Thursday, July 29, 2010

Short stop in truckee for resupply and incredible calzones at zanos. Sierra city on saturday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

South Lake Tahoe

Zeroing in SLT.  A few quick updates:

High Sierras status:  done
We are officially out of the High Sierras.  I sent home the last of the heavy winter gear, hopefully not needed again on this trip.  Fingers crossed, we'll get through the Cascades before we're battling the snow again.

Also, went across Donahue Pass in a hail storm.  At one point, the the hail was the size of marbles, and broke the glasses of the woman behind me.  I kept my hat on, and head on.  There but for the grace of God...

Entering Desolation Wilderness
We are now hiking contiguously with the Tahoe Rim Trail, which I hiked with BR and Leila in 2008.  On the trail, we met Renee who has been a wonderful trail angel.  She, her husband Mark, and her son Dane have welcomed us into their home in an incredible show of hospitality.  Congratulations to them and their 30th anniversary.

Up next: Northern California
We really need to turn up the miles for the next few months, or we'll be hiking in snow near Canada.  We had a sobering planning session where we determined that we will need to average 22mi/day to finish in time.  That said, don't worry, Mom, I'll be home for Thanksgiving.

And, special shout out to the Spicer-Utgoffs, and Megan who will be joining us next Saturday in Sierra City.  


Our next mail drop is Belden, California. Please mail any letters, bills, and packages to:

Shian Sung, Nicole Donnelly, Ginny Too or Emily McNabb (please pick hiker name of your choice)
General Delivery
Belden, CA 95915

Please do not mail any packages to arrive later than August 4th.

South Lake Tahoe and onwards!

Since my last real posting from Lone Pine, our intrepid group has gained people, lost people, experienced the beauty of the John Muir Trail, crossed many passes (most with at least a little snow), seen the brilliance of Yosemite National Park, and we have now joined up with the Tahoe Rim Trail and taken a zero at a wonderful friend's house.

After Lone Pine, a hiker named Tatonka, later renamed to Lady LNT (the story is not quite SFW), joined us doing the same section as Sexy Vermin - Kennedy Meadows to Red's/Tuolumne Meadows area. There were also a lot of PCT hikers in the area, so we had plenty of great company throughout the Sierras. We continued north back from Lone Pine via Kearsarge Pass (where we came out) and thankfully Gangle's GI issues disappeared with some antibiotics and time. I can't even say enough about all the incredible parts of the JMT/PCT section that we hiked - all the incredible passes, the valleys, the lakes, the views. It really is the crown jewel of the US trail system - every day was a new adventure and we went over a snow-covered pass at 11,000+ feet every day, which usually slowed us to a mile an hour but was so beautiful and stark in its glory that you barely noticed. And gaining the top was always worth it, to look back at the long walk up and admire the valleys and lakes below you that you were headed into.

We did take a detour on the hike and hiked the JMT split which added a couple miles but was much more scenic, as well as taking the old PCT trail south of Red's Meadows so we could hit the Iva Bell Hot Springs and pass by Rainbow Falls, as well as enjoy the scenic Devil's Postpile. We were not going to stop into Mammoth but when we arrived at Red's Meadows, two hikers we had enjoyed the company of greatly, Hiker X and Grinder, were there taking a break after just having got back from Mammoth. When they saw us, they managed to convince us to go into Mammoth and take a night, which wasn't hard to do (town food and showers is the ultimate carrot). The other thing was that Sexy Vermin/Ken was leaving us at Red's Meadow so we were able to accompany him into town and wish him a fond farewell. It was a truly enjoyable experience having him out here for 2.5 weeks and he certainly loved it out here. Wish him the best in getting back to Cindy and the real world : )

From there we continued on to Tuolumne Meadows, our next resupply spot. This involved entering Yosemite National Park at Donahue Pass (where we got pelted with a hailstorm - set up a tarp and made quesadillas thanks to Hiker X, one of my favorite trail moments so far) and hiking in one of the premier national parks in the country. Needless to say, it was amazing. The bugs started to get bad there and we are in the midst of the bug season now though, which isn't fun but is part of the outdoors.

We've passed some incredible scenery post-Yosemite as well (i'll refrain from waxing poetic too much about that area as plenty has been written about it before) but the wildflowers have been surprisingly beautiful the last couple weeks and we've gone through beautiful areas like Carson Pass, Sonora Pass, Mokumne Wilderness, and we've seen a lot of day hikers out with all the road access every 30 miles or so. We've also turned up the mileage - Moosie and I did our first 30 a couple days ago to get into South Lake Tahoe.

Speaking of S. Lake Tahoe, when Steiner and myself did the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2008, we met an awesome lady by the name of Renee who helped us resupply. For the PCT, she volunteered to take us in for a couple nights and we got incredible showers, meals, laundry and great conversation (she's a passionate backpacker). Her and her husband Mark have been true trail angels and we've experienced some incredible hospitality. Last night we went to an AYCE sushi place (hand rolls were amazing - shout out to Sushi Pier in Stateline, NV) and then found out randomly that Elton John was playing at an outdoor ampitheatre behind one of the casinos. Some locals let us know about a great spot where you can listen to it for free, a parking lot behind the stage where all the people "in-the-know" tailgate and hang out. So we listened to Elton John sing for free. He still sounds great and one of his encore songs was "Your Song". Yes, I melted.

