Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pacific Crest Trail 2010 Update

It looks like I have a hiking partner for the PCT 2010. I'm very happy about that. My friend Dan from Asheville accepted my invitation last week and the planning process continues. Dan is a coworker from SUWS, someone I trusted and was always happy to work with. We spent numerous weeks together camping in the Pisgah, trying our best to help the teenagers assigned to our groups. Dan recently spent a month in Alaska backpacking with an 80 lb pack! It will be good to have another person to talk to, bounce ideas off of, problem solve, and above all, share the experience with.

Monday, December 14, 2009

View From Mt. Wilson

Mt. Wilson tower-cam.

UPDATE (12/22/09) : The tower cam seems to have broken the day after I posted this. Oooops! Hopefully it will be working again soon.

UPDATE (1/5/10) : The tower cam has been repaired and is working again!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mt. Whitney

I'm stuck inside today feeling under the weather, so I took a hike up Whitney today in my mind. Here's a short clip of the view of the summit along with chicken man. (August 21, 2009)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Strawberry Peak Revisited

I came across this article yesterday and feel like enough time has passed (sorry Mom!) to tell the full story about my Strawberry Peak hike in May. I'm embarrassed to admit that I could very well have been one of those statistics, and it was one of those hikes where important lessons were drilled home. Unfortunately, I've found making mistakes is one of the best ways I learn anything. Fortunately, I'm still alive to tell the tale.

When I hiked Strawberry Peak, it was only the second or third time I had been in the Angeles National Forest. Being new to LA, I was so excited to begin exploring this area. I was amazed how I could hike for hours and not see another soul, especially since it's so close to the city. Still in a state of blissful ignorance, my mind had not yet fully grasped the idea that this could be a very dangerous area if something were to go wrong. That realization happened when I found myself accidentally clinging to a crumbling hillside.

About 3/4's of a mile from the summit, the trail became increasingly steep and required rock scrambling, somewhat difficult hand over hand climbing. At one point in between some rock scrambling, I accidentally walked off trail and found myself following a path created by other hikers who in the past had also made a wrong turn. One thing I have learned over the years while hiking, is that I get a rather strong feeling in my gut when I've made wrong turns or have accidentally hiked off trail. Nine times out of ten, as soon as I catch myself thinking "this doesn't feel right," it's usually the case. I immediately turn around and re-orient myself once I find where the mistake occurred. While hiking Strawberry Peak, I got that feeling, but decided to see if I could find a shortcut back to where I knew the trail to be. Big mistake.

After bushwhacking for a couple of minutes, the hillside became increasingly steep. I kept telling myself, "if I just get over there, I'll be able to get to the trail on the ridge no problem." As soon as I'd arrive at the place where I thought the terrain would allow for safe travel, I'd find myself in a more precarious situation. I finally reached a point where I had nowhere else to go. I could not go sideways, I could not go up or down. To make matters worse, the hillside was literally crumbling underneath me. Every rock I grabbed with my hands seemed to break off within seconds. I tried to remain as calm as possible but I started to get scared. I realized that a fall would probably result in a serious injury. I also remembered that I hadn't seen anybody all day. If I was to injure myself, who knows how long I'd be laying amongst the chaparral before my desperate screams would be heard, if at all. I immediately began cursing myself for being so stupid to get myself in this situation. What was I thinking ignoring my gut feeling, or for even hiking out here alone?

Thankfully, after a couple of minutes of careful navigating, I managed to crawl my way back to a safer section of the mountainside and find my way back to the trail. I was rattled, but decided to finish my hike to the summit. I learned a couple of major lessons that day. One, the rock in the San Gabriel's is not very stable, and two (perhaps most importantly) never to hike alone without leaving an itinerary with someone. Now, whenever I go hiking alone, I leave my roommate a note describing where I am going and also an ETA (estimated time of arrival.)

So there you have it. Another hike. Another lesson. Thankfully, not another statistic.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thinking of the Sierra

Just thinking of the Sierra on a late Tuesday afternoon in LA. I took this short video with my camera above Marjorie Lake on the JMT in August 2009.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Something is Missing

I've been thinking lately that something is missing from my writings on this blog. It is something fundamental to my yearnings to hike trails and get out into the wilds. It is my relationship with God. I've been too worried about being judged, keeping my writings PC, and not wanting to alienate any readers. However, in order to attain full freedom of expression, I want God to be a part of my writing. I think of it like a wildflower, or a sapling, reaching for the light.
Often times when I'm hiking alone, I ask Jesus to hike with me on the trails. It sounds silly at times (sometimes I even wonder if it's nothing more than an imaginary friend), but it's important for me to stay connected with my Creator. I call these "Jesus walks." When I stand before a breathtaking mountain range, forest, wildflower, river, animal, insect, etc., my soul is filled with appreciation. When alone, it feels completely natural to direct my gratitude towards the heavens. The mountains and forests often feel like my church. It is where I feel closest to God, where the lessons of life are often revealed through the natural cycles.

I love science, religion, history, and philosophy, and try to keep an open mind to whatever possibilities may exist. While hiking a trail in Griffith Park one morning, I overheard a couple in conversation. A woman was talking to her friend about someone she knew: "Unfortunately, he has such an open mind that everything spills out all over the place!" she said to her friend. I thought that was an interesting analogy, something to be careful about. I see no reason why science and religion cannot coexist. Perhaps different trails, but ultimately reaching for the same destination, the truth. At least that's how I see it.

