Monday, May 4, 2009
I drove down to Lake Morena, after picking up Freebie, Tomato, and Raw in Portland. After a bit of car trouble on the I-5, we arrived late in the evening on the 23rd and cowboy camped under a tree to avoid the worst of the damp. The next morning, we got a ride down to the border near Campo with Greg "Strider" Hummel, who hiked the PCT in 1978. He told us some entertaining stories about how the trail had changed in the last 2 decades, then sent us on our way after a quick photo shoot at the monument.
Glad to be on the trail after such a long drive, I was fully enjoying every mile of the trail. Rolling, dusty hills with dry scrub and abandoned paraphernalia from the illegal immigrants provide the backdrop while the trail twists around and crosses the local dirt roads of Campo. After a few hours, the trail descends into Hauser Canyon, and at the bottom is a nice shady spot for lunch. Here we met I-Spy, Bootie (still Sarah at this point), and Pockets. I-Spy explained how he had just recently obtained his trail name, after using his monocular to track some illegals.
The hike up the north side of Hauser Canyon is not too steep, but is fairly long and I was fairly low on energy by the end. A few high energy snacks and the last of my water got me through the last stretch before camp, to complete a fun and picturesque 20 miles.
Back at the kick-off party (ADZPCTKO) I settled into a beer or two, and spent the evening chatting with old friends from last year (The Onion, Nitro, Heinz, Duckie, Nano, to name a few) and meeting too many new friends to name. Some people had already been hiking for a week, so we got updates on blisters, water, snow, and the usual trail gossip. Saturday was spent relaxing, eating, and checking out the vendors. Later that evening we got to see the latest installation from Squatch's quadrology, "Walked", as well as the 5-years-in-the-making, yet-to-be-completed first half of "Tell it on the Mountain."
Sunday morning we awoke to frost on the tent (or sleeping bag, in Tomato's case), then packed up ready for the trail. Duckie kindly offered to drive some of our gear to Mt. Laguna, so I gave him my extra food and only had to carry about 11 pounds for the 23 mile section. I opted to keep all of my gear with me in case of any trouble making it there, so technically it wasn't a true "slack-pack" but it certainly was nice. The weather was once again just right for hiking, clearskies but not too hot, and the hiking was brilliant. A few miles before the Mt. Laguna store, we realized it was going to be very tight to make it there before it closed at 5:00. Tomato was having one of his usual ice cream cravings, so he picked up the pace and left us behind. I continued along steadily, and at 4:51 I reached the road junction where it was a half mile walk to the store. I didn't really want anything, but figured an ice cream would be nice, so I switched into a fast walk. A hiker without a pack jogged by me and threw a taunt my way, so for some reason I went into a full sprint and raced him to the store. He beat me, but I still got there with one minute to spare. I had my ice cream while I caught my breath, and spent the next hour loitering on the Mt. Laguna steps as so many hikers have done before me.
As a treat to our thru-hiking friends, Duckie and I rented a cabin to share with Tomato and Freebie. The evening was nice, but we couldn't quite relax as we didn't know where Raw was. Raw had opted to do a complete slack-pack, so Duckie had all of his gear. It was slowly getting darker, colder, and windier. By 7:00 we took a drive around the area to try to find a sign of him, but had no luck. We left messages with campers nearby, and a note on the store message board, but at this point we were actually getting quite worried. Luckily, around 8:00, a truck showed up at our cabin and dropped a very exhausted Raw off. It turns out he had arrived in the area an hour before, but we hadn't been clear on where we were meeting. He eventually got the message from the campers that we were in a cabin, and found us. Now able to relax, we had some pints and helped Raw lighten up his pack a bit.
On Monday we hiked another clear, comfortable temperature day to just North of the Sunrise Trail Head. It was incredibly windy at this point, and finding a sheltered camp site was proving difficult. After getting water at the Sunrise Trail Head, we hiked a few miles further and then found a somewhat-sheltered gully. The wind battered the tent around all night, and I had trouble sleeping until I finally realized I had earplugs with me. This granted me a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and I woke up refreshed and ready for more miles.
