Friday, June 27, 2014

The journey is the adventure

Day 48:
I left Lone Pine and arrived back on the trail by 1330, exactly where I had left off. During the long 22 mile drive up the steep hill to Horseshoe Meadow, gaining 9000 ft elevation, I thought about my friend Bradford who will be running the revised route, gnarly Badwater 135 mile ultra marathon in july and certainly gained an extreme appreciation for how difficult this race will be! 

Some people wonder why others do activities which take you so far out of your comfort zone, but it is here that you are able to tap into those deep, not frequently used parts of yourself and discover unknown qualities about yourself that you never knew you had. It steers you towards greater satisfaction of the opportunity you have for being alive on this planet. When you are comfortably numb and not maximizing your capabilities, whether they be physical or mental, your feeling of fulfillment in life is minimized. When you have to dig deep to overcome or get through something it enables you to "live deep and suck out the marrow of life" ( Henry David Thoreau)
It was very pleasant, undulating hiking until I reached Chicken Spring Lake high up on the mountain at 11,260 ft elevation. 

What a beautiful sight! I cooked my dinner here on the beach with my jetboil stove. It was incredibly tranquil and gorgeous with the crystal clear, cold lake water sparkling in the late afternoon light and the sound of happy birds ( Clark's Nutcrackers) filling the air. 

The peak of the ridge above the lake still had little patches of packed snow on it making it all picture perfect.
I continued walking until 7:45 pm and randomly camped where I could find a suitable space.

Grateful for:
1) Kindness from Victor, driving me 22 miles back to Horseshoe Meadow.
2) Feeling rejuvenated from my zero in Lone Pine
3) Pleasant hiking (not too many awful ascents)!
4) Stunning Chicken Spring Lake
5) Purple Monster did not feel too bad today...
Life's journey is an adventure! If we think we've reached the destination, then what?

Day 49:
Today I really experienced being in the high Sierras.
One could equate it to nirvana. Being able to live it is worth the pain of all the climbing with a heavy back pack at high altitude, which certainly leaves me breathless and exhausted.

Flowing and abundant water in the form of bubbling creeks and rivers is a beautiful thing anytime, but especially after spending 700 miles on foot on the desert! I spent most of the day at 10,000 ft where the water is clear and sweet. It is so enjoyable watching the little woodland creatures at work and play, like the chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies, hares and marmots. 
It's slow going with the heavy pack but I managed to get a fair amount of distance covered today. The 20 mile days are being reduced to 15 mile days due to the nature of the terrain. 

I reached Crabtree Meadow, a most magnificent place, in the early evening. It is a large, grassy meadow situated at 10,445 ft and nestled between the peaks of various large mountains all reaching over 14,000 ft. As I prepared my dinner by the riverside, I made the decision to camp here for the evening due to the sheer beauty of the place. 

Tomorrow I have to decide whether to summit Mnt Whitney or not which would be a side excursion and not part of the PCT and it would take up an entire day. As I sat there I heard the sound of horses hooves and  soon a mule train carrying supplies for a remote Ranger Station appeared. 

What a splendid sight! Three rangers on horse back, each with three mules in their train stopped at the river to allow these beautiful beasts to tank up with water. 

The rangers warned of bad weather approaching in the form of a storm, so this information made me lean towards the decision of pressing on along the PCT. I still had some high elevation passes to cross in the next couple of days which would be dangerous in stormy weather.

The evening at Crabtree Meadow was spectacular with the surrounding mountains lighting up as many large mule deer grazed in the meadow.

Today I am thankful for:
1) Abundant sweet, flowing water.
2) Forests with their wonderful creatures.
3) An awesome camp at Crabtree Meadow.
4) Being able to observe deer grazing and marmots frolicking.
5) The wonderful world we live in.

Today's trail lesson:
" Hike your own hike" is equivalent to "live your own authentic life". Don't sacrifice your true self to live up to other peoples expectations of you. Be your best possible self! 

Day 50:
Wow! 50 days since I left Campo, it's hard to believe that I've been on this journey for that long already!

