It is now far too long to be off the trail. Oddly, several very unexpected events occurred out of my control. They are as follows…
First, I received a call from Sailor at White Pass, noting that she was having knee problems, and wondering if she could crash at our place for several days. Of course that was ok, and we had a great time having her in. It also gave me a little more time to rest my neck. I will be dropping her off close to the trailhead tomorrow am, and then will be hopping on a Greyhound bus in the evening to head off.
Secondly, I was given some terribly unfortunate news. Betsy and I had remained close friends with Phil Muller over the years, and had taken him out to lunch or had him over for dinner whenever I was home from the trail. Last Tuesday, Phil needed help weed-whacking the growth in his backyard, so I took my trust weed whacker over, and we finished clearing out his back yard in about 2 hours, with Phil raking up the loose weeds and I running the weed whacker. Because it was too early to do lunch and with Phil a little tired out, we decided to stop work and just call it a day. Phil also wanted some help taking care of some trees in the yard, and we agreed to meet later in the week to accomplish that. I called the next day to set up a work day, and never received an answer, so just assumed that Phil perhaps didn’t wish to talk at that time. I tried again on Thursday and Friday, and still no response. Betsy was worried, so we went over to his place on Friday about noon, and there was no answer to the doorbell. I thought I heard some noises from inside the house so decided that perhaps Phil really just needed time alone, which wasn’t uncommon for him. Saturday had the event below occur, and so I didn’t try to make contact again until Sunday. Still no answer, so I became very worried. I called Dr. King and Andrew, and neither was aware of what was going on with Phil. I didn’t have Phil’s contact to his sister from Silverdale, so there was nothing that I could do to sort things out. Sunday at 18:40 I received a call from Andrew who learned that Phil was found dead in his trailer. I must have been the last person to have made contact with Phil. It is a terrible blow to see Phil go. He had a tremendous amount of personal problems, but still had struggled to live a Christian life as well as possible. These events kept me in town, answering questions to family, and sorting out whether a memorial service or anything of that sort was going to happen.
Thirdly, I was in a car accident. On Saturday, I drove out to Pinnacle Peak and ran up the hill several times. Coming home, traffic was heavy and I slowed down and stopped for traffic stalled in front of me. Suddenly, I realized that the vehicle, a black sports car, was inattentive and rammed right into my truck, pushing me several meters into the vehicle, a red Silverado, in front of me. The car was drivable to get home, and it was clearly the fault of the driver that hit me (who had good insurance) and so that lessened the pain of it all. In the process of sorting things out, USAA sent out an adjuster, who determined that my vehicle was totaled and not worth repairing, and gave me a generous quote for the vehicle. Once I finish my backpacking, Betsy and I will need to purchase a new pickup, and we will probably go again for a Toyota Tacoma, or possibly a Chevy Colorado. Meanwhile, USAA is going to pick up our truck and dispose of it where cars usually get dumped. It will be sad to see our vehicle go.
Meanwhile, Betsy has a moderate amount of work to accomplish around the house. We will be having the carpet removed from our stairs and upstairs landing, and get wood floors in these locations like we did to most of the downstairs. This is going to tie up her time for a few days and leave her without the ability to get upstairs easily while the workers reconstruct the stairway.
My return to the trail has been under contemplation. I did not anticipate being at home this long. The weather has been very rainy in the Northwest, making it a bit miserable for hikers out there. Typical NW weather is a constant drizzle, and the trail tends to be muddy, no matter how well the trail was designed. At this time, my greatest desire is to simply a) get in as many miles as possible on trail free from snow and mud, and b) get to Canada, since I had to apply for a special permit for that to happen. Thus, I am shortening my original intentions by about 200 miles, and will be starting my hike from Ashland. I anticipate reaching Timberline Lodge in the 1st to second week of August, popping home briefly, and then doing Washington, starting at a point that seems most reasonable at the time to permit me to reach Canada before winter sets in.
