Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cloudburst Summit to Aqua Dulce- October 2nd through 5th, 2005.

Bill Redman and I parked at the Saufley’s in Agua Dulce and got a ride up to the trailhead from Salt and Pepper. They had just finished the PCT in sections after four years! The have the perfect van for section hiking. It was the size of an airport van all fitted out for getting where you need to be to hike. We got there late and took off to Camp Glenwood in the dark with fresh peaches. It was an easy cool downhill. During the night I reached out to replace a tent peg that the wind blew out and tore a muscle in my side. It hurt like hell at times. The next day paralleled above SR-2 for a while with some shear cliffs and good views. The pines are healthy here and the forest looks very good. Sulfur Spring is verdant and we saw remnants of some sort of pagan ritual with sand made into a symbol and burnt incense sticks placed like birthday candles. We should have taken a picture. We passed a good spring after Sulfur springs running across the trail. It may have been Fountainhead Spring. The days were cool and the trail good. There has been some work done along this stretch. Some glimpses of the Mojave here as well. We ran into some ripe Blueberries. We’ll they aren’t Blueberries but they were blue, had a pit like an apricot, and were tasty. I ate about 20 and didn’t die. The trail down to Mill Creek Ranger Station is steep and long. We saw a bunch of footprints near days end and found that a bunch of firefighters from Oregon had used it to stay in shape. They had come down for the Topanga Fire as a reserve force. They have to carry a lot more weight than a hiker. It was hard finding a good spot near the Station for camp. The next day we crossed the Angeles Forest Highway to follow the crest west. We spent a surprising amount of time in the shade this day. We also ran into regular carpets of fallen acorns. We both fell several times on nature’s seasonal slip and slide. We passed below the prison camp on the north side and had great views of the mountains we must pass through. I can’t believe we have come so far. It was unimaginable just a few years ago. Once again we were paralleling a road, rarely used, for car campers, bicyclists and prisoners. Apparently the road was for a Nike Missle base, now defunct, near the end. I planted too much water for this trip so it was a pleasure to leave some for future hikers. Several times in the San Bernardino’s and Angeles Crest we walk along the crest of a long mountain and then finally leave it steeply at the end. Such was the case after Messenger Flats Campground when we zoomed down to North Fork Saddle Station a weird outpost which according to its caretaker of seven years, Todd, was the most isolated in the Angeles Crest: so isolated that there are no paved roads and no permanent Fire Fighters. It is a staging area for troubled times in the mountains. Todd has a dog, TV and the Internet and he likes it. He watches the place and paints the signs we see all over the mountains. It was very windy and he gave us permission to camp on the least windy side of the saddle. We cooked on a bare spot in the horse corrals. There is a special kind of weed here that stuck to everything. The next morning we got an early start down the edge of a long canyon. This was another day of being able to see the end of the hike from the beginning. There was a good flow of water in Mattox Canyon. We ran into a Skydiving instructor on his day off. He said he would pass us again on his way back. We thought that was pretty impossible until he did it. At Soledad Canyon road they are building a nice new trail building and parking. We crossed the road and thought we would find the trailer park we had read about for a snack but found we had gone to far north so we moved on. We found the monument to the completion of the PCT in 1993 vandalized by some idiot: a rare occurrence on the trail but still an annoyance. There are some strange giant monoliths of mud here that you pass around. It was a blustery day and we gripped the earth tenaciously to keep from being blown about. After a long hilly walk we passed under Highway 14. This long tunnel is not for the claustrophobic. We though it was really cool though. I took us on a wrong turn after the tunnel that took us 15 minutes to figure out. We entered the Vasquez Rocks Park and Bill said he recognized a place where the Lone Ranger and Tonto camped. I found the place underwhelming though the signature rocks near the parking area are remarkable. We exited the park, walked the road into Aqua Dulce, and had a great meal before walking over to the Saufley’s. We turned a 4 day trip into a 3 and I was wiped out. It took me days to recover. It still was a great trip. We start again in January.
I have had a terrible time adding pictures to this Blog. Please go here for photos from this trip

