Kenneth Feucht

Northward Ho

Back on the Trail


I am now traveling north to intercept Russ and resume our journey somewhere north of Mile 652. Old Station seems to be a good starting point, though communications with those who also flip-flopped suggest that there are problems with that in that they are running into slushy half-melted snow which is very hard to walk through while breeding massive legions of Satan’s insect, the mosquito. The mosquito is the only creature that has no use other than to torment man. Russ and I will have to make some hard decisions. There still needs to be some time for the snow to melt. Maybe a week or two at the beach would be a good idea?

I’ve been able to interact with many of the PCT hikers, some being fairly normal people with an adventuresome spirit, and others appear to be tortured and tormented souls, running both from themselves and from God. They are like the Cheryl Strayed character in the book “Wild”, seeking redemption bt definitely without God’s help or guidance. The trail ultimately becomes just another way of running from the truth and facing the realities of life. You might recall me talking about the drunken hiker at Scissors Junction. We called 911 on him. Three days ago, I met a person that looked exactly like him at the Dove Spring crossing where a number of us sought for shade and rest. I asked him in an obtuse manner about the Scissors Crossing incident, but he soundly replied that it could not have been him. Last night I went to Burger King seeking an internet connection, again saw this man lying in a drunken state in the beauty rocks outside of the restaurant. At this time he confessed that it was him at Scissors Crossing and begged me not to call 911 or the police again. As another example of hikers trying to find themselves, one hiker girl confessed to rejecting the Moroni faith at a very young age, which might have been a good thing save for what she chose to replace it with. Others are simply confused as to what they are running from or where they are running. The use of Ganga is huge. A sizable proportion has more than half their body surface area tattooed. Clearly one needs a great amount of constitution and smarts to survive the trail, but are just lacking in the most important thing in life, which is to realize all created things, both living things and non-living existence like rocks and streams and stars and sky, are there to glorify God. The wonders of the variety of His creation is unsearchable and beyond comprehension. To Him be all glory, power, praise and honor.


Russ and I met at the Redding train station at 4 am, my train arriving an hour late. Neither of us had slept more than two hours, staring at each other with glazed eyes of an incapacitated mental case. We decided to do an easy day of just getting to the trail, and then resting. Uber was able to get us to Old Station and next to the post office was a resort that we decided quickly on staying at. It took them about 4 hours to have a room ready, so we had time to chat, sort through gear, and send home things that were superfluous in our bags. After a restful day, we were ready to start the trail in the morning bright and early.

15JUNE – Old Station to Cache 22 (mile 1373-1393)

We woke up quite early and set out in cool weather. The weather soon warmed up a bit. Hiking was somewhat akin to desert hiking in that it was dry but we knew that the next easy water was 20 miles away at cache 22, so that is where our planned camp was to be. I pictured the Hat Creek Rim as being a desolate place, but it was anything but that. The rim overlooked a valley that was mostly a lava flow. Most of our walk was open but to our right (east) was dense Ponderosa forest. It was a little sweltering later in the day, and Russ was feeling the heat more than me. Camp was easy beside the water cache. Our plan was to take it a little easy for a few days to help Russ get his hiking legs. Since the trail was flat, it was the easiest hiking for me since the start at the Mexican border.

Hat Creek Rim with Mt. Shasta in the distance
The flat nature of the trail on the Hat Creek Rim
Russ in a very happy moment

16JUNE Mile 1393-1410

Today was an even easier day, mostly downhill, with beautiful views of Mt. Shasta to our front and Mt. Lassen to our rear. Though dry, it was through lovely meadows and lava fields that we walked. Russ separated for a brief period to walk the road that paralleled the trail as the trail was wearing on him. At mile 1407 was a cool refreshing stream where I stopped to wait for Russ to catch up. From there, we passed a reservoir where many folkcame to play. From there, we were able to arrive at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, just a short walk off the trail to stay for the night. They provided dinner, breakfast, laundry, and a swimming pool. BMGR was a non-profit Christian organization that seemed (at this time of the year) to cater to thru-hikers. It was here that Russ decided to bail out, as it was much different than he expected and he had not prepared adequately for the journey. For me, it was sad to see him go as he is a delightful person. Because of daily trail weariness, the trail oftentimes is not a terribly sociable place. 

Lava bed meadows
The trail going through bare lava flow
Expansive meadows off of the rim

17JUNE – mile 1410-1419

A typical trail sign

Today started with breakfast at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, and then saying goodbye to Russ. It was with great pain in my heart that I said goodbye and cherished his companionship, but realized that it would be brutal to expect him to continue as he really was not prepared for the concept of thru-hiking, being exceedingly overpacked, and not really doing any training hikes with a loaded pack to prepare for this. It would not have been wise for him to continue. Perhaps I had been a little harsh in criticizing his unpreparedness for the style of thru-hiking, since it is radically different from regular backpacking. I did try, but guess I failed to get through to him. So, I made a Nero day today, going only 9 miles, and camped at Burney Falls State Park. Tomorrow will be a grunt with lots of miles and climbing. I was able to pick up my resupply box and rest up for the next five hard days. I met Intrepid from Vermont at the Park store while sorting out our resupply food. She is an older lady that did the Appalachian Trail 2 years ago. She decided to not stay at the state park, and I decided to linger, though regretted that later. The hiker-biker site at the state park was somewhat inconvenient but put me in a nice spot to head out for the next challenge. This evening, I went out for a walk and had a couple of beers with some fishermen, got back to camp, and discovered that my food bag had been stolen with half of my food. I kept my food in an odor-tight LokSack bag inside of a dyneemabag. The bag with my cup, spoon, and half the food was missing. Quickly looking around, I found the sack in another open tent so took it back, then ran to the store to make possible alternatives to the food that was missing. Late in the evening, the people came back who took my stuff, apologized, and returned my food. The bag was sitting in a bear box, and they just assumed that it was a free for all hiker box to take as they pleased. I told them I’d be happy to give them food if they needed it, but they responded that they had enough, so I’m not sure why they would be taking a food bag that had absolutely NO appearance of being hiker-box material. Sometimes, fellow hikers are more dangerous than bears. At least they were honest in returning my food. 

Burney Falls

18JUNE – mile 419-437

I started hiking at 5:30 this morning, a little later than I had wished. Even though it wasn’t cold out, it is still hard to get going. Leaving Burney Falls, the trail headed mostly north and west. It was flat for only a couple of miles, and then started climbing. I saw several patches of snow and was told that tomorrow I would be walking through a moderate amount of snow. There were very few people on the trail, and most of them were not thru-hikers. I queried everybody coming south about the condition of the trail between Castella and Etna, and it sounded like nobody was getting through. I might need to change my plans again. Unfortunately, I have no cell phone service to talk things over with my most trusted confidant, Betsy. So, I’ll call her in Dunsmuir and figure out what to do next at that time. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the trail with its beautiful forests and shade from the blast of the sun. I’ll probably try to get an earlier start tomorrow and should be able to make it to Dunsmuir in three more days. 

Mount Shasta getting closer
First spot of snow, which would lead to 2-3 miles of nothing but snow
Mt. Shasta with beautiful rock formations

19JUNE – mile 1437-1461

Today was a big day. I was up at 4 am but hit the trail by 5. This was going to be an extreme climbing day, and I knew that I would be hitting a lot of snow. As I climbed ever upward I ran into Salty, who strongly suggested that I walk the road because the trail with snow was so challenging. I check out the parallel dirt road, which appeared to be a lengthy mud puddle and decided to stick with the trail. The was wonderful at first, then slowly, patches of snow showed up and eventually the entire trail for about three miles was completely covered with snow. Because most of this year’s PCT hikers had not yet arrived here, the tracks through the snow were non-existent. Right as I was beginning to heavily consult Guthooks app, Stick Figure shows up. He appeared very comfortable with the situation, and I made sure to stay up with him. We eventually got through the snow, and I thanked him heartily for showing up at just the right time and sticking with me. After this, it was just steady trail until I found a place to camp. I was tired enough that cooking dinner was out of the question. 

A view from the top, just past the snow.
Looking back at the snow I had just gone through

20JUNE – mile 1461 – 1477

Today was a slightly shorter day, as I was still tired from yesterday, and there was still a lot of climbing to do. I had camped out last night on a dirt road that was a bit uneven, so did not sleep well. I met up a mile later with a group of three ladies hiking together that I knew, including Intrepid, Say-it-again and Buffy, who camped by a Springs where I stopped for water. We were to meet and camp again that evening at a campsite 1477. The next decision was as to whether I should do 23 miles the next day, which also included much climbing, or make it one more night on the trail. I’ll probably wake up early tomorrow and decide. Today was a very pleasant hiking day, even though the sun was out full force. I always had plenty of water, and the forest offered remarkable shade for most of my journey. Early on, I was walking with Intrepid when I took a nasty fall while trying to climb over a large downed tree. My right thigh hurt for several days afterwards, and I felt a bit unstable on my feet. Stick Figure passed me again a few times, and most of the thru-hikers were headed in a southerly direction starting from I-5 (Castella/Dunsmuir). The forest ranger was warning hikers NOT to go into the Trinity Alps area, as the snow levels remained dangerously high. Today was most beautiful. Much of the hike included descending to the McCloud River and then climbing out of that valley. The road into the McCloud River was closed from landslides, so that the usual crowds were not there save for a lone fly fisherman who must have walked several miles in. There were bugs, but they were tolerable. I arrived at camp, set up my tent, cooked a real dinner, and three hours later, the girls show up. I’m ready to crash early and do an early start tomorrow. As mentioned above, I will definitely need to alter my plans but will wait to speak with Betsy. 

