Endless P Summer

8/14/19…..Zero miles in Pagosa

We took the day off from hiking today and spent it in Pagosa. It was great! Took care of a few errands; doing laundry, buying food for the next section and eating a bunch of food of course. This town is really cool but it isn’t ideal for hikers. The only laundromat is 2 miles away from the downtown where we stayed and the Wal-Mart another mile from there. Instead of walking all over the place on our day off we just hitched around town which made life easier.

This afternoon our friends Garbelly and Critter hitched into town and our joining us for the next few weeks or so. These 2 are currently 850 miles into an Appalachian Trail southbound thru hike. I went out and camped with them a couple weeks ago in NY and told them our upcoming plan. I swear I wasn’t trying to persuade them to join us, but not long after that they took an ‘alternate’ in New Jersey. They rented a car, drove to Buffalo, then to Nashville, then flew to Denver. From Denver they spent a day and a half taking buses and hitchhiking before crawling into Pagosa this afternoon. I know I’ve introduced these 2 in this blog before but in case you forgot; Garbelly and Critter are from Nashville where he works as an arborist and Critter is a fly fishing guide. I first met Garbelly on the PCT in ’15 and then we hiked with both of them in ’17 on the CDT. They are very fun, and very rad. If you don’t believe me check out their blog: trailingthought.com

The 4 of us had a nice soak in the local hippy dip, this is basically a free hot spring along the San Juan River formed from the runoff of the hot water coming from the resort hot springs. We got pizzas then met up with our friend Smiley for ice creams. Smiley has been thru hiking for years and lately has been living in and enjoying Pagosa Springs. He adopted and takes care of a section of trail that we’ve got coming up. We’ll definitely be going over that section with a fine tooth comb and promptly reporting to the CDTC.

8/15…..CDT Mile 882.3…..20.5 miles

First thing this morning we did a decent job on the San Juan Motel continental breakfast. All you can eat Toaster Strudel and I haven’t had one of those since the 90’s and then I was always fighting over them with my siblings.

Since a foursome hitching back up to Wolf Creek Pass would never work, we split up. QB and I got picked up by Jeff, a builder, who moved his family out here 20 years ago for the skiing. We stopped at his house in a neighborhood 6 miles out of town closer to the Pass. He built the house himself out of refurbished antique timber. Critter and Garbelly got picked up by some hikers and met us at the trailhead.

The hiking today was so much fun. Much easier and more relaxing than the last time we came through here. We did get delayed a little bit when a hail storm rolled through so instead of following the trail up and over a ridge the 4 of us quickly set up the fly to our tent and waited out the weather. After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the day. We passed the Creede Cutoff route that we had all taken back in ‘17. For our friends the trail was all new after the cutoff. (The Creede Cutoff is a lower route through the San Juan’s that is often taken in during lousy weather conditions). Unfortunately for me and QB, in ‘17 we carried on past the cutoff before coming to an impasse and having to backtrack costing us multiple days. More on that later.

Because of our late start and the delay waiting out the weather we hiked until sunset to get to where we were going. We found a really pretty campsite on somewhat uneven terrain. Hope it will do.

8/16/19…..CDT Mile 904.8…..22.5 miles

I made over the dastardly Knife’s Edge today. In ‘17 QB and I decided against crossing the narrow trail in the snow and decided the safer thing to do would be to find another way through the San Juan’s. We made a couple of mistakes before cutting our losses and heading south to the Creede Cutoff. I wrote more about it then and you can go back in my blog and check it out. Since then the Knife’s Edge has been the asterisk on my CDT thru hike.

Today we got across it. Granted there was barely any snow and it was much simpler, I’m still glad I wasn’t snowshoeing across it. From here until the Colorado Trail intersection the trail is all new to me and QB.

Besides the pinnacle of the day the rest of the hiking was really good. We seemed to have some big climbs or maybe they felt that way since we’re up over 12,000 feet and we somehow dodged significant rain and thunderstorms all day. In the evening we saw in the distance the biggest herd of elk I’ve ever seen. A conservative guess would be 120 elk but probably more like 150(the number grows every time we talk about them). We’re camping at Squaw Pass tonight which feels more like a valley and we all had nice fat bags of Mac n’ Cheese.

8/17/19…..CDT Mile 919.9…..15.1 miles

We strategically had a shorter day today in order to camp below 11,000 feet, and to prevent us from camping well over 12,000 the next 2 nights. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Squaw Pass was cold last night and there was frost on both tents when we woke up. There was a long climb out of camp and all morning we had incredible views. We saw more elk and for the first time of this trip we saw about a dozen big horn sheep.Critter and Garbelly

This afternoon we walked across a marshy area with a couple of river crossings/jumps and then we were back climbing into the woods. We found a spot to camp in some trees next to a creek in the shadow of a beefy mountain. I was able to sit in the creek and cool off a little but it wasn’t ideal for getting myself fully submerged.

8/18/19…..CDT Mile 938.3…..18.4 miles

First thing this morning we started climbing up a pass to the right of which was the Rio Grande Pyramid, a 13,900 foot peak shaped like a Mayan Pyramid. There’s a long wall on the left shoulder of the mountain and in one spot a massive chunk of the wall is missing creating a big window. We went off trail and climbed up to that, it was awesome.Garbelly inside the Window

After getting back down to the trail we had 5 more passes to climb over 18 miles. It was a lot of climbing for a relatively short mileage day. And it was awesome, packed with some massive mountain views and lots of wildlife. QB and I saw what we really think was a golden eagle (unconfirmed golden eagle sighting), and I definitely saw a hummingbird right after that. We met multiple parties with pack llamas that had actually just met each other. Garbelly said it was a llama meetup group. Then at lunch we stopped at West Ute Lake and the place had cutthroat trout jumping out of it like crazy. We ate and swam at the lake and met a family with 4 kids and 4 dogs out in the mountains for 8 nights. That’s impressive.

From West Ute Lake we climbed up a steep pass that had another lake with a rocky island just a short ways down from the top. Garbelly and I raced down to swim out to the island before the girls got over the pass. Icy cold water never felt so good.

A little further down from the pass we came across the first moose of the trip about 20 feet from trail. An adolescent bull moose with velvet antlers was just chilling out eating bushes and barely paid us any mind at all. We descended a little further before turning and immediately started climbing again. This was Hunchback Pass, the last and beefiest pass of the day. We took our time getting up and over it then found some campsites near Beartown trailhead.

8/19/19…..CDT Mile 961.9…..23.6 miles

Immediately after breaking camp this morning, before we even made it from the campsite to the trail, we saw 3 bull moose eating breakfast. It was quite an impressive sight, to see these massive wild animals up close and personal. Minutes later I saw a couple elk up on a ridge, all before sunrise.

We climbed for about a mile and half and the CDT joined the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail(CT) stretches roughly 500 miles from Waterton Canyon near Denver to Durango, CO. The CT and the CDT coincide for about 300 miles. In 2016, QB and I, as well as a few other friends hiked the Colorado Trail. In the opposite direction though so everything seems new.

All day we were up high above tree line and over 12,000 feet. We saw about 15 southbound CT hikers as well as 7 bike packers as the CT is one of the few long distance trails that allows bikes. It was a good day for animals too. Besides the moose and elk we saw this morning, I saw a weasel(a week ago I saw one of these and mistakenly referred to it as a pine marten), a peregrine falcon, 2 more bull moose and 2 coyotes separately, plus a herd of hundreds of domestic sheep in the distance.

We’re camped up high at 12,300 feet at Carson trailhead. Most likely it will be a cold night and since this is the sight of an old mining camp, with remains and everything, it is undoubtedly haunted.

8/20…..CDT Mile 978.9…..17 miles

Town Day! We cruised all day, barely stopping because for the first time in almost a week we’d have a chance for some burgers, sodas, and a little civilization. The sooner the better.

The trail was mostly up above treeline all morning and we passed the Colorado Trail High Point at 13,271 feet. We saw half a dozen CT hikers traveling south including my friend Lexy who I hiked some of Virginia with on the AT in ‘16. When we got to the road we all had every intention of hitching but a CT hiker, Quincy, had called for a shuttle and when split 5 ways it was pretty cheap. Worth it not to wait around for a car.

In Lake City we picked up packages ate burgers and sodas then came up with a new plan. Originally we thought we’d be getting back on the CDT and traveling north another hundred miles but decided against it. Garbelly and Critter had already done that section and QB and I had hiked it twice in the last 3 years. It’s ok and everything but as far as Colorado goes it’s not the most exciting section of trail between Lake City and Salida. Instead we’re going to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’ll be meeting a friend in Jackson Hole on the 25th anyway to start the Wind River High Route so why not go a few days early and check out the Tetons. To do this we need to get to Gunnison, CO, spend the night, rent a car in the morning and drive all day.

After lunch we split up to make the hitching easier. QB and I got 2 rides; first from Caleb up 149 to Blue Mesa and another from Hunter the rest of the way on Rt 50 into Gunnison. Our friends arrived shortly afterwards and then we found out that it was college move in week for Western Colorado University and there was barely any vacancy in town.

Finally Critter found us a room at the Island Acres Motel on the edge of Gunnison with a kitchenette and everything. We walked to the market, got some groceries to cook for dinner, then walked the mile or so to our room and took some long overdue showers.

To see more pictures follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and our friends insta @ourtrailingthought

For the next month or so Sara(QB) and I are planning to hike a few short trails or sections of trails. Starting with the San Juan mountains, a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. In 2017 we hiked the CDT from Mexico to Canada but due to excessive snow we rerouted through the town of Creede instead of hiking out and around the San Juan’s. From Cumbres Pass outside of Chama, NM we’re planning to hike a few hundred miles. Once we get our fill of Colorado we’re headed to either the Unitas in Northeast Utah and then the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

8/10/19…..CDT Mile 793.3…..1 Mile

So we started traveling yesterday but really didn’t get out west until just about midnight mountain time. We drove from Lynn to Long Island, visited with Sara’s family then flew from JFK to Albuquerque. It was an all day event. Waking up in a Rodeway Inn this morning we still had a long way to go to get on trail.

From downtown Albuquerque we took a train for an hour and a half to Santa Fe($9 each) and landed right next to an REI and a farmer’s market. Perfect! We got a fuel canister, perused the market and got lunch at Tia Sofia’s(both thumbs all the way up). So good! New Mexico is famous for green chilies and sopapillas and this place did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If I’m ever to be executed and given a last meal request I’ll take a never ending parade of sopapilla baskets with honey please. After lunch we went to the supermarket and got our food supply for the first section of trail then started walking towards Rt 84. It’s over a hundred miles but a straight shot from here to Chama so we put our thumbs out.

