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Archive for June, 2012

We waited there for almost 3 hours to get a ride down to town.  For the first hour, only one woman drove by in her empty SUV and tried really hard not to look at us and go completely to the other side of the road as if we had the plague.  The one plus about the Horseshoe Meadow road was everyone heading out from where we were literally had to pass through Lone Pine, where we wanted to go.  Lucky for us, a nice guy named Dave in a blue pickup took pity on us and drove us down since all the other few cars that passed had been filled to the brim with stuff.

In Lone Pine, we found food, a hot tub, and a small outfitter.  We stayed in the Dow Villa Hotel (which for some reason was cheaper than the motel…go figure) and got Gene Autry’s room.  I will admit, I totally had to google search who he was; Wikipedia is a great thing.  It also told me that the Horseshoe Meadow road was an engineering feat built for a potential Disney ski resort that never got built because of the Wilderness Protection Act of 1964, so now the road just goes up 7000 ft of sketchy-ness to the campground.

We did end up having to pay to get back up the hill the next afternoon in a super sketchy van where the speedometer didn’t work, a door or two was completely gutted out save for the frame, and it made all kinds of noises.

Having taken Mulkey Pass down, we decided to take Cottonwood Pass back up since both dumped down into the campground at the same spot, so technically, it was a continuous foot path still.  We ended up with an extra mile and an extra 600 ft or so of climbing.

Inspector Gadget had stayed in town to eat a late lunch and finish with his laptop while Dead Animal, Hop-a-long and I had gone back up.  The three of us started after watching a car full of weekenders take over an hour to fit as much as possible it seemed to the outside of their packs.  Four of five of them had giant boots while the last one had some super minimalist shoes.

We walked slowly under the heavy weight of the food we had crammed into our packs and the sudden rise of 7000 ft of elevation, only to go up another 1200 ft to 11,200 at Cottonwood Pass (the valley Lone Pine was in was not at 0).

The first water source was a small pond with an outlet stream called Chicken Spring Lake.  We ended up stopping there since Hop wasn’t feeling fantastic and that way Gadget could catch us easily as long as he got out of town.

While we ate dinner we saw two dudes coming down sobo, one without a pack.

“Hey!” The one with a pack called, “You guys have any extra water? We’ve been out the past few miles.”

“There’s a stream right there that you just walked over,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but that looks dirty and those tabs take 30 minutes,” he replied.

Now, the logical thing would have been to immediately start whatever water treatment he had and then ask for a few sips to tide him over til he had more instead of expecting others to just give him water since they were obviously unprepared.  We gave them a little anyway and when he came toward us, I noted they were all in cotton.

As the one came over, the other one without the pack slumps over and pukes.  “Oh, that’s my uncle.  He’s been throwing up because of the altitude for two days now.”

My mouth dropped.  “Where were you guys?” I asked

“Whitney.”

“You could have just taken the portal straight down the east side and gotten him out before it got this bad,” I said.  If you get AMS, you just need to go down, not stay on the damn ridgeline.

“Yeah, but you gotta have a permit for that.  They’ll fine you.”  Was the reply he came up with.

Personally, I would have taken the damn fine instead of AMS, but whatever.

After they left for Cottonwood Pass, the other two with them rolled through, one with two packs.  They asked us how far Lone Pine was.  After telling them it was .6 miles to Cottonwood Pass, then 3.8 down to the campground, then 22 miles down a road, their only response was “shit.”  I’m not sure if they even had a map…

That night was freezing!  I had ice crystals in my water and all my layers on.  We decided to play the “wait-for-the-sun-to-warm-us-up” game, so we didn’t get out of our sleeping bags for quite some time.  Gadget had come in with Astro and Magellan getting a ride from Shutterbug’s mom, whom they had met in the Post Office.

I felt slow the whole day, taking lots of breaks, taking pictures and hoping my body would get over the elevation shock I put it through going straight from Lone Pine up to the ridge.  It did fine, I just had small headaches and felt sluggish.

The whole day we contoured around large piles of rocks, went through meadows, rock-hopped streams, and eventually got to Crabtree Meadow where a side trail went 8.5 miles up to the summit of Mt. Whitney which, at 14,505 ft, is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.  We had planned an extra day of food to do the 17 mile round trip side adventure.  We saw more deer there than we had in 750 miles of trail.  Buffet, Mr. C, Flatlander, June, and Taka were all there after summiting Whitney that morning.

Looking at the map, we chose to hike up 1.1 more miles to another meadow and closed ranger station to help us out just a wee bit the next day.  We found Condor there chillin’ in his tent doing Whitney the next day as well.  He had hiked the PCT last year and was planning on doing the High Sierra Route this year.

Now, if we thought Chicken Spring Lake was cold, this meadow was colder.  We managed to sleep, but getting up in the morning proved difficult. I gagged my oatmeal without sugar down fairly well, then borrowed honey from Dead Animal to help it out a bit.  He ended up staying there all day to sleep while Hop-a-long, Inspector Gadget, and I went to summit Whitney at a very ridiculously late start of almost 9 a.m.

