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True Love: Trail Running The Sierra

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Guest: Ryan
Running in the Sierra is a treat when it comes to trail running. The awesome views and developed trails are both reasons why I love running here.

My Story:

I wasn’t really a trail runner to begin with, or a runner for that matter,  in fact, I hated running especially on pavement in cities. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I was exposed to trail running. A group of friends and I were finishing up a scramble mission in the Mt Whitney Zone and upon reaching the summit we preceded to run the Mt Whitney Trail. After summiting three peaks and traveling an unknown amount of miles we found our selves with beer and Portal Burgers in hand, a glorious end to a long day in the mountains. After this trail running experience I was hooked.

From that moment on I make it a yearly goal to make it above 14,000 feet. This pilgrimage started my love of trail running and living in Tahoe leaves endless miles of trails to run. The graded trails, especially the more popular trails like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for example, are graded so much that it can be done riding a mule. Sections of the PCT that run through Desolation Wilderness are some of my favorite. In some cases on the PCT you will encounter large stone stairs, yes a lovely stone staircase in woods. This type of human development is what makes these types of high traffic trails perfect for trail running. Long gradual down hills and up hills, swooping around the contours of the Sierra make up most of the development in the Northern Trails system. While there are many sections that do not fit this description and have much steeper up hill and down hill sections, these are mostly avoidable due to the remoteness of the section of trail.

Everyone I know who runs, has their own little circuit that they run on a regular basis. These circuits are great for a quick run before work, or a beautiful sunset run in the evening, but after running a trail a couple of times I find those circuits to be a little monotonous. A case of tree vision usually sets in and my motivation to run fades. That’s why I like running with a general goal in mind, like running to a summit or lake for example. Setting a goal like this can really help motivate you when on a trail run, especially a longer run. Sometimes I’ll even bring a small fly rod to check out new water and add a little variety to the days run. Catching fish and a work out is a win-win.

A rewarding aspect of trail running is the distance covered, as well as the elevation gain and loss, one experiences when running in the Sierras. I love looking down ridge lines and seeing the trail snake it’s way around the contours of the mountains. Approaching the tops of passes is also exciting, especially if you are unfamiliar with what features lay beyond it. The amount of elevation gain and loss gives a sense of the work put in for those spectacular views. Being able to see the lower elevation start of a run from the high point gives you a sense of the vertical attained, no place makes this more apparent than the Eastern Sierra mountains along the 395 corridor. The amount of vertical relief is astounding down in this section of the Sierra as well.

Running in the Sierra is also a bit of a game. There is a saying in the Sierra “If you don’t like the weather wait an hour.” This couldn’t be truer during the later summer and fall months in the Sierra. Thunderclouds can build rapidly and cause a down pour when, in the first half of the day, the sun was shining. These types of weather changes give a natural time clock for your run. Trying to bag a peak? Better make sure you beat the thunderclouds there first! Racing thunderstorms can be  fun, or terrifying, in the High Sierra especially above tree line. In most cases you can see the storms coming, but if your unlucky they can build in no time and really catch you by surprise.  Finding yourself above tree line during such events would fall under the terrifying category, but running just bellow tree line can be quite fun. Personally, I love running in the rain, the thunder and lighting shows can be spectacular!

What ever your motivation is to trail run, take it and run with it!

 

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Nana’s Pacific Crest Trail Adventure – Big Bear to Kennedy Meadows

Monday, July 12th, 2010

I’m back with my report for the next segment of my Pacific Crest Trail hike.

When I last left off, I was in Big Bear, in the mountains of San Bernardino County.  I made a major change in my equipment there. I found the Deuter pack was just not that comfortable. After endless tweaking and fiddling, I was just not able to come up with a combination of adjustments that worked for me. So, I switched to my trusty Osprey Ariel 65, a veteran of many previous trips. Right away, I was able to shoulder a bigger load and remain comfortable all day.

Upon leaving Big Bear, the trail wound through a burn area before heading into an area called Deep Creek Canyon. This canyon winds on for miles but the highlight is a series of hot springs pools that make a great spot for a tired hiker to take a soak!

Deep Creek Hot Springs...

The next day, I headed north towards Silverwood Lake. Along the way, I crossed California State Route 173. There I was treated to a little trail magic in the form of fresh Root Beer Floats! Marlene, an aspiring PCT thru hiker, was parked along the road where the trail crossed in her van and was dishing out the goodies to hikers as they passed by.  Several of us took advantage of this act of kindness and took a break from the day to enjoy the treat!

A bit further up the trail I was in for another treat — a bobcat right in the middle of the trail!

