Friday, May 27, 2016

May 22 to May 31- Idyllwild to Acton

Day 8 - May 22 - End at mile 193.6. We woke to frosty tents. Sonic, Chris, and I climbed out of Idyllwild this morning towards Mt San Jacinto. This Mtn is over 10,000ft and the highest I've ever walked. We had to climb 5,000ft to get there and this was our hardest effort so far on the PCT. There were Oregon Juncos, Western Bluebirds, and Mountain Chickadees.There was even a little snow left. The top was really calm and offered 360 degree views. We ate lunch there before heading back down. We filled our bottles at a crystal clear stream springing from the mountain to prepare for the upcoming 20 mile dry stretch. Much of today was pine forest which was a welcome break from the desert's exposure. We are now camping at 6463ft, hopefully won't be too cold, and will decend down to nearly 1000ft tomorrow.

Day 9 - May 23rd - End at mile 219.5. This morning was a 15 mile decent down to the small town of White Water. I walked this solo and met up with Sonic and Chris again at Ziggy and the Bear's trail angel house. But before we got to there house there was a 3 mile flat section through deep beach-like sand, coupled with hurricane force winds. I assume it's always this windy due to the giant wind farm nearby. I've never seen a place so windy. We stayed at Ziggy and the Bear's for four and a half hours before departing. We hiked about another ten through neat grassy mountains and are camping in a valley now. There is another trail closure due to fire up ahead so most people are yellow blazing up to Big Bear City. Sonic, Chris, and I want to have a true "continuous footsteps" Mexico to Canada hike so we are taking a 50ish mile detour around the closure starting tomorrow. The detour will have us stay in Yucca tomorrow night at a motel and use a lot of jeep track roads. Hopefully will be back on PCT the day after tomorrow.

Day 10 - May 24 - end in Yucca Valley at Salt Lick's house. This morning we started the two day detour around the fire closure north of I-10.  The first 5 or 6 miles went nicely on trail and dirt road. We passed an old stone house that is now a picnic area and remains of some stone bunk houses of unknown origin. Then we had a few miles of walking thru the brush and trash alongside the highway which was rather annoying, then a few more nice roads followed by a long walk on the shoulder and brush of the highway into the town of Yucca Valley. While this didn't feel unsafe, it wasn't fun and the miles dragged on. Eventually we got to Yucca Valley in the early afternoon and started to look for a motel on our frazzled state. A hiker named Salt Lick drove by and saw us and offered us a place to stay for the night. This was awesome and she helped us get laundry done (for the first time) and buy groceries. We pigged out on ice cream and pizza in an attempt to regain energy. Slept on the couch... very comfy.

Day 11 - May 25 - end at mile 265.7 back on PCT. Salt Lick dropped the three of us back on the detour route at 6:15am. We had a 30 mile walk still to get back to the trail, but thankfully we were on quiet roads to no where that got only quieter throughout the day. Five miles in we passed Pioneertown, a small town in which western movies are filmed. There were lots of wild west style buildings and props. Then we entered the even smaller town of Rim Rock and finally the dirt roads of the San Bernardino national forest. Most hikers are skipping this detour because there is actually no official detour, but a few are doing it each day. Amazingly we found lots of signs of encouragement and trail magic on this long stretch of roads. Sonic decided at mile 25 to take a different road and reconnect with the trail 7 miles further south than we would. Not wanting to walk that far south just to get on the PCT and have to walk that far back north, Chris and I continued on the same forest road to pick up the trail five miles north of us. We were glad to be back on the PCT after a long 2 day detour. I slowly did another 4 on the trail and now we are camping on a breezy mountain top at 7000ft. Since most people are shuttling that closure we hope to see some familiar faces again since we are now a day or two "further back".

Day 12 - May 26 - end at mile 298.6. Today was another long day of hiking... 32 miles. Excited to be back on the trail, I had 15 miles done by 11am. The day was cool and we walked through nice pine forest. Then we passed thru a pine forest that had been burned by fire and was in regrowth, this was pretty cool. I started to get tired in the heat of the afternoon and as the terrain turned back to desert. Leap frogged with other hikers all day. I got a second wind after dipping in a big stream of cold water. Ended the day meeting up with Chris at this Pavillion built on the ruins of an old stone cabin. There are trash cans, privies, and a strong creek of questionable water quality here. What more could we need?

