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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Photos from my Pacific Crest Trail Hike (2007)

I've spent most of the day trying to get some photos from my camera to my website. This entry will be a slideshow from my entire trip (I hope). I will try to add captions if I have time, until then, make something up in your mind and spread it like gossip - it could be a lot of fun!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

About that 'sun tan' - sunday 22nd

For some reason i decided to try hiking barefoot a couple of days ago. i have not had much chance to wash since then but we found frog lake this afternoon and jumped in. very nice to be clean.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blue Lakes Fiasco

I'm really sorry we didn't make it to Blue Lakes campground at a respectable time. It was quite a day.

Our guidebook just said, "car campground" and we thought that was Blue Lakes. When we got there we were surprised to not be at Blue Lakes at all but another car campground not shown on our map, "Sunrise Lake" beyond Tamarac Lake. When we checked Blue Lakes was another 3.7 miles away. It was 18:30 when I got to Sunrise Lake. I didn't manage to get to the Blue Lakes Road until 19:58 and didn't get Sienna's note until 15 minutes later after running down the hill.

It was a long day. I did about 27 miles that day and we anticipated doing 20. About 4 miles of mine was doubling back for various reasons. The last time was when we reached Blue Lakes Rd and realized there was no water ahead for 5 miles and the nearest behind was 1 mile back. We had previously run out of water during the day - the first time on the whole trip for me. We were a little disappointed to go to bed without meeting you guys and tucking in to those burgers and ice cream.

So sorry to have put you out driving up that far only to miss you. I look forward to seeing some of you in Lake Tahoe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pictures of Carl in Yosemite!

read below

ok I've added a few more entries for 10th July to 13th July.

We're off to hitch out of Bridgeport now (a little late).

I got myself weighed today and have gained 6lbs - 176 now. Pretty good. Have loads of food in the pack too.

Sonora Pass - Bridgeport pit stop - 560 miles to here

We reached Sonora Pass last night and camped at a breezy spot up there. We had the offer of a ride at 4am and 10am but decided to split the difference and take our chances hitching. After an hour we saw our first car. A pick-up. I think we smiled so much at having seen a car that the guy couldn't refuse to let us jump in the back with his fishing tackle and get thrown about in the back as we wiggled down Sonora Pass. It's a tricky road, emphasized by the jack-knifed semi (lorry) we saw halfway up.

We got to Bridgeport for about 9am. We've now done washing, got somewhere to stay and have had breakfast and lunch. No coke yet but lots of tea and a Newcastle Brown Ale.

I have had a look at how the next few days might pan out. If anyone would like to come hiking for a day or two, please feel free. We rarely stick exactly to plan but this should give you a rough idea where we'll be. If you are trying to find us, it might help to know that I am wearing size 12 montrail hardrock shoes - quite a distinctive track! My phone works rarely but might be worth a try 775 309 3353. In any event, worth chatting to Sienna since she'll best know how to find me I think.

Thursday: Plan ~15 miles (perhaps a bit less) to Boulder Creek (mile 1032.3)
Friday: Plan ~17 miles to Highway 4 Ebbert's Pass (mile 1049.9)
Saturday: Plan ~15 miles to "car camping site" up Blue Lakes Rd (mile 1064.9)
Sunday: Plan ~15 miles to Carson Pass (mile 1078.7)
Monday: Plan ~15 miles to Highway 50 (hitchhike to South Lake Tahoe) (mile 1093)

It's odd to be in town. I guess I had better go and try to buy some trail food for the next few days.

I called GE earlier to see if they would extend my relocation package end date so I have a chance of getting to canada. It won't cost anything different but rules are rules I suppose. It seems unlikely but if anyone is able to twist the arm of a senior GE manager I'm sure all things are possible :-)

Anyhow, everything is ok. My toe seems to be better. The long shirt and pants work well against the mosquitoes and the permetherin seems to do the trick too. Biting insects are still a pain but nothing like as bad as they have been.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Heading for civilization (well Bridgeport anyway)

We got going at a reasonable time and pretty soon Tom appeared. I hadn't seen him for about 300 miles or more and he looked great. Berta was close behind him too, steaming along and looking pretty funny with her dirty white hat and long socks. She could almost have been English not Canadian.

Tumbleweed and Tom met for the first time this morning, having both hiked 1,000 miles. Tom said, "Hi" and continued. Tom doesn't seem to say much even after 1,000 miles.

Berta and Tom were racing to South Lake Tahoe to get to the post office by noon on Saturday so they were really hauling. We let them go (unfortunately).

