Friday, May 23, 2008

Blame it on the Rain (and Wind)

So, the fearsome foursome hit the trail this morning with big plans for many 20 miles days. As of yesterday, there was a 20% chance of thunderstorms (which Cactus laughed at), but as of this morning, it had jumped to 60%.

As we started hiking, the clouds looked ominous in the distance, and we could see the sheets of rain coming down from big grey clouds over the mountains. Around 11 a.m. we hit the highway and as we were making our way to the overpass, a car stops and offers all of us a ride to Tehachapi. Steve and I thought this was a sign, and probably would have taken the ride, but Cactus and BlackFoot were determined to go on.

The sky was looking okay, so we decided to go on. We knew the trail followed the highway for a while, so we could bail down the road if we needed to. Just when we got to the turning point where the trail branched from the highway, it started raining. We looked up, and the whole sky was grey - the clouds have moved in quick. We put on our rain gear and kept on.

About a 1/2 mile up the trail, Steve said to me, "this is stupid." It was already raining, windy and cold, and we were at 4,700 feet and about to climb up to 6,100, where it would be much colder for sure. I said we should follow his instinct, since it's usually right (for the most part), and he ran ahead to let our friends know we were going to turn back.

Cactus was ready to keep going, but BlackFoot wasn't convinced, so they decided to come back with us. We hiked back to the highway (during which time we heard thunder, even more solidifying our decision), hopped the fence (picture for reference - hard to see the actual rain or how wet we were) and threw out our thumbs for a ride. It was apparent pretty quickly that this wasn't getting us far, so Steve called the Days Inn in Mojave where we had just come from, because they offer hikers a ride to and from the trail. They had one room left, and said they were on their way.

We waited for about a half hour, during which time our hands nearly froze off. Pretty soon a white van pulls off onto the shoulder, but we could tell it wasn't one of the men from the hotel. We ran over to talk to them nonetheless, and it was none other than Terrie Anderson from Casa de Luna. She had driven over to drop off a hiker at the Days Inn and when she heard that four hikers needed a ride, she insisted on picking us up. She really is a trail angel in all sense of the word.

We arrived safe and sound back at the Days Inn and were all happy to take off our wet clothes and be greeted by a warm room and warm shower. Now we just have to figure out what we're going to do about tomorrow (maybe more rain!!). I guess we're pansies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lancaster to Mojave

Monday The Night Hike 2.0-

After the relaxation at the South's, Joe drove us to the trail Monday evening. An all-too quick goodbye was followed by 16 miles of full moon hiking along the Los Angeles Aqueduct until 2 am with Cactus and Blackfoot. The sunset and moon rise coincided for some serious beauty. Unfortunately, our camera is so busted up, we don't know if we got a good shot of either. Three important notes from that night:

1. A team song was composed early on:
"Deep in the bowels of the Mojave desert roamed a foursome that was fearsome and true,
Walkin past the setting sun,
Through the fields they were havin' fun
Puttin in the miles is what they do."

2. We saw one infamously deadly Mojave Green Rattlesnake. Get bit by one of those, you've got 1 hour. Our sighting was on the road paralleling the aqueduct and he was right in my path. We soon figured out that his odd movements suggested he might have earlier been hit by a car and was not entirely healthy. An injured snake also means he wouldn't chase us, as they are rumored to do.

3. A few hours later, Blackfoot almost stepped on a scorpion and then we caught it in our headlamps and got good closeup looks. It was yellowish, and Cactus says those are the deadlier ones. Awesome!

Tuesday- A Nero At the Bridge

At 2 am Tuesday, we arrived at Cottonwood creek bridge and water faucet, the only guaranteed water and shade for 20 miles. Planning on 100 degrees during the day, we sat around under the bridge reading, eating and moving our sleeping pads as the shade moved with the sun until 5:30 pm. But for reuniting with Indiana Red and Slo-jo and the cheap thermometer Cactus carries reporting 115 degrees on the ground, it was quite boring. Eventually we packed up and hoped to do another 14-16 miles. And were we wrong.

