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.

 

Bench Camp off the PCT

May 14 and 15, 2016

This weekend I backpacked a previously hiked portion of the PCT near Lake Arrowhead.  The weather was expected to be in the 60’s during the day and 40 something at night.  It was a little warmer than that but still not to warm.  It was a short 4.3 mile hike and the 7 of us made it in 2 hours and 25 minutes.  We saw plenty of PCT thru-hikers heading for Canada and we were able to talk to a few of them.  I am so in awe of these fellow hikers that are able to make this huge commitment to hike 2600 miles in about 5 months. Give up jobs, leave their loved ones, etc.  More later.

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Taking a break at Holcomb Creek.

After we set up our tents and ate our lunch we took a nice long break and then we headed out for late afternoon 5 mile hike.  We were told the trail we were about to take was up and down for 2 miles. It wasn’t a lie. It was 833 in elevation change.  We made it to the top of the trail and then headed toward Lake Arrowhead on a jeep trail.  It was such a good time.  Only 5 of the 7 of us decided to take the afternoon hike.  It was so cool to be out for a nice relaxed hike telling stories, joking around, etc.  It felt like we were a bunch of young teenagers out goofing around.  Something out of a movie, maybe “Stand by Me” minus the dead guy.

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My teenage friends (haha).

A little bit further and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Arrowhead that was captured by one of the girls.

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The rest of the hike was down hill and we made pretty quick tracks back down to the PCT and then back to camp.  But not before one of the guys decided to take a short cut over a fallen tree that was high above a gulley.  As for me, I took the safer trail.

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Perfect balance.

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A new hiking buddy.

I am still in search of the right formula to sleep out in the wilderness.  I recently purchased a wider lightweight air mattress and a warmer sleeping bag liner to help with the perfect formula.  I was much warmer but still having trouble falling asleep. We discussed several over the counter aids that I will be taking on my next overnight adventure.  After a long night of not much sleep we ate breakfast, packed up and headed back to town around 9:30 am and straight to a nice cafe for a burger and fries.

SIDE NOTE:  We had a PCT thru-hiker stay in camp with us on Saturday evening.  So we were able to ask her tons of questions. Here are my favorites.  It was a thrill to get a first hand perspective.  She was treated to a campfire, marshmallows, and Pinot Noir.  We wished her well as she left on Sunday morning at 7:30 am.

Question #1 What are the top 3 reasons you are hiking the PCT? Answer: For the physical challenge, mental challenge and for the spiritual journey.

Question #2  How were you able to do hike the PCT at this time of your life? Answer: She was able to quit her job.  Her boyfriend was staying home to take care of their home and the dog. Lucky girl.

Question #3: What does a hike away from home for about 5 months cost? Answer: She estimated about $5,000 to $6,000.

Another great weekend.  One step closer to a two day hike.

 

 

Viejo San Juan, El Morro and Shopping

imageTuesday we took to the streets of Viejo San Juan to see the sights and visit El Morro, the fort that guarded the island back in the day. It is a must see if you come to the island.

Restaurant Barrachina

Restaurant Barrachina

We also saw the birthplace (1963) and home of the Pina Colada.
Parque de las Palomas

Parque de las Palomas

We took my Mom to see the Parque de las Palomas as it was on her list of things to see. We followed that up with some shopping and then lunch at a local cafe that the trolley driver recommended. I think I have had my fill of tostones (fried plantains) and arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans).
Carne Frita, rice, beans and tostones.

Carne Frita, rice, beans and tostones.

imageWhen I was here many years ago and I tasted passion fruit juice aka Parcha. This time around I had it in a sorbet and also as a juice, it is my favorite and also an island favorite.

It’s been a great trip and the weather had been great. January is definitely the best month to visit as the humidity is not a problem at all.

Not for the faint of heart

South Fork Trail in Pearblossom, almost 12 miles on the side of a mountain, elevation gain 2,200.  And in some places I do mean the side of a mountain.  If you read the write up from another perspective you might think this is a relatively easy hike for someone who is a pretty seasoned hiker.  What the article doesn’t say is that if you are nervous about heights and do not enjoy hiking on the side of a mountain for 7 hours this hike is not for you.

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We had the best of the best hikers yesterday.  It was a small group of 6. We met in the Cajon Pass to carpool to the trailhead.  The group came from the Inland Empire, the San Bernardino Mtns. and the High Desert. We set out at 9 am and reached Islip Saddle, another point where the PCT intersects Highway 2 near Wrightwood.

The trail starts in a wash for about 1/2 a mile and then crosses a nice creek with a good amount of water and then heads up the side of a hill with a just a few switch backs and then begins the long climb along the west side of the mountain.  We pretty much walked on a ledge most of the way up.  The first mile was the most treacherous for me.  There were plenty of places where the mountain is mostly made of rock with lots of Slickensides and scree.  Ok, maybe not plenty but the first trail mile was mostly covered with it.  Focus was imperative to keep me from freaking out.

