Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hiking from Santa Barbara to the PCT

I've just written up my hike from Santa Barbara to the PCT. Here are the links to the individual posts:
It was quite an adventure, to say the least. Thank goodness I'm alive to tell the tale.


In the morning I left my outhouse and followed the road down to the Buck Creek trailhead. It was pretty walking along the road in pine forest with lupine and little yellow flowers blooming everywhere. Some parts of the forest were burned and some were not. There were great views, too.

When I reached the trailhead I had a feeling of triumph. I was going to make it! I took a picture of myself at the trailhead sign in celebration.

Motorcycles had used the Buck Creek trail, too. I followed their tracks as the trail plunged steeply down. I knew from looking at the topo that the trail would rise first and then drop and that is what it did.

Suddenly the tracks just ended at a small stealth camp. I searched to the left for the trail and seemed to find it, but it vanished. So I went back to the camp and searched to the right. That wasn't it, either.

I consulted the topo and identified all the nearby peaks and ridges. But I couldn't figure out where on the trail I was. I realized I needed to backtrack.

I walked a short ways back and saw the trail plunging down into the canyon. Somewhere in the back of my mind I registered that the trail was going north, which was not the right way, but such is the pull of the trail. I plunged down the trail.

I met with the headwaters of the creek. The map said I would pass Buck Creek Spring. I though the headwaters were it, until I reached a real spring. Then I reached a camp site. The maps said I would pass Buck Creek Camp after the spring. It seemed I was on the right track.

Everything was so lovely in this valley. The forest was lush and cool. The creek was burbling happily. It was the prettiest part of the whole journey so far.

I continued down the trail and then the trail suddenly rose steeply out of the canyon. I figured that was to avoid some narrows I could see below. Then the trail seemed to be way too high above the creek to be right. It was leading me away from the canyon completely, off into Hungry Valley.

I consulted the map. Nowhere did the Buck Creek trail ever rise more than a contour line or two away from the creek. Darn those motorcycles carving trails all over the place! I backtracked down to where the trail had risen from the creek and searched for the real trail. I thought I could see something faintly off into the wild roses. I even passed some horse manure. Wow, this trail was certainly abandoned!

I spent considerable effort trying to stay on the trail. Most of the time, all I had to guide me were huge, deep bear prints. I thought I had the trail on one side of the canyon wall, but then I looked across the creek and could see the trail clearly on the other side. I even saw some of the old retaining wall. I made my way with considerable effort across the creek and over to the other side. I climbed up but could not find the trail bed. I traversed the hillside, at times finding the trail only to lose it again.

Again, I could see the trail on the other side, so I crossed the creek again through wild roses and stinging nettles. I swore I would not lose the trail. I would stick to it like glue.

I did the best I could but the trail was nasty and overgrown. I spent most of my effort fighting dead branches and crawling on my hands and knees. At times the trail was so treacherous and barely there that I was frightened I might fall and slip to my doom below.

I stopped at a small side trail to eat and consult the map. Surely any minute now I'd reach the good trail that Tony and I previewed last March.

Eventually even this poor trail seemed to disappear. I decided maybe it would be easier to just go down the creek. Buck Creek trail crosses the creek eventually so I would find the trail. I went down to the creek and began a hellish fight through wild roses, stinging nettles, poison oak, dead brabcgesm slick rocks and lose giant boulders. The fight went on for over 4 hours.

I kept looking for signs of the trail. I kept looking ahead thinking as soon as I get around that corner ahead I'll probably see the trail decending into the creek. I looked up at the steep cliffs above me and kept thinking this just didn't look right. The way down the creek was very difficult. I'm not all that good at hiking in creeks anyway, and this was the hardest I've ever done. I slipped and fell constantly. If my feet got wet the rocks were too slippery to walk on without falling. I fell over backwards a few times. I worried I would conk my head and nobody would ever find my body. I did conk my head on an overhanging rock. Some of the loose boulders weighed over 4 tons and could have easily rolled over and there I would be like that guy who had to cut off his hand. I was frightened and had a gnawing, sinking feeling in my mind that this was not Buck Creek. Where was I?

I kept praying for the trail. Please please be the trail. Eventually the creek widened up and I could walk on sand. I thought I could see human foot prints, too. This cheered me some.

Then there was a confluence of my creek and another, larger creek off to my left. This for sure was not Buck Creek. There was no such confluence on Buck Creek. I looked at the other creek and to follow it would be upstream. This would be obviously the wrong way to go. With big Pyramid Lake nearby all creeks ought to be draining toward it. So I followed the confluence down.

The creek was wider but not deep and I enjoyed crossing it. It was a chance to wash off the poison oak and nettles. My left hand stung sharply from the nettles.