We had a really nice hike today. The landscape changed and turned volcanic. Sonora turned out to be a dramatic if extremely breezy ridge to Sonora Pass. Basil and Bull took a different route to go to Reno to eat Sushi (which seemed very crazy to me, especially since I know the roads between here and Reno). Tumbleweed and Happyfeet were heading for the other Kennady Meadows, which was a hitchhike in the other direction from Bridgeport but we were to camp with them for one more night anyway.

All of my food is gone now apart from Oatmeal - that never seems to run out. I had some Chi left too. The waist belt on my pack is now so loose it worries me a bit but I feel ok.

Tumbleweed was having a little trouble with his feet today and I felt great. I spent an hour trying to think how to offer to carry something from his pack for him but in the end I couldn't think how to persuade him. When I asked he just refused. We chatted for a while though and he told me some of his PRs - 2:49 for a marathon and 6 hours for a 50 miler. He's quite a runner.

Tomorrow we hitch-hike to bridgeport for breakfast and to resupply.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sienna is a super star!

This is not really a secret but Sienna really is being a total star. I don't think I could be on this trail without her behind the scenes efforts. She has organized guys at work to come and get me off the trail should anything crop up back home. I reckon she could have me on a plane back to the UK within 48 hours if necessary which is pretty impressive given how remote I've been. She has dealt with my family when things did crop up back home. Bought me some new shoes - her husband Scott was right all along, Montrail Hard Rocks have proved to be really great on this hike.

On thursday Sienna managed to juggle leading a work trip in Yosemite of about 15 people; leading a short hike to Soda Springs; getting the kids to Junior Ranger training, meeting me at Tuolumne Meadows (near the food!) without my phone working and organize camping for the night the other side of Yosemite. It was really great to see her and all the folks from GE. Some of the kids were especially funny.

She also bought me some stuff from my lock-up garage and some excellent treats from Trader Joes including a bag of apples (1.5lbs - ate the first day we hiked off); 2 salads (cranberry one was awesome); Guava roll-ups (3 packets); Chocolate covered sunflower seeds (finishing them up really cheered Basil up when he was having a tough moment with his poorly foot and was feeling a bit down. He got to the top of a pass and said all he was thinking about were those chocolate sunflower seeds!); Chai Tea (which we cooked up one day as we swam in a lovely pool) and Trail Bars. I arrived at town in Bridgeport with just Oatmeal and a tiny bit of Chai tea left. I have been eating much better but the waist on my rucksack has now run out of adjustment so I have maybe lost a bit more weight.



Basil cried out in the night

Basil cried out, "What's That!" in the night. Instantly we were all awake. Basil says flashlights popped on like porch lights. Between us we had seen a handful of bears yesterday so I think we were more alert than we thought. I don't think I have ever seen a group of people wake up quite so quickly, well, instantly.

Deers were wandering about our camp but something like a chipmunk had jumped onto Basil's pack and caused some alarm. The next day, and for as long as we could sustain it, we joked that Basil was attacked by a Bunny Rabbit in the night (though we have not, in reality, seen any bunny rabbits).

The incident ended with Bull saying, "Hey Basil, you can come in my tent and snuggle if you like" (a reference to a phrase heard one steamy night in Kennady Meadows where the tent walls seemed to provide some illusion of sound proofing to a number of people that night).

I have felt a bit tired today, which is probably food related. The food is running a bit low but it's according to plan and when it's low the pack is lighter, which is handy. We certainly are starting to look forward to a quick stop in Bridgeport for a feed, though I think hitching from Sonora Pass is going to be very tricky.

Towards the end of the day I came upon a beautiful high lake called Dorothy Lake. As I approached it I could see a small spot of sandy beach and resolved to get myself a bath before camping for the night. It took some will to throw myself in but it was rather nice to get that clean. I don't mind feeling dirty too much but when my whole body gets sticky, with I guess a mixture of DEET and sweat, it isn't a whole lot of fun. Nice to skinny dip in a high lake too, kinda natural feeling!

We finally left Yosemite to some celebration. Bear canisters are only mandated in Yosemite ($150 fine) and everyone is looking forward to posting the awkward and heavy things home. Mind you, some nights I have wished I had one when I couldn't find a decent branch to hang my food bag from.