Within 5 minutes, Leona and Jonathan picked us up and drove us about 40 minutes up past Santa Clara Pueblo and the town of Espanola. Leona is from Yakama Nation and Jonathan Navajo Nation. They gave us a great ride and filled us in on the native lands and Pueblos we passed by.

Outside of Espanola we walked for just a few minutes before getting picked up by Neil, Elizabeth, Lucy and Vador(smallest Pekingese dog in the world). They were coming from buying a house in Taos and headed to Ghost Ranch to go horseback riding. It was a fun ride and they were excited to learn about our hiking trips.

From the Ghost Ranch turnoff we quickly got picked up by Audrina who drove us about a half hour to TA or Tierra Amarilla. She told us about Northern New Mexico, her travels, and warned us about the crazies while listening to Mexican music fading in and out on the radio.

In TA we stopped for a coke and a bathroom break, then waited on the side of the road about 5 minutes before Prentiss turned around and picked us up. Always a good sign when a driver turns around to come back for you. Prentiss is a Seattle transplant who works as an ER nurse in Espanola on his way to Colorado for the weekend. He brought us the rest of the way to Chama and dropped us off outside the Boxcar Cafe, home of the best breakfast burrito I ever had. This time I had a regular burrito smothered with cheese and green chilies and that was good too.

We walked a little bit out of town and got picked up by Luke and Amanda, who also turned around to get us, and they drove us the 10 miles or so up to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. They’re currently on a road trip back to KC, MO where they’re working and saving to finish building their cabin in Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. Currently they’ve got an 8 by 8 foot cabin and looking to expand. Now that sounds awesome.

We got on trail at Cumbres Pass, walked about a mile and set the tent up in a bed of soft pine needles for the night. Ahh, Home Sweet Home!

On a little side note, 24 hours ago we were at sea level and tonight we’re camping over 10,000 feet. I’ll let you know how it affects me.

8/11/19…..CDT Mile 808.7…..15.4 miles

Welp I took an Imodium today. Last night was a bit rough, I tossed and turned, my head was aching a bit, I started getting a sore throat and in the morning my stomach was in knots. Possibly due to altitude but probably due to the multiple smothered New Mexican meals I ate. All day I felt like my energy was a bit sapped and after digging multiple cat holes it was time for some medicine.

The weather didn’t help today either. We woke up to rain on the tent and thunder in the distance so we waited it out for awhile and didn’t get moving until about an hour later than we’d have liked. A few other times the rain came on strong enough to force us under a tree to wait it out. Combining these with a couple emergency bathroom stops added up to a very slow day.

Around 3pm the thunder and lightning came on pretty strong as well as a solid downpour. We were forced to set up the tent in some trees instead of carrying on over a ridge. A few times it felt like the rain would let up long enough to get a few more hours in but eventually we resigned to the fact that this would be an early night. Not very often have I done this. Hoping for nicer weather tomorrow and a stronger gut. Unfortunately though we’re camping even higher tonight at 11,700 feet.

Today wasn’t all bad though. We saw a bunch of deer, a couple elk in the distance and even the elusive porcupine as well as some fresh bear prints. It was also fun to walk this trail and compare it to June of ‘17 when it was covered with snow and we were hampered with snowshoes.

8/12/19…..CDT Mile 833.9…..25.2 miles

Today was a vast improvement over yesterday. I still have a bit of a sore throat and my head is a little foggy but I think my digestive system is on the other side of whatever I had been dealing with.

We woke up to clear skies and started walking around 6:15, just as the sun was rising. Within 5 minutes of walking we spotted a massive elk with a full rack staring back at us. This was the first of dozens of elk we saw today. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s rutting season because all the males were hanging out together and all the females were hanging out together. Pretty sure mating season is the end of August and I sure hope it’s not hunting season(wearing my hi vis orange hat just in case). We also had a rare pine marten sighting, he or she was hanging out inside a rock cairn and kept popping out of different holes to check us out.

Unlike yesterday we saw other people out here. About halfway through the day we saw a couple of hikers contouring around the same valley coming our way. I said to QB, “I wonder if we know them” and we did. Spontaneous and Sky are hiking south on the Continental Divide and QB met Spontaneous on the PCT in ‘15. They’re currently on a 3rd year of their honeymoon, sounds rad!

In ‘17 we bailed off this section due to snow and followed a river valley into the tiny town of Platoro, CO before walking into South Fork, CO. About 20 miles into today we passed the spot where we bailed and from then on everything was new. I don’t regret that decision in ‘17. We were going significantly slower than anticipated and we were running out of food. Plus I really enjoyed our adventure into Platoro. The trail beyond that spot was easy today but had it been covered in snow it would have been dicey at best and definitely slow going.

Five miles later we found a flat spot to camp above the Canejos River. Carrying on a little further would have been nice but we’d be camping higher up. The altitude is definitely affecting both of us more than we expected. Tonight we’re at 11,300 feet.

8/13/19…..CDT Mile 861.8…..27.9 miles

We were on a bit of a mission today. Originally this section would have consisted of a nice and relaxed pace for 3 days into town but because of the storm on Sunday it threw everything out of whack. We got up and moving by 6 am and had all day to do the miles.

Camping beside a river has its drawbacks, like the fly of the tent was soaked with condensation this morning, but enjoying the sunrise in this valley was incredible as we began walking. It was a tough climb up and out of the valley and at the top I quickly went the wrong way and got my feet wet. The elk had an easier time, they were running along ridges and bugling and all hanging out together(forget what I said about rutting season). We saw a herd of about 50 of them. From the ridge above the valley we contoured around a few beefy peaks and had a couple of snow crossings, one of which was pretty scary and another one where we had to do a controlled glissade.

As we got closer to Elwood Pass, we saw a little more life than usual. There were a couple other day hikers out there and two guys from the forest service looking for and counting big horn sheep(tough job, counting sheep will put you to sleep. I so wish I thought of that joke when I saw them). They saw as many as we did; zero.

From Elwood Pass it felt like we were getting away from the big mountains for a bit and the trail became a little faster. We walked through Wolf Creek Ski Area in the evening and then down to Wolf Creek Pass where we put our thumbs out.

Holly was driving the second car to pass us and she pulled over and pushed all her kayak stuff around to make room. She spent the last 5 days kayaking in Buena Vista, CO and told us about her plan to retire young, live mobile, and paddle and ski all over the place. Sounds fun! Holly brought us down to Pagosa Springs where we got a motel room for the night. We’ve got friends, Garbelly and Critter, joining us here tomorrow and we’ll most likely get back on trail with them the following morning.

Since late 2015 I’ve been section hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. This is the original long distance hiking trail in the US and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. It stretches 270 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada. This week, QB and I have a few days off so we’re hiking a 50 mile section from Sherburne Pass to Lincoln Gap.

6/23/19 LT Mile 120.8

Last night we went to my buddy Brett and his wife Erin’s wedding in St. Johnsbury, VT. Afterwards, instead of staying in a hotel nearby like normal people, we drove an hour and a half west and slept in the back of my Subaru at a trailhead parking lot at Lincoln Gap.

This morning we rolled out of bed/car a little later than normal, got packed up, and put our thumbs out. Immediately we got picked up by a nice couple in a pickup truck who were headed down to Killington to mountain bike for the day. We hopped in the back with the bikes and enjoyed a nice sunny ride through Vermont for the next hour. We picked up some last minute necessities(candy bars and chips) at a gas station then quickly got a ride up the hill to Sherburne Pass where we ate lunch at the Inn at the Long Trail (QB says get the Nachos!).

The AT and the LT run concurrently for the southern hundred or so miles of Vermont and this is where they split. We followed the trail north all afternoon and I have to say, it was really nothing special. I mean I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. It was a green tunnel all day, with a fair amount of mud, but I guess that’s why they call it Vermud (that joke never ever gets old). Besides today being a bit boring it was definitely an enjoyable day and it certainly felt good to be back on trail.

We walked into the evening and found a place to camp in a little gap on a snowmobile trail. All day I noticed the bugs but they weren’t anything more than a minor nuisance until we stopped here. All of a sudden they swarmed. We had to put everything else on hold and set up the tent immediately. Hopefully they’re all gone by morning.

6/24/19 LT Mile 141.9

Some of the bugs must have slept in because they weren’t as bad by the time we got up and moving this morning. The trail was a little nicer too. For awhile we followed a nicely graded and wide uphill ski trail that accesses a bunch of backcountry skiing. I’ll have to keep this area in mind come winter.

After we got to Brandon Gap the trail rose steeply up to Horrid Mountain(it wasn’t that horrid). The rest of the day we seemed to be going up and down along the tops of mountains, even though they were all wooded summits and there were hardly any open views. Opposed to yesterday where we were lower in a forest and just contouring all day. Still though, it was muddy and buggy and muggy. Not complaining or anything but these aren’t my favorite hiking conditions.

This afternoon we walked through Middlebury Snow Bowl and within the ski area was Pleiad Lake, an excellent stop for a mid day swim!

We crossed Middlebury Gap, RT 125, and continued hiking up and down on rocky and muddy trail. At one point we walked through a remarkable amount of moose poop. I mean I wouldn’t write it here if it wasn’t worth mentioning, it was just that extraordinary of an amount of moose poop. A couple miles after the communal moose toilet we set up our tent near the Emily Proctor Shelter and called it a day. It might be a bit less buggy here than last night, still buggy though.

6/25 LT Mile 152.6

Today started off nice enough. It was cool and cloudy with a breeze that kept the bugs away. Then, like gangbusters, it started raining cats and dogs. It was absolutely pouring. The trail went from its regular makeup of mud, rocks, and roots to a muddy river with rocks for islands. Luckily we only had to walk through 11 miles of this nonsense and we’d be in a nice warm car. It would have totally sucked to spend all day walking in the rain and then try to camp in it. I felt bad for the other hikers out there today. The trail itself rolled up and down along a ridge and on a clear day I’m sure would have provided some sweet views.

