Finished up my winter hiking back in March. The MST was great; highly recommended. Pretty lonely, of course, mostly due to the time of year I was up there, but that couldn’t be avoided. Nonetheless, I look forward to doing it again, next time in autumn I think. The Blue Ridge Parkway and its various services will be open, and the lack of snow will allow me to hike the actual trail the whole way, instead of constantly detouring onto the closed but still snow-strewn Parkway.
Now, it’s time to jump back into the deep end of the real world pool. Hopefully it will be more of a swan dive than a belly-flop. Need to get a new bike, and keep my legs moving, however I can. My next big trip (hopefully)? Continental Divide Trail, 2014.
In the meantime, feel free to click on the “Donate to the ACS” button up top there. Help me travel in memory of my Uncle Walter, and to provide for those in need. Thanks, and until next time …
Well, a little over four months have passed since I reached Monument 78 at the Canadian border, finishing the Pacific Crest Trail. The details have blurred a bit, and much of the various pains have diminished, while the many jubilations begin to dominate my memories of the trail. Since then I’ve struggled to care about the real world, or the ‘slave world’, as some call it. You can call it ‘PTSD’ if you’d like, which of course means Post-Trail Sucks (or Sorrow or Sadness or any other negative ‘S’ word) Disorder. The real world loses most of its luster after doing something like the PCT; it’s just inevitable.
So, I’ve found myself hiking some trails again. I decided a month or two of trail life, of putting off the real world and its responsibilities for a little while longer, are just what the doctor ordered. Just be glad you’re not my parents (unless, of course, you are my parents).
And of course I have lots of pictures and video and GPS data to share with the world still. Processing DSLR pictures takes a lot of work, and I only got about halfway through the project before I was burned out on mouse/keyboard/monitor. Don’t worry, though; I will get back to them soon. I’m not sure exactly what I want to produce with my media, but some ideas include a slideshow, a coffee table book, a photo calendar, large prints, a mini-documentary, or a log-style journal. I definitely intend to create a nice slideshow (or three), and the rest are certainly possible. The ultimate goal would be a multi-media experience, incorporating pictures, video, text, and a 3D recreation of my GPS log. So, maybe one day. And I might even try to make some money off of these media, although that is far from certain, and I’m certainly no professional at the creative arts. We shall see.
In the meantime, I’m a-walkin’ again. I just finished the first 200 or so miles on the Appalachian Trail, from Amicalola Falls in Georgia, to Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Now, I’m starting on a new trail for me, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which basically does at it says and goes from Clingmans Dome to the Atlantic Ocean at Nags Head, staying in North Carolina the entire way. My current plan is just to do the mountain part, which is a footpath that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway for around 325 miles. After leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway at Stone Mountain State Park near Sparta, NC, the trail becomes almost completely roadwalk through the central part of the state; I doubt I will want to do that.
Of course, being late February, conditions are cold and wintry. Snow, ice, and blustery winds are common. But I’ve got the gear and the wherewithal to handle these things–I think. There’s only one way to find out …
The lowest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, at roughly 220 feet above sea level, is the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, Oregon. Today I will be crossing this bridge over the iconic Columbia River, into the final state of Washington. From there, I have approximately 500 miles left to go, before reaching the northern terminus at the Canadian Border. The end, as they say, is nigh.
The trail has changed over its course, not just in its physical makeup and surrounding landscapes, but in its effect on me and my enjoyment. The experience is almost like growing out of childhood, losing one’s innocence and pure enjoyment of life as one grows older and realizes more responsibility. For me, in the first half or so of the trail, there was very little that could upset me for long; the fun never ceased. But somewhere along the way, as the dry climes of California segued into the moister environs of Oregon, and as old friends disappeared and new ones came to not quite take their place–though not a reflection on them, to be sure–a sense of growing old has taken hold, of accepting more responsibility and realizing life is not only fun and games. Now, I feel almost middle-aged, metaphorically, and know that sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sweet, and keep on plugging away.
Soon, within a month, this journey will be over, and my existence will become more normal, more mundane. It is of course inevitable, but nonetheless I can’t help but look back to the first half of the trail without some longing and nostalgic reminiscence. I will think of some early trailtown–Tehachapi, for instance, or Bishop–and already I wish I could be transported back in time, and be with those same people at those same places again, when life seemed so new again, and fun. But so it is, good things don’t last forever, and if one only ever enjoys life and never tastes the bitter pill of change, then I count that person as only learning, at most, half of what life has to offer.
