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.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

April 27 2008

Got up at 5:30 and took a freezing cold shower, ate breakfast, and packed my new ULA pack, which was a full pound lighter than my Osprey pack! We caught rides to Warner Springs and hung out there for a few hours taking naps in the shade and I ate a lot of watermelon.
I got my marmot jacket back, which was a relief.
We started hiking again around 2, and camped around 4:30 -- a nice short day! Camping early gave me time to explore and enjoy Agua Caliente Creek. Dinner was great -- I created a recipe I call "ocean potatoes" that involves kelp flakes, garlic powder, instant potatoes, and tuna that tasted marvelous. Then Casey read us a bedtime story -- an autobiographical book about a buddhist monk and his ideas about how to live compassionately.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

April 25-26 2008

After a grocery store/REI/Walmart adventure and joking about going mini-golfing, we returned to the kick-off and went to some talks about snow, mountaineering, water sources, first aid, etc. -- good stuff to know. There was a lot of hanging out, getting to know other hikers, walking around in the sun drinking lots of water and free gatorade.
Casey basically became assistant customer service guy for ULA equipment for the weekend through sheer enthusiam for the gear, and i bought a new pack from them. Joanne volunteered at the silent auction and I gathered firewood for a campfire we had later. They fed us breakfast and dinner, and JOanne and I volunteered making the veggie burgers and smart dogs. and coleslaw. As we sat around the campfire on Saturday Joanne made "AMC grog", which is hot lemonade made with maple syrup and whiskey, which everyone seemd to like. I painted a postcard for Joanne as a birthday present and sent some stuff to people from the P.O. booth.
Casey and I and another hiker friend we'd met named Paranoia had a littel birthday party for Jo with the apple pie. Later that night there were some guys playing music who we listened to for a while (one named Gator, I think the other named Shooter) Also we watched a movie by a guy named Squatch -- a documentary about hikers on the PCT that was pretty funny. We stayed up pretty late, shared the wine with Casey, looked at the stars. Totally worth taking the time to go to the whole thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 24 2008

Woke up with a lot of frost on our stuff, but it warmed up fast and we hiked into Warner Springs by 8:30. We picked up our packages at the P.O. and sat down at the gas station for a bit. We met a few other hikers there who were looking for rides to the Kick-off, a big gathering of PCT hikers at Morena Lake.
Casey came over from the resort across the street and offered us showers and to do a load of laundry with him, which we eagerly accepted. A hiker from Ireland named Irish got everyone cups of tea. I got a vanilla soda and it hit the spot. It felt really good to shower and scrub off -- I'd been doing my best to sort of wash up with a bandana every night before getting into my sleeping bag, but ya kinda get this layer of desert filth that just won't come off without a good hot soapy scrubbing.
Clean & fresh, with clean laundry, we went back to the gas station to wait for Yogi, the woman who gave us a ride to the Kick-off. She also authored a guidebook that most hikers refer to for water and town info along the trail. Found out from one of the local firemen that the black & white striped snake we saw was a California King snake, which is non-venomous and eats rattlers. We got a package of really yummy "fruit and energy" bars from the hiker box in the P.O. and attached to it was a note with a song and a number to call to have the woman, Rudy, sing it for you and I called and left a message thanking her for the treats.
Our ride arrived and our crew piled in -- Sly, Hiker Bill, Joanne, myself, and a guy named Joaquin, and Casey. We stopped in Julian and picked up a few groceries. Casey and I secretly bought apple pie and wine for Joanne's birthday. We stopped again at Mt. Lagune general store and I got an ice cream sandwich and a V-8. Joanne scored a bunch of random crap from the hiker box, including a bag of "vitamins" -- whic her and Casey and Sly took. I abstained due to a fear they could contain nut products and also some wariness at taking pills found in a plastic bag.
We arrived at the Kick-off and set up our tent amongst many other tents. Through Casey, we found a ride to the REI in San Diego (to return my uncomfortable pack) with a girl named Gazelle. He had stayed at her house for a few days before beginning the hike. We slept in comfy beds at ther house, ate some homemade chili and cornbread, and watched an episode of "Good Eats" about pomegranates. I turned my phone on so that Joanne could call her friend Caitlyn in Joahua Tree, and that lady Rudy called right then and sang the song for us. which was sweet. I think I'll send it to Stephen, since it was an old fashioned-folky type song. Gazelle's cat slept with me for part of the night, which was nice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23 2008

