Endless P Summer

Across the Imaginary Line into Northern California

While doing a little research before the trip I learned that of the 5 sections of the trail (the desert, the Sierras, NorCal, Oregon, and Washington) there’s not much information about Northern California. I’m not even 100 percent where the Sierras end and NorCal begins. One thing is for sure though, I’m in it now and this mysterious section is unfolding pleasantly before my eyes.

The overwhelming scenery of the Sierras is behind me now but the trail is still awesome. A lot has happened in the last week. I saw a bear. A good sized black bear from about 30-40 feet, it took one look at me and jetted into the woods. It was about ten minutes after I left camp one morning I came across this beast just chilling out in the trail eating berries or something. It happened to be the day after I sent my bear canister home.

We’ve still been putting in some big miles but also checking out some unique towns. On the summer solstice, Schemes, S+M and I hiked 44 miles and the timing was perfect. Any slower and we would have been evacuated from the trail by the ‘Washington Wildfire’. The smoke was visible the night before but luck and the wind were on our side. We got to a road crossing about 20 miles into our day and heard rumors the trail would be shut down, but some hikers coming in our direction told us it wasn’t so bad so we made a push for it. It was a good move. We hiked into the night, dealt with some big time winds along a ridge and could see heavy smoke a few miles away but lived to tell the tale. Once we got to South Lake Tahoe the following day, we heard from other hikers the trail was closed shortly after we passed through and they had to spend the day hitching around the closure.

I’ve stopped in a few interesting towns lately; South Lake Tahoe, Auburn and Sierra City. I went into SLT for a night and it had everything you needed but it was big and spread out. I won a salad bar challenge at this pizza place but only because I declared myself the winner of a contest I invented. Schemes won an unofficial breakfast contest the next morning at Ernie’s Cafe when she ordered two gigantic breakfasts back to back before I could finish my pancakes. After leaving there we hiked along Echo Lake, through Desolation Wilderness and over and along some sweet ridges. Once we got to Squaw Valley there were lots of runners on the trail getting ready for the Western States 100 mile trail race going on that weekend.

S+M had been living in Auburn before the trail and a few days after Tahoe we stopped there and stayed in the house she was living in with Bill and Debi. It was fun and relaxing, the first time I stayed inside a house in months. We checked out the town, ate massive burgers and sweet potato fries at the Club Car and the girls went to get foot massages. Since I had been whining about my feet for a few days and felt a little peer pressure I decided to get a foot massage myself. It was not an enjoyable experience, let’s just say it was the last time I pay somebody to tickle my feet for a half hour. My feet have however felt fantastic ever since. We devoured about 40 more miles of trail before coming within a mile of the tiny little town of Sierra City and I wasn’t passing up an opportunity for real food. We had a quick stop here and I ate breakfast and lunch in succession at the Red Moose Inn before getting back up into the mountains.

I’m almost halfway through this trail and things are still going really well. I feel like I’m getting the hang of it, enjoying myself, and my body is holding up well. Food has become more important to me then ever before and I often find myself pretty hungry. If my food stories bore you well I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.



  

Kennedy Meadows North, CA

I know how confusing this must be so I’ll elaborate. There are two Kennedy Meadows, I’m not going in circles. This one is about 10 miles east of Sonora Pass on highway 4 and has a store and a restaurant. I hitched down here after delivering the trail a thorough beating with my feet for the last week or so. While I was here I stuffed my face with a big cheeseburger covered with chili and then over did it on ice cream cones. Going overboard on ice cream is a mandatory town activity for me. More importantly the real reason we stopped in here was to get a few days worth of food to get to Tahoe.

As we get deeper into the hike the crowd really begins to thin out. It’s difficult to keep a big group together when people travel different speeds, want to see different towns, or just have different agendas. For awhile we had a group of about 10-12 of us traveling together but lately I’ve been hiking with Boone(yellow beard, purple short shorts and usually seen either walking fast or ripping a heater), S+M, and Schemes. S+M(Smiles and Miles), an artist by trade, is super talented, is our team seamstress and made all her own gear. She’s a hardcore hiker, walks all day long with a smile on her face and as a side project makes sure that she sufficiently busts my chops whenever possible. Schemes might be the ultimate badass. She’s the fastest person I’ve hiked with and does it while wearing a sundress, gardeners hat, and carrying around a little kids backpack. Schemes stays in bed for about an hour longer than everyone else and usually catches me before lunch. She likes to sneak up on me while I have my headphones in and scare the bejesuses out of me. It’s not even remotely funny. Don’t get me wrong, I can still dust her on the uphills but she’s got it all over me the rest of the time.

