Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Camp shoes

I've tried all kinds of camp shoes:
  • Extra insoles with homemade elastic flip-flop straps: Worked okay but you can't walk very far in them. Can be stored inside your shoes under the top set of insoles.
  • The existing insoles tied on with extra shoelaces: Worked okay but they don't stay on very well and you can't walk very far. The extra shoelaces can come in handy for other things.
  • Flip-flops: When dry I was able to walk 15 miles in them one day when I had bad blisters. When they get wet they are very slippery and difficult to walk in.
  • Crocs and crocs knockoffs: Could potentially hike the whole trail in them. Can add superfeet or whatever for extra support/protection. Heavy and bulky.
  • Loosening my hiking shoes: Probably the best of all solutions I found. Sucks when your shoes are wet or frozen, though.
  • Leaving the hiking shoes at home and wearing the "camp shoes" (hiking in Chaco sandals): I like hiking in Chacos. I never stub my toes. They work great most of the time. They have limited grip on some surfaces resulting in several nasty falls, snow gets trapped under my toes, and after a very long hiking day the lack of cushioning can be painful.
I still haven't found the perfect solution.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Can you be allergic to castile soap?

Yesterday I washed my body with baking soda. I filled a large cup with about 3/4 a cup of baking soda, added a little bit of water and then rubbed the paste on my arms, legs and face. This morning I when I woke up I thought my full-body rash felt a whole lot better.

So, I decided to do it again. In the shower I am rubbing baking soda on and it feels pretty good. Then I decided maybe I would finish off with some soap so I smell good. All of a sudden the burning and itching started. I think it is the soap causing it.

The soap I currently have is new. I've only used it 3 times. I've had the rash now for several weeks. But my previous soap was also castile soap. My previous soap was coconut castile and my current one is olive oil castile.

I do not understand how someone could be allergic to so basic a product. Castile soap is usually recommended for people who are allergic to other soaps.

I will keep trying the baking soda and see if it really does help. And I'll see if not using the castile soap also helps.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PCT Tattoo, failure on the new shoes, and I have a rash

I think I want a PCT Tattoo. I went to a tattoo place to make an appointment for a consultation. The tattoo would, of course, go on my leg. I'd like a map of the trail and the emblem and maybe some flowers or something. I'm not very artistic so I am hoping they can do something nice without me having to draw it. I kept imagining a post with the emblem on it and I found an image online that looked just like what I was imagining, but I'm not sure that would look right on my leg.

They said they could make my existing tattoo look a lot better. I would really like that. I've never been all that happy with it. Now I'm not sure if I should get a new tattoo and ignore my old one or fix my old one or do both.

I ordered some hand-made shoes from a company that makes them custom to a tracing of your foot. I sent in my tracing but they said I didn't need a custom shoe. Their regular pattern would fit me. They finally sent the shoes but they were so tight my toes were completely squished. I could hardly put them on. They hurt really bad and my feet went numb. I had to send them back. I felt bad about that because I had high hopes and I didn't want to have to send back hand-made shoes. They were like 4 sizes smaller than I would choose.

I can't figure out what to do about hiking shoes. My sandals work well but my local trails aren't in good shape like the PCT. There are foxtails that ruin your socks. I sewed some leather socks from a leather dress I found one day. Maybe that will work. But my fur-lined Chacos will catch foxtails in the fur. I just don't know what to do. I almost want to take a class in shoemaking so I can make my own shoes that fit me the way I want them to.

Meanwhile, I have a terrible rash. It started before my hike in the Sierras. It seemed like it was starting to go away during the hike. Immediately after taking a shower at Parcher's Resort, I broke out in hives again. I've itched all over ever since. It's mostly on my lower legs and lower arms, but today it has traveled up to my upper arms, my cheeks and my ears and moved down to my hands and fingers. I scratched my arm silly and noticed a big blood blister during work.

I wish I knew what was causing the rash. I thought it might be jojoba oil. I stopped using jojoba oil before my trip but I still had the rash. I thought it might be laundry detergent since the rash came back after I put on a clean skirt. We bought costco laundry detergent a few weeks ago. I have a long history of being sensitive to laundry detergent.

I've washed most of my clothes and the sheets in our old laundry detergent but the rash is still here and getting worse. It's truly awful. And now suddenly summer has at long last arrived. So I am hot and incredibly itchy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My own personal Canada

My campsite had been a pretty good choice. I was warm all night. The mosquitoes weren't bad at all. It was quiet. The lumps weren't as bad as I expected.

The breeze came up again in the morning. I packed up and made tea again for breakfast. I ate grapenuts after the tea. I wondered if grapenuts would taste good in the tea, but didn't try it.

The esbit stove was a failure. I used up my mini-bic lighter on two esbit tabs and had to start on the second lighter to make my tea. Esbit was too difficult to light.

After breakfast, I walked the final mile on the PCT to the trail junction where in 2008 I quit the trail in tears. Every PCT hiker should be careful where they leave the trail. It could become their own personal Canada someday.

There was a trail register at this junction. I opened it up and signed my name. I didn't find the register at the real Canadian border but I found the register here. I signed that I had completed the PCT and took a picture of my signature. It felt good to document my achievement. Now it was time to hike the final 12 miles up and over Bishop Pass.

I began the climb to Dusy Basin. The slab waterfall was still there, still flowing.

I met a man while I was taking a picture who had the usual huge pack and big boots. As he let me go ahead of him, he warned me not to be too surprised if he needed to pass me later. He told me he thought my sandals were pretty silly but I told them how well they had been working for me and that I would backpack in them again. He said he was going to do some cross-country hiking and I agreed that shoes would probably be better for that, but I wasn't doing any cross-country hiking, so I was happy with my skirt and sandals. Then he faded into the background never to be seen again. I thought about how maybe instead of planting a seed of the possibilities of lightweight hiking, my sandals, skirt and tiny pack mocked some of these heavy-weight macho men. On the first Sierra Club hike I ever led, as I was trying to tell people how difficult the hike would be, someone was overheard saying "if that little albino girl can do it, how hard could it be?" If someone could sing and skip up the 12,000 foot passes in a skirt, sandals and carrying nearly a day-pack, did that devalue the accomplishments of those who toiled against gravity in this land of extremes?

Dusy Basin was really pretty. I took many pictures. I stopped and washed out my hiking tank top so I would have something clean to wear on the bus to Mammoth later. Then I began the climb to the pass. Storm clouds were forming on one of the big mountains. It looked pretty and ominous. I passed a lot of people on the way to the pass. A few looked like JMT thru-hikers, real serious ones who would probably do the PCT someday. It looked like they were heading out for a resupply. They passed me on the way down and I was unable to catch up to them.

