PCT CA Section G PCT CA Section H

Temperature down, elevation up: Kennedy Meadows to Kearsarge Pass

Day 1

Woke up with the sun again to head down to the Grumpy Bear’s deck to plug in and figure out the permit situation. Based on Yogi’s advice, I finally found the correct web page and starting registering a permit. They gave me 20 minutes to guess where I would be spending the night each night for the next three weeks, so I flicked through the map making wild guesses. But I got it submitted and paid for. Promptly at 8, I called the forest service agency and got the verbal rundown of all the rules, after which my permits were emailed. I forwarded them to Yogi, hoping she notice the email and print them before she came to open the store.

Then it was breakfast time. I got the breakfast burrito this time. A much better choice. And it came with another beach Frisbee-sized pancake, and this time I made the wise decision to eat only the one. Taylor ate there too, but the Midnight Crew were too busy packing up to leave to arrive before 10, when the kitchen closed to prepare lunch. They were extremely disgruntled about missing breakfast, and decided to stay there in the restaurant until lunch was being served. So we all sat together at the window bar, plugged in. I finished and published the last blog post and downloaded some podcasts.

At 10, I left to see if Yogi had brought my permits. She had. Which meant I could leave that day. I started packing and purchased a couple more items I had just learned I would need.

All packed, I went back to Grumpy Bear’s for a strawberry syrup topped mini sundae, and Taylor and I arranged a ride to the trail together.

And then I realized the season finale of a show I was following had released, so I pushed back our departure a half hour.

Finally, Wayne (again) drove Taylor and I to the trail in the van to start about 2pm. Putting my pack on, I realized I couldn’t find the belt I’ve been using as a substitute sternum strap. So Taylor hiked out and I rode back to Grumpy Bear’s to search around there and TCO again (and we picked up a new arrival on the way). No luck. Yogi wasn’t selling anything I could use as replacement either. Tore my shirt while searching. Gave up and rode back to the trail.

The hike started through more flat sandy desert scrubland. Lost the trail for a bit. Saw tons of car campers all over including right next to the trail. On the other side of KM campground, the trail followed the Kern River to a bridge. Yogi had suggested I acquire my water here, so I stopped. There was also a swimming hole that looked just like the kind of thing a water park would try to emulate, with a cave and a waterfall to stand under. There was a group of four young hikers and a very skittish dog camping here and I sat with them while filtering water. One offered me whiskey. I declined.

At the same time, MC showed up again. They had hiked out an hour or so before me, but I had passed them while they were swimming in a different hole. They stopped to collect water here also, and we would end up hiking close together the rest of the day. Of course, I was usually chasing them because they hike much faster, but they would stop and I would pass them.

They decided to pass up the campsite 2 miles in and put in an extra 3 to the next area. So I went along. Bad idea. The next three were extremely rough, climbing straight up the side of a creek lined with what I can only describe as rough grit sandpaper bushes. They soon stopped and I past them, keeping well ahead by following the trail in spite of the dying twilight. We were nearly at the campsite before I stopped to get out my headlamp and they caught up.

We made camp nearby one another, and after cooking and doing all the things one must do before going to bed, it was nearly midnight. The Midnight Crew strikes again.

Also, when I unpacked to make camp, I found the missing belt. Woo-hoo.

Total distance: 11 miles

Grumpy Bear’s Retreat
A nice swimming hole on the Kern

Day 2

MC and I left camp together but they stopped soon after and I didn’t stop until I reached the swallow bridge over the South Fork Kern River. There were lots of golden trout here. I had a snack and got some water and talked to a lot of people hiking by. Eventually, Taylor, who had stayed not too far from our camp, caught up to me. I went ahead and left him there.

Taylor passed me when I stopped to cool off in a creek later, but I caught up to him at the top of a long annoying hill climb, where he had had to stop to led a herd of cattle pass. They had really chewed up that section of trail, but it improved a little ahead. We walked roughly together to the top of the hill before I stopped to get some water and lunch. We saw our first marmots in the meadow there. MC also caught up to us.

I passed them making camp together later that evening, but hiked on another three miles to a nice protected campsite near Gomez Meadow. The last mile I was about to collapse and had to really struggle through it.

Total distance: 17 miles

There is a blurry marmot on that rock

Day 3

The look of the trail was clearly different at this point, but it looked basically the same all day. More up than down, lots of sand. Nothing really exciting. I stayed just ahead of Taylor and MC all day, then called it quits when I reached the campsite near Dutch Meadow around 6pm. I had eaten and was ready for bed by the time they rolled in and set up nearby.

Total distance: 14 miles

Day 4

MC left camp first by waking up earlier. I slept in a bit.

The highlight of the day was Chicken Spring Lake, our first alpine lake, just before entering Sequoia National Park. I ate lunch on a rock in the middle of it. Taylor took a nap on a rock next to it.

I caught up to MC in the campsite next to Rock Creek. We camped there. A park ranger was there suggesting things for another man to do (and clearing trash out of the bear box). Said fellow planned to be out in the woods without resupply for weeks just rambling around and checking things out. He made a campfire and we spent some time near it before I turned in just after 9. MC stayed up late by the fire, as expected.

Total distance: 17 miles

The view from my campsite with Benroy packing up

Day 5

As a result, I woke up first. Even so, I saw a guy cruise through camp at top speed while I was getting ready. I saw him instantly find a way to cross Rock Creek without getting his feet wet as if he’d been there before. There was a lot bridging the creek just downstream of the trail crossing.

