Monday, April 14, 2014
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Today I began hiking at 5:30 AM by headlamp. The sunrise was so spectacular I don't have words to describe it- the changing light, sweeping views down into the valley, and a sea of wildflowers. I was awestruck. If I had known just how absolutely mindblowingly gorgeous the PCT was, I would have spent more of my PCT preparation time on looking up synonyms for "wow" and "spectacular" cause that's all I can think to say.
I hiked my first "12 before 12" which means 12 miles before noon. It's a good strategy in the heat to hike in the cool of the morning and take several hours siesta midday, and then hike more in the evening.
Today was so windy it felt like walking in the ocean- we had to lean forward, and we kept getting tossed around, even our hiking poles felt like they were flying out of our hands.
I'm hanging from two really small trees along Chariot Canyon Road (at mile 63) that keep getting knocked around in the wind. I really hope they stay upright through the night. It was tough finding a hang site with all the big burned trees covered in poison oak.
Friday, April 11, 2014
In the morning, we followed a ribbon of trees along verdant Long Canyon Creek. The sound of flowing water was enchanting and I was awed by the giant trees. A guy from Brooklyn named In the Weeds got his feet muddy scrambling down the bank to get water. Renee and I waited to get water at the "ford" which was more of a step-over-easily.
As we climbed higher, we reached pine forest. We delighted in the dappled shade, watched birds, and enjoyed the pine scents.
Today was our first town stop, Mt. Laguna. We saw Lande, Sasquach, Amanda, and a bunch of other people I already forgot their names. Instead of being social and staying in town, we focused on town chores so we could head back to the trail. I inhaled lunch, got my phone charged, bought groceries and a new pair of socks, rinsed my dirty socks in the sink behind the closed visitors center (photo of Renee and I with our socks in the bathroom sink below), triple checked the water report, and made a plan for the next few days. Phew!
During the morning climb out of Hauser Canyon, Susan and I decided to make up fanciful names for all the flowers. We were getting frustrated not knowing the real names for all these unfamiliar plant since we are we are biologists from the southeast. The names we came up with all sounded like food we wished we could be eating: cantaloupe sorbet (for the orange mimulus), purple peach smoothie (a hairy lupine), muscadine polenta (nightshade), borscht (purple lathyrus), Thai basil eggplant curry (another purple phacelia). I don't know why it was so much easier and more satisfying to make observations once they had our fanciful names. Plus, we laughed all morning.
At Lake Morena, we made a beeline for the ranger station, and were delighted to find a binder with all the local plants. Now, my camera has photos of all the pages, so I can learn the real names.
We also had a third botanical breakthrough- meeting a woman named Landy from Montana who did vegetative surveys and knew some of the plants. How cool!
We have our first PCT story: In the afternoon after our siesta at around mile 23, we encountered a border patrol agent detaining an immigrant. As we walked past them, he asked us if we'd seen anyone else running away. (we hadn't) Further down the trail, we then came upon another border patrol agent who had sprained or broken his ankle. He asked if he could borrow Renee's hiking pole to use to get down the mountain. By the time she gave him her pole, the other agent arrived escorting the kid. We ended up following the three of them down the mountain. Apparently, they'd been chasing a whole group of immigrants for the past two days, until there were just two left. The guy that got away had paused when seeing the agent got hurt, and asked him if he was OK before running off. It was so interesting to hear parts of the story and watch the interactions. The injured guy hobbled slowly and looked to be on a lot of pain, but tried to act tough. We followed them to their vehicles at the road crossing, and he thanked us for use of the pole. Quite a fascinating glimpse into border issues.
Hanging my hammock this evening at Fred Canyon, at mile 32. We are camped with Landy and a couple from Washington state named Chuck and Sally who are hiking for 100 days at a relaxed pace- very nice. Another great day!
PS I will upload the photos from my camera and answer comments next time I have wifi- still getting used to blogging from the trail.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
This was my first day on the PCT. We arrived at Campo with about 10-15 other hikers that stayed at Scout and Frodo's house or with Girl Scout. They are trail angels who host hikers, were highly organized and very hospitable, provided an incredible dinner and then a frittata breakfast, and transported us from the airport to their house and then to the trailhead. All without accepting even a donation. Incredible!
It was awkward doing all the photos at the border- I just wanted to get on the trail. But soon enough we started walking. At first, we hiked with some other women, then the groups spread out and it was less uncrowded, and I relaxed. I was amazed at how peaceful it was, birds chirping, quiet, except for our excited chatter.
Other hikers are wearing skirts (or kilts) and dirty girl gaiters, carrying umbrellas, and are as excited to be out here too. This makes me feel like I've found 'my tribe.'
Monday, April 7, 2014
|Susan's house because PCT-prep central. Renee and I repair gear, while Susan dehydrates meals.|
|Extra wide tall gaiters so they are sun-protective, breezy, and completely dorky.|
|Fashion photo shoot of the PCT So.Cal. "outfit"|
You might notice that I decided to go with a long sleeved shirt, rather than my short sleeved shirt plus arm sleeves that I normally wear in the southeast. I'd been debating about this previously, and ended up buying a new Railrider's shirt since I saw how Renee's kept her so cool on the southwest tour. The arm sleeves were just too hot. I am also starting in a skirt, but will put the railrider pants in my bounce box in case I want to switch.
Other last-minute gear changes have also saved me a few ounces. Polycro ground cloth from Gossamer Gear instead of tyvek. New tree straps from Dutchware (thank you Dutch!). Lifeproof fre iphone case instead of an otterbox. Only one bandana, only one pair of underwear, only one set of gloves (unless you count the sun wristies).
Speaking of gear, a huge thank you to Randy of Dream Hammocks for replacing the continuous loops on my Darien UL hammock! And thank you so much to Renee for hand carrying my hammock to the Dream Hammock World Headquarters (i.e. Randy’s basement workshop) while she was in Ohio so my hammock would have no chance of getting lost in the mail. I’m so fortunate to have a hiking partner that understands, or at least accepts, my hammock-obsession.
The week wasn't just about gear and clothes. I also attended one last "Nature Ramble" at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia in Athens. My friend Sandra from the lab and I have been going for the past year. Once a week, botanists and nature enthusiasts walk around the trails through the woods learning about the natural history of our local forests. It's wonderful being around the amazing people in the group- mostly retired- highly inquisitive and thoughtful- people I want to be like. Going rambling always reminds me of the importance of being observant and treasuring the nature that is around you. Joining the Ramblers has been one of the highlights of this past year, and I will miss them for sure.
|Looking at flowers with the Nature Ramblers.|
|Last training hike with the tire chains.|
|Dropping my car off at Brenda's.|
Sunday, April 6, 2014
|Photo by Monica.|
|Dogwoods in bloom everywhere.|
|Jean shows off her huge, lightweight DIY polycro tarp.|
|Yay for big trees!|
|Views across the valley.|