Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting Lost...

I've made it to Bridgeport. Finally. People say the trail gets easier further north but what I've found is you get into a mental pattern.  Nothing can be as bad as what you have already done.  Creeks are cold but must be crossed.  Face planting in snow hurts... but it happens. Falling down a snow slope is scary but you'll stop at the bottom and you'll get up and try the climb up again. There is no turning back.  Trees do not give directions.  If you are still standing... you keep walking.  This last 100 miles was more technical than the last. I decided on a detour through the Toulome Grand Canyon and found myself amidst the most gorgoeous raging waterfalls and sharp canyons imaginable. It took 7 days of hiking on 5ish days of food with many hours spent lost in canyons following the wrong creek or hiking up the wrong pass and in the wrong direction.  I tried to use the ice axe on one occasion and unfortunately managed to let go of it ... I dropped 50-60 feet across rocks and into trees.  The snow was icy and afforded me little traction.  I swam across a 6 foot deep creek and pulled my pack across with rope from the other side.  I've never been so cold in my life.

I've run out of time in the library but I'm doing well... just tired.  I have so much more to write... an update on Mike and his idea of map reading, other creek crossings, and interesting hiker run ins...

My next stretch is to Echo Lake, 75 miles.  I hope I'll be able to reach it by Sunday.  I'd love to see Fireworks on the Fourth of July.

I wish I had more time to write!!!
 - Golden Child

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

200 miles with snow....

"The mountains are calling and I must go."
 - John Muir

Snow covered and intoxicating the hills, valleys, mountains, and rivers are alive in the Sierra's.  The views from a top ridges, saddles and passes are breathtaking. The lakes below are ice covered with an addicting blue rim amidst the vast white backdrop of sun cups and snow fields. I've never seen snow look so beautiful or rocky cliffs look grand. The smell of trees coming down from a mountain pass is so strong I find myself stopping to breath in.  10 feet away the bark, leaves, and sometimes(if I'm lucky) the dirt becomes new.  The water in the rivers, streams, and creaks runs so clear that purifying water is pointless.  Remoteness is extreme, just walking in the vast white landscape transforms me into a hermit.

I'm sitting in the Mammoth Lakes Library.  There are 6 other hikers with me each blogging and trying to catch up on emails.  The past 200 miles have been the hardest and longest days of this hike.   I've never worked so hard or been so exhausted for a such a long time in my life. I'm not exaggerating and I don't even know where to begin.  Snow is not only physically exhausting but mentally.... it's a killer.  Leaving Kennedy Meadows I have been hiking with Mike, a city guy from PA who is easily frustrated and angered.  Hiking the PCT is not a dream for him... it's something to keep him busy after he was laid off.  I have little patience for dealing with the emotions of others and I enjoy spending much of my day hiking alone but camping with others.  Hiking with Mike is trying.  I am NOT a climber.  I take my time on the uphills and relish in the flat and down hill stretches.  The Sierra's are dangerous, there is no path, no trail, only snow and rocks. Navigating is critical. Paying attention to your surrounding is imperative. No one hikes alone.  ...Which makes it important to hike with others who walk at your pace.  Mike and I ... do not have similar paces. For the past 200 miles I would say 150 of those have been snow/ice covered. Having never walked on more than 10 feet of snow in my life, I take my time.  This frustrates Mike and often times I get up to the top of a mountain, pass, saddle, or hill to find him waiting with a look of complete impatience.  This is not my idea of a good climb... a good hike, or good company.

I attempted Mt. Whitney but was unsuccessful in completing the ascent.  I woke up around 4am, packed up, hid my extra gear near the ranger's station, and left Crabtree Meadows ready to conquer the world.  I made it around Timberline Lake, over snow fields, past Guitar Lake, up over rough boulders, and to the edge of the first switch back that abruptly stopped at a sheet of ice covered rocks. I was alone, every other hiker(12 -14 of them) had gone ahead.  I've never felt so singular in my life.  I sat on the last boulder of the switchback and looked straight up...it wasn't going to happen. I hated stopping.  My motto to this point had been, "I'm a real woman.  I can do anything."  ... and I found a limit.  I discovered a difference between failure and disappointment within myself.  Not being able to keep climbing doesn't compare to failing a test or disappointing a supervisor because you didn't capitalize a word.... or abbreviate correctly.  This is all you...this is your dream... this is your day to conquer a mountain... and it didn't happen because you couldn't do it.  To Perserver no matter the conditions... Fail.  The 5ish miles back down to Crabtree Meadows was slow.  Zorro, a fellow hiker, found me on a small dry section of the meadow packing up.  He knew I hadn't made it and offered to climb Mt. Whitney with me tomorrow.  He had been where I was on other ascents...climbing alone straight up boulders (with no trail) for the first time had stopped him before.  I didn't take him up on his offer, but I did ask if I he would climb Forester Pass(the following day's hike) with me(13200 ft in elevation / the highest point on the PCT).  He said yes.

