Trail Angels at Splinter’s Cabin

Today our Mountain Communities Hiking Adventures Group hosted a free lunch for the Pacific Crest Hikers coming through the Lake Arrowhead section of the PCT.  The group all chipped in to volunteer their time, talent and groceries to feed the PCT hikers who were more than excited to have some fresh food out on the trail. We provided hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, chips, kale salad mix, fruits, cookies, candy, nuts, granola bars, soda, water and more.

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The guys on the bbq and one of the hikers with a to go baggie full of her favorites, M&M’s, cherry tomatoes, chips and celery.

We had a couple of guys on the bbq’s, Johnny and Roberto who did an excellent job. We served 70 hamburgers and quite a few hot dogs.  The veggie burgers and kale salad were a big hit as were the apples and cuties.  The hikers don’t get many fruits and veggies on the trail.

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The girls went out to check on the signs showing them the way to the free lunch.

This morning two of our fellow hikers went out 3 miles to set out signs to entice the hikers to stop by for a free lunch.  The hikers started coming in a few at a time and by 1 pm we had over 25 hikers who were super excited to see us and the feast we had set out just for them.  We had so many nice compliments – “It was the best spread they had seen in the first 300 miles.” “Name brand soda, this is awesome.” to quote a few.

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The spread

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Hikers enjoying a break in their day and a nice lunch.

The hikers surprised me as I thought they would eat and get back on the trail.  Many of them stayed for hours to chat with us, other hikers or lay out and take a nap.  The hikers started in Campo, CA which is at the Mexican Border and have hiked almost 300 miles in 30 to 45 days. They still have to hike an additional 2,350 miles to reach the Canadian border.

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A hiker checking his phone while he has cell service. Cell service is not always available in the wilderness.

Coincidentally the Forest Service was out cleaning up litter from the non-hikers who come out to this area to drink and party and leave their trash behind.  Part of this event was to do trash clean up as well so it was great to have them there today.

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US Forest Service enjoying lunch after trash pickup.

It was such a great way to spend the day chatting with hikers from all over the world…. Germany, Israel, Taiwan, France, Estonia, Canada and from the US …. Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, New York, Washington, California, Hawaii and Pennsylvania and many more places. I even got a few new tips for my future backpacking trips from what kind of food to take to how to shave weight from my heavy pack.

We are now officially Trail Angels of the PCT and we will hopefully make this a yearly tradition.

The definition of a trail angel I found online. 

They are all part of a small network of outdoor Samaritans called “trail angels.”

These self-appointed volunteers assist long-distance hikers on one of the most grinding outdoor challenges in the world — comparable, many say, to summiting Mt. Everest. And they do it with little or no compensation, other than the grateful smiles and a chance to share in the adventure of the PCT.

Zephaniah’s Promise Ranch

Labor Day Weekend I spent a few days at Zephaniah’s Promise Ranch in Goldendale, WA volunteering my time and talents. I took my horse Mac up there a little over three years ago to live in green pastures and help the children learn and experience ranch life.  I found Mac to be healthy and happy and with a few pasture buddies to keep him company.  It turns out that Mac with all of his Parelli training over the years has been a great asset to the program and kids.

Steve took on Mac as his primary horse and caretaker. They get along so well.  It warmed by heart to see the relationship.  Steve and Mac are still working on their relationship but they have made great strides in three years. I was able to give him some ideas on how to improve the relationship.

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While at the ranch I helped to feed and cleanup and even had the opportunity to help build some pasture fencing.  Robin took this really cool pic with Mt. Hood in the background.  They have the best views from every acre on the ranch.  I had a great time reconnecting with Steve while working on the fencing.

Robin has come so far in her horsemanship.  They rescued Remy sometime back and Robin has taken her on as a project horse and a companion.  While I was visiting I was able to help her get Remy to be more responsive and light. She also needed to learn how to get Remy in the trailer. We spent three days playing the Parelli games and teaching Remy how to jump in the trailer without fear or intimidation.  By the third day she had all four feet in the trailer.  Robin also spent some time in the saddle working on her riding. Success.

Mac and Remy are both used in the kids program, so the time Steve and Robin spend on their horsemanship helps keep the horses tuned up in the off season.  They can also pass on these relationship tools to the children to keep them safe around the horses.

