Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forester Pass

Forester Pass was the first major pass in the Sierras part of the PCT. Our trip up was by turns eventful, stunning, stressful and incredible.

We camped a few miles shy of the pass (~3mi), and made our way up early in the morning. The trail was relatively clear until the foot of the steep climb switchbacked up the South side.

Side note: We did see a pair of marmots chasing each other through the rapidly clearly ridge nearby. Cynics and people who decry anthropomorphization may disagree, but I think it was marmot love.

We stopped to catch our breath at the base of the rugged looking pass. The switchbacks were snowed over, and the trail was neither visible nor intuitive. We pulled out our ice axes, and went the hard but direct way, straight up, scrambling up the boulders. Fortunately, we were there early enough in the morning, that the snowpack was still solid enough for a safe scramble. About 80% of the way up, we found a clear switchback and went up the rest of the way on the trail.

The trail to the top of the pass was relatively clear, with the exception of one deep snow chute, which flooded my body with adrenaline. Not looking to the left, I sidled across, ice axe in hand. Another 100' of switchbacks, we were at the highest point on the PCT.

A round of congratulations, and a kazoo serenade from Moosie and BR (Battle Hymn of the Republic) later, we started our descent.

The quickest (and most fun) way down, was a full glissade down, maybe 100'-200'. (I'm bad at estimating height--this is a great trait in a thruhiker; it's like being a cornerback with a short memory). I put on rain pants, cocked my ice axe, and took the quickest ride down I've ever had.

The rest of the day was fairly grueling--post-holing through the snow up to the Kearsarge Pass trail, and the side junction out to Onion Valley.

So, in short: first major pass down; fingers crossed for more snow melt. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the sierras now; some snow. Just climbed out of Death Canyon. May camp in Poison Meadow. A macabre couple nights. Next town stop: Independence, CA from Kearsarge Pass

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The big 3-0, pct style

Just chiming in as Steiner and gangles aka Emily have already posted some great stuff already.

Things are awesome. We are at Kennedy which marks over 700 miles for moosie and I, and Kennedy meadows marks a huge milestone for us as we now enter the sierras which means big snow, big mountains, big views and big fun. All the thru-hikers all talk about making it to I'm and the big test of the sierras and now we are here. Seems surreal.

It's been so much fun and lately we have been travelling in a really fun pack of people which has made it a blast. And we have been workin our way through the high desert for the last two weeks to get here. The timing worked out incredibly as we arrived at Kennedy meadows in time to celebrate my 30th birthday. Leila, Cindy and Ken (who is hiking from km to tuolomne meadows with us) came up from San Diego and met us here, bringing lots of food, beer and good company to hang out. All the thruhikers we've been hanging out with arrived over the last two days and have been helping me ring in the big 3-0. All I can say is, if the first 2 days of my 3rd decade are any representation, it's going to be a fun next 10 years.

Apologies for the lack of pictures as we haven't been in great places to post pictures. I will try to get caught up next stop as we are going through the VERY scenic sierras.

All is well and we're all extremely excited for the next stretch. Happy trails until next time!

-Barrel Roll (Shian, now officially older but still young at heart :D)

PS Next stop is Independence, CA and we should be there in 7.5-8 days. Mailing info is maybe 6 posts below by Steiner.

Kennedy Meadows

Been logging some pretty big days since Tahachapi. Got through my first couple 25 milers and can tell I am gaining strength. Mentally it is much easier to approach a tall climb when you know you have managed one just as large before. Was mentioning to Barrel Roll yesterday that summiting is bitter-sweet. The views, especially at sunset are incredible and seem even more stunning when you know everything you went through to get there. But, no rest for the weary, each ridge on the horizon we will cross soon. As long as I am having fun I say climb on!

Over the past several days we have been traveling from the Mojave Desert to the Sierras. The slow transition is comforting and intriguing. In the high desert wind, the flowers can not afford to have stems so they lay close to the ground always facing the sun. But their stems have grown, the weather has gotten cooler and water more plentiful (yesterday we were actually at a river!). Today, I am trading in my sun umbrella for an ice axe, bear canister, and crampons.

I am writing from a trailer which belongs to a trail angel named Tom at Kennedy Meadows. We stopped here for two days before beginning the Sierras. The next stop is Independence in seven days. Between here and there will be a ton of snow and hopefully we will summit Mount Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48 states)! To adjust for snow, we are bumping mileage down to 15 miles per day. Supposedly, this will be one of the most beautiful sections of the trail.

