All of us hikers took more than a few pictures of all of us in a jeep, and a group of Harley Davidson riders also at the café who all gave us a thumbs

up as we pulled away from the parking lot.

Tonight I have another great camping spot. This one is just below the summit of a peak, and just shy of 7000 feet. Comfortably cool at this elevation. Just saw another gorgeous sunset, looking forward to an equally gorgeous sunrise tomorrow.

Sun  May 5   Idyllwild, CA  180.2 miles

Today was a great day of hiking. Rather than hiking trough the typical desert environment of Chapparel brush and cacti, was able to hike through cool, shaded forests with large coulter  Pines. This type of terrain better fits my mental image of being in the mountains.

Mileage wise the day is deceiving. Went two miles round trip for water, and hiked 2.5 miles down a side trail to enter Idylwild. Have decided to take a zero mileage day tomorrow. The Thought of putting my feet up and relaxing is appealing. The feet are a bit sore due to the need for some new inserts for my trail shoes. My feet are going to have to carry me many more miles. Think it would be wise to take care of them.

Mon  May 6   Idyllwild, CA  180.2 miles

Typical zero mileage day. Took care of some errands, put my feet up and relaxed.  Quite a few hikers in town tonight. The usual mixture of trailshoes, fleece, and the ever present ‘hiker hobble’ that comes with the lifestyle we are currently living. Makes it easier to spot a hiker in town. Though we have been on the trail less than two weeks the community we are forming is already becoming close. From sharing a few beers in a hotel room to making sure that a person is doing OK, the camaraderie among hikers is the part of long distance hiking that I had forgotten how much I missed. Should be a satisfying next few months.

Tues  May 7  Fuller Ridge Campsite  192.2 miles

Towns can often be a hindrance to getting back on the trail. A warm bed, rich food and good company has caused more than one hiker to stay in town longer than originally intended. Seems  only a few made it out of town today. There are only two of us at this campsite that is popular for a first day out of town.

Today was perhaps the best day of hiking I’ve had yet on the PCT. Gigantic moss covered pine trees, a cool crispness in the air. Perhaps best of all: because of new foot inserts. The dull throbbing in my feet that has been my constant companion for almost two weeks has largely

vanished. Much easier to enjoy the scenery and hiking when the feet are feeling well.

An unusual aspect of hiking today was the view from the ridge. At about 8000 feet, the climate feels like northern Vermont. But looking off the ridge could see the desert we will be starting to hike in again tomorrow. Less than a few miles, and seven thousand feet until the wooded

terrain that has been so enjoyable ends.

Weds  May 8  “The Pink Hotel”   213.0 miles

Today we plunged into the desert again. A hot, windy, long descent that exchanged the cool pines of the San Jancintos for the white sands at the edge of the Sonoran desert. Tomorrow we again climb seven thousand feet to be in the pine forests.

A bit about the crew I am hiking with. First, the PCT hike is actually more social for me than the AT was. On the AT, was pretty much in front for people going to Katahdin. This year, I am hiking with and getting to know more people then I did four years ago. It has been an enjoyable experience.

The last couple of days have been hiking with D-Low and Restless. The three of us are sarcastic with each other, find ways to make goofy comments at the most unlikely moments and have an odd combination of “don’t take me too seriously” cynicism with a dose of optimism.

In short, like many of the good friends I’ve had over the years. A bit more social of a hike is  proving to be an enjoyable experience.

Finally, a word about the Pink Hotel. It is not a hotel, but a cross between a trailer and a tool shed that is right on the trail. Old, overstuffed couches, a fridge filled with cold  drinks and fruit. In short, as oasis from the strong winds and blowing sand. An unexpected treat that was most welcome.

Thurs  May 9    Mission Creek   232.5 miles

Today was somewhat discouraging. I am accustomed to being a very strong hiker. Not a fast hiker, but have always had much endurance. I do not tire easily. That did not prove to be the case today. Between the heat, a small cold that I am fighting off and the most troublesome fact of all – my feet have swollen to the point where the toes are crushed against the toe box.

Though my feet are not in the pain they were in last week, my feet tire too easily. Plan on picking up some new and better ventilated shoes in Big Bear.

Today was not a total bust though. Was lucky enough to see a coyote at a stream crossing today. Coyotes have fascinated me for a while. Solitary animals that seem to adapt to nearly every environment and flourish in it. The coyote spotted today stared at me for several minutes before it trotted off.

My favorite part of today is my current campsite. Camped under a large leafy oak by a stream, writing in my journal while listening to the wind in the leaves and the brook across the way.

It is easy to be content. Long after the chaffing is healed and the pain is gone, it will be the quiet moments such as the one I am experiencing that will be remembered. There is no other place I’d rather be than this non-descript campsite in an obscure creek in California. But, this place and time will always be one of the many memories I will recall when I remember my time on the PCT.

Fri  May 10   Jeep Road   250.7 miles

Today was a hard day of hiking. Almost five thousand feet of elevation gain with the general feeling of lethargy that I have been having. Intellectually I know it is my body adjusting to the rigors of the trail. Increased exertion and caloric output means a period of adjustment.

And during this adjustment period, I know I am going to feel “out of sorts”. Something I  experienced four years ago, something I am experiencing again. But, though I can rationalize what is happening intellectually, on a mental and emotional level, a climb of five thousand is draining.

But my spirit is still high. Hiked all day with Gandalf. An older gentleman who has a long, flowing beard. Seems we are going through much of the same thing. Hiking with someone throughout the day is a bit unusual for me, but talking to someone all day made the hike easier.

Just ate dinner. I am relaxed and looking forward to another day of hiking. Can’t complain too much.

Sat  May 11   Big Bear City, CA   267.4 miles

If yesterday was a bit of a grind (five thousand feet gain in a day can do that!) today was quite nice. Descended from the pine forests back into the high desert. Wearing long johns at the start of the day, back into summer hiking clothes by noon. The diversity on this trail is incredible!

Looks like I will be spending more time in town than I expected. The post office is open on Saturday, but will not send outgoing packages! Oh well, have a lot to do in town tomorrow anyway. A day of rest at the start of trek can’t hurt.

Sun  May 12  Big Bear City, CA  267.4 miles

Very productive zero mileage day. Able to get my laundry done (badly needed!) and buy some new shoes. I am now wearing shoes a whole size larger!

I’m ready to hit the trail again, though. If it wasn’t for having to mail my “bounce box” up ahead, would probably hike up the trail aways. No matter. Will be well rested and back in the  mountains tomorrow. Just hope it does not take 1 ½ hrs to get a hitch again!

Mon  May 13  Little Bear Spring Camp  287.0 miles

A pleasant hike today. Gentle grade through the woods ending the evening by writing this entry by the last rays of the sun and the warm glow of a campfire. Not too much to write tonight, still trying to get rid of my cold, which has gotten worse. Will see how I feel in the morning.

Tues  May 14  Holcomb Crossing Camp  295.7 miles

Had much trouble sleeping last night, most of the night I was up coughing and sneezing with watery eyes. Did not leave me very ambitious today. Decided to make camp very early and enjoy the day by reading a book under a shady pine. There is a creek nearby providing a relaxing background noise. I am hoping an easy day and a good night’s sleep will let me feel much better in the morning.