Greyhound will take me to Medford, Oregon. It is an overnight trip and will arrive early on Friday. I’ve spoken with a trail angel (Mike) who will pick me up and drop me off at the trail where it crosses I-5 about 10 miles south of Ashland. This means that I will be missing about 20 miles of the PCT in Oregon, but, that’s life. I’m anxious to get back on the trail and am trying the easiest approach possible to get me there. Psychologically, it is much easier to be going north, since I am then headed toward Canada. The snow should be easily manageable. My greatest problem will probably be mosquitos. If it hasn’t occurred to the reader, mosquitos are the bane of the backpacker. I regret how seriously this hike has been chopped up. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but then, I didn’t anticipate a record snow year for the trail. This was NOT the year to be doing the PCT.
So, I ask you to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I know that Betsy will be ok, but I don’t like leaving her when so much is happening on the home front. The Lord has so far been abundantly good to me, keeping me safe and without any serious problems on the trail or at home.
18 Words: The most Important Words You Will Ever Know, by JI Packer ★★★★★
Those of you who have followed my posts and book reviews should be aware that I am a fan of the writings of JI Packer. I took a class in Systematic Theology from him, and have deeply appreciated his insights, style of teaching, and way that he writes. JI Packer, more than anybody that I know, writes exactly like he teaches, the same style, vocabulary, and manner of presentation. Exceptional about Packer is how he can tackle very complex theological topics, like that of election, and make it extremely simple. This book is an example of how Packer will take theological topics and turn those topics into a lengthy lesson in practical theology. That has been JI Packer’s first statement on teaching theology, that right theology (orthodoxy) should evoke right living (orthopraxy) and worship. Each of the 18 words above comprise the 17 chapters of this book, with a preface explaining in more technical language exactly what he is up to. Only 17 chapters? Well, sanctification and holiness are both from the exact root in both Hebrew and Greek. There is no verbal form “holiness”, but there is the word “sanctification”, just as there is no adjectival form of sanctification, but holiness is the word that fits that category. So, from a Greek and Hebrew point of view, they are just different forms of the same word. How do all these technical theological words have significance for the Christian? That is best explained by reading this book by Packer. I’ve read many of the books that Packer has written, and certainly this text is one of his best. He shows insights from a lifetime of living and walking and teaching the Christian faith that are true gems in this book. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy to read. You won’t regret it.
I am again at home when I should be on the trail. The neck issue has been quickly addressed. I called up by dear friend Fred Bomonti, a retired chiropractor, who came over and did a few things to my back, and I now feel better. I still have some pain, but not the searing pain that I was experiencing a few days ago. I’ll see him at his office on Friday for a follow-up adjustment. There are things that chiropractors really are superb at fixing, and back/neck pain is one of them. I fear that throwing the pack on my back too soon will re-start the pain, and so wish to give it a bit of rest, and will delay a bit before jumping back on the trail.
It takes a while to get hiker feet, and my strength in walking has never been a problem. Because of my heart issues, I feared that strength to do the trail would be my greatest problem, but it hasn’t been. True, I am tired when I go to bed at night, but when I wake in the morning, I feel as strong as ever. I never question the wisdom of God is designing us to spend a ⅓ of our time unconscious and horizontal. It is a marvelous way get daily “maintenance” on the body. I also lost 25 lb since starting the hike in April, and feel much better. This hiking trip has been awesome for my general health. Twenty-five pounds is a lot of extra weight to be carrying every day, and I’m most happy to be rid of it. Hopefully, I don’t put too much back on before I return to the trail.
I have said before that I have chosen absolutely the worst year to be hiking the PCT. I couldn’t help it. I had to sign up in October, long before anybody knew what trail conditions were going to be like. I figured that since snow conditions were so high two years ago, snow would not be a problem this year, but it was. These conditions have led to three actions among hikers. 1. Push on through. For a few, this isn’t a bad decision, as they have the strength to push on and the knowledge of how to handle severe conditions. I don’t, and the overwhelming majority of those hiking the trail don’t have the capability, and many are getting into trouble because of that. 2. Quit. Many of my friends on the trail were content to do nothing but the desert, or to flip-flop, realize that there were no good areas (this year) to flip-flop to, and then quit, hoping to come back some other time because the trail conditions were so ugly. 3. Flip-flop with time off to let conditions improve and make it a multi-year hike. This will be my ultimate strategy. There is no consensus among hikers on the trail as to the best option.
