Archive for the 'Bear' Category

2007-09-15 The Forbidden Zone

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Today there were only three of us. Three woke up under the clouds. Three had lunch high above Milk Creek. Three did 59 switchbacks down to Vista Creek and camped here. We saw no-one else at all. Tomorrow we’ll reach the point where the detour and the road-walk rejoin the official PCT and I expect to see more people then. Until then it’s just me, the Noodleheads and the bears.


A sea of clouds

There were two bears at Pumice Creek this morning. The cub ran away pretty quickly but the mother waited a little bit then casually followed. They were the first that the Noodleheads had seen but my 7th and 8th. The next ridge brought us above the clouds and it was even more spectacular than yesterday. To the west a barren mountain range, still holding pockets of snow, pierced through the thick flowing blanket. Individual peaks became islands in the mist. There was no haze up there so I could see an incredible distance and make out details that would normally be too faint.

Noodleheads and Heaps on Fire Creek Pass

The ridges were magnificent and truly rivaling the high sierras for my favourite place on the trail. In all we climbed 5,000ft today, and dropped that much too. The border is only 112 miles away and to be honest I don’t know if I’d make it much further. My knees are feeling the strain of all these slopes. When my feet get wet, as they did this morning from the dew on the plants, they show strange patterns as if the skin is beginning to rot away.

The trail down from Fire Creek Pass

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2007-09-08 Snoqualmie Pass

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

I was watching the peak on the west of the lake. When the sun was on it I’d start moving and thus I was the last to leave. It also meant that I was the only one to see the bear at the top of the first hill. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about the walk and soon enough I was down at Snoqualmie Pass, looking at those formidable mountains ahead. It looks like the Sierras again. A miniature version but still soaring mountains, snowy peaks and green valleys. I’m really looking forward to it.

PCT sign

The mountains ahead

Samurai Joe has caught up so we’ve split a room four ways. Thunder, Tag and Robo Cop are each going solo. The service at the Chevron is variable to say the least. I asked the guy behind the counter if I had any packages, he said I didn’t but I could check the store room. None for me but I saw a box for A-Train. The postmistress was just closing up but was going down to town and would bring back anything with my name on it. I heard from A-Train that when he asked for his box the guy denied it existed and he had to insist on checking the room personally to get it. The story goes on but basically it’s a whole mish-mash that could lead to disaster despite their plan to help us hikers.

Ok, back to the hills!

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2007-09-05 Back to work

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Today has been a mix of feelings. Listening to Timo Mass’ “It’s the first day (of the rest of your life)” I pictured myself waking up at Manning Park in Canada. It wouldn’t be a zero day, it would just be a day, like 1000s more to come where I no longer have to think about water, food, distance, pack weight etc. I’d get on a bus and start going home. I think I felt sad about it. The trail would be over and all those real-life things would start up again. But I’d mostly feel stunned at being there, and try to remember every day I’ve had on the adventure.

Much later in the day, when I’d been powering up towards the ridge to get out of the long green tunnel, I paused, took a sip of water, and carried on. It occurred to me how this is just what I do now. I walk, all day every day. I take it for granted. If I’m awake and not eating I’m probably on the move. We all are. Some like to relax more. I might not ever see Speedstick again because of it. It’s not like a job, it’s just part of me. It’s an automatic reaction to daylight and this morning when I saw the clear sky all I wanted to do was hike.

A-Train and I started together and soon found Samurai Joe then Robo Cop (an actual ex-cop, not to be confused with Rocket Cop who is actually part rocket).

Late this afternoon we came across Squatch, the guy who has made three PCT documentaries. He’s heading south meeting more people and getting footage. Funny guy, and another that I’ll never see again.

The final feeling for the afternoon was a little bit of fear. I found A-Train standing still on the trail. Holding his camera he was looking over the bushes to a rocky slope not 100m distant where moments before he had seen a bear. I’d mostly put them out of my mind since central California, but I shouldn’t forget they are out here too.