I was ready to leave by the time MC was awake. I informed them of the golden trout in the creek and where the log was and told them I still didn’t have the food to spend a day climbing Mt. Whitney then set off without them.

By the time I reached Whitney Creek and Lower Crabtree Meadows for a late lunch (having spent an hour or more earlier doing various things around Guyot Creek), I had a crazy idea that I could summit Whitney that evening before sunset. I told MC and Taylor so when they caught me up there. So I hiked up to the PCT/JMT junction and made camp, left my pack there, and took my day pack full of snacks and water as fast as I could up the Whitney trail. Soon after I started, I was assaulted by a squirrel vaulting off my legs like I was a stunt actor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I passed another ranger who clearly wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to try to summit Whitney at night. I assured her I wouldn’t.

I was getting winded from the altitude as I climbed the 3 miles up to Guitar Lake. By the time I reached it, I looked up at Whitney and saw the 4 miles of climbing I had ahead of me and decided I wasn’t interested in it anymore. I met some guys by the lake who had just come down and jumped into the lake myself, then followed them back down to Crabtree Meadows chatting the whole way.

I couldn’t find MC or Taylor camped anywhere in the meadow even though they intended to summit Whitney the next day. I figured I had seen the last of them and went back to my campsite. Along the way, I found Kaleidoscope setting up camp. An annoyingly optimistic type who didn’t stop for anyone or anything. We had chased him down from having summitted Whitney that day also. I’m pretty sure he was the same guy who had sped through camp that morning on a mission. Another PCT thru-hiker.

It was dark by the time I had finished supper and got to bed, but it would have been after midnight if I had gone ahead with climbing Whitney. I ended up being glad I saved my strength.

Total hiking distance: 13.5 miles

Total trail miles: 6.5

Brown trout in its own demesne

Day 6

Started real early this time. Out of camp by 6:30. Kaleidoscope passed early on and I expressed excitement about some of the things we would see that day. After another creek crossing where he pointed out the best path, I would never see him again. He did not slow down ever.

There were a couple of early ascents and descents that morning, including crossing the Big Horn Plateau, but the big deal of the day was the miles of climbing I would do that afternoon with no shade approaching Forester Pass. I took way too many pictures of the approach. When I stopped for lunch, I was accosted by a way-too-friendly marmot looking for handouts.

It was late afternoon by the time I was coming down the other side of the pass, and there were places where I had to slide to snowfields and circumnavigate 10 foot snow banks to find the trail. Apparently the north side of Forester is almost never clear of snow.

With all the climbing, it had taken me 12 hours to do 12 miles when I stopped to chat to some fellow travelers about options for getting to town. I walked on another mile and pitched my tent in a little site just beside the trail.

Total distance: 13 miles

Day 7

Time to get off and resupply. Up early to find a layer of frost on my pack, but luckily my Sawyer filter was still wet. Not frozen. Phew.

Easy 5 miles down to Bullfrog Lake Trail. Stopped for lunch at the small lake below Bullfrog Lake, walking all the way around it and then jumping off the rock. Two hours of relaxation before the steep climb up to Kearsarge Pass.

Just over the pass, was accosted by a day hiker needing matches for his picnic. I tossed him my lighter and walked on. He shouldn’t be out without a lighter anyway and I could get a new one for 50 cents in town.

Further down from the pass, a man stepped into the trail moving quickly, so I started talking to him. He was sleeping on his truck each night and hiking up the trail to random lakes to fish, catching his limit each day. Also, he was a Marine squadron leader on July 4 break. His name was (Connor?) Stanley. I screenshotted his picture from the official marines Instagram below.

At his truck in the parking lot at the bottom, traded my last lime for a shot of a very nice Canadian whiskey. Then, he agreed to take me to the Lone Pine grocery store in exchange for filling up his gas tank. He actually went to the grocery store first and followed me around before taking me to the gas station and then the historic Dow Villa Hotel.

I went out looking for a barbecue that was supposed to be happening in town that day but couldn’t find it. So I took a pizza from the place across the street to my room. It would serve as dinner and breakfast.

A long bath, a beer, and a phone call ended the day.

Total hiking distance: 14 miles

Total trail miles: 5

I have it on good authority that the cameraman heard at this exact moment “Stop being such a vagina!”
Mt. Whitney
A city so grounded in filming western movies, it named a street after Gene Autry
An historic hotel room
PCT CA Section G

Limey Dipper: The End of the Desert

The nice thing about skipping the southernmost 450 miles of the trail is that I get just enough time in the desert to get a good understanding of what desert hiking is like and how to approach it but not so much that I get bored with it. Ah, but I didn’t leave off with hiking, did I? I had just fallen asleep in town.

Day 1

I woke up at a reasonably early hour in my motel room, unwilling to emerge from cover thanks to the efficacy of the swamp cooler. So I just got up and turned it off.

As soon as I had myself put together enough to go out, I walked across the highway to Dam Korner Cafe (the other side of Dick Weed’s, where breakfast is served) and had two full glasses of orange juice with my breakfast. Then back to the motel to pack up. Check-out was 11am, but I left at 10 because I had errands to run. The lady who operated the motel let me leave my pack in her office.

I had three goals for the day, the first of which was straightforward: pick up my package at the post office, get my new maps out, and bounce it forward. The second was to get access to a computer to put more audiobooks on my mp3 player. Unfortunately, the library was closed and the motel didn’t have one.

