Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whoa. Seriously, Whoa.


I’m sitting on my flight from Seattle to San Diego, and its just hitting me now that this adventure is over.  People that I have spent the last 5 months of my life with have all gone their respective directions.  Chances are low that I will every see the majority of them again.  Many didn’t even get a proper goodbye, and yet with these 100 or so folk, I have been early-morning cranky, ecstatically happy, and amazingly frustrated and we did something awesome together.  Some are headed back east to the colors of fall, or maybe starting out in a new favorite place along the trail.  Or just back home to take a breather before diving back in the matrix headfirst.  In a way I am incredibly envious of those that have an idea of what their headed to.  I don’t really have a plan next, and while that seems like a very typical “Annie” thing to do, it can be a little exhausting when it happens every 6 months or so.  Maybe I will want to settle down a bit and take it easy for a while and see how the majority of people do things.

Then again, probably not.

I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about getting back out there.  I’ve already evaluated my gear, and started the planning for a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail.  At around 3000 miles, it’s the biggest of the three, and with a slogan along the lines of “Embrace the Brutality,” it has a reputation for kicking asses.  Um hey CDT, I already had my butt kicked by the AT and the PCT, apparently I enjoy it.  But lets not get ahead of ourselves.  I haven’t even really started to celebrate yet!




At approximately 6:30pm on September 28th, I hiked across the border of Canada and Washington State.  It was 5 months and 6 hours from when I last stared at the Mexican border from behind two fences and thought to myself “Okay, let’s go to Canada.”  My shirt was still dark purple, not yet bleached from the sun and the sweat; sitting here with it on now, it’s a light brown-purple shade, dotted with holes, and so threadbare that I am amazed it doesn’t tear with I put my pack on.  I started the trail in decent shape, but the 15 lbs or so that I have lost of the last 5 months are noticeable, from the fact that my spandex fall off, to the sharpness of my pelvic bones and the visible ribs in front and back.  During my weekend in Seattle I attempted to eat and drink my body weight, but its not an easy process to reverse.  Towards my last few weeks of trail, I had to eat about every hour while hiking, and if I didn’t, my body generally reacted like it was going to absolutely shut down on me and stop moving.  That level of hunger is incomparable to anything I’ve experienced before.



The last few weeks were especially difficult for a few reasons, mainly the terrain and weather changed drastically.  I won’t complain too loudly, or thru-hikers from past years might hunt me down and smack me over the head, but in the three weeks that I hiked through Washington, I saw more rain, snow, and cold temperatures than any other section.  And the first week was sunny and 90 degrees.  Typical weather for the Washington section is cold and wet the whole time, so I really appreciated the good weather when it was around, but it didn’t change the fact that when it decided to drop, I was constantly on the verge of exposure and using ultra-light gear in below freezing temperatures, precipitation of every form, and grinding days with huge amounts of elevation.  In order to finish 5 months to the day, I had to push a 33-mile day in rain and fog in 11 hours, then followed it with a 20 mile day when I became hypothermic and slept in a pit toilet, then two 30 mile days back to back.  And if you don’t know what a pit toilet is, you don’t want to know.  If you do know what a pit toilet is, it was atleast clean smelling-ish, large enough to pitch my tent inside, and I was able to combat hypothermia…you’d probably make the same decision.  I hiked over a 7000ft pass where on the climb I experienced every form of precipitation from mist to snow as I gained elevation.  And I finished the trail on a beautiful bluebird day in which I was still able to look around and think “I’m going to miss this.”



I hiked those last few days alone, only crossing with another girl as we leapfrogged each other through the day.  Oddly enough we started our hikes the same day, but never hiked together as our styles didn’t mesh well, but in the end, we were together at the monument and it was nice to have someone else there.  I carried a bottle of champagne roughly 180 miles to celebrate with, and we were able to get some good pictures, then drink the remainder of what we didn’t spray.  We set up camp near the border, then in the morning I returned to the monument to take a few last photos and have a little more time there before getting back on the trail and finishing the last 9 Canadian miles to the lodge in Manning Park.  The first thing I did when I got there was throw away my shoes.  The last 250 miles of the trail my shoes were wrecked and I was in excruciating pain, but with a steady diet of Ibuprofen and no options, I made it.  A few other really good friends had finished the night before and we loaded up on the Greyhound together and began the really fast return to society.  I hadn’t showered in about a week and the combined stench and sitting in a bus for 7 hours to make it to Seattle were fairly rough on my queasy stomach.  But I think everyone else was also struggling with how bad I smelt so I wasn’t alone!




