Friday, May 27, 2011

Casa de Luna

May 26, 2011

Start: 454
End: 478

Woke up, repackaged some food and then waited around for Kylie and Annie to pack up and get ready. We got a ride down from the Saufley's to the "trail", which was the road that ran through the middle of Agua Dulce. We stopped and had breakfast at the cafe before hitting the trail at 10:20am. We moved pretty slow for the first two miles up road until we hit dirt again.

The weather was perfect. It was about 75F at the peak of the day, but felt much warmer in the sun hiking uphill. I wasn't really mentally prepared for hiking today, but it was still a good day nonetheless. It helps that we will be at the Anderson's tonight (aka Casa de Luna), so the motivation was there.

About 7 miles from San Fransisquito there was an amazing cache called the hikers oasis cache. It is nestled in a manzanita grove and had chairs, shade, and cold drinks. Everything you could want on a warm day. We grabbed a drink and then headed out at 5:45 in an attempt to make it to the road and get a hitch to the Anderson's before dark. About 3 or 4 miles from the road there were three people trail running the opposite direction we were going. Annie and I started speeding up at this point with the hopes that we would make it back to the road about the same time as the runners and get a ride from them. They ended up passing us again about a mile from the road and we were able to hustle down and catch up to them while they were standing around talking. One of the women said she would give us a ride if she knew where the Anderson's was, so I quickly spoke up and mentioned I had directions. We also ran into another hiker, Tumbleweed, who was also going to the Anderson's, so the four of us got a ride with two of the runners Sarah and Connie.

Once at the Anderson's we set up our sleeping area and then proceeded to dine on taco salad, the Casablanca de Luna specialty. It was delicious. A group of hikers sat around the fire pit in the driveway hanging out and talking late into the night.

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May 25, 2011

Zero day at the Saufley's aka Hiker Heaven.

Mostly just hung out, ate too much food, and mailed a few things, including some food to Kennedy Meadows and a few things from my pack to home.

Always fun to take a day off and hang out with hikers. Back on the trail tomorrow and onto the Anderson's! There is a two night max at the Saufley's and a two night min at the Anderson's, so it's looking like another zero day in the near future!

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May 24, 2011

Start: 436
End: 454

Today Wiz and I got up relatively early (for us) and got on the trail a little after 7am. Our mission is to get to Agua Dulce by 1pm for a large lunch of pizza and beer, and then head on to the Saufley's aka Hiker Heaven.

The area we passed through today was pretty nice with some scenic views as we headed down the last ridge of the San Gabriel range into Soledad Canyon. We took a short break at this point before moving on to the final 10 miles of the hike. This part involved a bit more climbing as well as being during the hotter part of the day. It wasn't that it was all that hot outside (upper 70's or low 80's), but it was definitely much warmer than the day before when I wore my rain jacket most of the day to block the gusting wind.

The last few miles before Agua Dulce took us through a giant culvert at the bottom if a ravine below a highway and led us to Vasquez Rocks Park where there were magnificent sedimentary rock canyons and rocks that looked like the could be from Mars. I later learned that a number of TV shows and movies have been filmed there, including episodes of The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. The last bit of the PCT through the park was a little tricky due to the lack of PCT signs and the multiple trails that braided the landscape.

Once in Agua Dulce, we immediately stopped at the pizza place and ordered the family meal deal, which consisted of a large pizza, large salad, breadsticks, spaghetti, and 4 soft drinks which we traded for beer. It was a ton of food, but we eventually finished it all. At lunch with us was Blister, Top Shelf, Wired, and Drop Dead, with a few other hikers straggling in as we were leaving.

After pizza we walked a very slow mile to the Saufley's. The setup at their house is amazing and they have everything down to a science. As soon as you walk in the gate, there is a place to pick up a laundry bag, town clothes, and a towel. Then you proceed to the backyard where they have multiple large white tents setup, complete with Slumberjack cots, and find an open for to throw your pack down. Then you go to the trailer home they have in the backyard and signup for a shower. They also have about 10-15 loaner bikes that can be ridden to town for food and to resupply at the store.

Fantastic. Going to take a zero tomorrow because it really is a hiker heaven.

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May 23, 2011

Start: 412
End: 436

So even though I went to bed at the same time as the sun, it rose before I did in the morning. Still made it to the trail by 7:15 and started on the days miles with the plan to stop at Mill Creek Ranger Station to get water and meet up with Wiz, who was getting a little bit later start.

The weather the past couple days has been rather chilly. Highs have been in the upper 50's or low 60's, and the lows probably in the upper 30's. In addition to that, it has been a bit breezy, especially today. The sun has been playing a cat and mouse game with the clouds all day.

Along the 7 miles to the ranger station there was another detour. This one was a road walk on a dirt road to avoid an area of the Station Fire that was apparently unsafe to hike. I didnt mind the road walk and there were some pretty great views which helped the time pass quickly. So quickly in fact that I completely bypassed the burned down Ranger Station without realizing it and didn't fill up my water bottles. I didn't find out I had missed it until I ran into Wired on the trail. up to that point I had drank a half a liter in the morning, and had another liter in my backpack which I had yet to drink. According to the water report that meant that the one liter I had would have to last me another 14 miles until water at mile 432. Wired took pity on me and gave me some of the water she had picked up, so I owe her food or drink when we get to Agua Dulce. Fortunately for me, it turned out that there was water flowing at a creek that the water report listed as "always dry" at mile 425. I took advantage and filled up another liter to carry and drink until mile 432.

At about 12:50 we stopped for lunch and ate with Wired, Top Shelf, Blister, and General Zod. After that it was only another 8 miles to camp at North Fork Ranger Station.

The miles have been pretty easy all day today, and the cool weather has been more of a blessing than a curse, especially given that fact that the weather is typically much warmer than my PNW blood would like. The only thing that has been somewhat bad is the poison oak that was on the trail the last couple miles before the Ranger Station, and some other plant/weed that grows everywhere, including all across and along the trail in some sections. Supposedly it can cause a reaction similar to, or worse than, poison oak.

I got to camp at about 4:30 and immediately made dinner, and then set up camp in the corrals, which are down the hill and out of most of the wind. The guy manning the Ranger Station as a fire lookout, Todd, has generously provided water for us too! Very nice of him to do considering there is no running water (at least not for public consumption).

