Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mellow Kennedy Meadows

I'm still here chilling at Tom's place in Kennedy Meadows, enjoying the weather and relaxing with the other thru-hikers who are holed up here for the moment. Fortunately everyone left here for the moment is cool; some rather grating characters hiked out this morning, and now the place is a little quieter. Yellowbird, Salty, Caveman and I participated in the town's annual road cleanup, helping pick up litter and join in on some BBQ action afterwords. In the meantime, Andrew, a hiker I met down south at the Andersons, just caught up and is sticking around for a few days. Sunseeker, Subzero, and Slim, who drove down to Green Valley earlier, are scheduled to be back sometime today as well. All in all, its a good crew to be running with for the moment, though as soon as we get out of KM, the herd is bound to thin out again fast.

Taking part in the cleanup let us see a bit more of the town and meet the locals. The community here is pretty awesome, for though it is just a scattering of buildings amidst the trees and hills, everyone is very tightly knit. The general store seems to be the focus of activity, a great place to sit and mingle, while the fire department seems to be a major organizer of local events. Because the entire area is off the grid, people are used to lending a hand to keep things running. Luckily we are here at one of the best times of year, and, despite taking it easy for the last few weeks, we are still ahead of the main crush of hikers. I'm planning on heading out tomorrow morning with the bulk of the gang here; given that we are all crazy excited and rested, its going to be a strong few days. Once again, I don't expect much in the way of cell service or internet connection, so this might be the last post for a while, but you never know out here. Talk to you later, hopefully with some great stories from the Sierras!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bear Necessities (sorry)

I'm still here at Tom's place in Kennedy Meadows today, just resting and repacking in anticipation of big climbs and long stretches into the Sierras today. The general store here is a deadly place with lots of goodies (Ben and Jerry's anyone?), a small grill, a laundry, and the ability to keep a tab open for days at a time. Scary.

Its also the place where everyone receives their bear vaults, a cumbersome necessity that is required inside Yosemite National Park. These are heavy plastic canisters, about a foot tall with a screw on lid that are supposedly bear proof which, in theory, are meant to hold any scented items that may attract animals. In practice, this is easier said than done; everything must be repackaged, shoved, crushed and twisted to make sure all the space is used. Then, the whole unwieldy contraption has to be strapped onto your pack, making it top-heavy and unbalanced. We all groan about the inconvenience and generally try and put off the event, but ultimately it is for the best. Aside from the peace of mind about not having your food source snatched by a food-crazed ursine, it also sets a good example for the day hikers out there, and in the long run keeps the bear safe. Problem bears who get too used to human food and harass the people visiting the park are often relocated, but sometimes put down. Its a huge pain to reconfigure ones pack, especially considering that many of us are carrying 9 or more days worth of food, but the fines for noncompliance are stiff and can include having your thru-hiking permit revoked.

Therein lies a bone of contention amongst some of the hikers here. The fact that we have to have a piece of paper in order to walk across the country is somewhat infuriating; one can drive anywhere without needing a specific permit, and thru-hikers are by far the most minor offenders as far as littering is concerned, but we can still be kicked off the trail without a permit. Oh well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just finally tried to put some pictures up on, though I'm not sure how well it worked. The computers here aren't exactly the swiftest machines assembled, so I'll just edit things a bit at a time. They should be under the name spibop15. If it doesn't work then, um, screw it.

On a somber note, Michael, the German whom I met the first day and last saw in Big Bear, apparently dropped out in Mojave and took a plane home from L.A. He will be missed; just a reminder that the urge to quit can momentarily overtake us all, even though we'll regret it in the longrun.

True Grit

Hi everybody, I'm here in Kennedy Meadows at last, the gateway to the Sierras! I say at last, though, in reality, I've been trying my hardest not to run here over the past weeks. Since I last wrote in Tehachapi, we've been through about everything the mountains ofSouthern California has to offer, a little farewell before heading into the the next big section of the hike.

I left town on Thursday in horrid, foggy conditions. Tehachapi is on a high plain surrounded by hills with a pass to the east that drops down to the Mojave desert below. The sea humid sea air coming from the west collides with the drier atmosphere and creates near constant winds, and in this case, a cloud that enveloped the area, putting visibility in town at about 100 feet. Fortunately the trail winds its way amongst the hills overlooking the desert, resulting in thick clouds on one side of path, and clear views on the other. Naturally, one gets used to hiking amidst giant windmills through this area. I put in a half day's walk out of town, and set up camp in a small forest of oaks and pine trees to screen against the wind, with a view down to Mojave and the airforce base situated in the desert.