I took a break at the Pass to take my picture and have a snack. Then I began the long climb down. Gratefully there were no snow patches on the switchbacks this time. No snow anywhere really, except one near the top. It was much easier than in 2008.

I made it to the bottom, passing all the pretty lakes and forgetting to fill up my water again. I ate my lunch in the parking lot and bought a soda at the store by the lake.

I walked one mile down the road to Parcher's Resort where I got a $5 shower. The lady working there in the store was going to give me a ride to Bishop, but not until 6:00. I decided to try hitchhiking instead. I got a ride right away with 4 men out fishing on a day off from building a hospital in Bishop. Three of them were named Jose. Los Tres Joses. They thought it was pretty nuts that anyone would walk 80 miles. They couldn't believe there were trails up in those craggy peaks.

They took me to Bishop. I had three hours to wait for the bus. It was 100 degrees. It felt really odd to be in town and not be hungry, to hike all that way and the first thing on my mind wasn't food but a shower and now in town I still didn't want any food. I wasn't a thru-hiker anymore.

It also felt strange to be in town and not see anyone I knew. But all the hikers I would have known in the past were long gone, and those hiking this year would be in Oregon by now.

It felt good to finish the trail. Now I felt ready to start it all over again!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Little Pete Meadow

I made hot tea in the morning. I ate my cereal and then set off around 7:00. The walk up to the third and final bridge over the San Juaquin river was pleasant. I never did see where Little Foot camped. She probably knew all kinds of secret places.

After crossing the bridge, I climbed steeply up toward Evolution Basin. I passed a powerful waterfall tumbling deep into the San Juaquin river canyon. I stopped to take pictures. There were some Japanese backpackers also taking pictures here.

Soon I reached the crossing of Evolution Creek near the meadow. This was the scary creek crossing everyone worries about. It looked so tame. I walked through knee-high water to the other side. I imagine that it could be dangerous because this water fed those falls plunging straight down into the canyon. I was glad to be hiking at a time when creeks were more reasonable to cross.

I meandered along Evolution and McClure Meadows. I smelled hot sausage cooking as I hiked near McClure Meadow and found it coming from the ranger station. I stopped to take pictures and heard someone talking inside.

Somewhere along the way I passed the turnoff to Darwin Bench. The ranger had left a note pointing the way. Some people had recommended I visit Darwin Bench, but the trail looked too faint and I didn't have a map of the area. I didn't want to get lost so I skipped the side trip and stuck to the PCT.

I also kept bumping into a man with a big pack. He hiked pretty fast, about as fast as me. He told me I was the strongest hiker he had ever met. I laughed and said it was because of my tiny pack. He said that didn't matter and I replied that it sure did for me. I see all these people laboring under huge loads, especially women plodding with half their body weight. I could never do that. We leapfrogged each other all morning until I lost him beyond Evolution Lake.

After the meadows, I climbed up to Evolution Lake. I crossed other difficult creek crossings along the way. One of them looked like it might have been in the movie they showed at Kickoff 2009 with Scott Williamson trying to walk across shady forest that was nothing but water everywhere.

Evolution Lake was really pretty. There were dozens of people camped there. I was sure the lake was a human crapopolooza. I wouldn't want to camp there. There were also llamas and horses there.

The trail went along one side of the lake and climbed to the next lake and the next. I stopped at Sapphire Lake for lunch. I was supposed to stay here tonight according to my official itinerary. I wouldn't want to camp here, though. It was rocky and barren and the sun seared my skin.

I continued upward to Wanda Lake. I was above treeline but the lake seemed surprisingly alive. I startled big frogs who leaped into the lake. Hoards of little flies enveloped me and sat on me as I walked or were inhaled into my mouth. Perfect wildflowers dotted the trail and the grassy bank next to the lake. The trail went along the shore but I didn't feel tempted to swim. It looked very cold.

I could see Muir Pass and the tip of the hut in the distance above me. The climb up seemed easy and I didn't feel the altitude much at all. If anything, it felt like the clean air was easier to breathe than the heavy, polluted, foggy wet air back home. I felt like skipping and singing.

When I reached to summit I was alone. I went inside the hut and looked around. I felt happy to be here. This was my last big Pass on the PCT. I felt a sense of triumph. I took my own picture using a Stickpic.

It was already 3:00 when I reached the hut. I needed to head down. It would be a long way down. I soon learned the way down was not as easy as the way up had been. There were only two or three snow patches, but I could try to imagine how awful and scary it would have been had I not gone home in June 2008 but continued on to attempt this pass. The trail was rocky and steep and crossed outlet streams at precarious locations over slippery rocks. It was difficult enough now in August. I would have been terrified in June. I was very glad I didn't continue in 2008. I would have been in tears.

It was very rocky and austere up here. I felt like the only living thing in the universe. The sun burned harsh like in old Twilight Zone episodes shot in the desert. I didn't know if it was the altitude, the solitude, the lack of living things or all of these things, but the old feelings I had back in 2008 attempting all these high mountain passes returned. A deep panicky feeling, I've got to get out of here repeating in my head. Everyone loves the High Sierra so much but my heart sings in the gentler, greener forests of Northern California or the stunning beauty of the volcanoes of Oregon.

After an hour I saw two people getting water and didn't feel so much like being on the moon. I continued to descend and small trees appeared. Then a nice alpine lake with grass appeared. Two men were there saddling up for the long drop into the Kings River canyon. It was still early enough that I figured I'd probably end up all the way down there.

The descent was grueling. I fell twice, reopening the scab and re-bruising my knee from a fall the other day. I passed lots of people headed up with huge, heavy packs. I felt sorry for them. It was a difficult descent so I could only imagine what a tiring ascent it was.

I reached an area with lodge pole pines. I felt a sigh of relief. I took a picture. The pines, the flowers lining the trail. Who wouldn't feel happier here than on the moon?

Down down down. Pretty soon all I wanted to do was at least get to where the trail was just a trail again and not a gravelly, slippery stair step.

I reached the canyon bottom and campsites appeared. Now to choose one. I found a nice one but it seemed too on display. I found another but it was next to Big Pete Meadow and had a lot of mosquitoes. Finally I found a bench above the river and between Big and Little Pete Meadows. No mosquitoes here. A warm wind blew and I hoped for a warm night's sleep. For sure it would be a lumpy sleep since it wasn't an established camp.

I set up my tarp over my net tent so people hiking the trail above me wouldn't be able to see me inside. I ate dinner, played my Strumstick, washed my legs in the creek and enjoyed the warm evening as I drifted off to sleep.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The San Juaquin River

I think I walked around 20 miles today. I started the day a little worried that my progress the last two days had seemed so slow. I was determined to make my official itinerary goal of Muir Trail Ranch and hopefully beyond.