Lesson for the day: If you’re going to share a room with an old guy. Don’t. They snore loudly and get up to pee a lot. This is especially bad if he snagged the top bunk and insists on falling down each time rather than using the ladder.

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2007-06-27 Catching Up

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

It’s been a very long day, my longest yet, so I’ll probably be brief and try to sleep. I’m now just above Benson Lake over 30 miles from where I started at about 6 this morning. There’s been a lot of undulation and thankfully not many people.

PCT sign

Ready to leave Tuolumne hiker’s campsite

PCT sign

Last look at Tuolumne Meadows

I have passed Tammy, Salt Lick and a non-PCTer who was heading south and could remember quite a few names I recognised. It seems the front-runners aren’t that far ahead after all. I doubt I’ll catch them though, my left foot hurts from over doing it today, especially the harsh descent at the end. I finally pulled out my iPod today, unseen since Kennedy Meadows. It was strange to listen to New York Minute while standing amongst granite cliffs and giant trees but the songs got more appropriate later. Gnarls Barkley sang “Smiley Faces” as I was on the steep steps this afternoon, and then Polly Paulusma came on with “Some day”

While this journey’s long it’s joyful
coz you are here with me
I’ve been living for tomorrow
Forgot to live today
This sweet life is only borrowed
Got to give it back some day

p.s. I saw a bear early this morning. It watched me then sauntered away.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass

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2007-06-24 Red’s

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

I was up and gone before anyone noticed. With only three bars left to eat I had to get to Red’s Meadow for a proper breakfast, and I did. The walk was easy, all down hill, but very dusty. I saw a black bear about 50m away and when he saw me he ran, like really ran. I could hear his foot steps on the soft ground from that far away and he was a heavy one. I know now I’d have no chance of getting away from one of those.

At Red’s I went and claimed my food bag from the bear-proof box near the ranger station then waited around as other hikers drifted in. I queued with a crowd of kids from the Youth Conservation Corps (in the valley building a viewing platform for Devils Postpile) to use the free hot-spring showers. They were good and I got mostly clean. Tourist was getting back on the trail after being sick for nearly a week.

Along with Mosey the four of us checked in at Motel 6 and set about the usual town duties of food, laundry, resupply, internet and putting one’s feet up. It was as we wandered along main street looking for ice cream that someone spotted Tourist. She looked exhausted. The kind of exhausted when I’m afraid to say much in case it’s the wrong thing and she’d burst into tears. I didn’t and she didn’t, Angelhair took her pack and walked her to the motel where she is now quarantined. She had been traveling with a bunch of others that got really sick, including Neighbor-J who actually got air-lifted off the mountain, and hadn’t made it more than a couple of hours that morning.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Muir Pass to Reds Meadow

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2007-06-11 Forrester (Gump?)

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Bronwyn will remember the stupid grin I had while riding a scooter around Santorini, a sun drenched Greek island. Well the grin is back but this time it’s for the mountains, the snow, the trees and the bears.

PCT sign

PCT sign

PCT sign

Today we crossed the highest point on the PCT. Forrester Pass at 13,300ft. It was quite a slog just to get to the start of the climb, crossing good sized streams and my first proper snow walking experience. The path up the mountain is switchbacked like crazy and looks like a lot of effort moving all that rock just for a few hikers. The pass is known amongst PCTers for the dangerous snow chute right at the top but this year we’ve got it easy. The snow only covers one side of the trail so Tiki, Lucky Joe, Second Hand (formerly known as Mike) and I got to the top just exhausted and not petrified. We posed for photos, admired the incredible scenery and got cold so we set off down the north side. Lucky Joe was the first to try glissading, the art of sliding down the snow to save the effort of walking. We all had a go, some even two and down we went. Four merry explorers in the most awesome place I have ever seen. We did get one dodgy snow crossing, we all went very slowly over it. It was at least 45 degrees and a run out that would surely break legs or worse.

