Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Quick Update

It's day 61 and we're headed back to the trail after an excellent stay in Mammoth. Our time here was full of birthday celebrating, catching up with friends, grilling, beer, lounging, reruns of Seinfeld, and good sleep. We didn't have a chance to upload pictures or blog, but we'll do a good update from Tahoe.

Some quick and awesome points from our last section:
- We are currently at mile 904!!!!
- We hiked over 7 passes (all over 11,000 feet) in 7 days
- Hallmark turned 29!
- We had our introduction to the major tree blowdowns in this area. It makes for slow hiking as we try to bypass giant piles of down trees
- Yankee Son got a buzz cut. Bye bye curls!

More to come! By the time we update again we'll be past 1,000!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Days 50 & 51: Getting Cosmic In Bishop (With Picture Update)

We made it up and over Kearsarge Pass a day early, putting us into Bishop for our town stop with a little extra time. We decided to go ahead and take a double zero...TWO WHOLE days off. It's been amazing and just the rest we (and our knees) needed.  We've been eating good food, resting, watching TV, organizing for the next leg, and catching up with friends and family.  Last night we went bowling with Just Retired, Wampus Cat and Zen, iPod, and local friends.  The bowling alley switched into 'cosmic' (black light) bowling at some point and it was good fun for all.

Tomorrow we head back up and over Kearsarge Pass and back into the Sierra for some pass climbing fun.  We should hit Mammoth Lakes on Saturday evening! See y'all then!

Day 49: All Down Hill From Here

Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT, standing at 13, 153 feet.  Once you get into the little notch of the pass, you are met with INCREDIBLE views of Kings Canyon National Park.

The pass from the approach (south)

Emerald pools and rolling granite await on the other side

The Usual Suspects: Fairway, Just Retired, Bronco, Yankee Son, our Japanese buddy Nino, Macho Taco, Hallmark and Auto Pilot

Me and Skippy PUMPED on Snickers. Satisfied. 

Ladies! Blueberry, Hallmark, Wampus Cat and The Bobcat

Thru hikers like to joke that because this is the highest point on the trail, it's all down hill from here. It's funny until a few hours later when you're huffing up to 11,000+ feet over Kearsarge Pass to get to town, knowing that there are a half dozen or so 11,000+ foot passes coming our way this next week.  But it was another victorious feeling on the heels of our big Whtiney climb. Did I mention how stunning the Sierras are?

Day 48: The Big Gal

At midnight on Wednesday, June 13 Just Retired, Bronco and I left camp on our ascent attempt of Mt. Whitney.  An hour later Yankee Son, Macho Taco, Fairway and Auto Pilot left our camp at Crabtree Meadow, making their way up.  All of us reached the summit of the highest peak in the lower 48, standing at 14,505 feet, just in time for sunrise.  It was a beautiful morning and a beautiful moment for all of us. The summit of Mt. Whitney is 8 miles off of the PCT, but well worth every step.

Eating my summit Snickers

In our sleeping bags awaiting the sun (sorry it's hard to see)

Snickers and sun streaming


The Usual Suspects strike again (though we were missing Just Retired and Bronco, who'd already started descending). Fairway, Macho Taco, Yankee Son, Hallmark, Auto Pilot

At the base after the descent

Days 44 - 47: Water! Trees! Mountains! Shade! Fun!

Since the moment we hit the Sierra, we've been in a state of perma-smile. Every hiker we pass on the trail has a giant, giddy grin plastered across their face and we spend our breaks and downtime gushing about how awesome these mountains are.

Because we've been at high altitudes and are adjusting to the new environment, we cut our mileage down a bit through this section, giving us the added luxury of soaking it all in.  The 7 day section after Kennedy Meadows to Bishop is a perfect introduction to the Sierra. You walk among big trees, pristine alpine lakes and do a good amount of elevation gaining/losing each day.  

Bronco and Tortuga in the Kern

Fairway's bear can/rain jacket/trekking pole chair

There were some afternoons that we just reveled in it. We took long afternoon breaks while people dipped in creeks, cooked lunches and took naps in the sun.

The days of trying to beat the sun seem to be over. We don't set an alarm in the morning and don't feel the pressure of the afternoon heat bearing down on us.The hiking is still challenging, we're all adjusting to big climbs and thinner air... but man, is it worth it. 