This last section of trail is the reason I decided to thru hike the PCT in the first place. During a road trip around the country last year I found myself hiking along the Washington Coast in Olympic NP where I met my friend Carol. Carol aka ‘Lucky Winner’ hiked half the trail in ’13 and was continuing last summer. I invited myself to stay at her house in Seattle and She invited me to join her hiking, so I did and hiked 112 miles from Red’s Meadow to Sonora Pass. I decided then that I would make it a priority to thru hike the trail. This section is incredible and I was glad to do it again. It travels through Yosemite and up and over Sonora Pass which is what I imagine the planet Mars to look like. Every day I saw deer and tons of yellow-bellied marmot. Two of the mornings I saw a big grey coyote that I was really hoping were wolves. We did however just finish reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild so there’s a chance it was a ghost dog. There was lots of water and I swam every chance I could get. Not only was the icy water exhilarating and invigorating, it was good for my hygiene. I thought I was pretty familiar with this section but I did make my first significant blunder, hiking two miles down a side trail before realizing it and hiking back. It was a little stupid.

Supposedly we’re out of the Sierras now and moving on to Northern California. For future reference I’ll be referring to this area as NorCal. I don’t know much about NorCal but I’m excited and have a pretty good feeling about it.

 

A wooly mammoth, me, Boone, Schemes, S+M

Bishop/Independence, CA

What an incredible week! I probably say that all the time but this time I really mean it. The High Sierras have been nothing short of magical. The scenery has been amazing, unless you’ve been here you’ll have to take my word for it because the pictures don’t do it justice.

After about 50 miles past Kennedy Meadows our friend Speed was finishing up a section of the trail and heading home. Boone and I hiked down a side trail with him and hitched into to Lone Pine for the night. Right before we got picked up we got caught in some kind of sleet/snow storm so we threw up one of our tents for cover. I wish somebody was videotaping it because we probably set a record, it was as if we had been training for that moment for months. As impressive a sight as I’m sure it was, it didn’t matter because right when we got that thing set up, a couple came by and picked us up.

Speed is a salty thru-hiking veteran and I hiked with him off and on for about 600 miles. He was our hiking mentor and not only would he keep up with kids half his age, he made all the logistics of the hike easy for us. He carries the lightest pack but always has everything he needs. One of his ultra light hiking tricks was to drop something when he knew I was right behind him, I would pick it up and return it to him whenever I caught up and for about 3 or 4 miles he would save himself an ounce and probably have a nice chuckle. Well done, Speed.

After the greatest breakfast of all time at Alabama Hills Cafe, Boone and I got a ride back up to the trail and pretty much just killed it all day to catch up to our friends. Boone is tough to miss on the trail. He pushes a furious pace while making purple women’s running shorts fashionable and wears a big yellow beard like he’s flying some kind of hiker trash flag. When we caught up to our friends they were at the base of Mt. Whitney and were planning to leave at 1am to get to the top for sunrise. Women thrive on the PCT and Prickly Pear, S+M, Tami and Schemes are no exception. This is arguably the greatest collection of badass female hikers on the trail this year. At least that I’ve come across. I could have joined them for the super early start but decided to go later, not because I was scared of the cold or anything, because I wasn’t.

At 14,505 feet Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 and is only a 17 mile round trip up a side trail off the PCT. There was no way I was passing it up. I got moving just shy of 6 am, put Chariots of Fire on repeat, turned up the volume and made Whitney my baby that day. I spent about an hour at the summit with a handful of other formidable PCTers: Boone, Nomad, Cat Lady, and Sweetums as well as a few hikers who came up from the valley. I took my time getting down and went for an invigorating swim in the icy cold Guitar Lake before pouring on 8-10 more trail miles that afternoon.

