Day 3: Water Water Everywhere

PCT Mile 973.4 to 990

Miles Hiked = 16.6

Today was another challenging day in the backcountry. I was up and hiking by 7:15. I started the morning with a 1000 foot climb up to Seavey Pass. On the way up I passed this cascading narrow waterfall.

And the trail passed thru this fern grotto.

There was still snow near the top.

And then I passed this lake with awesome reflections – I really like the reflection of the snowfield and the barren diagonal tree.

Shortly after Seavey Pass, the trail took a sharp turn to the left (west) and followed along a cascading creek down Kerrick Canyon for about three miles.

At the bottom, there was a large, deep, fast moving creek to cross. Rather than wading across, I used this large fallen tree.

Following the crossing I met a young man named Kazoo – he is thru-hiking the trail and had a late start in mid-May. He hikes about twenty-five mikes a day. He’ll have to keep up that pace in order to reach Canada by October 1. I wished him good luck.

After a short snack break I started my second uphill climb of the day. This one was only about 800 feet up. As I hiked up the trail, there were spots where water was running down the trail.

Following the next descent, I came to Stubblefield Creek which has a reputation of being a difficult crossing early in the season. I waded across just downstream of the path – up to my knees – easy peasy!

Just following the crossing, as I started the next climb, I passed this deer – she let me get within twenty feet!

This last climb of the day was the most difficult. It was only 1200 feet up, which isn’t that much compared to many other climbs, but I was already getting tired and therefore wasn’t moving very fast. There were nice views of the surrounding mountains.

I got to the top about 3pm and had only hiked about 11.5 miles for the day! I needed to pick up the pace! Luckily the remainder of the day’s hike was downhill and on nice smooth trails through the forest. I passed Wilma Lake which was very pretty.

And then continued down the trail for a few more miles to my intended camping spot at mile 990. I took this short video of the adjacent stream.

Finally I reached my intended campsite. It was close to the steam, was away from the trail a bit and had a nice flat spot to set up my tent. But it was MOSQUITO HELL!!! I set up camp and got in my tent as soon as possible otherwise I would have been eaten alive and unable to send any posts.

Thanks for following and keep those comments a coming.

Day 2: Rugged Country

Mile: 958.4 to 973.4

Miles Hiked = 15.0

So I slept well enough last night – very typical for a night in the wilderness in a small tent. I toss and turn. A sleeping pad is definitely not as comfortable as a bed. I usually have to get up once – that’s also not quite so easy either. I definitely sleep better at home – I guess that’s not surprising.

I was up a little after six and was hiking by 7:20. If I was trying to hike a twenty mile day I would have been up earlier but that was not my plan – at least for this first week .

My morning hike looked like this – a descent of about 1000 feet and then an uphill climb of 1500 feet to Benson Pass at Mile 966.

Benson Pass is over 10,000 feet and I was definitely feeling the altitude on the way up. I wasn’t moving very fast – it took me over 4 hours to hike the 7.9 miles to the pass. Hopefully I’ll get stronger once I acclimatize. But I enjoyed some nice scenery.

The afternoon hike was a big descent – over 2500 feet. That’s Benson Pass on the left and the low point at Benson Lake Junction on the right.

The trail down was rugged. There were lots of big downhill steps, loose rocks, patches of snow and mud and water from all the snow melt. This is some rugged country.

Coming downhill in rugged terrain like this is always more dangerous than going up. It would be very easy to turn an ankle or take a fall. I’m always very focused when I’m going downhill, especially when the trail is not smooth.

There were a few isolated patches of snow today but nothing dangerous or requiring micro spikes.

It was cooler today than yesterday because of the cloud cover – there was even a few drops of rain.

I waded across three streams again today – they were all easy and the water was never above my knees. There were a couple other streams that I crossed on fallen trees.

I hiked 15 miles today, which was my plan, but I don’t think I could have gone much further even if I had wanted to. I’ll need to get stronger if I’m going to make it to Oregon in seven weeks.

I camped right off the trail in a little spot big enough for one tent. It was right next to the stream and had beautiful views across the canyon.

Thanks for following!