Here and there the rain would let up but by the time we got to Lincoln Gap it reached something of crescendo and was absolutely pissing on us. When we reached the car we stripped out of our muddy soaked clothes on the side of the road, threw all our filthy crap in the rooftop cargo carrier then hopped in, cranked the heat and did our best to dry off. It’s a 3+ hour drive home but warm and dry. Plus we stopped at Cockadoodle Pizza in Bethel, VT and stuffed our faces. I’m not sure I’d recommend this section of the Long Trail but I definitely recommend Cockadoodle Pizza if you’re in the area.

If you just want to read about the race itself feel free to scroll through all this other stuff, I won’t be offended.

I’ve been wanting to take a shot at a hundred miler for awhile now. I guess ever since I started running and heard that hundreds were a thing that people do. It seemed so far out of reach, but like everything it’s all relative. When I started running, even 10 miles seemed unattainable. Now, after years of running, I knew that if I could wrap my head around it, a hundred miles was a possibility. It would only be like running from Lynn to Ossippee.

Also the time was now. For the last few years I spent most of my summers thru hiking and although I guess I was building up endurance, I felt that hiking took precedence over training to run a long race. This year was different. I was running well through the fall and had no immediate thru hikes coming up so I had enough time to put in some decent mileage over the winter.

Leading up to the race I ran a 50 miler in October and another one in November. I registered to run Zion in early December. From then until March I was doing 50-60 miles a week, regrettably mostly on the treadmill with some on pavement and not as many as I’d have liked on trail. In early March I developed a shin splint in my left leg and convinced myself it was a stress fracture. So I rested. I rode a bike and got on the stair master to keep my legs busy but I stopped running. Besides a 6 hour race in mid March that I took very easily, I didn’t run at all for the last 5-6 weeks going into Zion. I also had a head cold that whipped my ass for about 3 weeks during that same spell.

Race day I was ready though. My cold was gone, my shin felt good(I wore a compression sleeve on it just in case), and I had been sleeping well the week leading up to the race. No excuses. I had confidence in my crew and pacers and all that was left was to do the damn thing.

Sara and my parents came out to Utah with me and for the couple days beforehand and we did some nice easy hiking around Zion NP and tented at night. I usually sleep better in a tent than a bed anyway so I got some decent rest. We spent the night before the race camping at Zion River Resort(campground) a mile from the start so at 5:30 am it was a short drive for them to drop me off.

At 6am, after a quick talking to, we were off. All the 100 milers and 100K runners starting at once through the dark. Something like 500 runners with headlamps through a neighborhood where one of the houses was blasting Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’(I requested ‘Radio Gaga’ but they either didn’t have that or didn’t hear me). The course took us out onto rt 9 for a mile, where we ran by my crew who were watching from the campground. Across the street in a field next to the road, there was about 40 horses running alongside the runners. They probably wait all year for this. From Rt 9 we took a right onto a dirt road and followed that for a relatively flat 3 miles until we got to the bottom of a massive 1 mile 1500 foot climb to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. This was to be the biggest climb of the course and the timing was perfect, everybody was still jacked up, the sun was coming up and although we were all right on top of each other there was still enough room to pass or get out of the way if necessary. I loved it. At the top was the first aid station, Goosebump Aid(5.2). I shoveled some food in quickly and packed a few Oreos to go.Let’s Party! From Goosebump it was about 6 miles of dirt roads to Grafton Mesa Aid(11.4). This was the first crew access aid station and it was jam packed with spectators and fans and stuff, including my own which was nice. I ate good here, reloaded my fluids then carried on a couple miles downhill on dirt roads to Wire Mesa(13.3). There was an aid station here that we would hit twice so even though it came up quick I did my best to eat something and also pack my pockets with snacks. My plan was to eat as much as I could throughout the race(that’s actually my plan for regular life too) and so far I was executing. From our first stop at Wire Mesa Aid, the course went out on a really nice 7+ mile single track loop along the edge of Wire Mesa. It was very runnable and there were some spectacular views of Zion along this section.

When I got back to Wire Mesa Aid(20.8) I ate a handful of bacon and had a memorable avacodo and mayo wrap. The course went back on the dirt roads to our second stop at Grafton Aid(22.8), uphill this time. For the beginning of this race I kept myself entertained talking with and meeting people from all over the place. It was fun seeing runners I met throughout the day and into the night at different points of the race. At Grafton Aid my crew was waiting for me and this was the first point that pacers were allowed out on the course. My mom, even though she thought she retired from running 5 years ago, joined me for a 6 mile loop out and around Grafton Mesa. This loop was a nice combination of slick rock and single track, it had some killer views, was very runnable, and having my mom with me was a pleasant distraction to the accumulating miles. When we got back to Grafton Aid(28.2) I ate a bunch of food and said goodbye to my crew as it was the last time I’d see my them for about 25 miles/6 hours. The next section was fairly boring. It was on dirt roads with what seemed like a lot of uphill(which I was mostly walking) and the field of runners had really thinned out.

Once I got back to Goosebump Aid(34.4) I loaded up and started out onto an 11 mile loop on Gooseberry Mesa. Now this was tough. There was a lot of slick rock which was difficult to navigate and slow for running. It was awesome though and included what I thought was the highlight of the course; a huge slab of rock around mile 39 that went out and back like a peninsula high up over the desert. It was rad. I let out a good scream on what seemed like the edge of the world. A few miles later we got to Gooseberry Aid(42) and I had the most delicious orange slices I’ve ever had in my life. So refreshing, especially since it was starting to get warm up on the mesa. From Gooseberry Aid back to our third stop at Goosebump(45.7) it was mostly slick rock and single track, difficult but relatively enjoyable.

I loaded up at Goosebump Aid and began the 1500 foot descent off of the mesa. This was the downhill version of a climb that I enjoyed so much 40 miles ago. This time it kind of sucked. I knew it would though, and I also knew it wouldn’t last long. Plus I lost a water bottle at some point, or it fell out while I was on the hopper at the last aid station. Don’t worry, I had 3 other ones and judging by my relatively clear pee I was doing a good job staying hydrated. Back on the desert floor the course followed a bunch of rolling jeep roads and was decent for moving along. Although I took the descent nice and slow I was feeling good and moving well back down low and the miles seemed to be clicking away.

At Virgin Desert Aid(53.8) my family was waiting for me and my dad would be joining me for the next 13 miles. We ran the next section single file through the desert with him just behind me. Running in front of him was strategic since I just unloaded my sunglasses and I didn’t want his fish belly calves to burn my retinas. We ran through the golden hour and then the sunset alongside a canyon on some absolutely beautiful trail. I had to make a movement during this section but my quads were screaming and I really didn’t want to squat in the desert. We made it to Virgin Dam Aid(62.5), I took care of business and my dad BS’ed with some friends he made earlier in the day. I think I was starting to lose my appetite at this point and only drank some broth and ate a couple cookies.

From Virgin Dam we had about 4 miles of runnable but rocky trail alongside a canyon in the dark. We were wearing headlamps and even though I gave him explicit instructions not to fall, he still ate shit hard with about a mile to go. Miraculously, he bounced right off his fake hip, got up and we booted downhill for another mile. Besides him falling, and me losing my appetite, we had an an awesome section. Making good time and enjoying some good trail. Sara and my mom met up with us at a prearranged meeting spot around mile 66.3. My dad was relieved of his pacing duties and Sara would be joining me the rest of the way. We crossed Rt 9 and started a long slog uphill for about 4 miles on dirt road to the top of Smith Mesa(70.7). I liked the climb, as I like climbing, and it gave me good reason not to run, but I was definitely starting to feel more nauseous. At the aid station it seemed a little barren, a runner there was really cold and as they were looking around for an emergency blanket for him it reminded me I should probably add a layer. I drank some broth and some ginger ale, was able to stomach a gel and got moving. There were fire pits and chairs at all the aid stations from here on out but as inviting as they looked Sara had a pretty firm rule about staying away from them. Good move, they sure looked tough to walk away from.

Up on Smith Mesa the trail got really tough. We went out onto this big loop that was super difficult to navigate. Less than a mile in we crossed paths with two runners coming back towards us, convinced that they weren’t going the right way. After consulting our phones we decided we were going the right way and continued on. If the trail wasn’t all rocky it was beat down by cows and and the footing was terrible. Even on the flat sections. Toward the end of the loop we we took a wrong turn up a wash were we immediate bumped into 10+ other runners who had made that same wrong turn. We got back on track and just had a long downhill to the next aid station. This proved to be the most difficult mile or so of the whole course. It was super steep, rocky and slow going. At one point there was even a rope to assist runners going downhill. I felt like crying(but I didn’t). Finally we got to BMX Aid(79.9) where my parents were waiting for us around 2:30 am. As glad as I was to be there, this was a relatively low point for me. I was struggling and still had 20 miles left, or ‘only’ had 20 miles left. I knew I’d get through the race but it wasn’t going to be easy. On our way out from the aid station my parents wished me happy birthday as I turned 37 overnight. Oh yeah.

We’d be back at BMX Aid right before the end of the race but for now we had a 5 mile uphill to Guacamole Mesa. After crossing a river and doing a short single track section we had a long uphill climb on dirt road. At this point I was hallucinating. Not in a scary way, things were good and I knew what was going on, but I was definitely seeing stuff. We also saw a ton of shooting stars, and what’s better than that? It was tough, but we had positive attitudes and were making relentless forward progress. The guys at Guacamole Aid(85.7) were great and one of the volunteers was from Malden so of course he recognized my accent right away. We had a 7 mile loop out on Guacamole Aid that we didn’t set any records on. Sara as usual was the chief navigator and did an excellent job getting us around the course. The footing was tricky with a lot of slick rock so we took our time and just kept moving forward.

By the time we were back at Guacamole Aid(92.5) the sun was starting to come up and finally we were able to get rid of our headlamps. The long downhill road was unrunnable for me as my quads were screaming with every step, but we were moving along. Sara kept the spirits up playing music and singing, and pointing out faces she was seeing in the rocks. This was a really fun section and I knew we were about to get through this thing. It was almost over, the sun was out, and I was getting birthday and good luck messages that kept me going. We got off the road, crushed a short uphill section, crossed the river again then were back at BMX Aid(98.3). I only stopped here briefly to drop some clothes and my vest with my parents as it was only a short ways to the finish.

The last mile and a half or so was on dirt roads until we crossed back over rt 9 then ran it into the finish. There was a half marathon and 50k going on at the same time so there was a big crowd gathered at the finish line. Crossing the line was glorious. I picked out a belt buckle, sat down, drank a soda, took my shoes off and just chilled in the sunshine for awhile. Done. Onto the next thing.