And so, I move on, and continue with my walking. Twenty-five or thirty miles a day have a way of tiring a person, of numbing mental pains, even as new physical ones appear. And, of course, I still have good friends around me, Splinter being the most prominent at the moment, so no one has to worry about me going completely crazy here at the end. The end, though … what a sad thought. Life will inevitably lose a bit of its luster when I become ensconced once again in layers of arbitrary modern crap, in the game that is civilized life. But one has to play that game, right?
To my family and friends back home, I will see you soon, perhaps in a month, or a little more. Until then …
Yes, I am sitting down and writing things. Currently at mile 1197.whatever. Relaxing here at Bill and Margaret’s Red Moose Inn in Sierra City, somewhat dreading the idea of hiking on into the more remote northern California section. But soon, today, I will move on, and the miles are coming easier now that I have left the Sierra Nevadas behind.
Oh, the Sierras: what a great section of PCT. Harder trail, but the vistas! The PCT mostly stayed above 10,000 feet during this section, quite often above treeline, and most days included a hike up and over a named pass. There was more available water than I had experienced in southern California. I began carrying only 3 20 oz Gatorade bottles, instead of 4 liter-sized water bottles. On the unfortunate side, I was required to use a bear canister to store my food, a backpack-unfriendly chunk of two pounds.
Patches of snow were littered everywhere, including sometimes on the trail, although to a drastically smaller extent than most years. In most years, thru-hikers have to deal with long stretches of snow walking, burning roughly twice the calories to stay upright on the icy surface, but this year it was actually just “hiking”. One thing was more difficult this year than others: blowdowns, or fallen trees draped across the trail. Fortunately for me, though, the US Forest Service trailcrews had sawed through and cleared most of these obstacles before I arrived, so the blowdowns were not much of a problem.
No, the only thing that has really slowed me down are townstops, but I can excuse myself for such excesses. After all, I’m not doing this thing ONLY to hike; doing so really would not be fun. One has to find the middle ground, between work and play, hiking and lounging. And I believe I have thus far done so, and will continue to do so. Leaving the Tahoe area behind, towns are getting smaller, but not totally nonexistent, and wherever one finds a collection of people, one will find humans who have the need for relaxation and revelry, and there one will likely find me, doing my best to relax and revel.
But in the pursuit of said middle ground, I do of course have to make miles, and therefore I will. A couple days ago I hiked 35 miles, a new personal record, and I will need many more days of at least 25 miles. The year is beginning to grow long, and I still have not hit the halfway point, so my pace overall has to increase fairly dramatically. But I’m not worried, because I know I am capable, and I know that I will. Such is the psychological process one must employ if he wants to actually thru-hike, as opposed to being through hiking.
And so, I am signing off again, and preparing to walk out of yet another trailtown. I promise to get some pictures up soon. Adieu for now.
702.2 miles are done. Over a quarter of the trail. My legs are under me now, and the trail moves smoothly. I saw a bear the other evening, around sunset, right at treeline (where the trees appear high enough above the desert, not where they disappear even higher than that), running full speed 100 feet in front of me. Luckily it was running perpendicular to my current direction, and therefore I was not required to use my special bear-elimination training.
Now that the desert has completely fried our brains, we–that is, Team Teamwork, aka Team Easy aka Team Salty–are ready to move on into some higher elevations; indeed, the highest elevations on the Pacific Crest Trail, somewhere above 12,000 feet. In fact, we should be summiting Mt. Whitney sometime around June 22, which is of course the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, situated at 14,505 feet above sea level. This is a 15-mile side trip off the trail, but well worth it. Alpine environs will be our new home soon.
I still intend to get some pictures up here soon, maybe in a few days in Lone Pine, our next town stop. I’ve taken over 2,000 pictures so far, so certainly some of them will be uploaded, sooner hopefully than later. Rest assured, though, that this trail is indeed beautiful, even in Southern California. One can often see the trail meandering off into the distance, switchbacking up other mountains, both in front of you and behind. Some views afford a chance to see two weeks or more of hiking, such as from San Jacinto Peak, where you can see Mt. Laguna way to the south, and the San Bernandinos to the northwest. Such expansive views are commonplace here, but rare and cherished on the Appalachian Trail.
