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.