All of a sudden I saw a duck. I'm saved! There was a real trail. I followed it and eventually arrived at a paved road and a metal gate. Attached to the metal gate was a box. I opened the box to look inside and there were angler survey forms for the Piru Creek/Hardluck Crossing area. I stepped out onto the road and looked. Sure enough, I had just come down Piru Creek. How the heck had that happened?

Thank goodness, though. I was going to be okay. Not only was I where I wanted to be, I was even on schedule. I walked over to the creek crossing and laid down in it to wash off. I washed my hair. Then I turned to walk up the road to my bicycle.

I found my bike hidden in the bushes and coasted down to Los Alamos Campground. I payed my $16 and set up camp. I called Tony and he said he'd come meet me in the morning. I decided I was way too sore to ride my bike to Hikertown and the PCT. I had proven it could be done and that was good enough for me.

Later I got out the map and tried to figure out where I had gone wrong. I think at the spot in the early morning where the motorcycle tracks ended and I searched for the trail, I should have backtracked even further. I should have listened to the little voice in the back of my head that said that turning north down that trail was wrong. Because turning north led me to Snowy Creek and there is no trail in Snowy Creek. There is a motorcycle trail that runs through the upper part of Snowy Creek and then veers off over the ridge, as I had begun, and off to the north west. The motorcycles had carved their own little trail, that wasn't on the map, all the way up to the headwaters of Snowy Creek and up to the Buck Creek trailhead. I should have backtracked all the way to the trailhead if that's what it took to find the real Buck Creek Trail.

Anyway, I'm alive. I made it. But I'll never do it again!

Sleeping in the outhouse

I got up early and left my sandy bed to hike to the next hot spring, the Sespe Hot Springs.

The Sespe trail was starting to seem really boring. It had been burned in the Day fire and it just never looked any different really.

Soon I saw the turnoff to Sespe and took it. I stopped near the Sespe Camp to fill up my water for the long, hard climb up Johnston Ridge. The water was strangely warm.

When I came to the junction for Johnston Ridge I instead went up the Hot Springs Canyon to visit the pools. It turns out the Sespe Hot Springs is a hot creek all the way. There were pools along the way and a camp site among palm trees. I stopped at one pool and soaked in the water with all my clothes on. It was not all that hot, but warm enough to feel really good.

I kept all my clothes on for a reason. Staying completely wet had been the only way I had been able to tolerate all this heat. I knew Johnston Ridge would be hot.

Johnston Ridge climbed very high through burned out chaparral. Nothing was left. Some things were growing back and there was lots of poodle dog bush on the trail. My back was killing me. I just don't do well with frameless packs, it seems.

I stopped at one false summit to rest my back and eat some food and redistribute some of my packweight. I got the idea to stuff my extra pad cross-wise behind my back. It worked.

The rest of the Johnston Ridge trail was less steep as it neared Mutau Flat. Mutau Flat was a pretty meadow up in the woods. I started hiking in pinyon pine forest, which was badly burned.

I reached the trail to Little Mutau Creek and followed it into less burned forest. There were big cone spruce trees and it was nice and shady. The trail plunged down into Little Mutau Creek's drainage and I followed the creek upstream.

At the first crossing I stopped and sought shade and fresh-made pudding under a burned tree next to the creek. I rested there for a while in the shade. It was probably 20 degrees cooler right there than on the trail.

Motorcycles had used this trail so I followed their tracks. The trail was overgrown sometimes in the creek bed. The creek grew more and more lovely and lush. There were columbine blooming.

A report I carried from someone who hiked the trail a few weeks prior said to be sure to fill my bottles before the trail rose away from the creek. I was afraid I would miss my last chance for water, so I filled up all my bottles early. Sure enough, I hadn't really noticed until about 10 minutes that I'd reached the spot where the trail climbed out of the creek.

And climb it did! Straight up. I have since learned that motorcycles do this. There were probably switchbacks but now they are lost to the motorcycle tracks. They like to go straight up. At times the trail was nearly vertical.

I climbed and climbed. I reached a vantage point and could see amazing views of mountains all around me. The trail still had a long way to go to reach the top.

I found the old switchbacks and enjoyed their easier passage until I reached the top of the trail. I was a little unsure how to reach the trailhead, but there was pink tape and what looked like a road, so I followed. I reached the trailhead where there was an outhouse.

I stopped to cook dinner at the outhouse on its nice front porch. I spilled smoked salmon water all over the place, including on my self. Now I was worried about bears. I decided I would sleep at the outhouse. I would put my food inside and sleep outside and if bears came, I would go inside and lock the door. It was a clean outhouse so it would not be bad.

