Well. Umm… It’s over.

After 5 months and 5 days (same exact time I was out on my AT thru-hike), the end of my PCT thru-hike is here.

As I type this blog I am listening to The Vietnam War soundtrack that I listened to no less than 4,567,298 times over the course of the last year while prepping for this trek. At times my apartment looked like a drug den. Full of powder (protein) and pills (ibuprofen, Tylenol, electrolytes, melatonin). Boxes full of couscous, shoes, isobutane. Excel tables detailing all the logistics, post office addresses, and gear inventory. All backed up to the cloud, downloaded to my phone. After all, inter-webs are a struggle on this 2,653 mile stretch.

Listening to this soundtrack, in combination with meeting my mom and aunt at the end makes it all come full-circle.

It’s an unconventional ending for an unconventional guy on an unconventional trail.

As I moaned about earlier, the end-point (Northern Terminus) was closed. The PCT-A was telling everyone to end their journey at Rainy Pass. I researched the US Forest Service website and saw the fire was only 5% contained, burning ON the PCT, and projected to re-open October 31. All that was enough for me to pull the trigger on booking flights, hotel, reaching out to work for a start date, etc. My latest plan of driving to Canada and hiking only 8 miles south to tag the monument also fell apart. Turns out it is highly illegal to enter the US from Canada anywhere other than a formal border crossing. As luck would have it, the monument is technically on the US side.

Then it the trail reopens (sort of)…

(Four letter word that rhymes with duck.)

To undo all the wheels I’ve set in motion are a logistical and economical pain. This is an unconventional trail. It is ever-changing (fire, smoke, detour, blah blah blah). You could spend a lot of time chasing your own tail out here keeping up with it all. If there is one thing I learned on the AT to apply out here, it’s that you’ve got to roll with the punches.

I am surprisingly at peace with this unconventional ending. Besides, if this were one week sooner, this would have been THE standard ending. Another 2.5 days of hiking on a detour (not even the PCT) to get to the Northern Terminus. It just doesn’t feel right. This probably blows some people’s mind. But hey, hike your own hike.

As I look back on it all, it is such a dichotomy.

In some ways, I feel like I have only been out 5 days. Time flies when you are having fun. This hike did not feel like the perpetual nightmare that the AT felt like each morning when I woke up. For the most part, I never disliked this beast.

In other ways, it seems like 5 years. After all, so much stuff happens every single day. I have seen deserts, mountains, snow, hail, 105F, 18F, mountain lion, bear, rattlesnakes, amazing views, etc., etc., ETC.! So incredibly diverse.

As an unconventional guy, Tumbleweed and I even hiked 1,000 miles backwards (south). Which turned out to be brilliant and I would highly recommend to interested thru-hikers, weather allowing.

When I think about, I mean REALLY think about it, I’m not sure I could do these crazy thru-hikes were it not for all the great people. The world can be a decent place. Not everyone is a jerk, haha.

In no particular order, thanks to my mom for mailing so many gear boxes on a whim. Thanks to my aunt Terry for coming along on every beginning and end of these crazy hikes. Every family and friend that answers those phone calls after I’ve maybe had a little too much solitude. Tumbleweed for enjoying the solitude with me. Polymet for allowing a sabbatical to even allow a second thru-hike. Total strangers who took a chance on driving me to a town to resupply. Total strangers who left selfless boxes of trail magic along the way. Other hikers who were always there to offer advice, laundry quarters, or the occasional snickers.

You are all amazing and I couldn’t have done these miles without all of you. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate each and every one of you.

Cheers!

2%

(Tim)

Pros and cons. It’s always pros and cons going through my head out here (and not out here, haha).

Pros…

Since Snoqualmie Pass, no rain, fairly cool weather, and some pretty epic views.

The cons…

It has been pure granite hell for most of the last 70 miles.

(Looks like Ichabod Crane should be coming through any minute.)

(Because who needs dirt when you can have rocks?)

(What’s that? Need more granite foot massaging? Sure.)

(Let’s make sure the trail goes over that rockslide. Sound good?)

(I really like the spiked ones.)

(Looked grassy from a distance, but nope. Rocks. More. Freaking. Rocks.)

So, it’s one thing to walk on these day after day. It’s another to do it with a nice, deep, poorly positioned blister-thing.

(You can throw-up now…)

So let’s move on to food. The stuff every hiker thinks about. I honestly don’t have the raging hiker hunger I had on the A.T. However, I still do my share of dessert dreaming. This has caused me to look at mushrooms through a unique lens.

(Hamburger bun.)

(Pancake.)

I had a potato one, but the picture didn’t take. Oh well, imagine a potato. Boom.

I right this blog from the “town” of Skykomish.

There is not a lot going on here. I spent $95 at a Chevron to resupply with 6 days of food. Yes. $95. So that was lame. Also, the food selection wasn’t good (even by gas station standards).

However, I don’t mind. Because my next stop in 5-6 days will be Rainy Pass / Highway 20. AKA… The End. Due to fires, that has now be declared the official end point by the PCT Association.

Although…

I’m meeting my mom and aunt there, driving to Canada, then doing a 17 mile out-and-back going south to hit the Northern Terminus that way. Boom. Then I’ll be done. For real though.

Man… the last ~250 miles have been kind of weird mentally. Last year I first flew to Portland, then hopped on the PCT for a 5-day hike north starting at Bridge of The Gods. So re-hiking that section was deja vu-ish. However, it felt amazing to cross into the last state, Washington.

Washington is known as being a state where your mileage drops due to tougher terrain (rocks, roots, steep climbs). For me, it was familiar. Like the A.T.

A big difference out here though is glimpses of tall, lone peaks. This is becoming all to familiar as well after 4.5 months. The camera never does is justice, but I caught a glimpse of Mt. Adams.

I’ve started thinking hard about post-trail live. Shew. So. Much. Stuff. However, I’ve never really mentally checked-out from work. It’s always on the brain. Sickening, huh? Truth be told, I really dig what I do. I am super fortunate to have a Sabbatical to come out here, and have such a great team back at The Pmet. R & D is a blast, literally sometimes. So, more familiarity.

When closing in on Trout Lake, the scenery was top-notch and not too smoky.

This town had the most impressive network of trail angels I’ve ever ran across. This extremely itty-bitty teeny-tiny town had this many trail angels:

Doug Anderson started it all years ago out of a simple conversation with some hikers he was curious about. Boom. Growth.

While resupplying at the only store in town, the big news spread quickly. The PCT was closed from Highway 20 (Rainy Pass) north all the way to Canada. Yeah. No access to the northern terminus monument. This is the carrot. The driver. The motivation for many hikers. Fires man, fires everywhere.

That news, in combination with two more trail fires/closures/detours really got many hikers down. After all, when you’re here to see amazing views, but instead you see thick haze, it is a bummer. Plus, breathing the extremely small PM2.5 smoke particles is super unhealthy.

Once we got the hitch-of-a-lifetime from a double triple-crown hiker to Packwood, the planning began. Tumbleweed decided to peace-out for all the aforementioned reasons. Can’t say I blame her. For myself, I am not driven as much by the views. Again, I’ve seen a chunk of this section from last year. Familiarity.

(Becoming all to familiar as well.)

(Weiner dogs. So familiar to me. Rattlesnake took his eye out. Seriously.)

(Because of course.)

After her friend dropped me off at the trail head to continue north, I ran across another hiker who had the same pack, stove, beard, and hair as me. Hmm… more familiarity. We chatted as we hiked towards a non-existing goal. Basics. Where you from? Virginia. Yeah? Me too. College? Virginia Tech. Yeah? Me too. Major? Engineering. Of course… Great guy, graduated 5 years before me. Also tied to the aerospace industry. Been in the 3-D printing world with Honeywell in their R&D program. Crazy.

It was a pretty solid day. Clear. Comfortable. Also got a great view of Mt. Rainier.

The rest of the day was great too. More good views and my first mountain goat.

(The super small white speck on the mountain is the goat.)

These views were short lived. Back to familiarity. You know, smoke and burn stuff. A 34-mile day of this was dumb.

Eventually I got the hell out of this scorched section and landed in the Snoqualmie section. More familiarity. Last year, I also did a second 5-day hike north on the PCT in this section.

Speaking of hiking last year, I was doing a hike in Red River Gorge last August and saw ribbons on trees and was clueless. Soon thereafter, runners. Dozens and dozens. For about an hour straight. Constantly I had to pull of the trail and let them by. No worries. I was not on a schedule. So, then out here, guess what I saw on my last day before getting to the hotel? Yep.

There was a 104-mile marathon on the PCT that day. Over 200 runners, sneaking up behind me. Familiarity.

