Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ashland-Seiad Valley

Wed 7/19  Becky's friend wasn't able to go with us to Ashland.  Things happen and this is understandable.  So I am on a bus on headed to Seattle.  I change buses in Seattle, then on to Portland and finally Medford. In Medford,  I will catch the local bus to Ashland.

  • Just being with Becky and Abby was good, very good. In retrospect about my decision to come off trail because of stream crossings in the Sierras
    • From a "Be-Safe" perspective, the decision was good
    • From a "Meet-the-Obstacle/Challenges-Head-On," I had a text from a couple of hiker friends.  They made it through every stream and mountain pass challenge.  I could have had a V-8!  Instead, I was a wimp. 
    • From a complete a thru-hike perspective, coming off trail was a disaster. The last day I made forward progress was June 28.  I'm getting back on trail July 20.  Three weeks off trail!  You cannot make up twenty-one days.  This killed pretty much any chance of completing the entire PCT this year. 

Thur 7/20 Very little sleep last night. in Portland a woman in a wheelchair was added.  Some seats behind me were collapsed making room for her.  I shared a seat with a boy who had been displaced.  Cat napped at best.  Need sleep. 
  • Had a shuttle from Mountain Adventure, a mountain bike shop
  • Ate a late breakfast at Callahans with Double J and Beet Root from Australia.  
  • Started hiking at noon from PCT mile 1716 and camped 1701--at junction of 5 roads. 15 miles. 
  • Ran into a lot of NOBO hikers
    • Boxy and Dora
    • Commando and Shade
    • Hansel and Gretel (like the fairy tale) from Switzerland
    • Coco from Brazil

  • One hiker--Wait-Soon-Safe (probably not his exact trail name)--completed all of the Sierras.  In three days of hiking he is the only one I've met who did the Sierras. 
  • Other hikers I met: 
    • Marco Polo from El Salvador and Tink
    • McSkittles and Baywatch
    • Laura from Alaska--says she has high respect for snow snow and rivers at high flow
    • Roland from Germany--going SOBO.  Flipped to Cascade Locks and came through Oregon when it still had lots of snow, especially near Mt Hood
    • Double D
    • Cupid
    • Gourmet and Spatula

  • A lot of hikers quit the Sierras because they were not having fun
    • When the heatwave started, conditions went from okay to bad in a hurry. 
    • Snow on mountain passes--when snow is firm, hiking is relatively easy
      • when snow is like soup--very hard to hike
    • Stream crossings--with snow bridges--very early
      • at high flow with no snow bridge--can be hard or dangerous
  • Coming through two days earlier or later can mean drastically different conditions
  • Yes, the hiking, and the country I am hiking through can be special, but I'm having more more fun talking with the other hikers.  Can't stop to talk to everyone, though, because you still gotta hike and do the allotted miles. 
Fri 7/21  Started at PCT mile 1701.  Camped at Bear Dog spring at PCT mile 1673.1 for approximately twenty-seven miles. I kept walking after I hiked beyond the map in my shorts pocket.  When I stopped and grabbed the next map, I had to go another six miles to get to the next water.  My plan to hike twenty-three miles turned into twenty-seven miles because I did not stop to grab the next mile. 

Sat 7/22 Started from Bear Dog Spring (PCT 1673) and ended at CT 1653 at Seiad Valley.  At 10:00 am a NOBO hiker informed me that the cafe closed at 2:00 pm.  A burger and shake sounded good, to I hiked at a higher gear to push the pace.  This section of trail was a lot of downhill, but there was also some uphill sections with loose rock, shrubs grown over the trail.  Last couple of miles there was  lot of poison oak (Becky here--as I long as I don't have to wash his hiking clothes after he's been in the poison oak, it's all good).  Watching my pace and the miles to go, I could tell that it was going to be close--would I make it in time for a burger, or get there just after the cafe closed.  So, I bypassed the last two springs and really pushed myself.  The store and cafe are 0.8 mile up Hwy 96.  The temperature hit 100*.  It was 2:15 when I walked into the cafe. I must have looked pretty rough, because they said they would feed me--bacon cheeseburger, fries, and strawberry shake, and LOTS of ice water.  When I left, the boss said I looked better. 