We finally got to the 1,000 mile mark on the trail (550 miles for me) and camped there to some other celebrations. Congratulations to Amtrak, Basil, Bull, Tumbleweed and Happy Feet. It was nice to camp in a big group again with Heather, and me in addition to the 1,000 milers.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Carl in Tuolumne

On Thursday July 12 I met up with Carl in Tuolumne meadows, a section of Yosemite National Park known for its high alpine meadows and stunning mountain views. Finding Carl was surprisingly easy, I went where the food was. The first thing that struck me when I saw Carl was how clean he looked. I know that he had spent a couple of days in Mammoth with access to food and a shower, but he still spent the last two nights on the trail. The second thing that I noticed about Carl was how tan he looked. If it were not for him taking off his socks, you would have never thought that he was from the UK. The last thing about Carl that surprised me was how healthy he looked. I had read that he had lost 10 pounds on the trail, and to be honest I really felt that he should not be loosing that much weight. Whether he has lost that much weight or not, he looked great. He seemed happy, calm, and focused. His world has definitely become the trail, and there is an amazing bond that Carl has formed with his friends that he has met on the PCT.
Carl spent Thursday night with the group I was with, camping on the western side of the park. I had purchased a bunch of food prior to heading down to Yosemite, and gave him as much food as he could eat. The next morning we dropped him off at Crane flat where he continued on. He is planning on stopping off at Bridgeport, and then from there he will be heading towards the area of the Sierra that is home for many of his friends. I am guesstimating that Carl should reach the Tahoe basin by next weekend, or a few days passed. If anyone is planning on hiking any of the sections of the PCT with Carl, from Sonora pass to north of Tahoe, now would be the time to start dusting off your hiking boots and filling up your water bottles.

Life on the trail

This sort of thing was floating about in my head today. Trying to find words to describe what life is like around here and not really doing a very good job of it. Perhaps I will try to make this into a poem one day.

Walking is the rhythm of our day.
Nature provides the beauty (and the beasts).
From one pass to the next life in the canyons changes.
Even the crude observer can't fail to notice the numerous different eco-systems they pass through,
as they are struck by a new flower, mammal, or, most recently a snake in a lake.
One canyon has ferns, one of the oldest plants on the planet, and the next, none.
At one moment fly fishermen are unable to pull anything from a stream but golden trout, (searching instead of a rainbow to eat)
at the next, fishermen look at us agog when we talk of the now seemingly mythical golden trout.

The number of miles achieved is an important milestone for many, especially with 1,000 coming up for most.
I cannot connect with the number of miles hiked - it seems so abstract and meaningless.
The number of miles seems as irrelevant to the hike as the page numbers are to the story in a good book.
For me, the more miles, the closer we are to journey's end.
This feels like reading The Lord of the Rings and realizing that this wonderful story will end sometime and I shall miss it.
So it is with this hike.

Living in Nature and camping wherever we like, with everything on our backs,
careful to leave no trace - well, it all feels shockingly normal.
Going to town seems noisy and awkward and stressful.

It surprises me that people out here are a delight.
Trail companions enrich the day.
Shared troubles, even with biting insects, seem lessened,
ad delights, such as swimming holes, are greatly magnified.

People we meet along the way are a primary source of news and entertainment.
News of other people on the trail, ahead and behind, is always of interest,
to learn of the progress of friends you have met, and to see if you will them again, is fun.
Other hikers also give us news of the outside world, which seems a little abstract but makes a good story.
It is striking to notice that this is how news used to travel and to learn something of the reliability of these old ways.
Of the most interest of all are the people themselves, conversation and their story.
We often travel low miles because we like to talk with people, sometimes for hours.

A difficult day? Not so much - an absolute hoot! Met a bigger runner than Catra!!!

Basil and Bull had stuck their noses into the guidebook early and warned that it would be a difficult day starting with a big climb and then with more climbing to follow. HOWEVER, at the end of the first climb we found the swimming lake promised in the guidebook - wind protected, clean, clear, warm and with a rock about 8ft from the lake which you could jump off.

When I arrived Bull and Basil were sitting on this 8ft bolder staring into the water, trying to decide if it was deep enough to dive in to. I arrived and took off all my clothes and climbed in to much abuse from B&B for not using the diving route, which, after 45 minutes of looking at it they still had not dared to try. Amid the abuse they asked me to swim under the rock to see if it were deep enough. It turns out it was very deep, though did look shallow from above. Only after my checking for them did they dive in but the abuse from my not using the diving platform did not abate for some hours.

Pretty soon Heather showed up so Basil did the only reasonable thing, for an infant, and ran off with my shorts. I eventually retrieved them in my, just more than a fig leaf sized towel. Nudity when you are really dirty and sticky seems to be much less of an issue out here but Heather is quite religious and I thought she might be offended. I could clobber Basil sometimes.

Anyway, we did have an AWESOME time at the swimming hole. Amtrak and Heather and Happy Feet and Tumbleweed eventually showed up and some Southbound (SoBo) JMT hikers joined us too (Corn Dawg and Spork). We helped Corn Dawg with her feet since she was having a bit of blistering trouble and Happy Feet did some work on Basil's feet, since she is into Reflexology. Interestingly Basil never complained about his feet after this so perhaps she did fix them.

We decided Heather should be called The Navigator since she knew the area so well and was always pretty handy with knowing where she was on the map, much better than the rest of us.