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mt. Baden Powell

Trail West

 Posted by Picasa

Near Cajon Pass

Posted by Picasa

Islip Saddle

Pacific Crest Trail Trip 15 August 21 to 24th - 2005- Silverwood Lake to Cloudburst Summit – 68 miles

This was a beautiful and exciting section. We camped late on the 20th next to a creek bed at Silverwood Recreation Area. Visitors nearby, but unseen, whupped it up until about 3:00AM. Males in the group successfully got coyotes to sing along with them. Bizarre! Leaving camp the next morning we quickly passed through creek bottoms so washed out from the season's rains that we lost and found the trail several times. Bill's GPS shows where the next waypoint is but you can't always get to one directly. We gained Cleghorn Ridge via a detour because of damaged trail. Every once in a while the gentle grade of the PCT turns very steep. This time I tried walking backwards. I had cached water at three points on this trip and it turned out to be a perfect balance between natural sources and dry places. This first day took us along Highway 138 and a view of a train transfer station of some sort to the north. These giant trains all seem to be a mile long. I imagine they carry everything from all over the world. The trail here snakes steeply down sharp ridges to Highway 15. Crowder Canyon Creek was running well and you can see that it may have been the original road over the pass, maybe a toll road. We surprised people on the river panning for gold uncovered by the season's rains. They didn't realize that the trail passed just above their heads. At the frontage road we went to McDonalds for lunch! It felt like cheating. Ray relaxed in the culvert under the freeway and we brought him a burger and soda with plenty of ice. Passing to the other side is a zigzag through high bushes and creeks. We got to a big train curve under the Mormon Rocks and were confused by a detour around damaged trail for about 15 minutes. We passed around Ralston Peak to a great camp in Swartout Canyon. The next day we found a hikers cache on the west side of the canyon toward Lytle Creek Ridge. Day two was the hardest day with a gain of 6000 feet and a loss of 1400! My water cache was farther than Bill thought because I wasn't clear about it. It was about half way to Guffy Campground which worked well. We saw a lot of buckwheat and dreamed about fresh pancakes on the trail. We got a view up higher of Telescope Peak to the north though the Mojave was pretty murky. This is a long section and Guffy Campground is the top of a mountain! We saw some deer. We had to go downhill to find the spring. Bill's waypoint for it was right but the map was wrong. I found it 300 yards downhill from camp on the other side of a chasm. It was surrounded by a tropical jungle and I nearly burst my heart from my chest bringing back the bucket and Ray's cook pot filled with water. The boy's met me half way up and we traded off to the top. Bill said I looked like he felt before his heart attack. Comforting. He asked me to rest a bit and I did. I got an incredible desire for meat and wolfed down several pieces of jerky. Weird. Bill didn't feel like eating. We went to sleep in wind swept tents. Day three brought us down to Highway 2 and Mount Baden Powell. It got steep and rocky down to the top of the Wrightwood ski areas. A rocky trail gets uncomfortable fast. Both of the ski runs have massive reservoirs to make snow with on the top. It was strange to walk across dry ski slopes. We made it to the highway and basically followed it on the north side to Grassy Hollow campground. We tanked up, used the facilities and rested here. We passed two trail runners, one of them large, red, and without a tee shirt, a scary sight. There is a huge downhill to the road at the base of Baden Powell. We mused that it would be easier to build bridges straight across in places but we won't hold our breath. I had cached water here and was so concerned that we would need all we could carry I lugged along another half gallon in a jug. I encouraged the boys to fill all their containers even though Lamel Spring lay only few miles further. We wouldn't have another chance for water until the next day. Baden Powell is a big, steep four mile zigzag to the top. It felt surprisingly easy. Lamel Spring was running well. The top of Baden Powell is a new climate with a rare gnarled but beautiful tree called the Limber Pine. There is a large monument to Baden Powell, the Boy Scout founder, on the top. Getting the concrete and steel up there for it was an act of faith. We met a local hiking expert named John who gave us a good camp spot a mile or so past the peak and pointed out a B-24 crash on a far mountain that occurred after WW11. It was a dream camp in a draw beneath Mount Burnham facing the Mojave. We got a great view of Edwards Air Force Base where the shuttle recently landed. The most surprising thing was all the lights at night from a rapidly urbanized desert. I slept well. We passed our first hiker, Dale, in 35 miles with two backpacking Saluki dogs. There is a lot of downhill again along ridges here but it went quickly to Little Jimmy Spring where we filled up from our waterless camp. Someone has built a nice place here to rest and hydrate. We passed Windy Gap which though windy was the least windy of the many gaps we passed and descended to Islip Saddle which is unique in look with a wide table of brushy land between mountains. Passing a group of Senior Sierra Club Weekday hikers we crossed Highway 2 again. Trail mix sucks. Time and again on our trips we get disgusted with one of our trail foods and often it is trail mix. You want to avoid eating it and only do so for survival. Passing the Highway 2 to Mount Williamson to what the handbook calls a moderate ascent was a heart pounding bitch and we agreed if the author was there we would have strangled him. Ray fell sensibly behind while Bill and I forced ourselves up the grade and took a big break near the top. I grabbed a low hanging pine cone saying that in California the fruit is ripe for the picking and got sap all over my glove. Very soon the trail plunges back to the highway past a rock chasm Bill had to photograph and a parallel trail to Eagles Roost. We paused here and left a message for my daughter that we had decided to go to Cloudburst Summit. Going down an old jeep trail we entered Rattlesnake Canyon. Lot's of water here. We topped off at Little Rock Creek and moved on. We crossed good streams several times and entered Cooper Canyon which eventually goes up and around, way around, to Cloudburst Summit. It is very pretty down near the water. You could spend a week down here on vacation. Ray fell behind and made a wrong turn up a dirt road which fortuitously brought him right to the end of the trail, whew! Janessa was waiting for us with her laptop open working on Medical School Applications. This was a beautiful section of the PCT. Plenty of hard work and lots of great views.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Whitewater River to Highway 18 near Big Bear City - May 15 to 18th 2005