We took our time too.  Taking our first break at Timberline Lake, 1.5 miles later, we had to de-layer and eat some grub.  Then another one, 1.3 miles later at the last water after Guitar Lake.  We took a decent break there with Murphy and Dump Truck who had hiked 1600 miles last year and came back to finish what they skipped this year.

From those ponds, the trail shot up 2300 feet in about 2.3 miles, came to Trail Crest Junction, then went up another 1000 feet or so to the summit along a dramatically sharp ridge.  The switchbacks going to Trail Crest were like a stair stepper on crack with the steps and their never-ending ascent.  Guitar Lake looked more and more like a guitar from up there as I peered down at it during breather breaks.

At Trail Crest Junction, I ate a few spoonfuls of peanut butter while watching people come up from the east side of the mountain, the Whitney Portal side there.  The last two miles from there went slowly up on the ridge.  At three points, the trail became only a few feet wide with large, steep drops down to the east, and rocks everywhere to be seen to the west.

At the top, all the thru-hikers were huddled in a wind break eating, snoozing, and chatting.  I joined them and laid down to eat.  I had felt completely fine until the last 200 ft of elevation or so, then felt queasy.  I solved it by eating, drinking water, and not staying too long at the top.

After a lot of pictures, we headed down, back the way we came.  We met a few people with very small day packs going up and they said they had meant to go down the east side back to their car at Whitney Portal, but accidentally gone down the west side.  An accidental extra 2000 ft of climbing or so.

We slept in that same cold meadow again that evening with all the marmots.  The temperature had not gone down quite as far that night.

If we had had energy, we should have gone another four miles that evening, but we didn’t.  Lucky for us, since this year has almost no snow, it wouldn’t matter if we did Forester Pass in the afternoon.  In a normal snow year, we should have done it first thing in the morning so as not to posthole in the warmed snow.

We motivated ourselves to only an hour lunch break, and set off for Forester Pass in the afternoon.  The last 700 feet or so shot up steeply, like that section on Whitney.  We stopped there to eat and grab water.  We made friends with two extremely friendly marmots aptly named Larry and Nelda by the creative imaginations of Inspector Gadget and Hop-a-long.

That 700 ft kicked my ass and at the end I could see how Forester Pass would be super sketchy with loads of snow.  The actual pass was super small and v-notched.

A few of us decided that we should participate in ESPN: Every Sierra Pass Naked.  Just to add a little more excitement to our lives.

The nakedness didn’t last long because the wind whipped through the pass really quick.  We put clothes back on and scurried down the switchbacks on the other side.

About halfway down I began to feel really nauseous and needed to eat and sleep.  We stopped in a tree patch right before diving further down in the valley.

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We reached Kennedy Meadows right as the sun had begun to set, painting the sky in pink and orange.  We found all kinds of people who had gotten ahead of us: Navi, Natty, Bolt, Hollywood, Mellow Yellow, and Beef Nugget.  We had gone straight to “the internet cafe” AKA Tom’s Place which was a collection of vintage trailers, hammocks, an outdoor movie theater and packed with hiker trash.

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Trip had gotten lots of extra beer since he had made the general store hours for all of the people he knew were behind.  Natty handed us some beer as well after having quite a few drinks at happy hour.  Virgo also handed me a nice cold beer in exchange for his hat that I found 7 miles back on the trail.

We all hung out, ate dinner, then Hop-a-long and I watched the old western movie Tom had put on while Dead Animal and Gadget went with Natty to a bar a few miles down the road.  Hop and I chose to sleep on the platform under the movie screen when it was done which seemed more comfortable at the beginning of the night than in the morning.

The next day, we zero’ed to get everything done.  We had to hang out until the general store opened at 9am because we could only sleep in until about 6:30am.  We got food as soon as it opened, signed up for laundry, and waited for the showers to have enough water in the tanks.

After the alloted 5 minute outdoor shower, we set up on their large porch, opening bear canisters, dealing with food, and enjoying the loaner clothes Tom had provided.  Inspector Gadget was fully enjoying a mu-mu large floral dress with a zipper down the front.  At first he attempted the no underwear approach, but that didn’t work too well.

That night, the four of us shared a trailer which completely distracted us from an early morning start.  We meant to get up and leave before the store opened, but before we knew it, we found ourselves sitting there eating breakfast with everyone. Sparrow and Barracuda joined us in waiting forever for food.  When breakfast finished, it was already 10:30am.

Our next challenge was fitting the damn bear canister into our packs.  It upset the order of everything and added almost an extra 2 pounds.  The stupid thing made all of our packs look huge as we weighed them all on luggage scales hanging from a tree.

After that ordeal, we decided lunch was in order, so back to the general store we went where we chatted with Trip, Virgo, and the Canadians, one of which would leave before closing his tab.  Whoops.  Yogi’s guidebook even made a note to close your tab.

All of a sudden, Inspector Gadget came up with a plan.  He had convinced someone to give us a ride up to the Kennedy Meadows Campground, three trail miles ahead, and we would slackpack back to Tom’s place for Taco dinner.  In no time, we left with nothing but a map and a liter of water each, all in loner skirts for the hell of it.

The three miles was sandy and nothing remarkable happened besides finishing quickly and eating delicious tacos.  For us veggies Tom even made soy chorizo fake meat stuff which tasted delicious.

