Physical preparation

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Note – I am now operating via iPhone only. Bear with me folks.

A few people have asked me about physical conditioning. Some who have seen my daily itinerary have asked about my fitness to do an average of 25 miles a day over and over.

I feel good about my physical readiness for this trip. While I am a pretty active guy in general, I did some specific training to prepare for the PCT. I started in earnest in the spring of 2013. I began taking more and longer walks.

I live in a small town in Lancaster County, PA. This is farm country with nothing but rolling hills in every direction. We don’t have a ton of elevation change on any one hill. 300 feet is not a bad estimate of the average change. But there are generally at least 2 of these rolling hills in every mile. Several US cycling teams train in the area.

It did take me a while to get used to walking without having a canine companion, but I adjusted. I found a few circuits that I enjoy that do not require any driving. These are my favorite kind of hikes. Just walk out your door and go. I started doing a 13 mile loop with a 20 pound pack at least once a week and more often when I had the time. I would finish the circuit in about 4 hours including several short rest stops and usually a 15-30 minute stop to read and reflect in a beautiful gazebo.

I used these walks not just for conditioning but for gear tests. I tried out several pairs of pants, shirts, hats, and socks until I found the gear that really works for me.

I started running again after I quit smoking last November. Once December hit and the cold really set in, I joined a gym and kept running inside. From December 7th to early March, I only skipped three days. I ran (or hit the elliptical) for at least 1 mile every day. Most days it was 3-6 miles, and I kept an 8 minute mile pace on average.

In January, I started with a weight training program as well. Nothing too intense or extensive but the 30 minute machine circuit at my gym hits all/most major muscle groups and is a great place to start for anyone who has never done weights before. I did that every other day.

Despite the wicked cold and lots of snow, I still went hiking on some of my favorite woodsy trails at least twice a month through the winter. I hiked when it was 12 degrees, old snowpack in the woods, and fresh snow falling. I would take a 20 pound pack and hike 6-12 miles depending on the conditions.

The past few weeks I left the elliptical behind and went back to the treadmill to get my feet used to the pounding again and my body to walking instead of running or elliptical-ing. I set the incline for maximum, and the pace at 4 mph and rocked out for a solid hour. Sometimes I would do another 15 or 20 minutes but most days I would begin my cool down after the hour.

When I combine the past 12 months of physical conditioning and gear testing with my prior experience hiking big days in the Grand Canyon or Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff and completing the John Muir Trail through the Sierras – I feel confident.

None of this is to say that everything will be rosy. Some days will be hard. I just mean that I am really comfortable and confident with the capabilities of my body, my gear, and my mind.

I am ready. Let’s do this!

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The magical manzanita forest at Casa de Luna. It will be interesting to see how much greenery is here when I am back in a few weeks…

Fall Hike/Gear Review Part 3

West Virginia Vista
West Virginia Vista

Critter Conclusion:
In addition to the many deer i mentioned, i also saw a gang of turkeys towards the end of Day 2! It was getting dark and they were across a little valley, but i saw them take off from the ground and fly into some trees. There were maybe 12 of them. Again – no pics. I wasn’t worried about spooking them. But with the light and the distance, i did not think the odds of a clear pic were very good. And i was really tired and hoping to make it to camp before dark.

Pack Weight:
Things have changed in Backpacking since my youth. It is scary to think back on the things we learned when i was in the scouts. We carried hatchets, raw potatoes, canned goods, all kinds of weird heavy stuff. We would carry fresh fruits – lots of apples – and chuck the remains into the forest to decay naturally. None of that stuff matches up with today’s principles, and in many cases, rules and laws. We will have to come back to Leave No Trace principles later, because that it is important, but it is not gear review or Pack Weight.

Big Pack 1
Big Pack 1

My buddy Poppa Joe shared a quote that sums the whole thing up nicely: “The fun goes up as the weight goes down.” Warner Springs Monte

The lighter your pack, the easier it is on your body. The lighter your pack, the less crap you have with you in the woods – hopefully lending to a simpler experience with more time spent in the moment than fussing over gear. I have been gear obsessed for the least few years. I have two scales for weighing gear and several spreadsheets with products and weights and links to reviews and comparisons. In addition to simply enjoying good gear, i do all this now so that i won’t have to think about it in the woods.