My camp on Bear Ridge had been sort of cold. I headed down the trail to a sunny set of switchbacks headed toward Bear Creek. When I got down there, I enjoyed a pleasant, gentle walk up the creek. I passed numerous campsites with people in them. The trail was really crowded everywhere I went. It wasn't like during the thru-hiker season. It seems like during thru-hiker season there are fewer hikers than now in mid-August.

I made a wet crossing of Bear Creek and met two men on the other side. One gave me his card so I could read his trip report. I gave him one of my Ultralight Backpacking cards because it included a link to my hiking web site where I would probably have a trip report. The men informed the crossing I just made was the big one on Bear Creek. It certainly didn't look like how I imagined. Where were the rapids and falls I had read about? It was only knee deep and the water had been refreshing. So tame.

The trail was becoming steeper but it was still nice and cool in the morning. I passed two women laboring under huge packs. One woman appeared to really struggle with the weight. She walked extremely slowly, carefully placing each trekking pole with each step. The trail was not that steep yet.

At a small summit at an outflow of Marie Lake, I stopped to get some water and sit for a minute to eat a snack. The faster of the two women caught up and we talked a little. They were hiking the whole JMT and had been out for 12 days so far. I tried to think back to how many days I had taken to complete the same distance, but couldn't remember. I didn't think it was 12. It would turn out that "taking it slow" was the way that most JMT hikers tried to do it. This was so different from the PCT where we always raced against time to get to Canada and raced against hunger to get to the next resupply.

I continued on and skirted the shore of large Marie Lake. Selden Pass was going to be above it. A few wildflower-dotted dusty switchbacks and I reached Selden Pass. There were meadows and lakes beckoning on the other side and trees at the top.

I began the descent through a flowery meadow and reached heart-shaped Heart Lake. I stopped to try and take a picture of a big trout swimming near the shore. The water looked inviting. Two hippie guys were having lunch on the shore. They didn't seem friendly like PCT hikers so I continued on without conversation.

Below Heart Lake were the Sally Keyes Lakes. I walked by the first one and the trail went between the two along the shore of the second one. I stopped by a nice rock to have lunch and swim. I got all the way into the water but did not swim. It was cold and I chickened out. There were numerous brightly-colored trout lolling by the shore.

Two JMT hikers stopped by to chat. They were very nice. They were a young couple. They had a thru-hiker air about them. I bet the will do it one day. We talked for a long time. They were doing 12 mile days and felt pressured by them and wished they could slow down a bit. They could not imagine the 30 mile days I did hiking the PCT last year.

After my respite at Salley Keyes Lake, I steeled myself for another bone-crunching descent to the San Juaquin River. It was a long, hot dry descent in the full heat-of-day sun. The views were amazing. I met my goal of the trail junction to Muir Trail Ranch by 3:30. It was a hot and dusty spot with no water nearby. I continued on.

Eventually I noticed small human footprints in the dust. Somebody was hiking barefoot. Soon I saw a huge pack with two legs beneath it. I decided to catch up and take a picture of such a big pack. The pack was an old external frame pack with huge rolls and bags and even a separate day pack attached and fully loaded. Then I noticed the owner of the pack was wearing flip-flops.

I stopped to talk to the woman under the pack. Her name was Little Foot. She hikes barefoot or in flip-flops. She said she could never find shoes to fit her feet so she gave up on shoes a long long time ago. She spends three months a year backpacking in the Sierra and living in her car. She can walk over everything in bare feet, but nowadays she wears flip-flops over the rougher stuff. She said she felt more steady in her bare feet, more grounded and the only time she ever sprained an ankle was wearing boots.

I walked slowly so we could talk more. She was an interesting woman. She had been married once but her husband didn't want her out backpacking alone and he wouldn't come with her. He accused her of picking up men on the trail. He was very jealous and that was the beginning of the end of their marriage. She waited all the years for her children to grow up so she could return to her life's passion. She had begun backpacking in her teens. I wondered what she did the other 9 months of the year but did not ask. She said she lived in San Juan Capistrano. I assumed maybe she was a teacher or perhaps it was all made up.

I reached a big bridge at a tributary of the San Juaquin. I could see the river at last. I walked alone up the river hoping to hike until 6 or 6:30. The river water looked very inviting and the sun was hot. I began to change my mind about what time to stop. Now what I wanted was a campsite with enough warm sun left in the day to at least soak my feet and dry my sweaty back.

I turned down several nice campsites, walked through a shady gorge thinking I had blown my only chance at a good creekside camp, and they I saw some men camped on the other side of the river. I wondered how they got there and just then I saw a bridge. I crossed it and hoped I could find a site of my own without so much testosterone nearby. I found a site right below the bridge. There was just enough sun left to soak my feet as I ate dinner.

I set up my tarp over my mosquito tent for privacy and hoped it wouldn't be too cold at night. As I soaked my feet, I saw Little Foot cross the bridge and continue on past my camp. I was kind of hoping she'd share my campsite with me.

I played my Strumstick by the water. With such noisy water I played it loudly. I really enjoyed having my Strumstick. I tried to play my pennywhistle but at altitude, I just don't have much breath control. The Strumstick is much bigger than a whistle, but it wasn't too terribly hard to carry. It's similar to a dulcimer and the fingering isn't too far off from a fiddle, so I was having fun playing Old-time tunes.

It had been a long day and I wondered if I was missing something by not taking 12 days to do my trip. The thing is, I enjoyed covering a lot of ground. I saw a lot. I wasn't looking down as I hiked. I took a lot of pictures. I paused a lot to let the views soak in. I swam in lakes (well, almost), enjoyed the river. I didn't think I was missing anything.

I went back to my campsite and got ready for my nightly ritual of rubbing my sore feet. I wore Chaco sandals on this trip, something I had tried on the last PCT section a couple weeks ago and thought worked well. I started rubbing my feet but they did not hurt. What a miracle!

I laid out in the waning light and thought about things. My bear can had too much food. I was hiking faster than my itinerary and would finish a day early. I was sad I was eating up the miles too quickly. One thing I loved about the PCT was how I could greedily eat up as many miles as possible every day. I could find out what was around every corner, as many corners as there were and never run out of them. I was running out of corners quickly on this trip. I was sad I only had one more night left.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bear Ridge

I woke up in the middle of the night in my little homemade bugnet tent and felt that my sleeping bag was completely soaking wet on top. I was still warm inside, almost too warm, so I fell back asleep. Later I woke again because I was cold. I was sure my sleeping bag had soaked through, lost all its loft and that's why I was cold, but I felt the top and now my sleeping bag was completely dry. I rolled over on to my stomach, which is a way to warm myself up, and fell asleep again.