Finally, when we made it back to the trail, we decided to stealth camp in the campground.  It was a fee spot, so we just went into the trees and cowboy camped, figuring we’d be awake and gone by the time anyone checked.

The long climb began after that and the zero and nero had zapped some motivation from us.  We had to get over 10,400 feet about 20 miles in from the campground.  The first 2,000 feet up was fairly pleasant.

Eventually, we decided nap time was in order at a bridge after 12 miles.  Then, as we walked up, we see none other than Tom!  He had driven around and walked in 1.5 miles with Griffon Noir, Kushy, Crash, Dip, and one or two other hikers just bouncing between trail angels.  Tom had loaded them all up with beer, food, and margaritas which they had chilling in the stream when we arrived.  What great unexpected trail magic!

We ate and drank delicious margaritas, napped, and played in the stream for a few hours before escaping the vortex for a second time.  The going was slow and the last 2,000 feet up got steeper and steeper.  Between the higher altitude and our newly heavy packs (damn you bear can), we went super slow.

Buffet, Mr. C, June, Taka, and Flatlander made it to a nice spot with a trickling water source.  We took our chances that the last water before the top was running a little over a mile further and kept going.  Lucky for us, it was flowing better than their trickle and we had a pretty good campsite.  Dead Animal saw a small bear about halfway between their campsite and ours, running away.

In the morning, we finished climbing in the cold wind for a time.  I took some vitamin I for the headache that had grown as I climbed.  Since we have really only gone above 8,000 feet two or three times on the trail so far, my body was not used to it, combined with rapid weather changes and lugging that bear canister (the evil thing).

Once one goes up, one must go down, then of course, up some more.  We decided 10:30am was lunch time and cooked by the stream at the bottom, a mere 7 miles from where we camped.  That entire day, it seemed like we took a massive amount of breaks, and we weren’t the only ones.  Everyone felt sluggish.

We crossed Death Canyon Creek which was nasty stagnant water caked in mosquitos.  Good thing a spring was .2 off right near it!  The climb after that seemed to take forever in the heat which was uncomfortable, but not unbearable.  If we had not been at 9,000 feet at the beginning of the climb, we would have been posted up under a tree, sleeping in the shade.

Eventually, we reached the top, then down a wee bit to the water source.  We saw Dazzle’s pack by a tree, so we sat down to eat first and see what Dazzle said about the water .3 miles off.  When he didn’t come back for 40 minutes, Dead Animal and I went to investigate while Hop-a-long made quesadillas.

We found Dazzle coming back and he said it was stagnant pools at the top and to get flowing water, you had to go about .6 down.  We decided to look at the stagnant pools.  Due to tired laziness, we grabbed water there which came out surprisingly clear, but with floaties.  I somehow managed a pine needle in one bottle.  We definitely treated it since we saw some bird poop right above the deepest pool (which was about 4 inches deep) at mile 736.

Yogi’s guidebook had suddenly become infinitely more important now that AsABat’s water report for SoCal ended at Kennedy Meadows.  It was certainly a mind shift actually looking through it.

We stayed there that night because we could and we had plenty of food.  Buffet, Mr. C, Dazzle, Taka, June, and Flatlander all stayed as well.  The mosquitos were out, but not in super full force.

A mere 8 miles from a pass to town, we breezed through the first six since they primarily went downhill.  Yogi warned that the saddles were confusing and it was hard to tell which spring was in which saddle.  She was right, but other hikers had written “H2O” with an arrow in sticks and that helped a lot.  When we got to the Diaz Creek one, we found a note that said if you can make it, go 1.3 to a spring further on.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, and I did just that.  We hadn’t seen Inspector since he put his dress on at camp though.

We only had 400 ft of climbing to get to 10,500 where we got to drop 600 feet to Horseshoe Campground, when we ran into a guy with a dog heading south.  At once all of us knew it was Lee, Sparrow’s husband meeting up to hike with her and Barracuda.

Shortly there after, we plunged down the pass on a side trail to the road for town.

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After another 15 mile morning, we got down through some ridiculous heat to some of the best trail magic yet.  Jack-a-lope, her son Bear Bait, and Okie Girl had a sweet set up of tents and all the food you could imagine.  Jack-a-lope was also vegan gluten-free so she helped me out with a veggie burger, curry quinoa, and a veggie dog.  It was the best feeling ever to come down and see the tents there.

We got a ride super easily out of Walker Pass in the nick of time to catch the Post Office in Onyx.  At the last minute, we all decided to go into Lake Isabella because we desperately needed showers and clean socks.  The crusty, sweaty, dirt caked socks just weren’t doing it.

An orange picked us up in the form of a man named Kyle who taught Dead Animal and I all about dirt bikes and dirt biking trails in the area.  He was also kind enough to wait for us while we grabbed our boxes from the post office and dropped us off at the cheap motel with a pool in town.

That evening, we played in the cold pool on the neo-air, drank some beers, did sink laundry (the laundromat was a mile and a half away…i.e. screw that), ate boatloads of food, and watched some shitty television.  Quickly we realized that the town was full of crazy desert people.  I seriously believe the heat screws with your mind out here, kinda fries your brain a little.  Everyone was incredibly friendly, just some were out there a little ways.  We knew we had to keep walking or we would become crazy desert people.

