Sunday, March 18, 2018


 “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” - John Muir

FROM GAILA:   All is going well for me so far. I had to move to a new space in the campground so I used my RV skills to dump and fill and back into a space. I was just hoping I would be the only one at the dump station because I didn't want anyone watching me. My friend agreed by saying (in his humorous way), "I hate it when people watch me dump!" 


The weather was perfect the day I returned to the trail, after drying out in a motel in Mojave and a huge brunch at Denny's. Fortunately, the rain had stopped and there was no wind or too much sun. I climbed 10 miles to Campana Ridge, surrounded by hundreds of windmills. 

Miles and miles of windmills 
I spoke with workers on the trail that said I was lucky because it's usually so windy on that ridge.** The next morning I packed up early. I didn't want to be caught up there when the winds began. I couldn't find water until late that day in a small canyon, but it was only a trickle. I realized I should have taken more. At the LA Aqueduct, where I set up camp and had counted on getting water, the faucet wasn't working. Knowing it was going to be hot the next day, and having only a liter of water left, I packed up at 3:30 a.m. and started hiking to a place called "Hiker Town".*** 
At that time of the morning it was cold and windy. When the sun came up I put my Tilley hat on over my hoodie. I was so upset when I realized the hat had blown off at some point. There was no way I was going to backtrack with only limited water supply and it could be 5 miles before finding it. Fortunately, I had my umbrella for sun protection.

The next day it was raining like crazy - a constant root soaker with lots of fog. Everything again soaked, even inside my tent due to condensation. My umbrella came in very handy once more. Fortunately, my sleeping bag is dry and I sleep warm and comfortable.

Drying everything out when the rain finally stopped.
I camped near the road leading into the tiny town of Lake Hughes. I hiked into town the next morning to get my first resupply box and then had a huge breakfast (I call it rocket fuel) at the famous Rock Inn before hitting the trail again. I needed to get myself another hat and didn't want to spend much. Found a deal for $7.

Hola amigos, cómo me veo?

I enjoyed a seat and a water cache provided by PCT trail angels on my hike to Agua Dulce.
Made it to Hiker Heaven late at night. The owners were so accommodating. They let me stay in a mobile home where I cold get a hot shower and they even insisted on doing my laundry. It felt like heaven to me! They have been hosting PCT hikers for 20 years.

Even though I was told the area I was heading was expecting 1 to 3 inches of snow, I decided to leave Hiker Heaven and keep on truckin. 

Hiked through Vasquez Rocks  (click here)
Hiking through the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area was beautiful. For all you Trekkies - it's Star Treks favorite alien landscape. Eventually it began raining again and was supposed to rain all night so I cut my day short and hiked to the Acton KOA. I asked the owner if I could sleep under the pavilion but he told me no. It began raining harder so I thought I'd see if he had a change of heart - NOT.  As I was leaving the office a guy asked me if I was hiking the PCT so we struck up a conversation. He was carrying a guitar and asked if I played. I played one of my own songs for him (UAW RAG). He must have liked the song because he said, "you are more than welcome to stay as long as you like in one of our props for the movie we're filming here." 

My room for the night - a prop for a movie set.

Avions have come a long way!

I slept out of the cold and wet. I don't like taking Neros or Zeros if I don't have to. (Hiker jargon for either no miles or almost no miles.) The forecast said 3 days of rain and snow, but I decided to continue on........
The section Dick is hiking this month.

BOO enjoys watching Chick Flicks with me!
St. Patrick's Day lunch at the Senior Center with mom.
(She's the good-looking one with the white sweater)
Happy hour with our Canadian friends. We connect every year when we're in the south.

**That night out of Mohave I camped on an exposed ridge about 10 miles south surrounded by a forest of wind generators. It's almost like sleeping in a railyard full of trains going through. I didn’t realize how much noise they make and each one seems to have its own tone. Over the years they’ve grown bigger with each generator and I could see all the generators from my perch. The newest ones are as large as redwood trees.
Some windmills are actually broken like skeletons and others are wounded, with blades missing almost as if they’ve been sheared off.  I ran into a firefighter doing trail maintenance on the way up and he explained to me that what happens is the bearings go out on them occasionally and they start free wheeling. In a bad windstorm they sometimes shut the highways down because the blades will break off and can actually travel a mile or more and do a lot of damage.