Even up here at nearly 7000 feet the night was hot. I slept in my tank top with my sleeping bag down at my waist and was still too warm. But I slept well and there were no bears.


I slept well if a little warm in my dry lake.

In the morning I set off around 6AM. As soon as I rose not more than 5 feet out of the lake basin, I was slapped in the face by the daily blast furnace. It looked to be another scortcher.

I walked through the rest of the Dry Lakes, hoping there would be trail the entire way. Fortunatly there pretty much was. It was overgrown but easy enough to follow.

The other lakes weren't as nice as the one I slept in. They were more like rabbit brush meadows.

Soon the trail went steeply down to Highway 33. The going was difficult because the trail was very steep and the consistency of ball bearings. Finally I reached the highway and could walk normally again.

I walked along the highway for a mile until I reached the trailhead with Sespe Creek trail. I was looking forward to reaching the creek. I had hiked from Maple Camp yesterday on the Matillija until now carrying all my water. I was almost out.

I reached the creek and filled up my hiking bottle and drank my fill. I looked forward to a day of hiking along a creek. Unfortunately, the Sespe Creek trail mostly does not hike along the creek. It was hot and dry and even went way far up hill for a while. The next time I saw the creek was at the trailhead to Piedras Blancas.

I stopped there at the creek again to cool off. I got all the way in the water with my clothes on. I drank some water and rested and went off into the blazing heat.

I passed 4 backpackers who said they had tried to find Willets but didn't. They figured they had not gone far enough. Their dog was wet so I knew the trail would go near the creek soon. And sure enough it arrived at a place with pink, rounded boulders. I took another swim and ate lunch.

The trail stayed mostly away from the creek for miles and miles. It seemed like the trail had once been a road. The trail would go along a mesa, then rise at a corner ridge, then drop down into a basin sort of near the creek, then rise again. Over and over for miles.

Toward the early evening I could see a trail rising way up into the cliffs. I knew that would have to be the trail leading up to the hot springs at Willet. I saw a duck and walked down to the creek and crossed over to a nice camp site in the sand. I looked around the area and found the old cabin. It is rundown. I found other camps, but none as nice as the one in the sand under the cottonwood trees.

I decided I would carry all my gear up to the hot springs and stay up there if it was nice. I walked the steep trail to the springs and found a big rubber pool filled with warm water. I soaked for a while. It felt nice. I sat in the sun for a while to dry off, too.

The campsite up at the spring was hot and hard and had nothing to sit on and no shade. So I went back down to the sandy spot and slept there. There were lots of puffy thunder clouds in the sky, but they dissipated. I slept pretty well.

Matillija to the Dry Lakes

In the morning I packed up and hiked up the Matillija Creek trail. The trail runs along Matillija Creek. It was shady and very nice. The creek was flowing and there were numerous campsites along the way.

The last camp was Maple and the last chance for water. I filled up all my bottles for the steep climb up to the Ortega motorcycle trail.

The climb was extraordinarily steep. It was extremely hot. When I reached the road, I fastened my sun umbrella to my pack and proceeded down the motorcycle road.

Along the road I met up with a man on a motorcycle. He asked if this was the Potrero Seco trail. I told him it was not and showed him the map. He thanked me and forged ahead, happy that the trail led to Wheeler Gorge. He returned a short while later saying he was afraid of taking a wrong turn and decided to head back to Highway 33.

Soon the dirt road, which was very steep both up and down, turned into a trail. The trail was a little nicer to walk on, but I stubbed my right pinky toe on a rock. I had to remove my umbrella because of all the overhanging chaparral scrub.

I tried to keep my eye out for the trail to Dry Lakes Ridge. I thought I had found it and walked up the firebreak. At a small summit I looked around to try to make sure. The firebreak continued up some high mountains. In the distance to the south I thought I could see in a valley a meadow that looked like the picture of the dry lakes that I had seen. I figured I was not on the right trail so I retreated back to the trail.

I walked down the trail further, keeping an eye out for the trail to Dry Lakes, but I passed the valley where I had seen the meadow. Soon I saw a trail leading to the left so I followed it. It led only to some interesting rocks. It wasn't the right way.

I decided I would hike until I found the campsite shown on the map and then I would know for sure that I had gone too far and that one of these two trails was the right one. I found the camp, which was just a pile of old ice cans, and knew I had to retreat a mile and half back to find the trail. It was steeply up hill.

Turns out that the first firebreak trail I had found was the right way after all.

I followed the firebreak for a while heading mostly steeply up. At around 5 I stopped and made dinner. I had cell reception so I talked to Tony for a while. Then I lost connection. I was staring at a huge, nearly vertical hill I had to walk up. I decided after dinner to attempt the hill.