The morning progressed slowly as we still recovered from the amount of wind and sun we went through the previous days.  We grabbed lunch at the locals diner before trying to get back to the trail, which was deliciously awesome.  They even clapped for us when they realized we’d hiked from Mexico.

Hop-a-long and Inspector Gadget got a ride relatively quickly with some church ladies who weren’t even going to Walker Pass but they wanted to help them out since they “looked normal.”  Dead Animal and I had a bit of a harder time getting out.  One crazy desert lady yelled “GET A JOB!” out her window at us.  An awesome couple crossing the road near us came over and gave us two bus tickets which would get us up to Onyx again and hitch from there since if one drove near Onyx, they were pretty much going to cross the pass anyway.  After 45 minutes of waves, we went and caught the bus with Magellan and some definitely crazy desert people.

The three of us got there, then within five minutes, we got a ride from Pops and his chihuahua.

“Just don’t pet the dog,” Pops said while the little thing sat on his shoulders while he drove.  Naturally, Magellan goes and tries to pet it and it almost bites his fingers off in a yippy dog frenzy.

Pops told us all kinds of things.  One of which included how to de-smellify skunks.

“Yeah, ya just pick ’em up by the tail, put some wet bear skin on their butts and the smell sacks pop out.  Then ya just pinch the suckers off!  No more smell,” Pops informed us.

When we got back to Walker Pass, we huddled under the semi-shade of a Joshua tree for two hours, next to a tiki statue while we waited out the heat.  We had a nice big climb to start with which turned out to not be too bad, just hot.  Once we got up to the first saddle, we took a small break to grab some grub and battle some ants.

In the third saddle, we stopped to celebrate the “under 2,000 miles to go” mark.  There, we realized that we had better 3G there than in town.  Eventually, we knew we didn’t really want to hike seven more miles to the water, but we left the decision to Dice Bear Pig (a beanie baby like thing that Hop-a-long and I found on top of the Banning movie theater and convinced Dead Animal to carry at Ziggy and the Bear).  Heads up and we stayed, butt up and we hiked on.  Heads up.  We stayed.

We actually walked back just a tad to the better camp area where we found Magellan setting up.  Hop-a-long spearheaded a small fire that we all sat around.  Before long, Virgo, Trip, and House (formerly known as Marcus) showed up and joined our party. Since we hadn’t seen them in a few days to several weeks, we stayed up late.  House had left Klondike in Tehachapi because he desperately needed new shoes, so he was planning on waiting for him in Kennedy Meadows.

The next morning, the trail continued up and up on the contour of the same ridge as we hopped from saddle to saddle.  The next water, Joshua Tree Spring, had a warning on it since it apparently contained a bit of uranium, but the water report said it was still ok to drink.

I had left before everyone but Magellan, so when the others came up, they had a small story to tell.  They all reported seeing a small bear cub sitting in the middle of the trail.  After determining that the mama bear was nowhere around, they grouped together making a lot of noise and got it to get off the trail a wee bit to pass.

The five miles between the spring and the next creek was so hot my eyeballs started sweating and I wondered if I was becoming something of a crazy desert person.  I found House, Virgo, Trip, and Magellan in a small camp area near the water and joined them.  Hop-a-long and Dead Animal showed up not long after and we cooked, read, and napped through the heat.

After that, we had a monstrously hot devil climb.  It just kept going up, we were tired, Inspector had a head ache that was maybe turning into a migraine, and we had to get some afternoon miles in.

We found someone’s water filter at the last water before the climb and I packed it to Kennedy Meadows, hoping it was someone’s so I didn’t have the extra weight.  At the first of two saddles in the climb, we stopped and watched the sunset as clouds appeared off in the distance.  We watched them, remembering the concept of clouds since we had not seen any in quite a while.

On the ridge walk, occasionally we would hit a nice flat spot for camping and debate about it.  Near one, we saw two bright things reflecting back at our headlamps at the perfect bear-eye level, so we immediately made loud noises.  It turned out to be Magellan’s trekking poles and we woke him up by accident.  He must really hate us for being loud at night every time he’s near us.

We ended up camping on top of the ridge right before descending.  Since Inspector was behind, we left Hop-a-long’s distinctive poles in the middle of the trail with an arrow to the spot we found.

In the morning, we got motivated early.  I was hiking ten minutes before six a.m.  The first five miles downhill was easy-squeazy.  At the bottom, a creek ran nicely for some dip-cup bottle fill action and had a nice bucket of trail magic beer in it.  We found Trip, Virgo, and House there getting water in the morning and we all headed out for the long ass climb ahead.  Once you go up, you must go down.  And none of them had a filter that they lost.

The climb took forever, the heat had set in, and for some reason, I moved sooooo slowly.  I had drunk plenty of water and eaten normally, but I just went slowly.  I found the Canadians, Julia and Brian, from a long time ago who had become Buffet and Mr. C.  They had extra vegan electrolyte packs and gave me some to suck down which made me feel ten times better and got me the last 800 feet up the ridge.