Weds  May 15  Jeep Road  316.1 miles

Today’s hiking reminded me of hiking I have done in Utah. At the top of the canyon vegetation is sparse and the dominant color is brown-yellow. At the bottom of the canyon was a creek and a thin ribbon of green.

As the sun was shining on me all day, could only imagine how cool and comforting the shade would be on the seemingly endless lines of cottonwoods.

But my thoughts were answered in the form of natural hot springs right of the tract. The trail finally descended into the canyon beside the creek. The hot springs and cold creek water proved to be a relaxing way to spend the hottest part of the day.

This journal entry is being made at twilight. Twilight in the desert is an interesting time. A slight breeze is in the air, the distant mountains are framed by dark pink clouds and all around birds and other creatures are stirring. In the desert it is before night, and not during the day when everything seems most alive and vibrant. A peaceful time to contemplate the day, think of tomorrow, and to fall asleep.

Thurs  May 16   Cleghorn Ridge   334.5 miles

Camped on the ridge tonight, can see most of the miles I covered today. Switchbacks making over the hills, the trail following the curve of the lake. Distance gives a different view. Looking at the lake, I do not focus on how hot I was when I reached the lake, but how welcome  the shade and water was for my afternoon’s rest. Instead of thinking how dusty the trail was  on the climb up the ridge, all I can think of is what kind of sunrise I will see tomorrow.

In the same way distance will shape my perspective of this hike. I am enjoying this hike now.

In the months ahead though, I will appreciate the experience of hiking the PCT even more. Distance makes a greater appreciation of where one has been and what one has seen.

Fri  May 17  Sheep Creek Truck Rd.  355.6 miles

After nearly three weeks on the trail, many of us are reporting similar stories: the blisters are hardening, the feet no longer ache as much, the knees are no longer inflamed. We all had various aches, pains, and other trail related problems. But at this point on the trail, we all seem to be improving. The desert section of the PCT is half over. We still have to pass through the Mojave, but we are confident. All the hikers seem to be adjusting to the rhythm of the PCT. When to rest. When to drink water. When to push ourselves. When to slow down. At the start of the hike, it almost seems as if you are trying to make the trail adjust to you. I will take a break AT THIS SPOT ON THE MAP. As the days and weeks go on, a subtle change happens, a hiker adjusts to the trail. A shady spot comes up half an hour before a rest break is planned. So what? I an hot and thirsty, I will rest here now. Slowly the timetable of a 9-5 lifestyle is left behind and a new lifestyle is adopted: When hungry– eat, when tired- rest, when thirsty-  drink. The change in attitude is subtle. The impact on a long hike is profound.

Sat  May 18  Wrightwood, CA   365.9 miles

An odd thought I’ve often had while out on these long hikes occurs when I pass houses on the way into town. The thought is “How nice it would be to like in one of those houses”. The  thought of just walking inside the house, grabbing a cold drink and a hot shower right there  and then always makes for an interesting thought exercise on the way to the grocery store or hostel in town.

Today, that thought came as close to reality as a Snicker crazed thru hiker can get. A friend of mine in Boulder has a Dad who lives in Wrightwood. Called Mr. Null ahead of time, and when I walked to his house today, the red carpet was rolled out. Shower, laundry, a ride to the grocery store, grilled chicken and fresh salad. All I have been doing is reading, napping, and enjoying my most relaxing town stay yet. The hospitality shown by Mr. Null has been wonderful.

I am relaxed, well rested and looking forward to another day of hiking.

Sun  May 19  Near Camel Spring  378.2 miles

The stretch of trail heading out of Wrightwood was very scenic and relaxing to hike on. Even with a pack full of new supplies the hiking was enjoyable. Felt as I was on an afternoon stroll back home rather than a five month hiking trip. All in all, not a bad first day out of town. The large breakfast Mr. Null cooked up this morning certainly helped too!

Today is my twenty-eighth birthday and my second one spent on a trail. Four years ago I  crossed into Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail. My hike was half over. More importantly, on a more personal level, my life had not changed a lot at that point.

Four years later, much has changed in my life. My parents are now divorced, but are very happy in the lives they are now leading. My two grandfathers have passed away. Had fallen in love with someone I thought I had wanted to marry, but as sometimes happens, the relationship did not work out. Started a new life for myself in Colorado, when four years ago I would not have considered leaving Rhode Island.

Long hikes not only immerse a person in nature, but also seem to put thoughts, ideas and feelings in perspective. At the end of a long journey little is the same as when the journey started. What will happen after this hike’s over? I don’t know. But if the last four years are any indication, much will happen in my life that I will not expect. Four years ago when I was camped out at a shelter in Pennsylvania, I did not know what the coming four years would bring.

Four years later, camped two miles before the summit of Baden-Powell, the future is still not certain. And in that uncertainty, there is opportunity. Opportunity for change, opportunity for events to happen that I have not even thought of. The next four years should prove to be

just as good as the last four.

Mon  May 20  Cooper Canyon Trail Campground   397.2 miles

A few days ago I was in the desert- hot, low on water, in the sun. Today it snowed for most of the day. Variety to say the least.

With the fog, snow and large trees, the day seemed unworldly. Could not see very far ahead and focused on the immediate surroundings. The moss on the trees, the birds calling back and forth, how the sound of my own breathing seemed amplified, the sound of the sleet as it hit

the ground.

It is an hour before sunset as this entry is being written. The sun has just appeared. Sunny  day ahead tomorrow? Time will tell.

Tues  May 21  Mill Creek Summit  419.0 miles

After a snow storm, the sun is that much more welcome. The warm rays dry out clothes and equipment as well as making the whole day seem vibrant. The miles come easier, the air a bit more fresh, the vistas more stunning. Life has been good on the trail so far. As the body grows stronger and continues to adjust to daily routine, it should only get better.

Weds  May 22  Mattox Canyon  440.8 miles

The last day in the San Gabriels was an enjoyable one. By the end of the day, exchanged a high mountain forest of oaks and pines for the desert’s chaparral. Tomorrow will be spent in  Agua Dulce and will get ready for the last push through Southern California.

Spoke to the ranger today at the North Fork ranger station. Very friendly. Has a register for PCT thru-hikers, gave me the scoop on the water situation, gave directions to the Saufley’s in Agua Dulce and informed me of a breakfast place that is five miles from where I’m camped. I must admit the thought of eggs, coffee, hash browns and juice sounds a bit better than my usual fare of toaster pastries and granola bars.

My final thought for this evening is that since Wrightwood, I’ve only seen four hikers and have camped by myself every night. The solitude has been nice. Tomorrow will probably see many hikers that were ahead of me and will probably see some that will catch up to me. My week of near solitude will be over. As the weeks go on, hope to experience more of this type of hiking I enjoy.

Thurs   May 23  Agua Dulce, CA  454.9 miles

If the Appalachian Trail has “Damascus Fever”, then the PCT has “Saufley Fever”.

Agua Dulce has the reputation as being the friendliest stopover on the trail due to the  hospitality of the Saufley’s. The past week or so, all the hikers have been thinking of this place. A chance to rest up for the last push through the desert, gather supplies for the  Sierras and enjoy the hospitality of Donna and family. Need some new equipment? There will be a shuttle to REI. Need to buy some groceries? There will be a ride to a larger town to get some groceries.

The mood among the hikers at this point is optimistic. We are healing up, growing stronger, and all seeming to enjoy our trek on the PCT.