PCT sign

Forrester Pass

PCT sign

PCT sign

PCT sign

PCT sign

The walking got easier and the small snow melt streams became a big river as we got back below tree line. We even got to see a bear pretty close, like within 20m. Just standing there watching us watching him. Eventually he saunted off and we all felt a little better for enjoying nature at its finest.

PCT sign

PCT sign

The second climb of the day was a mean one and I was nearly beat. We’re east of Bullfrog Lake on our way out via Kearsarge Pass and the mountains and lakes are…and here I struggle to find a superlative great enough to explain this place. Magnificent, awe-inspiring, magestic, spectacular. All of the above I believe. I’ve taken a bzillion photos and hopefully Dad will have the time to upload a few of them in a week or so and link to them here.

[Well I managed to squeeze a few into this page. Walks With Son]

PCT sign

Tiki, Lucky Joe and I just cooked dinner, talked a little bit and retired to our tents. This has been one of the physically toughest and most rewarding days of the trail. Whoooohooo!

Distance today: 23.2 miles. Total distance: 790.7 miles


It’s 2:18am and we just had another bear encounter. I woke to hear rustle, then branches snapping, then knawing! Tiki and I got out with headlamps and rocks and I could just make out the shape of a bear trying to get into Tiki’s Ursack. We scared it off pretty easily and hung the bag a little higher.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Crabtree Meadows to Independence

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2007-06-07 Meadows and a Bear

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

By crikey it was cold last night. It was quite a while before we reached sunlight this morning and my fingers were going numb until then. Becks Meadow was a welcome site. After all the desert and grit I was so glad to finally see miles and miles of lush green grass. We skirted the edge of it and made it to the famous swallow nest bridge over South Fork Kern River where Old Corpus was filling his bottles.

PCT sign

Swallow Bridge

It was a long gentle climb into Cow Canyon and the shade. It was somewhere in here that we lost the path. We trudged up a dusty slope where people had clearly been but it was too steep to be the official PCT. Eventually we hit the path and had to watch for foot steps to workout the direction of travel. We stopped for lunch and not long after that I saw something uphead jump onto a tree trunk. We froze and watched intently until the bear, about the size of a big arm chair, jumped back down and bounded off to the left.

The first thing I did was whip out my camera, give my apple to Dad and carry my poles so we wouldn’t scare it if it was near. This is probably the worst thing you could do short of smearing yourself in honey and sitting near a water source. So we quickly switched to talking and stomping our poles and we never saw the bear again.

After crossing the day’s peak of about 10,600ft we came down towards Gomez Meadow but the light was fading fast and we had to camp about a mile short. Everything with a smell (apart from my stinky socks) went into the bear-proof canisters and they were placed in a tangle of logs that would crack and rustle to alert us if our food was under attack. Another cold night but I cowboy camped to save the tent hassle. I think that’ll be the last time I do that for a while.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Kennedy Meadows to Crabtree Meadows

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2007-06-07 Clover Meadow to Gomez Meadow (almost) with Parental Supervision

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Walks With Son continues…

We made a fairly early start up the winding path from our camp in the pine forest. Past Clover Meadow and over a modest ridge the view opened up on the beautiful expanse of Becks Meadow. A wide area of brilliant green surrounded by forested peaks. A few miles away across the meadow the Kern River winds lazily through between yellow sandy banks. Some black cows stand quietly around the bend in the river. In the far distance the bare grey shapes of Cirque Peak and others leading to Mount Whitney. I will leave the trail before I get to those, but there is maybe 4,000 ft of uphill and slightly less downhill to be covered before then.

PCT sign

Becks Meadow

We stopped for a snack break and Old Corpus caught up. He had left the store before us the previous evening but we must have overtaken him when our ride in the truck bypassed an unnecessary few miles of off-PCT trail. This pattern of being overtaken by the same people more than once occured frequently through my trip. The pattern of getting rides in trucks did not.

We saw Old Corpus again some time later when we crossed the bridge at the far end of the meadow where the Kern River flows out. The underside of the bridge has many brown mud nests and a flock of swallows flitted back and forward adding grass linings to their nests. From the bridge the trail crossed a dry desert-like scrub section and then began the main climb for the day, through pine forests and to the junction with the Olancha Peak trail.