I took a nap that afternoon and an ice bath that worked wonders. The next morning I was up walking around and checking out the sunrise at Bryce Canyon NP. We spent the day exploring at Bryce and walking around the best I could.

From Bryce we made our way to Escalante and got another hotel for the night. I took an ice bath again that night and when I woke up the following morning, 2 days out from finishing the race. I was feeling really good. The four of us backpacked down into Coyote Gulch and spent a night tenting by the spectacular Jacob Hamblin Arch. We hiked out the following day, and made the long drive back to Nevada where we camped near Lake Mead. In Nevada we spent the day hiking all over Valley of Fire State Park. This place is very cool! Well worth checking out. From Vegas we took a budget airline red eye back to Boston and of course didn’t sleep. Seriously though onto the next thing. Happy Easter!

feel free to follow on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer

Oct 7 Auburn, CA

I woke up in the middle of the night and my legs didn’t hurt too bad. I laid comfortably in the hotel bed for awhile then I got up to walk to the bathroom. Once I stood up my legs felt like they were put through a garbage disposal. I hobbled around a bit and made it back to the bed to sleep for a few more hours before I was up for good.

Today would be a rest day. Sara was in the same boat. We both needed rest but also had to at least walk around and do the best we could to stretch the muscles in our legs. We got breakfast in Hayward then started making our way east to Sacramento. There’s this little tourist trap section of the state capital called Old Sac. They have old buildings, a railroad museum, a bunch of T-shirt shops, and people walking around vaping(that’s not part of the allure, I just saw a lot of vapers).

After a lap or 2 we were done there and drove further east to do the same thing in Nevada City and Grass Valley. These are both similar little towns with old buildings made famous during the days of the California Gold Rush.

Tonight we’re staying in Auburn, CA with our friend S+M who I hiked a lot of miles with in 2015 and some more miles in 2016. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years and in that time she joined the peace corps and did a year and a half in a small village in the West African country of Guinea. She told us some crazy stories of her time in Africa, dodging riots in the capital, wild moto trips through the rice paddies, village life in a foreign land and her more recent trip to Malaysia and Singapore with her Guinean boyfriend, Siradio.

Great to see her and also to get some more rest in a real bed, hopefully my legs will be back to regular strength in another day or two.

Oct 8 Tahoe Meadow Trailhead, NV

S+M lives in a house with her landlord Bill and his wife Debbie who split their time between Auburn and Cupertino in the Bay Area. The last time I saw them was 3 years ago when I stayed at this house while hiking PCT. They’re here for the week, so we all had coffee this morning before going our own ways for the day.

Sara and I went into town to run some errands for our upcoming hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail(that’s the plan anyway). We resupplied in Auburn, got our gear and clothes squared away then headed to Truckee to get permits from the ranger station. Too bad I didn’t realize it was Columbus Day until it was too late. The ranger station is closed as well as the PO which I was hoping to use, no big deal.

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing in a coffee shop and resting these legs. It would have been nice to get started on the trail tonight but we both needed another day of just going easy. We parked at the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead right over the state line in Nevada and spending the night here in the car. We’ll start the Tahoe Rim Trail in the morning.

Oct 7 TRT mile 29.2

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a National scenic trail that forms a 170 mile loop around Lake Tahoe. I’ve done about zero research on this so I can’t really give you any more facts since I don’t know what I should expect. I have done the western side of the trail before because it coincides with the PCT for awhile but I don’t remember specifics. Let me try to paint this picture though; if the loop was a clock we started between the 12-1 and are traveling clockwise around the lake.

Last night was a cold one in the car. We woke up to frost on the windows and the car thermometer said 29 degrees. Because of this I added my sleeping bag liner to my kit, kind of wished I had that thing during the Sierra High Route. Once we started walking, the trail was pretty cruiser. A nice easy grade through pine trees and big granite boulders. It warmed up in the sun but not substantially and because we were in and out of a cloud for most of the morning I was off and on with my jacket a handful of times. It was smooth sailing all day except for a detour around a heli-logging operation. So we had to deal with the noise of a chopper chopping and walk 6 or 7 miles on dirt road. No. If deal though, the aspens along the road were bright yellow and we had no choice but to leaf peep all along the detour.

This afternoon back on trail it got super windy. We walked along an exposed ridge for awhile and got awesome views of Lake Tahoe but it was a lot more comfortable once we got lower and into the trees again. Tonight the wind died down and we found a nice cozy site surrounded by trees on a bed of pine needles. It’s chilly out but as of right now I’m super comfortable in my sleeping with the additional fleece liner.

Oct 10 TRT 31.9 miles

We got an earlier than usual start this morning and just crushed all day. It was a rather uneventful day, all we did was walk big miles. So far I’ve been enjoying this trail. There hasn’t been anything that’s been spectacularly mind blowing, it’s just been really really nice. And super cruiser trail. It’s especially nice to be able to walk all day and accomplish bigger miles opposed to on the Sierra High Route last week where we’d walk all day and wouldn’t have as much distance to show for it (not knocking the SHR though, that Route was absolutely incredible and gave a different feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day).

We did see a fox today, that was cool. Sara said it was a grey fox which I guess are far more elusive but I’m not 100% it wasn’t a little red. It was at a bit of a distance. Decidedly it was a grey fox. And we crossed state borders which is always a big deal on a hike, maybe not so much on this trail as it goes through 2 states in 170 miles, but still cool.

We got to RT 89 near Big Meadow and got a hitch from a hunter, Nathan, into South Lake Tahoe. We quickly wolfed down some fast food and took a city bus to Stateline just back over the border in Nevada where we’ll stay for the night. It’s only been 2 days on trail but spending a night here just made sense. We got a room at the Hard Rock Casino for next to nothing and we’ll resupply in town tomorrow for the rest of the Loop. Plus, right as we were getting into town it started to rain.

Oct 11 Spencer Hot Springs, NV

Shortly after waking up we decided to scrap the Tahoe Rim Trail and start making our way east. We’ve both been feeling a little beat up from the run last week and 4 more 30 mile days wouldn’t be doing our feet any favors. Also this way we’ll have more time to enjoy our ride back east instead of just driving more or less straight home. Don’t get me wrong, the Tahoe Rim Trail is sweet and not only do I recommend it, I’ll probably come back here and do the whole thing or at least complete the sections between what we did here last week and the PCT.

Around 9 AM we walked out of the Hard Rock and to the edge of town before we got our first hitch up the lake. We had a very enjoyable ride with Tori, a Seattle transplant to the area, who drove us about 45 minutes then quickly got two hitches from Victor and Demaris and were back at Tahoe Meadow trailhead and the car.

It was cold this morning! Like 30 degrees at the car. From Tahoe Meadow we started driving east with quick stops in Reno then Fernley, NV to run some errands and gear up for Highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America.” At least that’s how they bill Highway 50 through Nevada. It really wasn’t all that lonely, Sara and I had each other. And it was awesome! We drove through a big empty sagebrush desert for over a hundred miles with massive mountains in the distance before we reached the next town, Austin. There seemed to be absolutely nothing for the hundred+ miles between the tiny towns of Fallon and Austin except for a roadside pull off to the ‘Shoe Tree.’ This is a big old cottonwood with hundreds if not thousands of old shoes thrown up into it. It was quite a sight, smelled like feet though.

About a half hour after Austin we took a dirt road 10 minutes into the middle of the desert and found Spencer Hot Springs. What an awesome spot! The pool we went in was the perfect temperature, a litttle mucky on the bottom, and big enough for at least a dozen people comfortably. We spent a few hours relaxing in the spring and watched the sunset over the snow capped Toiyabe Mountains and then an absolutely incredibly starry sky take over the sky. The stars were twinkling. I don’t remember ever seeing stars twinkle like that, and there were lots of shooters. Quite an evening soaking in a hot spring in the middle of the desert and looking at the Milky Way, pretending I can spot constellations, and watching shooting stars while listening to the wild donkeys communicate with each other nearby. There were others here but with plenty of parking and camping in the area we got a good spot and crashed out in the car for the night.

Oct 12 Murray, UT

Sleeping was cold last night! I mean not too cold, we were comfortable enough in the car and everything. Luckily we were parked right next to a hot spring so right away I was able to soak in some hot water this morning.

We left Spencer Hot Springs which are in the geographical dead center of the state of Nevada and began driving east along Highway 50. Still ‘The Loneliest Road in America.’ It was nice and stuff, we went through a couple tiny towns and by early afternoon we got into Utah and onto interstate 80. It was cool to drive through the salt flats and in the distance we could see the snow capped Uinta Mountain Range. Then drove through Salt Lake City and just got a quick look at the famous Mormon Temple.

We’ve got friends, ‘The Eggs’, in Murray, UT just south of SLC and they put us up for the night. Johnny and Karla or Mr. and Mrs. Egg hiked a bunch of the PCT in ‘15 and wore matching pastel hiking gear earning their names (short for ‘The Easter Eggs’). I walked through a lot of the desert in Southern California with these two when we were all cutting our chops in the thruhiking world and none of us knew what we were doing. I haven’t seen them since the fall of ‘15, the last time I stayed here, when I unsuccessfully tried to hitchhike across the US. Great to see both of them and catch up with each other’s lives and of course to look back on all the fun we had in the desert that year.

Oct 13 Fort Collins, CO

Johnny cooked us sourdough pancakes this morning and we enjoyed breakfast with the Eggs before leaving Salt Lake. Heading east from the city we drove I-80 through the mountains and the ski resorts looked as if they had enough snow to be open. Crazy, right? Eventually we got into Wyoming and drove through relatively boring terrain. It would have been nice to get out and go for a run somewhere but it was cold and windy all day. Plus there didn’t seem to be any good trails nearby, mostly desert.

We crossed the Continental Divide and the town of sp’Rawlins where we stayed last summer while walking the CDT. We then took a detour to another CDT trail town, Saratoga, and enjoyed the Hobo Hot Springs there. These are some really nice pools, they’re built up like resort style but open to the public. It was fun to lay down in the cold water of the North Platte River then hustle back into the hot water and feel tingly all over. Try this out if you’re ever at the Hobo Hot Springs in 30 degree weather.

From Saratoga we drove RT 130 through Medicine Bow National Forest during a legit snowstorm. Didn’t expect this, being mid October and everything, but Sara was driving and took it nice and slow until we dropped lower and were out of harm’s way.

