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Friday, March 30, 2018

651 MILES OF THE PCT CONQUERED

A view of Weaver's Needle
FROM GAILA: 
When Dick finished the hike he took a shuttle from Big Bear Lake to Ontario, CA. to catch the 11 pm train. It was a 6.5 hour ride to Maricopa, AZ where mom and I picked him up. He was happy to be back. After a shave and a haircut he's beginning to look less of a mountain man! We will be heading back to Michigan soon.

It's time to move on because these guys are moving in!

They are relocated away from the campground.

Thought BOO got out of the motorhome but this guy belonged
to the neighbors camped next door. They said they just let him
run free and he always returns at the end of the day.
 (NOT if a coyote or a snake gets him!) I was tempted to keep him.


She returns every year and nests at the Public Library.

Thankfully, the Saturn hung in there while Dick was gone.
The day before he left it had mechanical problems (long story)
so I was instructed to baby it until I got above 20 MPH.
We hope it hangs in there until we get home.

FROM DICK:
I hiked to Cajon Pass through tunnels under railroad tracks and Interstate 15. I was heading for the Best Western. This was where I planned to regroup and pick up my second resupply box (the first one was picked up in Lake Hughes). It was supposed to be my ONLY indoor stay on this hike, but due to all the wet and cold this was my fourth (counting the RV). 

Tunnel under the railroad tracks
It's fun opening my resupply box but it means a heavy pack again for a few days.

When I left the next day, the weather report said it wasn’t supposed to rain but by noon it started. It rained all day and all night - a cold wind-driven rain! I felt like a drowned rat! The next morning I put on my rain gear and packed up early to get away from the hill I was camped at in case of a mudslide. The Sierra snowpack has doubled since I left on this trip and the storm that came through added more.

By this time, I started meeting more northbounders, but many were miserable and quitting between Big Bear and Wrightwood. Hiking north from Mexico they had also encountered a lot of wet and cold weather. When I met up with them they hadn't even hit the bad snow yet except for the few miles across Mt. Jacinto. Many of them were light-weight minimalists and weren't carrying gear that would help make it a little more comfortable for them. They pack so light they don't have enough layers or good shelter. I just don't get some of the "gram weenies". I go as light as I can but I will add on pounds for comfort (of course, many of you don't get why I do what I do! ha)

Finally, towards the end of the day, the sun came out and it was beautiful. I found Deep Creek Hot Springs and had a nice soak while I let my gear dry out.

Camped next to the hot springs.

A much-deserved refreshing evening!

Every day from the Hot Springs the weather was cold but thankfully sunny. Prior to the springs there was plenty of water because of the two-day downpour. My water bottles were frozen every morning but things were fairly dry, besides condensation. 

On the trail south of Big Bear is this private zoo for Hollywood animals. I had read about it in other PCT hiker blogs.  Looks like this grizzly was being treated like a movie star. He was eating the biggest steak I’ve ever seen - or a PCT hiker.

Who says California doesn't have grizzlies?
Coming around Big Bear I could see in the distance Mt. Jacinto, the beast that tried to slay me last year.


A beautiful view of Mt. Jacinto


 I reached Mile 246 where I left off last March. Twenty-six days to hike 400 miles. I walked a FS road to the Heart Bar Family Campground. It was closed but I stayed the night anyway. The next morning, my plan was to hitchhike back to Big Bear Lake to catch a shuttle.  I stood three hours in the cold wind before finally a car full of four Russian kids gave me a ride. Only one could speak limited English. But in the 16 miles to Big Bear I was able to launder some money, found out who's going to win the mid-terms, and learned that next 3 elections Putin wins (I kept my mouth shut - I didn't want to talk politics).
A hiker box put here by the Big Bear Hostel
where hikers can discard things to lighten their load.
(Or find something they may need)
The Finish Line!

Area burned over last June around Big Bear

FROM GAILA:
It's been interesting writing these three blog updates on Dick's hike, especially with him so far away. He would talk/text me about his days on the trail and then I would try to put it as much as possible in his words. Now that he has returned, he has written a more thorough blog to share. Most of it is repeat but it is definately worth taking the time to read.
Click here to read Dick's blog: http://packtoterblog.blogspot.com




BOO is thinking he may want to be shipped home overnight via UPS rather than traveling for three weeks.



Sunday, March 25, 2018

KEEP ON KEEPIN ON.....

