Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 4, 2008

We hiked down the trail as it lazily switchbacked back & forthacross the hill, back.....and forth....for miles. The rocks were cool though, there was one rock that we took turns standing on top of that tipped and rocked, and another rock shaped like a chair. The daturas, large liy-shaped white purple-edged flowers, have started to bloom. According to Joanne, they are a potently toxic hallucinogen.
There was some soft purplish-brown fluffy tufted grass growing along the trail, and Joanne and I were enjoying its tactile qualities, stroking the tufties, when a small rattlesnake emerged from the clump of grass and popped up towards our hands, like "Hey! What's up guys!" It didn't rattle or anything, or seem alarmed, just curious. We backed away pretty quickly. I also saw a hawk.
When we finally reached the water fountain at the bottom of all the switchbacks next to a rock and a big pipe, Casey was there enjoying the limited shade from the rock. When it came time that we all wanted to lie down in shade after lunch, there was not enough room under the rock for all three of us. So, ingenious folks that we are, we rigged us up a temporary shade shelter out of a GIANT RED ADVERTISING BALLOON THAT that Joanne found on the ground. We tore a slit in it and FOOM! it billowed open in the wind, creating an intriguingly womb-like space big enough for a group of people to chill in. While we held down the bottom, Casey propped the opening up with a trekking pole and string that was attached to the balloon, and the wind held up the rest of it. It was like a tomato skin house. We took naps inside and Casey read more of "A Path With Heart", about ending war within yourself in order to produce peace in the world at large. Gypsy Lulu, Jarrow, & Patch joined us for a little while and then hiked on. We eventually moseyed on down the trail, which became paved at that point, down through the neighborhood of Snow Creek, to where the trail crossed a road. A trail angel named Dave met us there and I had a rootbeer and some BBQ pringles. Then we trekked 3 or so miles across flat, sandy, ultra-windy desert scrub area. When I say windy, I mean this whole town is covered in wind turbines because of how strong and steady it is. It was pushing us around.
We got to the highway and waited by the on-ramp for CAitlyn to pick us up. It was 6 oclock. She was supposed to come between 6 and 8. We left her a voicemail letting her know where to find us, and settled down to cook dinner and watch the people driving by giving us funny looks. The sun went down, it got cold, and we got tired. At 10 Casey stood up and said he was going to go camp under the Interstate. Five minutes later a woman pulled over and haded him 9 bucks, "from the Lord, a gift" she said. We all laughed, delighted at the gesture and at how we must really look ridiculous. I'm pretty sure it lifted out spirits. At 10:30 Joanne and I abandonned hope and joined Casey under the underpass. "Yeah, we're real hobos now", we joked.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

May 3 2008

Slept in a bit. Made breakfast, then I rode into town while Joanne hung out with Caitlyn and Nico. I bought a Lexan spoon because the Indiana Jones adventure spoon suffered a little in the area of structural integirty (basically the spoon end pops off too easily). I guess I'll wash it and send it to Dan for his birthday.
Squatch then gave Joanne, Casey and I and some other folks a ride up Black Mountain Rd, which was an adventure in itself. 3 other hikers hopped in with us at the bottom, so we were all on eachother's laps and stuff, and then Squatch whips out his mini video camera and starts filming the ride, and us talking, and Casey hung out the window with the camera. The road was incredibly steep and curvy, with huge potholes and ruts -- it was crazy. When we were almost to the top Squatch told us all the story of his close encounter with a Sasquatch in 1992. And also mentioned that he used to be a stand up comedian.
We all ate a light lunch and hit the trail by 1:30, for a pretty steady downhill hike all afternoon through pine forests and down into rock-strewn grassy desert. Saw more lizards today than any other day, and saw a thin slender snake slither across the trail in front of us, which I think was a ribbon snake. WHich reminds me, the day I hiked down to Nance Canyon I saw what I'm pretty sure was a chuckwalla -- a large iguana-like lizard over two feet long and pretty hefty looking.
Casey hiked on ahead and Joanne & I camped pretty early -- about 5 pm, which I'm guessing means we hiked at least 6-8 miles today. We ate Mac & cheese. Our campsite is straight across from the northwestern side of San Jacinto Mountain, the setting sun is glowing across its snowy peak.