The last 4 days in Seattle have been incredible.  I was staying with a good friend and essentially had no worries or concerns all weekend.  The biggest dilemma I had to face was figuring out if we wanted to do another round of drinks, or go to a new bar.  I spent most of the weekend with Topshelf, another thru-hiker that finished about a week before me, and we were able to meet up with Stumbling Goat and Thumper, two of my favorite trail angels/thru-hiker/people from the trail.  I watched college football, NFL, random movies, and ate a lot.  Waffles and burger were a reoccurring theme, but cupcakes made an appearance, along with bloody mary’s, and both were readily devoured along with anything else placed in front of me!  I was a couch dweller, on anyone’s available couch, and got to see some of the cool places of Seattle while hanging out with Topshelf.  He even took me on the ferry, and while his 7-year old niece might have ridden it ‘like a hundred times” as she told me, it was my first, and I was super excited.

But here I am, currently a few minutes from landing at LAX, and somewhere out my east-facing window are mountains that I hiked through over three months ago.  The green valleys and peaks of the Pacific Northwest have dissolved away, and the tan color of the desert is back beneath me.  And I’m not sure that I will ever be able to look at it the same. 



(this isn't exactly an up-to-date posting, but I was busy celebrating and seeing friends...sorry dad!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

250 left!

Well, it started raining.  But hopefully I only have ten days left of hiking, then I can go back indoors! For the most part, the first half of Washington was dry and unseasonably warm, but that has all changed.  Now its cold.  And did I mention the rain?  There's alot of it.  And it sucks.  Not only am I miserable while hiking, but carrying a soaking wet pack is heavy, and its hard to keep essential gear dry.  But the way I see it, I will be incredibly miserable and cranky for 10 days, but I won't die. 

The majority of people that I hiked alot of the trail with are a day or two ahead, and while I tried to catch up, its too difficult in the rocky terrain of Washington.  Looks like I will be finishing this trail off alone.  Hopefully there will be atleast one other person nearby for some photos, but no big deal. 

On to the next task of thinking about what to do after.  Not really sure where I will land when I finish the trail.  There's a really good chance that I will be spending a few extra nights in my tent as I try and sort out a job/place to live/direction.  Needless to say, I am not really looking forward to the next few weeks.  The end of the trail will be very anti-climatic.  I could just as easily walk away now, 5 miles from the end, or once in Canada.  Oh well. 

Well, I'm headed back out to the trail now, its dumping rain, I will be soaked in about 2 minutes, and will remain wet for the next two days.  If you think that sounds awful, it will be.  But the next time you hear from me, it'll be over.  Atleast that's a good feeling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

washington!!!

Well, its been way over a month since I last blogged, but its been a busy month on trail! Since I left Chester CA, near the halfway point, I have pushed hard through Northern Cali and Oregon, and made up for some time lost in the snow.  I hiked with the wonderful and hysterical Spoc, Twiggy and Dutch for almost all of No. Cal, and it was a great change of pace from the grumpiness of the Sierra.  We tried our hardest to hit every town, cafe, milkshake counter, and trail magic along the way.  It was a great way to re-vamp the stoke of hiking. 

The miles started getting really enjoyable.  Mileage went way back up, and it was easy to hit 25 miles every day.  Even with stops!  A comfortable hiking routine kicked in, and I really enjoyed the fun and games that ensued.  At one point, we found a machete on trail and Spoc and Dutch learned how to throw it rather efficiently, after a close call with Dutch's shin, and it has been in Spoc's pack for the last 600 miles or so.  Twiggy and I enjoyed the company of having another gal around and chit chatted away for miles and miles while the boy just threw crap, and all were happy! 


The terrain of No. Cal. was decent, and most importantly, very snow-free!!!  We barely needed the GPS, and the trail was beautiful, clear, and smooth.  I have never appreciated a trail as much as in Northern California.  We also found lots of fun things to do, such as playing in a lava tunnel, whacking miles of brush along the trail, splashing around in creeks, shooting a potato gun, and drinking lots of energy drinks.  These guys retrained me into a expert at packing-out awesome snacks, taking long-ass breaks, and being a jolly, long-distance hiker.

Unfortunately I had to leave the group upon entering Oregon to make a dash for the northern border with Washington, but not before crossing the CA/OR border, hanging out in Ashland OR, and eating a box of 12 tacos from Taco Bell in 36 minutes. The rather large gentlemen working the counter was duly impressed.


(last photo in cali!!)


Oregon had a completely different vibe to it for me, as I had all my food shipped ahead, and a very tight schedule to make it to Cascade Locks in time to meet my pops.  I had to average over 30 miles a day to make it, and needed to do even longer days to compensate for picking up packages and grabbing food in towns.  I left Spoc, Twiggy and Dutch just before Crater Lake, and then proceeded for the next 10 days mostly solo.  The trail walks right along the rim of Crater Lake, and dang, is it awesome! 



Unfortunately, right after Crater Lake, the mosquitoes attack in full force. They inspired me to hike some big days, from 33-36 miles to avoid stopping, but they were so frustrating.  I wore my bug net alot, and tried to keep my skin covered, but it was enough to make a person go crazy.  Since the only long layers I had were rain gear, I had to alternate between sweating to death, or soaking my body with a rapidly depleting supply of 100% DEET.  It eventually ran out right before Sisters, OR, but thankfully the bugs had retreated and I was able to restock before I donated too much blood.  My food package wasn't in Sisters when I arrived, so I ended up having to do a rapid resupply with what I could find and pushed on to Cascade Locks. 




