Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mile 53: Slackpackers!

4/2?/2010 (Monday)
Woke up early, bad condensation in the tent. Hiked two miles to get water, nerves wore thin over the water filter. I realize now that it may be bad that all our communal gear other than the pot are mine: tent, filter, and stove. Carmen's good with gear, but the difference in how I do things as they are mine is different from how somebody else may do them as if they were their own. But we chillax and move on.

We finally got into different biomes today! As we headed into the bigger mountains, the drainages were pine forests with Ponderosa pines. It was so exciting every time we left the chaparral for the shaded forest with such soft, springy ground and amazing, relaxing scent. We even came across patches of snow today: most were about one square foot, but I found one big enough to make a snowangel today. It was then and there that I decided no matter how mileage obsessed we become once we magically morph into trail goddesses, we should make sure to do some thing fun every single day.

As my leg hair grows longer and I smell worse and worse, I become more and more convinced that I am manly and don't want to be. Carmen pointed out something reassuringly non-masculine about me when I asked a local-looking man walking his dog at a trail junction about the best way to get to Mt Laguna: I have no fear, and waste no time in asking for directions. If the opportunity to do so presents itself, I figure it's most efficient to do so.

We waited on the porch of Mt Laguna post office and general store for two hours waiting for the noon opening. At least twenty, maybe thirty packs were lined up at 11:50. It was fun hanging out and lounging around with the other hikers with no sense of urgency to get up and move out. Chance told me about two things I want to Google for myself: a Featherlight XL stove, the iPhone app Peaks, and a spreadsheet of PCT places and cell providers to figure out what mountaintops have service. If anybody else feels like doing tha themselves on their big computer screens with fast connections, I would really like the link.

When Carmen retrieved our resupply package (completely unnecessary, the general store had great options), the postmistress congratulated us on our good eye candy and odds. "Sometimes the men just take off their shirts; and they are just so good looking!" Yes ma'am, I am enjoying more than one view. We sent at least half of our granola and trail mix ahead to Idyllwild. It was depressing, the waste of money, and how our packs were once again much heavier.

As we got ready to head out, we ran into Paladin and Anika, who were getting a ride from Hippie Longstockings. She offered to slack-pack our packs to our day's destination, so we threw our packs into the back of her truck, and took two of her daypacks with water and sunscreen for a faster, lighter trip. It was awesome! I hope we got some muscle memory of fast-hiking for when our muscles can handle it. We felt really guilty passing other bikers carrying their packs, and even more embarassed when they passed us. When Hippie picked us up, she took us back to their campsite at Mount Laguna. We ate our own food in order to get rid of the weight, but she fed Paladin and Anika, gave us some turkey to enrich our vegetarian-chheesy-sloppy-Joe-orzo, and just generally took really good care of us. It was fun to hang out, and I look forward to seeing her again when she passes us on her way north.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 68.4: We are social!

4/27/2010: 5th day hiking
15 miles in 5.5 hours actual hiking time.
Fun of the day: hiking with Alli

Carmen and I drew Hippie thank you cards like we were in first grade. Carmen included a woman holding a beer and a smokeable, mine was just an abstract combination of flowers, the moon, the sun, and the G3 pattern on my climbing skins stuffsack. Mine included, "We were going to hide some cash in your glovebox, but figured this would piss you off less." Sure enough, she refused cash when we offered, so we hid our notes for her to find later.

When we were ready to go, Hippie told us to help ourselves to anything in the cooler, and I was STARVING. I made myself a wrap with spinach, tomato, cucumber, chicken, turkey, bacon, cheddar, and ranch intended for lunch, but I immediately ate it and several chunks of chicken, bacon, and slices of turkey. Salty protein? I need it! I think my metabolism has finally adjusted to the increased load... after sending half my snacks and breakfast on to the next town.

Although 6:55 was a much later start than Carmen or I wanted, we got in a good deal of cool hiking, helped by the fact that the wind blew all day long. We ran into Andy and Alli, two mid-twenties nurses from Wisconsin, at the stream we stopped at for water five miles in. Andy suggested that Alli hike with us for the day and get some girl time. It was awesome! It's not that Carmen and I have run out of all topics of conversation, we're able to pratter on endlessly, but the possibilities were greatly expanded. I really like the couple, and I really hope this trip strengthens rather than weakens their bond.