The next day was hard, he taught me how to walk in snow to avoid post-holing.  The Israel Gears hike with Zorro and they waited for me too.  They walked behind me up Forester Pass. ... I don't know how to describe climbing a pass.... so here goes.  Imagine a wall of snow and ice... with patches of rock sticking out. Walk to the base...boulder straight up a rocky patch to find footprints at the top.  The footprints lead straight up... it's like climbing a slippery ladder to the next rocky patch.  Repeat this for at least an hour with an ice axe in one hand or two trekking poles and a 30-35 lb pack.  It's hard, it hurts, and it's never over. The Israel Gears and Zorro were amazingly patient with me.  Bouldering was difficult and I couldn't always see a foot hold because a rock would be blocking my vision.  One of the Israel guys would move my foot to a safe place. ...Bouldering is harder than climbing the ice ladders.  Rocks fall and tumble...I've slid down more rocky patches than ice.  There are scratches all over my legs...  Getting to the top section of Forester Pass I was once again sliding rocks down the cliff to tumble down at least 1,000 feet below me.  A tipy rock was in the way of a good hand hold so I picked it up, threw it down the cliff saying a few cuss words.  The Israel Gears below laughed.  When we got to the top... I looked over the edge... wow it was steep.  The whole walk there I hadn't looked around, just concentrated on walking in snow efficiently...seeing everything from that height was breathtaking.  I couldn't have made it through that day without the Israel Gears and Zorro.  The hike down to the tree line I post holed between rocks hip deep, face planted, tripped, slid down snow covered cliffs, and each time someone was beside me to help dig me out of a snow hole, or pick my pack up after face planting so standing was easier. Ishmal would step up 3 feet with no problem... he would wait the 5 seconds for me to reach the step up,  hold out his hand out and pull me up the giant step.  ... I've never been or felt so appreciative toward other people.  At the end of the day, 18 miles later, I gave them all hugs... and my eyes were watered up a little. They are kind people and I love them.  They gave help that I needed and didn't make me feel bad about accepting.

 After Forester Pass Mike and I headed into Lone Pine. The stop was needed.  The failed Mt. Whitney attempt had mentally knocked me down. Leaving Lone Pine we picked up to other hikers... very different than Mike and I.  Slim and Sunseeker.  The 8 days between Lone Pine and here... have been hard.  I saw Mike, Slim, and Sunseeker for 6 days straight without seeing anyone else.  The Sierra's whopped our asses...  We did a pass a day starting with Kearsarge, then Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, Selden, and Silver.  Passes are hard work and I've never been the slowest in a group before until now.  I think what made the last 8 days the hardest was the company. I've never been around a group so unexcited about the surroundings.  I love the hiking, scenery, physical and mental difficulty that accompanies each day and thru-hiking as a whole.  The attitudes of these other hikers was negative, angry, and pissed off.  It's so hard to enjoy a new beauty, especially my new love of the cold outdoors with this type of company. BTW... Mike is thinking about leaving the trail.

Even though it's hard, I love the snow.  I'm fairly sunburnt all over with cuts and scraps from post-holing every where on my legs. I should have mentioned what post-holing is... it's when you step in snow, and it gives and your leg drops down.  Sometimes it stops ankle or knee deep but other times there may be rocks below the snow... and there might be a gap between them and lucky you... stepped right in between.  These usually get me to my hip ... once up to my waist.  Until post-holing hip deep I'd never used any upper body muscles on this trip... needless to say I've become good at lifting myself out of a snow hole, or digging my feet out below me.  I've learned to slide down snow slopes/steep cliffs with my ice axe!! It's amazing amounts of fun but I've had a few close calls when I didn't have the ice axe handy and I slid down to a rocky straight drop.  Usually some has been nearby and they've been able to help me out.