Day 13 - May 27 - end at mile 328.4. Hot one today. We spent the morning following Deep Creek Canyon and the sun was up fast. Stopped 10 miles in at a nice shady Oasis to fill up on water. There I saw Robocop again who soon pointed out to me how to ID the rash-giving "poodle dog bush". We passed over a few nice bridges over the canyon and reached the end at Mojave Dam. Had our first ford which was 6in deep and good for the feet. Hiked on a bunch more very hot miles, found some trail magic, crested a hill to see a big lake, and now Chris and I are at the picnic area here for the night. Two new blisters on the pinkies making me hobble.

Day 14 - May 28 - end at mile 356.2. Hiked a quick 14 miles with Chris from Lake to Cajon Pass. Ate 4 burritos, large fries, 1 liter coke, cherries. Was good. Gad station resupply for 4 days. Honey buns and bean dip. Sonic caught back up with us here. 15 miles outta town up hill. Us three are cowfolk camping on the ridge tonight.

Day 15 - May 29 - end at mile 383.6. Three jeeps drove by us at midnight last night. We were camped right on the edge of this forest road on the mountain top. We all woke to rumbling and lights. It was a surreal experience. Nice hike today. Not hot or too sunny. Rained for 5 minutes... second time on trail. All alpine pine forest today. Climbed Mt Baden-Powell at 9406ft. Saw Clark's Nutcracker and Green-violet Swallow.... lifers! Met first guy who has started after us. Sonic, Chris and I are camping at Little Jimmy Spring Campsite.. lots of people here and they are good, gave me peanuts.

Day 16 - May 30 - End at mile 412.3. Started off still in the high up mountain pine forest. Went on side trail to climb Mt Williamson. Overshot the summit by half a mile and had to turn back to PCT. Sonic didn't go this way so we lost her there. Chris and I hiked the rest of the morning to this cabin where we took a break on the porch. It was super hot after lunch and the afternoon was a slog back in desert conditions. Then as the sun started to drop and more shade appeared it got a little better. Entered this cool meadowy piney forest on top of Mt Pacifico and here I am camping tonight. First time by myself on this trail but this he spot was too good to pass up.

Day 17 - May 31 - end at mile 444.9. Hiked solo today. Started off with nice decent to a fire station that had water. By then it started to get hot. Walked thru a burn area with a lot of poodle dog bush but it was easy to avoid. Lunch at Messenger Flats Campground was very windy. Relaxed and read my book. Ran the next 6 miles since they were downhill in like an hour. Soda and water at the ranger station. High on Coke, I ran the downhills of the next 8 miles. Passed the "completion monument", and found a place to camp a few hours walk from Aqua Dulce. Excited for real food tomorrow and to hopefully clean up. Real hot today.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 19th - May 21st - Warner Springs to Idyllwild

Day 5 - May 19 - ended at mile 126.9. Woke at dawn about four miles south of Warner Springs, my first resupply point. Hiked thru a beatiful meadow and forest to get there. Saw Western Meadowlark and Horned Lark. Meadowlarks sing well. In Warner Springs they have a nice community center with lots for hikers: bathrooms to wash up in, a small store, tables to sit at and organize mail drops and socialize. Even got coffee and some breakfast. Washed out my socks for the first time too. Headed back out after 3 hours in the heat of the day. Long climb out with lots of food but thankfully not much water to carry. Leapfrogged with Chris, Firestarter, and Sherwin all afternoon. Senic views walking around mountains and thru boulders but hot again so I kinda just zoned in on the walking. Thankful for my umbrella since it's near constant sun. We got to mike's place, a trail angel who lives on this mountain at the end of a dirt road. They made us pizza and have beer and soda here. Even played basketball. Now it's time for bed. Supposed to be cool tomorrow.

Day 6 - May 20 - end at wooded campsite at mile 155.9. Headed out from Mike's Place as the sun was starting to come up. The mountain was shrouded my mist so the first half our was quite chilly. Wind and the rising sun made short work of clouds surrounding us and by 7am the sun was once again beating down. A Mountain Quail ran along the trail ahead of me and  I saw a flock of Bushtits in a bush. Today we had a 25 mile walk between and around the mountain to get to the Paradise Valley Cafe. While sky was free of clouds it never got that hot today so we made short work of the distance and we're rewarded with burgers, fries, and beer as an afternoon lunch. We put in 4 more miles thru probably the most technical section so far (still super easy by east coast standards) and found this nice spot to stay. Just me and Chris tonight but we met some nice hikers along the way: Jake, Paul, Ultraviolet, and Thomas. We may see the last two of them tomorrow. I hope we do. We only know of one other person going our pace and she always seems to be a few miles up. Hope as others develop their trail legs we'll find some companions. Now time for tortillas with couscous. Junco out.

