Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 2 : Lyell Creek Footbridge

Monday June 30, 2014
25 Miles Today
50 Total Miles

Today is the is first that I can ever remember where I woke up with no thoughts. My mind was clear and not thinking about anything I had to do or remember. I lay there I the pre-dawn darkness completely comfortable, rested,  and content. I gave a brief effort to try to think and gave up, simply content to enjoy existing and being alive.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", someone said. The day is stunning and the beauty of this place takes my breath away. Yet where is the beauty really? Is it intrinsic to the landscape? I think not, beauty requires a beholder. The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth and then he "saw everything that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31. I obviously am not the first to gaze on these vistas, but as I gaze I am moved something within rejoices and agrees with the Psalmist , "Oh Lord, our Lord, How excellent is your name in all the earth" the heavens declares, the seas  cry out, the mountains bow before the majesty of the creator. Extravagant and overwhelming is the splendor of God's grace to us.

I experienced my first taste of what the hikers call 'trail magic'. I think it is more correctly termed 'trail grace', I know the pagans won't like that name because of the connections that the term 'grace' has to Christianity. I was hiking along the JMT behind the Toulumne Meadows Campground when this couple waved to me from their campsite. They said are you hungry. It just so happened that it was lunch time and I was looking for the white tent that is used for a cafeteria. Sam and Debbie invited me down and let  me have a sandwich with fresh cold cuts and cheese. They gave me an ice cold bottle of water and a banana. That's pretty cool, and the only way to describe it is unmerited favor, grace! Thanks Sam and Debbie!

Twenty something miles again today. My feet got to feeling pretty flat by the end of the day. The last mile to this footbridge is all up switchbacks. It was pretty warm too. There were a lot of people resting on the climb. A light pack makes all the difference. I was able to make it here without stopping for a break.

I heard a little thunder while I was setting up camp but no rain or lightning. The views again today were spectacular. 

My shoes at the end of day two

Ummm... Burrito with cheese!

Here's the creek I get to listen to all night.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 1b : Sunrise Creek

Sunday June 29, 2014
13 Miles this afternoon
25 Total Miles

It's a lot further here than I thought. I am about seven miles past the trail junction to Half Dome. Nope there is no coverage here. I was pretty wiped out for the last three miles. Running on fumes. Half Mile shows this waypoint as WACS0943K. 

There is a seasonal stream here that I was planning on using for water. It's the wrong season. There is a seasonal spring  dripping ice cold water out of a back. I did the Bear Grylls hole dig and waited for it to fill with water. I got enough for dinner then I went back and got enough for breakfast and my morning hike.

I am a little dehydrated and have a slight headache. I don't quite have my set-up-camp routine down yet and there is quite a bit of putting stuff away and then pulling it back out again. I even climbed into my tent took off my shoes, and realized that there where things I still needed to do outside. When I got back out there I found some stuff that I forgot to put in my tent. It seems like I am doing everything twice. 

The temperature here is too warm to get into my sleeping bag. I am laying almost naked atop my neo-air mattress. It has a plasticky cover and I can feel it doing the sticky on my back. I felt a cool breeze a moment ago and I am hopeful that the temperature will drop down to sleeping temps. Preferably in the low fifties or high forties.

There is currently no one else camping here. I past a number of hiking parties in the last few miles but I'm guessing they are camping down below. Yuck, hotter and no water.

I ate as much dinner as I could but am so full I don't have any room for trail brownies. The good news is that all of my remaining food now fits in my bear canister. 

I stopped for a bit and sat by the water. I didn't get in because it was too cold but I did get cleaned up a bit... Right before I took off hiking again. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures this afternoon. After all the incredible scenery this morning nothing grabbed my attention except for a few signs and flowers. Oh that and a waterfall.

The flowers are for Eric, he can look them up in his book. I didn't bring mine because I didn't want to carry it on my back.

Day 1 : Panorama Cliffs

Sunday June 29, 2014
13 Miles this morning
13 Total Miles

I got back to the backpacker camp as the sun was setting. I met a couple of guys who are also doing the JMT but they are starting from a different trailhead. Felix, Kevin, and Tommy are all great guys. It would be fun to meet up with them again in a few days.
We sat around the table in our campsite talking for a few hours. They are from Santa Barbara. 

Felix was originally from the eastern part of Germany and he can remember when he was little how they didn't have anything. They were in east Germany and the Russians kept exporting German resources. He remembers how his dad was involved in the protests just prior to the Berlin Wall coming down. 