***Hiker town (not to be confused with Hiker Heaven) is a goofy little place and looks like a movie set - churches, saloon with a dozen little false facade houses. The guy who lives there lets PCT hikers camp there for a fee which supports him a bit. I needed water otherwise this is a place I would have passed by. There was a Do not Disturb sign on his door so I just took water and headed up the trail hiking the distance needed to get off the Tejon Ranch where I could camp. (An agreement between the Tejon Ranch Company and a coalition of environmental groups is designed to permanently protect 240,000 acres of the historic ranch. It is the largest conservation and land-use pact in California history.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Before Dick left I was told not to worry until after the 6th day. I forgot to ask him THEN what I was supposed to do?  This time I made sure I knew the rules.  He said, "NOTHING! Not for two weeks at least."  That's easy for him to say - RIGHT? Meanwhile, I am enjoying time with my mom and friends and all is well. (A couple photos at bottom of blog).

Day One thru Six:

It rained all night in Lake Isabella. I slept behind a Baptist Church and caught the 5:20 a.m. bus to Walker Pass. By morning the rain had turned into a sleet storm and when I was getting off the bus at the pass everyone was shaking their heads at this crazy man. Five inches of snow was expected but then that was cancelled.  A day later we got the 5 inches.

My worry was not being able to find the trail, but as it turned out it wasn't a problem. There were no human tracks (I never saw another hiker due to the bad weather). So whenever I lost the trail I would look for animal tracks and I could see a little depression. Animals take the path of least resistance so I followed coyote, Bobcat and mountain lion tracks.  If there had been more than 5 inches I would have been in trouble.

Setting up and taking down my tent was a pain in the ass. In the morning it was frozen and when I set it back up at night there would still be snow stuck to it. I am not a big fan of winter camping. I had no idea we were going to get a snowstorm. I had not planned to bail after only hiking 5 days and 85 miles but I kept dreaming of a hot bath.

Great shuttle system 
So I decided to get off the trail and catch a shuttle at Hwy 58 that would take me on a 10 minute ride into the town of Mojave. I got a room at a Motel 6 and was very disappointed when I was told none of the rooms had bathtubs - only showers. That's what I get for going with the cheapest place in town. At least I could do a load of laundry and get everything cleaned up and dried out (including me). I was also dreaming of food, so I headed out in search of a big juicy hamburger.
After a big breakfast I'll be shuttled back to the trail. I'm expecting this section to be flat. I'll be following the LA aqueduct south. I've just hiked 85 miles in cold/freezing weather and now I'll be hiking into the Mojave desert for the next 85 miles in warm/hot weather.

I am so happy with my new gear. My 5 degree sleeping bag is worth it's weight in gold and it's actually lighter than my old 30 degree bag. My possom gloves keep my hands nice and warm. I had on four layers of clothing for 5 days/24 hrs straight.

Thankful for my Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Mid Mesh hiking boots. It's like walking on clouds. 

For at least 20 miles of the trail it was very windy and there were hundreds of windmills. I even ate lunch sitting on a broken one that had landed near the trail. That must have been one hell of a windstorm to break that apart!


Another interesting RV spotted in the campground.