Friday, May 2, 2008

May 2 2008

Got up and made two gigantic and beautitful veggie omelettes. We repacked gear and made our plans for the weekend. Joanne talked with her boyfriend Steve on the phone for a while. We've all been discussing relationships a lot lately. Yesterday we all got to share a little bit with eachother about our own experiences and outlooks and emotional pasts. Casey has a list of "feeling" words which he uses to help him communicate more clearly and honestly and avoid using judgemental language in his own relationship, which I find both mildly amusing and fascinating. He speaks very deliberately and mindfully about his emotions, and in general. Gazelle nicknamed him the Spiritual Businessman, which fits pretty well.
Around lunchtime we headed to meet Nico, Caitlyn's boyfriend, at the Coyote corner gift shop. From there we drove up the road into Joshua Tree National Park. The trees, which seem to average about 12-15 ft. in height, are extremely Seussian, with spiky tufts of yucca-like leaves sprouting off of this thick wiggly branches, which begin dividing into a crown after a good 8 feet or so of lollipop stick straight trunks. They also had flowers and green pod fruits.
Not that the trees weren't amazing and other worldly, but the more magnificent attraction for us and many others who visit the park, was the rock climbing. We pulled in next to an enormous rock formation that had endlessly fun ways to climb on, around, up & over it, as well as many boulders to climb under and between We put on climbing shoes and bouldered away to our hearts contents all afternoon. I loved freesoloing up as high as I dared and then finding ways to climb across and down another way, and chiney climbing up gaps between boulders. Caitlyn and Nico set up a top rope in one spot and after watching the others do it, i tried it too -- my first time outdoor rockclimbing with a rope. I climbed it really well, I was proud of myself for making it through a tricky lie-back without any trouble at all. It psuched me up to try freeclimbing in a few spots that I had passed up earlier in the day before my confidence was built up. I really enjoyed feeling like I was half-decent at freeclimbing.
We took a lot of great photos of eachother climbing and a few silly ones, and when we were done we piled back into Nico's truck and drove over to Idyllwyld. We stopped at the pizza place for dinner. The road to Idyllwyld was very mountainous and windy and curvy. It went past a wind farm and along the sides of mountains so that it felt like being in a low-flying plane to look out the window at the city lights below.. Closer to Idyllwyld the desrt gave way to pine forest, which smelled fantastic.
At the pizza place we bumped into Gazelle and Squatch, the filmmaker. Joanne and I ate leftover salad and rice & veggie concoction from last night. Squatch tried some and praised it very highly. he and Gazelle ended up camping with is at Idyllwlyd Park.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1 2008

Slept in til about 7ish (!) and then ate grapenuts with cookiedough icecream for breakfast. Doing laundry required pre-rinsing everything like 12 times because of how much dirt got into it. Next to the laudromat was a california health food store with sprout-laden tofu-salad homemade fancy bread sandwiches that were delicious.
We checked our emails at the library, made some phone calls, did some grocery shopping and made guacamole. I went to bed sort of early. Dinner was salad, chickpeas and rice with roasted beets and sweetpotatoes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A chilly, cloudy, windy morning made for a brisk 8 mile hike down to Pines-to-Palms highway. The trail went down through some desert, some meadow, and some high brush-type areas, and along a ridge next to some very steep and impressive sandy bluffs. I reached the sandy bluffs just as the clouds were blowing off the hills, and I had some Beatles songs in my head. I was also thinking and praying a lot for my cousin Christopher, who I've decided to dedicate my hike to. He started chemotherapy this week. He's a year younger than me and is a hilarious and good hearted guy. I love him a lot.
Anyway, some steep uphills and downhills made this section of trail interesting, and I got down to the highway at about 10:30. Joanne was already there, Casey & sly weren't far behind me, and the four of us walked the mile along the raod to the Cafe, picking up trash as we went (just for the heck of it, to be good stewards of the earth or whatever. it was pretty funny, by the time we were donw all four of us were carrying so much we couldn't possibly have picked up another scrap or can, and that side of the road was pristine!)
We arrived at Paradise Cafe just as it was opening and ordered some Jose Burgers, their specialty that all the other thru-hikers had been telling us about. Sly got me a rootbeer for sewing his buttons on yesterday, and it was a REALLY good one. Before our burgers were on the table, we received the news that Apache peak and 680 acres around it is on fire up ahead, and due to the high winds it has not been contained yet. Consequentially, the stretch of trail nearby where we were about to hike this afternoon, is closed. So all the hikers are being advised to hitch to the town of Idyllwyld and either wait for the trail to reopen or skip the 40 mile section between the highway and San Jacinto Mountin and pick the trail up again north of there to continue. People all seem generally kind of bummed out to change their plans, but happy to be eating burgers and everyone managed to find rides to town or elsewhere to wait it out. Joanne, Casey and I moved our time in Joshua Tree up a week and waited around for Joanne's friend Caitlyn to get off work and come get us (all day. we were like the welcome wagon for the cafe as hikers came in off the trail) We ate our burgers outside, relaxed, had dessert and some people had Fat Tire beers. We spent a lot of time chatting with other hikers like Gypsy Lulu, who has worked on boats and is very lively and cheerful; Saurkraut, a friendly german guy; and Rosemary and Moonshine, who are newlyweds on their honeymoon. Meadow Mary, a trail angel, was popping in & out, giving rides, and filling people in about the fire. We saw a lot of fire trucks go by. Casey got a ride to Idyllwyld to pick up some packages -- he rode in a police car, which was kind of ironic because his job back home and the cause for which he is hiking is to help out rehabilitating inmates. We finally got our ride to Joshua Tree with Caitlyn around 7:30. Isaac showed up late in the day and got a ride with us to visit some of his friends in Palm Springs. I had a great conversation with him about architecture and urban planning, school, and jobs. He was grateful for the ride. When we got to Caitlyn's we all took showers and went to sleep.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29 2008