  • From Ashland to Seiad Valley: 63 miles in 50 hours.  Not half bad for an old duffer.  But I am pretty beat up.  
  • Left knee swollen and stiff.  After sitting awhile, my body was stiff and sore. 
  • Lots of hikers in the shade, waiting for evening to take off again.  I was not much company, I was a hurting unit.  
  • Checked in at the RV park and had a shower. 
  • My resupply boxes made it to Riverside, California, but not to the store at Seiad Valley.  So tomorrow will be a zero day.  A year ago, waiting for a resupply box happened frequently to a hiker named Salty.  Looks like I pulled a Salty.  Doing the math, I either take a zero here or I would have had to zero in Dunsmuir

Sun 7/23 Other hikers left the RV park early. 
  • Supposed to be 110* today and 100* tomorrow. 
  • I ate breakfast with Roland from Germany.  He has a violin strapped to his pack. 
  • Left knee is better, but my left ankle is sore.  Go figure. 
  • Resupply box will not come in until tomorrow around noon or 12:30.  Bummer
  • I'll be doing a six mile road walk in the heat and in the sun.  The six mile road walk is to cross the bridge across the Klamath River.  Strategy: Camel-up before leaving.  Once I hit trail there will be more shade and more water.  I'll need to check maps and water report to see how much water to carry. 
  • My pack will be a heavy beast as I'll leave with seven days of food. 
  • Section of trail from Ashland to Seiad Valley was dusty, dirty

  • Yesterday my feet and lower legs were filthy
  • I just spent a long time rinsing  and re-rinsing  my two pairs of socks I wore from Ashland.  Before doing laundry, I will rinse the socks again
  • I am convinced I have rinsed out ore dirt than the amount of fabric in the socks.  And the rinse water is still brown. 
  • Just talked with Brent who is going NOBO.  He did all the Sierras: June 1-24
    • Lots of snow.  The section before Sonora Pass, all of the streams had high flow.  He said that's where he went swimming across. I'm impressed.  Brent said he misses the challenge of the Sierras.  Northern California has not been inspiring to Brent, but he says he has not suffered from the "blues" either. 
  • Seiad Valley is small (approximate population of 100).  It has a store, cafe, and post office, but that's about it.  Elevation about 1500 feet--comparable to Ephrata.
  • Young Swedish man--Strider--hiked all but 50 miles of the Sierras as the same time as Brent.  They even hiked with the same people at times.  Strider road walked to maintain continuous steps.  He said it was the worst two days of his life. 
  • At Strider's suggestion, we grilled burgers here at the RV park.

Mon 7/24
  • My resupply box should be here by 12:30.  It is supposed to be 100* today.  My hike south starts with a six mile road walk in the sun.  Not sure if I'll head out right away or wait till evening. I want to get back on the trail but dread a hot road walk.  And my pack will be heavy as I'll be carrying seven days of food.  Plan is to skip Etna and go on to Dunsmuir.  Maybe not the smartest decision, given the temperature.  It looked pretty doable in Ephrata. 
  • I will check at post office and see if a package from Seiad Valley will be in Etna by Thursday.  If so, I may send four days of food to Etna and leave Seiad Vally with only three days of food.  That would lighten my pack by 8 lbs, which would be nice, considering it is supposed to be 105* here today and I have a heck of a climb ahead, after the six mile road walk. Lighter pack and an extra town, or a heavier pack and Etna is skipped--that's the decision I need to make when the post office opens at noon. 
  • Section hiker named Ethan is trying the "Pancake Challenge"

  • Female hiker named Dig had a deer being a nuisance at camp a couple of nights ago.  She had hung her food and had a tin cup with a couple of rocks in the cups to let her know when an animal was after her food.  Dig heard the tin cup rattle and got up.  Her headlamp shone on the deer.  Now she's angry with the deer and grabbed a rock.  As she said, "I was dialed in on the deer" and nailed it in the side with the rock.  Deer sprinted away.  In her demonstration it was obvious that she played softball.  Her trail name should be changed to "Cannon" because she has a cannon of an arm. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Home Front

Before I start Kevin's portion of the blog, I have to apologize for the lack of postings in the last couple of weeks.  I hope the reason for this will become clear as I continue this post.

Mon 6/26 Day 46
Home Front
Legs from Germany
Kennedy Meadows Store

  • While I've been away, chores I've always done still need to be done
  • Yard care has been my job, but now I'm away
  • Grass is being mowed by a lawn care service
  • Becky has been watering
    • But there are issues with the automatic sprinklers
  • And the back part of our property, to be seeded to native grasses after I get back, has weeds. 
  • This is where a special friend comes in
  • I have known Harold Crose since January 1981 when Becky and I moved from Mountain Home, Arkansas, to Ellensburg, Washington. 


  • Harold is not just a friend, he's family.  We worked together, hiked together, been through hard times and good times together.  And Harold knows all about long journeys.  A few years ago he rode his bicycle across the United States--some feat.
  • Harold, I cannot begin to thank you enough.  I know Becky is very appreciative also
  • Many times on this trip, I have thought of the trips we shared
  • I do hope it works out that somewhere on this PCT hike that you can join me
  • Thanks, Brother!