The Bible makes several references to the wilderness. It seemed like it was often a place of trials and tribulations. However it was also a place of purification. A place to connect with God. A place to discover or redefine one's place and purpose in the world. That's why I like to go.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Along the Angeles Crest Highway.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway re-opened today. I learned about it through a Pacific Crest Trail website and since I had a couple of hours to kill in between work, I couldn't resist the opportunity to see the devastation firsthand. It was an interesting experience. First of all, there was still a lot of construction taking place along the highway. Before entering the mountains, a small traffic jam formed as other eager visitors were waiting for their chance to tour the area. It felt like I was on a roller coaster, I too was excited to finally revisit this place. I knew it was going to be bad, but their were some encouraging signs.

I was surprised to see that construction crews had completely re-paved the road and painted fresh lines on the highway and parking areas. After driving for a few minutes, I was somewhat surprised they are allowing people to use the road. Rocks were literally falling down the hillsides and rolling out onto the road in numerous places. It also was very windy today and dust and ash spilled out onto the roads and filled the air at times.

One man I talked to said he could only drive so far before he had experienced enough. "It will probably take a hundred years before this place looks the same as I remember it." I told him it was like visiting a sick friend in the hospital. I also showed him some pictures I took of some flowering yucca plants I found further down the road. "I thought they only bloomed in the spring" he exclaimed. That's what I thought too.

There were small patches where the flames did not reach and the plants and trees were spared. There were also random trees that were unscathed for whatever reason in various spots along the road. I stopped by one of my favorite hiking trails and there didn't seem to be much of a trail left. It also appears hiking is going to be off limits for some time as the Forest Service has closed recreational areas for recovery.

It was hard not to rejoice for the survivors of this blaze and stand in awe of the resilience of life. Despite all of the destruction surrounding me, I felt like everything was going to be OK. How wonderful would it be to witness the recovery day after day, year after year in a place like this?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Angeles National Forest 2009

Here's a slide show of some pictures I took during the spring and summer of 2009 of the Angeles National Forest before the devastating Station Fire. Also included is another guitar instrumental I recorded in my room today.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wildwood Canyon

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I went for a hike on a new trail in a familiar mountain range- the Verdugos. My plan was to hike something a little less steep than what I'm used to doing in these mountains. That was not to be however. This hike was also a butt kicker. It was quite warm today as well as temperatures soared above 80.
One thing to be thankful about today was the good visibility. From the top, there were clear views all the way to the ocean and the distant Catalina islands. Also from the top, it was interesting to see all of the deciduous trees in the valley displaying their fall colors. I was surprised to see how many orange, red, and yellow trees, there are in the neighborhoods. From the top of the mountain, it reminded me how much I loved the fall in Asheville N.C. driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This chair was a great spot to eat a Thanksgiving snack of chocolate chip cookies, and watch and listen to the crows playing games in the sky above me. Of course family, food, and football would have been more ideal, but that was not to be this year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pacific Crest Trail 2010

While hiking the John Muir Trail in August, each passing day filled me with confidence and hope that I may one day be able to fulfill my dream of thru hiking one of the three major hiking trails in the United States (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide). While in the Sierra's, it was comforting to feel how my body and spirit responded and thrived to the physical and mental stresses of long distance hiking. A major thru hike seemed a definite possibility as the physical limitations I feared before the hike never manifested themselves. I always thought the Appalachian Trail would be "the one" since I always lived and did most of my hiking on the East Coast. However, since Southern California is my current residence, and the timing feels right, I've decided to give the Pacific Crest Trail a push for the upcoming 2010 season.
I am currently plagued by a fair share of worries. Financial worries, economic worries, physical and mental worries of hiking 20+ miles a day for five months, just to name a few. However, I refuse to let the worries of this life get in the way of actual living! I have faith that all of these things will work themselves out the way they are supposed to.
So, as I make the next adventure official, I hope to share my planning and thought process over the next few months as I prepare to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Of course, all the planning in the world will mean nothing until I actually step foot on the border of Mexico and begin the long, northward, 2,650 mile trek to Canada. Pacific Crest Trail 2010!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Next Blog

Recently I was feeling bored and decided to click on "Next Blog" at the top of the page to see what others were blogging about. Most of the time, I was getting blogs from people who were into arts and crafts, having babies, advertisements, nothing that I found real interesting. A few days ago, the blogger seems to have automatically bunched the adventure writers together. If you click on "Next Blog" you can see other blogs from people who are writing, photographing, and sharing their adventures online. I thought it was pretty cool to see trips from other random people...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Red Rocks

I took a drive up to Red Rocks today. It's a beautiful little State Park located in the Mojave Desert, just east of the beginning of the southern Sierra mountain range. Oh, to see those Sierra mountains in the distance and how I long to explore them some more! The weather was surprisingly chilly, I actually needed to put the heat on in my car while driving. It was a refreshing change from the constant 8o degree highs in LA.
Before entering Red Rocks, I drove through the small desert town of Mojave.

In the high desert, Joshua Trees made their presence known.

What possesses someone to spray paint rocks I will never know. Perhaps modern day petroglyphs?

Maybe it's the same reason I decided to create some rock art.

The eroding sandstone cliffs reminded me of the Badlands in South Dakota.
After spending most of the morning exploring different areas of the park, I learned there was still more across Highway 14. In fact, I found this area more beautiful and it felt more remote.

I didn't pack a lunch today so I'll have to plan on returning again and spending more time in the area around the Red Cliffs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Station Fire Update

Here's some information on the current state of the San Gabriels.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Full Moon

My roommate Fabio and I went for a hike this evening in the Verdugo mountains. It was the first time Fabio has gone hiking with me. Although we did not make it to the top of the mountain, we were still privileged to see an amazing sunset and full moon rise.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mount Hollywood

I went for an early morning hike to the top of Mount Hollywood on a cool, crisp day. Visibility was good this morning, as I could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from the Observatory. There was a film crew at the summit, getting ready to tape some kid sitting in a chair, overlooking the Hollywood sign. An interesting place to film a morning show.