Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pacific Crest Trail Segment 23 – August 17th through the 27th of 2008

Tuolumne Meadows to Echo Lake. 152 miles.
Here is a short video of places along the way video.
Here are the photos Bill and I took.

152 miles of the PCT anywhere is a physical, mental and logistical challenge. I spend many hours over the month or so before the big walk planning, preparing, packing and getting in even better shape. Except for the last section along the John Muir Trail this part was as uninhabited as any we’ve been through so far. Twice I relied on day hikers to take out a message to my family. I never got a cell signal till the last day above Lake Tahoe. We did it in 9 days. It was hard but didn’t beat me up like the last section. I lost 7 pounds. I ate quite a bit not enough obviously. Having 10 days worth of food forced us to choose with care. No more couscous for me for a while but macadamia nuts are still great.
We got a ride from Echo Lake back to the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead from Rachel Ginsburg super trail angel, hiker, friend etc. (more later) We couldn’t have pulled off the car shuttle better. We went through a terrific thunderstorm on the way to the trailhead. We saw a fire started by a lightening strike. Rachel didn’t join on the night hike to Glen Aulin. Walking 6 miles in the dark to get a jump on the mileage was not her cup of tea. We arrived at about 11:00PM and no matter what they say you can’t hike at night with a full moon; use your headlamp. Lot’s of indistinct trails over solid rocks; camped near a bear box which we used. The next day we lit out for the territories. The first few days are a roller coaster of climbs, passes and deep canyons. Lots of pack trains out there and saw a mule stampede that made us step off the trail. The cowboys were right behind and a few hours later the mules came by again in tow. Like me the mules get free and they head for the barn.
Everyday I was able to bathe in a lake or creek except one, a great joy. Only a few of the passes come close to the height and difficulty of the last section. Heard Clark’s Nutcracker annoying scream at Bensen Pass. Like crows they are part of the bird Mafia. Had a two mountain pass day and with the ups and downs, the altitude, felt weak. Passed a pretty lake with a freaked out duck. Didn’t see the chicks or eggs but were sure that she was protecting them. Lot’s of deer. Very tame except for the skittish youngsters. They know they have no worries from us. Some pretty Aspens here. First among equals in beauty. Surprised to see some scrubby desert like microclimates above 9000 feet. A real diversity of plant life, deep forest and the occasional moonscape. Bill thought he saw some beauty that equaled the Grand Canyon on a small scale. I’d agree. Noble Canyon had a compact version of an Anasazi cliff dwelling. Some terrific trail work along the way including diversionary channels for runoff that resemble trail junctions. I think I counted six deep canyons in a few days. 2000 feet descents in a mile or two with commensurate ups. Best to do them in the morning when it is cool. You just can’t schedule a hike like that. I had about 36 pounds to start with everything. Had a few nights, one in Grace Meadow, with lots of condensation. Dried off tent and bag at lunch. Never seen such moisture before. Nearly freezing in the morning. Bad camping spot.
Trails in meadows often turn into ruts. You can be walking 4 to 6 inches below the meadow floor. I trip and stumble and can’t figure what to do with my poles. Finally I shortened the poles to compensate for the depth. Started seeing cows. They must be grandfathered in because they tear up the ground and soil the creeks but this is real grass fed beef. Don’t know where you can get it but someday I’ll find it and give it a try. Saw a 15 person Sierra Club group. Probably more brains in one group than anybody on the whole section. I entertained them for about 10 minutes with jokes and questions. Sorry I wasn’t part of this group. They had a bear GORP attack the previous night but had enough food between them to go on. We never hung out food but sealed it in multiple bags and put it at our feet. First 15 mile day. Hey we’re in Volcanic areas now. The handbook says less granite and more Volcanic rock for the next 400 miles. Some amazing piles of rock as a result of eruptions along the way. The day before and after Sonora Pass was amazing. Incredible views, high altitude, dramatic sheer cliffs, narrow passes and big ups and downs; I’ll bet` we could see 200 miles. Coming down to Sonora Pass a heavily laden pair going up asked “do you have everything you need in there?” I said “looks like you have everything you need in your packs.” “Do you have a beer?” One said “if your name is Dana there is a beer down at the pass.” I said “My name is Dana!” Turns out Rachel Ginsburg put two bottles of Heineken at Sonora Pass for us. What a sweetheart. Met Angie the Forest Service Ranger from Utah on a busman’s holiday at the pass. She was in the area for a fire but things had calmed down and she was free to wander. “This is beautiful here.” We agreed. We went back above 10000 feet that night and camped at the highest point of the trip. Ran into a group of trail guerillas who only maintain the PCT. They were filthy young people with ecological degrees starting their life with a summer in the wilderness. We thanked them for their work. They ended their arduous day by hiking up a local peak. Saw some grouse the next day. Big bird! Good eating? Nobody on the trail today. Have seen 53 people so far. A fraction of the 600 last year. We bathe daily, wash our clothes, cook hot meals lunch and dinner. We’re passing a few roads now and saw 19 people, mostly day hikers near Highway 4. Only a couple of long distance hikers, two of which were recent graduates of “U Dub” or the University of Washington. I asked “what are you going to do now that you are grown up?” She said “I’m not grown up. Look at this pack. I am a Nomad now.” I woke up that night and saw the best firmament ever. It was glorious. Even with my worsening eyesight. We walked by the very windy “Nipple” on the next to the last day and passed the Lost Lakes before camping by the “Lakelets” below. I made a mistake and passed an easy water source. We were dry, windblown, and exhausted at the end of the day. Had a flyby by a flyboy in a jet and what a sound. Great lake where I washed on a submerged rock and filtered all the water we needed as a mea culpa. Got a signal and called my daughter and son. Wife was out but called me later. The last day we did a 20 mile or so to finish off. Saw two hikers, passed Carson Pass, fabulous views into Tahoe and the southern Reno valley and long beautiful meadows. The last hiker was a young lady in a two piece black athletic bikini miles from anywhere. I figure we deserved that. She said “You’re the only people I’ve seen all day.” I said “you’re the second person and best thing we’ve seen all day.” There was a huge, slow, rocky, descent in a canyon before we got to Highway 50 and a Ski resort. You needed to be a Billy Goat to move quickly. Deep forest and couple of miles to the shores of Echo Lake and my car. The worlds best trail store is at the boat rack. Packed with goodies, fresh vegetables and fruit and a place for a good burger. They guy who delivered the produce gave us a peach and some desserts, nice. Bill and I walked to the center of the dam at Echo Lake, high fived, and made a promise to come back next year for the next segment.
PCT hiking is running a marathon everyday for 10 days. Bill says it is half a marathon. Regardless we’re starting a business: Bill and Dana’s 10 day, 10 pound fat loss program: tent, backpack, sleeping bag and food extra. The adventure is not the view but the challenge. The view is spectacular however. You see beauty and places no one will every see. The scale of nature is moving. Wilderness means being virtually alone. A handful of people every few miles. California is big, really big. 30 million people but drive 30 miles from anywhere and be alone.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Article on my PCT talk from the San Diego Reader