As everyone probably knows, there have been super intense fires in the West and the winds from the hurricanes has stirred up more flames.  Lightning strikes over Oregon have created two fires that have created closures on trail, and one of which started the afternoon I was hiking out of Sisters.  It was located right next to the trail, and since I was alone, I freaked out and genuinely considered what it would be like to die in a forest fire.  I pushed super hard to hike away as fast as I could, and considered hitching into Sisters to get out and find more information about it, but other hikers convinced me we were fine.  We ended up being safe, but I felt pretty ridiculous about how I acted until I heard that the fire had grown into a really big area, and they evac'd the trail and the surrounding areas.






The next few days of the trail I hiked with Topsy Turvy and Data Muffin and really enjoyed their company.  We made it to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mt. Hood ready for the most amazing breakfast buffet I've had all trail.  Belgian waffles with fresh fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs, pastries, yogurt, awesomeness.  It was incredible.  And to top it all off, a ton of other hikers had pushed super hard behind us and were able to make it and there was a really large crowd of hikers that took over the place.  I was able to catch up with familiar faces and lounge around for the better part of the day before I realized that I needed to haul tushy in order to make it to Cascade Locks in time to meet my pops.  I ended up being a little late meeting him, but ran into him right near the super cool tunnel waterfall on the Eagle Creek Trail.  


Since then, I have had a great chunk of days off trail.  I have hung out with my pops for the last 5 days, and we have done a few short hikes to the local sights, hung out at the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks, checked out Portland, and eaten tons of food!  Its great having him out here so he can see this crazy lifestyle I love, and meet some of the amazing people that I share it with.  Tons of hikers were in town this weekend, and he was able to help some of them get to and fro with the rental car, and heard some of the stories from the trail.  After so many days pushing hard to get to Cascade Locks, it was super wonderful to take a break, and relax and rejuvenate for the next 500 miles.  Having only seen him a few times in the last two years, it was nice to have him out here and catch up on all the latest news back home, and give him an idea of how my last 4 months have been. 



Tomorrow morning I will have to hug my pops goodbye, then cross the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods, then keep pushing North.  I'm setting a conservatively aggressive pace for myself, and will push to do 25 miles a day until the border and don't expect any extended breaks along the way.  So three weeks to the Canadian Border.  I have my passport, entry papers, and a well rested body to make it there.  It's crazy to think this whole time will be done in less than a month.  Whoa.

Friday, July 29, 2011

more pics



three more of my favorite photos...the first pic is our first sighting of the Sierra Nevada.  Look closely a little under my finger...lots of snow!  then the next two photos are on our approach to Forrester Pass.  Hopefully it gives you some idea of all the snow we were dealing with...pure insanity!

oh also check out kylie's blog at wanderingskids.blogspot.com for more photos and really entertaining blogs...shes a bit more up-to-date than I am!

pics






the first two photos are from climbing Forrester Pass.  The next two are from when we summitted Mt. Whitney, and the last two are just typical adventures!

WHOOOOOOAAA...were halfway thereeeeee!!!

yikes.  halfway.  does that mean I have to do this again?

But in all seriousness, I've made it halfway. 1325 miles. I think mentally, I hit the halfway point a longgggg time ago.  Its been a long time, and a lot of miles and frustrations since I left Mammoth Lakes.  For a while there, I was considering quitting.  It's not the easiest thing to admit, but it stopped being fun.  And started sucking.  ALOT.  I had been saying for a while that I was hiking this trail since I didn't really have much else to do, and if something better came along, I'd go do it.  Well I figured that anything had to be better than crawling through miles of snow, getting lost and navigating a trail that is completely covered, and feeling glued to a GPS.  In the past month, my hiking partners have shuffled considerable, and this was a weird, though welcome change.  (except I miss Kylie...her parents came over from Australia to see her, and she got off trail to spend time with them...hopefully she'll catch up!)

I'm happy to say that by now, the trail is clear of snow, I'm hiking with 3 really enjoyable folk, eating as much as I can to get my weight up, and I am back to enjoying the life.  It sucked really bad for a time there though!

I only have a few minutes left of the library computer, and while I know that I owe y'all a much better report of the trail, the most important part is that I am still on it.  My body is holding up good, and my gear is making it...though new shoes and socks are much needed and hopefully will be delivered in time to the next town stop.

Oh and by far, the most important piece of news.  I ate a half gallon of chocolate ice cream to celebrate the halfway point.  By myself.  In 21 minutes.  There are times when I absolutely love being a hiker!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

900 miles.