Enjoying hikes with friends

Waiting for a table at Postino's in downtown Gilbert! Well worth the wait.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Dick hiked several Arizona trails this winter to stay in shape
 and also worked hard at getting his pack weight down to around 15 lbs plus food, water and fuel. 
Here is a recent blog he wrote about his gear
Dick has decided to return to the Pacific Crest Trail and hike the area where he left off last March (see previous blog). This year is a low snow year so he's counting on good trail. He's hiking 400 miles north to south beginning at Walker Pass.  He flew out today from Phoenix to Bakersfield, CA where he caught a shuttle up to Lake Isabella for the night. He couldn't put his fuel canisters on the plane so he shipped them to the Lake Isabella post office (lots of paperwork be legal). Tomorrow he'll catch another shuttle to Walker Pass, which is just below the Sierra Nevada Mtns.
It was hard last year when he had to give up on the hike. His goal was to hike all the way to Canada. Whenever Dick does any long distance hikes I feel just as much a part of it, even though I'm not doing the walking, so I was diappointed too. All the months of planning and all the logistics put into preparing for the hike, and then after nearly 250 miles having to drop out was difficult for both of us. Although I must admit I was relieved that he wasn't going to attempt to hike through more dangerous snow areas. This time when he said he'd like to continue the hike I decided I would stay in Arizona, camped near my mom and friends. That made it a bit easier for us doing it this way, although it's harder being so far away in case he needs help.
When he left he said good-bye to BOO and apologized that he couldn't take him as his "emotional support animal" on the flight. He told me not to worry if I don't hear from him for 4 or 5 days after Lake Isabella because he may not have reception.  He has finally agreed to using a satellite locator beacon if he decides after this 400 miles to continue north. I didn't convince him in time for this trip.

Our beautiful backyard for most of this winter and where I decided to stay while Dick is hiking. 

I had to do an RV101 refresher course, learning again how to back-in, level, dump and fill. One lesson I learned was to make sure you put a rock on the end of the sewer hose when you dump. Dick was showing me how and forgot that part and s---- went everywhere. Fortunately, we were the only ones at the dump station. Glad it was him and not me.  😛

Red shows the section Dick hiked last March - 246 miles from the border at Campo north 
to about 20 miles south of Big Bear.
Pink shows where he's hiking now - Walker Pass south to where he left off last year.

I have given Dick the assignment to send me photos and info from the trail. So I will continue to keep you posted with blog updates when I have more to share.

Two different groups came in to camp here this weekend - Vintage RVs and Teardrops. I've been invited to join in around the campfire each evening while they're here. Sounds like a great plan. 

This is actually a 2017 replica of a 1930's Airstream - cost around $100,000

Mid-50's model

Homemade Teardrop

Of course this photo was not taken here in the desert!
It was taken 3 yrs ago at Glacier National Park. I wanted to add it because it's one of my
neighbors right now!  The man told me it's a 1950's model truck, 1950's model Airstream
and his wife is also a 1950's model.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Earlier in the day heading for Fuller Ridge
On the late afternoon of 3/24 I received a text from Dick "Mile 178 coming out have some problems will call you later"  Great! More information please!! Then two hours later "Heading for Humber Park trailhead near Idllywild might make it tonite or morning will let you know." Fortunately, when he reached the Humber Park trailhead a car pulled in. Dick asked the couple if he could get a ride to Idyllwild. They were kind enough to help him out. They dropped him at the Idyllwild Post Office where they knew he could get a phone connection. I made it to him before dark. He did not look good. Below is what he wrote and put on the Pacific Crest Trail site for other hikers.

Dick's Blog:
I misjudged the elevations in Southern California and reached my first nemesis (Fuller Ridge) Mt. Jacinto only 180 miles along the PCT. I was carrying micro spikes (crampons) and tried crossing the sheer, hard packed snow. I did okay for awhile, but it only took one slip. I got religion very quickly. I should have brought my ice axe. It could have reduced a lot of pain. My first pole broke, the second was not hefty enough to dig into the snowpack, as hard as I tried. I was sliding out of control and bouncing off rocks and trees. It all happened so fast I just reacted by grabbing for whatever I could to slow me down or stop the madness. My spiked boots caught in the snow and turned me face down. I saw an outcropping of rock that looked like my last chance before a much longer ride with a scree field at the bottom. You might say I was Romancing the Stone.
My pack took most of the abuse, thankfully. I watched my water bottles and broken pole continue on down into the rocks. I was able to save my good pole to help get me out of this mess. One bump along this human pinball ride tore my pant pocket apart and cracked my iphone case. In a daze I felt for broken bones, looked for my glasses and tried to gather gear that was within reach. 

