Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tehachapi, CA

Hey guys,
let me start this post off with a question: How many times a year do you think it rains in the Mojave Desert? Well my guess is not many. I can honestly say that I was there when it did though! Not only did it rain, but frigid cold winds whipped across the valley. It was miserable and not the desert experience I was expecting.

It started when we left Hiker Town on Sunday night. Hiker Town is a great little stop right at the beginning of the Mojave Desert stretch, where hikers can relax, get water, and even stay the night. We got there in mid-afternoon and just stayed a few hours to relax before we took off to night hike the 20 mile stretch through the Mojave that follows the LA aqueduct. We hiked until about midnight and decided we too tired to go any further, so we found a great spot to lay out our bags and space camp (formally known as cowboy camping, but we renamed it because we are not cowboys and as you lay in your bag you look up at space, lol). I woke up at 2:30am to a slight sprinkle of rain on my face, which was strange because there were no clouds in the sky for miles. The wind was just howling so much, it was pushing it over. I fell asleep and awoke once again about 3:00am to full on rain, soaking my goose-down sleeping bag. So I got up and somehow managed to pitch my tent in record time, in the strong winds. Morning rolled around and the rain nor the wind had stopped yet, but we got up anyway and began hiking again. It was terribly cold and there was fresh snow from the night in the mountains, no more than 1,000ft above us. It rained on and off all day, making for a long, miserable, cold Mojave adventure. Honestly, an adventure I'd like to never experience again!

Don't fear though, I did survive and made it to Tehachapi CA. A full service desert town, where I will resupply for the next 6 days or so that it will take for me to hike to Kennedy Meadows: The gateway to the Sierras! My mind is a mess at the moment, trying to figure out how my resupplies will work up in the high Sierras. Many of the supply points are still closed due to record snow fall this year. It's crazy thinking about mass amounts of snow, when I am still here in the desert. There are so many things that can and will go wrong, but I know everything will eventually work out in the end. I'm nervous and excited, just another leg of my adventure...

In my last big post, I mentioned how I think about food constantly. And believe me, that hasn't changed. It is amazing the amount of food a small guy like me can put down with a big hiker appetite. So I wanted to touch on the subject of what I've been eating on the trail. Variety is key when you eat fairly simple food constantly, so I try and mix it up whenever I can. Meals usually consist of one or more of the following items:

  • Pop tarts
  • Hostess Pastries (Honeybuns, Streusel Cakes, etc)
  • Granola w/ dried milk
  • Oatmeal w/ dried fruits
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast Shakes
  • Candy Bars (Snickers, Payday, Baby Ruth)
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Granola Bars
  • Clif Bars
  • Drink Mixes (Gatorade, Kool-aid, Iced tea)
  • Candy (Skittles, Gummies)
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Trail Mix
  • Bread (Tortillas, flatbread, bagels)
  • Cheese (Sticks, blocks, pre-sliced)
  • Meat (Summer sausage, Salami, Jerky)
  • Crackers
  • Candy
  • Knorr Instant Sides (formally lipton, come in varieties of rice, pasta, and noodles.)
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Meat (Tuna, Salmon, Spam, Bacon bits)
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Candy
The nice thing about burning so many calories, is that I eat whatever I want, as much as I want. The junkier the food, the better, because it usually has more calories. I crave sugars, salts and fats to keep my mood and energy up. Now I'm hungry again just talking about all this great food haha!

Well that is about it for now. Time to do some shopping for my next weeks worth of food and of course get some more grub to eat while I'm here. Can't wait to get back on the trail and begin my last stretch towards the Sierras. Kennedy Meadows will be my last stop in Southern California, and then it's on to Central California. I'm at about mile 560 right now, which puts us just over the 1/5 mark of the entire trip. Time is starting to fly. Thanks for following everyone, I love you and miss you all a lot. Keep up the comments!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Another trail update! I'm cowboy camping in a meadow overlooking the great Mojave Desert. We're at mile 499.6, which means breakfast tomorrow at mile 500!!! Spent two night's at the Saufley's Hiker Heaven, did a 24 mile night hike and spent the last two nights at the Anderson's Casa de Luna. Had an amazing time partying with all the other hikers and just relaxing. It's probably a good thing there aren't a whole lot more stops like those two because they made me weak! But, I still managed to drag my ass back out to the trail and am now hiking with Zod and Seth. In just a couple days I'll be down in the Mojave doing the long, flat, waterless stretch. Another great opportunity to night hike, which I really enjoy through the hot desert sections. Will probably be to either Tehachapi or Mojave by Monday night. Love you all, thanks for following!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hiker Heaven

Hey guys!