We were able to see the snow capped mountains we'll be hiking through in a week, the San Jacintos I think, almost all day long as we dropped elevation (sometimes quite painfully). The views were amazing, all made surreal and magical looking from the smog/haze LA must be contributing, though invisible to us. By the end of the day, the winds were fiercely beating us. We hunkered down for the hottest part of the day under my footprint+rainfly "sunshade" after a brutal downhill.

At Rodriguez Spur Road, an outfitter in Julien (sp?) has set up a temporary hiker oasis in the middle of a 24 mile dry stretch. Ice cream was rumored, but potable water, solar showers, hot food, and tasty cold beverages were all a reality. Carmen and I are camped here for the night, with other thru-hikers: it's like we're being social! The three of us girls and some of the guys took showers. All of my leg tan washed away, and I looked at my body for the first time in over a week: I have bad chafe that I had never before noticed on my hips where my belt lies (this is a job for Bodyglide! Thanks Jeff) and my sunscreen/lack of showers is making me break out.

The expected storm seems to be moving in. I think all the wind has stirred up the pollen from all the wildflowers, the back of my throat is starting to itch. I'm hoping the storm drops some rain, scrubs the air, and breaks up our next dry stretch (30 miles) into smaller pieces. I tried drawing the alien-spaceship looking clouds for my stepfather the meteorologist. One of the excessively attractive scruffy hiker men came and sat down next to me, asking to see, and ended up talking with me until after night fell. Crossing fingers that the lesbian aura is wearing off!!!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 36: Hiking again!

Yay, we're finally on the trail again! After the rain and crispy days at Lake Morena, desert heat was far from our minds. We woke up at the leisurely hour of six (people had been packing up and leaving since four thirty), packed, had first breakfast, and left at eight. We didn't realize that the PCT actually goes THROUGH the campground, so we tried to pick it up where we had left off, and got plenty of funny looks until somebody took pity and pointed us in the right direction.

As we were packing up and Carmen was dealing with her stuff at the picnic table, a very spry old man with a long white beard who'd been singing back and forth with a friend all morning long came over and introduced himself as Gandalf, just wanting to be friendly since it seemed like I was alone and needed a friend. I know Tolkein's world doesn't extend much into our own, but it did feel like he was magic from the wide, unshakeable grin he left on my face. I hope we run into him more on the trail ahead.

We hiked with a guy from Nashville (with a confusing disappearing Australian accent) with the trail name of Anika. I actually asked, "What's the story behind that, since it sounds like a girl's name?" He actually chose it for himself, it comes from the Sanskrit word for "transient." We were both embarassed at that point.

We ate second breakfast (yes, we are becoming hobbits) with a female solo hiker named Burny/Bernie, she seems super nice but quiet- a nice break from kick-off personalities. We were passed by an ultralight hiker who never quite got Carmen's name right- "Carmine? Carmeng?" even when Carmen got me to intervene and say it with a different mouth. That was a bit awkward.

A guy named Pat refused to pass us, but was on our heels. Finally, I asked if he was using us to pace off of and he admitted yes, saying things like, "Slow and steady is the way to go," "Gotta slow down and stay strong," "Slow is hard to so but the easiest path to success." It seemed rather insulting, but I think it was with no such intention.

We had lunch with a guy we'd seen a lot of at the kick-off, he yelled "You're too hyper!" to us as we pranced, laughing hysterically, over a creeklet to the dry and warm pavilion. Next morning we saw Dan in a tangle of sil-nylon, and he said, "Don't give me funny looks, I forgot my tent stakes!" He is actually a really nice guy (it's all in the delivery), and he's hiking with his sixteen year old younger brother Joe. I think Carmen may have offended their delicate, pastor-raised and homeschooled sensibilities when she said, "god fucking damnit!" emphatically about something, but if they'll forgive our uncouth, smelly, hairy, and stinky ways, we really hope to hike more with them in the future. While we were lying around napping under the trees next to the creek, Dan asked, "I am sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but why do you have bear spray in southern California?" I explained that it's man spray out of bear country. "And you BOTH have a can because...?" because we're most likely to need it when we're separated.