FROM GAILA:

All is going well. There are so many areas where there is no phone connection for Dick to make contact with me. I haven't worried too much. A busy mind, is a happy mind and I've been busy. I am so thankful I could stay at the Lost Dutchman State Park while he was doing this hike. It's been great. This week more friends have camped here and I'm enjoying time with them.

I will miss this beautiful place.
Enjoyed a morning ride at Canyon Lake on the paddleboat "Dolly".

I love all my Canadian friends. They know how to suck the juice out of life. 















BOO is wondering where the guy is that used to live here!
FROM DICK:

I left the Acton KOA early because I wanted to start making time. The third part of the storm front was supposed to hit late in the day. I hiked 15 miles straight up before I reached snow at about 6200 feet. They sure got the weather report right! It started raining in the late afternoon. I had made it to my campsite and set up my tent before the downpour. I woke up in the morning to an inch of snow. Every day I hiked on snow-covered trails, and every night I camped in deep snow all the way to Wrightwood and beyond. 

Hwy 2 was closed because of snow so I walked the road around Mt. Baden Powell from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap. The PCT crosscrosses the hwy several times. At one point I dropped down to a visitor’s center on Hwy 2 and from there continued walking the road into the town of Wrightwood.

Hwy 2 was closed due to snow so I walked this safer route around Mt. Baden Powell
I found an all-day breakfast place but they wouldn’t let me bring my pack inside. I decided to leave because I don't feel comfortable leaving my pack unattended. Then a couple with their 3 daughters said, “He can put it under our table and sit with us.” Which I did, and had a great time with them. Then when I went to pay for my breakfast, I found out they had paid without telling me. More "Trail Angels". I did see them as they were leaving town and had a chance to thank them again. The world is full of great people. 
I was told to go to the local hardware where they have a list of places to stay and to sign their PCT register which they’ve been keeping since 1966. Then they gave me a PCT pin. 


My first choice for the night was a place for $10 run by the local Methodist Church, but it wasn’t open yet, so I took a $30 room at a lodge just outside of town. Again, I dried out all my gear and soaked in a hot bath and I was so happy to be high and dry. 


For three nights it was freezing cold and I slept on several inches of snow. In the morning, my tent would be frozen to the ground, my boots were so hard I couldn't fit them on my feet, and my water bottles were frozen! So far, this has basically been a winter camping trip. I just can’t believe the weather change after all winter being so mild in the west.


The coldest night of all on this trip. 
I’m trying to get my 20 miles in a day. I get up early and deal with the cold, packing everything up and then walk until dark-thirty, but it’s slow going in the snow and trail finding. I have to say, though, I’ve sure given my gear a good testing. My 5 degree bag has been the best. My boots have been very comfortable. Even in deep snow my feet aren’t cold, as long as I keep moving. When I stop at night my feet hurt but as long as I’m moving they are fine. I get up in the morning and within a couple miles my feet warm up. My possum gloves have also been great, even though I’ve worn them out from wearing them 24/7 since I started this trek. I think what wore them out was hiking with poles. The thumb and palms have holes in them - but they still keep my hands warm. It’s hard to believe because I can see my skin through them. They are great because even in the freezing cold, I can tie my shoes, button my clothes, roll up my tent, snap my pack and still my fingers stay fairly warm. 
At one point I was thinking I needed to get therapy when I get home. No, not for an injury, but for my head - to find out why I do this s---! But then there are the rewarding experiences in between that make it all worthwhile.


The next morning I hiked out of Wrightwood after another huge breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe. This time the owners let me bring my pack inside. The restaurant just happened to still have their St. Patrick’s Day decorations up. Everyone inside asked me all kinds of questions about my hike. Of course, I entertained everyone with my blarney!


That morning I climbed 8200 ft, back up to the snow, but it was sunny and dry. I hoped I was looking at the last of the snow for at least 100 miles. 

Up, up up ......

Dick sent this photo with text saying, "I have been to the mountaintop
and I have seeeeen the other side
."



It was all downhill from there all the way to Cajon Pass through brown hills and grassy canyons. The trail serpentined all the way down and then I saw it in the distance - the golden arches and it wasn't a mirage!
















Sunday, March 18, 2018

SLOW BUT SURE

 “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!" 

FROM DICK:

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.


FOOTNOTES:
**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

WINTER WONDERLAND


FROM GAILA:
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).


FROM DICK:
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!

TO BE CONTINUED......



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.





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