This may be the hardest but most satisfying section so far. We walked farther, 46 miles, than before and covered dramatic territory. It was 100 degrees when Donna dropped us off just east of the Whitewater River. It was flowing almost as well as it had been a month before. Section hiking has its plus’s and minus’s. The minus in this case was a difficult crossing a mile up river to get to the PCT. It took us an hour and a half to do it. The riverbed is sand filled with millions of rounded stones. One of which, the size of a bowling ball, fell out of a wall I brushed against and nearly crushed my foot. It was an obstacle course. We met our first through hikers on west side of the river after removing our boots, putting on sandals, and fording it. It is scary because the current is so strong. Bill lost his only bandana in the river. I need to take two next time. Ray left one of his water bottles somewhere as well which affected how we tanked up along the way. One of the hikers had taken off his clothes and sat right down in a tributary to take a bath. A pair of hikers, one from Israel, sat in the meager shade of a bush for a hot meal. They were surprised to see us. Going north from this point is like crossing a swamp. The heavy rain has turned much of the trail into a river. Fortunately 4 X 4 posts give the general direction of the trail. One last ford back to the east of the Whitewater started our trip over to Mission Creek. Ray already felt sapped by the heat and we had 7 miles to go. It is quite a roller coaster in this area. I have noticed that many of heads of canyons hereabouts end in an earthen damn; appearing manmade by nature, like a spillway. The most dramatic is Coon Creek Jump-off on the second day. This area is still all desert and plenty hot. Some good views to the south though. The tip to Mission Creek took us a long time and we arrived near the river at 6:40 PM. Just enough time to pitch camp before dark. A hiker that looked like an adult boy scout passed through camp. We had seen him eating and bathing earlier covered in tattoos, a bit strange. The river was quite loud and I remarked to Bill that I hoped they turned it off so we could get some sleep. We ineffectually hung our food in low trees for the night after a very hearty dinner.