I got a late start the next day and managed to find the trail crew I had agreed to work for. Named the "Trail Gorillas", it consisted of Jerry, Pete, Lye, Ron and Gordy, who had driven up to the path where it intersected a dirt road, and we were later joined by Handyman, whom I had been hiking with previously. We set up a camp and quickly got to work clearing bushes. Two people worked the brush saws (imagine a circular saw blade on the end of a 4 foot pole attached to an engine with wide handle grips) while the rest of us tossed the downed branches off the trail, clipped back smaller twigs, and leveled the trail grade. Le me just say these guys are pretty awsome. Most are not hikers themselves. I was the youngest person there by a few decades (Pete is in his 80s and was the only one allowed to work the chainsaw. Oh, and he did some 250 days of trail work last year. Pretty tough). They come out and work for the comraderie, the chance to put in a hard days work and have something to show for it. And the don't ask for anything in return but the appreciation of the hikers passing by. Crazy awsome and mad props. Did I mention it was snowing and windy while this was going on?

Anyway, several days of brush clearing and 2 tired arms later, Handyman and I headed out, along with several other hikers who happened to be passing through (Yellowbird, Salty and Caveman, whom I had met before at Islip Saddle.) My legs were more than a little anxious to get moving, helped along by the fact that many hikers had passed by while we were working. I booked it onwards, passed more windmills and down to calmer climes. I ended near Landers Creek amongst shady pines and near the remenants of an old mining cabin, complete with a caved-in shaft and hundreds of rusted tin cans and spam boxes. A good 30 mile day to get the blood going.

When the sun came up the next day, my water was frozen. Always a good feeling to wake up to. I got going early to warm up, and in true Southern Cali fashion, the woods gave way to sandstone hills then rolling desert. 15 miles of sandy, shifting uphill climbs in full sun is not fun, so naturally I just pushed on through, anticipating the cooler mountains in the distance. They are never as close as the look, by the way. Upon reaching the foothills, I planned to take a nice long nap and fill up on water. Instead, I encountered 2 rattlesnakes. Time to keep walking! Fortunately the climb was relatively easy, the weather cool and the views were improving; the snow covered Sierras started rearing up in the distance. The day seemed to fly by, and with time on my side I pushed on, covering 40 miles to end at McIver's Spring, accompanied by several of the hikers who passed by a few days before.

The next day was a descent into Walker Pass and the true, geological start of the Sierras at Owen's Peak. The landscape changed into granite cliffs and domes, huge massiffs rising above the clouds with jagged peaks and fingers breaking the sky. The terrain has been up and down, in and out of valleys, and through huge burns for the last few days. The hike into Kennedy Meadows has been especially amazing, crossing a wide plateau which is cut by the Kern River and surrounded by peaks. KM is an quirky community, not really a town but a cluster of houses serviced by a single general store. A trail angel named Tom lives here with a fleet of random, beat up trailers (and thankfully an internet connection) that he lets hikers rest at before starting the next challenge. For the moment I am waiting here for Handyman to catch up, and may take a few days off; Ron, his friend from the Trail Gorillas Crew, offered to put us up for a few days. For now, the weather is good though the snow farther on is still hanging around at the higher elevations. I'm content with waiting for the moment, but rest assured, once I get going the miles are going to fly by. Moutains will be transformed to grit beneath my boots, ice or no. I should be in conact for the next few days, but beyond KM is hundred of miles of glorious isolation. I'll try to stay in touch!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Giving a Little Something Back

I've agreed to work on the trail crew doing work a little north of Tehachapi over the weekend, so it looks like I'll be staying put for awhile. As long as they keep me busy I shouldn't get too ancy, but it does mean the pack behind will have more time to catch up (a bad thing in my opinion, though I might get to see some hikers I left behind). The people I've been playing leapfrog with lately will probably get ahead as well, so I'll have too book it to catch up with them. There is always a trade off somewhere, and its hard to stay in touch with people when everyone is constantly on the move. In the meantime I'll just hang around and be lazy until its time to head out, but my legs are twitching as I write. All of southern California just feels like a warm up for what is to come, and I can't wait to get some real hiking started.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last Stop

Hi everyone, I'm writing to you from Tehachapi, CA, in the K-Mart of all places. This is the last big stop before hitting Kennedy Meadows and the start of the Sierras, so there is a bit of a bottleneck of hikers; nobody wants to head up into the snow too soon or alone, so everyone has slowed down and seems to be taking stock of things here. The general concensus is that the situation isn't going to be getting better any time soon, so, we hikers being an impatient lot, most of us are just going to charge into the mountains. After loading up on burgers and shakes here in town that is. In reality, that hurdle is more than a week away, but all eyes and thoughts are on the Sierras for now.