My favorite day so far, we hiked with Casey down to the Barrel Spring water trough, then through shady canyons full of dramatically branching live oaks and across wide open breezy flowering meadows in sunshine. We played on Eagle rock, a boulder formation shaped like an eagle with its wings spread open, and took pictures. I found a geo-cache and took from it a Hawaiian Christmas ornament for Nicole, my eventual sister-in-law, and a rubber lizard that matched my shorts. I crawled through a hollow tree and got covered in ants ( they have a very particular odor that they emit when in attack mode, FYI) and we saw cows.
When we got to Warner Springs, around 3ish, Casey went into town to see if he could get a deal staying at the resort, and Joanne and I camped in the wash by the designated camp area that turned out to be private or something. We spooned & giggled and talked, ate our quinoa (it doesn't cook so well using our cozy method) I saw a lot of miner's lettuce along the trail -- I think I might eventually start a 'bag o greens" once we get into lusher environs. I called home and wished my Dad a happy birthday when we first got to the wash, and found out that my Mom was able to get so many tomato plants from the seeds she started from the heirloom tomatoes I got from Commonground Fair, that she's donating some to sell to raise money for the library.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22 2008

Got an early start and felt really good. I hiked in front and hauled ass compared to how I'd been hiking before. It was cool and breezy and I didn't even drink much water. We reached the cache at mile 91.2 at lunchtime, which was around 10 miles from where we camped. Last night around 7ish we were joined in our great little camping spot by Mary, aka Medicare Pastor. It was her first time on the trail after having had surgery on her knees. She is 66, and she was also wearing 'dirty girl' gaiterslike ours.
At the cache we met Bob, who is trying to finish the whole trail by July 22 for his granddaughter's birthday, and Casey from Ohio who is into healthy food like us -- he gave us a 'Rebar', which is like the bar version of a V-8 juice. After lunch we hiked a little slower, took a break and I gave Joanne a back rub. We saw a black and white striped snake & some horny lizards getting it on in the middle of the trail. We also found a cave along the trail that to me seems like a burial chamber of some sort -- its really only big enough to fit a body lying down, an it faces due east directly across from a gap between two hills. Casey camped with us, and says that the cave is known as "Billy Goat's Cave", after the first hiker to complete the triple crown. We shared some dried mushrooms with Casey in thanks for the veggie bar. My feet are Tired. Hopefully they'll feel better tomorrow. Joanne ate 3 whole Ramens, I struggled to finish 2. My appetite hasn't quite picked up yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21 2008

A long walk today. Yesterday we went 15 miles, I started developing blisters on the balls of my feet. Ths morning they hurt so I taped them and they seemed better by the afternoon. We met a few southbounders and a northbounder named Erik D who gave us a lot of good advice and was fun to talk to. He said there are good burgers to be had in Idyllwyld and Agua Dulce. Paradise Cafe he recommended "El Diablo" burger. 12 miles today altogether, not counting the little detour we made down the highway by accident since we weren't paying attention and missed the trail. I mostly wasn't paying attention because I'd just taled to Dan on the phone and he'd told me that he and Glenn will be sstartin a band this summer called "Alex Chiu and the Immortals" Glenn will play guitar and Dan will play Bass. Hilarious and awesme. I kind of wish I could be there to hang out and be a groupie. Oh well. Found a nice sandy flat camping spot nestled into the side of a hill and took an early stop for the evening. Looks like it's going to be an amazing sunset. Finally in the desrt proper, with blossoming cacti and such : lovely. Still pretty breezy, which is nice.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 20 2008

Woke up with frost all over us Really cold. Took a while to get going. Saw a big rattlesnake. Got a little sunburned. It was a very windy day all day, I wore my sweater almost all day. We found a nice spot to camp near a (contaminated) water spigot by a road. I had a good night's sleep but a lot of weird dreams. Finally got some decent cell reception and was able to call home, Ceri, and Stephen which made me happy. Joanne called me crazy when I started admiring the way the tofu jerky glistened in the sun when we stopped for a snack break, and again when i was making funny noises into the echo-y water tank near where we camped. We almost set up the tent, but didn't. It was a warm night, a little dewy the next day, but no frost.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April 19, 2008