The next day was overcast most of the day but I sweat like crazy as it became muggy. Mission Creek goes up, up forever or about 12 miles which seemed like forever. No big ups or downs. Someone has put trees across all the crossings to keep you out of the water , there are over 27, which slowed us down considerably. Only Ray got wet. Our first goal was the South and Fork confluence of Mission Creek which was the longest five miles I have ever hiked. Lots of through hikers passed us and then we passed them when they stopped for a hot lunch. Several of the women (thirty percent of all hikers) were wearing gossamer wraparounds which reminded me of Gauguin’s Samoan women. A little like Hippies. One of them was using couscous an ingredient I will add it to my trail meals in the future. One subject of constant conversation on these trips in what we will eat; especially for lunch. Bill wants to get away from the bagel to the pita for a variety of fillings. I like that. I have added pink salmon in packets for dinner and it is a great success. It was a long day and the only person handling it well was Bill. I got really tired but kept trudging on. Most of this trip is treeless. We saw 8 horny toads, a hundred coal black lizards and two racers, one trying to kill a lizard, and the lizard got away. We stopped short of Mission Creek camp for dinner. The theory being that we could avoid bears if we cooked in another area than we slept. It is only a theory weakened by the fact that at rest we were surrounded by cooking hikers. This area takes you far away from civilization. Perhaps as far as we have been since northern San Diego. One of the hikers that passed us had a dog named Buddy. He wore booties covered in Duct Tape. The hiker had no walking sticks. When asked how it was to walk with out sticks he said, “I wouldn’t know I have never used them”, makes sense.

We were in the seasonal “herd” of through hikers here. Usually we are practically alone on our trips. It was a pleasure to meet so many birds of a feather: young and old sharing the same dream. Reaching the tree line is always a pleasure. It is prettier and cooler. There are some big grades here before camp. Ray fell behind but not too far. We left messages that he never saw but he caught up to us in camp quickly. We gave up trying to put up our food in the trees and put it in our tents as bait. It is very hard to tie a stone to a rock and throw it accurately. My rear tent pole snapped in half which makes for an ugly tent. There were many hikers there but we just said hi and went to bed. It got down to about 40 degrees and my new sleeping bag kept me warm.