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Mark and I making our way up the trail. Slow and focused.

Once past the first mile the terrain changed from rock to forest and trees and some rock faces and became somewhat more enjoyable. The additional four miles on the ledge seemed like it took forever.  We reached the top in about 3 1/2 hours.  We took a nice lunch break and we headed back down the hill which I thought would be more difficult and I was dreading it as I knew I had to travel the same path and over those scary and what I felt were dangerous spots.

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We did enjoy some beautiful views.

I had realized  I had gained some confidence on the way up and the first 4 miles down the hill went by quickly and I was able to relax somewhat and enjoy the hike. Of course, the last mile was once again a challenge but we all made it down safely and I was so grateful for that.   I followed Mark  up and down the hill as he had a calming stride and gave me confidence as we crossed the difficult places on the trail.  He really helped me with this hike.

I have gained so many friends over the years while out on the trail.  Many I believe have been brought into my life for a reason and I have been truly blessed.

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He created this beauty for us to enjoy.

On a side note,  Thursday night I watched Grey’s Anatomy, coincidentally the episode was about a women hiker who had fallen off a mountain and ended up in the hospital and died.  This is what was going through my mind for the first part of the hike.  Not a nice way to start a hike like this one.  It is amazing how the mind works and can take over if you let it. Don’t let it.

Of course,  my strength and courage to complete this hike came from God.

Happy Easter.

 

Mexico to Canada on the PCT or Not

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The view of Big Bear before we disappear to the North side of the mountain.

This past weekend we hiked from Big Bear to Lake Arrowhead on the PCT.  It was a 24 mile journey and another opportunity to see how I feel about taking on the entire 2600+ miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

RC, WG and myself left on March 21, a Saturday morning around 9:30 from the trailhead at Cougar Crest near the Big Bear Discovery Center.  The weather was perfect with sunny skies, no wind and rather cool.  The plan was to hike 12 miles a day.  We had our maps, apps, WG’s hand-held GPS and my GPS watch.  We were each carrying about 32-34 pds in our backpacks including food and water.

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WG and RC making their way over the snow-covered trail.

We hiked 2.0 miles up to the PCT and started around mile 276.4 on the PCT. The trail was clear for a while and then we reached the north side of the mountains where we encountered our first snow.  We walked in and out of snow on the trail most of the first day.  It slowed us down some but we made it to Little Bear Springs in about 6.5 hours and to our surprise found an outdoor bathroom which opened up to the stars (no roof).   It was super clean.  We had only walked about 10 miles and decided that this was a nice place to set up camp for the evening.  The camp also included a picnic table,  fire ring and a spring nearby to filter or boil water.  We setup camp, RC (aka Firestarter) started a nice fire and we each ate our own dinners that we had packed in.  It was a great first day.  We also had a guest camper from Ohio who was traveling through western United States.

The night was crisp and I thought I would sleep well, but I didn’t.  If I was able to sleep a couple of hours I would have been happy.  The moon was almost full, so it appeared like the light was on all night from the inside of my tent.  Finally around 4 or 5 am the moon went down behind a mountain and it turned dark. Still no sleep.  The temperature dropped below freezing at one point as some bottled water left on the table was frozen.  I was pretty warm in my down sleeping bag.  Not sure why I haven’t managed to sleep while camping in the last year and a half.  I was not going to let it ruin my second day.

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We all got up around 7:30 or 8 am and packed up our tents and backpacks and headed down the trail again.  If I remember correctly the snow was behind us and now it was time to cross Holcomb Creek a few times.  We also started to see hikers coming from Mexico.  They had begun their journey around March 2.  They were traveling light and moving what I thought was a much faster than us.  However in the last 3 miles we had caught up to one of them taking a break and getting fresh water from an underground spring.  So, slow and steady still makes good time. The three water crossings were quite the challenge as the water was deeper than we expected.  At the last water crossing, we ended up taking our hiking shoes and socks off and walking through the cold water which was super refreshing.  We left our shoes off and walked to a nearby place to enjoy a snack.  It felt great to take a break and ground my feet with the earth for about 15 minutes.  It gave me the energy to finish the hike.  We were now about 5 miles from the end of the trail.  The last mile was a bit difficult as my feet were pretty tired and my brain was trying to tell me I wasn’t going to make it and my heart was telling me to push through to the end.  We finished 14 miles in 6.5 hours.  Super happy with the second day and being able to do an additional 4 miles in the same amount of time.