I decided to do my own marathon. Another 34-mile day to try and keep ahead of the runners. Besides, I had no reason to go slow. The views were, um, familiar.

Fortunately, the runners never caught me in the rain and I made it to town before dark.

(Closing in on shower and a bed.)

To add to familiarity, Tumbleweed and her friend made the trip from Seattle to do dinner once I was in town. Bonus, I got new and very necessary headphones thanks to her friends vehicular capabilities. Cars. Amazing.

I am in the same hotel as last year, and go figure… room 141… just like last year. Familiarity.

Blah blah blah… so what to do about this whole lack of a finale thing? Well, I have an idea. I’ve been out too long to not tag that monument. I’m thinking this:

(Because of course there is no straight-line route.)

Basically, I’ll go to Rainy Pass (current end), then drive to Canada, and hike south to the monument. Where there is a will, there is a way. Boom.

Physics. Always physics. But more on that ridiculousness later…

Currently I’m on the Oregon-Washington border. I was here last year doing a test hike. The weather is way different now. Smoky. Of course.

(Bridge of The Gods. Sounds so epic.)

Over the last 200ish miles there has not been too many sights. This was not surprising. I assumed I’d be under the trees for the most part. However, I wanted to check out Tunnel Falls on Eagle Creek Trail. I tried to do this last last year, but the trail was closed due to a fire. I thought it was recently reopened, so Tumbleweed and I went for it…

The first few miles was a steep descent into a canyon. The ground was super soft, sinky, and dusty from fires. We lost the trail (classic) and GPS’d our way around for while. Eventually, we crawled hundreds of feet down a dried up waterfall and found the trail. The worst was over, right? Ha! Of course not…

The next morning, we began 10 miles of tree hell. We quickly put together that Eagle Creek Trail was in fact closed. About every 50-100 yards, we hit downed trees.

(Gross.)

Trying to go through these trees reminded me of Frodo getting tangled in the spider web in The Lord of The Rings.

Another obstacle was rock slides. Yes. Rock slides. The trail at times was a tunnel through rock.

(Physics.)

Crawling over these rocks wasn’t too bad except for the fact that there was a sheer drop off to the side. But hey, the worst was over? Right?! Of course not. Always of course not.

After we spent hours tree hopping and rock crawling we hit the most insane obstacle yet. A bridge. Over 200 ft above water, in a canyon. Oh yeah, and it was scorched from the fire and closed. Of course.

(Look closely and you can see Death Bridge.)

My and Tumbleweeds hearts both sank. We both knew we had no good options. We wrestled with going across this:

…or doubling back through a hundred tree webs, uphill loose dirt, then hike an additional day all with little to no food (I was out completely.)

There was no walk around. Everything was too steep according to the maps. So ultimately we went for it.

(My butthole was puckered. For sure.)

After some tense foot scooting, we made it across Death Bridge.

We were both pretty ecstatic we made it across without dying (always reason to celebrate) and felt like the tree webs weren’t so bad after-all. Things seemed pretty awesome. Right? Of course not…

(Death Bridge – Part II)

Yeah, another freaking torched bridge over about a 100 ft drop.

Although it was closed and not recommended, it was beautiful too.

Eventually we make it out of this gnarly trail and come to this:

Blah blah blah, we are alive. In town now, etc.

Speaking of death, murder, etc. Some scenes from The Shining were filmed near Timberline Lodge (base of Mt. Hood), they had a replica axe. So. Um. Yeah.

Oh, and there was a dead horse in a creek from last Fall. So there is that.

As we are entering the last state, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to peek through. Barely. Just barely.

No dumping this time.

I guess the good luck streak is finally coming to an end.

The plan of hiking north from Ashland, OR has taken a detour of sorts…

When trying to hike back to the trail today, this was a warning that was received:

So, instead of making decisions based on one person, why not reach out to other hikers. So then this came through:

Hmm… instead of unquantifiable opinions, how about data? Good ole’ fashioned data:

Well… what about further north to Crater Lake, OR?

Ahh! This trend is no bueno. I guess it now makes sense to go north to Bend, OR.

Yes. The trail is open. Which makes sense. Day hikers can still enjoy it in smaller doses than we’re taking on. After a few days in this smokefest, a lot of thru-hikers are going to Bend, OR. Makes sense now :/

I just need to keep reminding myself that PCT thru-hikers miss sections every year due to fire, snow, etc. It’s a different animal than the AT.

Bed time, then off to Bend, OR in the morning!

(Gross)

Shew! Never doing that again. Tumbleweed and I just did a non-stop 155 mile stretch in the High Sierra. We got 9 days of food to last from Mammoth Lakes to Mt. Whitney. (Normally the food carry is only 3-5 days.) Most people hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT), which parallels the PCT during this particular stretch, typically take over 2 weeks. However, most of those people don’t have nearly 1,700 miles under their belts and have a slower pace.

So yeah, the toughest climbs, highest elevations, and heaviest pack weights. All in a 9-day stretch. Why? Well, it’s pretty annoying to get off trail to resupply in this section of trail. It takes a whole day of side trails to get out, a day-ish to grocery shop/hitch-hike, and a day of side trails to get back on trail where you left off. So instead we just carried 9-days in one shot. Efficiency.

The heavier pack weight sanded into my left shoulder pretty heavily. Then when trying to tighten my hip-belt extra hard to put more of my pack weight into my legs and off my shoulders, my hip-belt sanded into my hip-bones. I am basically a walking roll of leukotape at this point.

Upside(s)… essentially no mosquitoes, snow, or dangerous water fords. Downside… afternoon thunderstorms on high desolate mountain tops and ridge walks.

I understand physics. Electricity. Ohms Law. P=I*V, V=I*R, Blah blah blah. So what happened despite all that? Umm… getting stuck in a hail storm on the highest point of the entire PCT. Forester Pass. Over 13,000ft elevation. Then another hail storm before Mt. Whitney. Lastly, just for good measure and completeness, another hail storm on the way off Mt. Whitney. Hail or high water, this is happening.

Tumbleweed and I just finished lunch and saw it clouding up. Normal Sierra weather. We (or maybe just me?) thought we could cross the Forester Pass before the storm hits (normally storms peak around 2pm, it was only 12pm). As we ascend, the clouds move in quickly. The rain starts. Then, the rain really starts. I pull my tyvek ground cloth and we huddled under it beside a large rock. Then it begins to lightening, thunder, and hail. Yep. I’m an idiot.

After about 10 minutes of eternity, we’re pretty chilled and decide to hike on as the storm seems to dissipate. Dumb. Within another 5 minutes, another storm swoops in on us. I was not a fan of being the tallest thing on this extremely high mountain and by some sort of Tim-luck there was a spot just large enough to pitch my tent for shelter. Tumbleweed and I huddled inside, warmed up, and waited, and waited, and waited. More lightening, thunder, rain, and hail. But eventually the storm passed for good and we made it across the Forester Pass.

The next day was the going to be the last day in California. But then, Mother Nature decided otherwise. We made it to Guitar Lake (the base of Mt. Whitney) around lunch. Sure enough, clouds start rolling in. This time, we were smart and pitched our tents and waited the storm out for 4 hours. After checking our food supply, we realized we had just enough to summit Mt. Whitney and get the hell out of the Sierra the next day. So we woke up a little early and started out accent up the tallest mountain in the lower 48. So many people. Gross.

After hanging out for a while, and spreading some of my uncles ashes (he will now always be the higher than anyone else in the lower 48), we began the all-day descent. Then hey, guess what. Hail. High water. Because… umm… why not? Honestly, I didn’t mind. I knew once I was off that mountain, a hotel room was waiting.

(The above video shows a river of hail on the trail. Gross.)

Sure enough, after a 90 minute hitch hike from a fellow biking across the country, followed by a 4 hour hitch hike (yes, 4 hours) from a another guy, then a 4 hour rental car ride from Reno, NV to Ashland, OR, we are now exactly where we were 2 months ago. Time to finish this beast out going North. To Canada.

4 months / 1,700 miles down… ~7 weeks / 950 miles to go…

Humpty dumpty in 3, 2, 1, …

Where there is smoke, there is fire. That’s a thing. Right? Sure it is…

I knew there was a fire around Mammoth Lakes back a few weeks ago. The PCT was open, and just smokey. This was different though. That fire was over 100 miles away.

(Haze = smoke)

The next day, things chilled out. The smoke was essentially gone. Awesome. Then, the next morning it was extra smokey.

(Smoke = fire)

Problem was, the smoke was getting heavier, and per the GPS, it was right where I was heading. Decision time…

Hike 2.5 days forward, towards thicker smoke/fire or 1.5 days backwards to certain safety. Well… going backwards destroys me. Big decisions with no data destroys me more.

