Archive for May, 2007

2007-05-21 Agua Dulce

Monday, May 21st, 2007

The Vasquez Rocks star gazing was a bust as the clouds rolled in and my Canon IS710 doesn’t match up to the 350D for long exposures anyway. But I did enjoy the night. Great camping spot and impressive landscape. I got moving fairly early and was at Hiker Heaven when only a few hikers were awake.

Welcome to Agua Dulce

This place is really amazing. Donna and Jeff have Big Red, a giant Chevrolet Silverado vehicle for hikers to borrow, she does your laundry, they have half a dozen tents set up each sleeping 3-5 people, WiFi, hiker boxes (where we leave gear/food we don’t want and take stuff others have left) galore and a row of bikes to ride into the little town for supplies. It’s a wonderful thing they do for us hikers and I’ll gladly take a zero day tomorrow to sort out food for the next 250 miles to get me to Kennedy Meadows and the start of the Sierra Nevadas. I also need to sort food for there too and make sure it fits into a bear-proof canister.

Five of us borrowed Big Red to get to REI and Adventure 16 in some outer suburb of LA. Kinda freaky to be in a car in traffic surrounded by so much city ugliness. Adventure 16 are great people. A sale was on and they did a special PCT discount on top of that so I got things much cheaper than I expected. Top notch guys, if you’re in the San Diego/LA area you should check them out.

Tonight the hikers sat around in the mobile home thing, watched Top Gun and passed on trail news. Tomorrow I’m cooking some eggs and bacon, I bet that’ll get a few people up early.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

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2007-05-20 Vasquez Rocks Marathon

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

I don’t think I’ve ever *heard* a squirrel before but one joined in the animal alarm clock this morning. It was cold in the ravine where Troll, Oblivious and I slept but as soon as I got back on the outside of the hill it was hot, and this was at 7 am. I ambled along and reached the target water source pretty early. North Fork ranger station is where the trail finally turns north after heading generally west since Big Bear City 170+ miles ago. There’ll be no more of that silliness until northern California where there are even southerly stretches. It’s stuff like that that means walking the trail through this state is longer than flying direct from Mexico to Canada.
Soledad Canyon

starting up from Soledad Canyon

It was at North Fork that I realised I was within an (extremely hard) afternoon’s walk of Vasquez Rocks. Named after some 1850s bad guy and used in all sorts of (mostly western or sci-fi) movies and TV shows. So like only mad dogs and Englishmen do I set out in the midday sun. It was a punishing descent, then climb, then descent (and so on) and made harder by the data describing the last high point as a saddle with a jeep road, only to find a second one 30 mins later and hundreds of feet higher. But it did have its rewards. I saw a coyote take off down a steep hill at incredible speed, and I stood and watched two crows riding the drafts in and out of some gullies for 5 minutes. I don’t think they were circling food, just having a good time being birds. I hope I get time for some hang-gliding lessons when I get home. I was at nearly 25 miles for the day when I stopped to cook an inexplicably spicy dinner of New Orleans style rice and southwest flavoured chicken. Not great at any time and I was almost out of water. With the sun setting I passed under the Antelope Highway (Highway 14) via a large drainage tunnel and into a different landscape. Dry, sandy, gritty valleys gave way to sculpted rock formations, trees and shade! I’ve seen a few rocks in my time and these were pretty cool. Not as cool as the pitted red rock wall that we went into in Wadi Rum but well up there. I wound my way along the path, through a strange flat area with trees scattered around and then finally down to the large picnic area and a water fountain. I’d been on the verge of going over to some houses and begging for a drink until the guide book told me to continue.

Now I am sleeping in the shadow of the famous Vasquez Rocks that I came all this way for. 27 miles and only 3 short of the legendary Saufley house where they do amazing things for hikers. This has been a long entry for a long day, thank you for reaching the end.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

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2007-05-19 Mill Creek Summit

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I woke and it was still starry above me. The sliver of a moon I saw earlier had gone and I didn’t feel like getting up. A quick check to my watch and it was just after midnight so I rolled over and eventually went back to sleep.

