Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day 4. Zero in Lordsburg 

Today we just laid around and healed up. My right hamstring has been bothering me but my feet look pretty good! Only one blister and my big toenail is dying. 

I go over to the McDonalds where Pitstop and Driver are. I haven’t seen them since Hanover on the Appalachian Trail 5 years ago! They’ve since become trail beasts. They hiked the PCT last year and now are going for their triple crown. 

Pitstop and Driver!
The trail world is so small. 

Day 4. Icy Ephemeral Wonderland 

12/18/16

Distance Hiked: about 18 miles

Well last night went about as I expected. I fell asleep at about 6 pm and woke up at 11:30 to a pack of coyotes having a pep rally. I didn’t really mind, I love the sounds they make and their spunky, character. It took awhile to fall back asleep though, an hour and a half or so. It was that point of the night that there was no wind or any environmental sounds. All I could hear was my bodily functions loud and clear. The beating of my heart causing the slight scraping of my jacket against my quilt, the windy sounds of breathing in and out, the gurgle of my stomach, and my beard scraping against my quilt. It gets unnerving. The stillness was occasionally broken by an airplane or some wild animal going about its nightly business. One of them close to me made a noise I could only describe as a gagging/ puking. I smacked the side of of tarp and growled at it and it shut up. Two great horned owls, one to the east and one to the west of me were hooting softly back and forth. The east owl being the more talkative by far. After playing games on my phone to try and tire myself out to stop listening to my heartbeat I finally passed out again. A few hours later another new experience for me occurred. I could hear some animal poking at my tarp or trip over one of my guy lines causing my tarp to shake in the windless night and that sent my mind into shout and smack the side of the tent mode to scare off the curious beast. However my body was paralyzed, I couldn’t move a muscle, I couldn’t even get a shout out for probably about 30 seconds! Finally I got a weak groan out and regained the smacking ability and I heard the animal run off making little pouty noises like a fox or coyote, again. I wasn’t scared, just amazed that I was unable to respond to this nosy animal even though I was conscious of it being there! My whole family has told me about how they have had this happen to them before but I never had it until now. This weirded me out too much to fall back to sleep. By now it was 12:30 and I ended up playing chess, hearts and euchre on my phone until I bored myself back to sleep, only to be woken up again an hour and a half later in sleep paralysis again from some creature making the most cartoony “BLEEEEE!” sound. This thing was a little farther away but still loud enough to wake me. And still the two great horned owls were hooting in the same spots as hours and hours before! There are some weird creatures out here.

It was about 2 a.m. and I wasn’t tired anymore, I had plenty of sleep and just wanted to hike. Waiting for the sun. I knew it would be like this in the winter. These 13 hours of darkness are so boring. And cold! I was chilled the entire night. A quilt is a bad item for this kind of weather. I toss and turn nonstop at night, causing the open side to let freezing air in and chilling me. Also my down quilt was all wet from condensation from the wet desert soil and my breath. I played more games on my phone until 4 when I managed to doze off for another 20 minutes and then waking up. At 5 I was ready to go. I turned on the light on my phone to find my food bag in my pack and discovered that my tarp had become a crystal palace. All that condensation had been freezing ice crystals grew all over. The weight of the ice caused my tarp to sag in a lot and touch my quilt, making it wet. The sight really was. Beautiful though, light reflected off of all these in different angles and made a sparkling show! Look at my Instagram for a video of the effect! 

I ate a bunch of food and drank my non frozen portions of water. The packed up all my stuff and got out of my tent and paced a bit to try and thaw my frozen shoes. I couldn’t even get my tarp back into it bag. My fingers just kept hurting so bad from the cold, icy and wet tarp. I said screw it and tossed the thing in a garbage bag to contain the water. I got walking right about 6 a.m. 

Sparkly tarp! 

Half frozen 

The morning walk was very cold and very beautiful. It’s crisp out, probably low 20s and frost covered the desert floor. I watch the sunrise and walk through big patches of agave, some are huge clusters that must be many decades or centuries old. The trail then opens up into a flat which has a thick frost layer on it and all the vegetation within. The ground has frozen rock solid. I take lots of macro photos and videos of the delicate ice formations before they melt away. The trail then dropped into a narrow gully near a road. Lots of pretty rocks were in this wash. 