In addition to the horses, Robin and Steve have planted garden beds and a nice chicken coup.  The garden is flourishing and the hens are laying eggs on a daily basis.  The kids also get to learn about taking care of chickens and how to manage a garden.  I had the benefit of enjoying fresh eggs and fresh vegetables and herbs all weekend. What a nice treat.

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We also took time on Sunday afternoon to visit an Alpaca Ranch.  These animals are so cute and so inquisitive.  They were so well taken care of.  The alpacas get trimmed once a year and their fiber (fur) is used to make scarves, sweaters, rugs and much more.

I came away from the weekend with a great appreciation for what Steve and Robin Mock are doing at Zephaniah’s Promise Ranch.  The ranch is a non-profit ranch with all donations going directly to maintaining the horses and providing free equine experiences for children.

You can donate to the ranch in a variety of ways.  You can mail a check directly to the ranch at  11 Stirrup Lane, Goldendale, WA 98620. If you would like to receive a newsletter or contact Steve or Robin Mock you can email them at info@zpranch.org or by phone at 509-773-ZPR1.

Here are some donation ideas to ponder

  • Every month grains are purchased for the horses as a supplement to the hay to help with digestion and provide additional nutrients: beet pulp, soymeal, alfalfa pellets, and Senior feed. The average cost of a bag of grains is ($20).
  • Bale of hay ($10.50). Approximately $65 would provide enough hay for 1 horse for 1 month.
  • Purchase a blanket for the winter months ($200).
  • Heater for the additional water troughs we have this year ($50).
  • Farrier cost to trim hooves at $30 per equine.
  • Veterinary Services vary ( $50 to $100).
  • Pasture fencing
    • A box of screws for the fencing is ($35).
    • The fencing used prices out to about $7 per foot so a 9 foot section is about ($63).

The other way you can donate is to buy your Amazon products via Smile Amazon. Use your current username and password or create a new one.  You will be asked to pick your own charitable organization, enter Zephaniah’s Promise Ranch. A portion of your purchase will be sent to the ranch.

I hope you can find it in your heart to send a donation of any size. Any donation will make a difference.  Your donation is tax deductible.

Robin and Steve have taken great care not to mix their personal expenses with the ranch expenses.  You can be assured your donations will go directly to the kids program and the horses.  Thank you for supporting this amazing program.

Flores Family Vacation

Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes

August 25 – 27, 2016

This year the Flores Family scheduled a family vacation to Mammoth.  My brother and his family have been going here for years.   My sister, Kim and I decided to tag along this year.  My brother Henry couldn’t make it, so I brought his daughter Brijene with me.  Hopefully next year my sister Diana and brother Henry can join us.

Of course, I did my research and planned some hikes for those who were up for it.   The first day we hiked a short 5 miles to the Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls as I did not want to burn anyone out.  Not much elevation gain.  Everyone made it back and felt the first day was perfect for a warm up.

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Skelton Lake

Day 2, Duck Pass trail with lots of lakes to see. Option one, 5.4 miles round trip to Barney Lake, elevation gain 1,094. Option two, Duck Pass 8 + miles, elevation gain 1,736. I warned everyone the first part of this hike would be steeper than day 1.  Patty and Lynn decided to shoot for “Option one” as they have not been hiking to the level that they would like.  My nieces decided to go up to Duck Pass with me as they are both softball players and are in tip top shape.

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The girls with Barney Lake as a backdrop

We took a quick a break at Barney Lake with Patty and Lynn and then headed up to Duck Pass before the sun was overhead.  It was another 1.3 miles, so we made pretty quick time.  The view of Duck Lake on the back side of Duck Pass was amazing.  The lake was much bigger than I expected.

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Panoramic view of Duck Lake

We had a lunch break and then headed back down to the trailhead with a quick stop at Arrowhead Lake.

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Arrowhead Lake

Maddison turned 18 this week so we celebrated her birthday with the best Cajun Seafood BBQ including lobster, crab legs and shrimp.  So yummy.  I was waiting for the bears to show up for their share.

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Happy Birthday, Maddison. Schat’s birthday cake to finish off the wonderful dinner.