Camping at the Ranger Station tonight are Wired, Top Shelf, Wiz, General Zod, Blister, and Viper. Talk in camp tonight has been about the delicious pizza and beer we will be enjoying in Agua Dulce tomorrow, as well as the hospitality of the Saufley's, which is the stuff of legend. Only 18 more miles, so we should get there in time for lunch! I love food!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

May 22, 2011

For those of you who are wondering, this is what I look like now! I have yet to shave and have a pretty sweet tan line below where my sunglasses are since I wear a baseball style hat and bandana that cover the top half of my face pretty much all day.

Start: 384
End: 412

Woke up today around 6:30 to the sun shining on my face... Poor me. After eating a quick breakfast and packing up, Wiz and I were on the trail by 7:20.

After a couple miles, we came to a PCT detour which was put into effect to protect the habitat of a frog. Which type of frog, I am unsure, but the result being we either had to do an 18.5 mile alternate trail loop, or road walk 4.5 miles on Hwy 2. Since we didn't plan an extra day of food for the trail detour, we did the road walk. It went fairly quickly, and was safe since that section of Hwy 2 is closed due to part if the road sloughing off the side of the hill. The time also went quicker because we were able to walk and talk with Blister, Wired, Top Shelf, Gangsta Rap, 12 Ounce, Thumper, Stumbling Goat, Cowbear, Punisher, General Zod, and Dave.

When we got back on the PCT we were only a mile or so from mile 400! The Shotgun Sisters (now Gangsta Rap and 12 Ounce) brought wine in tetra-pak containers for the occasion, which they generously shared with Wiz and me. It wasn't completely horrible, despite what you may think.

After lunch, we were all a bit lethargic, mostly due to the wine we just drank. That and the fact that Wiz and I had done 31 miles in the past 24 hours. We pressed on and eventually made it to Fountainhead Spring for water, and then a couple miles further to camp for the night. It was a little windy, but overall a nice place to camp. We were also joined by General Zod at our impromptu camping area. After dinner, I immediately got in my sleeping bag, journaled, and proceeded to go to sleep by 8pm. Gotta love cowboy camping and going to sleep when the sun does.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 21, 2011

Start: 369
End: 384

After a late night last night, we ended up getting up pretty early, around 7am. Drop Dead made some delicious banana buttermilk pancakes and we lounged around for a few hours. At about 10, Kylie, Wiz, and I walked over to the Village Grind, where they offered a free cup if coffee to hikers in exchange for a picture and our names. To our surprise, there a was an olde man named Kirk playing the guitar and singing his own songs at the cafe, so we hung around and enjoyed his musical stylings.

After coffee, we grabbed some sandwiches and salads for lunch and headed back to Courtney's. We watched a movie called 180• South, and lounged even more. The other four hikers got a ride back to the trail at about noon. Everyone seemed pretty content to stay, however Wiz has to get to Agua Dulce by Tuesday so he can get a ride to LA to catch his flight back home for his sisters wedding. I was also feeling a bit antsy and wanted to get out of town, so the two of us ended up getting a ride back to the trail and were hiking again by 3pm. The others decided it would be easier to wait until the next day since the minimum mileage for the next segment is 15 miles, up and over Mt Baden Powell at ~9400', and then down out of the snowy section to Little Jimmy Springs Camp.

Wiz and I took it pretty easy to the base of Mt Baden Powell where we encountered a large group of boy scouts who had just come down the mountain. We asked them and the scout leaders how it was, and they told us there was quite a bit of snow, they broke a few trekking poles, and the snow was a little bit slushy and slippery, due to the time of day.

The trail up the mountain consisted of a series of switchbacks zig zagging up until we came upon snow, probably around 8000'. At this point, we put on our microspikes and continued up the switchbacks until the trail was completely covered in snow. Once we got to that point, we headed straight up the side of the hill toward the top, following the footsteps of others who had done the same thing. It was slow going, but we made it up to the top around 6pm. The view was amazing! A full 360 degree panorama of multiple mountains, valleys, and hills shrouded in thicker mist (or smog) as they got further away. We enjoyed a snack break at the top, took some photos, and then headed down the mountain toward our nighttime destination which was still about 6 miles away.

The next 3 miles went very slow. The trail wound in and out of the snow along the ridge we were following, making it difficult to find the trail at different points along the way. It wasn't all that bad though. From a spot on the ridge we were able to have a magnificent view of the sun casting a purple glow on some distant mountains, and simultaneously enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. The sun went behind a band of clouds above the horizon, making them glow orange, then dropped below the clouds, lighting the sky. As the sun continued setting, its color changed from orange to red and slowly sank below the horizon leaving the sky blazing with oranges, pinks, and reds; truly spectacular. After the break for sunset, we continued down the trail, eventually making it below most of the snow before it got dark. Once we had clear trail we were able to go much faster. We ended up hiking without our head torches most of the way. As the sky got dark, the valleys where various cities are located began to light up. So we traded a spectacular sunset for the city lights far below.

We finally made it to camp at about 9:10pm, only to discover a large group of scouts camping at Little Jimmy Camp. We spoke to a couple of the parents who said there were two troops camped out, totaling about 50 scouts, in addition to the ~10 other PCT hikers who were also there. Once at camp we quickly made and ate dinner and then laid out our sleeping bags and cowboy camped under the stars. One of the best days of the hike to date, even with such a late start to the day. This is what the PCT is all about.

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May 20, 2011

Start: 354
End: 369

Last night was surprisingly good, given the angle of the ground I was sleeping on, and I awoke feeling well rested! Today, the six of us are headed to Hwy 2 so we can get a hitch to Wrightwood and resupply (buy food), and we need to get there before 5pm because Annie has a package waiting and the PO is closed Saturday and Sunday.

Since we camped about halfway up the ridge, we only had about 2500' to ascend, before dropping some elevation to the highway. It was a little bit slow going due to the altitude, but it still went quickly and we were treated to views of Mt San Antonio and one other that I don't know the name of.