So I decided to continue with my third goal: to catch the bus to Kernville to have lunch at the Kern River Brewery. The motel lady gave me and my pack a lift to the bus stop, where I waited 20 minutes past the posted time without an arrival. So I called the bus company. They informed me that that route was no longer operating, but they could schedule me via dial-a-ride. Turns out the next bus that could take me to Kernville wouldn’t go for most of an hour, and the only one that could get me back in time to catch the bus to the trail would leave as soon as I arrived. So I gave up on the lunch in Kernville idea. This is how life works when you go to rural towns without a car–no such thing as Uber out that way.

So back to goal 2: walk through town looking for a computer. Strangely enough, the same company that screwed me out of a brewery visit solved my computer problem for me. A man who worked in the local office for the bus company offered to let me come inside and use his computer. I thought it would not take long, but their internet was so slow that I ended up staying over an hour downloading using my phone’s LTE then transferring to the mp3 player using the computer. The two guys that worked there were really chill and the work was light, so they chatted with me about everything from diet and exercise to current events while I waited on the downloads.

Finally, just before 4, I thanked them and left to return to Dick Weed’s for my last town food and a parting beer. One of the waitresses was the same that had served me breakfast. I had 3 pork sliders and half an order of fried green beans–even the appetizer portions were way too big–so that I was busting at the seams when I walked back to the bus stop just before the bus to Walker Pass left.

The bus driver clearly wanted to be a race car driver because I tried to work on my last blog post only to very rapidly become motion sick as she tried to throw me from my seat around every turn. I gave up and spent the rest of the trip staring at the horizon, gripping the edge of the seat, and breathing deeply. I was grateful when she finally dropped me off, and spent the next few minutes just sitting on the roadside and breathing.

I hit the trail around 6 with a plan to hike up the hill and camp at the campsite 4 miles in, at which I expected to arrive around the middle of civil twilight. 3.5 miles in, the huge lunch I’d stuffed myself with on the way out decided it needed some more room in my intestines, so my arrival at the campsite as soon as possible became an emergency. I barely managed to hold on long enough to reach the spot and dig the hole. (Yes, Jimmy, I know, but this event is actually significant.) A couple of minutes later, I had finished, cleaned myself up and was about to put my shorts back on when a pair of headlamps came spinning into the campsite.

“Hello?” I called.

“Hi there,” one answered.

So I hurried to put my shorts back on and go introduce myself more properly to the main other dramatis personae of this post: Benroy and his wife Segolene. He was from all over, including Japan, Washington, Texas, and, most recently, St. Louis. She was from France. Following her passing the bar and his quitting his job, they decided to head off on a string of adventures, the most recent of which would be a large section of the PCT. It was their very first night out. We both made dinner and camp. I offered them each a wedge of one of the limes I packed out and we traded apple cider for hot chocolate. Total distance: 4 miles

Dick Weed’s

Day 2

Looked like it would be a hot day so we all got up as early as we could to do the 7 miles to the first available water source. After filling up, I went down to Joshua Tree Spring to have a bath in the water trough. About 2 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 25 feet long, it was perfect for a private skinny dipping soak on a hot day. Just me and the water skimmers. Best idea I had that day. (The worst was leaving and hiking on just as the day was reaching its hottest.)

It was so hot (110 in the sun, so I am told) that I decided to stop at the bottom of the next hill for a snack and a siesta under a Joshua Tree. Around 3, wanting to make it to my intended campsite before dark, I climbed the hill to find B&S hiding in the shade of a bush at the top. Just beyond them was another rattlesnake, this one more peaceful.

B&S caught up to me again at the next creek 5 miles on where I was having a late lunch and had already finished collecting water. Told them I was planning to camp at the next tentsite and left them to finish their collection. Walked another 1.3 miles, found the spot big enough for just one tent, set up, cooked, went to bed. B&S woke me when they came through an hour or two after dark, paused, then continued up the hill. Total distance: 14 miles

Day 3

I got up as soon as I woke up the next morning, hoping for an early start for what would be a very hot day, and the first 3 miles was a hill climb I very much wanted to do while the sun was on the other side of the hill. I succeeded. I left camp just after 6 and reached the top of the climb by 7:30. I continued around the ridge 4 miles before stopping for lunch. Another 4 miles downhill to the next water source, Chimney Creek, caught me up to B&S who had already finished with their collection. Also, there had been a man who came by to pay Hiker Taxi signs and handed out Bud Lights. Benroy had saved me one. I squeezed one of my limes into it and drank it with my feet in the creek. B&S apologized for waking me–explained they didn’t make camp until midnight the night before, but felt very accomplished with their nearly 17 mile day/night. For this reason, I will now refer to them as the Midnight Crew, or MC for short. After I did my collection and MC left, took my shorts off and took a seat in the creek and scrubbed my legs, then just lay in the water with my shirt on and everything, both on my front and back. 

Caught up with MC at the next spring. They had eaten so I stopped to eat too. I figured I had enough water still and skipped collecting any more. Intended to hike on with B&S for another 3 miles or so, but couldn’t keep up with them, started losing my balance (not dizzy, just random balance), found a random flat spot way off the trail and made camp. Total distance: 14 miles

Bud Light Lime?
It doesn’t really taste like kombucha
An elephant!
Benroy & Segolene

Day 4

Got up early and out. I had almost run out of water making dinner and such the night before and it was nearly 10 miles to the next water source (all downhill thankfully). Blew right past MC’s campsite and cruised into Manter Creek by noon, having hiked the last three miles completely dry. Had already eaten lunch (including a lime, of course), bathed, and collected water by the time MC showed up. Turns out Segolene had twisted her foot, so they would spend the next several hours at the creek deciding whether to hike on.