We got into Fort Collins, CO tonight and are staying here with our friends BK and Prickly Pear.

Oct 14 Fort Collins, CO

Winter came early overnight here in FoCo and we had ourselves a nice little snow day with BK and the Pear. The girls made French toast, we played games, went to the climbing gym, then BK’s folks took us all out to dinner at the Charko Broiler. It was a great day.

Oct 15 Denver, CO

It was 17 degrees this morning in Fort Collins. Sara, me and the Pear went downtown to a free yoga class. BK elected to stay in bed. Namaste.

I went for a short run around town to stretch these legs, the girls made lunch and cookies then Sara and I headed down to Denver.

In Denver we’re staying with Cheese, Analiese, and Joel(Halftime). The five of us met Speed and Galaxy Girl at a bar down the street, Station 26. Speed just got home from the ALDHA West Gathering in Oregon where he received his Triple Crown Award. Station 26 is a former firehouse and a bit of an unofficial thru hiker bar. Besides all of us, both of the guys tending bar, Grundel Hammer and Kyle, hiked the PCT in ‘15 and we hiked with Kyle again last year on the CDT. It was a fun night catching up with all these guys. Denver has got to be a great place to live and these guys are all digging it out here. I know this because every time I’m here somebody is selling me on Denver and trying to get me to relocate.

Oct 16 Kansas City, MO

This morning we met Speed and Galaxy Girl for coffee before heading east from Denver. Our next stop is Nashville so we figured we’d just try to get as far as we could along I-70. Originally I was in favor of detouring south through Oklahoma and Arkansas since I’ve never been to either of those states but it added multiple driving hours and I really had no particular place in mind to go to other than just drive through the states.

I-70 through eastern Colorado and Kansas is objectively boring. I’ve been on this road twice already, once driving and once hitchhiking. I knew what I was getting into and that didn’t make it any more exciting. We did see a bobcat though, and that was awesome! I’ve walked an above average number of miles in the backcountry and never seen a big cat in the wild until today, in the median of a major interstate in the middle of Kansas. This thing was the size of a coyote with a cat face and a bob tail, just trying to get across the highway. Really hope he or she got home safely.

Last September we met this couple Nick and Sarah at a hot spring in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. When we parted ways we all told each other, “if you’re ever in town, make sure you get in touch.” So we did and they put us up in their sweet guest house in Kansas City, MO. They recently converted their garage into a tiny home and host guests all the time. A DIY TV show actually did a bunch of the work but Nick and Sarah finished it and the tiny house came out incredible. It was a great place to spend the night and I’m totally inspired to do this when I get home. And oh yeah, we ate some delicious Kansas City BBQ tonight at Slap’s.

Oct 17 Nashville, TN

We went to breakfast with Nick this morning then blasted east out of Kansas City. In 4 short hours we were in St. Louis and stopped to walk under the Gateway Arch. What a behemoth! Last time I was here it was getting fixed or something so it wasn’t as impressive, but today damn! That thing is massive.

Just outside of St. Louis we stopped for BBQ again and they do it right down here. We stuffed ourselves with ribs and pulled pork sandwiches before driving through southern Illinois and into Kentucky. A new state for me, even though we were just passing through.

Tonight we got into Nashville and met up with friends Garbelly and Critter(M.E.). I first met Garbelly just briefly on the PCT and then hiked with both of them last year on the CDT and even finished the trail through Glacier with these two. We met for pizza and crashed at their place tonight.

Oct 18 Nashville, TN

Today Garbelly and M.E. and their dog Milo, took me and Sara out towards northeastern Tennessee to see some of the highlights of the state. We got to Big South Fork National Recreation Area and walked the Honey Creek Loop Trail. It was so cool! The trail drops down from The Cumberland Plateau and goes alongside these huge sandstone cliffs and right by easily accessible caves. I guess there’s something like 20,000 caves in Tennessee. Garbelly says the whole state is like Swiss cheese. We walked up Honey Creek going under and over tons of huge boulders and walking by a bunch of little waterfalls. When we got back to the car we drove over to another trail to see the Twin Arches. These are exactly like the name implies; two huge natural sandstone arches. A little different than St. Louis’ Gateway Arch and more similar to the arches you might find in southern Utah.

I never knew how much Tennessee had going on out here, and I don’t think many other people do either since we only saw 2 other people all day. It was a great day hanging out with these 2 and exploring Tennessee which I know consider a very underrated state.

Oct 19 Wantagh, NY

We drove all day from Nashville to Long Island. Over 900 miles from 7am until midnight when we made it to Sara’s parents house(although we did lose an hour going from central to eastern time zone).

This will be the last entry for the blog. The plan is to hang out here tomorrow and into Sunday with Sara’s family and some friends and drive home to Massachusetts Saturday morning. It was a great trip, but it’s time to get back home for awhile.

Thanks for reading! And especially thank you to everybody that put us up, had a meal with us, or just took time out if their lives to come see us on this trip. It was great to spend time with so people throughout the country.

Sept 28 SHR mile 128

I didn’t sleep so well in the Mammoth Lakes Motel 6 last night. Probably the combination of lack of air conditioning, the tractor trailer trucks rolling through the parking lot, or most likely that I’m just not used to sleeping in beds. I ate good though. Sara and I went to Schat’s bakery for breakfast and fueled up on pastries then I went a bit overboard at the Loco Frijole for lunch. I had a chimichanga which I like to think is a not so distant cousin to the Monte Christo sandwich, both usually the most filling item on the menu. Then I finished Sara’s burrito and had about a thousand tortilla chips.

Our pal Golden, the hiker turned trail angel, came by the restaurant around 1:30 and drove us back up to Red’s Meadow picking up a couple other PCT’ers on the way. We were in no hurry to get moving up at Red’s so while we were sitting at the picnic tables out front I recognized this hiker Beardoh. We’d never met before but he, Sara, and I already followed each other on Instagram and knew a bunch of the same people and places. Beardoh is currently wrapping up his season hiking the John Muir Trail and was waiting on a ride down to Mammoth. We talked with him for awhile and as it always happens when I talk to other people that are heavily invested in this lifestyle I start getting all kinds of ideas of other hikes and projects I want to do.

Eventually we got moving. With heavy packs and both trying to digest food babies we were going nowhere fast. We took the Minaret Lake Trail past Devil’s Postpile and skirting Nancy Pass about 8 miles to Minaret Lake. If you’re keeping score at home this is our second easy alternate in a row. Maybe someday I’ll come back and hike over Nancy Pass. Maybe not. Right now I’m cozy in my tent next to this beautiful lake in the shadow of the powerful Minaret spires. And I’m skipping dinner. So full. Soulful.

Sept 29 Independence, CA

The wind was crazy last night. Every night this week it got windy around 8pm but it would usually stop around 10. Not last night. It was something fierce. All night long it would come and go building up steam whipping sand through our tent with a vengeance. We forgot our tent stakes in the car a week ago so Sara’s been rigging up the 2 most important corners of the rain fly with our shit shovels. The wind knocked these things loose half a dozen times over the course of the night and by sunrise both of us had barely slept and had sand in our eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Plus all over everything else. Rolling up the tent felt like flying a kite and we were careful not to lose anything as we packed the rest of our gear. Maybe it would settle down but if it didn’t neither one of us was in the mood to crawl across talus fields in order to stand on top of a pass in this weather. We decided to head back to Red’s Meadow the way we came in and start returning to the car. In essence we did about 60% of the Sierra High Route plus an overnight out and back to Minaret Lake.

When we got to the road by Devil’s Postpile(a national monument and geological wonder) the first car coming by was our buddy Golden. He drove us back into Mammoth where we grabbed breakfast and reserved a rental car from Hertz at the Mammoth Airport. We got a quick hitch from an Oregonian, Maryann, who drove us the 15 minutes out of town to the airport. There was nobody there. Sara called Hertz and a woman told her they don’t have any cars today and they only rent them from the in town location anyway. The woman gave Sara some nonsense about how you can’t book the cars online from the airport and then something about fine print and some other bullshit. No big deal, we’ll just figure something else out. The thing is, as the crow flies the car isn’t too far away, but you can’t get there from here as they say. It’s a 6 hour drive all the way around the mountains. Instead we figured we’d hitch south to Independence then hike 20 miles up and over Kearsarge Pass to the Bubbs Creek Trail and back to our car.

Too bad the airport is a couple of miles from the highway with zero traffic so we had to hoof it. Once we walked got back to 395(the highway through Owen’s Valley east of the Sierras) we got picked up by a French Couple, Ben and Margaux. These two were traveling the US in a camper van and drove us an hour and a half south to Independence. In exchange we helped them with converting the metric system to the wacky way we measure things in the US.

Independence is a tiny little Highway town with just the essentials. We got a room at the Winnedumah Hotel, most likely haunted, then ate burgers at the Still Life Cafe. It’s the only show in town but the food was good, reasonably priced, and the setting was straight out of another era with a piano in the corner and swing music playing.

A few of our buddies; Mac, Appa, and Moist drove up this way from LA to start their own little adventure in the Sierras. They were planning on camping just to the south of us in Lone Pine tonight but drove up to Independence and we ate gas station ice creams across from the hotel.

Sept 30 Convict Flat CG Sequoia NF

I slept decently in the Winnedumah, especially for a haunted hotel, and they put on a pretty good breakfast; homemade quiche, banana bread, and waffles. After breakfast we started walking towards the Onion Valley Trailhead and put our thumbs out. The first car that drove by stopped for us and Dan and Karen, a couple of hikers from Stockton, drove us up the steep winding road to the beginning of the Kearsarge Pass Trail.

It’s about 5 miles up this big beefy pass but the trail is all switchbacked and smooth so it was easy going. On the way up we ran into this kid Vulture that we met back in March in Oracle, AZ at the beginning of the Arizona Trail. He’s had quite a season hiking the AZT now currently southbounding the PCT. Today he was just going over Kearsarge Pass to get into town to resupply. I did the same thing when I hiked the PCT and I remember Kearsarge, even though back and forth it added something like 16 miles, to be a highlight of the Sierras. It still is.

On the way down from the Pass we walked past beautiful Bullfrog lake among others and eventually made it to the Bubbs Creek Trail. For the next 14 miles we walked mostly mellow trail along Bubbs Creek and through a canyon until we got back to Road’s End where we parked 9 days ago. We drove a half hour out of the park and pulled into Convict Flat CG same place we camped before we started this hike.