Bobcat...

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Nana’s Pacific Crest Trail Adventure – Warner Springs to Big Bear

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I’m back to report on the next segment of my Pacific Crest Trail hike.

When I last left off, I was at Warner Springs, a resort in eastern San Diego County.  Although in the “middle of nowhere”, Warner Springs features an 18 hole golf course, their own small airport, hot springs pools, nice restaurant, etc.  I spent a couple of days relaxing, making small adjustments to my gear, picking up my re-supply box, etc.

Warner Springs Pool..

While getting ready to leave, I learned of a trail angel named Mike Herrera who lives in the desert 17 miles north of Warner.  He was offering all the hikers leaving the resort a place to stop where they could get water, a hot meal and a place to camp.  So, that was my goal for the day.  The hiking was hot and desolate.  The desert can be beautiful but it can also be hot, dusty, dry and lonesome.  Finally, after a long and hot day, I came to Chihuahua Valley Road and a sign that announced that Mike’s place was around the bend.

Trail Marker

I camped in the yard and joined other hikers who had also found their way here for some stories of the trail and a hot meal.

The next morning, May 4th, I took off early to beat the heat.  My destination was Coyote Canyon at mile 140.  At mile 133, I crossed into Riverside County.  One county down and many more to go!

Riverside County Line

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Nana’s Pacific Crest Trail Adventure – Week One!

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Local Truckee -Tahoe resident, Nana Langton is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this year.  Tahoe Mountain Sports is a proud sponsor of her efforts! Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and arctic-alpine country.  Approximately 2650 miles in length, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes.  From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied experience.  Here is her report from the first week on the trail.

On the last weekend in April, I found myself at the Lake Morena County Park in Eastern San Diego County at an event called ADZPCTKO!  What in the world is that you ask?  How about the “Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off.”  This yearly event marks the traditional start of the hiking season for folks tackling the PCT from South to North.  Around 650 participants from around the globe found their way to this remote park, 20 miles north of the Mexican Border near the small town of Campo, California.  This event attracts hikers, past present and future to share stories of the trail and view the latest in ultra-light backpacking gear.  The event also features officials from the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the United States Forest Service and even the postal service who open a temporary post office on site so that hikers can mail gear and food to spots ahead on the trail and also to send home the gear they just realized was way too heavy!

PCT Class of 2010

PCT Class of 2010

So, early Sunday morning, the 25th of April, I set out across the desert of southern California on my way to Canada.  That first day I hiked 20.5 miles, back to the campground at Lake Morena where a great meal of BBQ’ed chicken, baked potatoes and salad was waiting, prepared by my husband, Bill and friends.  It was a great start for this adventure of a lifetime.

Nana Signing the PCT Register

Nana Signing the PCT Register with her Deuter Pack

Mile 1 on the PCT

Mile 1 on the PCT

On the morning of day two, I again took off northbound towards my destination for the evening, Mt, Laguna, some 23 miles distant and at an elevation of 6000 feet.  I soon crossed under Interstate 8 and headed uphill.  We in the hiking community call days like this “Major UFH”.  I’m sure you can figure it out but basically it means that there is a lot of uphill tread.  The scenery went from cactus and rattle snakes to alpine with snow and pines, much like what I am used to here in the Lake Tahoe area.  It got noticeably cooler as I headed uphill too!

Upon my arrival, I found that my husband and friends had secured lodging at the historic Mt. Laguna Lodge.  Were we supposed to be camping again tonight but our spot was covered with standing water and snow.  So – I guess a nice bed and a warm shower would have to do.

Tuesday morning, I bid farewell to Bill as he had to head back home and get back to work.  I headed out shortly thereafter enjoying a beautiful  mountain morning.  Unfortunately, a little later in the day, the winds started to pick up and the clouds started rolling in.  The forecast was for a storm to hit that evening.  I set up camp to cloudy skies and howling winds.  Sure enough, by morning, it was pouring rain and spitting snow and the winds were driving it all sideways past my tent flap.  I retreated to a nearby campground bathroom and packed up my gear, enjoying the dry space for a quick bite of breakfast.  That day, I was hammered on the trail with winds and rain.  It was a miserable day but I trudged ahead, only making 7  miles on the trail.  As I came around the bend, I found myself approaching another campground.  The place was closed and deserted but I spied some bathrooms and thought I would seek some shelter from the weather.  I tried the door and happily found that it was unlocked.  Imagine my surprise when I found it was full of other PCT hikers who had the same idea!  We all laughed at our fortune and I learned that a ride to the nearby town of Julian had been arranged.  We all gratefully headed into town and a dry place to sleep for the night.