I woke up early and decided I could better enjoy the morning light at this high altitude by getting started hiking right away. I shoved a couple of bars in my pocket, packed up and headed for Silver Pass.

The high altitude rocky cliffs and tarn lakes were really pretty. I stopped at Chief Lake and it was completely silent. I had never heard such quiet. No planes, no people, not even the sound of running water anywhere.

Silver Pass was an easy pass. Someone was camped at the top. On the other side were pretty meadows. I enjoyed walking through them. They were dotted by wildflowers and little burbling streams flowed next to the trail.

I descended more and more through shady canyons and flowers. There was a cliff with a creek flowing over in a sheet of water and rock. I followed it and eventually crossed it on slippery rocks. I didn't get my feet wet. I thought about how the guide book warned of a dangerous creek crossing coming up with slippery rocks. One slip could prove fatal. I figured this small creek crossing was a preview of what was to come later.

I descended more into a dark canyon and crossed noisy Mono creek. The crossing was easy so I assumed a more difficult one was approaching soon. Then I reached a trail junction. I checked the guide book and saw that these two creeks had been the scary, dangerous, potentially fatal creeks I was warned about. I was happy to see how easy they were. No more nightmares!

I kept descending. It was too much descending. It was going to be a long way to the top again.

Eventually I reached a footbridge. The trail to the ferry to VVR was supposed to be around here. Indeed there was a sign. I walked a mile to the ferry landing, passing numerous people who had arrived by ferry. I had missed the morning ferry.

At the landing there was a sign with the ferry times posted on it. The next ferry would be at 4:45 and it was only 11:30 now. I decided to walk the 5 miles to VVR rather than wait.

I expected the trail to be level since I was already at the lake. But it wasn't. It was a pretty tough trail. It went up and down and was all soft sand pulverized by horses. After such a cold summer in Santa Barbara, the hot sun was sapping my strength. I drank all my water and then dreamed of beer.

The trail went on and on and then ended at a parking lot. Somehow I guessed correctly the way to go and found VVR. I ate a delicious cheeseburger and a beer from Oregon. I missed Oregon.

I bought two lighters. I could have skipped the whole excursion to VVR but I was worried about lighting the esbits. I added a piece of pie to my order and then set about to wait for the ferry.

After two hours of waiting, the ferry was ready to go. I got on board with two couples setting out on backpack trips. The older couple was planning to hike the Sierra High Route to Tuolumne Meadows. The younger couple was hiking to Paiute Pass. They all had towering loads. The older man was curious about my small pack. He said it looked like I had read Ray Jardine's books and was adhering pretty closely to his methods. Lightweight hiking wasn't new to him so I wondered why he hadn't tried it. We talked about light hiking and about hiking the PCT.

When the ferry landed, I got off and set off to the bridge. There were lots of campsites at the bridge and also lots of campers. I decided to push on.

I began a series of dozens and dozens (turns out there were 53) switchbacks. It was like the switchbacks to Belden except I was going up. I thought they would never end. Three strong guys passed me on the way up, but I passed them again when they stopped to rest. They caught up to me again and then I passed them once again. I passed one good campsite on the ridge thinking maybe they might want it. But after I set up my own campsite, they passed me by never to be seen again.

My camp was in the forest. There were no creeks or snow anywhere but lots of mosquitoes anyway. I was grateful for my bug net tent as lopsided as it was.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Duck Pass to Squaw Lake on the JMT

I returned to the High Sierra to complete the PCT once and for all. (Until I start again, that is.) Here's my journal of the final section between Mammoth and Bishop.

I had nightmares where I was swept away in scary creeks. The section between Bishop Pass and Duck Pass was a section I skipped in 2008. I was afraid of all the scary creeks listed in the guide book. Statements like "one slip could be fatal" just did not make me want to continue. In fact, I exited the trail over Bishop Pass, rented a car and went home. I quit the trail rather than continue. But I went back a few days later and eventually made my way to Mt. Shasta.

In 2009 I attempted to complete the Bishop Pass to Duck Pass section but it was actively snowing every day when I came through. I decided against it. Now it was time to go. I figured mid-August should be safer. Still, I had nightmares anticipating this section of the trail.

I decided head southbound since it was easier to get a permit for Duck Pass than Bishop Pass.

After work on Friday, I drove all the way from Santa Barbara to a BLM campground just outside of Bishop. I slept outdoors in the desert under a sky full of stars. At first light, I completed the drive to Mammoth and picked up my permit at the ranger station. I parked in the Park & Ride and took the public transportation to the Duck Pass trailhead. Finally I was on the trail ready to complete the PCT!

I hiked up the trail to Duck Pass, an easy pass. The trail was full of dayhikers, trail runners and backpackers overloaded with heavy packs. Only the trail runners went faster than me. All the backpackers seemed to think I was a day hiker because my pack was so small.

I stopped at Purple Lake for lunch. There were dozens of people there including several fisherman from Minnesota. I guess they just don't get enough fishing!

I met a ranger on the trail who asked if I had a bear canister. He was suspicious of my light pack. I had the Bearicade Weekender, the small clear bear canister. Not being a hungry thru-hiker I was able to fit my food easily. I also planned to supplement my food with a burger at VVR.

After lunch I hiked on to Lake Virginia where I caused some nude sunbathers to get dressed. They shouldn't have bothered. I don't mind skinny dipping.

Lake Virginia was really pretty. The water did look inviting. It had grassy lawns around the lake and flowers bloomed in the meadows.

I told the rangers that my first night on my itinerary would be Tully Hole.

My experience with the whole permit thing in the past was that you had to give the rangers a list of places you planned to camp each night. The places had to be named places on the map. This was a ridiculous requirement because most places named on maps were lakes and if you don't like to camp at lakes (I try to avoid them because of mosquitoes, cold and dampness), you are out of luck giving them an itinerary. So I made up a bunch of BS places I planned to stay. The first one was Tully Hole.

I assumed Tully Hole would be mosquito-infested and indeed it was. It was a meadow at the bottom of a canyon. There was a large, very loud creek roaring down a canyon and meandering through the meadow, and a smaller very large creek tumbling down the side of the mountain to meet the larger one. I reached Tully Hole much too early to camp so I continued on, following a creek toward a bridge.

As I descended toward the bridge, I walked through ferns and flowers in a lovely forest. It reminded me of northern California, but nice as the High Sierra is, it cannot do as well at the whole northern California thing as northern California can.