Fri  May 24  Agua Dulce, CA  454.9 miles

What to write tonight? What can I say to sum up a day when I sat on a lawn chair, ate a  grinder bought during my grocery run, and listened to music played on the Saufely’s stereo.

Simplicity is one of the gifts found on the trail. Today a cold drink and comfortable chair is all that I need.

Sat  May 25  Green Valley, CA  477.6 miles

Normally during a twenty-three mile day in a stretch of high desert hiking, I can look forward to warm water, melted Snickers, and a dish of a Lipton’s rice dish. And it all tastes great.

But today was different. Trail Grapevine (amazingly accurate at times) had whispers of a host family a day up the trail from Agua Dulce. Nahh, too good to be true. Then up the trail a water cache, Cool! Extra water. Then up the trail a young woman says “be sure to stop at my parent’s house”. Is there a road walk I’m not aware of?

Further up the trail, found another water cache with a cooler full of beer and soda. OK, I must be getting delusional. But the delusional cold soda still tasted great.

Finally made it to the ranger station. Sitting at the bench, a car pulls up and the driver asks the five of us if we are interested in burgers and cold soda tonight and a place to sleep. I am fully delusional now. As my mouth watered over the thought of charred meat and  my stomach rumbled, I realized that trail rumor was correct and I am getting spoiled in this forty mile stretch.

Another relaxing day with less people than the previous night. Life continues to get better and better the more I am on the trail.

Sun   May 26   Sawmill Campground   496.6 miles

Chapparal and sage at the start of the day, cool and shaded for the last half of the day. I can be very content walking through the mixed forests of pines and live oaks.

Today did have some challenges, but also revealed the character of the fellow hikers.

Though I am out here with my pack food and attempting to walk to Canada, a trip of this type depends on the goodwill and help of other people. A cache of water, a hitch into town or needed help  when something happens.

Today I became nauseous twice. That tightening in the stomach, the cold sweat, followed by a dash into the bushes. Truth be told, been having a queasy stomach on and off for the past few days. Hiking today up the steep climb seemed to put me over the edge. It was not even dehydration because water was set off the first time I became nauseous.

It was a bit of scary feeling. Not being able to hold down food or water while hiking makes for a hard day to say the least. Twenty one miles after the second bout I hear “Mags, are you OK?!? We were fifteen minutes away from a water cache and a needed break, but the half mile uphill seemed far.

Before I knew it Meagan insisted I give her my food bag. Gave a half-hearted protest, handed my bag over, and walked with my base pack weight of fifteen pounds. Spent two hours under the shade at the water cache, managed to eat some food and drink some water. Felt better and hiked on.

Meagan ended up carrying my food bag for the whole day. She went through a similar bout a  few days ago. Apparently there is another bug going around. But, I am now feeling better.

Normally I am a strong hiker, but a wrench was thrown in the works the whole day.

A long hike is successfully done by a person’s desire to complete the hike. But rarely can it be done without help along the way. Whether care packages and funny letters from friends to put a smile on my face or new friends taking care of my burdens when I am ill.

Tomorrow I owe Meagan an ice cream at the country store twenty miles down the trail. With any luck, and a non-queasy stomach, I should be able to as well.

Mon   May 27  Jack Fair’s Old Place   516.0 miles

Serendipity. A word to describe what happens on a thru-hike almost everyday. Today was no different.

What was going to be an uneventful walk through a private property easement on Tejon Ranch turned out to be an uneventful twenty mile hike, then a hitch to a known hiker friendly bar and grill.

Two other hikers sold us on the idea, the idea of a cold drink at a country store did not seem as enticing. The though of burgers, wings and cold drinks did! So, all four of us managed to get a hitch. Three hours later and a filled stomach, we started to hike up the trail again when a car pulls up and asks if we wanted to stay at Jack’s Old Place.

Apparently a person bought Jack Fair’s house this past year and wants to carry on Jack Fair’s tradition of helping out hikers.

So, rather than camp on a dirt road, was able to loaf in lawn furniture, watch the sun set, and eat some fresh fruit.

Unexpected turn of events today and totally enjoyable!

Tues   May 28   Mojave Desert Jeep Road   536.5 miles

When I thought of hiking through the Mojave Desert, I must admit scenes from “Lawrence of Arabia” came to mind. Sand dunes, endless space. nothing in sight as far as a person can see.

Hiking in the Mojave, on the PCT, is not like that. Due to not being able to get an easement through the Tehachapi Mountains, the PCT is routed through what is essentially a twenty mile  dirt road walk in the vicinity of the Los Angeles aqueduct. Hot, not too scenic, but I had

fun today anyway.

Sitting under a Joshua tree with three other hikers, crowding into the meager shade was perversely funny. It is also comforting to know that it is a weekday and rather than typing at some computer, I am outside doing what I want to do. Just before camp was made, spotted a wild donkey chasing a coyote. Satisfying life out here.

Wed   May 29   Mojave, CA   555.1 miles

More Joshua trees, chapparal and sand. Not exactly the Pacific Crest. Terrain such as the  stuff we hiked through today makes me appreciate the Whites back in New England that I started backpacking in, the Rockies of my home in Colorado, and lets me really look forward to the Sierras. This stretch of the trail is what I am already laughing about. Only  thru-hikers would backpack in this type of terrain. I can make jokes about this section or be

miserable. Making jokes seems the better course of action.

Now, I’m off to drink my third 44oz lemonade and again laugh at the fact that despite the terrain and the dirt road walks

I am still enjoying myself thoroughly.

Thurs  May 30  Mojave, CA  555.1 miles

After buying my groceries for the next stretch of trail and sending them ahead at the post office, went back to the motel pool and noticed that the temperature in the shade was 102 F.

My original intention to hikeout late in the afternoon quickly dissipated.

Talked to my friend Tim last night. Tim has known me for a while now and knows me about as well as anyone. He said I seemed more relaxed, less goal oriented on this hike then the one I took four years ago.

He’s right. My attitude on this is that the mileage will come, Manning will get here sooner  than later. For now writing my journal is sufficient. Will be back in the desert in the morning and that much closer to the Sierras.

Fri  May 31  Golden Oaks Spring  579.8 miles

Geologically speaking, the Sierras started today. As I did not see too many mountain meadows or snow melt fed streams, I am going to go with my gut and assume that juniper, yucca plants, and chapparal means that I am still in the high desert of California.

The last half of the day was pleasant. Tonight I am camped under the spreading branches of a pinyon pine. A little extra elevation can make for a much different environment than what was encountered this morning.

On some nights making camp can be more satisfying than usual. Knowing to the gut level that there are no more steps to take today is a feeling that borders on exuberance at times for  thru-hikers. Then a hot meal is cooked, dinner is eaten and all that is left to do is sleep.

Simplicity of life is one reason why many of us continue to do long hikes. The simplicity of the lifestyle makes dinner a highlight of the day and sleep a reward for a day’s hike.

Sat  June 1  Sanford Campground  604.7 miles

Not much to write tonight. The hiking was through shaded groves of trees all day, plenty of water and easy climbs. Just feeling content in the knowledge that life is just the way I  want it. Should be a clear night to look at the stars before I sleep.