First off, thank you everyone for the great comments. Your positive greetings really do help me keep my attitude positive and forward thinking! I started this trip solo, but have come to realize I am in no way alone. There are so many great people back home rooting for me and good friends to hike and share this experience with. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I'm currently in the small town of Agua Dulce CA, staying at Hiker Heaven (http://www.hikerheaven.com/). I really don't know what to say that can truly express how great this place is. The trail angels on this trip have been so wonderful, but the Saufleys really go above and beyond! Check out their website to see how they accommodate hikers and give us a place to call home for a couple well needed days of rest. Amazing...

This last week brought exactly the adventure I'm out here to experience. After leaving Wrightwood, we immediately began the climb of the very forbidding Mt Baden-Powell. What was supposed to be 4 miles of switchbacks turned into 2, after the rest disappeared under dense snow. We began a straight-line shot for the top, kicking steps in and moving very slowing. I have to admit, the danger of slipping and sliding down a couple thousand feet really got my adrenaline pumping and I was having a blast. It was no longer hiking, it was now mountaineering! The beautiful sunny weather was a far cry from the storms we had experienced the week before and I was finally in a good mood. I reached the summit with a group of guys we had met that morning and had lunch on the infamous Mt Baden-Powell summit. What an honor it was for me as an Eagle Scout, to be standing on top of a mountain named after the founder of The Boy Scouts of America! Awesome, to say the least!!!

After leaving Mt Baden-Powell, we began a long, slow descent that would eventually bring us back down into the desert. Once again, we worried about water, the heat, and rattlesnakes. I've been very impressed with the altitude and ruggedness of the mountains here in southern California. I guess when most people think of SoCal, they think of beaches, Hollywood, lots of women, and rappers livin large haha! I however, have seen none of these. Still, I can't get used to the drops down into deserts in between every large mountain range. The Sierras and Cascades are calling my name. And you better believe it when I say I'm on way...

I guess I've sort of failed to mention the wonderful friends that I've made on this trip. I usually hike alone, as do most people out here, but it's been great to share breaks and camps with other wonderful people. Unfortunately, there is a lot of dudes out here haha. Great guys, but just not too many women. I've spent the last few weeks hiking with Holden, a 29 year old guy from New Jersey. He through hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005, so he's got thru-hiking in his blood. I really enjoy his company and we seem to share similar paces and daily mileage goals. Others have been hiking on and off with us for these weeks too. General Zod from Boulder, CO and Seattle Seth have been great hiking buddies too and I hope they can catch back up with us to continue north. Some of the other people I've met and spent time with include Adam and Forest (Wisconsin?), Asher and Elad (Israel), Matthaeus (Austria), Thano (Missouri?), Slapshot/Ben/Picker/Sam (East Coasters), Crazy K (Tennessee), and many others I've failed to remember. Sorry guys...Lot's of great people and I'm sure there will be many more. I'm sure Holden and I will group up with other hikers in Kennedy Meadows before taking on the Sierras. It will be very dangerous and confusing out there and the more minds you have to think together, the better.

Besides thinking about home, family, and friends, the other dominate thought in my head is food! I constantly think about food, even when I'm eating. At breakfast I think about lunch and snacks, at lunch I think about dinner, and at dinner I think about more dinner haha. It is nearly impossible to physically stomach the 4-5,000 calories we burn each day, so we try to make it up in town with many meals. I started this trip at about 146 pounds and when I weighed myself yesterday, I was down to 138! Everybody out here is losing weight and some definitely can afford to. I'm thinking about writing a miracle weight loss diet book when I return. It will have one page that says "Hike the PCT", thats it.

Well thats about all I can think to write about now, if anyone has other subjects they'd like me to touch on, please leave comments/suggestions/questions. I love all the interest I receive from people and am more than happy to talk about it. Love you guys, you keep me going. I hope you'll hear from me in another 4-5 days. Check out my two new sets of pictures, now back to relaxing.