When we reached Kennedy Meadows, MC and BR’s friends were waiting with a truck and camping gear. We have spent the last two days resting, eating, and celebrating BR’s 30th. Thanks so much for everything C, L, and K. Company and food were awesome! Am constantly eating – a pint of Ben and Jerry’s has become an appetizer. Next time I am in town, I will log my actual food intake- it is insane!

Favorite piece of recent trail magic: Man threw three full size snickers bars out of his truck window at us to wish good luck with the Sierras. Have met a ton of great friends and many trail angels have helped and fed us along the way.

I will try to post some pictures later on today and then should get connection again in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kennedy Meadows

Checking in from Kennedy Meadows.  We've added Ken to the roll of hikers for this stretch.  We'll have him for the next few weeks, which is going to be great.

We are also halfway through a double zero--letting the snow melt and wishing BR a happy birthday.

In other news, Em and I have done our first 300 miles, including two 25s, and a few 20s.  We're finally getting our trail legs.  

Miss you all.

p.s., On the same animal-packed day, I saw 3 rattlesnakes and a bear.  One rattler was furious, and attacking a pine branch when we came upon it.  We let it slither away, and it climbed up a tree so it was at eye level with me.  I walked a big circle around it. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

But, did manage to leave town. 5 mi north of walker pass, headed to Kennedy meadows on 6/21. 25mi tomorrow!
The snooky: peanut butter, banana, butterfinger, reese's pieces
Last stop before Kennedy Meadows. 49mi til the real Sierras. In Lake Isabella for a milkshake at Nelda's

Walker pass - Kennedy Meadows by Monday

Currently posting from my iPhone at the lakeview motel in lake Isabella, ca. The sobohobos have been hiking big miles and we covered 18, 18, 21, 20 and then the coup de grace, a 25 miler into walker pass. It's been A lot of fun and we've been travelling within a large pack of people for a change which has been really fun. It's also been incredible to see Emily turn into a thru-hiker as we've ratcheted up the mileage. I'm really proud of her and how she's doing so well, after never having spent a night outdoors before!

The hiking has been so great over the last week out of tehachapi. It's been dry as we trek through the high desert but the views have been spectacular as we finally entered the official Sierra nevada range and have been rewarded with views of snow-capped mountains that we are headed for.

This was supposed to be just an in and out for resupply but I actually hitched in last night as I had an issue with an ear infection and decided to come into town to a hospital and get it taken care of. Stayed the night at the local motel (bob the owner was awesome and took care of is, picking me and el presidente up at the hospital. All is fine and i've got aome antibiotic drops to put in my ear for the next week.

Next up... The sierras and big climbs, big snow and big fun! A zero at Kennedy meadows awaits. Sorry about the lack of pictures, there hasn't Been a good place to put pics up, but hopefully i get a chance to do That within the next couple weeks.

Trail has been great, until next post -Barrel Roll

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just past Hwy 58. In the official Sierra Nevadas. 15 miles til water. All is well

Monday, June 14, 2010

Greetings from Tahachapi

Hi All-

Greetings from Tahachapi, CA. We have stopped overnight to enjoy a
jacuzzi, do some laundry, and fill up on good food. Also in town, we
were tricked into stopping at a scrap booking store where the
over-zealous and crafty shop owner Kathi gave us a 15 minute
demonstration on some of the great craft tricks. I think we
disappointed her with our cards and am pretty sure she would kill
Ginny with a umbrella shaped hole puncher if she found out that Ginny
used an unclean red stamp on the baby blue ink...enough craft
rambling, the past couple weeks have been a crazy ride. Don't have
enough time to explain all right now but will jot a few highlights and
will definitely elaborate in person when I get back and will post
pictures as soon as I can.

Not gonna lie, day one was rough. Felt pretty good hiking up the
first hill in the morning. It was definitely hard but each new corner
revealed an unbelievable view and awesome new plants. Also, a slew of
gecko friends which constantly scampered across the trail in front of
me kept me company. Things took a turn for the worse half way up the
second hill. We were suppose to summit the hill by noon and take a
break to avoid the 100+ degree heat. However, with an uncomfortably
heavy and ill-fitting pack and embarrassingly low endurance left me
only half way up by 1pm. Not able to summit fast enough and broken
down by the pain of the pack, Ginny carried both my pack and hers up
the hill (Thanks Ginny!) and we regrouped at my first water cache that
was decorated with flamingos and blow up monkeys. Also, we found nice
chairs and cold sodas waiting for us and spent the afternoon cooling
in the shade with some other hikers. Good news is that since then,
endurance has been building and I got a new Emily-pack which works
like a charm. Also, eliminated a few non-essentials as I spent most
of that second hill thinking of everything I could remove from the
bag- goodbye soap, Yahtzee, extra meals, "town-clothes," eye-liner,
large glass bottle of franks hot sauce, etc.