The following day we blasted up and over Forrester Pass(at 13,200 feet this is the highest point on the trail) and then took a side trail over Kearsarge Pass to get to town.  I had a great day off in Bishop then picked up my resupply package(thanks Ma) and stayed a night in Independence. It was so much fun, we ran into Malibu, BK and Queen Bee so 8 of us shared a bunkhouse. I imagine it was similar to being on the Real World.

If you’re into this, don’t hesitate to share it. Also feel free to follow me on the Gram @endlesspsummer. Or not, at the very least stay tuned for more of my story. I have a good feeling about the next few days.

  Me, Speed, Boone, Malibu

Into the Sierra, CA

Right now I’m laying in my fartsack(sleeping bag) about 30 miles past Kennedy Meadows at a really cool sandy campsite in Death Creek Canyon. I took a day off in KM yesterday and I had planned on updating this thing there but I had just too much stuff going on, plus I didn’t have any service so I figured I had a few more days to type this up before it reached the masses.

Getting to Kennedy Meadows is a pretty big deal for this hike, signifying the end of the desert and the beginning of the High Sierras. There’s a big general store there and everybody hangs out on the porch and camps out back. I spent 2 nights in a tipi there, and it was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. Really, it was wicked cool. We’re required to carry bear canisters through the Sierras so I got mine delivered in KM and then stuffed it with as much food as I could, hopefully enough to get me through 5 days.

The week leading up to KM was fun and hot and had lots of milestones: 600 miles, 700 miles, 1000 km, 1/4 of the trail, and 2000 miles to go. These are literally stone formations that mark miles, I’m pretty sure that’s how the term milestone came to be. Maybe not. My first day out of Mojave was my toughest on the trail so far. I don’t know if it was too many cheeseburgers and milkshakes, or if I just didn’t hydrate well while I was in town but I definitely felt like I had a kink in the armor that day. Unbeknownst to me, because I was dragging, my hiking crew(Boone, Malibu, and Speed) took it easy that day and called it a little earlier than normal. So that was nice. I took some Tryactin and rebounded nicely the next day, making up for lost time. The rest of the week was great. When we got to Walker Pass, trail angels Rita and Richard took about a dozen of us into their home, fed us spaghetti and provided hot showers and a cozy floor to crash out on. Super-duper rejuvenated, I made the final 50 miles to KM in a day and a half and even went for a little swim in the Kern River.

The Sierras are said to be the crown jewel of this hike and the desert is just an obstacle to get there. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the  the desert and am excited about this next section. I can only imagine the High Sierras will live up to the hype.

-Endless

 

Mojave, CA

Well I just sweet talked my way into obtaining a miniature bottle of conditioner, so that was nice. I’m into free stuff, and conditioning my hair is one luxury I’ve gone without since I started the trail. I’ve been hiking just over a month now and after some serious miles the last few days, I’m taking 2 full days off at a Motel 6 in Mojave. It’s been a good decision; this place has a pool, it’s across the street from a super cheap diner(Primo Burger) and it’s only $36 a night so with 4 to a room that’s a rather inexpensive stay. Plus, trail angel ‘Jetta Blue’ has been helping us out with rides wherever we need to go and a BBQ on for us last night. Hopefully I’ll be making a trip over to Tehachapi today to run a few errands and check it out, the town sounds pretty cool. This area is all about trains and wind turbines. In fact it’s supposedly one of the biggest wind farms in the world, you should google it. I even walked by a bunch of GE turbines, so that was cool.

