Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mile 454

Wow, it's been 150 miles since I last posted. Let's see, what has happened...

Wrightwood is definitely the most hiker-friendly town I've ever seen. We got picked up from Inspiration Point by a tattoo-covered skateboarder driving a super-nice Mercedes Benz. The hardwear store has a list of host families for hikers, and DayGlo called and made arrangements for us girls. As Carmen and I were waiting in the postoffice, THREE more Wrightwoodites gave us their numbers, beseeching us to come stay in their homes, eat their food, and drink their beer. Turns out that the folks we stayed with that first night were the wealthiest family in this already super-wealthy mountain suburb of Los Angeles. They had not one, but two climbing walls in their house, a kitchen I drooled over with two dishwashers, a detached three-car garage with office space above, a home theater, a driveway pull-around like a swanky hotel... the works. It was amazing.

The second night we stayed there, Hasty joined DayGlo, Carmen, and I at one of the families that had offered us up their home. It was very different from the first night, the family was in the process of going through all of their stuff since they were in the process of losing their home, but they still had the warmth and generosity to insist we stay and eat. Mike was a most interesting person, he was a veteran and told Hasty some crazy stories, including the forensic work he did once he got out of the forces. He also restored cars, and showed us some amazing photos of truly beautiful old cars he had worked on.

Right after we left Wrightwood, we went over Baden-Powell. It's named after the guy who started the Boy Scouts. I thought the Boy Scouts were a pretty good thing, with the whole exception of the don't-ask-don't-tell homosexuality hatred issues, but there's all that camping and knot-tying stuff. We ran into lots of Boy Scouts on the mountain though, and it was clear that it was very very poor leadership and bad judgment on part of all the adults involved. There were kids crying from the cold with no adults, trying to get down the snow as fast (and therefore, rather dangerously) as they could.

We followed the switchbacks until we hit solid snow, then tried to go straight up toward the summit. Hasty and Carmen started to truly shine, while DayGlo and I got more and more sketched out by the steeps. We made it up though. I was super duper uber happy I had my ice axe and microspikes. We followed the ridgeline to get down, and snow was expected that night, so we ended up camping 5 miles short of where we expected in order to stay sheltered and find a spot (I had lost my headlamp, amongst many other valuable items, and was becoming more of a liability with every missing piece of gear). Sure enough, we woke up to a few inches of snow, so we slept in hoping that dust-on-crust would soften to something a little better to walk on.

And... we hiked a lot. I'm trying to remember anything exciting or of note. I'm really settling into this hiking thing, so nothing seems to out of the ordinary to me.

We had to detour along roads to avoid a burned area. That ended up being really really enjoyable to me, since we hiked as a group and told stories and played games and laughed and talked the entire way, mostly with amazing views, the roadwalking wore on my psyche much less than I was expecting. The last 5 miles though were on an awful, noisy, ugly, headwind road, and I was ready to be on the trail by the time we hit the KOA.

I decided to ditch the polkadot spandex shorts and safari shirt because
a.) I have lost weight and my spandex is now saggy, with the crotch invariably below mid-thigh
b.) The spandex is cheap and now disintegrating and itches as it does so
c.) I started hiking in my camp/sleep clothes and discovered that I'm cooler in my baby blue wool shirt than beige nylon safari shirt, and BodyGlide solves all my chafe problems with just a cool, breezy skirt.

So I've also ditched the name Polkadot. Never fear, though, I instantly earned another one by the time I got dressed in Agua Dulce. I was doing my usual indecisive thing, trying to figure out what of Donna Saufley's loaner clothes to wear after I took a shower. At one point, Carmen looked over and I was debating between five choices. On the roadwalk, we talked about how the Valentine's sometimes used "thump thump" as the sound effect for indeciveness: like a squirrel that can't make up it's mind when facing a speeding car barrelling down the road. "Go right! No left! No right!" Thump thump.