Sun  June 2  Bird Spring Pass  627.2 miles

Had the unusual experience of not seeing anyone today until about an hour or so before I made it into camp. More than twenty four hours with no human contact. Camped in the high desert with no sign of civilization makes for a remote feeling experience. I would like to report that I

had many deep thoughts during my day of solitude. Some of the thoughts were profound, but others were not. Due to a conversation last week had some rather bad Bon Jovi music stuck in my head. During the more desolate sections on the trail today the theme to “Lawrence of Arabia” also kept playing in my head. And I finally remembered the punchline of a joke that was told to me a while ago.

Hiking in the high desert with just the Joshua trees for company can be an interesting  experience. The starkness of the environment is more pronounced and at the same time more appreciated. Many thoughts will come out and a fellow hiker will be cursed for putting bad 80’s music in my head!

Mon  June 3  Walker Pass Campground  647.2 miles

Two highlights today. First saw the Sierras. Long desired, can’t wait to get to them. Seeing  the “Range of Light”, even at a distance was inspiring. Not much longer and will finally be in the mountains again for a long stretch. The second highlight was walking through a forest that was in a fire a few years ago. Odd as it may sound, it was pretty. Can see nature re-new itself up close. Lots of fragrant wildflowers that contrasted sharply with the blackened trees.

Tonight is a fitting end for today. First time camping with a group in a while. Writing this entry by a campfire is comforting, the company is good and it looks like it will be another good night for sleeping under the stars.

Tues  June 4  Spanish Needle Creek  665.2 miles

With the exception of all too brief forage into the mountains have been in a desert environment for over a month now. At times it has been pretty. Desert sunsets are incredible. Seeing the flowers on the cacti was something unique for me. But I am now ready to leave the desert behind. Physically and mentally the desert hiking has exhausted me. The heat has caused my feet to swell up and tire easily. But more than physically, the desert has exhausted me mentally. The monotony of the terrain, the ever present concern if the next water supply is still available and the fact that it is the mountains I love, not the desert.

I honestly thought I’d enjoy the desert more, having hiked in Utah and found it to be beautiful. But canyon country is much different than the desert of Southern California, as I found out one step at a time.

Overall, though, I am still enjoying myself. Every day I am living life as I want to. No schedule but the one that I set. A freedom most people do not have.

One more day of hiking in the desert. Then it will be in the Kern River Valley with more water than has been seen in weeks. And after that? John Muir country, alpine meadows and snow capped peaks. The desert has been interesting, but it is the mountains I hike for.

Weds  June 5  Rockhouse Basin Creek  688,5 miles

What a difference a day can make. Once over the Lamont Ridge, the entire environment changed.

The desert receded and I was again hiking in the woods rather than among chapparal. My New England roots really show when hiking in a mixed oak and pine forest makes me happier!

Again through an extensive area that has recently seen a forest fire. This time, the  wildflowers were even more beautiful. A riot of color was all over the hills. Yellows, reds, purples and pinks. With a vivid fragrance accompanying them.  Had another look at the High Sierras today. Back at Campo they seemed too far away and tomorrow I will be at the foot of them.

Tomorrow is a milestone. Most of the other hikers I’ve talked to all feel the same way: A bit tired, but excited to begin the next stage of the journey. Ice cream and Mountain Dew to celebrate them onto the High Sierras!

Thurs  June 6  Kennedy Meadows Campground  699.4 miles

Finally. The psychological point for the start of the Sierra has been reached. As I walked  through Kennedy Meadows, I was reminded of the foothills back home in Boulder. And with that thought a broad smile came on my face. Instead of the Rockies being close by, the range I have been dreaming of since I started planning for this trip a year ago will be up the trail in a day.

The buzz in the campground is that of excitement. After seven-hundred miles of hiking we have reached a major milestone. After a month or so of blisters, heat, dehydration (and to be  honest, incredible sunsets, sublime views and becoming good friends with the other hikers) we are strong, used to life on the trail, and ready to see one of the PCT, if not backpacking. Life has been good on the trail, it is about to get even better.

Fri  June 7  Monacle Creek Bowl  720 miles

Had mixed feelings about leaving Kennedy Meadows today. As many are taking a layover day, and there are different re-supply options in the Sierras there is a good chance that I will not see many of the hikers on the trail for a while, if at all. Never ceases to amaze me how close hikers can get in such a short period of time. Goodbyes were said, e-mail addresses exchanged, (many of us, myself included had many different regular mail addresses over the years. Hikers can be a nomadic group!)and off we went.

But, I also felt excited today. The High Sierras are finally here! Had a grin on my face and felt much the same as when I was eight years old on Christmas morning. I did not know what to expect, but knew it would be something good. Looking across the meadow that I was hiking through this morning, caught another great view of the Sierras.

Fittingly, a quote by John Muir ran through my head today as I was leaving the campground: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Sat  June 8  Near Cottonwood Pass  742.0 miles

Camped at about 11,000 feet tonight. Feels great to be at elevation again.

Looking across the meadow and seeing the peaks with snow on their slopes. It is one of those nights backpackers dream about. There is not much more that can be written. Nothing to do but gaze across the meadow and continue to be entranced by the view.

Sun  June 9  Crabtree Meadows  760.5 miles

 

At the base of Whitney, getting ready for my climb tomorrow. All day caught views of Whitney and neighboring peaks. Blue Skies, snowcapped mountains, streams full of water that are almost musical sounding, green meadows. Backpacker’s Paradise.

Mon  June 10  Crabtree Meadow  760.5 miles

There are a few places that I have hiked that will always stand out for me. Franconia Ridge, The Grayson Highlands after a snowstorm, a campsite on Jo-Mary Lake, the summit of Longs Peak just after sunrise. Add to these memories my climb of Mt. Whitney today. The High Sierra are mountains that are an anomaly. Rugged looking and sublime at the same time. And it was not just the mountains, but all the lakes. The water reflecting the mountains and the cloudless blue sky made for an experience that any person who straps on a pack dreams about. As I was

sitting on the summit today at just shy of 14500’, I just kept thinking how fortunate I am.

Five months of freedom to have experiences such as the one I had today. Nice thought to go to sleep by.

Tues  June 11  Near Videte Meadow  780.5 miles

Each day just keeps on getting better. Was above tree line for a good portion of the day. As expected the views were incredible. The warm sun and lack of wind made leaving the top of Forester pass difficult, where there were again views of the Sierras as gorgeous as everyone said they would be.

Had some fun coming down the pass, too. There was one spot that was almost as if we were  skiing down a slope. So what else to do but practice telemark turns? Thru-hiking pinheads from hell? Unlike when I really telemark ski, I did not fall and crash into a snow bank!

I have noticed a lot less hikers since I have left Kennedy Meadows. The Sierras seem to thin out the hikers as far where they are on the trail. The past two days, have hiked on and off with D-Low. Other than the top of Whitney, have only seen a handful of people. Another month from now, the trail through here will be a hiker’s highway. Now it is a quiet, beautiful and isolated stretch of wilderness.

Wed  June 12  below Pinchot Pass  801.0 miles

I am running out of superlatives to describe my experiences of hiking in the High Sierras. Camped at the very edge of tree line, surrounded on all four sides by peaks in excess of 12000’. And that is just the end of the day. All day, one spectacular sight after another.

The Rae lakes were so clear, could almost see to the bottom. At the top of Glen Pass this morning could again see what seemed to be almost forever.

The High Sierras rivals, if not bests, any place I have been backpacking. I will return to these mountains after my hike of the PCT is over. Walking once through this range will not be enough for a lifetime.

