Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

Wrightwood treated us very well. We're incredibly grateful for the kindness of the Hadaways who "invited us" into their home for showers and laundry, and they drove us back to the market and the trail! They were very curious about our quest and we're always happy to answer questions, especially over a beer on a sunny front porch.
Once back on the trail, we started a steep climb up Mt. Baden Powell named for the founder of the boy scouts. Since it was Memorial Day Weekend, there were plenty of day hikers on the trail with us. We camped on one of the few flatish spots about a mile from the summit, making for a pleasant morning climb and some dramatic views. There's a tree on the summit that's about 1,500 years old!
The day was full of ups and downs, and at some point I tweaked one of the muscles in my left quad. I still made it through the day with some stiffness. We had another visit with Dave and all the edible goodies that he shares and also had a detour along the road to avoid an area where an endangered toad mates. The next morning, however, my leg revolted and we had to stop after 5 miles. It was a hard decision and a frustrating day. Chris got lost during a solo day hike he took while burning off some steam. He finds it especially hard to sit still all day.
But the rest did me well! With some help from Vitamin I (ibuprofen) we were able to churn out some long, subsequent days. One day we did 23.6 miles, camping at a nice shady spot under the pine trees. The other day we did 22.6 and camped at an ATV road along a ridge. It feels good to put in some long miles and I'm relieved that my leg issue resolved. A little rest goes a long way!
So, we cruised into Agua Dulce yesterday morning and, of course, our first stop was the local breakfast joint. Chris had a beer with his eggs. I had pancakes, surprise, surprise. The amazing part of this spot are the trail angels who host dozens of hikers at a time, the Saufley's. They wash all the hikers' laundry and give loaner clothes and flip flops in the process. They have a tent city in their back yard complete with cots that sleep 50. As a couple, Chris and I got to sleep
in a horse trailer separated from the masses who stayed up into the wee hours around the campfire. Free phones, internet and music blaring from 7am through 10pm. Amazing!
The other fabulous part of our "nearo" day -near zero miles walked- was sorting through all our mail. Sunny and Jen & Jon sent welcome updates and greetings from back east. Ryan sent a celebratory package of cigars and White Russian fixings in honor of our progress and making it to L.A. Wahoo! The treats made for a very fun afternoon. Sean and Carla sent a plethora of useful items: a Camelback (awesome!), candy and plenty of nips. Hmmmm.....all that alcohol....what do our friends think of us? Wish you guys were here to party with us. We also got an amazing re-supply box from my parents with our expected ramen, couscous, vitamins and such plus some edibles surprises.
We are so lucky! Thanks for the thoughtful notes and goodies. It means so much to have contact with our loved ones at home. Sometimes the crusty trail feels very far away, we miss you.
Now, onward to the desert.......
Emily ( and Chris)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Big Bear City to Wrightwood