Cholla silhouette 

Agave sunrise

The trail in this section follows the California riding and hiking trail for a long way

Fantastic scenery 

Icy cholla skeleton

Barrel cactus spine 

Cool ice formations on a yucca 

Pretty rocks in the gully

The next obstacle was a huge climb up one gnarly truck trail. This thing hugged cliffs and was super eroded. I saw and old man and woman scale the thing in a jeep anyway. It took a few breaks and breathers to scale the mountain and then it opened onto a flattish area where the PCT was visible just a few hundred yards away. It’s very green and lively up here. I remember being surprised by how green the “desert” of southern California was on the PCT. There is tons of water up here in the ruts made my trucks. Some of the “puddles” are huge and will likely have water for a good while. A crust of ice is also present on all of them. Then the route travels up one last push about another 1000 feet. This area still has lots of snow from the storm the other day. Under the shade of the manzanitas the dusting appears to have been preserved. At the top were two day hikers, the first hikers I’ve seen this whole trip. They look chilly. Up here the SDTCT intersects the PCT. I walk down the PCT just a little bit for nostalgia’s sake. I was right there more than two and a half years ago! Little did I know then that there was a sign, the first I saw, for the SDTCT just 100 feet from the PCT sign. This marks me having touched all the major trails in a single year. PCT, CDT and AT. I triple crowned their width. 

Crazy steep truck trail

From desert to chaparral 

Huge puddles abound if you’re really thirsty

Little dusting up here too

The sweet sweet Pacific Crest Trail

The hike towards Lake Cuyamaca was sopping wet and muddy for much of it. I planned to resupply at the lake’s store and I heard it had a restaurant too. After the mud fest, the trail crossed a highway and entered big swaths of grasslands, a new and beautiful sight. I decided to take a shortcut by waking across the pretty fields instead of the wet, muddy trail. Glad I did. Shorter and way prettier. 

Even still I started to get glum because it was cold and rather windy. Not as much as before of course but still uncomfortable. Especially since I haven’t had a chance to dry my sopping wet tarp and damp quilt. There’s no way I can get low enough to get a significant change in warmth and at 4700 feet (that’s more than 2000 feet higher than last nights ice box) it’s going to be another cold one. I see two coyotes just before the lake. They watch me from a distance and then move away. When I get to the lake the place is busy! I thought this place would be way out there and rarely sees people, but it’s better than I could have imagined! I resupply at the store with a bunch of snacks which are pricy but I’m happy they have them and they are open until 8 on a Sunday. Then I get a spot at the campground. I’m the only person in all three of the campgrounds tonight. Everyone is smart enough to not want to freeze but me. Then I go to the restaurant. The place rocks. I get a big ass burger and fries and it is exactly what I had hoped it would be. The owner sits down and talks to me for 20 minutes or so and we talk about my hike and her restaurant. She’s scared of all the forest fires that have been happening. This whole area burned in 2003 and she lost her home. Now she’s afraid what to do if one comes up here. She has bad eyesight and can’t drive a car, so her friends tell her to just jump in the lake. “It’s the smoke that kills you!” She says.  

After lunch I go and attempt to dry out my gear. I pull out my tarp and all this ice falls out of it. Walking all day in the sun and it’s still frozen! I hang it in a tree and it gets blown around by the wind which seems to deice it well. It dries quickly. My quilt on the other hand got a little drier before the sun dropped behind the hills but not all the way dry. I pack up my stuff and walk around the lake to kill time. I finally get to use my big camera and take photos of the bird in the lake. There are geese, cormorants, lots of coots, some ducks I’ve never seen before and a couple mergansers. 

I head back to restaurant for a beer and to write this blog. The owner comes out again and says I have to try the apple pie from the nearby town of Julian. It’s served hot and topped with ice cream, whipped cream and cinnamon. It’s out of this world tasty. I thank her and then but. Few more snacks before heading to my campsite. I’m sleeping on the metal picnic table which I moved next to. Wooden wall to block the wind. The ground in every single campsite is sopping wet mud. Cowboy camping on a table tonight. May the sun come quickly. 

Update: as it turns out the ground is already frozen rock solid so the flat mush is now a nice flat spot. Setting up my tarp and looking to get a good nights sleep. 
Windswept grasslands

San Diego Trans-County Trail Gear List.

I’m starting my thru hike of the San Diego Trans-County Trail on Tuesday!