McCloud River with lone fly fisherman

21JUNE – mile 1477-1501

This was another long day, with lots of climbing, but ending with a very long 10 miledescent into the Castle Crags State Park. I was on the trail by 5:30 am, and the weather remained cool throughout the day. This made walking quite easy. There were multiple views of Mt. Shasta, now looming very close. I could see the Trinity Alps, covered with snow, and Castle Crags. Thankfully I did not need to keep as much water on me, 2 liters being sufficient. The descent took a little more than 3 hours. On bottom, there wasn’t much of anything, and I needed to get 4.5 miles north to Dunsmuir. I tried getting in touch with Uber, Lyft, and a local taxi service with no avail, but then a fire truck stopped when my thumb was out and the kind sir gave me a ride into town. The hotel in town close to the train station announced to me that they were full, so I walked into town to contemplate my options. Out of nowhere the Flying Dutchman caught me, we had some pizza together, and decided to hang out in the train station until morning. After all, we both looked like drifters or bums! The Flying Dutchman sustained some injuries and decided to head home through Seattle. He also decided to stay at our place until he could get a plane ticket back to the Netherlands. His daughter would remain on the trail with new-found friends for another month. It was nice to have an accompanying friend again.

Mount Shasta ever closer
Castle Crags

22-24JUNE – home again???? Read on…

The Flying Dutchman and I spent the night catching momentary sleep in a very stuffy overheated waiting room. At least the toilet was open. The train came an hour late, but then we could get some sleep. Sitting close to me was the Professor, another thru-hiker, who was performing his 2-3 flip, and a guy from Israel (also thru-hiking, sitting with the Flying Dutchman), who were trying to determine his flip options but probably going from the Bridge of the Gods north into Washington. The snow dilemma remains. If I walked north into Washington, I would hit high snow at Mt Adams, very dangerous snow on Goat Rocks and the Kendall Catwalk, and have lengthy trail snow around Glacier Peak. In Oregon, though it just snowed at Timberline Lodge, the trail is free of snow, and Jefferson would soon be free of snow as well as the three Sisters area. By the time I arrived at Crater Lake three weeks later (assuming I started south from the Bridge of the Gods), the snow should be mostly gone. I’ve been able to review what other hikers were doing, and it was mostly extremely chaotic. There is no consensus on a best option, and many hikers are simply dropping out, like Pasta. 

I will probably start south from Cascade Locks/Bridge of the Gods, and work my way to Dunsmuir again. I could use a rest. I’ve developed a crick in my neck that I would like to resolve. I have some bruises from falls on the trail that would be nice to resolve. . I need to make a few minor equipment changes. I will need to reorganize my resupply boxes since I am going in the opposite direction (southward) from what was originally planned. I’ll be busy next week.

Meanwhile, Betsy and I are playing trail angel to the Flying Dutchman (Michael). Yesterday, we went up to Seattle to show him the town. He thought that the town was dirty and over-run my homeless people. He was also surprised that Seattle so quickly tears down beautiful historic buildings and constructs moderns monoliths in their place. Today, I took Michael up to the Greyhound station. I was overwhelmed by how poorly Greyhound is now run. We showed up at the Greyhound station only to be told in vague terms that we needed to walk a 1/2 mile to where the bus would actually pick him up. We got there, the bus was an hour late, the bus was over-booked by about 20 people, it was completely chaotic, and if I didn’t beg and plead somebody to give Michael his place, he would never have gotten to Vancouver, BC in time to catch his plane back to the Netherlands. Fortunately, a recent text from him mentioned that all was well with him at the airport. He was a wonderful person to meet, and hope to again encounter him. 

The Flying Dutchman (Michael) with the bust of Chief Seattle
Michael at the Space Needle

I will be anticipating starting on the trail again in early July. This will allow snow to melt and the weather to get a little more stable. I will probably not have any more posts until I’m ready to be back on the trail. Until then, may God be with you all.

Resumption of the Hike

Willow Springs Road

Over the past two days, I’ve been traveling by train and bus to Tehachapi. Much of the memory of this journey escapes my memory, as I slept well on the train, transferred to a bus for an hour in Sacramento to Stockton, then boarded the train again to Bakersfield, and again boarded a bus to Tehahchapi. My anxiety was stoked, in that three weeks off the trail were great for letting the snow melt, but awful for maintaining my rhythm of the trail. 

There is an 8 mile segment of trail from Willow Springs Road to Hwy 58 that many thru-hikers skip, since it is mostly hot desert with nothing but windmills. Hundreds of windmills. Maybe even thousands of windmills as far as the eye could see. It is understandable and tempting to skip this section, but I decided to do it as a warmup by slack-packing it. Slack-packing is a term we use when you don’t have your full back pack but just food and water and a few necessities. I had a Lyft driver drop me off exactly where I stopped three weeks ago, and headed north. It was nothing but windmills and fairly high wind. It was sunny, but the heat didn’t kill me like earlier parts of the desert. I anticipated needing 3-4 hours to do this segment, but finished it in under 3, just in time to catch a Kern Transit bus back to Tehachapi. So, I’m psyched to hit the trail again tomorrow.

This part of the trail had multiple gates, possibly to keep the windmills from escaping 
Looking down on Tehachapi Pass

During the end of the hike, I heard an enormous thundering roar behind me. I did not even have time to turn around when an F-15 jet flew directly over me, hugging the ground and zipping out of site as quickly as it came. Soon after, I got to chat with a young farmer tending his cows, and he mentioned that these jets used to be a very frequent occurrence. 

08JUN- mile 566-mile 583

I confess that I was very apprehensive about returning to the trail. It was hot. I would be in exposed territory to the full beat of the sun. There were lengthy waterless stretches of the trail so additional water needed to be carried. It is not a particularly scenic piece did the trail, and windmill farms stretched as far as the eye could see. The Mojave desert loomed far below on my right, to the east. The start was a lengthy climb out of Tehachapi Pass. Fortunately, most of the remainder of the trail did not appear to be too demanding in terms of elevation gain and loss. So, it seemed reasonable to do this stretch, mostly for completeness sake.

I woke up this morning hoping to catch the 6:15 bus, only to realize that it was Saturday, and the bus runs on a different schedule. The bus came at 9:30, dropping me off at the trailhead at 10:00, just when it was starting to get hot. My saving grace was that the wind kept the temperature down, so that at one rest stop, a few people were actually putting on their puffies. I went through about 3 liters of water, carrying 5.5 liters, but know that less than a half mile from Where I decided to camp is a spring where I can refill all my water containers. I got to set up my new tent and loved it. It will take a little practice to have the setup down perfectly. All in all, the day felt quite good, and I was able to get in 16 miles in spite of missing 4 starting hours from the hike. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving camp at about 5-6 am and hope to get in 25-28 miles. We’ll see!

Vegetation increases as one gets higher
My new tent

09JUN- mile 583-602 

Today was essentially traveling from one water source to the next, from Golden Oaks Spring to Robin Bird Spring. I had hoped to go further today but the heat left me rather wasted. The absence of water sources made it especially challenging, since I needed to carry all of my water for the whole 19 miles, and I went through the majority of the 5.5 liters that I was carrying. I felt wasted at the end of the day, and the next good campsite was four miles further, so I decided to call it quits early. Today’s hike had only a small amount of dirt road walking, about two miles, compared to about 8 miles yesterday. Tomorrow, my plan is to start early, before sunrise, and try to get at least 20 miles in. We’ll see, as water will remain a critical issue.

Looking east to the Mojave
Yup, 600

10JUN Mile 602-mile 624

I was awake at 4:15 and started hiking at 5 am. It was still dark and so I needed a headlamp. It was cool, so I was able to make fast miles. The first ten miles were thorough dense ponderosa forest. I was getting near to the high Sierra, so figured that this would be the trail situation. Boy was I wrong. The trail then dipped down to 4000 feet elevation, and it was real desert just like I’ve already gone through for much of Southern California. Except, it was more sweltering. The water cache at mile 616 proved true, and so my canteens were filled, knowing that the water cache at mile 631 was also maintained. Though I had enough water, the water cache was sitting out in the direct sun, and warm water does a very poor job of quenching the thirst. By 5pm the sky has clouded over providing some relief from the heat. A cold soda pop was needed but not available. Hopefully it cools down quickly. I now have only 27-28 miles of the desert to do!

