Hiking the Continental Divide, Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail
I walked away from civilization today.
Trash along the highway dulled the natural rush of beginning our six-month trek into nature.
In Moreno Village, we visited the first in a series of small town diners. A young wife in a ball cap juggled grill duty and register ringing as a rag tag collection of customers stand about patiently. Never in the city…
Meredith and Charlene, our first PCT groupie, guide us through a green maze, give us hot chocolate. Fields of wild lilac, akin to scenes from the Wizard of Oz, lead us to our campsite just off the lake in the midst of a manzanita stand. An oak tree towers by.
We leave them for camp.
A minute on months of planning:
-water filter: $45 so we can feel safe from giardiasis, an intestinal bacteria they say could be in any water we find. It’s a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into when you can’t drink water out in nature.
In the time before we left Albuquerque, so many people thought we had already gone. It was six weeks from the end of my job to the start of the hike, a time in limbo, much of it spent planning.
Spending, thinking, wondering over.
We’re through day one, 164 to go.
I no longer delight in weekends, 5’o’clock, but the steady hum of my stove warms my demeanor. The quiet makes me want to stare off into the candle all night.
Awaken to gray skies, rain-soaked tent.
Today’s hike in the mist brought to mind the Himalayas. Oriental mist, drizzle, gloom.
Walked out of the mountains around Moreno Lake and down a road.
We were resting on a bridge over a culvert when an old, toothless rancher pulled up in a beat truck and offered to show us to a path through his land. Walked through a meadow, rested, did some karate, came upon a moving stream.
After attempts at bridging, Keith manage to step across. I tried to follow suit, but ended up with a soaker. The day before I fell into gravel along the roadside. So this was my second spill in two days. Humbling, yet I was calm and moved on and into the mountains.
Camped at about 3,200 feet as my legs and shoulders gave out, and Keith gave in. Dried our wet gear and joked about our lack of progress, about nine miles in two days. Only 2,580 to go. We’re behind schedule, but the early days were to be slow.
Ate a caramel from Ed Todd, a friend from Midland, Texas.
Learning to use things effectively, to improvise so most things serve at least two purposes. I don’t miss civilization, but I do miss my girlfriend Mary. If I was with her, I would probably be yearning for the mountains.
Keith was asleep as soon as he laid down on the sleeping bag.
The sleeping bag is security to the backcountry hiker. As the day ends and cold comes quickly to the mountains, fatigue and chilled bones make t his cocoon a haven. The mummy bag is efficient. I’d like more room in the bottom half so I could keep my fat thighs and warm feet apart. I learned this morning the synthetic fill keeps in heat when wet.
We’ve yet to see another hiker. Stan Fleming of Pocatello, Idaho, started before us on April 17. His goal is to earn $1.70-something per mile, $4,000, for his trudging.
It is interesting country and a great change from city life and travel by car. But so far this has been predominantly agonizing work with spices of brilliance.
Awaken to same temperatures, mid-40s, as yesterday. Today the sky clears as I clear my head filter water.
John Lund, 60, with a pacemaker, came upon us as we dawdled in camp. He’s from Apple Creek, near Barstow. He had no tent (mine weighs 7 pounds) and was carrying the pack I abandoned as too small for the trip.
Then two older women from the Sierra area passed us. We crossed paths all day. We camped along Long Canyon.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say they’d walked all the way from Lake Moreno. My inability to keep pace with Keith had me feeling inadequate. I sweated, wore blister, strained shoulders up a healthy climb.
Wanted to quit early but Keith took my tent and I made it to our great, although cow-paddied, site along Canyon Creek. It was our first sunny hiking since the half-day to Lake Moreno, but I was so tired. Altitude, I hope. I am hazy about much else. No major mishaps. 11-12 miles covered. Keith is getting nervous about our pace.
Started out early and set a good pace. Before departure, used my staff to wash socks with soap. The chill of Long Canyon Creek and inventiveness exhilarated me and I felt strong out.
About three miles into the hike, intent on Burnt Rancheria, the same two women came upon us and noted my limping from sore inner heels. Their first aid and blister lesson made the day possible. They came to be known as the Blister Angels.
We walked along a nice Desert View with a Sierra Clubber from L.A. who’d burnt out teaching and as studying to be a travel agent. Appearing to be in his 50s, he said he’d managed to retire from teaching. His wife, from Port Clinton, Ohio, went to my alma mater, Bowling Green State University, in the 50s.
We walked through the Laguna Mountains. More people aided us in staying on the trail, including a sierra bike gang, a foreign couple and runner with a girlfriend. Stopped at Al Bahr Shrine Camp. Sucked down a Coke I’d been craving for miles, got maximum water and looked in the mirror for the first time in five days. Good to see ya Buddy!
Also washed my hands for the first time since starting out. Brushed my teeth twice this morning to break that dry spell in certain fashion.
As we left Al Bahr, the weather got bad. After shooting photos, we walked around a ridge to where the trail split at Pine Valley and Pioneer Flat. Wisely we stopped, raised a tent in the drizzle as clouds covered the ridge.
We were near a paved road, but wind, below freezing temperatures and rain stopped our serious dinner. Ate my last bread, honey, broth, a vitamin, cheese and tortillas. Doused blisters with rubbing alcohol. My boots let me down!
As I write, rain pelts our tent, wind tests its strength. Must be 30-50 mph gusts and its cold. Keith laid down, trying to sleep.
Before stopping we were in high spirits, having hiked well. I felt strong for the first time since the start. My altitude weakness seems to be leaving. Before I sleep, a vivid image of me pounding my staff on the ground as bad weather came up near Al Bahr. I am no longer afraid, almost daring the weather. But I know better. The PCT is not something you conquer. It’s something you survive. Or like a triathlon something you aim to finish.
tent (without fly)
(Entry written 422/85)
Missed making journal entry yesterday. It was the low point of the trip and a true test of our will to survive.
After the day before’s rain-wind display, we began wet. Bad weather bid us good morning at camp near the road and followed us all day as we walked first through forests, but soon onto ridges and crests of the Laguna Mountains.Winds, blowing rain and fog hounded us all day. Hiked along narrow ledges, fear abated somewhat as there was no visibility of what lay below. We were soon wet and cold, and our jeans became nothing but weight and wet.
With wet gear, the packs felt like 60 to 70 pounds. But the terrible weather left us no choice but to push on 13-plus miles. We stopped in a ravine nearing the descent into Chariot Canyon.
Sopping wet, nearing exhaustion, cold to numbness, we raised a tent, fired up a stove for a warm meal sacrificed the day before. Ate hungrily, then off to sleep as wet began to penetrate our tent. Thanks to my sleeping bag’s synthetic fill’s properties, I stayed warm enough, but Keith was wet and cold in his down bag.
We arose early, packed, ate Snickers bars and hiked own into Chariot Canyon. My knee was hurting so the going was slow, but the sun was out! We met Mike O’Tuel at the bottom and hiked with him past mines into Banner, where we strung out our gear and laid over.
O’Tuel, 24, a self-proclaimed “professional student” from Greensboro, N.C., had already hiked the Appalachian Trail and other trails. He carried 40 pounds compared to our 60 pounds. He came into Chariot Canyon almost at a gallop and filled us in on the Blister Angels and John Lund who’d headed into Mt. Laguna when the storm hit because he had no tent..We decided to lighten up and bought tents and rain pants. My tent will be five pounds lighter than the Eureka Timberline and the rain pants a light, sensible replacement to levi’s to be picked up in Whitewater Canyon. We plan to send our gear back from Warner Springs, leaving us with only one tent for a stretch.
.The Banner stop was a haven after stormy recent past. I drank a gallon of milk, ate salami and cheese sandwiches, drank apple juice. Then beef stew and ice cream for dinner. Enjoying town food while it’s available.
If knees, heels heal, I want to do this. I sometimes flag in my determination, but feel often the wonder of such a trip.
Called home. As I talked to the answering machine, assuring Mom I was fine, I felt a rush of homesickness. So far from home and taking chances has me at least a little scared.
Last night was scary, hypothermia a possibility. And this morning’s knee injury made it tough to get out of the jam.
Showered and washed hair for the first time in a week. Not the pleasure I thought it would be. Dried off with a t-shirt.
The weather was nice when we awoke in Banner. We started out strong through San Felipe Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. After leaving the ranch, we walked road most of the day. Nasty, hot climb to a log cabin ru by a 65-year-old Philadelphia woman who’d come to California in the Depression. Like the last café promised in the guidebook, it wasn’t operating. Still we met Linda Jean Foster, who worked at the Long Valley Ranger Station on Mt. San Jacinto and and Tim Higginson, who offered advice about the trip.They’d both hiked the PCT twice, having met on the first trip. Their advice was all positive and further motivated me.
Today was the first day since Lake Morena when I didn’t consider quitting. I am getting stronger and getting to feel the P.C.T. energy. Writing in the dark as my flashlight sputters, so enough until manana.