It seems hard to believe but I met a bigger runner than Catra. Tumbleweed has a life time achievement of 60,000 running miles and, like Catra has run a number of 100 mile races (10 of them to Catra's 49). Pretty impressive. At the age of 66 he has had to retire from running so went for a 2,600 mile hike instead. Tumbleweed is a very typical long distance runner, interesting, tough as nails and modest. He told me he used to run 26 miles before work and 20 after work every day. He was not boasting, more just explaining how it was. Great people and he has the same birthday as me too.

Heather saw a Mummy bear and 2 cubs today. At first she thought there was only one cub and then heard a noise only to realize she was between Mum and cub. She hurried onwards out of the way but later observed that animals in Yosemite are weird. They are very used to people and so don't behave normally at all. Mum bear wasn't aggressive towards her or apparently worried about the cub, which is very odd. We see deer behaving oddly too. They come very close to us without fear.

Happy Feet also saw a big ol' bear today. An almost blonde one on the other side of a lake. She is so good at spotting them I thought I would hike with them for a while but I was a bit too different in my pace to make it work. Amtrak was waiting ahead at one point and was sitting by a river as a large sauntered past him, not noticing him, to get a drink. Yes, there are lots of bears around here.

We found a decent campsite for the night, big and flat, but low down, near a river and undergrowth so there were some biting insects out, though they were not too bad.

Lots of us camped together, Heather, me, Happy Feet and Tumbleweed, Amtrak and Basil.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Heading North from Tuolumne

Late start. Amtrak and I led off and left the rest camping. We waited up for the others as we chatted to a hiker called Brian.

We eventually caught up the delightful Happy Feet and Tumbleweed at a lake (they had just got dressed following some skinny dipping so we timed it well). It got a bit cloudy and cold so there was not a huge incentive to swim but Bull and I waded in. A ranger came by whilst we were at the 'beach'. She quickly identified us as thru hikers (perhaps the smell) and immediately imparted a couple of bits of information to us. Firstly that she was married ??! And secondly that she had a gun.

We showed our permits and then concocted some unlikely stories for why we were 2 bear canisters short on our hike north. Bull's story, made up on the spot, was the most incredulous. He just said Happy Feet and Tumbleweed has all his food. Well, they are a couple and Bull is about 6ft 5 and 270lbs! I'm sure they couldn't carry enough food for him but the ranger has to catch you up to no good (ie hanging food from a tree or sleeping with it before they can fine you).

Anyway, a nice time at the beach. We had one pass to do and so pushed on. Towards the end of the day our guidebook implied a nice stroll around a lakeside which turned out to be a hideous rocky steep scramble up and then down for a couple of miles only to find very average camping spots in the dark. By the time we got there Basil was ahead and I was with him but Amtrak and Bull were nowhere to be seen so I assumed they camped earlier - in the end they arrived.

Bull offered to run back to the stream to get some water but came back empty handed because something big with white eyes was taking a drink from the water. I half expected a fun evening and diligently set about assembling a pile of munitions (rocks) outside my tent just in case of bear encounter before climbing into my tent with my bear spear (trekking pole). I had hung my food up reasonably well but realized that if a bear cub was sent up to get it I probably wouldn't know until morning. I resolved to buy a bear bell to tie to my food sack.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ogden Meadows campground - hitchhike - Tuolumne North (beautiful) - 15 miles

There was lots of commotion at the camp ground during the wee hours of the morning and I head some snorting around the tent. My beer addled brain prevented me from finding my torch, which was tricky! Eventually the amount of noise from people banging this and that calmed things and sent off any bears I'm sure. In the morning my buddies had heard no sound of bears and just thought noisy people left the campsite early. I am not so sure.

Sienna and the guys dropped me off at Crane Flat's gas station where I hitched a ride back to Tuolumne. It took me 4 minutes to get a ride and the couple who picked me up were super nice. His father is really into the PCT and is a bit of a trail angel. After the long drive back to Tuolumne who should I see at the store but bearded Basil and Bull and a young lady called Heather who they'd bumped in to. Amtrak had already left. We decided to eat a bit more. I asked for a vegetarian breakfast at the cafe and they recommended the "Welfare Special", which was veggie and ok apart from the name. We also rummaged through the very descent hiker box and got some more food and, wow, even purchased some from the store! After a while we had finished eating (quite a long while) and headed off after Amtrak.

I thought it might be hours before we caught him but we soon found him having a rest. Basil's foot was playing up again today and he was quite worried about it. We had met a Sport's Medicine expert at Tuolumne, a really nice lady, who gave him a bit of advice and thought he might have a stress fracture. I have learned that as little as a sore toenail can make you walk funny and that is a bad scene when you are walking a long way with a pack. Basil had previously had other leg problems from walking funny because of his foot.