Desert beauty
Desperately needed water cache

11JUN Mile 624-mile 651

Today was another early start, waking up before the crack of dawn, and getting on the trail before sunrise, using my headlamp to see. Most of the thru-hikers has gone on to the mile 630 water cache. I decided against that, and arrived at the water cache at about 7:30 in the morning. The last few hikers were taking off while I replenished my water supply knowing that it would be a long day without water. The trail became a very long climb with complete exposure to the sun, leaving me completely wasted and dehydrated. Fortunately, once you get high enough, you start seeing vegetation which could provide shade. The trail continued on all day over a series of ridges. Except at the water cache, I never saw a single other person, and hiked alone all day. And mile 643, the trail became a dirt road which is very hard to walk on, and which persisted for two miles. I intended to stay here for the night, but it was sweltering hot with low scenic value. It was only 3 o’clock so I decided to push on the last eight miles to Walker Pass. You might notice that I stopped d 0.7 miles short of Walker Pass. That’s because there is a campground here that has trail angels. The first order of business was to consume 5 sodas before I began to feel hydrated again. I came in late for the meal the trail angels had prepared, but devoured the watermelon and cantaloupe. No grapefruit! Unlike the group I had previously been hiking with, this group of hiker trash were all kids in their 20s and thus hard for me to connect with. Besides, I was completely wasted from a long day. So, tomorrow I finish the last mile of section f California, and will proceed to pick up my resupply box in Lake Isabella and use the day to wash self and clothes before meeting Russ in several days.

Morning sun
Evening sun taken from inside my tent

12JUN- mile 651- mile 652

This was a very short hiking day, but with a well-needed rest. It took only about 20 minutes to get to Walker Pass road. The bus was a half hour late and standing in the blinding sun without doing anything was itself hard to tolerate. Surely David in Ps. 32 considered this when he stated “my strength was drained as with the heat of summer. The bus finally came, I was able to get into a hotel room early, I got my resupply package, packed up a whole box of unnecessary items and too much food, and remailed them home. I would have liked to walk around town but it was just too hot with the temperature in the high 90s. Oddly, Portland, Tacoma, Old Station and much of the west coast was having a heat wave, being coolest in San Diego. I was able to take a long needed shower, get my clothes washed, wash up all my equipment, pack up for 3-4 days of food, and prepare for resuming my journey in several days, this time with the blessing of having Russ Andersen along. My clothes, by the way, were so laden with salt from sweat that they had the stiffness of being starched. Whenever I would rub my skin, white salt powder would come off. I could not smell myself except when I’m in the tent, and the odor was putrefying. No wonder Betsy is not eager to hike with me. Bless her sweet heart. I was able to phone both Betsy and Russ several times. Betsy in getting the stairs and upstairs landing re-floored, and Russ is eager to do some hiking.

Memorial at Walker Pass

The segment from Tehachapi Pass to Walker Pass is known as Halfmile CA section F, 85.5 miles with 14,900 feet total in elevation gain, ie., a lot of climbing. It also has the least availability for water, and if not for some kind soul leaving water caches at miles 616 and 630, could be a waterless stretch all the way from Lander’s Meadow at mile 609 until Waker Pass, 43 miles being just too long in the heat of summer hiking 15-25 miles a day for a normal person to endure. It makes me angry that the PCTA is quite vocal against water caches feeling that hikers should not depend on them. Na und? Comment? Stupidity often has its profundity. Section CA-F? This indubitably was my hardest, both physically and psychologically. The first half was thousands of feet of climbing through drab windmill farms. The central part with Landers Meadow was beautiful pine and mesquite forests. The last half from mile 616 was hot, shapeless, and with steep climbs and descents; this all interfered with the possible beauty to be seen in this inferno of a land. It is the one section that I would not repeat again even if I developed a delusion to rehike parts of the trail. I have better ways to torture myself. 

So, the adventure will flip-flop north. About half the hikers are doing a flip-flop, but most are uncertain as to where to restart the trail. The hot weather is both good and bad, hard to hike in and definitely reduces your daily mileage, but also is eliminating some of the vexing snow problems that we could be encountering. So, until next time, may God be gracious to all you dar readers and please don’t be shy about using this venue to support the Huguenot Heritage Ministry.

PCT Interlude

Two doctors-Dr. Diane (DD) and me

There has been a silence in my posting, and a few people have wondered where I’ve been on the trail. Actually, I am totally okay, and ready to resume walking. In fact, my feet are itching to get back on the trail. But first, I owe my dear readers an explanation. I had planned from the very start of this adventure to sneak home at the end of May. My youngest daughter Diane was graduating from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with DNP (doctor of nursing practice). As far as Diane knew, I was still on the trail, until we encountered each other soon after the hooding ceremony. It truly was a surprise for her, as I intended it to be a surprise. I felt most honored to watch Diane graduate. She was chosen to give the oration for her class, and she did a superb job of that. She will do well.

Diane offering the oration for the DNP class
Diane being hooded: now a gurl ‘n da hood!

There were two other reasons that seemed to fit into my plan quite well. First, I was having a nasty case of anterior tibial stress syndrome, that was not only dreadfully painful but also causing redness and swelling in my right leg. I posted a photograph of the lesion in my prior post. It is now completely gone, and I’ve been able to run up and down hills without pain. I attended church (Faith Presbyterian in Tacoma) and encountered the kind, wise and gentle ole’ Doc Darby, an occupational physician, who told me exactly what I had and how I got my leg condition before I told him anything. He also was able to recommend a treatment plan, namely, rest and compression wraps. It worked. Second, there was a serious dilemma as to how to handle a trail still untrod by hikers ahead of me and covered deep in snow. Following many posts on Facebook from the PCT Class of 2019, it was clear that those who were able to make it partially through the snow of northern California were having a most difficult time, while those who felt comfortable pushing through the high Sierra were inundated by ongoing snowstorms, many suffering from such maladies as frostbite. This is a year that the PCT was NOT meant to be hiked. 

My plan is as follows. On 05JUN, I will take the train and bus back to Tehachapi to finish 94 miles of the desert uncompleted, going from Willow Springs road east of Tehachapi to Walker Pass. I will do that in two stages, first slack packing (hiking with a day sack) from Willow Spring Road to Hwy 58, taking the bus back into town, and then the next day, taking the bus back to the trail where it meets highway 58 and heading north. This will give me a chance to again break in my legs, and will cut a 25 mile waterless section down to 17 miles, allowing me to carry less water and thus move quicker. After I reach Walker Pass, I will take the bus and then train up to Redding, meet a church friend Russ Anderson in Redding, and head over to Old Station, where we will resume the trail. Old Station is just north of the troublesome Lassen Volcanic National Park, still heavily burdened with snow, and south of a long snow-free area. We’ll start by walking through a 29 mile dry stretch of the Hat Creek Rim, and then encounter some snow as the trail turns toward I-5. We will probably rest a day and clean up in Shasta City, and then resume our trek through the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountain Wilderness of NW California. This last area is deep in snow, but we will be arriving there in 3-4 weeks, where other hikers will have blazed the way through. So, that is our plan. It is possible that snow might further delay our ventures, but the intention is push on as much as God gives us the strength to continue.

I’ve been able to accomplish a few other matters while at home. I’ve completed the papers for signing up for MediCare. Scary. Government health insurance. Secondly, I’ve realized that my diet has completely changed. There are things I now prefer to eat, and things I now detest. I love granola at home but hate it on the trail. I will pack apples and other fruit, in spite of the weight. I developed a love for lunch that consists of peanut butter and honey or jam put into a tortilla wrap, or, tuna wrapped in a tortilla. As a gluten-philiac, it’s a great way to get a little extra gluten in my diet. Then, I realized that certain necessities like batteries (for the headlamp) and toilet paper and toothpaste just don’t go as quickly as I thought, so was able to extract them from the resupply boxes. 

My new image, more adapted to the forests of the Northwest. The hat is a Seattle Sombrero.

I’ve changed a few things in the pack. 1. I bought a new Z-packs Duplex tent. It is a 2 man tent that weighs slightly more than a pound and very suitable for inclement weather. The poles to support the tent are your hiking poles. I got rid of my hydration system that sits inside the pack, and am using a system that connects to a SmartWater bottle. I’m back to an air mattress and am using the ThermaRest Uberlight pad. Hopefully, it lasts longer than the Exped mattress, which spontaneously tore on night 2 or 3. And, I’m changing my clothes which will be more effective at heat retention and mosquito protection, as well as rain protection, including packing a heavier raincoat. So, I feel ready to fit the trail with my altered equipment. In all, the base weight is perhaps just slightly heavier, but I will be needing to carry much less water.

The view from the lunchbox area of Mt. Si, looking toward Snoqualmie Pass.

I’ve tried to retain my hiking legs while home by getting out on the hills I trained on before the hike. Several days ago, I ran up Rattlesnake Ridge with Russ. Today, I took Betsy all the way to the top of Pinnacle Peak. A few days after that I ran up Mount Si, 3500 ft of elevation gain with a 9 mile hike. I do all of these with a loaded backpack to simulate me being back on the trail. 

Le Garçon at the entrance of the Foucachon house.

I traveled back to Moscow, Idaho to interact with the Huguenot Heritage people. They wish to do a little more filming. Perhaps, I might add that the cause of HH is helping me to push things on the trail as hard as possible, though always keeping safety in mind. HH is an incredible and desperately needed ministry to bring sound Gospel theology to the French-speaking people of the world. It is helping to provide seminary type education to parts of the world where there is no opportunity for pastors to get a solid education in the Christian faith. As a fan of church history, it is without question that the church until recently held great value in an educated clergy and laity. Catechumens in the very early church were denied baptism until they proved knowledgeable in the faith. The Christian faith has always held that it is not only that you believe, but that the content of your belief is correct. I have seen first hand the Christian church exploding in Africa in places where French is the main language outside of the native African tongue. These are people that need the solid Gospel taught to them and Huguenot Heritage through the Third Millenium Ministries has been greatly instrumental in that task. If my hike accomplishes nothing but brings greater awareness to the Third Millenium and Huguenot Heritage ministries, then I will consider my hike a worthy venture. 