Ironically, I just finished reading "The Places in Between" by a former Scottish diplomat named Rory Stewart, an account of the author's trek, on foot, across Afghanistan. This was apparently the last leg of a trans-Asia hike he began in 2000 that took 19 months to complete. His tales of breaking trail in 14,000 foot, snow covered mountains where the temperatures reach -40 degrees, make any obstacle in California seem like childs play by comparison. And we don't have to worry about former Taliban warlords interrogating us or village children calling half feral dogs on us. Suddenly everything seems easier after that.

On that note, the walk from Hikertown to here was supposed to be a grueling march across a spur of the Mojave Desert, complete with sparse water and baking temperatures. Instead, it was a relatively easy, if boring, jaunt across the sands due to a lucky break in the weather. It was overcast, cool and moist during our crossing, so the 6 of us who left from Hikertown (Handyman, Andrew, Half-brew, Rosie, Bruce and I) were able to make good time and save ourselves some anguish. We even recieved a light shower in the Tehachapi Mountains last night and were rewarded with a perfect rainbow over the desert with the sunrise this morning. The rest of the hike was fairly pleasant with some shade, a smattering of Joshua trees (some of the last we'll be seeing, I'm told), and a descent into a windmill filled valley. I plan on staying here for a day at least in order to meet up with some trail workers outside of town and hopefully kill some time cleaning up the path. After that, its into the mountains again, and unfortunately out of regular contact; I think the time of updating the blog every other day is about to pass. Until then, I'll try to keep posting. Talk to you later.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another Day, Another Hostel

Hello again, writing to you from the start of the Mojave desert section at Hikertown, yet another trail angel/ hostel that, in traditional Southern California fashion, is totally quirky. The establishment is owned and operated by a man who, like many people in the are, works in the television industry. As such, it looks something like a movie set, with a large courtyard area surrounded by small theme-ish buildings. Everything is kind of half built and haphazard, like it was thrown up with little plan or order to it, and tools are randomly strewn throughout the place. A little wierd, but hey, it gets the job done. Oh, and there are baby kittens, which obviously makes this a must-stop place for the night.

Its sort of like an oasis for hikers in the middle of the desert, given that there has been very little water for the last few days. After leaving Casa de Luna, the trail climbs into some low hills overlooking the desert, but is surprisingly well shaded with trees and long grass. Several of the water resupply tanks placed along the trail were dry and I, along with the other hikers I've been travelling with, were almost caught unaware. Only a little used tank had enough water to draw from which thankfully saved me from having to hike into the night to refill.

Unfortunately the trail leading down to the desert is one of the most oft maligned on the trail; it is forcedfto take a hugh turn around a ranch, resulting in many additional miles through poorly marked scrub up and down hot, shadeless hills. All with the ultimate goal seemlingly so close it is ridiculous. Sigh. For now everyone seems to be content resting for the remainder of the day before setting off to cross the desert tomorrow. I have been trying to arrange some trail maintinence work that would eat up a few days, and 2 of the older hikers here now, Handyman and Bruce, both live in the area and have offered to take us off trail for awhile in order to buy us time before the Sierras. All the reports we've been getting say the snow is just as bad as ever and a June 12th start date is the earliest people should be attempting the climb, but seeing as I could concievably be there in about 10 days, I might just try and force my way through earlier. Seeing as Bruce owns a boat in Santa Barbara, however, taking a trip to the coast doesn't seem like a bad idea. Only time will tell I suppose. Talk to you later, as always.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Casa de Luna

Hi everyone, yet another post from yet another town / trail angel stop, this time at the eccentric hippie home of Teri and Joe Anderson called Casa de Luna. They are both great people with big hearts, interesting stories to tell... and a very weird sense of humor. I was able to book it here from Agua Dulce in only 8 hours, covering the 24 miles between towns before 2:30 and the afternoon heat set in. The trail was through some fairly featureless hills marked by ruler-straight lines as the path made a slow, relentless climb up and over before descending to town. I hurried mainly in order to get here before dinner was served; they make taco salad every night and pancakes every morning, as well as offering rides to the trail any time, day or night.

