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Steve

Tuolumne to South Lake Tahoe: Pushing it

Hi All! So we’ve been back in Cape Town for awhile now and clearly we didn’t finish our blog, as we got further up the trail we found we couldn’t get online as much, and it fell to the wayside. So here’s us trying to remember all the amazing experiences we had and living through the memory of it all. Click here to recap on where we left off.

We woke up the next morning in Tuolomne as cars started streaming in. It was the first day that the campground was open, so we hurriedly packed up and went to the Tuolomne Meadows PO, store and cafe down the road. Not really a cafe, and pretty average food, but we all enjoyed the coffee and ate heartily using the employee discount that Niko’s friend got through working at a nearby Lodge. After picking up our resupply and buying a few odds and ends from the shop, we went over to the lodge to take a much wanted/needed shower to freshen up before heading off into the wild once again. After many tough days in the high Sierras, we were excited at the prospect of being done with that and moving north towards Northern California. Niko told us that the end of the Sierras is considered to be Sonora Pass, only a few days away. As much as we love the Sierras, it can be very grueling in many ways.

Niko and Liane dropped us off at the trail head at midday and we set off on a very well walked path towards the Glen Aulin Campground. This is a campground seen as ‘glamping‘ in the eyes of a PCT hiker, and is only a handful of miles hike from Tuolomne. Some tourists see this as such a long hike in to the wild and camp there for a night, it made us chuckle. On the way there, we passed two stock parties, each with about five horses bring in supplies to the campground. As soon as you pass the trail head to Glen Aulin, the path immediately narrows to half the width, back to PCT size. The trail was beautiful though! We crossed the Tuolomne river, walked by many stunning waterfalls and interesting rock formations. I now understand the love for Yosemite, pity we couldn’t explore the valley.

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Our last stretch in the high Sierra’s

With full bellies and our packs restocked in VVR, we made our way back to the trail. We were advised by the owner of VVR to go a shorter route and do Goodale pass instead of Silver pass to get back on the PCT. We decided to follow his advice and headed out on a trail less used. We walked to a lovely meadow and I spotted something brown  moving towards the end of the meadow, and I quickly realised that it was a bear! We watched as the bear walked around the meadow, foraging and occasionally looking up at us not seeming to mind us. We kept our distance though, took some photos and continued on. We realised what a treat it was to not be on the PCT, it was so quiet! We didn’t see anyone else that day and enjoyed the solitude as we camped with a view of a meadow and some mountains.

The next morning we headed out to Goodale pass, supposedly easier than silver pass, but not really because the path was difficult to find at times, especially with snow. There were no footprints to follow so we relied on our maps to get us to the top, and enjoyed a good glissade near the bottom. Steve actually bent both his hiking poles slightly in the process.
It took us longer than expected to get back on the PCT, but now our next goal would be Mammoth. We were excited for the food that was supposed to be really good in Mammoth, our hiking friends Wrong Tent and Five Star had been talking about it for a long time.

The next morning we hiked quickly into Reds Meadow, hoping to meet our friend Niko. Unfortunately when we got there we found out that the road to Reds was closed due to Road maintenance and the shuttle into Mammoth would only be working the following day. Also, we got hold of Niko and they weren’t able to meet us there as they had work but said they would try see us in Tuolomne. We could have just resupplied there and continued hiking but we needed to get to Mammoth to get to the post office for our bounce box that we had sent ourselves. We had a great pancake breakfast and we did our laundry while we thought about how we would get down to Mammoth. Lucky for us, a maintenance man came to fix one of the washing machines and he offered us a ride to Mammoth once he was done, which was great! We had no plans for staying the night, so we were hoping to try get hold of a trail angel or maybe camp somewhere but the problem was Mammoth was filled with tourists and everywhere was fully booked. We turned our attention to our blog and headed to the library to try do at least one post, it always seems to take forever, we need to find a more efficient way of doing it! After a few hours at the library, we went shopping for our food to Tuolomne. We decided we would go have dinner and then figure out where we could possibly stay the night somewhere. Steve’s parents sponsored us a steak, so we found the restaurant they suggested and got a table. We felt very out of place as it was quite fancy and we were in our dirty hiker clothes, but we enjoyed a great gourmet meal. We hadn’t had steak in a really long time, so it was a real treat. After we ate, we walked towards the campground, and realised that was full too. We began to worry,and walked around trying to find other hikers we could possibly camp with. Luckily we walked past hiker friends ClawHammer and B-Line, who were camping there and on their way for supper. They agreed to let us split the cost for their campsite and we quickly set up our tent.
After repacking our food, we needed to go back to the post office and send our bounce box on. It was a Saturday, and most post offices are only closed on Sundays but when  we got there, the post office was closed. Now we were stuck with a bounce box with no way of sending it on. Luckily some kind man told us of a courier shop which would be open, so we rushed across town to get there. By the time we were done and ready to go, it was already almost lunch time, we bought some pizza and headed back to the trail. Because we had to get to Tuolomne as quick as we could, we skipped 8 miles of PCT and got back on trail at the closest possible trailhead. Island pass was ahead of us, Steve had hoped to get up and over that but we managed to get just 2 miles shy of the pass so we could do it the next morning. We were so exhausted from running around town.

