Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

17 miles - Vidette Meadows to half way up Pinchot Pass - done 350 miles now

The day started with a few mosquitoes as I got my tent down. I was pleased to learn that because I wasn't going in to Independence I didn't need to go over Kearsage Pass. Instead I had to contend with Glenn Pass, which was ok really.

I expected an easy 8 mile descent the other side. In the event it was rocky and difficult and mosquito filled. What an awful day. By dusk I was ready to quit but I met another PCTer, Amtrak, who was heading half way up the next pass to sleep because it was warmer up there, had fewer bugs and less bear problems. Sufficiently motivated I joined him.

It was quite nice to end the day halfway up Pinchot pass too - less to do in the morning.

Bear hang was difficult tonight but worse was taking a number 2 in a swarm of mosquitoes.

Amtrak is very nice and well travelled. Great to camp with someone else, though he hasn't used a tent for 6 weeks (he's a bit hardcore!).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Marmot on Forrester Pass

Forrester Pass - 13,200ft

Late start today (camped on my own). Not enough food yesterday apparently since I felt a little weak and tired. Finally hauled over Forrester Pass, the highest point of the trail at 13,200ft. No phone service even right up there but Marmots and flowers were evident, even Pikers.

Water filter broke today but not a big deal. Water in the Sierra's is clean and I don't want to stand too long near rivers filtering water anyway since that is where the mosquitoes are.

Body and feet much better now. Shame about some of my gear breaking! Tent got a little damp last night - it needs the door wide open and I need to camp higher up I guess. Mosquitoes are being a right pain at times.

Had a dinner of hummous and then hiked on into the evening to find a campsite. Felt great to hike after dinner.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Crabtree Meadow (26 miles today) - now done 300 miles

I've now done more than 300 miles. I was surprised to bump in to Swan again at Cottonwood Pass and she was surprised to see me too since she was supposed to take an earlier very unclear trail to Lone Pine and I was heading on. I was surprised to still see Catra's prints too. I thought she would be well ahead by now.

(nice dinner)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hiked alone - 20 miles

Hiked mostly alone today after saying goodbye to Stirling who was heading out at Independence to meet his girlfriend.

Higher altitude today, 9,000-10,000.

Was surprised to see Catra and Curt again but this was because we had to detour half a mile and tramp through a meadow listening carefully to find the water. I headed down there with a guy called Tom.

Tonight was my first camp alone but it was fine, really nice actually!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

got 24 miles beyond Kennedy Meadows

Hiked all day with Stirling. Nice lad (23). Biologist and Martial Arts expert. Chatted with The Dude and Tracy and Ed at lunch but we didn't manage to camp with them.

As we camped Catra came by with Curt. We had left Kennedy Meadows at 6am and they had to wait for the store and so left at 10am. Soon after The Champ showed up and quickly established his cowboy camp on the trail!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kennedy Meadows - my first "zero"

Took a zero at last, no walking today.

Learned a new term - "hiker midnight" which means 21:00. It's odd, it does feel like midnight.

Met loads of other hikers - Lune, Swan, Bear, Wren (eventually), Hustle & Flow, Berta, Bastian, Stirling, The Champ (carter), The Dude, Tracy and Curt.

Got internet access in an airstream caravan on satellite connection.

Still Alive - Crossed Mojave Desert and now in Kennedy Meadows

Have had no cell phone coverage for over a week and still don't. I probably won't have cell phone coverage much at all.

We crossed some hot parts carrying a lot of water (6 litres minimum - 12.5lbs). Throughout the day my pack got lighter as I drank the water which was, at first flush, quite nice. Then it dawned on me that it meant, NO WATER LEFT in my pack. Water sources were ok though and pretty much according to our maps and water reports. From here on the water situation improves so we will need to carry much less. We even walked along a river last night for some miles. AWESOME.

Kennedy Meadows is a really nice oasis. A store, friendly folks and a whole load of hikers here.

Got a lot to do. Such a rush walking so far every day. Gotta check my feet and my email. Oh and I haven't showered for a week now, so that should perhaps make the list somewhere along the line.

More later. Just wanted to let you know I was still alive and you may not hear from me from week to week.

Catra, Curt and I posed for a Jerry Springer style break-up. Curt wants to hike fast so Catra is going to hook up with him and I'm heading out on my own now.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hauled to Kennedy Meadows - 30 mile day

Catra said in the morning that she'd see me in an hour but I didn't see her all day (though she left a couple of notes). We both smelled the barn - ie. wanted to get to Kennedy Meadows!