At the bridge there was a nice breeze blowing the mosquitoes away. It seemed like a nice place to camp. I sat down to think about it. There appeared to be only one campsite and people were already staying there, so I only rested for a little while before continuing on.

Now I climbed through pleasant greens and wildflowers. I considered every possible stop but didn't find a place that spoke to me.

I met a man named Greg with a Gossamer Gear G4 pack like the one I used on my 1800 mile section last year. He was hiking the whole JMT. He looked like he might have just retired and was now getting to do the things he'd put off his whole life. He was friendly and we talked for a while. Soon I lost him as I climbed.

I climbed and climbed. It looked like I was approaching some kind of rock bench. I climbed up to it and discovered a pretty sub-alpine lake. It seemed very nice here so I washed up in the outflow and got ready to set up my camp, violating my no lake camping rule. Greg arrived and he decided to stay here, too. Another JMT hiker named Steve appeared from behind some bushes and stopped over to chat with us. I could see another man way up above the lake on the hill.

We all camped behind secret nooks where we couldn't see each other. Except maybe everybody could see me. My little nook wasn't quite as hidden as it could have been.

I put up my homemade mosquito net tent after considerable trial and error. I made it myself and I am not an expert sewer. It has no door and no floor. The only way to get in is to lift a corner and climb under. But it seemed to work well.

I attempted to light my esbit stove for dinner. I went through a half a box of wooden matches trying to light the esbit. I only brought one box of matches so this worried me. Tomorrow I would be going to VVR so I planned to buy some lighters.

The mosquitoes were out but they weren't like the Oregon mosquitoes. I sat in my mosquito net tent, played my Strumstick. I watched fish jump in the lake and the alpenglow color the rocky cliffs. I fell asleep under the stars and a bright, setting moon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's official: The Worst Summer Ever

Normally in summer here it is foggy 30% of the daylight hours. That fact is enough right there to hate summer in Santa Barbara, but this year it has been worse. It has been foggy 50% of all daylight hours since June 1. It is the worst summer we have ever had. The foggiest summer ever recorded.

Every morning I wake up to cold gray gloom. I have to turn on lights as if it was winter. I have to put on a down jacket to walk to work. Today I was still wearing my jacket when I arrived at work 1.75 miles later. The sun was out in the afternoon, but to do some things in our shady yard, I had to wear a jacket because the wind coming off the ocean where the fog lies in wait was as cold as the fog itself.

I've had all I can bear of this. I cannot wait to get the heck out of here. I leave tomorrow to go to the Eastern Sierra. I'm going to finish my trek on the PCT. Then I think I'll get a commemorative tattoo. And keep hiking.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lessons of the trail

Somebody wrote an article in our local Sierra Club newsletter and I wanted to craft a response. He wrote that the Sierra Club outings are nice and all, but activism is what really changes things and we fun-loving outings people should step up and so some real work for a change. This is a response I wrote but I'm not sure I will send it in or not.

Lessons of the Trail

I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail runs from the Mexican Border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington. I hiked the trail by myself in large and sometimes overlapping portions in 2008 and 2009 and continue to hike segments whenever possible. The trail is home to me and has taught me more than any other experience I have had in life.

Hiking such a long distance is more a mental challenge than a physical one. I walked 12 to 14 hours every day. It got boring. Mosquitoes or other unpleasant events can wear away the joy, bring morale down and make you want to quit. As a solo traveler, I fought loneliness and homesickness. As a person whose personality doesn't lean toward daredevil behavior, the anxiety of scary challenges approaching, such as swift stream crossings, precarious log crossings and snowy mountain passes wore away at my resolve constantly and I had to steel myself to keep going. Gnawing hunger more ferocious than anything I had ever experienced literally ate at me from the inside out even despite the joy of being able to guiltlessly eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting. It became a job. But the rewards are great and if the mental challenges can be met, they and the physical experiences have a lot to teach.

One evening after several days of hiking with shoes ill-suited to the hot desert and a package of food in the Post Office waiting for my arrival, I approached a city that was reported to have an outlet shopping center. I could get new shoes tomorrow morning! I was near an Interstate Highway in view of a towering Indian casino. I stepped off the trail onto a road and began walking toward the tower. Unfortunately, the road ended at a dead end with private property signs all around. What little traffic that came by would not give me a ride. Nobody could provide directions I could follow on foot. So much of our modern world is designed against those who travel without a motor. The sun was going down quickly and I began to worry about where I would go if I could not figure out how to get to town. If you have ever been to an unfamiliar place with nowhere to stay, you might be familiar with the feeling. Where will I sleep? What will I do? Who will help me? Who will hurt me?

Then I remembered I had a tent on my back and a trail full of other friendly travelers who already knew me and cared about me. All I had to do was continue down the trail and I would be home. That was when I came to understand that the trail was my home. Every day I woke up and began hiking at 6 a.m. and stopped hiking around 6 p.m. not knowing in advance where I would be or if there would be a place to stop for the night. Without fail, every evening a place to set up my tent would appear. I was always already home because I was self-contained and minimal. Because all that I owned—all 12 pounds of it—was on my back, it left me open to receive. From campsites to gear replacements to extra food and even psychological counseling, I found that trail magic took care of my needs. Free from the constant striving to obtain that modern life trained me for, I learned that whatever I needed was provided to me when I needed it most. I was awakened to an understanding that needs can be met outside a consumer economy. The way this works is full of surprise and delight and taught me I need very little to be happy, and in fact, the less I have the happier I am.

One day I hiked into a community on the shores of a very large lake. People in this community kept very nice homes with green lawns and beautiful gardens of flowers. I realized that because of those lawns, and the boats on the lake and the roads full of cars dripping pollutants to run off into the lake on rainy days, this large lake would not be safe to drink. I had walked hundreds of desert miles with water sources usually 20 miles apart and often up to 35 miles apart. Through the desert I drank from piped springs feeding cattle troughs and from plastic bottles left by kind strangers. Seven hundred hot and thirsty miles formed within me an acute understanding of the value of clean water, a visceral understanding more urgent than the intellectual one I had before. Living in an arid land where no matter how long a drought lasts, fresh water always comes right out of the faucet, it is possible to be told water is precious, to sense its value from the water bill, but until you face the true thirst of 35 miles of waterless desert, you really do not know. We need clean water to live. Without it we die. Our way of life works against this basic fact in almost every conceivable way.