On the way north from Tuolumne we came upon a ranger (Aaron Smith) who made a big thing of making sure we could see his gun (I missed it) as he asked to see our bear canisters and permits. This is the first time in 560 miles anyone had asked me for a permit. Well, my permit was ok but I had to think fast about the bear canister. I told him I had camped previously with my support person and would meet her again tomorrow and before that had camped in Agnew Meadows where there is bear storage. I told him I had a list of all the official bear storage lockers and he made me show him it (I could have claimed the 5th amendment (??) I think but I complied). The food storage lockers are sometimes over 50 miles apart so for good measure I told him I was an ultra runner and could do big distances. I was subject to considerable piss taking later from coming up with that, particularly when I met Tumbleweed who has clocked up 60,000 running miles in his life (is he indeed a bigger runner than Catra?!).

We saw some wonderful waterfalls, huge and thunderous, and then beautiful high meadows, on the way to Glen Aulin camp ground. What a nice spot. We had a chat with the staff there, one guy was quite a character and was really in to strategy games. After some chat he gave us some free lemonade but we were unable to yogi dinner. Instead we pushed on.

We camped in a bad bear spot. My bear hang was ok but not perfect. I have taken to pitching my tent where I can still see the hang but when it's dark I can't really see it.

We camped near a rushing stream, not great for hearing bears in the night, and quite and obvious and well-used campsite. Bears love well-used campsites and work their routine around such.

Was pleased to wake up in the morning and still have some food left.

It was odd to camp with so many people too. Bull, Basil, Amtrak and I camped up high and Tumbleweed and Happyfeet (a lovely couple) and Heather camped low down, along with another guy out for a few days hiking. No bears at all though and no rangers caught us hanging food.

Basil went to get a sponge bath by a creek and came back clean and was eager to tell everyone how clean he felt so we would all feel the more dirty and sticky. By now it was too cold to go and get a wash so I invented a song for him instead, entitled, "Hey Sticky", based on the 80s classic 'Hey Mickey'. It went something like,

Hey Sticky you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind
Hey Sticky!
Hey Sticky!


Trail today was so beautiful it was reason enough to hike. Nice to see new flowers with each slight transition north. We met some fishermen and told them of Golden Trout we had seen being csught further south. They hardly believed us. Everything seems to exist in small eco systems. How fragile they seem. It's a thrill to suddenly see a new flower or new mammal you have not come across for hundreds of miles, as you walk north. I distinctly remember seeing my first ferns after going over many passes and through many canyons, then suddenly, one canyon has ferns. Sometimes you see a flower that is very distinctive, that you are certain you have not seen before, which only seems to grow on one side of a particular mountain and doesn't appear anywhere in hundreds of miles before or after this spot.

The food Sienna got me was great, particularly the spinach salad with mushrooms, almonds and cranberries; and those guava fruit things we're great. Awesome - how will I ever repay her.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Donaghue Pass - 12 miles to meet Sienna and co

Headed out from Donaghue Pass at 6am. Early start to catch up with Sienna. After an hour of descending we had a bit of breakfast and then I split with Amtrak and ran ahead. I hiked with Lotto a bit but as the trail got easy enough to run, I took off. It was delightful for a while but I was soon too tired to do anything but fast walk, dig in the poles and grit the teeth.

On the way down I chatted to a scout leader who told me a bear cub had got the food they had hung that night. This was all a bit silly since the bear hang was very poor and they also had bear canisters. I had followed bear cub prints for a while so I wasnt surprised to hear the stories. I could also see someone ahead had been hiking barefoot - which also turned out to be a scout leader. There is a $150 fine for hanging food in Yosemite now so leaving it in the tree is particularly dim.

I reached Tuolumne about 10:50 but then realized it was very spread out. After going about a mile the wrong way (top the lodge) I got the bus back to the store. Nobody there. I got another bus to the visitor centre (not there) and another bus back to the store. I finally found them all. I saw the TSR stricker on Sienna's car reflected in the window of the bus and jumped off. I then saw Chris and Rich and their motorbikes and the others from GE - Carole, Barbera, Stephan and his family, Steven and his family and the rest. Really nice to see them all again.

We did a little walk to soda springs where I tasted the "naturally carbonated" water (unadvised by sign posts). It tasted like Iron and not very fizzy. I then headed back to the Store for more food and to sit around chatting with Amtrak. Sienna and the crowd went off for Junior Ranger training before we met up sometime after 4 and headed for the campsite some 45 minutes across the other side of Yosemite.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone to Verizon after a girl working in a cafe told me she had her Verizon phone switched to analogue and it worked there. My phone, it turns out, should automatically switch to analogue if a signal is available but, it doesn't. My phone has been pretty hopeless the whole trip. Cingular is the service to get for the PCT!!!