Big Pack 2 (slightly smaller/lighter)
Big Pack 2 (slightly smaller/lighter)

Once i wanted to get beyond weekend trips, i started like most other beginners (experience not age), with about a 60 pound pack. You get in the woods a little bit, talk with some other hikers, buy a few different things and get your weight down below 40 pounds. This is still way too heavy. I did make a few changes, mostly buying a new pack, and got my Base Pack Weight (BPW)* near 30 pounds before i hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012. Things were better, but i discovered that this was still way too heavy. Almost everyone I met on that hike was thru-hiking the PCT and they ALL had these tiny packs.

* There is not a truly consistent standard for calculating BPW. The concept is that your BPW should be the weight of everything NON-Consumable in your pack. But how that gets interpreted varies. Do you include or exclude your water treatment drops, or vitamins, or toilet paper/wipes/hand sanitizer, or sunscreen, or stove fuel, or, or… Many folks, me included, tend to use BPW for everything but food and water. I like this system. It is easy to understand, replicate, and provides a useful standard for comparison.

From my talks with experienced long-distance hikers and other research, my goal is to get my BPW as close to 15 pounds as possible. It can be easy for someone new to backpacking to get set-up with a lightweight kit. It can be more difficult for experienced hikers to drop pack weight. There are many things that you can buy, but you really need to learn how to challenge ALL of your preconceptions. This has been a fun and enlightening process. Why do i have so many zip locks? Why are these things in this bag? How you keep your gear and spare gear organized at home does not have to be the same way you organize your gear in your pack. Without making very many new purchases, but focusing on analyzing my behaviors, i got my BPW for this hike to about 22 pounds! That is over 8 pounds lighter than my JMT kit, and included some winter specific gear that will not be in my PCT pack!

Check out how small Joe's pack is.
Check out how small Joe’s pack is.

My master gear spreadsheet, where i am tracking my PCT gear, includes gear that i do not yet have but which i have decided to purchase for sure, and has very few holes which represent items still under debate: will i take this or not, will i get this brand or that brand, etc. This spreadsheet is tracking two BPW numbers: with and without a Bear Canister. Many sections of the PCT require hikers to use a bear canister. I am thinking about carrying one the whole trip. Most people only carry one where it is strictly required. I like the bear canister. It is simple and effective, and it works against every critter, not just bears.

Very few people actually know how to effectively hang food out of the reach of bears. Even if you do know how, there are not many places that present the correct configuration of trees to oblige you. If you do have the knowledge, and nature does provide the correct availability and spacing of trees, this system does nothing to prevent squirrels, mice, possums, and any other kind of critter that can climb or fly from getting your food. Given all that, why wouldn’t people carry a bear canister all the time? They weigh about 2.5 pounds.

Joe is sitting on a Bear Can
Joe is sitting on a Bear Can

My heavy number, BPW with bear canister, is down to 17.9 pounds. I am at 15.4 without the bear can. We will see as i continue to fill the few holes in my list. I project that when the list is complete, i will be at about 19 pounds BPW w/Bear can. And that is why i think i am going to replace the tent i just replaced. I can lose about 2 pounds switching from my current free-standing tent to an ultralight single-wall tent that uses one or both of my hiking poles as the support structure. More on tents another time.

That is a quick look at pack weight. There will probably be more later. As i get closer, i am sure i will do a complete inventory series as well.

Feel free to let me know if there is anything specific you would like to learn about.

Rock On!

Interlude – or where the Frack is Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I am popping back up after an unexpected absence from blogging. For the most part, i just got busy – which is good. There were some more personal meltdown style events as well, but these were small and brief and navigated if not well, at least better than in the past.

