Saturday, October 26, 2013

Route and Resupply Planning

Half Mile's map of Kearsarge Pass
I did some planning for my PCT hike in 2017 today. I am using Craig's PCT Planner. I had started using this a while back when I was reading Wired's blog about her PCT trip in 2011. I could not remember my password for logging into Craig's planner. I tried every password I could think of, no success. So I tried to use the forgot my password feature and did not get any response. Finally I used the Feedback feature and emailed Craig giving my name and login (which I did remember) and my email address. I explained that I couldn't remember my password. I didn't know how long it might take for Craig to get back to me. It was pretty cool, he emailed me right back and informed me that I had used a different email address, doh!

It is lots of fun to go through the different resupply scenarios and refer to Yogi's PCT Handbook  to review the different resupply points. I have a much better idea of my pace after the 2 day trip I took from Echo Summit to Donner summit. I am using that pace as a baseline to calculate my days on the trail and zero days. It's quite fun and engaging.

I am using Half Mile's maps  to review the trail at different points to determine if I want to resupply at different points. It looks to me that the diversion over Kearsarge Pass to the Onion Valley trailhead is a key resupply point because of the distances and difficulty of the trail in that part of the Sierras. Even those it adds an additional 15 miles of hiking and an unknown hitch-hike down to Independence, it is better than the alternative of carrying all of the extra food to reach a more distant resupply point. I am considering taking a serious zero day in either Independence, Lone Pine, or Bishop. I am imagining swapping out the weight of the extra water that I will need to be carrying through the deserts of Southern California for additional days of food to make it through the remote high-country of the Sierras. I also have decided to climb Mt Whitney will I am in the area as PCT hikers are authorized to do that as long as they climb and descend it from the West side. That adds another day and 17 miles of hiking. This whole process is an interesting and fascinating project, I am really enjoying it.

On a different note, I joined the PCTA this week and made my donation to support their efforts to keep and protect the PCT. Maybe I'll even join one of their trail maintenance projects next summer. I am grateful to all of the people who have done so much to make this trail possible for me and I want to it to be around for my grand-kids in case they ever decide to follow in ole grand-dads footsteps.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

High Loch Leven, Day 2

Woke up early this morning and I really had to pee. What a way to start a post. Well, it was the first thought of the day. It was still dark, or at least what passes for dark when the moon is full. The sky was a dim blue, was it from the moon or was the sun really coming up? What time is it? I fished my iPhone out and looked at the time, 6:10 am. Hmmm, still dark, still gotta go...

I opened the zipper on my bivy to assess the air temperature. Wow, it's cold out there. I lay there a few minutes as my nose and cheeks began to get numb in the cold. If I were on my own hike, I'd get up because the day meant a day if miles. It wouldn't be long till the exertions of moving down the trail would be keeping me warm. Alas, today is not that day. So I am faced with a dilemma. If I get up and pee, what am I going to do afterwards till the sun gets up and starts warming the air?

I re-zipped my bivy's netting. Amazed at how much warmer it is with such a thin piece of mosquito netting between my face and the air outside. maybe if I adjust how I am laying I can put off the inevitable. Stop thinking about it. Think about... something else. Crack! Snap! what was that? I tried peering through the netting to see outside. Something moving? I thought of my bear bag hanging in the tree about twenty feet away. I looked in that direction and could dimly see it's silhouette against the sky. It was majestically hanging perfectly still is in the frigid air. I looked over my shoulder in the other direction, what is that? Or rather who is that.

Apparently I am not the only one who woke with the thought of the day. My friend Eric was already up and about. Eric brought a cool SOG axe. one you can throw and it'll stick in a tree, or a bear if needed. But it also chops wood. Like the wood Eric is carrying. Yay! time to get up. I know that by the time I am out of bed, take take of my business and get back to camp the fire will be going. As so it was.