I made it up the hill and continued on. Soon I lost the trail completely. I looked all over but could not find it. They make firebreaks along ridges pretty much straight ahead and I could see the firebreak through the brush way up ahead. So I bushwhacked straight ahead. The chaparral was very thick and I tore up my arms. I took a picture of my bloody arms.

Having regained the firebreak, I forged ahead. I could see one of the dry lakes in the distance. That was my goal.

I made it at dusk and set up my bed under some pine trees in a delightful meadow of little yellow lupine-like flowers. It was another hot night sleeping under the stars with my bug net.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Santa Barbara to Matillija Creek

I proved it is possible to hike from Santa Barbara to the PCT at a place called Hikertown. It was not easy.

5/25 - I walked out my front door with 11 pounds of gear, 4 pounds of water and 9 pounds of food. I walked to RoCo for a cup of coffee. Tony was there. We enjoyed coffee together and then he gave me a ride to Romero trailhead and we hiked together.

We hiked up the trail and over the other side to Blue Canyon. The hike down into Blue Canyon left my legs feeling like jello. It was nice to be out of the fog. Tony hiked with me to Upper Blue Canyon camp and then said good-bye and turned around. I continued onward.

I stopped at Juncal and refilled my water. Yahoos blasted through the creek in their pickup trucks. I fastened my umbrella to my pack and off I went toward Jameson Lake.

Along the way to Jameson Lake I bumped into a guy who had ridden his mountain bike all the way from Cuyama. He towed a trailer with camping gear but said he wouldn't need it since it looked like he'd reach Santa Barbara today. Cuyama to Santa Barbara in one day! I was impressed.

Near Jameson Lake I was approached by a jeep with a man and woman inside. They asked me where I was going so I told them Ojai. They were going to the Franklin trailhead but I was not. They let me know where the Upper Santa Ynez camp was and the next water.

Soon I reached the camp and the water. I fixed dinner and then realized there was too much daylight left to stop so I kept going. I crossed the divide. It was quite anticlimactic because there was no view looking back to where I had been. Only a view looking forward to where I would go. The Topatopas looked dark blue and frightening.

I passed a nice spring on the way down from the divide. I decided to make camp along the road as it was cooler now and I didn't want to overdo it. I set up on a small spur.

As I was relaxing I heard noises around the corner from me. I thought it was deer. After a while I realized the noise wasn't deer-like so I peered around the tree trying to see what it was. I saw four furry brown legs and knew instantly there were bears, probably two of them, only 40 feet away or less. I packed up my stuff as fast as I could and got the heck out of there.

I flew down the road. There was a creek crossing on the road with fresh, wet bear prints. I reached the trail to Murietta camp and crossed a bog with fresh, wet bear prints. I comforted myself knowing that if the bears had a routine, I was moving away from it.

Finally I reached the creek crossing of Matillija Creek. It was too dark to see across so I camped right next to the creek. I had the perfect little spot that fit my body perfectly. I slept really well.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet

I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet.
Quitting the Paint Factory

On Wednesday I went to my UNIX class to take my final exam. When I got to question 8, I was suddenly hit with a wave of dizziness. It's finally happening, I realized. When I get to question 50 I will be finished with the waiting and free to walk to Canada and continue my walk away from the Paint Factory.

The days have been so long and boring as I've waited for this minute. I've been filled with ambiguity and longing. Sometimes I'm so excited about returning to the trail and sometimes I feel like I should not go. I look at the greenery around me, the fragrant trees and blooming flowers of Santa Barbara, the fecundity of La Huerta, the cool water that flows at will from the faucet in the kitchen and wonder why I would want to walk toward hot and dry desert and Joshua trees carrying only enough water to survive until the next fetid cattle trough. I imagine Tony alone with the birds for months and months, sinking lower and lower into loneliness and I worry whether this is the right thing to do and whether it's imposing too much upon him to ask him to send a package or two every now and then and keep my birds fed. Heck, I even think maybe I'm ready to find a job, but then I get all panicky about the whole rah-rah careerism thing and I picture myself in the daily struggle I used to have each day, steeling my will to open the door and go inside and up the stairs to my cubicle, and I wonder how I could possibly die enough inside to go back to that again. I enjoy computers and using my brain and earning money but I don't like careerism so, should it become impossible to find a job that lets me just be myself, a possible solution would be to return to listening to whales or do other similar things that allow my mind to roam free even while my feet are planted. It's a colossal waste of what I'm probably capable of (if my final exam scores mean anything), but at the same time, there is a strong appeal to a simpler lifestyle. Otherwise, why chase cattle troughs two years in a row?