After some helpful data via satellite texts with my buddy Noah, and catching up to Tumbleweed to brainstorm, we decided to continue on through Yosemite and towards Mammoth Lakes.

(Noah’s Microsoft Paint skills are still solid.)

(Yep. Fire bad.)

Fortunately over the next few days, the smoke cleared more permanently as the PCT began to overlap the most scenic part of the entire trail, The John Muir Trail (the JMT).

The sights have been amazing. I take a picture with my phone, and it doesn’t come close to representing what I’m looking at in person.

Apparently the best of the best is yet to come. After leaving Mammoth Lakes tomorrow, it will be a ridiculous 9-day non-stop trek all the way to summit Mt. Whitney (the tallest point in the lower 48). All along the way will be the highest peaks of the entire trail. Then back to Oregon to continue another 950 miles north.

Completely off topic and non-chronological, I drank water from Soda Springs. A “geological wonder”…

All and all, The Oregon Flip has still be a great decision. The only con has been adjusting to the occasional thunderstorm in the afternoon.

(Exposed ridge walks, what could possibly go wrong?)

(Oh yeah, this.)

Blah blah blah. Time to dump…

You know those insanely large containers of cheeseballs that exist at Sam’s/Costco? (Sure you do.) Imagine one of those, but heavy-duty. A military grade cheeseball container. Why? (Glad you asked.)

Turns out, that is essentially what a bear canister is like. You store your food in it, and presumably a bear can’t break it open. It could however roll it down a mountain (like I saw happen to a ranger on the Appalachian Trail.). But hey, I have a Tile bluetooth locator in mine. Cause I’m a dork. An overly prepared dork.

(5-days of food. Heavy. Bleh.)

All hikers going through the Sierra are required to carry these bulky polycarbonate overpriced beasts. So for the next 300-ish mile stretch at least I’ll always have a camp chair. The ironic part is, all the hikers coming out of the Sierra that I am passing (cause I’m still going south/backwards) did not see any bear. Meanwhile, I have. In sections that did not require a bear canister.

About a week ago, just north of Truckee, I did my usual go to sleep with no rainfly routine. It pretty much never rains out here, so air flowing through a screen tent is nice. This also means I am much more likely to wake up at sunrise. So… 5:30am I am laying in my sleeping bag, debating when to start packing everything up (the usual dilemma). Eventually I lean up and look over towards a huge overlook to my right, thinking I will catch a glimpse of the sun. Instead I caught a glimpse of a large brown bear facing directly at me about 25ft away. Cool.

On my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I saw about 12 black bear. All of them fairly small (few hundred pounds). Also, all of them were super skittish and ran away. So black bear do not concern me. They are just annoying to be honest. Brown bear. Well, they are no grizzly, but still large and new to me. This sucker was a good 500lbs.

So here I am, having a stare-down for 10 seconds, debating all the scenarios. I figured it’d be smart to give Tumbleweed a heads up. Cause you know. Manners… as soon as I call out her name, the bear bumbles down the mountain. Her only concern was if I captured a picture/video, ha!

This was also around the time old hiker friends from early on started to intersect my southern trajectory. Pretty wild seeing these faces for the first time since April/May-ish. Many looked drained from their grueling Sierra experience. One guy had lost 45lbs so far. Crazy.

Pretty much everyone talked about ridiculous postholing in snow and swarms of mosquitoes. However, at least the snow should be mostly melted now. Most of the hikers just finishing the Sierra are saying snow and water fording was not dangerous. Awesome.

Speaking of awesome. I have the good fortune of experiencing some long distance trail magic at Echo Lake.

(Thanks Craig and Myra!)

Also awesome, Lake Tahoe. Tumbleweed and I took an unplanned day off to get out on the lake. Beautiful blue water.

Since Lake Tahoe, the trail is taking on a new look. It’s starting to become more vast. Less trees. Bigger mountains. Bigger valleys. Bigger views. (Bigger physical pains.) I am finally starting to experience the Sierra.

The next 300 miles are widely regarded as the toughest, but most beautiful section of the entire PCT. After which, will be a side trip to climb Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48), and then back to Ashland, OR to hike the final 950 miles north to Canada.

Sounds like a lot is left, but also a lot has happened. I am sure it will be over before I know it.

Time to dump…

Another chapter, another 140 miles. Actually… recently finished hiking over 1,100 miles out here. Still have over 1,500 miles to go. The second half of this beast should go faster. Better terrain (after The Sierra). Better shape. Hopefully be done mid/late September.

A few stories come to mind since Chapter 8. First, deer treats. Yes, deer treats. See, I know that deer like salt blocks (as do I). I know that hiking gear can accumulate salt. That is why I am mindful of where my gear is throughout the night. Well… umm… oops.

I was packing up one morning, getting ready to begin hiking and went to get my trekking poles that I leaned against a tree the night before and they were gone. You can guess what happened. A deer thought I left it some treat sticks that night. I searched about a 100 yard radius on a mountain side for an hour. I was almost ready to give up and have poles shipped to the next town 3 days away. Then I found one pole. This was motivation to find the other. Eventually I was golden. Both poles found. My knees thanked me.

Another 80 miles and a few days later, I pass a fellow thru-hiker going the opposite direction. His name was Vlado (from Slovakia). We chatted for a good 15 minutes (hours in trail time). I was, and always am, amazed at foreigners who come to the US to hike for 5-6 months. This trail is tough enough. I can not imagine doing it in a foreign country. New language. New currency. New culture. New etiquette. Everything. Hats off to these fine folks!

As I am talking, I notice he keeps staring at a PCT lapel pin I got in Wrightwood, CA 7 weeks ago. This, along with a bandanna are kind of two souvenirs that many hikers have. He asked where I got them, we chatted about trail conditions that we are getting ready to encounter, and then he took off north, me south.

Rewind 24 hours prior, Tumbleweed asks me why I keep wearing my lapel pin where I do (on a strap) if the strap keeps bouncing against my sternum every step, every day. I told her it was a good mental exercise to endure something subtle and annoying all day, every day. (I’m weird. I know.) Then I realized I had gotten used to the pin hitting me. Exercise over.

Fast forward… I now don’t need the pin, and clearly it would mean more to Vlado than me. Problem was, I put this together after we parted ways. Fortunately, few minutes later, I pass another hiker heading north (like Vlado was). I asked if they knew him, they did. I then gave them the pin and asked to please pass it along to him. Success 🙂

Speaking of Vlado, during our conversation about trail conditions, he goes on to mention I will be encountering a “box of snakes”… I was like, “What?!”… He says, “Box… with snakes!”… He seems a little too happy about this snake box thing. I figured I’ll know it when I see it. Which was true. It was a box of “snacks”. Trail magic. His accent made “snacks” sound like “snakes”. Shew!

More trail magic happened another 40 miles up the trail. It was kind of crazy. A box struck a little too close to home.

On the lid, it states “Call your mother!”… I get it, some mom helping hikers and maybe their kid is even out here. Here’s the thing (there is always a thing)… Their handwriting was like my mom’s. It had tootsie-pops, like my mom. It had little debbie cakes, like my mom. It had a trash bag inside for trash, and the lady wrote on the trash bag, “Trash Bag”, like my mom would. Maybe I have relatives out here?

(Mom? Are you out here?!)

In terms of the trail, things are getting more tough… steeper, longer, and hotter. Should be on the north end of The Sierra (South Lake Tahoe to be exact) in a couple of weeks. Then it’s really going to get interesting.

(Back in the desert. Bleh.)

(Walking south (right to left) is ridiculous sometimes.)

Sidenote: after 3 months, things are starting to look weird out here…

(Living room.)

(Woolly mammoth.)

(Not weird. Amazing. Future 4Runner paint job.)

Well, time to hit the Post Office, get my third pair of shoes, laundry, resupply food, etc. etc. etc.

Picture dump in 3, 2, 1…

Yeah, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. (Also known as Western Poison Oak.) So I am typing this blog after a steroid shot. Don’t need this stuff spreading any further while going multiple days between showers.

I wear long pants and long sleeve shirt for exactly this reason. However, the oils from the plant stay on your clothes. Best guess, I walked through over grown areas like this:

(After an afternoon mist, it’s like walking through a car-wash.)

Other than The Itchy & Scratchy Show, it’s been pretty tame since Mt. Shasta. Not too many climbs or scenic views.

(More alpine lakes.)

