Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 10 - Kick Off Day 1

Day 10 - Kick Off D1  4/26
By Hedgehog

Every year for the last 15 years a non-profit group of PCT enthusiasts has held an event called ADZPCTKO.   That stands for Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off.  Commonly referred to as Kick Off.  the event is held at Lake Morena County Park 20 miles North of the border. Most hikers stay at Lake Morena the first or second night of their PCT hike. BooBoo and I stayed there our first night.
Kick Off serves several functions:
1) Provide information to the current year hikers; everything from trail conditions to water reports to trail etiquette to trail history.
2) Hikers from previous years have a reunion
3) Gear vendors offer their latest, lightist gear for hikers looking to lighten their load.
4) The experience of previous years hiker classes is passed on to current years
5) A social experience for hikers who won't necessarily have much social interaction
6) An opportunity for people to find out more about the PCT.
7) In normal snow years starting your thru-hike the weekend of Kick Off offers you the best chance of finding the passes of the Sierras cleared of enough snow to make it through them.
Amoung many other functions.
Kick Off is such a part of the PCT experience that numerous hikers (like BooBoo and myself) find ways to attend even if we have already started hiking.
Magic Man picked us up fron Idyllwild and took us to Kick Off.
When we arrived we immediately ran into Pinhead,who had put us up for the night before we started our hike.  After that it was time to stroll through the vendors area where BooBoo knew quite a few people.
We also walked by the temporary US Post Office they setup I on site so hikers can mail home gear they don't need.
I attended the Water Report and a Journaling lecture before burrito dinner was served.  You get quite a line when you offer free burritos to hikers.  After that we ended the day watching the film festival, which was fantastic.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 8 - Lost Valley Rd.

By Hedgehog

So with a 4 am wake up and no functioning coffee maker we had laid in a supply of Starbucks Frappacinos for this morning.  We'd driven 1.5 hrs back to the cabin the night before but still wanted to get started by 6:30 so that meant leaving at 5am, we also had to back up the rental cabin as Magic Man and Redshirt were relocating to Idyllwild,CA for Weds and Thurs night. 

Once underway we reviewed the plan to get Decaf his hiking poles.  Magic Man would call the WS Community Center as soon as they opened and tell them he was going to be picking up the poles ASAP.  He would then deliver them to us at the end of the day. In the meantime we figured that BooBoo and I would overtake Decaf and Gumby as we were once again slackpacking and they were now hauling their full packs.  We'd arrange a place to leave the poles when we met up with them.  

BooBoo and I had hiked for about an hour (3 miles or so) when we came across Decaf, Gumby and Reimer just breaking camp from the night before.  There was brief chorus of "we were jut talking about you" from both sides and then we set off.  Reimer, who we've leapfrogged over since day one (he's the one on top of the monument at the start) is a German who has just finished his law degree and is hiking the PCT before starting his 2 year residency.  Why the PCT?  He saw an interesting documentary last semester.  He's a very knowledgeable and interesting guy. 

We were all in good spirits as we hiked along a stream, a first, for most of the morning.  About 10 am BooBoo and I were out front of the group a bit (see slackpacking) when we noticed a couple of vans off in the distance.  As we got closer there was also a black car that looked pretty familiar.  Sure enough as we crested the ridge above the unpaved parking lot Redshirt emerged from the car.  We hollered and waved to get her attention.  After a brief shouting conversation we met them a little further up the PCT were a side trail merged with it.  They brought us a Gatorade and Decaf's hiking poles.  Since Decaf, Gumby and Reimer were shortly behind us they decided to wait and say "Hi".  Once Decaf was reunited with his hiking poles we all set off for a spring where we planned to take a meal break together.  

Along the way we passed two teams of AmeriCorps workers doing trail maintenance (the vans belonged to them).  The 12 of them were doing great work in fixing some trail erosion and installing erosion control measures to prevent future problems. Each hiker thanked each worker was we went by. Without them, and countless others, the trail wouldn't be there for us to enjoy.