When I started at the Mexican border, you might hike alone for half a day or more, but you would then see many people when you arrived at camp or if you stopped to rest. It was easy to get to know fellow thru-hikers. In the flip-flop mode, there are so few hikers on the trail, that the acquaintance of one day is certainly gone the next day. You meet the riff-raff hoi polloi out for their day hikes. This last segment, I met a young couple hiking from Timberline Lodge to as far north as they could get in a month. It was their honeymoon. They were WAY overpacked, so I suspect that they might call it at Cascade Locks or not too long afterward. It is quite easy to tell the real thru-hikers from the riff-raff on the trail.
There are four main segments of the PCT. 1. The Desert, 2. The High Sierra, 3. Northern California, and 4. Oregon and Washington. This year was a perfect year to hike the desert. It was green and gorgeous. Water was plentiful. It wasn’t burning hot. It was a joy to hike through. The high Sierra had 220% of average snowfall, the highest recorded in many areas, and the snow is not melting quickly. The high Sierra is usually pictured as lovely green meadows and granite lined lakes with many surrounding peaks. Right now, it is a bland sheet of whiteness. No thanks! Northern California also had record snowfalls with the snow not melting quickly. Thus, many areas remain impassable (at least, as recommended by forest rangers) at this time. Many areas of the Sierra, Northern California, and Oregon/Washington demand lengthy (multiple miles) of hiking through snow, which might not be dangerous, but definitely slows you down to under half your normal hiking speed. The risk of injury, getting lost, and other problems go up astronomically when hiking through snow. Other areas, if the snow is gone, still have the problem of intense blow-downs (fallen trees across the trail) which makes hiking the trail MUCH more difficult. I did the only portion of northern California where snow was not a dominant factor at this time of the year but even then, it was 2-3 very challenging miles of snow. In Oregon and Washington, matters are a bit different. Having grown up the Northwest, generally serious hiking at higher altitudes does not begin until late July or August. The PCT generally stays at these higher altitudes. Besides contending with snow, rain is a constant issue until late July, and insects, especially the mosquito and biting flies) are worst before August. If one was doing a typical PCT thru-hike, you would not be hitting Oregon and Washington until August/September, when conditions in the mountains are ideal. The last few days showed me swarms of mosquitos in many spots which did not even permit me to sit down and rest, lots of rain, and very muddy trails which leaves on feeling uncomfortably dirty. So, there are no good options for where and when to jump back on the trail.
With all of this in mind, I am in deep contemplation as to what to do next. This is now my third time to retreat and come home. Besides running up the cost of this venture far beyond what I expected and planned for, it is psychologically demoralizing. It is especially psychologically challenging to be hiking south when your goal is to eventually reach Canada! Assuming that my neck problem can be resolved to comfortable levels, I still wish to get in as much of the trail as possible. Too much of a good thing becomes a very bad thing, and the doldrums of the daily routine is also somewhat psychologically challenging. The adventure of discovering the trail seems to resolve most of those doldrums, though I find it incomprehensible that many would wish to hike the PCT (or AT) through many times over. I wish to complete as much of the trail as possible this year for several reasons. 1) It was my original intention, and I don’t wish to go against that, and 2) I am walking the trail as part of a hike-a-thon for the Huguenot Heritage, for whom I wish to raise as many funds as possible, and 3) most of the trail that I missed has intense beauty, and worth hiking.
I am definitely going to give my neck a few weeks of rest from the backpack. I wouldn’t mind doing an over-nighter with family or friends (Russ?), but definitely not longer out than 2-3 days. I’d like to perhaps do a car-camping trip with Betsy. Once I return to the PCT, which would be later in July or early August, my thought is to start either at Snoqualmie or Chinook Pass and hike north from there, preferably into Canada. By that time, the swarm of PCT hikers will then be coming through and I will again have company in my endeavor. Most of the snow will be gone. The insects will have died down. I will have missed from Walker Pass to Old Station, from Bridge of the Gods to Chinook/Snoqualmie Pass, and from Castella to Timberline Lodge. These are all areas that might be best to wait until next year, when weather and snow conditions are more favorable. If I recover quickly, maybe I’ll return to Timberline Lodge and complete the Timberline to Castella segment, and then come back and do the above. Next year, since I don’t need to worry about an exact “start” time, getting a permit to finish everything will be much easier to accomplish. Perhaps I might also find the right person to accompany me?
