Mount Laguna on North

After a nice overnight stay at Mount Laguna, we woke up to a cool, windy morning.

There were wind advisories issued, with forecasts of 30-40mph winds, with gusts possibly to 60mph.  Luckily it wasn’t that bad.

Starting the morning in the forest was just like being back on Oregon.

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After a couple of miles of forest, we turned the corner to the big reveal, the overlook of the Anzo Borrego Desert. A few thousand feet below.  This would be our view for most of the day.

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The rest of the day were twists and turns along the edge of the mountain.  A cool day the entire day with a light breeze sure made the miles go quickly.

More views like this helped.

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Such a dull, lifeless landscape.  Not at all.

Then during lunch, this finally happened:

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The miles caught up and she finally took a nap at lunch.  But the shutter sound from the camera woke her up, so we hit the trail.

Then this happened:

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Only 2,600 to go.

But before we stopped for the night at a dry camp, we had to load up with water.

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Luckily this was the overflow and there was a spigot, but we will have to deal with water sources like this as we get deeper in the desert.

Needless to say, we filter the water.

As you know, water is life. It’s especially true out here. The water spots along the trail are well documented, but that doesn’t make it easier.  We’ll soon come up on a 37-mile stretch without water.  That will take some ingenuity.  Either that or carrying 12 liters (26+ lbs) of water.  We aren’t ready for that.

But we were ready to camp amongst the boulders.

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And eat dinner while watching the sun set over the hills.

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Day 5 – 13 miles / 56 miles total

On Friday we knew we needed to throttle back.  Our planned average for this stretch was 10 mile days and we had done 13 for each if the last three.  Not a big deal by itself, but we knew we had a long, heavy water carry coming up.

So we kept it short at 8 trail miles, plus one mile round-trip to load up on water since we would be dry camping and uncertainty on the reliability of a water source we’d need the next morning.

Another beautiful day walking along the high points overlooking the desert.  Not as cool as the day before, but nowhere near the “95 in the shade” that one hiker was crowing about.

On the way, Jen got to see her first horned lizard, aka a “horny toad”.  She thought it was pretty cool, but shocked when I reached down to pick it up.  It got away.

The last mile into camp was tough. We dropped 1,000′ in a mile. That’s bad enough, but we had just loaded the packs with our water.  Thankfully our trekking poles helped keep us upright on the way down.

And even though it was quite early  (2:30 pm) we found some shade and took naps.  Then we set up camp and were asleep before sunset.

A good day.

Day 6 – 8 / 64

Another Two Days

We’re rolling along.  Slowly but surely.  We’re watching much faster hikers pass us all day long, but we’re also passing folks whose feet look like hamburger or that they’re carrying enough for three people.

For the first group we extol the virtues of our wool toe socks covered by a thin pair of wool hiking socks.  Over 40 miles in, with thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, over hot sand and rocks, and neither one of us have had to deal with a hot spot.  No concerns about blisters for either one of us.

For the second group, we’ve been steering them to the outdoor shop in Mt Laguna, where they do a complete shakedown of your gear and whittle it down to what you really need.  When we stopped by, we saw a few of the folks that heeded our advice.  That was good to see, knowing that they would be lighter.  Even if it meant their pocketbook was lighter.

But back to the trail.

Day 3 was a planned 12 miles. We were setting up for a “nero” in the next town, Mt Laguna, on Thursday.  A nice warm day with temps pushing 80.  That’s not bad, but a couple of stretches without wind were toasty.  But with the breeze kicking in, it was pleasant, if not chilly when we stayed in the shade too long.  Like for our mid-day siesta.

It’s wildflower season right now, so there are blooms everywhere.  Give me my camera and my macro lens and I could spends a week on just that stretch.  But that’s true for wildflower season anywhere along the PCT.

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Jen got to see her first snake in the wild on this stretch.  Figures, I had her running point for most of the day, but soon after I took over, there it was.  A harmless garter snake. We’re long forward to our first rattler.  But I’d really love to see a gila monster.  If only…

But there were other things to keep an eye out for:

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Once again, she’s on point. I’m not a dummy.

But once we made it safely to camp, we met up once again with the lovely Kat Davis, a fellow mYAMAdventure hiker, where we were finally able to catch three of the five hikers in one spot that didn’t involve at least all of us with a beverage in hand.

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Day 3 – 12 miles (+.8 mile off-trail to camp) / total – 33/2,650 miles

The next morning started off cool and stated that way.  A beautiful cool northwesterly wind kept us moving at a quick clip.  So much so that we abandoned our plans of stopping short of Mt Laguna so we could “nero” on Thursday. Instead, we decided to push on into town, resupply and see if there was a place to stay in the lodge.  If not, we’d head to the campgrounds on the other side of town.

Along the way, more of the same.  Fast hikers gliding by, slower hikers hobbled by their feet or gear.  Plants, flowers and lizards, but no gila monsters.