Day 7 - may 21 - end in Idyllwild, CA near mile 178. Today was an interesting day. Chris and I headed up towards Lion Peak and Pyramid Peak. It was cold and only got colder ad we reached 7000ft. The wind was blowing hard, we were in a cloud, and hail even fell for a minute or so and rime ice covered the plants. This was the highest mountain I'd ever been on and it was real pretty. We could see the desert floor way below us. At the top the PCT was closed beyond for a while due on 2013 wild fire. We had to take a detour to reconnect with the trail. The detour was really nice on a combo of jeep tracks and trail. There was 1.5 miles of highway walking in the 20 mile detour but we got to stop at a store there. So far I've had beer 5 out of 8 days I've been in California. Lots of nice views especially walking thru the regenerating meadows that were damaged by the fire as part of our detour. We got to Idlywild in the afternoon and tomorrow will hike up to rejoin the PCT just beyond the closed section. We are staying at the state campground here with lots of hikers. Had my first shower since starting. Also had a pint of vegan ice cream and a sandwich. Sonic and Chipotle and crew are here. Real nice to see them again. There are Oregon Juncos here! My first non slate colored dark eyed juncos!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May 14th to 18th - Campo to almost Warner Springs.

Day 0 - may 14
Scout picked me up at the airport along with three others. He took us to his and Frodo's home to spend the night and would drive us to the trail the next morning. Great people. Made me vegan Mexican cassarole. Chatted a bunch with Grasshopper, a 2014 AT alumn.

Day 1 - may 15
Met ben, Alex and Chris in first mile. Chris is a 2015 AT alumn.
27 miles today. Cloudy skies and easy tread made the first 20 super quick. Met Sonic and roadrunner who are not using  those names anymore but they hiked AT in 2014 too. Cowboy camped with Ben, Alex and Chris. Lots of new birds. 60s 70s.

Day 2 - may 16
Walked most to Mt laguna solo. Remet friends at campsite near there. Hiked with them another 4 miles where they stopped except Chris went on and I walked solo another 6ish to a nice picnic area. At mile 52.6. Very Senic still. Todd and a father son here. Fire and I put it out cold to touch hehe. Knee felt iffy again early and late yesterday but now feels fine.

Day 3 - may 17
Walked all day solo. End at 79.4 mile marker. Hot in morning. Tried to stop around noon. No shade so kept going after brief lie down. 3 more miles came to an unexpected water tank... hung out there for over an hour until it got a little cooler. Hiked on in sunny and passing clouds. Saw black chinned sparrow by road to Julian. They are cool. Scissors crossing, found a bottle of water... nice. Climbed other side and light rain started. Then stopped. Used umbrella, should have got a shower. Awesome cactus and colors here also saw Scott's Orieal. Tenting in dry creek bed with nice view. No rain now. Saw rainbow. Pretty.

Day 4 - may 18. End at mile 104.9. Woke to find I was next to Chris who I hiked with day 1 and 2. We hiked 12 miles to a water cache and first logbook I saw. 3 hr siesta met Chipotle and others. 10 miles to spring campsite. Cloudy off and on sun.. not too hot. Washed feet with water. At least 3 blisters. More than I've ever had before. A few more miles. Walked thru cow pastuer. Very nice change of pace. Camping in Sandy flat just beyond there with Chris and one other tent. Coyotes yipping. Cow pie next door.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

New England Trail and Robert Frost Trail - Part 2: MA/CT Border to Guilford, CT/Long Island Sound

I awake to continuing light rain atop Suffield Mountain, just passed the border into Connecticut. Over the night my sil-nylon single walled tent has become loose overhead. As I pack my belongings inside my tent, my head and shoulders rub along the underside of the top of the tent and I get wet. None the less, my shelter has done an adequate job. My sleeping bag is mostly dry, but everything else I have ranges from damp to soaked. I slip on my wet socks and shoes, stuff my tent into my pack as well, and hike on into the mist.

Half a mile from my tent I pass a woman out for a morning walk. We are high up on a ridge and its 6am on a dreary weekday morning, so I am surprised to see her, although If I lived here I'd want to walk here too.

