Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Hey, sorry this is just getting posted, should have been up on the 21st I think. I was on a computer at a coffee shop and I guess I got kicked off right before it posted. Anyway, here it is.

Seems strange to be posting again so soon after the last stop in Warner Springs, but only 2 days later and here I am in town again, this time in Idyllwild, CA. Since last I updated, I have lost track of my hiking buddy Axilla, and with him my ride to the hiker kickoff that starts tomorrow. Thankfully I have a couple of backups planned, so it shouldn't be too big a problem; I'm sure I'll be able to reconnect with everyone in Lake Morena. For the moment I am simply enjoying the town and its surroundings, and trying to recouperate after getting stuck in the mountains during an unseasonal April snowstorm, though up here any weather is to be expected. Luckily I was able to get a ride to town from a road crossing by Kenny, a local who, amongst other things, raises llamas (which is awsome, obviously.) It just seems to be a continuation of the general niceness of the people out here, and he says he has picked up 5 other hikers over the past month. That, in conjunction with the amount of people willing to give strangers a ride down to the kickoff, makes it ever more evident that this kind of endeavour relies as much on the willpower of a single person as it does on the kindness of others. Corny as it may seem, it is a very tangible realization when you are trying to hitch 15 miles to town, in the snow, carrying your grungy pack, when you only have a vague notion of where you are going. Much thanks to all the trail angels out there.

Given the amount of snow that still seems to be falling up here, it looks like we might have to slow down even more than anticipated. Hopefully the weather will warm up over the next couple of days while the party is going on and melt the passes a bit, but there is another storm forecast for the 30th in the area. It looks like there might be a bit of a scramble to get up and over the highest bits we have coming before that blows in, so expect more news of the sort.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Not?

Hi all, I'm writing to you from the Warner Springs Resort in Southern California today, the first major resupply town on the trail. Maybe the word 'town' is too big, for it is more of a road crossing with a gas station, post office and a golf club house, but its been nothing but hospitable so far. There is a resort centered around some hots springs in the area that hikers frequent, and they have been nice enough to let us use their computers; the trail magic experienced on the AT continues out here as well. It seems like one can't stop at a roadside without being offered a ride, a drink, or some food (or weed for that matter, but I digress).
I've been hiking on and off with Axilla, a guy from Richmond VA with a masters in philosophy, as well as Homebrew and Rosie from Oregon, both dog mushers during the winter season. We have yet to encounter any financiers or buisnessmen out here curiously enough... wonder why that would be. The people have all been great, and we've encountered a fair number of southbounders who started farther up the trail and are hiking backwards to the Annual Day Zero Hiker Kick-Off (or ADZHKO for short) at Lake Morena near the border on the 22nd. I'm hoping to get a ride or hitchhike back there, partiatlly for the inevitable free goods and part for the essential information regarding trail reroutes and snow information. In the meantime I'm trying to take things relatively slow and enjoy the scenery and company.
That being said, the question of why anyone would do this kind of thing has been easier than ever to answer. The trail out here is awsome and often varied with no shortage of views to keep your eyes occupied. For instance, yesterday we started in a desert atop the San Jacinto foothills, camping amid blooming cacti and bushes with hummingbirds flying around, the night air perfectly still. Withing a few hours of breaking camp in the morning, we were down in elevation surrounded by twisted trees and relaxing through the hottest part of the day at a spring. Soon after, we walked through valley after valley of wildflowers, each bigger and brighter than the last, crowned by Eagle Rocks, an outcropping looking exactly like a bird with its wings outstretched. Finally, I camped near a stream running down a green ravine with chaparral bushes on one side and giant oaks on the other. All within one day. In perfect weather. Its basically exactly what you would expect California to be like if you were a settler rolling through 150 years ago.
With days like this, it makes one wonder why more people don't get out and at least give it a try. Granted it is early in the hike and plenty of things can go wrong. Granted I already have blisters, it has been hot, and some people have dropped out. Granted there is sure to be some awful weather down the road. But to spend an entire lifetime and not experience such a thing as a long hike, to never put comfort and stability as anything but the top priority and see how that affects your understanding of the rest of the world, that is perplexing to me. To be sure, there are many experiences that can do this; nobody here has such hubris to think that long distance hiking is for eveyone, or that its the only way to achieve that different perspective. It is, however, the way I choose to do so, and to anyone who would incredulously question why someone would do something like this, all I can say is 'Why not?'

Saturday, April 17, 2010

just crossed the san felipe valley, beautiful desert w cactus, lots of flowers an heeeeat. good company though.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Today is the start of my third day on the trail, taking a quick resupply in Laguna Mt resort right off the trail. It has been fairly busy on the trail with upwards of a dozen hikers at some of the campsites, thought that number is bound to go down. Spent the first night at Lake Morena with a few fellow hikers and a man named Ben and his dog Eddie, who hooked us up with some burgers from his rv. Last night I camped alone in a small pine grove, and today looks to have some amazing views overlooking the Colorado Desert. Will try to keep in touch, ttyl

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Monday, April 12, 2010

SoCal so far

Ok, been trying to make this some witty, insightful post, but I'm tired and the big event start tomorrow, so I'll just make this a quick recap of the time spent in San Diego.