This trail is about 155 miles long and goes from the the Salton Sea in Southern California, through the Anza-Borrego Desert, into the actual city of San Diego and ends at the Pacific Ocean near Torrey Pines. The trail is really more of a route, meaning there is no trail at all for much of it but rather you use a compass and map to follow the route through washes and towards landmarks.My gear list for this hike contains much of the same items as the Colorado Trail hike I did earlier this year, with a new few bits of gear like the Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket that I’ll mostly be using as a wind breaker. I’ll also be carrying all this in a new backpack from Pa’lante Packs, made by my friends Handy Andy and John Zahorian. Together they make and just started selling ultralight, minimalist backpacks. These guys are monster hikers. Handy Andy holds the fastest known time (unsupported) on the John Muir Trail, hiking all 211 miles of it in just 3 days 10 hours 59 minutes! John Z just set the Colorado Trail fastest known time (unsupported) this summer while I was actually on the CT. He managed to hike the entire 485 miles of the trail in 9 days 12 hours and 32 minutes! He carried all his food from start to finish with zero resupplies. These dudes know what they’re doing. So I’m trying out one of their packs to see how it works!

Here’s what I’m bringing.

Backpack and Water Treatment and Storage:
Pa’lante Packs 40 liter backpack 13 oz
Sawyer squeeze mini 1.7 oz
4 1 liter smart water bottles 8 oz
Subtotal 22.7 oz

Sleep system
Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis tarp tent with insect netting 13 oz
6 Aluminum tent stakes 3 oz
Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 degree down quilt 19.4 oz
Z Lite sleeping pad 10 oz
Subtotal 45.4 oz

Clothing in Backpack
Undershirt 7.2 oz
Long johns 6.9 oz
Go lite down jacket 7.5 oz
Spare socks 3 oz
Enlightened Equipment Sidekick booties 1.5 oz
Outdoor Research Helium II ultralight rain jacket 6.4 oz
Subtotal 32.5 oz

Miscellaneous Items
Head light with batteries 2.8 oz
Sunglasses .7 oz
Toothbrush and toothpaste 1 oz
Compass .8 oz
Tiny Swiss Army knife .5 oz
Sunscreen 2 oz
Tenacious tape, sewing needle and dental floss .2 oz
Subtotal 8 oz

Electronics
Chargers 2 oz
Anker battery 15000 mwh 11 oz
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Camera, Raynox DCR 250 Macro lens, case, battery and charger 30 oz
Subtotal 43 oz

Total Base Weight 151.6 oz or 9.48 lbs

All the gear out of the pack!

Everything in the pack!

I’m very excited to get back into the desert and see all the different plants and animals. Also want to get out of the freezing cold and wet days here. I’ll be doing another daily blog for this trail so stay tuned!

Day 20. Goodbye and Lounging 

7/19/16

Woke up and had to say bye to my hiker family. The ladies all left early in the morning. It was a sad goodbye, but I hopefully we will cross hiking paths again someday! M&M is hanging around until the afternoon when he wants to head out.

Most of the day I just watch movies and hang out with other hikers and catch up on my blog. In the afternoon M&M decided he’s just going to stay another night because the weather looks bad overnight. No need to spend a night in cold rain. I also stay another night and rent a car for tomorrow. 

Day 6. Storms and Passes

7/5/16Miles 21.8

Total: 131
There’s a long steep climb up to almost 12,000 feet early in the morning. We pop above tree line and squeaks of marmots and pikas are in the air. I geek out over the abundant alpine wildflowers. Christian left camp before Gordon and I are even up. Gordon is moving slowly today, the elevation seems to be hitting him hard. I catch up to Christian near the top of the ridge and he’s playing in a large snowfield. He takes out his groundsheet and try’s to sled down it but with little luck. We wait for Gordon at the top of a pass and can see some rain coming our way. When Gordon catches up he’s looking rough and said he was dry heaving coming up the hill due to the elevation. After a quick snack and some photos we rush to get below tree line before the storm reaches us. It becomes apparent we can’t outrun the storm but can make a beeline for a ski lift building to take shelter in. About a quarter mile off trail. We rush as fat as we can in the direction of the building but the mountainside is rocky and very steep. It’s hard on out ankles. I make it to the building just as it starts raining. Turns out the door is even open! We go inside and it’s warm. There’s nobody there or course and we take a lunch break inside. Even a toilet! We wait out the storm and ate reluctant to leave the warm of a building in the middle of nowhere. 


After the rain passed we started down the mountain. My knee started to hurt a lot and I started thinking about a plan B if I can’t walk any longer. I thought about flying back early or finding some other activity to do in Colorado that doesn’t involve walking around much. I decided to see how my knee feels after Twinkle’s wedding. I’ll be off my feet a few days and then maybe I can get back on trail. We get to copper mountain resort right as a big thunderstorm rolls in and starts hailing on us. Gordon and I make it to an apartment building and take shelter in a hallway there. Christian holes up somewhere in the woods. Once we regroup the sun comes out again and we look for extra food at the copper mountain resort. We find a convenience store there and buy some more food. I get a huge cinnamon roll. That damn thing has 1300 calories in it! 