I even saw a RIVER today - NICE! First one in days. I saw a beaver with an impressive dam too.

Nice to finally get to the store and meet everyone at the store.

more burned forest

Met Hustle and Flow out here. Lovely people. We had this burned forest for about 15 miles - not much shade!

Funny spikey oak trees

Not a very good photo but funny to see how Oaks have evolved here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

23 miles starting from walker

Did 23 miles from Walker today. It was pretty hot. At one point we could see Ridgecrest I think.

An retired guy caught us up (he had a small pack!). I explained that my friend was from around here so I could see how he'd learned to tolerate the heat. Turns out this guy, Bob, knew Earl Roby! He'd also heard about Catra on the trail. Funny how news travels around.

Friday, June 22, 2007

friday -Angie and momma

We finally met the girl hiking with the dog. they are super nice too and like catra they dont look like they have walked 600 Miles. today i made 200 Miles. we are now at walker pass which is mile 651.

Chris and linda. awesome

Chris and linda bought an amazing bunch of food and drinks for us. really nice to chat too. corky Showed up later to say Hi too.

Friday. desert again but chris and linda came to meet us. awesome.

Climbed out of rocky perch early ascending 1000 ft in cool shade. catra already gone since she smelt the barn. 18 miles away we were to meet her friends chris Rios and linda dewees. i stomped on alone. one portion of the day was on a jeep trail through a burnt forest. merciless in the heat and went on for miles with little shade. when i finally cleared it and found a tree i put down the new piece of tarp that fellow hiker wren gave me, and slept for 20 minutes. An easy 10 miles later i was greeted by chris and linda with loads of food. an awesome spread. chris even got me a new foam mat to sleep on. i first met these guys at my first ultra in ridgecrest last december. probably the best organised and friendliest races i have done. wonderful people and chris bought the best salsa I have ever had.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday. bloody desert again.

Joshua tree. a cool album by U2. a desperate sign that you are in the bloody desert. your only chance of shade for miles. a very sharp place to bang your head. in the desert again. i can see why mr roby can tolerate the mild climate in the great basin. had another uncomfortable night with a flat thermarest in a very windy rocky perch on a slope. catra made it clear that sloping rocky spots still require plenty of personal space. the catra fan club should note that we are not an item so potential suitors should keep their peckers up. more desert tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sierras at last

We finally made it into familiar terrain. this is just like Tahoe. Much nicer than the desert. Big trees, shade,cool rocks and mellow trails. my feet look a bit rough but dont feel too bad. after a little wash and some peanut butter tortillas i thought i was in heaven. then catra checked the guide book only to discover more desert ahead. then my Thermarest Sprang a leak well nine of them. so an uncomfortable night. at least the bear which was recently sighted didnt come around at night

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

104 Miles in 99 Hours

24 Miles in the heat today. pretty tough especially on the feet. every night i hesitate to look at the state of my feet. lots of blisters but quite easily dealt with. right now we are in the town Mojave. More water less sections tomorrow. we will carry a lot of it. at the end of the day today we walked amid wind turbines. there are hundreds of them out here.

got across

Sixteen miles along the los angeles Aquaduct. it was flat and hot and felt like a lot more than sixteen miles. we were glad to find some kind of water. a windy night with a surprise visit from an Atv In the middle of the night. no wonder the water supply was tricky- the four wheel drive folks steal it. the photo shows the they back from the way we came.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

67 Miles in 52 Hours

I didnt properly explain the moon in the previous pic. at Casa de luna It is customary to be Mooned As you have your picture taken. yesterday was quite tough. a long dry day. i pumped water from a Guzzler which looked reasonable but tasted ok after filtering with stupid water filter from Msr. the last 7 Miles were no fun and famous for it. the PCT had to deal with a reluctant land owner so the route ended up designed by lawyers to inconvenience hikers. very glad to make it to the hiker town hostel. the photo shows where we are going next. across the desert basin towards the sierras. next water is 16 Miles. we leave at noon. what is that expression about mad dogs and englishmen?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Getting started

We set off at 5 15 pm thursday to hike into the night. pleasant temperature. only snag was a skunk ahead of us on the trail. we thought it would run off but it stayed on the trail ahead visible in our torch light. we thought he was getting fed up with us and might spray. he stayed on the trail for half a mile! we slept a few hours in a ditch and then headed out early to avoid the sun. we were very glad of a water cache and chairs set up for hikers. we visited Casa el luna. a Fun spot run by trail angels terry and joe. by 8Pm tonight i reckon i had done 36 Miles in 27 Hours. quite a tough start.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Saufley's Place - Agua Dulce - My PCT starting point

