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No. 29- Sisters to Portland, 2015

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MacKenzie Pass, Hwy 242: 44.259840, -121.809772
Big Lake Youth Camp: 44.370742, -121.866188
Timberline Lodge: 45.331181, -121.711223
Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks: 45.662374, -121.901348
Olallie Lake, OR: 44.813797, -121.788962

 

July 15- 12 miles, camping at Big Lake Youth Camp

After a morning at the Sister’s Public Library and the local pizzaria, I hitched a ride out of town with two retired couples on their way to visit the lava field at McKenzie Pass. The forest service built an observation deck, called the Dee Wright Observatory, using the local lava rock, so it looks like an evil fortress of Mordor. From the observatory, I could see all the way from Middle Sister to Mount Jefferson.

My drivers atop the Dee Wright Observatory

My drivers atop the Dee Wright Observatory

The lava field around McKenzie Pass is the result of multiple lava flows from various sources during the last 3,000 years. The large lava rocks that make this place so formidable were created when surface flows cooled and hardened while hotter lava contined to flow underneath, cracking the harder surface lava, sort of like ice cracking on the surface of a river. The pass was once an old pioneer wagon road- I can’t even imagine how difficult it would have been getting across these rocks with a wagon and oxen, but it was supposedly easier than the route going over North Sister.

Looking north toward Mt. Washington

Looking north toward Mt. Washington

 

Looking south toward North & Middle Sisters

Looking south toward North & Middle Sisters

My Billi Bandana has finally fallen apart and since the rainy days have passed and the sun is shining, I needed to pick up a new visor. Sisters had a touristy little shop with $2 visors, but they were all ridiculous- the only thing to do was pick out the MOST ridiculous one I could find. It was a tie between a blue Hawaiian theme or gold glitter. I also packed out a bag of four very greasy donuts- I had to pack my trekking poles in my bag because I couldn’t hold them and my precious donuts at the same time.

New aloha visor and packed out donuts

New aloha visor and packed out donuts

The twelve mile hike across the lava field and through burned, sandy forest was exhausting. I made it to the Seventh Day Adventist Big Lake Youth Camp just in time to see all the campers filing down for campfire singing. I made myself scarce and hung out in the hiker hut until 11pm sorting my resupply box and and cringing at the prospect of carrying five days worth of food. To save weight, I ended up dumping my guide book pages for Sections F and G and meticulously weighed bars and meals to see which ones I should leave behind in the hiker box. Since hikers aren’t technically allowed to camp on the property, I’m camping down by the lake with another hiker, Jelly Dog, who I met near Elk Lake. We both seem to be night owls, a rarity among hikers.

Sorting my resupply box at Big Lake Youth Camp

Sorting my resupply box at Big Lake Youth Camp

 

July 16- 16 miles, camping near Koko Lake

Blue Moon, Scarecrow, and Chuck Wagon showed up this morning hoping to grab breakfast at the camp’s cafeteria, but they missed it, so they’re going to wait until lunch. The camp doesn’t charge hikers anything for holding packages or showers or even meals. They only ask for a donation, which I feel is pretty amazing.

Blue Moon at Big Lake Youth Camp

Blue Moon at Big Lake Youth Camp

 

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I dilly-dallied in the hiker hut until 1:00 before heading out with my pack heavy with food. It was a hot and exposed hike for the majority of the day. All these forests were burned last year, leaving rolling hills stickered with pointy, dead trees and looking like porcupine backs. The soil is also sandy and it seemed that it took twice as much effort to climb as usual. It was almost like walking on a treadmill- take one step, slide halfway back, take another step, slide halfway back.

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Three-Fingered Jack

The highlight of the day was passing by Three-Fingered Jack. It’s characterized by incredibly even layers of red and yellow rock, which indicate regular and steady flows that came from the volcano that once stood here. Both Mt. Washington and Three-Fingered Jack are the hard, rocky cores of ancient volcanos that remained after glaciers and weather eroded their soft outer layers.

Camping near Koko Lake

Camping near Koko Lake

I’ve met up with four men section hiking Oregon together and am camping with them tonight. They’ve brought along a guitar and I’ve busted out the uke for a little jam session, althouth they’re much better than I am. The wind is super chilly tonight and doesn’t seem to be calming down. I’ve already rotated my tent to help keep the wind out, but I think it’s going to be a cold night!

Lone Hawk, Cap, Stitch, and Scotland (L -> R)

Section hikers Lone Hawk, Cap, Stitch, and Scotland (L -> R)

 

July 17- 23 miles, camping near Scout Lake

I seem to have finally hiked myself out of the burn zone. Mount Jefferson loomed before me all day long and it’s round, snowy beauty is stunning. Even years after the explorers Lewis and Clark named this mountain after their president, local white pioneers called it Squawtit, for reasons that I’ll let you work out on your own. Recent legislation has since recognized how offensive this name was to local tribes and pushed to officially name the mountian “Jefferson.” I don’t see why they couldn’t have “officially” named it whatever name the local tribe had for it in the first place.

Mt. Jefferson and Cathedral Rocks

Mt. Jefferson and Cathedral Rocks

One of my trekking poles has broken. Argh! My gear is starting to fall apart. Luckily for me, one of the men I camped with last night and have leap-frogged with today had spare duct tape wrapped around his trekking pole. My pole has lost the bolt that stabilizes it and it was as loosey-goosey as a pogo stick. Together, two of the men jerry-rigged my pole with the duct tape and since they’re retired firemen, we joked that they were performing emergency medical attention. Hopefully, my other pole holds out because I need at least one trekking pole to be adjustable and hold up my tent.

A couple firemen fixing my trekking pole

A couple firemen fixing my trekking pole

Russell Creek is noted in multiple guidebooks as being tricky and potenialy dangerous to cross. It streams down Mount Jefferson directly from a glacier, so it’s flow is much higher later in the day after hours of sunshine. I reached this creek around 7pm- not ideal. One look at the creek and I thought, “No problem! It’s a low snow year and the water is low.” I looked at all the rocks and determined how I’d hop across. Pack on, boots on, I hopped from one rock to the next until I realized the next hop was more of a leap.

After examining the rocks more closely, I knew I’d have to just ford the creek. Being too lazy to hop my way back to the shore, I began the very bad idea of trying to pull my sandals out of my backpack and change into them while balancing on a rock in the middle of the rushing creek. BAD IDEA. My water bottle fell out of the side pocket of my backpack that I was still wearing and slammed bulls eye onto my big toe. It hurt so bad! A big purple welt rose up as I dunked my foot in the icy water.

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Russell Creek rushing down the side of Mt. Jefferson

 

Russell Creek

Russell Creek

I managed to get both sandals on and crossed through the milky, ice cold creek. Since volcanic silt clouded the creek water, I had to just feel my way around the rocks with my poles, water up to my knees. The current was surprisingly strong. Once on the other side, I plopped down to examine my swollen toe and say “Screw it!” to the idea of a 25-mile day.

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I hobbled into a popular camping area called Jefferson Park around 7:45 pm. It’s a beautiful Alpine park just below Mount Jefferson and is very accessible to overnight campers. To prevent crowds from destroying delicate ecosystems in the park, the forest service has established campsites connected by little trails. That, combined with the numerous weekend campers, makes the entire area feel more like a city park than a wilderness area.

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Camping near Scout Lake

I think my toe is going to hurt a lot tomorrow- sounds like a good excuse to sleep in and take it easy.

 

July 18- 22.5 miles, camping at Trooper Spring

Jefferson Park

Jefferson Park

Sleep in, I did, indeed! I actually slept until 8:45 and didn’t set out until 10am. That’s practically sacrilegious on long distance hikes. It felt strange for the sun to be so high when I started walking- strange and HOT!

Looking north toward Mount Hood

Looking north toward Mount Hood

Olallie Lake is a small fishing and boating campground with a teeny, tiny store. Despite the size, it’s one of the best stops I’ve had along the trail. They had everything a hiker would want, particularly a lovely air of simplicity. I grabbed two blood orange Pelegrino sodas, two Kit Kat bars, and a bag of chips and sat on the little porch, staring out at the lake and Mount Jefferson in the distance. I sat there mindlessly enjoying the view and the quiet for an hour before I hiked back out to the trail.