Ascending into the Tehachapi mountains east of the grapevine, we hiked about 5.5 miles before our dreams were dashed against the hillside with huge 50 mph winds. Both Jane and I had our glasses blown off (mine were nearly lost as they had blown 15 feet up the hillside). Small rocks and sand would pelt our faces in the gusts. And it was getting dark fast. The winds began in a burned area where dirt bikers are known to make hundreds of trails. So, we lost our way as we crossed a road. We climbed to the top of the hill, knowing that on the other side would be a steep descent into a canyon. At the top of this hill, it was impossible to see without flashlights anymore, the wind was stronger, and we all shouted in agreement that we needed to go back. The sweet beckoning of Indiana Red and Slo-jo's (IRSJ) headlamps in the distance showed us where we really wanted to be. From the hilltop, we assumed we could find a wind-free spot in the canyon.

Wrong. After backtracking to the road and finding the true trail, we made it down to IRSJ only to have them announce the wind had torn open their tent and they would be cowboy camping. Since they have the same brand of tent as we do, we knew it would be a tent-less night for us as well. As IRSJ unloaded their broken tent, Indiana Red took his foot off his sleeping pad and it blew away. After he realized this he started walking downhill in a vain search. At the point when he'd nearly lost all hope because he'd already walked 50 yards from camp, the pad blew right past his head and he managed to catch it just a few feet further.

We bedded down as quickly as possible, burrowing deep into our bags and cinching the opening as tightly as possible.

Wednesday- Worse than Baden-Powell

Imagine trying to sleep with the wind howling and sand blowing into your face every time you try to poke your head out of your sleeping bag to escape the impressive warmth inside the bag. Then, wake up and the wind is still blowing so hard your hands freeze while packing up.

Once you get your pack on, you discover a burn zone around every hill. And yes, the trail is sand, the trail you can see anyway. It is the Mojave desert after all. Now take those winds, combine it with sand, and what do you get? Occasional facial exfoliation for free.

Hike through that until you reach a 1600 foot climb along a mountainside totally exposed to the wind and the wind gets stronger the higher you get. Now walking in 60+ mph is difficult, but then again, you also have a sail attached to your back. We were getting blown all over the place, barely keeping out footing. Without poles, we would have fallen or worse countless times.

Now, imagine that you think this wind will end once you get to the top of this hill. You're wrong again. Save for about a mile of walking, this wind persists for the other 16 miles. Oh, and one more thing. For the last two miles or so, you get to walk through tons of horse poo on the trail.

With the winds all over the state right now, you might be able to imagine how windy it was. But the misery, oh, you've just got to live it.

And that's why we took a zero day. Next stop, Walker Pass and maybe Onyx or Lake Isabella, or maybe, we'll go all the way (144 miles) to Kennedy Meadows. We just don't know yet.

Da-da-da-da Da-da-da, Da-da-da-da Da-da-da-da-da

After hiking 40 miles from Lancaster to Mojave, four PCT hikers took a
$2 bus ride back to Lancaster to join civilization for opening day of
Indiana Jones. At this point, they embarrassed themselves by asking
someone to take their picture in front of the theater just so there
was documentation for this blog. What weirdos!

Prayer Request

For the familes and homes threatened by the fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It seems Mt. Madonna county park (where we held Freshman Kidnap 05) and possibly Koinonia Camp (where we hold L.O.G. retreats) might be in the path of this fire.

Missional Thinkers: How should we respond to this local disaster?

We're in Mojave, CA. A large post to come later today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Wonderful Visit with Good Friends

The night hiking was successful - it was cool(er), we didn't see any
mojave green snakes and we made it to Lancaster by midnight.

We spent the night on the porch of Hikertown - a funky little hostel
of sorts - and our friend Joe picked us up in the morning. Joe and Mel
were kind enough to offer their hospitality to Cactus and Blackfoot as
well, so they came along.

We enjoyed a lovely visit with showers, homemade dinner and a rousing
game of Trivial Pursuit.

Today, Joe ditched work to hang out with us and we enjoyed a day of
not hiking in the brutal heat. We had a wonderful dinner at
Souplantation (a Fresh Choice type place) and are about to head back
out for more night hiking. As you can see from the picture, Mia (Joe
and Mel's 3 year old daughter) is ready to go hiking with us. She has
Steve's hiking poles, Blackfoot's bandana, Cactus' shoes and my
backpack... just kidding. .

We are shooting for 16 miles tonight, which is where a bridge is
located - one of the only shady places along this next stretch.
Tomorrow we will take cover under the bridge until the evening.

Only 40 miles till Mojave!