We had enough water to dry camp, and found a really nice spot that we'll have to ourself since the stream nearby is dry. A guy we have been leapfrogging with all day named Chance hung out while we made dinner: mac'n'cheese with tuna and more cheese and even more cheese (it was delicious, same cuisine as our previous meals of couscous with chunks of cheese and split pea paste with cheese). He told about his $25 highly efficient adjustable alcohol stove and junk food stories from the Appalachian Trail. I was bummed when he had to move on to get water. I hope we see more of him too.

In the afternoon, I took an off-trail detour with trowel and tp in hand as Carmen continued hiking. I found a spot up on the hillside where I couldn't see the trail, and once crouched down among the bushes, couldn't see hardly anything. A moment after standing up and pulling my pants up, I hear, "Do you need help, is everything ok?" and I see the torsos of two hikers floating in field of bushes below where the trail must be Uh, fine, fine, everything is perfectly fine, don't come up here. They continued to try to have a shouting conversation with me! Then they decided to wait for me by my abandoned pack below. When I got back, they proceeded to tell me I didn't need to go so far away. I should have stuck around to give a lecture on exactly why everybody needs to "go" far away, but, embarassed at my audience, I high-tailed it out of there as fast as I could after giving cursory explanations to their questions.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mile 20.8: more off-kicking at Lake Morena

BEAUTIFUL day today, I sincerely hope we get some more of this oh-so pleasant balance between snowing and scorching some more. Unfortunately, it looks like there are two to three more storms rolling into SoCal in the nearish future. Instead of melting, the snow in the upcoming mountain ranges is being insulated with more highly reflective snow. We're getting our ice axes and microspikes sent to Warner Springs rather than Kennedy Meadows and we're considering the detour routes to avoid the crappy stuff if we get in over our heads.

We got up earlier than usual this morning to volunteer along SCA members on a trail crew. Carmen only had to twist my arm a little bit, I came along with minimal complaints. I am glad we did, because we were able to talk to some NORMAL people, who were both fun and chill.

The seminars have been really interesting, the best were on mental health, desert hiking, mountain safety, and pioneer women of the PCT. With my phobia of bears, I drug along Carmen to the bear talk. It was very general and didn't touch hardly what previous training had, but it did introduce us to a rather creepy, and extremely obnoxious man who, between unsolicited comments to the speaker, kept reassuring us that the girl next to him was his daughter. Well duh, you look way to old for her, she shares your build, and you don't look like you can afford a gold-digger. Stop flattering yourself while announcing you're available: I never thought she was your wife, and you're way too old and gross for me.

We also volunteered for the food serving today. Considering the few people who actually managed the event, it went off really well. That being said, a little more management would have helped eager helpers like us actually get things done.

Does anybody know anything about Team Extreme? I think it would be really excellent to have a rallying duo name for celebration and inspiration. Of course, we have no knowledge of anything Team Extreme, but when said with a high-five, it feels good. Who are the folks that are the earth's elements like earth, wind, fire, and water that combine to make a super-power? Who's the shrimpy crazy in the Muppets? Is it the same as the scientist?

Yay, we leave tomorrow. Time for action, not just talking. It'll probably be a really long line of backpackers. This should be interesting.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mile 20.8, ADZPCTKO

It was a really rainy hike from the Mexican border to here. Pretty miserable, actually, since both Carmen and I know rain, but we were told by all the guidebooks to not even bother with rain gear in SoCal. So we have rain jackets. Our quick-drying stuff does indeed dry quickly, when given the opportunity to.

The first two nights were cold, but they would have been so much worse with some of the ultralight setups I've seen around the campground. We get jealous - really jealous - of the lighter loads other people are carrying, but guess what? I already owned a reasonably sturdy and reasonably weighted tent and can't afford to buy a new one. Sae with poles, stove, sleeping bag, etc.

It is overwhelming here, there are so many people here who's egos, personalities, or wierdnesses take up more than the usual amount of room that Carmen and I have both clammed up and sought only the comfort of each other's company. We have tried to meet people, but it's so exhausting talking to some of these people! Last night, we met a group of people our own age (you'd think this trail was dominated by twenty-somethings, not so) and by the time we had talked to everybody, we realized every single one of them thought we were a lesbian couple. "Yeah, we're hiking together, yes we share a tent, oh we met in college." The rumor was gently dispelled with a combination of tactful rephrasing and me hitting on various men. All is not yet safe though, there are lots of really strange guys here who I have no interest in ever sharing a tent with, and our combined lack of interest in them, and only for each other may very well reinforce the inaccurate understanding.

