The day of badassery having been acknowledged and celebrated, a human’s got to know her limits. Forester was mine. Not all trails work for all people — and hey, 800 miles is nothing to sneeze at.

At least the desert had hummingbirds! 🙂

Yesterday morning my shoes were frozen solid, and my socks and pants were still wet and icy cold. This morning my tent was frozen. And in addition, someone seems to have flicked the mosquito button to the ‘on’ position. They’re suddenly swarming, and they’re relentless. Also large.

The altitude is affecting me much more than I thought it would. Can’t hike fast, can’t sleep, can’t breathe well. I’m really tired–and it’s making things very hard.

My PCT adventure is likely at its close. I could skip the Sierra, but that’s not ideal. And there’s still too much snow in Washington to go that far north. Best to do the Sierra in August, and the other sections at their ideal times.

I’m taking the requisite two (or three) zeroes for additional mulling. Decisions forthcoming. But I’m content either way.

I’m currently holed up in a motel in Independence. It’s about 100 degrees outside–and it feels magnificent! 🙂


Southern Sierra–Cliff Notes version

Sun 6/12/16
Started 702.2 (plus bonus 0.77 to trailhead). Wanted to get out of disgusting KM before I had to use the overflowing porta-potties! Entered Sierra carrying heavy. Bear can, microspikes, ice axe, 7 days of food. Black clouds and wind rolled in, early afternoon. Camped at about 2 PM. Mile 709.5, 7047 feet. Very short day, as usual when leaving town with a heavy load. Currently thundering and windy. It’s going to be cold and stormy tonight.

Monday, 6/13/16
Started 709.5. Ended 722.2, 9922 feet. Rain and thunder all night. Saw my breath this morning. Had to pack up wet, and still messing with how to configure all the new gear. Took 1.75 hours! Climbed until 8 AM; was walking through frosty meadows by 7:15. Caught a glimpse of the snowy peaks. Man. That’s a lot of snow.

Today was the big climb, which I didn’t realize. Up thousands of feet for miles, into the high elevations. The high point today would have been 10,600 feet, but my lungs weren’t up to it. It ended with a choice: keep going and camp at the peak, or stop early. My fingers were already frozen. I stopped at 9000 feet at 4 PM. Now that I see how this will go, I went through the next couple of days and charted mileage based on elevation gain. I’m a day behind schedule, but hey–technically speaking, it’s a brand new hike. I’ll have to watch the food. I won’t have to deal with major snow until Wednesday, probably. We’ll see. I don’t like the way the timing for that (Cottonwood Pass) is turning out. That might be a short day, too, to avoid 5 miles of postholing plus sleeping on snow.

I won’t be below 8000 feet for many miles (excepting my resupply, which will eat 3 days).

The good news: I’m toasty at night. 🙂

Tuesday, June 14
Mile 737.7. 10533 feet. Good day. Big climb! Saw my first Sierra mosquitoes–huge but not relentless (yet). No snow yet. This is the highest I’ve camped! The altitude is challenging–it’s hard to breathe and walk uphill! But that’s what it is for the next 350 miles. The scenery’s pretty–rocks and scrub pine, sand and negative space–but for my money, Maine, NH, and Vermont are prettier. Sacrilege, I know. 🙂 But I haven’t come to the watery bits yet. And my sense of beauty is strongly pinged by water.

There’s a guy camped 40 feet away and I can hear him snoring. Dear gods! I hope he rolls over or something. lol

Wednesday, June 15
Mile 752.9. 11,320 feet. Trail Pass and Cottonwood Pass: complete!
The Sierra celebrated Ray Day by blasting us with windbane! And you know what windbane at 11,500 feet feels like? Not summer. 🙂 But not really winter, either.

The climbs were manageable but steady. I started to see pockets of snow on the ascent to Cottonwood, but nothing on the trail. I was worried about a snow field on the north face, but there was nothing. Go, Ray Day!

I’m nervous as hell about Forrester, the day after tomorrow. Highest point on the PCT–and there will most definitely be snow there. 13,000 feet.