On Tuesday morning the wind had calmed down a little bit, but it was still a bit cool. Tomato, who didn't have the comfort of a tent, made a quick getaway. Freebie and I followed shortly after, and we all met up for lunch. Later on in the day we ran into Buddy Jesus at the Pioneer Mail campground, and he advised us to drink water. His actual words were, "If I can give you one piece of advise on the PCT, it's DRINK WATER." With this morsel to chew on, hilarity ensued for many more miles. We arrived at our destination for the day, Scissors Crossing, in mid afternoon. Not ready to settle down yet, Tomato and I caught a ride into Julian where we enjoyed milkshakes and hung out in the library to catch up on email. The proprieter of the local outfitter gave us a ride back to the trail at 5:30, where we met up with Freebie, I-Spy, Bootie, and pockets. Another windy tent set-up, then pass-the-pigs until we couldn't see any more.
Wednesday was going to be my longest day at 24 miles. It was also the crossing of the San Felipe hills, which, although not steep, is a long and dry stretch. The morning was cool, and we got an early start, so we made the Third Gate water cache for an early lunch siesta. A number of other hikers were here, including Buddy Jesus dropping down some more useful knowledge. We stayed for all we could take, then hiked the rest of the way to Barrel Springs where we were soothed to sleep by the resident frogs.
The last day of my hike was a short 10 miles to Warner Springs. The scenery is drastically different in this brief section, featuring oak forests, rolling meadows (replete with cows), and, arguably the most photographed spot on the trail, Eagle Rock. Tomato and I were both very low on food, so the draw of breakfast at the Warner Springs Country Club was very strong. Freebie proved to be a misnomer as he shared the last of his energy bars with us as we caught some extra photos at Eagle Rock, then we moseyed northwards.
Warner Springs Ranch deserves its own paragraph. A clean, well provisioned resort, they drop all pretense of standards and actually welcome hikers to soil their establishment. Deep discounts and friendly staff get you in the door, and 105 degree hot springs keep you there. We made full use of the amenities, spending countless hours floating around in the hot and slightly-less-hot pools. Although the hiking was incredible, Warner Springs was the icing on the cake for this trip.
Thursday night our gang crammed into my car and we went up to a Mexican Restaurant in the metropolis that is Sunrise Summit. Good food, good drink, and a well aged Christmas Tree mixed with new and old friends made for a fun evening. Another dip in the springs that night, and I started to feel the sadness as I knew all my friends would be resuming their hike northbound in the morning, and all I had to look forward to was a 1000 mile drive. Friday morning we took our time getting up, and had a leisurely breakfast at the golf club. I drove a few folks the 8 miles to the nearest grocery store for a resupply (the Warner Springs gas station isn't bad in a pinch) and then said my goodbyes. I was very jealous, and sad to part with everyone, but was also missing home.
The drive home was pretty uneventful. I drove to just south of Redding on the Friday evening, then got up early and drove the next 800 miles to make it to the ferry by 7:00pm. I just caught the 7, and was home by a little after 9:00 to an empty house. My fiancee went out for the evening as she wasn't expecting me to be home until after 11, whoops!
(Note: I had originally started to blog this hike from my Blackberry on the trail, but really didn't enjoy the experience. I've deleted those posts as they were rather incoherent.)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Today's summary: ferry crossing to port angeles was quite rough, and got in a bit late. I tried to meer up with a friend in Olympia for coffee, but it didn't work out. Saw a truck on fire being chased by a firetruck. Picked up Kevin in Vancouver, wa, then Tomato and lucas in Portland after a brief bit of mandatory getting lost. Lucas had some last minute packing to do, then we hit the road around 7.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry
Monday, September 8, 2008
4 months later, there I was making a trip to the ferry to pick up Brian (Tomato) and Leila (Swifty). My fiancee, Rebecca, kindly offered to drive us all to the Bamfield trail head on Monday, Sept 1. We had a campsite reserved at the beautiful Pachena Bay Campground right by the trail head. After a dinner of campfire-roasted hot dogs and a quiet night by the beach, we said goodbye to Rebecca and Shadow and proceeded to the Parks Canada office for our orientation.