We went the wrong way out of Mission Creek Camp for about a ¼ a mile along with a lady. Finally we went up and over a hill north of camp and found my water cache from last October still in good shape. We were full up so I left them by the trail. We ran into snow on the north side of the mountain. Mainly drifts of 10 to 100 feet covering the trail. It was pretty soft but we stayed in the footsteps of those ahead of us. One of the disks on my poles vanished recently so it was funny to see that pole plunging all the down into the snow and the other a few inches. We took a break with a pair of hikers we camped with later. Nice people. The women had been saved, she said, by the man she was with when she got a case of hypothermia on San Jacinto after a storm. She raved for hours while he warmed her up with hot liquids, good advice and conversation. Most of the trail here cuts through slopes of the many mountains it crosses. There are great views in all directions at different points. We saw Mount Baldy and Baden Powell. for the first time ahead to the west with It is a long way to Agua Dulce but we want to do it this year so we can hike the desert in the winter and miss winter in the mountains. Coon Creek Jump-off is a dramatic break between the alpine habitat and the desert below in North Fork Mission Creek. It has to be seen. There was a bathroom there at a still closed camp! After ascending another mountain we got a great view of the north side of Mount San Gorgonio. We all took pictures. I never thought I would see it this way. You go from trail to dirt road to trail in this area. We bumped into two lovely 25 year old recent college graduates from Canada who became our campmates later. They were fit and fast hikers. We saw the movie animal place along the way here. There was a Grizzly, brown bear and a white tiger that could be seen from the trail. The Canadian girls thought having them in captivity was just terrible. The place was a mess though. We had planned to camp at Onyx summit close to Highway 18 but that was a mistake. It was a waterless spot and we decided to pushed on to definite water at Arrastre Trail Camp. Even though there is record breaking water in the area we needed to make sure we had enough for the long stretches. I made us stop by a mountain rivulet that allowed us to make it easily to our night’s camp. There were about eight hikers in the camp when we arrived. It made for a great night of talk and sharing. I did a little impromptu show and Ray told many a story. I think all but one of the through hikers was in their twenties; all nice and interesting. The Canadian girls had nasty blisters but couldn’t have been less worried about them. One of the guys gave us a wonderful rundown of his favorite beers. I helped a few of them get a cell phone call out to loved ones. The next morning we left late after the others. We only had about 10 miles to go and relaxed a little. One guy who had arrived late said he was hiking with his retired dad “who is hiking like he is retired and is two days behind me but we will meet in Victorville.” The trail is basically north here and we followed an escarpment of alpine and desert habitat. We saw the Mojave Desert north of the San Bernardino’s for the first time. It is massive. It is amazing to think we will go a hundred miles or more west and still be in it when we leave the San Gabriel’s. There are good views of the lakes here and remarkably groves of Joshua Trees on the desert like hills. Also the Pinyon Pines are quite beautiful. We kept thinking we heard cars just ahead on Highway 18 at our terminus for about 2 hours. We decided we were delusional. We were all strong that day and our walk ended about 2 pm. We tried for a bit to see if the other hikers could get a ride then lit out for town on foot. We soon got picked up by a 60 something Norman Bates like character in a 73’ Jeep Wagon who we believe lived with his mother. We arrived unmolested in Big Bear City for the best meal so far at Stella’s. Good, cheap and filling. Check out the pictures here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

April 11, 2005 Interstate 10 to Whitewater River.

Dana Law, Bill Redman and Ray Ellis
Our first trip of the season was a day hike of 9.1 miles on trail. Making it a day hike was an adventure. After the rainest season in memory we restarted our journey north. The trail appears and disappears in the wash. Look for the 4X4 posts. Stubb Canyon Creek actually had some water in it up near the now defunct Pink Motel. The new owner has put up a sign welcoming hikers to pass through their property. There is a good stream running in Cottonwood Canyon. We missed the trailside map mentioned in the handbook. We did see something we never would have thought of seeing, a tortoise! It was twelve inches long and crawling the PCT. I suppose it is a good trail for them as well. Though the trail is carpeted with growth in many places it is easy to distinguish. The meeting of Gold and Teutang Canyon is dramatic. It reminded me of Desert Divide; a sliver of a saddle between two distinct areas. Descending into Teutang we passed several yards of trail undermined by erosion in the first tributary. There was water running well in the next two streams coming into the canyon. We met an old man with a giant pack coming down into the canyon. He looked very tired. He had parked somewhere on the other side of Whitewater though it was never clear. The far side of Teutang is like a beautiful mountainside meadow. From here you can see precipitous animal trails on the southwest side. Descending to Whitewater River we were amazed to see the PCT tread north had become a stream. It looks like you’ll have to walk the shoulder until it dries up. Now the big adventure began. We had turned this into a day hike by parking Bill’s truck a mile downstream at the road crossing in Whitewater Canyon. There used to be a trail but a few hundred yards downstream the river has eroded it. We spent a great deal of time safely fording the river in a zigzag manner to get on the opposite side. It was a bit scary. Once across we were able to walk to the truck. Lee, Trout farm employee, stopped by to say his boss didn’t want people to park there. I said we had heard it was BLM land even though it is posted no trespassing. He really was nice though. Asked us about our trip and gave me permission to walk up the east side of Whitewater River to connect with the PCT for our next hike to Onyx Summit. Here are the pictures