Lone Pine: Items of Note
  • Attending Mt Whitney Baptist Church--pretty emotional experience with brothers and sisters in Christ.  Brought me to tears
  • Chinese dinner--very good 
  • Always:  taking a shower and doing laundry--just wonderful
  • Leaving my credit card at the Chinese restaurant and then getting it back the next day. 
  • Phone calls with Becky, Garrett, and Harold.  I unsuccessfully tried calling Leanna 3 times.  She's one busy person. 

YIKES! A Big Mistake on My Part 
  • When I ended my hike on Saturday, I just threw my pack in the back of the pick up and we left. 
  • Every other time that I ventured into town,  I made sure my steps were tied in.  This time I didn't.  I just got in with James and we left from one parking lot below the trailhead
  • Today I had a shuttle lined up.  He took me to the trailhead.
  • A good ways up the trail I realized that I had not tied in my steps.  There is a break of 0.1 miles or so between where I got in James' truck and where I was let out today.

  • Had I had the "tie in my steps mentality," I would have been all tied-in in about 3-5 minutes. 
  • When I realized my mistake, going back would have cost me 60-90 minutes.  I just wasn't willing to re-do that part of the trail two more times.  
  • And I feel awful about my mistake.  I lost the integrity of my trip, and I know now, I should have gone back to tie in my steps. 
  • I am camped just above Chicken Spring Lake, elevation 11,300 ft PCT mile 751.03
Tues 6/27 Day 47
Mattie from Holland and Nick from Vancouver BC

  • I am still suffering from remorse and angst about having a break in my steps. 
  • today I saw what the Sierras are about.  Dicey to impassible river crossings
  • Rock Creek--a sign said to cross near the ranger station and that where the PCT crosses rock Creek is impassible.  Impassible is an understatement
  • Ran into a couple that turned around at Tyndell Creek.  The creek rolled him.  Some folks are getting through, but a lot of others are just turning around. 

    Rock Creek
Kevin with Captain Planet and Flask
  • I am convinced that 
    • more than one set of eyes and more than one head is essential right now for stream crossings
  • A solo hiker (I am one) is one mistake from a serious situation
  • I am not as strong as I once was.  I do not have as good balance as I once had. 
  • It is not good for me to hike the Sierras alone.  In a few weeks it might be much better
  • Tomorrow an attempt on Mt Whitney.  We'll see--left knee and left hip flexor hurt.  Not sure if I'm strong enough or fast enough to summit.  Back hurts also.  Attrition of 750 miles
    Kevin, Captain Planet, and Flask, again

  • Tomorrow I need to decide
    • Do I try to push on, Tyndell Creek, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass to Independence
    • Or, do I retreat back to Rock Creek, Cottonwood Pass, and back to Lone Pine
  • I hiked awhile today with Mattie--a girl from Holland, and Nick from Vancouver, BC.  They knew each other before this trip.  They left Campo on May 1st
  • Hiked from PCT mile 751 to PCT mile 767 and at least one mile of John Muir Trail.  I am just above the ranger station. The crossing of Rock Creek was hard.  I'm glad I did most of it with Nick and Mattie
  • The crossing of Crabtree Meadow was also a challenge.  I found a log, but it was not flat.  It would have been uphill and potentially slick as there was no bark.  I waded across barefoot and carried my shoes and socks in my hand.

Wed 6/28 Day 48
  • Summit Mt Whitney--tallest peak in lower 48
  • Mattie and Nick were suffering from altitude sickness, so I stayed with them
  • We summited before noon
  • Also summiting--a new newlywed couple, married for one week
  • On the way up I saw Captain Planet and Flask on their way down.  I told them my plan. Photos were taken
  • On the way down, I also ran into two other older couples.  They gave me some Trail Mix and wanted to know about the Enchantments, since I'm from Washington State.
  • I heard "Wayfair! Wayfair!" It was Lisa from Sweden.  I told her what to expect on the way to Mt Whitney.  I also told her my plans
  • Lisa got my phone number and will send me a text

  • Great Recall, Except . . . 
  • On the way down I had great recall of the return route from Mt Whitney . . . except where the camp was
  • In my mind camp was further east.  I was confused
  • I ran into Nick and Mattie.  They set me straight.  I had gone the right way, except I did not go far enough. 
  • The Plan
  • Return back to Cottonwood Pass and on to Lone Pine
  • Catch a bus to Reno and fly home 
  • When snow has melted, resume the trip from McKenzie Pass, OR, traveling southbound
  • It's just too dangerous for a solo hiker, especially one my age.  Two sets or more of eyes and brain are needed to make travel more safe
  • The Offer

  • Mattie offered to let me join her and Nick.  It's not right for an old duffer to interfere with a good team, but offer much appreciated. 
Thurs 6/30 Day 50
  • Hiked down to Horseshoe Meadow Trailhead
  • I tied my steps--took 2 minutes 15 seconds
  • I am a HAPPY HIKER! Steps tied in from Mexico to PCT 767, and the integrity of my trip is restored
  • Talked with Becky and Garrett.  Garrett will check on snow conditions from McKenzie Pass, Oregon, south through Crater Lake National Park.