The next morning we walked past 1000 lakes, and didn’t really realise we had done island pass until we looked at our map. It felt like a small hill compared to the passes in the Sierras. Donahue pass was next, and we tried to get there as quick as we could as it was heating up pretty quickly and there was still a significant amount of snow around. The acsent to Donahue was quick and easy, but the downhill was a bit more challenging with the melting snow and steep trail. What was quite funny for me was we were passing JMT hikers going South, and for them this was their first pass of their hike, so they were so nervous and found it a lot harder than we did. We met up with our friend Amoeba, and walked down the steep downhill together. The next part of the hike was an annoyingly long flat 7 miles into Tuolomne. When your legs are used to ups and downs, they aren’t used to walking on flat ground, so it was actually more difficult hiking the flat than you think and it seemed to take forever to get there. Maybe we were just anxious to get there. The beautiful green meadows made up for it though and soon enough we arrived at the campground in Tuolomne,only to find out that it was ‘closed’ and would only open the next day. We managed to get hold of Niko who just arrived in Tuolomne and we decided to camp together in the closed campground. I got to meet Niko’s girlfriend, Leanne and their 2 friends and we had a lovely evening with the full moon out. At one point some man came up to us and told us we weren’t allowed to camp there and if a ranger came to us in the night, he could kick us out. We camped there anyway, and had a peaceful nights sleep. No rangers bothered us, thank goodness.

We have loved the change of scenery from the Sierras, and are looking forward to walking through Yosemite National Park, it seems like it’s going to be beautiful!

Water in all forms… 

Hi All! We’re still on trail, and so finding it almost impossible to find time to update our blog. Sorry ’bout that! Here’s the next section in the Sierra’s and we’ll hopefully catch up to where we are soon! Thanks for all your support and messages thus far. It has been a great adventure and we’re re still on track to finish!

We were in the desert in a heat wave with view of snowy mountains. It was so hot in Lone Pine, and we weren’t used to such heat so we spent a day and a half finding shade, eating ice creams and finding a stream to put our feet in. Despite the heat, it was a good break and we even managed to convince Niko to hike back over Kearsarge with us as he had a day off the next day. As we drove up to the trailhead, Niko’s car was overheating, we stopped in some shade to let the car cool down before carrying on up the steep hill. We parked and gathered our things together and set off up the hill. It felt a lot quicker going up and over the pass this time round, I think because last time we did it we had done Forester Pass that day so we did it at the end of a 20 mile day.  We were also surprised how much snow had already melted in just 2 days! It looked like a different place. When at the top, we were greeted with a beautiful view of the cloud formations. Niko explained that they are called the Sierra wave, and are a rare cloud formation that occurs only in the Sierras. As it got later in the evening, the clouds went bright pink and red, which was a stunning sight. We made camp 2 miles before Glen Pass and shared a meal with Niko. We talked over all the passes we were about to do, and I realised how tough the next section would be. Tough but worth it for the stunning scenery.

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Almost there!

It was a great 2 days spent in Kernville, but we were starting to get itchy feet! Allie dropped us off late in the afternoon and we quickly did 2 miles up the hill. I wanted to do more but it was starting to get late and we didn’t feel like pushing too hard. We also met Steve, soon to be named ‘OG’ or ‘Original Gangster’, at our camp for the night, we’d get to know him a bit over the next week or so.

The next 2 days were gonna be tough before we got to Kennedy Meadows, a heat wave was beginning to set in and we had a few 2000 foot climbs to get over. That first full day after Walker Pass we did a good 20 miles. We spent the day winding up and over ridges, most of it being exposed it wasn’t that enjoyable. On one of the ridges we passed a sign depicting 1/4 of the way! Woohoo! Oh wait, we’ve only done a quarter? 🙁 At least that’s how I (Steve) felt at the time. Keep Reading

The last of the Desert!