All I could find wrong was the skin was badly scrapped off my left arm and elbow, blood coming from my forehead and a couple of fingers hurt bad and swelling a bit. Once I knew I was physically alright, I started questioning my sanity. "What the hell are you doing?" "You are a freaking nut case." "I'm too old for this shit."
Once I got all that frustration out of the way I knew I had to get out of this somehow. I had spent a lot of time and effort kicking steps into the snow to get this far. I had to get back up the grade without falling again, and back to the last trail junction that would take me down to Idyllwild, Ca.
It took me almost 12 hours of constant focusing on each and every step. I would rest on rock outcroppings and sun wells around trees. I was so glad to get back to real trail and drop down below the snow line. A couple at a trailhead parking area offered me a ride into town and dropped me at the post office where they assured me I could get cell reception to call GAILA911. Luckily, right next to the post office I was able to get emergency care. There was pizza, beer and coffee to medicate me until Gaila arrived.

Views of Fuller Ridge from the reroute

Heading to Black Mountain rd an alternate route - longer but safer

After 3 days R & R (rest and replacement) Dick felt good enough to hit the trail again. 
I was glad to get some much needed R & R (rest and relaxation) myself. Jojoba Hills RV Resort is very nice. I'm learning new card games, pickle ball and enjoying the heated pool. Lots of other things I've signed up for. Everyone here is very friendly and always make me feel welcome.

BOO is saying, "Don't leave us again, we don't want you to get hurt anymore!"

The desert surrounding Borrego Springs has magnificent metal sculptures by Ricaro Breceda. I was surprised to find his studio is located next to Jojoba RV Resort in Aguanga, where I am staying. Amazing work.

A new lease on life - a superbloom of Brittlebush
I took three days off to recoup, fix gear, resupply and lick my wounds. Okay, I'm ready to go again. A friend, who had hiked this area before, emailed me directions that would take me up a 10 mile Forest Service road that would let me skip the several miles of Fuller Ridge. The road still had plenty of hard packed snow but wide, and no place to take a slide. Once it intersected with the PCT again, it was all day down out of the snow. I went from 8600 ft to about 1200 where I crossed Interstate 10 into a super bloom of Brittlebush. I was feeling good, a bit sore from the fall but mentally I had a new lease on life. In fact I texted Gaila and said, "Great trail, great weather, new lease on life, thinking about section hiking and flip-flopping to do this trail."

Mile 200 - beautiful hiking day
 I really thought I was out of the snow for at least a hundred miles or more. For two days I climbed back up to almost 9000 ft., but I was on a south facing canyon slope. It was pushing 90 degrees and I had little energy. I just couldn't get it into second gear. You need second and third gear every day if you want to do the miles it takes to make it to Canada in a season. Again, I started questioning my sanity. Why would I want to hike in this non-recreational backpacking terrain just to link Mexico to Canada? I can't explain it. I have done it before, but maybe I should be getting smarter as I get older. Maybe I should save my knees for pristine backpacking destinations that appreciate me more than California's hot, burnt-over scrubland, full of rattlesnakes with an attitude. 
Did I tell you I stepped on one? They can be ornery just walking past them, but when you step on them, they really get pissssed. The human body works in conjunction with the human mind when you step on a rattlesnake. The snake twists and turns almost in a rolling fashion, all the time shaking the noise making device hanging off his ass. The human mind instantaneously gives the body super human capabilities. Who says, "white men can't jump." I learned I could jump higher and make much higher pitched noises than I ever realized. 
Gaila will tell you I don't dance but you should see me do the rattlesnake twist. It is probably better described as a souix war dance, just before the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  