A good which began badly as we arose early and hiked off in sunny surroundings. Apparently yesterday’s toils were still being felt. I was sluggish, stopping. Finally made Warner Springs in a pool of sweat.
Dumped items:tent (without fly)
Warner Springs was a neat break. A resort on the move in the middle of nowhere.
Rested and drank pop. Afternoon hiking went well and we mad a spot 14-15 miles down the trail. Our first fire and the feeling of a good day under our belts made the night relaxing.
Awoke, used nearby Aqua Caliente creek to rinse socks, wandered on up to Lost Valley Road. We encountered a rattler in the trail and enjoyed views back to Warner Springs and of Pine Mt. Sluggish day ended at Lost Valley Road. Hit the sack early. Wind tossed our tent all night long.
Arose early to make Anza, our first food drop and the terminus of our first 120-mile section. As we hiked out of the mountains after being rehydrted thanks to Elton and Naomi Fairchild’s wonderful well, we reached pavement and donned tennis shoes for the anticipated road hike to Anza before the post office closed for the weekend.
A mail deliverer had just told us it was open Saturday, when Marguerite Gierman walked up and said,” I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with our mail delivery man and I can’t recall our post office being open on Saturday.”
We proceeded to tell her of our plight and she volunteered to get our box for us and meet us at the nearby Valley Store. She met s, gave us our mail and told us of arrangements we’d made for the box at Kamp Anza. It seemed the hotel room Keith and I had psyched ourselves up for was not to be found. Kamp Anza was to be our layover haven.
We lollygagged awhile at the store, reading mail. I downed potato chips, most of a half gallon of orange juice, coke and an ice cream sandwich. The Little Valley Store was an old, rundown gas station where you entered through a side door into a small store stocked with a mirage of foodstuffs. Characters running it were definitely unique, but they had little to say wild-looking PCT hikers.
Hiked to Kamp Anza, set up camp. I showered almost immediately, while Keith erected our tent. I went passed out in the tent while he washed all the clothes. Awoke long enough to eat spaghetti and meatballs from a can, then passed out for good.
Awoke early. Call Mom. She was upset and harried over her garbage disposal breaking as I stood in a phone booth near some tiny Southern California town with no shelter but a tent. A bit ironic for me to deal with. But it was good to talk to her.
Texas girlfriend Mary not home for three calls. Friend Jack’s phone machine hung up me. So I headed back to bed.
Up and into Anza. Luckily caught quick rides with a long-haired mechanic. His truck broke down, but he caught us another ride into town.
Walked to barber shop where I was cut shorter than ever in my life it seemed by an old barber while a fuzzy baseball game played on the TV. He said he “blazed a brand-new Oregon Trail” through long hair. A driller talked to me as Jim cut and before I knew it my hair had been PCTed.
Then I headed to the market for supplemental food, to Rudy’s for cheeseburgers and pie while reading the L.A. Times.
Caught a ride back with a large Indian woman we met in the Circle K. Back at the campground we broke down our supply box and repacked for the next stretch. We are somewhat blunted in our enthusiasm by the 1st stretch, which was a severe test.
Already we are talking of altering our plans. In fact we seemed to be backing away from our goal, although we did much better in the latter days. My knee worries me, Keith seems a bit worn by the rigors too.
Tomorrow we head out on a longer stretch than the first. But we are now section PCT hikers aware of the greater extent of what lies ahead. We pray for good weather. As someone said to me in early planning, “The weather tells.”
More on Kamp Anza:
Run by Terry, his wife, who ecaped city life and hustle and bustle for this little piece of paradise. Six other businesses fall under their hands. She says it’s the only campground licensed by Sears as a catalog outlet.
In addition to Harris Johnson, this small camp had other characters. “Chief” drives a painted, old vehicle announcing its owner, an educated Indian who visits the office-store, the center of activity and gathering place for many in the area, including a large black or Indian woman who drove us back from Anza.
Terry encouraged us to hitchhike the steep road to the path into the San Jacintos. “Stop to smell the flowers,” he said as he ran off to work.
Drank with Harris Johnson in his trailer. The 72-year-old retired architect helped build Palm Springs in the 50s to the 70s. He gave us vodka and we had a long talk bridging the generation gap.
Awoke and hike out of Anza. Ate two bowls of Backwoods Vegetable Soup. First sign of PCT appetite we’ve seen referred to in books. Then hiked into the San Jacintos. 16 miles later, through some nice terrain, we were near Lion Peak. Our longest hiking day to date. Feel stronger. Blisters gone from heels, now appearing at other end of my feet.
Up early. Hiked to Fobes Ranch Trail where we decided to hike to a spring for water. Missed the spring trail. Apparently Fobes no longer wanted to share the spring as a branch camouflaged the trail. Hiked down into private Fobes land, found a small stream. Hike up through a ranch road, found the spring and finally our way back to our packs.
Then we went up Spitler Peak, the toughest climb in the San Jacintos. Found a magical campsite in a burnt forest just off the peak. Watched Palm Springs bustled from above.
From our magic spot, we hike up Apache Mountain, around Southwell Mountain and up to the top of Red Taquitz, often on snow-covered trails. At about 8,000 feet on Red Taquitz, looked back at Antzell Rock, Apache, Spitler, Palm and other mountains.
At one point, I stepped onto a footprint in the snow and sunk into my hip. My other fott sunk in and I was knee deep in snow in at-shirt and shorts. And it was almost May in Southern California. After much struggling I made it out to safety. A chilling experience emotionally and physically.
Lost the path in more snow. Fell, slipped and slid along haplessly until we decided to hiked down to a creek, off the trail. Then easily back onto a trail. Filtered some water. Keith came back claiming to have found the path. But we walked in circles for about a half-hour before finding the trail I’d seen, but decided to stay with Keith.
Hiked to Saddle Junction, up about ¼ mile to a spot over looking hip hiker town Idyllwild. We passed on the hipness and settled into our campsite.
Struck out early from our good spot near Saddle Junction. No tent since Anza. Slpet uder the stars last night after two nights with a tarp. Again snow covered trails slowed our progress as did climbs and persistent dragging feeling, possibly altitude sickness.
We stumbled into a meadow unsure where we were, having lost the trail again. I rested, while Keith looked for the trail. Finally we decided to hike down to where we thought Deer Spring Campground and water would be, but no luck. We climbed back up and decided to quit for the day. Boots and spirits were dampened.
Ate a large meal, then decided to look again for the trail to ease morning stress. Hiking from our gear we quickly found it, but curiosity cause us to hike down a ways until dark started to settle in. No flashlights, matches or enough clothes. We stumbled around, off and through rocks, thorn bushes and treacherous snow banks. Once I tumbled into a thorny bush. Began to panic. We were wet and cold and hopelessly lost.
Keith and I finally gave up and made an uneasy camp beneath a round. Freezing, we huddled close and rode the night out. I put my sweater over my legs, extending warmth and coverage beyond my shorts. and my wool gloves over my wet feet. Battened down all the hatches and dreamed of sleeping bags. Some PCT hikers!
We began the day wet and cold huddled uncomfortably against a rock. A fall I’d taken during our fruitless search had torn scratches in one thigh and imbedded prickers in all my clothing.
As soon as it was light enough, we found our way back to camp and burrowed deep in our badly missed sleeping bags. Awoke as the sun baked away the morning. Ate feeling more dragged out than ever and prepared to hiked into more snowy passes.
Four Californian hiked upon us. They told us how they’d been lost as early as Campo, skipped north from San Felipe to Idyllwld and just hiked from there that morning after dumping tents and food. Also a Walkman with external external speakers. Their mega-lace language, Coors beer and refreshed attitudes were entertaining. They stumbled off into the snow, not heeding our directions. We started out soon afterward, hiked hard to Fuller Ridge through snow made it partway along ridge near San Jacinto where we stopped. Camped looking at the mighty peak, but a loud hum from below (possibly I-10) killed the silence of being truly in nature.
Bowels somewhat uneasy. Drank some water unfiltered while stranded last night. Early crash hopefully will be the cure. Tomorrow we have to hike megafast to make the Whitewater Canyon Post Office before it closes or by 8 a.m. Saturday.
Hopefully it’ll work out like Anza. My tent, rain pants waiting for me. It’s a long way down after five action packed days in the San Jacintos.
Despite the wildness of our lifestyle the past 1 days and natural surroundings most immediate to us, it is becoming apparent that you can never get too far away from people in Southern California.
Smog’s purple haze outlines the horizon as you look off the mighty peaks of the San Jacintos. Idyllwild, Lake Hemet and the Plastic Paradise, Palm Springs. surround you below. Helicopters buzz overhead, marijuana and border patrols. Fighters scream out of nowhere to interrupt silence. We went four days before seeing anyone, but the realities of living in structured society remain ever present or lurking in the background, occasionally reminding you that you’re still part of it.
Awoke early and began the day hiking across snowy ridges on the Fuller Ridge Trail we later found out rangers had said should not be hiked without crampons and ice axe. Footprints from Californians led us to the edge of the ridge where the snow ended. From her we began inexorable hike down.