Mom and I arrivd here on Sunday night/ Monday morning after a slight mishap involving a delayed plane in Chicago. By the time we arrived here our rental car company was closed for the night, and after trying to procure a car froma different company (who, it turned out, was having computer problems and thus couldn't get us any transportation, despite a seemingly full lot), we decided to take a cab to our hotel in Coronado. Its a pretty nice place, as is just about everywhere in this neck of the city, with the beach is just across the street and downtown accessible by a causway across the San Diego Bay. All in all, a pretty swank getup considering that I'll be sleeping in a tent for the foreseeable future.

The weather has been a bit funky, at least by SoCal standards, with scattered rain and some surprisingly chilly weather, followed by the usual crazy west coast sunshine. Despite this and the other various setbacks, we have tried to make the best of it, spending the first day at the zoo, followed by a meandering drive over to Old Town for some shopping, and a quick jaunt up to La Jolla north of the city to oggle the prime real estate houses and sea cliffs, as well as watch a horde of seals sunning themselves on the beach. Jetlag and general lack of sleep caught up with us, and

Our second day was spent at the Wild Animal Park outside the city. Obviously we are suckers for watching animals run around and be themselves, but the park, and the drive up, was well worth it. Afterwords we headed back to La Jolla for some sea kayaking, which despite the impending windy weather was crazy fun. Some big waves, more insanely expensive houses, sea caves, seals, and a kelp forest rounded out the days activities. Mom and I just had a dinner at Croce's a restaurant we had eaten at years ago when we first visited San Diego. Food was awsome then as now, so all in all it was a good kick off for the hike.

Sorry I'm not up for writing more, but my internal clock is telling me it is 2 a.m., regardless of what the hotel clock says, and I should probably get some sleep before starting this thing. Ttyl.

Just checked the snow levels in the Southern Sierras; a bit above average unfortunately

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From A to B

Wow. Deja Vu all over again. Having left NYC this most recent time on March 29th, I now find myself sitting at home in CT trying to prepare myself for this next endeavor, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For the few whom I haven't repeatedly knocked in the head with this information (and for Roshina, who has probably just forgotten it by now), the trail extends from the Mexican border in California to Manning Park, Canada, just across the line from Washington. It traverses desert in the south, snow covered passes and high meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mts., Rain in the Cascades, runs the length of Yosemite Valley, touches briefly the Highest point in the contiguous USA at Mt. Whitney, and the second deepest lake in the world at Crater Lake (technically side trips, but who could pass those up), and in general is a 2600 mile trek of all around awsomeness. As anyone who has read the previous blog posts knows, it probably won't be easy. Scratch that; as anyone who has ever considered the prospect of walking 2600 miles with a 35 pound pack on knows, it almost certainly won't be easy...
Even now I find myself hedging my bets. "Probably won't be easy" is a fairly large understatement, but given my experiences on the Appalachian Trail in 2008, I feel it necessary to be ambiguous (who knows, it could be a breeze, but prolly' not, oy.) A trip of this kind is more of a prolonged, 4-6 month effort, a near constant striving for the finish that consumes one's every thought, that demands ever action taken be in service of reaching the end. As such, any accident, any fault can destroy the beautiful thing that is a thru-hike. Literally any missed step can be the one leading down the path to catastrophe, a twisted ankle being just as bad as a snake bite. Or a rock slide. Or a brush fire. The point is there are no assurances, even at mile #2599, that one will finish, and even the smallest flaw in the execution of a single stride can render the whole thing null and void.

Yet therein lies one of my prime reasons for loving the long hike; its purity. I suppose that is a rather haughty term to use, to but it is not without reason. The hike is just a walk, though a rather longish one. It is the simple act of transporting oneself from point A to point B, using as few intermediaries as possible. No cars, planes, or trains shortening the miles to Canada. No specific dates to be anywhere, but a certainty that you have to get there sometime. No external pressure to finish, but the insurmountable knowledge that you'll be crushed if you don't at least try. No rent, job or bulky possessions. No unnecessary comforts or extraneous fears.

However, thats not to say there are no worries, but instead that they are all subsumed within the microcosm of the trail; the worries while hiking are all that seem to exist. For every ounce of pack weight that hikers obsess over, there is an analogous problem in the rest of the world, some "real" thing worth worrying about. Only those trials that universally arouse horror in every heart and are so sweeping as to be unavoidable (a natural disaster, war or worse) can stand apart. For most other situations, this parallel view can serve as a useful foil.

As such, doing something as arbitrary and pure, as simpleminded as a long distance hike puts everything else in perspective. Perhaps its the desire to own the latest gadget. Or find a higher paying job. To score the hottest chick, have the most popular YouTube video, protect/ spread/ manipulate your political party/ religion/sexual preference... All are arbitrary in the sense that they involve goals and problems largely set by the rest of the world. Walking from A to B is one of the simplest goals imaginable, attainable since since the ancient evolution of legs. Hiking the long trail highlights how much it is taken for granted, and by proxy every other act built upon it--from using opposable thumbs to typing on a keyboard. Everything is appreciated more after a hike, much as a man surviving a near death experience finds newfound joy in life. If the French were more prone to hiking than they were lovemaking, I'm sure they'd call the long trail "le petit mort."

Anyway, I should stop. Otherwise it will keep going forever. But before I go, I'll answer the one question the most people have asked me repeatedly (that is if the obscene length of this post hasn't done so already.) Yes. Yes I am excited about going on my hike, even if I don't show it very well. I probably just don't feel like boring you, or wasting my time elucidating, otherwise you's be subject to this kind of longwindedness every day. At least this way its your choice to read.