While the Saufleys are very efficient and clean, they have a 2 night maximum. The Andersons are more of a jumbled hot mess, and they virtually require people to stay several days. So, despite my race over here, I have holed up at Casa de Luna for yet another zero day, bringing my average mileage down even more. I'll call it a wash given that I played 2 strenuous, action packed games of frisbee golf on the neighborhood course, a sport which surely must burn as many calories as hiking 25 miles a day in snow covered mountains. As a bonus I did get to explore their community, called Green Valley, which, despite being part of Los Angeles County, is very remote and packed with characters. The resident loafer, named Doug, gave me a tour of a local artists crazy sweet welding studio, of which I am very jealous, and gave us the lowdown on some of the more colorful people in the 1,200 resident town.

Teri and Joe are by far the, um, most vibrant shall we say. They like to mess with the hikers when they first arrive, giving them false directions and feigning ignorance about the "local trail angels" while staring them right in the face. They also enjoying telling the story of how they got in the buisness, a long, detailed and oft rehearsed affair that apparently requires a bit of improve on their part. The requisite hiker photo inevitably requires getting mooned by Teri (hence Casa de Luna), and Memorial Day Weekend is host to the hiker oil wrestling competition, an event which is sure to be their legacy. Sadly, I will not be here for that, though we did get to see the video.

Once again I hope to be heading out tomorrow. The same crew has been travelling together on and off for a bit, so hopefully we'll all be going at about the same pace until we hit Tehachapi in another 80 or so miles of desert walking. After that it on to Kennedy Meadows and the start of the snowy Sierra... or not. I haven't decided what the course will be yet, though I'm sure it will fall into place shortly. As always, I will try to keep you posted, talk to you later all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hiker Heaven

Hi everyone, I'm writing to you today from outside Agua Dulce, CA, at a place called, appropriately enough, Hiker Heaven. This is a legendary rest spot at the home of two trail angels named the Saufleys, and it certainly lives up to its title. They have a guest house set up behind their home in a double-wide trailer, bins and bins of clean, town-worthy clothes, hiker boxes full of gear left by previous guests to rifle through, t.v., internet, movies, rides to town... and Donna even does the laundry FOR YOU!! Holy crap. Hiker Heaven indeed.

This awsome trail magic couldn't have come at a better time either. While the trip from Wrightwood to here was a relatively short couple of days, it has felt like much longer. After getting a ride back to the trail with Ray, the PCT climbs up the north face of Mount Baden Powell, a 4 mile, 3000 foot climb on a good day. Due to the late snows and the direction of the slope, the trail quickly becomes lost and one has to hoof it straight up the mountain, no switchbacks, kicking steps into the snow every foot of the way. The effort is woth it however, affording 360 degree views down to the Mojave on one side, and off through more snowy canyons on the other. With jellied legs, one has to follow the trail as it steeply ascends and descends along a knife-edged ridge ultimately leading down to Islip Saddle, where another wildfire last year damaged the trail and forced a reroute around 50 miles of trail or so. Ouch.

The detour starts innocently enough, winding down South Fork Canyon, a gorge where the trail tread does its best to narrowly cling to the crumbling walls. Not the type of place to be is an earthquake, though it would make a good movie location for a western. At the bottom is a car-accessible campground, which to a thru-hiker necessarily needs to be approached with dread and caution, along with a sprinkling of hope. We're like bears; car campgrounds are disgusting, noisy ugly, littered places, often full of the dregs of humanity out for a drunken weekend (god knows this one was), but it also affords the opportunity to yogi some free food/ beer from the locals. Unfortunately this campground had all of the former, none of the latter. Groups of bongo playing hippies poorly playing Sublime covers. Parents doing donuts in the dusty parking lot with their children hanging on to the roof of their pickups, honking all the while. Underaged girls drinking till 4 a.m., shouting cheerleading chants while being implored by men twice their age to "show 'em their tits". Yeah. It was that bad. It makes you wonder at what stage of psychological development these people must be stuck, that they can not imagine a world of 'others' outside their tiny group of friends. Really? Screaming (seriously screaming) at 4 a.m.? Please.
To look around at the beautiful setting, at the bottoms of a gorge carved out of the solid rock by millenia of rushing water, and realize that it meant nothing to these people was truly frightening. I like to think that the average city dweller or suburbanite tries to get out into the woods in order to enjoy the quiet and solitude, to marvel at the things it has to offer that the world built by human hands cannot. And yet these people (I shudder to put myself in the same species as they, but thats taxonomy for you), were doing exactly the opposite; the only reason they were there was to escape the mores and laws of society that would have had them imprisoned or shunned for that kind of behavior. Scary.