Well, more time away from the trail.  It's often a bittersweet feeling being off the trail and in town.  Lots of errands need to be ran, but it sucks having to run around like crazy when life on trail is so simple.  Really briefly, the mountains have been really good to us lately, and the passes have been fun, and the miles have been easier.  More of the trail is exposed so only about half of the time we are walking on snow and staring at the GPS for navigation.  The river crossings have been awful though, and thankfully we have made them all safely and mostly dry, but the thaw is well on its way, and we will have some big crossings up ahead of us. We are also hitting Yosemite soon, and I am stoked to get back in that park and climb Half Dome again.  Its such a great experience and should be a very busy weekend with the 4th happening. 

This is just a short post since the other 6 hikers in the library smell so bad that my stomach is turning, so off I go to buy food for the next resupply.  All is good and dandy in the hiking world, and at some point I promise to go into more details about the Sierra, but these mountains are just so hard to explain and do justice to.  Stay safe out there, and wear sunscreen.  Especially on the underside of your nose.  It hurts a lot when the sun reflects off the snow and your inner nose gets burned.  Or your tongue.  Just saying.

Oh and for all you ski junkies.  It snowed yesterday on me.  June 29th.  Mammoth Ski Resort is still open for skiing.  Crazy. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

halfway thru the sierras?

Well, I'm not dead yet.  In fact, I can honestly say that the sierra nevada range has been spectacular! 

About a week ago, I took off from Kennedy Meadows with my trusty team, (named "No Babies"- long story) and we entered into the dreaded and must discussed section of the PCT.  But it was surprisingly enjoyable.  The group that I have been hiking with avoids use of the word "plan" at all costs, so instead we made a "strategy" for hiking.  And it has worked surprisingly well.  We walked slowly and safely, and kept a close eye on each other, and it has worked out really well.  Although we failed to summit Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, we are going to try again tomorrow from the portal, or east side as a day hike.  Unfortunately, we were hiking with a friend that wanted to come out for a section, and he picked a really bad section to try and keep up with thru hikers in phenomenal shape.  So our summit bid was compromised by his poor planning, and we turned around before it got unsafe.  However, we had hiked 5 bottles of wine into the Sierras to celebrate at 14,495ft, so instead we found a nice rock in the middle of a snow field at 13,000 ft, snagged a few friends that were descending from their successful summit, and proceeded to train at altitude by drinking the vino.  It was, without a doubt, the best failed summit bid I hacve ever had!

The days continued with hard crusty snow in the mornings and mashed potatoes in the afternoon, but we managed to stay on top of the snow most of the time, and while the rivers were absolutely raging, we crossed safely and quickly.  Many people have tried to warn us to go slower and wait to enter the Sierras and those people are damn idiots.  The snow is perfectly safe for travel with appropriate gear, ie, ice axe and crampons, and the river crossings are only going to get worse, as the thaw has begun.  I guarentee there are going to be some horrible stories this year from the river crossings, and my hope is that people can acknowledge the danger and plan accordingly.  Many hikers have already turned around, and decided to skip this section, and for many, I think that is the right decision. 

One of the more epic days this past week was crossing Forester Pass, the highest point of the PCT at 13200ft.  It was a tough climb, aided with traction devices and ice axes, and the crux was a 25 ft walk directly across a chute of snow and ice in which a fall would likely be fatal.  We proceeded very slowly, attempted to repair some of the steps, and aided two other hikers through.  It was an absolutely epic feeling when we made it all safely and sat in the saddle of the pass looking back at what we have accomplished.  Hopefully the next handful of passes go as successfully!

So currently, I am in Lone Pine, CA, waiting to attempt Mt Whitney again tomorrow.  Kylie has been pretty under the weather lately, and had a nasty migraine yesterday, so we are all hoping that she will feel good enough tomorrow to join us.  Then the following day we will be headed back to the trail for another week-long section until Mammoth Lakes.  Then hopefully we will head into Yosemite Valley and climb Half Dome and see the raging waterfalls as a little sight-seeing side trip from the PCT.  Tough Life huh?

And last but not least, tomorrow is Father's Day.  Hopefully I will be able to call my father from the top of Mt Whitney and send my love, but in case I can't, there really isn't a better guy out there.  He has supported me through all of my mayhem and adventures, and is the best father in the world.  I love him so very much and am so greatful that he's all mine!

Oh and happy thoughts and love to Gage, Britte, and Paul.  I can't wait to see the little guy, and hope that he gets big and strong quickly!  I talk to him every day when I'm hiking and hope that he knows that we are all so excited for him!

Friday, June 10, 2011

long time coming...

Well adoring fans, sorry that you have had to wait so long for an update.  The trail has made a shift from towns to wonderful trail angels, and its been hard to steal computer time.  And I also want to relax and hang out with my peers, not sit all antisocial like on the computer.  But I will put in some good time now and let you know the latest.