Mother's Day near Holtwood Dam
Mother’s Day near Holtwood Dam

I am still developing my new project for India that i can’t talk much about yet, except to say that things are coming along nicely. I am nearing completion on the initial research and validation stage, working on briefing materials, and hope to begin shopping for seed funding in the next 4-6 weeks.

I have not reactivated the running program, though both that and quitting smoking are on the agenda. I have managed to remain sober, hitting the four month mark at the end of May. There have been few difficult times, but more than i expected. I have not been greatly tempted, and it has been fairly easy to avoid drinking, but i hoped that it would be further from my mind by now than it is. Meaning, i do still think about it, and with more frequency and intensity during stressful times. I am enjoying sobriety. I have not slept this well in years. The biggest and most obvious benefit so far is all about mental health. As alluded to above, i have had one or two trying times, but i have not been depressed since January. With a sober head, it is so much easier to assess what is happening when i start to feel bad, and if not turn things around immediately, at least stop the process of declining into repetitive negative thought and behavior patterns.

A quick example. I had some exciting travel plans around memorial day. The plan fell apart for the first leg of the trip, and for reasons i am still not entirely aware of, that threw me off my game. I started to feel anxious and nervous and a bit agoraphobic. I did not manage to snap out of it and continue with the rest of my plans. I did stay at home, mostly inside. I did struggle with not wanting to see or talk with people when i did go outside, but – that is as bad as it got. I did manage to go grocery shopping and run some other errands. I did clean the house, tend the garden, and do other home based chores. I didn’t wallow too much – and i didn’t drink about it. In a few days, i felt better and jumped back into the swing of things.

Preparations are well underway for the presentation my friend and i are leading for LYP next week, and i am excited about the event. I have made good progress on securing a local paying consulting gig that is also exciting. That i will be able to tell you about, but i will wait until we finish negotiating the details and sign the contract.

I will finish the last few entries for the Apple tech series and get those posted – hopefully this weekend.

Next Up – i think i will probably write about addiction and mental health for a while. The whole picture has not taken shape yet, but i can see how i would like some of the pieces to go. Initially, i will do a bit of a recap of why i decided to get sober this time. I would also like to write about the three other times i have quit drinking. There will most likely be several historical look at various phases of substance abuse covering how and why i got there among other things.

Nick and Jake - JMT start
Nick and Jake – JMT start

Today is the One Year Anniversary of Jake and I starting our John Muir Trail Adventure! I should probably get on the stick and finish the JMT movie project, perhaps to coincide with the one year anniversary of completing that hike…

Hello. My name is Nick…

Hi Folks.

Disclaimer: Normally i write all my blogs in a separate word processing suite and edit them and ponder them and then post. Today, i am just gonna freeball it and we shall see how it goes.

I don’t like breaking promises or creating false hope, but sometimes that is how it goes. When last i wrote i expected to finish a serialized piece on relationships and self discovery as well as complete the John Muir Trail video. Neither of those things happened.

I went to do some dog-sitting with Mickey and Max and despite their loveliness I started to get very depressed again. A few days into my small-ish pity party, i got some bad news from my adopted hometown Richmond VA. One of my buds and mentors, the fellow i apprenticed with to learn how to lay tile, committed suicide by hanging. Yah, he hung himself.

I was shocked and confused and hurt and angry. I spent a day on the phone with various friends, making sure other out of town folks knew and sharing memories and feelings with others. Over a few days there was a huge outpouring of various kinds on the facebooks, and lots of it was crap. There were many people that had not said a kind word about this guy in a decade talking about what a tragedy it was and how awesome he was and how much he will be missed – and that really pissed me off. Later, as i looked back, maybe there were a few attention whores out there, but probably this was people trying to find their own way to deal with grief and shock and in many cases guilt.

