Sunday, July 26, 2009

Last Night

Well, this is it. My bags are packed and I'm just about ready to go. I have to admit I felt a little nauseous when I saw how much stuff I was bringing. My pack is heavy, but not unbearable. Thankfully, it also seems very compact. I wish I had something profound to say, but I actually just feel tired! My roommate and I were talked into going down to San Diego last night so after a long night, today I've been running around like crazy. My plan is to head up to Lone Pine tomorrow after work, but that is subject to change if I can't get my last minute chores done. Anyways, I hope to bring back some good pictures when I return. Happy Trails!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


What does going to Sears Auto Center have to do with hiking? Well, it occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that I was going to have to get my tire patched before I left for the JMT or there was a good possibility I would return to my car with a flat, right, passenger side tire.

I'm embarrassed to admit I've been driving around with this nail in my tire for months now. Yes, I am "that guy."

I noticed the nail shortly after I had a different tire replaced due to a nail in the sidewall a few months ago. From what I could tell, the nail looked as if it were acting like the perfect plug. Nestled in tightly between the treads, flat against the ground. The tire did, however, require me to visit the air machine every couple of weeks to re-inflate it. Now that the patchwork is done, hopefully I can return from the trail to my car ready for the drive back to LA.


I said goodbye to my food today after stopping by the UPS store and the Post Office. It's a strange feeling to trust others with the care and delivery of my lifeline. It's also liberating in the sense that I am one step closer to hiking the trail. The food boxes have been sitting on my couch the past week and whenever I would look at them, I would wonder, "is it enough food? Is it too much?" A couple of days ago, I came to the realization that it is the perfect amount. My body will simply have to adjust to what I've prepared.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bear Bag Hang

I decided to practice some bear bag hanging skills in my living room to make sure I remembered how to do it. It's amazing how much I forgot in just a year and a half. Needless to say, it took me a little longer than I anticipated for the knowledge to come back to me (It's not even that complicated lol!)

None of this may matter in a couple of weeks. One swipe of a bear's claw to the rope will bring this whole contraption tumbling down and leave me cursing and hungry!

Friday, July 17, 2009


My $80 bullet proof bearbag arrived today. Thankfully, it looks like I am now set with all of my major gear purchases. My food situation is just about resolved. Just a few minor adjustments here and there, and it will be ready to be shipped out via the mail. I tested out my new water filter today and it seems to work just fine. I packed up my pack with most of the bulky items just to see how it feels. I am a little worried about the amount of weight I am carrying. I really hope my foot can handle the constant pounding it will surely endure on the trail.

Hopefully it will be a non-issue. I remember when I hiked the Long Trail, I was really worried about how my lower back was going to handle the trip because I had never done a long distance hike before. I distinctly remember the parking lot where I parked my car and it was over 90 degrees when I arrived. I tried to scarf done two peanut butter sandwiches in the parking lot and I remember feeling like I couldn't swallow, my mouth was so dry. I ended up drinking most of my water before reaching the trail head. I remember walking down the neighborhood streets with my pack on concentrating on the feeling of my lower back, trying to get a sense of what, if anything, was happening to my disc. As soon as I reached the trail head, that was the least of my worries. I basically was out of water and as soon as I entered the forest, I was swarmed by mosquitoes. I remember feeling like I was getting eaten alive. Soon I was feeling dehydrated as well. I must have looked like a sorry sight to 2 girls who were just finishing the trail hiking the opposite direction. When I saw them I basically begged them for any water they might have had. They were so excited to be finishing they gave me what they felt they could spare. Temporarily relieved, I continued on in the 90 degree heat. Again I was thirsting for water. I remember having to hike another six miles before I finally reached my first stream. Never in my life had I felt so excited, relieved, and on top of the world as when I heard the water trickling down the stream bed a few hundred feet away. It was the best water I had ever tasted. It was also a moment when I realized that I was going to be OK, and I didn't even notice my back. I still had a lot to learn. In fact, that night, I ended up camping in the woods off the trail because I couldn't find the shelter that was supposedly on the map. When I woke up the next day and started hiking, the sign for the shelter was only a couple hundred feet down the trail.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thanks Michael!

Thanks for the Crocs Michael! This is one of the greatest luxury items on the trail in my opinion: some camp shoes. When I hiked the Long Trail, I skipped out on having camp shoes because I thought it was unnecessary. I can't tell you how many times I cursed myself for that decision. At the end of a long day of hiking, there is nothing better than taking off the boots and giving sore feet some air and a rest. When nature calls in the middle of the night, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing there is a pair of slippers waiting to be worn. I used to just wear socks and more often than not, I'd step into a puddle or a dew filled patch of grass while half asleep. If I went barefoot, I'd always step on some pointy rock or stick and stab my already aching feet. Best of all, they are lightweight.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I went on a hike this evening in Griffith Park to break in my new insoles I bought for my boots. I saw some deer, a couple of coyotes, and this owl perched in a tree. It's been over a year since I saw an owl and it immediately brought back a memory. One thing that always strikes me when I see these owls is just how big they are.

When I was living in Asheville, I used to enjoy hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the winter. Most of it is closed in winter due to snow and ice. I would park my car near the Shut In Trail near my house, hike through the woods for a few miles, and then hike back to my car along the road. Most times, I wouldn't see another soul. Anyways, I remember one day hiking down the road when I saw this huge owl perched on a tree branch in the middle of the day. It was the first owl I had remembered seeing in a long time. We both looked at each other for a while and I remember thinking it looked like a big brown baby sitting in the tree. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the owls eyes looking at the camera.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Uh Oh!

