Mexico
Canada
Me 

Archive for the 'Parent' Category

2007-06-19 Return to Onion Valley

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Walks With Son writes:
I returned SunWalker and Lucky Joe to the trail at Onion Valley on Monday afternoon. They took their packs and marched off towards Kearsarge Pass, weighed down by food for the days ahead, but lightened by the knowledge that they were getting back on the PCT at last.

PCT sign

Leaving the Onion Valley trailhead for Kearsarge Pass

This left me with several days to spare before my flight back to New Zealand on Thursday. My flight dates allowed for the possibility of hiking with SunWalker either before my conference or after. As it worked out I had a perfect hike from Kennedy Meadows to Trail Pass and my wish to enjoy a section of the PCT in the Sierras had already been fulfilled. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the trailhead so I hung around for the afternoon. I helped a group of hikers who were heading in to follow the PCT south to Whitney but got caught out when their car couldn’t manage the road up from Independence. Thru-hikers Thunder, Dalton and Gabby went past me and up to camp on the trail to the pass. Eventually it got dark so I slept in the back of the SUV. In the morning I was getting ready to leave when I decided on impulse to hike a little way up the trail for a better view of the valley. My feet felt better so I decided to go as far as the first lake. Without a pack, or even food and water, the going was easy and I just kept going. I met Snow Berry and Easy Rider coming down for resupply at Independence

Two and a half hours later I reached Kearsarge Pass. The hikers I has assisted the previous afternoon were there after spending the night beside one of the five lakes on the way up.

PCT sign

Section hikers at Kearsarge Pass

PCT sign

Kearsarge Pass, Kearsarge Lakes and Bullfrog Lake. PCT passes Bullfrog Lake and crosses the ridge towards Glen Pass out of sight to the right of this view

Also at the top were PCT people Iceman, Erik the Black, Gazelle, Ricola and OJ. On the way down I met Mauka (sp?) and Abby, the Pooler Bears and Disco Dan going back to the PCT. Further down I met Breeze, Sage, Max and Hard Rock heading up. Near the bottom of the trail I was overtaken by Farmer Pirate and Lupin Lady

PCT sign

Gazelle, Breeze, Sage, Max, Ricola and OJ

(I hope I have the order right)

PCT sign

Gazelle and Erik the Black at Gilbert Lake

PCT sign

Onion Valley

Back at the trailhead I gave some of the PCT hikers I’d met on my little walk a ride down to Independence and then felt sorry for Jugs and Big Cat standing by the road in the sun trying to get back up the hill so I made one more trip from Independence to Onion Valley. Lieutenant Dan rounded out my day of hiker name dropping before I got back in my car and headed up highway 395 to look around the Truckee area which SunWalker should be reaching in about three weeks.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Kearsarge Pass

Google Maps

2007-06-17 Mono Lake side trip

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

To recover from yesterday’s excessive miles we took it easy today. A slow morning of packing food for my next section and deciding what things can be sent home.

We drove out east to Mono Lake which has been drying up since water was diverted away to Los Angeles in 1941. The lake has no outlet so like the Dead Sea the salts get left behind when the water evaporates and now it’s about 2.5 times saltier than the ocean. It was interesting to see the strange towers that formed around the springs when they had been under water but something was missing.

PCT sign

Mono Lake

We went to Lee Vining for lunch at a classic old ice-cream place called Mono Cone. I couldn’t tell if it was retro styled or just had always been that way. The 70s music playing from the radio statio was in theme but something was missing.

In the early afternoon Dad and I walked along Tuolumne River and he found a shaded spot under a tree while I tried to work on my tan by falling asleep on a rock in the sun. It was nice and relaxing but it wasn’t right. I need to get moving again. I’m not supposed to be here yet. I’m in Independence, 150 miles south. So tomorrow Dad will drive Lucky Joe and I back to the trail and we’ll get on with it. Pass after pass, meadow after meadow. The fabulous high sierra awaits and I am going to conquer it for real.