Stopped at the Casa de Luna hostel (or hippie daycare) where we were
greeted with applause from the hikers hanging out on the couches in the
front yard. Before we could chat, we were instructed that we must
immediately join a tour and that there would be no socializing until
the tour ended. A neighbor of the house gave us a very detailed
tour of the property- pointing out the magical manzanita forest were
we were promised the best sleep of our life and Narnia which could
bring strength but also came with a promise of hawk attacks for all
who wore beards...we casually passed by a man smoking through a scuba
suit on the back lawn (did not partake) but decided to tent there -
still not quite sure if I am ready for magical manzanita or Narnia.
As the tour ended, we were handed cold beers, Hawaiian shirts, and
escorted to an unlimited taco bar. Thank you Casa de Luna! Also, in
the morning, you get as many tacos as beers you drank the previous
night. We left early but I am sure many hikers dove into plates of

Next few days rocked as Mr. Kevin Lee slacked packed us (met us with his car, snacks, and beverages every few miles and kept our packs in his car) during a reroute due to fire. We also hiked with the incredible Fireweed- one of the first female hot shots and fire ranger for Alaska. We hope to meet up with her again in OR. Pictures to come of Vasquez Rocks- the setting for many a western film.

After a few more days of hiking, we descended upon hiker town where BR, MC, Gin and I rented an RV for $15 bucks to sleep in and Bob lent us his truck to make an ice cream and beer run. Hiker Town looked liked the town to be associated with the Vasquez Rocks - expected the Sherrif to bust through swinging doors. Four baby kittens made me think of Abby, the roosters cockadoodled early and we headed to the Aqueduct.

Hiked along LA's water supply and through the Mojave desert. Cowboyed (slept under the stars w/o a tent) for the first time!!!! Stars in the desert are absolutely incredible!

A few miles along a wind farm brought us here. Peeps are waiting- time to go! More later!

Maildrop update: skipping Onyx, next drop Independence, CA

Skipping Onyx due to scheduling issues.  Please do not send items to Onyx.  Items sent to Onyx will be forwarded on to our next maildrop, in Independence:

[Real name here, e.g., Emily McNabb]
ATTN: Hold for PCT Hiker; ETA 6/27
C/O General Delivery
Post Office
Independence, CA 93526

All first class or priority mail will be forwarded on.  Thanks.

Our Crafternoon in Tehachapi, CA

Greetings from Tehachapi, CA at the northern end of the Mojave desert. We are around mile marker 558 for BR and MC, and 151 for Emily and me (Steiner). It's been an eventful first week and a half on the trail.  Since leaving Agua Dulce, CA, we stopped for the night in Lancaster, CA at Hikertown, which is a miniature Western town.  (We will post photos, since a verbal description does not do it justice).

The night before Tehachapi, we camped 10 miles out, just past some private property on the PCT.  Town relationships have not been great, since the trail was covered with "NO TRESPASSING" signs.  We had also heard (possibly false) rumors of booby traps in the section.  Don't worry, we didn't find any booby traps. 

We did walk through an enormous wind farm on the way in, which makes perfect sense. This was by far the windiest section of the trail we have seen so far.  By 10:30am, we reached Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd. We waited a few minutes for Moosie, who was right behind us, and the three of us started hitching.  We restyled our hair to look less threatening, and hitched into town with a woman and her daughter who were headed to the Super K in Tehachapi.  Great company and conversation. 

We settled in at the Best Western Mountain Inn (highly recommended), and took a stroll through town.  We found Barrel Roll and El Presidente walked by a local scrapbooking store.  BR mentioned that the scrapbooking store had a thruhiker special, where we could make a greeting card to send home.

We stopped in and met Kathi Hinkle, and a few other ladies, and settled in for the Crafternoon (name courtesy of Naomi Goldstein).  We were given fifteen minutes of instructions, 2 blank greeting cards, access to hundreds of rubber stamps, and asked to unleash our inner scrapbooking demons.

Kathi put on disc 2 of the malt shop series, and we doowopped the afternoon away. 