Speedbump sped ahead and made it to Wrightwood before we did, and the rest of us got to the highway by 1:30 and attempted to get a hitch. It took us about 30 min to get a ride, due in part to the fact that there were few cars headed that direction. Eventually, a lady driving a little red sedan pulled over and asked if we were hiking the PCT, to which we said yes, and then asked if we had ever been arrested, to which we said no. Based on those answers she agreed to give us a ride. Just after she pulled into the parking area, a jeep pulled in to the parking area also offering a ride. Since my backpack was the only one that wasn't loaded in the red sedan yet, I threw it in the back of the retro two-seat jeep that Peter was driving and we headed down the hill to the PO.

Once in town, everyone was extremely friendly. One person offered us a ride to the trail if we needed, and another, seeing we were a bit unsure where we were going, offered us directions. While waiting for Annie to get her mail, Wiz and I went over to the hardware store to check out the list of trail angels in Wrightwood. We got a hold of Courtney, who was already planning to host 4 other hikers, and agreed to take on the 6 of us (we found Speedbump). Courtney has not thru-hiked the PCT before, but hosted Hikers last year, and subsequently did a 200 mile section hike in August! She hopes to do more this year, and may even end up hiking with us somewhere up the trail.

The group staying at Courtney's included Liz, Skinny D, Wired, Top Shelf, Speedbump, Kylie, Wiz, Annie, Drop Dead, and me, and it was awesome. After a group of us ate a late lunch at Mexico Lindo and enjoyed some margaritas, she showed us back to her place and let us (made us) take showers, do laundry, borrow her car to get groceries, and crash just about anywhere and everywhere at her place.

After our errands/chores had been taken care of a group of us went to the Wrightwood Inn for Karaoke night! It was definitely an interesting experience. Drop Dead sang a couple songs, Wiz signed Kylie up to sing Down Under, and then the group of us went up together and sang "I would walk 500 miles" at the end of the night. Fun times in Wrightwood.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

May 19, 2011

Start: 335
End: 354

So just so you all know, sleeping near water tends to lead to more condensation on the tent than camping away from water. Somehow when I was setting up last night I didn't realize I was near a small creek so this morning my tent had condensation inside and out.

After we had each taken care of our respective condensation issues by wiping off or drying things in the sun, we headed off down the trail, 7 miles to McDonalds, which is ocated less than a half mile off the trail where the trail passes under Interstate 15. It was a beautiful morning to be hiking and I took more pictures than necessary, but I figure I'm just making up for other days when I don't take many.

When we got to McDonalds a little after 10am, the six of us took over one corner (3 tables) with ourselves and packs, and tried to get as far away from other patrons as possible due to our hobo looks and hiker smell. We had sort of an informal competition to see who could eat the greatest number of calories. The following is the list of food I ate with the corresponding number of calories:

Big breakfast with hotcakes 1090
Syrup 180
Whipped margarine 40
Sausage egg and cheese mcgriddle 560
Large orange juice 290
Apple walnut salad 210
Cheddar onion mcchicken 360
Jalepenos cheddar mcchicken 370
Reeses PB Mcflury 660
Peach pie 250

Total calories: 4010

I should also note, and I'm sure you'll be proud to know, that I was the winner of the competition! Wiz was a close second, followed by Drop Dead, Speed Bump, Kylie, and last but not least, Annie.

After we had sufficient time to recover from all the food we ate, we headed back to the trail. The area where we walked after lunch is right on, or very near to, the San Andreas fault. We walked along the side of one ridge before crossing a valley and then ascending the next ridge. The goal was to get to a place called Gobblers Knob, where the map showed some campsites, but due to our long lunch at McD's we only made it part way before searching along the ridge top for decent places to camp before it got dark. It's not exactly flat, but it's flat enough.

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May 18, 2011

Start: 307
End: ~335

The morning was much the same as most mornings, mostly clear and fairly cold. After packing up camp I was on the trail by 7:20am to continue the hike through Deep Creek Canyon. The remaining miles of the canyon were just as breathtaking as the day before, with the exception of the fact that there was a plethora of graffiti with tags including everything from "Ham Ass" to "R.I.P. Big Steve". There were two small sections where the trail had slid out, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the PCTA had made it out to be and was definitely worth the "risk".

By noon I had 11 miles under my belt, but it felt like much less, probably due to the fact that I made a conscious effort to go a little slower so I could enjoy the views and take pictures. It's interesting to see some of the other people thru-hiking and how utterly miserable they look. The PCT is such an amazing thing that I think if I felt like they look, I wouldn't be out here doing this.

The miles for the rest of the day went fairly well and when we were about 22 miles in for the day we saw a sign for trail magic at Cleghorn Picnic Area. At the picnic area was Shepard, who was cooking up hot dogs, hot beverages, and also had chips and donuts. I had a little bit of everything available, and then proceeded to eat a dinner of cheddar broccoli rice with tuna. Definitely ended up very full after all of that.

After all the eating we headed out for a couple more miles until we could find a good campsite. Because the trail was along the side of a ridge on the way up, and then the way down we ended up hiking until 8:00pm and got in about 28 miles for the day. A few more than I really wanted to get, but at least we will be closer to McDonalds in the morning to enjoy some greasy goodness. What a way to celebrate a birthday.

Tonight I am camped with Drop Dead, Wiz, Speed Bump, Kylie, and Annie. It has been great hanging out with a group of people, but I'm thinking I may try to do some solo hiking/camping after resupplying in Wrightwood. We'll see what happens.

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May 17, 2011

Start: 284
End: 307

Last night ended up being dry for the most part, with the exception of a little light sprinkle between 5 & 6am. We slept in a bit, and were on the trail just after 8am.

The first part of the day was about the same as the day before. The temperatures were mild with a little wind, and the burn area we were walking through yesterday carried over into today. Eventually we got through the burn area and transitioned back into an unburned section.

We took a break for lunch at a creek after 12 miles of hiking, and the location where the Deep Creek detour begins. While eating lunch we met Gladiator, Mule Stomper, Air ????, and also reunited with the Shotgun Sisters, Molly and Maddy.

The Deep Creek section of the PCT is rerouted due to landslides and bypasses what is said to be the best hot springs on the trail. There have been conflicting reports about the difficulty of the section and whether or not it really is dangerous or not. Apparently about 50% of hikers have been doing the detour and the other half have gone ahead through the Deep Creek section. Our group decided that it would be worth it to check out the hot springs, and if the trail looked dangerous or dodgy we could always turn around and go back the way we came.