But anyway. Leaving behind that nightmarish place, the trail went to Devil's Punchbowl, a geological formation of carved sandstone rocks and creeks. Unfortunately, things go down from here. 30-40 miles of blister inducing, foot pounding, mind numbing road walking through desert, surrounded by Joshua trees and scrub bushes, was only bearable thanks to a book (Charles Kuralt's On the Road, very worthywhile considering the circumstances). Walking while reading, with traffic whizzing by at 70 mph, is not the best way to spend a few days, trust me. Getting back on the trail was the best feeling I've had in awhile, particularly for my feet. Luckily the trail is pretty amazing coming into Agua Dulce where it passes Vasquez Rocks, another sandstone outcropping, along with a number of ranches and horse farms. The towns along the trail really do have the old west feel about them, including places to park your horse at the grocery store. Crazy.

That being said, it is nice to finally be back on the real trail again, with hopefully no more detours to tangle with between here and Canada. I'm planning on staying here for 2 nights, then possibly looking for some trail maintinence crews to work with for awhile later on to kill some time (don't hold me to my word though). Crossing the Mojave Desert is next, then on to the high mountains after! 450 miles down, many more to go.

Friday, May 7, 2010

From Wrightwood With Love

I just arrived here in the tiny ski resort town of Wrightwood, CA after being picked up by a trail angel named Ray. Not only did he drive out to the trail from town (postponing his son Logan's nap, no less), but he and his girlfriend routinely put hikers up in their apartment, let them use their showers and laundry, and sleep on their couch. I mean seriously. How nice can people be out here? For every pick-up truck that screams by while trying to hitchhike, there are people like these that validate the whole of human existence. Good job guys :)

The last few days have been the picture of contrast, which by now seems to be the norm in Southern California. From high on the ridges, one can often see snow capped peaks on one side and the Mojave desert on the other. One day consisted of a string of dams made to service L.A. that, while walking below them, faced more scrub and chaparall. Upon coming over the top however, the massive Silverwood Lake comes into view. Later a ridgewalk gave views of the San Andreas fault (with a few unlucky homes built on top) which led down to a Cajon pass, where I-15 comes barreling through on its way north, accompanied by a railway carting 100 car long freight trains. In the midst of all this stands the Mormon Rocks, a huge sandstone escarpment which stands perilously close to the rails. And above it all, the specter of L.A. looms in the form of smog. The San Bernardino Mountains would easily offer views down towards the city were it not for the blanket of yellow-grey pall that covers the area. From up high, one can see the blue sky above, but below is an impenatrable shield blocking views to the south.

The last few days, and indeed much of the next section, are dominated by the detours we are forced to take. Yesterday was one long reroute from near I-15 around an area burn by the "Sheep Fire" a few years ago, and required a tedious, hot, shadeless road walk for some 15 miles. Coming up is yet another fire burned area with a somewhat indeterminate route around it. I hope to be able to resupply and get things straightened out while here in town, and once through this area we should be done with the detour buisness...barring any future fires or catasrophes that is. Be seeing everyone some other time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Its been a very solitary hike thus far, few people to see on the trail, but tons of stunning views and the occasional run in with familiar faces along the way. There have been hot springs, cool creeks, wide open lakes, blooming mountain flowers and fragrant desert sage, and of course the occasional snow patch...all since big bear city a few days ago. The fabled Cajon Pass Mcdonalds awaits tomorrow, then its in to Wrightwood to assess the situation that is Mount Baden Powell; to attempt the climb or not? I'm always up for a challenge, and this one should be a doozy, with a 3,000 foot climb mostly in snow. Catch you on the other side.

Sent from the Verizon network using Mobile Email

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mountains, Desert and Snow

I'm writing to you from the Big Bear Lake Hostel in CA, and, crazy as it may seem, I'm already 10% of the way done. I hitched into town from Highway 18 which is at the 265 mile mark, a small feat, but one to note none-the-less. This first stretch has just flown by, and as odd as it may sound it feels like I just started yesterday. Its amazing to think that so many miles could roll by so quickly, especially considering that it has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. With that, I'll do a little recap since the last (albeit delayed) post.