At the spring we offered a ride to Idyllwild to all 3 of the other hikers.  Decaf and Gumby demurred but  the thought of being able to shower, do laundry and get a beer had Autobahn (formerly Reimer) hooked.  We explained that we planned on hiking through the heat of the day to meet Magic Man, we knew Autobahn was NOT a fan of the heat and usually took a few hours of break during the middle of the day.  As it meant beer he was good with that.  So the 3 of us set off to try and keep our 2-2:30pm appointment with Magic Man at the next road crossing.  

The day took us through a wide variety of terrain including some huge bolder fields.  Autobahn is apparently a natural born climber, he saw one outcrop, declared it "a good rock", dropped his pack and scrambled to the top.  

*DISCLAIMER - Neither BooBoo nor I climbed up on to any large outcroppings*

The trail dropped us down on to Lost Valley Rd at about 2:10pm.  Magic Man was nowhere in sight, so we decided to relax by the side of the road and wait.  After about 20 minutes BooBoo and Autobahn decided to go up the road about 2/10ths of a mile to a Trail Angel's 2nd home.  He is kind enough to allow hikers to use his water tank to replenish from regardless if he is home or not.  We thought Magic Man might have gone to visit with a fellow Angel while he waited for us. I waited in case Magic Man showed up while they were gone.  BooBoo returned about a half hour later, no joy.  Magic Man still hadn't shown up.  But there were several hikers hanging out and having a party.  Autobahn decided to stay there rather than get off the trail.  

After starting to get worried about Magic Man, he came around a corner.   The road (Lost Valley Rd) lived up to its' name.  He had missed a turn off and needed to stop and get directions from a local.  Then it took him 40 minutes to get the 4 miles from the turn off to the trail crossing.  Not only is it Lost Valley Rd but it is also the road the DOT forgot.  I have been on a lot of roads and only a couple of logging roads were worse.  It was worse even than the forest road leading to the Southern Terminus of the AT.

On our way into Idyllwild BooBoo and I decided that we would take our first Zero Day (hiking no trail miles).  Even though we'd been slackpacking our bodies needed a little more recuperation as we didn't do any pre-trail conditioning.  I also have picked up BooBoo's cold so the hope was a Zero Day + time off to go to the Kick-Off would get me back into hiking shape quickly.  

More on Kick-Off tomorrow.

Day 7 - Warner Springs

By Hedgehog

The day started with a cup of Via instant coffee before cleaning up camp.  BooBoo and I were bound for the town Warner Springs about 13 miles north and a rendezvous with Magic Man.
Hiking out of camp shortly after sunrise provided for some nice cool temperatures and we made good time to Barrell Springs.  Along the trail to Barrell Springs someone had made a 100 mile marker out of stones. This provided a minor but appreciated boost to morale.

Barrell Springs is the only reliable water for miles in any direction, save for caches like 3rd Gate.  Reliable in that it flows all year but it still needs to be treated as US Forest Service doesn't test it.  There is a parking lot at Barrell Springs and Magic Man was meeting a fellow Trail Angel Jan there to replenish stock at 3rd Gate Cache. Apparently finding the dirt road that leads to the cache is tricky and it's best to convoy on the way there. So we waited and were rewarded for our patience with Vanilla Creme Sandwich cookies from Magic Man and a chance to meet Jan.  Whom we thanked profusely for her efforts in coordinating that critical water source.  

This couple hundred mile stretch in the beginning is all high desert so water tends to especially be a focus while hiking it.  

After a brief meeting BooBoo and I continued on our way.  We hiked into rolling hills with large pasture lands in the valleys. Thankfully the wind was blowing and kept the temperatures more moderate than usual.  In one of those pasture lands is a rock formation know as Eagle rock.  Looking from all but one direction it is unremarkable.  But approached from the correct side its namesake is immediately recognizable (see below).