Tommy is a middle school teacher and loves what he does. He still young and filled with hopes and dreams for his students. He is only doing part of the JMT because he is heading home to Fresnos to pack up his stuff and move it to Santa Barbara. Oh yeah, if his wife is reading this, he is looking forward to celebrating his second anniversary on July 2. 

Kevin is a fun guy. He was telling us the story of a previous trip to Yosemitr when the rangers woke him up in the middle of the night and asked him where his food was.

After dark a couple of PCT thru-hikers showed up with a six pack if beer each. They regaled us with tales of the deserts and the passes and the adventures of the  last sixty five days. Bugs, Waffles, and Room Service had left the PCT and come down to the valley because Waffles and Bugs are from I think they said Belgium and Austria. Anyway, Room Service had come with them down to the valley. 

I am not really sure what time it was when I went to bed but it had been dark a long time, maybe eleven or so. After I got settled in another bunch of people showed up and made all kinds of ruckus and kept shining their head lamps across my tent. It seemed like forever before they finally got the stuff setup and went to bed.

I woke up at four o'clock and laid around till four thirty when I got up and got to return the favor and make a ruckus while they were all trying to sleep. 

I had breakfast and was planning on stopping at the Peets Coffee in Curry Village. I changed my mind at the last minute and instead hiked straight across the valley to the beginning of the Four Mile Trail. It climbs four thousand vertical feet to Glacier Point.

The views were amazing as I climbed. The air was cool and I was in the shade until I reached the top. A young guy with his family, probably about sixteen or so asked me about my solar charger and where I was going. It was fun to tell him about my stuff and my gear. 

I stopped at the snack bar and got a drink and some ice cream. The last ice cream I'll be able to have for a few days. I stopped here at the top of the Panorama Cliffs because I got cell coverage I thought I would post this now because I don't know if I'll have any coverage for the next few days.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 0 : Yosemite Valley

Saturday June 28, 2014
0 Miles Today
0 Total Miles

We had a great breakfast this morning at Barretta Gardens B&B. we sat with Ilin and Kelly from the Bay Area. They were up to hang out before Kelly headed to Durham from some post-graduate work. Olin was a geek after my own heart and worked in IT while Kelly found purpose in studying Environmental Management. 

Astrid and Danny are great hosts and served an excellent breakfast of soft boiled eggs, hashbrowns, and a delicious fruit salad. After breakfast we said our goodbyes, paid our tab, and headed off to Yosemite Valley. 
Danny reminds me a little of Dennis Quaid.

It was surprising to me the sense of loss that I experienced when Kelli drove away and left me standing at the entrance to Curry Village. The air temperature was in the mid eighties as I stood there in the shade. Gosh it's hot. I was still clean and fresh and trying to avoid sweating. I'll do enough of that tomorrow. Just thinking cool thoughts wasn't helping. 
Bye Kelli, bye MINI, see you in two weeks and two hundred miles.

I meandered over to the cafeteria. My goal was to find out when the Peet's Coffee bar opened. Six thirty, I found written on the sign. I was still feeling like a part of my life had been ripped away. Sort of like when you first skin your knees. It doesn't really hurt yet, you are still in shock, but you know something ain't normal.

For the next two weeks I am functionally homeless and alone. It's a weird feeling. The air was cooler inside the cafeteria. I sat their where Kelli and I had sat a few months ago in front of the fireplace. No fire now, thank God. I went through my pockets and resorted my gear. I was sweating when I didn't want to and my permit was getting moist in my pocket.

Getting a wilderness permit. It's like being at the DMV except you don't get to drive a car. The rules and regulations made my head swim. The are all things that I had steadied before, in fact I have been practicing for years. Yet, when the ranger asked how I choose my campsite, my mind went blank, if he hadn't of walked me through it I would have stood there forever babbling incoherently. 

I had made the decision this morning to leave my microspikes in the car. I was convinced that the snow conditions were such that carrying an extra thirteen ounces in my pack was a foolish waste of effort. In my discombobulated state I completely forgot to take them out of my pack, so I will be foolishly carrying thirteen extra ounces for the next two hundred miles.
I've got a brand spanking new pair of shoes and against all common sense and advice, I put them for the first time when I got out of the car with my pack. They certainly feel comfortable right now. Just about any pair of shoes feels comfortable prior to walking in them. Alas, it's not like I haven't had blisters before.

I walked in my new shoes over to the backpacking camp to break them in. Ok, now they are broken in. I met a young guy packing up. His name was Wiley, as in the road runner coyote cartoons. He's traveled all over from his humble beginnings in Chicago in January in forty below weather. He headed first to Florida and hiked around there. He's hiked in New England and in Minnesota. This is his first foray into California. He's heading to Santa Cruz.