It’s still brutally windy, but it got cold as the day faded. I found a shelterish spot among some rocks. It’s not great, but the wind shows no sign of abating. I look up at the cliff wall at the snow. Snow! I didn’t want to be fumbling in a boulder field at dusk. So here I am. Wearing my puffy AND my fleece for the first time. I’m cozy. I hope the wind dies! In the meantime, I’m listening to loud music to drown it out.

Also, saw my first lake today. Chicken Lake, I think. It was prettier than it sounds. 🙂

Forester Pass: Day of Badassness

Thursday, June 16
Mile 768.3. 10786 feet.
This morning it was 25 degrees. Some southbound section hikers had a thermometer. I can’t even begin to guess what the temp was last night, 1000 feet higher where I was, and with that crazy wind. The hikers with the foam mats really suffered. I was toasty with my Xtherm, but I spend most of my weight on warmth. And it slows me down. (And makes it hard fo get up in the early morning!)

It was a fairly unproductive day. I never could get in gear. I think I slept badly. The trail was pretty, though. At the Whitney portal there were at least 30 hikers getting ready to summit tomorrow.

Me, I hope to do Forester Pass. It’s 12 miles away, though, with three stream crossings in there (and the big downhill snow field to get through afterward–several miles of it). Word on the street is that the afternoons are all postholing, which is bad. (That’s when your foot goes deep into snow because it’s too soft to support your weight. It’s dangerous, because there are probably boulders down there, and very exhausting and time-consuming.)

I wish I could go faster on the uphills, but the elevation is really challenging me. I can only go about 1 mph, what with all the breathing. 🙂 And Forester is 13,118 feet.

I’ll probably end up with a poor choice: get there late and spend the afternoon postholing (and probably hike into evening), or do a very short day tomorrow and hit the pass first thing Saturday. I really really really hate to lose that time, given that I’m already very far behind and staring down the barrel of losing 3 days to resupply in Independence. On the other hand, I’m so far behind now that does an extra day really matter? Probably not, in terms of not finishing. It just changes my terminus, wherever that ends up being. Assuming I don’t sprout wings on my feet after the Sierra.

I’ll see how the stream fords go. I did the first one today–Rock Creek. The water was just over my knees. I bet last year that one was a puddle jump. 🙂 This year it was loud and rapid-y. Tomorrow it’s Wright, Wallace, and Tyndall Creeks. Then wet feet for Forrester.

Oh! I almost forgot the snowblind guy! I met a SOBO who looked familiar. Turned out, he was NOBO. Remember that bad rain storm? At elevation it was snow. This guy summitted Whitney the next day and forgot his sunglasses. The next morning, he was snowblind. He stayed in Crabtree Meadow for a couple of days until his vision mostly returned, but he was headed SOBO to get out of the Sierra and get into Lone Pine to see a doc.

Crazy trail.

Friday, June 17
Mile 783.2. 10857 feet.
Today I did the second scariest physical thing of my life–possibly the top scariest, but it was brief. Forester Chute. You can google/YouTube it.

Forester. The only way I got through today was by obsessing on three little words: “You did Katahdin.” I used the axe, the spikes, all of it. I lost the trail. I fell a lot (I’ll be sore tomorrow, but nothing major. That’s what happens on miles and miles of slippery snow.) I glissaded, but only by accident (see ‘fell a lot,’ above).

I never say this, but today, just for today, June 17, 2016… I am a freaking badass. 🙂

I’ll be losing Sherpa and Dolittle tomorrow. I’m sad! They’ve been great leapfrog trail companions. But I’m leaving the Sierra to resupply, and they’re going straight through to Vermillion Valley Ranch. I hope I catch up to them at some point.





Kennedy Meadows


703 miles of desert (with mountains). Beyond my wildest dreams. Certainly, I thought there was a good chance it was beyond my physical abilities. But here we are! 700 miles in 7 weeks. 700 miles of desert.

The last few desert days were hard. Really hard. The whole desert was really hard! (I got sick again; turns out it really is the ibuprofen, after all. I stopped it immediately this time, and immediately got better.) I’ve never walked in 110-degree heat while carrying 20 pounds of water along with everything else. (And I’m not anxious to repeat it!) But it was worth every scorpion.

It’s like the Promised Land when you walk around that bend here at KM. Everybody cheers and claps. Everybody beams. It feels like the finish line. 🙂

I got here the morning of June 11th. I’ll be taking the day, then entering the actual Sierra in the early morning of the 12th. There’s big snow coming to the Whitney area, but that’s 60 miles from here. I think rain tonight and/or tomorrow, hereabouts. A lot of hikers are talking about waiting out the rain, but I’ll hike in it. I don’t mind.

Thank you so much to Jim Sisu Fetig, who sent me celebratory cookies to Kennedy Meadows! Just what the doctor ordered for the finish line party! They were fabulous! And thanks to my brother John for managing the onerous job of sending me my boxes–bear can, ice axe, microspikes, long pants, and 7 days of food. Plus Shoes Number Three.

Phase 1 of the PCT: FINISHED! 🙂

Who woulda thunk?

Day 48: Scorpions and Devilfish

Day 48 (Monday, June 6): Scorpions and Devilfish
Mile 636.6
Kennedy Meadows ETA: Still 6/10, by some miracle

Hey, I canna do what the grownups do, either! I set the alarm for 1:00 AM, then failed to hear it!

It was another freakishly windy night last night. I was in a protected little dell surrounded by Joshua trees, so the blowing itself wasn’t bad, but the noise was awful! A true roar. I put in my earplugs just enough to cut the howl to something less fierce and scary, but I forgot to turn the alarm volume up to compensate. Heh. So I’m cozy and drowsy and wondering what time it is…3:22 AM! Holy crap! So much for my bold night-hiking plan.

But I’ve gotten good at getting things ready the night before, so I was hiking by 4:15. But get this: When I went to put my shoes on, there was a scorpion under one of them.

Scorpion! I mean, jeez. Freaking scorpions. I did a lot of research,
but nothing prepared me for the reality of actual scorpions on this trek. Scorpions!

Luckily I’m a fairly Renaissance human, and I know some things about scorpions–like, I already check my shoes in the morning. Still, you know what hiking means to me? Beautiful forests, secret glades, mushrooms, unexpected waterfalls. Owl sounds, and wood thrushes.

Not sand and scorpions and these little biting gnats that are chewing me to pieces. (Well, OK. I’ll grant you the gnats. They’re everywhere.)

So! I kept my eye on that little dun-colored scorpion until I lost it,
and I got packed up and moving. Miles to go! And a potential water cache at 630! I even wasted a Dixie cup of water and brushed my teeth–but that was mostly a morale issue after oversleeping and finding the scorpion under my shoe. (And it was still windy as hell and pitch dark. In the creepy Mojave desert.)

This is why I will never cowboy camp. Cowboy camping to me means not putting on the rain fly–which I can do at the moment, because no rain, no condensation (campsite choice), and I don’t need the warmth.

I walked. In the dark. I didn’t even give a rat’s behind about
creatures–but the only creature I saw was another little rabbit. How in hell are they alive?

Oh! I have a snake theory. I saw multiple snakes the last few days,
and so did other people. But for a while before that–no snakes. The two times I’ve seen multiple snakes, there’s been a big wind event, a change in the weather–once to break a cold front, and this time to break the heat wave. I could be wrong, but I’m suspecting that the snakes can sense a change in the barometric pressure, and are either more actively seeking cover or are slithering off the mountain.

I had about 3.5 liters of water this morning. There was no way it was going to be enough to get to mile 352 (the next likely water) if that cache wasn’t there. I was looking at about… oh… 29 miles. In the Mojave–which is clearly kicking my ancient ass more than I expected. And this was after doing everything in my power to avoid relying on the caches, including a 9-liter water carry. I needed that cache to be there–and a lot of hikers actually got to mile 630 this morning with a half liter or less. With no possible water until 652.

The cache was there! Thank you, Devilfish! (I hope I got his name right.)

There were a ton of bees there. A massive number. All honeybees. They would land on you softly and drink the water from your arm.

Devilfish came while I was there. We helped him move the empties to his car. I think it’s fair to say that for me, at least, this stretch would have been literally impossible without those two water caches.

My advice to any potential other old fart hikers who might be seeing this in preparation for a hike: Starting in Mojave/Tehachapi, night-hike this whole section. Hike from 9 PM to 9 AM every day from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows. The trail is ridiculously easy to follow, particularly if you have the Halfmile app; and the markers are reflective in the headlamp.

Oh, heh. Hiker Baloo saw a bobcat last night. That’s my one fear,
night-hiking, but I have to deal with problems in the order in which they’re going to kill me. The blistering heat and lack of water are immediate issues, as opposed to imaginary potential mountain lions.

(Can I charge my battery at Kennedy Meadows? Does anybody know?)

After the cache came one of those ginormous sustained climbs–up, up, up to 7500 feet of rocks and scrub pine. I stopped at lunch and looked at my maps. Now that I’ve had my epiphany that the white means ‘no trees,’ I wanted to see if that part was over. (I’m currently in scrub pine forest, still hot but with some shade.) Alas, the white part isn’t over. So I’ll try the night-hiking thing tonight again, after 8 hours of sleep. Roughly 60 miles to Kennedy Meadows, and the end of this 700-mile chunk of desert.

Things may get wacky when I hit the neighborhood of that fire closure tomorrow or the next day. (The trail isn’t closed, but maybe some water sources and camping areas are.) And if I don’t start the Sierra until 6/15–“Ray Day”–I realize that I’m no Ray Jardine, and my only chance of seeing Canada will be hitching a ride on a flying pig. But you know… it’s all good, any way it goes! And the desert will be DONE. Forever! 🙂 Which is Olympic Gold, as far as I’m concerned!

(Let me know if the pics don’t come through. I ran into size issues.)










Days 46, 47

Day 46 (Saturday, June 4): H-2-Oh
Mile 610.9

The hikers who are passing me now started on May 1 to May 8. I really need to let go of that question, lol.

Good news! The trail near the Chimney Campground fire wasn’t damaged, the fire is controlled, and the trail is scheduled to reopen tonight (Saturday). So the march to Kennedy Meadows continues! It’s 100 miles–6 days (I’ll try for 5 and fail!). In 7 days, I’ll be entering the High Sierra, armed with bear canister, ice axe, and microspikes. ‘Donner, party of one!’

I was on the trail promptly at 5. Long, hot, heavy day today–the first day of the longest water carry on the trail: 42 miles. The streams are dry, the caches are no longer maintained. I heard a lot of people planning all sorts of permutations to avoid carrying 8 or 9 liters of water–paying people tons of cash to cache gallons of water for them, night-hiking, just assuming or hoping that there will be caches along the way. I just sucked it up and hauled it. I carried 9 liters out of the last spring, and it still won’t be enough with the 100-degree days. What really surprises me is that most hikers don’t seem to even have 8 liters’ capacity.

There were three water sources today, and my plan was to hit them all. I’d suck down a liter at each and one between, so that when I picked up my 8 liters at the last source, I’d be well hydrated. That worked well until the second source, which was a slimy stagnant pool. No thanks; I’ve been sick once already. That was the first time I’ve regretted not having a filter.

At second breakfast, I was divebombed by a hummingbird. Shortly after that, I almost stepped on a huge ancient rattlesnake. It didn’t get the memo that snakes are supposed to lie across the trail, and instead was lying lengthwise, hidden right in the border where the trail meets the leaves and pine needles and other detritis. It snapped into a coil so fast that I was afraid it got whiplash, and it was coiled so tightly I was afraid it would pull a muscle. And it rattled hard while I gave it a wide berth.

This last section is like the greatest hits of SoCal.

I didn’t make it very far after the last water source, but I’ll start early tomorrow with less weight.


FYI, owing to signal and battery issues, blogging is on hiatus. I’ll post location updates on Facebook, but only from town/wifi. See you from Indepndence in about 10 days! (Feel free to email, text,’or call, but I probably on’t see them until I get to town.)

Days 43, 44, 45

I’m entering the time of limited internet access. I’m not sure what that means, practically speaking, but worst case scenario is that I don’t have signal until Independence, in about 3 weeks, after I’ve entered the High Sierra and finished the first couple of passes. And I definitely need to conserve battery for GPS/navigation. So I’ll probably be making the switch to light journaling (and letting the pics tell the trail story). Some people may be happy about this. 🙂 Also, rather than slamming people with 21 emails, I’ll gang up the days a bit.