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I made an interesting comparison to my time on the Camino.  I was worried about the last two miles as we would be arriving in the late afternoon and walking through a desert like landscape.  As on the Camino, my God was with me and provided a nice breeze all the way to the car. Amazing……. There were a few other places on the trail when I felt Him with me as He was with me in Spain.  I made some great strides and conquered some fears, washed out trails, crossing a creek via a log about 2-3 feet above the water and hiking over snow-covered trail on a ledge without micro-spikes.  It’s amazing to me how my relationship with my heavenly Father seems to grow out on the trail. Why was I worried?  He always takes care of us.

As for taking on the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada… the jury is still out.  We are planning another 3 day backpacking trip to San Bernardino Peak in May.  I would like to see if I can sleep better.  I will be making some adjustments to my sleep system.  A wider airpad  and a flannel insert for my sleeping bag.  As for my food I was happy with my choices.

Until the next adventure…..

 

 

 

 

 

Backpacking on the PCT near Deep Creek

Aside

My goal this year was to do a beginner backpacking trip. Some friends of mine and I scheduled a backpack trip for September. However, I recently joined a new meet-up group from the local mountains in the Crestline, Lake Arrowhead area. The group scheduled a short backpacking trip on the PCT in the Deep Creek area near Lake Arrowhead this weekend and I decided to go so that I would be prepared for our September hike.

I have been buying my lightweight equipment in preparation for my backpacking so I was ready to go.
PCT to Bench CampWe were going to start at 12 noon but were held up by the Forest Service for a couple of hours because of a person who decided they wanted to cut down a tree and then changed their mind. The Forest Service had to go in and take it down and clear the road. No big deal as we were able to spend extra time hydrating before we got on the trail at 2 pm. It was a warm day but there was a nice breeze to keep us cool.

The guys taking a break

The guys taking a break

Our group consisted of 3 men and 3 women. We made the 4 mile trek to camp in about 2 1/2 hours. My pack weighed in at about 28 pounds. There were a couple of packs weighing in over 36 pounds including sixty something year old LoriAnn’s. She was a trooper.

Bench Camp

Bench Camp

We setup our tents and then gathered wood for the fire. The guys carried in a small shovel, axe and saw to cut up wood and get the campfire started. We cleaned up as best we could and then settled in by the campfire to cook hotdogs. Joe brought leftover Thai food for his dinner. His dinner smelled good but my Johnsonville Brats were tasty and a nice treat as I don’t often eat hotdogs.

Eating Breakfast

Eating Breakfast

Joe giving me a water filtering lesson

Joe giving me a water filtering lesson

We woke up this morning to another campfire compliments of Raquel’s husband, John. I brought Oatmeal which I made using my new Jetboil. Pretty cool purchase. Before we packed up and headed back to the cars Joe gave me a water filtering lesson using the creek water. It’s important to filter creek water so it’s safe for drinking.

Joe, Raquel, and Lori Ann almost back to the cars

Joe, Raquel, and Lori Ann almost back to the cars

Our trip back was a little easier as our packs were somewhat lighter. We made better time as it was mostly down hill. It was a great trip and my equipment was perfect. There are very little changes that need to be made.

The gnats were a problem

The gnats were a problem

The gnats kept buzzing my head so I put on a bug net that Raquel gave to me. It worked great. I can now say I have hiked the PCT. Albeit just a small piece of it. But I definitely have the bug to hike the rest of it. Even if I have to do it in Sections.

Spring is in the Air

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It is that time of year again. The weather has been amazing. Patty and I have decided to start the season hiking the local mountains via the Cajon pass. There is plenty of hiking via the PCT and we hope to get in as many miles as possible before the summer heat shows up.IMG_0537Two weeks ago we hiked 10 miles starting at the McDonalds in the pass. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed the weather and the trail. Yesterday we hiked the 14 miles via the PCT from Silverwood Lake to the McDonalds. I picked up Patty at 6:30 am and we headed over to Silverwood Lake to start our day. Little did we know that it would be 38 degrees at 7 am. Patty kicked it in to high gear and we headed down the trail. After about 15-20 minutes we started to warm up, the sun came up shortly after that and we were able to shed our jackets.IMG_0564 Once we reached the top of the first ridge we could see the lake in the distance. From there we traveled alongside the mountains for miles without incident. We made great time and finished the hike in 5 hours. We killed it. Although we are enjoying the hikes one of our objectives is to burn calories, the views have been a bonus.
IMG_0567 Today I introduced Juli and Paul to the Pacific Crest Trail to get them familiar with the trails. It was a cool morning as we headed down the same trail from McDonalds. They loved the views and the trails. The flowers are blooming like crazy as you can see from the photos above. After our nice 3 hour hike we treated ourselves to ice cream at McDonalds. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.IMG_0579