Hiking through a burned over scrubland for several miles
So, I climbed all the way back up to elevation, crossed over to the north side of the mountain and almost instantly the wind picked up, blowing a cold fog into the mountains. I hit hard pack snow that obliterated the trail, and it started snowing. 
I promised Gaila, and myself, I would not cross anymore slide areas, BUT! It was 20+ miles back to a junction out, or only two miles past this snow to a Forest Service road. I had an hour of light so decided to go for it. I put on my spikes and started kicking steps. This snow had softened all day and really didn't seem as dangerous. I knew by morning it would again harden up and I needed to get across before dark and make it to the Forest Service road in case the snow continued. I did make it, but ended up on a very exposed ridge. I have been forced to camp in high wind before and it's no fun. This was right up there with the worst of my backpacking experiences. Crystallized snow with a velocity of a wind tunnel. I managed to get my tent up and place rocks on each tent stake. It was cold, but once I climbed in and put all my layers on, I was fairly warm. The wind blew so hard all night my tent mainstay pole is now warped out of shape. I have a bombproof tent. It's a Hilleberg single person tent with a vestibule. I leave my pack, water bottles, poles and boots in the vestibule at night. In the morning everything in the vestibule was covered in dirty snow the wind had mixed into a mountain mortar. It was still windchill cold, but the sun was rising. I have designed my gear to be able to pack everything away inside the tent, then climb out and only have to deal with the tent itself. On a nice day this wouldn't matter much, but on the occasional day from hell, like this one, it makes all the difference in the world. I packed everything up and headed for lower elevation. I could see nothing ahead but snowpack and the elevation would not drop for another couple dozen miles.
I am afraid I picked the wrong year to do the PCT. I know I started way too early (seasonally) and perhaps too late (agingly). Everything started out fine. I still had the stamina to hike 25 mile days in the hot California sun, still had a positive attitude about long distance hiking and slamming out miles everyday for a few months, but things changed.  This is a challenging year because of the massive accumulations of snow California much needed and received in historic amounts. They are saying hikers won't get through the Sierra until July. Skipping ahead to Oregon/Washington is not really an option because they too have piles of snow. This is truly a hemorrhoidial snow year for the Sierra and Cascades with piles everywhere. Those that do will never see the John Muir trail because it will be under many feet of snow for most of this hiking season. 
ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm pulling the pin on the PCT at Mile 246. It's one of the wettest years on record and the snow is just killing it for me. It is not a total loss. I figure the foot and ankle part of the body have 26 bones, 33 joints, and about a 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. I don't think I usually use half of them, they get lazy, stop working and think they can retire. Doing big miles everyday is an awakening for all of them. You know you have their attention because they all hurt. This eventually goes away once they all wake up and start doing their job again. Mine are starting to feel pretty good so I know they have all been made well aware that I expect them to do their job and stop dreaming about the good life of sitting idle and just letting me drag them along. 
I feel bad for Gaila. She thought she was going to get more alone time throughout the next several months. Now she is reminding me that I have packaged up about four months worth of dehydrated food, so I see a lot of backpacking in my immediate future. I am already working on a plan to check off the Primo backpacking areas in the United States that are on my bucket list, and make it the best year to not hike the PCT. --Keep Smilin, Dickebird

Here's to more enjoyable hikes ahead

Finally, mom and I can relax for awhile!!
This is more like it!!

Friday, March 24, 2017


My week at Borrego Springs was not fun. I would go into town for a couple of hours each day but dealing with the traffic and crowds was not enjoyable. There were people from all over the world there to see the Superbloom!! Bad timing.

When we couldn't take the heat any longer I would crank up the generator and run the AC for a few hours.
I was OK with camping outside of town on the BLM except for dealing with the heat. I did enjoy my cool and quiet mornings and evenings. After 6 days, I was so happy to move north to a higher elevation out of the hot 90+degree weather.

I taped a sign on the door to remind me to look for snakes when I stepped out of the motorhome. I didn’t want any surprise encounters. One morning I went out to upright our chairs that had blown over in the wind and I jumped and squeeled when a horny toad ran out. (Photo from images because there would be no way I could have caught up with him.)

These graves were near where I was camped in the desert. When I showed it to Dick he said it was probably the last people (or pets) who died out here in the heat.

Since BOO and I are Dick’s “Support Team” we plan to meet up every now and then. On day Seven of his hike I picked him up in the morning where the trail meets Hwy 73 east of Anza. The first thing he said was “let’s go get breakfast”. I brought him clean clothes and something to wash up with so that I (and those around us) could enjoy breakfast. I’ve learned from past experience he can smell real bad after several days on the trail. 