PCT sign

PCT sign

Sending email from Tuolumne Meadows

PCT sign

Camping at Tuolumne Meadows

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Rest Day at Tuolumne Meadows

Google Maps

2007-06-16 Into Yosemite Valley

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Today was my longest day yet. 30.2 miles but none of it on the PCT. This is a really long entry but I hope you read to the end because, and don’t take this lightly, someone died. I put my big bag in a bear-proof locker and was on the trail by 6am. Most of the day was on the JMT as it wound up through dense forest, past Cathedral Lakes and a number of the big imposing granite domes that are the hallmark of Yosemite. With only a small day pack I was making great time and came to the Sunrise Meadow area fairly early. I hadn’t seen anyone yet and the place was so serene. No clouds to mention, rolling granite hills with assorted pine varieties and only me there to witness it. Me and about 3 million mosquitos. I didn’t have time to stop to take pictures because the little blood suckers were on me in a flash. This also made stopping for other reasons unbearable too, so on I marched.

PCT sign

PCT sign

At Cloud’s Rest the summit route from the north is just scrambling over rocks. I got to the top and spent a long time staring down the magestic Yosemite Valley. I’ve been there three times before, summiting Half Dome twice but I’ve never seen it from above like this. The valley looks so much steeper and more dramatic from up there removed from it all. I stayed long enough to take some photos and eat a snickers bar then I gingerly made my way down the incredibly steep steps on the southern end, kudos to the trail engineers who did that.

PCT sign

Looking down on the Yosemite Valley from Cloud’s Rest

PCT sign

Hi Bex

PCT sign

Looking down on Half Dome

PCT sign

You Made It!

PCT sign

PCT sign

The top of Half Dome, with the slope of Quarter Dome in front

The gradiated switchbacks were very gentle so I ran a mile or two on the way down and came to the junction to Half Dome before 1pm. At this rate I thought I had enough time to bag that peak too and still make it down for a pizza this evening. So I rushed on up finding the way totally unfamiliar though I’d done it before. The closer I got to Half Dome the better I could see the cables* and the hundreds of people clinging to them. It was going to take me over an hour to get up if I too had to wait behind every wanna-be rock climber taking ten breaths for every step, so I jumped the queue. Yeah I felt bad but I wasn’t slowing anyone down.

PCT sign

People waiting to climb the Half Dome cables

PCT sign

Crowds ascending the cables

PCT sign

The view from the top

PCT sign

The west face of Half Dome

I scrambled up the first dozen meters before it became too steep then pulled myself up the outside of the cables. “excuse me”, “sorry”, “coming through”, I said as I overtook the crowds on the steps. I went far too fast and for the last dozen meters I felt like I’d just run a marathon. I knew the view already but it didn’t stop me from grinning like a mad man as I approached the edge to stare 4,000ft down to the valley floor. The grin turned to open-mouthed amazement as I saw two climbers beneath the big over hang us walkers like to pose on. That’s a crazy long way to climb, totally crazy. I’d rather BASE jump off it.

PCT sign

High Flyer

PCT sign

Descending the cables from Half Dome to Quarter Dome

PCT sign

When I’d crept close enough to the edge for some scary photos and gotten my breath back I descended the cables in the same reckless manner as my climb. Sometimes with one hand but mostly with two, I passed people who had been waiting at the bottom when I arrived. Pausing next to one guy who looked comfortable with his location I asked if he wanted a photo coz right here was very cool. He was too nervous to get his camera so he took mine and got one of me casually leaning back one hand free. I did slip twice, but only an inch or two. I got down, did a victory wave and made a rush for the valley floor. Just before 3pm I was back at the junction unaware of what was going on at the cables. A guy slipped. No equipment failure, no pushing, just slipped, fell and died. Right from where I had been so cavalier. I must have seen him amongst the crowd and rushed by without thinking. I wonder now if he saw me. What if I inspired him? I didn’t have a sign saying “don’t try this at home ” or “I trust these shoes with my life”. Like I said I wasn’t aware of the tragedy yet. I pushed on down the trail passing things I should have recognised but didn’t until I reached Vernal Falls and The Mist Trail. Finally, 10.5 hours and almost 30 miles since that morning I came to the bridge at the bottom and just before I saw him I figured Dad would be there. We walked the last little way to the car park and came upon a ranger with a sign asking for photos of the cables. This is when I found out about the fall. It took a little while to sink in but it’s doing so now.