It's hard to sit around on a warm afternoon and do nothing. I set up my tent and put my food and good smelling stuff in a bear locker and walked over to Yoemite Village. It's like the only place in the valley with good cell coverage. After I get this post sent I'm heading over to Curry Village for dinner.

Happy Trails,

Day (-1) : Sonora

Friday June 27, 2014

I am in our room at the Barretta Gardens Bed and Breakfast. Fortunately the traffic wasn't as bad as I expected and we arrived in Sonora around six thirty in the evening. Barretta Gardens is a charming place run by Astrid and Danny. Compared to the rest of Sonora, it is an Oasis of elegance with Scandinavian overtones. 

When we walked in the front door I was greeted with a warm homey smell from my past. I was immediately transported back in time and if I'd closed my eyes, I could have been standing in Gramma Jensens living room. I was all ready to sit down to a dinner of Fricadella, mashed potatoes, and grammas famous soggy salad. But no, it's a bed and breakfast not a bed and dinner.

We walked down town after dropping our stuff into our room. We walked past places that were at least a hundred years old, and looked it. The sidewalks and retaining walls in Sonora are all losing the fight against gravity and are slowly slipping sideways down the hill. A soft warm breeze gently wafted its way through town. The big red LED sign in front of the bank said 81 degrees. The weather was perfect

Downtown Sonora, on the other hand, is an interesting place, and not quite as perfect. Born during the California gold rush in the late eighteen hundreds, it is trying deperately to hang on to its wild-west roots. There is a distinct difference between the out-of-towners and the locals. Us touristy folks were sheep to be shorn to support the local economy.

We found an old place that advertised 'Old fashioned soda fountain' in the window. Upon entering, sure nuff, it had a great big bar with ice cream dishes where the liquor normally goes. There were only two people in there, a young guy and gal, both sitting on the swivel chairs planted around the bar, er em, I mean 'soda fountain'. I asked one of the patrons, is there any one working here. The gal waved her hand and between mouthfuls of take-out Mexican food she said she could make anything on the menu. 

I noticed that the sign on the window said books. So I asked do you have any books? Even though we came for the ice cream I didn't want to interupt her dinner. I know how surly I get when somebody wants me to do something when I am trying to eat. She said, "yea, we have a few back there and a lot more downstairs", pointing to a staircase. We meandered past the bar, I mean soda fountain, and headed for the stairs. 

The first thing I noticed as I descended the stairs was water coming out of a strange sluice looking thing in the wall. Like a fountain, not a soda fountain, a natural little waterfall. It hit the rocky floor and the water formed a little creek that headed off to parts unknown. Turning away from the wall I found the books. It was a cool comfortable cavernous place. The sound of the water and the comfy chairs set about made it an ideal place to come on a hot summer day and read. 

All of the books were organized by author and there were many authors that I recognized. These were obviously all used books. If I'd have had more time I could have stayed there quite a while. 

Other the other end of the library there was a fenced off area and what appeared to be mining stuff, a tunnel headed off into the blackness. 

When we returned back upstairs, Katelyn had finished her dinner and taken her rightful place behind the bar/fountain. We sat down and ordered some dessert while I chatted with Katelyn. She's moved here into the big city from the suburbs to follow her dream. Her Dream seemed to be sitting down at the other end of the bar wishing we'd leave. I think Katelyn wished we'd leave too because we were making her work rather than leaving her to pursue her dream.

She told me about how this building used to be bar. Wow, that was a surprise!(sarcasm). She said that the tunnels below used to lead to other bars and the guys used to bar-hop from place to place through the tunnels. It seemed pretty reasonable to me. What do I know? I'm just one of the gullible tourists.

Just about the time we were finishing our dessert, Katelyn asked the Dream to go and locked the back door. She said we have lots of time before she closes, but it seemed to me that she'd be closing the moment we left. Just then another couple came in. I said, "Hey, the ice cream is great!" While I waved at them from the bar. They smiled and came walking further in. I told them Katelyn can make anything on the menu. 

I stood up as I paid my tab. Kelli had already left as it was too cool inside and she wanted to enjoy the warm night air. As I walked to the door I heard one of the couple ask Katelyn, "Can you make a chocolate shake?" I turned and smiled at Katelyn and said, "Katelyn loves to make chocolate shakes! Thanks Katelyn!" And I walked out the door.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lists and a Few Loose Ends

The back of my pack.
One week! It's only seven days before I set off into the wilderness. I finished up a few loose ends yesterday as they came to my mind. My wife, Kelli, asked me if I had them (the loose ends) on a list. Ummm, well no, sorta, I should, "Thats a good idea!" I said. Actually, I have lots of partial lists; lists with a few things written on them. I make each one as I think of things I don't want to forget. For some reason I have difficulty finding the last list I created, so I create another one. What I really need is a list of my lists, so I don't forget one of them.