Camp upon a coral king snake early in the day. Then two rattlesnakes. The second startled me in the path and hissed a warning that had me backing up. Long, wasteful path took us around and around as we worried we wouldn’t make it down before dark. (We needed to be in Whitewater in the early a.m. before the post office closed for the weekend.)
Met a single hiker coming up the trail without the proper equipment. Warned him gently, gave him iodine tablets, then sent him on his way, while we headed on down in the other direction. His soft shoes would be no match for the snow ahead and he admitted having little experience. We worried about him until we began to worry we might not make if off the Snow Canyon stretch of the trail before dark.
Just before dark, we hit the bottom. After resting our aching fee (18 miles already) we walked into tiny Snow Creek, where we got water and drank a beer with two guys about to go out and hit the town.
Walked a dark dirt road toward an I-10 rest stop in San Gorgonio Pass. Crashed almost immediately. A biker cruised up soon afterward. Just as I was asleep, I felt a sprinkler system kick on, jogging us awake. We moved to a dry area, the sprinkler pelting our tired bodies with water. Crashed again until 6 a.m.
Awoke at I-10 rest stop. Bought coffee from a church lunchwagon. No cups, serve yourself. The rest area was hopping. As I washed my face in the bathroom, I noticed a bum asleep propped up on a toilet. All sorts of strange folks were wandering around as we struggled over to the post office at Whitewater Canyon. Got my tent, rain pants in the mail, mailed back another 14 pounds of gear (35 total unloaded).
At the post office, the proprietor of a Riverside County retreat for alcoholics agreed to feed us. As we waited, a mixed bag of teetotalers cleared the house, sat and smoked, played various roles in dilapidated but cheery retreat center. like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the atmosphere was pleasant, but almost hopeless.
Enjoyed large breakfast, later walked up road toward the San Bernardino Mountains. Came upon San Gorgonio Aqueduct, a popular hangout spot despite prevalent “No Tresspassing” signs. Washed socks, drank from waters rushing from the aqueduct. A guy gave us beef jerky and we wandered on up to a trout farm where we hid from the heat until late afternoon. Keith pigged out on half-pound chocolate bars.
From the trout farm, we found our way back to the trail. Up a creekbed we hiked until we came upon the California Boys again. The group is actually called Earth Flight, An Assault on the Pacific Crest Trail. The leader, Scott Darling, hails from Glendora, California. He is joined by Alex Jones and Kurt Jackson. They had hiked to Whitewater, gotten a ride to a friend’s home and slept in beds, then gotten a ride to the trout farm, avoiding a hot, 5-mile roadwalk.
Here, a mile from their drop-off, they’d stopped for a break in the creekbed. We talked, then hiked with them about a mile. Stopped for another break. During our hike, one of them told us of his championship in the Arcata human-powered vehicle competition.
Hiked a bit more until Keith’s heel cause us to stop at next creek ford, meandering at a 90 degree angle and creating a nice background sound. The sand made it seem like camping on a beach.
Erected my new tent with Keith’s instruction. Small, but very snappy. We’ll see how it works in inclimate weather. Took out a book for the first time on the hike and played a harmonica I’d also carried from the Mexican border without using once. It’s the perfect backpacker instrument, light, compact and hard to sound too bad on.
Fatigue to Big League?
I’ve become a proficient backpacker in the past three weeks. I am organized, competent and able. A large part of this is my improvement in conditioning. Though I thought myself in top physical condition from kickboxing and swimming, I was unready and fatigued for most of the first two weeks of the hike. Not just to improve and develop as a backpacker, I was barely subsisting, having eliminated basic tasks that had been routine.
Since my ability to sustain the tough pace has developed and I’ve had time to improve my technical camping, I’ve taken up these tasks again.
Three days ago I began brushing my teeth again. It was one thing I had little strength to do at the end of each hiking day. It also called for water, which was so valuable. I never felt I had enough. There were other things bothering me or on my mind.
Arose early, out of camp early. Unremarkable hiking day. Steady uphill along Mission Creek. Ample water made the hike easier. 15 miles with minimal strain. Saw a snake with black and white stripes on one fording.
Ran into a hiker going the other way. He told us the California Boys were only an hour ahead. We think we found signs of one of their breaks in the trail. He also said two pretty young fillies were about six hours ahead. Nice thought, but we’ll probably never see them.
We camped at about 6,100 feet in “a nice creekside spot” in the words of guidebook author Jeffrey Schaffer.
Keith seems rundown. Hopefully he’ll rejuvenate. I’m still tired after hiking rigors, but not as much as him lately. Funny how things go in cycles. He once ran ahead, was much stronger. I’m in no hurry to backslide or slow him down again.
“It was so camo,” California Boy Kurt Jackson on a rattler in the trail.
From our creekside spot, we climbed quickly to about 7,500 feet, then to 8,000-plus. Gradual grades relative to the San Jacintos, Bucksnorts, in forested environs. Keith agog with trees. “That’s a classic example of a sugar pine.”
One screw up: We decide to go two mils past the last creek chance. The guidebook and maps tell of a creek a half-mile off the trail. But it’s almost dry. We get some murky brew from a small ponded area. We lose about an hour to save an hour of carrying extra water.
The PCT hunger hits and we eat the largest dinner to date Keith cooked spaghetti. Still we hiked hard and make 16 miles, 17 plus for the day with the extra hiking.
Anticipation of a layover makes hiking easier. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve showered and three since I slept in a bed.
Gazing out yonder entrance of my nifty shelter,the snowy peaks of San Gorgonio are in sight. This morning, blessed with a light hiking day ahead, is for reflection, winding down before hitting Big Bear City.
We’ve walked over 210 miles and so much has occurred. I am now a natural man, unharried by day-to-day routines and deadlines. I’m comfortable in the new lifestyle. Leisurely day of hiking ended near a borrow pit near Baldwin Lake. Crashed off a road back into the mountains from which we had hiked.
5/8/85Arose with the sun, hiked into town. Ate a luscious omelette and fixin’s at Chuck and Jacquie’s in Big Bear City. Hiked onto the Bluewater LLodge, an efficiency where Keith and I had our first showers since Anza. It was our first hotel since starting.
The shower felt foreign and I bumped my knees off my head getting into bed.
The day was hectic. After surviving mountains, snow, storms, etc., but bureaucracy and city almost stopped us.
Broke, I discovered my Visa was overdrawn. After much tomfoolery and anguish I got $100 from Mom via Western Union. Without a car, we hitched around town. Only the more worn-out cars stopped for us.
Town life was uncomfortable. I’m ready to head back to the path. Eight days to our Malibu break a wonderful incentive.
The pack’s back up in weight. Hopefully my body’s conditioned better to handle the weight now. Still nothing like the major weights carried from Campo, the Mexican border.
Girls are looking great, but there’s no time to stop for PCT hikers hungering for more path to tread. The girls only six miles ahead of us on the trail a few days are likely gone forever.
Big Bear City our first town with any accommodations. Probably the largest we’ll see along the path. I really don’t miss city life. At least not yet!
Up and off to breakfast from Blue Water Lodge, a dilapidated crash pad in Big Bear City. Sent back unwanted food, gear, 14 post cards and lost travelers check form.
Ready to go at noon, but classic “High Noon” was enough reason for us to hold out until 2 p.m. Walked the road into Fawnskin with newly heavy packs. Ate at a burger haven owned by the market owner, run by his son.
Then up a dirt road into semi-wilderness. At about nine miles, we stopped along Holcomb Creek. Unfortunately we weren’t the first. Broken beer bottles, feces, toilet paper, etc. marred an otherwise nice campsite.
Slight rain, high winds, wet our gear. Drying and eating breakfast. Soon to depart. Hiked up and down through trees, then more rocky parts of the San Bernardinos along Holcomb Creek, then down to Deep Creek. Saw a deer which looked back with equal curiosity. Ended up at a day use area frequented by trashy fishermen. Crashed early.
First day back on 15-mile a day pace since the Big Bear City break. Keith’s energy seems to be wavering and he admitted some loneliness. I miss my Texas girlfriend too who’s been uncharacteristically nice on the phone.
The physical test seems to be over. Now the real test: Can we handle this thing in our minds?
Too much trash along the way! Our last two campsites were ruined by trash left by lazy, inconsiderate humans.
From our day-use campsite on Deep Creek, we hiked along the canyon to the Hot Springs. Nakedness prevailed at the pools and surrounding lounging areas, predominantly populated by men. Keith and I shyly joined others in the pools. Ever the conversationalist, I noted one guy’s hiking boots – all he was wearing as he walked around. They were a good diversion, despite the lack of female forms and profusion of trash.
The hot springs were about five miles from an unfinished spillway for the Mojave Reservoir. After several hours, we dressed and hiked out to the spillway later. A couple we met three miles along the trail said they’d hiked all day to get that far. We’d already hiked eight and planned to cover seven more.
With adversity, the hiking was all we could handle. Now it was getting monotonous. I need more to keep my interest level.