I always enjoy interacting with the folk from Moscow, Idaho. They are wonderful people that are very intellectually stimulating to me, like a breath of fresh air with kindred spirits. Francis Foucachon was instructed to cook something very simple for me, and so promised hamburgers but made shish kebabs instead. Francis, as a trained French chef, is incredible. He can make dirt taste delectable. I never ever really cared for eggplant, but his rendition of eggplant was exceptionally savory. 

Betsy, Carol, Lew, Gaylon

Today my brothers Lew and Gaylon with Lew’s wife Carol popped up from Portland for a visit. I made shish kebabs (with eggplant!) but could not imitate the culinary masterpiece Francis cooked up several days before. We had a wonderful time discussing my next plans for the trail. I will meet with Russ tomorrow and the Medicare man on Tuesday. Wednesday, Betsy takes me back to the Amtrak station, and the adventure resumes. My next post will probably be from Lake Isabella on about 12JUN. A bientôt!

So, I’ll end with the Pilgrim’s Song, #136 from the ACCA Zion’s Harp, the words very slightly corrected. For ACCN members, it is sung to the tune What Could be Lovelier Ever, ZH #297. 

Come pilgrims join in singing, Sweet praises to our King,
Who blest us with salvation, Through faith in His good word.
Who blest us with salvation, Through faith in His good word. 

He is the faithful Shepherd, Our rock and Refuge true,
Who lovingly doth lead us, Whose word doth us renew. 
Who lovingly doth lead us, Whose word doth us renew. 

His word our soul does nourish; it is so sweet and pure,
gives faith and strength in conflict, all trials to endure,
gives faith and strength in conflict, all trials to endure.

It shows us our rich treasure, Which God doth now prepare,
Refreshes us with pleasure, Its comforts we do share,
Refreshes us with pleasure, Its comforts we do share.

Our hearts are filled with praises; Our zeal it does renew,
Removes all fear and doubting, Gives motives pure and true,
Removes all fear and doubting, Gives motives pure and true.

He graciously beholds us and leads us in His way,
And joyfully we’ll journey to heaven day by day.
And joyfully we’ll journey to heaven day by day.

So let us journey onward, to heaven and the blest,
For after strife and toiling we’ll reach the land of rest.
For after strife and toiling we’ll reach the land of rest.
ZH 136


15May- Yesterday I was able to hop on a regional bus to take me to Bakersfield. This meant that I would be missing 92 miles of the trail, not because of trail closures or dangerous sections, but because of injury. Since this will not be published until a few weeks from now, I can disclose my three reasons for heading home at this time. 

  1. My leg was going to need at least a week to recover, and I didn’t wish to wait it out in Tehachapi.
  2. I knew that I was going to flip-flop the Sierra Nevada from Walker Pass to at least Donner Pass because of the snow situation.
  3. I wanted to secretly be home by 25May to surprise my daughter since see is graduating as with a PhD from Nurse practitioner school.

So, I leave the trail with sadness. I was beginning to get to know a number of hikers quite well, though I’m quite sure that I’ll see at least a few of them again. I’m also concerned about being off the trail too long since I don’t wish to lose my hiker legs. At home I will be kept quite busy.

  1. I need to strategize when and where I flip-flop up to.
  2. I need to completely redo my Resupply packages, knowing better what works best on the trail, and better able to grasp what I’ll need and where. 
  3. I need to break in some heavier shoes that are more adept for snow. These will probably be Merrill Moab’s which I’m already accustomed to.
  4. I need to meet with a few important people; Russ A who might wish to hike a section or two with me, and Daniel Foucachon regarding the Hike-a-thin aspect of my venture. 
  5. I will be getting new equipment including a new tent, which need to be tried out before committing it to use on the trail. I might try out a different drinking system. Currently I am using the Osprey hydration pack with an additional 2 Smartwater liter bottles. The Osprey system has a number of problems, the worst being that it leaks. I might go with the regular Sawyer Squeeze or replace the Sawyer micro that I was using, as it got fairly abused in the desert with grungy water and freezing once or twice. I’ll have to replace my hiking poles, and will need to try out the replacement. 
  6. If I can fit in an overnight or two night backpack trip, perhaps with a grandkid, I’ll do that.
  7. I few things that I would pack different would be a) a small collapsible cup for coffee b) lightweight sandals c) maybe a heavier raincoat d) probably a different pocketknife that has a Philip’s screwdriver attachment, e) less clothes, but a Merino wool top, f) a warmer buff (maybe?) g) insect repellent! h) lastly, they now have a more indestructible case for cell phones that would be worth trying out, since your cell phone is vital for survival and wellbeing on the trail… it finds your way, it allows you to communicate with the outside world, gives you advice as to where to camp, where to find water, how far it is to the next town, etc, etc.

Acton KOA to Tehachapi

Overlooking the Mojave

07May-Acton KOA (445) to mile 465

I’d like to arrive in Tehachapi in 6 days, which means doing 15-20 mile days. This is supposed to be the hottest stretch of the entire PCT. I woke up at 4:15 this morning and was on the trail by 5 am with a headlight to see the way. It was cloudy overhead and stayed that way all day, keeping the temperature from what is normally sweltering to quite cool, needing a jacket when stopping to rest. Typically I go through about 3-4 liters of water a day, but today I drank a liter of grapefruit juice which I put into one of my Smartwater bottles (what we use instead of canteens) and just a little bit more. I arrived in Aqua Dulce at 9:30 and stopped at a local restaurant for a coffee and breakfast burrito. Soon afterwards, Donna Saufley arrived with a load of hikers including Rescuer, I introduced myself but apologized that I was heading on. Soon afterwards I met Gerhard and Lucia, an older couple from Munich, and so we spoke German together. They had my hiking speed, and personalities so similar to Katja and Hannes that I was sometimes thinking I was walking with them. We set up camp at the same spot near to a water cache. The Lord blessed me today with very cool weather in what is typically hell-hot conditions, and the weatherman predicts the next 5-6 days to be the same. Thus, I am not wasting time in “party” mode, but rather expediting transit through the desert on feet with no name. A few things to mention. I am seeing large amounts of Monarch butterflies, sometimes in massive swarms. They must be migrating north. I am meeting huge numbers of Germans on the trail, of all ages. They seem to all be enjoying the adventure, and they are all very polite. It is amazing how many Europeans come over at attempt the PCT!

Rocks of Agua Dulce
More of the same, movie scenes were taken here

08May- mile 465-mile 478

The weather continued to be cool, and I was making good time, but my left leg was hurting and so I decided to slow down a bit. When I arrived at Francisquito Valley road, there was a trail angel there waiting to shuttle me to Casa de Luna, one of those places that most hikers will stop at. It took nothing to persuade me to stop. I was able to chill out, and get in some fluids. The solder German couple arrived, and we decided to not spend the night at Casa de Luna but to be brought back to the trailhead. It was a very misty night.

Casa de Luna scene 
Gerhard and Lucia, with Sticks in the middle

09MAY- mile 478-495

I decided on a short day today, and mostly found the trail in either gentle climbs or descents. I again decided to take it easy and stopped at about 2pm. The German couple intended to spend the night in the same place. The day started out wet, and stayed wet all day. This was great that the normal hot conditions were not encountered. It began to become a bit drizzly, and soon after getting in the tent, serious rain began, which continued much of the night. I cooked dinner in the tent, and was asleep sporadically much of the night.

Wet, cloudy day

10MAY- mile 495-517 (Hikertown)

I awoke and wished for an early start today but it was raining and everything was drenched. Though I was dry inside the tent, and my sleeping bag was dry, the tent was dismally soaked. I packed everything in side the tent, quickly took down the tent and headed out at about 7:30, a very late start for me. Gerhard and Lucia were not yet up and we agreed to consider camping at the Horse Camp 15 miles away. I arrived at the Horse camp at about 1 o’clock, had lunch, and decided it was only 10 more miles to Hikertown, and to head down, since it seemed like it would be raining some more. It did. I wore my rain coat all day, it was cool, and I arrived at Hikertown drenched, hoping that they would have a cabin free. 40 or more other hikers hoped for the same thing. We all got shuttled to the community center at Neenach, where the mayor graciously opened up every possible room to accommodate us. It was crowded and uncomfortable but we had no other options. There was an associated restaurant and C-store where we were able to be fed, and a few hikers to satisfy their desire for beer. It wasn’t the best night, but it allowed us to get some sleep outside of the rain.