Hmmmm, I have more to write but not enough time to get my town chores done.  I need new shoes, more sunscreen, snacks for the next hike...and I need to catch up on my journalling.  I haven't decided where to go after this.  Most people follow the PCT through Tuolumne Meadows then on to Bridgeport... but I'm thinking of side tripping into Yosemite Valley and doing other trails up to Bridgeport.  I loved the remoteness of the John Muir Wilderness as well as Kings Canyon National Park.  I've been to Yosemite 2 or 3 times before always having done short day hikes.  I think it would be enjoyable to see more of Yosemite's beauty on foot rather than out of a car window. It would also give me a chance to hike on my schedule.

I miss everyone...

I sent another camera memory card home so my mum should be putting some more pictures up!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Kennedy Meadows Mark

I've made it 703 miles and can now say I have hiked the Southern California section of the PCT. The desert section is over with and I will soon be entering the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Snow has never been one of my comfort zones.  Only 3-5 people have gone ahead of me.  I'm at the head of the herd.  But I'll get to all that later.

Upon arriving in Kennedy Meadows yesterday afternoon with empty water bottles for 4 miles I entered the General Store.  I drank 2 giant powerades and asked to pick up my box.  In the back of the store amidst hundreds of other boxes mine stood out because of the bright green duct tape.  It's the small things that makes your eyes water.  In the middle of the dusty basement holding the box my mum had mailed I started to tear up just looking at her handwriting.  It's cursive and flowy and I have missed seeing it.

I've hiked 8 or 9 days with out a shower and I've never felt so gross and dirty.  I love it!! My hair became drudged with dirt, sweat, and sometimes bugs. I'd say this is the dirtiest my ears have ever been.. Because this was the end of the desert section it had to be extra sandy.  My socks were stiff after day 3 the dirt was caked into my only two pairs.  No amount of washing, rinsing or waving about gets the dirt out.   Looking in the mirror after avoiding it for 6 weeks... all I see are my clothes on a strange angular body.  I see tan arms and legs that have done 700 miles that couldn't possibly belong to me. ... but they do.

Leaving Hikertown I was expecting to find this hottest section ... hot.  The high through this section was 51 degree and the wind speed was at least 20mph.  Camping in Tylerhorse Canyon I found snow falling on my sleeping bag(I was cow boy camping) at 2:30am.  I was out of camp before 5:45.  The walk through to Tehachapi that day was freezing with a 15 degree wind chill.  The last bit into the road I was surrounded by these giant wind mills. I took pictures!!

Starting out from Tehachapi I camped under Joshua Trees(Crazy dancing trees that look like palmettos on steroids) The nights here are cold and more often than not I don't pitch my tent but cowboy camp beneath the stars and full moon.  The nights are absolutely amazing.  To wake up every morning to see the sunrise and watch the sunset is unbelievably addicting.

Hitching from Walker Pass into Lake Isabella was pretty intense. I covered 21 miles by 1:30, if Lake Isabella hadn't been there I may have been able to hit my first 30 mile day. I can't wait to hit that level... interestingly it's really only a mental barrier. Lake Isabella is 35 miles from the trail and I barely managed to catch up to Slimjim. As I raced down toward the highway there was this car by the trail head/campground entrance with a woman sitting in it. She stopped me and asked... what are you doing?! I was like... well I'm backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, I'm a month and a half into it and I'm going to catch a ride with that guy into Lake Isabella. She asked if he was normal... and if I was hiking with him. She thought he was an axe murder, and I think she even thought I was crazy for both hiking for a month and a half and for knowing the axe murdering Slimjim. I caught a ride with a nice couple who were gathering wildflowers by the side of road. The pizza was amazing and I ate half a extra large pepperoni and pinapple, Slimjim ate the other half as well as got on the good side of the Pizzaria staff.