Ollie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Ollie Lake and Mt. Jefferson

Another hiker has pointed out wild huckleberries to me. I’ve been hesitant to eat things I find on the trail if I’m not 100% sure what they are, but the berry beast has been unleashed! Instead of looking at trees or the trail, my eyes are quickly scanning the trailside bushes for the best looking berries. “Oh, there’s a ripe one!” Stop hiking and grab it. “That one looks good.” Stop hiking and scramble through the bushes to pick it. “That one’s giant!” Stop and practically tumble into the bushes after the holy of holies berry.

Wild and VERY edible Huckleberries

Wild and VERY edible Huckleberries

Water is few and far between in this section, and that means hikers are crowding around water sources. When I arrived at Trooper Spring, two other hikers, Crosscut and Paparazzi, were already here. Jelly Dog showed up just as the sun was setting and squeezed into the tiny, remaining flat spot. Paparazzi and Crosscut are already asleep, but Jelly seems to be eating a late dinner of Fritos. (I would recognize the sound of a Fritos bag anywhere.)

Camping near Trooper Spring

Camping near Trooper Spring

 

July 19- 23.5 miles, camping at Timothy Lake

Power lines

Today was pretty uneventful, probably the most uneventful day of the entire trail. When I start taking pictures of power lines, you know it’s not a good sign.

Around 5:00 I finally reached the very large Timothy Lake. There was no question- I breaked for two hours, went swimming, read my book and made a burrito. After I packed up and started hiking with the intention of putting in another two miles, I thought to myself, “Hold on! Don’t you kinda wanna go swimming again??” And I answered myself, “Yup!” So, I stopped at the next decent campsite, setup my tent and jumped back into the lake. I air-dried while reading in my tent and drinking hot coco. It was such a great end to such a boring day!

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Jelly Dog rolled in, again, just as the sun was setting. He had just spent dinner with some equestrian PCTer’s. After finding a piece of their gear and then returning it, they treated him to bratwurst and numerous screw drivers, luxuries permitted by having pack animals. By the time he reached my campsite, he was toasted. He practically melted into the ground as he leaned against a tree, backpack still on- I thought he would fall asleep right there! He did manage to get his tent up, but fell asleep before he inflated his sleeping pad. I heard him around 11pm finally coming to and getting his bedding organized. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at him.

Camping at Timothy Lake

Camping at Timothy Lake

 

July 19- 20 miles, camping near Timberline Lodge

Today started the same as yesterday: no views except for trees, moss, and bear grass. Periodically, a sudden a view of the monstrous Mount Hood would cut through the trees and take my breath away. The trail climbed and climbed, which was no big deal because I was pumped full of carbs and caffeine (a powerful combination). When the trail turned sandy, though, then I was crawling. Again with the “one step forward, slide half a step back” routine. The promise of good food at the ski resort, Timberline Lodge, propelled me forward, one step at a time.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

 

Lupin

Lupin

 

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

I set up my tent near the trail before making my way down to the lodge. I had a bit of re-entry anxiety trying to get through the crowds of tourists and dealing with the stressed out lodge employees. Even on a Monday, the lodge and ski lifts were crawling with people.

I grabbed a super expensive dinner at one of the three restaurants here, then went for a second dinner at the pizza pub with Jelly and another hiker named Barefoot. Yup, you read that right: I Double Dinnered tonight. I’d better head out soon or it’ll be too dark to find my tent up the hill.

Second dinner with Jelly Dog and Barefoot

Second dinner with Jelly Dog and Barefoot

 

 

July 21- 12 miles, camping at Muddy Fork

Timberline Lodge is famous for the breakfast buffet at it’s Cascadia Dining Hall. For just $14.95, you can have all the decadence of cheddar scrambled eggs, applesauce pancakes with fruit compote, waffles with real maple syrup, smoked pork sausage and bacon, roasted potatoes with root vegetables, corned beef hash, house-made yogurt and pastries, and coffee that your tummy can handle. Joining me in the extravagance, were hikers Barefoot and Crosscut.

Breakfast with Crosscut

Breakfast with Crosscut

Just as I was leaving, I noticed my big toe was feeling uncomfortable and tight in my shoe. This isn’t the same toe that I smashed with my water bottle back at Russell Creek; that toe still hurts, but now the other one is acting up. I ignored it. The hike away from Timberline Lodge was just as sandy as it was going to it and my toe seemed to be getting worse with each mile.

Only 550 miles to go!

Only 550 miles to go!

 

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Mt. Hood, towering cliffs and a waterfall

Eventually, when every step began to hurt, I stopped and pulled my boots and socks off to examine the swollen toe. It was clearly infected, but not through any open wound or bite. I think some bacteria must’ve gotten in between the nail and the side of my toe and now it’s swelling up like a red balloon. After cleaning it with water, I treated it with iodine, covered it with a bandaid to keep out the dirt, and then wrapped it with athletic tape to keep the bandaid on.

An unhappy toe

An unhappy toe

I took an alternate trail which past by the cascading, 120 foot tall Ramona Falls and through a moss-carpeted, alder forest. Here’s some interesting facts on Ramona Falls by William Sullivan from the Oregon.com website:

“History: When Sam Barlow was pioneering a wagon route around Mt. Hood as an Oregon Trail shortcut in 1845, his group ran out of time, left their wagons on the east side of the mountain, and hiked past present-day Timberline Lodge and Ramona Falls in order to reach the safety of the Willamette Valley before winter set in. The pioneers who named the Sandy River thought its milky color was caused by sand. In fact the stream carries glacial silt-rock powdered by the weight of Mount Hood’s glaciers.

Geology: Ramona Falls has such a lovely shape because it cascades over the remnants of a columnar basalt lava flow. When basalt lava cools slowly enough, it fractures into a hexagonal pattern perpendicular to the cooling surface. Later erosion has broken these basalt columns into a stair-stepped honeycomb.”

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Ramona Falls

My toe was so sore I could only hike twelve miles and stopped just before a raging creek called Muddy Fork. I treated my toe with a couple salt compresses then treated it with alcohol. It’s nice to have the campsite to myself, but the solitude seemed to be playing tricks on my mind. I don’t usually get scared anymore when I’m alone, but I kept having the feeling someone was just behind me ready to club or grab me. While sitting on a log, sorting through my bag and cooking dinner, I kept looking over my shoulder. Even when I looked into the water in my pot, I seemed to see a figure standing over me, even though I knew it was only a reflection of the tree branches. The only thing I could do to shake the feeling was get out the ukulele and play a few songs until it became dark.

Camping near Muddy Fork

Camping near Muddy Fork

 

 

July 22- 23.5 miles, camping near Eagle Creek

With the trees shading me from the morning sun, I slept longer than I meant. My toes both still hurt, but I think the swelling has gone down on the infected one. I crossed paths with two sets of southbound hikers this morning. Most of them started at or near the Canadian border just about three weeks ago and they’re starting to trickle by and bringing with them lots of information on the trail through Washington.

"Bridge" across Muddy Fork

“Bridge” across Muddy Fork

All morning, I hiked through dense forests and clouds until finally around 1:00, the clouds began to clear and the trees opened up to reveal the majestic Mount Hood. It looked like an island in a sea of rolling and roaring green waves.

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

 

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The next view, several hours later, was to the snowy peaks to the north. Another hiker left a piece of notebook paper under a trail marker showing which peaks are which far in the distance. Unfortunately, because of the clouds, I could really only see Mount Adams. Usually, from this spot, hikers can also see Mount Saint Helens, an active volcano, and Mount Rainer.

Looking north towards Mt. Adams

Looking north towards Mt. Adams

I’ve decided to take a scenic alternate to the PCT called the Eagle Creek Trail. This trail drops steeply to the jungle-like forests along the well-known Eagle Creek. Just around sunset, I was passing up multiple campsites near the creek, waiting for the perfect one. I wanted to camp alone again, since I’ve camped with other people so often in Oregon, and I wanted it to be a nice spot. The campsite I found couldn’t have been more perfect. It was secluded from the trail and other sites, no one else was camped there, and it had a trail leading to a deep, clear swimming hole. Even after 9:00 at night, I slipped into that clear pool, dunked my head and washed all the dust of Oregon from me. Tomorrow I will walk into Washington!