We are now at the Saufleys in Agua Dulce, and Hiker Heaven has truly earned its name. For a donation only basis, Donna washes all our clothes, feeds us often, lets us chill out in her guest trailer, ride her bikes, and gives us military tents and cots to sleep in. DayGlo met up with her parents here, so we've just been chilling out, waiting to keep Mexico or Bust together.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mile 342: McDonalds!

Covered 22 miles thus far today, we are now at McDonalds on I 15. I ate two McFlurries and three cookies, and I think I ate the least of all of us. Several people ate several burgers. There will probably be puke on the trail shortly. Today felt good, at Mile 15 I felt better than I did at mile six yesterday. The ground we covered was really interesting and there were beautiful flowers, I think tha helped: no mental fatigue. Time to get back on the trail!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mike 320ish: tired from relaxing

Thanks to the promise of a morning soak, the acid yelled, and the distance done yesterday, we got a super late start this morning, and made horrible time the whole way here. Thankfully, we only need to do 15 miles to get to Wrightwood on the expected date.

We contoured along the side of the Deep creek canyon for a long time, u til wereached a very new dam. I was the caboose by a far way, but I nerded out and took pictures of the emmergency spillway, etc.

As it turned out, the dam was actually a dike against a much huger reservoir to protect a community safe I guess.

WhenI got down, Carmen and Hasty had already found a good wide shallow spot to ford the river, and were just waiting for me. We got water after much deliberation and did again few times after.

Avo, Emily, Dagne, and Neon caught up to us at the last creek we figured we'd see in a wjile. We had a good time sharing out campsite with jess and tradeyA, but it started spitting drops and we hadtotemdto tents

Mile 306: Butt-Up-Beetles and No-Pants-Man

We had a long day yesterday, something like 22 miles. I was happy to get a nice early start, but with water filtering, shoe/Chaco switches, drawing a real puzzle for Hasty, and snack breaks, I was late into our lunch break. Carmen found a jar of nutella, got excited, and

discovered it was old and gross. We kept seeing cool beetles that almost always had their heads down and thorax in the air. The Deep Creek seems to be popular with the redneck locals, it made my day when one jeep full with kids and a family rallied past us, blasting the Sexual Healing song.

We saw our shopping cart friends stopped on a sunny, exposed side of the mountain. After some hushed deliberation, we concluded that they were probably homeless, obviously clueless, and completely unprepared. They had a bike, a skateboard, a little cart used for gym balls, an old synthetic kid's square sleeping bag. They had simply brought all the trip's worth of water, but had gotten rid of it because it was heavy, and now had only a third of a gallon left. We asked if they needed help, and the woman exclamed, "Please! Do you have any extra food? I am pregnant and I'm so so so very hungry!" The man said, "Naw, I have a fat one rolled already." We gave the woman some of our granola bars.

We almost called it two miles before the hot springs because every one was tired, but I pulled out my pouty princess face and we hauled on. Blaze met us, and in his super friendly way, answered our question if there was enough room for us to join their campsite with "No, but we'll make some!"

After we cooked dank tortellini, filtered water for the cart couple (Hatchet gave them food), and set up camp, it was time for the hot springs! When we got there there was an interesting assortment of fat old naked men (hence the name Teeny Weeny Penii World), a couple 16 year old girls in mini skirts, one topless girl was clearly quite taken with her own breasts, they were nice but the presentation was so trashy, a few guys completely out of touch with reality on drugs, and a guy with a semi-erect pointy pecker that never would be seen wearing anything less or more than just a top.

The boys (Hasty, Hatchet, Avo, and Blaze) all got in the hot pool of the hot springs before Carmen, DayGlo, and I ever showed up. With the dark and the walls of the pool, it was impossible to see what the soakers were wearing, but we were in full view. I muttered to Carmen, "I wish I had a headcount of who's nekkid so I'd know how far I could strip without being inappropriate." We all ended up just going in our underwear but no bras, which was good, because it turned out that none of the boys had stripped. I was suddenly very disappointed with our age group's self-images, and the guys in particular. Here the three of us girls were, fully topless and fully exposed above water, uncomfortable maybe but handling it well, and the boys had no more vulnerability than at a public pool or a backyard BBQ.