Changes? 1) I’ll go back to Altra Lone Peak shoes. I’ve actually found two blisters on my feet, one on my left medial first toe, and one on my right medial heel. The Lone Peaks did not give me such blisters. 2) The Tyvek is too slippery and doesn’t work well if there is any slope to where one is sitting. I found another simple pad which could fill other uses. 3) I’ll leave the flip-flop sandals at home as I never used them. 4) I’ll carry less food but more dinners. 4) I like the new hydration set-up and will stick with that. 5) I gave my Ursack to Chuckles as I was leaving the trail and she was having a serious problem with rodents eating into her food bag, even while hanging. I’ll get a black Ursack for this next time out. 6) I’ll try to limit my miles a bit more. 7) I’ll probably carry a larger battery backup since I’ll be on longer stretches without the possibility of recharging my iPhone or inReach PLB. 8) I’ll need to be a little better prepared for cold wet weather. Perhaps a thermal top would be appropriate.
What can you do to help? 1) Pray for me, that I might have health to continue, and safety in my travels. 2) Pray for good weather, minimal rain, cool conditions, few mosquitoes, no forest fires and minimal snow. 3) Consider meeting me at one of the resupply points (Snoqualmie, Stevens, Stehekin, or Manning Park, Canada) for a trail angel moment, 4) Provide me a ride to Chinook Pass as Betsy absolutely hates to drive in the mountains, and 5) sign up and pledge to support the ministry of Huguenot Heritage. I most certainly will not make all 2650 miles of the trail this year, but your pledges will keep me going for as far as I humanly can endure. Even I have pledged money per mile for the trail, but value the ministry of Huguenot Heritage sufficiently that I intend to donate as though I had hiked the entire PCT. You might consider the same. 6) Pray for Huguenot Heritage and III Millenium Ministries. The focus of this backpack trip should not be me but the many people who have given their lives and fortunes to bring the gospel to foreign speaking people. Francis Foucachon and others are laboring tirelessly to provide the materials that front-line missionaries and pastors need to minister to their flocks in foreign countries. Have a heart and pray that the gospel triumph through their work.
Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams all in the distance
I mentioned in my last post that I would resume my hike but now hiking in a southerly direction in order to delay hitting areas of excessive snowfall. Because I am using Guthook’s app to determine my mileage, I have Guthook’s set for a SOBO (south-bound) hike, which then gives mileage as calculated from the Canadian border. It will be confusing, but don’t worry: worse things could happen. You’ll still get my total mileage easily calculated, and if I’m at a distinct site, I’ll try to mention that when mentioning the S-mileage to help you know where I’m at. Cascade Locks is 2157 miles from the Mexican border, but 495 miles from the Canadian border. Guthook is actually calling Cascade Locks 406 miles from the Canadian border, perhaps including the 8 miles from the Canadian border to the road. In any event, I’ll use the Guthook mileage with an “S” before to indicate the difference in mileage accounting. Once I reach Castella, it will all be a moot point.
I am making a few minor changes. I’ll be carrying a small sheet of Tyvek to sit or lay on at rest stops.I’ll be using an Ursack, effective for bears, but most importantly for squirrels, chipmunks and mice that would love to eat your food. I will no longer carry micro-spikes, but go for a little heavier shoes should I need to kick steps in the snow.
I’m no longer using an internal hydration unit for many reasons, and have gone with an external system that always allows me to know what my water supply is doing.
So, I am constantly changing but always keeping my weight down. If I add weight, something else has to go. That’s the wisdom of the trail.
Yesterday, I took the train down to Vancouver and Gaylon picked me up. I was able to see his new abode, which looked quite nice. For some reason, I felt really gorked out and we crashed early. I didn’t sleep too well; somehow, getting back on the trail is becoming harder with every break. This time I knew that I would be away between 4-6 weeks-not cool.