I'm at a really nice place called Agua Dulce in the Mojave desert staying with some people called the Saufleys (see http://www.hikerheaven.com/ ). Most people arrive here after hiking 450 miles from Mexico. The Saufleys have a standard way of dealing with them. You get a shower and loaner clothes, air conditioning, welcome. Everything you could imagine - even a couple of loan cars! What's more the Saufley's do all this for nothing! You leave a donation which is used to buy new stuff for hikers. They are quite amazing people for sure.

I arrived in a Buick from Hertz so I feel like quite a fraud at the moment. We set off tonight at 5pm to hike in the desert. Catra looks so strong and fresh it is quite intimidating. It's hard to believe she has hoofed it 454 miles already. I'm looking forward to shouldering my pack and getting a few miles into my feet. I hope I'm up to it.

Sienna is totally on the ball and ready to sort me out if I get into trouble. I couldn't have got here without here help and mellow attitude. It was really hectic getting out of Minden and finishing up with GE and all. In the past week I have:
- handed back my badge and gun to GE (ie. computer, phone, etc)
- sorted out legal things with GE
- sold me car
- canceled car insurance and broadband service
- handled a whole pile of post
- put everything into storage
- cleaned up my condo
- rented a car
- sorted out UK company taxes
- organized resupply for the PCT
- bought food, gear, etc
- got permits for the trail
- etc etc etc

You could say it is something of a relief to head off into the distance with just a pack, though I have never planned to hike for such a long time before.

I've already met a whole bunch of nice people on the trail: Catra, Basil, Becca, Lon, Joel, David, Salt Lake & Ashly, Tony and Rich. It's encouraging to see so many people on the trail who are very nice. I hope to bump into some of them again.

So, perhaps a quick shower before hitting the trail to calm my nerves...

arrived at agua dulce

Finally finished moving out of my condo and cleaning it and got on the road for 2Am. Made it thirty miles before pulling over to sleep. got to Agua dulce For about 1Pm. hosts are awesome and do all this as a hobby. truly spectacular welcome. met up with Catra who Looks very fit and not like she has done 454 Miles. we head out thursday evening at 5Pm across the desert to avoid the heat. had to buy new batteries for my torch.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My pack

My pack loaded.

My gear

Here is my gear. with five days food and a pint of water it weighs 25 Pounds.

Sienna is my hero

Sienna has been a complete star this week. Not only did she jump at the chance to support my PCT trip, she has been totally mellow and helpful the whole time. It took me the 5th or 6th attempt to finally meet up with her and hand over my resupply boxes. It has been a bit of a hassle getting those together for sure and even now I'm not sure they are right, but there are resupply opportunities on the trail so I can fix things there I think (or ask Sienna to post me something else).

I arrived at Sienna's office today totally frazzled having had so much to do this week. She was totally cool and mellow. She issued me with a wound management kit and talked me through how it works (great if you get a massive gash in your arm or something). A bit gory but helpful.

Now all I need to do is cram everything into my rental Buick, get a shower, don the clothes I will wear for the next 2 months and head out and try to get to Lone Pine. I choose the 'green' option at Hertz. The carson city hertz didnt have a green car so they gave me the buick and a half a tank of gas on the house (I dont think they really get 'green' at Hertz!).

I should get to Santa Clarita by morning and then to Agua Dulce. We start hiking at 8pm wednesday night, it being the desert and all. There will be no water at all for the first 30 miles so we'll have heavy packs. A rude awakening I expect. I'm really looking forward to getting to Yosemite (apart from the bears there - the worst place for them on the whole trail). From Yosemite north until Tahoe there's a chance that some of my friends from here might come hiking with us, which would be excellent.

Well I am sad to say goodbye to my view of the Valley from up here in my Heavenly condo but I will not miss that bloody cheeseburger bird one bit (if Scott hadn't told me it was saying 'cheeseburger' i might just take it as birdsong but that can never happen again - once you know it, it's always the cheeseburger bird!).

Well, Sienna may be editing the blog a bit and I'll try to send some things over from my phone at times.

HUGE thanks to everyone for the support and motivation to try something like this. I know a lot of people would jump at this chance. I look forward to seeing you all soon, hopefully, some of you, on the trail!