Jess and Tradejya, probably mid thirties then joined us in the full Monty, and I was much happier abaout it. Is it weird that I'm upset at my generation's refusal to act on skinny dipping opportunities? It's not that I want to see my peers and friends naked, but I want to see us all self-accepting and comfortable.

This morning, when I got in for a quick soak, I was wearing only underwear and no bra under my long johns, but no big deal, I had worn just my underroos 12 hours prior in the light of the surprisingly bright new moon, so I didn't expect any problems. Avo was the only person in the pool, and as light chit chat progressed, it was very clear that
he was refusing to look at me. Whether he was diverting his eyes out of respect, desire, or disgust was never clear, but it made me feel like a very dirty girl for not having my breasts properly hidden. C'mon, we're at clothing optional, backcountry hot springs,do I have to feel guilty and apologetic about my body here too?

I didn't sleep wellat all, because one Acid Man kept yelling continuously- at least every 5 minutes if not more frequently. A really drunk guy in waders and a jumpsuit came up to Hasty and I and asked if Hasty was Sasquatch. When Hasty said no, the guy wandered off to Hatchet, we could see the guy flicking his lighter in Hatchet's face.

Later, Hasty said that if he had seen the guy go near Carmen, Hasty would have gotten up and put a stop to the nonsense. I hope I would have too, but I think a pissed Carmen would inflict far more damage than I would have. Turns out her problem was that semi-erect No Pants Man kept looking over at Carmen and giving her super-creepy smiles.

Mile 284

We have a new member to our crew: Hatchet, or as I like to call him, Mini-Axe. He's nice, but naïve and clueless, which gets annoying.

Avo and Blaze caught us up today, We are very happy about that because they are fun and cool and the added company is nice.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 170ish: light mountaineering.

A lot of people think that since I'm from Alaska, I automatically know mountaineering skills. Not so. Wish it were the case, because it seems like it could be rather cool. Nope, I have read about them and had them summarized, but never was taught, never practiced. Today, I drew upon this great dearth of knowledge, and made use of an ice axe and microspikes (crampons for people who don't know how to use crampons).

I didn't really need the gear, but I was glad I had it, definitely used it, and tried to practice safe snow travel techniques. We even put on our rain gear and practiced self-arresting on snow and slopes that don't often precipitate the need for self arrests.

The best part of the day (for me at least, it may have driven Carmen somewhat bonkers) was playing with the topo map and compass. I've never had any formal training but understand them (and I'm cocky enough to think I can figure the rest out), though Carmen used them for work a lot last summer. Sure enough, once we came around to the northeast side of Red Tahquitz, it was all snow and the trail could not be seen, though footprints were visible. Despite the gorgeous view and early hour, we were both feeling bitchy, and I got secret, smug satisfaction out of being able to correctly identify exactly where we were on the map instantly, and got to convince Carmen that we were further ahead on the trail than she thought.

We followed the tracks until they veered from the proper course, and tried to follow the trail, but we quickly realized that the PCT would take us side-hilling up high along the rim of Tahquitz Valley, so we followed a drainage down until it met a forest service trail, and navigated along it until it hit Saddle Junction. We left the SPOT on to track our progress- check it out, it might be interesting. Once we got a handle on mountain-snow-travel-sans-skis, we started having a lot of fun and even stomped "I (heart) U" in the snow to take a photo for Mother's Day.

On the way down sunny Devils Slide trail, Carmen and I tried to video each of us singing her made-up ditty for our mothers:

Well I'm a dirty old girl
On a walk in the woods
You may ask me where I'm going
North! North! North to see the ones that I love

- Typoed on my iPhonehh

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mile 170ish: mountains, mommy!

Jeepers, I smell absolutely terrible. In Idyllwild, I ditched my deodorant in an effort to save some weight and thinking that it obviously wasn't working anyway. Nope, it was doing me marginal good, and it isn't anymore.