I stopped Jen so she could appreciate the real beauty of an in-bloom yucca plant up close.  Such a collection of textures, it’s almost like it’s own fireworks show.  Starting at ground level, the leaves are a deep green starburst.  Moving up, the trunk is dark brown, almost purple, dotted with the white husks of spent leaves.  At the top are the flowers, hanging well above my head.  Delicate bells of cream and purple, dangling from the stalks.

No, I’m not posting a picture. This phone can’t do it justice.

Lunch time at a flowing creek also means time for a siesta.  Even if I have to create my own shade.

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Back in San Diego, a friend asked what we were doing for music. Nothing electronic. Instead, I just plant a seed and hear what Jen sings.  So far, the playlist has included:

Fraggle Rock theme song,
Jefferson Airplane,
Metallica (the misheard lyrics versions),
Yellow Submarine,
and more than a fee snippets of whatever runs across her mind.

Finally, just a couple of the phrases that are in constant use so we can communicate what’s coming up on trail.  Most are self-explanatory :

Rock,
Hole,
Step,
Drop,
Poop,
It’s right around the corner,
It’s a mile, mile and a half,
It’s all downhill from here, except for the uphills,

And the one that will be heard with increasing frequency next week – Are you going to eat that?

Day 4 – 10 miles (+.8 miles from camp to trail) / total 43/2,650 miles

Thanks for reading!

The First Days

(Originally titled “The First 20″, but there isn’t any cell phone coverage at mile 20.  Well, except for Jen’s cheapie pre-paid phone, which is working like a champ).

We started our thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) just after 7am on Sunday, April 12th, 2015.

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The trail was going to be a challenge straight from the start.  It would be 20 miles to the next reliable water source.  Since we weren’t going to make it there the first day, we would have to carry extra water.  We started off with 7 liters each (about 15.5lbs), which made the packs even heavier than they would normally be.

Thankfully it was a cool, dry morning. Perfect for hiking. Quite a few others showed up at the trailhead and many others passed us through the day.  We didn’t keep track of how many, but we saw a couple of dozen.  That’s quite a few less than the 50 permits issued for the day.

It was a day of slow going, working up and down the hills, in and out of the shade.  The temperature approached 80, but it never felt too hot, especially when the breeze kicked in.

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It was an afternoon of looking at flowers, plants and rocks. We saw a rock formation that reminded us of the migration scene in the movie “Ice Age”, which prompted the song that the vultures sang over the long line of animals – “food, glorious food”. That prompted a snack break.

At our breaks we change out our socks and look over our feet.  Even just a few miles in, some folks were already having foot issues. But we’re good, thanks to our combination of wool toe socks (Injinji for Bill, Smartwool for Jen) under a thin pair of wool Darn Tough socks.

Darn Tough is one of our very generous sponsors for this hike.

One of our favorite moments of the day was cresting a ridgeline and getting the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean (some 40 miles west of here) in our face.  Not for the cooling effect, but for the sudden blast of sweetness from the field of blooming lilacs.  It was so good that it stopped us in our tracks.  A few good whiffs and the wind shifted, so we moved on, only to be surprised a few more times in the next mile or two.

We got into camp about an hour before sunrise, which was enough time to quietly set up.  Space was limited as others had already staked out their spot and we’re asleep.  It was a long day for everyone.

But the one thing looming over us was the first climb, which we got to stare at as we descended into our campsite.  It’s in this picture, starting lower right and climbing along those switchbacks.

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Day 1 – 15.3 miles.

Day 2 started a bit slow for us. We just didn’t have our routine together yet. That, along with the knowledge that we had a short 5-mile day ahead of us took the urgency out of the morning. So by the time we got on that climb, it was fully in the sun.  Although it was a cool morning, the sun was still beating down.

Even Lake Morena is suffering.  The ranger tells me that it’s at 3.5% capacity right now.

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We got into Lake Morena a little bit before noon, found a shady campsite, got everything set up and started relaxing.

Why such a short day?  Letting our bodies adapt to what we’re doing.  Many hikers make it to Lake Morena the first day.  They may have different goals or a tighter timeline.  But even on our schedule, we’ll make it onto the mountains by the end of May, which is a few weeks earlier than we should be if this year’s snowfall had been normal.

We call a day like this a “nero”.  It’s not a zero day, where we don’t get any miles in, but a day short enough in the overall sense that it’s nearly zero.  Nero’s are handy for rest days like this or keeping resupply stops cheaper.

On those days we’ll camp a few miles out of town, hike in to resupply and do errands, then hike a few miles out of town to camp for the night.  Cheaper than a hotel room and it keeps us moving forward.

Our average for this week is 10 miles per day (mpd) [16kmpd].  Next week it will be just under 12 mpd (19kmpd). We’ll slowly be ramping up our daily mileage until we are averaging 21 mpd (35 kmpd) going into the mountains.