Camping was GREAT, although the park service campsite was awfully hilly (we'd never camp somewhere like that in the wilderness!). What was GREAT was seeing everyone, having a couple of beers and eating the salad and other stuff Sienna had bought for me.

We sat together to eat, at a long table and the guys asked me lots of questions about the trip and all kinds of chatting.

At 10am a ranger came by to check our food storage. Unusual. Someone asked, "are you expecting bears?" he said, "they are already here!".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Leaving Agnew Meadows - 15 miles or so into Yosemite

It rained in the night for the first time and the tent stayed waterproof.

For some reason I had a bit of a late start. I wanted to let the tent dry out a bit but that's not a very good excuse for leaving at 9.30 especially when I was trying to catch Amtrak.

As I slogged along the PCT I met a very nice lady called Jenny coming towards me. She was out for several days hiking and had done some tricky descent of some big mountain yesterday. She is doing a PhD in Sustainability and Complexity at Berkeley University. We sat and chatted for a while and went our separate ways, which was a shame, I think we could have talked for hours. I would really like to work in Sustainability!

I met a few guys doing trail maintenance work. One of them, sitting apart from the others after digging a different bit of trail, turned out to be a former teacher and told me this paid much better. Hard to believe. He was a nice bloke (Chris). I asked what he did in the winter and he told me he's finishing his masters in French. I asked a bit more about it and he told me a whole lot about the evolution of the French language, the french revolution and all about french culture. You don't meet many American's who know very much about France so it was a bit of a surprise to learn about the French Revolution from someone digging holes in the trail. I think he should work for the government in a different capacity, though he liked working outdoors. I really like meeting people on the trail - there are so many interesting stories and things to learn out here.

As the JMT and PCT converged I found Amtrak taking a rest in some rocks near Thousand Island Lakes. We had some lunch and chatted and headed towards Donahue Pass which seemed a long way away and a lot of climbing for so late in the day. Everyone we met heading the other way seemed to confirm that it was a long way still.

We finally plodded up the pass, me in attack mode getting ahead (I like to attack climbs for some reason). There was a nice lake at the top where we could have camped but I thought we could find another in about a mile. It turned out I was wrong and there wasn't much camping for a couple of miles and further down (where bears infamously lurked). So, we found a couple of small slots between some rocks and camped. I was surprised to be able to get my tent up in such a small space but was pleased to. It's somehow more comforting than cowboy camping to have a silnylon barrier between me and the bears/bugs. Stealth camping in unlikely high spots seems to may bear encounters less likely and seems to have worked well so far. My food hang tonight was unimpressive - no big trees.

We planned an early start for tomorrow because I had 13 miles to go before meeting Sienna at 11am.

devil s post pile

Escaped the town vortex and am back on the trail now. this is devil's post pile. just off to catch amtrak.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Leaving Mammoth (7.5 miles) and Devil's Postpile

Bull kindly gave me a lift up to Mammoth so I could get the Bus back to Red's Meadow. As he dropped me off I spotted Bastian (aka Free Refill) and introduced him to Bull and Basil. B&B were planning another zero day in Mammoth due to the looming rain clouds.

I just had time to tell Bastian about the top secret unmarked BMWs we saw at our hotel car park which were being test driven around Death Valley. Being German he was of course extremely interested.

Amtrak got going at 14:30 today and I was a bit late by the time I had posted off my job application to Cooper. I guess I was at least an hour behind him but figured I would catch him up though I wasn't sure which route he would take. The PCT and JMT diverge ahead and the JMT is nicer apparently, though I figured Amtrak for more of a purist and headed out on the PCT (I was to find out I was wrong about that as I soon learned from the lack of his footprints ahead).

When I got back to Red's Meadow I was pleased to see The Champ (Carter) again and his new buddy Lotto. I chatted a bit and then headed out. They had planned to only do 6 more miles tonight and I wanted to do a few more. The Champ was extremely dirty and yet turned down the free showers, fed by hot springs, only a half mile away. We saw him again in Tuolumne Meadows looking even more dirty, some days later.

When I saw the Devil's Post Pile I was staggered and took loads of photos and walked over the top and around it taking lots of photos. The rock structure is one of the oddest I have ever seen. I could have spent longer there just looking at it. It was raining, just a little though, and I struggled to find the trail but was eventually on my way. This is the first time it has rained the whole trip - the local fire fighters must be a bit relieved.

After an easy 7 mile hike I arrived at a proper campsite, Agnew Meadows, with bear lockers and paid the $18 for my pitch. Quite expensive but nobody about to share it with.

