Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ADZPCTKO and a brief return to the trail

I attended the ADZPCTKO, otherwise known as the kick off, where 600 people gathered to send off this year's batch of thru hikers and attend workshops and have reunions with old friends. It was a very nice time. I enjoyed everything about it.

I am glad, however, that I did not attend kick off before my hike last year. I don't think my hike would have had the same inner quality of personal discovery if 600 people had be there at the beginning giving me advice and making it seem like a big party. I remember being surprised how many nice people I met on the way having expected the hike to be a solitary walk in the wilderness. The kick off would have taken away that pleasant surprise.

After the kick off, a group of us went to hike the section of trail southbound from Devil's Slide to Highway 74. In our group we had one section hiker (Tony TrailHacker), one thru from 2007 (Not A Moose), two thrus from 2008 (Cuddles and Laces), one from this year (Pi who I thought was Pie the whole time) and me.

We planned for an early start, but some in our group were late. We got a late start and drove to the highway to arrange our car shuttle. While hiding the key, one in our group wedged wood splinters deep into his thumb. So we drove to the hospital in Palm Springs.

He kept apologizing for ruining our hike, but we actually had a great time going to Palm Springs. We got to see parts of the trail (from afar) again, drive through Cabazon, share stories about the trail the whole way and finally, set up a tarp on the hospital lawn which was hugely entertaining.

After the thumb injury was taken care of, we drove back to Idyllwild and stayed at the campground. There were three thru hikers there and Tom from the Internet cafe at Kennedy Meadows cooked us some burgers and fish with wine. We had a nice time sharing stories.

Finally in the morning we packed up and headed for the trail. Our thumb injury person decided not to do the hike, so he drove our car down to the trailhead at Highway 74 for us, which saved us a huge amount of driving at the end. We appreciated this greatly because at the end of the hike, we ended up driving one person to Lake Morena and another to Pasadena anyway. Not having to clean up the car shuttle with a trip to Idyllwild meant we got home before midnight.

The hike itself was wonderful. We climbed up Devil's Slide and avoided having our permits checked by volunteer rangers. At the saddle we rested briefly and then stepped onto the PCT. Not A Moose exclaimed, "I'm home!" Yes, that's how it felt. I exclaimed, "It feels good to be back on the trail." It was really nice to be with people who know how this feels. I hoped Tony could see that I'm not so crazy after all. The trail is home when you have lived on it for so long. It's where we all want to be. None of us ever really stops thinking about it.

Shortly, the trail turned to snow and we walked on snow for several miles.

As always, the stories and hype about the snow was all lies. Yes, there was a lot of snow and yes some of it could be considered mildly treacherous, but even this big scaredy cat was never scared. All the anxiety I felt last year about the supposed dangerous ice axe-required conditions on Apache Peak simply never materialized. Laces, Cuddles and Not A Moose advise everyone to ignore all heavy-handed warnings about scary things on the trail. The boogy-man around the corner never appears. They should know since they finished the whole trail.

Did you hear that: The big scary boogy-man around the corner never appears! Ignore all dire warnings! Don't give up! Do not skip! You will be fine.

The trail was simply amazing. It was so beautiful. At one point Tony turned to me to say that this was prettier than the Sierras and so much closer to our home. He wants to plan a trip in the area again either with a friend of ours who has attempted a thru several times or with another friend of ours who needs to have his tendency for enormous pack weights punished out of him. Fuller Ridge ought to cure him.

While hiking from Devil's Slide to Highway 74, I felt like I got a good taste of the whole So Cal section of the trail. Just like how my Honey Burt's Bees lip balm fragrance brings back all the emotions and memories of my experience last year, the combination of the snow and high mountains, granitic boulders, long descents, ridge-walking, precipitous cliffs, lack of camping, cattle trough water sources, transition zones, ravine cha-cha and pointless switchbacks winding around to nowhere brought it all back. Wonderful!

We stopped for water at Tunnel spring, a lovely cattle trough with cold clear water that had a slightly sulfer smell. Aquamira took care of the taste.