This was a difficult human being. He was brilliant, a master craftsman, and a guy who could build or fix anything inanimate. But he was also not the most gifted at interpersonal relationships and communication. Like many tradesman i know, he was a recovering alcoholic and had lifelong battles with depression. Over the past few years, it was obvious that his mental health was deteriorating. He went on and off the wagon again a few times. He wrote more and more bizarre things on the internet, and was difficult to get ahold of in person. Sometimes i would try to visit him when i returned to Richmond, and other times i avoided him and spent time with people who are easier to get along with. I think lots of people had a similar arc in the past few years of doing a little bit of reaching out and a lot more of avoiding or ignoring him. And i believe that is where the feelings of guilt come in. I don’t feel responsible in any way, but i do wonder if i could have done anything to make a difference.

The anger is harder to comprehend. I am angry at him for giving up. I am angry at him for choosing hanging (though i don’t know that any method would be easier to tolerate). I am angry at the outpouring of what feels to me like fake false crap from “mourners”. I am angry at myself for feeling that way about other people’s reactions. I am angry at me for being angry. And i am angry because i am terrified – because of how similar we are in so many ways.

I have felt myself slipping mentally since December. I have taken a few minor steps to try and get a handle on things, but i made no serious commitment and took no decisive actions. I have even avoided several things that i know are good for me including finishing the piece i started months ago on relationships. I have had the backstory part finished for at least 5 weeks, i just got stuck on the conclusion – the “so what” – the “what have you learned” parts.

And off and on since December, i have not done very well with controlling my drinking. I spent wasted a few more days at the bottom of a bottle after hearing the news about my friend and then i realized that it was time to suck it up. I don’t know what all my problems are, and i don’t know how to fix all the ones that i do recognize, but there is one that affects all the others. I have not said these words in a long long time, but here ya go.

Hi, my name is Nick and i am an alcoholic. It has been 11 and a half days since my last drink and today i want to be sober and live more than i want to get drunk and hide. Thanks for letting me share.

Just a Quickie

Howdy Folks. It has been a while. I have some stuff lined up for you, but some of it still needs a little polish. I had some good momentum going on with the writing and then things got a little weird for me just before Christmas. I got overwhelmed by a wave of unspeakable sadness and was stuck weeping and thinking many a negative thought.

My little blond girls!
My little blond girls!

I did manage to pull things back together and proceed with my holiday travel plans and visited with family and friends. Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my three lovely nieces was splendid. We played some of our favorite games and a few new ones too. I also got to spread a little Christmas cheer with Mickey and Max and their bipeds!

Max and Mickey
Max and Mickey

New Years in Richmond was a blast as usual, though the sadness started trying to creep back in on January 1. I rode it out – not splendidly, but i did not get overwhelmed.

On a brief return to NoVA, i got to take the nieces out to visit an old friend’s farm to ride some horses as well as share some time with her family. This has been a wonderful reconnection largely facilitated by Facebook.

Girls and Horses!
Girls and Horses!

I felt a little rocky again once i got back to PA, but i have spent time focusing on what needs to be done and applied doses of “Fake it ’til you Make it” as needed and i think i have righted the ship again.

Vance and i have made some excellent progress on the business front, i have some consultations set up with another LYP member regarding RAI‘s technical evolution, and have a few social outings on the agenda as well. I am also nearing completion on the JMT movie project. I need to review it again, but i believe that all the visual content is set. Once i verify that, i will add in some voiceovers where appropriate and be ready to set up a mechanism for those interested to either download it or receive a DVD.

I used my Christmas present from my sister’s clan, an REI gift card, to replace my old backpacking pan with a new one that i like much better. It boils water faster, has a non-stick coating, and can actually nest a fuel canister.

Jake/Floyd and i got to talk on the phone several times over a couple of days as well as exchanging some emails and it was really great to get to spend some time with him again. We have not had much time to chat since we left CA in July.

Me and Jake on Forester Pass
Me and Jake on Forester Pass

The next few days should be pretty full with business research and presentation creation, but i expect to have some time to dedicate to personal projects (writing and the JMT video) in the second half of January. I had hoped to have the JMT video ready for Christmas, but hopefully it won’t drag on past the end of January.

I hope your holiday season was filled with at least as much cheer as mine and hopefully far less battling with demons.