When my alarm went off it was light enough to see so I packed up and moved on. I found Troll and Oblivious at Sulphur Springs Campground and though the water was a bit dodgy I took a litre to see me through. By midday we reached Mill Creek Summit ranger station and the guy there said we could use the hose and picnic table so we did, for four hours. Strangely no-one else came along and I’ve not seen any other PCTers all day. This is how we spread out and ‘the herd’ dissipates. Tonight I am cowboy camping in a ravine noted to be the best spot from here to the next campground 5+ miles away. It’s pleasant enough except for the flying bugs and the occasional loud speaker announcement from something up the hill. The map shows a heliport within a few hundred meters, maybe I’ll see it in the morning.

A second bat just flew out above the trees, and I squashed a bug that was complaining about being under my groundsheet. I imagine there will be plenty of animal activity tonight.

Joshua Tree

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

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2007-05-18 Yellow-legged Frog Detour

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Scatman was awake well before me and got our food down from the rope. I haven’t seen him all day but I know I was within 10 minutes of him at a water stop earlier. After dropping down to Highway 2 from Little Jimmy Campground the trail wound its way up over Mount Williamson and I knew it was going to be a hard day.

Back down to the highway and eventually to Eagle’s Roost picnic area. Here the PCT is closed because the mountain yellow-legged frog is some how endangered by our presence. I really wanted to walk the official mapped route but that wouldn’t be very cool after my encounter with the biker breaking the rules. So a 2 mile road walk began. I ran parts of it just because I could and it would amuse Vortex and Blue Sky. Getting back to the trail involved a mile or more of the Buckhart Trail at the bottom of which I saw two day hikers *and their dog* going into the frog-zone! Bloomin’ day hikers.

Coming back up to road level was a long process. I stopped every 10 minutes for water and the afternoon dragged on. But eventually I got there and the path got easier on the other side. Max was nearby and we reached Camp Glenwood together. That’s 400.7 miles from Campo. I last saw her at another crossing of Highway 2 as Fester and Wilderness Bob caught up and suggested there was a restaurant just over a mile down the road. I’m a mile along the trail now, camping alone. I know some others are in a campground a couple of miles from here but this is far enough for me today.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

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2007-05-17 Mount Baden-Powell

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

I was the first hiker to wake but the residents of the house in Wrightwood were already having breakfast. Coleen made us breakfast burritos, showed us the washing machine and then left the house to us as she went off the the kids. We all did our town chores, Scatman spending a whopping $104 on food (energy bars add up) for 4.5 days and me replacing the crappy Sea-to-Summit spork that broke while scooping tuna out of a foil packet. Also got a letter from Bex, thank you!

The walk started easily enough from Inspiration Point but soon found a way to drop down to 6585 ft before starting the massive climb up Mount Baden-Powell. Named after the founder of the Scouts it’s 9400 ft high and steep, painfully steep. I thought my calf-muscles were tough before but they were cookie-dough. Now they’re carved out of wood. As I neared the spur trail to the top I was feeling good so I ran past Vortex and challenged him to a race to the summit, with packs (with 4 days of food and 3 litres of water). I got a 10-second head start but he sprinted by me only to slow to a wheezing crawl, as did I, before the top. I regained the lead but I wasn’t 10 seconds ahead at the end.

*Stupid bloody imperial system 2 miles ≠ 3000 feet. That’d be about 3000 yards


on top of Mount Baden-Powell Blue Sky, Vortex, Neptune, Mr Fusion, Scatman, SunWalker

Spectacular views of course, still affected by haze unfortunately. Mr Fusion and Neptune joined us and we got a great team photo at the top. On the way down I was in a pretty good mood. Singing and dancing along to Gnarles Barkley and then breaking into a proper run a few times, eventually covering the 6 miles to camp in 2 hours. Fester, Max (from Where the Wild Things Are), Wilderness Bob, Troll and Oblivious were already in residence and I arrived in time to see them hoist their food into the trees. There are two problem bears here so food must be put out of reach. Scatman and I did the same thing but it was a comedy of errors and ropes and rocks got caught, branches snapped and we eventually settled for a very poor hang. If the bears try hard enough they’ll get it.