30 JUN- S505-523 (2148-2130) I started on the Washington side of the Bridge of the Gods, Gaylon having dropped me off, wanting to get photos of me walking the bridge. Today was a true grunt day, climbing nearly 6000 feet. The weather could not have been better. Most of the thru-hikers have flip-flopped and were heading north. I passed about 5 pair/couples who have done that. They all mentioned some issues with snow, but suggested that by the time I reach those places (like Mt. Jefferson) the snow should be mostly gone. I’m still trying to take it slow and easy for now. I set up camp at Wahtum Lake, expecting to reach Timberline Lodge in 2 days. Mentally, the day was hard as it was a very long climb to start after a long break. I’m thinking that perhaps a zero day at Timberline or Odell Lake might be in order. One thing that has kept me going was a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that Betsy baked up just before I left Puyallup. Boy were they nice. I’m also finding myself back into hiker-brain, not wanting to think about anything but survival on the trail. It’s hard to read before bed, as the brain shuts down.
01JULY- mile 2130-2109 (523-544S) The weather started cloudless, and Wahtum Lake was most beautiful. I was on the trail by 6am knowing that I would need to go 21 miles. It wasn’t quite as much climbing as yesterday but still was fairly demanding. About 2 o’clock it started to sprinkle and I put the rain cover on my pack. Not much happened with that. The trail went on a ridge that had Bull Run Reservoir (the drinking water for Portland) on one side and Lost Lake on the other. From the trail you could not see Bull Run and multiple signs announced it off limits. Lost Lake could be seen, and it brought back memories of a camping trip with Betsy soon after we were married.
Before starting the Old Station to Castella section, I began to have terrible pains in my right neck. I could barely move my neck, and pain when trying to sleep became severe. Because I needed my full faculties of thought, I didn’t want to push the benzodiazepines (good for muscle relaxation) or narcotics to relieve the pain. On my short stay at home, most of this pain resolved. The pain began again soon after commencing hiking yesterday and today was unbearable. I could not look up or turn my head to either side without extreme pain. After setting up camp close to another thru-hiker headed south like me, Chuckles from Kotzebue, Alaska also noted that I was holding my head strangely and I explained to her the problem. The pain is extreme enough at this point that it might force me off the trail at Timberline. Tomorrow will tell.
02JUL- mile 2109- 2097
It rained through the night. My tent held true to the word and kept me very dry. I didn’t sleep much because of the neck pain. The rain had stopped by morning but it was quite misty. Chuckles woke up to wish me off. I left her a bunch of food as she was getting low, and planned on doing less than ten miles today, leaving her short of Timberline Lodge. She was a professional dog musher and was doing the trail to get into shape for next season. The trail was almost all upwards with several long climbs. I did the variant that passed Ramona Falls. The Sandy River was a very swift ford with sloppy rocks but I got across uneventfully though with wet feet and pants. At some point the mist increased and by the time I reached Timberline Lodge it was pouring down rain. To be expected, the trail had lengthy segments of mud, or rivers of water. More surprisingly I was told that the trail was snow free yet there were still lengthy segments of snow, some being a bit dangerous. This sort of weather and trail conditions are very typical for this time of year in the Northwest, but I guess I was thinking that I might luck out. By the time I reached Timberline Lodge, I could not even see the Lodge until I was right on it.
I neck continued to hurt severely. I couldn’t look to the side because of pain, so had to stop hiking and turn my entire body to see anything. The pain wasn’t as severe as yesterday, perhaps because of my lighter pack, but knew that I would be getting a 4-5 day supply of food for the next section and so might expect worse pain again. I picked up my resupply box and decided that I should have my neck looked at. My dear friend Fred Bomonti, a near retired chiropractor from Puyallup, said that he would see me the next day. I hopped a shuttle bus from Timberline Lodge to Sandy, another from Sandy to the Gresham MAX station, the MAX from Gresham to Union Station, and the Amtrak back home by 10pm. My dear lovely wife picked me up, and I could not be more happy to see her.
I’ll soon be writing another blog about my thoughts so far and how I plan on negotiating the future life on the trail so stay in touch.
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.
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.
17JUNE – mile 1410-1419
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My leg was going to need at least a week to recover, and I didn’t wish to wait it out in Tehachapi.
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.
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.
I need to strategize when and where I flip-flop up to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If I can fit in an overnight or two night backpack trip, perhaps with a grandkid, I’ll do that.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
06May – zero day, Acton KOA Today was restful, with well needed recovery.