By now I had figured that Amtrak must've gone on the JMT so I would perhaps catch him as the two trails converged 10 miles ahead.

All in all I was pleased to have escaped the town vortex with my chores done and having had a good go at applying for a job at Cooper. My work was all pencil and paper and looked a bit scrappy so I don't hold out a lot of hope.

Very nice to now have long trousers and shirt all soaked in Permetherin. I haven't needed any DEET at all today so perhaps it is working or perhaps this is a low mosquito area. It's hard to say which.

Mammoth - 7/7 - 10/7

We eventually got to Mammoth and found a nice bakery and then, after some hassle, found a really neat hotel. The manager had done the John Muir Trail a couple of times and gave us a good price for 3 sharing ($90) - place was called the Sierra Lodge.

We first went shopping. I bought some long pants and a shirt and a better mosquito net. We have also covered it all in Permetherin so we'll see how that works out.

I have some topical antibiotic for my toe (bit dodgey where the nail hits the skin) and some epsom salts.

We watched the new Die Hard movie on Sunday (which was great) and then Transformers yesterday (crap I thought).

I spent the whole day yesterday in the library working on a job application for a job at Cooper in San Francisco.

Unfortunately I cant get the photos off my camera for various reasons (a right pain) so the new ones are from my phone.

If you scroll down and also click on June 2007 you will see I have added a few more entries to the blog.

I am now super late and need to catch the others on the trail. More soon!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Getting lost and then getting to Red's Meadow

We started at 4.30am today to get to Red's Meadow at a reasonable time and to make Basil feel better about us doing such low mileage the day before.

We hauled early on since the mosquitoes were not fun. Coming upon a very confusing signpost I waited for Amtrak, though Basil had pushed on. The sign said "Red's Meadow" which was where we were heading but it was the wrong route to Red's Meadow. I waited an hour for Amtrak in Mosquito hell. I left my pack at the intersection but it turns out that Amtrak walked past it thinking I was "digging a hole".

So, worried about Amtrak I ran back up the trail about a mile but couldn't find him. Eventually I saw his prints heading down and followed them. He'd gone the wrong way. At this point Basil had gone the right way. I followed Basil and left a note for Amtrak (hoping I had read his footprints right and he wasn't laying in a pool of blood somewhere). It transpired that Basil climbed a lot on the right route and then lost the path. As he got onto the wrong path he descended, eventually coming face to face with Amtrak coming the other way. Very confused they ended up taking the low route.

I on the other hand had lost an hour so I ran, along the PCT, to try and catch Basil. Oddly, nobody in front had seem him (he is easy to describe!).

I ended up doing about 22 miles on the day and Basil and Amtrak did nearer 30 miles. I chatted to a lot of folks along the way, and for about an hour to a great scottish bloke called Norrie who is a mental health nurse from Edinburgh and was especially proud of his wood stove (I must check those out - nice to not have to carry fuel. He told me to check out backpacklight.co.uk).

I finally made it to the Red's Meadow diner. I told the lady there that I was dying for a coke. 20 minutes later it arrived (I could have died). But a tuna melt and 4 more cokes later and I was alright. As I waddled to the shop a voice behind said, "sure looks like a through hiker" and I turned to see Lune and Swam who had decided to do this section in reverse and were heading south.

Basil eventually showed up and a lady I talked to pointed him to a note I left on a log. About an hour later I ran back to the Store to look for Amtrak and was relieved to see him looking well and he had even managed to get some food a couple of hours after the store was supposed to shut.

We eventually organized a lovely campsite with natural hot spring fed showers and excellent bear lockers and clean toilets. Our neighbour came out of their RV to give us a huge pile of muffins and half a melon. Sweet. We had quite a feast.

Turned out that Red's Meadow has cell phone service so I spoke to Sienna for the first time in weeks.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Left VVR late - only about 12 miles for the day!

We left VVR late. The ferry guys eventually got us across the lake and we walked the 1.4 miles back to the PCT. There we say for several hours talking with a nice couple, John and Linda. He worked in the Power and Utilities business especially in the trading side of things.

We camped just beyond Silver Pass, only about 12 miles for the day. Basil wasnt too happy about it but the 9 beers he had the day before hadn't helped either. I think though, that Basil needs to move a bit faster so we may split the 'team' as we head out of Mammoth. That's ok the trail seems to be like that.

We camped in quite strong wind and I had to storm lash my tent to keep it up (Basil and Amtrak cowboy camped as usual, though Basil was bothered by mosquitoes in the night). I was glad to be in a tent.

Our water source for the evening wasnt very good (a lake) and clearly had little red bugs swimming around in it. I think putting them in my hummous killed them (I hope so). Not very appetizing.