On my last trip I was so throughly disgusted and tired of instant oatmeal that I didn't even bring it with me. Why carry something so utterly useless and offensive as died mush in a bag? This morning's breakfast consisted of my favorite granola, Trader Joe's Maple and Pecan, doused with a scope of vanilla protein powder to give the illusion of milk. I also has a handful of raisins and a Starbuck Via mocha. Satisfying and excellent. I enjoyed it so much I took a couple pictures of it. Eric had been telling me about his breakfast. He was bringing English muffins and freeze dried eggs with ham and peppers. He toasted his muffins on the fire and prepared his eggs. Hmmm... that looks pretty good. Then he generously shared one with me. Fantastic! I think I might doing something like this next time.  Except I am not sure how I will toast my muffins without a fire. Something to think about anyway.

Slowly but surely everyone got up. slowly but surely meals were made, clothes were changed. stories were shared.Slowly but most assuredly, the sun came up and slowly began to warm the air. I packed all my gear as if I were on my own hike. I left my camp they way I found it, pristine and clean. I brought my pack out and sat in the sun as I watched the others prepare for the day. Eric asked me to lead them on a hike to Fisher Lake which is where I typically camp when I come to this area. It requires about a mile of cross-country navigation and tends to have much fewer people than the lakes along the trail.

We set off through the woods to Fisher Lake. I have taken the route enough times now that I really don't need my GPS, but I used it anyway. I find it is useful to verify that I really am taking the right way. I tend to meander a bit when going cross-country. In this case I am always trying to find a little bit better route than the last time. I found it interesting and comforting that when I was exactly on the route identified by my GPS the going was easier than the times i meandered off the route. It seems that the route I have is the easiest I have found... so far.

We got to the lake and sat in the sun for a while. We talked about vacations and sabbaticals and healthcare. Rick, who lives in Belgium when he is not traveling for work, said that the healthcare in Belgium is great as long as your not really sick. You wouldn't want to be there if you had some dire life threatening disease because the lines are so long to get treatment. But hey! its free! So shut up and stop complaining. It boggles my mind that the best that our own experts in our federal government could come up with is something modeled on the European system. Hey! its going to be free. Except that its going to cost you more than your paying now. Oooh, how exciting! Ah well, at least my friend who's been yammering for government healthcare is going to get what he wants.

We sat in the sun and the silence a beautiful fall day. Lee mentioned how amazing it was to him that we could be sitting in the sun under a cloudless blue sky with temperatures in the seventies, "Only in California!", he said. Lee is from somewhere else, I am not sure exactly, but his slight accent reminds me of my friends from Boston. He was reveling in the joys of being here at this moment in this place. He echoed verbally what I was thinking inside. I really enjoy hanging out with these guys, we are all roughly in the same generation although I think Rick seems to be slightly more youthful then myself. Somewhere close to noon we decided to head back and I suggested we could climb up to the top of the ridge and traverse it rather than following the same route we did to get here. After much huffing and puffing we arrived at the top. Eric pointed out Tinker's Knob off to the East. I could see Granite Chief above Squaw Valley and peeking around the edge was Squaw Peak. I reflected back on my afternoon hike from Granite Chief to Tinker's Knob a few weeks ago and how far it really is. How deep the valley between the two was and the long hike back up and out. A long day that ended with a three hour hike to my truck in the dark.

We made it back to camp sometime in the early afternoon and I thought about being home with my wife tonight. As fun as these guys are and as beautiful and this place is. I want to take my wife out to dinner and sleep in my own bed tonight. I took my iPhone off of Airplane mode and found that I had two bars of 4G service. I texted an invitation for dinner to my wife and reverted back to Airplane mode. I think it's pretty clever of Apple to come up with the term Airplane mode. From what I can tell what Airplane mode is, is a  phone that has all of it's radio electronics turned off. That is quite a few different radios in an iPhone 5. There is the cellular radio, the data channel (I am not sure if this is the same as the cellular radio but since you pay for it seperately, let's pretend it's a different radio). There is also the wi-fi, the Bluetooth, and the Location service's GPS. That is at least five radio devices in a hand-held device. I find that truly amazing. I remember my first job installing 800 mHz tw-way radios in commerical vehicles and the size and complexity of a single communications radios. To have all that times five in the palm of my hand is remarkable.