Eagle Creek jungle

Eagle Creek jungle

 

Camping near Eagle Creek

Camping near Eagle Creek

 

 

July 23- 10 miles, staying in Portland

Eagle Creek is famous in Oregon for it’s impressive and beautiful waterfalls. The trail was carved out of the cliff sides along the creek years ago by trail builders and occasionally offers a metal cable for hikers to hold onto while they walk past 100-200 foot drops. The trail took me past Twister Falls, a 200 foot, two-tier waterfall and also the 160 foot Tunnel Falls. Trail builders actually carved out a tunnel behind the waterfall for hikers to pass through.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

Another excerpt from William Sullivan on Eagle Creek from Oregon.com:

History: Built in the 1910s to accompany the opening of the Columbia River Highway, the Eagle Creek Trail was blasted out the cliffs with dynamite by Italian engineers. The area above the 800-foot-elevation mark was officially designated Wilderness in 1984.

Geology: The many layers of columnar basalt exposed in the cliffs of Eagle Creek are all part of the massive lava outpourings that inundated 50,000 square miles of Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Idaho to a depth of up to a mile 10 to 17 million years ago. These rock floods surged down the ancient Columbia River to the sea, pushing the river north to its present location.”

Trail along the cliff

Trail along the cliff

 

I reached Cascade Locks around noon and was instantly greeted with the expansive Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods spanning across it. Since I have friends in Portland, I plan to take two bus rides later today to get into the city. With about five hours to kill, I refueled at the Bridgeview Diner and then moseyed over to the RV park for laundry and a shower. I’ll hang out in Portland for several days because my honey-bunny, Art, is coming for a mid-hike visit. Can’t wait to see him!

Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods

Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods

 

Links

Installment No. 30- Cascade Locks to Trout Lake, July 2015

McKenzie Pass History- The Oregon Encyclopedia

Olallie Lake Resort

Timberline Lodge

Ramona Falls Trail

Eagle Creek Trail

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Beck Meadow

*This is my first post using my smartphone. Please bear with me as I learn how to use this WordPress app!!

 

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No. 9- Jawbone Canyon to Horseshoe Meadows, 2014

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Jawbone Canyon: 35.379533, -118.284903
Horseshoe Meadows: 36.448628, -118.168130
Walker Pass Campground: 35.664953, -118.040629
Joshua Tree Spring: 35.741244, -118.024567
Kennedy Meadows General Store: 36.019034, -118.123361
Whitney Portal Hostel & Store: 36.604458, -118.062522

 

 

May 24th, 2014- 7.5 miles, camping at Landers Tank Campground

 

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Piute Mountains

Back in March, I was kicked off the mountain near Jawbone Canyon Road by a snowstorm. Today, my good friend Carlos drove me all the way out to that same dirt road so I could jump back on the trail. For such a big hike ahead of me, I felt strangely relaxed for the drive. The car couldn’t make it all the way up Jawbone Canyon because the road was too sandy, so I had to walk about a mile to link up with the trail.

Once I was walking, I began to feel so lonely. The silence always takes a while for me to adjust to on the trail. I tried hard not to think about Art or Pepper back home. I miss them and worry about how they’ll do without me, but I have to trust they’ll be okay.

 

pct-section-f-04-piute-mountains

Since I haven’t really been excercising as much as I should’ve been for the last two months off trail, the hiking was a struggle. I was also carrying eight days worth of food for the 100 mile stretch up to Kennedy Meadows. I managed to hike at around 2.5 mph, which felt really good for Day 1! The trail took me through beautiful pine-covered, rocky mountains. I felt so tired by the end of the day, I was overjoyed to reach Landers Tank Campground. Numerous other hikers are camped here in this beautiful meadow. In fact, 15 other hikers signed the trail book. Fifteen! And that probably wasn’t all of the hikers that came through! After section hiking so many miles of Southern California and seeing almost NO ONE on the trail, it feels strange to be out here with so many other people.

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Landers Camp

 

The water source is a spring next to a large storage tank. I spent the evening rolling out my muscles with my little travel-sized foam roller. I felt like I had too much weight in my backpack and thought I could just eat as much peanut butter as possible to bring it down a bit. I tried eating the peanut butter by the spoonful, but I almost gagged. I only managed to get two spoonfuls down. Bleh!! I cleared my pallet with a Pad Thai dinner and a cup of tea before going to sleep.

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Landers Camp

Landers Camp

 

May 25th, 2014- 22 miles, camping at Bird Spring Pass

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains

Ugh, what a hard day! It was easy flying down the mountain this morning. I met a solo hiker named Crusher (as in Wesley) while filling up water bottles, but he must’ve hiked fast because I didn’t see him again all day. I met a few hikers all traveling together:  Duchess, Owen, and Booey. I almost stepped on a little rattlesnake; it’s the first one I’ve seen on the PCT!

PCT Section F Piute Mountains rattlesnake

A little rattlesnake

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Lupin wildflowers

Lupin wildflowers

Arriving at Kelso Valley Road, I found an awesome note from Carlos attached to one of my cached water bottles. *Thanks, ‘Los!*  There was also some great trail magic offered by the husband of another PCT hiker. He gave me a blue Gatorade and a twinkie. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had Gatorade before in my life and I definitely haven’t had a twinkie since I was 11 years old. They were both delicious! He gave Booey a Subway sandwich!!!

PCT Section F Piute Mountains water cache

Love note from Carlos 🙂

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Kelso Valley Road Trail Magic

Kelso Valley Road Trail Magic

 

After refilling my water bottles, I was moving slow through the heat and the uphill, sandy trail. I loved being in the desert again; the wide open spaces, Joshua Trees, and barren mountains are beautiful. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing well with the exertion and elevation. I was nauseous and crampy for the rest of the day until I stopped to set up camp.

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Kelso Valley Road

PCT Section F Piute Mountains horny toad

Find the horny toad!

I leapfrogged with Booey and Duchess throughout the day and camped at the Bird Spring Pass Cache with them and maybe 5 other PCT hikers, including a couple young solo hikers called Clint Westwood and Red Light. They’re all a lot of fun to be around and hope to maybe stick near them, but I’m not sure I can jump back on the trail after two months and keep up with them. Bird Spring Pass doesn’t usually have water, but some generous PCT family member donated 85 gallons of water and cached it here. Another lesson in gratitude presented by the PCT! ♡

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Bird Spring Pass

85 gallons at Bird Spring Pass

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Bird Spring Pass hiker trash

(L -> R) Clint Westwood, Owen, Duchess, Miss America, and Booey

 

PCT Section F Piute Mountains Bird Spring Pass cowboy camping

Cowboy camping at Bird Spring Pass

 

 

May 26th, 2014- 20 miles, camping at Walker Pass Campground

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Bird Spring Pass

Climbing out of Bird Spring Pass

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Bird Spring Pass

 

I got up early this morning after a windy night, determined to keep up with the herd. One by one, all the hikers climbed slowly out of Bird Spring Pass, and I fell further and further behind. The higher I climbed, the sicker I felt. I knew it was the altitude making me sick, so I just kept taking breaks and drinking water. Eventually, I stopped sitting on rocks and would just lay down completely in the dirt. I felt pretty miserable. The first 10.5 miles of the day were really lovely, winding up through a desert pine forest with views of distant snowy mountains.

 

The second half of the day was hot, exposed and sandy. Ugh, sand! I’m over you!

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest

 

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest wildflowers

Wildflowers

 

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Walker Pass

Approaching Walker Pass

I reached the Walker Pass Campground late in the day, but still in time to receive some amazing trail magic. As I walked up to a decorative tent, a little wild child with red curls charged up to me with a Pepsi, a sparkly necklace of plastic beads, and a button saying “Bearbait gave me a drink at Walker Pass.” (The kid was Bearbait, of course.) This magic is hosted by PCT veterans Jackolope, Copper Tone, and Yogi (who wrote my guidebook). They must know how beat down hikers feel after this last stretch and how much they need a little pick – me – up to stay motivated! Copper Tone made me a root beer float and Yogi cooked everyone spaghetti.