From Idyllwild I was able to hitch to the neaby town of Anza where I was able to reunite with Axilla, whom I had been leapfrogging with for a few days prior. We both were waiting for a trail Angel named Rockstar from near San Diego who had agreed to give us a ride to the kickoff. It took some time, but eventually we found ourselves back at Lake Morena, a mere 20 miles north of the border. It was strange backtracking to the party, but it gave us a chance to see people we had passed earlier on, and forced us to slow down and allow to snow to melt farther north. The kickoff was pretty fun with lots of free food, several lectures on trail conditions and wildlife, some outfitters to resupply and drool over new gear at, and a chance to preview a new National Geographic Wild Spaces show about the PCT (hiker hint: for those looking for a sweet drinking game, take a sip every time they use a word like "extreme", or whenever they make a new "rule".) Once the festivities ended on Sunday morning, several of us got a ride back to the trailhead near Idyllwild from Rockstar, who, obviously, is awsome beyond compare.

We headed up into the San Jacinto Mountains, the first major hurdle of the hike, and one we had all been dreading due to the late snows. That day included the first rattlesnake sighting, but overall it was a short day easing back into to hiking groove. The view that night was awsome with views back towards the high plateau we had just left, as well as down onto the lights of Palm Springs. The next morning I got an early start in order to hit the expected snows early before it could melt and become soft. The snow can appear suddenly depending on the direction of the slopes and if there is tree cover, so moving from desert sand to 3 feet of snow pack is not unusual. Unfortunately, one fellow hiker was not too careful and paid the price; while crossing one snowy slope, I heard a helicopter circling in and landing up ahead. Upon clearing the snow I found a rescue team putting a splint on a man's broken ankle and lifting him off the mountain. His (former) partner, now alone, decided to hike on with me, but we soon lost the trail on miles of trackless snow. We were able to navigate our way ahead and later camped at Saddle Junction, a beautiful spot overlooking Idyllwild surrounded by mountains and wind sculpted trees.

Upon starting off the next day, Handyman decided to head down into town from the trail and I pushed on alone. Once again, the snow covered trail crushed any hopes of easy hiking, and I decided to trust my map and compass and strike off for the nearest identifiable landmark, Fuller Ridge. We had been hearing about this dreaded snow traverse for days, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The path is narrow and was quickly forced onto the north face of the ridge where it once again disappeared beneath the ice. Without a trail to follow, one must traverse a 75% slope around huge rocks with no clear end in sight, a nerve-racking proposition to say the least. Clearing that, I still had to navigate cross country and eventually made a meager camp beneath some rocks surrounded by howling wind.

Wanting to get down in elevation and out of the cold, I broke camp early and started the long, hot, windy descent down to San Gorgonio Pass followed by an even more brutal crossing of a spur of the Colorado Desert and I-10. The trail then started ascending past numerous windfarms and into the primitive, bare, striated San Gorgonio Mountains before abruptly dropping into the Whitewater River Canyon, a huge, stark and rocky scar cut by a meandering snowmelt river. I made camp at a nearby nature conservancy picinic area in the canyon amidst the ever present wind surrounded by towering canyon walls pockmarked with tiny caves.

Once again, I decided to head out early with the sun to make the most of the cooler part of the day. After crossing the Whitewater River, the trail started its long and tedious climb into the mountains by closely following different forks of Mission Creek. The path was often hard to follow as it bounced back and forth across the stream between the narrow ravine walls, often being marked by nothing more than a small cairn amidst the desert scrub. Finally, after many long miles of trudging uphill, the atmosphere suddenly turned cold and the slopes were covered in more snow and pine trees. Finding a large campground to myself, I made a fire against the mountain air and settled down for the night.

This last day before town was a pretty slow one. Due to the snow conditions farther north, I decided to take it easy and put in a few less miles than I normally might. After some more sporadic ice and the generally level terrain, I found a sweet campsight on a knob overlooking a bend in a canyon. Today was a breeze with a scant 8 miles covered before 9 a.m. and a relatively smooth hitch into Big Bear Lake. I seem to be ahead of the pack for the moment and have the whole hostel to myself (hence the length of this post), and I hope to get alot of resupply done in the next day. I plan on leaving late tomorrow and doing a short hike out of town, but that could always change depending on if anyone else shows up. If all goes according to plan, I should be stopping in Wrightwood in another 5 days or so, so hopefully I'll be able to update again then. Talk to you late, hope all is well.