Going for a long walk like this is the most subversive thing I have ever done. I didn't intend my walking to be a form of protest, however. I simply snapped. Like the man who walked away from the Paint Factory, I walked away from a gnawing emptiness and into the empty spaces on the map, to a place where I found peace in not striving, not having and not wanting.

It wasn't a protest, but I've always been a little contrary. I've always rebelled somewhere deep inside even while always being a good girl with good grades and following the rules and everything. I never would have guessed that going for a walk would be the most subversive thing I could possibly do. But it has been exactly that. Mostly for what it has meant to other people more than what, if anything, the experience has done for me.

Before my Tuesday final exam one of my fellow classmates told me that she had told her daughters about what I was planning to do. They are 8 and 11 years old. They begged her to invite me over. They had never heard of anybody ever doing something like walking to Canada and they wanted to ask me questions. That's the reaction I get from lots of people. It opens them up to possibilities. If an ordinary woman like me can walk all the way to Canada maybe they can do something impossible, too. Maybe, just maybe, a real live person walking a couple thousand miles has a bigger impact than the advertising on TV, which might mean that somehow, taking a walk has made the world a slightly better place. Maybe there is a real world outside of the hologram after all.

So for the next few months my feet will roam free and my mind will be occupied with Joshua trees and cattle troughs and sun cups and high mountain passes and eating noodles and sleeping in the forest and dirty feet and thoughts of home far, far away. Gnawing at the back of my mind will be worries about what to do after I complete the trail and what will I do if I don't complete the trail and what if Tony hates me if it turns out I've gone completely mad and stay underemployed the rest of my life listening to whales and growing food and playing music in the park and somehow trying to survive in a pre-apocolyptic world.

It's time now to go. I will begin by hiking a portion of the proposed Condor Trail in the backcountry of Ventura County, and then I'll travel to where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses California Highway 138. Then I will hike to Canada. For today, my goal is to reach the trailhead and begin.

Friday, May 22, 2009

There's a bicycle under a bush 22 miles from Neenatch

I drove out to hide my bicycle at the end of the Condor Trail so I'll have a way to get to the PCT without having to walk 22 miles along highways in the blazing hot sun.

I hid it under a bush. I hope nobody sees it. Despite trying to cover it with brush, of which there seemed to be so little in the general area, parts of it did glint in the sun at certain angles. It's possible somebody could see it. But most people are not very observant and I don't think anyone will. If they do, I hope they leave it alone.

After dropping the bike off, I decided to drive out to Hikertown and see if there were any hikers out there. I zeroed out my trip odometer. It measured nearly 22 miles to Hikertown. That's a very long way to walk only a few inches from traffic. I'm going to be very happy to see that bicycle.

I stopped at Hikertown and parked outside the gate. I walked in and saw a bunch of hikers under the tree in the front yard. Everybody looked happy and said hello to me. I said hello and when I said I was Piper half of them already knew me from my journal. I said I was there to give a ride to the store if anyone needed to go. I took two groups of two, because I only have a pick-up truck. I was also invited to go out to Lancaster to the Hometown Buffet. I almost went, but it seemed to be taking too long for people to get it together, plus they were going to stop at Home Depot and I figured with Memorial Day traffic and being a Friday afternoon it might be best to just shuffle off to Buffalo.

I met lots of nice people. I can't remember everybody's name, but there was Crop Duster, Stove and Alex, and Spiderwoman was there. Spiderwoman hiked last year and the last time I saw her she came up to talk to me at a ranger station where they handed out free rust-colored bleach water. Blech. Thank goodness I made it to the next water source without having to drink any. Anyway, Spiderwoman came up to me as I ate tangerines with Yard Sale and Weeble and she spoke a million miles an hour. So fast I had no idea what she said except it was something about hoping to be able to get back on the trail soon. Turned out she never did so she had returned to hike again this year and was very happy to have made it beyond where she had had to turn back last time.

There is a chance I may see some of these people again. With the way I'm skipping around Central and Northern California, it's possible. But it is not likely I'll see them before I get to Lone Pine.

It felt nice to be around people like me again. I realize that part of my funk lately has been due to sitting at home all alone with little to do and nowhere to go. It's good to have somewhere to go with other people who are going the same way.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Preparations are complete

I have mailed my packages. I mailed everything up to Lone Pine. I hope they don't throw my stuff away because I mailed it too early. I think I'll be there in less than one month.

For those who do not know, I'm hiking the PCT again. This time I'm starting from Santa Barbara and taking part of the proposed Condor Trail in an easterly direction in order to meet up with the PCT where it crosses the Antelope Valley.