Thursday morning, I got a ride from friends back to the trail and I started out from where I had left off.  Today was much nicer and the miles went by much easier.  My destination for the day was a spot called Scissors Crossing, some 17.5 miles distant.  The cactus flowers were everywhere and the scenery quite beautiful.  In the middle of no-where, I came across my first instance of what we call “Trail Magic”.  Some intrepid “Trail Angels” – people who give back to the hiking community, had set up a hiker store next to the trail.

Trail Magic on the PCT

Trail Magic on the PCT

They were offering gear, food, water and showers to the hikers out of a trailer.  A nice candy bar hit the spot just right.  Soon Scissors Crossing was in sight as I set up camp for the night.

Friday was a big day and my longest on the trail so far at 24 miles.  My destination was another spot in the middle of no-where called Barrel Springs.  I knew there should be a water cache there, placed by trail angels who stocked it in the early season for the “thru’s” headed north.  It was quite a bit warmer although still beautiful.  I am starting to get used to my Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL pack and it’s customized hydration system.  Dave at TMS has also provided me with products from Platypus, including their newest model bottle with the dual-valve, HyperFlow cap.  Both of these are providing me with plenty of water capacity and the mouthpiece valves on both systems are working very well!

Near the end of the day, I came across the 100 mile marker – a welcome sight along the trail!

100-miles on the PCT

100-miles on the PCT

Saturday, I had an easy 8 miles to my weekend destination, the Warner Springs Ranch Resort.  Here in the middle of the desert is a wonderful golf course, hot springs resort with all kinds of wonderful amenities.  I was treated to beautiful displays of wildflowers as I neared my destination!

Wildflowers along the PCT

Wildflowers along the PCT

Another interesting vista I encountered was an outcropping called Eagle Rock.  One look at the photo below and you will instantly recognize how this formation received its name!

Ealge Rock

Ealge Rock

Finally Warner Springs came into view and I hit the pool and restaurant to relax.  110 Miles down, only 2540 to go!  Sunday would be my first “Zero Day” – a day with no mileage planned.

Stay tuned for more updates from the trail.  In the next two weeks, I hope to hike another 158 miles to the community of Big Bear where I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with Bill and my 49th birthday!

PCT Thru Hike – Oregon

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

After the many miles of California, Oregon seemed to fly by. Certainly the length of the trail in Oregon (450 miles) as compared to California (1,700 miles) had something to do with it.  Southern Oregon was quite similar to Northern California, walking in the trees a lot and hot, hot, hot.  The first major stop in Oregon for most PCT hikers is Ashland, Oregon.

I made a brief stop in the Ashland area, staying at Callahans Resort. This was a great overnight stop as it included dinner, laundry facilities, a shower, overnight camping and breakfast for a nominal fee.   Since I had just re-supplied in the Seiad Valley I did not need to make a full stop in Ashland.

After the stop at Callahans I continued towards Crater Lake.  As I was heading north I met a southbound hiker who informed me that the BLM campground at Hyatt Lake had FREE showers.  So, BLM campground here I come.  It was a great deal as the BLM campground had a campsite devoted to PCT hikers, costing only $2, yes $2, which , included use of the showers.  Oh those hot showers feel so good when you are on the
trail!

As I was nearing Crater Lake National Park and getting packed up one morning I was passed by a group of three hikers who were intent on reaching Mazama Village that day.  I too was intent on making the village that day.  The difference was; they had already been hiking for nearly 24 hours and had hiked through the night.  Seems at this point on the trail there was a bit of competition regarding how many miles one could hike at one time.  Ultimately this group hiked, by their own account 58 miles without sleep.  Too crazy for me.  As for me, I had about 14 miles to go to reach Mazama Village that day.

Entering Crater Lake National Park was a bit anti-climactic as other than the signpost not much changed on the trail.  A few miles later things did change as, much to my surprise, the trail was actually less maintained inside the park as compared to outside the park.  What’s up with that Crater Lake National Park?  Although there were numerous blow-downs the trail was still well marked and quite manageable. Eventually, as I neared the more heavily used part of the trail near Mazama Village the trail conditions improved.

After a quick resupply I headed up to the rim of Crater Lake to take some afternoon photos.  After getting some photos I continued hiking around the rim and tried to find the trail leading away from the rim in the dark, under headlamp.  I was unsuccessful and ended up camping in a small nook of a downed tree, out of the wind at the far end of the rim trail.  The next morning I awoke to a nice sunrise took a few more photo’s and departed the lake.