I did see my first bear out here. Apparently they are sort of rare compared to the Appalachian Trail (I saw 10 on it in 2012). However, most of the hikers in this stretch have seen them. For me, a large adult black bear crossed the trail about 75ft in front of me, never looked, and just kept walking. Simple.

(Oh deer.)

The coolest thing I’ve seen in the last 100 or so miles was definitely Burney Falls. I went in with low expectations, but was crazy surprised.

(Yeah, that is a rainbow. Feel the Bern.)

Totally off topic. Everything is prehistorically large too.

(This cotton candy looks crunchy.)

(This dandelion looks baseball-ly?)

(I think this tree knows something I don’t.)

(Damn.)

That’s pretty much it y’all.

Ups. Downs. Bugs. The usual. Short week.

Picture time…

Looks like the mobile site for tracking me is broken on Garmin’s end of things.

(Well, this is lame.)

However…

If you want to kick it old school, the desktop version of the same exact website works just fine.

(Public libraries smell weird.)

I called Garmin’s tech support yesterday. They said they are aware of the issue from other users (iOS and Android both) and expected things to be fixed in a day or two. Fingers crossed.

After $80 and a 2.5 hour awkwardly quiet ride with Bob from Kennedy Meadows, Tumbleweed and I made it to Bishop to grab a rental car and then drive 494 miles nonstop to Ashland, OR.

(Coming back for those mountains in July.)

Ashland was a great town. Lots of dogs driving around.

(Exhibit A)

(Exhibit B)

After a hitch up to the trail, we made it to a totally different landscape. Trees. Lichen. Umm… snow? Crap! I thought we skipped the Sierra to dodge the snow?

(Likin’ lichen.)

(Oops.)

(Maybe we messed this up?)

(Yep.)

Speaking of messing up… Tumbleweed and I had to go around these snow drifts and I was fortunate enough to film this lovely gem (reminder: go to http://www.TheThruHike.com/blog if you want to see the videos given they do not display in the email version.)

Hiking southbound in this section of the trail had an unexpected drawback, un-maintained. We are about 500mi north of northbounders and 500mi south of southbounders. Therefore, the trail maintenance crews are not expecting us. This makes for lots of bushwhacking and log hopping.

(Awesome.)

(The trail is in there somewhere.)

Eventually, we hobbled down the mountain to Siead Valley and I found this amazing book.

(1975 and hilarious.)

(I feel ya man.)

(Been there.)

(Gonna be there.)

(Have fun being lost dude.)

(Some food habits never cease.)

(I think I have actually seem this outfit here, now.)

After leaving Siead Valley, animals and alpine lakes became more prevalent.

(Classic.)

(Looks like an MSR advertisement.)

The sights were pretty wild, but so was the tread. A lot of times the ups were pretty steep compared to the previous 700mi, and also rocky. Felt like I was back on the AT.

(Gross.)

Meanwhile, Mt. Shasta was taunting the majority of the hike.

(Glad I’m not summiting that bad boy.)

Eventually we hit a notoriously desolate highway and managed to hitch after only waiting 10min (other hikers waited hours.) Awesome.

(Homeless again.)

(This bun is large. My hand is dead?)

Oh! How could I forget. 15 foot. Yes. The 15 foot. The trail celebrity. Fine. Maybe just in my head. He carries a 15 foot section of water hose for no real reason. I “interview” him trying to understand his motives. Umm. I have no clue what he is talking about. But I’m sure he gets it. What a guy!

As usual, time for that PiCTure dump of randomness…

(Perils of a southbounder.)

Timing is everything. It is the difference between frying or freezing. Eating fresh-grilled trail magic quesadillas or cliff bars. Seeing old friends or never seeing them again.

Timing has been good since Tehachapi. The detour was perfect. A nagging foot-arch injury healed up. Awesome. Caught a cold front through a notoriously hot stretch of trail and didn’t fry. Awesome. Arrived at trail magic in the desert just a few hours after they setup. Awesome. Saw old friends from early April that I had hiked ahead of. Awesome.

(Peeing out my belly button.)

In the constant name of delaying the snowy Sierra section, a side trip to Lake Isabella was also deemed necessary. Unfortunately a 30ish mile hitch was needed.

(Turns out hitching is illegal in California.)

(Turns out Officer Scott didn’t care and hitched us.)

(Turns out Jeeps can’t defy physics.)

Because the officer had to do officer things, Lake Isabella had to wait an extra hour or two. No big deal. Delays are a good thing at this point. So what to do in a small, desolate, desert town? 1980’s bowling. Duh.

(The 80’s were a good decade.)

(Just not good for hitching.)

Oh yeah… tim-ing… so on the last night at the hotel, the water went out. It’s not like showers, toilets, and filling water bladders matter to a thru-hiker or anything… Actually it was not bad at all. The owner was super nice. First, she gave out free chicken curry. Second, she refunded the cost of the last night in the name of karma.

(Free chicken curry. Awesome.)

More tim-ing… there is a PCT hiker’s dad out here who is doing his own parallel journey along the way. He is trail-angeling his way up the PCT. As a greatful dead fan, his name “Grateful Dad”. He was more than will to hitch us back to the trail head.

(Only on the PCT.)

After some more miles, the trail was finally starting to change from desert to Sierra. Loose sand with little propulsion help changing to dirt/rock. Finally.

Figured it was time to cram in a cowboy camp experience before I say adios to the 700-mile desert section.

(That was dumb.)

I am officially at the gateway to The Sierra. The section I have been perpetually delaying. I have taken 18 zeros. Which is insane. Good. But insane. I landed here when I thought would work. Then back to that whole timing thing.

Turns out, freak snow storms happen in May still. Sure enough, a number of hikers who went into the Sierra had to bail out. Had I not taken my time, I would have been right there with them. White out snow storms. Lost trail. Post-holing through snow. Doing ~5 miles/day. Gross.

(Homeless. Always homeless.)

Could I do it? Sure. Should I do it? Nope. The Sierra should be enjoyable, not just doable.

Here are some reports from people barely ahead. Sounds not enjoyable. No thanks.

(Zoom in and read this. Gross.)

Solution? Flip-flop.

New plan: get to Bishop, CA and take a rental car to Ashland, OR. Then hike south from there back to where I am now (Kennedy Meadows). This will give extra time for the snow to melt, the giant bubble of people to pass, and maybe Northern California will be cooler this time of year too. Seems solid to me. After coming back to Kennedy Meadows, then ride back to Ashland, OR and be back on track north to Canada. Logistically tricky. Physically smart.

In other words… Just hiked “A”, doing “B” then “C”.

(Logistical cluster.)

Random picture dump in 3, 2, 1…

Ice axes. Post-holing. Emergency beacons. SOS buttons. This is the fear mongering that is in the chattering amoungst hikers in the last week or so. Dumb. After all, the Sierras are only about 140 miles away. At a my typical pace (25mi/day) I would easily be there in less than 1 week. Also dumb. PCT detour? Smart. Less miles per day? Smart. Where to go? What to do? Oh the options.

(The sand says it all.)

After recharging in Tehachapi with a double-zero (two days off), I started up some conversations with people about renting a car and doing a side-trip to allow the Sierra snow to melt a little longer. Many hikers have “summit fever”. I remember that from my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I get it. Others were on the fence and just simply felt guilty for leaving the trail for 3-4 days. Again, I get it. I was doing this regardless though. I am in no rush to get to the Sierras. I’d rather enjoy them, instead of having to struggle through them. Dumb.

Sure enough, I found a partner in crime. Tumbleweed. We’ve been unintentionally leap-frogging for a few weeks now anyways so our pace seems to be similar. So, after a brainstorming session and some seat-of-our-pants decisions, we were off to a different kind of sand. That of the beach variety.

(Tumbleweed. In her element.)

We rode a public-bus to Bakersfield, picked up the rented car, and headed to Malibu for a house-hunting trip. The goal? Sleep on the beach. Another goal? Not get arrested.

After exploring Leo Carrillo State Park, we found a cove laid out tarps, dropped grocery bags, and successfully pulled off the homeless look for the billionth time. The park was pretty awesome.

(Yep. Homeless for sure.)

(Front yard.)

There were also tidepools full of crabs and other crazy things. . (Again, view videos directly from https://thethruhike.com/blog/ since they do not display on emails)

Next on the agenda, gear returns. We both switched out air mattresses at REI in Oxnard and were anxious to test them out. In the mountains. After all, don’t need these trail legs wasting away too quickly. Tumbleweed found a trail in Los Padres National Forest immediately followed by a rattlesnake. We did a short hike into a canyon and set up by a river. This house was pretty nice too.

(Casa numero dos.)

(This house came with an oven.)