That day, we hiked straight through the heat, despite its terrible hotness and soul sucking.  By 2pm, we had already done 18 miles and had another 8 to go to Kennedy Meadows.  I huddled under a bush at the bottom of the ridge for shade for an hour and a half, then sucked it up and kept hiking.

The trail went through the valley for 8 miles to the road we needed so desperately.  Right before leaving, we noticed Magellan had left part of his gravity water filter behind, so I packed that out.  Then two miles up the trail, I found Virgo’s hat just laying there, so I packed that too.  At that point, I thought they were playing a joke on me since I had that other damn filter with no owner.

We trudged on, cursing the sand all the way to Kennedy Meadows, the gateway landmark before the Sierras.

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Surprisingly, we had easy hitches at dusk and right after dark.  All four of us got rides into Tehachapi for pizza.  After food, we took up residence at the cheaper Best Western (there were two) and ran into many hikers there at the morning continental breakfast.  GypcGirl was there and told us she had been there for five days, had tried to leave but got blown off the trail into a ravine, had to spend the night there, and bushwhack out back to Tehachapi.  Drop Zone appeared saying his hairline fracture in his ankle was still bothering him so he and GypcGirl decided to skip the rest of the desert and hitch to Kennedy Meadows.

We spent the day attempting to get everything done in the spread out town, and of course watching the season finale of Game of Thrones.  It was an impromptu zero day, but we got everything done, even hot tub time.  We met Dubs and The Wizard, found Voodoo and Twinkle Toes, and watched a lot of meaningless television.

The next day, we got moving.  We had a large climb out from the road, going past wind turbine after wind turbine.  For the most part, I was annoyed at the 25 dry miles and the amazing amount of water and food I was carrying.  The wind was strong for the first few miles, but I could mostly walk straight.

Then, as the climb ascended the ridge, shit got ridiculous.  First, I just felt like I was ataxic (drunk walk), yet I was completely sober.  Second, I realized I would lose my hat if I left it on my head, so I stopped to put it away and tie a bandana around my hair to keep it from hitting me in the face.  Third, I had to secure all the adjustment straps on the pack, and my braids, because they began whipping me in the face.

Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget got ahead of us a ways when Hop-a-long and I stopped to talk to Sparrow, Barracuda, and Magellan.  I started first, and got a little ahead of them until I rounded a switch back straight into the wind.  It came full force at me as I leaned directly into it and dug in with my legs.  My sunglasses flew straight off my face and soared over 40 feet away.  The wind had pushed me off of the trail, just below it and to stop myself from going further, I gave out onto my stomach to crawl up on my hands and knees once I realized it was not a gust and would not let up.  I attempted a small bushwhack to find my sunglasses, but I was unsuccessful.

After we all managed to get around that curve, we had a few switchbacks of ataxic walking until a larger challenge.  We had hit a small high point on one part of the ridge and the trail formed a small knife’s edge.  The stretch was about 15 feet with a gully on either side.  As we came up to it, we could see the dust and dirt flying horizontally from one side to the other.  I attempted to go only to get whipped straight off the trail.  I laid down on my stomach and crawled back to where Sparrow, Barracuda, Magellan, and Hop-a-long had huddled together.  We waited there in a pile for a few moments, realizing the wind would not let up.  I ventured out first on my hands and knees.  I made it across and set my pack down to go help Sparrow and Barracuda.  Hop-a-long and Magellan also made it behind me crawling.

We got to some Joshua and juniper trees not far from there and we all found spots dug out under the trees to camp for the night.  Right as we were going to bed, Bolt, Navi, and Natty showed up. They found trees as well and we all made a large group to climb the rest of the ridge in the morning since the wind was still bad and supposedly would get worse.

Once we got to the top of the ridge, we found Dead Animal and Inspector Gadget still in bed (they didn’t have us to wake them up).  They had found a nice protected spot in some trees and we all took a break there.  They had also seen a bear not far from them.

The whole day we battled some wind, but most of it we could walk straight in after the top of the ridge.  When we all made it to the water source, we found Astro and Sea Hag.  The “spring” was a large trough full of leaves and gunk and a broken pipe.  Luckily, we found a white pipe that had a decent flow, but definitely had some floaties.

Loaded up with water once again, we set off another ten miles.  We camped near a dirt road, thinking no one would come by since they usually don’t come that far out at dusk.  After scouting out the best spot under a tree, we set up and ate dinner.

“A Lexus!” Dead Animal said surprised.

“A Hummer?!” Inspector Gadget said.

“Lots of cars?” Hop-a-long said.

We watched a train of really expensive cars drive up and make a circle in the campsite we almost chose.  They moved them around and around so they could use all their headlights and fog lights to set up their large Walmart tents and pull out all their coolers.  If we weren’t so beat from the wind or the 23 mile day, we would have tried to yogi some beer.

Dead Animal and I got up and walked over.  They clearly spoke another language that I knew nothing of.  We guessed they were either Middle Eastern or Russian.

“Hi,” I started, “we just want to let you know you’re right by the PCT and we’re sleeping right over there.”

“Just in case you guys are shooting guns or something,” Dead Animal added.