Our duo-ness has already gotten commented on, and my favorite trail name possibilities for us are Miss Piggy (me) and Hermit the Frog (Carmen). Carmen doesn't like it though. Other ideas for her include Frumpkin, Frumpette, Stewie, Streganona, Carmenky, and Menkity-menk. Mine include the usual: V-card, Love Donut, and Valkyrie; as well as Kristen, Not My Name, and Bearded Men (Man? I signed the mile 0 register as, "Looking forward to snacking, napping, and bearded men"). We just don't want lame ones, names like this are supposed to reflect some of your less-salient qualities or more embarassing moments, not be flattering. I was told, "If you run into Grey Fox, tell him he's been re-named Beyoncé." Yeah, that's the spirit! Though I would find Valkyrie quite inspirational.

Okay, big day of trail work, seminars, and knee-rest ahead.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Location:Lake Shore Dr,Campo,United States

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So much!

We slept in this morning until 5 minutes before the continental buffet shut down, ate the surprisingly gross food for how nice a hotel it is (I am sure that it didn't help that that we both made buttered and jellied toast with bread that turned out to have caraway seeds, not flax). Then we sorted and repackaged our food, once again going through, "this isn't enough/this is way too much cycles." I think we concluded that it's way too much. And boy oh boy, it doesn't take up that much space, but trail mix sure adds pounds.

We loaded Carmen's pack up with all the food, and headed to the nearest shipping location. Unfortunately, they didn't have any flat rate boxes, and we can't use UPS for general delivery, which would have been cheaper. So $54 later for two boxes of food, we headed to REI for our last second, no-fly items like bear/man spray and stormprrof matches.

The bus was an adventure in itself. We bought our tickets while an autistic kid sang, danced and squealed while his angellically patient mother got him to take his passport photos, and on our other side, an old man with a foreign accent, obviously not completely there was trying to get a refund for his bus ticket and spoke very loudly about how it was an "med-ee-cal e-mare-jhen-see." Back out on the street, a woman who had been talking to the picures on the side of the bus conversed at us about how the price of cigarettes really should drop, now that gas was back to $0.29/gallon.

On the bus, there was a... person who I first noticed thinking, "Hey, that man's kinda hot!" and quickly realized was having a silent, animated conversation with somebody across the bus who wasn't there. I was confused, because the broad shoulders, skinny legs, and square jaw were all very masculine, but the boobs and lack of Adam's apple were feminine. I would been okay saying, "okay, transgender," but the clothes were very masculine. If you felt that you were a woman beyond that minor detail of owning a dick, wouldn't you dress like one? When four Mormons got on the bus, Carmen muttered under her breath, "Don't you dare strike up a conversation with these guys!" but she didn't need to worry, the object of my scrutiny quickly got up to go over and flirt. Seeing the boys squirm was priceless, and her goodbye wave solidified the use of the feminine pronoun in my mind.

When we got back to the hotel room after our journey to REI, we loaded up our packs with the food and water too. So much trailmix! I had my second or third gear (minor)-failure when I realized that the short, wide-around compression sack couldn't actually fit in my pack with my water bladder full. So now my sleeping bag and down jacket are just stuffed free I the bottom of mu pack, and I swear it msould fit better if compressed better.

Carmen and my packs weighed 22 and 29 lbs respectively when we went through the airport baggage check. Adding 13 lbs water, 3/4 lbs bear spray, and 9 lbs food... that's 45 to 52 lbs. I think I may need to let Carmen carry more, and I predict we get rid of the folowing items:
-tent body
-toiletries that both Carmen and I have.

So now I have a gear wishlist:
Bug headnet, NO wire!
Sea-to-summit ultra-sil compression sack, M or L, big enough to fit a 0 degree L bag,
(micro) XD card for my camera.

Okay, I'm finally sleepy.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Location:Columbia St,San Diego,United States

San Diego: adventure after all

(Oops, this never posted last night.)