We walked down, took our boots off to ford the creek. we followed through trees behind the spillway. Saw the girls we’d been hearing about since back at Mission Creek. But we were bedraggled and hardly talked to them.
They stopped for the night, we hiked out of the area, across 173 and up into the hills where we crashed on the trail. I’m such a woodsman I pitched my tent on the path. Windy night, hard sleep.
Keith and I have strained relations. He heads off while I finish packing. I get more water from spring. Water is so important. Although heavy, I am uncomfortable without it, especially at night. Freeze-dried dinners not much good without it.
Boring, hot hike to Silverwood Lake. 11 miles by early afternoon. We take a long break at an ant-infested beach.
The water filter is becoming a hassle. Keith and I argue over using it. We drop down to a picnic area for Mother’s Day calls, but all lines are busy.
We hike across the road to a nice campsite with a flushing porta-john. Crash outside.
Up earliest yet, about 6:30 am.. As the sun rises, we’re off down a trail taking us through another canyon, then on to Cajon Pass. Noonish break under power lines is interrupted by bees. They run us off. One stings Keith on the nose.
Shaken, we hike out to the pass. Dinner at a diner a wonderful break. I inhale the salad.
The sign marking an exit away’s stop facilities seems to have hurt this stop’s business. Bright signs dominate?
Then we hike under I-15, through a nature area where we learned the types of desert foliage through which we’d been walking for most of the last month. Up a little ways, crash under the stars again, a slight smog layer hangs in the air. Two trains pass near us to Keith’s delight.
300 miles don. I feel I’ve accomplished something special. From a weekend hiker, I can go this far with only one night inside. I’m a PCT hiker. This is why we’ve come!
Up and climbing into the San Gabriels. Mormon Rocks soon behind us. We cross the San Andreas Fault and climb again to 4,900 feet and Upper Lytle Creek Ridge.
Unsuccessfully we look for a good spot to fade the heat and up huddling uncomfortably beneath bushes edged with bugs and trash.
More climbing takes us to 6,300 feet where we crash, tired by the day’s exertions. More than 3,000 feet climbed. Looking back we can see I-15, Cajon Pass, the San Gorgonios and San Jacintos. Admiring our work…
The pace is tough to keep up after five straight days.
Keith and I argue again, but a snakes snaps us out of it. Lying across the path. Together we run it off.
New blisters, probably from instep supports, make the going tougher. Ankle tendons stiff as I favor my injuries.
Lack of water again a big concern. 22 miles between water stops with climbing and heat, a test of endurance.
Up with the sun, we take on a climb on into the San Gabriel Mountains. Only one quart of water left from six taken away from Cajon Pass.
Feeling weak, possibly altitude sickness. We make our way slowly uphill. The miles are coming harder, but we struggle up another 2,000 feet to Guffy Campground and water from a spring.
As I’m ascending the final stretch, two dogs come charging down barking. After them, their master, Dick Schroer, a teacher from Tustin, California. He’s called in sick for a “sanity day” up in the mountains. He’s a nature nut, Edward Abbey disciple like us, though for him middle-age approaches.
He shares his orange and cookies. We talk of the variety of nature, etc. Eventually he offers to take us down the Yoddler Inn in Wrightwood. Three men and two dogs pile into a VW Bug with 320,000 miles on it and down we go. He and Keith discuss their love of maps, travels. I down two St. Paulie Girls and a cheeseburger.
He heads off for an appointment in the city in hopes of getting his deaf and blind 24-year-old daughter into a state school after returning us to Guffy.
Jerry and a group of campers give us a piece of chicken which we wolf down. Then coffee and help with the fire. We end up around theirs, before crashing relaxed.
So many people along the way have helped us out. Others are curious. We’re like throwbacks to the old days. Adventurers on a quest?
Pitched, for the first time in at least three days, on a windy ridge top. Enjoy early morning, hoping Keith will stay asleep. 18 miles or so to where we meet his sister on Saturday morning for rest and relaxation in Malibu. Can hardly wait!
Lazy start. We wander along a road out of the mountains toward the highway. Heel blisters, sore ankles worry me, but we walk on down past Holiday Hill Ski Area, cross the Angeles Crest Highway into a forested gap.Then up to Lamel Spring on the Boy Scouts’ Memorial Mountain, Mt. Baden-Powell. Their markers note our progress.
A tent pole breaks, leaving my new purchase worthless weight until a solution can be found. Rage until I realize there’s nothing to do but eat and crash.
Note: Climbing’s becoming a real joy. My strength has built up. You realize what you’re accomplishing simply by looking back down from whence you came. It is thrilling to meet the challenge of a steep climb , changing altitude, environment so quickly. You can walk from desert floor to snowy mountain top in short order, moving through various environments as you climb through the clouds.
Awaken for hike up Mt. Baden-Powell, named for the founder of the Boy Scouts. California Boys pass our site at Lamel Spring and we agree to meet on top. Tough hiking up, snow obliterating much of the trail, so I climb almost vertically to the peak. Amazing views of cities below on one side, all the way to the ocean on the coastal side and a replay of all the ranges we’d hike through to the south. San Gabriels, San Jacintos, San Gorgonios and San Bernardinos.
With our new friends, we rest though most of the day at the summit, celebrating and talking of what has passed. We also make plans to meet at Yosemite. Neil Young playing as our paradise is lost to a massive bug attack. The sun bakes our skin and gear. We agree to escape to a better spot or do some extended hiking.
Hike through beautiful forests along the Angeles Crest. Slow hiking. I’ve been feeling rundown the past few days, either wearing down or letting down in anticipation of our Malibu break.
Taking a break near Windy Gap, when a man and a dog with out any gear come up the side of the ridge where there is no trail. We provide first aid supplies for poor pooch’s torn paw. They have no maps. They leave after we direct them to the nearest road junction.
We hike on to Little Jimmy Campground. We celebrate with the California Boys’ tunes and marvel at Keith’s tarp design.
Up early to meet Keith’s sister, we hike off on a well-marked trail. About a half-hour later, we find ourselves on Mt. Islip, having done some good climbing and snow crossings to this peak, which is in the wrong direction!
Keith and I clash and he takes off back to where we started that morning. Luckily his sister was late. We wait two hours before she meets us.
While waiting, Keith and I argue violently and I say I am going to quit the hike becaused of his feelings. We ride into Malibu in the luxury of a Mark IV, dazed from a month in the wilderness.
Meet his sister’s husband, a Hollywood producer, and shower immediately. Such a wonder feeling. Our first showers since Big Bear City.
Filet mignons, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and beers fail to satisfy the PCT hunger, but our hosts eat light. French film and Rocky Road ice cream and mud pie. Then off to bed. What a change from dirty in the wilds to crashing with waves outside your bedroom window. I feel shellshocked.
A day of respite begins with a Jacuzzi and a dash into the Pacific Ocean. Keith and I walk down an exclusive section of Malibu Beach after a buxom tenant takes umbrage at our loud talk in the hot tub.
Shirley chews me out long-distance for missing my friend Bill’s wedding. Do nothing until 2 p.m., then dinner at Carlos and Pepe’s with two friends of our hosts, Keith’s sister and her husband, the producer of Kung Fu and the director of I Love Lucy.
After a long game of Trivial Pursuits, Keith and I wander around Malibu. I pig out at a nearby Italian restaurant, upset at having lost 20 pounds since beginning the trip. Crash after more videos, including, “The Bounty.”
Awakening late, we miss our host. We do megatasks, aggravating Keith’s sister with our demands on her time. “Other things are happening while you guys are hiking the PCT.” There is always too much to do after being out of town.
Keith sleeps as I update my journal. At the drop off we ponder continuing our trek.
We hike 3 ½ miles to Eagles Roost, a deserted picnic area off the Crest Highway. We crash after half chicken dinners.
No tent. Hope a new one’s waiting in Mojave. Neither of us has a shelter, except for Keith’s tarp expertise.
Until this stop, it had been all new and a single whole. This marks the start of Part 2. We are more seasoned.
Although I’m concerned about losing 20 pounds, I’m not about to let it stop me. Most of it was overweight. I feel strong and well.
Looking out into the mountains, I feel I’ve come so far. 350 miles is so far, it is hard to fathom. Now we are able. From here on, miles will come as long as we remain willing.
The trip still feels right, probably more so than ever. If the Sierras will cooperate and Keith and I can maintain our friendship, we’ll give the push onto Canada a good run.
In the past month, we’ve had so many experiences with different people, more than if we’d been in town.
Awaken intent on hiking 17 miles. Hard to leave the San Gabriels. They’ve been our best mountains yet. Good times and good peaks!
Hike good through the morning. Rest at Cloudburst Summit. Relaxed we hike on past closed camps in forests along ridges. As the day ends. we hiked in more chapparal and end up in a small, planted pine forest.
Early start begins with 1,400 foot climb, gradually grinding up to Mt. Pacifico. Rewarded with a forested return on the descent. Nice hiking along ridges leading down to a break on a shady ridge preceding a jeep road.