Days 42 & 43: Burgers, Bear Cans, Butch Cassidy and A New Beginning

PCT Mile: 702.8

Our rest days at Kennedy Meadows were great fun.  We spent most of our (nearly) two days there sitting on the porch at the General Store, often heading over to Tom's place to chill.  Tom is a Trail Angel who has set up a number of trailers for hikers to stay in as well as an internet cafe Airstream.  Unfortunatly, he had to take the modem to town, so we had spotty-at-best, and then no internet the day we were there. Two of my favorite features at Tom's: pancakes and coffee in the monring and an awesome outdoor movie screen!  Tom has built this outdoor movie screen with stadium seating couches and we, along with dozens of other hikers, watched Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid under a sky full of stars. It was epic.  Tom also provides hikers with loaner clothes which is so helpful for getting all of your laundry done.  The best part of the clothing selection at Tom's was the large amount of calf-length, high-necked, floral dresses which made the hiker lady community look more like an Amish lady community. At the General Store we picked up our resupply box which included our 2 bear cans, 7 day food carry and a bunch of snow/mountain gear we ended up sending right back home, as this is an incredibly low snow year. We indulged in bacon burgers at lunch and a big spaghetti dinner one night.  We excitedly read mail from friends (thanks Rachel and Meredith!!!) and passed time playing cards with our hiker friends. It was a prefect recharge before our launch into the big mountains.

Me and Wampus Cat in our loaner clothes

The Usual Suspects (our crew through the desert) 

Movie watching under the stars

Friday, June 15, 2012

Days 36 - 41: Putting The Desert In The Rearview

To be perfectly honest, we didn't take many pictues in this section and that's due to a couple of factors: 1. We were getting our asses kicked and stopping to take pictures required more energy than we had some days. 2. We were a little burned out on desert scenery.

Our first day out of the town of Mojave was one of the most, if not the most, challenging days we've had physically. There is no water for 25 miles so we left the Motel 6 with 6 liters each.  Each liter ways 2.2 pounds and we could feel each and every one of them on our shoulders. We were also carrying 7 days of food and, on average, we aim to have 2 pounds of food per day. So there's another 14 pounds. (Whew, this is making me tired just remembering it.)  Right out of town we covered 8 miles of flat-ish grade through another wind farm and then we hit a BIG climb in some serious heat. We would stop often in the narrow shade of Joshua Trees and as the day wore on we started to stess over our dwindeling water supply.  I rolled into camp that evening with a 'victory sip' of water that I'd been hoarding for nearly 2 miles.  The next few days were equally challenging.  With Kennedy Meadows and the Sierra in sight, the desert felt like it was really wearing on us.

Mile 600!!

Through this difficult section we had one GIANT saving grace: GOLDEN BOY. Golden Boy (who was upgraded from Glitter Boy) is Macho Taco's brother and started hiking with us weeks ago from the border.  After needing to get off trail due to injury and illness, Golden Boy came out blazing with Magic in the desert bringing cold drinks, pizza and gooey, breakfast rolls.  He rented a car and managed to meet us at about 6 different places over the course of this tough portion of trail.  One evening (exhausted, windblown and haggard) we rolled into the Walker Pass Campground in hopes of a cozy night sleep. Not the case. With a storm system in the area, the winds were NUTS and the dust and wind whipped around us as we enjoyed amazing trail magic from Oakie Girl. Nearly at whits end, we hopped a ride with Golden Boy into the town of Ridgecrest, hit up an all you can eat buffett at the Pizza Factory and got a good night sleep at a motel.  This spontaneous town night saved our butts, and our sanity. The next morning we got back on trial in more crazy winds and pushed on toward KM.  I don't know if we could ever thank Golden Boy enough for his ultimate magic trip!

Through this was a butt-kicking section, we had an incredibly stunning moon to sleep under each night. One evening we had a 360 degree view of the evening sky: sun setting on one side, full moon rising on the other.

As we turned a corner over Walker Pass, we could feel everything change. We were leaving the desert. There were trees. There were streams. There was shade. We camped about 8 miles from Kennedy Meadows and for our short morning hike to the KM General Store, I had 'Chariots Of Fire' in my head. I just imagined our little crew of hiker friends gloriously slow-walking toward the mountains.  Southern California was an incredible and challenging experence and we are stronger for it.  Those 700 miles also set us up for the biggest payoff ever: The Sierra.

Mile 700!!

Auto Pilot signing a trail register on the way into KM

Well Hello There!

Hey y'all! We are in Bishop enjoying a zero day and will update the 'ole bloggo with pictures and stories from the last two weeks.  We've been out of cell range and internet access since Mojve (except for a 5 minute window in Kennedy Meadows) and are pumped to share all the excitement now that we have computer access!!

For now we're uploading pictures while we do our laundry (which is a good thing as I am currently wandering around in nothing but my raingear... and it's 91 degrees, not a cloud in the sky), get showers, and eat delicious sandwhiches at Schat's bakery.  More up later!