The next 10 miles to the hot spring were great! The trail was in great shape and the views we had overlooking the creek were fantastic! There were a number of times when I looked down at the large slow moving pools of water and wished it were warmer so we could jump in the water to cool off. Unfortunately most of the time we were also much to high above the water for that to be a realistic possibility.

We got to the hot springs at about 5:00pm and immediately jumped in. Other hikers there included Drop Dead, Maddy, Molly, Balls, Sunshine, Gladiator, Marcus, and Travis. There was also one old local token naked guy in the hot spring as well. There are four pools of water fed by the hot springs each of which is about the same temperature (someone measured 101F). They felt absolutely amazing! We sat there for a couple hours before getting out and making dinner around 7pm. After dinner we again put our feet in the hot water and fantasized about how great it would be to have hot springs at every place we camped along the trail.

Tomorrow we will be going through the area that was supposedly hit harder by slides, but after all the hype about Fuller Ridge only to find very little snow, I'm not sure what to expect.

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May 16, 2011

Start: 265
End: 284

The team is back together again! We got a bit of a late start due to eating breakfast at the hostel, taking care of a few last minute errands, and Wiz going through Kylie's entire pack to get rid of duplicate or unnecessary items to reduce her packweight a little.

We made it to the trailhead on Hwy 18 by 11:00am after getting a hitch from an older gentleman named David who appeared to be a former marine. It was actually kind of fun to hitch, but I think that is due in part to the fact that inwas not hitching alone, and it only took about 10 min to get picked up.

After about an hour of hiking, we ran into Sunshine (the 11 year old thruhiking) and her dad, Balls. We hiked with them for about 1:30 before we all stopped to take a break for lunch at 2:45pm. Annie, Wiz, Kylie, and I had again packed more food than was necessary for the next 100 miles to Wrightwood, so we indulged and ate as much as we could to reduce our packweights. It will be interesting to see how food selection and packing will go once we get to the Sierra since we will need to keep all our food in bear cans, and the rumor is you eat twice as much, and can only do half your normal miles each day.

It got to be pretty chilly while we were eating lunch, so as soon as the eating was over, we started back on the trail to warm back up again. The scenery over the next 11 miles was fairly mundane, with the exception of a few glimpses of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. Other than that we walked through an area that was fairly desolate due to a recent burn.

We stopped at Little Bear Springs Trail Camp for dinner at about 5:30 and also decided to camp just across the creek where a few unscathed pine trees provided minimal shelter. We have heard that there may be another storm system coming through the area tonight or tomorrow, but I hope it will be a dry and uneventful night.

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May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011

Today I took a zero day in Big Bear Lake. Ended up eating a lot and hanging out with the large group of hikers who were also staying at the hostel. It snowed and rained off and on most of the morning and I was feeling very good about the decision to stay in town.

Good day of rest complete with a barbecue put together by the owner of the hostel Grayson and his two staff members Breanna and Richard. It was delicious. Definitely felt like I ate a lot, but the scale they had there told me that I have neither gained nor lost weight.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011

Start: 246
End: 265

Woke up pretty early today and was on the trail by 6:30. Today the big goal is to get to Big Bear in time for a big lunch.

Didn't take many breaks today, just kind of pushed to get the miles in. I stopped once on the way to fill up some water at Arrastre Camp, and one other time because of, you guessed it, trail magic! I enjoyed a 16oz. Orange soft drink with vanilla creme cookies and took an apple for the road. Fresh fruit and soda are two of my favorite things to come across on the trail because they are things I never consider carrying with me.

After that break, there was about 9 more miles to get to Hwy 18, and then find a ride into Big Bear. The miles went by fairly quickly, partially because I decided to run most of the downhill sections, which probably wasn't great for the joints, but felt good to do nonetheless. Ended up getting to Hwy 18 at 12:45 and hung out eating some of my leftover food while waiting for Spedbump. Just before Speedbump got to the Hwy, a car from Big Bear Hostel pulled up with three hikers ready to continue their journey. Two of them were brothers Sam and Ben who are both recent grads in civil engineering who I had met earlier along the trail.

Speedbump and I, as well as two other hikers Drew and Bob, loaded into the station wagon and rode down the hill into Big Bear Lake.

The hostel here is amazing! This is the first time I have stayed in a hostel, but it is very well organized and I have had the chance to shower, do laundry, and eat an entire pizza, so I am doing very well. I also weighed myself and I am the same weight, or maybe a pound heavier, than I was when I started hiking! I hope I can keep that trend going, along with all the trail magic that has made it possible!

I am still undecided at this point, but I may end up taking a zero day tomorrow so that I can rest, as well as let Kylie, Wiz, and Annie catch back up.

And now back to living the dream...

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May 13, 2011

Start: 220
End: 246

Got an early start today, and good thing we did, because it was a hot one and there was a lot of elevation gain. After climbing up one ridge and them dropping down into the next valley, we followed Mission Creek for about 15 miles, crossing the creek ~20 times. It was definitely nice to be close to water, but here was still no breeze, so it was a hot morning of hiking.

By about 1:00pm we had made it 16 miles and stopped for lunch. As we sat enjoying a big meal, clouds started rolling in which were fluffy and white at first and then began looking darker and a bit more ominous. I took off at 3:30, after the others had left, with the intention that we woould meet up again in 9 miles at Ceon Creek CG. The only problem with camping there was that I needed to carry 4 liters from the next water source, which was 7.5 miles and 1500' elevation gain from 6600' to 8100'. Not so much fun, but I easily disposed of one liter on the hike up.

After arriving at camp, I quickly cooked up some dinner, then found a place roll out my sleeping pad and bag, and went to sleep early at about 8:00. Definitely worth it after the mileage and elevation gain of the day.

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May 12, 2011

Start: 206
End: 220

Today started a bit late by hiker standards, as we didn't start hiking until about 8:00am. We started the day with some trail magic oranges we had picked up the night before. It was already getting pretty warm which was not a good sign, but we headed off and hiked about 3 miles through the sand to I-10, and to our delight there was Kay, a trail angel, delivering cold soda and watermelon! We stopped to take a break and enjoy the sugary hydration of both the watermelon and soda, and then pressed on.