Yes! 500
Another wet day, overlooking the Mojave 

11MAY- mile 517- mile 540

Today is a day that is almost always done as a night hike, since there is no shade and one is fully exposed to the sun. On awakening, the weather appeared to be cool and overcast, so we decided to go for it. I got my belongings packed, was able to dry out my tent in a drier out back, had breakfast at the restaurant, and then got shuttled back to Hikertown. I will re-emphasize how grateful I am to the people at Neenach for caring for us hikers in desperate circumstances. It was most delightful to walk the path that almost always is walked at night. Almost the whole day was walking either roads or the Los Angeles aqueduct. Only towards the end of the day did the trail start to climb. The trail went through about 5 miles of a wind farm. Finally it started back into the mountains. At that time a thunderstorm came in. I wanted to make it to Tylerhorse Canyon campsite, but being unsure about the thunderstorm, arrived at a campsite about 1.2 miles short of my goal and quickly set up camp for the night, getting into the tent just before the downpour. The sun then came out briefly, but the anticipation is for cool weather for the next few days. Without to much difficulty, I should be able to make it to Tehachapi by tomorrow evening. Each night, I cook dinner, often in the tent, carefully inspect my feet for problem areas and sore spots, and then review the maps and Yogi’s guide and make a plan for the next day. Each morning, my tradition on the trail is that once I hit an easy spot on the trail I will sing (out loud) the Doxology and Gloria Patri. The trail has educated me on the glory of God’s beautiful world, full of the most creative and enchanting beauty, whether in the landscape, or the plant life, or all the diverse animal life on the trail. Being anthropocentric in my thoughts on the world, I realize that God created this all for our enjoyment and delight—His creation loudly bears witness to His being as well as His loving care for us, His children. Thus, it is good to start every day off with the Doxology!

Now is the time to add a few comments about trail physiology. The 2nd through 5th day at the end of the day, I found myself to be increasingly dizzy and lightheaded, something that happens to me after a hard bicycle ride, when I realize that my blood pressure was dangerously low. Finally, I realized that I needed to back off on the blood pressure meds, and I’ve been feeling great since then. I’ve talked a bit about a common experience of insatiable hiker hunger. Quite honestly, I haven’t experienced that yet, and my hunger is actually diminished. Rather, I have an almost insatiable thirst, best met with ice cold sugary soda pop. After my I-10 incident, I’ve also had a strong craving for grapefruit, which is superb at quenching thirst. Something not often spoken of is hiker brain. After many exhausting days on the trail, the brain shuts down to thinking about most things. I constantly think of Betsy, but serious thought, or ability to read a book is almost impossible. 

Sticks with friend on the LA aqueduct 
Me on the LA aqueduct 
Much travel on road, here through a wind farm 

12MAY-mile 540-Tehachapi

I was a little slower getting up than I had wished, but was a 5:45 start for a bit shorter day of just 18 miles. The sky was cloudless. It was fairly easy hiking, but all uphill for more than 9 miles. At the top of the climb, some precious trail angel left chairs, umbrellas, and water, which served as a nice place for a break in the day. It was mostly downhill from there. On descent, I was making good time, but started to have excruciating unbearable pain in my right leg anterior muscle compartment. It got worse the longer I was on it. I had this pain several days before descending into Hikertown, and noted mild discoloration of the skin of that area, but now the leg appeared swollen, very erythematous, and painful to touch, with pain on ascent and descent. I knew that I needed to give the muscles more than a day or two rest. Thus, I will be pausing the hike for a bit. My plan is to skip the last 85 miles of the desert and resume north of the high Sierra, returning in August/September to complete the high Sierra.

So far, I’ve gone 558 miles of the PCT. Except for a very short portion, I’ve completed the desert section of the trail. It is also the hardest section, in that one needs to be obsessed with water, which happens to be quite heavy. I’m sure the water weight had a small bearing on my leg injury. The desert was beautiful and for those who live here, it’s been the greenest ever in many years. So, even though this year is bad as a snow year, it has been a great desert experience. I’ve learned much in this short time, like gaining a better understanding as to how to deal with long sections without a Resupply, the types of foods that one would prefer while hiking, what equipment suits me best, and how to maintain a psychological positive frame of mind. Regarding equipment, a double walled tent flunks, especially in adverse weather. I will be doing with a single wall, lightweight Zpacks Duplex, weighing 19 oz versus 36 oz for the tent I’m currently using. It Is not free-standing, but uses your hiker poles rather than tent poles. Freestanding is a misnomer since the tent MUST be stakes down in all but the mildest weather, when you really don’t need a tent. I miss an inflatable air mattress and will change brands to one that seems to be more reliable, or just go with a slightly heavier pad. Though my shoes are super comfortable, my feet need to be out of them at the end of the day, and lightweight cheap sandals will soon be a part of my pack load. My Osprey hydration valve started leaking, a common problem for that brand noted on the internet, so I’ll be using a military version of the CamelBak nipple. That’s it for now. People asked me why my trail name is Pilgrim. I just sort of got that name, I’m not sure exactly how. But, we are all Pilgrims. Hebrews 11:13 (KJV) calls us strangers and pilgrims on earth. John Bunyan’s most read classic of all time, Pilgrims Progress, depicts us all as pilgrims. John Bunyan also gives Pilgrims their own song, one which has been put to music and commonly sung in the church in Bedford, England, Bunyan’s home.

  1. Who would true valor see, let him come hither;
    One here will constant be, come wind, come weather; There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
  2. Who so beset him round with dismal stories,
    Do but themselves confound his strength the more is. No lion can him fight, he’ll with a giant fight,
    but he will have a right to be a pilgrim.
  3. Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit; He knows he at the end shall life inherit.
    Then fancies fly away; he’ll fear not what men say; he’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.
Morning overlooking the Mojave 
Hills above Tehachapi
Cheap but nice motel in Tehachapi 
Very red painful leg, probably injured muscle

Wrightwood to Acton KOA

Hiker trash in Wrightwood outside the village market

02May- Wrightwood (mile369) to Little Jimmy Campground (384) Today was only 15 miles but a very challenging day, in that I not only needed to climb Mt. Baden-Powell ( named after the guy who started the Boy Scouts) but most of the day was walking through very challenging steep snow with Microspikes on, and often with a very indistinct trail. It was a bit exhausting. I decided against the short ascent to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell since the snow was so challenging to walk in. The views were still quite awesome. I was able hitch a ride out of Wrightwood with Scott and Ingrid, and felt great with the hike until the snow hit. This should be the last snow of the “desert” and it gave for a real challenge. Worse yet, there wasn’t abundant water sources and I knew that I would need food for six days so the pack was heavier than appropriate. From Mt. Baden-Powell, the trail followed a snow covered ridge up and down for a number of miles. Sine most of us are wearing trail running shoes that are terrible in snow, we attach microspikes (kind of like crampons) to our shoes in hopes of keeping from slipping. Finally the trail became dirt again and I stopped at a spring to get water for tomorrow. Typically, it is advised that even spring water be filtered for organisms which I did. The camp was nice, surrounded by snow, and after cooking dinner, was able to join the 20 or so other campers around a campfire that somebody started to dry out the shoes and socks soaked from walking all day in the snow. The next few days should be a little bit shorter and tomorrow, the they-hikers must all take a detour which adds a few miles to the hike. The detour was enacted in an effort to save the yellow legged frog. 

Trail covered with snow
Summit of Mt. Baden Powell
Rare campfire on the trail
Tent surrounded by snow

03May-mile 384-mile 395

The length of the walk today was actually about 15+ miles, since I had to walk a detour around a section of the trail blocked off to hikers, in an effort to save the yellow legged frog. After descending to the road from Little Jimmy camp, the trail ascended needlessly to near the top of Mt. Williamson, and then immediately taking you back to the road. After a short trail interlude, the detour began, with a 4 mile road walk followed by a two mile trail to take you back to the PXT. The PCT then climbed up to Cooper Canyon camp. The camp had a stream nearby, it was hot, my mojo was depleted, and knew that an early rise in the am would work wonders. 

Descending back into desert
Detour to save the frog

I’ve had a lot of thoughts now about the trail. The further you go, the more you think about your equipment, what you like and don’t like, and what you would do different. I detest my tent. I think that I am going to order a single wall dynemma fabric tent for the next section of this venture. I need a separate drinking cup. The sleeping bag has been awesome. The pack has been super, with the exception of how it handles hydration packs. The Osprey hydration pack is so-so, as the bite valve now has a leak. It is also hard to know how much fluid is in the reservoir while it is in backpack.

I also contemplate on how a trail is representative of life in so many ways. It is mostly a struggle, but the joys overwhelm any struggle. There are good days and bad days. Beauty surrounds you with the handiwork of God but it is so easy to not notice it. Your past experiences provide input into new decisions, but are never perfect and must be coupled with trusting God for wisdom in every decision. Each turn and bend opens up new and mostly unexpected vistas, just as in life it is impossible to predict what the future will bring. Trusting the Lord for each step of the way is for both the trail Pilgrim and the life Pilgrim. Often one wonders why the trail is running the way it does-it often seems like it should be taking an easier course, and then a bend it the trail and a view of where one is going explains things. It’s a lot like Scripture, in that we often question things in God’s Word, yet a broader view explains the wisdom of God’s commands.