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Walker Pass Copper Tone trail magic

Copper Tone and a root beer float, Walker Pass Campground

When I settled in to a beach chair with my soda, I asked the hiker next to me if he’d seen Duchess or Booey pass through. He gave me the rudest response, saying I should just check the trail log, then got up and walked away. I was shocked! I guess not everyone out here is friendly and high on endorphins. Of course, I’d already checked the log and seen they’re names before I entered the campground. I later found out from Clint Westwood that they’d hitched a ride into the nearby town, Lake Isabella. I think most of these thru-hikers have bonded tightly during all the trials and tribulations of Southern California, (which I did solo and during the winter months) and here I am, just jumping in, a stranger to the herd.

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Walker Pass Campground trail magic

Trail magic at Walker Pass Campground

I walked down the road from the trail magic to a spring and washed up my dusty feet, hands, and face. Down there, I met Lucky Strike, a smoker from Tennessee, and Sarge, a young, solo lady hiker- both were super friendly. We all did laundry there together. I hiked up my skirt like a sarong and washed my shirt and undergarments with dignity. They were kinda jealous of the skirt set-up.  The skirt is a new item for me. It’s a Macabi skirt, made from the same material as hiking pants, with deep pockets, and snaps to turn it from long to mid-length. I even figured out a way to tie it up and wear it as a miniskirt.

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Walker Pass Campground climate x-frame sleeping pad

Walker Pass Campground

Actually, the skirt seems to have given me my trail name already. Several people think I look like Lawrence of Arabia with my long skirt and bandana hat. So, they’re calling me Arabia now. I like the name.  A single coyote is yipping right now in the distance and I’m sleeping under the stars. I love it.

 

 

May 27th, 2014- 22 miles, camping on top of a ridge above Spanish Needle Creek

PCT Section F Sequoia National Forest Walker Pass

Take THAT Section F!! On to Section G!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Walk Pass

 

The spaghetti dinner last night gave me so much energy this morning. I met a lot of hikers today, including Sarge and Lucky Strike from last night, Wolf from Denmark, a fun couple called Smiles and Uke-less, and an older fellow named Raven. I saw Crusher, too, who I met back at Landers Tank.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest trail food

Uni-Twix

 

The hike started with a great big climb out of Walker Pass. Once on a ridge above the small city of Indian Wells, I was able to check emails and voice mail. Turns out Art won’t be able to meet me in Lone Pine like we’d planned because of work. I texted my resupply angel back home, Jonathan who had driven me to the trail on my very first PCT section hike six months ago. He’s going to send my warmer REI sleeping bag to Lone Pine, so I’ll have it for the higher elevations.

 

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

 

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

For my students:

 

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest trail food burrito

Homemade veggie burritos

 

Soon I descended again into the desert and the heat. Crusher said it was 103°. Ugh… No wonder I felt like melting! Most hikers waited out the heat of the day for 4-5 hours at the little oasis of Joshua Tree Spring. It’s famous for being tainted with uranium, but all the springs in the Sierras have uranium, too. Everyone drinks the water anyways, I just hope my children don’t come out with three eyes!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest scorpion

Big, dead scorpion

Despite the heat, I chose to continue forward. I didn’t drink as much as I should have because the water tasted weird and it made me nervous. I also lost my Zpacks beanie. I had stuck it between my hip and my backpack belt because my hips were hurting and it must’ve fallen out somewhere when I stopped to take off my pack.

 

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest quarter way

A 1/4 of the way to Canada, near Joshua Tree Spring

I planned on camping at the base of a long climb near Spanish Needle Creek, but the campsite look dark and gave me the creeps. (Later, I talked to another hiker, Happy Feet, about it and he’d had the same feeling! He camped there anyways, but had dreamed that night of a mountain lion dropping a carcass outside his tent. He woke up to find his dirty socks in his face. Hahahahah!) Anyhow, I kept hiking on up the mountain hoping to find some descent camping.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Spanish Needle Spring

Near Spanish Needle Spring

 

Raven passed me going the opposite direction with nothing but his headlamp and a water bottle. He said he’d lost his smartphone cable to charge his phone somewhere at the bottom of the canyon. He was determined to find it, even if he had to hike 4 miles down! I feel so bad for him. It reminds me of when my phone died at the end of Section E. Most hikers keep everything on their phones: pictures and videos, contact info, maps and data. Loosing that tool feels really crappy.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Spanish Needle

I found great camping at the top of the ridge along with Sarge, Lucky Strike, and an older lady named Far Walker. It’s dark now and Crusher just showed up with Smiles and Uke-less, and another couple, Josh and Carla. Josh found my hat and carried it hoping to find it’s owner! I’m stoked!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Spanish Needle

On ridge above Spanish Needle Creek (Sarge in the background)

I’m enjoying ramen noodles with home-dehydrated veggies for dinner. The stars are spectacular tonight and the air is warm, so I’m cowboy camping again.

 

 

May 28th, 2014- 20.5 miles, camping at Manter Creek

Last night my body hurt SO MUCH. My muscles keep cramping and ceasing up and it’s SO PAINFUL! My glutes and hips are working so hard during the day and then they just freak out when I’m lying around at night, stationary. Plus, I was sleeping on a slight slope and kept sliding downward. I need be picker about where I sleep.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Spanish Needle

Sunrise

I awoke to a spectacular sunrise. Several additional hikers had shown up after I’d fallen asleep and had squeezed in to the few flat spots remaining. They must’ve done mist of their hiking in the dark last night to avoid the heat. Sarge Smiles, Uke-less, and Crusher had already left camp. I hiked less than a mile when I got 4G signal, so I uploaded three videos to Vimeo, but it took two hours! I killed time by eating, stretching and singing. Wolf passed by me, and Happy Feet set up nearby to do his morning yoga routine. I ended up playing leapfrog all day with Wolf and Happy Feet, both were great to talk to on breaks. Wolf is soft spoken and quite the thinker, while Happy Feet is vibrant and has a hysterical sense of humor.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Fox Mill Spring

(L->R) Happy Feet from Oregon & Wolf from Denmark, Fox Mill Spring

Since the water is so low in most of the creeks, I’ve had to use the Sawyer syringe to such up the water and then squirting it into my bottles. Now my bottles have green and brown muck floating in them. Yuck. Yay, for filters!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

Happy Feet and I hiked most of the 6.5 miles downhill to Manter Creek together, joking and laughing and complaining about how long the downhill was to camp. Since a past fire had burned all the trees and brush in the area, we could see the trail winding all the way down. We both agreed we’d rather not see how long the trail was ahead of us, it was almost torture. Happy Feet actually throws away all of his elevation charts that come with the maps because he just doesn’t want to know how much up and downhill he has to do!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The last turn in the trail presented an expansive view of the Rockhouse Basin which made it all worth it. The large flat basin with both Manter Creek and Southfork Kern River winding through it was surrounded by tall, rocky mountains.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Manter Creek Rockhouse Basin

Manter Creek and the Rockhouse Basin

Happy Feet and I joked loudly while we set up our cups and Carla joined us to borrow some fuel. We were so loud we actually got “shh-ed” by Raven. I guess 8:30 is like hiker midnight!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Manter Creek Rockhouse Basin

Camping near Manter Creek

We saw a huge jackrabbit go through our camp. He was the size of my dog! At first, I thought he was a deer or sheep!

Kennedy Meadows is only 9.5 miles away and I can’t wait for a shower, laundry, and some Ben and Jerry’s. I hope to use the internet while I’m there and check the weather and current snow conditions. Kennedy Meadows is usually where hikers wait out the snow and weather before heading into the Sierras.

I’m a bit ahead of schedule and since Art won’t be meeting me now, I may push on to Horseshoe Meadow so I can easily get a ride with the weekend campers on Sunday. We’ll see!

 

 

May 29th, 2014- 9.7 miles, camping at Kennedy Meadows General Store

I tried out peanut butter and jelly tortillas for breakfast this morning. Delicious! It’s my new favorite!

The hike from Manter Creek to Kennedy Meadows was gentle and scenic. I was so lost in the scenery I didn’t notice Raven say “Hi” as he rested by the trail until I was right next to him. Scarred the beegeebees out of me! I jumped and screamed. He felt bad, but was pretty funny.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Kennedy Meadows General Store

Kennedy Meadows General Store, Cheshire Cat on the deck

I was super excited to reach the store, but I felt shy, especially after my experience with the grumpy guy at Walker Pass who gave me the cold shoulder. I was happy to see some familiar faces and I gravitated toward them. I collected my resupply box, took a shower, and then tried to get organized for the next stretch. My brain was so fried, all I ended up doing was shifting things from one pile into another and then back again. Eventually, I got myself together and gave away food I didn’t need to Red Light and Happy Feet.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Kennedy Meadows General Store resupply

Resupply box!