Eventually we decided to end our last night on the beach again. This time it was a different state park whose name escapes me. Near Malibu though. It was pretty incredible. Awesome rock formations, caves, and someone had hacked down some bamboo to build a make-shift canopy in the cliff. Home number three.

(Still keeping it classy with tarps and bags.)

(Front yard.)

(Neighbors yard.)

(Neighbors.)

(Neighborhood.)

The following morning we rolled back to Tehachapi, resupplied, offered hikers some rides around town since we had the rental car still, and a I got my dachshund-fix.

(Rupert is 14 and incredible.)

I guess it’s time to do that whole hiking thing again now…

(Another random pic dump below)

Sheeeeeew… civilization does exist! It’s been a while since I’ve had the ability post an update. Not much cell/internet service the last two weeks. However, I’ve had a lot of civilization-type experiences out here…

I have had the opportunity to make a run to Burbank, CA and also stay at three different hostels during this 200 mile stretch. This means more showers, less water filtering, and more town food. Feels like cheating. About 566 miles deep thus far.

Like I said before, I’m trying to embrace all non-trail aspects out here. As luck would have it, a couple of super great thru-hikers offered to let me tag along to Burbank with them to get some new gear at REI. This was necessary. I needed another air mattress (mine had 13. Yes. 13 holes in it). Also needed some new tent stakes. Mine broke in the bedrock. Desert wind is relentless.

While looking like three homeless dudes in Burbank, we had a van pull up and ask us if we knew where the Social Security office was. This means we looked like we should know such things, ha!

After being back on the trail I ran across a tree that was over 1,500 years old.

(How does anything grow out here?!)

I eventually made it to the first hostel, Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce, CA. This place was like nothing I’d ever seen. A family had a trailer setup on their property for hikers to cook, shower, and sleep. They had tents setup for gear repair, post office, and shower stations. A back yard for tenting. All totally donation based and had been going on for decades.

(Tent city. Stink city.)

(I don’t trust this.)

(I do trust this. I mean, look at him. Doppelgänger?)

Eventually it was time to hike another 50 miles to the next hostel, Casa de Luna. Also, very unique. A lady and her husband made vegetable soup 19 years ago and offered some lost PCT hikers a bowl. Word spread. Hikers came and went. She now sees over 1,000 a year. Again, tenting on some unique property. She encourages rock painting and placing them in her back yard forest.

(This trail has been weird at times.)

(Yep. I’m an artist.)

(Filling up fast.)

After hiking out of the hostel, it was time to undecidedly and uncontrollably eat flies. Awesome.

(Lord of the Flies.)

For 30 miles, these little fellows flew up my nose, in my eyes, mouth, ear, everything. It was like nothing I’d ever dealt with. Even worse than the Appalachian Trail.

Then things got worse. As they tend to do out here haha.

I was camping that night laying on my side, ear against my air mattress like some quasi-hippie-native-american hearing something tunnel underneath my tent in the sand. At first I’m like, “Well, I have a leak in my air mattress. Let’s just total the car if I wreck it.” Terrible logic. So I eventually roll out of my tent, pick it up, move it 100ft or so. Sure enough, there was a mouse hole. So it wasn’t all for nothing. Then, as always, it gets worse…

I’m starting to doze off in my sweet new yard and begin to hear what sounds like a weedeater (trimmer) off in the distance. Knowing this isn’t even remotely a thing out here, I’m semi-sleepy and perplexed. The weedeater gets louder. I get more perplexed and begin hearing it loudly through my ear plugs. Finally I unzip my tent to investigate. Turns out my tent was apparently on the entire North American population of ground wasps. Thousands of weedeaters erupting from the ground. Not like I could do anything about it. Mother nature does what she wants man. So I crashed out to a unique form of white noise that night and they were gone by morning. Wish they could have worked in unison to give me a lift to Canada.

Yet again, it was time to keep heading to Canada. There were interesting sights on the hike out. Another cave and certain doom.

(I still think Ganon is in there.)

(Like I said. Certain doom.)

(Saving 15%.)

Next hostel on the agenda was Hiker Town. This was owned by some old Hollywood set designers. Each building was a 10ft x 10ft with a bed. Nothing else. Perfect.

(California is weird man.)

While at hiker town, I had this grand idea to hike the LA Aqueduct from 7pm to 7am. This would allow me avoid the heat and drink less water over a 25 miles stretch. Sounds good. In theory. I’m an idiot.

After trying to sleep during the afternoon noon (30mins successfully), I peaced out.

(My 30 mins of sleep face.)

I ended up hiking 28 miles. Made it to a canyon at 7am with intentions of sleeping during the day. Turns out. It get hot in the desert. Like 104.9F hot. Like I said. Idiot.

(This was a terrible decision.)

So I slept about an hour in the heat and magically I ran into water, fruit, etc. trail magic.

(Tear worthy. Seriously.)

(The beginning of a second night hike.)

(The middle of a second night hike.)

(The end of a second night hike. 7am at the road to town. I still hitch hiked. Cause adventures.)

For those keeping count. That’s 50 miles in 36 hours on 90 mins of sleep. Gross.

I left out an important part. During this second night hike, at 1am I had an interesting encounter. About 50ft in front of me, a mountain lion crossed the trail. Stopped. Looked at me. I blinded it with my head lamp. In what felt like hours, after a few seconds it jumped some tumbleweed, and ran into a ravine. For me, this is the worst animal to encounter. If it wants to ruin me. Turns out, it can. Nothing I can do but stand and get ruined.

I kept scanning the ravine with my light. Since they like to attack from behind, I was a little concerned to say the least. Eventually, I had to make the most critical decision every thru-hiker makes…keep hiking, or not? I reluctantly strolled on the Canada, constantly checking my backside. Shew.

More random non-story pics…

The past 100-ish miles have been a blur. Like I mentioned before, not only am I going to stop counting daily mileage, I am also going to stop doing daily entries. It is kind if an interesting exercise to just look back on the last “section” and see how it all comes back out on this blog every week or so. I’m crafting this word vomit on a log watching the sun set over Wrightwood, CA (which I’ll be checking out tomorrow). I just had my b-day pop-tart. 34 now. Peace out 33.

(My current view. Pretty awesome.)

Two themes bubble to the surface over the last 5-days…Lost and Selfless.

Lost example #1:

I’m cruising down the trail and in a hairpin turn, I hit a campsite (super common). As usual, the main PCT disperses into 13 other paths on the campground site due to other traffic/paths. Then, the sweetest old lady (who I am sure makes amazing cookies) rolls up behind me. “Honey, do you know where the trail goes from here?” … in the most unintentionally (but inevitable) smartass tone, I say, “Canada.”

Thing is, we were both lost. Sort of…

We knew how to go back to Mexico. We just didn’t know how to get to Canada. The more important one of the two in our situation.

I like diagrams. Graphs. You know, data. So I turn on the GPS feature on my phone and like witchcraft, there is the PCT about 50 yards east, up a steep hill. Done.

Then there is Grandma Cookie muttering how she feels like the trail is “this way”… I get it man. I also let intuition guide me in many situations. But directionally, when I have a GPS? Nah. Data wins.

Once I find the trail I call out to her to let her know I found it. I never heard back from her. (Don’t worry, I just saw her last night, 4 days later).

(Yeah, Gerard Butler was pretty good in it.)

Lost example #2:

Hanging out at a picnic shelter named Splinter’s Cabin. It’s not a cabin, nor is Master Splinter there. Lame.

This shelter is beside a parking lot for day hikers. It was the weekend and it was packed. Also, someone thought it’d be nice if they shared their Bruno Mars (yeah, I know pop music…lie) with everyone around. Doors open. Blasting. I know, Poppaw Tim yelling at the kids again.

I’m hanging out in the shelter, by myself because I look homeless, then all of a sudden two crotch rockets come rollin’ in Fast n’ Furious style. Yeah. They were cool for sure.

Then one ninja hops off, and walks towards me. I’m thinking “Ninjas don’t hang with the homeless?”… “Bro, where are we?!”… I’m thinking to myself, here I am trying to not keep up with miles and stuff anymore and boom, pop quiz from a ninja.

I told him Splinter’s Cabin, cracked a Ninja Turtle’s joke, and the ninja wasn’t amazed. Then it got real. I pulled out the handy GPS. Asked him where he was going and coupled that with where we were. Directions emerge. He asked where I was heading to. Usual deadpan, “Canada.”… followed by, “No bro, really?!”… He then asks some basics. Time. Distance. Food. Pooping. All the fun stuff. He then rushed off to talk to his co-ninja about how “this guy” is crazy and living in the woods for “5 whole months”… doesn’t take much to impress a ninja.