I wanted to see how much food could fit in my bear canister today. The canister is advertised to fit about 5 days of food. I thought that was probably a conservative estimate because it looks like it could fit more than that when its empty. I was wrong. Pictured is my bear canister with the first four days of food before my first resupply. Unfortunately, the last leg of the trip, I have to carry 10 days worth of food. Obviously, there is no way 10 days would fit into this barrel, or probably 2 barrels. There is no way I'm going to carry another 3 1/2 pd. bear canister on my backpack. That leaves me with a few less than desirable options. 1.) I can take a chance that my "bearbag" hanging skills are superior to the hunting skills of the notoriously crafty Sierra blackbears. 2.) Find a rock crevasse to stuff my extra food into and hope for the best. 3.) Stay up all night and guard my food with a pan and whistle. 4.) Purchase a bear bag for $80 that is supposedly bulletproof.
Most likely it will be a combination of #1 and #4. I just hope I can order the bear bag in time for my departure date.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Food Prep

From what I've read, some people really love preparing for trips like the John Muir Trail. They enjoy the research, making lists, charts, and graphs. Some people enjoy finding ways to shave every last ounce of unwanted weight off their packs. Some use scales and computers to achieve this goal. Some people will analyze each day on the trail and figure out elevation gain and loss and how many calories they will burn and how much food will be needed to counterbalance the energy loss. I, on the other hand, despise that sort of planning and information gathering and would rather go see the dentist or the barber. I am a procrastinator at heart, and this trip has been no different. I've already been denied a permit in Yosemite because I waited too long to order one. Thankfully, Yosemite issues 40% of their permits to walk ins. As a result, it looks like I will have to wait outside the permit office at 3 in the morning to ensure a successful departure. Anyways, I'm trying to fight my procrastinating nature and get my food prep done before the 14th, and mail my food packages by the 21st. At first, I was a little worried about my food choice, especially when I could feel the pounds adding up. After doing a little more research this afternoon, I'm feeling pretty confident that I'm making good choices. It seems like I'm spending a lot more money than I would have liked, but ultimately, I don't tend to worry about that. A little more than 2 weeks to go!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I woke up early this morning and drove up the Pacific Crest Highway to Devil's Canyon. I bought Fleet Foxes first album a couple of months ago and find the music fitting while driving the windy mountain road. I was blessed again with another cloudless, blue sky.
The hike seemed non-eventful at first. The landscape looked similar to previous hikes. It was very warm today, and I was worried about another sunburn. Once I reached the small creek towards the end of the trail, my luck began to change. Just as I was about to turn around and start the three miles back to my car, I saw a large animal out of the corner of my eye crash through the creek and bolt into the forest. I immediately heard the snorting sounds of what I'm pretty sure was another black bear. The sound is similar to that of a horse. It was the same sound I heard when I encountered a bear three weeks ago. Anyways, I ducked down behind a log and waited about five minutes to see if the bear would come out into the open so I could get a picture. No luck. I kept thinking about that Far Side comic where it shows the last pictures of an outdoorsman getting attacked by a bear.

After eating lunch in a shaded area next to the creek, I watched a small water snake hunt for food for a while. Then I saw a beautifully colored bird land on a rock across the creek. It had a bright orange head and yellow chest. It's called a Western Tanager according to my Audubon Field Guide. A mile or so up the trail, I was hiking along when I heard a quick high pitch rattle. Unless I was hiking alone, I'm sure I would have missed the sound. When I turned around, sure enough, there was a young rattlesnake climbing up the rocks a few feet away. His rattle was very high pitched and not very strong. As nasty as these serpents can be, I am thankful that they have been very courteous to warn me of their passing. In fact, they seem to be reluctant to strike unless seriously threatened. Let's hope it stays that way. After finishing the hike, I stopped by a visitor's center a mile down the road. After talking to one of the rangers, he confirmed for me that there are Sequoias in these forests. They are not native to the area and probably won't grow nearly as large as the ones up north according to the ranger.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rice and Lentils

The biggest challenge I am having right now in preparation for the John Muir Trail, is deciding what kind of food to bring. Unfortunately, I can't remember what I ate when I hiked the Long Trail in Vermont in 2001. Last night I decided to experiment with rice and lentils. I was pleasantly surprised how much food was produced by just a small amount of each. I imagine one could bring one 5lb bag of rice and have enough dinner for the whole trip.

Throw in some spices and Parmesan cheese, and it was actually quite good. The one thing I do remember about the Long Trail was feeling famished all the time, especially after the first week of hiking. I think pack weight is going to be essential this time around. I've been noticing that my right foot has been bothering me a bit whenever I have hiked more than 5 miles in a day. In fact, the last "big" hiking trip I undertook (which was only 30 miles in 3 days in the Smokies,) my foot was hurting so bad I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish. I blame the Washington Redskins. Three years ago when I was living in Arlington VA, I was able to watch the Skins play every Sunday. It was great, come home from church, put a Tombstone pizza in the oven, crack open a Dr. Pepper (or 2 or 3), and watch football the rest of the afternoon. I remember one game in particular in which Clinton Portis (the Redskins running back) fumbled the ball three times in one game. By the third fumble, I slammed my foot down on my coffee table with such force and disgust that I immediately felt a pain and ringing sensation in my foot. After further cursing at both the Skins and my throbbing foot, I noticed that whenever I played guitar for weeks and months afterward, I had to tap my left foot. Whenever I tapped my right, I felt a strange discomfort. To this day I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me in the Sierras.