Eric, Cliff, and I are all heading out today. Rick and Lee are staying another night. Perhaps the bears will find them once we leave. From the stories they told, they must have some sort of bear magnetism. Eric suggested that we try to take a short-cut from High Loch Leven to Lower Loch Leven that I had put on the map I shared with him. I was thinking about dinner and really didn't want to try to find a new route off trail. My experiences off the trail have always taken significantly longer than following a trail. So we decided to put that off for a another day. After saying our goodbyes the three of us started down the trail and Cliff and I chatted a bit about our families. Cliff is a great guy that I hope to have a chance to get to know better in the future. We made it down to Middle Loch Leven and scoped out the short-cut we were thinking about from the opposite side. With the cliffs and brush it definitely looked sketchy and I was glad we opted for the trail.

Eric and Cliff stopped and looked and the peaks to the East trying to determine which one they had climbed yesterday. I kept hiking. There was nothing before except for open trail and I picked up the pace. I wanted to see if I could maintain the pace that I did a few weeks ago. As I stretched out my stride and put a bounce in my step I felt exhilarated. The blisters and muscle aches from the last trip were gone and it felt good to feel the burn in my calves and quads. I moved along the trail stopping a few times to take a picture. The joy ot the trail is a personal one. I find that I am most exhilarated when I am moving at a pace that pushes my stamina and endurance.

I stopped briefly at the top of the long descent to the trailhead to pull out my trekking poles. I had been luggin them around for the last day and a half for just this moment. I have found them to be of great assistance when you are descending trails with loose rocks and scree. Descending seems to always be harder than ascending with a backpack. Especially when you are going across and down slopes with unstable footholds. I have found the extra two "legs" that trekking poles provide to be extremely helpful and a knee and ankle saver.

As I descended I found that watching the trail for the next footholds becomes almost a game. The faster I descend, the more focus it takes, the sensation is not unlike the sensation of playing one of those first-person shooter games in zombie mode. You sort of get into this zone, your trekking poles are clickity-clicking on the rocks and you take one step after another, trying to avoid the loose tippity rocks and attempting to only step on large flat rocks and solid ground. Moving as quickly as you can trying to keep your eyes a few steps ahead of your feet. It is scary to think what might happen if you loose concentration for even a moment and step on a rock that rolls your ankle or twists your knee in a way it's not supposed to twist. The idea of being stuck on a trail in the middle of no-where with a leg injury is  daunting, but the "beating" the game when it really matters brings a satisfaction that is all it's own. Ask any gamer.

Trailhead means home, and home means dinner. Happy trails till next time...

High Loch Leven, Day 1

This is the first time I have had and enjoyed a campfire while backpacking in I don't know how long. I hiked up here after work to meet my friend Eric and a couple of other guys. We are all techie types. Cliff works for Cost Plus, Rick works for Cisco, and Lee works for Levi's. They are not as much into fast, light-weight hiking as I, so they brought the accoutrements necessary for building, maintaining, and extinguishing fires. Even more important, they had the will and inclination to take the time to do those things. I am certainly all for hiking with people who like to build fires. I just find it a tedious task to do for myself on a trip. Just like I am all for going backpacking with someone who likes to cook gourmet food. I just don't want to do it myself, I am on vacation. One of the great appeals to me of backpacking is the minimalist, do-only-the-absolutely-necessary, aspect of it.

It's supposed to be a full moon tonight. Cliff and Eric are both sleeping out under the moon. I brought my bivy-sack so technically I will be shaded from the brightness if the moon. Exactly the opposite of what I experienced two weeks ago when I camped in the pitch black of no moon.
Lee and Rick are sleeping in a tent and so they should be able to avoid the light of the moon.
They brought red wine in water bottles so they had wine with their dinner.