After I meet the PCT I'll follow it until Lone Pine. Then I will skip portions of the trail that I have already done and complete portions of the trail that I have not yet done. My hope is to reach Canada in mid-September.

I will keep my Big Adventures updated from time-to-time like I did last time. I enjoyed keeping a journal. It made the journey less lonely.

I plan to leave any minute now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Community gardens

I had an idea today. I volunteer at a food garden at the Mission. I show up once a week and mostly just water and weed and sometimes I clean up the pathways or spread mulch around or do something that's relatively physical. I haven't really learned much about planting things. Which led me to my idea. We ought to have community gardens.

We have community garden plots now. You get your name on a waiting list and when your number comes up, you get a garden plot in on a communal property that you can garden all for yourself. The trouble is, it's all for yourself. What if there were community gardens where you showed up, put in your time doing whatever you are best at and earned a share of the harvest. That way, black thumb people like me who only know how to weed and water wouldn't end up without any food for our efforts.

When the end of cheap oil comes and we all have to depend on homegrown food again (have to? maybe the proper word is get to) it might be better if we could grow food as a community rather than in solitude. Doing everything solitary is too much like our modern society anyway. And not as much fun as doing it with others. We could also preserve the harvest communally and distribute our surplus to old and feeble people who can't help out at all. There's no reason we have to continue such solitary lives as we've been trained to live.

While I was working in the garden today, another one of those rifts in time and space opened up and there I was working in the garden, as my normal daily job, and I was taking piles of weeds to the compost pile and this was how we women were all surviving in the post-economic breakdown America. We were talking about canning and dehydrating and solar ovens. And we were happy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Almost ready to go

I think I've got all my resupply boxes packed.
  • I have one for Hikertown with food to get me to Tehachapi.
  • There's one for Tehachapi. Even though there is a store, I have odds and ends to supplement what I can buy there.
  • I'm sending one to Kennedy Meadows that includes new shoes, my tent and a bear can.
  • I'm sending one to Lone Pine that has food for the stretch from Tuolumne Meadows to South Lake Tahoe. I can opt to forward the Lone Pine box to Tuolumne Meadows or have a go at the High Sierra again. Either way, I'll have to supplement it with stuff bought from Lone Pine.
  • Then I have a big box to send to my mom's house of all my leftover food, the giant containers of Muscle Milk Tony bought me and some other odds and ends that I'll divvy up for Oregon and Washington when I get there.
  • Additionally, I have two boxes with fresh shoes. I'll just ask Tony to send those to me when it looks like I'm going to need new shoes. Hopefully that will be roughly Ashland and Cascade Locks. Whatever is the logical start point of those two states.
I'm currently listening to my music library of Irish tunes while I study for my final exams next week. Every time I hear a good tune that I think I can learn, I'm looking up the music on If the sheet music is any good, then I'm copying it to a file that I'll print out to bring with me so I can practice some new tunes. I'm also including a list of all the tunes I already know with a few opening ABCs for the ones I tend to forget. Maybe this time I won't get stuck playing the same small batch of tunes over and over again because I forgot what I know.

I think the last things to take care of are these:
  1. Print mailing labels
  2. Put initial packages in the mail
  3. Leave a pile of packages for Tony
  4. Edit my web site so that it'll embed my PCT blog posts
  5. Go

Friday, May 15, 2009

Being real

I just read this paragraph on someone's blog:
I want to ride the physical world out of vertical achievement. I love the material plane. I love being a body. I want to live ten thousand more lives. I want to smell the decaying leaves in fall and feel the sting of rain on my face and hear distant thunder and eat pancakes and walk in hot sand and lie in the sun, and sneeze and bleed and sweat and shit and fuck.

Instead I find myself in a climate-controlled building focusing my attention on the rules for transfer of information that keeps us all in climate-controlled buildings focusing our attention on the rules for transfer of information...
I think this is why I hike the PCT. To be real and physical.

The days are counting down. It's almost time to go be real for a while.

I just realized I packed a whole bunch of a certain item for lunch and have not ever tasted it to see if it's any good. I am going to have it for lunch today. Tony and I did a pudding test last night. We made pudding with powdered milk and freeze-dried raspberries. I learned that you have to let it sit a lot longer than 5 minutes so the raspberries have a chance to soften.

(Update: The item is tasty. It's dried lentil soup prepared by adding water and letting it sit in the sun for a little while. Eat with chips, pita chips, crackers or tortillas and a touch of olive oil.)

I have to admit that I'm not completely ready with my resupply preparations. What I mean is, I haven't completely thought through some of it. And my bounce bucket has too much stuff in it. I need to think that through, too. I'm really putting things off to the very last minute, aren't I?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alternate route

All the trails above Santa Barbara are closed because of the Jesusita Fire. Someone has even managed to close all the trails that aren't officially closed. I started to worry that if they don't open the trails in a week and a half, I'll have no way to begin my hike to the PCT.