Next, I ate a huge guacamole burger and that pint of Ben and Jerry’s I’d been dreaming of for ten miles. I had intended to hike out this afternoon, but Raven convinced me to stay and rest for the night.

Not long after, several of us piled into a car from Grumpy Bear Restaurant down the road and headed off for dinner. I met a few new hikers and got to know Red Light and Wolf a bit better over chicken and baked potatoes. It was nice to get out of the scene at Kennedy Meadows.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Kennedy Meadows

Heading to Grumpy Bear Restaurant

I’m now curled up in my sleeping bag under the stars. A few young hikers are nearby playing guitar, singing, and smoking weed. They brought twinkle lights to decorate their camp. I’m enjoying listening to them as I roll out my muscles. I just discovered my little roller fits inside my sleeping bag.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Kennedy Meadows camping

Camping at the Kennedy Meadows General Store

 

 

May 30th, 2014- 19.5 miles, camping near Cow Creek at mile 721.5

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Kennedy Meadows

Leaving Kennedy Meadows

I left Kennedy Meadows early, before they began serving breakfast. I didn’t want to get sucked into staying longer, delicious and delightfully social as it would be. Having only been on the trail a few days, I didn’t feel like my body or nor spirit need that kind if indulgence yet.

The morning hike was cold with the trial winding along the valley floor. Not long into my hike, I came to a lovely footbridge straddling the Southfork Kern River. It was a beautiful site and I found excuses to hang out there for awhile. I charged my phone, ate a PB and jelly tortilla, and took pictures. A Canadian couple named Lorax and T – Fox chatted with me as they pasted. They’re the sweetest.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park South Fork Kern River footbridge

South Fork Kern River footbridge

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park wildflowers lupin

The trail climbed and climbed out if the dry Southern Sierras. The scenery and vegetation changed suddenly as I slipped over the top of a pass and down into a huge grassy meadow with a stunning view of snow-dusted mountains. It was Beck Meadow and the trail wound around the hilly side of it, arriving several miles later at another crossing of the Southfork Kern River.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Beck Meadow

Beck Meadow

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park Olancha Peak

View towards Olancha Peak

PCT Section G Sequoia National Park South Fork Kern River footbridge

South Fork Kern River

 

Lorax and T – Fox were already there stripping down to wash and do laundry. We lounged for over an hour on the soft grass, enjoying the birds and views, but the wind kicked up and made it really chilly. That was the que to pack up and move on!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest South Fork Kern River birds

Residents of the Southfork Kern River bridge

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest South Fork Kern River bridge

Cold!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest South Fork Kern River bridge

Stonehenge of the Kern River… it’s builders remain a mystery today. 😉

Climbing out of the meadow took us 2,000 feet higher into the mountains. I was eyeballing how dry Cow Creek was all the way, hoping there would be water higher up. At one crossing with small, mucky puddles there were some huge animal bones. They must’ve belonged to some really big like a bear, a donkey, or a buck. I didn’t see any teeth marks on them- that would’ve been creepy!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest cow creek bones

Animal bones near Cow Creek

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest cow creek

 

In the way up the mountain, I passed an older hiker named Pathfinder. He’s famous for updating the PCT Water Report all the time. *Thanks Pathfinder! * He assured me there was water up ahead.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest cow creek plants

 

I met up with Lorax and T – Fox again and we camped together for the night. I scrambled over boulders up and down the creek looking for a descent puddle to collect water from, alas, they were all small and yucky. I had to use my syringe again and it took me thirty minutes to collect enough water for dinner, breakfast and the next ten-mile waterless stretch. There’s algae floating in my bottles again.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest cow creek

Camping near Cow Creek

 

 

May 31st, 2014- 26 miles, camping at Horseshoe Meadow Campground

T – Fox and Lorax headed out early, but I slept in because I didn’t sleep much last night. My muscles kept cramping again and at one point, my lantern fell on me from the top of my tent. It woke me up and I thought I’d fallen asleep right on the trail. I panicked, thinking, “Where am I? I have to put up my tent! Oh, I’m IN my tent! What’s going on?!” It was pretty funny.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest beck meadow

View towards Beck Meadow

Anyway, it was a slow morning and I wasn’t on the trail until 7:30. The view of Beck Meadow was incredible that morning. It’s difficult to comprehend how massive these mountains are, even after I’ve climbed them. All day, I looked behind me to see how far I’ve come. I’m always amazed how far people can walk in just one day.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

 

Leaving the view of Beck Meadow behind brought on a view of the Sierras ahead of me even more beautiful than the previous ones. I kept looking at them as I hiked, which meant I also kept tripping and stubbing my toes.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

 

For the first time ever, I enjoyed my tuna with a couple of tortillas. I LOVE TORTILLAS. They’re delicious, hold your food together, and go with pretty much everything: tuna, PB & J, burritos, hummus. I don’t think I’ll ever hike without them again.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest trail food tuna lunch

Tuna wrap lunch on the trail

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest

 

Around mid-day, I came across a hiker I hadn’t met before. He was a voracious talker and weirded me out by talking too much about poop. I moved on as quickly as I could. When I met up with T – Fox and Lorax later that day, they had a good laugh because they’d experienced this same hiker a couple of times before and wondered how I’d handle the situation.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest sierra snow plant

Snow Plant

Since I’d already covered so many miles by speed hiking, I figured a few more to Horseshoe Meadow wouldn’t hurt. I might even be able to get a ride down to Lone Pine that very night!

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest snow

SNOW!!*!!!*

For the rest of the day,I whipped along the trail aiming for Trail Pass Junction. It was at that trail junction six months ago where I stepped onto the PCT for my first section hike after knee surgery. I didn’t expect to get so emotional when I got there, but I was teary – eyed thinking about my reasons for setting PCT hiking as a goal for and how far I’ve come since that first hike. I was unsure of myself, my skills and my body, I was frightened to be alone in the wilderness, and was so naive compared to what I know now.

With excellent physical therapy and training, my ol’ knees have carried me nearly 700 miles on the PCT alone and are about to carry me another 1,400 to Cascade Locks, Oregon. Taking life’s adversities and sufferings and finding a way to turn them into a great success or joy is what makes life so fulfilling. I haven’t faced every adversity in life the way I have this one, but I hope I do from now on.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest trail pass mulkey junction

Trail Pass Junction

I hiked 2.5 miles down to Horseshoe Meadow, not feeling any of the discomfort that comes with backpacking 26 miles in a day. As I approached the trail head, a couple asked me if I’d seen a missing hiker, 78 year old Paul Turner who was overdue to arrive. I racked my brain, but I’d only seen a few hikers between here and Kennedy Meadows and none met his description. I hope he’s okay.

PCT Section G Sequoia National Forest Horseshoe meadow Cottonwood Pass

Horseshoe Meadow, view toward Cottonwood Pass

Stumbling into the campground, I met Wisconsin hikers French Toast and Alpine Start getting ready to head back to the trail the next morning. They’re gentle souls and I hope to see them again. I also met the Dunlap family, who’s dad and two grown sons are hiking the PCT to Crater Lake, Oregon. Their names are Papa Bear, Polar Bear, and Grizzly Bear. They decided to hike together after each of them had brushes with death over the recent past. They’re goal on the trail is to celebrate life and being together. I think that’s awesome. You can check out their Facebook page called Trekkin-3D. Their Mama Bear, Melanie angels them along the way and offered me a ride to Lone Pine in the morning. Yay! The Bear family shared their campfire with French Toast, Alpine Start, and me tonight. It was hard to go back to my cold tent!

 

June 1st – 3rd, 2014- Whitney Portal Hostel

Mama Bear Melanie brought us hikers fresh apples and grapes for breakfast. Yum! She drove me down to town, chatting with me the whole way about her family and asking me about how I hike as a woman. I felt honored that she’d ask me for so much advice.

I checked into the Whitney Portal Hostel and picked up my resupply boxes which Jonathan had mailed to me. This hostel has great service and rooms. I enjoyed a shower and, after lounging for several hours while videos uploaded to Vimeo, I washed my clothes at the laundromat. I had to wear my rain gear since everything else was in the washer.