Since I left the Andersons I covered some serious ground. I did a 38 mile day(my all time personal backpacking record)and followed that with a couple 25 mile days or something like that. It’s been awesome. Because of a closed section of trail we had to do about 13 miles of street walking but besides that the trail continues to amaze me. I did a nice long downhill into the desert and then walked along a really cool aqueduct. A bunch of people with motor homes and dirt bikes made us sandwiches and gave us drinks at ‘the tiki bar in hell’ before we hiked back up into some mountains and through about a million wind turbines. Because of a little extra hustle I put myself a day ahead of my loose schedule so I feel like I deserved the double zero and earned it and all that. Apparently we’ve got quite an intense stretch when we hike out of here. It’s something like 140 miles to my next stop, Kennedy Meadows, and it’ll be super hot. So I’ll be carrying 7 days of food and lots of water. This will be the heaviest my pack has been and will likely slow me down a bit. I do, however, have a brand new pair of shoes so that will counterbalance the extra challenges that I’m about to face. I did 566 miles on my first pair and probably could have got a little more out of them but wasn’t taking any chances. I went with Brooks Cascadia’s 9’s size 11 opposed to size 10’s that I wear in the real world. I’ve been pretty happy with the Cascadia 9’s and everybody that’s been wearing the Cascadia 10’s is having major sneaker problems. I apologize for the boring gear talk but I highly recommend these sneakers.

Everything else has been on the up and up. I’ve been hiking with the same group of people for awhile now and I feel like we’re moving pretty well. We are starting to come across a lot of new hikers that were a little ahead of us. Knock on wood but right now my body is feeling like a well oiled machine. I’m still eating like a champion and despite all the walking I’m keeping my weight up. I did some laundry here and I’m as clean as I’ve been since mid April. If any of you have any questions feel free to fire away and also if you’d like to follow me on the gram I just changed my name on there to  @endlesspsummer.

Casa de Luna, CA

What a great week. Right now I’m at mile 478 of the trail and taking my first full day off since Cajon Pass. I’m staying at the Anderson’s Casa de Luna with about 30 other hikers. They’ve been hosting hikers here for 15+ years and it’s pretty sweet. There’s a bunch of futons and tents outside, a huge selection of Hawaiian shirts, pancakes for breakfast and I heard some rumor about tacos for supper. It’s super relaxing here, I mean I’m not tired or anything but a day off will do me real nice.

I’ve pretty much just been cruising through the last hundred something miles. I’ve been sticking with the same handful of people for awhile now and they’ve been great. Hiking with a group makes the logistics of the hike so much easier and we are probably having the most fun out here. I still hike by myself sometimes(that’s usually when these guys start talking about gear) but I spend the bulk of my time joking around, if I’m not stuffing my face of course.

Supposedly it’s been super cold for Southern California but I’m not complaining, if it was wicked hot throughout the desert I’d just have to carry more water and that would slow me down. Everything has been going pretty smoothly. Eating plays such a major role in this and I’ve been keeping my weight up. My hygiene has been adequate, I’d say good for the trail but poor for regular life. I mean after a few days away from a town I start to get pretty funky but everyone is, so I don’t even notice it. It’s really the most noticeable when I’m around day hikers, and I’m sure it’s worse for them than me. Come to think of it, there’s a shower here so I think I’ll go wash all 2000 parts real quick.

Wrightwood, CA

I made it into the little ski town of Wrightwood this evening after spending the day giving the trail an absolute beating with my feet. I haven’t really checked this place out yet, just stuffed my face real quick and found a place to throw my tent down.

The last few days have been great. After my day off in Big Bear I hiked about 20 miles through forest and camped at some sweet beach next to a little river. The next day I got up early, had an invigorating early morning swim in an icy river and later on made it to Deep Creek Hot Springs. This place was the real deal, I guess nudists from far and wide go to hang out there. Literally. Supposedly Charlie Manson used to live in the woods there or something. There was all kinds of talk about this big huge storm coming up on us and I had a deadline to pick up a resupply package at the PO so I had to put in some big miles. When I left the hot springs I just walked all day and into the night, it was awesome. Alongside this huge old aqueduct system, next to a gigantic dam, saw a rattler, over this ridge next to a wicked big desert into the sunset and right by Silverwood Lake. It was my highest mileage day of the trip and put me in really good position to get away from this storm. The next morning I hiked for awhile and I was about 3 miles from civilization when some fierce winds and rain finally caught up to me. I switched on my turbo boosters and jogged to a McDonalds on I-15. Besides a McFlurry I hadn’t eaten there in years but I was so hungry. I was whacking back double cheeseburgers with reckless abandon. It was just gross, but awesome at the same time. Trail Angel Innuendo was kind enough to bring me my package from Wrightwood so I took a day off in El Cajon and a bunch of us got cheap rooms at a Best Western while the mountains got hit with a big time storm. It was great, this place had a jacuzzi a pool and a waffle maker. Some of us even took a field trip to Rancho Cucamungo for sushi. Got out early today and it was incredible, started out hot humid and foggy and finally got up to about 8000 feet and walked through areas with about foot of snow. Had some amazing views, travelled through a ski mountain, a trail angel Hopscotch hooked us up with tons of food and drinks and when I finally got to the road I got a ride into town almost immediately. It may have been one of the best hiking days yet.