Hot, Miserable, Amazing
By Barbarella | Published Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008 San Diego Reader

“The first thing I learned was that the man who has water on the mountain is king,” says hiking enthusiast Dana Law. “Water is absolutely the most important thing you’ll have in Southern California, because this really is the land without water. When I saw my first mountain spring I was totally shocked. It’s the most amazing, unusual thing I’d ever seen.”
On Wednesday, February 13, Law will appear at the La Jolla/Riford Library to talk about his experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. “This is one of three national scenic trails; it encompasses the entire U.S. West Coast beginning right here in San Diego County at the border in Campo,” explains Law. “It’s a connection of mountains and desert roughly 2650 miles long, all the way to the Canadian border in Washington State.” Law, a self-employed fitness buff, has hiked 974 miles of the trail over the course of 22 separate journeys. He learned of the trail from another hiker in 2003 while on an 11-day, 140-mile “sea to sea” course from Torrey Pines to the Salton Sea.
Law experienced his first emergency on a hike in May 2004. “It was 80 degrees the day before and 80 degrees the day after, but it turned out to be 100 degrees on the day we left.” When the trio of men set out, they made a pact to speak up about any adverse condition or health problem. Several miles in, one man began to look sick. “He kept being a guy and saying, ‘I’m fine,’ but then he collapsed.” Law climbed to the top of the nearest peak and called 911. “He had to be airlifted with a helicopter. It turned out he had heat prostration. He was running on too little water.”
Law, who hikes Cowles Mountain twice a week with a 25-pound backpack to stay in shape, says he is “constantly morphing and tweaking techniques to survive.” In addition to finding the proper shoes (hiking boots are out, tennis shoes are in), Law thinks the most difficult hiking hurdle is the ongoing struggle to reduce the weight of his pack. “One of the first trips I took, my pack with water and food was about 45 pounds, which was much too much — I was totally wiped out after only a few days. In the Sierras I had a 38-pound pack with about seven days’ worth of food. An average pack these days shouldn’t be much higher than about 25 pounds.” New technology in hiking gear has helped. Law’s old pack weighed 4.5 pounds, but his new “ultralight” bag weighs only 2 pounds.
One danger for which Law has learned to prepare is hypothermia. “Staying dry is absolutely essential to your success and health and happiness. You don’t even have to be that cold — it could be 40 degrees and you might think that’s not freezing, but think of what your body temperature average is. If it’s 40 degrees and you’re wet and you start shaking, you could lose your life in the middle of nowhere.”
In Law’s experience, it’s heat that causes more problems than cold. On several occasions, he and his team realized that they had gone too far in hot weather. The worst of these may be the time when they covered 15 miles in one day across the Cajon Pass on the way to Las Vegas. “We went up 4000 feet in 15 miles, and it was incredibly hard. It was hot, it was miserable, it was the most challenging thing we’d ever done physically in our lives.” Of other hot-day treks, Law says, “I’ve had nausea and weakness. Sometimes I’ve collapsed at the end of the day and curled up, speechless in a ball for an hour.”
Oddly enough, at no time during any of his journeys has Law suffered a blister. He does not attribute this to his shoes (trail-running tennis shoes), but to the high state of physical conditioning he maintains. At 53, Law is the youngest of his hiking partners. Despite his conditioning and experience, he is not immune to making mistakes. While entering the southern Sierras, Law fell behind his friends and admitted he wasn’t feeling well. When they arrived at the nearest stopping point, Law passed out. “Twelve hours later, I woke up in the same position.” In this case, Law believes he had consumed too much water. “People get sick from drinking too much water. Remember the woman in that contest who died?” (In January 2007, a 28-year-old died after participating in a water-drinking contest on a radio station in Sacramento.)
Hiking enthusiasts love to trade information about their favorite gear, as evidenced on numerous online forums. Aside from his MP3 player, which Law says helps him get to sleep in his tent, the one piece of gear he treasures above all others is his bandanna. “You can filter water with it, keep your face covered, and wipe the sweat off.”
— Barbarella