To start out, I am currently sitting in Kennedy Meadows at mile 702.  Over a quarter of the trail completed, and So. Cal. is officially done.  Tomorrow, I will take off into the Sierras with my bear canister, ice axe, crampons, and a bundle of nerves.  The snow is still incredibly high, but we are eager to hike, and ready to see something new.  I'm headed into the snow with a fun crowd of people, and hopefully we all stay safe and level-headed. 

Since the beginning of the trail, I have made a few changes to the gear I am carrying, and will hit the Sierras with new shoes, a new tent, and some beefy gear for the snow and cold.  I hated my Henry Shires Contrail tarp tent, and following a miserable ice storm around mile 200, I had my wonderful father procure and ship a new Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 to me.  It nearly doubles to weight of my shelter, but atleast this tent works like it should in miserable conditions.  (The Contrail seemed to only work when it was nice out.  And when it was nice out, I just slept under the stars.  Stupid tent.  I would use much harsher words to describe it, but lets keep this family orientated.)  I also replaced my Salomon XA pro 3D ultra GTX shoes with a new pair of Salomon XA Comp GTX shoes so I will have good traction and waterproofing for the snow.  I am carrying the Kahtoola KTS alum crampons thanks to Cedar Heart, and while I have only used them for about 10 minutes so far, they were very sturdy, and I am really appreciative that I will have them in the Sierras.  I also have a Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe, and Bearvault 500 bear canister, and a few other pieces of gear that I am carrying specifically for this section.  My pack is going to be RIDICULOUSLY heavy, but it going to be slow hiking, and I want to stay safe.

Since my last post from Wrightwood, I summited Baden- Powell, did a few big mile days to get to Agua Dulce, hung out at the amazing Saufleys home, and got into a steady pattern of stop and go.  There is a huge concentration of amazing trail angels in the area, and it was too awesome to pass any of it up.  After time to rest and hang out at the Saufleys super organized and efficient hiker compound, I hiked a day into the Andersons' crazy and outrageous home "Casa De Luna."  Affectionately known as Hippy Daycare, the Andersons open up their home to crazy hikers, and insist that each hiker stays and relaxes.  As well as feed and entertain us, the Andersons provide a great opportunity for hikers to get to know each other before a critical entry into the snowpack.  It also provided a great opportunity for me to dabble in chocolate syrup wrestling.  But after 3 days and 4 nights of staying there, it was time to move on.

After hiking out two days of gentle track, we came into a place called Hikertown.  Owned by a Hollywood Producer, Hikertown is one of the classic impossible-to-describe places.  The property was decorated in a Western theme, with little shacks called the "Saloon," "Post Office," and "Doctor."  However the real excitement was from the guys that ran the place.  All crazy in their own way, it is one of the few places on trail where hikers are not the crazy folk.  We were entertained all night, but when it came time to sleep, the majority of us decided to sleep together in the garage instead of splitting up and sleeping alone in the shacks.  Safety in numbers!

The next day involved a hike across the LA Aquaduct and the Mojave Desert.  A weird ironic situation in which we were hiking across a notoriously hot and difficult section with millions of gallons of water surging under us...yet we had no access to any of that water.  Thankfully it have been a unseasonably cold year, and we had no issues with getting too hot, but you could see how miserable that section would be on a normal year. 

We ended up in the town of Tehachapi next, know for its remarkable amount of wind turbines and sustained high winds.  We were able to call a fantastic trail angel George, who picked us up, gave us a tour of town, and turned out to be the coolest gentleman ever.  He was the former High School Principle, owned one of the nicest hiker-friendly restaurants in town, flies his own plane, owned his own mountain, and took our picture for the local monthly magazine.  He even stopped by our hotel later with his wife so we could meet her (married 57 years...both incredible people), checked on is in the morning after taking someone flying, and helped us by driving us around town and bringing us and our packs to the trail so we could do an 8 mile section without backpacks.  As Kylie would say, he's an absolute legend.  Additionally in Tehachapi, there was a farmers market going on, so we wandered over, and were overwhelmed with how nicely the town treated us.  We were given so many yummy things and the best score was from Soledad Goats.  The owner Julian, makes the best goat cheese I have ever tasted in my entire life.  We ended up buying some of his Lavender and Lemon goat cheese that has won international awards and it was incredible.  But the best part was that as we were sampling the other flavors he had, he decided to just give us all of them for free since it was nearing the end of the evening and he didn't want to take them home.  The 5 of us hikers were so giddy.  It was amazing to receive fresh goat cheese, and we ended up walking back to the motel with so much that it was difficult to eat it all before we left the next day.  I am already trying to figure out how to include Tehachapi on my drive back to Utah. 

After Tehachapi, we hiked 6 days straight into Kennedy Meadows, with a bit of trail magic along the way.  So here I sit, ready for the next leg of the trip.  Well rested, clean, and prepped for the most badass section on the trail.  The Sierra Nevada.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

photos!

eagle rock mile 106ish

ice storm

bloodbath hiking through the ice
looking surprisingly happy after getting no sleep

right before Idyllwild

on top of San Jacinto

the desert floor a couple thousand feet below

chillin'

yay PCT

Heli rescue at mile 200

hiking across a ski resort, and playing

Friday, May 20, 2011

updates!