PCT Section H Lone Pine Whitney Portal Hostel

Whitney Portal Hostel, Lone Pine

I’ll stay here a couple nights to catch up on sleep and then jump back on the PCT via Onion Valley.

PCT Section H Lone Pine Alabama Hills Cafe

Breakfast with the owner of the Alabama Hills Cafe, Lone Pine

PCT Section H Lone Pine tacos mexican food truck

Best late night tacos in Lone Pine, on Willow Street

 

Links

Installment No. 10- Lone Pine to Reds Meadows

Walker Pass Wiki Article

Kennedy Meadows Visitor FAQs

Water Quality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Whitney Portal Store & Hostel

 

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Installment No. 7 of My PCT Journey

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No. 7- Hiker Town to Jawbone Canyon, 2014

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Hiker Town: 34.775848, -118.607712
Jawbone Canyon Road: 35.379603, -118.284817
Kohnen\'s Bakery: 35.132512, -118.448810

 

I’ve been told that my hike will rarely go to plan, and to always expect the unexpected. That’s what makes it an adventure! I began this trip expecting to hike from Hiker Town to Kennedy Meadows, but that’s not what happened at all.

 

Sabrina fixing my backpack

Sabrina fixing my backpack

Yet again, my dearest friend Sabrina rose to the title of Trail Angel. After cooking dinner and helping me pack the night before, she followed me hundreds of miles all the way to Kennedy Meadows. We left my car there by the trail and then she dropped me off at Hiker Town on the western side of the Mojave Desert.

 

 

Day 1: 14.5 miles

Hiker Town isn’t actually a town, it’s just the quirky home of a couple of Trail Angels who’ve built a fabricated western town for hikers passing through. Debbie, a Hiker Town caretaker, told us a previous hiker, trailname UB, had reported there being no water at all between Hiker Town and Tehachapi. It seemed odd for there to be no water in the two natural sources just after the recent rains. Rather than take the chance of dehydrating, I decided to carry 12 liters of water- that’s 26-1/2 pounds!

Sidenote:  I first heard of UB while reading Muk Muk’s blog on hiking the PCT in 2013. It was totally cool, then, to be hiking three days behind him!

Walking along the open LA Aqueduct

Walking along the open LA Aqueduct

Since I was starting late and carrying so much more weight that I had ever before in my life, I didn’t expect to put in as many miles as I had planned for the day. After making a few calls to parents and Art, I hiked along the open Los Angeles aqueduct for a couple of miles. It was so pretty having the open water right next to the trail, it’s a shame that couldn’t last.

Walking along the spillway pipe

Walking along the spillway pipe

The trail next followed a spillway pipe that was fun to walk along and gave me great views of the surrounding desert. This section of trail cuts along the most western reaches of the Mojave Desert before it climbs up into the Tehachapi mountains. When I came upon what looked like an old outhouse, I checked it out as a shady place to rest. Low and behold, there were three liters of water cached inside! Since the building seemed clean and didn’t smell at all, I got comfortable on the floor and relaxed in the cool of the stone building. I drank one liter of the cached water, quietly thanking whoever had put it there.

A random place for a rest

A random place for a rest

My pack was so heavy with water that I was moving at maybe a mile and half per hour, which is slow for me! I had to stop and rest every thirty minutes. When I’m struggling that much, I start having second thoughts about whether I’m doing things right or not. Will I have enough water to carry me through at the rate I’m going? Do I have TOO MUCH water and it’s slowing me down more than necessary? Most hikers choose to night-hike this section to avoid the heat and water issues. Even though I was hiking during the day, it still wasn’t as hot as it would be when the thru-hikers come in May.

There were a few buildings in this lonesome corner of the desert. I couldn’t help but wonder what people did out here, other than own cheap land. One of the buildings turned out to be a gun club and, as I passed and waved, two men invited me in for lunch!

Steve and Vic were an earthy couple of gun-lovin’ dudes who were delighted to brighten my day with a hot dog, soda, and clementines. We talked for an hour about the aqueduct’s history and how I shouldn’t be out alone because the lions or snakes would get me. They joked about giving me a loaner gun for the trip. When Steve asked how my father felt about me hiking alone, I told him my dad doesn’t really give me his opinion, and just seems to let me do what I want. He replied saying, “He’s probably too proud to let you know how frightened he really is about you doing this.”

 

Walking along Aqueduct Road, and atop the concrete sealed LA Aqueduct.

Walking along Aqueduct Road, and atop the concrete sealed LA Aqueduct.

 

Vic and Steve at the Gun Club

Vic and Steve at the Gun Club

I felt so refreshed after the Gun Club lunch, and so full that I didn’t think I’d eat dinner later. As the day went on, I saw only a couple of cyclists and dirt bikers. The cyclists and I talked briefly about the trail and they told me about meeting Heather “Anish” Anderson, a lady hiker who attempted to set a PCT speed record last year.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

My body was aching so much by that evening and I decided to just set up camp on the side of the dirt road. I made sure to find a spot with a view of the twinkling windmill lights and hopefully a bit protected from any nighttime wind. Indeed, I didn’t eat anything else that night because I was too full from the hot dog. I was stoked to see I had excellent cell phone reception, so I called my parents and Art.

Just before falling asleep, I heard voices in the distance. Immediately, all exhausted evaporated. Images of drunk bikers going for a nighttime joy ride in the desert flashed through my head. I turned out my little lantern and hoped maybe they wouldn’t see my tent in the dark. The next morning, I realized it must’ve been the cycling couple speeding by on their way home.

Camping near mile 532

Camping near mile 532

 

 

Day 2:  16.5 miles

Sunrise in the desert

Sunrise in the desert

I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and made myself breakfast. I’m not a big fan of oatmeal, but Trader Joe’s makes a really yummy multigrain hot cereal that I haven’t gotten sick of yet! I was determined to climb out of the desert that day and so aimed for the top of the mountain ridge near mile 548 for my camp that evening.

Trader Joe's Multigrain Hot Cereal

Trader Joe’s Multigrain Hot Cereal

The walk through the windmills and Joshua Trees was really incredible. Some people may poo-poo having to walk through flat, dry desert and pass giant man-made structures, but I found it fascinating. The windmills had an elegance to them that reminded be of massive wildflowers spattered across the valley floor and hillsides.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

A water cache usually maintained by the Hikertown Angels

A water cache usually maintained by the Hiker Town Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trail yogurt

Trail yogurt

Since food is one of my favorite elements parts of backpacking, I just had to try my hand at making some trail yogurt. It was so easy and exceptionally tasty! I’ll soon post on How to Make Yogurt on the Trail for those who are interested.

 

 

 

A "cup of gold"

A “cup of gold”

 

Hipbone and spine of … an antelope?

Hipbone and spine of … an antelope?

It was a long climb out of the valley and up into the foothills, especially because I’d lost the lid to my stove and had to backtrack to find it. It felt great to finally reach the creek in Tylerhorse Canyon. I wasn’t sure if I’d find water there because the previous hiker, UB, had told the Hiker Town peeps there wasn’t any. Well, either he missed it completely (which I doubt) or there was some kind of miscommunication between him and Debbie, but Tylerhorse Canyon had a sweet little stream of water cutting through it. Anyhow, the canyon’s Coulter pines and junipers offered a lovely spot to relax and wash my dusty feet.

 

 

 

 

Climbing out of the valley

Climbing out of the valley

A trail registry in the middle of nowhere

A trail registry in the middle of nowhere

I had a hard time taking my mind off how heavy my pack was and how much further I needed to hike for the day. So, I decided to check out for an hour or so with my iPod. I’m totally hooked on the Stuff You Should Know (SYSK) podcasts, but I only listen to them or music when I’m really struggling mentally. I usually enjoy the quiet of a solo hike, plus my mind is chatty enough to fill that silence. I also think it’s important to listen for animal sounds.

 

Lupin wildflowers

Lupin wildflowers

My solar charger, velcroed to the top of my pack

My solar charger, velcroed to the top of my pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I climbed up and over one set of hills and then up, up, up another 1,600 feet to the ridge at the top. It gave an incredible view of the valley below and I set up my tent for another great view of the windmills and city lights. When I get lonely or scared, it’s comforting to look out on some little bit of human civilization.