All hikers on the WCT are required to take the 1.5 hour orientation, which is offered 4 times daily. We diligently watched the PowerPoint presentation, grabbed our permits, and hit the trail at 10:45. When starting at the North end of the trail, the terrain is quite easy and the miles go by quickly. Our first stop on the way to Tsocowis (km17) was at the Pachena Lighthouse. The Lighthouse grounds are open for exploration, and panoramic views give a preview of the scenery to come. The guest book entries at the Lighthouse provided much hilarity, and started some running gags that lasted the duration of our trip. You really had to be there to appreciate them.
After a bit more inland hiking, we reach Michigan Creek and the beginning of beach walking. A sealion haulout rock provides ample entertainment for a lunch stop, and we're blown away by the size of these massive creatures. Swifty presented us with a list of wildlife she expects to see on the trail, and the first one is crossed off. Moving on, we explore the shipwrecks of the Michigan and Uzbekistan, as well as some nice rock shelves and tidal pools. The low tide enabled shelf-walking, often referred to as a hiker superhighway. Because we were making such good time, we walked right by our destination and didn't realize our mistake until we reached the impassible Valencia Bluffs. After my cohorts teased their "experienced" route planner, we realized the fortune of our mistake and explored some beautiful waterfalls and rock formations. A short backtrack took us back to Tsocowis and a soft, sandy campsite. The evening presented a stunning sunset and plenty of wood for a fire.
The next morning began with some forest walking, which on the WCT inevitably means mud. Lots of mud. Fortunately, there had been no rain for a couple of days, so the mud wasn't as bad as it can be. The three of us had very light packs, trail runners, and hiking poles, so we were able to hop over and navigate our way through the mud with little effort. Heavily-laden hikers coming the other way took a look at our relatively clean feet and assured us that the mud got much worse. We were offered advice such as "You haven't seen anything yet" and "Hope you brought your gators.. or a life jacket!". While well-meaning, their comments became more fodder for our trail banter, and the theme of inflatable flotation-device gators began.
Tomato and Swifty have extensive hiking resumes, both having done successful Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikes, among many other accomplishments. I had warned them that it was a different breed of hiker on the WCT, but I don't think I could have prepared them for the absurdity we witnessed. 80 lb. packs were commonplace, and we even saw several people with a pack on their front as well as the back. Although we all started heavy in our earlier hiking days, it was unbelievable that people would attempt a trail as rugged as the WCT without any research at all. "At least they're out there" we agreed, and kept our observations to ourselves.
I digress - back to the trail. At Trestle Creek we're rewarded with more beach walking, taking us to our first cable car crossing at Klanawa River. A group of fellows heading South demonstrated how to help each other across, and waited around to give us a hand. Having people on the cable car landing to pull the car across makes it much easier than pulling yourself when you're in the car. The pulleys were also in much better shape than my 2006 trip, so the crossing was fast and fun. A few more inland miles, along with some impressive ladders, took us to Tsusiat Falls for lunch. The tides and storms change this beach annually, and what in 2006 was a large freshwater pool at the base of the falls was now a tidal bay with steep banks. Swifty and I braved the cold water for a quick shower under the falls, while Tomato settled for the mist bath available nearby. The waterfall is astounding to watch, but the strutting alpha-males offered scenery we didn't come to see, so we packed up and headed back up the ladders to the trail.
Cribs Creek is a large, picturesque beach and a popular camping spot. There's probably 40 people already camping there when we arrive, so we cross to the south side of the river which is currently unoccupied. After finding a small spot between the logs in which to cram our three tarptents, we count another 20-30 hikers come from both directions. Every available spot near us is occupied, but once the sun goes down a bit it doesn't feel so crowded. For some reason nobody decides to camp on the gently sloping beach at the far North end, where I camped in '06. Wood is scarce, but we scrounge up enough for a comfortable fire and enjoy an evening of stargazing and conversation. I suggested it would have been nice to have grabbed a few beers from the Nitnat ferry dock, but, alas, hindsight is 20/20.