I’ve heard that as one travels the PCT in Oregon you could stop every night and have dinner in the various Camps and Resorts along the way. It seems that may be the case, as the resorts I’ve heard of include
and in order are; Diamond Lake, Fish Lake, Elk Lake, Big Lake Youth Camp, Wilamette Pass Ski resort, Ollalie Lake (closed for renovation this year), Lost Lake (store, no restaurant) and finally, Timberline Lodge.

Although I did not test the “dinner every night” theorem I made a few stops along the way while in Oregon.  My first stop was a quick afternoon at Elk Lake Resort for some pizza (at happy hour no less) followed by a stop at Big Lake Youth Camp, a resupply point for me.

At Big Lake I was picked up by friends for an overnight stay which included plenty of good food and hospitality.  A few days later I met friends and family at Waldo Lake, near Willamette Pass, in Central Oregon for a weekend off the trail.

In addition to going past Crater Lake the PCT also passes by I also saw Mt McGlothlin, Mt Thielson, Mt Washington, the Three Sisters which are comprised of the South, Middle and North, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt
Jefferson, and of course, the stately Mt Hood.  One interesting side note is that in the vicinity of the Three Sister are peaks named Husband as well as Little Brother.  Interesting!  The mid-section of Oregon includes some fairly impressive lava fields which rival those seen on the big Island of Hawaii.

In North Central Oregon the rain began in earnest, thankfully it only lasted for a couple of days.  When the rain stuck I was hiking with two fellow PCT’ers.  On the first day of the rains we were leaving the Jefferson Park area (Mt Jefferson) and managed to reach Ollalie Lake and hang out on the porch of the currently closed store through the worst of it.  We resumed hiking and hiked until after dark, setting up camp in the rain.  The wind blew and it rained most of the night.  In the morning I was still warm and dry.  I continue to be impressed with the MSR Hubba as it has not failed me yet.  Others have not been as lucky.  I’ve seen others whose tents have either blown down or leaked.  The next day was not much for making miles as we started late and quit early, only reaching Clackamas Lake by mid-day.

While at Clackamas Lake we received a health dose of trail magic in the form of burgers, corn on the cob and hot chocolate from some  car- campers who hailed from the Portland area.  We gathered firewood andhad a pretty good sized fire to dry things out.  After that both the weather and our attitudes improved.

At night fall the skies began to clear and the temperature started dropping.  I was a little worried that I might be cold as the Lafuma bag I bought while in Tahoe is only rated at 30 degrees.  As it turned
out my worries were unfounded.  I gave the bag a good shake to fully loft the down and settled in for the night,  Overnight it was quite cold, in the upper twenties I’d guess.  The Lafuma bag came through once again.  I think the thing I like the most about this bag is the extra down in the hood and in the foot-box.  It really does make for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Continuing north we began to catch glimpses of Mt Hood to the north, covered with a fresh blanket of snow.  So, I guess it was c-c-cold the night before and there was certainly a positive side of the rain which
is the impressive views of Mt Hood with new snow. Seeing Mt Hood was a welcome sight as it was an indication of how far north we had come on the Oregon section of the PCT.  We arrived at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood on Monday of Labor Day weekend.  Arriving at dinnertime was a plus as once again we skipped cooking for ourselves and let our debit/credit cards do the cooking.  On a whim we check to see if there were rooms available and opted to share a bunk room.  We took the opportunity to re-dry all of our gear, do laundry, shower, etc.

The next morning my hiking partners over the last week decided to skip breakfast, planning to hike 32.5 miles by starting early.  I opted to stay for breakfast and planned to hike about 25 miles.  Breakfast was
a buffet complete with fresh fruit, waffles, and the rest of the usual breakfast fare.  I think I ate for all three of us!

After the buffet my progress was rather slow as there were plenty of photo opportunities of Mt Hood to take advantage of.  So much for a 25 mile day.  I ended up hiking into the night, again relying on the Mammut Headlamp.  Along this part of the PCT the trail is in the Bull Run watershed which supplies drinking water to the City of Portland. Although it was a nice section of trail the camping opportunities were limited and I camped at one of the few spots I found, at a small spot near the trail junction to Lost Lake.