View towards the Mojave Desert

View towards the Mojave Desert

The Tehachapi Mtns. are famous for fierce wind

The Tehachapi Mtns. are famous for fierce wind

I settled in for the night with a Mountain House Beef Stroganoff- one of the few prepackaged camp meals I’ll eat- and a cup of tea. I felt dehydrated and after counting my remaining liters of water, I determined I hadn’t drunk nearly enough for the day.

Since I still had reception and a fully charged battery, I decided to try to make a phone call or two. While waiting for responses to my text messages, my phone completely died. I tried everything I could think of to bring it back to life: restarting it, popping out the battery and warming it up, charging it with my external battery. Nothing worked on it, and I immediately burst into tears. I suppose the day of carrying too much water and not drinking enough of it had worn me down, and I had just found my breaking point!  I thought about how I wouldn’t be able contact my trail angel, Christy, in Tehachapi, or take any more pictures and videos. It was so depressing! I told myself to stop crying or I’d run out of tissue, and then I’d really have a problem!

I gave up on the phone, tossed back my tea, and put myself to bed as quickly as possible. I knew that somehow everything would work out the next day and I stared out at the twinkling lights of civilization as I fell asleep.

 

The view from my tent

The view from my tent

Camping near mile 548.5

Camping near mile 548.5

 

 

Day 3:  10 miles to Cameron Canyon Road

Since my phone was as dead as a dodo, I have no pictures or videos of hiking from mile 548 to Cameron Canyon Road, but it was an incredible day all the same. My mood was greatly elevated when I woke the next morning. My hike was almost entirely flat or downhill, wound in and out of junipers and pine trees, and offered views of both Oak Creek Canyon and the Mojave Desert.

After about six miles, I sat myself down near a dried up water source called Tiger Tank. As I snacked on fruit leather and gazed out over the green Oak Creek Canyon, I heard a sudden thundering behind. I turned, thinking for sure there was a rock slide. To my amazement, I saw two wild stallions charging downhill straight towards me. They stopped just eight or ten feet from me behind the Tiger Tank barbed wire fence and immediately began bucking, biting, and whinnying. Their fight was so ferocious I stood up and wondered if I should yell or throw water at them, as if they were fighting cats. One horse was knocked to the ground and the other bolted over the hill. The first horse stumbled up to standing, turned, and stared at me, as if to say, “What are YOU looking at?!”  He then breezily trotted over the opposing hill out of sight. It turns out one of the last remaining herds of wild horses, descended from the original Spanish horses, live in Oak Creek Canyon. I counted over thirty as I hiked the rest of the morning.

Before I left for this trip, I had pre-arranged to send a resupply box to Christy Rosander (trailname Rockin’) in Tehachapi. We had also agreed that I would text her when I was close to Hwy 58 and she’d come pick me up.  Since my phone was completely dead and wouldn’t charge at all, I jumped at the opportunity to beg for help from a technician working on a windmill. We managed to get a message out to Christy, but after I was 20 minutes down the trail, I realized I had completely mixed up the distances and time-frame for her to pick me up. Argh!

As I approached Cameron Canyon Road, I could see a single car parked near the trailhead, and I thought maybe I could catch that person and use his or her cell phone. Tumbling down the hill to the trailhead, I almost ran striaght into Sam. Trail Angel Sam (trailname Tortoise) stocks the water cache at Cameron Canyon Road and was overjoyed to help me. In fact, before I could even ask for help, he greeted me with an enthusiastic, “Are YOU a PCT hiker?!?” He insisted on taking me into town, and even though I had eight more miles to go before reaching Highway 58 I agreed. I was eager to make things as simple as possible for Christy, so if Sam wanted to help out, too, that was great! I’ve since decided I’d come back and day hike the section between Hwy 58 and Cameron Canyon.

Trail Angel Sam "Tortoise" and me at Kohnen's Bakery

Trail Angel Sam “Tortoise” and me at Kohnen’s Bakery

Sam drove me into town and treated me to a Saladwich at the incredible Kohnen’s County Bakery.  We talked about the trail and I learned his interest in the PCT was a new romance, and like all new romances, he just couldn’t ge enough. He’s planning on section hiking the entire trail, starting with Kern County. You can read about Sam’s PCT adventures on the Tehachapi Loop, where he’s writing a series of articles for the newspaper. Little did Sam know at the time, howl much PCT he was going to get himself into when he met me!

The amazing Chef Dan

The amazing Chef Dan

Christy arrived shortly after and, even though it was our first time meeting, I immediately felt she was a kindred spirit. I’d already read so much about her from her blog,  Lady on a Rock, that I really did feel like I knew her already. She wasted no time and whisked me away on the errands I needed to do. First, I need more fuel from Big 5, as I’d decided my new quilt wasn’t warm enough and that I’d be needing to boil more water to use my hot water bottle for warmth. Next, we needed to figure out why my phone wasn’t working. We tried the little Verizon store in Tehachapi, but it turned out the phone (brand new, mind you) had some programming error from the factory and needed to be completely replaced. Christy drove me 45 miles to Bakersfield so I could replace the phone. <3  THANK YOU, CHRISTY!!

That evening Christy’s husband, Dan, made an incredible shrimp pasta and salad dinner, complete with a decadent chocolate and fruit dessert. We talked about adventures, family, and life. Christy also helped me figure out water sources for the next section between Hwy 58 and Kennedy Meadows. We said “Goodnight” and I went to sort out gear and food for the next eight days.

 

Organizing my food for the next 8 days

Organizing my food for the next 8 days

 

 

Day 4:  16.8 miles to Golden Oak Spring

The next morning, we realized my new phone hadn’t charged because the connecting cable was broken. ARGH, AGAIN!! Christy took me to Walgreens at 7am to buy a new cable, then we sat in Starbucks waiting for the phone to charge. She is truly the most patient Angel.

Christy "Rockin" Rosander and me

Christy “Rockin” Rosander and me

She dropped me off at Hwy 58 and we talked briefly about the light rain showers Tehachapi was expecting for the next afternoon. After a big “Goodbye and thank you” hug, I teetered down the trail feeling really good about the next section.

The trail was long and exposed all the way to the top of the ridge, but the views were wonderful. I was lucky not to have the infamous wind that usually catches hikers on this stretch. The incessant and fierce wind is caused by the temperature difference between the hot Mojave Desert and the cooler coastal air.

 

Looking south towards Hwy 58 and Mojave

Looking south towards Hwy 58 and Mojave

Sprouting plants that looked way too much like snakes

Sprouting plants that looked way too much like snakes

 

 

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Orange Sherbert Bandit

Orange Sherbert Bandit

The trail heading up north from Highway 58 marks the beginning of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range for the PCT. To me, it’s exceptionally exciting because I love those high and dramatic mountain climbs and views. Straight from the guidebook:

“The charm of this section lies not only in its diversity of flora, but also in the unobstructed views of rows of sharp ridges and deep valleys, of sprawling desert lands and distant peak silhouettes, of faraway pockets of populated, sometimes historic enclaves, of evidence of the human quest for riches and energy to power our lifestyles.” -Schifrin, et al. Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California.

 

 

 

Entering the forest high above the desert

Entering the forest high above the desert

Windmills

Windmills

 

A lush, green trail

A lush, green trail

Reaching the top of the ridge delivered me to an entirely different world. I was surrounded by a forest of pines. Before the spread of European civilization, the Native people of Kawaiisu lived off these mountains, hunting and gathering all the way to the South Fork Kern River Valley. As the trail wound around the Sweet Ridge and Cache Peak, I could see peaks in the distance, but I had no idea I was viewing Olancha Peak, Pointy Owens Peak, Mt. Jenkins, and even Mount Whitney, far, far in the distance.

This area used to support native bighorn sheep, but they were wiped out by domestic sheep infected with scabies in the early 20th century. Mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, and black bear still roam those mountains, and I could see their signs now and again on the trail.