Shortly after that we ran across 2 horseback riders.  These were the first we'd encountered since starting our hike.  The PCT is open to hikers and horse riders, no motorized vehicles of any kind.  We think they were out for a short trip.  It was neat to see the trail being used by horses.   
When we arrived in Warner Springs we met Magic Man and went across the road to the Warner Springs Community Center which operates a hiker center during the summer.  They offered everything from ice cream sandwiches, to a resupply store, to showers and laundry.  We three had cheeseburgers and soda while talking to the other hikers we found there. The town uses the proceeds to support the community center, it's a win-win with hikers getting what they need and the town helping maintain a very nice facility.  

After we'd had our fill, we piled into the car for the last night at Mt. Laguna.   We were joined that night by Adam.  He is the support driver for Team Disco Pickle.  His wife and her friend are hiking the PCT this summer, while he is going to provide support (like Magic Man has for us) for the length of the trip.  
It was in the middle of a heated cribbage match between Magic Man and Adam when we heard from Decaf.  He'd left his hiking poles in the Warner Springs Community Center and it had shut for the night.  Could Magic Man rescue his poles and deliver them to Decaf further up the trail?  

A plan was devised and then it was time for sleep as another early morning awaited us all.

Day 6 - Beyond 3rd Gate

By Hedgehog

As planned we got an early start to try and beat the heat climbing up out of Scissors Crossing.  I finally remembered to ask Magic Man to get a picture of the four of us, just before we started hiking. Thanks Magic Man for the photography.
The climb was a few miles of switchbacks on an exposed slope.  BooBoo and I made good time and pulled away from Decaf and Gumby.  Gumby was trying out some new insoles and that played a roll in slowing them down. 
The trail through today's section was narrow and at times had to be shored up with retaining walls.  Needless to say I was extra cautious about foot placement while hiking. The description that came to mind most often today was "blasted lands".  Partly from the natural austerity of the section, which had no water for about 32 miles (except at the 3rd Gate Cache) but the area had also recently burned.  Cacti, yucca, aloe plants all were scorched black, bark peeling and withered looking adding to the sense of desolation.
A lot of the sections of trail that we've been hiking are through public lands that allow grazing, consequently there are often gates set in barb wire that we have to go through to continue on.  Out West they prefer these to the stiles that are familiar from the AT hike.  The 3rd Gate (Northbound) in this section is home to a large, constantly stocked cache of water brought out by volunteers. It is the only source of replenishment of water for hikers, who gladly hike 4/10ths of a mile off trail to access it.
Magic Man volunteered two different times to help with restocking this cache.  There is a picture of BooBoo standing in front of the 100 or so gallons of fresh bottled water, liquid gold in the hot weather we've been having lately.
Due to the heat we found some shade beneath an enormous juniper bush at the cache and stretched out on our Tyvek groundcloth for a break. We ran into about 8 other hikers here, including Reimer, Decaf, and Gumby.  Everyone had the same idea about getting out of the heat.
After eating lunch and then taking a nap, the sun had driven our shade away so we packed up and moved on.  If we're going to be hot, we might as well be hot and moving.  
Shortly after clearing the burnt area it became noticeably cooler, it's amazing what a little vegetation will do to the temperature.
BooBoo and I ended up hiking about 19 miles of the 32 when we decided it was time to set up camp for the night.  We went a little ways off trail into the saddle between two peaks and found a perfect spot to cowboy camp.  Cowboy camping is when you sleep under the stars sans tent. 
This is only recommended in good weather and in low bug areas.  The wind kept the bugs down and it turned out to be a cloudless night.  The nearly full moon blocked out a lot of the stars but it was still beautiful.

Day 9 - Zero Day in Idyllwild

By Hedgehog

Magic Man and Redshirt were gone by the time we woke up. Redshirt had to catch a plane out of LAX, so they left early.