Day 3,  We changed our hiking plans.  Adrian suggested hiking Dragon’s Back Trail off the backside of Mammoth Mountain.  He said it was pretty easy and included beautiful views.  I was a little concerned as it was pretty steep.  It would be a short hike of 4 miles as we would take the Gondola up to the top and hike down from 11,000 ft and end in the Twin Lakes campground with the total feet descended of 2,300.  I had reason to be concerned as the first part of the hike was all exposed with lots of hiking on loose gravel.

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My first clue  that this was going to be grueling

About two thirds of the way down I felt a little better about the trail.  Lots of trees on the trail to catch me should I slip off the trail.

We stopped at the Bottomless Pit for a break and then headed down to the bottom of the trail and back to camp with a stop at the camp store for an ice cream treat compliments of Patty.  Well earned.

Meanwhile back at camp the rest of the crew had been catching fish in the lakes and streams and they  even took a trip to Tioga Pas where they caught a bunch of fish in a creek that they found on a previous trip.

This was an amazing trip.  Can’t wait to do this again next year.

NOTE:  Met lots of backpackers hiking the John Muir Trail and got some great information for some backpacking trips for next year.

Hershey Kiss Hike

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Day two in the Sierras took us to Chocolate Lakes, Ruwau Lake and Long Lake.  We had originally planned to hike to Bishop Pass, however after day one of hiking we thought we would do something a little less strenuous.

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Susie, Raquel and Marilyn

The trailhead was at South Lake.  The elevation was going to be 1,785, we started at 9,768 and hiked up to 11, 154 in 5 1/2 hours.  This was another strenuous hike, but the views were the payoff.  We passed Bull Lake and three Chocolate Lakes. Raquel and Marilyn are regular hiking buddies, we always have a great time out on the trail.  We also share the love of the Lord which makes it extra special.

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Chocolate Peak aka “A Hershey Kiss”

As you can see from the photo above, the Chocolate Lakes were named after the Chocolate Peak shaped as a Hershey Kiss.

Trivia:  What some of you may not know about me is that when I worked for Verizon I had the opportunity to travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania where Hershey Chocolate is made. We actually went to the Corporate offices where chocolate was served in every conference room and the entire building smelled of chocolate and the street lights where shaped as Hershey Kisses. Yummy.

After the third lake we headed up a steep rocky trail which was several hundred feet.  I was glad to be going up the trail instead of down.  We took several breaks to catch our breath as the elevation gain was quite intense.  Once we reached the top we were rewarded with another beautiful lake, Ruwau Lake.  We took a short lunch break before heading down to Long Lake.

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Our group contained hikers ages 30 s0mething to 60 something. All of the hikers are very well seasoned and hike well together as a group.  We had perfect weather all weekend.  The Sierras offer some great hikes but I don’t think there are any easy hikes here.

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Mark and Allen spent part of the day fishing in Long Lake

On our way back to the trailhead we picked up Mark and Allen who spent part of the day fishing.  Allen was able to catch a fish which was marinated and bbq’d by Bill.  It was the best trout I have ever tasted.  I am usually not a fan of trout but Bill changed that with his preparation techniques. Another great day with the most excellent views.

 

Trusting Him and Walking on the Moon

This weekend I went to the Sierras outside of Bishop and stayed in the Big Trees Campground with our meetup group.  We headed out on Thursday at noon and arrived around 4 pm after stopping at Schat’s Bakery, a famous bakery in Bishop.

We setup our tents, BBQ’d dinner and some of the group played Frisbee to unwind from the 4 hour ride to camp.

IMG_0512The next morning a few of us dropped off a couple of cars at the end of the trail and then picked up the others to start our hike near South Lake.  The plan was to hike to the 5 Tyee Lakes and on to Lake Sabrina where we left the cars. It is a about 8 – 10 miles and a 2400 ft. vertical elevation gain. We had a nice variety of hikers.

I was the coordinator for the weekend, so it is on me to make decisions for the group, make sure everyone is safe, etc.  A situation arose that prompted me to worry and get upset.  As I tend to do when I hike alone, I started a conversation with our Lord and as he always does, he presented a solution and the rest of the day went really well.  He never fails us.  I am convinced that part of the reason that hiking has been brought into my life is to strengthen my relationship with God.  I have found so much clarity on the trail.  I feel so blessed.

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The first Tyee Lake

The first few miles to the first lake were all uphill.  We saw many backpackers coming down the hill after spending some time in the wilderness.  We took a break, made some adjustments and continued on to the next 4 lakes before heading up a long set of steep and sandy switchbacks.  Once we reached the top after 6 miles and about 4 hours we were “Walking on the Moon”.