Within five miles after re-entering the San Bernardino Mountains, we came across our sixth rattlesnake of the trip. It was very big, and the darkest we've seen, but calm and motionless, so we moved on after I snapped a picture. Two more rattlesnake encounters before finishing this section, so I hope we have filled our quota. I read that the average thru-hiker sees three or four during the first 700 miles to the Kennedy Meadows. Still, I've adopted a no-music policy before 10 am. and after 4pm., as morning and evening are when we usually see them.
The rest of the morning was spent around 6,000 feet as I listened to a Dodgers vs. Marlins game on my new Sony radio I picked up in Big Bear. After lunch, we meandered our way through scorched land, a result of the forest fires in 2008, until we reached a creek side trail camp with a picnic table.
This continued the following morning, until we reached Holcomb Creek and some crossings. As we ate our tuna fish and hot sauce in tortillas, dark grey clouds came rolling toward us. We surely expected this would be our first rainfall, but we got lucky and stayed dry. A mid-afternoon dip in Deep Creek was the highlight of the day and shortly thereafter we climbed a hundred feet and began a long traverse next to but above the creek for the remainder of the day.
In the morning we skipped coffee and pushed three miles to Deep Creek Hot Spring, an amazing place with terraced pools of 100-degree-plus water. We soaked for over an hour, jumped into the creek to cool off, and packed up. As we walked west, it was apparent that we were getting closer to civilization, due to the plastic bottles at the side of the trail, the graffiti on the rocks, day hikers in bermuda shorts, and the gigantic dam built to hold back Deep Creek's waters. A half mile later, our first official ford, but Deep Creek was only thigh deep. We camped this night at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area on a small peninsula only accessible by boat or foot, with picnic tables and garbage cans.
Up early at 5am. the next morning because we had a date with Mickey D. We hiked 16 miles before 2pm., and we rewarded ourselves when we reached I-15 with french fries, orange Hi-C's, Chicken McNuggets, Coca Cola, cheese burgers, chocolate milkshakes and iced coffee. Needless to say we left McDonalds with full bellies as well as full capacity of water, as we had 22 dry miles
of trail to look forward to. We camped about 5 miles from I-15/ Cajon Pass to avoid the noise.
Leaving Cajon Canyon we thankfully entered the San Gabriel Mountains. John Muir called them, "more rigidly inaccessible than any other I ever attempted to penetrate." We didn't have a problem, but we did have over 5000 feet to climb in one day! Wow! We spent the night at Guffy's Campground, just inside the Angeles National Forest. In the AM, two short hours and five miles brought us to mile 369, the Angeles Crest Highway, and we hitchhiked into Wrightwood for resupply.
Things are well on the trail for us. Our feet are doing much much better, and we are halfway to Kennedy Meadows, which is exciting. More often than not, our conversation turns to food. I asked Em today what she missed the most. She responded,"Pasta and my Dad's tomato sauce, red wine and salad." For me, it's simply Coke...although beer is a very close 2nd.
Chris (and Emily)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Idyllwild to Big Bear City

I'm writing from a well air-conditioned public library in Big Bear with a belly full of blueberry pancakes. Chris and I treated ourselves to a night in a Motel 6 with laundry, showers and Sports Center after officially completing 10% of the trail. It finally feels like we're making some progress here!

The past couple days have been a mixed bag of terrain, and very pleasant. Coming out of Idyllwild we had a steep climb back up to the PCT - 2.5 miles and 2,000 feet up. The elevation does provide cooler temperatures, and even big patches of snow that we had to slip and slide over. While we were well rested and well-fed on our first day back after a delightful stay with Kath's friend, Shambo, we only covered about 15 miles (plus the 2.5 to get back to the PCT) because of the steep climbs, slippery snow, 5.5 days worth of food and lots of water on our backs. We camped in a sandy wash somewhere around the border of a wilderness zone and a state park. Sometimes it's tough to know exactly where you are but Chris can make a good estimate of our mileage based on how long we've been going. It's great hiking with a mathlete!

The next day started out with endless switchbacks back and forth over the little village of Snow Creek. The destination was a water fountain provided by the Desert Water Agency. After a couple hours of toe-mashing downhill under an increasingly hot sun and seemingly no closer to this fountain, we broke for lunch under the shade of a rock. With our spirits restored, we skipped down to the fountain in a matter of minutes and loaded up on this precious resource in the company of lots of fellow thru-hikers - Joey, Andrea, Neil, John, Square Peg, Meaghan, and Gourmet.

But the day was only getting started... we continued on, loaded up with water, and met a trail angel on our way to cross the Coachella Valley. Bill welcomed us to the armpit of the PCT and treated us to Pringles and Gatorade before we set out on the discombobulating trek through this windy flat stretch. The trail was a little hard to follow, very sandy and the wind was something out of a movie. I had a bandanna over my nose and mouth, my hat clamped onto my head as I staggered to keep up with Chris against a gale-force head wind. No wonder there are so many wind turbines flapping in this stretch, the wind is no joke. We finally took refuge from the wind under the seedy I-10 highway overpass, collected ourselves and continued on to the Mesa Wind Farm and beyond to camp with Joey in a delightfully remote wash in Teutag Canyon. 22 miles later, we were happy to have that ugly stretch behind us.