“Ohhh ok!” One named Sam came up and introduced himself.  “We do target practice in the morning, but we shoot that way” he said pointing in the opposite direction.

In the morning, we yogi’ed some sodas from them and promptly left when they started shooting things.  We didn’t see any targets, but we left before we could investigate.

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We passed mile 600 that morning, but didn’t celebrate too long since we still had 2 miles to water and we were all a little low.  Robin Bird spring seemed ok, but the surrounding area was covered in cow shit.  Definitely aquamira’ed the crap out of that, despite it coming clear from a pipe.

That day, we had the luxury of two water sources.  Whoa.  We had to carry extra anyway because we couldn’t rely on the Kelso Valley Road cache.  The water report was unclear on how much it could possibly have, so we loaded up.

We got to the road at dusk, and lucky for us, the cache had plenty of water and we settled down for the night.  Natty, Navi, Bolt, Magellan, and Astro joined us in the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, we knew the following day was supposed to reach 95 degrees and we entered an exposed high desert at the cache.  Basically: we had 15 miles to the Bird Spring cache, with a decent amount of climbing all exposed.

We woke up at 4am and left by 5.  A breeze prevented us from moving a little earlier.  None of us were ready to go.  I even skipped breakfast for an hour and a half while I tried to catch the cool weather.

Shade followed us for quite a while due to the position of the trail climbing up the ridge.  That was perfect.  Once the shade disappeared though, all bets were off as the sun oven turned on to bake us.  On top of that, the trail was so sandy, it was like walking on a beach.  At a small breeze point, I stopped to savor the wind and looked down.  Someone had written “Fuck Sand” in the sand.  Amen!

By 11am, I started to get a little delirious, so I threw on tunes to keep my mind distracted while I finished up.  Inspector Gadget and I made it to the cache just before noon, and Hop-a-long got in about 20 minutes after.  Dead Animal had stopped at the one shady tree about 2 miles back and took a nap.

By about 2pm, everything was silent except for snoring.  Everyone was sleeping through the heat: Dubs, The Wizard, Cheesecake, Snowflake, Ornie, Waffles, Astro, Natty, Navi, Bolt, Inspector Gadget, Hop-a-long, and myself all perched under various trees playing the game of finding shade or comfort.  When the shade leaves, the sun wakes us back up and inevitably, we move to a less comfortable spot to stay in the shade.

At 4pm, Dubs, The Wizard, and Snowflake charged on up the next 2000 ft super exposed sandy climb.  We timed them up the first switch back as they went.  At 5:15, a large group charged on: Navi, Natty, Bolt, Astro, Magellan, and Hop-a-long went.  At 5:40, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget and I charged up it, sweating immediately.

The climb was long and hot, but gave decent views from the top.  We had a nice-ish bumpy ridge walk after that.  We found Hop-a-long staking out a flat spot for us and we crashed pretty quick.

In the morning, we set out along the ridge walk ignoring Yellow Jacket Spring which was .7 mile off the trail and the description on the water report was “dig a hole in the mud, wait for it to fill up, then filter it.”  Gross.  We had all opted for the 20 mile water carry over that and the next one, McIvers Spring, that had a description that included “surrounded by cow shit.”

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As we hiked up and over what seemed like every foothill, we began to see clouds coming in from the west.  All of our first reactions were something of a “huh…clouds” since we hadn’t seen any in at least a week.  Soon, the clouds got darker and bigger and looked like they could actually drop a wee bit of precipitation.  But no! Sand and dust began to kick up west of us and the wind began to howl and blast us on the left side.  Highway 138 was never far – I had started to see it about 10 trail miles from where we cross it, but the trail had to skirt quite a lot of private land.

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The weather had pulled a 180, going from making my eyeballs sweat to making me lean sideways into the wind in attempts to walk straight.  Luckily, we walked straight into Hikertown at the road where Sean gave us a tour around.  Hikertown was basically a home-made ghost town with the post office, city hall, the dentist, the grocery etc.  I found my box in the box office infested with ants that had gotten into 3/4 of the food.  I was super disappointed, as there was Mom-made rhubarb bread and a giant vegan cookie from Miracle Morsels (the best local granola company near my mom who resupplies me).

We called the store a few miles down the road who will pick hikers up if several wanted to go get food.  A nice guy picked us up and waited while we got food and listened to the local jabber which consisted of motorcycles, tequila, and guns. They found it amusing that we wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada.

“I should do that on my motorcycle!” One started.

“It’s foot and horse paths only,” I replied.

“Oh well, I’ll ride beside it!” He continued.

We attempted to explain contours and how it tends to drop off on one side and shoot up on the other, but then he just started talking about tequila again.

Back at Hikertown, we ran into the Canadians, Alien March, Sprinkles, Bacon Bit, and Gumby, hanging out in the hiker lounge, which really consisted of some couches in Richard the Owner’s garage.  The wind whipped up something fierce and it began to spit some rain as well while the temperature plummeted.

In the morning, the weather had not eased at all so we hung out, lounged, and ate while a few more people trickled in.  Safari came in with my sunglasses that had slipped out of my pack some 25 miles before while night hiking, Shags came in, Maverick, and a few others.  We got a surprise visit from Terri Anderson and Bounce Box too.