The desert heat was oppressive, and made worse by the fact that there was no breeze to help keep us cool. We could also see a good sized wind farm up the hill where we were going... None of them were spinning. Luckily for us though, there was a little office where the folks at the wind farm took breaks and ate lunch and they opened their doors to thru-hikers offering air conditioning, ice cold water, and a freezer full of everything I wasn't allowed to eat growing up!

After the break, we pressed on and got in some decent miles through the San Gorgonio Wilderness, before dropping back down to a river. At a trail junction near the river, there was a sign that said there was trail magic at the Whitewater Natural Preserve with burgers, hotdogs, fruit, and soda. We needed no other prodding to take another break, and it was about lunchtime, so we headed off trail 1/4 mile to the magic.

The trail angel Brian offered up everything as promised in the note and even had salad! We ate, then rinsed off in the wading pond they had there, then threw the frisbee around, and ate some more. A few hours after we got there an older couple, who have a daughter hike the PCT a few years ago, came by and brought even more food! We also met the ranger at the park and he said they were going to do a beer run later if we were interested, which of course we were!

At 7:00pm a couple of the other hikers started talking about doing a little night hiking to reduce the amount we would have to do to get into Big Bear. At 8:00pm Bloodbath, Colin, Outlaw, Speedbump, and I set off and made our way a couple miles down the trail before cowboy camping on some soft sand near the river. The moon was so bright that it cast shadows as we walked. It was a beautiful night.

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May 10, 2011

Our group got out of the campground and headed over to one of the cabins where some other hikers were staying and Drop Dead had promised us buttermilk pancakes and hot coffee. Definitely worth it, even though we didn't make it out to the trail until 10:00 after getting a ride from the staff at the Idyllwild Inn.

We made the trek up Devils Slide trail to Saddle Junction and rejoined the PCT. Instead of doing the regular PCT route, we took an alternate route that led us up and over Mt San Jacinto. The view from the top was gorgeous! We got some great photos wielding an ice axe, which was totally unnecessary.

Annie had a GPS with her so we were able to boot ski down the side of the hill in the general direction of the trail until it rejoined the PCT. That was definitely the highlight of the day! The plan for the rest of the day was then to hike another few miles to Fuller Ridge CG and go over and down the rest of the ridge the following day. Those next miles went by somewhat slowly since there were still some patches of snow we had to traverse and a couple of smalle creeks to jump or rock hop across, but overall it was nothing too difficult. Just as we were getting to the end of the snow, we came down a gentle grade and through the trees we could see the campground, other hikers, and fire in the fire pits! The first time having a fire on the PCT, and after walking through the snow and finishing the day with soaking wet feet and the temperature right around 40F, it was a beautiful sight!

While we were hanung out around the fire and cooking up dinner one of the hikers told us that we had just gone over the treacherous part of Fuller Ridge. We looked at each other and had to laugh a little because all the reports we had heard to date seemed to be way over exaggerated. I guess that's better than being underprepared and surprised though!

Tomorrow we drop from 7800' to 2000' and back into the desert. Sunshine here we come!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011

Start mile: 190
End mile: 206

Bit of a slow start for the group today as we hit the trail at 8:00. The difference between the snowy wonderland of Mt San Jacinto and Fuller Ridge the day before, and the lack if snow today was quite interesting and seemed a sudden change. We started down the rest of the ridge and were on pace to make it to the next water source at mile 205.5 by 1:00pm.

At about 10:40am we came across a female hiker named Quixote who was taking a break along the side of the trail. We exchanged the usual pleasantries of "how are you doing?" and found out that she had come down with what sounded like food poisoning, but could also have been giardia or something similar. She said she had been sick to her stomach with diarrhea and vomiting since 7:00am this morning, someone she was hiking with was carrying her pack down, and she would be fine and she would continue on. The others she was hiking with had gone on ahead and were going to get water at the next source ~7.5 miles down the trail. Sometime during this exchange Quixote had another bout of vommiting and Annie decided then that she would hike behind her until we made it to the bottom. We caught up with Mudflap shortly thereafter carrying Quixote's pack. Mudflap and Speedbump took turns carrying the pack until they made it down to the bottom.

The rest of us (Annie, Wiz, Kylie, and I) hung around with Quixote trying to get her to keep sipping water/Gatorade so she wouldn't get dehydrated. We made it about 2 miles further down the trail taking breaks every so often to rest, or sometimes for another round of heaving.

At about 12:30 we stopped to take a break, which would end up being the last break spot we would take. Quixote was feeling much worse at this point, could not keep anything down, and after a while said she didn't think she could walk any further down the trail. During this stop we were able to get her dad on the phone, who also happened to be a physician. We told him about what was going on and got some advice about what to do, which boiled down to: keep her sipping on Gatorade until she can keep it down, and get her down the trail and to a doctor as soon as possible.

Based on how things were going, at about 1:10 Annie and Wiz started making calls to the local police and search and rescue folks to get help getting Quixote off the mountain and to a hospital. After getting information about how Quixote (Sarah) was doing, they started getting together a ground team and a helicopter to see which would be the quickest way to get her down. Over the next 3:30 hours we did our best to make sure Sarah was as comfortable as possible and that she kept sipping Gatorade.

Helicopters finally started flying up to look for us at about 3:45. We were able to signal them with our brightly colored clothing and gear and they hovered close for awhile before moving off and announcing that they would be back in about 20-30 minutes and not to move, which we had no intention of doing. Around the same time, Sarah emptied her stomach of Gatorade again and was laying in misery next to the trail. About 10 minutes later she started sipping Gatorade again and was soon starting to feel better.

When the helicopter returned, it hovered near the hillside where we were located, and an S&R member hopped down onto a rocky ledge near us. He made his way over, explained how Sarah and him were going to get back into the helicopter, and then signaled the helicopter to come back. Five minutes later it was all over and they flew off down the mountain toward the hospital.

We packed up our gear and hiked down to the bottom, still in disbelief at the events that had occurred today. What a crazy adventure the first 200 miles of the PCT have been. Although I do like excitement, I hope that thi is the first and last time I have to be involved with search and rescue in any way on this trip.