On the Pacific Crest Trail I walked 20 to 30 miles every day. I saw the mountains approach and recede. One thing I learned from over 3000 miles of hiking is my own physical power. Seeing a big volcanic mountain approach over the horizon, just its snowy tip showing above the curvature of the Earth, finding myself on its shoulder the next day, and seeing it fade into the haze behind me the following day was one of the most life-changing experiences I had on the trail. It showed me I am powerful, strong and independent. I do not need machines and cheap oil to move my body vast distances over the earth. I can travel a visible arc on a globe with only my two feet. If I can do that, I can certainly grocery shop or attend a lecture or reach a trailhead to go for a hike on foot, too.

While hiking the trail I saw four rattlesnakes, nine bears, countless birds and one fox. I saw hundreds of millions of ants, velvet ants, mosquitoes, locusts and beetles. Bird song and warning screeches followed me everywhere. Deer and fawns leaped away from me in fright. I chased Spring up the side of the globe always turning the corner to one amazing floral display after another. I climbed huge mountains every day and walked through every climate zone of the West from desert floor to high alpine. I grew to believe myself to be a creature of the forest like my wild friends (and enemies, oh those mosquitoes!) When the trail encroached upon the edges of civilization, I sometimes would peer out into the common world of modern life with curiosity and then slip back into the forest unseen. I rejoiced that the Earth is still very much alive and beautiful and that I was a part of the web of life even if all I really was was an out-of-place weed just passing through. I stopped buying hotel rooms on my layover days in towns. I slept better right on the ground without a pillow or mattress or indoor plumbing. The living Earth cradled me and kept me safe.

As a hike leader with the Sierra Club I often encounter people for whom the first response toward being out in nature is fear. They want to know if I was afraid, if I carried pepper spray for the bears or if I had a gun to kill rattlesnakes. Some are shocked when I tell them I carried no weapons of any kind. The only knife I had was the kind with the little scissors and nail file. Some respond with anger that I traveled alone, carried only 12 pounds of gear and hardly any first-aid equipment. This is because many people have a complete lack of experience with nature or what experience they do have has been mediated by a "be prepared for danger" ethos that fosters and reinforces society's belief that civilization is safe (when the reality is that it is full of hazardous chemicals and machines that intend to proceed full speed ahead to ultimate destruction of all life) and nature is deadly (when in fact it is what sustains us and gives us life). Their deficit is so profound that the only honest feeling they have about nature is fear. Intellectually they love nature, but viscerally they are terrified of it. Sierra Club outings are a way for people to get started being out in nature. It helps them learn about their bodies, how to manage hydration, sun exposure, hypothermia and physical fitness. Most people have a political understanding of the value of nature, but when their immediate bodily response to nature is terror, something very important is missing. When civilization appears safer that than which gives us life it is easier to kill life with every day acts of transporting, bathing, shopping, working, consuming, investing, eating etc. It becomes easy to believe that token acts of voting or writing checks or driving "green" cars are enough to let us live with our comforts, that our shopping to "save the planet" will earn us a pass should a day of reckoning ever come.

Because of the trail, I gained a sense of freedom more real than the standard political kind. It’s a deep feeling I carry inside myself as I navigate my off-trail life in a world that wants me to believe I’m powerless, weak and dependent. A world that attempts to mold all facets of my life toward its aims. I broke out of it for 6 months and came back with clear eyes and a knowledge my cells already understood but had to have awakened so I could know, too.

If I had never taken time out in the wilderness to learn all these lessons I would not have known what I know now about being at home in nature, living simply with serendipity and trust and understanding the size and shape of the Earth and my place within it as a living organism. I stepped outside industrial culture and found a chink in the fence. We do not need industrial culture to be happy and we'd be best off if we could find a way to end it.

Traditional political activism at best slows down the relentless march of industrial civilization toward environmental destruction but does not and cannot ever stop it so long as most people are unaware of the kinds of things I have learned. Somewhere deep inside we all know this, but it lies dormant, waiting. If I can open the door to another person awakening this knowledge I feel that I will have accomplished as much as a thousand successful political campaigns.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Apple gave me the creeps

I went to the Apple store for the first time. I have used Apple computers since the 90s and have always liked them but I had never been to an Apple store. We have a local store that I usually go to. It's small and out of the way and not very fancy inside. There are always long lines of people there who use their computers for work so it has truly knowledgeable staff that can fix anything and sell you exactly what you need for your work.

Anyway, I thought I would drop in to the Apple store to see what an iPad looks like. I determined that the Apple store gives me the creeps. It's like a robot store.

I got the sense that all the iPads and iPhones and similar gadgets were there to serve one single purpose which was to direct your attention into various apps that are really just sales channels for various companies Apple has partnered with. I did not find this to be cool at all but instead very creepy.

I walked out deciding I probably would never get an iPad or iPhone or go to another Apple store. I have a MacBook now, but maybe my next computer will be a home-made box running Linux.

Later I walked up the street and tried my very first Pinkberry frozen yogurt. I have to say that it was the finest cup of frozen yogurt I have ever tasted. I will definitely return.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Playing my strumstick

I have this awesome little instrument called a Strumstick. It's basically a mountain dulcimer oriented like a slender little guitar. I used to have a mountain dulcimer but when I started playing music with the Glendessary Jam, I could not hear myself play my dulcimer and couldn't tell if I was playing the right notes. I got discouraged and gave my dulcimer away. I started playing a mandolin instead. Eventually I started playing a fiddle because I took a class and my teacher played at the Jam and I didn't want to disappoint her so I kept playing the fiddle. I kind of grew to enjoy the fiddle even though I'm worse than terrible at it.

I've tried a lot of musical instruments and as a result, I have a large inventory of different instruments lying around the house. I have simple-system flutes and pennywhistles, a mandolin, a violin, and a strumstick. I have a silver band flute, too, but it doesn't work. I play all my instruments except the silver flute. I'm not particularly good or talented but I do enjoy it.

When I first got the strumstick I had a hard time figuring out how to play it. The maker of the instrument claims it is easy to play, no wrong notes. Well, to me some of the notes do sound wrong. And it is very difficult to slide your finger up and down the high string quickly enough to get a good tune out at a decent dancing speed. Most of all, no instrument is easy if you don't have tunes in your head that you can actually play. I set my strumstick aside for quite a while as I focused on my fiddle at the Glendessary Jam.

Over the course of a year and a half of playing at the Jam, I've picked up a lot of tunes. They are memorized in my head. I have never looked at the sheet music to play them. I just go to the Jam and listen as they play a tune and pick up as many of the notes as I can. Eventually I learned quite a few tunes this way.