Lost example #3:

It’s 4/20 weekend, pot is legal recreationally here, and there is a hot springs with “natural healing powers”…oh, and I’m a grandpa. Setting the scene.

As Deep Creek Hot Springs comes into view, I see people twirling sticks, hoola hoops, and 80% aren’t naked. Fermi estimation of course.

I do like experiences/adventures. All my friends know that. But I also really didn’t want to “sleep” at the 100+ people gathering.

Side note: those healing hot springs “contain a rare and sometimes fatal disease called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. The disease is apparently contained in contaminated soil and transmitted to the Hot Springs pools” per the PCT water report. I know I know. I’m just letting the fear control me man. Ha!

Lost.

Oh yeah!

So I camped a few miles past Bonnaroo 4/20 and had a phenomenal night sleep. Woke up to a girl doing the walk of shame.

She was in her mid twenties, runny eye shadow, the start of dreadlocks, those trying to be stylish 80’s clothes, and… wait for it… no water. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Hoping for an amazing story, I asked her how things were going. She was mum. Must have been the shame. She did divulge an interesting tidbit though. “I’m heading to Splinter’s Cabin.”…

You see, because of example #2, I know where this ratless, cabinless, “cabin” is. Unfortunately for Sparrow or Rainbow or whatever her “name” is, it’s 12 miles the opposite direction she is walking. I offered her water, no dice.

(Idiots+Nature=Misplaced Bad Art Museum)

Speaking of water. Selflessness. The other theme of my 300’s out here.

I joke, and crack on a lot of people, myself especially. May as well. But on a serious note, I absolutely adore the total selflessness I encounter when thru-hiking.

On the AT, people picking me up on the road when it was hot/cold, putting me up in their home, insisting on feeding me and letting me do laundry. Total strangers. Even when offering money. Nope! No part of it. They were just happy to help. Awesome.

I experienced this 30-50 times over the last 2,800 miles. There is a trend. Usually these are people with a personal connection to the AT or PCT. Makes sense. They usually say something like, “Yeah, my cousin hiked this section a few years ago…”

So the selfless people I encountered this week involved good ole fashion H2O.

I had a section today that was pretty rough. I started out on the desert floor at 3,000ft and 15 miles later, ended at 8,500ft. All in all, this would have been a 27 mile stretch with no water. I’ve done similar stretches before. 20-25 miles. But not mostly uphill. Gross.

So, last night, hanging out in my tent. Cause where else can I hang out? Then I hear some car drive up on the gravel road I am near, stop, door open, door shut. I’m really hoping it was one of the ninja’s cousins.

“Anyone awake down there?”

Man, I should have said “No.”

Cause you know, irony.

I was nice and told her I was awake. She was even more nice. Elizabeth was her name.

I was sleeping next to any empty water cache. She was there to refill it. Just as she has for years ever since her friend had a heat stroke hiking this section. I helped load the cache, gave her a hug and off she went.

30 mins later.

Another vehicle rolls up.

Where is the solitude man?

“Hey, uh, can I get some help with all the 5 gallon jugs?”

A guy brought another eight 5 gallon jugs which we divided into 1 gallon jugs for easy refilling.

This was cool and all, but I didn’t depend on this cache. I’m sure it will help some other hikers out. Which is great.

My best bday present was on top of the mountain though. At a spring that was frozen solid, someone left five 1 gallon jugs of water. I still had enough, but it was nice to gulp a quick 20oz and not need to carry it.

(What up water? How you doin’?)

Ready for more selfness? Here it comes…

I roll into town early this morning grab some breakfast and get a tip that a retired couple in town gives hikers a bed, shower, laundry, etc. I was going to call them from a list of trail angels I saw posted given they had the same last name as one of my closest friends (Jennings).

Sure enough, she welcomed me fully. Her husband is volunteering at the hospital today and she is making sure all is in order for the hikers they have hosted for over 30 years!

It gets crazier…

I just finished heading to post office, all squeaky clean (showers), made some calls, had some great conversations with some coworkers who I kind of miss (sshhh!), and all of a sudden a car whips in front of me as I am walking back to the trail angles house. I’m thinking, “Jerk.”… I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It was Elizabeth. From the water cache restock a few nights ago.

She kept yelling out the window, “2%! 2%!”…

I thought she was just being friendly. However, she goes, “Here, happy birthday! You turned 34 right?” She then proceeds to give me a ride to the trail angels home and I profusely thank her for everything. Hugs and all.

She remembered me in passing the night of the water cache saying it was my last day as 33.

She rolled the dice. Bought a card and presents. Drove around town, and passed me on the street. Super kind of her. Selfless.

(Wish this happened before I got groceries haha. Still amazing!)

Time for other random pics…

(Inception style. A blister within a blister within a blister.)

(Feet were rough… but hands are good!)

(No way thats THE McDonalds I’m thinking of…)

(It’s a sign. Really. Two signs.)

($17.41)

Washing machine messed up the most critical piece of gear. My shoes. Then I had an epiphany last night. Ear plugs.

Check out this video for the Tim-gineering of my shoes…

PS- Apparently the videos don’t show up in the emails. They only show up directly on my website’s blog. So you may have missed all my ridiculous videos if you have not been going directly to my website. Not sure of the problem. If you are reading this in an email, CLICK HERE to go to my website videos!

Day 12: Idyllwild

Took my first full zero-day (a day where you hike zero miles). Don’t be fooled though. Still a ton to do. First on the agenda was getting some sungloves at the outfitter. Fortunately they had exactly the pair I was after. Next was to take a look at the fire closure and figure out how to get back on the trail. Looks like my best bet is to do a short road walk, then take a 3.3mi side trail to the PCT.

(More fashionable homeless attire)

I’m trying to plan on a macro (not micro) level. In other words, be prepared or have a loose plan. Best guess, shoot for Big Bear Lake mid-next week. Hit my bounce box, grab a shower, etc.

Day 13: Idyllwild to Tent Site

Today was way harder than expected. The 3.3mi Deer Springs side trail was a pretty gnarly ascent up San Jacinto. The peak is nearly 11,000ft. By tomorrow morning I’ll be back down to nearly 1,000ft. There was snow on part of the trail and I froze eating lunch. I’m sure tomorrow when I’m back on the desert floor it will be roasty toasty. Crazy out here!

(Frosty’s remains)

(Mount San-ja-freez-o)

Day 14: Tent Site to Interstate 10

So about that whole “experiences” thing. I had some of those today. Prior to those, I finished my descent from 11,000ft to 1,000ft. Along the way was experience #1.

I had just been thinking the whole hike down, “Why haven’t I seen more rattlesnakes?” Boo-hoo. Poor 2%. Well, lucky me. Found one! Even more lucky, I could hear it over my Rosetta (band) blasting in my earbuds.

What I’ve ways done in the past when hearing the rattle is instantly freeze, look, then back away. Then I wait for the rattle to stop. Eventually the snake slithers away, and I walk on by. You know, the “correct” thing to do.

Ummm…

Experiences?…

So I tried that whole “correct” thing. This snake was not budging. Look danger noodle (thanks for the synonym Noah), I needed to get to Canada, and I didn’t have all day for you to calm down. So… I had to walk by as it was shaking and coiled. Honestly, I’ve never walked by a coiled snake. Shew.

Next unplanned experience involves some unique trail magic. I cross under Interstate 10, and happen upon about a dozen hikers (largest group yet). I knew none of them. Zero. Through conversation I find out I hiked into another “bubble” of hikers who started a few days before me. It’s pretty surprising since I’ve been going slow.

Back to the experience aspect…

A guy, “Masshole” who did the AT in 2012 (like me) drove down from Oregon to do trail magic. We knew some of the same AT hikers which was cool. What was cooler was him letting us take his van (and home…seriously, his HOME) to a Burger King to get milkshakes. I never expected to get carsick thru-hiking!

The best trail magic wasn’t the pizza, fruit, or Dr. Pepper. It was leukotape. This tape sticks better than moleskin, duct tape, or any bandaid. It’s great for blisters. Which, as luck would have it, my left foot has a few. I’m not sure what’s up. I’m a big believer in not popping them (they get infected). However, these bad boys just keep growing and growing. So, I drained, and taped them. I hope this isn’t the start of something… feet are the foundation.

So, not to many miles, but many unplanned experiences.

Day 15: Interstate 10 to Mission Creek

Two dangers today. 1) aggressive dogs. Yeah. You read that right. The PCTA has postings everywhere about pitbulls taking down cows in a stretch I hiked today. 2) windfarms. Yes. Windfarms. “Flying debris hazard”. They do make a distinctive howl. I heard some burned out locals talk about ultrasonic sounds causing health issues. Classic.