It was just a few miles down to South Fork Kern River and I was eager to get there quickly. I found an easy access about a half mile up from where the trail started following it, which turned out to have a nice, deep hole for a dip. So I stripped and plunged into the cold water and chilled for an hour or so. Then I collected some water, ate some lunch and hiked on.

A few miles later, the trail passed an even better section of the trail for swimming: a beaver pond! So I stopped for another hour long swim.

Finally, I got moving and got to the shortcut to Grumpy Bear’s Retreat and sent a text for a ride as soon as I found a shady spot. I must have gotten the wrong number because I never got a reply. Around 6:30, I decided to start walking again, and just as I got to the main road, Wayne drove by in his truck looking for people like me and gave me a ride in. I got in at 7, just as the restaurant was closing, but that was no problem because I still had some food (as the previous section had been shorter than expected).

Taylor was already sitting in front of Triple Crown Outfitters trying to download maps on the slow satellite wifi. He had camped at Manter Creek the night before and arrived before me and already set up a tent. I made dinner and chatted with him. There was a scale there and I weighed in as 20 pounds lighter than when I started. I didn’t believe it, but someone later confirmed the scale’s accuracy. Then I found it alarming. I do have the weight to lose, but 20 pounds in three weeks would seem to indicate I should be eating more. It’s just hard to want to eat most things in that dry heat. A signal to mix up my food options.

Eventually, MC arrived as well, having delayed a long time at Manter Creek owing to Segolene having injured her foot and their considering spending the day there to recover. We all set up tents around TCO as well and then toured the area around Grumpy Bear’s as the sun set to locate the shower and bathroom. I ended the evening with a hot tea and a lot of rearranging of gear, ready to hit the ground running on acquiring permits during my zero day. Total distance on trail: 17 miles

Day 0

I woke up at sunrise and went over to Grumpy Bear’s to plug in my devices. My main concern was figuring out how to get permits for the next section. Much floundering was done on the web looking for information and no conclusions were reached.

At 8, Grumpy Bear’s opened, and it was time for a Hiker Breakfast. The eggs weren’t great, but the pancakes were truly cake sized. Or pan sized. They were all-you-can-eat pancakes, and for any normal person, all you can eat is two.

Then came showering (one at a time–MC went first) and laundry (free at Grumpy Bear’s including soap).

Finally, TCO opened at 10 and I got my shopping done. Got some sun gloves. Got some new shoes and socks that would clear up my blistering issues over the course of the next week. And even got information from Yogi about which permits I would need.

Several more hikers arrived in the afternoon, including Jeff, who was taking a trail vacation when his wife arrived that night, and who was having eating issues because he seemed to be losing weight he didn’t have to lose. Meanwhile, I ordered a small case of beer and ice to put in a bucket and carry up to TCO to share with the other hikers while we passed the hot part of the day under the awning.

A trail angel from Ridgecrest (Paula?) brought in some hikers and later took me over to the General Store, which didn’t seem to have much to offer compared to Grumpy Bear’s or TCO, but I got a turkey wrap there for lunch. When she drove me back to Grumpy Bear’s, MC had a pizza they’d just been gifted and offered a slice. I took it, of course, even though I’d just eaten, and ordered a margarita on the rocks to sip while I uploaded pictures for this blog.

Later, just before they closed the kitchen, I ordered a half dozen chicken wings for dinner. The whole restaurant closed soon after and the hikers moved onto the deck. After my blog post was posted, Taylor and I moved back to TCO to continue finishing off my bucket. When the darkness had fully settled, we started getting ready for bed, leaving one beer in the bucket for the next day.

I went to bed with no permits as yet and still no idea about how to continue my hike. Everyone else had PCTA long distance permits and would certainly be leaving the next day. Taylor said I should just hike on and risk it without a permit. Yogi said the rangers had been known to turn hikers around and make them walk back to Kennedy Meadows for having no permit. So, needless to say, I was buzzed but uneasy as I went to sleep around 11pm.

PCT CA Section F

Tehachapi to Walker Pass

Day 1

It was mostly a town day, which meant running errands. After a relatively slow start with breakfast from the hotel, there was laundry in the hotel coin laundry, followed by a trip to a local laundromat with larger washers and dryers to do my sleeping bag. While that was going on, I went shopping at the sporting goods store and got tent stakes, canister gas, freeze dried food, etc. then went and got some takeout in the form of a knockoff facsimile of shrimp pad thai as imagined by someone who had never tasted the real thing. I’ll blame it on a lime shortage as there had been none at the Walmart either.

It took far longer than expected for my sleeping bag to dry (and I ran other errands at my hotel and Walgreens while this was going on), so I called it good enough (if still slightly damp) at 3:30 since I had to be out of my hotel room by 4. Got back at 3:55 and threw everything on a bell cart just to get checked out as quickly as possible. Called Ted again to get a ride to the post office and then the trail. Wasn’t quite repacked when he arrived, but only five more minutes were needed.

Long line at the post office and they didn’t have the package I had ordered either. Plus I couldn’t ship home the heavy mobile battery I had replaced in the box I had selected nor could I change boxes with the post office closing, so I just left it with Ted to give to anyone else who wanted it. After buying a final goodbye Coke, he drove me down the highway to the spot where Cheryl Strayed started the trail. I climbed until dark fighting knockdown gale force winds until I found my tent site with its barrier wall. The mice came hunting my food as soon as it got dark.

Wind barricaded campsite
World’s boldest mouse

Day 2

Kind of a boring day but the weather was good (if still somewhat windy) and the trail was pretty easy (except for the annoying dirt road walks). Lots of wind farms. About 12.5 miles to a Golden Oaks Spring, the next water source, where I made camp.