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May 9, 2011

Zero day in Idyllwild today. Ate a lot of food and wandered around. Still overcast and cold, but hopefully it will be clearing off tonight to make going over Fuller Ridge a little easier tomorrow.

Camping at the state campground tonight and it is starting to rain. Fantastic.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

May 8, 2011

Start mile: ~155
End mile: 178.9

Today started much the same as any other. Wiz, Kylie, and I got up and on the trail by 6:30, with a hearty breakfast of pop tarts, trail mix, and energy bars. About 2 miles up the trail Wiz and I came to a switchback, that turned to the right, or a gate in front of us that led fairly straight ahead. I was following behind Wiz at this point as he turned right, up the switchback. I thought to myself that the trail was going the wrong direction, but the swiftness with which the decision was made led me to believe that I was mistaken. After about 30 minutes down what we thought was the trail, we stopped and looked at the ground where there were no other footprints or trekking pole marks. We consulted the maps, realized we had just gone 1.5 miles the wrong way, and turned around to get back on track. We would later find out that Kylie, who had stopped to take a picture, saw us going the wrong direction and tried to whistle to get our attention to no avail. Unfortunately for her, she had just put some horse analgesic gel on her sore achilles and still had the remnants on her fingers, so when she used two fingers to whistle she inadvertently numbed up her mouth for the next 30 minutes! To make things even worse, she then tried to call people who had our numbers and left somewhat slurred messages for them. Eventually we did catch back up to Kylie, which was a relief for both her and us.

I should also mention that in addition to adding 3 miles to our day, the weather played quite a factor leading to utter exhaustion as well. As we were just packing up camp at 6:15, Mudflap walked by, made a comment on weather coming in based on the clouds in the valley below where we camped. I thought to myself, it didn't look that bad, but my tune soon changed. About the time we had our little detour, we started to climb up into a more exposed area and experience some fairly good wind. As we climbed higher up the ridge we went through areas where the wind was stronger, and it would knock you to the side a half step when a gust hit you. The weather didn't really turn on us until we were a few miles into the San Jacinto Wilderness. At that point, the trail got much steeper as we climbed above 8000' and the weather more intense. At certain points walking through the clouds it was hard to tell if I was getting wet from a light rain or just the misty air itself, although I think it was a bit of both.

Sometimes the weather would clear a bit and we were able to take a break at Apache Springs to enjoy some lunch and about an hour nap. The clouds that had been thin and wispy when we closed out eyes were now much thicker and blotting out the warmth of the sun, and the wind had picked up. We donned our rain shells and headed out again up the trail and into the elements.

After the break it was a long slow climb, with demoralizing wetness and wind, along with a few patches of snow to slog through, and to top it off we had to walk 2.5 miles down Devils Slide Trail to a trailhead, then another 2 down the road into town in the dark. It was quite a miserable experience, but we did end up getting a ride from a local guy the last 0.5 miles into town. He dripped us off at the pizza place at 8:30pm... It closed at 8:00 on Sundays. So we slung our wet packs over our shoulders and walked to the Idyllwild Inn in the rain to find a room. Lucky for us they had one room left which we took. Once in the room we cranked up the heat and started a fire in the fireplace. Since nothing was open, we resorted to eating leftover food from our food bags, which actually turned out quite nice.

So after 30 miles of walking (not all on the PCT), I am taking a Zero day tomorrow to recuperate and wait for improved weather to go over Fuller Ridge. Sleep, food, and warmth are good things.

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May 7, 2011

May 7, 2011

Start mile: 131.5
End mile: ~155

Today was kind of a long day, and most definitely a delicious one. We woke up early and were on the trail by 6am. We powered through the miles pretty quickly, taking minimal breaks, so we could make it to Paradise Cafe in time for lunch. Wiz and I made it to the Pines to Palms Hwy (74) at 1pm. And to our surprise two trail angels had canopies set up and had water, Gatorade, light beer, Newcastle Brown Ale, and tequila as options. Not wanting to be rude, I indulged in a Newcastle. After drinking the delicious brew and hanging out with other hikers and the trail angels Boomer and Doctor Sole, we walked one mile down the highway to Paradise Cafe and had a large and delicious lunch.

I sat with Wiz, Mudflap, Eric, and the shotgun sisters Molly and Maddy. Kylie and Speed Bump arrived a bit later and joined us as well. Also at the cafe at the same time were Sam and Ben, Redneck, Spot, and a few other hikers. Mudflap, Wiz and I all ordered the Mother Lode burger, which had 1lb of beef, lettuce, onion, pickles, cheese, bacon, and avocado along with sweet potato fries. It couldn't have been a more beautiful sight and we had no problems polishing them off. Kylie ordered the Jose burger which was a smaller version of the mother lode that also had jalepenos. We could have all fallen asleep at the table after downing the burgers, but we eventually got up and waddled back to where the trail angels were set up.

Once there, we sat back down in the shade and hung out with a few more hikers. At around 5, Doctor Sole started taking about making carne asada burritos for dinner so we decided we needed to stick around for that before we headed out to get a few more miles in, making the hike into Idyllwild tomorrow a little shorter. Nitro from the PCTA also showed up not too long before we left and hung out with the angels and us. Just as we were saying our goodbyes and thanking them for everything, the next, of what I assume would be a group of hikers, showed up. Which was nice because otherwise we would have been the last hikers to leave.

On a side note, it's interesting out here how normal it is to sleep outside under the stars, or share a hotel room with people who are basically strangers that you may have met only a day or two before. An entire community of those who have put the outside world on hold so they can take time to do something that makes them extremely happy. Everyone out here has their own reasons for setting off on this journey, and come from backgrounds as different as you can imagine. You could quite literally be hiking with a millionaire businessman one day and someone who is unemployed and can't find a job in this economy the next. It is a beautiful thing that everyone is equal out here, and people are more impressed by the number of miles you did that day, than they are by the number in your bank account. It just seems right.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

May 6, 2011

May 6, 2011

Last night was the most restful night I have had yet on the trail. I decided to cowboy camp again and it was fantastic. One of the nicest parts about cowboy camping is not having to spend the extra time setting up and taking down the tent... The view of the stars is pretty nice too I guess. (salt in the wound for all you up in the NW with clouds and rain)

In the morning we were on the trail just after 7 and hiked through some quasi-forested areas as well as some exposed areas with large white/orange/pink granite stones littering the sandy landscape with wild flowers and chaparral interspersed between; it was quite a beautiful scene.