Once again, I'm back in the desert. However this time, I'm at a true oasis! Welcome to "Hiker Heaven" in Agua Dulce, CA (www.hikerheaven.com). Jeff and Donna Saufley are true trail angels, devoting most of thier summers to hosting hikers in a sort of backyard trail camp. There are huge tents with cots, showers, a tv, fire pit, computers w/ internet, garage post office, and rides to REI in north LA. They even supply you with loaner clothes while they do your laundry. It blows my mind to think that they care that much about us "hiker trash". It's good people like the Saufleys that keep us sane through the ups and downs of the trail. There are probably about 20 hikers here at the moment and at any time they can host up to 50. Great to see lots of familiar faces from the last month and even to meet some new friends. Stay tuned tomorrow for a full blog update and two new sets of pictures.
Love you all!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting for storms to pass

Hello family/friends/followers,
It's been awhile, but it's finally time for a full length update!

I'm currently in Wrightwood CA, a quiet but beautiful little ski town. I'm enjoying what we call a zero day, meaning I'm not hiking any miles, just resting and relaxing. I've been eating lots of great town food as I try to supplement the calories I've burned. There are quite a few hikers in town, although a good chunk of them left this morning to head towards the infamous Mt. Baden-Powel.

Monday night we got caught in a very serious ice/snow storm up in the San Gabriel Mountains at about 8600ft. This is the first time on the trip when I have been cold and seriously concerned about my safety. We got into camp about 5:30pm that night and I quickly set up my tent. As usual, the SoCal wind was absolutely howling, but this time it was very cold. My tent which had been wet from rain the previous nights before, immediately iced up, so I climbed in my sleeping bag to warm. Within a few hours, the storm had engulfed the mountain and began dumping a rain/snow mixture. Throughout the night, the wind managed to push the snow into my tent and everything I had was getting wet. I spent the night cold and praying that my tent would hold up in the 50-60mph and at least keep me somewhat sheltered. In the morning, I packed up quickly and started the 5 mile walk to HWY 2, where we hoped to htich into Wrightwood. Those were the toughest miles I walked yet, as the wind tried to push me off the trail. I hiked through large snow banks, freezing rain, and falling ice chunks from trees. I lost the trail once when we passed through a ski resort, but managed to pick it up again within a half hour and made it to the highway. Unfortunately, that highway was closed, so without a hitch it meant another 5.5mile walk into town. Not a fun day, but I was so grateful to get in and see lots of other "hiker trash" waiting out the storms. From what we hear, this is very unusual weather for this area this time of year.

The physical part of the hike has definately been tough for me. It started with the standard blisters on my feet, which are finally getting nice and tough. However, hiking in rain and snow the last week makes shoes very wet, which has caused a few new blisters to pop up. My knees still give me problems on occasion, but I make sure to elevate and ice them whenever I get the opportunity. Honestly the toughest part of the trip so far has been the mental challenge. It's very hard to put in consecutive high mileage days with constant pain and worry. Some mornings I wake up with very low morale, usually due to bad weather or a hurting body. These days are the toughest, because quitting usualy dominates my thoughts. Comfort is an unfamiliar word on the trail, so it's is such an amazing feeling to get into town where we can shower and sleep in a warm bed.

Despite all this, I honestly have to say I'm still having a blast! I've seen some really great scenery and met some really fantastic people. If you haven't checked out my pictures yet, do so by clicking the "pictures" tab at the top of my blog and following the link on that page.

I also want to talk a little about "trail magic". Along the trail are what we call "trail angels", who provide "trail magic". These are just past thru-hikers or everyday people who open up thier homes to hikers, provide water/soda/food caches in rural areas, or give help to hikers in many other ways. We've already stayed a place called "Mike's hiker shack", were he gave us good water and a place to stay in the middle of the desert. Another woman showed up during a rain storm at the Whitewater Conservancy and treated us with great food, beverages, and medical supplies. We were put up for a rainy night in the Best Western at Cajon Pass, by a lady we met in McDonalds who was very curious about our adventure. Another woman even bought us a round of drinks last night in the "Racoon Saloon", here in Wrightwood. In a few days, we will be in Agua Dulce, where we will stay at the very popular "Saufley's Hiker Heaven". We are so grateful to recieve help from anyone on the trail and they really do make this trip easier for us. Thank you so much Trail Angels!

In a few weeks I will be in the Sierras, which both worries and excites me! I love the high alpine mountains, and although we've spent some time in them here in Southern California, we always end up dropping back down into the desert. There is a lot of talk about snow in the Sierras and the Cascades, but I think I really will feel more at home there. We will have to navigate miles of snow covered trails, cross treacherous river fords, and fight off very hungry wildlife haha. I will also be making a side trip to climb Mt. Whitney and stand on top of the lower 48! I'm definately scared, but also stoked for the exciting adventures to come.