Thurs  June 13  Middle Forks Kings River  821.8 miles

Burly. That is the word that D-Low, Restless and myself came up with to describe the day. Two passes, class 3 scrambling to get up Mather Pass since the trail was buried under a snow field too steep to safely climb up, many river fords, lots of map and compass work because of the trail being under snow, and scrambling over many blowdowns at the end of the day. Though I feel tired, I also feel alive. It was a day that challenged me physically. But after struggling up the slopes and seeing the distant mountains felt exhilarated.

Days of easy hiking can be nice but days when I push myself can make the views grander, the valleys more lush and let me have a feeling that there is nothing I can’t accomplish.

Fri  June 14  South fork, San Joaquin River  845.1 miles

What a way to end the day. Crossed Evolution Creek about an hour ago. Fording was deep, cold, rushing Sierra water. Was an experience that while difficult made me feel all “pumped up.” Again, pushing myself physically then accomplishing what was set out to do leaves a feeling of being alive. All senses seem to be at their peak and makes for a sense of excitement for the next day of hiking.

Sat  June 15  Bear Ridge  866.7 miles

Without question, the nine days spent in the Sierras has been the most intense backpacking experiences I have done. No needs, few people, gorgeous mountains, pristine lakes, rivers that seem to run almost with a life of their own, tons of passes where the mountains stretch to where I have been and where I am going.

This nine day stretch has been physically demanding, but emotionally and spiritually the most satisfying stretch of hiking that I have done. I will be back to these mountains again.

Sun  June 16  Vermillion Valley Resort  871.3 miles

 

After nine days of some intense hiking, ready for a break. The day spent at VVR proved to be relaxing. As my “hiker hunger” kicked in during this past stretch, and my food supply did not reflect the fact, gorged myself on large amounts of food. Most heard hiker phrase today? “Put it on my tab.” Expensive stop. But after nine days of some physically demanding hiking? Well, sitting by the lake, looking at the mountains, and having a full stomach – it seems right to say “Just throw another piece of pie on my tab.”

Mon  June 17  Ridge above Virginia Lake  880.0 miles

My “hiker hunger” has officially arrived. One hour after the large breakfast at VVR (complete with fresh-out-of-the-oven cherry pie, mmm) I was hungry again! My metabolism is starting to shift into high gear. I doubt there is a better weight loss plan than hiking. Eat three eggs, potatoes, sausage, pancakes, cherry pie, then walk all day and end the day on a ridge looking at the mountains behind a large sub-alpine lake. Repeat for 4-5 months. Better than any health club membership.

Tues  June 18  Ridge above Agnew Meadows  909.7 miles

For the most part, today was leisurely. By the standards of last week, it was a sublime hiking day. Rather than dramatic views, had small streams and wooded glades. Pleasant and relaxing.  Went to Red’s Meadow today for an off trail, caloric indulgence. Something is not right when a double cheeseburger and an ice cream is consumed and I am still hungry.

The only slight problem today was when the trail was lost near Minaret Creek. The trail was flooded and a herd path mistaken for the trail lead to a campground. Nothing like walking through marshy, flooded over trails that are “mosquito hell” in the general direction of the PCT. In any case the trail was found, but the not-so-friendly-neighborhood mosquitoes were still constant companions for the second half of the day. No worries though. DEET makes for a nice smelling cologne, and a head net is always fashionable.

Wed  June 19  near Lyell Fork  929.9 miles

Tomorrow is the psychological end of the High Sierras. Has been one of the most satisfying two weeks of my life. On top of Donohue Pass today, not only did I enter Yosemite National Park, but also climbed my last High Sierra pass- the trail has supposedly a more mellow character from this point on. Be interesting to see if that trail rumor is correct. In any case, looking forward to the next stretch of trail and whatever challenges it may bring.

Thurs  June 20  Conness Creek  942.8 miles

Though Yosemite National Park was officially entered yesterday today it really felt like a  national park was entered. First saw more people today than I have since Mojave. Second, where before the PCT hikers ‘pretty much’ have had the trail to themselves, with an occasional JMTer or a person out for a few days, today I saw many backpackers. Finally, while I am used to odd glances from people in town (have the grungy hiker look going full force now!) getting those

same glances while hiking on the trail proves that summer is here and that the trail will no longer be the sole domain of grungy looking, calorie deprived, smelly long distance hikers. Which is good, more yogi-ing opportunities, I say!

Besides pondering on how many more people were out today, had a very restful day at Tuolumne Meadows. It was a bit of thru-hiker re-union. Tuolumne is a place where many thru-hikers take side trips, a layover day, or hang out all day before hiking on (which is what I did.) Good to see people I haven’t seen in weeks. I also corrected a trail rumor that I was off the trail!

Had my usual caloric indulgence and relaxed all day.

The best part of all day was receiving my package (Yeah! More Snickers!), new shoes from  Campmor (ooh! Snazzy!) and a care package from a friend. Simply Seeking (AT98, PCT01)just spent  a vacation in Alaska, including a trip to Denali National Park. So she sent an Alaskan care package. Chocolate from Anchorage, a tin of smoked salmon, and an Alaskan microbrew that went quite well with a double cheeseburger.

Life just gets better and better!

Fri  June 21  Below Benson Pass  960.5 miles

If yesterday I was amazed at the amount of people in Yosemite, today I was amazed at how  little people I saw today. Briefly chatted with a park ranger patrolling south-bound on the PCT. Seems the PCT is a somewhat less used portion of the Park. Of course, it is a weekday and still early in the season, but was amazed how I had the trail to myself for most of the day.

Not too many scenic overlooks, but a mixture of thick stands of tree, meadows, and views that are pleasant to walk through. A bit of a difficult day as the elevation gain was a cumulative 3000 feet (with many gains and losses between where I started from this morning), but all the more reason to go slow, sit by a lake for a while and enjoy the solitude.

Sat  June 22  Past Wilson Lake  983.5 miles

For a while today I somehow thought the Appalachian Trail switched places with the PCT. Not because the plants or wildlife looked the same or because a three-sided lean-to materialized out of thin air. The reason I had this sense of deja-vu was because of the scenario several times today: climb 1500 feet out of the canyon to a ridge, climb back down. Repeat. The tread was also rocky and rooty. Throw in a few white blazes and I could be back east. I suspect that this stretch of trail is an older portion of the PCT. The trail design seems to be consistent with this fact.

Today was another day when I was able to model the ever popular olive-drab green mosquito headnet. Eating dinner with a headnet on is a feat that should be in the hiker Olympics, if one existed.

The joys of hiking.

You know what though? Even with the steep climbs and the

stagnant mosquito ridden swamps there is no other place I’d rather be.

Insanity, happiness or  a little of both?

Sun  June 23  on a ridge  1008.4 miles

Left Yosemite today and back into a national forest. But more than just leaving a park, entered a new type of terrain. Rather than hiking in the granite peaks of the Sierras and spent the last portion of the day walking on a ridge that is the result of volcanic activity. Different types of rocks and different views from the trail. Large expanse of empty space with the occasional snowpatch or copse of stunted white pine.

Currently camped in a copse of white pines. Sheltered from the wind and a west facing view. Cozy would be the word to describe the site.