I see Rachael has been providing a glossary so I’ll add to it here.
Bear-hanging: Hanging your food/smelly items out of reach of bears
Blaze: A mark on a tree to show where the trail goes. On the Appalachian Trail white blazes 2×6″ are painted on trees.
Yellow blazing: Hitching or road walking
Blue Blazing: Taking a side trail, often for water
Pink Blazing: Altering your hiking plans (speeding up or slowing down) to follow a girl
Gray Blazing: Slowing down (or speeding up) to walk with your parents

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Wrightwood to Agua Dulce

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2007-05-16 Uphill to the last

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

An early morning start and we found the missing cache just 100m or so after the place we turned back last night. I took a litre and it was really useful because climbing 5000 ft today was hard. There were some incredible views along the way. Cajon (pronounced “ca-hone”) Pass where I-15 lies was full of low lying cloud and as I went higher it slowly faded away. First revealing the huge power-line towers we went under yesterday, and then sadly revealing the yellowy smog that hangs there all the time.

Scatman is a fast walker and I mostly saw him as he packed up from taking rests along the way until we stopped together for lunch just before the road at the top of the ridge. From there we could see Wrightwood down the hill but it was still 8 miles by trail. As soon as Vortex and Sky Blue turned up we got moving to make sure we met our trail angel at Highway 2. A few years ago a major landslide took out a chunk of the highway so there is no longer any through traffic. We called ahead from I-15 to a very nice local lady called Carol who drove us down the 6 miles to town this evening.

Guffy Spring

Vortex and Scatman drinking from Guffy spring along the top before dropping down to Wrightwood
The afternoon was hard work. Even though we were on the top of the hill it kept going up and down. We walked down a ski run for a while. How nice skiing is when there are pine trees to weave between and beneath the snow is grass or mud rather than rocks.

After scoffing an entire pizza (12″ wide and lots of toppings) myself I joined the others at the phone boxes and we managed to find a local angel with a spare room. Not only that but she came and picked us up and is going to do our laundry in the morning!

Location: Wrightwood
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Idyllwild to Wrightwood

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2007-05-15 Reaching I-15

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

I’m on the edge of the Mojave desert so until further notice just assume my days are hot and dry. To avoid it on this particular day, and reach Subway for lunch I left the picnic area at 4:40 am and walked under starlight where I could. The trail from Cleghorn Campground* was a little overgrown but still there. A recent change to the guide book said something about it being closed due to a mudslide but I didn’t see any sign of that.

A few hours later as I perched on a rock to eat my second breakfast (a Probar from the hiker box in Big Bear) Scatman came past and we talked as we walked our way to Interstate 15. That’s nearly 14 miles before 10 am. To celebrate we walked even further up the tarmac, past McDonald’s and on to Subway. mmmmm fresh salad.

The others from the picnic area arrived over the next few hours and we made the pavement next to the only pay-phone around there a hiker pit. Some really dodgy guy tried to sell me a Blackberry (mobile email device) and I took the chance to order new shoes. By the time I swap in Agua Dulce my current pair will have done about 600 miles including training.

After organising a ride down from Highway 2 that we’ll get tomorrow night, Vortex, Blue Sky, Scatman and I headed back to the trail, negotiated the long dark underpass and the following swamp to start the 6000 ft climb to Wrightwood.
I-15 rail tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel
The scenery now includes big wonky rocks, mountainously big. We’ve camped in Lone Pine Canyon before the real ascent starts. Another early start tomorrow and another starry night just beginning.

*where we cleverly slept next to picnic tables rather than on the grass where the sprinklers came on at 10 pm
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Idyllwild to Wrightwood

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2007-05-14 Dam

Monday, May 14th, 2007

What did the fish say when it swam into a wall?