Got up at 7-ish and there was frost on my sleeping bag. Hiked up onto the ridge and had breakfast in the sun. It was warm as we hiked the first few miles, the trail was wooded with pine trees, a nice change from the desert scrub. Met another thru-hiker, Scott aka Tortise, as we filled our water at a picnic area. As we hiked on though it just got windier and windier, and was cool, almost chilly, for the rest of the day. Saw a wierd spherical observatory or satellite receptor thingy on a hill that looked like a big egg; also saw a small rattlesnake about to eat an irridescent bluish green lizard. A great look-out at Foster's point was worth the 5 minute sidetrail -- the desert colored valley and dramatic mountains cloaked in a veil of dust kicked up by the wind.
At lunch we stopped at a camp complex by the road to use the bathroom, and it turned out ot be the Al Bahr Shriner's camp, and a group of very nice Freemasons were having a weekend retreat with their families there. They invited us to their potluck lunch and I got to eat KFC, chocolate cake, blueberry pie and ginger ale. They also had a fire going inside the lodge, so we hung out and had pleasant conversations with them, they were very interested in our trip. There was a lady embroidering tea towels, which apparently are a hot commodity at their white elephant Christmas gift swaps.
The rest of the afternoon was basically hiking against a very strong wind. I felt like I was on a beach in Maine or Capecod if I looked down at the sandy trail, like the ocean would be over the next hill or something. We arrived at mile 52-ish at 5 and Sly and Scott were there along with a 67-yr old smoking thru-hiker named Wild Bill. Bill said this was the on;y good camping nearby and he'd gotten permission from a ranger to camp here, so we found a spot down out of the wind in a little gully. The clouds rolled in thick enough that the full moon is completely hidden. I luckily found a ratty old jacket that is serving as my warm layer until I find a better replacement for my dri-clime.

Friday, April 18, 2008

April 18

Got kind of a late start, I was pretty sore this morning. I guess our clever rodent hang wasn't even really necessary since the holes turned out to belong to small bunnies. We spent a while filtering water from Cottonwood creek, and began hiking around 9:15. Saw some really cool rock formations, especially by the end of the canyon that Kitchen creek flows through. We saw a few runners along the trail and crossed paths with our first fellow through hiker, an older guy called Sly who had a pretty strong Northeast accent. We had a nice afternoon, Joanne called Steve and her parents. I startyed getting a blister but taped it and it was fine. We camped by a wonderful full and lively stream in Long Canyon but I didn't sleep very well, I think I ate too much rice noodles and my sleeping spot was too slopey.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 17, 2008

A long day, we lost the trail at one point a few miles before Lake Morena and had to backtrack. We also took a "shortcut" down a drainage area -- very steep & rocky. Joanne found a solio and I lost my Marmot dri-clime jacket. Stopped at Lake Morena ranger station to clean up and camel up with water, then it was a pretty easy 6 miles or so to Boulder Oaks camp ground. We passed under a bridge, and by a highway. The oaks and boulders were in very lovely meadows, we even saw what I am pretty sure was a turkey. There wasn't any water at Boulder Oaks -- a sign on the fence said it was turned off becausde it had been deemed unsuitable for human consumption, so we had to filter water from a nearby creek which was kind of cow-ed up. (It tasted fine though, so whatever.)
We saw a lot of rodent holes around the campground, so we rigged up a rodent hang on the flagpole using the flag rope and an iron railroad rail that was on the ground, propped up on the fee receptacle box. It was ridiculous and ingenious.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 16, 2008

We left the monument @ 8:45, Joanne's folks took pictures and prayed with us. The weather is perfect -- sunny, breezy, nice and cool in the shade. The desert is in full bloom -- apparently it was a wet winter so everything sprouted up lusher than usual. We took a walk down the hill, past the border patrol, and into town to sign the register at the P.O., but they didn't have one. Camped at mile 11.5 or so, a little past 5 o'clock. There are tons of wild flowers, lizards, large black beetles, and at one point a white cow. Cell reception is good for now.