Day 22: Sunrise Summit of Baden-Powell

I was out of camp as fast as I’ve ever been this morning and hiked the last bit to the peak of Mt Baden-Powell. The view is fantastic but the light doesn’t lend itself to photos. I think this is the first time that I’ve seen a mountain cast a shadow on a cloud.

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I only have a half liter if water that I collected from snow and melted overnight. Next water is in six or seven miles so after a brief and beautiful respite, I have to go.

The rest of the day was hot and hilly. The PCT overlaps with the Silver Moccasin Trail created, according to one sign by Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts) himself. Since it’s not required to support horses like the PCT, it can have normal hills, not the long shallow climbs I can eat for breakfast. I was pretty well beaten by days end but here’s a picture from the top of one particular ridge

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Today’s other main event was bypassing a trail closure put in place to allow an endangered species to recover.

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The bypass was a several miles if road walk to the Buckhorn campground. Shrewd hikers who correctly read their notes would have gone in the campground’s exit, saving them almost a mile walk to the entrance. I managed to walk past the entrance even a little farther to a day use area also called Buckhorn.

After getting back to the PCT and finding water at the Cooper Canyon Trail Camp, I flopped down to rest under a tree where Eddie and Christine (now Nine Toes), and a few others were also recovering from the day’s hike. Eventually, most decided to see if they could drag themselves a few more miles up trail and so did I.

I caught up with Eddie and Nine Toes again just before mile 400.

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Also, I have a trail name now. The green backpack, blue bandana, and two hiking poles are sufficiently reminiscent of Leonardo the Ninja Turtle that a kid I passed yesterday said I looked like him (and that was before the headband). Eddie decided it was a good one. From what I remember of the TMNT movie which constitutes my entire knowledge of the Ninja Turtles, I share a number of character defects with Leo and so somehow find it enjoyable to identify with him. Now I just have to get used to introducing myself as Leo.

Day 21:

Memories from May 11

I got a late start out if Wrightwood today because I tried to get a few more blog entries written over breakfast at a coffee shop called The Village Grind which notably has free Wi-Fi. However, instead of using the Wi-Fi to upload more than a post or two I used it to download a 568MB audiobook for today’s experiment: hiking while listening. I’m pretty new to the concept of consuming media while doing something else. Growing up, I didn’t watch TV while doing homework and don’t usually listen to music while exercising or doing housework.

My headphone cord isn’t long enough for me to put my phone anywhere except my bag’s shoulder pocket. This pocket, while having been designed for a phone (I assume), is tight and so makes it hard to pause the audio when you pass someone and want to talk to them or take out the phone for a picture. I’ve also been trying to carry my backpack without a hip belt to strengthen my shoulders and perhaps prepare for getting a frameless pack. This makes the shoulder pocket even tighter. By the end of the day, the jury was still out in the audiobook while hiking thing. I really need headphones with a longer cord or different attachment mechanism for the phone before trying again.

At the Village Grind a local named Reuben who had a counseling practice next door chatted me up, another reason I didn’t get so far on the blog posts. As I left, he chased after me and offered a ride to the trailhead which I accepted. The Acorn trail is short and steep enough to break a sweat and so not breaking sweat on the steep road up to it seemed fine as it didn’t count has forward progress.

I passed through a ski resort. I felt smug ignoring the warning even though I was safely on a trail.

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This resort seems to have lined some if its ponds with plastic to keep the water.

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I ran across another software engineer named Dillon from the San Fransisco Bay Area near where I grew up. We hiked together for a bit a talked about the industry, mostly how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to do things we enjoy, get paid for it, then take some time away, and still expect to have a job after trail. A lot of people on the trail are at a transition point in their lives or careers and some are even in intentionally leaving something behind.

At the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center, I was trying to find a water spigot which the water report said was on. A field trip was there and a kid came over and told me I looked like a Ninja Turtle, then he and his friend disagreed over which one. While I was poking around, a guy in a Forest Service vehicle pulled up and asked me what I was doing. Hoping I wasn’t in trouble, I told him I was looking for water. He asked if I could help him with something and he’d give me water. His name was Ron and I helped lift the cover over the center’s water pump and then read the dials to measure gallons per minute. In return he have me a gallon if bottled water and asked me to leave whatever I didn’t use by the trail.

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The trail had a few sweeping views of the nearby plains occupied by outposts of civilization. Such views are frequent in this first section and make the trail feel tame and safe.