Anyways, trail is awesome. We are picking up the miles and plan to be in Sierra City on Saturday afternoon to meet some friends of Steiner's. As always the PCT provides and we've been blessed with great friends (old and new), great trail, great views, great walking and a great life. It's hard not to feel blessed out here. We continue for about 40 more miles on the Tahoe Rim Trail with a fantastic view of the lake then split off towards legendary Donner Pass. Pray that none of us get too hungry...

-Barrel Roll

PS New pictures up:

Updated pics start at:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tailgating a(n) (Sir) Elton John concert in Stateline, NV. Just another beautiful day on the PCT

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Paused on Hwy 50, going into SLT tonight

Friday, July 23, 2010

Heading into South Lake Tahoe Sat night or Sun morning. At the aptly named Nipple near Blue Lakes

Thursday, July 15, 2010

saturday morning, the sierras have been incredible. -br
Heading out of mammoth back to reds meadow from dropping off ken, aka sexy vermin. Great having him out here! Tuolumne meadows on

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

VVR & the Fish Fry

Midway through the High Sierras, we stopped in for a break at Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR).  VVR is just before Silver Pass for northbounders, and is seen as a welcome oasis of civilization.  Gangles and I hiked some long days beforehand, fueled by lack of food (i.e., urgency), and the promise of cell phone reception.  We hiked a 21, and then a 24 into Mono Creek, where we camped next to the bridge.  Across the bridge is the 1.5mi spur trail to the bank of Lake Edison, where the VVR ferry picks up twice per day.  We were aiming for the morning ferry, which required a late night of hiking.

We hiked up and down Bear Ridge as the sun was setting, then stumbled around in the dark for another hour or so looking for a camp site.  My secret plan was to walk all the way to the bridge, which was a long 24mi day.  On the way, we saw a campfire, and like moths to a flame, drifted over automatically.  We met some sweet JMT sobos, who were happy to share with us.

The next morning we caught the morning ferry to VVR.  We spent a great day and afternoon at VVR, enjoying the hospitality of Jim, Byron, Annie, Olive, Indiana, Ben, and the rest of the staff at VVR.  I also reread one of my favorite books, Louis Sachar's young adult classic, "Holes".  Since then, I've been seeing God's Thumb everywhere.

We had planned to take the afternoon ferry out the next day.  Around 2pm, I ran into William, a Lt. in the SF Police force.  He was up at VVR with his son, Christian, and his friends to fish the fantastic trout lakes and creeks in the High Sierras.  We chatted about SF, the PCT, and fishing, and he spontaneously invited us to a fish fry he was having the evening.

Though we have strict hiking plans, I though a fish fry would be a welcome inducement to stay the night.  Jim let us stay another night, and we (BR, Moosie, Gangles, Sexy Vermin, Lady LNT, Wide Angle and Wounded Knee) went over to William's cabin with three pies and a few six packs of beer.  We weren't sure what to expect, but here's what we got:  fresh trout steamed with tarragon, trout wrapped in lavash and roasted, marinated lamb chops, roasted corn, and s'mores (courtesy of the master chef Christian).  And that's just the food.  The conversation and company were great--we learned about the SF trolley system, Armenian food, abalone fishing, the latest on the Bachelor and Bachelorette series, etc.

An amazing night, with amazing people.  We owe a tremendous thanks to William, Jose, Christian, Andres, Jacques, and the rest of the bay area crew.  And, if you're ever looking for a wedding DJ or photographer, let me know.  I have a solid recommendation for you.
Nearoed in VVR. Hitting Silver Pass today

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th in town!

Hello all,

Unexpected but pleasant zeroes have landed us in Lone Pine for July 4th. Our original plans had us heading back up over Kearsarge pass, but as we got back on trail we realized that Gangles had some GI issues and with the upcoming tough days we should probably get it checked out. Thanks to our amazing trail angel Maureen Moran, an unltra-runner from San Diego who drove us to Onion Valley, hiked with us for an hour, drove us back when we realized we needed to go back, drove us up and down 395, hung out in the Clinic with us and finally treated us all to Mexican food. Wow! Can't wait to crew her for Badwater : )

So we are in Lone Pine for the festivities and will probably head to independence to walk in the parade as they have a section in it for thru-hikers. Gangles has gotten medicine and wile will be back on the trail tomorrow morning.

Lastly, the pick's trail name is now "Sexy Vermin". We're very sorry Cindy.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Mt. Whitney & Lone Pine

Greetings from Lone Pine, CA! We hiked off trail to Kearsarge Pass, and down to the Onion Valley campground. We're enjoying a zero today, for our sanity and for some much needed laundry.

We are partway through the High Sierras, a region contemplated with awe and fear by most PCT hikers. The high point of the PCT, Forester Pass (elev. ~13,100) and the highest point in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney (elev. ~14,500) are back to back in this section. Accordingly, we have cut mileage back. Prior to this, we were regularly hiking 20-25 miles per day. (This was arduous, but doable).