Rick and Lee told a story about when they were camping at Round lake by Highway 88 a bear decided to steal Rick's day pack. Lee asked him if there was anything important in his pack. Rick said, "yes, my license, wallet, and car keys." The bear picked up the pack by the handle on the top and ran off up the hill. Lee ran after the bear and Rick ran after Lee. They chased him to the top. Fortunately the bear dropped to pack but not before punching holes in Rick's wallet, and stealing their food.It seemed that everyone had a bear story. Cliff's bear story was when he was camping with a large group of people and he was sleeping out on the outside edge of the group. A bear actually ran by and tripped over his legs.Eric remembers the time he was camping in Canada with his brother and woke up to hear a bear rummaging through his pack right outside the door of his tent.

My bear story is really a non bear story. I have never had a bear ransack my camp nor have I ever been bothered by a bear. I have seen them on the trail, I have seen them from my camp. They have just never bothered me. I am not sure why except that I am typically very careful with my food and always either hang my food or keep it in a bear canister. On the other hand Rick and Lee had a bear maul their bear canister on the same trip.It's dark, it's late, it's time for bed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Quarrelsome Ones

2 Timothy 2:14-26 Read it yourself

There are some who will want to distract others from Christ by different interpretations of the truth. They will want to align the truth with their dispositions. They think that if they can distort the truth enough they will be able to be part of the kingdom of God without any cost and under their own terms. They want others to agree with them so they will draw others who are ignorant of the truth into their circle of influence. They will also tempt others who are less ignorant into ignoring what they know is the truth and follow the “easy, more palatable” way.

Like gangrene, the only cure was to cut it off; you must cut off these types of conversations with “the quarrelsome ones” it will only spread and get worse.  There is no common ground between light and darkness; or life and death.

The truth is the truth. Those that change the meaning of words or phrases to make the Christian faith more palatable to themselves or others, lead others into more and more ungodliness and darkness.

The Lord know those who are his, the most important question you must answer for yourself is; Does the Lord know you? He knows you when you present yourself to him in honesty and truth. When you come before his presence in contriteness and humility and humbly ask him to forgive your own rebellion. It is only repentance and transparency before God that brings you into the light and clarity of his presence.

The house of God has many different dishes and containers, some are fine china for serving guests, and others are garbage cans and recycle containers. What type of container are you? Cleanse yourself from moral filth and corruption. This is not something God does for you. God gives you the strength and he gives you the desire, but it is up to you to put your will in subjection to God’s heart. From a pure heart, basking in the light of God’s truth, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

When encountering the “quarrelsome ones”, which you will, it is only a matter of time; you must not allow them to draw you into a meaningless discussion over trivialities. They are not interested in the truth but will engage you in endless discussions with things that don’t matter. You must be kind to these people, speak the truth to them. Don’t think they are going to like it when you tell them the truth. They will be angry and will perpetuate evil against you, possibly great evil, but most likely pettiness and irascibility. Don’t take it personally, they are angry with God and you happen to be the clearest target they have. You will be tempted to equivocate, dissemble, or not be clear; but this is the time to be very clear. Endure the evil patiently, gently but firmly hold on tenaciously to the truth.

There are no shortcuts to this process and it is not under your control. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. They have none of these things right now. Nothing you say on your own is going to give them repentance, knowledge, or truth. Only the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, can convict hearts. He only deals in truth, so it is very, very important that your words are truthful, fully and to the best of your ability. It is only an act of God that can save them from the snare of the devil and their slavish adherence to the devil’s work.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Donner Summit - sixty miles later.

Woke up before the crack of dawn. I could see things faintly in the pre-dawn grayness. The temp was chilly, like the inside of a refrigerator... So this is what it's like when the door is shut. I checked my phone for the time, six nineteen! I've got to get moving.

The transition of warm, cozy down sleeping bag to the cold hard reality of the woods in October is never a pleasant one. I un-stuffed my clothes from my pillow and quickly, that is as quickly as I could, put them on. It can be a hard thing to standup on a cold morning, especially when you are standing on a nylon bivy sack, which is filled with a nylon covered sleeping bag, containing a silk mummy liner. Whoops, good morning rocks and sticks. Okay this time I am going to stand on the side of the bivy on the ground cloth. "Gosh its cold," I thought as I picked the pine needles and off of my hands.