PCT sign

The Mist Trail below Vernal Falls

PCT sign

Walks with Son and SunWalker

*two long cables about 2cm thick. In summer metal posts are inserted into drilled holes in the rock and wooden steps go between them.

Some links for details of the tragic accident:

http://www.bayareadragon.com/bbs/static/zt12553_en.html

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/06/19/BAGHNQHLEV1.DTL

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sgreen/detail?blogid=40&entry_id=17696

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite
Location: Tuolumne Meadows – again

Google Maps

2007-06-09 Horseshoe Meadows and the long road back

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

The sun didn’t exactly reach us in the morning but it was still a great place at the top of the world when we set off again at 6:35 am. Less than half an hour later we were at the junction with the Trail Pass route, my cue to exit. Mike had camped at Mulkey Pass, just before Trail Pass, and caught up with us in time to take a ‘team photograph’ before we went our separate ways. I left the PCT and headed down the steep switchbacks to Horseshoe Meadow, with its campground and the promise of road access.

The PCT trail is a world of ugly blisters and smelly feet, aching backs and frozen fingers, filthy clothes and smiling faces. It is also, in the Sierras at least, a world of astonishing natural beauty. The days were pleasantly cool and the views breathtaking. A most unexpected and delightful feature was that there were absolutely no mosquitos. Dire warnings that the insect attack could reduce a man and beast to madness proved completely unfounded.


Stalking Walks with Son

It broke me up a bit to see Craig stride away up the next slope, but I was relieved to be the one heading downhill. I get great satisfaction from seeing each of my children exceed my capabilities in their chosen fields. Craig has chosen to challenge and beat me in my own fields (no, I never was a marathon runner). Tomorrow he will climb Mount Whitney. I did that last August, in an increasingly desperate attempt to claim the higher ground in the competition that he will surely win. It took me 19 exhausting hours. He’ll probably run up it.

I reached Horseshoe Meadow at 8 am and found the road nearly an hour later, joining it just below the sign saying “You are entering Active Bear Country”. I waited an hour for the first downhill car, which was actually one of the eight uphill cars I had waved to in that time returning. Thanks to Stephanie of Mammoth, a retired school teacher from Bishop, and Steve the angler I was back at Kennedy Meadows four and a half hours after I reached the road. I stopped in at the store and said hello to Mr Smiles, a thru-hiker, and Justin and Thomas doing a section hike from Tehechapi to somewhere in the Sierras. Another eight hours on the road and I was back in San Francisco.

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

2007-06-08 Climbing the Southern Sierra

Friday, June 8th, 2007

After a cold night we packed up as quickly as we could with cold fingers and set out to find some direct sunlight to warm Craig up. About half and hour along we crossed the edge of Gomez Meadow on a boardwalk. These meadows are really delightful with their bright green long grass and huge grey granite boulders. If we had moved a little faster the day before we could have slept in a really beautiful location.

A short distance on we came across Recline, appropriately lying on a boulder taking a leisurely breakfast. He was camped beside what the guidebook called an all-season water source, but the water was green and lumpy with an ugly oil sheen. Craig walked up stream a way and found flowing water that was quite acceptable.