Leaving Tehachapi was really really windy experience. We had a 3000 foot climb in front of us and only about 2 hours of daylight. We made it about 1/3 of the way up and found a slightly sheltered spot, in the shade of a Joshua Tree. After a restless night we headed up the hill. What looked like some bad weather in front of us, slowly cleared and we gradually made our way over the hill. After a while we joined a multi-use trail with which dirt bikers also use. Soon after 2 bikers roared past us, since the trail was fairly narrow we nervously continued for the next 4 miles and didn’t see anyone else! After a long hot and windy day, passing by yet more wind turbines, we finally settled on a campsite after 19 miles.

Camping at mile 590 put us in range of the Landers Fire Tank at mile 609. This will be the last guaranteed water for 42 miles! That morning was quite pleasant, a wet weather system was moving in and we hiked in relatively cool cloudy weather, conquering a few 1000 foot ascents and descents as the day wore on. The last 6 miles had us walk down through a pine forest, a really nice change from the often exposed hiking we’d been doing the last few days. With about 4 miles to go Kristin suddenly stopped and gestured in front of her. There standing peacefully in the forest were 2 deer! They couldn’t quite see us as we were between them and the sun. We stood there for about 20 minutes watching them graze and slowly move within 20m of us. We were pretty tired and as they moved further us the path we were hiking on, we move closer and they started paying attention and bounded away. It was quite a surreal experience having not yet seen any large mammals like this on the PCT. We soon hit Landers Campsite near the water supply and set up camp, not entirely looking forward to the dry stretch in front of us.

The next day we had a slow morning, after procrastinating for a while and making sure we had enough water (about 5l each, we estimated we could do 8 miles a liter and come out only slightly dehydrated depending on temperatures), we set off across some really gorgeous meadows with Lupine flowers growing rampant. After about 7 miles and 2000 feet of descent later, we hit Kelso Valley Road and were pleasantly surprised by a fully stocked water cache. We had heard of some water caches over this dry stretch, but it was not something we wanted to depend on. The rainy weather system was still moving around, and we had large patches of dark shady clouds covering us for most of the day. It was a much needed break from a very exposed and long climb, with only Joshua trees offering any semblance of shade.

After doing a hot dry 18 miles for the day, we started looking for a section of trail that was protected from the wind that the weather system had brought in. We couldn’t find anything, and the only possible protection from the wind was from the Joshua Trees, but none suited our needs. We kept pushing up and over a very very exposed section of the trail. We got to one spot that was slightly sheltered on the ridge, but we gave up and decided that a good night’s sleep was worth pushing an extra few miles. Finally after doing an extra 2 miles (about 22 miles for the day), we found a flat campsite that had almost no wind at all. Needless to say we were really tired, and very happy to be out of the wind.

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The following day we only had 20 miles to go to get to Walker Pass, however it started with a rough 3000 foot climb in 6 miles (with another well timed water cache at the bottom). It was a very windy day again, and as we were climbing up we started to hike into cloud. By the time we eventually made it up to the top, the cloud had fortunately burnt off. We gradually made it down and along off that peak, and while traversing along the hillsides, the weather system came back. A few cracks of thunder later and it started drizzling on us, soon it started hailing, but only for a short time. The rain would come back later, just as we were hiking the last few miles to Walker Pass, but that soon abated and we dried off just before we got there. We couldn’t really believe that we’d just done the 42 mile dry stretch over 2 days.

At Walker Pass there were quite a few PCT hikers camped out, either having arrived that day, or having resupplied in Lake Isabella, they would head out towards Kennedy Meadows (only 50 miles to Kennedy Meadows, our gateway to the Sierras!)

The next morning, we got a lucky ride with a lovely Trail Angel Allie. She helps run an organization called the Sequoia Forest Keeper, which is a grass routes group aimed at protecting the Sequoia forest in the Kern county. She talked us into going to Kernville instead of Lake Isabella, so we headed there instead.

We ended up spending almost 2 zeros in this quaint town, doing laundry, resupplying and even engorging at a inexpensive pizza buffet! It was another nice break, but I started to really itch about getting into the Sierras. Our plan was to catch the busses back towards Walker Pass, but we bumped into amazing Allie again, who was going that way again and offered us a ride that evening! Before we left she spoiled us with a huge ice cream cone each, what a special treat! So back we went towards Walker Pass!

 

 

The great Poodle Dog adventure

After waking up in a comfy bed, feeling lazy, we walked into the kitchen and found Dave was making us bacon and egg for breakfast – another treat! We also had lattes made from his fancy coffee machine, they tasted amazing compared to plain filter coffee we’ve had along the way. After breakfast we reluctantly left his amazing house and headed into town to resupply and relax there for a bit before heading out again. We had a second breakfast at the local coffee shops, this time it was bagels with cream cheese. Steve got our resupply box from the post office and we went shopping for the ever necessary chocolates and candy to feed our calorie hungry bodies for the trail ahead.