I spend most of the day following ridges, which is a pattern that will repeat itself throughout Connecticut. Road crossing, climb, ridge walk, decent, repeat. The mist blankets the landscape. The cliffs overlooking the landscapes below becomes the edge of the world. The drizzle turns to rain.

My guide pages suggest that I "stop for lunch in the quaint village of Tarriffville." I look forward to arriving to a trail town and fantasize about the pizza I'll order and the soda I'll drink. As I descend upon the town I begin to hear airplanes... no, it is thunder. The rain turns to a storm. The two or three restaurants in town are closed since it is only 11am. With no place to get a meal, nor buy the plastic spoon or fork I was hoping for, I spot a gazebo in the town common and take shelter. I play the role of a strange vagrant hunkering under this small roof as the rain blasts down and bounces off the concrete streets around me. Everything is soaked. I rehydrate some ramen and eat it "push-pop style" out of a zip lock bag while shivering in a rain coat and short shorts under the gazebo.

The thunderstorm breaks and returns to just a heavy rain. I'm sick of sitting here and developing hypothermia so I refill my bottles at the water fountain nearby and walk on, regaining my internal heat as I stomp carelessly through puddles. I can't get any wetter.

Heublein Tower
The rain is mostly returned to mist as I reach Heublein Tower in Talcott Mountain State Park. I'm surprised to see this massive building emerge in front of me. I read that the tower is the old summer home of some super wealthy guy and he had a party here where Dwight D. Eisenhower was encouraged to run for president. I shelter in the barbecue pit for a short break.
I pass through a McMansion town in the evening. A disappointing, but brief section amongst an otherwise fantastic trail. I briefly consider a hotel stay to dry out and rest but I can't justify the outrageous $160+ nightly fee. Since I can't camp here, I push on and settle down once returning to the woods after having hiked nearly 30 miles. The sun peeks out for the first time in two days for the final thirty minutes of the day and the night is dry.

I wake to rain once more. It is now the third day of rain. I hike four miles as quickly as I can to the next road crossing. My left knee feels weird but I excitedly carry on because I've spotted on my phone that there is a shopping center with a supermarket, coffee shop, movie theater, and all the rest half a mile off trail just ahead. As I walk this ridge I see the stores at first off in the distance... then closer... then further away as the trail bends away. I hit the road and take a right. I'm drenched and stumble along a road definitely not designed for pedestrians, but I'm glad to be here. I get a giant cappuccino, banana, and veggie bowl. My first hot food and fresh fruit and vegetables since I started 5 days ago. I'm thankful to have a fork again and stuff it in my backpack's side pocket.

As I return to the trail along the shoulder of the busy road, I see another hiker coming towards me on the opposite side. He crosses to my side and we chat among the whizzing cars and pouring rain. His name is Woody and he is thru-hiking northbound. We share info about the respective sections we've completed and part ways. My spirits are boosted to have met another overnight hiker. He was the first and only other overnight hiker I saw on the trail.

Back in the woods, my left knee is getting worse. Bending it hurts enough that I don't want to do it, so I start limping, trying to keep it straight. I'm thankful to have trekking poles giving me three other working legs. After I few hours of this, I decide to pop a few pills from my first aid kit in hopes it'll decrease inflammation and reduce the pain. I worry if my slowed pace will prevent me from making my goal of Cat Tails shelter tomorrow night. I carry on..

Castle Craig, Hubbard State Park.

I reach Hubbard Park and Castle Craig. The castle is truly a tower and is made of the trap rock I have been scrambling along for hours. Visibility is barely 100 feet, but the sign at the base of the tower says the 32ft tower has the "distinction of being the highest point within 25 miles of the coast from Maine to Florida." The ridge is only 976ft so I doubt the validity of this claim. Regardless, I climb the spiral staircase of the tower, and stand alone atop the world with no views. The world is my oyster!

Descending from Hubbard Park, the view opens enough for a nice panorama.

The next morning I awake before dawn. It helps that I managed to pitch my tent in the least comfortable place ever and essentially slept upside down. Today is an exciting day. My plan is to hike to Cat Tails Shelter and meet my friend Marty for the night. I think I have about 22 miles to go, which should be okay, but yesterday my knee was so iffy. Thankfully my knee is feeling better today and only really bothers me on the descents.