I walk first alone and enjoy two hours of solitude. Just me and the path. Tough trail crossings, crashed out and deteriorated parts, but I walk solid to water at Mill Creek Summit.
Missing Mary greatly since return to city. Possibly the sight of woman flesh revive my dormant male sex hormones. . It has been almost two months. Whether it’s longing love or my “little head doing the thinking,” as she used to say, I am unhappy only from this.
Nature now seems very comfortable for me. We have hiked much of this trip, almost 400 miles, without tents.
The worries of city life are no longer a concern. I am concerned first with making miles to keep a Canadian crossing a possibility, finding water to drink and for cooking and avoiding trouble one can find in nature if you don’t keep your head.
I miss sudden luxuries not at all.
From the Mill Creek Summit, we hike up again. Always it seems we are climbing. Even on a day expected to be easy, we climbed over 2,000 feet.
Through burnt forests, we walk to a spot on the path where we bivy for the night. No tents again. Just under the stars, our second night directly on the path. A nice view of the valley below and the Mojave Desert.
Up early again. Hard to sleep very late when there are no wall or ceiling, a drop cloth for a floor.
Off we go. Our goal is water. We decide to go for a creek after sign mileage proves wrong, the book’s extra two miles is correct. The water filter is a hassle, not living up to its guarantee. Keith and I fight over it. Water is a major hassle!
Ironies have popped up throughout the trip. As a writers, I guess I should be noting them in great detail.
Walking the ridges, I feel at times like TV’s Kung Fu, a character out along against the wilderness, though he spent most of his time battling bad guys.Our first true break was in Malibu Beach at the beachfront condo of the director and writer of the series, whom I’d never met before. He told us behind the scenes stores about the show. Mostly tales of David Carradine’s excesses.
Often sing Simon and Garfunkel’s tune, “Look for America.” After hiking 19 miles, we stumbled into a stranger’s home near Whitewater to find it playing.
We get stream water, then hike on. Break after a hard climb up Mt. Gleason. We just keep climbing. At the Messenger Flats intersection we decide to hike down two more miles to another creek. We break for the afternoon. Our trail bivy is very buggy. They won’t leave us alone. Bug juice seems to deter them temporarily, though flies are in my face as I write. Good breaks are a necessity, but the bugs don’t understand.
The new filter on our water filter isn’t working. What a scam.
From our break spot, we head down off the beloved San Gabriels. Our hot pace gets us off quickly. More rattlesnake adventures. Today we encounter six, including several large ones. One wouldn’t move, so we knocked it off its perch near the path with a rock. It slid off and rattled off into the bushes.
At about 400 miles after another 15-mile day. We stop just far enough from Acton so we can get in early tomorrow, yet enjoy tonight in relative nature. Tomorrow a much anticipate post office stop. Mail, meals, stores, town happenings before busting into the Mojave Desert. A new adventure. End Part Two in the guidebook.
We get up from our spot on flatter ground and walk to Acton, skipping breakfast. Arrive about 8 a.m. and munch stale 25 cent fritters, milk and juice at store. Hang around outside the store until we can get our box.
Bivy at a picnic table. Turns out to be the Acton “office,” the self-proclaimed home for Acton’s party population. As we write letters and prepare boxes for Kennedy Meadows, Mojave and Sandi back in Albuquerque, townies gather and tell us tales.
Characters out of Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat,” none with anything apparent to do but laze about the office and drink beer. Amusing, but they divert our attention from many tasks at hand.
The day races away. We barely get our boxes to the post office as it closes. In town always ends up hectic. We’re no longer capable of organized city movements.
We’re packing ultra-lite for the dreaded desert. Tonight we try hiking in the dark. We’ll see…
Dissatisfied with letters here. Apparently my absence is insignificant to some of my friends. Mom, Grama and Chaz come through. Mary especially let me down by not writing. She must not miss me enough. Or she’s capable of focusing the energy necessary to scrawl a few lines.
Besides the Paisans at the office, two characters stood out in Acton. Meryl Adams, a 75-year-old woman who approached outside the local gas station-store. Her twisted body and advancing age did not keep her from working on the history of Acton 1844-1850. Still unfinished after six years of writing and and scores of research, Ms. Adams was still engrossed in the project. She claimed to be the first Girl Scout executive in San Angelo, Texas, and a reporter in her younger days. Keith and I talked most about her ambiguous sexuality. Until after she’d left, I was still convinced she was male, although I noticed breast and she was effeminate. The other character left nameless. He pulled up as we sat with one local youth at the office picnic table, forcing us to move our gear. An entire side trembled violently as he tried to eat his lunch.The youth gave him directions to Buena Park and he was off. Seemingly unconcerned or unaware of his condition, he shook our hands and took off.
After a big meal, we finish our mailings, buy supplemental food and head out. Our second night of night hiking. The first was to get into Whitewater for the post office, we walked into the dark on roads.
It was intense, a new kind of adventure. Hard to see junctions, follow our trail. Also had to stay on a flat path. Cars whizzing by on Memorial Day weekend jaunts fly by us. Keith’s particularly afraid. We talk and walk seven miles to the Readmond’s house. here the owner allows PCT hikers to crash on his property by a picnic table and water faucet. We crash about 1 a.m.
Bill and Jane Kucera’s wedding day began before dawn for two of their best friends. Up and away, hoping to get miles covered before the Mojave heat gets too intense. Jeff Sauer, with whom we’ll hike on and off all the way to Canada shows up as we leave? Along the Agua Dulce Road, into the Sierra Pelona Highlands. We crash for the afternoon after about eight miles. A windy ridge beats a buggy one anyday.
The five mile hike into Acton, hectic chores in town and seven miles to Readmonds comprised a tough day. We are low on sleep, but I write, rather than crash.
After crashing too long on the mountaintop and reading Buddhism, we hike down the ridge. Eat at the Bouquet Canyon Road before a six-mile hike in the dark lit by flashlight.
It’s a new adventure, but I fear injury. I’m on my last set of batteries. We crash late under the stars. Ticks must have jumped me in the dark. I pulled about eight off during a damp night of fitful sleep.
Sopping wet and windy upon awakening. We are without proper gear, expecting a desert, so hike hard to the ranger station near Green Valley. Bush moisture makes packs feel like lead. Dirt stick to our boots, weighing them down. It’s a terrible hike down to the ranger station where the rangers allow us to huddle about a heater.
Three hours later we leave after talking with Ranger Bob Stacy about trends toward law enforcement and cultural problems in his field.
Nice hike to Lake Hughes where we plan to get a hotel room. Arrive to find Memorial Day weekenders have clogged all the rooms, campgrounds. We drink too many beers. I have a cheeseburger at the Rock Horse. Then back onto the trail and desert where we crash atop a hill outside town.
We sleep late anticipating replay of yesterday morning’s weather that never comes. We prepare for the six mile hike to the Fairmont Inn, another PCT have, then another walk through the night in the desert.
They moved the reservoir, so we’re slightly lost getting around it. Then we’re truly lost getting to the Fairmont Inn. We end up at a nearby ranch. For once I was right, but Keith’s will sent us the other way. Finally we cross a field to the inn. Paradise found!
Inside the funky café, Betty and Randy Morgan’s hospitality and food, and Keith and I relax to country and Tommy Dorsey tunes.
A call to Mary lacks energy, bad connection. Games of pool are fun, although I scratch on the 8-ball.Memorial Day memories… As we sit, Ken and Gwen Alley, UC Santa Cruzites, stop in and we swap stories, talk of the California Boys.
Drink too many beers and a milk shake. Betty comes by for a talk. The have an extensive register for hikers, as well as photos and post cards to them from past hikers. They’re like PCT parents.
Overnight lodging, showers available, but we head out near dark. Stumble off, seemingly at a record pace. We end up too far east, push off the trail to California 138, which we thought was Rosamond Boulevard, from the trail guide.
Hike a bit further, then crash at the intersection of 130th and Avenue B, actually the middle of nowhere.
We awaken (actually Keith jars me from a deep sleep) and we pack quickly. A sheep herd has gotten very close to where we crashed last night. They seem about to overrun our campsite, their pasture. We'll never know if the sheepherder intentionally brought the pack our way.
Depressing, hot hike seems to take forever. We finally find 140th, then Rosamond. Eventually we struggle to the Flying Witch Ranch, where Cuckoo Grandma, Nancy Davidson, and a barking curr, Tasha, great us with iced tea. Tasha just stopped barking when Gwen and Ken show up.
Again Tasha, then mellowness in the shade. 102 degrees on my pack thermometer while we were hiking. Keith reads 118 degrees from the ground next to our retreat.
This stop is not quite so cordial. Apparently horse hikers were out of line. Tasha's barking upsets Cuckoo Grandma. Her treatment through such a rough section is beyond the line of duty. They seem to enjoy helping, not always common in civilization. Finally Tasha mellows again after she and Keith play ball. All is mellow as we wait out the heat.
Thoughts move ahead to Kennedy Meadow, away from thoughts of more desert hiking. The Sierras will be the ultimate test. At this juncture, all tests have been passed to one extent or another. Pain, physical hurts no longer stop us, though they persist, new ones replacing old standards.