Well nothing too exciting, certainly no helicopters, but the last few hiking days have been fantastic!  The hiking has felt really good, the views have been amazing, and the company is awesome.  Leaving Big Bear Lake with a few extra Taco Bell crunchwrap supremes, and a PBR in my pack, we hiked into the hills, then opted out of the detour and risked our lives on the official Deep Creek PCT.  By risking our lives, I really mean, hiking a fairly decent and easy trail that posed little risk, with a few rock slides to cross with caution, but rewarded us greatly with a soak in the hot springs, literally trailside.  Yes, the obligatory naked old guy was there, but he was fairly low key about his scroggin and I was willing to ignore it to soak my bones and sip my PBR.

Oh and it would seem that now is the best time to admit that I fell into my first river.  It was incredibly small and un-threatening, yet I was not paying attention and I stepped onto a wet rock, slipped, and fell into the deep pool of water next to a tumbling waterfall.  However, I discovered that my camera is indeed waterproof, and my GPS can withstand significant splashing!  I might however be doomed for the larger, faster, and significantly more dangerous river crossings that are to come in the Sierras...

The next significant event of the trail was spent at a very hiker-friendly place: McDonalds.  We planned our hike to hit the breakfast menu, then transitioned into the lunch options.  I had a fairly disappointing showing with only about 2000 calories, but our birthday boy, Alex, took the cake for his 27th birthday with over 4000 calories.  Oh and this guy can run a 2:40 marathon and has the most amazing calves I have ever hiked behind.  Once we were all in pain and incapable of hiking, we shifted next door to the gas station, laid out on their lawn and split a 6 pack of Sam Summer.  This hiking business is tough work!  (Well actually the next 8 miles straight up were incredibly miserable and I'd make better life choices next time...)

And now I sit in Wrightwood, 369 miles done, hanging out at a fantastic trail angel's house with 9 other hikers, relaxing and really appreciating everything and everyone around me. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

heli rescue

In a very entertaining manner, I use puppets to tell the heli story to fellow hikers.  Check out some of the other PCT videos as well on the DropdeadSF YouTube channel! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GJOFSkWwBM

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why my life is Awesome.

So, originally, this post was going to be 24 hours in the life of a thru-hiker.  Then it became 48 hours.  But then the good things kept coming.  So perhaps, I'm up to 72 hours into why being a thru-hiker is awesome.  I will try my best to do justice in this post, but chances are, I will not even get close to sharing how awesome it is to be a thru-hiker!

The fun times began at 5:45am as I woke up on the floor of our awesome cabin in Idyllwild.  I was already happy from a full belly of $1.25 tacos and margaritas from the night before, but I was up early to help a fellow hiker Drop Dead make pancakes for our friends.  With a filling breakfast of choco banana pancakes, we began our hike straight up the side of San Jacinto.  It was a surprisingly happy climb, with lots of photos of our first foray into snow.  We topped out at 10808 ft to beautiful blue skies one direction, and menacing clouds another.  Ignoring sage advice to backtrack on the trail and stay found, we turned on my GPS, and proceeded to bootski down the mountain on any path that looked fun.  Thankfully, technology kept us on track, and allowed us to have a ridiculously fun afternoon without getting lost.  Once back on the PCT, we continued for a few more miles discussing how difficult the dreaded Fuller Ridge would be in the morning.  It had a reputation for being super steep and nasty, and had encouraged a few hikers to skip the section and road walk around it.  When we got to the campsite, we began to chat to other hikers and they informed us that we had ALREADY crossed Fuller Ridge, and the worst was behind us.  Sort of a funny disappointment really!

I guess we are just that good. 

Well the next morning, it was a beautiful chilly day, and we started out hiking enjoying the cool air and easy hiking.  After a few miles, we came upon a very sick hiker and instantly realized something was wrong.  We knew that we were going to be the last hikers she would see for a while, so myself and another hiking buddy, the Aussie Kylie, decided that it wouldn't be a great idea to leave her alone.  She insisted that she was okay and that we carry on, but she had told us that she had been vomiting for the last 5 hours and couldn't even keep water down.  Not a great situation to be in 8 miles from the road on a very exposed, hot section of trail.  The sick hiker, Quixote, had thru hiked before, and was very experienced, but seemed to be suffering from food poisoning, so we took her under our wing and tried to help her get down the mountain.  One of our boys helped carry her backpack down while the other two stayed with us to help her, but after about 2 miles, it became really apparent that she was not going to make it much further.  We tried to make her as comfortable as possible and encouraged her to drink liquids, but they wouldn't settle in her stomach.  After about 3 hours of being with her, her vitals were climbing (due to dehydration- not a good thing) and we decided that we were running out of options.  So for the second time in my life, I called 911.