Stayed up way too late last night, trying to get my iPod to sync. I don't know if I actually ever did fall asleep for the hour that I was in bed with my eyes closed. John took us to SEA-TAC at five am, and after the last hugs were given and goodbyes said, we burst in through the doors, squealing, "We're really going!" and laughing hysterically. The other, silent, passengers didn't seem to appreciate the jubilee.

When we git to sunny, balmy San Diego, I left my not-very-collapsible trekking pole (my high end gear includes mismatched ski poles I claimed from the front porch when all the skiers moved out) in the plane's coat closet, but a gate agent rescued it for me when I realized my mistake.

Everything went really smoothly during the day: we checked into our hotel early, and our room was ready so they let us go up immediately, and we napped for four hours. The really friendly receptionist (she's named Nao... awkward to say in English) gave us directions on how to take a trolley and bus past Whole Foods to the good, AFFORDABLE grocery store. It took us hours, but we planned and bought everything we'll be eating for the next two weeks. It was really intimidating looking at the heavy piles of granola and trail mix, but we kept reassuring ourselves, "We only have to carry a third of this at a time." How does a bag of bulk food go from, "No, this can't possibly be enough!" to, "This is definitely way too much" with the addition of a mere 3 peanuts? We were very proud of ourselves, we practiced thrifty shopping techniques, did not buy the Nutella, fig newtons, or fancy candied nuts we were drooling over, and the grand total came in a good $50 under expected.

There was one memorable ladies-man named Armando working the produce section who was calling women over right and left to sample whatever fruit he was working with. We were given both juicy papaya, and crisp, fresh pear. I'm getting excited about this whole California thing. Alaska, I am ready to take a break, you just don't satisfy like California does.

After some unsuccessful, heavily laden shopping for an XD card for my camera and ziplocs to repackage everything into, we barely caught a bus back to the trolley station, driven by a man who didn't want to take our money.

We found the platform to catch a trolley back to downtown, but when we didn't find reassurance, and another trolley pulled up at the platform we started on, coming from the direction opposite of where we wanted to go, we hurriedly asked some woman if the train was going downtown. Unfortunately, she said yes.

So we boarded the empty trolley with a few others, moved to different car when asked, and got caught up in conversation with a slightly touched, lower IQ man coming back from a day on the coast with all his fishing equipment. He seemed harmless enough as long as we were talking about fishing or perch, but he kept mentioning an incident in which a gang cut him up real bad and left him for dead, and I really didn't want to talk about violence or weapons at all. It was only when he started tracing invisible scars on his face that I considered the story might not have been real, but Carmen had seen through it the entire time. Right around then is when the trolley FINALLY started rolling: in the direction opposite of where we wanted to go.

Suddenly, all the obvious signs became clear to us: "Green Line" on the display, the map showing Old Town as the turn-around for both Blue and Green, etc. We tried to get off at the next stop, but one of us pressed the "exit" button for the wrong side of the train while the other pressed the button too early and it never slid. We did eventually get off, take the green line back to the blue line back downtown, and we got back at 9:30 tired, hungry, and cranky. Now the mini-fridge is bursting at it's seams.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Location:Columbia St,San Diego,United States

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seattle, on the line

Flew into Seattle, we've been getting stuff done. Somehow it seems like the more organized we try to get, the more everything turns into a big mess. The more errands we run, the more we have to run. We have so much to do tomorrow... not excited.

We got some 91% Isopropanol today, and ran a stove-check with it. I've been using HEET, and the problems I encountered were of the "not hot enough" variety: the alcohol seemed to be burning off and leaving the water behind, leaving it more and more diluted as I burnt more and more. Apparently, not a problem with the 91% isopropanol, I thought I was about to permanently disfigure Carmen and I while damaging significant property of John and Patricia. Nothing bad happened, but the flames rose higher and higher...

Do I choke off some of the oxygen supply to make it burn slower and not as hot, and risk letting extremely volatile gases escape without combusting? D0 I allow to burn unrestricted, guaranteeing no gas-leak but risking the combustion will get hotter and hotter, making it go faster and faster, running out of control until it ends in a rubbling alcohol Chernobyl disaster?