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Mark and Marilyn on Table Mountain at 11,360 ft

There was not much of a landscape other than sand and  rocks.  It reminded us of what it might look like on the moon.  We were over 11,000 ft.  This is the highest elevation I have ever hiked.  The hardest part of the hike was now behind us and now onto the last leg.  We headed up and over the moon and back into the trees and then down a long steep, rocky set of switchbacks.  I’m okay going uphill on the steep trail, not so much on the downhill.  I kept my eyes on the trail and took my time as my fellow hikers just zipped down the hill.  I was lucky enough to be hiking with Mark who stays close by to encourage me and keep me calm on these down hill trails.  I have hiked with Mark a few times on some pretty steep trails.

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We passed Lake George on our way down and then finally reached Lake Sabrina.  The views of Lake Sabrina as we finished up our hike were amazing.  We also had a view of a beautiful waterfall in the background. The hike took us 7 hours.  We then headed back to camp for a delicious Spaghetti Potluck which was a great end to a beautiful day.

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Girl Power and a Peak

June 3-5, 2016

This weekend we backpacked in the San Bernardino Mtns.  Our goal was San Bernardino Peak at 10,649 ft.  I have hiked this trail many times before and had only made it to Limber Pine once in the snow.  I have to mention I was a bit nervous going to the top as I have had some elevation sickness at over 10,000 feet and my fear of heights still lingers.

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Two miles into the hike.

We started out early on Friday morning as the weekend promised to be extremely hot. Up at 4:30 am to leave the house by 5 am to pick up Raquel in Cedar Pines Park / Crestline and then over to Angelus Oaks to meet JR at the trail head at 7 am.

We head up the trail at a slow pace as we were all carrying our packs with food for two days and water for at least a day.  My pack weighed in at about 35 pounds. We found out we would be able to get water above Limber Pine Camp.  The last time Raquel and JR attempted this hike was in November and it took them 5.5 hours to go 4.2 miles.  Friday, Raquel made it in 2.5 hours and JR and I made it in 3 hours.  Girl Power prevailed.  We have all been training over the last 6 months and have all gotten stronger and it seems faster.

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Raquel on her way back up with Beth.

After a short break Raquel headed back down to the trail head to get our fourth hiker, Beth. She sailed down the hill in two hours and was back with Beth in 3.5 hours.  Talk about girl power, Raquel completed 12 arduous miles that day.  Needless to say she was one tired girl.  Unfortunately, Beth was sick through the night and left on Saturday morning.

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Limber Pine Spring

Saturday morning, the three of us got up early to head to the peak.  It took us a little over an hour to get to Limber Pine, 1,120 in elevation and about mile and a half.  We made pretty good time.  After we took a short break we stopped at the spring to get enough water to get to the peak.  While out on the trail we always filter water before drinking it.  You never know what kind of bacteria can be in this clean and fresh looking water.  Side Note: This spring eventually dries out sometime in the summer.  We were glad to have access to it.  As you can see there is still plenty of water.  It saved our backs and legs from carrying enough water for two plus days.  As it was I carried too much water.

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Finally summited San Bernardino Peak. Happy girl.

We continued on to San Bernardino Peak which was about two more miles and an additional 1,289 in elevation.  I was enjoying the hike and the trail was well maintained.  Nothing to worry about.  There were lots of hikers on the trail as this is a very popular hike.

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Snack break with JR.

We enjoyed the peak, had a snack, talked to a few hikers and then headed back down to camp.

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Interesting tree on the trail.

We stopped at the spring to get enough water for the rest of the day and for the next morning.  We always make good time on our way down.  We were  back at camp in no time.  We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, played cards and had some dinner.

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My tent with a nice view of the sun setting.

We enjoyed beautiful sunsets and a nice view of the city lights from our campsite. I finally slept well on Saturday night with the help of melatonin, sleep aid and finally ZzzQuil. I think I found the formula.  I also experienced sleeping without the roof on my tent.  I had a view of the stars from my sleeping bag.  Raquel experienced Cowboy camping  (Camping under the stars without a tent) for the first time and enjoyed it.

Daybreak came around 5 am and I enjoyed some hot cocoa with the help of my Jet Boil to heat up some fresh spring water.  We packed up and left around 8 am.

