Archive for the ‘CA Southern – D’ Category

Saturday, May 22 – Another Zero

Friday, May 21st, 2010

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We were up at 6 am today, and ate  the last of our leftover trail breakfasts while enjoying the jolly company of other hikers and some of the Hiker Heaven volunteers.  One of those volunteers is a retired school band director–  which reminds me, I haven’t mentioned that one of the fun features of Hiker Heaven is the musicians. There’s a piano, a “hiker guitar” (which gets LOTS of use!) and now a trombone, because yes indeed, the band director serenaded us on his trombone that he brought along.  Since I played trombone myself in high school and college, that was totally cool!

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It’s much cooler today— yesterday we were all looking for shade, but today we looked for sun.  We had fun hanging out with Transient and JJ.  Transient was telling stories of his adventures in Europe while in the army, and JJ told us about his “wild” youth.  He said that later on when he got older, a lot of things in his life went all wrong, and he ended up for awhile as a 400 lb. alcoholic who had just about given up on life.  But finally he came to his senses and said, “What have I done?”  The first thing he did was try to exercise.  “I could only walk a half block at first,”  JJ laughed.  “One time I really outdid myself and walked THREE blocks–then I had to call a cab to take me home!”  But he persevered, and the weight began to come off.  Now he’s an avid hiker of reasonable weight, and has even climbed Mt. Whitney!    Way to go, JJ!

The other thru-hikers are all talking “Sierras”. Many bought “serious snow equipment” at REI yesterday–ice axes, crampons, goggles, etc.–and are determined to “go for it”, despite the fact that yesterday they  plowed four feet of NEW snow off the road over Tioga Pass.  Georgi Heitman in Old Station sent word to Hiker Heaven, “Don’t even THINK about coming up here right now.  There’s way too much snow!”   Bill and I do plan to go straight through, but we will take our time about getting to Kennedy Meadows so that hopefully the snow will have melted down more. 

 Some folks are planning to do “moonlight hiking” tonight, since it’s easy trail and a close-to-full moon. Bill and I are resting (me, writing!) and tomorrow morning we will head out for a 9:00 am church service (it’s about an hour’s walk from here and right along the PCT route). After church, we’ll just keep going!

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Walk to Rivendell: In Rivendell!

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Friday, May 21 – Zero at Hiker Heaven

Friday, May 21st, 2010

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We got up early today, and along with Charlie, we made a breakfast feast for all the hikers– 2 kinds of pancakes, plus bacon, sausage and ham, with plenty of strawberries, bananas, butter and syrup and lingonberry jam to put on them.  All the hungry hikers were well-fed by the time we got done!

Then I found the official “hiker sewing basket” and basically spent the whole rest of the day sewing lots of projects, from fairly extensive repairs on Bill’s pack (and another hiker’s pack) to new construction of items Bill had lost. plus mending other hikers’ clothes.   I would have used Donna Saufley’s sewing machine, but unfortunately it was broken.  So all my sewing was done by hand, which is slow, but on the bright side, a hand-backstitched seam is actually much stronger than a machine-sewed seam.  It was a rather chilly day, though sunny, so I sat in the sun with my sewing, and it wasn’t long before various hopeful-looking hikers were stopping by with their stuff, asking, “Do you think you could fix this?”   That suited me just fine!  I love a sewing challenge. 

 To add to my fun, one of the Saufley dogs decided he wanted to “help” me and insisted on jumping up and lying on my lap.  Sometimes he lay down on top of the sewing.  I would have been tempted to say, “Doggone it, dog!  Go away!”  but he was just too cute to grump at. By the end of the day,  I’d done extensive repairs and replacements on two packs, made a new “medicine bag” for Bill and I (Bill lost the original when he fell on Fuller Ridge), a new headnet and sungloves for Bill (they were literally blown out of his pack sidepockets by the wind in the San Felipes), and lots of clothes-mending.

Meanwhile,  Bill went to REI and got new trek poles to replace the ones he broke on Fuller Ridge.   In 2005, a whole gang of us hikers all piled into “Big Red”, the Saufley’s van, but those days are over.  Somebody crashed “Big Red” and the insurance company said “No more hikers driving!”   So now, a whole crew of volunteers drives hikers to REI.