It's chilly at night in the high Sierra, I have to sleep with multiple layers of clothing on i.e my ninja outfit, fleece, down jacket, 2 pairs of socks and beanie, inside my silk sleeping sack and down sleeping bag.
Today I decided to press on to Forrester Pass and not do any detour hikes. After saying farewell to the friendly section hikers at camp I set off. At this part of the trail, the PCT and John Muir Trail join up and are one and the same for awhile.  
Not far along, I met Gator who I had first met at Warner Springs and then Idyllwild. What a surprise! He had just been up Mnt Whitney with "the Hobbits", Pippen and Pickleback.

The day continued with many ascents and descents over flowing streams, many of which had to be crossed along stepping stones or fallen logs. 

The pack mule train passed by me through the woods again on their way back.

 I was pushing hard to get the 13,200 ft Forrester Pass behind me.

. It was heavy going having to climb another 3000 ft already at elevation.

I passed many mountain lakes and patches of snow which obscured the path at times.

 The steep switchbacks to the top of the pass gave me spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.

 It was windy and cold once I reached the gap at the top but on the other side appeared a problem that I had not anticipated. 

Thick snow and ice were obscuring the path down. At one point I had to posthole my way straight down, slipping and sliding along the way, trying to arrest a fall with my trekking poles. Then more of the path was obscured by icy snow and I tried to make my way around it on the rocks. Clambering about on the boulders and loose  gravel on the side of the steep mountain face, I became lost and could not find the trail. A freezing wind was whipping about me and as I shivered uncontrollably and started shouting for help, I realized I was potentially lost and it was getting late. No one could hear me and the feeling of panic started to set in. My life flashed before my eyes as I realized I might not survive if I didn't find the path. My concern was falling down the mountain or dying of exposure and hypothermia if I got stranded there overnight. Eventually some south bound hikers appeared and directed me back to the trail of which I am eternally grateful! The sun was setting and I hiked down the remainder of the switchbacks as fast as I could to find shelter from the icy wind that was becoming stronger. I made it to a semi sheltered campsite as it got dark and set up my tent. To my relief, Gator, Pippen and Pickleback were camping there too. Lying there safe and warm tucked up in my sleeping bag, I was thankful for:
1) Having Forrester Pass behind me.
2) Being alive 
3) Being able to find the trail again.
4) Completing good mileage today.
5) Being safe and warm in my tent beside other hikers I knew. What a relief!

Today's trail lesson:
If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don't.
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Day 51:
( Photos in this section courtesy of Gator)
Strong gale force gusts of wind woke me up early. I had been shaken by them in my tent all night long and had a very broken sleep. It was very cold and when I stuck my head out of my tent and I was horrified to see the big, black thunderclouds forming overhead. Pippen and Pickleback had just woken up and we woke Gator up. Our feeling was to get off the mountain as soon as we could to avoid the storm that was brewing. To do this we had to take a detour route across Kearsage Pass and get down to Onion Valley. I spent the day hiking with Gator and we went as fast as we could, once again crossing multiple rivers and streams and eventually, after some heavy ascent, we got to the Bullfrog Lake detour route to the pass. I felt so fortunate to be hiking this section with Gator because if I had been by myself, trying to out hike a storm it would have been very stressful. 

Bullfrog Lake turned out to be a hidden gem, so tranquil and beautiful. After that we passed the Kearsage Lakes set beneath jagged, looming peaks covered in drifts of snow and with the storm clouds swirling about it gave one the feeling of being in a "Lord of the Rings" type of adventure. 

It was tough going over Kearsage at 11,200 ft in wind gusts that almost knocked me over and coming down the other side seemed to take forever on the never ending switchbacks. It was however extremely beautiful with Onion Valley at the foot and the town of Independence 13 miles further down the hill. Once at the campsite in Onion Valley we were treated to the most amazing trail magic by angels Uber Bitch and Bristle Cone. They are wonderful and I have no idea how Uber Bitch got her trail name because she is one of the most delightful people I have met. She graciously fed us and gave us a ride to town. I also briefly saw Lady Mac and Gourmet again who were having a zero with their parents. It's wonderful the way we all meet up randomly over the course of our journey.
I then caught a 30 mile bus ride to the bigger town of Bishop for resupply and a much needed zero day.
Thankful for:
1) Hiking with Gator
2) Beating the foul weather
3) Making it over Kearsage Pass
4) Taking the most scenic detour route
5) Feeling like I'm living an adventure movie with the most spectacular backdrops.  
Lesson from the trail:
"Not all those who wander are lost." J. R. R. Tolkien