Day 1: Tuolumne Meadows

PCT Mile 942.5 to 958.4

Miles Hiked = 15.9

Yesterday Donna and I drove to Mammoth Lakes and spent the night. We enjoyed dinner in the Village.This morning we were up early and arrived at the PCT where it passes through Tuolumne Meadows about 8am. It only took a few minutes to unload all my gear and get my pack ready. After a big hug and kiss, Donna was on her way back home – it would take her about seven hours. She was so disappointed that she couldn’t join me on this section hike☹️. But she has been so great in supporting me on this journey. I’m already looking forward to seeing her in nine days in South Lake Tahoe!

As I took my first few steps I wondered what adventures I would experience in the next seven weeks.

And then I realized that unless you take that first step, you will never know. So hear I go.

Within a few minutes I passed these deer enjoying their morning breakfast along the Tuolumne River.

Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows are some of my favorite places to visit. The granite walls and domes, waterfalls, lush green meadows and cascading rivers are just special. I never get tired of spending time here!

I crossed this bridge after a few miles of hiking – the walkway was under water about one month ago because of all the snowmelt.

And then I passed by Tuolumne Falls – very spectacular and still a lot of water falling over the edge.

The first day back on the trail is always difficult. My pack is always at its heaviest and I was at sea level twenty-fours hours ago. It always takes a few days to acclimatize to a higher altitude. I was above 8000 feet all day today and am camping at 9500 feet. Today I could tell that I wasn’t that strong.

I was happy to see that there was no snow on the trail – at least for today. I did have to wade across three streams in the late afternoon (miles 956, 956.2 and 957.3) but they were all easy crossings and the water was never above my knees. I hoping it stays like this.

It was warm today – felt like it was close to 80 degrees – that will certainly help melt any remaining snow in the higher mountains.

The mosquitos are out – they weren’t too bad as long as I was moving but when I stopped the would come in for my blood. I had to put my net on at camp tonight.

I’m glad I have a tent!

Thanks for following and keep those messages coming – they help me stay connected and keep motivated!

Ready Set Go!

It’s been about seven weeks since I reached Kennedy Meadows (mile 702) and left the trail.  A few weeks later Donna and I enjoyed a family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with our children and grandchildren.  We had a great time and had the opportunity to whitewater raft, fly fish, rock climb on the via ferrata, view wildlife and enjoy the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

But I digress … back to the PCT.

My original plan was to return to the trail in early July following our family vacation.   I delayed my return, however, for several weeks because of the late season snow melt and resulting challenging and sometimes dangerous stream and river crossings.  In 2017, the previous heavy snow year, two female PCT hikers drowned attempting to cross swollen Sierra rivers.  The latest reports seem to indicate that water levels are improving so I’m planning on getting back on the trail in a few days.

When Donna and I started our PCT adventure at the Mexico border in April 2018, our hope was that we would be able to thru-hike the trail in one season.  Obviously that did not work out – initially because of Donna’s knee problem. But, even without the knee issue, it was  a lofty ambition.  Since there is only about a six-month window to complete the entire 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, northbound thru-hikers can’t dawdle – they have to get their miles in otherwise they won’t make it to the Canadian border before the snow comes.  I have a huge amount of respect for all the thru-hikers on the trail – it’s a difficult challenge and a great accomplishment if you can complete the entire trail in a season!

Since I am now a section-hiker, I have the advantage of completing the trail over several years.  I can wait for the snow to melt.  I can hop off the trail for a family vacation. I also have the luxury of skipping parts of the trail that I have already completed.  Since I have hiked the John Muir Trail twice (the PCT essentially travels along the JMT through the Sierra Nevada), I will continue my hike north at Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite). For the record, the only part of the PCT that I haven’t hiked between Kennedy Meadows (mile 702, where I finished seven weeks ago) and Tuolumne Meadows (mile 942) is a short six mile segment between Rock Creek (mile 760) and Crabtree Meadow (mile 766). I’ll make it a point to complete this section later this fall or next year.