Monday, June 11, 2007

volleyball photos

I get a bit teary-eyed looking at the volleyball photos - really fun time, fun people and a very pretty place.

Here they are on my flickr account - look for photos from June 10th.






Sunday, June 10, 2007

TV Censorship US Style

7.30 am and the SciFi channel is showing Red Dragon (certificate 18 in the UK), one of the Silence of the Lambs horror films. In the first scene the detective captures Hannibal and gets violently stabbed in the stomach before himself stabbing Hannibal with a bunch of arrows before shooting lots of holes in him.

Where is the censorship? Well, when a character says, BULLSHIT, the 'SHIT' part of the word is dubbed over so you only hear the 'BULL' part. So, violent stabbing and shooting and a horrific plot are all fine at 7.30am but bad language, oh no, that's definitely out.

On the flight back to the USA recently they showed 'Children of Men' on the big screen in the cabin. Everyone in the cabin could see the movie but only those who had a headset could listen to it, though that was mostly everyone. The movie is rated R (or 15 in the UK) which means, "strong violence, language, drug use and brief nudity". It's a pretty decent film but is it really suitable for children in the cabin?

Censorship in the country is bollox. Excuse the bad language but is the language really the problem when it is apparently acceptable to show people being violently stabbed on the TV at 7.30am in the morning?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Heading off soon to do the PCT

I'm very jittery about the amount of things still left to do before I find the simple life on the trail and try to hike 2,000 miles from Agua Dulce to Canada.

I'm planning to meet up with Catra in Agua Dulce, 454 miles into the PCT (I couldn't start earlier because of sorting things out with GE). Catra's PCT blog shows her progress. Catra is a famous ultra runner who is going for the record on the PCT. I had also thought about doing the PCT and when my plans changed, and when Catra's fastpacking hiker dropped out after 2 days, it looked like a good opportunity.

Of course, Catra is an elite ultra runner who holds various records, not least on the John Muir trail. What makes me think I can keep up with her for 30-40 miles a day is frankly beyond me. All I know is that I'm a pretty determined person and like long distance travel with a nice clear goal and daily progress towards it.

My plans have to cater to the fact that I may well not keep up with Catra. I hope to do so though, particularly over the first section of the hike which is in the Mojave desert.

This weekend I need to organize food for the trip (mostly oatmeal, powdered milk, nuts, dried fruit and peanut butter). Thankfully there seems to be quite a PCT 'scene' so there should be lots of people around and opportunities to find food at least every 100 miles.

My friend Sienna (and her husband Scott) are going to support me. Sienna is a Wilderness First Responder and both her and Scott are long distance runners who are currently getting fit for the Tahoe 50/50 (50k). I will send their details, and those of Catra's support guy Jerry, to my family.

OK better go shopping.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thanks to ge folks for rei vouchers

Thanks to my friends at general electric in cambridge for the leaving present of Rei Vouchers. i bought some ultra light poles a new knife and a tent peg to dig holes at need. this has saved just less than a pound. i will use the poles for my tent too as the main uprights. i hope to pick up the pacific crest trail near los angeles next week and head towards canada. you may notice the new poles have duct tape wrapped around them: this is my first aid kit.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New tent on order

I have just ordered a new tent. Having spent a couple of nights in a bivi sack, albeit in my bedroom, I have to admit that it is very cramped and not much fun zipping up a bag over your face. I modified it by adding a foam pipe insulation tube to form a kind of hoop when I lay in there but it is still pretty uncomfortable. Great for emergencies but not much fun for a couple of months.

So, I heard about these Tarptents which are incredibly light and you can even use your hiking pole with it.

It weighs only 24.5 oz! And I will use my trekking poles to put it up. Cool (I hope).

Apparently I sound like this lizard...

I was a little shocked in circuit training recently when Bev told me I sound like the GEICO lizard. I put it to someone else and they agreed, so, here is my avatar...

Anyone agree?

This is amother test of

This is amother test of clogging by phone.

More website antics

Bumped into Nick Thiel in the post office. I hadnt seen him for ages so we decided to go for a run with the dogs, just 3 miles or so along the TRT. As we got to talking I explained that I'd been doing some SEO work for a friend and I said I'd show him my how to do that on a website he is working on: A - Z Fine Art Insurance. So, after Nick and Laura divided their dinner 3 ways, we sat down to work it through.