Dick has been doing 25 mile days. That is his goal. This first 150+ miles includes a one mile off-trail hike into Warner Springs to get a hamburger, fries and shake and another couple of miles of backtracking to get water. He was told about the Community Center in Warner Springs right next to the trail that serves food to hikers but it wasn’t serving til April. The restaurant he hiked a mile to was at a fancy Golf Club with a sign that reads “HIKERS EAT OUTSIDE.”  (I love the sign in a restaurant window along the Appalacian Trail “SORRY WE’RE OPEN”).

He's had to deal with the 90+ degree days and sometimes moves like a slug. I moved like a slug just staying at the campground. I can’t imagine. When he came to water (he calls this a “hallelujah moment”) he would take off his hat and use it to scoop up water and poor it over his head. His MO is to leave at dark thirty and hike when it’s cooler. Problem is he has seen a total of 4 rattlers and actually one of them he stepped on. Luckily it just rattled and side-winded off into the bushes. He said, “Michael Jordan would be proud of me.”

He is thankful for the lightweight umbrella I found at a thrift store. He emailed me this picture from the trail with the words “YOUR IDIOT”. The photo was taken by HALF MILE who wrote the APP Dick has on his phone called HALF MILE. The APP tells you everything you'll run into every half mile along the trail.
Dick’s trail name is DICKEBIRD. Several times he has met up with HARRISON and CRUISE CONTROL, two young guys training to hike the Continental Divide Trail, and doing the lightweight, zero comfort hike, carrying backpacks the size of a purse and only weighing about 7 or 8 lbs. They only carry snacks and hitch into towns for meals. Dick doesn’t like to road walk or hitch and plans to stick to the trail as much as he can - except when I pick him up.
He saw lots of hikers. Many of the younger ones hike with ipods in their ears. Hikers have scrawled BEER in the trail. He met a guy along the trail who wants to hike the whole trail but needs to lose a lot of weight and his workout is walking 6 miles a day. In the meantime, he’s a “trail angel” with a kiddy pool full of beer, pop and apples. 
Early yesterday I dropped him back at the trailhead to continue north. He’d been dreaming of SNOW all through the desert. He is heading for Fuller Ridge where he will find plenty of it. He took crampons on this part. He will begin with 30 climbing miles from 5,000 elevation to 10,500 to reach the peak. Apparently no connection because up until now he would text or call me a couple of times a day but I haven’t heard from him yet. We had our doubts on that, because of the area, so I’m not worried. We have an agreement to not worry if we don't hear from each other for a few days. We'll see if I can stick with that.

A few people have called me "THE GOOD WIFE" 
I had to take a crash course on a few things I've never done on this motorhome before - dumping and filling, leveling and backing into a space. I am in a beautiful Escapee RV Resort east of Temeculah where I can stay up to 28 days if needed, but I will have to move around a few times as spaces open up and do all the things Dick usually does. It's a great place. I talked to more people the first day I was here than I talked to the whole week at Borrego Springs. I haven't ejoyed the mud facials yet but the whirlpool is nice.

Extras for those that are interested:

  1. The Guthook App is highly recommended.
  2. At Mile 91 and Mile 101 he found pallets of gallons of water. The sign said use only in case of emergency but he felt it was an emergency at that point and took a gallon. 
  3. Dick tried recording a message to me (and BOO) at one point but I haven't figured out how to add it to the blog. If you are interested I can email it to you upon request. 

"A great thirst is a joy when quinched in time." - Edward Abbey

"(from majestic saguaros to innocent weeds) and even the land itself (from river-bottom quick sand to valley fever lurking in the dust) is at any moment ready to strike, sting, bite, scratch, poke, infect or crumble away beneath your feet without warning." - Edward Abbey

                   Eagle Rock - a beautiful formation he hiked by along the trail.

                  One of my favorite flowers of the Superbloom - the desert lily.