Mental toiling at times a test, but tick overloads, sheep awakening just make for another tricky PCT day. Now it comes down to wanting to do it badly enough, to continue through boring or worse sections. Spending $ while none are coming in.
We've had no showers since Malibu. Mojave stop will be last chance until after the Sierras, unless this goes badly. Hardly feels bad, dirt no longer bothersome.
After my second freeze-dried dinner of the day, Keith and I depart the Flying Witch Ranch. 12 miles of night walking to a road leading to Mojave. We crash.
Night walking is exhilarating. It's produces less sweat and the excitement of the unknown.
Up and off. Into town. Tent not at post office. We head to Camelot, cheapest rooms in town, bathroom down the hall, dormitory style. Eat omelette breakfast upon entering town at the Town Center Café, then take four 25 cent hamburgers to the room.
Afternoon spent trying to locate my tent. Frustrations of the city resurface but I maintain. Make preparations for another long stretch. Shower a nice diversion, but we’ll be dirty again soon.
Good talk with back home and Midland Reporter Telegram staffers. I do miss my friends.
It will be about a month until I hear any of these voices again. Phones are scarce in the Sierras.
Stay up too late after almost falling asleep until Taxi came on. Then Saturday Night Live with the original cast, including Belushi. Party and talk until it’s too late.
Drag out of soft bed and watch “Leave it to Beaver.” No answer to call to tent people. This getting serious. I could be in for trouble.
We leave town about noon. I’m writing at a break point, where Highway 58 meets the L.A. Aqueduct we’ll be following for a while through the Mojave Desert. We hike by a wind farm the innkeeper said was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, although the project brought money to “this little town” during construction.
From a letter from four hikers ahead to Mr. Waring:
Butterbredt Spring, not well, bees.
Willow Spring: cut off five miles past PCT junction on Butterbredt Spring.
On Kelso Creek Road, avoid the creek, masonry trough. Use house down the road.
McIvers Spring .3 miles farther up jeep road from PCT junction. Tank up. Last water until Walker Pass Campground.
Water at Walker Pass Campground chlorinated. Hike off the road, along the aqueduct.
Resting where the two cross when the Ens, Ken and Gwen Alley, come upon us. With their fast pace, we move ahead to a spot near Highway 5.
The Tehachipis are interesting mountains to walk near. The sun does strange things to their coloring, turning them from gold to green to red.
Up early and into Cinco in an unsuccessful search for agua. Owners of the gas stop/restaurant where we’d hoped to get water “gone fishin’.”
So we hike on to Cantil after I have another unsuccessful talk with Sierra Designs about my tent. Things look bleak on the tent front at this point.
From the Jawbone Canyon Road Store, where I chugged Gatorade, pop and ice cream, we take a dirt road directly the Waring home. Jack and Pat Waring are patrons of PCT hikers.
I sit here under a fruit tree in the Waring’s small orchard in the midst of the harsh desert. As keep of the Aqueduct Siphon, he gets all the water he wants for his oasis. Ken and Gwen Alley catch us again and we all mellow out at this wonderful break spot. Enchilllad dinner at the Red Rock School tonight.
Another call to Sierra Designs. Apparent success with tent dilemma. We’ll see in Kennedy Meadows. I waste the afternoon reading the register and talking with the Ens. I must finish “The Man Who Walked Through Time” sometime.
Megacats, dogs curious about the new visitors. They check out our food, even snatching Keith’s cheese. We head to the annual dinner benefiting the local k-3 school, eliminating 17 mile bus rides.
Fun times with the locals. Entertainment by students singingand skitting through a medly of American tunes. Meet Jeff Sauer, a vegetarian ex-public defender from Cincinnati, now living in Alaska. He went to Bowling Green four years before me. He had been trying to catch us, but was too warn out and laid over at Warings. We expect to see more of him down the line.
Back at Warings, we decide to put off our departure until the morning and join the family in the living room for “African Queen” and lemonade.
The Warings are Mormons. They have a foster daughter and three biological children at home and one married daughter. A good example of the caring kind of people we’ve met along the trail. We crash late in the windy orchard!
Early departure from the Waring’s orchard. Early morning ATC rider forewarns of later confrontations with dirt bikers. Keith and I hike well up to a spring. The landscapes goes Arizona. Canyons with interesting rock formations.
Up a side canyon into even more interesting country. Past an old mine, adobe hut. As we get water at Butterbredt Spring, a small pool, a biker pack pulls up. We exchange friendly greetings despite our transportational differences. More hiking with peaks around us. A steady climb all day long…
Writing from a shady spot under Joshua Trees. Heading down to get more water. Hoping for a big day of hiking. From our Joshua break, we hike hard down to where the trail picks up a new trail to Kennedy Meadows and the Sierras, but we must out of our way again for water.
We walk down to Kelso Creek, a masonry trough, but I go on to Plant’s house as a hiker’s note recommended, making Keith mad.
I make my way back up, going cross country for a ways. I make it back our packs as Keith finishes filtering. He’s madder, but shocked, unable to bitch.
Back on the trail, we climb into early Sierras. Hard with a pack after running to water without one. Struggle ahead to about 18 miles.
Crash on the trail under stars as dark hits. Eat, quick crash. Including side hikes to water, about 24 miles covered, a new record.
Awaken to bad clouds, wind. Let Keith sleep, so later start. Wind impedes our progress. Sand slow treading.
Again we come upon the Ens, find their weakness- upgrades. They lead downhill and on flats, but we take the uphills.
Tough going, much climbing in sand as high winds push us around. Bikers tear up the trail. Go from warm clothes to t-shirts and shorts on upgrade, but wind brings the jacket back out.
We struggle up a ridge, down to Birdsong Pass/. Up Skinner Peak… Toughest of the day. I’m blown over once early on. The wind is treacherous, 60 mph or more. But I strip jacket to streamline. Struggle to the top where we again catch the Ens. Decide to stop at the next spring, only 16.5 miles. At the bottom, Ken and I find camp, while Keith and Gwen get water.
Megamunch: Beef Stroganoff, potatoes, carrots, peanut butter on a roll and hot chocolate. Crash worried about rain.
Rain hits during the night. I’m wet no tarp, wrapped in insufficient ground cloth.
Up early as it’s no fun sleeping wet. I bitch,accusing Keith of shorting me on water. He’s still made as I write from underneath a picnic table at Walker Pass Camp. I covered the table with a ground cloth. A fine shelter! Almost too much sun quickly turned to rain.
Walk out of nice forests. Keith and I separate for our own good. I come upon a mule deer in the mist. It’s as curious as me. Minutes elapse before he walks up, then into the woods.
I take pictures, but the lack of light could foil my efforts. The deer was apparently unafraid of me or my camera.
Onward to McIver Spring which we pass on. We take our break together. Keith catches me as I complete my morning constitutional. He’s still mad though and leaves me alone. Fine with me.
More nice forest hiking, mostly downhill, takes us into camp. A nice spot, despite trash. I wash socks, cook a dinner. Keith quiet.
As I get ready to eat, drizzle begins. I set up under a picnic table. Keith tarps up. The weather can’t make up its mind. Is this a foreboding of Sierra weather to come?
Time to hike on as rain lulls. The Ens reappear as we start to leave. So we stay, talking and agreeing to meet at Kennedy Meadows for megafeast.
Down the hill we go on Highway 178. Fast pace hindered only by thinning road shoulders, whizzing cars and semis.
Uneventful descent. Legs, feet begin to complain. As we approach bottom of the hill, we see 2,300 foot climb awaiting us tomorrow. We crash off the side of the road behind a pinon tree. Eat, then quickly crash after a 22-mile day. We decide to cut a corner, go cross country. Keith and I air our differences, sleep better for it.
Up from spot near the road. We hike cross country toward a dreaded road climb. Find more than we bargained for in two valleys with streams to cross, plus brush with bothersome stickers. Stop to remove stickers. I switch socks and we trudge up a hot road winding to a summit near Lamont Peak. Rough climb interrupted only by BLM man and girl in a car. We talk to man, check out girl.
After so much time without, each female encounter is followed by a discussion of the female. We smile, they go by.
Breaking at the summit as I write. Shady spot, minimum bugs, Almost chilly after near 100 degree climb up the sunny side of this peak.
Kennedy Meadows is so close. Sierra talk is popular as we ponder our packing of 19 days of food, megagear for this long anticipated stretch.
Fatigue hits as we hike down from the summit near Chimney Creek Campground. Take another long break, eat most of my available munching food. Head up side ridge off the trail. Find the trail and climb again through beautiful forests. Hike well up into the mountains, crash on the path again. Very thin sleep space, but sufficient. We eat well, then crash for final day to Kennedy Meadows.
Down to Kennedy Meadows by way of Rockhouse Basin. Wasp swarms make me run portions. Nice woods to rocky meadows, where we cross creek.
Break argument, probably from fatigue or impatience with getting to Kennedy Meadows, before we finally agree. Hike final hot miles in basin to gateway.