Deep Creek Hot Pools

Happy Feet

I was the first in the hotpool this morning. Eventually I got moving and started the first of the day’s long stretches between water. The trail is well up above Deep Creek and though it might seem easy to get down to, it’d probably be a one way trip. At Grass Valley Creek I actually managed to fall properly asleep during my siesta. The afternoon walking was easier when the heat had worn off, and we’re on the edge of the Mojave here, but it sure did drag on. I’ve made new trail friends that I should mention. Stamp Lady (an actual Postmistress) and Medicine Man are a nice American couple. Troll and his 12 year old son Oblivious who is set to be the youngest Triple-Crowner next year. It’s a really nice community feel here. I draw strength from those around me and it helps me move along. If a 12 year-old can do 21.7 miles in this heat then so can I. If others with terrible feet pain can carry on (though Ibuprofen does come into play here) then so can I. Vortex applies the same logic that if I can do it with my ridiculously heavy pack then so can he.
Oblivious, Troll and Stamp Lady
Oblivious, Troll and Stamp Lady
As part of this community I have now got a trailname. SunWalker, for my use of solar panels. It may change if I do something stupid or exceptional along the way but for now that is me. Davy suggested Walks With Sun and Miss Congeniality shortened it. When Dad comes out here in June to join in the hiking I think I’ll name him Walks With Son.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Idyllwild to Wrightwood

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2007-05-13 Deep Creek Animal Attack!

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Scatman and Ultra Brite passed me and I slowly dragged myself out of my bag. When I saw them again they told me about bear tracks not five minutes from my spot, I missed them completely.

It was a hot dry morning and I just plugged on. At the Deep Creek bridge I found a bag of goodies from Meadow Ed and then Junkfood and Amir came along to top it up. It wasn’t until a couple of miles north of there that I found Ed himself coming south from visiting the prayer flags put up for his friend No-Way-Ray who sadly fell to his death from that spot last year.

Big Pine Cone

Craig, at left, discusses the effects of prolonged sun exposure with a local
There were a few sketchy points today, going across steep grit slopes going down to rocks and the creek. At Willow creek, after a hotter drier afternoon, I tipped my head into the pool and it felt so good. I’d been rationing my water in case it was dry and I had to go all the way to the hot pools but luckily I could refill there and not from the stream that is down hill from all the people that use this valley.

I could tell I was getting close to the hot pools when a local came along the path. How did I know he was a local? Well he didn’t have a pack, or a shirt, or pants (of either type). There was more of this sort of behavior at the pools themselves, only some hikers got into the swing of things, mostly locals. The pools themselves have been formed around natural springs. Someone cemented a few rocks together, put a pipe into another section and generally made it an awesome hangout for us.

Now someone has handed out beer and whisky and at least one of us is making the most of it. See it’s not all about getting dirty and sleeping under the motorway, sometimes there are nudist colonies to interrupt too.

Oh yeah, the animal attack. I had stopped to get water and put my pack down next to a large rock. I filled my bottles and slung on my pack. Right then as I tightened the straps I felt a sudden pain near my stomach. I adjusted my belt again, crushing the ant in the process, and continued on the day.

What, you were expecting Jaws VI: In The Creek?

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Idyllwild to Wrightwood

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2007-05-12 Bad mood

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

I’ve been in a bad mood today and a lot of it is my own fault. I talked with a biker on the path about how bikes aren’t allowed on the PCT and though things were kept civil I was pretty mad that he really didn’t care. He did say he was considerate to hikers, not racing around corners etc. etc. and when I next caught up with him he was trying to move a log off the trail that was too big for just him. We moved it together and I felt a bit better but I still stewed over it, mostly about me being too snappy to start with when he did seem like a good guy after all. I have also been angry at myself for resenting the way the work/room situation at Nature’s Inn panned out. Hikers are getting a huge discount and we are grateful, but when things aren’t quite as they are claimed, and you get paid 1/2 what you were told it gets on your nerves, or at least it gets on mine.

The walk itself, nearly 23 miles, would have been easy if it weren’t for my enormous pack. Still, tomorrow morning I’ll have a raisin and cinnamon muffin, then a couple of pop-tarts and in the afternoon I should be eating pringles while soaking in Deep Creek hot springs.
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Idyllwild to Wrightwood

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