Lots of scenic cliff walking on Connecticut's ridges.
The day turns out to be a good deal longer than my expected 22 miles, but thankfully I got up early and am making good time. I walk along a number of beautiful ridges with great views. The day is cloudy and threatens to rain but the rain holds off until I arrive at Cat Tails Shelter in the evening. I'm thankful to be in a true shelter. This is the only one in Connecticut and was built by the property owners adjacent to the trail, who are backpackers themselves. It's nice to be able to spread out and hang up all my things for some air.

Marty arrives shortly after dark and in the rain. It's good to see him and really talk to someone for the first time in nearly a week. It seems like we might have a cold, rainy time together. The rain breaks and Marty starts a fire. He brought marshmallows and drinks! This is a real nice way to spend a night out here...

Morning at Cat Tails Shelter
The next morning we sleep in, at least by my standards out here, and head back up into the mountains. Marty joins me for a nice 6.5 mile walk through Tri-mountain state park. It's nice to have a friend to hike with and this morning feels very different than the rest of my time on the trail as a result.  We keep a good pace and our section together is over pretty quickly. Marty has left a bike at the road crossing to ride back to his car that he parked near the shelter. Lucky for us, we discover a nice country store on the road where we leisurely sit and have coffee and snacks before parting ways.

I have about 21 miles left to the ocean and to complete the trail. While there is time to push hard and finish tonight, I decide a more leisurely finish early tomorrow would be better. It looks like I have about 10 miles today, and then 11 tomorrow giving me an early finish. That sounds good.

Almost there...
I realize I had been misreading my data sheet. I only have about 5 miles to the sanctioned campsite I plan to stay at tonight, and its only 11am. I walk as slowly as I can for the rest of the day. It is cloudy but clear and the forecast calls for a dry day. I reach the outskirts of Guilford and climb "Bluff Head". From here I can see the shining water of Long Island Sound. I'm close now. I arrive at the campground in Rockland Preserve at 2pm with 6 hours before dark. I have a very quiet, long afternoon. Some people walk and ride by on the nearby trails, but nobody enters the camping area. My tent dries out for the first time in 5 days. Eventually the sun goes down and so do I.

I wake for the last day on the trail, and its raining again. I check the forecast on my phone and its going to rain for at least two more hours. I figure there is no point in trying to wait out the rain, so I decide to just get going. I'm exciting to finish this hike, and there is a diner with vegan food awaiting me!

I have 17 or so miles to reach the ocean, but they are flat and I'm pumped up so they quickly dwindle. The rain subsides according to schedule. I reach a salty tidal river, so I must be getting close. The sun even starts to come out and I feel its warmth after 6 days of rain, mist, and clouds.

Sun shining in Guilford, CT !
I reach the edge of the woods. I'm in historic Guilford now and appear to have just few miles of road walking to the ocean. I change into my sleep clothes for a more "town-friendly" look and smell. The sun is really shining now! I get to the diner and am seated in a booth to myself. My first soft seat in a week! I order coffee and a big vegan breakfast plate. I eat it quickly, and want more, but I figure I should go finish. I follow a few sidewalks and backroads taking in the historic homes along the road. I cross through the train station and emerge in what is clearly a beach neighborhood. Almost there, I walk a few minutes to the aptly named Seaside Ave!

Chittenden Park - Southern Gateway

This is it! Chittenden Park is at the end of the road with a big sign that reads, "New England Trail / Southern Gateway". I pick up a sea shell as a memento and find a hiker log book. I sign the log, "only need to put my feet into the ocean to complete my Mt. Monadnock to Long Island Sound thru hike!" I cross the field. It's getting windy and cold so I put on my puffy coat. I pass the last two blazes and walk out to beach.

There is an Osprey flying nearby. I step into the ocean. It's cold but feels nice on my tired feet. My hike of the New England National Scenic Trail is complete. I'm thankful to have been able to complete this hike, and thankful for those who create and maintain the trail!

I return to the boardwalk where the grassy field meets the sand. It's nice to have completed this hike with everything but my tent dry. I sit to put my feet back into my now dry shoes when out of nowhere a torrential downpour begins! Before I can put on my raincoat I'm soaked to the skin from head to toe. A fitting way to end a dreary week on the NET! I slosh back to the train station and catch a train to New Haven where Marty is hosting me for the weekend before my return home.

This has been a wonderful adventure.

Mt. Monadnock to Long Island Sound!