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Never-ending uphill with added trail magic

We’re starting to forget how many days we’ve been on trail now. The days have all just started to blur into one hot/cold/dusty/damp/wet/exhausting stretch of Southern California desert.

The morning we left Mile 320 it was very overcast, quite a contrast from the previous day out of Deep Creek. We enjoyed the cool air though, getting in some good miles. Just before we were due to arrive at Silverwood dam, we came across some amazing Trail Magic! Kristin had a Banana and a Nectarine, and i enjoyed a Nectarine and some sweets!

We set off on our 4 mile stretch around the dam until finally having lunch at a campground, flushing facilities!! It was a very lazy lunch, snacking on our nuts, Clif bars, and Snickers bars. We generally sit for a bit and then dig into our books for an hour, while we let the feet rest.

 

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Following along the water’s edge

We’ve been busy walking! Sorry for the delay in Blog Posts. We’ve made it to Aqua Dulce (Mile 454) and are collating some Blog Posts that’ll come out over the next week. In the mean time, here’s what we did not too long Ago!

Big Bear was a lovely small town that we didn’t get to see much of because we just spent the morning there before heading out again. Maybe we can go visit another time in the future. Papa Smurf made us french toast for breakfast then gave us a lift into the town so we could do a quick resupply and then dropped us off a the next trailhead at Onyx summit along with Scabs and Shay. We were soon greeted with beautiful views of Mount San Gorgornio, the mountains we would have hiked through if the trail wasn’t closed.

There was a slight chance of rain, and we made our way out of a valley and looked behind us to see a massive grey cloud bringing in some rain. We quickly walked on to avoid getting rained on, which was successful (only a little drizzle). We did a quick 10 miles and decided to set up camp (mile 262) as it was starting to get dark, and we found ourselves in a perfect place to avoid condensation on our tents.

The next morning we woke up feeling good. We packed up our stuff and headed out to hike about 3-4 miles before breakfast. I insisted we hike on, and we did 5 miles before our first break. I am so thankful that Steve has a non-inflatable mat, we can just put it out anywhere we please to relax on it and it doesn’t get damaged. We hiked on and found ourselves in a forest, which was beautiful. Every now and then we would come to a clearing where you get a view of Big Bear from across the lake (which isn’t much of a lake at the moment,it’s pretty much all dried up). Steve asked me if we could try do a 20 mile day and I thought we could manage it. We had lunch at our next water source, at a slow flowing stream, and sat under a big tree. At about 18 miles in, I was feeling pretty tired and decided to put some music on to keep me going. Music definitely makes a huge difference, it distracts you from pain, tiredness and heat/cold. When we got 19 miles, Steve suggested we set up camp since there weren’t many campsites coming up, but I insisted we keep going. Steve was right. But I really wanted to do my first 20 mile day. We ended up hiking 23 miles to get to the next campsite, which was little bear campsite (mile 286) and it even had a long drop toilet! But I was so exhausted and my feet were incredibly painful!! That night was the first time we added tuna to our mixed veg, and it was so good.

The next morning, Steve let me sleep in such it was such a big day. When we did decided to pack up we realised we were both a little sunburned from the previous day and we were a little dehydrated. This made us feel lethargic and not up for much hiking. There wasn’t much water or shade that morning, so we walked slowly to mile 294 (8 miles) with only one short break and collapsed in the shade of the tree. We quickly filtered some water, put our mat down and napped through the heat of the day. Steve was hoping to get to Deep Creek Hot Springs, but we were both not feeling up for it, and we hiked on another 7 miles to a day use area along Deep Creek. We crossed the creek, and found our own private beach, with a swimming area (mile 301). It was great! I quickly got into the water after setting the tent up, but it was so cold, but lovely to wash the dirt off as it had been a hot dry day. We quickly fell asleep after dinner, and woke up feeling a lot better.

Today was the day we would hike to the Hot Springs, I had mixed feelings about it because I knew it was a nudist area and so I wasn’t looking forward to that too much. We did a quick 7 miles and got to the Springs late morning. There were mainly hikers there when we got there, a few day visitors. A lot of the hikers had all fully embraced the nudist thing and we decided to go hang out in a more private area to avoid the show. We found our own private hot spring which we quickly got into and enjoyed the hot water! It was easily around 40 degrees Celsius. We couldn’t stay in water for very long because we got way too hot, and decided to head out and get out of the mountains. We filled up on water and started meandering through the mountains before finally making a decent into the valley and had lunch in the shade after crossing a small stream. We met a lady hiker who likes hiking barefoot, which is really crazy. After lunch we started a very tiring uphill, I quickly got my music on and went up the hill as quickly as I could to avoid getting too tired. I find the slower I go on the uphill the more tired I get, its better to get some momentum going and get up at a good pace. We hiked 19 miles that day, another good day, and set up camp near a water source at mile 320.