For our slog through the wind tunnel, we were treated to a couple days of all the water we could ask for. We skipped over Mission Creek throughout one day of hiking, taking several breaks to soak our feet in the chilly snow melt. We also paused plenty to enjoy the scenery - fragrant pine trees and lupines along the trail. Chris saw a baby rattlesnake trying to ingest a large lizard. A trail angel - Dave - who is following his sons met us with popsicles one day. All the while, Big Bear City was calling our name with the promise of Sizzler buffet and Thelma's cinnamon rolls. In our haste to get to town, we almost succeeded in the 10x10 challenge - 10 miles by 10am!

Having gorged, got our TV fix, rested our feet and doctored Chris' heel blister, we're hoping to hit the trail again this afternoon and get in a couple miles this afternoon. We have 99 miles to go until Wrightwood and our next resupply.

- Emily (kinda Beetle, but I'm having a hard time adopting this other identity) and Sundog

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Barrel Spring to Idyllwild

We are in Idyllwild, CA, 179 miles into the trail.  Taking a zero day here, to rest our feet, resupply our food stores, catch up on emails, and eat.  Although we've been carrying plenty of food, nothing compares to hot breakfasts, fresh sandwiches, meaty pizza, and cold cold drinks.

Backtrack to May 5th.  Awaking in Barrel Spring, we knew that Warner Springs, our first maildrop site, was reachable by lunchtime.  Off we went with soda on ice in my mind.  When we arrived, we went straight to the post office to pick up our resupply box, a package from Sean containing much needed water purification drops (which I forgot in Boston), and a couple unexpected letters, a huge surprise!  With a 44 oz Dr Pepper in hand, we sorted through our stuff, made some phone calls, and then made our way to the golf course restaurant next door, where we stuffed ourselves with hamburgers, grilled cheeses, salads, and Mexican beer (in honor of Cinco de Mayo of course).  Our server mentioned free showers in the clubhouse, which we promptly accepted, and then after a quick visit to the mini-mart, we were off to continue the 5/5 celebration with our section-hiker friends Yancy and Tarc a few miles up the trail next to a babbling brook.

The next couple days were hot hot hot.  My watch read over 100 at one point, and drinking the water out of our Nalgenes was like drinking hot tea without the flavor.  Awful.  On May 7th, to avoid over-heating, we took a 2 1/2 hour lunch break under a live oak, along with most if not all of the thru-hiker friends we've met this past 11 days.  We were sprawled out like lions in the Kalahari, moving to stay with our little spots of shade.  That evening we hiked into the night, under a very-near full moon, into a wash where it was sandy and cool.

Friday morning the 8th, we were on a mission.  The next road crossing was 3 1/2 miles away, and down that road 1 mile was the Paradise Cafe.  We got there by 8:15 am, and ate huge breakfasts, washing it down with gallons of coke (me) and coffee (Em).  This put us behind a bit, so we tried to make up time by pushing through lunch and to a spring for water 11 miles away.  After taking a side trail 1 mile down a few hundred feet and filling up our bottles, on our way back up we spotted a helicopter overhead.  It stopped above us, but moved on after I gave it a one-handed wave, meaning we're OK.  Turns out there was a lost hiker, that made his way out on his own a day after making the distress call.  We pushed on another mile, and found a great spot on a ridge, with the full moon glowing above us, and the twinkling lights of Palm Springs in the valley below.  This got us excited for civilization.

The next morning, to get to Idyllwild we still had 15 miles of trail to walk, plus 2 1/2 down a side trail.  Tough tough day.  Lots and lots of climbing, up over 8,000 feet for the first time, and we even saw snow on the ground, which we used to turn our warm water into ice water!  We rolled into town around 6, and here we are still.  Back on the Trail early tomorrow morning.  Next stop Big Bear City.