The other day I picked up my strumstick and realized that the first two strings are tuned just like my fiddle. D and A. The last string is tuned to D instead of E. It's so close to the fiddle that I just started picking out tunes. Instead of only playing melody on the high string, I played melody on all three strings just like on a fiddle. Wow! It worked and suddenly it really did have no wrong notes. The Old-Time tunes we play at the jam work perfectly for the strumstick. The chords and the melodies just seem to match. When I'm on the D strings the A string harmonizes well most of the time. When I'm on the A string, the D strings seem to harmonize well most of the time. Once in a while they don't quite harmonize right, but it's not exactly wrong, either. It has more of a simple, old-fashioned sound.

It's so much fun to play tunes on my strumstick. It's like having a little band in a box. I can play a melody and have chords going as a self-accompaniment at the same time. It makes me sound like I'm a real musician and know what I'm doing.I brought it to the Jam last weekend and had a blast strumming out the tunes. With a capo I can even play tunes in G and I suppose by retuning I could play in A, but I haven't tried that yet.

I've been thinking I would like to take my strumstick backpacking. I have the largest strumstick that McNally makes. Their smallest would be better because the large one is probably longer than a yard and could be difficult to pack and bump into low branches. I met a PCT hiker named Chief Daddy who had the smallest one. It was very tiny, packed well and had a nice tone like a mandolin. Mine has a deep tone more like a banjo, but with the capo I can get a brighter, higher tone similar to his.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bucks Summit to Highway 36 on the PCT

I put my pictures up from my hike from Bucks Summit to Highway 36 on the Pacific Crest Trail. You can see them here.

Here is my journal.

Wed, July 28
We drove forever through the hellish industrial agriculture of the San Juaquin Valley. The weather was comfortable in the mid-80s. Once we got to the forest, we rolled down the windows of the car and were hit immediately with the heavenly aroma of the forest. I was coming home.

We parked at Bucks Summit trailhead. It was not hard to find. It was instantly recognizable where the trail would be.

We made last minute adjustments and hit the trail. We were instantly taken to a world of wildflower loveliness. So many kinds! So much sweet fragrance in the air!

The trail climbed gently. We passed numerous creeklets, all really the same little creek as we switchbacked up the slopes.

We were in low manzanita brush with oaks and pines. The bees were still busy. Flickers darted from the trees. I saw chipmunks, a bunny, lizards, ants and small birds. We were in a world that is alive.

We hiked only 2 or 3 miles until we found a small campsite with a nice flat spot of forest duff for our tent. There was a little creek nearby. There were mosquitoes, but they were lazy, not like the Oregon mosquitoes. We set about cooking our dinner and setting up our tent. Mule ears and Indian paintbrush glowed in the sun above us on the trail. I was Home again.

Thu, July 29
It was cooler at night than I expected. The moon came out and flooded the darkness with light. I felt something crawling on my face in my sleep. I slapped it, felt a large insect body and threw it across the tent. Later I found a dead fly so thankfully it wasn't a spider.

In the morning we packed up and walked through the beautiful forest, through a bouquet of wildflowers. We couldn't stop taking pictures. Trailhacker's new trailname is going to be Too Many Pictures. We also took pictures of Gold and Silver Lakes.

I remembered much of this trail very vividly. It was a very beautiful section. It reminded me quite a bit of Oregon now that I know what Oregon is like.

By lunchtime we had started the long descent to Belden. The bare, manzanita-clad hills at the top of the descent smelled wonderful. Spicy and floral. I tried pulling off leaves of various shrubs to try to determine which ones gave it that scent, but I couldn't figure it out.

The descent was long and torturous. I felt sore and tired by the end of the millions of steep switchbacks. We stopped in Belden at the restaurant/bar/store to sit in the shade on the back deck by the Feather River. It was cool and comfortable back there and we whiled away the hours drinking beer and watching scrub jays steal food. Our plan was to backtrack on the trail a little bit and camp by the river in an old washed away campground.

It was a pleasure not feeling like we had to keep going and put in our miles. We were free to relax all afternoon. We had time to hike two or three more full days if we wanted. I certainly did not want to hurry and go back to civilization.

I found the trail register inside the store and took it to our table to read. Too Many Pictures got a chance to sign it. He jokes that he's got pictures of himself and his name signed at the Mexican border and the Canadian border. He just needs a little more filler and he can say he hiked the whole trail. He had been singing a made up song all day about drinking beer in Belden so he wrote it down in the register.

As I was returning the register to the store, I noticed some hikers had arrived. Too Many Pictures offered to buy them a beer and we ended up spending another hour or so chatting with them. By the time we got up to leave, there were 5 hikers at the next table. They said there were still lots more behind them. We had thought maybe we'd missed the herd but it appeared we were somewhere within it.

Our camp by the river was as peaceful as can be expected next to a railroad track and highway. We planned to get up early to tackle the long climb out of Belden. We had 5000 feet of elevation to gain.

Fri, July 30
The hike out of Belden did not see as difficult as it had been for me last year or as long. I believe it took me 8 solid hours of toil to reach the summit last year, and this year it took us only 7 or so and we were not tired. I wondered if that was because last year I had put in three 25 mile days before the climb. Perhaps I could have had an easier time of hiking last year if I had done fewer miles each day. I wonder if there is a sweet spot where fewer miles goes faster than many.

By the end of the day, my feet and legs were pretty tired, but otherwise I felt very good. We decided to eat dinner at Cold Spring and decide what to do after dinner. It was a little before 5 when we arrived. But I'm ahead of myself, so back to the beginning...

The hike out of Belden had begun gently. The grass was dry. The trees were oaks and pines. There were little creeks here and there in the ravines. Soon we entered the shade of the forest. There were cedars.

We walked a long way under the forest canopy. We found three campsites. One was about 2.5 hours up from Belden and was just big enough for 1 tent. A few minutes beyond that, we found another camp and then just up the hill from that, another with a sign that said it was the Williams Cabin site. No cabin anymore, but a tree with pots and pans hanging from it. A fire was still hot. The hikers we had met last night in Belden must have left it burning. We learned later that they were new hikers who claimed to have started at Walker Pass but had hitchhiked around the trail most of the way. They were from the east coast so had no idea about fire in California and how to be safe about it. I hoped they wouldn't start the West on fire with their carelessness. We attempted to put out the fire with dirt and water.

Another mile beyond Williams cabin we found Myrtle Flat camp. It had really nice benches for sitting by the fire. The fire here was cold.

In and out and up and up we went, passing little creeklets so often we did not need to carry any water at all. But of course I did. Silly me.

Before lunch, we had met a young woman named No Pants. She wore a skirt with draw strings up the side. She was flying and wanted to make 35 miles today. She picked a tough day to do it and a late start, but she looked as though she could make it.

We finally stopped for lunch at noon. We rested and ate next to a rushing little creek in the shade. Our next bit of climbing looked like it would be in the blazing sun.