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Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

Joe from our Meetup group decided to meet us on the trail as he wanted to get in a 6-8 mile hike. We found out he had never hiked this trail before. After we met up with Joe we continued down the hill.  A hiker coming up the hill stopped to warn us that a rattlesnake had just crossed the trail and had made himself at home under a rock.  I was not looking forward to having to cross his path.  I hate snakes.  As we approached Joe and Raquel had stopped to take pictures and videos.  I was freaking out,  Joe stood between me and the snake and I ran past and kept going.  I called back to the others and urged them to keep going.  JR and I kept going.  We made it down the hill in less than 2 hours.

Meanwhile back at the snake.  Joe and Raquel decided to encourage the snake to make his way up the hill so as not to scare anyone else or bite anyone.  If you are not queasy you can see the results here,  Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.  JR and I talked about how many times we stop for breaks and find a rock to sit on.  In the future we will be checking the surrounding area before taking a seat. Did I tell you that I hate snakes?

We had a great weekend.  The best backpacking trip yet and we were able to get out of the heatwave.  The weather was much more enjoyable in the mountains.

Until next time ……

Hitchhikers – Pay It Forward

May 23, 2016

This weekend I spent two days in Wrightwood on the PCT.  The trail is still full of PCT thru-hikers which is always a treat.

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Hiking in the Clouds.

Friday I hiked with Patty and a friend of hers from the I.E.  The weather was super cool, in the 40’s with the wind blowing about 15 mph.  We headed off on the PCT from Grassy Hollow Visitors center North toward Vincent Gap which is about a 3.5 mile hike one-way with a mere 715 elevation change. We walked in and out of the clouds and had some beautiful views.

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Patty, Betsy and the purple Lupine.

We took a break at Vincent Gap and we chatted with a PCT hiker from Scottsdale.  He told us about his first 375 miles on the trail.  I was able to imagine his journey as he talked. I have been following hikers over the last few years and I knew the places of which he spoke.  It was such a thrill for me to talk to an actual hiker from the trail.  I know it sounds silly.  I told Patty the the hikers were like movie stars to me.  Silly, right?

We headed back to Grassy Hollow and made good time. We jumped in the car and headed back to Wrightwood for lunch. After a mile or so on the road we saw some thru-hikers hitchhiking with hopes for a ride back to town.  I, of course,  had to pull over to give them a ride to town. They would be taking Saturday off as a NERO ( 0 miles hiked) day.  I was excited to meet them and hear more stories of the trail and my chance to pay it forward.  You might remember my experience on the Camino de Santiago and accepting a ride from a stranger.  We were able to fit 3 hikers and their huge backpacks in the car.  One of them was glad to get in the back with the backpacks so as not to be left behind.  We found out that the 3 of them had met on the AT (Appalachian Trail) which is a similar trail on the east coast. Two of them ended up as a couple and were now hiking the PCT.  I am guessing there must be several love stories a year on the PCT.

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Maureen, Joe, Susie, David and Raquel

Sunday, Mountain Communities Hiking Adventures group and I started out at Vincent Gap and headed up to Baden-Powell, another 4 mile hike.  However, this hike had an elevation gain of about 2,,800 ft. one way.  I had hiked Baden-Powell in 2013 so I knew what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised that this time the hike seemed more like a moderate hike rather than the strenuous hike that it was 3 years ago.  My stamina and strength has greatly improved.  We took a nice break at the top.  I, of course had to stay away from the edges as we were at 9,399 ft and it was a long way down in every direction.  My fear of heights gets better the more I hike, but I still get a queasy stomach in certain situations.

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So, we begin our descent back to the parking lot.  The trail had some snow in the last mile to the top so we had to make our way through the same snow.  It was slippery so we took our time.  This group is so great about helping each other and offering a helping hand or moral support as needed.  I am lucky to be part of the group.

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MK, Susie, Bamboo, and Mash

As we headed back down the trail, I hear “Are you the one that gave us a ride to town on Friday?”  It was the three hikers we had given a ride on Friday.  What a nice surprise to see them again.  We chatted for a few minutes and they told us what a great time they had in Wrightwood. Raquel offered to take the photo above and I am glad she did.  It was another great day on the trail and we had cool weather which is always nice when you are hiking.