Just another day on the PCT.  We'll post photos soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Tehachapi, CA. Going to post office on 6/14. Nice night out.
Walked through the Mojave desert yesterday, along the LA aqueduct. Should really watch "Chinatown" again. Lovely day for a hike. Looking forward to Tehachapi tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Guy Smiley & the rattlesnake

A day or two out of Green Valley (Casa de Luna), Emily and I were hiking on the shoulder of a mountain.  We run into the human incarnation of Guy Smiley, dressed head to toe in khaki polypro.  He had a safari vibe--the broad brimmed hat, and coordinated shorts and shirt combination.  He saw us potential damsels in distress, and called out, "ladies, there's a snake!".  We pull up, and peer around the curve.  We see a small green rattlesnake coiled in the center of the trail.

The trail fell away steeply to the left and right.  Guy mentioned the rattlesnake had slid down the slope on to the trail, furiously rattling all the while.  He theorized that sliding down the slope had enraged the rattlesnake, who he kept calling "the little guy".  My rattlesnake experience has been limited*.  Guy Smiley decides to be gallant, and see if the rattlesnake is still angry.  The snake has been rattling the entire time we've been talking to Guy, so, yes, I think the snake is still angry.

Guy, grabs Emily's hiking pole, pokes at the snake, then jumps over it.  The snake jumps up at Guy, misses, and then falls, rattling and coiled in the trail.  Great.  We're here for another 20 minutes until the rattlesnake settles down.   I decide to walk a big circle around the snake, sliding down the hill, and I manage to pass both the snake and Guy who are locked in a mortal staredown. 

At this point, Emily still needs to pass, and Guy and the snake are still in between the both of us.  My preferred method of non-interaction definitely worked.  Emily was about to pass the snake, also by walking a big circle around it.  However, Guy decides to take matters into his own hands.

He takes Emily's hiking pole, and quickly flings the snake fifteen feet into a nearby tree.  (Emily:  It reminded me of pick up sticks).  I have never heard such rattling.  The rattlesnake was dangling from a tree, rattling its little heart out.  The sheer force of its rattling actually dislodged it from the tree, and it kept rattling.  I had a vision of the snake slithering up the hill towards us, so Emily and took off in the other direction.

Guy wanted to hike along, but we thought we were better off without his snake handling skills.

Moral of the story:  Kids, don't throw rattlesnakes into trees.  That only makes them angry. 

(Current rattlesnake training*:

- If you see a snake, walk a big circle around it
- If you get bitten, get help
- If you get bitten by a Mojave Green, pray for your loved ones; you have 30 minutes to live)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just pulled into hikertown. Mile 518 for BR and Moosie. Mile 111 for Em and me. Things are great

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Next scheduled mail drops

Here is our tentative schedule for the next few stops:

6/11 - Hikertown:

[Real name here, e.g., Shian Sung]
c/o Hikertown
26803 W. Ave C-15
Lancaster, CA 93536

6/13 - Tehachapi, CA:

[Real name here, e.g., Ginny Too]
ATTN: Hold for PCT Hiker; ETA 6/13
c/o General Delivery
Tehachapi, CA 93561

6/18 - Onyx, CA:

[Real name here, e.g., Nicole Donnelly]
ATTN: Hold for PCT Hiker; ETA 6/18
c/o General Delivery
Onyx, CA 93255

6/23 - Kennedy Meadows - PLEASE DO NOT SEND MAIL
Because there is a $2/package fee to pick up. 

New pics are up!

New pictures up!

BR's new pics start here:

Zero in Agua Dulce!

I'm writing this from Hiker's Heaven, an incredible hostel run by the Saufley's in Agua Dulce, CA. It's known up and down the trail as the must stop on the PCT.

After our last stop while we were in Wrightwood, Moosie and I continued on the Angeles Crest portion up through Islip saddle. We took the side trail up to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell, named in honor of the founder of the Boy Scout movement, and it was well worth it. Great views and a fun walk through the snow. After another 4 miles of patchy snow we hit the dreaded re-route of the PCT, due to a large fire that swept through the western side of the Angeles Crest mountains. Normally the trail continues up on the ridge through beautiful pines and cool weather. Because of the fire, the trail drops off the side of the ridge and goes along paved roads where the foothills of the Angeles meets the desert. It would be hot (with temperatures nearing 100) and on pavement. Something we had been hearing about and not looking forward to for qite a while.

However, we had a secret weapon. Kevin Lee, my boss and a good friend, was meeting us on the weekend and water-muling/slackpacking us for that stretch so we could bomb out the 47 miles or so of the re-route in 2 fast days. Water-muling means he would be meeting us every few miles with water, and slackpacking means he would be carrying all our gear that we didn't need during the day so we'd be travelling light.