-Sundog (and Beetle)

P.S.  My trail name comes from my days on the AT (Appalachian Trail) back in 2003.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mt. Laguna to Barrel Spring

Day seven is dawning cool and sunny in Barrel Spring. Last night we went to sleep to the sounds of small vermin rustling in the brush around our site, and frogs croaking around the first steady bit of running water we've seen in the desert so far. We slept under live oak trees with several other hikers, all of whom we met along the way - Joey, "Day Late" from Tucson, Ryan, Yancy and Tarc, and Neil and Andrea. We ambled into camp about 6:45 pm after our first 20 mile day, the last to arrive. My feet hurt more than if I'd run a marathon, though my blisters seem to be healing. I'd just never walked so far with 7 liters of water on my back.

Yesterday took us all along the San Felipe Hills, following the contour of every canyon and gully. While long, the trail was very gradually descending which was nice on the knees.

The previous night found us camping in a cozy, sandy wash on the same San Felipe Hills we had hiked through.This site provided a nice respite from the relentless gales that have been pushing us around the past couple days. I do, however, appreciate the wind's cooling properties during the heat of the day.

Before that, we camped in Chariot's Canyon, a grassy stretch that was pretty windy but flat. Earlier, we stayed at Shiner's RV Park, free showers!! We came across that site quite randomly. We were wandering Al Baker's RV Camp looking for a different campground and the manager saw us and offered a grassy patch for Chris, Joey and me. What luck!

Normally, we're up about 6 -6:30, pretty early for some night owls. We have to pack up our sleeping bags, pads and all the clothes we used as pillows overnight. Chris usually makes coffee, a luxury item on the trail. We try to get in 10 miles before lunch and then break for at least an hour to rest our feet. Our routine usually has us cooking dinner after rolling into camp between 6 and 7pm. We've been eating freeze dried meals, ramen, couscous, maybe some tortillas and cheese. Then it's dark and time for reading and writing in the tent. Nights have been somewhat fitful, trying to get comfortable. I'm hoping in time, this tent will be as cozy as my bed in J.P.........yeah right!

Some interesting sightings: teddy bear cholla, prickly pear cacti, barrel cacti, horny toads, one rattlesnake ( I ran. Chris got a picture.), a fighter jet that roared over our heads during lunch and a crazy hiker named "No Pain", who gave us a beer at 4pm one day at a well stocked water cache.

All in all, things are going well. Off to Warner Springs to pick up our first mail drop.

Emily (and Chris)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mexican Border to Mt. Laguna

Writing from the small town of Mt. Laguna, this is our first resupply stop, although we don't need to buy much. We, like many thru-hikers starting out, began with too much food. Better to have too much than too little, I suppose. The Trail has been great so far, maybe not what we expected due to the abundant flora and semi-mountainous terrain. I guess we were expecting more desert-like conditions, but after today's 2,000 foot climb, obviously we were wrong. I'm sure the desert awaits our arrival.

We spent the first 2 nights in canyons, Hauser and Fred, respectively, at very nice campsites. Both creeks were dried up, but water has not been a problem at all, as we have been filling up our bottles from campground spigots. We have seen less than 10 people since starting 2 1/2 days ago. A few section hikers, a trail runner, an equestrian and 3-4 thru-hikers, including Joey, a girl from Vancouver, B.C., who has shared our site with us for the last few nights and hiked with us part of the time, too.

Regarding animals, no scary sightings as of yet, (0 rattlesnakes) but numerous reptiles like skinks, horny toads and other lizards. Emily has taken to announcing "beetle" every time we pass over one on the trail, and I second it, making it a game. Beetle might just stick as her trail name, as I've been calling her that. We'll see, it's only been 3 days.

Other than a few blisters and mild muscle fatigue, all is well for us on the Trail. It finally set in, probably during our lunch break on the first day, that we are walking to Canada! And, we're happy as hell for it. So, it's time to finish my coke and chips and head north.

Chris (and Emily)