So I got to thinking. I remembered that one day Tony and I were hiking one of our trails and noticed a small new trail had been cut as an offshoot of the main trail. We decided to follow it and ended up on a road with a water tank. So I went online to Google maps and found the offshoot trail and the road with the water tank. I figured I could walk up that road and sneak onto the trail. Unfortunately, that road appears to be a private road that goes closely by several rich people's homes. No doubt they would call the cops on me with my backpack and all.

So I panned the map around and found another road with a trail I have never seen before that leads to a trail that I recognize. Another secret trail sparing the rich from having to drive to the trailhead! This one isn't as close to the rich people's houses. I think I could sneak by quickly before anyone saw me.

So my route may change. I may spend a little more time winding around the front country trails of Santa Barbara in order to get my hike started. I'm not going to let the paranoid moneyed people prevent me from taking a walk in my public forest.

Bad dog

Yesterday I was out walking, on my way home, and a big dog came bounding up to me. I was scared by it. It had all its manly parts. The dog looked kind of wild-eyed and I thought it might bite me. I've been bitten by dogs before.

The dog jumped up on me, but didn't bite me. He bounded all around, panting loudly and running up and down the street, kind of charging me, trying to get me to play or something, then running ahead, then stopping and lunging back at me with that wild-eyed look. I was afraid and annoyed by this dog. It followed me all the way home despite my efforts to get it to leave me alone.

When I got home, my downstairs neighbor who has a tiny little chihuahua, opened her door and the rude, manly dog burst inside. Soon he and little Cheeto were having a growling and sniffing thing going and I was afraid this rude big dog would hurt little Cheeto. Finally my neighbor was able to grab the dog's collar so we could read the tag. I hadn't been able to do that because the dog moved too much and I was afraid to touch him because I have been bitten trying to grab a dog's collar before.

I phoned the owners, who were not home, and left a message. I tied the rude dog to the fence in my yard since I don't have an enclosed yard. The dog wasn't happy with that and barked. My bird, who sits outside on nice days, was not happy about that either and yelled at the dog.

So I took the dog on the rope and walked it back to the address on its tag. The dog was very ill-behaved. When I used to have a dog as a child, all you had to do was say HEEL and the dog would walk by your left side. Whenever you came to a stop, the dog would sit down. This is the way dogs ought to behave. This dog did none of that. He pulled at the leash so hard the slip-knot nearly choked him to death. He attempted to run over and fight with other dogs. One of these dogs was also loose and I feared there would be a big fight. Why so many loose dogs? I felt like calling the pound. Maybe they could come and give this rude beast a little snip-snip.

When I arrived at the address, it was not the house I thought it might have been. There is a house next to the dog's house where there are often little puppies that look kind of like this dog. There haven't been puppies for a while. But it wasn't the puppy house he belonged to. I tied the dog to the house on a railing with some shade and left a message with the owner where I left their dog.

This morning as I walked down the same street, more dogs came chasing after me. Different ones. Also loose. I decided on my way home to not walk on that street anymore. Too many bad dogs.

I guess I'm just not a dog person. I'll stick with birds. Even when they are bad they aren't as bad as bad dogs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Water report for MY hike

Someone went out and did a hike on much of the trail I'm planning to do to get to the PCT. He sent me an awesome water and trail report. I feel so much better knowing what I'm in for and where to tank up on water and where to find it again. Having this info makes me feel raring to go.

It also cheers me that someone left a comment encouraging me onward. The saying is HYOH — hike your own hike — but sometimes it's a good feeling to know you're hiking for/with others in spirit.

Just two more weeks.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Restless worries

These last few weeks before I set off on the completion of my journey are proving to be difficult.

I'm quite bored. I feel a restlessness inside not so much for hitting the trail as for getting a job. I should be employed and productive, but I'm not. And what am I planning to do? Recreate. This seems irresponsible. Didn't I already have my chance at this? Haven't I recreated enough? Add to these feelings the meta-worry that maybe I will continue to feel this way while hiking thus jeopardizing my chance at completing the trail. And if I don't finish the trail, then what? Go on forever with a lingering, niggling unfinished goal, a dream unrealized?

I wish I was not such a worry wort. I must continue. I must finish.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Big fire threatening my house

Didn't I prepare to evacuate only 6 months ago because of a huge fire I could see outside my window? Here I am again, this time my stuff is packed and in my truck.

What does one pack up in the face of a fire? I packed my hiking gear and my musical instruments. My birds will come with me, too.