Day 52:
Zero day spent in the quaint town of Bishop, rejuvenating and resupplying. 
I had to putchase a new plug in phone charger as I had lost my solar panel and charger on Forrester Pass whilst scrambling over the boulders on the mountainside. Laundry, blog, food, foot soaks, reconnecting with people and enjoying the comforts of civilization where the order of the day. Tomorrow I take a bus ride back to Independence and then hitch a ride up to Onion Valley so that I can go back over the steep 7 mile Kearsage Pass and continue the PCT where I left off.... and so the adventure continues!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Desert is behind me as the high Sierras loom ahead

Day 41:
Leaving Lake Isabella to get back to Walker Pass where I had left the trail proved to be fairly easy thanks to two different rides from Navy personnel. The first was an elderly Navy retired gentleman who told me about how he had hitch hiked across America when he was 18 years old, and the second ride was from a Navy couple who had just finished a 3 year tour in Hawaii, so it was fun to be able to talk story about home.
I was back on the trail by 1 pm, hiking the switchbacks and mountain hugging paths. 

I saw Stringcheese who was south bounding a section with a slack pack and it was great catching up with her. My plan was to camp at Joshua Tree Spring but it was a 1/4 mile off trail and when I reached the junction, it was signposted that the water was unsafe, stagnant and not flowing. 

I continued for about a mile and saw a spot under a tree that looked a little sheltered which was a bonus as it was a very windy night once again. I was all tucked in and cozy by 8:45 pm.

Thankful for:
1) Easy hitch hiking with rides from 2 different Navy folk
2) Pleasant hiking
3) Reaching my mileage goal for the day
4) A sheltered camp spot under a tree
5) Feeling loved by family and friends

Day 42;
Today was gorgeous hiking terrain, skirting the mountainsides, gaining elevation and then descending into a valley at Chimney Creek. My first source of water was at Spanish Needle Creek which was merely a trickle.

 Here I had sat beneath the trees and ate a lunch comprising of instant mashed potatoes and hot chocolate. What a combination! Today was quite chilly due to the hectic wind that was blowing which had a bite to it. I had to have frequent short rests as my legs where experiencing muscle fatigue with all the climbing. I met up with Storybook and Big Rips and kept crossing paths with them all day.

 We arrived at Chimney Creek together and sat at the spring, collecting and filtering water after which I hiked for another hour and set up camp in the shelter of the pine forest. Missing my loved ones. Tomorrow I hope to reach Kennedy Meadows.

Day 43:
Awesome, awesome day!
Started out at 7:00 am with a walk in the woods and soon reached the area on Bear Mountain that had been devastated in a fire in 2000 caused by a careless human. Part of Chimney Peak wilderness and 75% of Dome Land wilderness was burned. The hillside hugging trail was an easy gradient so it made for pleasant hiking.

 Met Storybook and Big Rips on and off all day again and we had lunch beside a stream with the high Sierras watching us from a distance as we sat under a burned tree on the beach at Pine Creek where we also obtained and filtered our water. 

After another couple of hours hiking the beautiful sight of South Fork Kern River met my eyes.

 Tangles of wild pink roses grew along the banks, as they have alongside all the creeks and streams I've come across and a family of ducks were enjoying the splendors of it all too. 

The sight of the river and mountains covered in pine trees filled me with elation. 

I really felt at this point that the desert was behind me and the high Sierras were ahead of me. A tangible change was evident. 

Arriving at Kennedy Meadows ( mile 702), a high mountain village at 6427 ft with a population of 200 and one general store was like reaching nirvana. 

I got there just in time to buy some fresh food and a beer and met fellow hikers, many of whom I had come into contact with before.

 Once again I was called upon for my medical knowledge and was called "Dr Two Feathers" which is funny. 
The entire town is off the grid and uses well water. I got an awesome little caravan room to stay in overnight at Tom's Place. 

Tomorrow I have to buy a bear canister as from here on out until the end of California, it is mandatory to use one to keep your food in.

I feel that it's so important to stop over in these little trail towns along the way to replenish not only your supplies but your mind and body as well. It feels good to be here.

Grateful for:
1) Another great day of hiking
2) Flowing creeks and rivers
3) Leaving the desert behind me
4) Arriving in Kennedy Meadows
5) A cute, rustic caravan to sleep in

Day 44:
I awoke at dawn around 05:20, as usual. Damn, why can't I sleep in? Not much happens here until 09:00 when the general store opens and the generator gets turned on. I have my name on the waiting list to do my laundry and shower.
I bought the bear canister for $70 and had the daunting task of trying to fit everything including that into the already overstuffed Purple Monster. 