The next morning I arose early as I was meeting friends at the Eagle Creek Trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge in the afternoon.  I opted to take the Eagle Creek Alternate trail rather than the PCT as it is more scenic and a unique and largely undisturbed ecosystem.  Along Eagle Creek I caught up with Ryan and Bob Rob who made their goal of the previous day and were hiking with a friend of Ryan’s that was providing their ride to Portland for a resupply.
As for me, my journey for this year is complete.  Although the days are getting shorter and the weather could change at any time, more than anything I am just “done walking” for this year.  For the last few weeks I had the feeling that was it time to get off the trail.  From the beginning my hike was “about the journey” rather than the destination.  From that perspective I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  I enjoyed the journey, met a lot of really nice people and both saw and photographed a lot of beautiful scenery.  I’ll be putting up a website with many more photo’s this fall so others can also savor the beauty of the trail.  Should any of you out there in cyber-land choose to do a section or a thru-hike of the PCT I wish you nothing but good luck and the wish that you too “enjoy the journey”.

PCT Thru-Hike Update: Northern California

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

After spending a week at Lake Tahoe it’s time to get back on trail. But first some honorable mentions to the local merchants at Kings Beach.  I absolutely enjoyed my stay in Kings Beach.  While in Kings Beach I stayed at Ferrari’s Crown Family Resort and XYZ, received a chiropractic adjustment and a massage at Rutley Family Chiropractic. (Thanks Dr. Kellee and Farida).

I also picked up some new gear at Tahoe Mountain Sports (TMS), most notably a Lafuma Fast and Light 30 degree sleeping bag and a Mammut Lucido headlamp.  The new sleeping will both lighten my load and
thanks to the crew at TMS for all the help! It was a bit of a challenge getting moving after nearly a week off the trail but I did get moving again.  I opted to take the bus to Squaw Valley and rode the tram to the top where I promptly headed the wrong way on the PCT.  Oops!  Luckily I ran into another PCT thru-hiker who
advised me I was heading southbound, rather than Northbound.  Good thing I had not gone far.

Although there are scenic places on the trail through Northern California it was certainly not as scenic as the High Sierra’s.  Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful places along the trail in Northern California, it’s just not the mile after mile beauty found in the High Sierra.

I found some interesting places to camp in this section including places where you would not expect to camp including a rocky outcrop part way up the ridge below the Castle Crags and a saddle with view of Mt Shasta to the east and the Marble Mountains to the west.  These afforded me nice views rather than being camped in the trees. The most scenic parts of this section of the PCT include; views of Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta, traversing the Castle Crags, and the Marble Mountains as well as seeing the Trinity Alps.

That said, it was not as remote either.  This afforded me the opportunity to stay with “Trail Angels” and in small towns along the way.  This was a welcome way to meander through Northern California.

I was fortunate enough to stay with Trail Angels in Truckee, just south of Belden, in Belden and also in Old Station.  Thanks to each of you for your hospitality.  Towns I stopped in for overnight visits included Sierra City, Belden, Etna, and the Seiad Valley.

While in Sierra City I camped on the lawn of the church as many of the PCT thru-hikers do.  After setting up camp, Duffy the church caretaker said “oh, did I mention there is a bear that will rattle the dumpster across the street in the middle of the nigh, but don’t worry, it never bothers the hikers”.  By this time there were several of us camped on the lawn and another four or five hikers who had dumped their packs and went to the store in search of food and drink.  Amish Gypsy, one of my recent hiking companions, happened to look up into a tree and noticed two bear cubs.  The first question that came to mind for the three of us in camp was “where’s mama bear?”.  We gathered our food bags left camp and advised the food and drink crew.  The cubs scampered away and as luck would have it, mama bear did rattle the dumpster a couple of times in the night,  but never ventured into the church yard.   A week later I heard that she had stolen food bags subsequent to our visit.

Another highlight of this part of the trail was being removed from the trail by the California Department of Forestry (CDF).   After leaving Old Station, the day after a lightning storm, a group us hiked past the Subway Cave and the Cave fire onto the Hat Creek Rim.  I got into taking photo’s of the fire near the Subway Cave until I realized the fire was getting out of had and I decided I better get out of there.

After hiking the rim we were paralleling the highway when we noticed smoldering fire on the other side of the road as well as a note on the trail.  A few minutes later a CDF truck came by, spoke with us and took us to a safe place, a road junction.  In all, seven hikers were “deposited” at this “safe place”.  As luck would have it, we ended up getting an unsolicited ride to Burney Falls State Park.  Our benefactor also happened to have ice cream for all of us.

During the section of PCT I crossed the halfway point and also adopted the trail name of “Trail Chef”.  This name was the result of numerous comments about the appetizing nature of my meals, especially my dinners.  My meals were prepared using a combination of grocery store and mail ordered freeze dried ingredients.