BooBoo and I had a lot to get done, even though Zero Days seem to be lollygagging, they are usually filled with trying to get chores done.  And eating. Lots of food.

First BooBoo and I went for breakfast at an Idyllwild institution, The Red Kettle.
Once the grocery store opened we resupplied some needed food. Then we organized the logistics of our next section, from just south of Idyllwild to Big Bear Lake.

We finally made it to a Post Office, where we shipped several boxes.  Most went to Aqua Dolce, where we'll be getting off trail for a week to attend BooBoo's Master's Graduation (They had street clothes fir our flight so we don't scare our fellow travelers too much). One box went to Big Bear with extra food/gear that we'll use from there.
When we walked into the Post Office s local asked us "You don't have bomb in that backpack do you?" Pretty sure he was trying to be funny but it came across as crass given recent events in Boston.
We ate at Idyllwild Pizza Co for lunch. The calzones were fantastic.
Next we stopped by the laundromat, which is one of the nicer ones I've ever been in, and cleaned the last of our dirty clothes (Magic Man and Redshirt had done most of them the night before). I also washed my Tilley Hat, which has been great as a sun hat but had become rather knarly with sweat and diet. One quick Delicate cycle later, it was like new.
After all that we needed a jolt of coffee. So we wandered over to the Higher Ground coffee shop and had some really good coffee on their porch. The coffee shop is very hiker friendly (as is the whole town) and has a computer with printer that hikers can use. BooBoo availed herself of the opportunity and printed out a copy of the Water Report for the next couple hundred miles of trail.
This is a critical piece if information given the scarcity of water. It lists all the possible water sources on/near the PCT and if they had water the last time a hiker/volunteer checked.
Re-caffeinated we went to Nomad Adventures, the local outfitter.  I bought a compression stuff sack for my sleeping bag to make more room in my pack for food.  BooBoo purchased a water bladder to increase her water storage capacity for some up coming dry sections. 
We returned to our hotel and packed our packs up with our new gear/food.  Just as we were finishing this Magic Man returned fom San Diego via LAX. He'd gone down to San Diego to pick up donated tortillas for Kick Off. How many tortillas do you need to feed a bunch of long distance hikers? 2000. Apparently it was quite the sight. He had delivered them to Kick Off before coming back so I never got to see them.
Whike in San Diego he also stopped at REI and picked up some new socks for us.
We went back to Idyllwild Pizza for dinner and then called it a night.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 5 - Scissors Crossing

By Hedgehog
The day dawned cool as BooBoo, Gumby, Decaf (formerly Mark), and I piled into Magic Man's rental car.
We were at the trail head and on trail by 6:30 am. The cool weather and couple of slack packing made a world of difference.

Booboo and I made good time as we took in the cacti in bloom. Some of them were as big as me. Okay so that one is a yucca but still.

Even though we're heading North we're coming down in elevation so as the day progressed it started to warm quickly.
By 10 am it was about 80°. The early afternoon wore slowly on, as we followed a contour line down to the valley floor.  

Once on the valley floor it was hotter yet and a few miles to our cut off point of Scissors Crossing.   We found Magic Man at the rendezvous under a shade tent with folding chairs and a cooler full of Gatorade,  Chocolate Milk, and Mt. Dew. Hot hiker Nirvana.

Since Redshirt had spent  the day in Julian, Magic Man needed to go pick her up. So Booboo and I manned the Magic Tent, we had to test the merchandise before any other hikers showed. Below is a photo of BooBoo doing a quality control inspection.
Several hikers came through on our watch including Decaf and Gumby.

After Magic Man's return we headed into Julian to go to Mom's Pies. Mom's Pies graciously offers a free lunch sandwuch to PCT hokers. Since we arrived after they had stopped serving lunch the gentleman at the counter gave us free individual chicken pot pies. Which were delicious.
Not as good as the Mom's Pies we've had every day for the last 3 days. But still delicious.