“The original owner of Hikertown was a little out there.  He used to paint a sign with whatever small phrase came into his head that morning.  The place was coooovered, I can see some evidence of that over there,” she said as we listened intently.

“When the place sold, we came over to make sure the water was on for the hikers and told them no one had moved in yet, so camping in the yard would be fine.  The next thing I hear is that some hikers who came by our house and had slept there, only to have the new owner wake them up with a plastic movie rifle.  There was an ‘ahhhhh’ from the hikers then and ‘ahhhhh’ from him and that just went back and forth until words explained everything.  The new owner had no idea he purchased land right smack next to the PCT or what it was.  Eventually, he gave in and reopened Hikertown.”

According to my trusty phone weather app that seems to like lying to me, the wind from the night before and that day was sustained 20-30 mph with 55 mph gusts and that would increase after 5 pm to 35-40 mph sustained with 65 mph gusts.  However, it seemed to die down a bit around 2 pm and the sun warmed us up a bit, so we left at 2:30 pm for a 16 mile walk along the aqueduct.  I was just glad to leave Hikertown.  Even for my standards it was sketchy and sleazy.

The walk along the aqueduct seemed long and mostly flat.  The wind smashed us all around but died almost completely around when we stopped for dinner with Marcus and Klondike.  Klondike had a surprise call from the New Zealand National radio which wanted a follow-up interview with him.  If you’d like to listen it’s at http://www.reallylongwalks.com.

The Mojave desert was not what I expected: it was super windy, not scorching me, and we had to follow the aqueduct in order to avoid more private land.  We passed thousands of Joshua trees and turned off wind turbines.  At one point, I leaned completely into the headwind and it held me up.  Other times, I amused myself with my shadow that was in front of me because the trail decided to take us a mile southeast at one point.  We got to the first water 16 miles in and searched for a flat and wind protected spot.

In the morning, we walked through some fresh construction near the wind turbines and began heading toward the hills.  I felt incredibly slow after battling the wind the previous night as well as that morning.  I was not the only one and we took a long ass break at the second water (the last for the day).  There, we met Tuna Helper who was on his 12th day and trying to break Scott Williamson’s speed record of the PCT.  I didn’t believe him at first because he wasn’t angry and running like every other mile hound.

“How many miles are you trying to do today” we asked.

“Probably 52 due to the water sources,” he answered.

He also warned us of the super sandy climb we had ahead up to the ridge.  He was right.  We contoured the foothills for 3.5 miles, then dropped a few hundred feet to climb 1500 ft or so.  The climb was all sand and made walking difficult, but the wind had died to a light breeze.

On top of the ridge, my stomach loudly announced that I was out of calories by rumbling until I stopped on a flat rock and raided my food bag playing the game of “how much can I eat.”  About a quarter-mile later, a blanket provided shade from a tree over a beach chair, apples, and bottled water trail magic.  It was an awesome surprise.

We then had a long, slightly bumpy descent into a functional wind farm where the wind made dodging the horse shit significantly more difficult.

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Hey folks!

I just spoke with a great college friend of mine who is trying to start a new online outing club to connect people for outdoor activities of awesomeness.  She’s just starting it up from Hawaii and soon moving to San Francisco to launch this new way of networking people online to go outdoors.  It’s just starting up, so be patient, but please check it out and help it get started.  Once enough people are interested, she’s going to work with larger gear companies for sponsorship and possible gear giveaways based on points earned from getting outside and getting dirty!  You can like the page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/linkedout) and/or go to the just starting up website (linkedout.co).

If anyone can start something up, she can. So, if you want to be a part of something cool at the beginning, check it out and be a part of the start-up!

Thanks,

Veggie

PS  PCT update coming soon.

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Since the heat still borderlined on obnoxious at 6 in the afternoon and happy hour was still going on, we went and had several beers to kill some time.  While we drank, Bolt, Navi, and Safari went to pick up beer to attempt the 24 challenge.  The challenge goes as follows: there are 24 trail miles between the Saufley’s and the Anderson’s where one has 24 hours to drink 24 beers.  They had thrown stuff in Moxie’s car so all they had was a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a bit of food, and 24 beers.  They left about an hour before Hop-a-long, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, Shags and I left.

We made another stop at the liquor store because we were fresh out.  There we managed to pick up some Jim, Patron, and 5 hour energies.  We had a bit of a road walk right after that which was actually part of the trail; Agua Dulce was the first town we actually walk through.

Pretty pissed that we had to walk on the road, we plodded on, peed on someone’s yard, and eventually reached real trail after a while.  Breathing a sigh of relief, we drank a beer and began on the Jim.  From there, we got to climb a wonderful 2,000 feet only to drop right back down to a water cache.  Right before the top, Dead Animal and I caught up, “Caaaaaa Caaaaaaaaaaaw!”

“Caaa Caaaaaaaaaaaaw!” Safari yelled back and beer cans clanged together.  He had a plastic bag full of empties hanging off the back of his pack.  Basically, you would always know where he was because he made so much noise.  They couldn’t seem to figure out how we caught up; the only thing they were sure of was that they were on beer #9.