I do have one list that I have spent a lot of time on, that is my Gear List JMT 2014 page where I have listed all of the stuff in my pack. I want to add the rest of my gear, that is the stuff I will be wearing. For now you can see the roughly twelve pounds of gear I will be carrying. If you have already looked at that page you might by saying, "I thought it was only eleven pounds?" You would be right. I took my microspikes off of the list a while back because they are almost a pound and I really don't think I will need them. However, in reading the blogs of people crossing the passes in the High Sierra, they are saying that there is still snow on them. That was last week, so will there be any snow left next week? I don't know. I do know that I want to hike early in the morning, perhaps by moonlight. Especially the last day when I climb Mt. Whitney. Snow has a tendency to ice-up over night and become super-slippery. So if there is any, I'll be glad I brought them.

Kelli, my wife, has graciously offered to drive me to and from the trail-head. This is really cool and is going to save me a lot of time riding buses from Lone Pine to Yosemite. It will also give us a short mini-vacation together. I have found that a car trip is a good time to have heart-to-heart conversations with your best friend. I am looking forward to our rides together almost as much as the hike itself. It seems like the day-to day routine of living life doesn't leave a lot of time to spend with the people you really care about. It would be super-cool if she liked to backpack because then we'd have lots of time together, but that is not going to happen unless something miraculous and supernatural occurs. I'm not saying it can't happen, but I am not going to sit around wishing it would happen. For now my trips are by myself.

I have my work-out plan for the last week in civilization all set, I really should write it on a list. I am feeling stronger right now than I can ever remember.I went to the gym yesterday and did my weight training routine. I tried to do a sitting military press (not sure if that is what it's called). This is when you sit on a weight bench / chair and lift dumb-bells over your head. Normally I do a standing military press with a bar with free weights on it, so I figured I should be able to lift about the same weight... Wrong! Dumb-bells have a mind of their own! They refuse to work in unison, my right arm was being pulled out sideways while my left arm was trying to reach around behind my head. Sort of like the pose that a G.I. Joe action figure does with his arm stretched out behind him. I quickly realized that the dumb-bells were too heavy. After dropping twenty pounds they seemed a bit easier to lift straight up. Except my right arm was so much weaker than my left. Being right-handed, this seemed really weird. It was then that I noticed that the dumb-bell in my right hand was five pounds heavier than the one in my left. Who's the dumb-bell now?

Laugh in the face of mosquitoes!
This week I will wash my hiking clothes one last time and then spray them with Sawyer Permethrin. This works really well in keeping the mosquitoes from landing on and biting your shoulders and turning them in mini-replicas of the Himalayas. I will spray it on my hat to keep the mosquitoes from biting through my hat band and making a ring of bites across my forehead. I will also spray it on my Smartwool base layer as that is what I like to where around camp in the evening. It's comfortable and breathes well. Mosquitoes can bite right through the fabric, so spraying them makes it so the mosquitoes don't even land on you, it's awesome! So that is one thing on my list. It's probably on lots of my lists.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Inspiration from Hebrews 12:1-2


Hebrews 12:1-2 Read it yourself

You are surrounded by witnesses. Witnesses throughout the ages. From Abel on there have been people on the earth with faith in God. People who received promises and grace and God's favor and believed in God even though they had nothing tangible or memorable to hold on to or to look back at. Yet they were people of God. They suffered for what they believed so much more than you have ever suffered. More so in the sense that they didn't have a historical event that you have, being born after the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This cloud of witnesses will not be complete until you finish the race and join their ranks as a full-fledged member of the witnesses of God's grace. The witnesses are just like you. They had only enough faith for the next step, the next moment, the next day. You are sometimes of the opinion that others in history are somehow more spiritual, more in tune, more 'something' that you. The walk of faith is the walk of faith, you have what you have - Walk in it.