04May – mile 395-419

Today ended up being a little longer than I had planned. After getting on the trail at 6 am, it started as an uphill climb top highway 2. The trail followed highway 2 for a considerable distance until leaving it for good. It was then vey up and down with a lot of climbing though the general trend was downward, leaving the ponderosa forests and again entering a desert climate. Water became my primary concern. I had missed an important water source, and then noticed that my planned camp was high on a ridge and windy without water. There was a fire station the trail passed by that provided water for hikers, and just a short distance beyond was a day only picnic area where a Scottish mathematician (Rescuer) and I decided to set up camp. I think that they are used to PCT hiker s using any available spot possible to set up camp. I cooked dinner (Idahoan mashed potatoes) and then set up camp, filtered extra water, and crashed.

Mile 400
My feet and bottom of tent
Top of tent 

05May- mile 419-mile 445 This was another long day. Starting at 6 am, I hit the trail, leaving Rescuer to wake up. The trail further became desert, and with a very dry air. Guthook suggested there might not be any water on the trail so I was loaded. The plan was for 18 miles, camping at a ranger station. Most of the bulk of hikers arrived at the ranger station at about 1 o’clock where he had jugs of water for us. In addition, he came out and offered cold pop for a dollar. I quickly consumed two cans. We all decided that since the Acton KOA was only 8 miles away, we would hike there. I made it by 5:30, and was able to order some pizza. Other hikers had a few cases of beer to drink. Most of the hikers were going to do a short hike tomorrow to Hiker Heaven, but I decided to zero tomorrow and run into Acton to Resupply for the next phase of my adventure. 

Mojave desert under clouds
Descending into Acton

06May – zero day, Acton KOA Today was restful, with well needed recovery.

Hiker trash campsite at KOA

Big Bear Lake to Wrightwood

Mt. Baldy in the clouds 

I took a zero in Big Bear Lake and definitely needed a day to relax. I’ve learned than unless for a reason, two zeros together is not a good idea. But, feet get very sore after 4-6 days of hard walking, and they just need a rest. Talking to many other hikers young and old, sore feet are a universal phenomenon when doing 15-25 miles a day.

26April -mile 266- mile 286

Today my feet just felt like walking. Even thought I started 2.5 hours later than usual, I was able to get in 20 miles for the day. There was some climbing up into the hills above Big Bear Lake, but then it was a fairly level trail though Ponderosa woods with some snow still beside the trail. About the last five miles was a bit more exposed to the sun, as it went through a burn area. Camp was at the end of that burn area. 

I lost Broken Arrow, though I am sure he is right behind me a few miles. Of the 30 some people I’ve seen on the trail today, about half were from Germany or Netherlands. The people on the trail now seem happier, possibly because the trail is weaning out the riff-raff. Because this next stage will be over 100 miles, our packs are quite heavy from food. Worse yet, hiker hunger is starting to hit. The first few days on the trail, I didn’t feel like eating. Now, I have a very weird appetite, and will eat anything. Tonight I had Bombay Potatoes, something I usually don’t like, and they were quite delicious. Strange things happen on the trail. I have been eating like a pig in town, yet I continue to need to snug in my belt and pack straps. Weight loss?

Above Big Bear Lake

26April – mile 286- mile 308

This was a long hot day, mostly descending a narrow river canyon. The greatest advantage over previous desert days was the recurring shade in the canyons, and the presence of occasional streams. The route ended at a hot springs, which was also frequented by locals, leading to a raucous atmosphere. I should have gone on, but was tired and unsure that close camping accommodations could be found. It was a noisy night. As I learned the next day, there were no good campsites close so made a good decision.

Much hiking through narrow canyons

27April- Mile 308- mile 328 (Claghorn Picnic Area)

I barely got any sleep at all, as it was a very noisy night, with lots of headlamps going off and on. I was on the trail before 6 am and made good time all the way. The trail started as a continuation of a steep valley with rushing river below. I then encountered a dam, had to wade across a knee high river, and then the trail went up into the hills, overlooking a large green meadow. At mile 314, there was trail magic, ex-hikers handing out ice cold sodas. I instantly downed two. Eventually the trail encountered another large dam structure with the hiker on the bottom. Gradually, the trail went upwards and a very large lake, Silverwood, became visible. Many speed boats and entertainment boats were on the lake. My decision was to end at a campground on the end of the lake by the trail. I was able to order pizza a a 2 liter root beer. Even that did not totally quench my thirst. It is odd how this breezy environment keeps one perpetually thirsty. So, I’m a bit sore and thinking about an easy day tomorrow, after talking to an elderly couple southbound on the trail.

Looking down on Silverwood Lake

28April 328-342

It’s Sunday, and I thought that I would be a little more relaxed today, so only did 15 miles. It was still a touch strenuous, with a moderate amount of climbing, even though the last few miles were all downhill. It was a beautiful day, and the landscape quite green, considering that I was in desert. I decided to stay at a hotel at Cajun Pass for several reasons. One was because I was feeling unusually dirty, and was getting mild hiking jock rash. The rash happened yesterday so I put some salve on it last night, and by morning, it was better. But, it means one needs to wash their clothes as they start rubbing rough on you. Secondly, the trail to Wrightwood has no certain water sources, 26 miles, so I wished for only one dry night of camping. This will put me into Wrightwood mid-day on Tuesday, and I’ll do a zero there, as well as pick up my Resupply. Thirdly, I’ll be able to camel up, meaning, mildly over-hydrate myself. After a couple days out in the desert and dry winds, it is easy for me to put down two liters of cold drink in a short span of time, and then still feel thirsty and not peeing well. So, fluids are consumed in mass quantities whenever possible. Finally, a hotel lets me get everything recharged up, and make a long call to my most beautiful and wonderful wife. There isn’t an hour that goes by on the trail when I don’t think about how precious she is to me.

I have a new pair of shoes coming. The desert is very hard on shoes and and I have completely worn out the ones I have on now. There are still no blisters but the feet bottoms get very tender by the end of the day. I hobble and people probably wonder about my ability to walk at all. I become clumsy without my hiking poles. Thru-hikers are a very strange bunch!

Looking down on Cajon Pass and across to Mt. Baldy
Narrow canyon exiting to Cajon Pass
Infamous Cajon Pass McDonalds

29April Mile 342-364

The mileage was actually 23 miles and about 6-7000 feet elevation gain. It could have been a horribly painful climb, but it wasn’t, as the temperature was cool and overcast. It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow. I started the walk out alone, and about 4 miles in, after escaping the I-15 traffic (it was a traffic jam last night and remained that this morning) and getting by the train tracks, I encountered Megs (Sticks) . We hiked for about 4 hours together and then she needed to make some phone stuff so I shot ahead. The trail crossed the San Andreas fault and then shot up toward Mt Baldy (San Antonio). There were some beautiful sites. The trail climbed relentlessly from Cajun Pass at 3000 ft to over 8000 ft elevation. Toward the top destination of Guffy Campground, I started hitting a lot of snow, which slowed down the pace. Then, it started to hail. It got cold. The hail turned into a freezing rain as I tried to put up the tent, with an added strong wind. The tent went up and I was soon warm, writing this piece. Sticks showed up soon afterward and she got settled in. I’m hoping the weatherman is correct about tomorrow. Hey, this is the desert approaching summer!

Poodle Dog bush, to be avoided !
Stormy weather rolling in 

30April – mile 364-369 (Wrightwood)

The wind blew hard all night, making it a challenge to sleep. I did stay warm, but it was freezing cold in the morning for getting the tent down. Like yesterday, we had to walk through a lot of snow but were able to complete the six miles to the road by 9am. Guthook claims there should be heavy traffic on the road, yet because of snow damage, the road is not open yet and there was no traffic going either direction. Thankfully a trail angel picked me and another hiker and took us to town, Sticks obtaining a ride from someone else. Wrightwood is super-friendly to PCT hikers and caters to them in the hotels, grocery, hardware store, and restaurants. I aired out my clothes, sleeping bag, tent, and other things, preparing to again hit the trail.

Looking down on the Mojave
Los Angeles below the clouds 
My. Baden-Powell, the trail will run close to the top
Your truly
Typical hiker trash scene in Wrightwood. The grocery store even had charging stations set up to accommodate the hikers

01May- zero day in Wrightwood 

Zero days are actually somewhat busy, in that the next segment of the hike needs to be planned. One needs to decide roughly how many days it will take before the next town where one could Resupply, and then how much food to carry. Rough estimates of where to camp each night, so that daily goals could be already thought out are helpful to me, though many would claim that I am over-planning. 

There remains the dilemma as to how to deal with the high Sierra and Northern California which has had record snowfalls that don’t seem to be melting too quickly. I am uncertain as to what to do, though some sort of flip-flop is a certainty. This is NOT a good year for a straightforward thru-hike, and I suspect that some of the younger hikers who plan on pushing through are going to get in trouble.

So, the next update will probably happen in Agua Dulce, as I move out of the mountains and snow and down into the Mojave desert.

I remain overwhelmed at the beauty of God’s creation, the diversity and complexity of all there is in His world. It is with great thankfulness to God that He has allowed me to have the strength to delight in His handiwork. Surely all of His creation proclaims His glory. 

I am grateful to all who made pledges to Huguenot Heritage for this Hike-a-thon. May the Lord bless you for your thoughtfulness, as it also serves as a great encouragement to me to keep walking!