Day three brings us an overcast morning, but a feature-filled day of hiking is ahead of us. After a beautiful beach walk to Carmanah Point, we head up the steps to explore Carmanah Lighthouse. A few photos and sights keep our interest, but the thought of breakfast at Chez Moniques keeps the visit brief. Soon we're heading down the ladder to the makeshift "restaurant" and its charming hostess, Monique. We all opt for the breakfast plate of eggs, potatoes, bacon (for some) and toast. Fresh cowboy coffee is served while we occupy a table with the best view for miles around. While we're waiting for our breakfasts, (actually second breakfasts, Tomato pointed out) Swifty notices an uninvited guest behind the restaurant. A black bear, muching on the salad bar, has decided to join us. I let one of the cooks know, and he chases it away. Another wildlife sighting is crossed off the rather demanding list given to me by Swifty.
After breakfast, a fantastic beach walk lies ahead. Our second cable car crossing, over Carmanah Creek, goes smoothly and leads us to Bonilla Point. Here we're treated to a large pod of Grey Whales surfacing and spouting not far from shore. We gawk for a while, then eventually have to keep moving. One more off the list. The next obstacle is Walbran Creek, which we're told isn't in flood so is crossable. When we arrive, it looks a bit higher than we feel like crossing so we take a side trail up to the cable car. From here, the trail moves inland to avoid the Adrenaline Creek surge channel, site of numerous injuries and evacuations in previous years. A mix of mud and slippery boardwalks is our price for the previous fun on the beach. When we get to Cullite Creek, we decide to check out the camping area. A short side trail heads down to Cullite Cove, with a few small tent spots crammed into the trees. There was nowhere we could set up three tarptents, and after discussing the option of rigging up a tarp and sleeping out, we opted to get back on the trail and stick to the original plan of Camper Creek.
And we were so glad we did. Camper Creek, while fairly busy, offered a less crowded option of camping on the peninsula reached by a quick river crossing. Tides can be an issue here, so we chose a high spot carefully and proceeded to set up. I had been having trouble getting a good pitch on my new Contrail, so Tomato helped me achieve my first perfect pitch. A small breeze helped us air out our damp gear, and we settled in for another fun night around the campfire. Wood was once again scarce, but Tomato's fire building skills outshone even his tent setup skills. Swifty shared some marshmallows procured at Chez Monique's, and I used the time to quiz my hiking friends about long distance hiking. I learned a lot from them this trip, and the reality of a PCT thru-hike in 2010 started to sink in.
We arose early on our fourth day, eager to explore Owen Point at low tide. A long beach shelf, followed by tidal caves, boulders, and even bigger boulders were the highlights of this day. I think anyone hiking the WCT owes it to themselves to consider this optional, difficult route as part of their itinerary. It is definitely the most rugged and dangerous part of the trail, but offers West Coast scenery at its finest. Much to Swifty's delight we saw a sea otter and a seal, and the list was quite complete. Tomato, an accomplished rock climber, bounced across the boulders and disappeared from sight. Swifty had a bit more trouble with the large boulders, but admirably kept a strong pace and we arrived at Thrasher Cove at lunch time. Our original itinerary had us spending the night at Thrasher, but the campsite is purely functional so we chose to keep going to the end.
Heading inland at Thrasher, the only option, reveals 5km of ladders and hill climbs. A straight line on the map, it's actually a considerable amount of switchbacks and altitude gains. The hiking is fairly easy though, and we get to the ferry with plenty of time. Some overloaded hikers we passed were going to have to rush for the last crossing at 4:30, as the camping options at the ferry beach are very limited. Once over Gordon River we take a short bus ride into Port Renfrew for a hot meal and a cold beer, and I call a surprised Rebecca requesting an early ride home. She's unable to make it, but luckily my mum steps up to the plate and zips out from Sooke to drive us home.