Day 3

Another hiker (Allan) showed up at the spring while I was packing up the next morning. We chatted a bit about nothing and then I left him there. We leapfrogged a couple of times when he took a siesta on the trail. Met a man who wants to run the whole by parking at a different place each day and running up and down the trail to connect up where he’s been before. Wanted to talk about how the PCT compared to the AT. Dry camped at a random flat spot beside the trail when it started getting dark. No wind all night. 15.5 miles.

Horned Toad Lizard

Day 4

Used up remaining water for breakfast and proceeded the remaining 3 miles to Robin Bird Spring dry. Had to modify the pipe intake to get the spring to flow reasonably. A little time to collect and filter but left soon with a half full bag to pump out the 7 miles to Landers Meadow campground and spring as quickly as possible. Hiking was easy with low rollers through a forest along a creek.

Campground had privies (a rare treat) and the most powerful flowing spring I have yet seen. Took a nice hour-long siesta by the spring before doing another half-full bag and back on the trail. Met another hiker coming down to the spring as I left. Walked through an interesting area capped by “granitic plutonics” right out of Disney Land’s Big Thunder Mountain.

The hiker I saw caught up with me on the final stretch down the hill to Kelso Road, my final destination. Two more were close on our heels. Two more had past me during my siesta and were already set up by the road. Two more arrived while I was cooking and making camp. And another in the middle of the night. All told there were about 8 of us thru-hikers camping at or near the road that night. Some names I remember: GT, Circus, Sleeping Beauty, Cammy and Zack/Free Dose (a trail couple), Flash. I chatted a bit with most of them, but after the next day, in which they intended a supermarathon 28 miles, I wouldn’t see them again in this section. 17 miles total.

Someone wrote 600 in the road and then a car scattered the 6
This cable barred the road to Casa de Oso, a small cabin on the trail. Clearly, 8 different households have access to it.
Cammy and Free Dose
GT and Sleeping Beauty

Day 5

Left in the middle of the pack, but was soon passed by everyone. Miserable, exposed section that started with an annoying climb. Met my first angry rattlesnake. Stopped at a road crossing that randomly had 4G cell service for a call home and some research for my next town stay. Stopped under a shady Joshua tree for lunch and a long energy recovery at midday. Trail remained completely exposed with almost no shade for the entire 15 mile stretch. Came into Bird Spring Pass (a road crossing with a water cache and a few tent sites) so drained I had a hard time mustering the energy to make camp and dinner. Knowing that the rest of the gang had blown through this section, immediately surmounted the following 3 mile climb up Skinner Ridge and continued another 13 miles wore me out even more. Eating supper helped bring me back closer to normal (though not quite human perhaps). Slightly windy night but not too bad.

View from siesta spot

Day 6

Slow, lazy morning. Out by 8am and playing music to help power through that steep 3 mile climb to Skinner Peak. Still had to stop a couple of times on the climb for breaks. Took well over 2 hours.

Following trail was a long descent followed by some rolling sections with trees. Stopped for a break before another climb but decided not to make it a long one. Joined an annoying rough dirt road around 2pm already so close to my destination that I was seriously considering pressing on the last 8 miles to Walker Pass and hitching into town early–even though I had no good reason to be there yet–figuring whether there would be enough daylight by the time I got there for drivers to see me. Passed a couple of dune buggy drivers but they had no beer.

Arrived at McIver’s Cabin (1920s gold prospector, cabin preserved/maintained as hiker/camper shelter) and Spring to find a giant customized Toyota Tacoma ($28000 in offroading and camping gear built into it) and three guys who were out for the day ready to offer me a beer and a Louisiana hot sausage with grilled onions. All intention to keep hiking immediately evaporated and I spent the entire afternoon with them–John (Huang Jun) the IT guy and truck owner, John Jones, and the Amazon worker whose name I forgot–eating what food they were willing to offer and charging my phone.

Sometime later, a man arrived alone in a Lexus SUV. After the OHV three left, I went over to hang out with him. He had set up a campsite right out of a magazine, with his tent on a ledge and everything, and was escaping his domestic life for a weekend for an opportunity to see the Milky Way. I shared an apple cider with him and then went to cowboy camp on the front porch of the cabin. I woke up at 10pm to the sound of mice inside the cabin scraping at something. I got out of my sleeping bag to brave the mice and bats inside the cabin to retrieve my pack (in case that was what they were chewing on) and hang it from a nail outside. And then I saw the Milky Way.

Water cache
View from the cabin front porch
The cabin has a thermostat (face plate)

Day 7

That guy was leaving by the time I got up the following morning. I left around 7 with just the last 8 miles to Walker Pass to go. All downhill, I was there by 11am. Made a sign and hitched a ride to Lake Isabella with Lisa and Alex, who had never given a ride before. They left me at Lake Isabella Motel. The owner did everything, infusing charging 5 dollars a head for all the locals using the swimming pool–kids and their beer swilling parents. After getting a room and a shower, I headed out to walk the town. I got a popsicle and a tea from the Shell station and walked a mile to Nelda’s Diner for a burger and a shake. I stopped at the grocery store on the way back for resupply, plus some plums and a bunch of limes and an iced tea. By the time I walked back to the motel, the last of the locals was leaving the pool, so I took a plum, a lime, and the tea down there to have a solo swim. This is where I learned that when Timex says “100m water resist” they mean “water will get trapped under the face plate if you submerge it more than a few inches and your indiglo backlight will never work again.”