Tommorrow I leave to hike up Mt. Baden-Powel, which if you didn't know, is named after the founder of the Boy Scouts of America. This will be a very special place for me, because the Boy Scouts, along with my Mom and Dad, are very responsible for my love of the outdoors. If it weren't for the camping and backpacking I did as a kid, I don't think I'd be here on this hike right now. It is a very tall mountain though, some 10,000 something feet, and it will be quite the challenge. From what we heard today, it should be alright now that the storms have basically passed.

I really want to thank everyone who has left me comments and words of encouragement! I read them all they really are a great morale booster. It's tough out here and I miss home like crazy. This friday it will be one month that I've been on the trail and thats the longest I've ever been away from friends and family. Thank you so much everyone, I love you all tons! You'll hear from me in 4-5 when I reach Agua Dulce...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This is the story of 3 dudes who turned the most terrible day into the greatest day yet! Holden, Seth, and Headbanger got thier tents set up last night just as some dark clouds were moving in. The rain started about midnight, along with the standard SoCal wind. When morning rolled around the rain was still pounding, so the three hikers set off in full rain gear. The hiking was miserable, as the three pressed on with soaked socks and shoes. They had busted out 16 miles by lunch, when the skies began to clear. Holden said, "You know guys, if we do 14 more miles we could make it to McDonalds". "That would be a 30 mile day", said Seth. "But we've never done 30 miles in 1 day", said HeadBanger! "We can do it", said Holden. So the dudes pushed on, through howling wind and overgrown bushes. All afternoon they talked of the great food they would get at McD's. With sore feet they made it that 30
miles and indulged in fatty, salty, delicousness. The rain was forgotten, it was now worth it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hello followers! Sorry I never got to do an update while I was in Big Bear, because the Blogger site was down for maintenance. Anyways, did 28 miles to get to Big Bear on Wednesday, my biggest day yet. Stayed at a hostel there and had an absolute blast! What a great social gathering for hikers and an incredible town in general. Maybe the future town for a ski bum like me? Haha, we'll see...So I'm camped tonight at about mile 314, somewhere near the Mojave Dam. Did 27 miles today so I could get through a 14 mile detour. There is a 15 mile stretch of trail closed due to landslides and a washed out bridge, so a detour was set up with 7 miles of forest service road walking and another 7 of HWY 173 road walking. It sucked! But I made it and am back on the PCT. Still having knee problems which is tough, but other than that I feel good. Oh yeah, a little homesick too! It's been 3 weeks of
hiking and many more to come. Hopefully will be to Wrightwood by Tuesday. Love you guys!

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Friday, May 6, 2011

It's not uncommon to be referred to as "hiker trash" on the trail. In fact, we use it quite a bit among ourselves when we come upon a group of fellow thru hikers. Unfortunately, some towns feel uncomfortable due to that very reason: that we are seen as "hiker trash". Idylwild CA is not one of those places. Banners across the main boulevard welcome PCT hikers to this friendly little outdoor-minded town. This place is fantastic! Slightly overpriced, as any tourist town is, Idywild accomidates to thru-hikers by giving a 5-10% at just about every business here. As much as I love it here though, as usual I'm anxious to get back on the trail in the morning. The mountains here are beautiful and rugged compared to the desert which I do not miss, but will return to shortly (unfortunately). Next stop Big Bear, probably in 5-6 days. Until then, enjoy the pictures I've posted by the clicking the
"pictures" tab above. Love you all, keep up the comments!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hey everyone, another quick trail update: I'm camped tonight in a field of huge boulders at mile 144, about 35 miles outside Idylwild CA. Saw my first rattlesnake today about an hour ago. Tried provoking it with my trekking poles, but it still would rattle haha. Stayed at our first traill angel's place last night: Mike's Hiker Shack! Shack is definately a good term, but man we hikers are grateful. Water is very scarce in these parts and places like Mike's and the water caches are extremely helpful. Feet are still wounded with blisters which is not unsual. It takes a few weeks to develop those tough indian feet. My knees are a little better, sore in the morning but usually work themselves out as I hike. Oh yeah, I got my trailname yesterday...HEADBANGER! Haha, definately a referance to my love of punk rock and heavy metal. Plus I've been playing some mean trekking pole air guitar ha!
Well miss everything back home tons! You'll hear from my in Idyllwild. Rock on followers!