Regarding Donna’s knee – it is not doing well and she is very frustrated. She continues to have pain and walk with a limp. She can’t hike or get any type of significant exercise. She saw a doctor at UCLA who is doing a trial study on a new procedure called Genicular Artery Embolization (GAE). This procedure was originally developed in Japan and the initial results are very promising. It’s a minimally invasive image-guided treatment that reduces the blood flow that feeds the inflammation in the knee. Donna’s not eligible for the study but we are hopeful that she’ll be approved for treatment outside the study.  Although Donna won’t be hiking with me during this section hike, her spirit will be with me.  I don’t think I could do this with out her support and encouragement.

For the gear nerds and once counters out there (like me), I’ve made a few changes to my gear and therefore updated my gear list. My base weight is definitely heavier than I want at 18+ pounds – I would prefer it to be under 13 pounds.  Base weight is everything in a hiker’s pack except consumables like food, water and fuel. The additional weight is primarily due to the addition of a bear canister, additional electronics and the addition of the stove that Donna was carrying. I’ll be able to send the bear canister home after I’m out of Yosemite – luckily that’s only 75 miles after I start. The additional electronics are a Garmin device and a second battery pack to recharge the Garmin device. The Garmin device is called an inReach Explorer which is a hand held satellite communication device that allows two-way communication (I’ll be able to send and receive texts from Donna & family), has GPS tracking capabilities so that friends and family will be able to see where I am in real time and has an SOS button in the unlikely event of an emergency. It also is linked to my iPhone via a Bluetooth connection. The Garmin device has other functions that I probably won’t use very often like navigation, a compass and the ability to give weather forecasts for my GPS position.

For those interested, I’ve added a “Where’s Todd?” in the menu above.  If you click on it, it will show you where I am as well as where I’ve been.  Check it out – it will start tracking me on July 22.

My goal is to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Ashland, Oregon. That’s about 780 miles and will take 6-7 weeks. I’m planning on resupplying every 4-5 days so will be sending out eight resupply boxes (Kennedy Meadows North, Sierra City, Belden, Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Burney Falls State Park, Dunsmuir, Etna and Seiad Valley). Donna will meet me in South Lake Tahoe about ten days into the hike. She’ll bring a resupply also. Hopefully I’ll meet her again further north.  Here are all my resupply packages ready to be mailed out.

That’s all for now.  It helps to get messages and comments from all you guys, so don’t be shy – let me know if you have any questions.

Day 22: Kennedy Meadows

Start: Mile 689.2

End: Mile 702.2

Miles Hikes = 13.0

When Donna and I started this section hike over one month ago, our goal was to reach Kennedy Meadows. So this morning, I was excited to hike the final thirteen miles and complete the southern most 702 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Donna, despite her knee problems, completed almost 400 of these miles.

I knew today would be a relatively easy hike – it was downhill for the first few miles and with some minor up and downs for the last nine miles.

I again was up early and on the trail as the sun slowly rose higher in the clear blue skies over the southern Sierra.

At the bottom of the morning’s descent is Manter Creek where I met a nice young couple from Belgium that are also section hiking the PCT.

Their names are Augustine and Clementine. I started singing:

“Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling Clementine”

I thought I was being so clever by introducing them to an old American western folk song.

“I’ve heard that so many times” said Clem.

So much for being a clever.

I continued hiking towards Kennedy Meadows and enjoyed the scenery in Rockhouse Basin and caught glimpses of the South Fork of the Kern River.

Eventually the trail got close enough to the river that I could see and hear the water cascading down the canyon.

Eventually I passed the 700 mile marker!

Soon I arrived at the General Store at Kennedy Meadows. As I approached the store I received the traditional applause from the hikers on the deck.

Several day’s ago, I arranged for an Uber driver to pick me up and drive me to Ridgecrest where I could rent a car and drive home. Shortly after arriving at the General Store, I received a text from the driver stating that he had hit a rock on the curvy road up to Kennedy Meadows and now his car had to be towed. Hmm???? I asked around and nobody knew anyone that I could hire. Also, there was no cell service, only weak WiFi at the general store. So, I decided that my only option was to try to hitch a ride. I didn’t like my chances – there had not been many cars go by on the main road down the hill.