When the sun started getting low, I went back to my room to change (and hang shortly wet shorts from the TV directly under the swamp cooler in the ceiling), I headed out to Dick Weed’s for fish tacos and a massive salad and some craft beer. I left just before closing time to return to my room and that was my day in town. My second day in that town will begin the next post, which may be a very long time coming due to internet unavailability.

Lisa and Alex
Lake Isabella is falling apart… Looks like a movie set
Swamp cooler in every room
Isabella Motel (pool to myself)
Dick Weed’s bar
PCT CA Section E

You Need Sweet Water to Hatch a Pea

First day

Long climb out of Agua Dulce starting at 3pm. Passed by three thru hikers. 8.5 miles. Weather very cool and cloudy. Camp by 9pm. Cold night. Bright moon. Hard to stay asleep.

Trail register

Pipe gate

Second day

Clearer and warmer. Hiked out by 8:30am. Was just past noon by the time I had hiked far enough to be unable to see my first campsite on the other side of the valley. Lots of wildlife on the trail: rabbits, chipmunks, big and small lizards, horny toads, birds of all sizes, ants literally everywhere. Hiked until 3 then tried to nap on the bench. Too cold in the shade with the wind, even with down jacket on. Left an hour later and pitched camp at 6 two miles further on. 10 miles total. Laid in tent as sun set trying to get a warm nap. As soon as the sun was gone, it was freezing again.

How to keep the sun out of your face when napping

Day 3

Hotter day but still breezy. Broke backpack chest strap when about to leave. Left camp by 8. It was out of sight by 10. Followed/led a family down the hill to the road and stopped for a snack in a small clearing near the trail register. Climb up grassy mountain not too bad. Had lunch on opposite side. Lots of wildflowers. Long dry exposed section followed down to next road. Climb up was tough and still exposed. Explored a tunnel. Filled up at spring and made it to the top of the hill before having to give up for the day. Total distance about 14 miles. Camped in clearing with rabbits and hummingbirds. Made double supper. Accidentally squirted water all over the tent floor and through sleeping bag and had to panic clean it up.

These lizards are everywhere on the trail all the time
Very few snakes about so far
Along with an abundance of spring wildflowers comes an abundance of bees and other flying insects

Day 4

Up after six and going. Soon found headphone was crushed in my sleep. Next six days will be without audiobooks. Had trouble finishing bagel. Had to stretch water for 5 miles from camp. But two old men with three dogs arrived at nearby parking area and one donated most of a bottle of water! Arrived at Maxwell Camp guzzler after 5 miles of relatively easy hiking. Foul smelling stagnant water, but cold. I filtered it and took as much as I could, but left my Buff smelling awful from using it as a macro filter. Laid on the concrete for a couple of hours just to relax before moving on. Five more miles to Sawmill Camp to stop. Beautiful site with luxurious amenities such as a pit toilet and cell service. Tried to sit and enjoy the dusk by candlelight, but it blew out. Broke a tent stake and the remaining half would not hold. Had to get up in the middle of the night to weight the ropes with rocks. Also one strap on my pillow stuff sack came loose. Starting to lose track of all the things that are breaking this first week.

Can you spot the hummingbird?
Maxwell Camp guzzler
Sawmill campsite
Sawmill camp toilet
Water tank near Sawmill camp

Day 5

After taking my time getting up and spending an hour filtering water at the tank, I didn’t get out of camp until 10am. Immediately had to do a huge mile-long climb. After 4 miles, stopped at another tank and climbed under the metal roof to wait out the hottest part of the day in the shade.

After a couple hours napping on the tank, was joined by section hikers Tailgate and Gidget, who spent some time under the tank roof with me. They’re ending at Tehachapi this year. After some discussion, I convinced them to join me at Horse Trail Camp 6 miles further on.

They left first, but after one more big climb, I passed them making dinner trailside, then pushed through the meadows and down a steep hill to arrive some thirty minutes before them. I had already cooked dinner and was ready to set up my tent, so I told them I needed a huge rock to weight the cables in lieu of the broken stake. Instead, they offered me one of their stakes since they were nearly finished with their hike and hardly used them anyway for their freestanding 3-man tent. Stayed up well past dusk enjoying the Verizon LTE the campsite afforded.

The 500 mile point on the trail is around about here
This is probably past Mile 501, but it does mark the top of an annoying hill climb
I don’t know what these spiky pods are or do, but when they are on the ground cracked open, they are mostly hollow
The desert toward which I am headed
Tailgate and Gidget’s tent at Horse Trail Camp
Casa Mia at Horse Trail Camp

Day 6

Gidget’s voice woke me at 3 am: “Can you hear it?” I managed to doze off a bit until 4am, at which point I could sleep no longer. I laid awake until 4:30am, then crawled out with my water bag and filter to go down the steep trail to the spring by headlamp.

While there, I was repeatedly swooped by bats presumably attracted to the insects drawn to my headlamp. I also brushed my thumb against some stinging nettle, which would continue to nettle me for the next 24 hours. The sun was on the verge of rising by the time I climbed out of the ravine with my full bag of water. I drank my breakfast at the picnic table and watched the sun rise. It had risen by the time my campmates crawled out of their tent. They still managed, by dint of delaying breakfast and having two people to pack up one tent, managed to leave a half hour before me. Before leaving, they offered me an extra belt they didn’t need to use as a chest strap on my pack, thereby solving another of my problems. I left just after 7 and very quickly passed those two on the downhill section of trail. I did the 10 miles to Hiker Town without a major break (even though the trail was very annoying with constant ups and downs). Phone battery low so no pictures of that section. Arrived around 11:30

No one was active at Hiker Town to greet me or explain how the shower or anything else worked or where I could get the package I had sent there (nor did anyone answer the phone), but G&T arrived shortly and had called the Market Cafe that was (I soon learned) owned by the same people that owned Hiker Town. Tino took all three of us to the market where I got some popsicles, some beer, a salad, et al. Because Jimmy would be disappointed if I didn’t, I ordered a burrito too. Already there was Mike (Sea Egg), and we sat there for a couple hours just eating and drinking and chatting. Learned that Gidget hadn’t slept much due to a probable mouse running around their tent crunching on the Tyvek all night.