 

 

Golden Oak Spring

Golden Oak Spring

 

Refilling my water bottles took 3 min per liter

Refilling my water bottles took 3 min per liter

As the wind was starting to pick up, and my feet were aching, I was glad to finally reach Golden Oak Spring. It was a mucky mess, but the spring water flowing from the pipe was clear and clean.  I walked up hill from the spring to find better camping and happened upon what looked like a campsite next to a dirt road for 4WD vehicles. I scouted for the most protected spot I could find and battened down the hatches! I placed large rocks on top of each of my stakes, knowing the winds frequently reach 60 or more mph in this area (that’s why they put in the windmills). I fell asleep after a dinner of Pea Soup and listening to the happy little frogs down the hill at the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp near Golden Oak Spring

Camp near Golden Oak Spring

 

 Day 5:  12.7 miles

The wind blew all night and the rain began around 2 or 3am, but my little Zpacks tent held up. The rain didn’t surprise me, since I had been expecting a few hours of showers. I was a little surprised to see it was still raining when I prepared to pack-up at 7:30am.  Packing up in the rain is tricky, especially when your only rain protection, in this case, a Zpacks poncho, doubles as your ground cover.

By the time I had packed up my dripping tent, my legs and feet were already wet through. (My poncho covered only my upper body.) I struggled to get the poncho wrapped around both my body AND my pack, which it was designed to do, but it’s tricky without a friend to pull it over your pack for you.

 

Hail starting to come down

Hail starting to come down

Indian Paintbrush wildflowers

Indian Paintbrush wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All morning, I hiked in and out of the storm. Strong winds, rain and hail alternated with peaceful sprinkles and patches of lifted clouds, sometimes even a bit of blue sky showed through. Around 10am, I thought for sure the storm was passing, so I wasn’t terribly concerned about how wet and cold I felt or about how much battery I was using on my phone. As long as I kept moving, I felt warm enough and I assumed the sun would come out soon enough to charge my phone.

Beautiful stormy clouds

Beautiful stormy clouds

I crossed paths with some cows who were taking protection amongst some low scrub oaks, and still felt really good about hiking up into the higher elevations.

Only an hour or so later, the winds picked up and the sky darkened again. I yelled out loud to the sky, “I get the point! You’re the king of this mountain! So, pass on through already!” The stormy sky could care less, of course. The winds were so strong, I had to take refuge behind a rock, pulling as much of myself into my poncho as I could to take a snack break.

Snack break. : /

A very chilly break

Climbing higher brought on a deeper cold and the rain turned again to hail. My fingers and toes were getting dangerously numb, so I hoofed it to a campsite at mile 593. The hail started to pound down upon me like marbles dumped from a bucket, so I threw up my tent under a tree as quickly as I could.

Once inside the tent, I changed into my wool base layers, unpacked my down quilt, and boiled water for my MSR hot water bottle. I warmed up as I peered outside and watched the earth turn white. I was tempted to take a video, but my phone battery was down to 50% and I had no way to recharge it without the sun. (I couldn’t use my external battery to charge it either, because it mysteriously decided to stop working! ARGH! ARGH! ARGHH!!!!)

Covered in hail

Covered in hail

After sitting for an hour inside my tent, the hail stopped and the clouds seemed to lift a bit. I packed up and aimed for Hamp’s Pass or, better yet, Robin Bird Spring nine miles away. Not fifteen to twenty minutes after I left camp, the wind picked up again. It seemed to be playing with me all day. Snow began to fall quickly and surprisingly soon it was three and four inches deep. I only managed to hike for another couple of miles, having to intermittently stop to warm up my fingers and toes.

The trail shortly past camp at mile 593

The trail shortly past camp at mile 593 around 2pm

Around 4:30 or 5pm, the wind became so fierce that I would lose my balance with each gust and my visibility was down to ten or twelve feet. The snow was now above my ankles and my fingers and toes were so numb, I became worried about frostbite. I decided to set up camp at the very next place I could find, and settled on a spot just about a mile or so from Hamp’s Pass. I cleared the snow from a spot beneath some smaller pine trees, hoping they’d offer some protection. Thunder clapped all around as if it were taunting me about an approaching finish line. I struggled to get my tent up in the wind with my fingers frozen inside my wet gloves.

The moment the tent seemed stable enough, I threw my pack and body inside and stripped down to get out of my wet pants, shoes, and socks. Once unpacked, I boiled more water for the hot water bottle, all the while dancing and wiggling as much as I could inside my down quilt. I shifted gear around here and there in the tent to protect certain things from getting wetter and using other things as barriers to the wind and wet coming in through the bug netting bottom of my tent.

I didn’t sleep more than 45 minutes total that night. With each massive gust of air, it sounded like the chariots of the gods themselves were flying over me. I had to hold onto my trekking pole (which held up my tent), bracing it against the wind so my tent wouldn’t collapse. Every hour I boiled more water and placed the water bottle in my quilt to stay warm. [This would’ve been an excellent opportunity for some drama in my video blogging, but my phone battery was too low.]

Later, I checked the weather for Tehachapi and did a bit of math, taking into account the trail’s additional 2,000 feet of elevation.  I believe the temperature up on the mountain was 30°F that night, with wind gusts at 40 mph, and a wind chill of 17-13°F.

 

Day 6:  9 miles to Jawbone Canyon

The next morning the wind was still howling, but the temperature seemed warmer. I packed up and aimed for Jawbone Canyon Road. I had examined my maps the night before and decided that Jawbone, being a different color then the other dirt roads, would be my best chance for an exit route, should I need one. My plan was to hike for the morning and see how the weather developed.

Putting on my wet hiking clothes was the worst. I felt so cold with the wind pelting me and had a hard time warming up even as I hiked. Very quickly my toes and fingers were numb again, and I shook them madly as I hiked to try to get some warmth into them. There came a point when the winds almost knocked me off the side of the mountain again, and I couldn’t bend my wrists because they were so cold. I was scared and knew I had two options: either set up camp to warm-up and wait for the storm to pass or exit as quickly as possible.

Since there was no way to know how large this storm actually was, or how much snow may have been dumped on the mountains ahead of me, I decided I needed to exit at Jawbone Canyon Road. I also made the decision to push the “Non-emergency HELP” button on my SPOT device, hoping that either Sabrina or Art would see me on the road and drive out for me. [Later, I learned my “HELP” request never even reached them. I’ll be contacting SPOT about that one.]

Descending out of the clouds along Jawbone Cyn Rd.

Descending out of the clouds along Jawbone Cyn Rd.

Reaching Jawbone, I guessed that turning left would take me deeper into the mountains and turning right would take me lower toward the desert. Right, it was! As soon as I stepped onto the other side of the mountain and into slightly lower elevations, the snow and wind evaporated. It was a whole other world outside of the cloud!

I walked about three miles down the dirt road and hobbled up to the only cabin with a vehicle in front, calling out greetings as I approached. An intimidating gentleman in his sixties came out and approached me with suspicion. I had been tough as nails the night before, but as I started explaining to him my situation and that I needed some help getting out to a town, I burst into tears and could barely speak. His wife came out, invited me inside, and made me coffee.

:(

🙁

Looking back on the storm cloud the morning after

Looking back on the storm cloud the morning after

Their names were Richard and Dee and they manage the cabins on the Piute Nature Preserve. They live off the grid and are quite happy to be far away from everyone else in the world. They were tough, as people would be living out there, but they were so kind to me. They Skyped their daughter, who called Trail Angel Sam in Tehachapi. Sam drove all the way out to rescue me from the canyon and brought me back to Tehachapi to regroup and replan my hike. He assured me it was to his benefit to come out and explore the area so that he knew where all the PCT access points were.

 

Sam's spirit carvings

Sam’s spirit carvings

"Harvey, the camper"

“Harvey, the camper”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam and I decided that if I were to continue hiking while the next couple of storms went through, I needed to go to lower elevations. I stayed that night in a camper named “Harvey” in Sam and Claudia’s backyard, and early the next morning I was off to Mill Creek Station on the Angeles Forest Highway to hike Sections D and E.

Without the help of Sam, Richard, Dee and Christy I would’ve been in some serious dilemmas. I cannot thank all of them enough for their generosity and compassion. Over and over again, the trail teaches me how wonderful the world is and how incredible people can be! And, in addition to being better prepared for nasty weather, this hike has become a grand lesson in gratefulness.

 

Links

Installment No. 8 of my PCT Journey- Mill Creek to Hiker Town

Lady on a Rock

The Tehachapi Loop

Hiker Town

Kohnen’s Bakery

History of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

Frostbite

Wind Chill Calculator

Wind Speed Scale



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