Oh yeah we saw this massive hawk today right next to the trail. He/she was perched on a dead stump of a tree about eye level 10 feet away from us. We stopped and just watched it for awhile and it barely moved but looked like maybe it had something in it’s mouth. For experiences with birds of prey, it was right up there.

Oct 1 Big Sur, CA

This morning we drove the winding road from our campsite to the General Grant Grove. This is the original National Park that was later on taken over by King’s Canyon NP and consists of a grove of massive sequoia trees. No doubt very impressive. We walked around admiring all these gigantic trees including the General Grant tree itself, the third largest tree in the world by volume.

After our little nature walk we began driving an even windier road all the way through Sequoia National Park and eventually down to the valley.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit frustrating. Last night when I started the car after letting it sit for 8 or 9 days, a bunch of the dashboard lights were on; check engine, brake, eyesight, low air pressure, oil temp, etc. I figure it’s just something electrical and all I needed to do was go to an auto parts store and have them reset it with their code reader. The thing is they don’t do that in California and I need to either go to a shop or go to a dealership. First thing I did was get an oil change(needed to do that anyway) then we drove around going to a couple different auto parts stores, then I disconnected the battery, reconnected it without change, then I tried calling a Subaru dealership but they said I could only get an appointment a few days out. It’s been frustrating and annoying to have all these lights on. Hopefully it’s no big deal. I’ll go to a shop next time I see one. Or when I get home.

Throughout the day we made our way west towards the Pacific and reached the ocean near the town of Cambria. From there we drove north on Highway 1 into the sunset. I’m not sure exactly where Big Sur starts but I think we’re in it now and it’s a beautiful coastal drive. We’re definitely within Los Padres National Forest and we drove up this steep dirt road off Highway 1 and found a spot to park for the night overlooking the ocean.

Oct 2 Bonny Doon, CA

First thing this morning, before I even woke up or actually this is what woke me up, someone in a truck drove by our free campsite from their free campsite blasting their horn. What a dick. That was around 6am and I never got back to sleep.

Whatever. We ate some breakfast at our little campsite pull off then started making our way north along the Big Sur Coast stopping at anything that piqued our interest. At Andrew Molera State Park we went for a run along the bluffs then down to the ocean. The trails were great for running and at the beach there were porpoises or dolphins breaching just off shore.

Traveling up the coast we ate lunch at Cannery Row in Monterey and oddly enough I just happened to have started listening to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row audiobook the other day. From Monterey we drove north along the bay to Santa Cruz and explored the pier and checked out the waves at this surf town. Word is there’s been humpback whales breaching but I didn’t see any.

I got in touch with my friend Walker aka Diatom who lives with his folks up in Bonny Doon which I guess is a ‘census-designated place’ within Santa Cruz county but it’s actually more of a state of mind. Now this is a sweet piece of property. Steve(Walker’s dad)and his wife Gloria, who was out of town tonight, had the house built 20 years ago during which time the family all lived in a fifth wheel trailer and a tent on the property. Now there’s gardens, ponds, dogs, lots of trees, a sweet lawn, a John Steinbeck themed outhouse, and Walker and his and Steve run their own business out of a shop next to the house creating and selling ceramic lanterns. I’m sure you can find it online if you want to check it out: Bonny Doon Designs. It was great to catch up with my buddy Diatom who I hiked hundreds of miles with and get to know his father who’s had his share of adventures. Diatom cooked us dinner and they put us up for the night. I kinda want to move in.

Oct 3 San Francisco, CA

This morning we drove down from Bonny Doon to the Coast. We checked the waves at Cowell’s Beach but nothing was happening so we drove south about 5 miles to Pleasure Point and rented surfboards.

Now the last time I surfed was in Tofino and while we were up there I felt like I was getting right up on every other wave and riding them all the way in. Today I wasn’t so lucky or maybe my surf skills are just more suited for Canadian waters. I did overhear a serious surfer saying that today was a ‘tough’ day. Either way it was still fun. Sara and I were out there all morning and got up on the boards once in awhile but most of the time I was just getting tossed around by waves.

This afternoon we drove up to San Francisco and began what I think we’ll be a multiple day walking and noodle eating tour. We saw the painted ladies, went to multiple chinatowns for dumplings and found a place to park for the night near the beach along Great Highway, supposedly it’s a good quiet spot to sleep for the night. We’ll see, at least the price is right.

Oct 4 San Francisco, CA

What a city! And not a bad night parked on the Great Highway either, so good we’ll try it again tonight. It’s quiet, dark, and we didn’t have any disturbances last night. The Great Highway goes along the edge of the Outer Sunset District from the SF Zoo past Golden Gate Park and feels more like a city street than an actual Highway. We’re parked across the street from houses and directly next to a thin strip of grass and trees that has a walking path going through it. Parallel to us on the other side of the path is another road, also ‘the Great Highway’ and then it’s beach and then the Pacific Ocean. So essentially what we have here is ocean front property. It’s comfortable but not so comfortable that I’d get outside the car and fire up our camping stove to cook supper, just comfortable enough to sleep inside the car for a couple nights with the curtains drawn.

Today we walked and ate all over the city. Specifically we went to get breakfast nearby in Sunset then took a bus over to SoMa, bought some used clothes, walked from there back to Chinatown, ate lunch then found the fortune cookie factory, walked up the Fillmore steps, were dazzled by the Blue Angels Flight Squad, went up Coit Tower, took an Uber across the city to China Beach, climbed on the rocks, laid eyes on the mighty Golden Gate Bridge, walked through the Presidio, bought a used book in Inner Richmond, walked through Golden Gate Park, up and down Haight-Ashbury then took a bus back to Sunset and back to car. We ate bagels, donuts, noodles, dumplings, pizza, tacos and ice cream. Almost all of the major food groups.

Oct 5 Lake Chabot CG, CA

Well I guess stealth camping along the Great Highway wasn’t so ‘Great’ last night. Around 1:30, while enjoying a deep REM cycle, I woke up to somebody trying to open the doors to the car. I’m assuming he or she must also drive a black Subaru Outback with Massachusetts plates and a cargo carrier on top and was just confused about where they left it. Before Sara or I could even figure out what was going on someone else drove by and the confused person must have remembered where they parked their car and took off. Confused person or burglar, we weren’t getting back to sleep in this location so we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and parked at a rest area just to the north. We probably should have done this in the first place as it was a relatively dark and quiet place to park for the night. The lot did fill up quick with loud tourists this morning though, including ourselves.

We went down to Sausalito, a town within the bay, for breakfast then drove over to the Marin Headlands for a little walking and looking around. The Point Bonita Lighthouse was closed for visitors today but we still got a good look at the bridge and saw tons of seals on the walk out towards it. Driving back along the coast we stopped and walked out a couple hundred yards for some absolutely striking views of the bridge. I guess this is fleet week and we watched as a SF Fire Boat, a Navy aircraft carrier, and a handful of other navy and coast guard ships went under the bridge. A truly impressive sight. A Coast Guard Helicopter even flew under the bridge, I’d like to think the pilot was disobeying his superior just for the sake of showing off but that probably wasn’t the case.

Tomorrow we’re running the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Trail Race(what a name!) in and around Lake Chabot regional park. We had to pick up our race packets today at a running store in Oakland, so we did that then walked around the Rock Ridge neighborhood for awhile. After that we drove over to Berkeley and explored for a couple hours before driving out towards Lake Chabot. We’re sleeping in an actual pay campground tonight. Not just because of the events from last night, I actually thought of this a few days ago, just wanted to give us both the best chances of a decent nights sleep before the race. I’m a bit nervous and anxious about the race, Sara on the other hand, not at all.

Oct 6

Today was the day! We ran and completed the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler. 10 hours 40 something minutes.

It wasn’t easy but it was fun. First of all we had to wake up at 4:45 am then drive over from the campground to be ready to start the race at 6am. Luckily Sara and I both got a decent night’s sleep. The course was dark for the first hour and for whatever reason I didn’t bring a headlamp but was able to get by because just about everybody else had one and kept the place lit up pretty well. During the first 10 miles we faced some of the most severe climbs and descents, and since it was an out and back style course we knew we had these hills to look forward to again. After the hills we reached Lake Chabot which is a major outdoor recreation area in the East Bay and draws lots of people from Oakland and the surrounding towns. Around the lake the course is paved for a handful of miles. I’m not too crazy about running on the pavement, I feel like it just beats up my knees and feet. It didn’t last forever though and after the Lake there were a couple of aid stations relatively close together so it made the miles seem to tick by quickly. We did some more climbs and drops then we got to my favorite part of the course which was a few miles through a redwood canyon(I think it was actually called ‘Redwood Canyon’). It was deep and dark and the footing was soft and pleasant. Because of the style of the course we started seeing the leaders through this section. We had one long steep hill until the turnaround then repeated the whole thing.

Around mile 20 a woman at an aid station told Sara she was the 5th place female. The rest of the day we tried and were successful in at least retaining that position. Not that we were being competitive and racing but it did give us something to shoot for. We actually didn’t lose any ground at all for the rest of the race. After the first hour when everybody was bunched up, the crowd got pretty thin. We leap frogged with 2 different runners for really long stretches of the course with one of them finishing in front and the other behind us. In the section just after the turnaround we got passed by 2 guys but we were able to catch them and another runner 20 miles later going up one of the massive hills near the end. I felt like I was suited quite well for these hills. They were hot and exposed and so steep that they were unrunnable and although these were our slowest miles of the day I was able to climb them pretty quickly. Finishing the race was a great feeling and I’m sure my body will pay the price for a few days. Sara ended up winning her age group and 5th place female. Not bad for her first race, not just first ultra, this was her first organized race outside of a couple Wednesday night runs in Lynn Woods last summer. I finished just after the 5th place female and we came in 21st and 22nd overall. There was a great spread at the finish line so we hung out for a couple hours eating food, talking to runners, and watching people finish. A very fun and successful day! For tonight instead of sleeping in the car I sprung for a hotel room in nearby Hayward, CA. I’ve run these long runs before and I know it’s important to be near a toilet. An actual bed helps too. feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara @sarahikes

Sept 22 SHR Mile 18

The Sierra High Route isn’t so much a trail but more of a route through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It stretches roughly 195 miles from Road’s End in King’s Canyon north to Twin Lakes near Mono Village(or the other way around but we’re going north). Unlike most of the hiking I’ve done, a lot of this route isn’t on trail. There’s lots of route finding, cross country walking, scrambling over talus fields and maneuvering through loose scree, and also some trail. The route parallels a lot of the John Muir Trail(JMT) which also coincides with the PCT and occasionally the route will follow some of this trail for a few miles here and there. This is my first time back to the Sierras since I walked through here on the PCT in ‘15 and I’m very excited. This is a magical place. Hopefully the route goes smoothly, read up to find out.