Cheers!

Pre-JMT Aftermath Potluck

And you thought the JMT stories were finished just because we finished the JMT? Silly Rabbit. There will be a few tales from “Green Valley Days: three weeks at Casa de Luna” and a few brief tales about the epic-in-its-own-right cross-country adventure back to PA. For now, some odds and ends.

This post does contain homework for you all.

JMT Video: I have been working diligently on creating a movie about our JMT experience. All the pics are in it, all the video, and some other material as well. It is about 90% complete now. I am not sure how long it will take to polish the last 10%, but it will be before the winter holiday season. It *should* be available to download for the tech savvy, but I will also format it to play on DVDs in a regular old DVD player. So homework for you guys:

  1. Send me a message, leave a comment, dispatch a carrier pigeon – let me know if you want to possess a copy of this movie and if you prefer download or DVD. This is not a contest and you won’t be judged. I don’t care if you don’t want to see the thing, but many have expressed interest.
Maximus!
Maximus!

Blog Posting Schedule: For a few nerdy reasons, I watch the “site stats” for my blog with interest searching for patterns. I have not found any patterns, but it is fun to look. If I am in internet silence for a month or more, my first one-three posts generally get 45-75 views each day. If I post once a day for two weeks or so, I generally get 3-10 views each day – and at that level, I pretty much know who you are. I will be doing more writing, more regularly, for the foreseeable future. For me, the primary joy is in the writing itself. I like sharing and love feedback and discussion, but I do not write in search of praise. So, I figured that I should ask you guys what you prefer? I got good feedback from the group of regular readers on issues related to the length of individual posts and when to break longer tales into chapters, and in that same spirit I ask you:

  1. What would you like the “publication” schedule to be? Do you want one post a day? One post a week? Two or three times a week? Or, also important to learn, does your interest in reading here depend more on your schedule than on when new posts do or do not appear?
MickeyMick!
MickeyMick!

On the Horizon: We are about to delve into somewhat different topics here than have previously been explored. I have a few things cooking and am not sure which will be ready first, but there is going to be a series on politics in general, the efficacy or not of voting, a tiny bit about the recent elections and other related bits. It will be difficult to do that without touching on many issues, so a discussion of religion is coming to BOC. All of that material will have some philosophical elements, but there are a few other more technical bits of philosophy to be discussed as well with one of the primary aims being to un-technical-ize them.

Meeting of Minds...
Meeting of Minds…

For some lighter fare, I still owe a brief account of the Conversation Desk, pitons, and a close corollary, the “Real Quick”.

Consider completing your optional homework assignments and enjoy the day folks.

The Last Day – JMT Day 26 – June 26, 2012

Guitar Lake – Summit Mt Whitney (14,505 ft!) – Whitney Portal – Casa De Luna!!!

11,480 – 8,330 (+ 3,455 / – 6,175) – 15.1 miles * Mt. Whitney!!

Free Maps Online – Day 26 – Map 2 and 1

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Guitar Lake Morning Alpenglow
Guitar Lake Morning Alpenglow

I did wake up very early, but went back to bed until about 5 AM. I was moving about and making preparations before 6 AM. It was a beautiful morning, though quite cold. Jake got up soon after and actually hiked out of camp before me. The ascent to Trail Crest gave us our first real views of Guitar Lake, and while misshapen, it does strongly resemble a guitar when viewed from above.

Guitar Lake from above
Guitar Lake from above

The final ascent from Trail Crest to the summit of Mt Whitney was breathtaking in two ways – more astonishing views, and some scary bits of trail. There were a few tight corners, a few short, but thin ridge walks with nothing on either side but a long way down, and a beautiful, but sketchy snow field.

Dicey snow field
Dicey snow field

But we made it to the summit and spent about an hour and a half taking in the different views, getting some pictures, and making phone calls.