Today we climbed. Up and up and up and we'd get a fantastic view, then we'd descend a little bit along the ridgeline, enough to make us feel upset at all our hard work going to waste, and up we'd go some more. It was absolutely gorgeous.

((Carmen's talking in her sleep, this happens every night and it always confuses then amuses me. Tonight: Carmen's mom has flow-busters for us))

The thing is, as the day wore on, the terrain got steeper and steeper and steeper. This is an equestrian trail, mind you, but apparently horses can go along narrow, slanted switchbacks with sheer walls on either side. Why is the risk-averse, clumsy, wary-of-heights girl with bad balance attempting to hike from Mexico to Canada through mountains the entire way? Will I still be only able to look at the trail while hiking and the view while stopping, all while taking deep, calming breaths in the Goat Rocks Wilderness?

At Apache Peak, we got water from the sulfur-y spring, and took a nice, long lunch/siesta. I attempted to run to the top of the peak while Carmen took a nap, although I think the other side of the little saddle was the actual peak. I knew from reports that the back of Apache was supposed to be sketchy, and that the saddle over bypassed the snow, but Carmen thought the snow may have all melted in the last couple of days. What can I say, we went over, but not until after getting a staged photo of Carmen tackling the snow.

Later, we had no choice but to cross the snowy chutes. Carmen went ahead with her boots and poles while I busted out my ice axe and took more of those calming breaths. Although the axewasn't necessary, I washappy to get some practice using it to self-belay, and it definitely feltbetter to have one anchor in the snow and one pole propping me up. We wantto practice self-arresting on a clear open, flattish area FIRST, rather than dying from making a mistake the first time.

Okay, can't hardly type straight anymore.

Ps: my rain gear weighs at least a pound and a half, if not more. I'm going to ditch the pants until Kennedy Meadows if I don't use them tomorrow, but the jacket rather is a necessity. Can somebody please keep an eye out on Steep and Cheap or wherever else for a no frills, LIGHT WEIGHT rain jacket? Liner mesh, drawstrings, pockets, pit zips etc are all unnecessary. I don't know what size I am anymore, according to the scale at Nomad Adventures I've lost about seven pounds, according to the skirt falling to around my knees, it's all been from my ass. So an M or L, L to be safe.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 158: night hiking


Today felt so good to finally relax! We slept in, Carmen did computer stuff (we'll have stuff up on picasa when we can figure out how to upload photos without the program installed) while I lightened my first aid kit, we hung out with a really fun, injured hiker and ate delicious, healthy food (smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber, bell peppers, and kale) which later gave us in?digestion.

A trail angel by the name of Dave picked us up from the campground and drove us back down to HWY 74 in exchange for the promise that we would pay the favor forward. We hiked for a few miles, feeling absolutely refreshed and definitely happy to be back on the trail, with each other.

We stopped for dinner as the sun set, some miso soup, and freeze-dried beef stew and pasta primavera that Carmen's parents had sent us, which gave us worse gas than our usual constant streamif toots.

We donned our headlamps and set back out on the trail: our first experiment in night hiking. The views of the mountains silhouetted against the sunset were gorgeous, but I spent most of my energy looking out for snakes. Once it was more dark than light, we started getting really scared, namely of snakes, creepy men, or cougars. We rearranged our side pockets to ensure truly immediate bear spray access, and hiked within pole's reach of each other. It was all quite ridiculous, and we laughed about it while looking around nervously.

All in all, we hiked about twenty minutes before deciding it was time to pitch the tent. Finding a spot, of course, was damn near impossible in the dark, so we're now at a wide spot where an old jeep road met up with the PCT, and I'm jumping every time I hear a plane in the distance or the wind plays with the rainfly. I think early morning hiking leads to less paranoia and better sleep than night hiking, although the temperatures were very pleasant.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mile 151: zero days are exhausting

We took showers, talked to our mothers, did laundry, went grocery shopping, took food inventory, checked for packages at the post office, got some stuff at the local outfitter, checked out the detour around sketchy Fuller Ridge, ate smoked salmon, $1.25 tostadas, and margaritas with some other hikers, and it was more exhausting than hiking 20 miles. I can see how people have a hard time adjusting back to normal life, we sure are barely a week into hiking!