From that point on it was ever upwards. I struggled with the thin air at 10,000 ft plus and with a general lack of fitness. We kept heading for a horizon that always seemed just ahead, but then transferred to a more distant point just as we were about to reach the top. Craig was worried that we would be forced to camp well short of our intended destination of Trail Pass because of my slow pace. We climbed 1,500 feet and emerged at last onto a small mountain saddle that looked through a gap down the steep eastern side of the range to Owens Lake and the desert beyond. We had lunch there and aired our sleeping bags in the sun. Pathfinder came past, asking about water in a distracted tone that suggested he hadn’t had nearly enough for a while. There was good water a little off the trail a mile and a half further on, indicated by a note left under a small pile of rocks by Yogi.

PCT sign

Looking north into the High Sierra peaks ahead

From there there was another 1,000 ft descent. Craig went ahead with the intention of getting water at the bottom of the hill and starting dinner while I plodded down. Pathfinder seemed to pick up when he had some water and we discussed New Zealand politics, the economy, taxation and other important matters across the level section and start of the descent. This helped take my mind off my sore feet. When I stopped to get my drink bottle out he kept moving and very soon left me behind. I was only 25 minutes behind Craig when I reached the side path to the Diaz water source. He let me lie on my back with my feet up a tree (highly recommended by others) while he boiled water for dinner. Couscous with herbs and tuna for me. Then it was up again to see how much of the 1,000 ft climb we could cover before dark. We were overtaken by Thirsty Boots and Deacon, two hikers rather closer to my age than Craig’s. We got to a high ridge at about 8 pm and decided it was likely to be the nicest place we would find before dark. It is actually very hard to find level places to camp along the trail. In New Zealand bush the terrain is so broken up by the thick vegetation that you can generally find a level or hollow spot to lie in wherever you are but these american mountains are rock hard and slope steeply above and below the trail so there is often nowhere to lie comfortably. Hikers even have to camp on the trail ledge itself.

Craig choose the wide ridge top because it was nearly level, and because there was a good chance of getting early morning sun to warm his fingers when we packed up in the morning

Craig carried my tent all day today, in addition to his own. For those who may think that this was taking unfair advantage I will point out that I have carried Craig many miles through parts of Asia when he weighed quite a bit more than my lightweight tent. I can even produce evidence that I sometimes carried him in the exact same pack I used today on the PCT.

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

Google Maps

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

Google Maps

2006-06-06 Happy Father’s Day

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I don’t remember when Father’s Day is for everyone else, but for me it was June 6th. What a treat for a Dad to be invited into the life on one of his sons for a few days.

I arrived at Kennedy Meadows in my funny little american car at midday after an eight-hour drive from San Francisco. The last part up a precipitous mountain road to reach the dry and partially burnt-off expanse of Kennedy Meadows. The old wooden general store has a large shady porch where Craig sat with his strangely named friends.

I met (I think) Dozen, Lucky Joe, Tiki, Speedstick, Old Corpus (for those without a Latin education, that simply means “old body”. Old Corpus is very much alive), Thirsty Boots and several others. Even some of the locals greeted me with “you must be Craig’s Dad”. The population on the store porch is split between locals and hikers. Both tend to have the same sun-and-dirt complexions, but the locals generally have better beards and bigger waistlines. I’m speaking about the male section here. The hikers are probably cleaner here than average for the trail, due to the outdoor shower. A sign in the store offers “Shower $1. Watch $2″.

I brought supplies including oranges, grapes and calorie-loaded chocolate bundt cake. Some hikers gathered hopefully and we said yes, this all had to be eaten before we hit the trail so help yourself. After a lot of repacking Craig and I hoisted our packs into Tom’s truck (ute) for a 3-mile ride to the trailhead. Craig had already covered those miles while waiting for me. We hiked about four miles before dark, gently uphill from the desert scrub of the meadows into low pine forest. Craig took it easy for my first day. We cowboy camped under the pine trees and stars, listening to the yelping of coyotes on the ridge ahead.

This is an interrum report from Walks With Son. SunWalker will send the official report when he gets to a phone at Independence in a day or two. I am waiting to read what he wrote about my slow pace. When I left him on Saturday he was speeding towards Mount Whitney.

In tomorrow’s thrilling episode our intrepid heroes stalk a bear

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

Google Maps