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I ended the day part way up Mount Baden-Powell. I’d intended to sleep on the top but ran into Sven and Julie at a perfect campsite about a mile before. I was low on water and so put some snow into a bottle to melt overnight.

Day 21: Hiking With Earbuds

Memories from May 21

I got a late start out if Wrightwood today because I tried to get a few more blog entries written over breakfast at a coffee shop called The Village Grind which notably has free Wi-Fi. However, instead of using the Wi-Fi to upload more than a post or two I used it to download a 568MB audiobook for today’s experiment: hiking while listening. I’m pretty new to the concept of consuming media while doing something else. Growing up, I didn’t watch TV while doing homework and don’t usually listen to music while exercising or doing housework.

My headphone cord isn’t long enough for me to put my phone anywhere except my bag’s shoulder pocket. This pocket, while having been designed for a phone (I assume), is tight and so makes it hard to pause the audio when you pass someone and want to talk to them or take out the phone for a picture. I’ve also been trying to carry my backpack without a hip belt to strengthen my shoulders and perhaps prepare for getting a frameless pack. This makes the shoulder pocket even tighter. By the end of the day, the jury was still out in the audiobook while hiking thing. I really need headphones with a longer cord or different attachment mechanism for the phone before trying again.

At the Village Grind a local named Reuben who had a counseling practice next door chatted me up, another reason I didn’t get so far on the blog posts. As I left, he chased after me and offered a ride to the trailhead which I accepted. The Acorn trail is short and steep enough to break a sweat and so not breaking sweat on the steep road up to it seemed fine as it didn’t count has forward progress.

I passed through a ski resort. I felt smug ignoring the warning even though I was safely on a trail.

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This resort seems to have lined some if its ponds with plastic to keep the water.

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I ran across another software engineer named Dillon from the San Fransisco Bay Area near where I grew up. We hiked together for a bit a talked about the industry, mostly how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to do things we enjoy, get paid for it, then take some time away, and still expect to have a job after trail. A lot of people on the trail are at a transition point in their lives or careers and some are even in intentionally leaving something behind.

At the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center, I was trying to find a water spigot which the water report said was on. A field trip was there and a kid came over and told me I looked like a Ninja Turtle, then he and his friend disagreed over which one. While I was poking around, a guy in a Forest Service vehicle pulled up and asked me what I was doing. Hoping I wasn’t in trouble, I told him I was looking for water. He asked if I could help him with something and he’d give me water. His name was Ron and I helped lift the cover over the center’s water pump and then read the dials to measure gallons per minute. In return he have me a gallon if bottled water and asked me to leave whatever I didn’t use by the trail.

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The trail had a few sweeping views of the nearby plains occupied by outposts of civilization. Such views are frequent in this first section and make the trail feel tame and safe.

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I ended the day part way up Mount Baden-Powell. I’d intended to sleep on the top but ran into Sven and Julie at a perfect campsite about a mile before. I was low on water and so put some snow into a bottle to melt overnight.

Day 20: Zero in Wrightwood

Memories from May 10

From last night’s shakedown I decided to send home my beanie (I haven’t used it because of the hood on my jacket), sleeping bag liner (I won’t need the warmth and if I can sleep in other clothes if my hiking clothes are dirty), and the phone whose replacement showed up in Big Bear but I hadn’t had a chance to get rid of. I stopped by the post office to send those home and dropped by water filter in the hiker box at the hardware store and picked up a set of water purification drops.

For dinner, we made burgers and brats as a thank you for Jeff.

I didn’t get caught up in blog entries. Oh well.

Day 19: The PCT is Well Graded

Memories from May 9

I set out early. The climb above Wrightwood is supposed to be one of the larger continuous elevation gains on the trail. However, the PCT was envisioned for horseback riders as well as hikers and apparently horses can’t handle more than a gentle incline for very long. It made all that elevation gain sound a lot worse than it was. I made it about 20 miles to Wrightwood by 1pm.

There was a cloud trapped in a distant valley which was pouring over the containing hills. The cloud spread out to the horizon in one direction so it looked like the sea had found the edge of the world and was pouring off.

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In the way, I ran across a guy called Ultra Heavy. He was sitting on log in the side of the trail. We got to talking and he said he was packing so much intentionally because he’s always had a “greyhound mentality” and wanted something to force him to slow down.

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Splitter caught up while I was talking with Ultra Heavy and I hiked into Wrightwood with him. We took a side trial called the Acorn trail down to the town it which had elevation change characteristics more consistent with a number of popular day hikes than the PCT. It was down so I could fly with my poles.