Hunger satisfied, we started making our way back to the rental cabin. Magic Man spotted numerous hikers at Pioneer Mail picnic area and pulled in to spread a little more trail magic.
Decaf and Gumby jumped right in and soon the 3 of them were passing out Snickersn Mt. Dew and Chocolate Milk to the dozen or so hikers there eating dinner.

Action photos of Trail Angels being born are below.

Back at the cabin; packs were organized, showers taken and feet soaked in preparation for the 2 day push into Warner Springs. 

We're starting extra early to climb up the side of a mountain before the heat of the day settles into the valley.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mail Drops

By Hedgehog & BooBoo

We've had some people ask about mailing care packages to us on the trail. We've compiled a list of towns and an estimated time that we should be arriving in them. 

If you want to send something please email one of us and let us know so we'll know to check with the Post Office. 
Please address packages as follows:

ATTN: Hold for PCT Hiker ETA (date listed below)
General Delivery
(Town, State Zip listed below)

Here's the list:

Big Bear Lake, CA  92315  - 5/6/13
Mammoth Lakes, CA  93546- 6/17/13
Truckee, CA  96161- 7/2/13
Old Station, CA  96071 - 7/15/13
Ashland, OR  97520- 8/1/13
Cascade Locks, OR  97014 - 8/21/13

After that there aren't many options that we'll be able to get to.

HH and BB

Day 4

By Hedgehog
We all awoke feeling much more refreshed having done slackpacking the day before. In fact it was such a success that it was decided we would do it again.

Our options for pick up going north out of our end point from Day 3 were either 7 miles or 24 miles. Given that we all have blisters and weren't feeling up to another big mile day, it was decided that we'd do the 7 miles, which would allow us greater recuperation and create an 17 mile slack for Day 5.

In order to beat the heat we got up early and got under way. With even lighter packs and a shorter distance the hiking was even more relaxed than Day 3.

All four of us took a break at particularly nice overlook. Gumby (formerly known as Cass) climbed up on some boulders for a better view.

Magic Man picked us up at our predetermined point then we went down to Julian, CA for brunch. We ate at the Julian Cafe. Boy did we eat, the portion sizes were enormous and the food delicious.

After brunch, a quick resupply from the grocery in town and then back to the cabin for some planning and logistics for the coming days. Julian is also known for Mom's Pies - Magic Man procured an Apple Pie for 2nd lunch or Pre-dinner depending on your point of view.

While we were hiking/in Julian, Shannon was in town performing her first acts of trail magic - mailing some things for Gumby&Mark.  She's taken the trail name Redshirt.

BooBoo and I treated our blisters and then soaked our feet in an epsom salt bath. Then organized food for the next week.  We also started thinning out our gear, we'll mail the extra gear back to Seattle.

An early start is planned for Day 5 so we can get our 17 miles in by early evening.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 3

By Hedgehog

Magic Man made a late night trip into San Diego to pick BooBoo's mom (Shannon) up from the train station. She is joining the adventure for a week and fulfilled one of her dreams of taking a train from Seattle to San Diego.

After discussing it on Day 2 it was decided that all 4 of us (BooBoo, Hedgehog, Mark, and Cass) were going to slack pack 10 miles on Day 3.

For those who don't know slackpacking is when you arrange to hike to an access point where you'll be picked up and brought back to lodging for the night. The next day you resume hiking from that same access point. Doing this allows you to remove the bulk of the weight from your pack as you don't need any overnight gear. You can take only what food/water/equipment you'll need to accomplish the mileage between you drop off and pick up spots. Slack packing also allows you to move a little faster due to the less weight you're carrying.

The next access point was 10 miles north, so that was our goal. This would keep us doing miles on the PCT but also allow our bodies to recover from 2 long, strenous days.