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In the afternoon, the section-hiker couple (the Coxes) we met on Baden-Powell came in, all done with their hike, and  carrying  the makings of banana splits! All the hikers instantly were there from all the tents all over the yard!  Amazing how fast the word of “Food!” travels here!  I sat and ate my banana split with Mrs. Cox, and she told me about their adventures getting to Little Jimmy Campground.  She showed me pictures of it on her camera, and said that after we’d headed for the road and they kept on going, she figured out a new technique for crossing steep snow traverses.  “I hold on to the back of my husband’s pack,” she said.  “That way I’m not so scared.”  She was very cheery and talkative–very different from when we’d met on top of Baden-Powell, where she was rather quiet and a bit grim.  “I was scared,” she told me.  “I guess I wasn’t as friendly as normal.”  “Me, too” I said. 

 Later on, volunteer JJ gave us a ride to town and Bill talked to him some more (they’d had other conversations) about knowing God in a real way, not just as religion, and that the key issue was “who is the boss of my life— me, or God?” Bill got out our little Gideon New Testament and showed JJ the verses Romans 10:9-10 and Revelation 3:20.   JJ  said, “OK, I get this!  I’ve always believed in God, but I’ve been running my own life and calling all the shots.  I need to quit that and let God be the Boss.”  So  he prayed with Bill to let God know what he’d decided. It was awesome!

Then JJ headed back to the Saufleys to help the hikers, and we headed for pizza.  The pizza place had only been open for a week, and it was very good.  We managed to eat almost a whole large pizza!  Then we decided to take a “little walk” to find the church we remembered seeing “somewhere down the road” in 2005.    Well, make that a 45 minute walk–we DID find the church, but then it was 45 minutes walk back PLUS the walk back to the Saufleys, and the sun had gone down before we were back at Hiker Heaven.  We found Donna Saufley and asked if we could stay for one more day so we could go to church  on Sunday, and she said, “Sure!”  We were glad of that, because the new Hiker Heaven rule is, “You may stay here for two neros and a zero, then you have to move on.” 

So we are back in our cots in the big white tent, looking forward to one more nice zero day.  And I’m done with sewing, so I can really make it a zero instead of a work day!  And I am so glad for JJ, too! 

Walk to Rivendell: In Rivendell!

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Thursday, May 20 –Agua Dulce–Miles Today 14.2 – Total Miles 454.4

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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For awhile this morning, we were still in the “burn zone” and following the PCT as it alternated between slipping and sliding across mountainsides (sometimes the trail had just totally fallen away), or pushed through thick weeds. But the early morning light was very pretty, and  finally we were out of the “burn” into just nice, normal trail. When we reached the PCT trailhead parking lot, we discovered a sign that said the PCT was closed, and a barricade to make sure that the message was clear!  Oh well!

 By 8:00am we were at the KOA in Soledad Canyon, where we cleaned up and ate breakfast.  I had been hoping that somebody in the campground would spot us and offer some hot coffee (that has often happened for hikers in the past) but nobody was even stirring.  After enjoying our granola, we headed back to the trail, which promptly entered what I think would best be described as a “jungle.”  It was hard to figure out which way to go.  At one point, when we were hesitating, along came a Czech guy coming BACK from what had looked like it was the PCT, but wasn’t.  Good thing we met him!  We were saved from going that way, too.  Finally we noticed a few pink flags, figured “Maybe that’s the PCT??” and followed them.  Hooray!  We found the official PCT railroad crossing, and from then on, the trail was easy to follow.

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The PCT takes off from there and wanders all over (I think the idea is to give us a chance to admire the rock formations?) but we finally reached the ridgetop where we could see Agua Dulce and the freeway.  We cheered, even though we still had quite a way to go before we got there.  The trail headed down a pretty little creek canyon, then turned left and contoured for a long way, paralleling a creek below the highway, as the day grew steadily hotter.  We reached the dark tunnel under the freeway (it was so dark in the middle of it that I could not see, and was feeling my way with my trek poles).  At the far end of the tunnel, resting in the shade, was a very hot, very tired Czech guy.  “I kept thinking it was only another 15 minutes to the Saufley’s” he groaned.  He was not pleased to hear that there were considerably more than 15 minutes of hiking left!