Coming back to the campground Slimjim had bought an extra pizza for some other hikers but they had kept hiking... so there was this vegetarian pizza sitting at the picnic table near my tent. Freebird, a pro-wind surfer came by and freed him of a few pieces. Freebird is one of those unique people who's lived the life they want to live... and it's similar to what I've always hoped is possible(minus pro-sports.) It was enjoyable to talk about something other than the trail or a Sierra plan. Halfbrew and Rosie night hiked in and came by around 10pm and finished off the pizza. They dogsled and are running a program called Roam the Woods. It's dedicated to educating women in the outdoors. I think it's a good cause but I'm curious how they go about it... while thru-hiking. Halfbrew is hilarious and they often take a couple hour break a few times a day. They'll hike 20 miles and the next day just hike 7. It's a little sporadic and off the cuff but it definitely works for them.
The last few days have been rough for me, I've had a sore throat and had to limit my miles down between 12-18.  It's a horrible feeling to walk 2.4 miles and have it take 1.5 hours when you know it would normally take less than an hour. I'm feeling  better now and I've decided to zero here at Kennedy Meadows until I feel 90% good!

The worst thing I've experienced so far has been chaffing.  I've had it bad for the last 450 miles.  This last 100 miles though it's gotten worse and has taken over 2/3 of both my inner thighs.  I've tried pants, bike shorts, gold bond, baby powder, vasaline, neosporin... but nothing has worked.  Yesterday I had to seriously clean it with alcohol because it started to bleed half way through my hike.  I think, and I could be wrong, but chaffing is like a second degree burn. I've never induced so much pain on myself knowingly until last night..  Putting alcohol over it and pressing my hand as hard as I could to relieve the pain... was unbearable.  Knowing I would need to do the same thing tonight only made it hurt more.  Rubbing neosporin on afterward was like jabbing a toothpick in everywhere.  I hope it will get better but it's been consistent for a long time and hasn't stopped or gone away.

I've loved hiking in Southern Cal.  I'm really going to miss the wildflowers and the immense dry heat. But my Sierra Plan has taken shape and it's definitely a "Golden Child" plan.  I'll leave Kennedy Meadows on Thursday and head North ...conquer Mt. Whitney then continue on to Independence(not stopping in Lone Pine) This is roughly 90ish miles... and will be a good test of any existing mountaineering/snow skills I've learned so far. Afterward I'll go to Mammoth Lakes then Toulome Meadows then South Lake Tahoe.  It's going to be hard, and I'll be starting out with Mike/Olay.  Slimjim, Mango, and most of the other hikers leave tomorrow but my throat just can't take it.  I need to feel highly energized to do what's ahead of me, I can't worry about getting sick and finding a city that doesn't exist out in the middle of no where.  The large group leaving tomorrow is headed toward Lone Pine to take a zero day there, then climb Mt. Whitney and continue on to Indenpendence.  I'll probably run into them at or near Mt. Whitney.  It's difficult here at Kennedy Meadows... thinking by yourself with all these people telling there idea, then changing it 5-10 times in one day... okay freaking annoying.  I stopped asking questions or listening by 10am... I shut my mouth climbed into a swing and tried to ignore it all.

I have more stories to tell but I will have to get to them tomorrow.

DG  - I'm still alive!!  I hope you're doing well, I was thinking about how you cornered me in the trailer and quized me about this trip and why on earth I'd want to do this.  ... I love being out here and hiking everyday and it shocks me that I knew I'd love it more than 2 years ago.  This next section is the more dangerous part so we'll see how I do.  It's one day and one problem at a time.  Has MB thrown a curveball yet? Who's in trouble these days?!
MB - I have really enjoyed all the talks we've had I hope I can get the phone tomorrow... it's such a fight for the line!!
BH - I've tried to call you... I hope you're doing well!!!
PD - I'm glad my blog gives you some reading during lunch!! ROAR I'm ready to take on the Sierra's!!...once my throat heals.
MJ - Sorry to disappoint,... your predictions are at least 700 miles off. Better luck next 700 miles! ...I still don't think he's out here hiking the trail... 
Tamala - I would love the opportunity to write about my hike! I wish it wasn't so hard to capture the surroundings and people while hiking hard.  I hope I can do better with my journal in this next section!!
RE - I eat smooth peanut butter now,... crunch is too difficult to find sometimes.  I'll try to give you a call tomorrow... it's hard to get a hold of the phone. I hope I make it from one end of the Sierra's to the other smoothly. I can't wait for the hug that's waiting for me... Huff. I could use a big one right now.
MG - I miss you! My legs are little monsters and I defnitely don't have fat right above my knees.  Beat that!!!