Endless P Summer

Cascade Lockes, OR

In case anybody was wondering, I demolished Oregon, absolutely demolished it. I put ‘Eye of the Tiger’ on repeat, walked all day everyday and finished the state in two weeks. It was exciting, grueling, overwhelmingly beautiful, and very rewarding.

In Mazama Village I ran into my friend Tami who I hadn’t seen since the Sierras. I spent a day hiking with Tami and also Nesquick and 5 Star who I had only met briefly about 1500 miles before. Crater Lake is quite the spectacle and definitely worth checking out. After Crater Lake and north of Mt Thielsen Schemes and I hiked with Distance and Castaway for a few days until we got to Shelter Cove Resort. This place was cool, it was a little campground on a lake with a store. They had a good supply of ice cream sandwiches and also my favorite trail snack, Franz Pastries. I should say they had a good supply until I got there.

We left there just before noon and crushed major miles. The following day Poca AKA Pocahontas, another formidable friendly female hiker, joined Schemes and me and hiked with us the rest of the way through Oregon. After a few chilly nights we started getting into some pretty serious heat. Just south of Big Lake Youth Camp was one of the hottest days I had on the trail. We hiked through burn zones that provided no shade and then lava fields that I think inspired level 8 of the original Super Mario bros. I was low on water and was feeling like Clark W. Griswold in NL’s Vacation. Things worked out though, I traded a Clif Bar to a southbounder for half a liter of water, what a deal!

BLYC treated us pretty well. I picked up a resupply package, there were couches for us to chill out on, they fed us burritos, let us shower, and had a sweet beach for us to camp on. Oh yeah I should probably mention that the Oregon Cascades were wicked awesome!! The Sisters are these prominent mountains in a line that are spaced out along the trail like every 30 miles until Washington. There’s 3 sisters and then 4 other big time mountains that the trail goes right along. It’s quite a sight to see. The biggest and most northern peak is Mt Hood, where people were skiing up until August 2nd. This is where the famous Timberline Lodge from ‘The Shining’ is located. It’s not as scary in person though, and there’s no hedge maze.

I had been hearing about their incredible breakfast buffet for days if not weeks and we were originally planning to camp a few miles south so we would have just a short walk in the morning. Plans changed once we were within striking distance though, we decided to make a push for it and to make it there the night before to see if the pizza rumors were true. They weren’t, but everything worked out really nicely. There was a big wedding going on and as much as I wanted to get out on the dance floor and whip and nay nay, I smelled a little funky and didn’t want to offend anybody. The bar with the pizza was closed so Schemes, Poca and myself got a meal at the fancy restaurant that was still serving. We sat next to this really nice couple, Ron and Christel. We had a great meal, and a great time. When we got the tab we found out that Ron and Christel, who had already left, took care of the whole thing. I couldn’t believe it, it’s people like this that restore my faith in humanity. If you’re reading this, thank you so much.

We camped outside the lodge that night and then put an absolute beating on the buffet the next morning. The rest of Oregon was simply majestic. We hiked along the backside of Hood, next to Ramona Falls and along Eagle Creek. Eagle Creek was spectacular and included Tunnel Falls which I thought was just the cat’s ass, easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life.

On August 3rd we got into Cascade Locks and finished the state with a few hours to spare. A local hiker Randy was really cool and nice enough to give us a ride all the way to Portland. If you’re reading this Randy please respond, one of us left something in your car. I took the red eye to Boston on the night of the 4th so Schemes and I spent the day exploring Portland. I’m quite fond of the PMW and this is a great city. Her friend Jen gave me a ride to the airport and I had a fantastic whirlwind 4 day intermission at home.

The reason for my trip home and the major event of the summer was my brother Jake and sister in law Jodi’s wedding. The wedding was a blast and it was quite an honor to be cast in a supporting role as the BM. We got great weather, ate good, danced for hours and were dazzled by the newlyweds’ moves on the dance floor. A bunch of us had a campfire and set up tents in Jake and Jodi’s backyard afterwards. I was used to that. Besides the wedding I had a bunch of other stuff to do so I’ll just list them; town chores and preparing for Washington, dinner to celebrate my parents 40th anniversary at my brother Mike’s, the rehearsal dinner at Chianti’s in Beverly, I ran up the woods with my father, saw the mighty Atlantic Ocean, checked in on the guys at work, and golfed before the wedding with my father, Rick Skalski, and all the groomsmen. It was a really great trip home. I had so much fun and it was so good to see everybody.

Now back to the trail. I’m flying back to Portland, have a ride lined up to Cascade Locks and then life gets really simple again. As much fun as these past few days have been, I’ve heard good things about Washington state and I’m really looking forward to catching up with my friends and hiking the rest of the trail.

Crater Lake

massive mountains
Burn area

 Mt Jefferson

Me, Schemes, Poca

 

M
 Tunnel Falls

  The Bride and Groom putting on quite the performance.

 The siblings Carmody. Me, Mike, Molly, Jake

Mazama Village, OR

Well I guess you could say the hike is getting pretty serious now. Not really it’s mostly just fun. I have however been paying a little more attention to logistics lately. For the bulk of the hike I had only been focusing on where the next water was, where I might camp that night, and how far until my next resupply. Since I’m getting off trail for a few days in early August I needed to start thinking a little more long range. I have to be in Portland, OR by the evening of August 4th for a top secret mission so my plan is to hike to Cascade Locks by that morning and hitch to Portland. In order to execute this plan I’ll have to crush some serious miles.