But now we were headed into Vasquez Rocks, which were as awesome as ever. It is so obvious that they were laid down and shaped by massive amounts of water, very quickly. There are lots of caves, too, and what I liked was that there were signs to identify many of the plants.  Little creeks were everywhere, swarming with tadpoles.  I kept slowing down to look at things, which Bill found frustrating–he was on a tear for Agua Dulce! 

We stopped for a hot lunch in the shade of a huge pepper tree, and while we were eating, along came a lady on a gorgeous dapplegrey horse, who asked “Are you headed for the Saufleys? At 4:30 I will give a ride to Walmart for any hiker who wants one.”  That sounded good, and we hurried into town and headed for Hiker Heaven.  Last time, someone spotted us and gave us a ride, but this time we had to walk the whole way.  So we arrived all tired out and hot and very grubby.

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We were greeted by “JJ” (one of Donna Saufley’s volunteers) and the SIX dogs.  JJ said that Donna had quit her regular job in order to help her husband Jim in his business, so she has no more free time to help the hikers.  Being a great organizer, though, she recruited a whole gang of volunteers to take her place!  So the Hiker Heaven “system” still works, and soon we were showered, had our clothes in the laundry, and raided the refrigerator for ice cream!

At 4:30, the “horse lady” came as she’d promised, and soon we were on our way to Walmart.  Turned out that the dapple gray horse we’d seen her riding was being trained for “eventing”.  Also in the car with us was her daughter, who was headed for a gymnastics class.  So while the daughter was at her class, we had 1 1/2 hours to “do” Walmart.  I got all the food we needed for ourselves, plus plenty to share with other hikers.  Once we returned to Hiker Heaven, we ate up all the leftovers in our packs, plus a large salad.  A steady stream of hikers were coming in.  Turned out that everybody had reached Agua Dulce by a different route!   Some of them cheated, though.  They just said, “Oh phooey on the detour!  I hate roadwalking!” and had hitch-hiked to the Saufleys!

We went to bed early, very tired, while many of the younger hikers sat up late talking around the campfire in the yard.  We are sleeping on folding cots in one of the big white tents.  It’s turned into a chilly night, but oh, is it good to be here!

Walk to Rivendell: On path lined with white stones which began at the Ford, with first views of Rivendell.

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Wednesday, May 19 – Miles Today PCT 4 Detour 25 – Total Miles 440.2

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

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Today began with one of the other hikers announcing, “Ladies and Gentlemen, rise and shine! It’s 5:45am and the bus leaves at 6:30!” (We’d all promised Dr. Gay we’d be ready to go at 6:30). But at 6:15, here she came with a huge skillet of hot scrambled eggs “My hens are laying so much, we can’t keep up with them— eat, eat!” she said!  So we lost no time taking care of those eggs, along with some salsa and tapenade.  What a breakfast! 

Dr. Gay dropped us and Transient off at the “trail” (the rest of the hikers got dropped off in town) and soon we were roadwalking into the burn zone of the huge “Station Fire” that had closed the PCT. It was sad. In many places, the fire was so intense that it turned even the dirt into ash.  The morning grew hotter and hotter.  We took our midmorning Snickers break in the shade of a tree, and just after that, a sign warned us to stay on the road.

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Eventually we reached Aliso Creek road. Hooray, not much longer and we’d reach the powerline road that would take us back to the PCT. But a dayhiker we met warned us that just yesterday, the USFS rescinded its permission to use that route. “But it’s not posted as closed” he reassured us. Yikes! We hiked on as fast as we could, and sure enough, there were no “closed” signs. “Quick, let’s get on it before any rangers can stop us!” we cheered.

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As it turned out, that “closed route” was a busy road to a mine as well as the powerlines— dirtbikes passed us, and mining trucks. Eventually we reached the mine and after that things were a lot quieter— no more traffic.  We were very saddened, though, by the destructiveness of the fire.  It must have been incredibly hot–in many places, even the DIRT was scorched and ashed.  Only a few plants were starting to grow.  It was a very hot afternoon, and the final tough climb to the summit just about did me in.  I  actually had to stop and lie down under one of the few trees that had survived the fire before I could continue on.  But finally we made it to the North Fork ranger station, which was on the edge of the fire zone.  We’d already been warned that there was no water available there, since there was no electricity for pumps. 

