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.