(My aggressive trekking poles have also been sighted in the area.)

(So many warnings. Jeez.)

I also hit up Whitewater Preserve Park for a long lunch. There was easily a dozen thru-hikers at the park. Picnic tables, toilets, and water you don’t need to filter…that brings herds of hikers in like cattle.

(“Whitewater” Preserve.)

Unfortunately it put me in a bubble of hikers at the next water/camping source. I don’t mind meeting them all. But when a large crowd camps together, they are always crazy loud. I’m such a grandpa. Get off my lawn!!!

Day 16: Mission Creek to some terrible “campsite”

Never pitch a tent on a burnt campsite. Tomorrow needs to happen. Good night.

Day 17: Campsite Burny McFire Soot to Big Bear Lake

Let’s do a two day recap. Because Day 16 was ridiculous. I spent all day (yes, every single minute) hiking uphill out of a canyon. Once out, I still continued hiking uphill into a burn-zone. Thing is, it’s closed to everyone except PCT thru-hikers. Only us special folk get to see burnt trees and risk falling debris. So lucky!

(Oh, burn!)

It gets worse.

So, there was a high-wind advisory (80mph gusts) while I’m on a 2 foot wide trail on the side of a steep mountain. Awesome.

It gets worse.

A disheveled fellow was telling me something about his “weather contraption” must not be working because it’s forecasting snow. I’m thinking, “Yep. You dumb.”

I gets worse.

I was feeling decent and decided to put in a few extra miles. I’m dumb.

I got myself into a stretch of trail that was all scorched earth. Soot.

It gets worse.

Old Man Weather Contraption was right. It was cooling down fast. Sooooooo… I had to pitch my tent asap (it was going to be dark soon and was already in the 40s).

It gets worse.

It was to pitch my tent in 80mph gust in the 40s in a pile of soot. It looked like I was fighting a charbroiled pterodactyl. I lost. The entire night soot kept blowing through my mesh tent until my rainfly. My tent stakes didn’t hold in the soft ash, so my rainfly kept flapping all night. When I woke up, it was 19F inside my tent.

(19F. In my tent. Gross.)

Fortunately I had enough sense to sleep with my water filter and bladder in my sleeping back so they wouldn’t bust. My other two bottles were frozen solid. So yeah, that’s why Day 16 was a short entry. The pterodactyl drained me.

Today was a pretty big day. I almost stayed in my 19F tent until lunch and was going to shoot for Big Bear Lake a day later. Instead I decided to do ~25 miles straight to town a day early. I’m going to spend most of a day just cleaning soot off everything. Then I’ll spend another day doing the usual bounce box, shopping, phone calls, etc.

I stopped counting miles, next I think I’m going to stop counting the days. Days between towns blur together as one chapter anyways.

Side note. Look what was in the desert…

(Sat on that bad boy. #scabies)

Day 5 (7.0mi) Tent site to Scissors Crossing/Julian

(Been seeing a lot of this guy lately)

Spent a pretty easy morning hiking down in elevation a ton, then got to a road crossing. As luck would have it, there was a van taking hikers all the way to Julian, CA for free and they had one seat left. I struggled to decide abandoning my plans to go straight to Warner Springs, but I am glad I did.

Slight tangent, buckle up…

What really drove me throughout the AT was a curiosity of whether or not I could actually do it. 3 cortisone shots and a ton of blisters later…done. Fast forward to present day and my curiosity isn’t as heavy on the PCT. It sounds arrogant, and I couldn’t mean it any less that way. Thing is, literally everyone I’ve met that has done both have said the AT is way harder physically. This has probably been said by at least 30-40 people I’ve met in person over the years.

So I have now done parts in all three states. Desert, check. Climb out of Columbia River in Oregon, check. Gnarly trekking in the Cascades in Washington, check. It’s all full of switchbacks. My knees are doing great. No blisters. As I’ve said before. Kind of boring.

Tangent over…

So why am I glad I went out of my comfort zone, broke from plan, and spent some time in Julian? It reminded me of a key aspect of thru-hiking, the people. When asking other thru-hikers (myself included) you tend to not remember the rocks, roots, climbs, etc. Instead you remember that crazy German you hiked many miles with, or that time you left you phone in Vermont never to be seen again, or the guy on a lung transplant list in Virginia, or the guy riding a unicycle on the CDT, or giving a how-to thru-hike talk to day hikers in the White Mountains to earn a bunk spot for the night. Experiences. Oops. Forgot about that whole experiences thing.

Julian was much needed. There is a restaurant called Carmen’s. Bet you can’t guess who owns it. Anyways, she is amazing. “Every hiker gets a beer and a hug” she says. She only accepts donations and is closed for everyone right now, except “her kids, the hikers” as she calls us. Turns out she is selling the joint and wants to make sure the new owners still give the hikers a home and we are not just stuck in the desert. So last night, she brought us all in to meet the future potential owners, proving to them that we aren’t murders/skanks/hippies/freeloaders. (She is mostly right). Regardless, it ruled seeing someone care so hard and being so selfless.

(Yep. I’m a trashy dude.)

Day 6 (9.4mi) Scissors Crossing/Julian to tent site

Myself and 7 other hikers slept on the floor at Carmen’s restaurant last night. Yay for earplugs. I spent the morning getting my gear packed back up, cleaning some bathrooms, and helping the cook make pico de gallo. Figured it was the least I could do given how she opens her place up.

You may be thinking, “Dude, your mileage has dropped in half.” First off… I applaud your math skills. Second, it’s not a race. I told myself a few years ago that if I ever did another thru-hike, I’d soak it in more. So that’s what I am doing. Hiking a little slower. Stopping and looking around once and a while. Digging the experiences in trail towns. I’m bad at chilling. Seriously, all my closest friends and family know this. I always want to cram it all in. I need to cram chilling in to. I’m getting there. Learning curve man.

Speaking of curves…

I spent the first part of my afternoon hiking up up up a mountain range. I saw a hairpin curve ahead and thought I’d let this fast hiker (who I never met) pass me up. Him and his headphones meant business. Basically running to Canada. Then 45 seconds later I see a silhouette of him jumping in the air on one leg, screaming, and a snake striking towards his other leg. I scream out to ask if he got hit. He did not. But the rattlesnake kept eyeing him down afterwards. My first rattler (on this trail). Daniel-son (the other hikers trail name) was pretty spooked. Rightfully so.

Day 7 (?mi) tent site to Montezuma Valley Road

Super windy night last night. Again, yay earplugs. Windy day too! The dichotomy of the desert is amazing. Wind: good while hiking in hot weather, bad while setting up a tent. Water: good for hydration, bad for carrying. Sun: good to warm up to while breaking down camp at sunrise, bad while burning your flesh during hiking. Goldylocks.

Anyways… hit a water cache. Totally volunteer funded and maintained. Amazing. Saw a cave that looked straight out of Zelda. Hovering in my brain was also a loose plan to make it to Warner Springs tonight. However, I have also vowed to enjoy this hike and embrace opportunities/experiences.

(Cache Money!)

Sure enough, I came to a campsite near a highway this afternoon to take a quick break and all of a sudden an man from China came running asking “Are you camping here?”. He seemed frantic as though I was going to take his spot. He said “Please come 100ft up trail.” I figured “Sure. Experiences, right?”…

Boom. Trail magic. Hot dogs. Beer. Water. Candy. Chips. Brownies. Happy hikers and good times. I have an easy hike in to Warner Springs tomorrow. Need to do laundry. Badly. Really badly. I’ll also need to wait around until Monday when the post office opens so I can hit my bounce box and resupply.

(Nothing like surprising the cook from behind)

I feel guilty not putting more miles in. I need to let it go. 1) I told myself I was going to enjoy this hike and not rush 2) the Sierras got 17ft of snow in March alone, so it’s best to get there early June instead of mid May like I was tracking.

Time to hear a bunch of hikers snore at this crowded site. Again, yay earplugs.

Day 8 (?mi) Montezuma Valley Road to Warner Springs

(Fly like an eagle)

Awesome day, even if I did miss an important turn. Oops. Saw Eagle Rock. A naturally formed rock formation that looks like, well, an eagle. Saw my first creek since the beginning of the trail. Trees too! Babbled with another hiker, Tunes, for the next few hours and walked an extra 2.5 miles north. No big deal though. We got a hitch back to Warner Springs and was there by lunch.

(Thanks for the reminder)

Took a bucket shower and did bucket laundry. Both are exactly what they sound like. Pretty necessary after 110 miles in the desert. Started looking into how to handle the first trail closure due to wild fire.

Also had a pretty easy walk in to town. Through a cow field. Weird.