My good fortunes are continuing. Luck has been on my side. I’m sleeping good, I get a shower once in awhile, my appetite has been indestructible. I’ve been eating food at an incredible rate. The people have been really cool; the hikers, the trail Angels the people in towns. I mean there’s a few whackos here and there but for the most part everyone’s been great.  I have a detour around an old burn area coming up and then I think I’m going back through the desert. I’ll keep you posted. Feel free to share this if you like what you read, or if you got any questions fire away.

Big Bear Lake, CA

Well first of all today’s date, 5/11/15 is another palindrome, so that’s cool. Right now I’m taking a day off from hiking, a ‘zero’ in Big Bear Lake, CA adjacent to Big Bear City. It’s a pretty good sized ski town in southern California at about 6700 feet(higher elevation than anything in New England). I’m sure it’s much busier during the ski season but there is still a lot going on and it is the biggest town I’ve been in since San Diego.

Getting here was of course a bit of an adventure. I left Ziggy and the Bear’s around 9 am Friday morning after it absolutely poured the night before and the winds were borderline obnoxious. Luckily I slept under some benches and had pretty good cover and didn’t get all that wet. There were all kinds of rumors Friday of more storms but instead of sticking around there another night I decided to press on. I put in some big miles that day and it was incredible, hiked through the canyons in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and through the Whitewater Preserve. All day I had some big ominous clouds in the distance but I outran them. The clouds provided an awesome backdrop to the landscape and it was an intense and rewarding day of hiking. There’s been all kinds of rumors of what’s to come and I guess I can’t believe everything I hear, I’m glad I went out when I did. The next couple of days were also scenic but sunnier and with cooler temperatures than I’ve been used to due to the elevation. I walked through some snow and as I later learned, the hikers in front of me had some cold snowy nights, and the hikers behind me got poured on. Hopefully my luck never runs out. I have had some cooler nights lately and have been setting my tent up just to stay a little warmer. It also gives the rattlesnakes less of a chance to slither into my sleeping bag to cuddle. One notable thing from the other day were these animal cages I passed in the middle of nowhere that had these big old Grizzly Bears in them, I guess they use them in the movies or something. It really wasn’t all that cool.

I’ve been hiking and camping with a lot of different, interesting, cool people and been trying to learn as much as I can from them. I’m hoping to hike with an arborist for awhile so I can start identifying all the trees and stuff. Or maybe somebody who will only talk to me in Spanish or something. My body has been holding up pretty well. I’ve been resting when I’m tired and I just kill it when I’m feeling like a machine. I’ve been eating a ton and last night I even ate myself into a free meal. A bunch of us went out to this Mexican Restaurant and myself and another dude went for the burrito challenge. It was an 18 inch tortilla stuffed with all kinds of good burrito accoutrement, weighing in at 7 lbs. it cost $16 dollars but if you clean the plate it’s on the house. Brett aka the ‘Burrito Whisperer’ devoured his in less than 10 minutes. I finished mine in a more pedestrian time of 15-20 minutes but I was pretty proud of myself. I felt like it really wasn’t a big deal, even got ice cream sandwiches afterwards. The waitress however said she’s been working there for a year and only saw one other person do it. She probably tells everybody that though. Apparently she didn’t know I’d been training for that moment at Tacos Lupita for years. Stayed last night and planning to stay again tonight at the Big Bear Hostel and it was a little tough sleeping on a mattress for the first time in weeks but I’ll just have to make the proper adjustments. Hiking out in the AM…..

-Endless