Gearwise, everything continues to work well.  Absolutely no problems with the MSR Whisperlite stove or the Hubba tent.  The Thermarest NeoAir continues to work as well.  The new Lafuma sleeping bag is working great, much lighter than the 15 degree bag I carried through the high Sierra.  In fact, with the new 30 degree bag I think I am sleeping better than ever.  The new headlamp is great.  I’m still not sure how they did it, but it throws a circle of light, and this comes from four led’s.  I’ve used it several time while hiking into the evening and even on low beam it provides enough light to hike with.

As I was approaching the Seiad Valley, not a town but the last bit of a civilization along the PCT in Northern California I passed several southbound hikers who mentioned that I would run into goat herders soon.  I’ve lived and traveled throughout the Northwest for most of my life and as a result of my travels in Southeastern Oregon I’ve seen Basque sheepherders.  So, even though I heard goat herders and expected to see goats I expected to see Basque sheepherders.   I was a little surprised to see about twenty goats, two dogs and a young couple with a four-month old baby when I rounded a corner on the trail.  I had quite a nice visit with them.  They were living off the land for the summer, so in a sense they were “hiking their own hike”. After sharing a bottle of goat’s milk and a thirty minute chat they headed south and I continued north.

After leaving the Seiad Valley it was a few more days before I reached the end of “the state that never ends”, that being California.  I say that because of the 2650 miles of the PCT, California comprises about 1,700 miles.  Stay tuned for tales of the trail in Oregon.

-Mike

PCT Journey, Volume Four – Tuolumne Meadows to Kings Beach (Lake Tahoe)

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Mike had a chance to stop by the store on his way through Lake Tahoe on the Pacific Crest Trail and it was the first time we actually got to meet in person. Here is his 4th installment from his time on the PCT.

My break at Tuolumne Meadow was great, including visiting Guy, a friend who works at the park.  In fact, we caught up over dinner one night, a dinner that included a double dose of dessert consisting of pie and ice cream.  It does a hiker good!

I was gathering my gear, planning on hiking out about noon on July 4th and as luck would have it, I saw a pack I recongized, another Deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10 owned by none other than my hiking friend Peter, who I had not seen since Big Bear in Southern California.  After catching up for a few minutes, we opted to hike out together.

The hiking from Tuolumne Meadow to Sonora Pass was, as I had been previously warned, contained both hilly terrain and bugs.  During one stretch while hiking through the meadow leading to Dorthy Lake while attempting to apply bug dope, remove my pack, swat mosquitios and get clothes on I broke into my “bug dance”.  I’m sure it was quite a sight but luckily Peter opted to hike on so hopefull there are no photo’s or worse yet, videos of this episode.

On reaching Sonora Pass there was again “Trail Magic” provided by “Meadow Mary” and “Billy Goat”.  Thanks to you both!  Further up the trail, at Walker Pass, there was an impromptu dose of “Trail Magic” provided by Jack, an PCT thru-hiker of several years ago.  Also a Walker Pass was the end of the “Markleeville Death Ride”, a 130 mile bike ride complete with I believe, five or six mountain passes.  I rather missed the bike at the moment.

After a bit more hiking I reached Echo Lake (S. Lake Tahoe area) for a minor resupply and headed for Kings Beach, CA to visit the staff at Tahoe Mountain Sports (my sponsors).

PCT Journey, Volume Three – Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Greetings everyone.  Wow, what an incredible journey I had through the High Sierra’s.  When I left Kennedy Meadows the forecast was for mixed rain and snow as well as cold temps for the first few days followed by a warming trend.  The forecast was correct which made for some late starts, early stops and some less than ideal hiking conditions.

A couple of nights out of Kennedy Meadows I camped at about 11,000 feet, approximately one-mile short of Cottonwood Pass.  About 3 AM I awoke to the sound of sleet hitting the rainfly.  Sometime during the night the precipitation turned to snow.  I awoke at 6 AM to a beautiful morning and began my day by taking a few photo’s and brewing a cup of tea.  By 7 AM the weather had deterioriated and the snow began again in earnest.  So, rather than hiking in it, I opted to wait it out and I crawled back into the tent and waited it out.  I was thankful for having a good tent and bag.

A few days later after hiking through a bit more weather I reached Crabtree Meadows on June 17th.  Crabtree Meadows is the western “jumping off” point for climbing Mt Whitney.  According to others, it snowed on Mt Whitney on the 17th.  The 18th broke with good weather and an early start (5:30 AM) on climbing Mt Whitney.  My climbing partner, Danny (AKA “Trail Virgin”), and I made good time and reached the summit before noon and enjoyed the view before the weather closed in and we headed down.  The SMC Capra Ice Axe and Stubai crampons provided by Tahoe Mountain Sports were a great help in getting up and down the mountain safely and quickly.