The most important thing we can be doing right now is focusing on recovery and making sure we are well hydrated. Sure, we could try hammering out 20 miles each day, but our bodies wouldn’t have a chance to recover and adapt. That’s one thing I learned during my many years of running, riding and triathlon shenanigans.  So for now we stay focused on this process.  There will be plenty of time in Northern California, Oregon and Washington to crank out those 25-30 mpd weeks.

Until then, we’ll stick with Jen’s mantra – “Slow and steady wins the race”.

Day 2 – 4.7 miles.

Final Stretch

It has been a crazy week since we’ve moved out of the house. But it has all been good.

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In a nutshell, we tied up a few loose ends in Oregon and headed south. 

We spent the weekend with our resupply goddess getting a late delivery of food put together;

We drove south through California’s central valley.  We were planning on taking a couple of days to get to San Diego, but got word that there were just a handful of spaces left at our planned auto storage facility that were first-come, first-served, so we pushed hard to get there and get our spot.  We did;

Then it was last-minute chores of sending out resupply boxes and getting everything ready. But since San Diego is my old stomping grounds as a teenager and Jennifer has never been here, there was food to be enjoyed and places to see.

We will catch a breather before we hit the trail.

I hope.

Packing

The packing continues.

We got the entire house packed, cleaned and handed over the other day. We wanted to spend yesterday napping, but there is still plenty to do.

It doesn’t help that, thanks to a shipping snafu, that we are still waiting on delivery of about 120 meals worth of dehydrated vegetables and protein.

Here’s our hotel room right now. I suspect the housekeeping staff is shaking their heads every time they walk past the open door.

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It’s a last minute sanity check, as we have realized that some important items are now somewhere in the storage unit. No show-stoppers, but things we will need to find (not likely right now) or replace.

Once this is done, on to the last minute packing of meals as tracking tells us that the food shipment is in town as of yesterday, but apparently too far from the mailbox to pick up.

The adventure begins and continues.

Just a Small Part

Since my first visit when I was 10 or so, this valley has always been my ultimate cathedral.

By late June of this year, it will be just a small part of an amazing experience.

But don’t ever think that it lessens the majesty of this valley.

Video courtesy of Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill.

Whale Shark

Our home for the summer received a quality control shakedown after being created this week.

Gen Shimizu, the genius behind Yama Mountain Gear, posted a pic and asked if it looked like a shark.

It does.  A Whale Shark.

Does anyone else see a shark? #yamamountaingear #swiftlinetent

A photo posted by YAMA Mountain Gear (@yamamountaingear) on

At 36.5oz actual weight, I’ll barely notice it in my pack.  But we will both enjoy this Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2-person tent on those wet and windy nights.

 

Holding

It has been a while since I’ve put up a photo post that wasn’t related to our prep for our upcoming hike.

Here’s a fun one from our visit with friends the week before last.  While we spent quite a while doing more formal portrait and pregnancy bump shots, a lot of the fun was when everyone was hanging out and the pictures just happened.

Like when Dad had to feel the kicks of their first child.

Holding

Jammin’

Wow, has it really been two weeks since the last post?

In the immortal words of Bob Marley, we’re jammin’.

We spent a week in Kansas experiencing what we’ve been missing here – winter.  A nice bout of snowfall and single-digit temperatures, made all the more enjoyable by spending the time with very dear friends.

Plus, they gave me the opportunity to shoot “baby bump” pictures for them as they’re just a couple of weeks from having their first child.  I’ve never had experience and it was nothing short of amazing.

Once we got back, we had to hit the slopes.  It’s late-spring conditions here, with the nights on the mountain not getting below freezing.  So we had a day of pushing slush and skipping rocks, but it was a great time.

Then a full weekend of trail-related activities.

Friday night had us at a local screening of a movie called “Only the Essential“, a documentary of a couple of hikers on their thru-hike of the PCT back in 2013.  It was a heck of a lot of fun to see the spots through someone else’s vision.

The best part was the Q&A session afterwards, when an audience member asked the producers what the most eye-opening moment was for them during the hike.  Colin Arisman responded, relaying the moment when he realized that he truly was house-less.   The look on Goddess’ face was priceless.

That part is really sinking in.

The rest of the weekend was trail work with the Siskiyou Mountain Club, building rock steps, build drains, clearing brush, clearing fallen trees and rehabilitating old, faded trail tread.

Misery WhipTaking a break.

Bean Meadow SunriseWatching sunrise on a morning when people were fretting over whether their clock was telling them the right time or not.  Sunrise is sunrise.

Boccard Point ViewView from Boccard Point in the Soda Mountain Wilderness.  That’s Pilot Rock to the left, Mount Ashland in the distance, just right of frame center.

We worked the majority of the trail from Pilot Rock to this viewpoint, skipping just a couple of miles of deadfall trees because it was late Saturday afternoon and we needed to set up camp before sunset.

Those will be taken care of next weekend.