While resting at the saddle above the spring, Laces asked how I was feeling about my coming hike. I admitted to questioning my commitment at times. And certainly I was questioning my fitness. These two days were a lot of work. I'm not in thru-hiker condition anymore. But I live in Santa Barbara and have spent time with people who have a lot of money. They can buy anything they want. I know that there is nothing in this world that they could buy and no place that they could fly to on their private jets that could make me happier than how I feel when I drink my fill of sulfery cattle water or find a sheltered, warm spot out of the cold wind. It's when hiking the trail that those small happinesses magnify. I feel like I've found the secret to happiness. The source of true wealth.

Going SoBo we met so many hikers on their way. The journey is still fresh and new for them. The energy and big smiles they all had were so infectious. You could feel it. The life-changing journey, the coming alive of following a dream was reflected in their eyes. No wonder so many people want to get involved in the trail even if they cannot hike it. They all want a taste of that radical aliveness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kickoff is coming up!

The PCT Kickoff is coming soon. I'm very enthused about going.

We'll be picking up Lenny and two other people on the way. First we will have to stop in Idyllwild, unless Lenny has gotten all the way to Cabazon. We'll pick Lenny up there. Then we'll have to swing by Scissors Crossing to pick up Rockstar and her friend. Then we'll drive to Lake Morena for the kickoff.

I offered to bring a barbecue grill. They wanted a gas grill so they could set the food to cooking without having to babysit the grill. They said they could use my non-gas grill if I don't mind babysitting it. Ok, so now I have a job.

We'll enjoy Friday and Saturday of the Kickoff. Then Sunday it's off to drop people back off at the trail, unless they've found other accommodations (maybe we can all trade rides around so our drop-offs are more convenient.)

Then Sunday afternoon Tony and I will park at Pines-to-Palms Highway and start a hike of the 30 miles of trail I missed last year due to a forest fire. We'll hike to Devil's Slide trail and then get a ride back to our car. Maybe we'll take a side trip to summit Mt. San Jacinto.

Hopefully I'll be back home by Tuesday night so I can go to my database class.

Tony took the entire week off. So maybe on Thursday he and I can go to the San Rafael and do another hike.

Meanwhile, I plan to hire my niece to take care of my birds. Tony's son worked great the first couple of times, and then didn't even show up the last time. One of my birds didn't eat for at least 1 whole day, maybe more. She had escaped her cage and spent the time in the bathroom. The vet weighed her and her weight was down. I hope my niece can handle the birds, especially big old Ariel.

Lots of fun coming up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Revised Itinerary from Santa Barbara to the PCT

Many local people are interested in my big adventure of just getting to the PCT from Santa Barbara.

Finding a route to the PCT from Santa Barbara is not an easy thing to do. Trails in our area are not as well-maintained as the PCT. Often the trails are abandoned. There is no guide book and no data book. There is no water report. I have looked at maps, searched the Internet, emailed total strangers, gotten in contact with old acquaintances, and gotten advice from friends and strangers alike.

So, my revised route is going to be to this:
  1. Romero Trail in Santa Barbara (bus #14 drops off 2 miles from trailhead) to the Divide Peak OHV trail at the crest.
  2. Divide Peak OHV trail to Murietta Divide via the Monte Arrido trail.
  3. Murrieta Canyon dirt road to Murietta Trail.
  4. Murrieta Trail to the Ortega Motorcycle trail. Last water at Maple Camp on Murietta Trail.
  5. Ortega Motorcycle trail to an unofficial trail traversing the Dry Lakes Ridge.
  6. Dry Lakes Ridge trail to Highway 33.
  7. Highway 33 to Middle Sespe Trailhead. Water available on Sespe Creek.
  8. Middle Sespe Trail to Piedra Blanca.
  9. Sespe Trail at Piedra Blanca to Johnston Trail (possible side trip to Willet Hot Springs!)
  10. Johnston Trail, past Sespe Hot Springs (more hot springs!) to Little Mutau Creek Trail.
  11. Little Mutau Creek Trail to dirt road near McDonald Peak. Long dry stretch (10-12 miles minimum) between Little Mutau Creek and Buck Creek.
  12. Dirt Road becomes trail on way to Sewart Mountain, and then turns on to Buck Creek Trail. I hope I can find the turn.
  13. Buck Creek Trail to Hardluck Camp. Water available.
  14. Road at Hardluck Camp to Los Alamos Campground. Campground host available.
  15. Shortcut cross-country across creek to Hungry Valley Rd.
  16. Hungry Valley Rd and frontage roads along I5 to Highway 138.
  17. Highway 138 to Oakdale Rd.
  18. Oakdale Rd. to where the PCT crosses (Databook says the name of the road is Pine Mountain Rd. Topo says Oakdale. Same road.)
The Oakdale choice adds about 5.5 extra miles vs staying on Highway 138 all the way to Hikertown. But it will be a lower speed road, more scenic and there will be water nearby at the PCT. I will feel safer not walking along Highway 138 for as long a distance.