After the hike up Mt Whitney came Forester Pass.  Although Forester Pass is approximately 13,000 feet and is spoken of as formidable I found it to be less challenging than the Mt Whitney climb.  There was a long snow field leading up to the pass, as well as a rock scramble to transition from the snow field to the trail (switch backs).  Overall, not too bad.

Other passes had their challenges, including a near-vertical last-pitch at Mather pass as well as the route finding on the Northern side of Muir Pass.  I found Muir Pass to be the most challenging due to the length of the snow fields and the route finding.  As it happened my journey through Muir Pass was a solo journey which added to the slow going as a result of slowing down for both safety and route-finding purposes.

I reached Muir Trail Ranch on June 24th, a few days later than planned, for a much needed food resupply.  I was ever so glad I included a package of fig bars for immediate consumption in the resupply bucket.  Although the pack was heavier due to the resupply I felt great as I headed back up the hill from Muir Trail Ranch.

A few days later I reached Red’s Meadow where I planned on topping off the lunch supplies, having dinner and an overnight stay at the campground.  At Red’s Meadow there were also “Trail Angels”.  “Just Ben” and Bethany as well as one of their relatives were there providing trailside snacks.  They also had use of a condo in Mammoth.  So, it was off to Mammoth for a shower, a bed, use of the laundry facilities and a couple of good meals.  I had a 24 hour hiatus as I got off the trail at 3 PM one afternoon and was back on the trail by about 3 PM the next afternoon.  Thanks Ben and Bethany!

I had a great hike from Red’s Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows, including an easy climb through Donahue Pass.  Along the way I ran into other hikers I had not seen for a while including “Magellan” and “Sugar Mama” as well as Joel and Katie, newlyweds from Mammoth.

I reached Tuolumne Meadows early in the afternoon on July 1st for a much needed rest.

PCT Journey, Volume Two – Techapaci Pass to Kennedy Meadows

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

It was rather interesting resuming my walk after the two week break.  It was good to see family and talk to a few friends.  I resumed my walk late in the afternoon on Tuesday June 2nd at Techapaci Pass.  The first 24 hours back on the trail were challenging.  For the first time I felt a little lonely.  This coupled with a 2300 ft climb and a long afternoon of rain dampened my spirits.  Within 48 hours I was feeling better especially since I was back in the trees.  That’s always good for one’s spirit.

Following the rain there was quite a bit of wind and as a result I found creative ways to pitch the MSR Hubba to block the wind but still get some air as it was a warm wind.  What I found is that one can pitch the tent and install the rainfly and roll the doors back beyond the normal roll-back position by unhooking the fly from the front side of the tent.  Another option I found was to pitch the tent with the fly doubled up on one end to allow for stargazing while still blocking some of the wind and/or being prepared for rain (photos below).

At Walker pass, half way between Techapaci pass and Kennedy Meadows there was “Trail Magic”, arranged and provided by “Trail Angels”, usually former PCT thru-hikers wanting to give back the hospitality they recieved while on the trail.  After having my fill of food, complete with milkshakes I opted to stay at the Walker Pass campground.  This was a “Nearo” day (nearly zero), though I had hiked eight miles.

After leaving Walker pass I pulled  21, 18, and 10 mile days and reached Kennedy Meadows about noon on Wednesday June 10th.  I promptly commmenced with a feeding frenzy which included a hamburger, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and not much later another burger and a couple hours later, a chicken dinner.  Wow, even I did not know I could eat that much.  By yesterday afternoon, after some additional large meals I was actually full.

I’ve been enjoying my trail food most of which was assembled from both mail order freeze dried companies (fruit and vegatables) and grocery store items (rice, couscous, polenta, black beans, spiced lentils, etc).

I’m meeting lots of new people and enjoying the scenery especially since I am now in the Sierras.

The pack is packed and I am heading out this afternoon, June 12th, to get a few miles in this afternoon.  The Kennedy Meadows store was nice but it’s getting crowded and my feet are itching to move.  Looks like the Sierra’s will be on the cool side and as a result there are many hikers leaving the trail to hike other sections or simply waiting, hoping the weather will change.  I’m thankful for the choices I made in bringing the MSR Hubba, as well as a warm sleeping bag and clothing.  Many of my fellow thru-hikers have lighter equipment and have expressed some concern about the high country traverse.  As for me, I am adding a couple of days of extra food and fuel and “going for it”.