Idyllwild to Big Bear Lake

Looking down on Tahquitz Peak left and Suicide Rock left with Idyllwild hidden in the valley between

I spent the first night in Idyllwild at the Creekrock Inn, and walked into town the next morning to find my friends and to pick up a few supplies that I needed. On getting back to my hotel, they frantically informed me that I was reserved for only one night and not three. Happily, they found me another place a little further up the road which was the same price but actually a lot nicer, with its own kitchenette. Then, Pasta and Sailor notes that they were going to sleep at the trailhead in the rain. Because my place had two large separate beds, I suggested they spend the night with me and get an early ride up in the morning. It was helpful to me in obtains a lot of information about the trail, since had done it twice before. I didn’t realize it, but Pasta was 71 years old and Sailor 51, and they were moving quite quickly on the trail. When they left in the morning (April17) I almost wished I was also back on the trail, though realizing that an extra day of snow melt could make a large difference since the next 15 miles were supposed to be 70-80% snow covered. 

People ask what it is like as a usual day on the trail. Typically, I will be up just before dawn, get dressed, and pack my sleeping bag. I’ll then exit the tent and boil up some water for a cup of coffee. This will give me time to take down my tent, pack up, have coffee and a bite to eat, and be off on the trail. All in all, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get out of the sack and be on the trail. The day is spent walking, punctuated by two or three rest stops, or time to chat with fellow hikers on the trail. About 10 am, the sunglasses and sun cream goes on, and life continues until the end of the day. ‘I’ll frequently check my iPhone Guthook app for location and water information, or stop to take a photo. By about 5-6 o’clock I’m ready to fold up, and I’ll use my intuition and Guthook to locate a favorable campsite. The tent goes up first and sleeping bag unpacked. I’ll cook dinner, and do some reading on my iPhone, usually with Kindle and my bible app. By now, I’m in the sack and will spend some time writing this blog. I all so need to go over the maps, look at water sources, and determine roughly where I’d wish to set up camp the next night. Darkness hits about 8 am and I am soon asleep. Typically I dose off with aches and pains, but by morning seem to feel refreshed and ready to go again. The trail leaves you increasingly dirty and weary, and it is most wonderful that once a week, a zero is taken in town for rest, reflection, conversation with Betsy and friends on the phone, and laundry/shower to get clean again. 

I walked into town today, about a mile from the cabin, and realized that the town was now dead. I suspect that the hundred or more PCT hikers all took off in one mass surge, which is probably why it was really good to wait another day before venturing off. Idyllwild is an interesting town, with a mix of conservatives and the artsy new age type shops around. There are a lot is counseling/psychology/spiritualist establishments. The town is a perfect example of the evolving rift that is splitting our society. 

Downtown Idyllwild 
Sailor and Pasta leaving my cabin

18April – Idyllwild to mile 191.3

This was a most challenging day. I checked out and had the motel owner shuttle me up rod the Devil’s Slide trail head. It was a two and a half mile steep climb with Suicide Rock on the left and Tahquitz Rock on the right. Soon after hitting the top I hit snow, but not requiring micro spikes. I walked through snow for several miles and it became normal dirt trail. Then I reached the infamous Fuller Ridge. The micro spikes went on, and it was very slow trudging through snow, less than a mile an hour. Eventually the rail turned to dirt again and I thought that it was all over. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. The snow was then far more challenging to handle, and the path rarely perfectly clear. It went on for several miles. Finally I reached the end of Fuller Ridge, the end in sight, and as soon as I realized that the snow was done, I set up camp exhausted. Tomorrow seemed like it was going to be an easier day. Little did I know!

19April-mile 191-mile 211

Today was mostly a lonely day, even though it would seem like I’d cross path with others that I had seen before. It was a 20 mile descent from the snow line to the furnace. It was hard to move quickly because the trail had a lot of loose rock. The most memorable event was my first encounter with a rattlesnake. It at first startled me curled up on the side of the trail about waist high, but when I backed up, it slithered and lay directly across the trail. Yelling at it didn’t help, and throwing rocks to scare it didn’t help. Finally I had to get serious and wrapped it win the head with a large rock to get it to disappear off the trail. At mile 205 there was a water fountain where I refilled my water. There were several miles of paved trail, and then the horrid deep sand, almost impossible to walk in, struck me. And it was horribly hot. I reached I-10 underpass exhausted, dehydrated, and starved. Thankfully, trail angels left a large basket of fruit. I ate 2 oranges, and three grapefruit. I had no clue grapefruit tasted so good. I cooked up a freeze-dried dinner and it tasted horrid so I threw it away. Finally, I walked another mile up the trail to get away from the noise of the interstate, and set up camp. This was close to a wind farm, and the wind blew relentlessly all night, so I didn’t get a wink of sleep.

Relentless and very exhausting snow hiking. Yes, this is the desert
Yours truly 
A little hard to see my friend the rattlesnake 

20April-mile 211 to 226 (Mission Creek Camp)

Up and early today, I took off on a roller coaster trail with long ascents and descents down nearly to where we started, deep cliffs with strong near-gale wind gusts, and a first river crossing where you just had to get your feet wet. It was a long tiresome day; I walked a large portion of it with Ingrid and Steve, but I was interested in finding a campsite, so by the end of the day took off. Camp was again extremely windy with only loose sand to anchor the tent, so had to put large rocks on all corners on the tent. The wind died down by morning and I got a good nights sleep.

Long Climbs, with Mt San Jacinto and Fuller Ridge in the distance .
A gormet meal cooked in my tent. It was a challenge to keep the sand out of my delicacy.

21April- mile 226-mile 240

Today was another exceedingly challenging day, starting out from camp at 6 am. Half of the day followed up Mission Creek. During the beginning, I encountered Broken Arrow, who I first met in Idyllwild. We were walking at about the same speed so decided to walk together. Broken Arrow had walked this segment a year ago and it was a breeze. Now, with the bad winter, much of the trail was washed out. It was extremely arduous to find the trail, to climb loose gravel broken riverbanks,and at least 20 river crossings, none with bridges or rocks to hop across, and the river was quite fast flowing. We simply had to walk about 10 miles in wet shoes. The trail then took a steep incline, taking us up from hot desert to snow in the San Giorginio wilderness. On top was a nice campground with water and one exhausted little Pilgrim. During the ascent, Broken Arrow and I got talking about our faith, and realized that he was a Christian man of Baptist belief. We agreed to hang together until at least Big Bear, and even hopefully after that. It was a blessed gift for Easter Day.

22April- mile 240-256

Today was not too challenging. Hiking started at 6 am, with a lot of chatting between Broken Arrow and me. Yesterday Broken Arrow, who a 68 yo man, definitely out walked me, but today I stayed about 5-10 minutes ahead of him. It was first more climbing followed by a long gradual descent. At mile 250 the trail passed an animal zoo, which didn’t seem to operational any longer. In the last half hour of the walk, we noted some dark clouds so quickly set up our tents. Broken Arrow noted that he always ate dinner inside his tent, so decided to try the same. It worked well, having instant rice with chicken and vegetables. Inside the tent, it started to hail, then rain and sleet, and thunder. Hopefully it will pass by morning.

Broken Arrow 
Heavy clouds forming
Mile 250!!!!

23April- mile 256-266 (Big Bear Lake)

It was an early morning start, and yet too dark to assess the weather. The tent had frozen sheets of ice on it. I am now rethinking my strategy for carrying the tent. After a quick cup of coffee in bed, I had everything packed, and Broken Arrow and I headed out. Though awe were the first two tents in camp, there were now about 30 tents of sleeping hikers. 

Nearly cloudless landscape

This was not a difficult day, and at highway 18 which runs into BigBear, we were greeted by Diamond Dave, a trail angel with his trunk packed with fruit and lots of free goodies for us. Soon, another rail angel offered me a ride to our hotel, a wonderful inn in the main part of downtown Big Bear Lake. A shower, the clothes laundered, and a wonderful Mexican dinner at a hole in the wall, and I felt nearly ready to resume the hike, except that I needed to purchase Resupply Ed, dry out and repair everything Thant needs it, and re-think how I’m going to pack my backpack. Tomorrow I will need to decide on Trail meals for the next 6 days and 103 miles.

Diamond Dave

PCT Week 2

Warner Springs Ranch Resort- a nice respite


I was a little embarrassed to think that I’d be spending two nights resting, until I learned many of the hikers in my group, like Pasta and Alicia were doing the same. It appears to be the norm, and how experienced hikers break in. I was able to purchase a light weight Thermarest egg crate mattress and another small, much lighter inflatable pillow. After my air mattress deflation issue, I’m staying away from air mattresses for a while. Most of the hikers are staying at the Community Resource Center, but the Warner Springs Resort as seen above is inexpensive and nice. I’ve gone through my pack a zillion times trying to lighten things up, but now that I’m on the trail, a lot of other things are becoming useless and getting mailed back home. My appetite is also changing dramatically, and I crave for things like potato chips and salty foods. Spicy foods no longer taste good. It’s weird. Meanwhile, it’s been a strange phenomenon that I must daily tighten up my belt and pack straps. I doubt that it’s weight loss since I still feel heavy; it was be body redistribution.