This morning we drove about a half hour from Convict Flat CG to the wilderness permit station at the very end of Road’s End in King’s Canyon National Park. The ranger there was great. I feel like I’ve had my share of experiences with rangers that try to rain on my parade, they try to shoot down my plans, act like I can’t do what I want to do, or just make matters difficult. This guy was cool though, he just did his job and gave us the permits we needed. We left the car at Road’s End and got started shortly after 9 beginning a steep climb up the Copper Creek Trail. The trail was smooth and was all switchbacks but we climbed over 5000 feet right away and my pack was as heavy as it’s ever been. It will be slow going so we figured 6+ days of food for a 118 mile section from here to Red’s Meadow where we’ll get into Mammoth to resupply. We also are required to carry bear canisters through these parks which add about 2-3 lbs. I’m using the same pack I’ve had for awhile a Hyperlite 2400 and it was maxed out. Sara opted for her bigger ULA Om instead of her tiny Pa’lante pack she used on the PCT and the Om was at full capacity. My only gear switch was a Hawaiian shirt instead of a tank top for better sun protection. We’re carrying heavy and climbing high but we’re in the Sierras and the weather is beautiful so it’s all good. From the top of the Copper Creek Trail we did some cross country walking towards Grouse Lake where I just had to go for a quick swim then climbed up Grouse Lake Pass at over 11,000 feet. Suddenly I felt like we were plopped right down in the middle of the Sierras, which we are. There were beautiful turquoise alpine lakes and granite mountains in every direction, with more craggy peaks in the distance and all different kinds of pine trees everywhere. It was awesome. Quite different from the 95 degree Walmart parking lot in Fresno yesterday.

We walked down then up and over Goat Crest Pass, picking are way around scree fields and then down to another lake. This went on for the rest of the afternoon. We’d find whatever we were supposed to be aiming for; a lake, a low lying saddle or a mountain and then just walk towards it.

For navigation, in case you’re wondering, we’re using a couple different routes on Gaia. One route is from a hiker named Swami that Sara found online and the other is from this maniac Jabba who sent me a very similar route with a few alternates to give us some options. We’ll use both of them and probably add a couple alternates of our own and make decisions accordingly. We also have Steve Roper’s guidebook downloaded to give us descriptions of where we should be going and what to look for.

This evening we did end up joining something of a trail for awhile. We followed that around Horseshoe Lakes and after the trail petered out we climbed up onto a saddle and found a campsite near a small tarn(small lake). Perfect first day on the SHR.

Sept 23 SHR mile 35

Holy Toledo, Ohio what a day! This might take us longer than I anticipated. Right away this morning we did a little climbing then dropped way down then started climbing again way up towards White Pass. Picking our way through big huge boulders. From White Pass we contoured through a talus field to Red Pass then dropped steeply towards Marian Lake maneuvering through an even steeper gully right at the end. Maybe the most perfect turquoise lake I’ve ever seen surrounded by granite. From Marian we climbed up through a basin containing a bunch of lakes and started making our way to Frozen Lake Pass. Keep in mind this whole time we’re traveling around 1 mph and about to slow down.

Frozen Lake Pass is a super steep pass up a talus field that at first glance looked impossible. We figured a route would begin to present itself as long as we took it nice and slow. Climbing up the talus field most of the rocks were solid but occasionally there’d be a loose one so as we scrambled up we’d test the rocks before proceeding. At the top of the pass it looked even steeper on the way down beginning we some dastardly loose scree. We descended one at a time, went slowly, and eventually made it down to a snowfield that was a bit easier to traverse. The talus field flattened out for awhile then dropped steeply again for until we got to a little alpine lake. I knew this was the end of the hard section for the day so I went for a quick icy cold swim to celebrate.

From the lake we walked cross country for a mile or so until we joined the JMT/PCT. Ahh! Home sweet home, the PCT. It was a treat to walk along this nicely manicured trail for awhile and we were able to pick up the pace a bit. Even the trail was tough though, it brought us up and down Mather Pass and along Palisades Lakes but this was a cakewalk compared to Frozen Lake Pass. We hadn’t see another person in the 24+ hours that we were off trail but during the 5 miles we were on trail we must have seen 20 people, mostly southbound JMTers.

After the lakes we veered off the trail to the right and began making our way up towards Cirque Pass. Instead of nicely groomed trail we were hopping around boulders and scrambling up little cliffs. We got to the cirque below the pass as the sun was setting and decided to leave the rest of it for the morning.

The full moon came up over the peaks and at 11,400 feet we’re camping next to a tarn in one of my favorite campsites of all time. And I saw a shooting star.

Sept 24 SHR mile 58

Alright I might not need to put myself on extreme food rations just yet, we were able to crank out some miles today and get back on track.

Laying up below Cirque Pass last night proved to be the right move. It took us over an hour to get up and down the pass first thing this morning and would have been dangerous to try that with just headlamps last night. From Cirque Pass we went down to a lake then immediately up and over Potluck Pass. This looked like a formidable wall and unlikely that we would be able to get over it but as we got closer we realized there were all kinds of little ledges and ramps that we could scramble up. From the top of Potluck we could see our next obstacle 2 miles to the north, Knapsack Pass. First we had to drop down off of Potluck and zig zag through a valley going up and down little boulder hills and what not. It’s not difficult or anything it was just tedious and slow walking. These huge valleys in between passes are absolutely incredible though. Because they’re so hard to get to, there’s nobody out here, or almost nobody. I thought we had this gigantic valley to ourselves so I was belting out Phil Collins at the top of my lungs when I saw a couple of figures near the top of Knapsack. We ended up meeting Hurl Goat and Mary Poppins a little later and these are the only other High Route hikers we’ve come across so far. Going up and down Knapsack was a slow process but we were able to take our time and pick safe manageable lines up and down the pass.

For the next hour we dropped down to Dusy Basin where I went for my daily bath. After another mile or so we joined the Bishop Pass trail that led down into LeConte Canyon where once again we picked up the JMT/PCT.

Coming from scrambling across the talus fields of the High Route to walking north on the PCT I felt like a dog with a broken leash. We were able to cruise all afternoon and cover some ground. Even as the PCT climbed up the long and gradual Muir Pass we were able to move quickly. I met a handful of southbounders today on their way to Mexico and really got me thinking about hiking that trail south in the future. Might just be the way to do it. We walked a little bit into the dark tonight but being on actual trail that’s no problem. At the last of Evolution Lakes we found a spot to camp as the moon was coming up.

Sept 25 SHR mile 78

This place is amazing. We started this morning by walking about a half mile on the PCT before taking a right onto a steep faint path up towards Darwin Bench, a beautiful spot with a bunch of little lakes surrounded by mountains.

From Darwin Bench we kept climbing and after a little while we could see our next obstacle, Alpine Col(I think col is just another word for Pass, same with notch, gap, and in Nepal; la. They all seem to mean a low spot in a wall of mountains). Alpine Col is daunting. From a distance there looked like no way up and over it. We walked slowly the next hour rock hopping on big boulders along a couple of lakes while looking up towards the col. This only built nervous anticipation. As we got closer a few routes began to unfold and I knew we’d be able to get up it. For some reason I chose a narrow chute of loose scree which looked better than it was. I managed ok but suggested Sara try something else and she seemed to find an easier way. Descending Alpine Col was no picnic either. We had to maneuver around big huge boulders and were very careful picking our lines in order to not get cliffed out. Then when it did finally flatten out we had about a mile of talus field to get through. Looking back I couldn’t imagine having to go up and over Alpine Col from the north side. And this was the easier option! We could have taken Snow Tongue Pass but the description of this one sounded downright harrowing.

Alpine Col and Snow Tongue Pass are on an 8 mile ridge called the Glacier Divide and I think this is what separates Kings Canyon NP from Muir Wilderness. After we got into Muir Wilderness we took an alternate from the Sierra HR that brought us down along Piute Creek below tree line and then we turned and took a right up French Canyon. This was a relaxing handful of miles compared to what we went through this morning. It wouldn’t last though. From French Canyon we climbed steeply up towards Merriam Lake and then further up to LaSalle Lake where we could see our next challenge; Feather Pass.

Climbing Feather Pass wasn’t as technically difficult as some of the other ones but it was a big beefy pass at over 12,300 feet that still involved some scrambling and we were in a race against the sun. I thought it was important to have enough natural light to find our way down that we weren’t rushing. Good thing we crushed all afternoon so when we got to the top of Feather Pass at 6 we still had an hour of light to navigate the talus field on the north side. The sun was setting as we walked through this valley of lakes and it was absolutely stunning. We reached Bear Paw lake and have an excellent campsite for the night.

Sept 26 SHR mile 97

No easy days out here, and I thought for sure today might be one. From our campsite this morning we made our way up and around a bunch of lakes all with bear names. It’s a very beautiful area and feels so far removed from anything. We had to climb a few steep gullies and over some talus but it was rather easy until we got to the top of White Bear Lake Pass. WBL Pass is actually a low lying pass so getting to the top was no big deal but descending the north side requires some slow and careful route finding around cliffs and through a big talus field. This seemed to go on forever and I was amazed looking back at it that we were able to safely get down.We walked another much flatter mile or so and came to Lake Italy(I guess some cartographer thought this long narrow lake resembled The Boot).

At the lake we ran into our first pair of southbound High Routers, Mike and Steve. I didn’t envy what they were about to climb. 20 minutes after we went our separate ways I came up with the best idea; I should have given those guys the key to my car and then they could have driven it up to the Northern Terminus to pick up their own car and left mine for us, it would have been a win win all the way around! A perfect opportunity like that doesn’t come across often and I blew it, just didn’t think of it at the time. Sara said there were too many variables and chances it wouldn’t work out, but I don’t know.