Weather permitting I will climb Mt Whitney about 5 days from now.  I’ll then resupply at Muir Trail Ranch on June 21st and anticipate reaching Tuolumne Meadows on June 28th or 29th.

Happy Trails to one and all…
Mike

PCT Update – Volume I from Mike Rumsey

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Every year Tahoe Mountain Sports sponsors a PCT hiker to hike the trail, use our gear, and report back. This year, Mike Rumsey is the chosen one. Mike hails from Portland, OR and just started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail a few weeks ago. Here is his first check in, so enjoy! Thanks Mike.

Well the first couple of weeks, the first couple of hundred miles and the first couple of blisters are behind me.  Have I had a good time?  Absolutely yes!  Have things gone according to plan?  Absolutely not!  Have I rolled with the flow?  Absolutely!  It’s been a great adventure so far and I am looking forward with great excitement for the next part of the journey.

I started the journey with Doug and Mike, a couple of guys from the Northeast whom I had never met before.  My initial plan was to “ease” into the journey.  Due to the distance between water stops easing into the journey was not as easy as I had hoped.  The first day included a 15 mile am hike followed by a 5 mile pm hike. This landed me at Lake Morena.  The highlights of this stop included a shower and an excellent little store, complete with a large and tasty malt.  Not bad for the first day on the trail.

The following day included a re-route off the trail due to an aircraft crash.  We were told it was a 10 mile road walk but everyone seemed to think it was more like 13 miles. All of which seemed to be uphill and in the sun….the rainbow was a USFS campground which included showers….so, with a large handful of quarters I felt clean.  So, two days two showers……living the life of luxury, as long as it lasts anyhow.

As I soon learned, the deserts of Southern California are not as flat as one might expect.  After a few days I developed a couple of blisters as a result of too much of a good thing – downhill hiking.  So, an easy day was in order.  Around this time it seems everyone learned about the same lesson; hike early in the morning, hide out from the heat and hike more late in the afternoon, earlier if there is a breeze. 

Although I’ve seen a few snakes they have not been a problem.  The most pressing concern in the desert has been finding and carrying enough water from one water stop to the next.  To assist in this effort the primary tool is the PCT Water Report.  One plans each day and each segment of each day around the water report.   I’ve carried as much as six liters of water and as “little” as 4 1/2 liters.

After a few days on the trail most hikers hit Mt Laguna, still in San Diego County, but in the mountains.  The post office there was quite busy as almost without exception PCT hiker have decided their pack is too heavy and contain unnecessary stuff.

Since beginning the trail the sequence has been desert, mountains (Mt Laguna), desert, mountains(San Jacinto Wilderness), desert, and mountains (San Gorgonio wilderness – leading to Big Bear).

Along the way, I have met many other hiker and have already made some great hiking friends.  In fact, I met another hiker, also hiking with a Deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10 and he and I have already become fast friends.

The pack has withstood the rigors of the desert, including the numerous types of thorny and spiny bushes, with no noticable impact.

I’m also happy to report the MSR Hubba and the Thermarest Neo-Air are also no worse for wear.  I especially like that I get a great nights sleep with the Neo-Air.  Certainly better than the Z-rest.  Well worth the extra weight in my opinion.

As a result of differing hiking speeds and whether one makes town stops or not, there is some leap-frogging of hikers.  I’ve take every opportunity to have a meal, an ice cream bar, a malt, or a root beer float along the way, provided it has been along the trail (within a mile of the trail).  So, two weeks into the hike, about 265 miles, less 20 miles on the yellow blaze, a bit of saving the feet.

The most memorable moment of the first two weeks are seeing a fellow hiker hike back into camp and stating “Tell me you’re not where you camped last night”.  It seems a rock in the shoe and a switchback made for a bad combination as I was in the same spot.  Luckily, he only backtracked about an eight of a mile.

A welcome relief was seeing a recliner on the trail when I was nearly into Big Bear.  Seems there are three hostels/hotels that have a friendly rivalry in obtaining business.  One of them opted for a full-on rest stop, complete with a recliner and fresh fruit.  Nearly stopped me in my tracks it did.  It was a great rest stop and in fact I considered spending the night in the chair.  Alas, I hiked on and arrrived in Big Bear the next morning.

As a result of the blisters, never severe, but never quite gone, and due to a “still small voice” I have “yellow blazed” to the Fresno area to regroup, re-equip and spend a few days with family before resuming my hike.  I’ll be re-starting next week, at the end of the desert / beginning of the Sierra’s and at a bit more moderate pace.  I am looking forward to the beauty and serenity of the Sierra’s and the more relaxed pace I’ve opted for for the Sierra’s.

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