Now, the time has come to head north again. Kennedy Meadows has been a great respite, a place where the sun-addled hiker can fully relax for a time, and resupply and re-calorie from the General Store, and enjoy the company of those who enjoy the company of the multitude of thru-hikers that come parading through every year. Now, we head north and bid adieu to current friends, and prepare to meet new ones.
Until next time …
Currently at Mile 370. Things are still going well overall. I’ve been hiking with an awesome group of hikers for most of the way, consisting of variously Dead Animal, Veggie, Hop.A.Long, Safari, Shags, and Drop Zone; earlier, Peter and Joseph were members of our crew. We call ourselves Team Teamwork, although that is of course mostly farcical, since we generally just give each other crap. Although I’m sure we’d help each other if the need arises.
So far, the trail has been almost consistently hot and dry, providing treeshade generally only at higher altitudes, at six or seven thousand feet above sea level. Otherwise, when below 4,000 feet or so, the only respite comes early or late in the day, when the natural meanderings of the trail provide shade once you turn one way or the other and the sun disappears behind a looming cliff. I have found that I am much more able to handle the elements than I was a few weeks ago, and we regularly wake up around 5 AM to take advantage of the coolness–not without some grumbling from me though. Also, I’ve continued my proclivity for town stops from my earlier adventures, which I argue are generally worth the effort. Hot food cooked by someone else, cold drinks, maybe some ice cream–these things are good for the stomach, and the muscles, and the soul.
This southern California, near-desert (and sometimes definitely-desert) is beautiful, without a doubt. We’ve ranged from around 1,000 up to 10,800 feet already, and have hiked on both hot sand and cold snow. The vegetation resembles something from a Dr. Seuss book, and some of the birds and reptiles fascinate with their shapes and colors. Highlights include various cacti, rattlesnakes, all kinds of shrubs and flowers, a horned lizard, birds with awesome birdsongs, and crazy bugs that stand on their heads at sundown.
Now, we’re taking a zero in the town of Wrightwood, waiting out the first really nasty weather since the night before my first day. Hurricane winds and windchill temps down towards zero degrees are inducing us to wait it out until tomorrow, especially with Mt. Baden-Powell waiting close to 10,000 feet. Also, there is the matter of Safari’s 21st birthday, and the necessary celebrations that have ensued.
Unfortunately, I have twenty minutes before the post office closes, so I am forced to cut this short. Until next time …
… and I’m still alive and kickin’. Indeed, you might even say I’m thriving. But that would be stretching things. Instead, let’s say that I’m doing pretty good. Not as fast as some, and not as slow as others; and relatively comfortable so far. The only thing fighting my attempts at more miles are the near-desert conditions. Extreme dryness, high winds, unrelenting sun–all these things combine to slow me down. But all in all, I am very much enjoying this Pacific Crest Trail at this point.
I am zeroing today in Idyllwild, California. That means I’m not hiking any official miles. Unofficially, I’ve been all over town, taking care of various necessities and not-so-necessaries. The outfitter, no less than three restaurants, laundry mat, post office, grocery store, campground, and motel were all frequented by myself. All in all, Idyllwild is a great trailtown.
Now, I am getting ready to enter the San Jacinto area, some of the first really high stuff on the trail. I should see some snow and real alpine stuff, as the trail gets somewhere around 10,800 feet. But first, I have to wait on my new, larger backpack to arrive, since my old one was too small and starting to tear apart. I’ll need the extra space for later on the trail, when resupplies become fewer and farther between.
Next trailtown: Big Bear Lake. Look for some pictures and perhaps other things to be put up here. Until then …
Decided to sort of reboot this website thing. Don’t worry, all my old bike trip stuff still exists, and eventually I will get around to presenting that stuff properly. As you can probably tell from the Twitter feed over yonder (–>), I am back on my two feet, hiking again. Currently, I’m training on the Appalachian Trail, and then I plan on going out west in a few weeks to jump on the Pacific Crest Trail, where I will be joining the 300 or so other prospective thru-hikers on the 2650-mile journey north. I will be sending out Tweets fairly often, and hopefully I will be using this website more. Until then …