After Tino took Mike and me back to Hiker Town, I got a nice cold shower for a hot day. I met Marta, the hardest working woman I’ve ever met. She offered to wash and dry my laundry for free, gave me a can of Coke, made Mexican ceviche tostadas for everyone there, made grape agua fresca, and would have made pancakes for breakfast the next morning if I had been there.

When G&T returned from market, we ask chatted on patio for a while until Mike started preparing to leave to start a night hike across the desert. Soon after he left, Tacoma Tomato arrived, called Tino to get a ride to the store. I rode back with him to get a Powerade and the free ice cream they give to people who stay at Hiker Town. Soon, we were all back at the patio chatting until the sun went down. Bad microwave pizza for supper. Tacoma Tomato stayed out there until late waiting for his girlfriend to come pick him up. I went on repacking and preparing for the next day until past 9, and took to my bunk to fall asleep some time after 10.

Tailgate and Gidget
Tino, dog, and Mike (left)
Mexican ceviche tostada filling
Grape agua fresca
Cactus blossom after dark

Day 7

Awoke by alarm at 3am. G&T were up as well. After morning routine and two microwave pancakes on sticks for breakfast, began desert flatland trek at 4:30. Most of it went along the LA aqueduct or down straight dirt roads. Around 6, already 2.5 miles in, stopped to put on sunscreen, sunglasses, and eat 2 granola bars. Would eat nothing but Starburst for the next 6 hours. Very boring with only a few highlights:

  • the man sitting alone on top of a pipe bridge loudly reading from a book (like a history or philosophy book) in a broad-brimmed hat and bandana up to his nose, occasionally telling his dog to shut up and stop barking at me so he could keep reading. Like something you’d only see in a western movie.
  • This three-pawed mama taking her pups for a walk, following me for about a mile while hunting lizards and ground squirrels
  • Passing G&T when they stopped for a snack
  • Finally arriving at the bridge around mile 17 where the first bit of shade I’d seen since sunrise met the first water source, the aqueduct hiker faucet.

So, of course, Mr. Just Walked 17 Miles On 5 Hours of Sleep laid out his sleeping pad for a nap in the shade. G&T arrived a bit later, then left by 1:15 just in time for me to chase the shade across the dry creek bottom to where they had been sitting to continue my nap. We spoke of meeting up at the next campsite, but this was the last time I saw them.

A couple hours later, the shade was threatening to run off without me again, so I got up, fetched water, drank a lot of it, ate some cold soak ramen, and left by 5 to cross the wind farm. The wind was strong enough to threaten to push me off the trail when it gusted. Too sleepy to climb the remaining 1.2 miles to the creek in the dark after a 23 mile day, I camped in the first ravine after the wind farm ended. Discovered a tent stake had gone missing by means unknown. Weighted the tent end with rocks (never enough) and slept through the buffeting tent flapping that left my sleeping bag covered in a crust of fine dust by morning. Crawled out of the tent naked after 10pm to try to reseat the rocks, watched by unflappable deer, little success, rushed back inside to stave off hypothermia.

Open LA aqueduct
People like to walk on this pipe, but I didn’t
A long straight dirt road. Exciting hiking!
Notice the right rear paw is missing
Being outpaced by G&T
The only shade available all day. Good nap spot.

Day 8

Left camp by 8 with no water. Climbed the 1.2 miles to Tylercreek and spent several hours playing in it, soaking in it, collecting water from it, and sadly bidding it adieu when I finally got moving again. Stopped again 3 miles later in the next ravine, having spent the entire time watching the dirtbikes make circuits up and down the hills. Amazing how steep the sandy trails they climbed were when I could barely climb a relatively shallow sandy trail on foot. Stopped for lunch and watched the water in the little stream dry up as I sat there.

Gorilla came running down the hill behind me just as I was getting up to investigate. Said he was speedrunning the trail like most crazy things he’d done in his life. 35 miles a day ultralight with no zeros and a plan to reach Kennedy Meadows without stopping in a week. We chatted and he said he might see me at the next trail magic after a straight four climb at the end of which I intended to stop for the night, but I knew there was no way he would still be there by the time I crawled up the hill over the course of the next four hours.

It was not an easy climb. It caused some chafing. A blister on the bottom of my right foot popped midstride. The “549” trail magic was great though. Cabinets with food and many many gallons of water. I ate a lime, a jar of strawberries in syrup (and drank the syrup in water with lime juice), and a cookie. Then I made supper and drank as much water as I wanted…several liters worth. The sleeping experience was identical to the previous night… the rock was heavy, but the wind easily pulled the ropes from under it.

Observe my hydroengineering prowess
Goodbye Mr. Creek! I’ll miss you!
When you can clearly see the four mile climb that is waiting for you
The desert flatland I crossed the previous day

Day 9

A relatively easy downhill 10 mile hike without breaks down to Tehachapi Willow Springs Road… if it weren’t for those weeping sores between my legs. Found a number for the only remaining trail angels on a post at the roadside. Called. Picked up by Ted Johnson and brought to a hotel in Tehachapi about a half hour later. Very nice man. Showered and went to T-K’s for supperĀ  (pizza, salad, local craft beer). Did a bit of Wal-Mart shopping and went back to hotel for a phone call and very quickly arriving asleep. I would leave Tehachapi late the next day… but that is a story for the next post.