So, I am sorting things out, as my next leg is 80+ miles to Idyllwild, where I’ll also spend two nights. I’ll have a lot of climbing, going from 3000 up to nearly 8000 feet, and rumor has it that we might hit some snow. There will be a few long stretches without water. I’ll be aiming to stay at “Mike’s Place” tomorrow night. I’m ready! God is my strength and my keeper.

12April – mile 110 -mile 127

I started out by having to walk a mile back from town to the trail. It started out fairly easy, going through beautiful meadows and old oak stands, but surely enough, there was a lot more climbing. Eventually, I saw a sign diverting me off the trail to Mike’s Place. It was about a quarter of a mile, and there were already 10-15 tents set up, and eventually about 40 tents were present. Mike had cold sodas and beer, and an outdoor pizza oven, which he fired up and served everybody their fill of pizza.

At Mike’s

The pizza oven

Mike’s caretaker showing himself a master pizza chef

13April Mike’s Place (mile 127)to Mary’s Place (mile 145.4) The hot dry desert continued, with incessant up and down in the trail. We all wanted to get to Mary’s, since she provided a large tank of water, and, as I said before, you are incessantly thinking about water in the desert. Also, we wanted to be close enough to be able to make the Paradise Valley Cafe in the morning, a super-popular spot for thru-hikers. There were about 10-12 tents at Mary’s, and everybody hit the trail very early the next am.

14April-mile 145.4 to 163.9 It was 6 miles to Hwy 74, and a mile to PVC. I didn’t get any photos, but the omelette was awesome. A group of us hitched a ride back to the trail, and started heading up. Speaking with Pasta and Sailor, we decided to play it safe, since 5 people yesterday needed to be rescued off of the trail, and today one could hear the helicopters working hard. Since we did not have micro spikes, we decided to divert just before the perilous section. The diversion was actually more challenging, taking the Spitler Peak trail with a hitch back to Idyllwild. That evening, my tent was sheltered on a knife edge, and I was a vertical mile above Palm Springs. A photo couldn’t do it justice.

Palm Springs

15April – mile 163 to Idyllwild The hike from mile 163 to the Spitler Peak junction was exhausting and treacherous. They did a very poor job cleaning out the trail from the fire, and it was exhausting and challenging to follow the trail. I also hit some snow. Finally, the Spitler Peak junction showed up completely unmarked, and the Guthook app saved my day. The Spitler Peak trail was poorly maintained, causing me to go much slower than I had hoped. Eventually, it came out to a little used road. While walking the road, a group of hunters came by and kindly offered me a hitch back to Idyllwild. In Idyllwild the typical hotel rooms were plum full, but I managed to get a wonderful room at Creekside Inn just a half mile from the city center. A shower never felt so good, and they allowed me to use their laundry to get clean clothes. So, I’m going to stay here three nights and start preparing for the walk to Big Bear City.

First Days on the Trail

The starting monument

04APRIL-Tom needed to drop me off early, since he needed to be home at 7 am. That means that I started the hike at 5:15am in total darkness. I’ve never hiked with a headlamp before, but it worked out well, going a full hour before it was bright enough to see the trail. What is usually brown desert at this time was lush green. It was cloudy and cool, making for wonderful hiking. The first 4 hours were totally alone. I passed several campsites at five miles, And then finally started running into people. Lots of people. A younger lady, Elena, seemed to have the same (slow) hiking pace, and we proceeded together all the way to Lake Morena. It was 20 miles for me today, and I intend to slow down after this until I get my hiking legs. Thankfully I acquired no blisters. But, with only four hours of sleep, I went out for a hamburger and malt, wrote this, talked with Betsy, and crashed.

05APRIL Lake Morena to mile 37.2

Today was a cold drizzly day, with light rain occurring throughout the day. When hiking, we were warm, but as soon as you stopped, it got chilly again. I thought that the desert was supposed to be a heat bath, but I am seeing otherwise. The scenery was most spectacular, and we were definitely in mountains. The trail went persistently upwards, so we didn’t get as much distance as we would have wished. They tell us that it takes several weeks to start getting your hiking legs. I am walking with one person who goes about my speed, but a pack of about twenty hikers seem to be hanging together. After 17 miles, the rains eased up and a campsite opened up, allowing for an evening of rest.

06 APR Mile 37.2 to mile 55.9. Today started a little rough. At 4am I realized that my air mattress developed a leak. It was an unrepairable tear. And, it was raining out. Everything was soaked. In the AM I took off at 7:39 am and arrived the first milestone, Mount Laguna. There I had breakfast, purchased some Resupplies, and bought a new ground pad inferior to the air mattress but adequate for now. I was walking with Elena who became slower and slower and complained of knee pain. By the time we reached mile fifty, the pain was unbearable. We walked out to a lunch stop at mile 51.6, where she was able to find a young man take her back to San Diego. It was beginning to get dark so I had to really push it to get to camp site at Oroflame Canyon, a quite beautiful place nestled among rocks.

07APR Mile 55.9- 77.1 (Scissors Junction)

Today was hot, and the trail was persistently exposed. I always thought that the desert was flat, but this was just the opposite, with the trail going through a very mountainous terrain, up and down and up and down without end. The desert was most beautiful, but in a different way than I’m used to. The path was quite rocky, which meant that one always had to constantly watch their step. The entire stretch was without water. Toward the very end, I ran out of water, but thankfully, there was a water cache under a bridge where I decided to sleep. There was a PCT hiker under the bridge that was very drunk and incoherent. After a while, the group of us thru-hikers decided that he was not safe, and called 911 on him. They hauled him away, and I finally had peace to sleep under the bridge with 6 other hikers.

08APR- mile 77.1-91.2

Today was my shortest day, but also my hardest yet. The problem was that I pushed things yesterday, and felt already a little wasted in the morning. I also knew that the entire stretch was going to be without water, so left with 5.5 liters, a weight of over 11 pounds. There was a long climb to start with, and the entirety of the hike was without shade. Psalm 121 was repeated in my head many times. Mile 91.2 held a water cache which I arrived totally wasted at. A pot of Top Ramen soup revived my spirits, and helped with the energy of setting up the tent and fetching water which was a ¼ mile off the trail down a steep grade. The beauty of today was the profusion of wild flowers on the trail. I will be planning shorter days until I get my walking legs. Thankfully, there are no blisters on my feet, and only temporary soreness so far. God be thanked. I feel His presence with me on the way.

09APR -day 6- mile 91.2 to mile 105.1

I stopped only 5 miles from Warner Springs at a beautiful spot beside a running creek. Most other hikers were pushing it to make it into town. When I awoke this morning, I realized how dirty I was and also that I had a horrible smell. In the desert, you don’t have the luxury of showers and cleaning up since water is a sparse commodity. I was feeling stronger today but learning not to push myself too hard at first. I plan on taking a nero and zero in Warner Springs. A nero is when you only walk a small part of the day, and zero is a total day off from hiking. The weather today was cool but windy, and still very dry, making one loose water with any activity. Thus, I was still carrying five to six liters of water at a time, which is a lot of added weight.

The other mishap was my trail pillow stopped staying inflated, but I found that I could do just fine without a pillow, and a little less weight in my pack.

My tent at mile 105

A standard trail meal, Top Ramen with added freeze dried beef and vegetables

Everything becomes filthy on the trail no matter how hard you try; looking forward to a shower.

10 April-day 7, mile 105 to mile 110 (Warner Springs)

Today was a Nero, as I hiked only 5 miles, only 2+ hours to Warner Springs. I had called earlier to see if a I could a room for a night or two, but the internet claimed that they were full. I stopped at the Warner Springs community center and they called for me and were able to secure a room for a very reasonable rate so I bit. At the Warner Springs CC I was seeing hikers that I thought were way ahead of me just arriving after I arrived. The experienced PCTers suggested that even though I was going slower than them, that I was making super time, and highly advised a zero. I certainly felt like I needed a short break. There were 50 or more thru-hikers at the WSCC, and the volunteers helped me get a ride into town to the post office for my first Resupply package, also located right across from the resort. I couldn’t get in until 3 pm, but Tom Braithwaite drove up from San Diego and we went out to lunch and to have a few cold drinks…. warm water on the trail assuages the thirst, but is NOT terribly refreshing. Tom was a true trail angel.

On my Resupply package were a bunch of stickers for easy identification. One of them hit home hard with me, a quote by Francis Schaeffer, “thank God for the reality for which we were created, a moment by moment communication with God himself”. People often wonder what one thinks about while alone on the trail, and for me it is nearly 100% either praying or praising him, or singing through a multitude of precious hymns. The desert has been far more beautiful than I ever imagined, and it is a delight to praise him for his wonderful world.

Just a thought about those wishing to contact me. I appreciate that, but there are two most precious commodities in the desert. Water is foremost, but second is my cell phone charge which I am using as my ONLY form of maps and trail information. If I don’t respond back to you, I am either conserving my cell phone charge or more likely out of cell phone range or keeping my phone on airplane mode to save electrons. Please fee free to contact either Betsy or Daniel Foucachon for info about me. I certainly do covet your prayers and your support of Huguenot Heritage Ministry.

Eagle Rock at mile 105.Tom Braithwaite, my trail angelA secret for avoiding blisters… leukotape! No blisters so far!

God bless… next update at Idyllwild in a week.