  • If snow is gone we will:
    • figure out how to get to Bend, OR, and back on trail
    • If snow is still an issue, I'll fly home and wait it out.  Then get back on the trail hopefully by July 15. 
  • It feels weird being back in Lone Pine
  • Until yesterday, my hiking has been northbound
  • Hiking south, I felt like an army retreating following a defeat
  • Next bus to Reno doesn't leave Lone Pine until 6:00 am Monday.
  • Last night I camped at Chicken Spring Lake in the exact same campsite I used on Monday
  • Being in Lone Pine has given me opportunity to reconnect with 
    • Holly, Jesse, and Gilbert--we camped together WAY early in the trip
    • T-Bone-a big group at the Best Western at Cajon Pass.

  • I feel out of sorts on days when I don't hike much.  The hiking is often hard, but I seem to be okay grinding out the miles. 
  • Tomorrow and Sunday will be no hiking in Lone Pine
    • What will I do with myself? It's too weird to even think about
    • Getting up and hiking on the PCT is what I do.  It's what all thru-hikers do.

  • It's not the Trail
  • For 25-30 years, I have thought about this year, my year to get on the PCT is a serious matter
  • All along I thought it was about the PCT and the hiking
  • Don't get me wrong--the idea of a 2600 mile trail that takes one from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border is mind-blowing.  Way cool!

  • But I have come to realized that it is not about the trail.  Yes, it's really about THE PEOPLE
  • The PCT brings people together from across the US and from across the globe. 
  • Had I stayed at home, I'd have never met people from Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Poland, Sweden, England, New Zealand, Australia, and most of the fifty states
  • Our common bond was the PCT
  • Our common tasks are to hike, to find good water, to drink & eat, to find campsites
  • Friendships are made quickly and on the fly
  • You see someone you haven't seen for miles and miles--instant reunion, catching up, reminiscing about earlier meetings

Sun 7/2 Reunion

  • One-Eleven
  • W
  • Charlie & Lani
  • Kaylyn & Kristen    \   HUGS
  • David & Beth          /
  • At evening dinner met up with Wrong Way & Lizzy from Germany, Papa Hom!e & Refill and Michel from Switzerland

Mon 7/3 Bus leaves Lone Pine at 6:15 AM
  • @ Big Pine--Kevin Smith and Dorothy Haskell (from Moses Lake)
    • recommended Liquid IV from Costco--contains sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium 
  • Many plans by hikers retreating from the Sierras: flip up to Sierra City, Belden, Ashland
  • Hike South from McKenzie Pass, Ashland
  • Flip up to Sierra City, Belden, etc and travel NOBO*
  • Flip up to Ashland and travel SOBO**
  • Leave PCT and go to another trail--Appalachian Trail, Coastal Trail in Oregon and Washington
  • Flip up to South Lake Tahoe and go NOBO
  • My plan: flip to McKenzie Pass (mile 1981).  Will take 8-10 days to get to Crater Lake (~ mile 1800)
  • I must to call Courthouse Motel in Independence and Vermillion Valley Resort to return my resupply boxes.  I NEED the maps especially
    Lizzy and Wrong Way siblings from Germany

Thilo, Jukebox, and Chef

  • Warning at Rock Creek

Decision to come off Trail - Bitter & Sweet
I wrestled with my decision - push on ahead from Mt. Whitney knowing the risks of stream crossings, or retreat from the Sierras and play it safe.  Decisions come with consequences.  I will have missed 19 days of hiking (July 1-19) and this will likely cost me the chance to complete a thru-hike of the PCT this year.  It has been sweet spending time with Becky and getting to know the new addition to the family, Abby a 10-year old Belgian shepherd.  The bitter part of coming off trail is not knowing if I will see my PCT friends again.

Plans as they stand now:
Becky will drive Kevin to McKenzie Pass on July 19 and he will begin hiking SOBO to Lone Pine. I have section hiked the PCT from McKenzie Pass all the way to Canada, and I have continuous steps from Mexico to PCT mile 767.  If I make it back to mile 767 I will have completed ALL the PCT.  Not a thru-hike.  Also by traveling south I will have a chance to meet my PCT friends; this is more important than tying in my steps.

I want to thank everyone for your interest in my trip and kind words.  The card signed by my SRM friends is WAY cool.  Thanks Will Keller for your card and words from 2 Peter.

More hiking vocabulary: 
*NOBO--north bound
**SOBO--south bound