Peach Creamsicle


Two Days in San Diego

I’ll be straight. We spent the vast majority of these days in our hotel room.

But there were nonetheless some errands to run and a few fun meals to be had.

Thursday began with a breakfast of cold pizza, candy, and Coke. Then it was off to Wal-Mart in National City to buy supplies. Which was miserable. Poorly stocked. Poorly organized. Crowded. Loud. Rude people blocking the aisles. But they had nearly everything I needed to pick up.

Except for a fuel canister. Which mean a mile down the road to another Wal-Mart. One that was the opposite in every way. Well-stocked. Organized. Less crowded. Polite people. I wish we had known to go there in the first place.

Then it was time for lunch and a touristy visit to Coronado Island. Mexican food at Miguel’s Cucina. Because it’s San Diego. You have to get Mexican.

Then we went back to the hotel, so I could pick up some boxes from the post office next door and a package from the front desk containing all my section maps for the trail.

After a brief break in the hotel room, we decided to spend the evening out by visiting a brewery. The Gaslamp Quarter was surprisingly happening despite the various current events conspiring to shut the city down. It’s probably for the best that this place wasn’t open:

But Knotty Brewing was open and a great time. Two flights of craft beer and a chicken sandwich dinner passed the next two hours in a flash while the neighborhood joggers and dogs paraded around us.

We also hit up a Ralph’s around the corner for some breakfast food and snacks, then back to the hotel to start putting map/guide/water report packages together, and a little bit of TV in bed to finish out the night.

Today didn’t involve nearly as much driving or traveling far at all. We started off the day by grabbing take-out breakfast from the Panera across the street and eating in the hotel room. Then, I spent the rest of the morning finishing putting together all the map packets for my bounce box and a food package for my first resupply. By early afternoon, I was ready to return to the post office to ship them.

But we were also ready for lunch, so we just continued out into the neighborhood to visit another brewpub: The Local Eatery of Resident Brewing. Nachos, beer cheese pretzels, Cuban sandwich and fries, and two amazing IPAs. My mom said the first was the best beer she ever tasted. (All Together IPA for future reference.)

Back to the hotel. After a short digestion break on the bed, I repacked my pack for tomorrow. Then, we went down to the pool area to sit on lounge chairs and chill as twilight disappeared. I had my laptop and downloaded 20 audiobooks from the library and a couple dozen podcasts for my mp3 player to listen to while walking. That’s how I always roll as you might know by now.

And now it’s blogging while a Julia Roberts movie from the 90’s plays on Lifetime. The big show starts tomorrow. The nervousness is all gone now–but I still hope I’m not forgetting something. Something always gets forgotten.

Next update to follow within two weeks. Best I can do.


Getting ready

I’ll be straight with you about this. The name, tagline, color scheme, icon, and background image for this blog come from an anime. Go ahead and call me a total weeb if you like, but I’m going to tell you what it has to do with this trip anyway.

The anime is called Laid-Back Camp, and it’s about a bunch of girls that go camping. It focuses on food, fun, gear, exploration, and beautiful scenery. The theme song, Shiny Days, is a straight-up ripoff of the Jackson Five’s oeuvre, as YouTuber TripleQ has demonstrated with this mashup:

Shiny Jacksons by TripleKyun

The song ends with San Diego from South Park…but my journey begins here in San Diego.

I got my gear packed just a few hours before it was time to go to the airport. Here it is spread out on the garage floor:

You might notice some new items here that weren’t on my AT hike. In particular, I have a new ultralight tent,

From Tarptent

a new ultralight shovel, a new ultralight pillow, a new ultralight sleeping pad, and a new bear canister.

I took most of this new gear to northeast Georgia to do an in-and-out 25 mile section of the Bartram Trail over the first weekend of May. Although there was a decent amount of rain the first afternoon, the rest of the weekend was beautiful, and I only saw a handful of people for obvious reasons–except an enormous family completely taking over Warwoman Dell. I had a heck of a time getting through the crowd while maintaining social distance, and couldn’t even get close to the waterfall. I also severely blistered my left foot in a boot I didn’t realize was so ill-fitting. Anyway, here are the pictures from that trip:

So that’s what spring looks like in the temperate zone. Look back at this post once I start uploading pictures from the Socal desert for a stark contrast.

Modifications made and packing complete, it was time to catch a flight. The Atlanta airport was surprisingly easy to navigate in spite of, or perhaps because of, coronavirus adjustments. We were the only people in our Plane Train car.

The Delta lounge was open with more limited food availability. And it was full. The flight was an easy four hours,

but we arrived to find San Diego basically completely shut down. The Gaslamp Quarter is half boarded up to ward off riots. There’s nothing riotous happening, but it still manages to feel like we’re halfway to the zombie apocalypse.

2020 man. This is the perfect time to go get lost in the wilderness away from all this crap. Or it would be if it weren’t for the tremors under Yellowstone….

So what’s left? Wal-Mart trip. Package sending. And a drive to Agua Dulce to start. I should be on the trail by Saturday at the latest. Let’s do this.


First Post

I’ve got all the new and replacement gear I need now. Expecting to start hiking on Jun. 5. Stay tuned for pictures from my early May shake-out hike and pictures of all my gear together.