Mileage taking the Oakdale/Pine Mountain detour will be 6.5 miles along road plus 8 miles to Hikertown. Staying on 138 it is 8 miles straight to Hikertown from the junction with Oakdale/Pine Mountain Rd. It is a lot of extra miles but I think it will be worth it to feel safer. I can always change my mind once I am out there, too.

I'm still debating leaving a crappy bike hidden in the bushes near Hardluck. I've got one. It could be the reason the Universe allowed me to find it. It's just good enough to ride but not good enough for me to want to keep forever.


I started a Trailjournals journal for my PCT hike. I'm realizing now that it won't be as good as posting my updates here. When I post them here, I can set it up so that the system automatically emails the post to my mother. Trailjournals lacks those sorts of features.

Also, I was able to show my posts from here on my other web site last year using a PHP script. The HTML that blogger creates is well-formed. The HTML that Trailjournals produces is circa 1997 tag soup. There is no way to style the dates or headings because there are none. Just HTML attributes and font tags. It's a mess. I can still embed it, but it is sucky.

I wish I hadn't started the Trailjournals journal now. I will have to post my entries in both places in order to have all the features I want.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ultraheavy gear for sale

I'm selling a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. Most of it is old backpacking gear. Is it ethical for an ultralight backpacker to sell ultraheavy gear?

Maybe it is if someone has no gear.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sun glasses and indecision

I got some Sport Eyz sunglasses. They are just plastic with some foam padding and a cord with a cord lock. No frames. They seem pretty good. Best thing is I can wear my reading glasses underneath. The problem is how to carry them. I can't just fold them and stuff them in a pocket or prop them on my head. They fit rolled up in a small container I have. They come rolled up in an even smaller container, but it seems too small to put them in there again.

I'm having a hard time making up my mind about part of my trip to hike to the PCT from Santa Barbara. A friend of mine suggests hiking through Alder Creek and up Piru Creek. It looks like such a long way. And I've heard that Alder Creek trail is pretty much not there anymore. It would be so exhausting. But then I'd be south of Pyramid Lake and able to hike up Fish Canyon from there after a long roadwalk. Meanwhile, I'm thinking I bet I could find that darn Bailey Trail and accomplish the same thing--getting to the south end of Pyramid Lake and thus to Fish Canyon. If I couldn't find the Bailey Trail, then I could always hike out to Hardluck and then follow all those long roads, hiking frontage roads and then Highway 138 all the way to Hikertown. Not appealing, but at least I can find the way.

I don't know what I should do. Attempt finding a trail that's been abandoned, a trail that Tony and I could barely see on our preview, but was indeed there, a trail that is visible on Google maps satellite view. Or, hike along a river that would get my feet wet and have me climbing over rocks and boulders without a trail for over 10 miles, the only chance to change my mind being to hike whatever progress I made forward in reverse, something I am sure I would be loathe to do. Do they release water from Pyramid Lake into Piru creek? Would I be flooded out while I was trying to sleep?

And I haven't even seen Fish Canyon. But my friend says he's hiked it many times, so it must be ok.