Since we had to wait for the weekend for Kevin to slackpack us, Moosie and I got a hitch to Agua Dulce, where Emily and Steiner were waiting for us. We arrived at the Saufley's (for the first time), picked them up, and headed northward for 2 days. Dry and hilly, we reached San Fransisquito Canyon on Friday night and got picked up by Kevin on Saturday morning, where we went back and did the reroute. While it was hot and grueling on pavement, with Kevin's smiling face (and really awesome shade set-up, with chairs and cold Nalgenes full of Vitalyte every two miles), we were able to bomb out big miles really quickly. Both Saturday and Sunday, due to the heat, featured 2-3 hour lunches to wait out the midday heat. Due to the existence of a car, we were able to take those lunches at spots like the Little Rock Reservoir and a KOA campground, both featuring nice, cool swims.

We also picked up Fireweed for our slackpack weekend section - saw her at Devil's Punchbowl County Park as we started then found that she would pass us the first couple times when we hit Kevin's car. So we asked her if she would be interested in slacking with us since she seemed really nice. And she was awesome! One of the nicest and most interesting people i've met on the trail before, a former Hotshot and Fire Warden in Yosemite and Alaska, she was finishing the re-route to Agua Dulce as part of her section hike which she started in 1976! As of right now she just has Washington left which she'll do in August.

We were able to finish the re-route by Sunday evening, in time for Kevin, myself and the rest of the gang to catch the last quarter of the Celtics game at the pizza place in Agua Dulce. Kevin then took leave of us to return to the real world. Can't thank him enough and we all had a blast with him. Also, Skyward, someone who we've seen a few times, gave him a trail name... "The Boss"! Since i've been explaning our plan to people and always tell them that my boss was coming out to slack/mule us through. Pretty awesome.

Steiner and Emily have been out with us now and have 71 miles under their belt. We're going to slow down a little bit for the next stretch to let them get their trail legs with full packs. They've been doing fantastic and we worked on a couple things yesterday during the zero, including getting new packs and sending some extra gear home to make things a little better. That's what the shakedown is all about and I think the hiking will be a little more comfortable since we're not pushing 20 mile days and packs are going to fit a little better.

We now head to Hikertown in Lancaster, and onward to the Mojave Aqueduct across the desert. Things are going great and we're having a blast! Thanks again to Kevin for an awesome weekend, it was fantastic. Yesterday we zero'd for the first time since Pete Lee's place and Moosie and I enjoyed it very much, including showers, lunch in town, picking up fish and steak to grill along with a fantastic salad last night for dinner. Heading out today for a short day after the midday heat. Sobohobos are rolling now!


Monday, June 7, 2010


Just pulled into agua Dulce (again), finished with our mini flip flop. 3 full days, 66mi. Heavy duty hiking, courtesy of a Kevin Lee slack. Looking forward to a well-deserved zero. Much love to kl!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In and out at Wrightwood

Moosie and I are checking in from Wrightwood. We're doing great and excited to meet Steiner and Emily tomorrow night! This next section is going to be challenging - we're going through snow on Baden-Powell and dropping down to the edge of the Mojave before seeing the beautiful Hiker's Heaven at Agua Dulce.

If you want to send me something (snacks are appreciated, cash/money is best and I will think of you as I eat whatever I spent your $ on, especially for all my friends on the east coast - it gets pricey to send priority mail packages out here on the west coast), I will be able to pick up packages on Wednesday, June 9th at this address. You should send them via USPS Priority Mail and make sure that they arrive by that date - if it arrives past that date I may not be able to get to it:

Shian Sung or Nicole Donnelly
c/o Hikertown
26803 W. Ave C-15
Lancaster, CA 93536

There is a Paypal button on the right side if you just want to paypal me some money. If you do, email or call/text me and let me know that you sent it so I can send the appropriate thanks. If you have a specific snack you want me to purchase with the money, let me know that as well ; ).

Our next pick-up will probably be at Kennedy Meadows or Mojave and I will keep this updated.

The trail has been fantastic. Last night we stayed on the second floor of a ski lodge (unused during the summer season) and enjoyed our best sunset of the night. We absolutely can't wait for the Steiner and Emily to join us and make this a real party! Kevin Lee is meeting us this weekend and will be slacking us through the reroute from the Station Fire detour so can't wait to have that happen as well. Then it's onwards to Kennedy Meadows and the snow-filled Sierras...