Speed Bump, Kylie, Wiz and I made it to Mike Herrera's house right about noon and proceeded to enjoy cold drinks, shade, and the two hammocks. Other hikers hanging out at Mike's included Ben, Sam, Drop Dead, Barney, Jim and Dona, Pine, and a few others. It amazes me the wide range of ages of those who hike the trail. Sunshine, 11, aims to be the youngest thruhiker (she's hiking with her dad); Rory, 18, aims to be the youngest solo thruhiker; and Jim and Dona are 65.

There was also a trail crew from PCTA working to clear overgrown vegetation from the trail just north of where we were. Thank you trail crews!

Mike was not there, but he had a caretaker to watch over the place, as well as his uncle Tommy and brother Art. Things got a little bit sketchy when Art and Mario (caretaker) returned from the store with two cases of Budweiser for their own consumption. We had heard earlier in the week there was an incident where Mario was belligerent and wielding a knife threatening to stab a couple hikers. Because of this incident Mike returned, removed the beer from the premises, and had his uncle Tommy keep an eye on things for the weekend. Unfortunately that didn't seem to help the situation because as we were leaving at 7:00pm both Mario and Tommy were pretty drunk as evidenced by their slurred speech. So although the chicken was delicious, it was not somewhere we wanted to stay for the night. We made it about 5 miles down the trail and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on a ridge overlooking the valley (and possibly Temecula?)

Cowboy camping again tonight and the stars are incredible. Tomorrow we will get up at 5am to hike the 20 miles in order to get to Paradise Cafe in time for lunch and their famous Jose burger! (If you haven't noticed by now, pretty much everything revolves around food or water). We might even stay for dinner too!

Also, if some if the names seem strange it is because many people take in trail names, which usually have a funny or embarrassing anecdote to go along with them. I have yet to earn a trail name, but I'm sure I'll do something to deserve one soon enough :)

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May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011

Today was a great Nero day. A Nero is a day when you do hike, but very few miles. The group of us staying in a room together were all able to get a hot meal for breakfast and relax at the resort most of the day. Although we had to check out of our room by 2:00pm, they said we were welcome to continue hanging out until the hot springs closed at 10:00pm. We took them up on their generous offer and sat around the pool sharing a half-gallon of ice cream, cool ranch flavored munchies, and a few other snacks, all washed down with some cold refreshing beer. Other hikers that arrived today were also enjoying the resort and it grew into quite a fun gathering around the hot pool. At about 6:00pm the five of us started to contemplate the idea of leaving and hiking a few miles, or staying another night at Warner Springs. Annie, as well as hikers that had arrived earlier in the day, were campaigning for us to stay another night, but the rest of us were leery of getting sucked into the world of zero days (zero day is when you don't hike at all for a day) which can be a dangerous precedent to set, particularly so early along the trail. Annie ended up deciding to stay, but Speed Bump, Wiz, Kylie, and I all headed out a little after 7 and hiked a few miles before finding a camping spot along Agua Caliente Creek.

Tomorrow we will press on about 14 miles to a trail angels house (Mike Herrera) and enjoy what is rumored to be the best barbecue chicken along the trail! I'm looking forward to another easy day tomorrow, and of course the food and hanging out with more hikers!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011

May 4, 2011

We (Wiz, Annie, Kylie, Speed Bump, and I) woke up early today at about 5:45, slowly got packed up and going between 6:30 and 7:00. It was still fairly cool outside, but warmer than the previous day, so we wanted to get to the water cache at 3rd gate early so we could fill up on water and move on toward San Ysidiro, the next best source for water. The ~5 miles from out camp to 3rd gate was relatively easy and cool hiking. We got to the cache just after 8 and drank our fill and filled our bottles. After a short break we were on the trail again to traverse 14 miles to San Ysidro Creek. The sun was glaring down and there was little breeze to cool off.

We strolled into Barrel Springs (reportedly infested with dead rats in the past) at 12:45 with the intention to fix up some lunch and then move on to better water. To our surprise there was a sign on the tree bear the spring that read "free beer", so naturally we headed on over to check it out. It turned out that there was a group of trail angels setting up an entire spread of food that was to be ready in a few hours. Since we had already put in about 15-16 miles for the day, we decided that a nice break under the canopies they set up, enjoying cold water, Gatorade, and beer wouldn't be a bad way to spend the afternoon until chili dogs were ready. While sitting there and chatting they brought out chips and salsa and fresh oranges, but it didn't stop there. A steady stream of food came steaming out of their vehicles including hot dogs, chili dogs, pasta salad with veggies, pineapple, strawberries, mango, watermelon, crackers, salami, and cookies. Needless to say we were there a while and even had a bit of a nap. I love trail angels!

We finally made it back to the trail at 6:00pm and started on our way to Eagle Rock and then Warner Springs, where a pool fed by hot springs was waiting for us! We got to Eagle Rock just as the sun was setting and got some great pictures. Then pressed on into the dark and onto Warner Springs. We reached Warner Springs at 9:00, immediately got a room, and jumped into the hot springs for a bit before they closed at 10:00. What an amazing treat after a 25 mile day!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3, 2011

May 3, 2011

Woke up today about 6:45 and was on the trail by 7:30. Fueled by a breakfast of pop-tarts and some water, I set off to tackle the 8.5 miles to Rodriguez spur road and the next water source. I caught up and passed Dumptruck and Squatter in the first couple miles and then Crumbs not too long after that. I hiked and talked with Crumbs for a mile or two and then sped off to the water. I got to the water hole about 10:00, where a number of hikers were gathered, and found myself a spot to do the usual routine of sit down, get my fill of water, have a bite to eat, and air out my feet. Some of the hikers at the water hole included Erin, Nick, Balls, Sunshine, Melanie, Kylie, Wiz, Ben, and Sam, as well as others.