From the northern end of Lake Italy we blasted up a steep slope to Gabbot Pass. There was nothing tricky about it just good strong hiking to get to the top and it was the last time the route goes over 12,000 feet. On the north side of Gabbot was lots and lots of talus to get through but it never seemed too steep just time consuming. We eventually dropped down a path of loose scree to beautiful Lower Mills Creek Lake and found a rock to jump off into the icy cold turquoise water. We ate lunch at the lake and then followed a faint path steeply through forest down to Second Recess(whatever that is, some kind of geology term). I wasn’t crazy about this particular decline, I was slipping and sliding and struggling to find the trail. Once we got to Second Recess though we had a half hour of quite relaxing trail until we picked up a super steep trail up to Laurel Creek. Sara and I both blasted uphill then walked through a valley to Laurel Lake at the bottom of Bighorn Pass.

Bighorn Pass was quite steep and was much grassier than the other passes which made it unusual. There was nothing technical here and we didn’t take our time ascending because once again daylight was an issue and we still had another major obstacle. From the top of Bighorn we had to contour and climb over to Shout-of-Relief Pass. This was a bit tricky. It wasn’t super far or anything just littered with big huge boulders that we had to work our way around. There were a bunch of little climbs and drops and careful route finding involved before being able to let out a Shout of Relief. From the top of this pass we had a rather gentle and enjoyable walk down about a half mile to the closest tarn where we set up camp in some trees on a cozy pine needle floor.

Sept 27 SHR mile 118

Today was an easy day. The first three miles took forever walking cross country and finding our way downhill through a lake basin and all kinds of cliffs and stuff until we got to the McGee Pass Trail. From there we walked a nice smooth mile until the High Route rejoined the PCT. The trail climbed steadily up some nice switchbacks to Purple Lake Pass(probably not the real name) then we just cruised for half a dozen miles.

The High Route veers off the PCT to go up towards Duck Pass but we elected to walk trail for the next 10-12 miles so we could get to Red’s Meadow then down into Mammoth for the night. It was absolutely delightful to just walk along a peaceful trail all day. We’ve had a long 6 days out here and getting into town was a priority.Red’s Meadow is a mule packing station with a little campground, small restaurant, and small store. It’s not really ideal for resupplying although some hikers mail themselves packages here for a hefty fee. In the past I’ve taken a bus into the town of Mammoth but I guess they only run it on the weekends during September. We heard there was a trail angel running shuttles back and forth so I got his number and gave him a call.

Golden, who just finished the PCT, was spending some time in the area driving hikers around. Thankfully he drove the hour round trip for us and entertained us along the way, telling us about when he used to hang out with John Cazale (Fredo)in Brooklyn back in the 70’s.

When I was in Mammoth in 2015 I went to this place Giovanni’s and had Spicy Thai Pizza then talked about it for a couple thousand miles. Today I had that pizza again. Now I guess it’s a tradition. After pizza, Sara and I did all the town stuff: got our resupply done for the next section, showered, did laundry and got a room for the night. Not all in that order.

We’re hoping to get back on the route tomorrow afternoon and travel 77 miles over the next 4-5 days to the Northern Terminus at Twin Lakes up near Mono Village.

Feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and Sara/QB @sarahikes

9/17 Portland, OR

From the Abbotsford hotel room we were only about 2 miles from the US border and a few hundred from the car that we left at White Pass in Washington. I figured nobody would pick up hitchhikers crossing the border so we just walked through. Sara forgot her passport so that made it a little interesting but no problem, they let her back in. In Sumas, WA we put our thumbs out and had a ride right away. Neal, a senior games gold medal swimmer, picked us up and drove us about an hour to Bellingham. Instead of hitching all day we rented a car here(for a quarter of the price than in Abbotsford) and drove 4 hours to pick up the car at White Pass. It was another 3 hours to Portland, OR where we dropped off the rental then met up with our friend Tami for pizza. Catching up with Tami was fun, we picked her brain about hiking the Hayduke and other adventures she’s got coming up. Plus she lent me her bear canister that should come in handy next week. And we parked the rolling bedroom outside her house for the night.

9/18 Mt Hood

What a perfect day to walk around a city and eat food. Right away we went to the coffee shop near Tami’s house and used the internet for awhile(I’ve had pretty limited service the last couple weeks so it was nice to get caught up on what’s going on). Sara took care of the laundry and came back with Blue Star Donuts, what a treat. We went to the REI downtown to get a few little necessities. I broke my sunglasses about a week ago and I’ve been walking around with duct tape barely holding them onto my face, so it was nice to get a new pair. We walked around downtown getting overwhelmed at how awesome Powell’s Bookstore is and then went to the food trucks. I ate some Vietnamese dumplings before getting some spicy pork dish from a Korean truck.

Tomorrow we’re planning on running the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood so on our way there we stopped in a PCT town, Cascade Locks for ice cream then went to the supermarket in Hood River.

From Hood River we drove an hour south and uphill to the Timberline Lodge(from The Shining) where we’ll start our run in the am. There’s a huge parking lot here that you can park at overnight and that’s exactly what we did.

Sept 19 Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail goes 44 miles around Mt Hood(there’s some discrepancies with the mileage but Sara’s Strava clocked it at 44 miles). From Timberline Lodge going clockwise it coincides with the PCT for about a dozen miles to Ramona falls. Five miles later it intersects with the PCT again then splits off to the east going all the way around and finally joining back up to the PCT a mile+ south of the lodge. Besides the distance it’s relatively easy, there’s only about 11,000 feet of elevation gain and a lot of the trail is very runnable.

Our alarms went off around 5 but after dragging ass and dilly dallying for a little we were on trail by 5:50. 5 minutes later I realized I forgot my sunglasses, too late now. But Dammit! I just got them yesterday, and I depend on these things, oh well. We wore headlamps for the first 45 minutes and I kept my eyes peeled for Timberline Tigers(this area’s version of the mountain lion). Running clockwise around the mountain it starts off with a pretty long downhill so before long we had some good miles under our belts. We did what we could running this thing, trying to run the downhills and flats and hike the uphills. It proved to be a solid strategy as I think we made good time. I’ve hiked this section of the PCT twice so some of the miles were pretty familiar to me, but the views of Mt Hood don’t get old. Once we got past Ramona Falls and were on the north side of the mountain it was all new to me and it was awesome, especially on a beautiful clear and sunny day. We got to the Cloud Cap Trailhead on the northeast side of the mountain around 1:30 and ate some ham and cheese subs that we’d lugged out there while we battled a long uphill.

Over on the east side of the trail is where we got the highest, around 7300 feet, and could see way out into the Eastern Oregon desert. We ran through Mt Hood Meadows ski resort and from there it was only a few more miles back to the lodge and the car. A few more rivers to cross and we’d be just about done. The hardest part of this trail is getting across these rocky rivers of snow melt. You have to drop way down to get to the river, pick your way across it with varying levels of difficulty, then climb back up to the trail. I kept my feet dry all day, Sara wasn’t so lucky.

Once back on the PCT you can see the lodge from far away but it’s a bit of an illusion as you have to go way up and down a couple times to get to it, we both knew this though and enjoyed the last mile as we were happy to be finishing a great day. We got to the lodge just after 6 for a total of a little over 12 hours. 10 out of 10 would do it again and recommend. After we finished we drove an hour or two south and parked at a rest area near Smith Rock for the night.

Sept 20 Redding, CA

Our plan is to start the Sierra High Route on Saturday in California’s Sierra Nevadas so our main objective today was to get a chunk of the driving done and rest these legs.

First we had to check some stuff out. The rest area we slept at was right next to a ravine 300 feet deep containing the Deschutes River. As far as rest areas go, this was a good one. Then we noticed we were only about 10 minutes from Smith Rock State Park. This place is a haven for rock climbers and also looked like it had some nice trails. I wish I had good legs this morning because I would have loved to run around the park but settled for just taking it all in from the parking lot.

We followed 97 south through Bend for a couple hours then went west for about an hour to the Umpqua Hot Springs. Such a relaxing place to soak. About a quarter mile walk from the parking area there’s 8 pools ranging from body temperature to wicked hot. They sit kind of high above the Umpqua river and as much as I wanted to jump in and out of the cold river and back into the hot springs it looked like a major chore to climb down and I was ill equipped. Either way still very relaxing, clean, easy to find, and not too crowded for hot springs.

We got back on the road after a few hours of laying around in hot water absorbing all kinds minerals and positive energy. In Klamath Falls, pretty much the last town in Oregon, we stopped for supper at a BBQ joint and got some delicious ribs and then on our way out of town grabbed a couple tacos at a Mexican food truck. Who would have though Klamath Falls was such a culinary hot spot. Shortly after that we were in California and had views of the massive and prominent Mt Shasta. I remember when hiking the PCT in ‘15 how much this beefcake dominated the Northern California landscape and it’s still doing that.

We joined I-5 near Weed, CA then dropped way down to the Central Valley where there weren’t many opportunities for free camping. We ended up finding a parking spot in the overnight lot at the Win River Casino in Redding. Casinos, like Walmart’s, let you park for free overnight. I think. I stayed outside of one in Colorado or Utah one time.

9/21 King’s Canyon National Park

The ride from Redding to Fresno is super boring. Just straight and flat for 300 miles. In a way it’s like driving across Kansas. Fresno is the closest city to King’s Canyon, where we’ll be starting our hike tomorrow. It’s only about 200 feet above sea level and today’s a hot one, about 95 degrees.

A few days ago we ordered new sneakers online and had them shipped general delivery to a Fresno PO(sneakers are so much cheaper online). This is a common practice while hiking the long trails but I guess the guys at this particular post office never dealt with it before. They were flabbergasted. “You can’t do that you know! You have to send them to the other post office! We almost sent these back!” one of guys threatened us. To the other guy he says, “we finally found Sara!” The package was literally there for one day. I told them, “we are so sorry, it will never happen again.” Then walked out of the post office with our new shoes in our general delivery package. Were we in the wrong here? We fedexed something to the PO, marked it general delivery so we could pick it up and these guys acted like I mistook a corner of their building for a urinal.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resupplying at a Grocery Outlet(best store ever) then a Walmart, and stopped at a Planet Fitness for our weekly showers.

From Fresno we drove east on 180 towards King’s Canyon National Park and stopped at Twin Valleys in Dunlap for a big pre trail meal. BBQ again tonight and again it was very good. Back on the road we got detoured because of a fire or something and had to take this super steep and winding road for the next hour. Sara was driving and did a good job but I still felt like I was about to vom and I usually don’t get car sick. We got to Convict Flat CG in Sequoia National Forest and called it a night. A much better free campsite than a parking lot at a Redding casino.