Alpine primrose

We hike out of the busy resort and are in low forest for a bit. I find a perfect group of Calypso orchids there and take some photos. This is such a cool little plant and one I’ve always wanted to see in bloom. The trail starts to gradually rise up to Kokomo pass. On the way up we wait for Christian to catch up but he never shows up so we keep on hiking. We want to get to lower elevation before it gets dark. We have a long time above tree line ahead of us. Once we reach the ridge there are beautiful views all around us and we soak in all the wildflowers and vistas. We walk for hours in this before reaching Kokomo pass. It’s getting chilly and the sun is getting low so we head down it and look for he first flat spot where we can tent to wait for Christian to catch up. It seems strange we haven’t seen him in hours, he’s pretty quick even though he hikes in crocs. We set up camp near a stream in a small meadow. We gather lots of wood for a fire and eat. It gets dark and there is still no sign of Christian. “At least the foxes shouldn’t bother us tonight now that we have a fire.” I say. Not 30 seconds later a fox walks right into our camp about 15 feet from me. “You gotta be shitting me.” At 11 pm we see a light coming down the trail. About time! We’ve been worried Christian broke a leg or something. Then we notice the light is moving way too fast for a hiker. A thru biker shows up and asks if he can borrow out fire for some warmth and to light a bowl. Sure. We asked him if he saw a hiker with a blue backpack and sure enough he did, although he was very far back he said. Turns out Christian left the top of his backpack at the copper mountain store and walked back miles and miles to get it. He’s gotta be so pissed off. We figure we won’t see him until tomorrow for sure. The biker stayed and chatted for more than an hour before he finally continued on into the night. We fall asleep around midnight. 

Flax
Alpine spring beautyCalypso OrchidWild columbineparry’s primrose3 marmots, one rock

Day 5. 4th of July

7/4/16
Miles: 5.1

Total: 109.2 

We woke up and lounged around all morning. We watched Independence Day, and I always forget how much I like the bizarre plot of the movie. We heard that there is a parade though Frisco starting sometime around noon. We decided to go to The supermarket to resupply and I bought a knee brace. The store was weird in that they didn’t sell any produce at all. Sad but oh well. Then we walked across the street to the Native Roots Colorado store where they sell cannabis. I had to check it out! The store was pretty cool, it had a room where medical cannabis is sold and a room for recreational products in every and all configurations. Bud, edibles, tinctures, patches, dabs, shatter, salves. You name it, it was there! You stand in line and wait until a salesperson can give you their undivided attention at a specific booth. I asked all kinds of questions about different strains and what they do. I talked about how I was doing the Colorado Trail but my knee kept hurting and the guy said oh man you should get a salve! It’s a THC and CBD in mixture of coconut, avocado and a bunch of other oils. It was cheap and I have nothing to lose! We took the free bus back to Frisco and hopped off right into a Fourth of July parade. We gotta stay for this! Floats go by and throw candy and Popsicles at us. A red bull girl gives us some sample tangerine red bulls. People on some of the floats scream, “Love the shorts man!” at me and toss me candy. 


We see what looks like a garage sale with a bunch of crappy junk out on a table when a guy comes out and says see anything you like? Only somewhat interesting this is a large burl cut from a tree but clearly we aren’t buying that. That’s when another guy that’s clearly drunk comes out and starts talking to the three of us. He glances over at me, looks at my American flag shorts and tells me, “You’re a fucking homo.” His teeth are rotting and he starts yelling about how he’s getting “fucked up in there.” His friend tells him to please go back inside. Then he asks Gordon and Christian if they are cops and sticks his dirty finger into Gordon’s nose. Then he does the same to Christian. I dodge his attempt to do the same to me. Finally he says, “Okay you guys smoke right? Well here I’ve got these” as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pill bottle, trying to keep it hidden in the crowd of people. “These are marijuana pills, they’ll fuck you up. Just asking $20 a pill.” The pills were clearly some kind of prescription drug, not weed pills. No thanks. As we walk away Gordon says, “I’m pretty sure we just met the biggest asshole in Colorado.” We walk around the festivities and fill up our water bottles from a spigot on the back of a gas station before getting on the bus back to our trailhead. 

We only hike out about 5 miles up and out of the Breckenridge/ Frisco area. We find a sweet campsite with just enough space for our tents next to a. Old stream that has a beautiful primrose plant blooming in it. We make a fire and hang out until it’s dark. 