In town, Splitter and I hit up the hardware store which has a section for hikers and a list of trail angel’s contact info. Splitter found a guy named Jeff willing to put up 6 hikers and who had shower and laundry facilities. Then we loitered at some picnic tables outside Jensen’s, the local grocery store which nicely and a strip of outdoor electrical outlets conveniently placed near the tables. I went in and came out with watermelon and half gallon of milk.

While we were loitering, an older woman pulled up in a truck and asked I there were any strong hiker bodies she could borrow. Splitter and I volunteered. Carol drove us a short distance to her house where we helped put sides on another truck then she drove us back to the store. The entire adventure was made somewhat more interesting by the fact that she didn’t actually tell us what we were going to do until it was time to do it. For example, when she was actually driving us back to Jensen’s, we under the impression that we were going somewhere to help her load the truck for a dump run.

Around 5pm Jeff came and collected Splitter, myself, Terminator, Gargamel, Texas Tracker, Fruit Cup, Tupac, Jeff (hiker not trail angel), and Michelle into his truck had drove us to his place about 1.5 miles outside of town. Splitter had never ridden in the back of a truck before and today rode in the back of s truck twice. Jeff set us up in his garage which had carpeting laid over the cement. He showed us to the shower and laundry, both of which were through his bedroom. There was a second bathroom not through his bedroom.

Terminator has been itching to give Fruit Cup a shakedown since Fruit Cup has as a lot of obvious opportunities to lighten his pack and Terminator is a huge gear head. As we laid our sleeping places out, there was sudden explosion of shakedowns as everyone started going through their packs and commenting jovially on each other’s equipment.

Terminator going through Fruit Cup’s pack.

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Jeff drove us back into town for dinner. Despite a valiant attempt, I only downed 9 of my 10 tacos. I was given slightly incorrect directions when I asked Tupac where Jeff lived which lead to 20ish minutes if me wandering around, getting as far as Jeff’s neighbor before walking away again thinking I’d gone too far.

Day 18: McDonald’s

Memories from May 8

There’s a McDonald’s where the PCT crosses highway 15.

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Also, I have a mere 2296 miles to go.

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Which means I’ve come 342 miles.

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The McDonald’s is a highlight which few hikers miss. I came for breakfast and stayed for lunch. There were many hikers both that I knew and were new.

For Mother’s Day, someone’s mom treated herself to a drive up to the McDonald’s and was distributing lasagna, bread sticks, and fruit inside.

After calling mom and leaving a message twice I moved on.

The trail had a few interesting obstacles.

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As it climbed, despite being near a busy highway and railroad the view felt well composed.

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I found some interesting bushes.

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I needed to dry my gear and after dropping over a ridge, found a secluded campsite deep in the brush. On my way out around 5pm with dry gear and having caught up on a few blog posts, I surprised a pair of hikers who were settling in at a spot not quite as deep in the brush. I’d heard them say how hidden and private it was and decided it was better to leave before I became privy to anythings not intended for my ears.

Despite intending to pound out at least four more miles, I crossed Terminator & Co who pointed out that the trail was just about to start up a hill with no campsites so settled in with them.

Day 17: Vocational Advice Taken Lying Down

Memories from May 7

I’d slept in my clothes and so was first out of camp in the morning. The trail wasn’t particularly notable but had a pleasantly pastoral view for a while.

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The trail wound down to a highway and crossed a particularly scenic hydroelectric facility and gravel mounds.

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Whatever this is, it looked pretty cool. This was the smallest part of dam infrastructure. Dams are really big.

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After a while, the trail cut over to a sprawling lake and took it’s time tracing the lake’s outline.

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There was a side trail to a beach which I missed and didn’t realize it until I was far enough along to not want to go back. Instead, having made 14 or 15 miles by noon, I decided to take a siesta at a nearby picnic area. After stuffing my face (I found a sleeve of girlscout cookies in the bottom of my food bag), I half napped face down on a picnic table and half listened to Let Your Life Speak. This isn’t a book review blog nor my personal diary so I’ll have just share one tidbit – that it was somehow calming to hear someone vocalize the idea that culture feeds white males a lie that they can make themselves anything. Instead, a central theme of the book is that all people have inherent proclivities and limits which they will be more satisfied if they respect. I’ve struggled with the idea that having a big impact is something of a birthright I need to live up to and that a normal life would somehow be a letdown. I think it was calming because it felt like I was being given the permission to be normal.

The book is short so when it finished, I got up and lazily walked a few more miles.