Fox Force Three on top of the USA
Fox Force Three on top of the USA

Back at our parting at Onion Valley, Joe told us, “when you get to the top of Whitney call me. It is about 4 hours from my house, but I will still beat you to Whitney Portal trailhead.” We did not know for sure if that was something Joe said in the emotional moment of our parting and that a few days back in civilization might change his perspective. We had the number of another great guy we met at VVR who said we could call him from Whitney and he should still be in the area and would drive us back to our car in Yosemite. It is also not usually difficult to get a hitch from Whitney to the nearby town of Lone Pine, and I had researched the bus routes back to Yosemite from there. But we hoped Joe would be able to come get us, so after lounging a bit, we called Joe.

He told us that we would probably not get down to Whitney Portal until 8 PM, and he would be there waiting for us, probably by 7:30. Now that we knew that we would not have to camp on Whitney, or hitch to Lone Pine, and we would get to see Joe and celebrate the conclusion of our journey with him, we were in high spirits and ready to tackle the final leg of the journey – a 10.4 mile, 6,130 ft, descent.

Aside from a few snowy patches in the shadow of the mountain, the trip down was relatively smooth and easy – it just seemed never-ending. I did not stop one time from Trail Crest until a little past Outpost camp, about half of the distance and elevation. Jake caught up with me there and we rested together for a bit, but I moved on sooner than Jake. Not to long after, I met a guy asking for distances. I told him where we were and asked him why he wanted to know. He said that the last food and drink orders at the grill at Whitney Portal must be in be by 7:45, and he took off.

I am slower on the descent than the ascent, my legs were beginning to feel the burn, and I was getting tired. The only way I had stayed ahead of Jake on such a long downhill stretch so far was that I had not stopped at all. Jake soon caught me and I told him what the guy said about the grill. Jake decided to kick it into that weird other gear he has and make it down to the food. I yelled after him, “order me one of anything veggie and a beer! Whoop Whooop!”

I got down not too long before I would have needed to use my headlamp – just about 8 PM. I found Jake and Joe and it was a glorious reunion. We ate  our veggie burgers and fries and drank a beer and some fresh gatorade. In true Papa Joe fashion, he not only ran into someone else he knew there at the grill, it was his neighbor! We were so excited that Joe wanted to come and see us and that he was able to and that Terry let him go. That’s when Joe told us “the catch”. “Terry said that I could only come and get you guys if I brought you back to Casa de Luna – tonight.”

So after walking about 240 miles, from Yosemite to Mt Whintey, we got in the car with Joe and headed further south to Casa de Luna, not but 45 minutes from LA.

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

JMT Day 25 – June 25, 2012

just short of Lake South America Trail Junction – Guitar Lake

11,050 – 11,480 (+ 1,075 / – 1,010) – 13.4 miles

Free Maps Online – Day 25 – Map 2 and 1

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

Another day in which we rocked out some trail. I awoke early as usual and got Jake going sooner than usual – it was too cold to mess about and let him sleep, and I was eager to see what we would see!

Look at the grasses!
Look at the grasses!

The views on this day were very much worth the effort. After all the time hiking in the trees, on high mountain ridges, and looking around at the Morgul Valley searching for Mount Doom, we saw stuff I would not have imagined. When you get into the Bighorn Plateau area – it is a bit surreal. It really does look like sheep or bison should be calmly feasting on the grasses in this wide open flat plain between 10,000 and 11,000 ft high. There is this one little perfect clear lake by itself in the middle of the field. When you look behind you (north), you can see Forester Pass. When you look ahead and to the left (south east), you can see Mt Whitney! It kinda looks like an anvil from this angle. Even though I know we won’t reach Whitney for another day, it feels so good to stand near that perfect little lake on the most stunning and unexpected plain and know exactly where you are on the map and be able to identify so many landmarks. I know there are folks who know the area better, or studied more, who were surrounded by landmarks on most of their journey. I could only pick out a few points by name along the way, and rarely could I do that without the map, so for me it was a nice moment.

The little Lake and Forester!
The little Lake and Forester!