(The crooked “8” bothers me)

Also had dinner with a bunch of hikers at a golf course grill. They separate all the hikers from everybody else and put us on the patio. Classic.

Met a cool couple who reconnected 20 years after high school, got married on day one of the PCT and are making this their honeymoon. Turning in early tonight. Hiker midnight is 9am.

Day 9: Warner Springs to Auga Caliente Creek

Hit my bounce box for the first time on the hike. I am trying to hit it every 10-ish days to refresh on meds, toothpaste, etc. shipped it another 100+ miles up the trail.

I also took my time getting out of Warner Springs. Myself and 6 other hikers helped the community center workers move four huge leaf piles off the property. They need help due to an upcoming newscast this week on PCT hikers. Still got out by 3pm and busted out some miles to get to my creekside campsite. Camping with a MIT mechanical engineer who is starting her doctorate in the Fall after hiking. Lots of engineers thru-hiking. Just like the AT.

Day 10: Auga Caliente Creek to Tent Site

After a few hours of walking I felt like I was back on the AT. Following a creek. Cool-ish. Bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Even after getting up in elevation and away from the creek, they swarmed in my face most of the day.

Eventually I hit water at Mike’s Place. He opens his house and water supply to hikers. I avoided the vortex of his pizza and hiker infested house. Normally I’d be game, but I am looking forward an actual zero day in Idyllwild. A day where zero miles are hiked. Haven’t done that yet. Probably should.

(The vortex)

Speaking of miles, I’m not even going to track them anymore. Given I’ve recently decided to make it more about the experiences and less about the mileage goal, I’m going to not document it. Besides, I know I’m slowly getting towards Canada each day, and that’s good enough.

Let’s see if I can actually get up early and get some miles in pre-heat. Fingers crossed.

Day 11: Tent Site to Idyllwild

(Sunrise. I did it!)

Woke up sort of early. Beat some of the heat. Cranked out around 18 miles or so by 3pm. Still got crazy hot. I mean…it is the desert.

(Cool.)

Eventually got a ride into Idyllwild. Hitch hiking was hard. There was a state trooper who had someone pulled over messing up my game. I even gave him the thumb. He had zero interest.

I’m crashing at Idyllwild Bunkhouse. Straight off the bat, toilet doesn’t flush. Shower is full of mold. A/C is pitiful. But hey, it’s still easier than the desert!

On my “off day” tomorrow, I need to loom at maps an understand where to intersect the PCT again (fire closure is messing up the normal trail). Once I figure that out, then I need to see how far up the trail is the next food resupply. Buy however much food, clean gear, make some calls, and eventually rest.

Also, sungloves are a must. Need. Outfitter. Now.

(This is getting old real fast)

Day 1 (20.0mi) Mexican Border to Lake Morena State Park.

(The Southern Terminus)

What a day. Mom and my Aunt Terry sent me on my way around 7:10 a.m. After the first few miles I ran into another Terry. This one is an army ranger from near Franklin, NC (which I zero’ed at during my AT hike). We leap frogged a ton throughout the 20 mile day.

(1 down, 2,651 to go)

It was amazing how many ill prepped hikers I saw today. One dude with his knee split open badly. Two groups of women who had the packs laying all over the trail (bad hiker etiquette for sure) gear everywhere. Gigantic packs. Around 1/2 the people ran out of water too. Also met “Wolverine” from Australia who did the AT in 2010.

(My scenery, for way. Too. Long.)

For me, the day was a weird mix of brutal and easy. I went through a number of hours wondering why I’m here and not more excited. I went through many moments thinking how much less steepness there is versus the AT. A million thoughts. Hard to focus.

(First trail magic. Easter day.)

Knees seems to be pretty good. Legs aren’t as sore as they could be. So much salt stains on the clothes out here. Basically the water evaporates from the sweat before it can wash away the salt. So you just accumulate salt on your face, arms, legs, etc. Recipe for chaffing! I’m becoming Desert Crust.

(First climb, from a distance)

I’m glad I made it too my goal. Shooting for Long Canyon Creek tomorrow. Water water water. 17.8mi should be doable.

Day 2 (17.8mi) Lake Morena State Park to Long Canyon Creek.

(Because there aren’t enough hazards out here already…)

Tougher than expected day. It was all uphill for the most part, with not too steep of a grade. The heat is what is unexpectedly tough for me. I’ve always preferred hiking in cold weather. Hot weather. No bueno. The sun is relentless. You don’t “feel” hot, cause you don’t sweat much. But you do feel just as drained. My arms and hands are sunburnt way bad. I’m going to need to swap to long sleeves and pull them over the backs of my hands (which are what is most burned). Legs and knees are still also somewhat achey. Guess all that training paid off.

There were way less people on the trail today than yesterday. Already a ton of people dropping out. Mostly due to lack of water. It’s amazing how quickly you drink 5L in the heat while hiking. I’m camping at a creek tonight. First one I saw all day. Totally different than the AT. I’m really considering a pack over haul in Warner Springs when I hit my bounce box. Especially considering going stoveless like I did on the AT. Cooked meals aren’t appealing in the heat. We’ll see…

(Is there such a thing as SPF 1,000?)

Need to resupply in Mt Laguna tomorrow, so it may be a shorter day. Hoping to make it to Penny Pines Point Faucet. Unfortunately a better water source up the trail is a no-go. So’ll I need to fill up here for another dry stretch.

(More rocks and mountains. Shocking right?)

Day 3 (14.8mi) Long Canyon Creek to Pioneer Mail Picnic Area.

Made it a few miles past my Penny Pines Point Faucet goal. Even though this was my lowest mileage day so far, I did better than expected since I needed to resupply 5 days worth of food to make it to Warner Springs by the weekend.

While resupplying, I was hoping to find some sun gloves at an outfitter in town. My hands are extra crispy. Unfortunately the outfitter went out of business a few months ago. So now I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt and just pulling the ends over my hands. Don’t want to use duck tape. Afraid the skin my come off with the tape.

Water sources are dictating everything for me out here. Unfortunately a ton of them are dried up. Guess that 16 feet of March snow in the Sierras hasn’t made it to the Majove yet. It’s been forcing me to camp “dry”. This is completely new to me, and makes me a little uneasy. Oh well, thru-hiking rule #1: roll with the punches.

Looking forward to hitting my bounce box in Warner Springs this weekend. Hopefully I can get there when the Post Office is actually open. Need to ditch some weight. Way way way weighed down.

Day 4 (17.8mi) Pioneer Mail Picnic Area to Tent site.

Tried waking up an hour earlier (5am). Really helps with the heat. I look pretty fashionable with my black thin winter gloves on in order to stop the sun.

(Tried that whole hike at sunrise thing. Way less toasty.)

Speaking of sun, it was a beast today. I landed oddly between two water caches and was forced to do a 2 miles dirt road walk to a spring since another source was dry. Water dictates all

(Almost falling like a crusty desert fool.)

Starting to feel the aching in my legs now that I am 70.4 miles deep. I remember on the AT it took a few weeks to get my “trail legs” and this is just my 4th day out. The grading on the PCT is so much less than the AT. In fact, it’s boring to hike. Boring to a point that my brain is starting to feel like I am wasting time. I’m not sure if that’s a dark rabbit hole I need not worry about, or if I just am bored with this because I’ve already done a much harder thru-hike 6 years ago. I think too much, haha. Time to go to sleep and think some more.

(Yep. It’s as big as it looks.)

Should be posting again around 110 miles in at Warner Springs sometime this weekend. Assuming I have service.

2% out!

Decided to keep (and unfortunately carry) a personal daily journal like I did on the Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Something kind of old school and tangible is appealing to me still.

After months of prep, April 1st is almost here…crazy!

For the first 700 miles (the Mojave Desert) of this 2,650 mile beast my pack will mostly be comprised of this:

Around mid-May I should hit the Sierras (and all the insane snow). Then my pack grows to this (mostly due to a ridiculous bear canister I legally have to carry for a month):

I’m not an ultra-light hiker. I tend to fall just under average pack weight though. When looking most people’s posted pack weights online, they don’t include food and water because of fluctuations of number of days needed. That being said, my “all-in” 3-day weight is ~33 lbs. This includes everything. By contrast, when I hit the Sierras with 8-days of food and cold weather gear, my “all-in”weight is 56 lbs. Gross.

I’ll be resupplying myself from Mexico to Canada using a bounce box. This little (but heavy) guy supplied me for 5-months on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2012. I would pull necessary supplies from it every few weeks and continuously mail it up the trail. Worked well then, should work well now.

Early flight to San Diego in the morning, a day off, and then starting at sunrise April 1st…