Kern River welcomes us. We break. I take to rock, unable to swim because of infected little toe. Keith skinny dips. Water revitalizes. We take a long break, then hike the last five miles to the general store.
Just as it’s closing, buy drinks, munchies, dinner. My tent is here! We get what we need, leave big boxes and hike down near the river to camp by rocks.
Trying to raise tent. Back poles splinter. Too many rocks. Handle anger, possibly because I’m so tired or mellowed by beer. End up under the stars again. Munch cookies from home, stew, milk, etc. Crash in a good mood. We made it!
Store manager, groupies initially were unfriendly, but we eventually get into good talk with the manager, his father, as they lounge after closing. Possibly my LAPD hat was unpopular, as one suggests.
From our rock camp, up relaxed with warm beer. Naked in the early morning heat. Lazy as I finish cookies. Awaken Keith with my latest song, “Tapioca in the Morning, Ya, Ya.”
Lazily we make the store by 11 or so. All day goes to repacking for the Sierra, deciding what equipment and goes what doesn’t. 50 pound box, plus extra boots, plus Mom’s box, plus Gram’s letter, plus damaged tent, plus Mohave box to dig through. Ham awaits the Ens, but may be claimed. Keep store clerk, 3rd brother who works there, busy. Few others around as we use porch area to organize and pack. Big box goes back to Sandi in Albuquerque.
Carrying heavy packs, we walk down and camp near the Kern River. Rig up tent. Nice to sleep inside. Eat dinner, drink three beers. Write letters until sleep comes.
Our last civilized stop for three weeks has no phones or showers. Kennedy Meadows is mostly untamed, but town compared to what we’ll be seeing.
A little wet as we awaken in tent. Up and around to early morning task as heat returns.
Alcohol feet in preparation for new set of boots. First pair lasted 600 miles. Hopefully this leather pair will weather better.
Trout fisherman turns out to be ex-PCTer and triathlete, Jeff Jones. We talk as the river flows. He made it to Belden on the PCT before injuring his Achilles. Now an accomplished mountaineer, etc. Despite four Ironmans, he said the PCT was the highlight of his life.
Spent most of my money. Hold $5, owe Keith $8. On mailing, $12.50 to John Muir Trail Ranch, plus food, drink. Hopefully it will last until Tuolumne Meadows, the end of the John Muir Trail section.
Day at the store ends with it closing, but Ens, hiker Bill join us for a 12-pack we bought. We’re all feeling good as we head back to our camp. Ens camp near us. Bill heads on. He was a strange ranger and a teller of whale-sized fish stories. We and Ens congregate near fire ring. Fellowship and dinner. We’ve gotten to be good friends on the trail. Tiredness sends us to bed.
Up early as RVers, car campers, run the tranquility of our riverside camp. It’s time to hit the trail, to escape civilization.
Ens see us off. Heavy packs weigh us down and high temperatures make for a struggle just to get up. But forest, boulders beat flat desert scrub and sand. Several short breaks later, we make it to Clover Meadows, up a grade away from the creekside campers.
From the break spot where I’m writing, burnt forest is all around. (The guide book says a PCT hiker started the fire.)
Keith sleeps. Heavy packs, stress of the layover, getting back into hiking stride, relaxation of return to nature, where we now feel more at home.
Hike up more, then down to Beck’s Meadow. Then down a ridge, always in forest or meadow grasses, to the kern River. Get water, then off with boots and barefoot fording in knee-deep water. Fell twice.
Saw herd of deer as we descended into Monache Meadows area near the Kern crossing. Daylight waning, so we camp quickly at rocks near the beginning of Cow Canyon-Deer Island stretch.
Heft all foods, dinner items, for post-meal bear bagging. Our first attempt ends with bags hefted back down in the dark. Lessons learned for more beary areas. Had to hike up to find a suitable tree.
Crash quickly under stars despite certainty of precipitation. Tired from the day‘s rigors.
Up to iced sleeping bags and gear. We dry as best we can pack and off to megaclimbs to Mt. Olancha.
Very rigorous, sweat pouring as we worked our way up the ridges leading to break spot. Lost at least once, we finally determine our locale and climb to grew viewpoint from Olancha to Sierra Peaks.
Just as I note our remoteness and distance from other people, several groups with nothing more than day packs pass us. Sleepy, we eat big, the rest for the downhill.
Down we go to Gomez Meadows. Rocks and pines, pines and rocks. Taken for granite after awhile.
But we enjoy good views, nice landscape and hike down to more water. At lunch break, I managed to spill most of the fuel that was supposed to take me all the way to Tuolumne Meadows at the end of the John Muir Trail. I’m incredulous, as is Keith. We decide to conserve, use Keith’s and hope to buy or otherwise acquire some along the way.
Hiked down pst amazing granite formations, through pine forests. Cross several nice streams, but we decide to wait until Gomez Meadows for water. All we get there is mosquitoes, which are becoming a problem. We push on as they bite me all over.
We struggle on toward a creek the guidebook says is at the mouth of Death Canyon. Bugs persist, we’re exhausted, nearly delirious. Spot water off the trail. I suggest looking for a crossing of the trail.When none shows up, we stop. I go for and find water down the creekbed from a dry portion of the creek. It looks good, but we’re resigned to filtering.
I bring back the water and we have an agua party. We alternate drinking cupfuls. Quenched, we cook and eat.
Bear bag #2: A struggle, but we get the bags about eight feet off the ground after three tries. I’m testy, but no angry exchanges.
We crash in tents, tired from a long, hard day. Amazingly new boots no trouble. Only a minor heel problem on the right foot, which Ens molefoam, special care seems to have remedied. We’ll see.
Up and about, but slow getting all tasks handled. Late start, but feel well rested. Across nearby creek, we hike up again to ridge near canyon. 30 switchbacks take their toll. WE break at a nice spot in the saddle over looking the Owens Valley and some peaks.
Up again we hike to today’s high point. Then down where we break again in a nice forest. Sleepiness at both breaks. Fatigue after a fast start. Miles seem to be coming slowly. Probably the altitude, plus still heavy packs.
A bit raggy from tiredness, but the scenery hods up as we drop down near Ash Meadow, then across the agua at Dutch Meadow. After search for the spring source, we decide to filter again. Keith finds a new staff, but holds onto to old, crack bough he’s used since Campo, a string holding the base together.
Up again, to campsite shy of Mulkey Pass. Still much daylight as we get 13 miles for the third straight day. We budgeted 12 miles a day in the Sierras.
Drink lemonade, make dinner. Fight with hard ground, finally rig tent up after nearly giving up.
Then Bear-bagging #3: Huge success, no hassles. Bags should be retrievable but “bear-proof.” Back to more filtering, then into tents to update this journal. Then to bed…
Awakened, when barely asleep, by heel injury. Turns out to be biggest blister to date on right heel where molefoam from Kennedy Meadows …
Up slow. Bad sleep night. Maybe too hot, Maybe tent to small, maybe soreness from megapacks. But out of camp and to creek where we decide not to filter, a tendency which continued that night. We’re convinced giardia is a gimmick or at least overblown or misrepresented as a marketing ploy. Anyway it’s nice to drink unfiltered water.
Beautiful scenery. More rocks and pines. Amazing peaks, some green, some rocky, some both. Fascinating varieties and variations. And all so big and powerful. We’re climbing in them , over them, through them.
A marmot crosses our path near Cottonwood Pass. What a ham.
My heel gets the half-moon treatment. I wash my socks in freezing streams. Fingers complain, but my sore feet get the nod.
We do some climbing, mostly minor, but altitude or packs or fatigue or who knows makes for slow going.
At Cottonwood Pass, keith plays in a snow bank as I catch it on camera. It is inspiring to be in so much natural beauty. A marmot comes out and poses, then runs under a rock. Up and up it seems, around Chicken Spring Lake where a man pops out, stealing our solitude.
Around Cirque Peak, up then down the ridge, which after 8 or 9 miles leads Rock Creek Camp. First drop moleskin. My feet won’t hold it or tape. But heel is pain-free with nothing, though it hurts later that night. Finally we get a big push and we’re down to our campsite.
Eat well, bear-bag well. Relaxed we retire to our tents for well-deserved rest. 16-plus miles with megapacks. Mostly downhill, but still a hard-earned accomplishment. Tomorrow we reach the base of Mt. Whitney.
Sleep late. Up slow. Packing when Jeff Sauer shows up. Sauer, a Cincinnati native and Bowliing Green alum like me, now lived in Alaska. He’d been tailing us, hit Kennedy Meadows later the same morning we headed out. As we talked with him, up walked David Swanston, a British architectural technician. The four of us talked, then hiked out over Rock Creek.
Up big grades. Very steep, but no problem as our day covered only eight miles. What a foursome, an architect, lawyer, engineer and journalist. One from England, one from Alaska, one from New Mexico and one from Texas.