The last couple hundred miles of NorCal were some of the most impressive that section had to offer. We blasted through Castle Crags state park, and the Russian and Marble Wilderness areas. The trail travelled through some sweet mountains and I swam in some beautiful mountain lakes. After a nice long 38 mile day Schemes and I were camped up on a saddle between a couple peaks when we realized we had just a shade over 50 miles until Etna, our next town stop. We had previously talked about doing a 50 or more and figured we would wait until Oregon but the time was now and we decided to get it done the following day. I don’t choose these things, they choose me. I got up early, like I do everyday, and proceeded to click off miles. About an hour or two into my day I ran into this guy jumping up and down on the trail all red faced and excited like. “Whoa there Kemosabi!! Whoa there!!” he yelled. I didn’t know who he was talking to so I just kept walking. When he repeated himself I figured that I must be ‘Kemosabi’ so I stopped. “I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST RATTLER OF MY LIFE” he yelled a couple of times, and yeah he was talking in all caps. I wasn’t in the mood for snakes, because I’m never in the mood for snakes, so after I let him tell me about this thing for a few minutes I looked around to make sure the coast was clear and bolted down the trail. I pretty much just cruised the rest of the day. I took a short break for lunch, another one for supper and was rewarded with an incredible sunset. Just after midnight we got to the trailhead parking lot, laid out our sleeping bags and crashed out for a little bit. In the morning we hitched into Etna and made a beeline for the breakfast joint. Schemes didn’t waste any of the waitress’s time and ordered two huge breakfasts right away. I decided to dine in a more civilized manner and ordered my breakfasts back to back. After breakfast we went to the bakery for donuts and then ran errands and relaxed until we got back on trail that afternoon. We’ve pretty much just been killing it since then. I crossed into Oregon on Monday evening the 20th and so far it’s been just delightful. I’m at Mazama Village tonight and about to check out Crater Lake tomorrow. Parents of one of the hikers ‘Rattles’ brought their RV to a site here and put on a big meal for all the hikers passing through, it was really cool and the food was so good.

Oh yeah, Oregon has a couple of challenges for the hikers. One thing some people try to do is hike through the state without showering. I already failed that one but I did put on dirty clothes after my shower so maybe I’ll get an honorable mention. The real Oregon Challenge is to hike all 450 some odd miles of trail through the whole state in two weeks or less. I’m going for this one, and unless I get dysentery or all my oxen die I should do it.

    50 mile sunset
 Marble Wilderness

 Schemes destroying breakfast
 A beautiful mountain lake

   My first night in Oregon

Shasta City, CA

Armed with only a pocket knife, trekking poles and my camera phone I’ve spent the last couple hundred miles hunting Bigfoot in his own backyard. Just kidding, but seriously. I’ve yet to see Bigfoot but the hiking’s been really good.

S+M, Schemes and I were looking to take a little break for the 4th and everything on trail was all booked up. We ended up hitching down to Sacramento and staying with S+M’s friends Angie and Liza. We spent 4 days there and it was really cool. We checked out the city, chilled out by a pool, and went to their annual 4th of July party. Their hospitality was above and beyond. They took in 3 stinky hikers for days, it was probably similar to taking in feral animals. Oh yeah and Angie is the bomb in the kitchen, I don’t know if people still use that expression but let’s just say she knows what she’s doing and I ate well. Liza made life really easy for us by giving up half her day off and driving us back to the trail. Thanks girls.

When I first got back on trail it was steep and hot and almost like starting over. I got over that quickly though and was crushing miles by the end of the day. I hit the midpoint of the trail on 7/7 and it was pretty much just high fives all around. Shortly after the midpoint S+M decided to take some time off from the trail and my crew is down to Schemes and myself. From time to time I still meet new faces and since we dropped back 4 days I’m running into a good amount of people I haven’t seen for awhile. So that’s cool. And We’re slaying miles, which is fun. We got poured on for about 3 days and that was a new experience. I’ve been lucky enough to have great weather for most of my trip. After cowboy camping for the majority of the hike I started setting up my tent again. The mosquitoes aren’t all that cool, and when I’m cowboy camping they start buzzing around my ears at 4 in the morning driving me bat shit crazy before I realize what’s going on.

I’ve hiked through some amazing places and stopped at some cool towns lately. Lassen National Park is underrated, I hadn’t even heard of it before I started my hike. It had a geyser and a boiling lake and the volcano is probably going to erupt any day now. We stopped at Drakesbad Resort for lunch and it was well worth it. After I polished off all their day-olds I pigged out at their delicious lunch buffet. Hat Creek Rim kinda gets a bum rap also. There’s all kinds of warnings about it being super dry and you need to carry buku water. This wasn’t the case for us. It was pouring but we hiked through the storm and were rewarded with an awesome sunset. Subway cave in Old Station was worth checking out as well as the falls at Burney Falls State Park. Around mile 1409 I came across some of the best and most unexpected trail magic of the hike. I’ll spare the details but it was legit. Nicely done Randy and Kathy.

I feel like I’m really making progress out here. Soon I’ll be out of California and I have every intention of demolishing the trail once I get into Oregon. If you like what you read here feel free to share and also if you’d like to see more pictures follow me on the gram @endlesspsummer.


 Schemes, myself, and S+M

 Terminal Geyser in Lassen NP

 Sunset from Hat Creek Rim

 Burney Falls

 Mt Shasta

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.