Opening Statement

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PCT 6 - Wobbling and Preservation - Wrightwood to Cajon Pass - 27 PCT miles

Falling Snow Climbing out of Wrightwood

Leaving my ride at Inspiration Point above Wrightwood, I climbed into heavily falling snow, with visibility of 100 feet.  Within a minute another hiker came down the trail saying that he was going back to Wrightwood due to the conditions.  My plan was to hike south through the Angeles Forest until I got over into the next drainage, which would start around the border into the San Bernardino Forest.  For the next five hours I hiked through falling snow and graupel, passing many hikers going into Wrightwood who had been surprised to wake up that morning with snow on their tent.  Almost exactly on plan, less than a minute after passing the San Bernardino Forest sign I felt a welcome gust of warmer air and minutes later I was hiking on dry trail again.

Burn Zone
Part of this section runs through one of the more desolate burn zones I had encountered so far.  When you combine desert conditions, tree die-off due to beetle infestation, and a hot fire, the landscape can become dystopian.  I was just around this point in the trail when a 20-something hiker came bopping up the trail listening to music.  She popped out her earphones long enough to excitedly tell me that "THIS IS MY FAVORITE SECTION SO FAR!!!!!!"  PCT hikers have the most upbeat outward attitude of any people I have ever met.

On the morning of my second day in this section I realized that even my most positive attitude would not be enough to make my knees stop hurting.  After hiking over 500 miles I was experiencing consistent inflammation and pain, and decided that I should take a trail break of at least a week to let my knees recover.  Thankfully my wife Christine agreed to bring me home for a break the next day.  While I was still able to hike through 15 miles that day, it required a slow pace and I finished off the last of my aspirin.  I'm currently at home as I write this post, but expect to be back on the trail in less than two weeks.

Trains Coming Through Just Before the Freeway Crossing
Just before reaching the Cajon Pass freeway crossing the trail goes both over and under an extremely active rail route.  The combination of the mountain landscape and the rail lines reminds me of the early development of the Western states.  Even today there is something calm and inspiring in the movement of these enormous trains through the landscape.

Here is a link to my photos for this section:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

PCT5 - Humility and Determination - Casa de Luna to Wrightwood - 108 PCT miles

I was stopped for water at a fire station and chatting with another hiker. We were both alarmed to see another hiker stumble in sideways with a severe limp. His knees were giving out. We helped him to the fire station where he could make arrangements to end his hike and fly home.

Somewhere around 300 miles into the PCT, overuse injuries start taking their toll on many hikers.

Around Acton my own routine started to include regular doses of aspirin, and I'm currently laid up for two days in Wrightwood to allow my shin and knee to quiet down. On the trail this is often referred to as taking Vitamin I due to the popularity of ibuprofen.

On the plus side, Wrightwood is a delightful small town and the weather is perfect right now.  Wrightwood also has the reputation with many hikers as the most hiker-friendly town on the entire trail.

This begins with friendly people, and extends to being small enough that everything is within walking distance.

Leaving Casa de Luna headed South, the trail goes through some mountain desert and arrives at Agua Dulce after about 39 miles, where the Saufleys have created a hiker compound on their property called "Hiker Heaven," which is only slightly tongue in cheek.

I stayed two nights, delaying my departure partly because of an unseasonable storm that dusted the local mountains with snow.  On the second night, the compound was crowded with tents as hikers had rushed off the mountain to get lower to avoid the storm.

The next day, I hiked through the famous Vazquez Rocks then pushed on to Acton and camped at the KOA with some trail friends. This stop had a slightly bizarre twist as a thunderstorm had most of us in the break room where the KOA was screening first Jurassic Park and then Guardians of the Galaxy, adding a science fiction gloss to our trail experience.

Speed Hikers Tim and Freckles 
Over the next 75 miles my creaky knees and sore feet became more pronounced, and other hikers came flying down the trail much faster than my own pace. The reality sank in that while I may be a reasonably strong casual hiker, in comparison to the athletes of the PCT, I'm slow and clumsy.  This realization was a humbling one. Thank goodness for my squirrel puppet,  who keeps me from taking it all too seriously.

Mt. Baden-Powell was the last big climb before Wrightwood, and it was my first PCT section on snow.  I must have looked pretty tired as I finished the day.

After my break here in Wrightwood I will be pushing further South.  Here is a link to the photos for this section:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PCT 4 - Reunions and Windmills - Tehachapi to Casa de Luna - 88 PCT miles

Reunion with Trail Friends

After a month on the trail, my decision to flip up to Kennedy Meadows and hike South put me back in touch with some of the hikers that I had first met near the start of the trail.  It has been fun to catch up.  Everyone has been losing weight, which has been interesting to notice too.

Surreal Landscape

Coming southbound out of Tehachapi,  the trail goes quickly uphill into an enormous wind farm.  There was also an advisory in effect due to even higher than normal winds--it was extreme.   Hiking while surrounded by enormous wind turbines adds a low roar from the nearest turbines, and a surreal aspect as the turbines add a factory sense to an otherwise natural landscape.

Walking the Aquaduct

Coming down from the wind farm there was a very dry section that paradoxically shared an easement with a huge pipe filled with water for the LA aquaduct.  Toward the end of the day I found a side road and pitched my tent.  The flat desert had no tall plant cover, but I was so remote from anywhere that I  thought privacy would not be an issue.  Just at the critical moment in my evening toilet, four quads roared by, unavoidably receiving a full moon from yours truly.

At Casa de Luna 

Also in this section I made stops at Hikertown, which has a Wild West theme, and Casa de Luna,  which bills itself as hipie day care.  More on these stops in the photo album for this section: