Friday, October 1, 2010
Trip Report - Pacific Crest Trail Section A
3/29/2010 Almost ready to go... A few months ago, my wife and I decided we were going to begin section hiking the PCT this year. Our goal is to through hike it some day, but our lives don't currently allow us to be gone for that long!
So...we began adding mileage to our weekend day hikes and doing overnight trips more often. I worked on the ever changing gear list to get exactly what we need and nothing we didn't. You would call us ultra-light hikers I guess...my base weight is about 8lbs and Jene's is about 5lbs. Our goal is to always be comfortable and safe, so minimalists we are not.
We start this coming Saturday, and the anticipation has been building for a long time now. We just completed our last "training" hike yesterday, with full starting pack weights, and clicked off 18 miles in about 7 1/2 hours. You can tell you're ready when this no longer makes your muscles sore.
I just mailed resupply boxes today so we only have to carry 2 days of food at a time. A few more gear tweaks, and we will be on our way!
These are the things we (I) obsess about for months and months before the trip. Why? One is just the fact that we enjoy the challenge...kind of a competition with each other. But the real reason is that we want to be as comfortable as possible, both on and off the trail. That, and if you have it all figured out before you go, everything just goes smoother when you're out there and there's no need to fuss...everything just works. Those who "get it", the ultralight thing that is, are noticeably happier on the trail, that's for sure. And if they do their homework, they're just as happy off the trail too.
Three more days until we leave for Campo. Not finding much more to tweak now. Getting antsy...two more days of work, then a sleepless night and a long drive.
Is it Friday yet??!!!?!?!
4/01/2010 Last Night at Home Yesterday was my son's 14th birthday...fish tacos, a cake, and a card with a hot chick washing a car. The funny thing was the card was written in Spanish, but it didn't matter. I wish he was going, but it's allot for a kid his age to commit to without other kids going. Not that he couldn't handle it...he's almost an Eagle Scout and has done some pretty tough trips with me.
Last night at home. I've gone through my gear one last time. Everything's good to go. Jene is still out & about at 8:00pm...she's gonna pick up some high calorie food from Roberto's Tacos on her way home. Then she still has to go through her gear list I printed out for her. Alarm will go off early tomorrow so we can get out of here in time to meet trail angels Dan & Esther who are helping us get to the trail head on Saturday.
Rain and snow moistened So Cal last night, meaning we won't need to carry much water. That will make it an even better hike! I thought I would be more antsy by now, but I don't think I'll lose any sleep tonight. I'm ready.
Jene's home now...time to pig out!
4/02/2010 On our way to the trail... We left Vegas at about 7:30 this morning. After a quick stop at Einsteins for breakfast, we were on the road. Exiting the freeway in Temecula, we headed towards Warner Springs. I had forgotten how beautiful it is down here.
After making arrangements to park our car at the ranch, we headed down to the trail, about a mile away. We walked about 3/4 mile SoBo on the PCT before running into Dan & Esther, who had taken advantage of the trip to pick us up and hiked to Eagle Rock and were heading back.
On the way to Alpine, they showed us around the area, including a tricky area in finding Mt Laguna Lodge. They dropped us off at the Ayres Inn and we decided to meet for dinner at 5:30pm. Good food, a couple of beers, and some great conversation. They were the nicest people! I guess that's why we call them trail angels!!!
We found out that Dan is doing a SoBo thru hike of the PCT beginning in June. Some day we will live that dream!
Back at the hotel, taking our last showers for a few days, will get to bed early in preparation for a 5:30am start for the Southern Terminous. Our adventure is about to begin. No wait, I think already has!
Jenes thoughts.... So excited to prove to myself I can do whatever I set my mind to!!!! This may not be much for some, but, I never thought a" vacation" like this would be something I would ever dream of, walking 110 miles in less than a week.. Meeting people like Dan and Esther really gives you faith in humanity if you ever had a doubt! They truly are wonderful!
A little after crossing I-8, we met up with another couple heading SoBo. He introduced himself as Monte, and quickly took an interest in our backpacks. After inquiring, I told him I had made the packs, which hieghtened his interest. He was very complimentary. Then, it occurred to me that we were talking to "Warner Springs Monte", which he confirmed. I had read some articles he had written about ul backpacking, but never met him. Pretty cool.
We camped at Long Cyn Creek at mile 39, another good mileage day. With reliable water and a fairly protected campsite, this seemed like a great place to make camp. Damian got there about 15 minutes after us and made camp as well. Winds were picking up and it was too cold to hang outside, so we headed to bed just after dinner.
4/05/2010 Rainy Day (4 miles/2 hours) That wind that was kicking up when we went to bed was apparently a storm front. Tons of wind and some rain made it a sleepless night for me. At one point a main guyline stake came loose, and the tent half fell over. A quickly got up and tied it off to a falled tree, and had no more troubles.
Only 9 or so miles left to Scissors Crossing, a 3 hour walk in the morning. Then we hitch to Julian to get clean, eat and drink too much, and sleep in a bed again!
4/07/2010 Scissors Crossing/Julian (10 miles/3.5 hours) The meadow we camped in was perfect! Soft ground, protected from the wind, I got another good nights sleep. Lying awake in the early morning hours, I could just see out under the vestibule...the meadow, the silouette of the mountains, and the half moon.
We scored a ride within 5 or 10 minutes! Wow, that was easy! A couple probably in their early to mid 50's were down from No Cal on vacation to hike and ride motorcycles in the So Cal desert. They were headed to Julian as well, and were nice enough to pick us up!
They dropped us off at the PO, and we got our last drop box. We now had too much food due to the unplanned stay in Mt Laguna, and the fact that we weren't eating quite as much as we had planned. A short walk to the Julian Lodge, and we were extremely early for check-in. Luckily they had our room ready!
He dropped us off at the trailhead about 1:00pm, and we headed for the hills. It was the warmest day yet, around 75 or 80 and clear & sunny.
On one of our breaks we were sitting in the shade when we heard a strange noise coming our way. It wasn't an airplane, but we weren't sure exactly what it was. Then flying over head was a huge swarm of bees. Luckily they weren't interested in us and kept on going.
We had only planned on a few miles, but there weren't many good camping spots, and we felt good, so we kept going until just after the first pipe gate at mile 86.4. A nice protected valley, we found a level spot in a clearing and pitched our tent.
4/09/2010 Close encounter with a rattle snake (15.5 miles/7.5 hours) Sleeping in until about 7:00am again because we only had about 15 miles, we hit the trail just before 8:00am. The temp last night was warm as promised, and it was a beautiful morning again!
It wasn't long before we got to the third gate, and the water cache was very full. Thanks to those who carry all that water up there for us!!! We took only what we needed, signed the register, and were on our way again.
We stopped about an hour later and made some couscous and tea for breakfast, although it was closer to lunch time by then.
After setting up camp, we decided to get cleaned up and headed back to the spring to rinse our clothes. We met another hiker there by the name of Rick. He was hiking all the way to Big Bear where his son was going to pick him up. After rinsing off our clothes we went back to camp and had a good dinner. Then we were in bed by the time the sun was setting.
4/10/2010 A sea of color (10 miles/4 hours) Last night was very quiet, with the exception of a few cars going down the nearby road. A local critter was digging a hole near our temporary home. At one point, Jene thought I was shaking the bed. Then we realized it was the earth moving...a small quake, most likely an after shock to the recent larger one (which neither of us felt).
There had been virtually no wind, so the condensation in our single walled tent really built up. It looked like it had rained, but the outside wasn't wet. After wiping the inside of the tent down and spreading the quilt over some bushes, I made some hot water for breakfast and tea. Taking our time, things dried well enough to pack up.
Only three trail miles left...more flowers, then oak trees and a stream. A beautiful end to a great hike!
What's next? Not sure exactly...could be section B, the JMT, or something else. One thing's for sure...there will be another big one, and another, and another...one day a through hike!
4/12/2010 Back home...wishing I was still out on the trail!
4/17/2010 The gear...what worked well and what didn't? The trip was beautiful and went very well. In fact, we now know we could have done more daily miles...averaging 20 miles per day is very doable.
Like I said before, the planning is about the gear so the trip doesn't have to be. My intent is to use gear that would be suitable for a 2600 mile through hike. So what worked well, and what didn't?
MYOG Packs - I decided not too long ago that I could make our own backpacks that would be lighter and more suited to our style than anything commercially available. At under 5oz, my pack performed extremely well. I learned a few things, and will make some refinements on the next version, but overall I am very happy and encouraged to make more of my own gear!
Six Moon Designs Refuge-X tent - A one pound wonder! This tent did very well, even in the stormy conditions. The major drawback with this and any single walled tent is condensation. For that reason I prefer a tarp to a tent. The nice thing about the tent is bug protection...but they are part of nature, right?
Gossamer Gear Thinlight 1/4" thick pad cut down to 21 x 41. I've come to the conclusion that, unless I carry a 6" thick air mattress, there's no real comfort advantage to thicker or air pads. The only reason to go thicker would be for additional ground insulation in winter conditions.
Nunatak Back Country Blanket - while I did modify this quilt in order to save some weight and make it more efficient for us, it's still 90% the way it came. Extremely warm and comfortable...hard to beat. The only concern is that when down gets wet, it has no insulation properties. That said, even with the major condensation from the tent, the BCB got wet on the outside but never really "wetted through" to the insulation. Still, it's a concern for worse conditions. The alternative is synthetic, which even when wet still has good insulation properties, but tends to be heavier and doesn't pack as well. As long as you are careful this is a great option.
No complaints...I was warm and dry the entire time. The Montbell Down Inner Parka is amazingly warm for only 9oz! The Marmot Essense rain jacket vents well enough to use as a wind breaker without making you sweat, and keeps you dry in the rain. Montbell 2 1/2oz wind pants...these are warmer than they have any right being (my only leg insulation). Wigwam Ironman Triathlon socks are great...very thin and comfortable. The only drawback is they only come in white, and only stay that color for about a half hour on the trail. Washing them never really gets them looking good again. They should offer them in black and they would be perfect!
Cooking & Water Storage
First of all, any Trail Designs Caldera Cone is great! I own several different combinations, and have not been disappointed with any. I decided to bring my Titanium Goat 1100 pot with the Ti-Tri Inferno wood burning setup. This piece of equipment worked excellent! I really like the idea of using wood and not having to carry fuel, but the drawbacks are having to gather wood, constantly feeding the fire, and the fact that the black soot gets all over your hands no matter what you do. That said, I think my "set it and forget it" choice would be using their 12-10 alcohol stove. Works excellent and no mess. If you use this with the Ti-Tri cone, you always have wood as a backup option.
Platypus Hoser 3 liter...for a bladder type of system, this is my go to choice. Others seems to have a bad taste, and the platy never does. The Hoser design has never failed me, although I have had their other square bottom type fail several times. All that said, the only reason I would carry this type is because there isn't much water available and you have to carry more. I prefer to carry one liter Gatorade or water type bottles.
Freezer Bag Cooking (FBC) Minimalist Cozy...I love FBC cooking. Great healthy meals prepared at home, and just add water to rehydrate on the trail. The cozy keeps it nice and hot so it can do its magic!
Essentials & Stuff
Sun Screen - I didn't bring enough for the So Cal desert.
Lightload towel - great at about half the weight of a bandana, but I made the mistake of putting it a washing machine and ruined it. Washing it out by hand makes it last a long time.
Baking Soda - this is the first time I've brought it and WOW, works great for hygiene! Keeps the smells to a minimum!!!
Mr Pumice - I took a small piece of this pumice type stone to keep my feet healthy...one of the best things I have done! I use them at home, so why not on the trail where I am asking allot more than usual of my feet?
Chap Stick for foot lubricant - go with Body Glide!
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide drops - only used them once during the trip where water source was questionable, but great! Very little taste (unlike chlorine or iodine), and you don't have to carry the extra pound of a filter.
Erik the Black's PCT Atlas - everything you need, nothing you don't. Just cut out the pages you need and send the rest forward to your drop boxes!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 camera - great quality photos, HD video, and water proof. Perfect!
Equipment worn or carried
Shoes - The North Face Prophecy II - these fit me looser than regular running shoes, which I like. I tend to wear my shoes so I can easily slip them on and off. Still not totally happy my footwear.
Columbia Sportswear Crux Shirt - I love the versatility of a long sleeve button front shirt. This one seemed to wear out quickly though.
GoLite Baja Short - 4oz of extreme comfort! Could be a bit longer though.
Tilley Endurables Airflow hat - great sun protection, sit pad, ground insulation for your head while sleeping. Love it!
BPL Stix 130cm Fixed Length Trekking Poles - I didn't like using trekking poles until I started using ultralight ones. At less than 4oz each, they're great! (double as tent poles too)
Tech 4-0 Watch/Pedometer/Altimeter/Thermometer - I really don't use all the features, but I like the timer (used to make sure we are taking enough breaks), alarm, and thermometer.
That's pretty much it...ultralight and ultra-comfortable, both on and off the trail. I will of course continue to try new things, that's just in me. But because I was well prepared, everything worked very well on the entire trip. Most of which I would take on a 4 1/2 month through hike!