Hiked 420 - taking a break for the night

Hi All,

Not much time to write. I am at mile 877 and have hopped on the ferry to the Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) for the night and for some food. It seems I have lost 10lbs (and not from my pack). In a couple of days i will make it to Mammoth (for Sunday morning).

I have now managed to hike over 420 miles. Everything is great. Catra and I went our seperate ways after the desert. I've hiked with a few people since. My current buddies are Amtrak and Basil and they are a lot of fun. Yesterday was my best day on the trail. We made a big breakfast from the hiker box at Muir Trail Ranch and then waded 40ft across a river to find hot springs. I had my first wash in more than 8 days and that felt great. We also managed a swim across a nearby lake. Neat to sit and relax, clean, in the mountains.

Mosquitoes are starting to be a complete pain. I shall buy some long trousers in Mammoth. They are really not much fun at times. Though, travelling with others the difficulties seem lessened through sharing and the good times are multiplied.

I had to stretch out my food for the last 150 miles but now have a resupply box and have eaten most of it already! I resupply in another couple of days in Mammoth so I can keep eating for a while.

We sleep outside tonight. We get a decent breakfast tomorrow and then get back to the trail by 10am and need to get just 15 miles in (and one pass). We were dismayed to learn of the heatwave due to hit over the next few days. Apparently it will be 106 at the weekend near here. We hoped to have left the heat in the desert.

It is very sad to hear of the fire near Lake Tahoe (thanks for the info Scott). We have hiked through a lot of burned forest and they burned many many years ago and havent regenerated at all. I hope Tahoe is actively managed back to health.

I think I will be near Tahoe before my Birthday, around 20th July perhaps.

More from Mammoth in a couple of days.

PS One more Black Butte Porter to get through (and share).

PPS Still not had any phone service. It has been a few weeks now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mosquitoes - a good reason to quit

I sometimes wonder about giving this up and watching a documentary about someone else doing the trip, sitting there with some cold coke, salad, ice cream and chips and salsa.

The bastards were even biting us this morning. This is the worse yet. Normally we'd figured out that the mosquitoes were worst in the evening but today it started early.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hot Springs and John Muir Ranch - My best day on the trail

We got up early and were hiking by 6am. By 7am we were at the John Muir Ranch and I got my resupply.

They keep a hiker box there of food and gear left by other hikers. We found some treats in there, Amtrak cooked soup and we ate fish and chicken and the ranch folks gave us a packet of fresh vegetables (I have been craving veggies for some time now). So, we had an awesome and huge Breakfast at a table in the Muir Ranch. When we could eat no more we waddled to the famous hot springs.

We had to ford across a quite tricky stream (next time I will keep my shoes on). This is a dry year but it was still a tricky 50ft of fast flowing water you wouldnt want to fall over into.

Over the other side we looked around for clues to the location of the hot springs and after a while followed a few vague cairns (stone ducks) to a meadow and found a wonderful and clear hotspring. It was blissful to get clean and sit around. Basil soon found the famed lake behind, complete with lilly pads and a log you could swim out to (a whole tree under water in fact). The whole scene was an odd seeming naturist thing in the middle of the wilderness, particularly amusing or fitting due to Basil's extreme hippy look and big old beard - the lake's lilly pads were an odd frill. An amazingly relaxing morning especially after not having had a wash for 9 days and having stretched out my last food resupply for the same duration too.

Mosquitoes were a complete bugger this evening even at high altitude.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

400 miles done now - 20 miles on the day

Hiked with Basil and Amtrak today and did 20 miles. Got 400 done now. Met 2 scottish guys Jim and Jim on top of Muir Pass and chatted for ages. I surprised them by guessing where they were from in Scotland based on their accents. I got one spot on (Aberdeen) and one close (I said Stirling and it was Perth). Had a great chat with them and hung out around the Muir Hut on top of the pass.

Feet now very offensive and it's been a long time since I've had a wash. Somewhat grim.

Cowboy camped myself tonight.

Monday, July 02, 2007

zero passes & Basil appears as if by magic - 15 miles today

We didn't manage a whole pass today but camped near the top of John Muir Pass (1000ft short). Best bear hang yet!

After dark someone shouted over at us. Quite odd to be so far from anywhere and hear someone else. Apparently Basil saw two head torches look at each other. I thought it was a ranger going to give me trouble for my bear hang but Amtrak recognized Basil's voice.

So, Basil came to join us. Great fun.

Amtrak recommended a couple of books to us - "the seven laws of money" and "your money or your life"

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pinchot Pass and Mather Pass

Late start today and lots of chat with other folks on the top of Pinchot Pass. Fun.

I'm surprised we got 16 miles in and managed 2 passes - Pinchot and Mather.

Mosquitoes not so bad today.

Leg muscles getting stiff, especially ITB.