Lay aside the weight, lay aside the sin. Sin is a burden, it is something that drags you down. It pulls you away from your hearts desire. Like tentacles of some creature from a horror flick, it wraps around your heart and soul and slowly inexorably tugs, pulls, and draws you from your destiny towards the edge of an abyss with the horror of darkness and evil surrounding you and threatening to immerse you in despair and disillusionment. It is a never ending battle to fight against sin. The word 'sin' means missing the mark. A diversion of a few imperceptible fractions of a degree will cause a marksman to miss his target completely. Sin is like that, it is a distraction that easily besets you. It weighs you down and sucks the life and joy out of your existence. Leaving it aside is a daily thing. You don't wake up one day and cease to sin. You rather wake up every day determining to not sin and then a few short minutes later find yourself sinning again. The beautiful thing about God's grace is that it is always a straight line back to God from wherever you happen to fall. If your sin has led you down a twisted, tangled canyon and into a deep ticket of alders you don't have to re-trace your steps. In other words, there is no purgatory, there is no penance, there is only repentance and obedience. From that point the path always opens up into a clear open, perhaps perilous and scary, but always straight and narrow path back into the arms of God.

Run the race. Life is a race, the older you get the faster the pace seems. It is a thru-hike type of race, you are not returning to the starting point, you are heading for a destination. It is deliberate, it is not wandering. Life is not a random wandering from point to point, or at least it need not be. There are many who are in that situation. Another word that describes them is 'lost'. They don't live with focus, discipline, and attention to the trail. They wander aimlessly, falling into one mishap after another. Some want nothing to do with the race and want to live as an anonymous unknown wraith, a mist that drifts without soul or substance. Others who are currently lost desperately want to be found. They want to find the path, they want more substance and meaning to their existence. They may not know it yet, but they want God, they need Jesus. Your race is a race towards Jesus. That is where you look that is who you follow. The inspiration for life itself, the author, the perfecter, the one who relentlessly pursued joy regardless of the cost and now sits in the presence of God working on your complete and thorough reconciliation and restoration into the person you were always destined to be.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Anticipation and Gearing up for the JMT

Anticipate, to take before. The word conveys the idea that I can experience something before it actually happens. That pretty much sums up what is happening to me in regards to my John Muir Trail hike that begins in two weeks. Sometimes my thoughts are filled with joy and excitement and other times they are filled with dread and fear. Its weird that the same event can produce emotions than span the entire spectrum.

There are the continual thoughts, stemming from the question I get from others, "You are going by yourself?" Thoughts that ask myself, "Am I crazy?" and "Why would you want to do that?" I really don't have any satisfying answers to those questions. All I know is that I want to do this hike. It seems epic and extremely difficult, maybe that's the appeal.

My friend Al says that men in our culture lack a clear process that transitions them to the 'wise-ones' or the 'respected elder' of the tribe. Men just get old and boring. In a culture focused on the young, perhaps he's right. I do a lot of training hikes through Sun City Lincoln Hills, and think man, I could move here in a few years because I'll be old enough. Is that it? I don't want to be in that place yet. God has granted me health and vigor, I want to cross snowy passes and traverse cold flowing rivers. I want to camp beneath the expanse of the sky and imagine the thoughts of Abraham as he contemplated God's words to him.

In two weeks I'll be leaving the comfortable and suburban life I lead and step into the wildness of nature. Two weeks and I'll know if the training worked. Two weeks and I'll be setting out on the next stage of my goal to walk from Mexico to Canada in a single season. Two weeks and know a lot more than I know now. It's one thing to know something by reading it in a book or watching someone else live it on TV, it's quite another thing to feel it up close and personal.

I re-packed my pack again this weekend. I pulled a few more things off of my list. I have decided that the micro-spikes are staying home. There isn't enough snow to worry about them, and I'll save over ten ounces of weight. I have gotten the base weight of my pack down below eleven pounds. Base weight is the weight of your gear excluding food, fuel, and water. Eleven pounds is pretty amazing to me. How is it possible that I can bring enough stuff to feel comfortable in the wilderness for two weeks and keep it below eleven pounds?

I have started to put the my gear on a list. I wanted to have more than just a list of the items and the weight. I want to have a list that is useful to you, the reader, perhaps my grand-child reading this years from now. The list I want for you is a list with links to the sources of the items I am taking. A list with pictures showing you what the item looks like. Of course by the time you read it, some of this stuff may no longer be available. My pack for instance is an old version of the GossamerGear Mariposa, the new one is cooler, with more features, but it's also heavier than the one that I have. You'll have to go through this list yourself and decide what works for you.

Going with 'Style'
Every item in this list is a personal friend of mine. That's kinda weird, how can you be friends with inanimate objects? Perhaps saying they are friends is a little over the top. Each of the items I am bringing is useful and necessary for me for this trip. None are optional, all of the optional items have been taken off of the list. I have spent a lot of geek time working on the HTML for this list and I still haven't completed it. But it's getting there so I share it here for the first time: Click here to view my JMT 2014 Gear List