The approach to the Olancha Peak trail junction(s) was a bit steep for me and at one point we encountered an unposted T-intersection which was a bit perplexing as both directions went horizontally away from our upward path. We concluded that we had veered off the true path and had now found it again, but the correct direction was not obvious. Craig and I tried opposite directions but he soon detected Recline’s bootprints going against his direction of travel so he turned and joined me.

We also encountered a bear. Most of the high trail is fairly open with various sorts of pines and big rocks, but in an area with a bit more bushy greenery than most Craig spotted a bear on the next curve of the hill above us. He said it jumped up on the far side of a large tree and then dropped down again and ran into the bushes in approximately the direction that we were headed. Quick as a flash Craig handed me the apple he was eating (the ‘bait’), whipped out his camera and tip-toed forward along the path into the bushes. It took a few minutes for us both to remember that this is not actually the recommended tactic. The path was fairly steep and there was a switchback approximately where the bear had headed but we saw no further sign. There was big pile of boulders that the trail turned away from and I suspect we might have found our furry friend in there had we been foolish enough to press the point. Unfortunately we didn’t get the photo, but I can say that it was about as big as the PT Cruiser I drove up from San Francisco, but black rather than silver and with bloodshot eyes and fangs like a sabre-toothed tiger. On the other hand I didn’t get a very good look at it so I might be slightly mistaken.

A bit further up the hill we were overtaken by Lucky Joe and Tiki. They were not particularly grateful that we had cleared their path of bears.

From the top of the hill we descended 1,000 feet towards Gomez Meadow but it got dark and although we were near it became difficult to be sure of the trail so we camped on an almost level area of granite gravel. I put up my tent but Craig maintained his cowboy camp style, and was rewarded with ice on his toes and an inch of ice in his water bottle.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Kennedy Meadows to Crabtree Meadows

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2007-06-03 All Going Swimmingly

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

The wind didn’t stop last night so it was a cold and slow Craig that packed up this morning. I must have gone further than I thought because I was at Canebreak Rd too quickly. There I met Recline, the only other hiker (after Blue Sky and Vortex) I’ve seen on the trail for a week. Fox Mill Spring had good running water but the trough under it was horrendous. Not only did the algae look in various states of death, but it smelt funky. I was glad to be catching water in a bottle and not pumping it out of that.

PCT sign

The valley we were walking up had meadows at the bottom, but up on the sides where the trail went a fire had removed all the cover and only sagebrush and other chaparral had moved back in. The charred remains of the trees stood in twisted forms and did nothing to make the place cooler. The four of us coincided for a snack under one tree with enough branches left to afford some shelter then when Blue Sky mentioned the south fork of Kern River was swimmable we took off at quite a clip. On the way the view of Dome Lands Wilderness opened up before us and it is mighty impressive. Granite domes rolling away into the distance peppered with pine trees and a river running through it (I swear I’m not making this up).

I was the first to reach Rockhouse Basin and made a quick lunch then again we each pushed on towards the river. Like a ‘town day’ drawing me in I felt guilty for not stopping to admire the scenery more but I could see it as I whizzed by and getting to the river was sooooo worth it. I found the perfect spot, with a long log going over all the thorn bushes and right into the water. We all had a bit of a dip and it was good, I may even have a dunk in the morning. Being first I got to discover it wasn’t as deep as we thought. Nevermind.

PCT sign

Now the four of us are less than three miles from the Kennedy Meadows store where ice cream, doughnuts and calories await us in the morning.

With no early start I figured it was safe to stay up late and watch The Matrix on the video iPod from the other two. At some critical point in the story I heard a low rumble that isn’t in the film, then it became a heavy breathing. Oh dear, I thought, a bear is here and I’m on the menu. I paused the movie and the sound came again, the heavy breathing was really close, then it became a snore and bloody Recline had given me a decent scare! Back to the film, Neo takes the red pill and the rest is history.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows

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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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