My goal was to get moving as quickly as possible. Coffee and granola, no oatmeal. I had the oatmeal yesterday morning. It's amazing how quickly I lost my taste for it. I retrieved my food from the tree I hung it in last night. It was still there. Last night when I arrived in camp it was dark and one of my first priorities is to get the bear hang already to go so that I don't have to deal with it after dinner when I am stiff from sitting. Unfortunately the branch I had selected was weaker than it looked and when I began to hoist my food, Crrack! Down came my food and the branch it was supposed to be hanging from. Note to self: always stand to the side when hoisting your food into a tree.

One thing I didn't mention last night was that just as I was climbing into my bivy sack, stuffing my clothes into a stuff sack to make a pillow I heard voices behind me, on the trail. Mind you it was pitch dark. I had my headlamp set on the red light setting to preserve battery power and to keep my eye acclimated to the dark. I flipped my light to high-beam and a brilliant white beam shot out towards the trail. The voices stopped. I peered into the dark between the trees, moving the beam left and right. Nobody, nothing, weird huh? I didn't want to think about it too much last night as I probably would have freaked myself out and ran screaming for my life through the woods. Either they were unsociable hikers who could hike in the pitch black, or they were just in my head. Regardless, I am alive today and don't have an axe in my skull, so it's all good.

I was on the trail by seven fifteen, less than an hour to get ready, not to bad. I was in a valley and still had no sun by the time I left. As I started up the trail an urgent necessity became apparent. There would be squatting in the woods in my near future. One of my least favorite things when backpacking is the process of relieving myself of food that has been processed and has outlived it's usefulness. I was mulling over my prospects and considering my options.  It's still cold and I am in the shade. I will wait till I reach the summit of Barker Pass. By then I'll be in the sun and I won't have to expose my privates to the cold. Thank you Mr. Forest Ranger, or whoever it was in the government to build the fine, pit toilet at Barker Pass. I know that you're not working at this moment with the government shutdown and all. But the work you did in the past was greatly appreciated this morning.

There were a lot less people on the trail today. Probably because I had left the ever popular Desolation Wilderness and was heading to and through the less familiar Granite Chief Wilderness. Around lunch time I was descending into Five Lakes Basin when I met a mountain biker coming up the trail. By the way, this story only works if you know that the Pacific Crest Trail is a hiker and horse trail ONLY. Okay, well I met this biker coming up the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail, so I stopped and stood there in the middle of the trail. "You know this is a hiker only trail don't you?" I said. "Uh, yeah, the guy down there told me I have to go back they way I came, he won't let me exit." Yeah right, why make up a lame story like that? There is eighteen miles of trail up there and you are going to tell me that you have to go back? Sure.

Near the end of the day, I met a guy with a giant pack climbing up to Tinker Knob. He, like me was heading out to Donner Summit. He had been hiking with his buddy who had left him behind. His buddy was hiking from Mexico, and he had been trying unsuccessfully to meet up and hike with him on certain parts of the trail. He and I played leap frog for a few miles. A fifteen pound pack is pretty easy to carry up a hill compared to the fifty plus pounds he was lugging. The darkness descended on us while we were still about two and a half miles out. I past him on the last uphill and when I entered the forest I turned on my headlamp. I didn't see any light behind me, I suppose he stopped to camp.

The last two miles of the trail were pitch black with my headlamp providing a small beam of clarity with the shadows of the trees flickering by me. The shadows seem to be moving behind me. The last bit of the trail is probably the toughest and roughest part of the entire trail. It's like climbing down an empty stream bed. With boulders and loose rocks strewn haphazardly about. I slowed way down to avoid twisting my ankle or falling. I arrived at the trail head exhilarated and exhausted. I'm sleeping in my own comfy bed in my own comfy room tonight!
Quite the fashion statement
Big bear poop.


Confused hunter?

Thank you, Mr. Ranger

Lake Tahoe

Last light, 3.5 miles to go