It's going to be extremely painful carrying it all.

I left for the trail mid afternoon and camped at a creek with Chappy, Two Step, The Don and Storybook. 

The wind is howling up in the mountains but we're relatively sheltered down here and the water is flowing.
Thankful for:
1) A great nero at Kennedy Meadows
2) A shower and clean clothes
3) Ice cream and coke
4) Camping at a creek with other hikers
5) Being cozy in my tent

Day 45:
I am really exhausted after a hard 20 miles / 32 km today. I didn't sleep well last night as one of the hikers started shouting out at midnight due to a nightmare about being attacked by a bear. This woke me up and I lay there paralyzed with fear for about an hour, as I did not know what was going on until morning.

Today took me through the woods, across a sage meadow and over the South Fork Kern River.

 The PCT intersected with the Haiwee Trail which follows an ancient Native American path east to the river, through Haiwee Pass and Owens Valley. 

Onwards and upwards I hiked to 10,400 ft on Olancha Peak, looking out over Gomez Meadow which was a stunningly beautiful vista.

 Many of the springs appeared dry or stagnant and I had to search upstream for areas that had trickles of running water.

By nightfall I was physically and mentally exhausted and questioning why I was on the trail at all. It was a friday night and I was alone in my tent on a remote wilderness mountain. I did not want to be there at that moment. I would rather have been back in Hawaii having a great social time. I was missing my loved ones! 

Grateful for:
1) A camp near a creek
2) Completing good mileage today
3) Water
4) My satellite phone as it is the only thing keeping me connected
5) No wind

Day 46:
A good nights rest made me feel a bit better. I think a lot of what I'm feeling is due to the sudden increase in weight of my back pack because of the addition of the bear canister which I hate with a passion.

I had been sleeping at 9000ft and today I climbed at a painfully slow crawl to 10,500 ft. I'm finding the climbing at elevation with the heavy load very difficult. Purple Monster is killing my back! I've had no phone reception for days and the solar panel is only barely keeping my phone alive and I need it for my map app.
I spent half the day climbing and the other half descending, with a final climb to Trail Pass Trail junction. 

At this point I had to decide whether to continue without enough food until I reached the next town of Independence in five days, or take the detour to Horseshoe Meadow and try to hitch a ride to Lone Pine. I decided to get off the trail here, a good zero and resupply would make me feel a whole lot better.
Crossing over Horseshoe Meadow, I saw a coyote and when I got to the campground I was able to hitch a ride down the 22 mile mountain road and was dropped off in Lone Pine right at the entrance to a motel. My spirits were lifted! I plugged in all my gadgets to recharge them, bought pizza and was able to make phone calls.

Thankful for:
1) Another day of good mileage even though it was difficult
2) Making the decision to get off trail
3) Civilization and friendly people
4) Duane for giving me a ride to town
5) A comfy bed and electricity

Day 47:
A zero day in Lone Pine, an interesting little town at the foot of Mnt Whitney. 

It has a fascinating history of both manmade and natural disasters and film making around the fascinating rocky outcrops called the Alabama Hills where many Westerns were filmed and more recent movies, Gladiator and The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp to name a few.
Lone Pine is situated in Owens Valley which had a large lake (Owens Lake) making the valley lush with orchards and agriculture. In 1924, the water rights were bought by a company who drained the lake and diverted the water from all the rivers running into the lake to the California Aqueduct to supply Los Angeles, leaving the valley barren and desert like.
My day started with blueberry and banana pancakes and coffee for breakfast, updating my blog, posting pictures, doing laundry and buying supplies.
I bought myself a gift of Native American jewelry, a pair of sterling silver and opal earrings with two feathers on each of them. This is absolutely perfect to match my trail name of Two Feathers. 

Nothing like long distance hiking in style!
The person at the front desk of the motel offered to drive me back to Horseshoe Meadow tomorrow to get back on the trail where I left off.
Thankful for:
1) A rejuvenating zero in Lone Pine
2) Comforts of civilization
3) Fresh produce
4) Stunning American Indian jewelry gift to myself
5) Feeling ready to get back on the trail