I'm really glad my new friends were able to join me on this trail, and hope they both take back the fondest of memories (and forget the bad ones). We've already begun discussing where we can hike next year, and I know we'll follow through and get together again.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
With this in mind, I thought I'd share some things I do differently, or at least more carefully, when I know the weather is going to be rough.
- Take a couple of spare pack liners (I like the Glad Forceflex garbage bags) as these inevitably get torn. They're good for sitting on, putting under your mattress, a makeshift parka or tarp, collecting rainwater, all sorts of things.
- Lots of nourishing, warm, easy to prepare food. When you're cold and wet, nothing warms you up more than a hot meal.
- Label a set of clothes as "must stay dry". I usually make this my sleepwear (longjohns and a tshirt). They stay in a plastic bag until I'm in the tent and have as much mud off me as possible. Even if a bear eats your hiking clothes, wear the abovementioned garbage bag for hiking, and keep these clothes for when you're in your tent.
- Take care of your feet. You'll never be able to keep them dry on a trail like the West Coast Trail, but when you get to camp, take off your wet shoes and socks and dry off your feet. Even if you're going to be out in the rain, wear your sandals and let them air out. When you get into your tent, towel them off and change/remove any blister treatment.
- Wear a hat. I find a hood limits your field of vision and your hearing, both of which are important on the trail. A hat with a brim will keep water out of your eyes and prevent it from running down your neck.
- A small silnylon tarp is a luxury well worth the weight. Those who know me to weigh out the peanuts in my trailmix might be surprised, but having dinner under a tarp with your hiking friends makes the rain much more bearable. If you can get a fire going just outside the tarp you can almost forget the previous 10 hours of mudslogging.
- If you know you'll be spending long hours in the tent, some simple entertainment is nice. A book or mp3 player if you're by yourself, or cards, dice, and travel games are always good in a group.
- Only take what can get wet. Maybe skip the SLR this time and take a cheap or waterproof camera. No amount of bagging will keep away rainforest humidity, and if you don't take it out to use, what was the point of bringing it?
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Speaking of the WCT, for any of you thinking of tackling it this year, I thought I'd forward this note along:
I don't know this person and am not involved in the sale at all. I just know what it's like to be stuck with a reservation you can't use.
I have a two-person permit for the West Coast Trail for park entry from Port Renfrew on Saturday August 23rd, 2008. Unfortunately I have broken my ankle and will not be able to make the trip. I am also no longer able to obtain a refund as I am within the 21 day cancellation window. I thought that you might be connected to a network of folks who may be interested in using my reservation as I know they are difficult to come by. My cost was $300 US, but I would consider any reasonable offer. Thank you for your time.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I started out at the China Beach trailhead at 7:30 am on Saturday. The weather was cloudy but warm and dry, and the trail was in reasonably good shape. Signs warned of the trail closure due to the bridge out at Ivanhoe Creek, but I knew froma previous visit in March that there was a bypass trail. I actually didn't even need the bypass trail, as the water levels were low enough that a log over the creekbed proved enough. By 9:30 I was at Bear Beach where I stopped for second breakfast. I didn't see anybody at Mystic Beach, and only 2 small groups at Bear. One couple at Bear were turning around and heading home due to their 70lb packs. Ouch!
Not the most technically difficult, but definitely the most arduous section of the trail is between Bear Beach and Chin Beach. Roughly 10km of ups and downs take a toll on your legs, and I was feeling pretty worn out by the time I got to Chin. I stopped and had some lunch, but as it was only 1:30 I decided to press on to Sombrio Beach at km 27. I passed a few hikers from Chin on their way to Sombrio, but otherwise the trail was deserted. Being by myself in bear country, I was a little bit nervous, and did a lot of whistling and peering around corners. My hiking poles did double duty as noisemakers, clacking against rocks, tree trunks, and each other.