After talking to 3 different dispatchers, and finally getting the search and rescue guy on the phone, I was able to explain that we were hikers on the PCT and give an approximate location for where we were.  Then they dropped the "H" word.  Helicopter.  In a very slow and methodical manner, they were able to get a heli in the area, as well as coordinate a ground team, and the heli located us due to all of our insanely bright hiking clothes.  For those of you that know me, that lovely blaze orange hiking shirt was extremely handy!  Since we were on a very steep hillside, there was nowhere to land the heli, but they managed to get it close to the rock we were near and they had a rescuer jump out the heli onto the rock.  The skids never even touched the rock.  Epic.  He spoke to an increasing improving Quixote, explaining how things were going to happen, then they got on the rock and waited for the heli to return and jumped from the rock to the skids.  The 4 of us on the trail, Wiz, Alex, Kylie, and myself were incredibly jealous and secretly all wanted to have a reason to hitch a ride! 

We then hiked down the trail, caught a ride with the Trail Angel Sugar Mama, ate a filling and delicious dinner at Ruby's diner, walked 1/3 mile back on trail, and crashed for the night.  Not many miles, but quite an exciting day.

So we knew that we earned some trail juju for the rescue, but we never expected it to come back around so quickly.  The next day, we had trail magic oranges for breakfast, trail magic soda and watermelon from the trail angel Kate 4 miles later, went to the Mesa Wind Farm for drinks, A/C, and freezer foods, and headed .5 miles off trail to the Whitewater preserve for burgers, fruit and snacks from a triple-crowner trail angel, Brian (buck-30).  While hanging out at the preserve, another trail angel couple came with more food and some awesome amenities like medicines, clean socks, and cold drinks.  Then the rangers came over and offered to run down to town and pick up some beers for us after the park closed.  It was so awesome.  Once again, not many miles hiked, but the trail love was amazing!

After a.m. pancakes from the wonderful Buck-30, we hit the trail the next morning trying to get back into the rhythm of miles.  About 2 hours into the hike, I saw my first bear, a little black bear about 40 yards from me that scampered off up the hill.  The day was a rather enjoyable hike, mostly creekside, with plenty of places to stop and soak our feet and shirts to cool off.  It felt really good to spend a full day on trail, even though the 4 miles we hiked after dinner were straight up.  It was worth it for a great campsite nestled among huge pine trees.

The routine is getting back to normal, though.  Once again, I woke this morning to an icey sleeping bag, and was happy to hike into town and see a Taco Bell.  We are all hanging out in a hostel, hiding from the weather and enjoying the great company that only comes from buzzed hikers wearing rain clothes while the laundry is spinning in the background. 

Sometimes I wonder what to say when people ask me why I hike.  Who wouldn't love this life?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ice Storm in So. Cal!?

Well I know that I can be a bit of a flake at times, but waking up to ice coating everything around me in Southern Cali was a bit shocking! The afternoon before, I was lathering SPF 70 on the back of my sunburnt calves, and moaning and groaning about all the water I would have to carry.  Thanks Karma. 


So last night, a cold front rolled through the San Jacintos and I was hiking up there at 7000 feet or so.  The wind was insanely strong, and we looked drunk trying to fight the wind and walk in a straight line at the same time.  Thankfully I was with a few other cheerful hikers, since my body said "no more" and I really struggled to hike the last 5 or so miles to camp.  I had hiked a 33 mile day right before trying to escape the vortex that was Warner Springs, and pushed myself to see what I could do.  The 33 miles was fine, but the next day, I had no fuel left after 20 and I was slowly crumbling.  We managed to get to the predetermined campsite, only to find miserable tent sites, and a few other early hikers.  So tossing LNT to the 60mph gusts, I leveled a patch of hill with my heels and made a tent sized crash pad for my tarptent.  A quick dinner and warm clothes made the situation better, but I discovered that my tent is not designed for high winds.  Very frustrating.  I see a very expensive purchase in my future...


Because of the high winds and constant freezing mist, none of us got any sleep, so the morning hike of 11 miles to Idyllwild turned us all in zombies.  But I currently have a calzone in my tummy, and visions of dollar tacos in my head, thus I think all will be well in the world again!


I don't think that I will zero tomorrow in Idyllwild, though the original plan had me here for an extra day.  I will try and meet up with the kids that I was hiking with pre-Warner Springs, and head out with them.  It's tough to find a hiking crowd that fits your pace, so if you find one, its nice to stick to it. 


I'm exhausted, proud that I challenged myself, and excited to leave Idyllwild and tackle some ice and snow on Fuller Ridge.  I've got my wonderful Kahtoola KTS Alum crampons for traction, and trekking poles for stability.  I've decided to forward my ice axe on to Kennedy Meadows since its not really necessary for this ridge.  I need to keep forcing myself to eat more since I nearly crashed and burned yesterday, but on the whole, it feels really good to be out here!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

109 done!