So after a mid-morning breakfast of oatmeal and coffee we heaed out. The knoeledge that we were doing a short day with a return to a bed & shower made for very nice day. Booboo and I took several breaks to enjoy the scenery a nf the nice weather.  As usual we leapfrogged Mark&Cass a couple of times during the day.We all hike roughly the same pace so when we take a break they pass us and vice versa.
Magic Man meet us about halfway through our day with a shade tent and cold beverages. It is amazing how quickly and how much those become precious. Thanks Magic Man. He then met us at our rendevous point and shuttlef us back to Mt Laguna and the rental cabin.

At the end of the day the 6 of us went to dinner and then tired from hiking (or a late night/early morning arrival) we had another early night.

Day 2

By Hedgehog
Our morning began with a breakfast delivery from Magic Man. He brought breakfast sandwiches for Booboo and I and 2 coffee urns to share with the group of thruhikers camped around us.After caffeinating and breaking down camp we headed out with the intention of reaching Mt. Laguna where Magic Man had rented a cabin as his basecamp.
We had some nice miles into Boulder Oaks campground where we had lunch at a picnic table in the shade with some fellow hikers (Reimar, Andre, Mark and Cass). After lingering there, we headed out to Kitchen Creek Rd where we hoped to find Magic Man.
All day we leap frogged over our lunch companions.  As Booboo and I got to Kitchen Creek Rd we were disappointed to find the parking lot empty.  We decided to break and see if Magic Man would show up. Before we could sit down Border Patrol pulled up and asked some suspiciously naive questions about the PCT (they were probably checking our story).
Within minutes of the BP leaving tgere was the simultaneous arrival of Magic Man, Mark & Cass, and Nancy & Joe. So more trail magic, yeah!
While drinking cold chocolate milk a couple of runners came southbound and stopped to tell us they had just seen a rattlesnake about 1/4 mile north. So as we set out we were hyper alert. I was really hoping to get a picture.
For better or worse, none of us ended up seeing the snake. I did get a picture of a lizard.
A ways on we came across an area where a military plane crashed a couple of years ago.  Apparently the explosive disposal unit couldn't find all of munitions the plane was carrying so they put up a helpful sign to stay on the trail and call 911 if you found any explosives (pictured below).
We raced the sunset into Mt Laguna where MagicMan picked us up and yook us to the cabin. While we cleaned up Mark&Cass arrived (we had offered the spare bed to them earlier in the day). They brought amazing news, the local cafe was open! So we all piled into MagicMan's rental car and went to the cafe where we had an excellent burger. We also met two other thru hikers at the cafe - Legasuarus and Pocahontas.
After dinner it was time for bed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day One - Woohoo!

We arrived at the Southern Terminus to find a group of about 8 people there.  They had all stayed at a different Trail Angel's house. After mugging for some pictures it was time to load up and get started.
Booboo and I set off at a pretty good clip and "Magic Man" (BB' Dad) took the rental car and went off down the road.
It wasxa nice cool morning to start,  about 36° when we started with a high of 66° for the day.  Our host had told us the night before,  that by Friday it was supposed to be high of 100°. So we were more than happy with the beautiful weather.
We found "Magic Man" about 2.5 miles down the trail at a road crossing. He was already in form. There was 5 hikers around him all eating Snickers and having something to drink. We talked with everyone for a bit and then continued on.
The high desert has way more vegetation than I was expecting.  There were even a variety of flowers blooming.
We met several of our Thru hiker brethren over the course of the day.
Most of the day it was nice hiking.Although the climb out of Hauser Creek Canyon was quite challenging as it came 15 miles into our 20 mile day, it was mid afternoon,  about 80° according to one hikers thermometer,  and an exposed face so nowhere to hid from the sun. Booboo's Marathon conditioning shone through here. She was kicking my butt on that climb.
We were rewarded with cold chocolate milk when we got to Lake Morena Campground. Thanks Magic Man!  After setting up camp and eating we took advantage of the free showers at the campground and called it an early night.