We got to the road, plopped down for food and then pushed on.  Natty caught up too and after we ate, Dead Animal and I pressed on to hike more.  Climbing yet again, we went up and over another ridge and eventually down to the second cache where we found Iron still awake and settling in for a nap.  At that time, none of us could call it sleep since it was 3:30 am.  Right before we slept, Beef Nugget came for a bit and napped, but was gone when we woke up.

I think I slept maybe half and hour and dozed for an hour.  Shags came in at 4:30 am for a soda, then continued hiking.  At 5:30 am, I got up, packed up, and started hiking an hour later.  It was already hot and I just about regretted the nap.

After two hours and 7 miles of obnoxious heat, I made it to the road and began hitching to the Anderson’s Casa de Luna aka the Lunatic Lounge.  I got a ride almost there quickly and walked in to breakfast where I found Orbit who I had met on the AT loitering at a gas station eating as much as possible.  Then another surprise: Mellow Yellow had gotten super sucked into the vortex.  Apparently, he had stayed there almost 3 days before and managed to leave after his pack, then his shoes, were hidden.  But then Terri had picked him up from Hikertown (40 trail miles away) and brought him back for a few more days.

Many others had gotten sucked in as well: Damsel with her dog Lucy, Cheesecake, Ornie, Waffles, Jesse, Extra Credit, Hot Wing, among others.  Shags had beat me there by a bit and we waited for the rest of team teamwork.  I ran into Major Upchuck who I could have sworn was behind us.  He was: he hitched from Wrightwood to the Anderson’s.

In the meantime, beer magically kept appearing in my hand while I painted a rock and hung out.  It was pretty much just a constant party the whole time.  Eventually, Dead Animal, Inspector Gadget, and Hop-a-long made it in, I took a nap, and we kept drinking more.  Taco salad made everyone’s night.

After a night in the manzanita trees in the backyard, people slowly trickled out to the smell of pancakes and coffee.  The next day we played rummy, drank beer, napped, lounged on the awesome couches on the front lawn.  We meant to leave that evening but then Peter, Maverick and others came in with whiskey and jager.  Needless to say, we stayed.

We did managed to leave the next morning after breakfast minus Shags who has decided to only night hike due to heat and minus Safari who seemed content chilling with his new mohawk on the couch with pancakes.

The first 8 miles didn’t seem like 8 miles, but way too quick.  The water cache was empty when I got there, but Inspector Gadget hitched into town for water and beer.

Kimbo came and refilled the water cache in the afternoon.  We all went up and helped carry the water down.

We left late that afternoon to begin a 1,500 foot climb or so to get to the top of a ridge.  So close to the Mojave, we all found ourselves thankful the trail pushed us up and over every damn ridge until there were none left.  After a food break at the top, we set off for a night hike 6 or 7 miles further to the next tolerable water.  Since leaving the Anderson’s, we have plunged into some of the worst water sources yet.  Pretty much to make us feel guilty for sneering at how bad we thought some others were.

The water source we ended up sleeping near had very large floaties and was a short bushwhack to get to.  We very classily slept on the dirt road next to it since all the flatish spots had grass on it and we didn’t want condensation.  The first thing that each of us commented on was how disappointed we were that trees suddenly showed up for the last six miles right when the sun went down.  First, they would have been helpful when the sun was still uncomfortably soaking us in sweat.  Second, the moon was just about full and would have been enough light without a headlamp if the trees hadn’t created such a thick canopy.

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Attempting to wake up early, we seemed to find every excuse possible to procrastinate.  It began a long day.  Only a few miles from the big 5-0-0, we set off at different times and waited at the 500 mile mark made with sticks and a pine cone.  Supposedly, there was a sign that said 500, but that didn’t show up for another 2 miles or so around mile 502.  The map and the GPS matched the one made of sticks.   There was also a nice clump of Poodle Dog Bush right before mile 500 that I totally was not expecting.

We hiked up and over a good-sized bump and found the next “decent” water source which normally, I would highly debate actually getting water there, but compared to the other crap we’ve seen, it looked delectable, algae, bugs, and all.  The directions on the water report were even better: behind the trail sign, crawl under the roof and open the plastic cover.

I tried to take a break there, but the black flies attacked again, trying to eat me alive.  I’ve recently started using my maps as a fly swatter/fan combo which works enough that every other word out of my mouth is not “fuck” or “ouch”.

The heat began setting in but I decided to go til noon, then find a shady tree to crash out under.  I found a great spot and cooked some lunch.  Then, I realized I had 3G, so I browsed the web until I fell asleep for an hour or so until Inspector Gadget walked by snickering that he was going to beat me to town.

The last ten miles of the day just increasingly irritated me.  First, it was hot and that was just not cool.  My eyeballs started to sweat.  Then the trail had to skirt butt-loads of private lands which forced us away from the nice flat wash walk to town and over every damn foothill.  On top of that, we had to skirt a hunt club which had a sign that directed us as follows: “private land, stay on trail, under video surveillance.”  Great.  I thought about finding the camera angle and peeing right under it, but I unfortunately did not have to pee.

Not long after that a gnat decided to fly up my nose and get caught in a bugger, so I had to snot rocket it out.  Pretty sure it died in the process.

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