I'm leaning toward finding the Bailey trail through sheer determination. After finding trails all last week, I think I've gotten pretty good at it.

I wish it was time to go. I need a job, something to do!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stick Pic

I made myself a homemade Stick Pic, a little doodad to attach to the end of my trekking pole and screw into my camera tripod mount in order to take pictures of myself. I made it from 1/2" adjustable clips intended to hold wire bundles together. Seems to work ok.

I drilled a hole through the plastic in the center of the clipping part and through the wall mount. This was not easy as it was hard to hold the thing while I drilled it. Then I screwed in a set screw. I wonder, as I screw the camera into it each time, if I'll end up driving the set screw further and further into the plastic. Time will tell.

I don't know how long it will last, but I can make a few and put the extras in my bounce box.

Meanwhile, two more pairs of shoes have arrived. I have 4 pair now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New shoes

I've ordered two more pairs of Brooks Cascadia II shoes. They are closeouts. I'm going to be very happy to have them. Once they arrive I will have 3 brand new pairs of them and one used pair. I hope this will see me through the PCT. I used them on the Sisquoc last week and was in love with them. The perfect shoe for me.

Yesterday when I went to my class I found myself walking down the stairs the same way I walked down the hills on my hike. Knees bent, hips low, fast walking. Fast walking everywhere. I don't know if it's the vitamins I have been taking or I'm still enjoying the power of the pork products I consumed on my last night on the Sisquoc, but man I feel so healthy and strong lately.

I just received my PCT2008 video in the mail. It made me so homesick and so excited and so sad for all the wonderful friends I made and don't even know their real names. I can't wait to get back out there. Hiking the PCT is The Right Thing To Do.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying my database and Unix classes. I really like computers. I like it when they get into the complicated stuff, the ones and zeros, the bits and bytes. I wish I was smarter and could understand it better, but I enjoy it anyway. When I return from the PCT I want to continue studying databases. It feels like another right thing to do. There's creativity in computers. I wish I had known that when I was young.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I'm back and feeling creative

I spent 9 days hiking the Sisquoc in the Los Padres forest last week. It was wonderful. I feel so energized for hiking again.

I spent some effort on food, testing some recipes from the One Pan Wonders web site. As is typical of me, I barely followed the recipes. Part of the reason was that I had to split up my food at the last minute because Tony was going to carry some of my food in to me around day 5. I ended up changing the ingredients around a little bit to do that. In any case, the food came out delicious. I felt well-nourished. Let's hear it for the power of pork products!

Today I made some gear for myself. I made a pot lid and a windscreen from aluminum cookie sheets. They came out well. I hope the lid is sturdy enough to survive mistreatment inside my pack. I'm hoping to save a little weight with it.

I also went shopping at the thrift store looking for new hiking clothes. I've torn up my hiking pants hiking in the Los Padres. I found a pair of almost white Royal Robbins ladies convertible pants. They are ok, but the zipper is on the side. I bought them anyway because I figured the price was good. I also found a pair of Gramici nylon pants. They are very large, but they are blue and it's nice to have a little color to wear now and then. They lack zippered pockets, but I think I can manage with them in our backcountry.

I found a really nice hiking shirt there, but it was a men's XXL. People are so fat now you can't find any clothes to fit. Yesterday I shopped at three different stores and could only find one pair of mens size small pants. I would have bought them but I would not be able to hem them because there were zippers at the bottom of the pant legs. For pants that cost $70 I would like to be able to hem them.

One other thing I bought was a boys jacket with a hood. I only wanted the hood. I'll have to give away the jacket. The hood feels really warm. I can wear it while I sleep in my quilt when it is cold like it was this past week on the Sisquoc.

Finally, I bought a cheap backpack and cut the back pad out to slip in to my G4 backpack in the back pad pocket. I don't like putting my sleeping pad in there. This back pad will serve as my sit pad and hopefully help keep my back a little cooler. The G4 is a little hot because the area of my back that it presses against is very large.

When it comes to gear and backpacking, my natural creativity is so much more amplified. In regular life, people think I'm somewhat creative, but I don't think I am.