Terrible weather

It's hotter here in Santa Barbara than it is in Mojave in the middle of the Mojave desert. Santa Barbara is also on fire. Again. I can't wait to get out of here and go hiking!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Another year of paralyzing resupply decisions.

I feel a bit paralyzed creating my resupplies. I do not want to send a bunch of stuff from home to the trail. I want to buy as I go. But I have a lot of leftover food from last year I want to use up and a bunch of delicious new freeze-dried fruits and veggies to also use. And I have at least one place I will already be sending my bear canister, so I may as well send food. I'm having a hard time with this.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Homemade fleece balaclava and more

I made my own balaclava today. I used a fleece sweater that I picked up at the thrift store and a fleece balaclava pattern I found online.

I opened the JPEG image of the pattern in an image editor, cropped it, and increased the dimensions so that when printed it would be at actual size. (72 pixels per inch) Then I sliced the image into pieces that would fit on 8.5x11 inch paper. I printed out the pieces, cut the pattern pieces out of the paper and taped it back together. Then I pinned it to the sweater.

My scissors were not sharp enough to cut the fabric cleanly. And I do not have a sewing machine so I used a needle and thread. The sweater wasn't long enough for the pattern but when held up next to my head, the pattern looked way too long anyway. So I fit it onto the sweater as well as I could.

I was dismayed at the condition of my scissors. I nearly ruined the project. I ended up having to sew an extra portion of fabric on the top of the head because of how badly I cut the fabric. But it looks and works fine.

I added a drawstring to the head opening. My plan is to use it when sleeping or if it's very cold outside, or possibly even while riding my Vespa. The drawstring lets me pull it a little tighter around my face.

After I made the balaclava I wondered what I could make from the sleeves. I decided to cut off the sleeves and put a drawstring through the shoulder end. When cinched at the toe end, I can wear them as sleeping socks. I can wear them around my legs to keep my legs warm. I can wear them on my arms to keep my arms warm. They can even be used as a pillow. They weigh less than my wool sleeping socks and have more uses.

I like having homemade gear, even if the perfection isn't there. Maybe especially if the perfection isn't there.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I think my start date will be May 24 or May 25.

May 24 is a Sunday. But it might be easier to say good-bye to Tony on May 25, which is a Monday.

Laces thought I ought not to take the bus in Santa Barbara to get to the trailhead. She thought I should walk the whole way through Santa Barbara. She's the proud owner of an imaginary ball of twine she unwound all the way from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Perhaps she's encouraging me to unwind my own ball of yarn.

Part of me feels I don't have what it takes to do that. Part of me thinks I'm not dreaming big enough and that's why I have decided to return. I am going to keep things open and let them unfold. Perhaps starting without the bus holds the possibility of things unfolding differently than they would if I did take the bus.

Spring into Green at UCSB

I was invited to set up a table representing Santa Barbara Hikes at the UC Santa Barbara campus for some event they call Spring into Green, something about promoting green lifestyles.

I brought some print-outs from my web site about the trails plus some info about ultralight backpacking plus all my ultralight gear. I passed out lots of sheets with directions to some of the trails and lots of my old brochures I made when my site was brand new back in the late 90s. I answered some questions about local trails and recommended the Robert Stone books. I had some of my own books but didn't sell any.

I brought my backpack packed and ready to go for the PCT with all my gear. I amazed lots of people by having them pick up my pack. What amazed them was not only that it was so light but that it was all the gear needed for months on the trail. Of course, the amount of gear for months is really the same amount of gear as for a few days, but it sounds more impressive.

People enjoyed my ugly little alcohol stove. I tried to impress people with the low cost options for going lighter. Some things are expensive, like sleeping bags and tents, but some things are really cheap like making your own stove, reusing plastic things you'd otherwise throw away, certain kinds of shelter can be pretty cheap and many packs are very cheap. Mine was only $80.

I was able to help a guy planning to hike the PCT this year from Kennedy Meadows to Canada. When he lifted my pack he was amazed and grilled me for more info. He had actually been on his way to Sports Authority to get stuff for his PCT hike. Well, I stopped him from doing that! I unpacked my pack and showed him my stuff, including The One, and gave him tips on saving money and going light at the same time. I passed out a sheet with links to various web sites about going light to lots of people. I was doing my job as Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador.

The entire event was a lot of fun for me and a success if measured by having a good time. I find a lot of satisfaction in the things I do these days. I'm in demand, I'm doing leadership-type things, I'm teaching, staying active and involved. It's too bad none of them make any money. After the PCT I've got to find a balance between authentic life and profit. How does one have a career and a job (where you pretend it's your career) too without the latter sucking all the life out of you?