Tomorrow we look forward to cooler weather and Silverwood Lake!

Conquering Mt San Jacinto

We woke up after our 3rd night in Idyllwild, feeling refresh and less painful after having been sponsored a great massage! We went for an ‘early’ breakfast at the Red Kettle. I had the great Mountain Muffin, and Kristin the French toast. They were both quickly polished off with 4 cups of coffee each! (We need that in RSA, bottomless coffee should be standard!)

We met our ride at 8 am, they would take us to the start of Devils Slide, a 550 m high 4 km climb up to the PCT. This put us just after the fire closure. It was around 8°c, so the climb was pretty quick, a far cry from us huffing and puffing up Table Mountain. As we started the next 300 m climb, we started seeing the ice that had settled on the trees. In the morning sun the ice had started to melt, and was falling down around us and in some spots, on us. After an almost continuous 2800 ft climb, we took a short break to admire the mountains down below us. Something that we must definitely return for is Taquitz Rock, which is a famous landmark in the climbing community, we may need to improve our skills, but it certainly looks like fun!

We spent the next few hours skirting round the mountain, dropping and climbing 1000 feet, in a spectacular pine forest. Most certainly one of the more memorable days so far, and a massive change from the terrain and heat we had experienced a few days before. Every now and then we had to scramble over/arround/under fallen logs as they blocked the trail. (I’m not envious of the forest rangers who come up to cut paths through them). At times the trail was covered in snow, and we gingerly stepped over the drifts lying in our way. For Kristin this was a completely new experience, but she handled it gracefully and was always just behind me.

It had been a tough day so far, but our greatest challenge was coming up. I had been looking forward to this part since i was forced to skip it in 2012 due to a snow storm. Fuller Ridge is a knife edge descending towards Black Mountain campsite that was perpendicular to the weather, lucky us! The views, however, were amazing to say the least. To the left we had could see the clouds rushing towards us in the gusty winds, and to the right we were greeted with the 7000 (~2133m) feet drop to the Whitewater valley.

We dragged our tired and sore feet over even bigger and wider snow drifts until they finally ended! We slowly made the last few miles and made camp with our friends Simon (Sunshine?), Bison, Stacy (Overstock), David (Hawk-eye) and Lisa.  We happily squished 5 tents into a space for 3, but it worked! The next morning, Bison, David and Lisa thundered off down the Loooooong downhill into Whitewater and soon after Ziggy and the Bear. It was a really tough day on our feet, knees and just about everything took a hammering from the constant downhill of 12 miles. We spent the day taking breaks leapfrogging Overstock and finally made it to the water supply at the bottom. (Which is under CCTV, why? Lol.)

We took a short stop at the faucet and set off for Ziggy and the Bear, knowing the next section could prove to be logistically difficult and an early arrival could help in our favour.

There is a section after Ziggy and the Bear extending to Big Bear Lake, that is currently closed from fires last year. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to get round, the only public transport being a 6+ hour public transport route out into San Bernadino area and up to Big Bear. Fortunately, Ziggy and the Bear have been organizing some Trail Angels to take people straight to the Mountain Transit bus that goes direct to Big Bear. We were very lucky to spend only a few hours waiting, not because we didn’t want to enjoy Ziggy and the Bears, but because we were eager to get around the closure and set off from Big Bear.

Fortuitously we also got a hold of some more Trail Angels in Big Bear, Papa Smurf and Mountain Mama who let hikers sleep on the floor and hike out in the morning.

It’s been quite the adventure with all the closures and stop start hiking, but we’re looking forward to the next uninterrupted 90 miles of hiking until Cajon Pass at mile 342.

 

 

 

Paradise, rest and zero’s

We survived another windy night, and started day 11! We found out later that it had actually snowed at higher elevations! The day started off with a steep 3 mile hike up the hill to get us started and climbing up towards the slopes of San Jacinto. The wind was really biting into us, but the strength of the sun, when it was out, had us constantly swapping out our jackets.

We only had 12 miles to do, but with our feet in a fair amount of pain, we were constantly walking slowly and stopping. Along the way we also bumped into 2 water caches, the 2nd being a fairly intriguing one. Alongside the standard Water bottles lay a library with a leave one take one policy, some benches, and a hiker box complete with a bucket of instant mash potatoes!

Malibu East - Water Cache with a library?
Malibu East – Water Cache with a library?

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