No sooner had I walked out to the road and put my thumb out, I got a ride! Foy and Heather offered to take me down the hill and incredibly ended up taking me all the way to the Enterprise car rental office in Ridgecrest!!! I couldn’t believe my luck and how kind and generous they were to go out of their way to help me out.

There is a saying that “the Trail provides”. Maybe there is some truth to that but Foy and Heather just proved to me that there are damn nice people in this world that are willing to help people in need. Thank you Foy and Heather!!! You guys are amazing Trail Angels!!!

My only option is to be thankful for their kindness and find a way to pay it forward.

A few hours later I was home.

Thanks for reading.

Day 21: An Uphill Day

Start: Mile 668.7

End: Mile 689.2

Miles Hiked = 20.5

I camped at Spanish Needle Creek last night and slept well. As is typical, there were many other hikers camped nearby because of the water availability. I was up at dawn and hiking by 6:30. The skies were clear and it was cool, probably in the mid-40’s.

Usually I have an Pro Bar or Bobo’s Bar for my breakfast but when I was off the trail last week I picked up a Blueberry granola freeze-dried breakfast that I cold-soaked as I hiked. About two hours later, I stopped for a rest and ate it. It was OK – I think I put a little too much water in it. I’ll go back to my breakfast bars when I resupply.

I knew today’s hike was going to be challenging. I wanted to go about twenty miles so that I would have an easy hike tomorrow morning into Kennedy Meadows. The first five miles today were a steady uphill climb of about 2000 feet. Later this afternoon, after descending 1500 feet, I would have another climb of 2500 feet.

As I hiked this morning I enjoyed the views to the north and west – it was starting to feel like the Sierras.

When I reached the top there were nice views to the east.

Just prior to reaching Chimney Creek, where I would stop for lunch, the trail passed above a pretty meadow

I wasn’t looking forward to the 2500 foot climb this afternoon, but my legs felt felt stronger today and the afternoon’s hike went well. I stopped for water at Fox Mill Spring and filtered my water as usual, despite the warning.

Clouds rolled in but there wasn’t any rain today.

Finally I reached a nice place to camp which was about 2000 feet higher than yesterday’s camp, set up my tent and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Thanks for reading.

Day 20: Back on the Trail #3

Start: Mile 651.3

End: Mile 668.7

Miles Hiked = 17.4

One of the nice things about being a section hiker is that you can hop off the trail and not feel the pressure to grind out miles everyday. Several months ago Donna and I had committed to dog sit for my sister and her husband while they vacationed. They had taken care of our dog while we were on the trail so it was our turn to return the favor. Here I am with Tater (he’s from Idaho) – he thinks he’s a lap dog! Ellie is the little white furry dog and then there was Beau, our beagle.

Originally we had planned to reach Kennedy Meadows (KM) prior to our dog-sitting commitment, but Donna’s knee injury and weather issues had slowed us down. So this was the third and longest stint that I had been off trail since we began this section hike almost one month ago.

I was off the trail this time for ten days and only went for one short hike. But I did enjoy the time with Donna and her home cooking and some of my favorite wine. I also got to spend some time with my 93 year old father who lives near my sister. It was fifty years ago this summer that my Dad took me on my first backpacking trip in the Sierra’s. Been hooked ever since. Thanks Pop.

This morning Donna and I were up early and headed back to Walker Pass. I didn’t get started hiking until almost 10am and immediately started hiking uphill.

My legs struggled to perform to my expectations from several weeks ago. It’s amazing how fast us “old guys” loose our fitness.

I enjoyed nice views to the east towards Ridgecrest.

Shortly after I reached the top of the climb it started to rain. I pulled out my umbrella and continued hiking. The rain only lasted about thirty minutes and then cleared up.

I met several thru hikers today that had also been off the trail for the last week or so due to bad weather. A young couple from Germany used the time to visit Las Vegas – they didn’t like it very much. So I guess our dog sitting happened at the right time.

Later in the afternoon I passed a 1/4 marker next to the trail. It took me a minute to figure out that I had just completed 25% of the PCT (Mile 665).

I struggled up the last 800 foot climb before dropping down the last two miles to the next water source at Spanish Needle Creek.

Tomorrow’s going to be a challenging day – hopefully my legs will respond.

Thanks for reading.