Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hiker Heaven to Casa de Luna

Friday - 23 HOT miles

Our alarm rang at 4:45 am and we were on the road a little after 5. We
could feel the heat as soon as we walked out of the trailer.
Fortunately, as previously mentioned, our packs were light because
most of our gear was waiting for us at the Anderson's.

We hiked over the two big passes we needed to get over, and by noon we
had gone 16 miles, plus the one from Hiker Heaven to the trail. We
were trying to bust it out before the heat really hit!

At noon we reached "the Oasis" - the Anderson's water cache, plus
some. As you can see from the picture, the Andersons don't do
anything without flair. We hung out here for the afternoon, trying to
escape the heat, with Cactus and Blackfoot (as seen in this picture),
as well as Indiana Red and Slo Jo.

At 4 pm we set off for the trail again to tackle the last 8 miles
before being picked up by Terry and taken to her home. As a wise
person once said, the Saufley's are corporate efficiency and the
Anderson's are hippy daycare, and it's true.

We enjoyed taco salad, which Terry makes every night for the hikers,
and good company. There were 9 hikers there, as well as Basil who
hiked in 2007 and Doug, a neighbor who is quite... jolly. It was a fun
night, but we were exhausted from our long day so we headed to bed
under the Manzanita trees in the backyard.

In the morning, Terry made pancakes for everyone and we met her
husband Joe, who was working late last night. Joe is a character!!
They told us their story of how they became trail angels and the
laughs kept coming. We were having such a nice time that Cactus,
Blackfoot, LandShark and I didn't get back on the trail until 10 this
morning.

However we knew it was only 8 miles to Lake Hughes, so we hiked fast
and arrived at the Rock Inn for lunch a little after 1 pm.

The four of us are going to wait out the heat until about 5 and then
head back out, with plans for our first night hiking!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Boring Four Days That Followed

Sunday - Happy Mother's Day

Just for our moms, we hiked the road (Hwy 2 that we landed on after climbing down the mountain) ALL DAY LONG. We didn't get back on the trail until later in the afternoon, and then only hiked a few miles before calling it a day at 3 p.m. Zelda's bum hurt and we were all tired and sore from the day before. We called it a Mother's Day present for Zelda. Plus, we had happened upon a nice boyscout camp with running water and picnic benches. We are BIG suckers for picnic benches.
We hung out, Zelda stood a lot and we went to bed early. Oh, and did I mention we were sore?
Monday - Our First 25 Miler
We woke up early (Tarzan and Zelda are early risers - she was calling our name by 5:30 a.m.). I awoke to find myself possibly more sore than the day before. My shoulders were so sore I couldn't even stuff my sleeping bag all the way in the stuff sack. This was in large part from supporting myself on my poles when trying not to fall down the mountain. Oh, and I sort of slipped a few times, having to catch myself either with my arms, or a couple times grabbing on to plant branches when slipping.

We lost Tarzan and Zelda pretty early on - you could say she had a fire under her ass and she just wanted to GO. We hiked, we ate, we hiked some more. We ended up at a ranger station around dinner time, where we cooked before heading on. This is where we met a new friend - Montana. He hiked the AT a few years ago, and if you haven't guessed... he's from Montana. We liked him right away. As we were chatting with a few other hikers, someone spotted a baby rattle snake napping right by the faucet, as shown here.

Montana was going to stay near the flushing toilets and running water, so we bid him adieu and hiked on. We were only planning to go 3 or 4 more miles, however a lack of a flat camping spot kept us moving on. Pretty soon Montana caught up to us (he's fast with a super light pack), so we all went looking for a spot together. A note from Tarzan and Zelda had let us know they were staying down the trail, so we ended up heading there. Our 3 to 4 miles turned into 7 and by the end of the day we had successfully completed our first 25 miler. All 5 of us camped together and it was enjoyable.
Tuesday - Happy One Month on the Trail!

The day marking our one month on the trail was welcomed with WIND. And not just a nice breeze, but heavy, moves you while you walk, wind. The kind of wind that motivates two backpackers to leave their jackets on through the afternoon. Now that is some wind.
We took a long break at lunch, enjoying a nice nap in the sun, before heading "down" the mountain. After 10 minutes back on the trail, the wind was replaced with a hot sun. The jackets came off, and we started to curse the desert. It was a long up and down over burnt desert mountains with some small steep up and downhills. We arrived at an RV park that looked welcoming from up on the trail, but was somewhat sketchy upon arrival. After cooking dinner and enjoying the shade of a large tree, we got back on the trail for just a bit before finding a flat spot on a ridge. We were in bed before the sun went down.
Wednesday - 10 Miles to Agua Dulce
We woke up early and were on the trail by 6:15, and before it was even 7 we understood what the desert can do to you. We were hot. Thankful we started early and it was only 10 miles to town, we went as fast as we could. It paid off - by 9:45 we were sitting at the Sweetwater Cafe in Agua Dulce enjoying a lovely breakfast. Some of you may be interested to know we hiked right past the famous Vasquez Rocks, commonly seen in many movies and TV shows.

The interesting thing about Agua Dulce is that the trail literally goes straight through the downtown area, and there isn't a hotel. However, almost all hikers find themselves here taking a zero day. How you may ask? We find ourselves in the presence of greatness in the form of Jeff and Donna Saufley. Also known as Hiker Heaven, they open up their two bedroom guest house trailer and huge lot to all PCT "hiker trash," as we are fondly called. This place has been known as a vortex of sorts, where hikers find themselves unable to leave. In fact, due to the massive popularity, they have had to set a 2 night maximum stay. You walk in, take a laundry basket, grab some clothes out of the tent closet, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket after taking a shower, give it to Donna, and she gives it back to you clean. Talk about service!