Mon  June 24  Near Boulder Creek  1022.5 miles

Negotiating snow fields has been the hardest part of my hike so far. They slow down the speed of travel and can make navigating interesting. Could not find the trail at all today on one ridge section. Noticed on the map that a nearby lake was near where the trail was supposed to be. Walked down the .3 of a mile or to the lake, took a compass reading and somehow found the

trail through the snowfields. Off trail travel can be tiring and slow. But it is nice to know that I can do it. Tomorrow is another day, hopefully one that will not spend the day looking at a compass!

Tues  June 25  Raymond Meadows Creek  1048.8 miles

The guidebook described today’s stretch of trail as odd, but beautiful. The description  fits. More volcanic ridge walking, but with sagebrush meadows dotted with wildflowers, with many lakes in the vicinity. Very dramatic looking, and not something I expected.

Wed  June 26  Showes Lake  1078.9 miles

More of the same type of scenery as yesterday. Except the lakes were larger, the ridges higher, able to see farther from view spots, the mountains were an odd mix of the volcanic ridges with snow on top of their summits.

When the PCT is discussed, the High Sierras or the Cascades are often brought up as the highlights of the trail. That may be the case but the stretch that has been done in the last two days is a highlight as well.

Thurs  June 27  South Lake Tahoe, CA  1089.4

Most of the trail stops for re-supply include caloric indulgence and the all important

shower, but do not involves town that has slot machines, keno games, and blackjack tables.

Nonetheless, stopped at this town. Turned out to be one of my better town stops. The motel was inexpensive, a two minute walk from the post office and the grocery store, and a ten minute walk from the Nevada state line with the capitol and the ever popular “All you can eat” buffets. No blackjack for me, but plenty of times up at the buffet. The only gambling I did today was bet that I could eat $9.95 (plus tax) worth of food. I think I won that bet.

Fri  June 28  High point on ridge  1111.4 miles

The Desolation Wilderness would be the perfect place to bring a person new to backpacking.

Easy to moderate climbs, mainly flat trail, easily accessible lakes encircled by mountains. In other words it is  very enjoyable hiking that doesn’t require a person to be exhausted by the end of the day. Saw many people out backpacking for the weekend or fishing the many lakes. If I lived in the area, Desolation Wilderness would be the perfect spot for a weekend to experience the outdoors and be totally relaxed.

Sat  June 29  Middle Fork American River  1136.8 miles

Another day with quite a few people on the trail. When out for an extended period of time on a trail, it is easy to lose track of the days. A Tuesday and Saturday are all the same for a long distance hiker. Our life is hiking. Saving up vacation time or heading to the mountains only on week ends is a reality we do not have to face for about five months. For an outdoors-person, it can be an addicting lifestyle.

Sun  Jun 30  Pooh’s Corner  1150.1 miles

After an excellent hike this morning (wildflowers, perfect weather, the usual fantastic views off the ridgeline) call Bill Person and received a prompt pick-up.

Within an hour after the phone call had taken a shower, done some laundry, and along with D-Low, gorged on the Person’s leftovers for lunch. As a former thru-hiker, Bill (along with his someone Molly) really know how to roll out the red carpet for hikers. I have not had a non-hiking day in six-hundred miles. Think this will be the perfect place for a layover day. Time to rest in the hammock, look out on Donne Lake and rest a bit.

Mon  July 1  Pooh’s Corner  1150.1 miles

As a long hike progresses, zero mileage days tend to be needed less and less. The body gets stronger, the need for a full day of rest lessens. The miles become easier to do. But eventually a day off is needed. Mentally and physically a hiker is rested, ready to be on the trail again.

After a day of enjoying the Person’s hospitality, I am again ready to be on the trail. It has been an enjoyable rest but it is time to be out hiking again.

Tues  July 2  on a ridge  1171.0 miles

I was surprised how remote the trail seemed today. Less than fifteen miles away from I-80, and two days before July Fourth, and saw only a few people. Wilderness is a hard to define concept. Being so close to an interstate (the trail head is a rest stop off the highway!) may not make this area “true” wilderness, yet I’ve less people today than I have on some of the more isolated portions of the trail. So what is the definition of wilderness? That’s a debate for another time. For now I’ll just enjoy the solitude of the forest.

Weds  July 3  Sierra City, CA  1191.5 miles

A trait that is very strong in me is that when I focus on something, it is all that I tend to focus on. That trait very much carries over to hiking. When I am out hiking, I just want to hike. Town days are minimal, mileage is consistent. A good trait to have when on a long hike.

But, strictly adhering to a plan without deviation can lead to problems. The trail at times encourages flexibility.

My original plan today was to hike into this town, a small hamlet really, grab dinner and hike out two or three miles to the ridge. But as I started relaxing, enjoying the company of the small group of hikers and the friendly people in town (and found out about the fourth of July cook-out)decided that my original plan is going to the way-side. Time to enjoy the holiday for most of tomorrow and hike to the ridge at night to see some fireworks. The trail is an adventure. It is just sometimes that the adventure is off the trail, too. A rigid plan would not let me discover that fact. A little flexibility is letting me have an enjoyable experience that was not planned. sometime for me to remember when this journey is over.

Thurs  July 4  on a ridge  1196.0 miles

Today was a memorable holiday. Alan, Randy, and myself hitched twelve miles into the town of Downieville for the Fourth of July parade. Quintessential small town America. A parade that lasted twenty minutes or so. Had the local scout troop, classic cars, all the fire trucks in  town and even Smokey the Bear made an appearance on the Forest Service Truck. There was the usual booths full of homemade baked goods and other food for sale. On the trail, life slows down to a more leisurely pace. And in these small towns near to the trail, everything is more leisurely too.

Cynics may say the parade and accompanying celebration in the town were hokey. Maybe. But I saw people today out enjoying the holiday with their family and friends. Nothing special. Just a good time had by those who wanted to enjoy themselves.

Later on we hitched back to Sierra City for the cookout put on by the local tavern. Ribs, chicken, potato-salad corn on the cob and watermelon. All a hungry hiker can eat.

Hiked to the top of a ridge, and writing this journal entry just after the sun has set. All in all, a good holiday.

Fri  July 5  near a jeep road  1221.4 miles

Today I saw more mountain bikers than hikers on the trail. As mountain bikers are not allowed on the PCT, it was a bit surprising. The PCT was not designed for mountain bikes. This fact was all too evident when a trio of mountain bikers almost hit me. Hard to enjoy a granola bar when a blur of spandex and titanium were coming down the trail at me. I took the tactful route and pointed out that they may be better off on one of the nearby trails or jeep roads that allow mountain biking. They shrugged and sped away. There are many ‘no mountain biking’ signs on this

section of the PCT. A polite reminder was as effective as Alan’s more direct question (Are you guys illiterate?!?!) to another group of mountain bikers. It is one thing to ”poach” rides on the trail. It is another thing to almost hit someone and act like it was the hiker’s fault, when it’s a non-biking trail!

Well, enough ranting. Today was enjoyable hiking. My favorite type of hiking is on ridges.

Plenty of that today. Should be more of the same tomorrow.

Another event was that the 1200 mile mark was passed. The half-way point is almost here. Not much longer and I’ll be in Oregon. All done one step at a time.