Pretty good fun I thought until at the end Nick said it was pretty unrewarding work! Funny, I really like doing it. I explained it is like planting carrots and waiting for them to grow. We did the planting tonight and now we need to wait a few weeks for those carrots.

On the way home I left Nick's house in my shorts only to find my car covered in 2 inches of snow. It's a bit hard to imagine that in a week I may be sleeping out in weather like this without a tent - just with a bivi bag. I hope it turns out to be warm enough!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

PCT shopping

I hate to think of how much i am spending to save a few ounces.

Today's equation looked a bit like this:

Sleeping bag
- old down bag (still excellent condition) - 3.5lbs
- new down bag - 1lb 9oz ($300)

- old Macpac (also excellent) - 5.5lbs
- new Gregory Advent pro - 2lb 14oz

The guys in the Sporting Rage are brilliant. On my first visit I just checked everything out and made a list. In the interim I went to the REI because I had a gift voucher for there. I couldn't believe how poorly stocked the REI store was. None of the main ultralite stuff I wanted was in stock, not the rucksack, not the sleeping bag, nor the rain coat and not even the PCT books I need. The staff were helpful but I couldnt wait for the store to order it all in. By contrast the Sporting Rage had all of the top quality stuff I was looking for - the right pack, with some good alternatives; the right sleeping bag and best of all, great advice from people who know their stuff. I took my old sleeping bag in there and they said it was great and I should use it, until I told them I was doing a 2,000 mile trek and then they admitted that saving over 1lb on the new bag was probably worth it.

I then tried to buy some Tyvex at Home Despot but I could only buy 165ft of it and I needed 6ft to make a groundsheet from. It's great stuff - the guys told me to go to a building site and ask for some. So tomorrow i need to look for a building site!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Going for a run - doing the Pacific Crest Trail

My plans have changed now and I'm going to go for a run so say goodbye to the Sierras.

Hemingway said something about cycling which really resounds with me...

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

Enthusiastic cyclists are a bit miffed by the quote since apparently, Hemingway wasn't much of a cyclist and yet still managed to capture something of its essence.

I feel a bit the same about running the Sierras, what better way could there be of really getting a feel for the place. I'm sure John Muir would approve.

So right now I am frantically deciding what to take on a 2,000 mile run. I have some fine hiking gear already but I'm irritated to note that the modern stuff is lighter. Saving a lb here and there is, sadly, going to be worth it. Today I spent $130 buying trekking poles that are 9 oz lighter than my existing ones. Although this spending goes against the grain I can see that each lb, even, each oz, is worth shedding if at all possible. I'm not even planning to take a tent, just a bivi bag, nor a stove.

Reading up on lightweight trail food I bought some samples today of the kind of thing you buy from the bulk containers in Wild Oats. The humous was really good - just add cold water. The tabouli wasnt so nice. I have another 4 or 5 different things to try yet, and for breakfast I'll try oatmeal with cranberries for breakfast (with water).

I fancy doing ALL of the PCT (2,660 miles) but have made contact with some people who have already started the trail so might try to join them. I'm going to hate to miss the start but I think trail companions are the best safety feature you could wish for. It does, however, seem likely that I'll end up doing a lot of it on my own. I hope I get used to sleeping in a bag first though. I'm going to hate the thought of waking up with a bear licking my face.

New phone! number 775 309 3353

As you may notice from the blog entry below, I have a new phone. You can see that I can also blog directly from the phone itself - clever eh?

My phone number is 775 309 3353.

It's a pretty groovy phone with a 2 mega pixel camera and is ruggedized - it even has a bumper to protect it if you drop it. It's even waterproof!


This is my first Blog entry sent from my new phone.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Selling up :-(

Very sad to be selling my lovely 2001 Chevy Tracker 4WD. It's the sort of thing you'd like to sell to a friend.

I'm also selling or giving away:
- rice cooker
- deep fat fryer (used twice!)
- hair clippers
- lava lamp!

It's really not much fun to be leaving Tahoe, I do love it here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

beach party / leaving do

We had a great time on the beach yesterday, playing volleyball and hanging out. I'll post a few pictures later. I don't know why but volleyball on the beach is just a really fun and inclusive game. If anyone were really good it might spoil the fun, but as it is, we all goof up at times, and everyone gets the chance to make a heroic shot sometimes too. It really is fun.

Quite amazing to have left the UK after 2 days solid of rain, to find myself a week later sitting on Nevada beach by lake tahoe with a crowd of fun people. We even went for a swim but it was pretty cold in there, low 50s I should think.