Patty came in to visit us and brought grandma and grandpa with her. We went for pizza and enjoying catching up. Patty ended up being talked into taking Zelda to the doctor and drove them all the way out by Magic Mountain for the visit. And... it was bad - "a serious injury" as the doctor said. She received anitbiotics and is off the trail for at least a week. Patty invited them back to her house, but Zelda didn't think she could sit in the car for the whole ride, so they are going to get a hotel room around here. She has to go back to the doctor in a few days anyway.
Oh, and Patty made homemade lasagna for everyone here and was beloved by everyone. Best mother-in-law ever!

Thursday - Stuck in the Vortex
As you can imagine, we've been enjoying the hospitality of "heaven" and hanging out with our friends here. We have especially enjoyed Montana's company. Unfortunately, he is DONE with the desert and can't wait for trees, so he is jumping ahead to get to the Sierras early. But honestly, we never would have been able to keep up with him anyway - he wants to be done by mid-August so he can ride his bike from Washington to Montana, and then hike the Continental Divide Trail back to his hometown. Yeah, he's a rockstar.
We leave tomorrow for a 23 mile stretch in the hot desert sun before arriving at another trail angels' house - the Andersons. Someone was smart enough to suggest we drive all of our gear up there tonight and "slack pack" it tomorrow (carry only food and water for the day). Since we need lots of water, this was a GREAT idea.

More stories of the hot sun to come, we're sure.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So... We Took a Wrong Turn

Saturday - Mt. Baden-Powell 

So, as you know, we left Saturday morning with Tarzan and Zelda to tackle the snow on Mt. Baden-Powell.  We have considered not telling the following story, however, given this is a blog about our adventures on the PCT, we can't really leave this out.  So here we go.  The important thing to remember is - we are alive.

Going up Baden-Powell was a challenge in and of itself.  There are 40 switchbacks going up to the top (9,300 elevation), and after about 12 or so, we lost the trail altogether due to snow.  So we started hiking straight up the snow.  This was a bit hard and tiring, but there were enough steps ahead of us that we did okay.  I found myself to be the queen of slipping (in part to the tread on my shoes), so there were a few moments of panic, but I went slow and made sure each step was sturdy before stepping.  We got up to the top of Baden-Powell around 2:30, took a small break before starting to head back down.  As Steve says, anyone familiar with the hike from hell at Hockett Meadow can appreciate this mountain - this is the same amount of uphill in 4 miles as Hockett Meadow is in 9 miles, and half of this was in snow!

The trail follows the ridge for quite a while, but footprints lead in many different directions.  We were following Zelda and Tarzan, who started following footprints to the right - down the north face (that is, the snowy side) of a mountain.  Pretty soon the footprints disappeared, but after a look at the map, it was decided the trail does go down to the right.  So we continued on...

After several more feet down the snowy mountain, we decided the trail may not actually be going this way, but at this point we were too far down to turn around and go back - it was too steep and we were too tired.  WAAAY down the mountain we could see the road (the closed Hwy 2, which we could have walked from the beginning), so that became our goal.  

We kept going down the steep, snow-covered mountain.  At this point Steve started
 cutting steps for everyone else, which were helping.  However, he hit an icy patch and slipped - sliding about 30-40 feet down the mountain before stopping himself with this hiking poles, which as you can see, caused the pole to bend.  Luckily I didn't see this.

The rest of us get down to Steve, and we see off to the right there is dirt.  At this point it is about 4 p.m. and we better get down quick before the snow turns icy.  Tarzan leads us toward the dirt, and we keep traversing the mountain, making our own steps as we go (you might say we are "senior boy" hiking).  As we get closer to the road, we can't tell which way will lead us safely down - will we come out onto a cliff and not be able to get down?  

We come to a very narrow canyon that is covered with snow and we decide this is our best bet for getting out to the road.  Zelda starts to walk down, but pretty quickly it becomes apparent that glissading is the way to go (sit on your butt and slide, controlling your speed with your feet).  So we sit and glissade, and luckily the snow shoot leads out to the road.  Zelda was so happy she kissed the pavement.  We walked about 200 feet up the highway and camped on the side of the closed road on the pavement.

The casualties: Zelda was wearing shorts, so her glissading didn't go so well.  She ended up with two skinned butt cheeks.  They oozed for the rest of the trip to Agua Dulce (our
current location), and she is now at the doctor's office.  We are hoping they can help her.  We lost 3 bottles of water out of the side pockets of our backpacks, and are now
 the proud owners of a broken camera.  Unfortunately it's "ultra-lightweight" design does not stand up well against sliding down a snowy mountain.  We can still take
 pictures, but we can't see about two-thirds of the screen due to a white square (as shown here).

As I told Steve when I got down the mountain, "well, I did come on this hike for an adventure."  And an adventure it was - one I hope to never duplicate.  In all honesty, I have never been more afraid for my life and while this tale can be retold in several paragraphs, the three hours spent clinging to the mountainside were far more exhausting than I can convey.

For your reference, following is the mountain we came down, as shown from the road.  If you look closely, you can see where we glisaded down.  This picture only shows about one-eighth of the mountain we climbed down.

As this post is now entirely too long, I will tell you about the following days in another post.  It will not be nearly as exciting... thank God!