Hit the trail around 6:30 after eating a hot oatmeal breakfast. It was a pretty sunrise, a few wispy clouds catching color. The 8 mile stretch to Tule Canyon, our next water source, was almost all a nice easy downhill -- I ran most of the way, and got to the water at 9:15 or so even with a half hour break. Isaac, the guy who found my jacket, was camped next to the tank. he was a sweet, effeminate guy from Boise, Idaho. After about a half an hour, lots of other hikers started showing up. We were all discussing the same issue -- whether to carry water to Paradise Cafe or not. There were two potential water stops in between but no one was certain of either. Nance Canyon creek was 3 miles away. I felt an intuition that it would be a nicer place to hang out than beside a concrete tank, so I filled up my water and hiked on by myself and got there at exactly noon going at a leisurely pace.
The canyon was incredible to descend into -- the stream was deep between cliff-sided hills, a green creek full of tadpoles, a few shady oaks and a comfortable flat grassy places to lie down and eat lunch. I had it all to myself for almost an hour, and then Wasa showed up and we continued to enjoy it relative silence, he took a nap and I painted. Wasa is one of the few clean shaven hiker guys and likes health food (a lot of hikers do actually, I've been surprised to learn, considering the reputation thru-hikers have for loving any high calorie junk food) He seemed to have similar taste in cooking as Joanne and I. We talked a bit about work and vocation, and other hikers started trickling by. Evenutally Joanne and Casey and Sly showed up and we all lounged around. We met a hiker named Backtrack who was keen on getting us trailnames. He suggested Tink(erbell) for Joanne because of her outfit. She suggested Domino for me since I'm kind of sugar fiend. But then, since we were both sewing buttons while this conversation was taking place, a hiker named Papa Bear suggested Sew 'n' Sew, which got a great laugh out of everyone and we readily accepted it, since its a good way for other hikers to refer to us as a team, but allows us to maintain our individual regular names for conveniences sake. Who knows, maybe we'll get individual trail names too, but for now I like Sew 'n' Sew.
We finally hiked on a little before 5, reached the "Hiker's Oasis" cache at 6, ( it had plenty of water) and camped just past it, up a wash from Cuppa Joe's tent.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April 28 2008

We Started hiking really early, at 6:15, and did 12 miles by 12:15, when we arrived at Trail Angel Mike's house. The trail went through some boulder strewn desert that was really different, with skeletons of oaks & pines. Agua Caliente Creek , which the trail followed for a while in the first mile or two, was running pretty full and it was pleasantly cool along its canyon. There were a lot of ceanthus bushes along this section of trail, which made it smell absolutely wonderful.
Mike's house was a blast, there were fruit and beverages and buckets of soap to wash your feet. And a weight lifting area, a hammock, & piles & piles of grinding wheels, which Mike's company apparently makes. We did a little yardwork to repay Mike's kindness ( he wasn't actually around, so hopefully he'll get home and notice its a bit tidier) As we hung out, more & more of the hikers we'd met at the kick-off started showing up and it got a little overwhelming/crowded. We hit the trail again around 6 and reached the camp 2 miles up the hill before 7, ate dinner, & heard a bit more from the book "A Path with Heart" by Jack Kornfield.