Some have told us (running over to interject into personal conversations) that it is impossible to hike 20s in the Sierras. For the record, we have hiked a 21. But, we're planning on keeping mileage low to enjoy, and to welcome the latest addition to our crew, Ken The Pick. Ken is Leila's stepdad, and earned his trail name through his superior dental hygiene, i.e., he chews a flosser non-stop, even up and down snow-covered passes.

Whitney was spectacular. We climbed from the JMT side, spending two nights at Crabtree Meadows. The plan: day hike to Guitar Lake, and then up Whitney. What actually happened: Gangles and I never actually saw Guitar Lake.

We caught up somewhere short of Guitar Lake (5m) away, but lost the trail in the snow. After 45m of bushwacking, rockhopping and plowing through snow fields, we ended up 300' above the trail, between Guitar Lake and the trail to Whitney. We dropped down to the trail, filled our hydration bladders are started up.

The last time I went up Whitney, it was in full moonlight at the tail end of our '07 JMT summit. As a person with a profound fear of heights, this summit was more harrowing because I could see how far I could fall. Gangles and I powered up the 10 switchbacks, crossing a few rapidly melting, but still slick snow fields. After 3.5h of leisurely climbing, we made it to the summit.

We ate the last of our high calorie snacks (mostly almonds), and two-timed it down because of the encroaching rain clouds. We made it down in ~2 hours to the trail to Guitar Lakes.

Here's where it went awry. Since we never took the trail between Whitney and Guitar Lakes, we had no idea how to get down. We ended up bushwacking for an additional 3h from the beginning of the switchbacks down to Timberline. This is highly discouraged--and a complete violation of LNT principles. We were completely lost, and wandering in pristine, untracked wilderness. The trip back was harrowing, including some steep boulder fields, soft snow, and very fast water.

That said, it was also exceptionally beautiful and memorable, because we were in the High Sierras.

Also, I have sent home the ice axe and crampons in a fit of frustration and hubris. We'll see if this is was a bad (read: fatal) mistake in the next few days. I did this based on two reasons: first, the rangers have been saying they are unnecessary. Second, they are really heavy. My pack is quite heavy now, and I'm taking the trade-off of agility versus grip.

So many people to thank, but special shout outs:
- Nelda's in Lake Isabella, CA for the best milkshakes ever
- Merry Go Round in Lone Pine, CA for quality Chinese food
- Elevation in Lone Pine, CA for being a great outfitter
- REI in Lancaster, CA staffed by former PCTers
Rides & Trail Angels:
- Okie Girl at Walker Pass
- Jamie from Kearsarge to Independence, CA
- John and Tom from Mountain Mesa
- Mike from Santa Monica

Feeling Good in Lone Pine, CA

Wow..the Sierra's are absolutely gorgeous! Spent the last week hiking from Kennedy Meadow's to Onion Valley. Our two major feats have been a side trip to summit Mount Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48) and crossing snowy Forester Pass (the highest point on the official PCT). The way down both peaks involved significant bush-wacking including some hot ice axe action and glissading. Weeeeee! Am thankful to wake up each morning in such beautiful places and am excited to see more. While I have definitely improved (passed several people and was never passed on the way up Whitney!), I am still working on strength and endurance and hopefully will be able get stronger so I can start making bigger miles (Canada is far away!). Also, once again, I raided my pack to help loose weight. Today, camera case, extra shirt, sitting pad, knife, and mug went.

Spending the day in Lone Pine, CA where several Westerns have been filmed. It is fun to see all these small towns I normally would not have passed through. Thanks Mom and Dad for the care passage. I can't wait to tuck in to the meat, cheese, and da barrs. ;)

Hope everyone is well. Miss you tons.

Next Mail Drop: Tuolumne Meadows on July 11th, 2010

Our next mail drop will be in Tuolumne Meadows.  Please ensure packages or mail will arrive by 7/11/10.  Please send all packages addressed as follows:

(Real Name)

c/o General Delivery
Tuolumne Meadows
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

Whitney and Forrester Pass down!

Since the last post we have had 8 straight days in the backcountry of the Sierras and it has been FANTASTIC! It's everything it was hyped up to be and more. New pictures start here:

Click for pictures

Ken, AKA "The Pick" joined us for a section hike from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne and has been doing fantastic. Since leaving KM, we've been putting in smaller days (15's) to acclimate to altitude and also because we're carrying so much food, the smaller miles suit us better. Plus gives you more time to enjoy swimming holes and the INCREDIBLE scenery. Check out the pics, they do the most justice.

We've summitted Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, as well as gone over Forrester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. Both were two of the best days i've had on the trail. Challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Can't wait to continue on the rest of the Sierras - it's sort of cool as we did the JMT southbound and now I get to see it all going north. Upcoming are Evolution Valley, all the great glacial lakes, the huge passes, Vermillion, and more.

I've had a grin on my face for the last month. Can't seem to get it off. Love being out here. Everyday I can't wait to get out and see what lies ahead. This is happiness. That's all.

-Barrel Roll

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In Independence, CA. Passed an Egyptian-themed store display which read "Ankh if you love fruit cake"