Sleep awaitsme!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Location:Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Hwy,Idyllwild,United States

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Idyllwild resupply

Sorry, I stopped blogging, obviously. Let's see.... To summarize, we stopped and resupplied in Warner Springs with some delicious help from my mom, relaxed, and split a hotel room 5 ways.

It's getting hotter, and it sucks the very will to live out of Carmen and I. We just start earlier and earlier every morning.

I finally joined the blister club with everyone else, and I have a huge one between my pinky toe and the next one on my left foot. It didn't hurt at all when I got it, but now it feels awful. I'm glad to be doing not so many miles while in Idylwild. My left knee is also starting to hurt. I wonder if I'm favoring my left foot and it's making me walk funny. I am very seriously considering from running shoes/flip flops to hiking boots/Chacos. Ankle support, I dream of you! Let's face it, we're not ultralight hikers and I am earning a reputation from my water source paranoia, I carry a lot. I should support myself appropriately.

Okay, time to sleep. There are a lot of detours in this section, so if you see our SPOT track way off the trail and along fire access roads, DON'T PANIC!

I may have a trail name: it started as "Princess Polkadot" when I was whining, then when I found some free crocs today that fit, it became "Polkarella Cinderdots" but it's a huge mouthful and hard to remember, so I shorfenes it to "Polkadot." we decided on a team name too: Mexico or Bust. We can feign confusion every time we run into people who know which way is south.

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 91: Jimmy buffeted

I have been told that these are way too long and verbose to read. Sorry. It is ridiculous to summarize once for an internet audience, and go into detail all over again for my own journal.

I therefor adapting an Olsson-style summary format, and taking on anything else at the end.

Best part of the day: sleeping in a real bed.
Worst part of the day: not knowing what to do when I oissed Carmen off.
Sensory experience:
-strong winds trying to blow me off the narrow, rocky trail on the sides of very steep mountains
-smell of crushed sage
-new hill has new plants: barrel cacti made it look pimply, tall green thing got "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid stuck in my head
Fun of the day: hiking with hot hiker boy!

- Typoed on my iPhone

Mile 77: free pie!

9 miles in 3.25 hours of actual hiking
Fun of the day: pie!

This morning started off terribly. Carmen and I already can't sleep because our Z-shite foam pads only allow us to sleep on our backs: the snoring position. It was super windy last night, so Carmen hardly got an hour of sleep, I got a little more thanks to my handy earplugs. When my alarm went off at 5:30, we were both already awake, but had no desire to get out of our sleeping bags. We stalled, see illustration number 1: Bear safety- eating in the tent.

When we finally got out of the tent, it immediately flew away. Carmen was already up atthe main camp, filling water bottles. I let out a strangled gurgle of an animal scream, and went tearing through the spiky brush after it. The tent and seven of the eight stakes were recovered, thanks to Carmen's patience and perseverence, but the adrenaline rush left me exhausted and out of it for the rest of the day.

We hiked downhill all day, the knees were not happy. We learned that Mom's Pie Shop in Julian gave free (whole) pies to thru-hikers with PCT permits, so I begged, pleaded, and pouted until Carmen agreed to try the hard hitch there. Right at the previously agreed "give up" time, a little red car with a little old man and two hiker buds inside pulled over. We had our packs in our laps and no view of the very curvy road, but we got to the pie-obsessed town of Julian and gorged ourselves on delicious apple-boysenberry and strawberry-rhubarb pie. It took more debate, searching, armtwisting, and haggling, but we found a hotel that hooked us up well: four beds for under $20/person, AND free laundry AND space to examine and mend the tent. So we sat around in towels as we waited for laundry, and everyone but me went to bed at the unreasonably late hour of 8:45. I was suergluing, sewing, and supergluing some more until 1 am.

- Typoed on my iPhone