Sat  July 6  Middle Fork Feather River  1245.4 miles

In past times a traveler would often exchange a tale or two for food and maybe a bed for the evening. It is a tradition that has largely vanished. When a person can fly from one part of the country to another in less than a day’s work, the journey itself is no longer what people are interested in hearing about. “tell us about the sites. I’m sure the plane ride was uneventful.”

But, there are some exceptions. People I know who’ve biked across the country tell stories of how they met people, talked to them, and were invited over for the evening. And of course there are the numerous hikers I know who have similar stories.

This morning I told my own story to a group of six out for the day. The mileage I’ve hiked so far astounded them. The description of sites I’ve seen made them excited to do some more hiking. After this exchange I was offered some apples, which I gratefully excepted.

All benefited today.

The day hikers have a story of their own to tell now: A strange looking

person in the woods who is hiking from Mexico to Canada!

I received some fresh fruit.

Today emphasized a truth about this hike. Campo and Manning are just points on a map. What makes this hike so memorable is the journey itself. There are still some things in life where it is the journey, not the destination, that matters.

Sun  July 7  in a saddle  1268.5 miles

Many days on the trail are in which nothing special happens, The scenery while nice, is nothing spectacular. No unique features, nothing overly dramatic. Today was one of those days.

The area that the trail was routed through today was a clear-cut area that is growing back.

Walking through this type of topography makes for a more introspective day. Rather than focus on what is around me, tended to have many random thoughts throughout the day.

Days such as this seldom get shown in a slide show. But the uneventful days are as much a part of a thru-hike as dramatic sunsets or seeing high peaks that seem to climb forever. And I would not change that fact for anything.

Mon  July 8  Indian Springs Trail  1290.0

This part of the trail reminds me of the area near Walker Pass, about six-hundred miles ago. More oaks now. The elevations are becoming lower. The Sierra range is about to end. With the lower elevations comes a noticeable increase in the temperature. At the Belden store, it was 95 in the shade. Another reminder of how the northern end of the Sierras is similar to the southern end.

Tonight’s mileage figure is a “guesstimate”. The official PCT route has been closed due to a rockslide on the trail. According to the information at the trailhead, the PCT is not passable at this time. The temporary route and the PCT are the same mileage wise. Where the PCT climbs gradually to the ridge, this trail climbs up more directly, then cuts over to the PCT on what looks to be an old road. The climb up was interesting. A forest fire decimated most of the south falling side of the mountain. Fun climb in the hot weather with no shade!

I would like to think days like this build character. But maybe I am just in a good mood because of all the soda and ice cream I had at the Belden store just before the climb?

Tues  July 9  Carter Meadow Trail Junction  1315.5 miles

Most of the hiking today was dominated by views of volcanic Lassen Peak. Seeing the snow on the slopes of the peak provided a contrast to the bare volcanic rock, with no shade, that I was walking on.

The transition from granite to volcanic rock has been interesting. Reminder that Shasta is not far away, and that terrain shaped by volcano eruptions will dominate the trail (thinking of Crater Lake in particular). Wish I had more of a background in geology to understand and appreciate a bit more what is underfoot. As I have never hiked in an area that has relatively recently been shaped by volcanic activity, finding it an interesting part of the hike.

Weds  July 10  Chester CA  1329.9 miles

Lassen Peak continues to get closer and closer. Should be in Lassen National Park by tomorrow. While reading the newspaper while doing my laundry noticed the temperatures were expected to be in the low one-hundreds where I was currently located. Even at the higher elevations I will be at should make for a bit of a sultry hike.

Chester has proven to be a good choice for a re-supply stop. Compact town with all the amenities needed. Being so close to the trail surprised it’s not a more popular spot for re-supply.

Hope to be back on the trail really early tomorrow morning, avoid some of that heat and enter the national park.

Thurs  July 11  near Horseshoe Lake trail junction  1352.5 miles

Being more than half-way done with the trail does put the whole experience in perspective.

Campo seems so long ago. Time dilates when hiking. Two months or so in the ‘real’ world goes by quickly. The month begins and then it seems as if checks have to be made out again for rent, the oil in the car is due to be changed and a deadline for a project is coming up.

Out here? The day is set by the amount of sunlight (and the occasional need to get to the post office before it closes!), the need to eat when hungry (almost always, it seems!), time to rest when tired.

Two months or so on the trail seems so much longer. The journey is a much richer than what I normally experience every day.

At the half-way point I am also reflecting on if I have obtained what I wanted out of this hike. The answer is yes.

Some people who I know speculate why these long trips are taken. Am I looking for an answer to something? Am I trying to get away from it all? What is being sought on these trips is the experience itself, To backpack nearly every day for four months of so is an experience that I am fortunate to have. The journey itself is what I am seeking on these trips. And after 1352.5 miles of hiking, I have obtained what I hoped to get out of this hike. I expect the next 1300 miles to be just as
satisfying.

Fri  July 12  Near Subway Cave  1375.7 miles

In the space of a few miles, went from a swampy mosquito rich environment to a dry. bug free zone. As much as I enjoy swatting at insects that happen to think I am an “All You Can Eat” buffet, the drier environment was a welcome change.

Spent most of the afternoon at the a Hat Creek General Store waiting out the heat. The heat wave continues. Tomorrow’s hike is on the infamous Hat Creek Rim. A thirty mile waterless stretch that has about no shade because of a fire in 1987. There is a water cache half-way through this stretch so that does make the water situation much better.

Sat  July 13  Hat Creek Ridge  1395.5 miles

The actual hiking on the ridge today was easy. Almost all flat with an easy tread. The trail had two picturesque “bookends” in view all day. Lassen to the south, Shasta to the north. What made the day a bit of a challenge was the hot temperature and the lack of shade. Went through my three quarts of water much quicker than anticipated and was quite thirsty when I made it to the cache.

Oasis is a better description. Shaded, much water and a cooler full of fruit and cold drinks. The Schniders were at the road as I was crossing over to the trail so I helped carry up the cooler. It was a great spot for a lay-over for a couple of hours before hiking again. This cache is making the rim less arduous than it could be. Always a nice bonus when the temperatures continue to hover in the high nineties.

Sun  July 14  Burney Falls State Park  1417.5 miles

Curiously I was reminded of hiking in my home state of Rhode Island today. It was really level all day with a mixture of oaks and pines. The trail also crossed several jeep roads. The trail itself was never very far from a road, only the occasional view of Shasta reminded me I was not far from real wilderness again as opposed to the sliver of woods left in my native state.

Spent a few hours at the campground store re-hydrating today. Hot weather hiking can pose an interesting situation. The stomach has limited room. Should I chow down on a hot dog to fill up on calories? Or should I chug a gallon of juice? Re-hydrating was decided on. The next stretch should have more water. For that fact I am thankful.

Mon  July 15  on a ridge  14390.0 miles

The infamous “Section O”. The part of the PCT that has many clear-cuts and has over-grown trail. Plenty of that type of hiking today, but not as bad as trail hype has made it out to be. Other sections have been far more scenic, but it is better to be hiking on this section than not being out hiking at all. As usual, more views of Shasta.

Had a dinner guest today. Often I will cook dinner then hike on another mile or two. While eating dinner, hear some thrashing about in the bushes about thirty feet away. Looked over and saw a bear looking right at me. Most bears I have seen will scare easy and run away. This one continued to loiter in the area, almost as if expecting a handout. The bear did not go away until all my gear was packed. Not once did I feel threatened. Was more amused than anything.