Day 4. Night Terrors

Miles: 22.2
Total: 104.1

Imagine you’re fast asleep, warm in your shelter. You wake up to an occasional pitter patter of raindrops knocked loose by the wind from the tree above you. You fall right back to sleep. Then you wake up to what sounds like a twig falling on your shelter, but it sounds a little odd. You can’t figure it out so you go right back to sleep. Then you are awoken to the sound of your shelter being shaken back and forth violently and you can see just the shadow of a large furry animal moving around just 2 feet from you and it is pushing into your shelter towards you! Welcome to my morning! With my senses all foggy from just being awakened by an animal thrashing the side of my little tarp tent my first reaction was to smack the side of the tarp to try and scare the attacker away while simultaneously uttering, “UHHH! Yaaaaa! Wuaaaahh! Ahhhh!” There wasn’t time to think of words, just primal fear sounds. After smacking the side of the tent I could see the animal, either a big fox or coyote, from the 6 inch gap under my tarp where the insect netting is. Because I had no time to find my flashlight I could only see this large animal’s outline. It was undeterred by my smacking towards it at first, then it grabbed my tent and something in the tent and tried to run away with it, the insect netting prevented it, I saw the creature run away about 20 feet, then change its mind and run right back at me and grabbed onto the item again and try to pull it away but by now I had the flashlight and I was screaming at it as it pulled away. Finally it ran off and my fellow campmates Gordon and Christian were awake and hopped out of their tents. I got out too and looked around for the suspect but it was gone. I found that it had pushed its face into the netting far enough to reach my food bag, then try to pull it through. During the shaking it ripped a hole in the netting. It almost pulled the bag out through this hole. Gordon noted that the animal also apparently managed to sneak into his vestibule and chew up some of his trash without waking any of us up. Sneaky bastard! At this point we decided it was probably a good idea to hang our food tonight. I’ve backpacked thousands of miles and kept my food in the tent with me and never had a problem or heard of anyone having a problem. The point of doing this of course is to prevent animals from getting into your food. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and bears can all figure out a bear hang pretty easily. Most animals are deterred by the human presence near the food. But last night was that night that we fear. I thought a bear was coming in. 

Just couldn’t get it through that hole.

We tried going back to sleep but were too shaken up. After about an hour of messing around on our phones the animal wandered right past Gordon’s shelter. We all said fuck this were not going to be able to sleep and decided to make a fire. Since it had rained for hours finding dry wood was a little difficult but we managed to find some under a bunch of thick canopied limber pine and other conifers. After many tries we got the fire going by using a backpacking stove to light up some small sticks. We got the fire raging and warmed ourselves up. It was very cold out at 11,200 feet where we were camping. We hung out and talked for a few hours until we half cowboy camped near the fire, dozing a few minutes at a time until we had to get more firewood. At 4 a.m. we decided to pack up and start hiking. We hit the trail around 5. 

Christian hikes with this tortured cat strapped to his pack. He was forced to buy it after accidentally breaking a ring in a store.

The hike up Georgia Pass was windy, cold and foggy. There were some snow patches left and I saw a snowshoe hare! Near the top of the pass alpine plants were blooming everywhere! Just a few inches tall and blooming in bright blue, yellow and white. As we descended the pass it began to clear, giving way to picturesque misty mountain views. My right knee also started to really hurt when going downhill. I tried downing a bunch of ibuprofen to dull the pain and it helped a little. 

Alpine forget-me-nots!


Most of the hike today was beautiful mixtures of coniferous forests and meadows. Unfortunately some of these meadows exist only because of the devastating mountain pine beetle which have killed off most off the pine trees in some areas. It is an unusual forest pathology issue because all the players in this destruction are native to the areas the damage is occurring. This beetle usually only attacks weak or dying trees. What caused this outbreak of the beetle to occur is that several years of hot and dry summers and mild winters stressed out the trees to a point where they’re all suitable hosts. I study bark and ambrosia beetles for my graduate degree so this hits close to home.

Area devastated by mountain pine beetle
We finally made it to the highway where we could hitch into Breckenridge just as my knee felt like it was going to give way. Then it started to downpour. We took the free bus to town and got some gourmet pizza and then unsuccessfully looked for a place to stay the night. It’s the 4th of July weekend and the town is insanely crowded. After much frustration we find a hotel for a reasonable price in The nearby town of Frisco. Christian, Gordon and I make it to the hotel on the free bus. The clerk there says, “Ifa you wanna to smoka da ganja, just go take a walk, don’t do it in da room.” We try to watch some tv but it’s stuck on the History Channel which is running a marathon of American Pickers. Oh well it’s something on the magic picture box. I fall asleep early and it’s one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a very long time.