Once we began hiking again after lunch, we hiked in full sun up clinking slatey rocks. Flowers bloomed in clumps and a creek rushed below. It was lovely.

Then we reached a meadow just as I was wondering if my memory of it had been a hallucination. It was exceedingly beautiful with carpets of flowers.

Then began a large switchback climb in the forest again. I remembered there had been a lot of blowdowns last year. They were all gone now.

Soon we reached the summit. Frog mountain was nearby but the sign did not say how far. We did not go. We had visited Spanish Peak yesterday and that had been a treat, but today we felt more determined to stay on the trail.

From the edge of the summit we could see Mt. Lassen and the tip of Mt. Shasta. Trees were in the way of a really good picture.

Almost as soon as we reached the summit, the trail went down the other side. there was only one patch of snow to negotiate. Easy.

We entered an open area of broken trees, then descended into a clear-cut that was growing back. Pretty purple penstemons grew in clumps and carpets.

We arrived at the long meadow where cattle were moaning and wailing last year. It was quiet today. Before I knew it, we were at Cold Spring.

The water was cold and sweet. My dinner came out really good. It was my own mac and cheese recipe. After we ate, we washed up a little and decided to keep hiking. Unfortunately, hiking on a full stomach of pudding and mac and cheese didn't feel very good.

We found a camp site near a dry meadow and pond and decided to stop for the evening. Three thru-hikers went by as we lounged. Bones, who wore Chaco sandals like me, Lip Service who was limping, and Princess who seemed strong and really happy to be here.

I went to bed thinking about what a fun trip this had been so far. It felt good to see Too Many Pictures happy and smiling for a change. It looked like we would probably finish the hike tomorrow instead of the day after as I had thought originally.

Sat, July 31
I slept really hot at night but Too Many Pictures said he had been cold. We packed up our things and passed Lip Service and Princess having breakfast just a little beyond us in the meadow.

The hike was again full of flowers most of the day. We reached an area full of interesting volcanic spires and pinnacles. Sometimes the trail was placed just perfectly to display Mt. Lassen between the pinnacles. Lip Service caught up to us in this area and as we stopped to admire the view, I told her how one thing I really enjoyed about hiking last year was how I could see a large mountain approaching and then within a day be on its shoulder and within another day see it fading into the haze in the distance. Being able to walk such a long distance made me feel powerful and free. It was a feeling of independence that was very profound. I did not need machines to do this. I could do it myself. It's a feeling I carry inside me now, a sense of my own strength, power and independence that feels unshakable even immersed once more in a world that tries to make you feel weak, powerless and very dependent.

We made a large arc along the crests of the mountains, dropping a thousand feet, and then regaining 1500 feet toward Butt Mountain. We stopped for a brief moment at the junction with Carter Creek trail. Cold Spring had been the last on-trail water source and the next would be 23.5 miles from Cold Spring. Carter Creek was off-trail water. Too Many Pictures and I did not need any water. The hiking had been relatively cool and easy so we had not drunk all our carried water.

Lip Service and Princess were at the trail junction. Lip Service was struggling with her foot. She feared she had a stress fracture. I offered her my mother's telephone number and my own as well. It looked like she could take Carter Creek trail to a road and possibly get a ride from a passing vehicle or maybe even from my mom if her foot was too bad to continue. She thought she ought to be able to make it to Highway 36 and didn't want to miss the half-way marker. I felt bad for her. It looked to me like her hike might be over, at least for a week or more.

Too Many Pictures and I continued on toward Butt Mountain, making the final climb. Great views were to be had of Lassen. It already looked so much closer.

We began the long 10 mile descent to the Highway. It was through forest that was unremarkable. We stopped briefly at Soldier Spring to enjoy some cold water and wash our feet. The we hurried down to the flatlands, through clear-cuts and private property to the highway.

When we reached the highway, there were three hikers hanging around at the trailhead on the other side. My mom has decided she loves the thru-hiker community and has started stocking a cooler on the trail and giving rides into town and sometimes offering her home for a place to stay. I met Anicca swinging in a hammock strung between two trees. He was a young man hitchhiking around the trail with an injured knee. He was waiting for Lip Service. They were friends or maybe more than friends and planned to spend time recovering from injuries together. I also met Melissa and Chief Daddy who already knew who I was because my mom told them I'd be coming. Chief Daddy was excited because he was carrying a strumstick and my mother had told him I also had a strumstick. I didn't have it with me, though. He wanted me to show him how to play it so I played him a tune called Folding the Sheets.

Soon my mom arrived and brought us home. Our hike was over. It had been a wonderful adventure and I was sad to see it end.

Sun, Aug 1
Anicca and Lip Service spent the night at my mom's house. They waited patiently as Too Many Pictures and I retrieved our car at Bucks Summit. We drove all the way there and parked next to our car before realizing we had forgotten the keys. We spent 6 hours retrieving our car. After we picked it up, we spent another 2.5 hours driving Anicca and Lip Service to Old Station so they could have a relaxing place to recover for a while.

While at Old Station I met Warner Springs Monty who was doing kitchen duty. We talked with Firefly for a while, then hurried home. We made a brief stop to look at Shasta from the Hat Creek Rim lookout. We saw Bones, the hiker with the Chacos, starting across the rim. Good for him for not taking a zero in Old Station. A lot of the hikers we had met were starting to feel like they needed to get moving so as to make it to Canada before the autumn snow.

Most of the hikers at Old Station seemed like they were in denial about their ability to finish. The place had been full of casts, ice packs and ace bandages. It was a resort for the wounded. One man asked if we thought he would be able to finish. I didn't want to say no. What I kept trying to tell people was to forget about what they hear about Oregon being so flat you can make up time with 30 mile days. The trail was flat right now, starting here. Make those 30 mile days starting now. And then if it looks like you might run out of time, if you think you need to skip a section of trail, skip the awful 2nd section in Washington or just save Washington for another year. People did not want to hear anything about skipping, so I tried to stress getting the miles in now.

Once we left Old Station it was good to get out of the funk of thru-hiker dreams being on the rocks and back into the joy of just being here.

The next day was Too Many Picture's birthday and we shared it with Swope and Steel-Eye at my mother's house. It was a successful birthday for Too Many Pictures. I had finally managed to make him happy.

The following day we drove home again. Now I look forward to my next section hike mid-August to complete my remaining 60 miles of High Sierra Trail.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I am Home from Home

I have returned from a romp through the wildflowers and spicy, fragrant forest between Bucks Summit and Highway 36 on the PCT. It was a wonderful time. Met lots of thru-hikers still plugging away. The Man seemed to have a great time. I will have to put my pictures up somewhere soon.