David was immaculate. Shirtless, all his gear inside his internal frame pack. An experienced traveler. The PCT just part of a 16-month vacation to include Alaska, Vancouver, Hawaii, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, where he had been born, the son of a missionary. He said he didn’t believe in religion.
He told us a story of a “fat faggot” in a van in Acton who’d propositioned him after providing him a free shower in Acton. He was the first hiker I’d seen who carried Brut and deodorant. He also carried a clean set of clothing.
Jeff was a ragtag as when we’d met in the desert at Jack Waring’s. In one hand, he carried carried a water bottle, in the other much of his food in a plastic store bag with plastic handles. He also carried a heavy pack, a Jansport like mine only an older model. A Cincinnatian by birth, he’d lived for four years on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. He ate no red meat and worked as a public defender.
David was shirtless, to maximize his perfect tan, and hatless with shorts and heavy hiking boots like those Keith and I were wearing. Jeff wore a Sherlock Holmes hat, long sleeved shirt and pants, tennis shoe hiking boots. They joined the two “radical hikers,” as the California Boys had named us.
We scaled one tough grade, then another as scenery grew more and more spectacular. Came down into Whitney Meadow along a creek. Deer grazed as we hiked by. Amazingly beautiful scenery had me in heaven, but a fall off a log into Whitney Creek jarred me back to reality. Camera banged, boots wet, I hiked up into Crabtree Meadows. No ranger thanks to President Reagan.
We camped together this strange foursome. Ate, bear-bagged, then crashed to be fresh for the scramble up Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, in the morning.
Our strange foursome is up at 5:30 a.m., out of camp at 7:30 a.m. for our hike up Mt. Whitney. Slowly, but surely we hike up through beautiful trees boulders, creeks. Cross one raging creek with rope. On up past Glacier Lakes, Guitar and Timberline lakes where others are camped.
Eating snow, walking across fields of it, we eventually lose the trail in the snow and decide to climb above the snowfields to a visible switchback in the trail. We make the path, climb on up.
Light packs, only food and minimal gear, feel great. Going slowed by frequent photo and gawking stops. One break near the path to Whitney Portal or Muir brings a marmot. Jeff’s pack the object of its curiosity. We pelt it with words, then rocks, but this creature is tame, unphased.
We hit some snow fields, which raise our fears, wet our boots. But we have no incidents as we gain altitude. The hike seems endless, over 4,000 feet in altitude gained in about eight miles. After much hiking, we reach a point below Whitney where the trail is buried in snow. So up we scambled across a large snowfield on a rocky ridge.
At the top, we find Father Andrew, 51, and his companion, Chuck. They’re heading down already. They had been camped near us the night before, but we hadn’t realized it.
I take a potty stop in a ice-floored hut erected by the Smithsonian Institute, according a plaque. Relax, eat, look about at the endless rows of peaks, valley, Lone Pine, a community below.
But too many people after such a hike makes the natural experience less enjoyable. Also it’s still a long way down and our gear is unguarded. David leaves sooner, speed hiking down. We follow soon after. Snowfields, rocks still a challenge. Lose the trail in a different place this time as Jeff, Keith and I talk sports, colleges, rock music.
Down, down, ‘til we make it back to our base camp. The Ens are there. We eat, talk, relax after tough hike to the highest point in the lower 48 states. Gwen arranges a PCT party with hot drinks, fireside talk. Eight PCT hikers together breaks our record from Kennedy Meadows. Fun time ends too late, with more hiking ahead.
Up early, wash in freezing Whitney Creek. Group scatters. Ens up Whitney. David bolts ahead. Jeff, Keith and I join Father Andrew and Chuck. As we’re prearing to leave, I realize my pack frame is broken. Latest in a series of serious adversities that so far have failed to keep me from continuing.
Jeff and Keith help rig it back together. Seems sturdy. Finally, about four hours after I rose, we’re off. With Chuck leading, we hike up ridges all day. Several involve creek fords, mean off with the boots. Jeff allows me to use his second pair of boots.
Scenery continues to awe. We look back at Whitney group and realize how difficult climbing it looks. Creek ford difficulty grows as the day goes on. Final one with a rope guide.
Good talk with Father Andrew again. We cover ground to within striking distance of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. Nearly above treeline, we camp in pine forest. Eat, relax, talk, admire peaks on all four sides. Early to sleep in preparation for Forester Pass after too much nightlife last night.
Up and atom, this fivesome makes its way through rocks and snowfields to the foot of Forester Pass, although the trail is still a bit mysterious. After a break, we cross more snow, then up the rocks to the trail. Switchbacks up side of the mountain eventually lead us to scary section, angled and covered with snow. After some study, Keith goes first and makes it, though a bit cautious with the ice axe. Throwing back the axe on a rope using a pulley method, the rope breaks and we nearly lose the axe. But it’s saved.
Father Andrew goes next and makes it, slowly and without incident. Then I. The adrenaline, danger, remove all fatigue, soreness and it’s an easy crossing. Then Chuck, obviously frightened. He makes it slowly. Then Jeff, who dumps first after watching us cross. Then he’s across jubilantly and we all we all climb to the pass, which is snowless to the top.
After photos, down we go on steep grade covered in snow. Jeff leading, becomes stuck up to his hips. We dig him out, continue on, following footprints and our hunches.
Snow becomes water after entering our boots. Shorted legs freeze, we hike down to some trail. But it ends at a snow bank.
After a break, I climb up and find trail clear around the ridge. Down we go, through more snow, then trail as creek. After escaping snow, we break, off the trail, and eat. I have spaghetti and lemonade, others what they can muster.
Long break. Father Andrew and Chuck leave first. We agree to meet at Vidette Meadows. Our threesome leaves, more creek fords, eventually just hiking to the site. Jeff and I talk about Bowling Green, other topics and make it to camp. Keith comes later.
The beauty of the Sierras make the toils worthwhile. Frozen lakes, melted lakes, sheer peaks, granite formations, all seem so natural. Crash quickly after dinner, tired by a tough day.
Up to Jeff, Father’s trash strewn apparently by scavenger deer. Keith and mine safely suspended on bear cable provided at site. Rope breaks, bringing down food, but no injury. Untangling takes Jeff and me more than 30 minutes, but it needed to be done.
Exchange addresses with Father, then off we go. Up steep grades on way to Kersage Pass, we “fiercely attack” the rige. At a junction at the top of the climb, we part with Father Andrew and Chuck. They were interesting people, fine hiking companions. We wish each other well. Then the threesome climbs again toward Glenn Pass. A pass a day keeps the doctor away!
Climbing, snow crossings looking for the trail, we take a break at rocks before another snow climb. Then up to the trail through snow, sheer rock climb. Ascend to the pass from her with little problem.
But there’s more snow at the top. We begin our drop through a long snowfield with nothing but footprints to guide us. Up to our hips at times, we walk, fall, slip and slide down looking for the trail. After some searching, I’m stuck at the edge of rock. Keith makes foot holds, I cross. Soon I find a possible way out, then cairns. We hike by these, find a trail. Break. Eat big, dry out our footwear.
After a lunch break, shits hit with cramps. Also more snow, path as creek. But the beauty is awesome. At Rae Lakes, tough ford. Throw Jeff my stick. It ends up floating out into freezing waters. Keith’s stick breaks on impact. I almost swim for it, but decide to let it go.
Jeff, the mad Alaskan, goes around and in. Even back in for bug juice he lost retrieving my stick. We hike on down, but cramps in my intestines make for painful going. Fear of giardia returns.
Shit multiple times, stop in pain amid beautiful mountains, lakes, rocks, water running everywhere. It gets better, e hike down hard, tired after about 12 hours on the trail. Eventually make camp next to raging stream powered by snowmelt. Megabugs. WE combine effort, one stove, big pot, one bear-bag rope. Eat, quickly to bed. Third high pass in three days coming tomorrow.
Note: Food never enough. I eat for nourishment, but never satisfy my monstrous PCT appetite. Talk of food, think of food, crave food.
Think of friends, Mary, but it all seems so far away. Thoughts almost dreams.
Up and around, we hike toward Pinchot Pass. Feeling rundown, it takes forever to climb back. First thing in the morning, trying to cross Woody Creek. Bridge out, so we have to cross on foot. Jeff and I try to do it together. I slip, go in. Having trouble regaining my feet, water rushing into my face, while I’m on my knees. Jeff pulls me out. I make it to shore shaken. Upset I bitch as Keith took pictures while I was nearly drowning. We have words, hike on up to the pass.
Lunch break nice at Pinchot Creek, we hike all the way jup to where we climb to the pass. Same creek that threw me. Wash in the creek. Then up. We meet a Civilian Conservation Corps crew of bad boys. One barely making it. Soon we lose the trail in snow, as my sickness returns. Shitting, stumbling through snow, over rocks, we eventually find the trail and climb to the pass.
Again the downside presents a snow field, search for the trail. Down we go, jumping at times, but carefully across snow-covered boulders, finally find trail. Hike to campsite near the trail to Bench Lake. Beautiful views from the site. Eat quickly and crash. More deer, this time in the field next to our sites.