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Day 16: Hotsprings

Memories from May 6

Today was mostly spent hiking alog a valley cut by Deep Creek. There was lots of local access so there were constant signs about fishing rules, no motor vehicles, and no camping. I’m not quite sure when “no camping” applies to thru hikers because sometimes we’re allowed to break certain rules.

I crossed the largest bridge I’ve seen so far.

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And saw some new plants.

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But the real highlight of the day was the Deep Creek Hotsprings. Clothing is optional but apparently PCT hikers aren’t as wild as AT hikers. Only one, well stoned hiker (not pictured) dropped their skivvies and still kept a shirt on, if unbuttoned.

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I haven’t done much waiting on the trail. I get up in the morning, break camp as quickly as possible, and breakfast while walking taking my first break when something forces me to (sometimes that’s a view so pretty if grabs your head and makes you look and so you stop because you stumble because you can’t see where you’re going). I got to the hot springs and, like a someone checking boxes on a to do list, hopped in the first pool I saw. Only after I was beginning to overheat, and was thinking if getting out and moving on, did I realize that I was under absolutely no compulsion to do such a thing. Instead, I hopped over the low wall of rocks cemented together to hold the softly steaming water and into the cool stream. I paddled around for a few tens of yards coming across other pools which were generally occupied and slackline which, while tempting (I’ve never tried one) looked like it was over unfortunately shallow water. Eventually I came back to the hot tub sized pool I started in and decided to wait until someone I knew showed up. With the exception of one sunburned fellow in red boxer briefs who was horseback riding the PCT, people didn’t seem particularly outgoing.

In time, Splitter, Eddie, Christine, Terminator, and a bunch of others made their way down to the hot springs. After a couple hours, Terminator commented that he’d heard that the place got pretty wild and so it wouldn’t be a good place to stay the night. I was low on water and there was a warning in Halfmile’s trail notes about elevated levels of fecal coliform so we moved on.

I got water from a side stream a few miles down the way.

The miles from the Deep Creek Hot Springs to the Mojave Dam were a beautiful traverse high or on the valley wall.

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I camped with Terms (short for Terminator, short for The Australian Terminator) below the Mojave dam that night. A guy named Tim was christened Tupac because his pack has an two large bags in the front. Two Pack… Tupac…

Day 15: All Forward Progress

Memories from May 5

One of the games I’m playing is that all forward progress from Mexico to Canada needs to be made by foot. It doesn’t necessarily need to be on the PCT since some route-arounds are required but from time to time I’ll be walking along a road and have to turn down an offer for a ride because the particular segment I’m walking is forward progress as opposed to “sideway miles” into town for resupply. This morning that meant that I could take a bus from the hostel to the post office but had to walk from there. After some examination maps, I found a road which went north from near the post office and eventually intersects the PCT about 10 miles ahead if where Eddie, Christine, Julie, Sven, and Jan cut over to it near highway 18. This is nice because it’s within the rules of my game but didn’t make me retrace the three miles if highway I’d walked in to town which hadn’t been particularly pleasant.

Back on the PCT near mile 276 just after Caribou Creek, the trail wound through a former burn area which is in the middle if recovery.

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The trail followed a valley which seemed like it would eventually run in to a cloud which was rolling in over the hills from the south but somehow never quite got there.

Around lunch time, I crossed a picnic area and there were Eddie and Christine. It was fun to see them because when you leave people on the trail, even if they hike about the same pace as you, you never know if you’ll see them again. Splitter was at the table as well and I met Woodchuck and Adam.

I left the table after a quick lunch and the trail continued on past the fire scar, eventually winding into scenery which had a small majesty to it when crowned with clouds. It isn’t captured well on camera but here’s what I got.

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Day 14: Zero in Big Bear

Memories from May 4

Today was mostly just town chores. Caught up on blog entries, bought groceries, some toiletries and replacement flip flops. I bought eggs, bacon, fruit and with the pancake mix at the hostel, made a wonderful breakfast which was just about the most perfect start to the day that could have possibly happened.

The day ended well when Jan, Sven, Julie, Kate, and I all made dinner together. We had cheeseburgers, salads, fresh vegetables, mashed potatoes with beans and other veggies mixed in (a graceful recovery from an attempt to make potato patties which were too crumbly).

Jan slaving away over salad dressing.

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I was the burgermiester for the evening.

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Random shot of the kitchen featuring Jan, Kate, and a passerby.

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This was too crumbly to make into vegetarian patties but made a delicious mashed potato dish.

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Family style dinner at the Big Bear hostel.

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