Ah what a wonderful life.  The hiking and the camping comes naturally, but the awesome people and times with them is what makes me want to keep doing this.  From the start, putting in some strong miles, trying to average above the 20's.  Even with a 5 hour siesta, pulled a 25.  Its really stinking hot! 


The trail love has been amazing.  Stocked water caches, trail angels galore, hiker feeds, and incredible company.  I am having a great time.  This community is so supportive and there is an "open door" type of mentality where everyone is welcome.  Its been a completely different experience than my AT hike, and it's impossible to wipe the smile off of my face.  I feel good, a few bothersome blisters, but I've taken some time to rest in the Warner hot springs, and I'm ready to get back on the trail.  Well, not exactly, last night was cinco de drinko.  I think I shall soak a little longer...


A nice woman named Barbara stopped by a group of us in a parking lot and gave us all gardian angel coins and wished us luck and safe travels.  But she also gave us some great advice.  If we aren't having fun, then we're doing something wrong.  So far I think I'm doing it right. 


and for some random fun facts:
2 rattlesnakes
109 miles
1 fourloko
1 headlamp lost (and one headlamp borrowed! - thanks Luna)
6 days of hiking
3 coolers at road crossings
3 zero days
and 1 popped blister.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vamos!

Sitting here in San Diego, getting all the very last minute things done, then headed to the trail.  Yikes.  I'm not sure if I feel queasy from the hangover or the nerves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some Girls Have All The Luck...

...And I'm not one of them.  Good News or Bad News first?  Lets go with the good.  They didn't steal everything.  Bad, my car was broken into and my dashboard GPS, and wilderness therapy backpack were stolen.  It could have been so much worse, my spare keys were in it, and since I was moving out of my house, about 3/4 of my life had already been packed in and they could have taken everything.  I thought crime like this didn't happen in Utah.  Silly, naive me.


I figure they ended up getting a few hundred dollars of stuff; my new Osprey pack, my supplies for my former wilderness backpacking job, a 8 inch bushman knife.  They were probably a little confused when they opened that pack and there was a bag of fire making supplies, a HUGE med-kit, and other random clothing that oozed campfire smells.  But maybe they needed it more than me.  If they had taken my PCT backpack, or the car (yikes) then I would not be en route to San Diego now, but thankfully, my plans are still a go.  On the whole, my life is not impacted too much by this, but I'm a little disheartened and frustrated.


Oh, and three weeks ago, my wallet went missing.  April has been cruel!


Ah, but that will all be behind me soon, and Thursday, I will once again, be living out of a backpack and everything will slow back down to a much more manageable speed.  I need to get back on the trail and re-ignite my faith in humanity.


All my gear is ready to go, my two re-supply packages will be in the mail today, and I'm feeling really good.  I went on a nice little jaunt up Angel's Landing in Zion yesterday that was beautiful, warm, and left the legs aching a bit.  A wonderful change from the frigid Park City winter.


I'm a little nervous but mostly excited...time to get moving!


 Oh.  And I camped in the yard last night for fun.  Didn't know there were sprinklers.  The contrail is very waterproof FYI. 


Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Pack List

Still a work in progress, but the current inventory is:


Big Stuff:
Gregory Pack Jade 50


REI Sub-Kilo +15 down sleeping bag
eVent 10L waterproof compression sack
Thermarest Prolite 3/4 length self-inflating sleeping pad


Tarptent Contrail by Henry Shires




Clothing:
REI Revelcloud Synthetic Puffy
OR Aspire Rain Jacket
Marmot Precip Rain Pants
OR Verglas Gaiters
 
Underarmour Evo Coldgear Spandex
Blaze Orange Thermal L/S
Lightweight Thrift Store button down L/S
Choonimals Terrible Tuesday T-shirt
Lightweight Running Shorts
Darn Tough Socks (3)
Buff headware/neckware
Glove Liners
Baseball Cap
Patagonia Advocate camp shoe
Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX


Kitchen:
REI TIware Titanium 750ml pot
WhiteBox Alcohol Stove




2 Platypus Collapsible bottles (1- 500ml for fuel, 1 1-L for extra water)
small bottle of bleach for water treatment
Light my Fire spork


Extras:
1 Leki Malaku trekking pole - BROKEN.  TBD
Toiletry/Med kit (Including glasses this time!!!)
Garmin Etrex Vista HCx
Kodak Sport camera
Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp
extra batteries (AAA and AA)
Deet!
2 Bandanas
Patch Kit
Cell Phone & charger
mp3 player
Kahtoola microspikes
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe (I think)
Bearvault BV500




So, this list will probably change in bits and pieces, but this is the bulk of it.  I still need to get a bear canister, an ice axe, and a few more little things, but this is what I'm going to live off!


A lot of my gear is the same, or a copy of what I hiked the AT with, so it comes field tested and highly recommended!