But surprise, surprise, there were three PCT hikers at North Fork!  They were also exhausted by the heat and the climb, so had decided to stop and camp.  We only spoke with them briefly, then headed on, back to the PCT— but what a sad sight. The trail was a mess from the fire, sometimes sliding down the hill, sometimes so overgrown with “post-fire type” weeds that it was hard to follow.  We found out later that it was a good thing we’d left North Fork quickly.  Apparently just after we disappeared down the trail, the ranger came boiling out of his office (he’d spotted us talking to the other 3) with a plan of chewing us out for hiking on a closed trail.  Glad we missed him!

Our goal was to camp at Mattox Creek, but the going was so tough that we didn’t make it.  At 8:00 pm, we spotted a little sandy gully that was ash and cinder-free and decided to camp there.  It was a very comfortable camp!  Bats danced overhead as it grew dark (eating mosquitoes, I think–there were plenty of those!).  Bill and I wiped the sweat and dirt off ourselves as best we could with our limited water supply before getting into our sleeping bags.  The sand was a very comfortable mattress, and we were really tired, but  figured “Tomorrow we’ll be in Agua Dulce!”

Walk to Rivendell: Road bending down, camped near small stream with newcomer Glorfindel.

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Tuesday, May 18 – Miles Today PCT 2 Detour 21 – Total Miles 386.1

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

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Neither of us had any sleep — the wind howled all night, and even with “all our layers on” inside our sleeping bags, it was hard to stay warm. By morning, all our stuff was wet and we headed out very early, hoping to warm up by hiking fast. It didn’t take long to reach the PCT at Islip Saddle, where there was a whole congregation of hikers.  We stopped for breakfast and talked to Charlie and Shin about their adventures on Baden-Powell.  Everyone was tired, and not looking forward to the “big Detour”  ahead, which began right there at Islip Saddle.  We got out the eight pages of maps for the 50 miles of what looked like a lot of roadwalking. 

But  the first leg wasn’t a roadwalk.  It was a lovely, cloud-misty hike down the canyon.  If we turned to look back, we could see snowy peaks towering above  us, and if we looked ahead, we could see sunshine in the valley below.  The trail eventually took us to a crude “dam” of rocks which we had to pick our way across to reach the South Fork Campground, where a lot of orange-clothed CDC crews were hard at work cleaning up the messes left by winter storms.

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We crossed the river again and headed into Devil’s Punchbowl park. We were here in 2005 also, and wow! The trails and signs are much improved!  We soon discovered why–there was another group of CDC prisoners hard at work as trail gorillas.  I made a point of thanking each of them as we passed by,  hoping it would encourage them that doing good things is more rewarding than doing bad stuff.  The rock formations in the park are mind-blowing— all colors and sorts, bent, twisted and sculpted, the result of several earthquake faults intersecting in the area.  We started meeting a lot of “daisies”–mostly Japanese tourists.  When we reached the park visitor center area, it was swarming with school kids, so we retreated back up the trail and found a quiet spot to eat lunch and “hold a garage sale” to dry our gear.

Then began the many miles of roadwalking through the desert, passing Joshua trees, houses and more rock formations, and leaving the snowy mountains far behind.  We also passed Transient, who was sitting by the road nursing a  sore knee.  We were very concerned about him–what a major bummer it would be to have to end a PCT thruhike so soon!   By 5:30pm we’d reached the turnoff to the town of Little Rock, where we planned to get more water and eat dinner.

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It took almost 2 miles of walking before we strolled into Ana’s Cafe, and when we came in, a lady who was also there eating took one look at us and said, “Are you guys hiking the PCT?” “Yes!” “How would you like to stay at my ranch tonight? I’ve got 4 other hikers who are coming, too.” That was a no-brainer! So we ended up with Dr. Gay (she is a veterinary doctor) and got showers, plus camping on her lawn! Her sister hiked the PCT, it turns out, and Gay was overjoyed to be able to help hikers.  It turned out her “first hiker of the day” had been Transient!  He looked much happier and more relaxed than he had when we saw him on the side of the road.

Dr. Gay’s place is full of animals, and it was a lovely warm evening. I walked around a bit to look at all the horses, etc., then we set up our tarp on the grass and enjoyed the feeling of being clean and safe.  Wow, what a difference from last night!

Walk to Rivendell: Camped in saddle of ridge on rocky ground with a gnarled pine tree.

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