As I hiked down the trail, saw the bear head up the hill in the other direction. No Lipton’s and Stovetop for Mr. Bear tonight! Better luck with the next hiker.

Tues  July 16  Deer Creek  1461.7 miles

As the hike is progressing , I am finding I am moving further and further ahead of a good portion of the other hikers, as well as catching up to some who were ahead. Not because I am a fast hiker or because I do big miles. Both my mileage per day and per hour pace is about average. But because I am pretty consistent in my hiking. Consequently, I am seeing less and less people everyday. The start of this trip was more crowded than the AT. Now it’s more like I expected. Doing much solo hiking now, Going hours at a time without seeing anyone, never mind a thru-hiker. Making for a much different hike than even two weeks ago.

Weds  July 17  in a saddle  1484.4 miles

Often it is a small pleasure that can make a day an enjoyable one. At noon on this warm day found a large, shaded tree with a bed of soft needles underneath it. Perfect for a nap. Two hours and a few winks later, felt much refreshed. As the hike continues simple pleasures seem to take on more and more enjoyment. Something to read, a restful nap, some shade. Life is good.

Thurs  July 18  Castle Crags Campground  1499.7 miles

Fifteen hundred miles of hiking, and rapidly approaching the Oregon border, puts the trip in perspective. Manning is starting to seem close. Can start to say when I expect to finish. To be  honest, the end of the trip is not something I look forward to. Talking to my brother today about his job gripes and the everyday grind reminds me of how I have a small bit of utopia for 2650 miles. I do not have a boss to answer to. I do not have to dream about what I want to do, the dream is being lived. For fifteen hundred miles, as Thoreau would say, have lived deliberately. Realize how fortunate I am to live life this way – if even for a short time. It is a freedom most do not have.

Fri  July 19  Trinity Divide  1522.8 miles

One of the “joys” of re-supplying is that the towns are in the valleys. Then the following day a hiker climbs out of the valleys up to the crest again. What goes down must go back up. But there is an advantage to hiking back up to the crest again. It was beautiful. Shasta again dominated the view, the Castle Crags were still visible. In the distance could see Lassen and contemplate how far I’ve come.

Today was a distilled trail experience. Hard goal to attain, but when the goal is reached the reward makes the struggle worthwhile. The entire trail has been like that. The difficulty of the trail is what makes the time spent out here so memorable.

Sat  July 20  Chilcoot Creek  1545.7 miles

Surprisingly easy hike today. Walked the crest all day with many lakes just off the trail. Made for some memorable, if a bit crowded hiking today. Sometimes I forget when it is a  weekend, but the amount of people out always seems to remind me what day it is. A bit different than the past few days when I will go a whole day with seeing only one or two people or even no one at all. But even on a weekend it is easy to get solitude. Just walk past the popular areas and it is as if I am the only person in the woods.

Sun  July 21  E. Boulder Lake Trail Junction  1568.2 miles

The trail continues to be routed on the crest, with correspondingly nicer views. Received my first view of the Trinity Alps today.

In contrast to yesterday saw only four people. Of these people, two were part of a theme that happens too often on the PCT: mountain bikers running me off the trail. Not much can be done about it. Seems by default many parts of the PCT are becoming a multi-use trail. Luckily this one encounter with mountain bikers was brief. The ridge line hiking was too nice to stay upset for long.

Mon  July 22  by a trail junction  1592.1 miles

Rain. Sleet. And now hail. After a leisurely, sunny break the skies turned gray. Time to pack my gear in my pack liner (a Hefty bag) and get the rain gear ready. What I did not expect was gob stopper sized hail stones pelting my head. At 7000 feet elevation the weather was a bit invigorating. Took a hint from the cows and hid under a tree to avoid being pelted by hail stones. Crawling into my bag, eating a hot meal and seeing that the sun is now coming out is making the day complete. Simple and satisfying end to a full day.

Tues  July 23  Etna, CA  1600.2 miles

 

The PCT is in some ways a trail where many of the off trail amenities are not necessarily known. Unlike the AT, many of the towns and what is in the towns are not well known. A hiker gets to find out what the particular character of the town is.

Such is the case with Etna.

Small town with everything a hiker needs. Hostel, grocery store,

post office and a great coffee shop all in a compact area. I have not had a town stop in almost two weeks. A roof over my head and a bunk should be a luxury that will feel good.

Wed  July 24  Marble Valley Guard Station  1624.3 miles

The Marble Mountain Wilderness has been some of the most striking areas I’ve hiked in a while The valley was lush with wildflowers and the top of the mountains were in direct contrast, barren on the top with streaks of marble in the stone. The plant life is also indicative that Oregon is not far away. Douglas firs are now seen on the trail. Manzanita, a constant companion since the Mexican border, are now appearing in a single plant rather than in large bunches.

The evening entertainment is from the Nature Channel tonight. Where I am camped, I see two deer snorting, hissing and bumping heads. A great sight that the camera does not do justice.

Thurs  July 25  Grider Creek

As the summer progresses the chances of forest fires becomes more prevalent. All day saw much smoke that made the skies hazy. Could smell it too. Though I could not see flames, I wonder how close the fire is to the trail. When planning these long hikes there are some factors that can be controlled. How much to eat. How many miles to hike. What gear to bring.

But, often there are some factors that can’t be predicted. A fire near the trail is one of them. The trail tomorrow is a road walk that goes past a ranger station. Besides my usual ice cream quotient, will have to inquire about the forest fire that has been evident all day. Might have to pick up some marshmallows in the general store tomorrow as well.

Fri  July 26  Saddle near Devil’s Peak  1664.1 miles

No need to pick up marshmallows today. The fire is contained and is several ridges away from the PCT.

Spent several hours today in Seiad Valley. Bought some groceries for the next stretch of the trail and did my usual when at a place that has good food for sale: downed enough calories to give a linebacker pause.

Part of the trail today was road walking. Though I normally hate roadwalks, the walk along the Klamath river was pleasant, especially so early in the morning. It was easy to think the valley was a sleepy hamlet rather than a major shortcut for people getting to places in a car.

The last part of the day was a steep, 4000 foot climb up to the ridge. But it is peaceful up here. Rolling forested hills with just a touch of blue smoke over them because of the recent fire. The sun is setting over them and I can’t help but think of the Smokies. But enough of memories from four years ago. Now I am contemplating how close I am to Oregon. And with that event, how another part of this journey is almost over.

Sat  July 27  Mud Springs  1687.2 miles

Six and a half miles from Oregon. Hard to believe. The deserts of Southern California seem so long ago. The Douglas firs and the crispness in the air are an indication of how far I have come since I have touched Mexican soil.

The beard is longer, the stomach flatter, the legs more muscular. The trail has again become a way of life. Less than one thousand miles until Canada is reached.

My journey on the crest is continuing, but with each step, each milestone reached, the journey is getting closer to the end. The body will be glad of the rest, but the spirit will wish the journey could continue.

Sun  July 28  road 2080  1714.6 miles

The Oregon border was crossed today. Along with this crossing came a strong sense of Ashland being a day away. Psychologically, being in Ashland will truly make it seem as if a new state has been entered. The border may be arbitrary, but the feeling of crossing that line was satisfying.

Ashland is looked forward to. New gear to buy, supplies to purchase and send ahead in Oregon, and rest up for the next part of the PCT.

Go to part two…

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