* Not entirely a Bone to Pick – but there is a note I want to return to after the narrative to shed some light on an issue not oft discussed in or out of hiking circles – Piton Crabtree Ranger Station. And I guess we will have to Piton “Piton” as well since I don’t think many of you know about my version of the Palace of Memory – The Conversation Desk!

Mt Whitney!
Mt Whitney!

The wonders and beauty were unceasing and somehow we made it to Guitar Lake and found a reasonably decent place to camp. The alpenglow that night was some of the best I had seen on the journey!

Guitar Lake and pending Alpenglow!
Guitar Lake and pending Alpenglow!

We had been debating how to do our Whitney summit. There had been two major opinion groups we encountered – go to bed early, get up about midnight and hike up to Whitney for sunrise, or rest most of the day and hike up for sunset and moonrise. We had been leaning towards option 1, sunrise, but neither of us was excited about doing any portion of that summit and/or descent in the dark. In Fox Force Fashion, we decided to see how things went. I knew I would wake up early and the cold would either make me want to move or to stay put. It was anyone’s guess if Jake would wake early or not. But we liked having reached the mutual decision that further hiking in the dark was not preferred.

After enjoying a little more of the view, and the moment, we went into our bags to try to sleep.

JMT Day 24 – June 24, 2012

JMT and Bullfrog Lake Trail junction – just short of Lake South America Trail Junction

10,560 – 11,050 (+ 2,540/ – 2,050) – 13.4 miles * Forester Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 24 – Map 3 and 2

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

No other way to say it – Jake and I woke up and rocked it out on Day 24. Not our greatest distance day. Not our most elevation change day – though definitely in the running. The 26th was our permit deadline and the rules are a little bit unclear on what legal rights the hiker has on the day/night after expiration, and we were not really eager to have to find out. Yes we did just resupply, but I believe we both packed out for 3 nights/4 days + a small emergency supply.

Some guy i know...
Some guy i know…

We did not run, hurry, or feel pressure. It simply felt good to be walking. Some of the time it was also cold up high in the wind, and that will get you moving as well. Most of the day was well above tree-line with seemingly unlimited views of gorgeous peaks in every direction.  There was a nice supply of the now familiar tarns – though no less beautiful for their prevalence. Click on the pic for a larger view and check out the little purple flowers! We found these at crazy elevations throughout the hike. Sometimes there would be little fields of them clinging to the rock, or sticking out of every available spot where their roots could touch dirt.

Little Purple Flowers
Little Purple Flowers

Forrester was awesome, but I did not stay up there very long. I was in my full wind suit by the time we made it up there and again we raced the mountain shadows of sunset to find a camp with any shelter from the wind. We did not find “shelter” but did get to a point on a hillside with some natural protection from the wind. This was another night where we made quick work of setting up camp, eating, cleaning and getting into our bags.

Fox Force Three! Where we've been...
Fox Force Three! Where we’ve been…

I knew I would sleep well after the long day, and drifted off wondering, “will we be able to see Whitney tomorrow?”

Where we are going!
Where we are going!

* Before we left the trees, we lounged by a creek and enjoyed the sounds and the feel of cold on our feet. The green plants lining the bank of the creek – Wild Onions! We found tons of them on the JMT and while i don’t think we cooked them, i ate them raw for hours at a time as we walked…

JMT Day 22/23 – June 22/23, 2012: Town

Onion Valley Trailhead – Independence, CA – Bishop, CA – JMT/Bullfrog Lake Trail Junction

9,200 – 10,560 – (+ 2,645/ – 1,285 ) – 7.1 miles * Kearsarge Pass

Free Maps Online – Day 22/23 – Map 3

Photos Open to the Public on Facebook

UB dropped us at the hotel Joe usually uses when he is in Independence. They were fully booked, but let us keep our stuff there and hang out in the shade. We saw THE Chevron where the Werewolf of same did his resupply, which is not quite as goofy as it sounds. The owners try to accommodate hikers and have fuel, aspirin, advil, cold/allergy stuff all available in small quantities. They have a limited range of freeze-dried foods and lots of cheaper stuff like ramen and oatmeal. They also have a washer and dryer and $5.00 gets you one load, detergent and dryer sheet included, which is not too shabby for a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

We met another hiker Joe knew well, Lil’ Steps. She has stayed at Casa de Luna during hiker season before and helped out doing shuttles and whatever else needed doing. She took us back to her hotel in a van that had recently survived an odd bear incident – bear got trapped inside and thrashed it. We were able to get a room for me and Jake and of course offered for Joe to stay with us if he wanted/needed – but that seemed unlikely as Terry was on her way!