After about an hour break, I set off again with two liters of water for the next 8.5 miles to the next water at Scissors Crossing where there is usually a cache of water, unless it has been emptied by other thru-hikers. I hiked the first half of this stretch alone before I caught up with Erin and Nick who had left Rodriguez spur about 30 min before me. The second half I hiked and talked with Erin.

When we arrived at Scissors Crossing we were surprises by not one, but two helpings of trail magic! The first was a styrofoam cooler of sports drinks and corona which had just been dropped off by Trooper, a trail angel who hiked the trail last year, and also many gallons of water. I took a sports drink and enjoyed its sugary goodness while relaxing in the shade of a juniper. The second helping of trail magic occurred when Sugar Momma drove up with a box of fresh oranges and grapefruit! Those of us there each enjoyed the fresh fruit, as it was something none of us were carrying with us. During the 2.5 hours I sat at the water cache, I drank a lot of water and enjoyed hanging out with a similar group of hikers that were at Rodriguez spur.

At 4:30 a group of us (Kylie, Wiz, Annie, Speed Bump, and I) took off to tackle the climb out of the valley where the roads at Scissors Crossing converged. The climb was long and hot, but we managed to make about 8 more miles before finding a nice big camping area at the top of the ridge around 7:30. along the way we also picked up Mr. F-ing Gentle Spirit and the six of us cowboy camped under the stars. In addition to checking out the constellations, I saw an awesome orange-tinted shooting star that streaked it's way across 1/4 of the sky before the comet broke into smaller pieces and faded to black again. It was one of the coolest I have ever witnessed.

Also of note I saw three snakes today. The first was a small black snake that raced across the trail (I'm assuming a racer snake), the second was a fatter and slower black snake with a green tint to it, and the third was a rattlesnake which was hiding in a bush just off the side of the trail.

I am camped at about mile 85/86 so tomorrow I may try to make it to Warner Springs (mile 110), but I'll see how I feel tomorrow after putting in my biggest mileage day yet, and most miles in a three-day stretch.

I love my life!

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May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011

Alright, now first things first. You know how I've said how great the weather has been? Well last night mother nature decided to show us thru-hikers who is in control. As soon as it got dark and I was laying my head down to relax and possibly fall asleep, a moderate wind picked up which could be heard whistling through the trees overhead, and moments later felt as it shook my tent. That was all well and good, and I think actually did get some sleep off and on through the night, but the real bugger of it came at 2am when one of of tent stakes came out of the ground leaving the tent falling on my head. At just about the same time that I started to rustle around to try to open the door so I could fix my tent, I heard Ethan say, "how's it goin' in there Alex?" I stumbled out of my tent and we exchanged some words regarding the lovely change in weather we were having. Then we shook it off and tried to get some sleep until our planned departure at 7:30.

After the restless night we were able to make it out to the trail at 7:30, and despite the rough wind, which continues through the rest of the day, we were both in good spirits. We hiked for about 4 hours in the morning with a few breaks thrown in. During that time we met and talked with a lot of other hikers who had experienced the same restless night we had. Someone also gave us the news that Osama Bun Laden had been killed the previous day. It's amazing how fast news travels, even when you feel you are a world away from civilization.

Again we took a siesta at the G.A.T.R. Spigot so we could load up on water for the next 9 miles to the next reliable water source.

After our break, Ethan decided he needed to back off a bit to make sure the soreness he was feeling in his leg didn't get any worse; hopefully we will meet up again at Warner Springs or Idyllwild. I pressed on and powered through the next 4 miles until I came around the corner of the trail to discover someone laying in the middle of the trail on their backpack, apparently taking a break. It seemed odd to me, so as I approached I asked if she was doing OK. As I got closer I realized she was having a seizure. I quickly took off my pack and shouted back to Dutch, who I had just passed to come help me. We held her head still and shaded her until it passed. Another hiker who she had been hiking with came up and we all stayed with her until she was feeling better and started walking again. What a scary moment.

After that bit of excitement I continued on the next 4.5 miles to Oriflamme Canyon, which brought with it water and a respite from the wind. Finally! Erin, Kylie, Wiz, and many others stopped there for a while to take a break, talk, prepare dinner, and get more water before heading up the trail another couple miles to find a suitable campsite, which we were able to do just past the Sunrise Trailhead junction.

Here's hoping for a better nights sleep!

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 2, view from near campsite

May 1, 2011

May 1, 2011

Woke up today at about 5 am to the sound if birds chirping ... And the call of nature. Both the trees and the trail were calling my name, so it seemed a good time to get up, even though I wasn't planning to wake up until 6. After breakfast provided by ADZPCTKO I packed up my gear it was time to go.

At 7:30 Ethan, a recent graduate of Whitworth, and I made our way to the trail and headed out. Over the course of the first 12 miles we hiked with Erin (also from Portland) and Dutch, who hiked the AT a couple years ago. The scenery today has been pretty spectacular and we are enjoying the views of hills, greenery, and wildflowers that are still around due to the wet spring they've had down here. We took a couple of short breaks to drink some water and made it about 12 miles to Fred Canyon for a midday siesta to enjoy food, fluids, and get our feet up, along with a large group from the herd that also left Lake Morena today.

After about two hours of rest and relaxation, Ethan and I got back on the trail to make our way towards Long Creek Canyon, about 6 miles up the trail. It was a gradual climb with more great views. Along this section we met a number of hikers including Serenity and Erin, Jonathan and Andrew, Kevin, and others that I can't remember right now.

When we got to Long Creek Canyon we took a break near the water, ate a little snack, and collected some water which I treated for the first time with Aqua Mira (chlorine dioxide). After a good ~30 min break we kept going up the trail to find a place to camp for the night. After about a mile we saw where other hikers had taken a side trail down to a meadow for the night. We pushed passed this location, intending to go to Burnt Rancherias CG, but instead found a grove of pine trees (~mile 39.6) to set up camp near Balls, Sunshine, Crumbs, Barney, and a couple others that I will hopefully meet tomorrow morning.

After setting up camp, we made dinner, tried to find some sun, and headed for our tents to review maps/water sources for the next day and get warmed up, as it was 50F when we got to the trees at 6:30, and continued to drop as the sun went down.

Great 19 mile day and I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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