When I got to Sombrio I was still in pretty good shape, but my legs were ready to give out. I staggared a few more yards down the beach and plopped on the first level spot I came to. Shortly thereafter, one of the fellows from the site next to me came over to say hi, and invite me back to their site. After I relaxed for a while, I joined Stewart and his friends for an evening of wine, fresh mussels, and conversation. Stewart gave me his number so we could meet up to brew some beer, but I appear to have lost his card. If anyone sees it, let me know! The hospitality of this group was amazing, and I went to sleep well past hiker midnight (10:30) and zonked out immediately.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty good, and not too stiff from my previous day's exertion. I lay in bed for a while, as I "only" had 20km of comparatively easy terrain to make today. As long as I was at Botanical Beach by 5:00, when Rebecca would meet me, I'd be fine. I packed up said goodbye to my new friends, and was on the trail around 9:00. Sombrio River was quite low, so I opted to wade through it rather than trek up to the suspension bridge. The sun was shining, so I wasn't too worried about wet feet. After a bit more beach walking, my spidey-sense was tingling. In a field of grey boulders, I saw one furry black boulder that looked out of place. Sure enough, a small bear was eating something, probably a dead seal. Luckily, the tide was out, so I was able to give him a wide berth. I had a chat with him on the way past, and we came to an understanding. I wouldn't eat his dead seal, and he wouldn't eat me. At one point I looked up and there was a bald eagle, a sea otter, and the bear all within my line of sight. I tried to take a picture of all three, but couldn't get the angle right. Rather than dwell on this, I figured it would be prudent to move past the bear and get on with my day.
The rest of the day proved to be quite uneventful. I kept up a good pace, with just a brief stop at Pyzant Creek for water. At around 2:30 I was nearing Botanical Beach, so I stopped at one of my favorite resting areas at Tom Baird Creek. I made myself a big lunch, and stretched out in the sun with my book for a couple of hours. At 4:30, I packed up and headed to Botanical to meet Rebecca and Shadow. I could tell they both wanted to go down to the beach, so I added another couple of miles to my trek and walked down to Botany Bay with them. After that, we went for dinner in Port Renfrew, then made our way home.
I'm glad I was able to meet my two goals: hiking alone, and completing the trail in two days. As for the former, hiking solo has its benefits, I got to get lost in my own thoughts, and not worry about anyone else's pace or fitness level. I did, however, find I was quite jumpy and nervous about bears, which I'm normally not around other people. As for the timeline, I don't know if I'd want to hike that distance regularly, but it was good to know my body is capeable of it, and I'm proud of my accomplishment. I still enjoyed all the scenery and solitude of the wilderness, but spent it hiking rather than sitting at a campsite. What's next.. maybe the West Coast Trail in three days? We'll see :)
Friday, June 20, 2008
To hike the JDF in 2 days is a bit ambitious, and I'm not going to push to the point of carelessness, and will just hike as far and fast as I'm comfortable doing. I know the trail can be run in 8-10 hours, but that's not for me. The trail is 47km, and while normally this isn't an unreasonable distance to cover in two days (I've done 30km days on the Pacific Crest Trail and at Mt Assiniboine), the terrain is very hard on the body, and my knees have been giving me a bit of trouble lately.
So, I'm leaving my itinerary open, and will take it as it comes. Fortunately, there's not much rain the forecast, so that will help. Nothing slows you down more than mud and slippery boardwalks. I also have my base pack weight down to under 9 pounds, which is half the weight I previously tackled this trail with. Couple that with only 2 days' food instead of 3, a decent amount of training, and my stubborness, and I should be able to cover a lot of ground.
I've been wanting to try a solo hike for some time now. My future plans may involve a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, so I want to make sure I'm comfortable with the solitude now. The JDF is a well travelled trail, an hour rarely goes by where you don't see another hiker. I always bring a book on a hike, but this time I'm also going to bring an MP3 player. I don't like to load up on gadgets, but I did really enjoy music now and then on my last hike. And yes, the mp3 player is included in my 9 pound base weight :)
Check back for photos and trip report next week!