It was a nice afternoon lounging and talking with Lil Steps and Tall Paul. We took turns with the showers and soon enough we met Terry! We went to a Chinese Restaurant for dinner that was just what we wanted – not fancy, but very good food. And it was right next to a pizza joint. Jake ordered us two large cheese pies to go from the pizza joint and we picked them up after Chinese dinner.

We knocked out our resupply in the much larger town of Bishop about 40 miles away. One can do a pretty good resupply even from a standard grocery store, and I was grateful that we had a nice store to work from instead of just the Chevron. But, it was gonna be instant potatoes and litpon sides for the duration 🙁  No big worries. I can survive a few days of simply fueling my body and denying myself my more standard backwoods gourmet dishes.

Terry saw folks she knew everywhere, on the street, in other cars, at every store, etc. We went to a Bishop hotel and hung with a crew there for a bit before returning to Independence and our own room. We said goodbye to Joe and Terry with mixed emotions. I was sad to part from Joe, and from Terry even though I had only known her for a few hours, but I was pleased to have had the time together and confident that I had made some true friends for life.

Jake and I had discussed our plans for the next day and were in full agreement. Get up no later than 8, combine all our clothes and whatnot into a single load and hang out in our rain-suits while we get a load of wash done at the Chevron. Repackage the food from our resupply and get the packs loaded, and hit the street to wait for UB or anyone else headed up to Onion Valley and get back up over Kearsarge. We weren’t going to try for big miles, the goal was simply to get out of Town and back into the woods.

I woke up early as usual and got a call from Joe. He and Terry had stopped at a hotel not long after leaving us the night before and were headed back to Independence to take us to breakfast and help us get our chores done and see us safely back to Onion Valley. How awesome. I am not talking about the convenience of having even better access to a car to get things done more quickly, though as the kids say, that didn’t suck. I think Joe was in a similar place to me and Jake. I don’t think he was ready for the separation, and it touched me.

So breakfast was cheerier, chores got done quicker, and we got a ride to Onion Valley with our Number One Trail Dog – Whoooop Whooooop!! Jake and I had also found a private moment together during the preparations to see if we were on the same page about the new events, and we were. When we got to Onion Valley, we had to just hug it out and go – neither of us could handle an extended goodbye scene and we did not think Joe wanted that either. If we were really going on, we had to just go.

We saw a few of the same folks from the day before, Knees was my favorite, and we thanked UB again and each gave her some money. Jake and I both tried to give Joe some money and he wouldn’t take it. This was the real heart string puller for me. Joe helps tons of hikers, and he had just gone far out of his way and spent more money staying around and helping us some more. Of course we offered some compensation. I think he did not take it to underline a point. We really had become true friends. We were family.

We hit the trail and kept some distance between us as usual, but for different reasons on that ascent, each taking some time not to process, but to simply feel the feelings of the moment and let the many transitions that had just occurred sink in – we have left Town, we are back on trail, and we are without Joe for the first time in about 12 days that feel like a year.

We let out a few Whooop Whoops as we climbed. We stopped at Kearsarge Pass to rest and to continue with the transitions. We met two hikers up there and Knees came up behind us. In true Jake fashion, Trail Sacrifice was shared by all. We had barely made a dent in those pizzas and Jake packed them out. Eating Pizza on top of a mountain is a rare and awesome pleasure – it was nice to be able to share it.

We went down to Bullfrog Lake and hiked on the use trail until we reached the junction with the JMT. We made a simple camp there and slept well.

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