Sunday, August 28, 2011

Northern California + Oregon, Sierra City to Bend, total mileage 2007 miles

After watching Robin leave us to our own demise, we hiked on north, next big stop would be Bend, Oregon and we had a ways to go. Psyched on the thoughts of possibly hiking dry trail, we were quickly bummed to realize every north face was still endless snow fields. Oh boy! We had planned to finally start pushing some decent miles to make up for the Sierras, but still were unable to break more than 25 mile days fully wiped out. Not sure where exactly the last bit of snow was, but just north of Belden was my last memory of huge patches. Once we started getting more trail than snow, we got excited to see dirt again and our miles went up. Just outside Sierra City (which we skipped because we just resupplied in Truckee), we ran into a couple, Data Muffin and Topsy Turvy, who we began hiking on and off with and sharing lots of good trial miles with in Northern California and again through Washington.

There was a good climb out of Sierra City and then the terrain was pretty mellow with mesa views and not quite as much water. As we were walking along and in “the zone” we heard a crashing noise and looked up to see a small black bear running across the hill right in front of us. It was amazing to see it just demolish the bushes in it’s path and I realized there would be no way to out run a bear. Even with the lightest shoes and Jackie Jointer finger nails. Next stop, Belden. And for the record, yes, Belden IS creepy. We heard great gossip of a rave, lots of drugs, glowsticks, and even breast milk pina coladas! But, we rolled in in the middle of the week and the place was pretty empty. We dropped down hoards of switchbacks and made it to the “resort/haunted house” which was still open and were able to get some burgers. I wish I were joking, but seriously, this place is wacky. There are odd knick-knacks everywhere, the waitress spilled the entire tray of drinks while bringing them to us twice, the post office is a one room house with skulls, and the locals were interesting. Very interesting. But no breast milk pina coladas, so on we trekked after staying with local trail angels in their spare house.

The climb out of Belden was my least favorite climb of the trail. All the other climbs are just hype. The trial was burned-over with no trees, underbrush way over-grown, over 14 miles of climbing on the surface of the sun. Water went in the mouth and just came right out. Once we got to the top, we were back in snow and heading on through Lassen National Park. The trail went right around a boiling lake of acid, that Ville took a swim in (not), and camped a night at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. This place is run by a couple from Germany who are the coolest. They set a table and loaded it with great food for us hikers. And good beer. There was a hot spring swimming pool which made for a great soak and they even washed our dirty clothes! Rockstar treatment. We left our little hiker buddy, Slate, and headed on.

Hiking through Hat Creek Rim was a scenic part of trail that reminded me so much of Bend with the sage brush and lava rock. Ville and I hiked to a cave to get water and camp and lost each other in the dark when he went to get water and I pitched the tent. I tried really hard not to panic, but we spend so much time together out here relying on each other that these moments you feel so very alone and lost. After back-tracking, we finally found each other and were very relieved. Alarms set for 3:30 a.m. because the next stretch was 30 miles in heat with no water. It was a beautiful sunrise where Mt. Shasta finally came into view, and would be in our view for a couple weeks. We had a siesta under a tree and finished hiking to a fish hatchery into the night. A walk by Old Station, food stop, and onto the next town, Burney Falls, where we had a quick meal, a lecture from the local market clerk for making it this far on the hike without cash!, resupplied, and headed northwest on the trail in very thick brush with not many views. Now that we were on solid trail, this is when we realized that we needed to start hiking at least 30 miles per day to get to Canada in our weather window. Bummer. Feet were not use to the open trail and that many miles and pain killers were used to push on. This was definitely a low point on the trail for all of us, even other hikers we leapfrogged. Periodic swims in rivers were the highlights of this section. And down into Shasta City was really exciting, cell phone reception, new shoes, new Super Feet, the hopes of a new backpack (at this point my crappy Osprey pack has fallen apart enough to rub sores into my back from the metal frame), a shower, laundry, real food, and connecting with my family who were sure we were dead. With so many tiny towns, there was no cell reception or computers to call or write home. My fantastic parents followed our whole journey with maps and sat by the phone just waiting to hear we were all right, so this last section almost got the search party out looking for us. Oh boy. Thank you mom and dad for keeping track of us and always worrying about us. We love you for being parents.

The hike out of Shasta City was beautiful and one of our favorite sections of trail. Into Castle Crags Wilderness were views of the crags, Shasta, and a full moon. We ran into our hiking buddy JBro and camped. This whole section of trail was really gentle meandering along the hills with views of lakes and mountains the whole way. Many trail heads, day hikers, and swims in lakes to be had. I was then bandaged all day to try and make it to Ashland where I was hoping to ditch the Osprey pack for good. Next town stop was Etna, where my childhood friend, Anna, picked us up on trail and took us to the brewery in Etna and took us back to the trail the next day. Thanks so much Anna for the ride, catching up, and making time for us. I hope all is well with your new baby and can’t wait to see the yert on the next trip down. Pencil us in.

Next stretch was through the Marble Mountains and Russian Wilderness. Stark contrasts between black and white rock and the trail finally heading north. In a few days we dropped down into Seiad Valley and the State of Jefferson. No we did not partake in the pancake challenge (5 giant pancakes in an hour), and opted for omelets and milkshakes instead. The climb out was a 7,000 ft climb in 6 miles, but easier than everyone talked it up to. As we walked on the crest the sun was setting and the full moon was rising directly across from it. Can’t describe how beautiful and pictures can’t capture it. This is why you hike it. To experience it. Only a short stretch and we hit the Oregon/California border! Hooray! FINALLY, a new state and heading home!

In Ashland we had beers with my friend Chris (thanks a million for the ride and hanging with us, sorry it was a quick visit, we will make it down again very soon) and stayed with my Aunt Sharon, Uncle John, and my Dad surprised us! It was so awesome to get to see Dad after so many miles. And we pushed out 42 miles in 24 hours to get to our friend’s cabin at Lake of the Woods to have some fun in the sun and relaxation on trail. Thanks so much Maestro, Diane, and your family for having us at the lake. It was REALLY needed! And Maestro, you need to be on Top Chef :) Next stop, Crater Lake, where my Aunt Red, Kel, Kim, and Rudy met us to eat at the buffet, bring us resupply boxes, and give us much needed hugs. Thanks a million all of you, especially Redster and Kel for all the hard work on shipping all our resupply boxes to us!!

So great to be back in my home state, we hiked around the rim of Crater Lake and watched an incredible lightning storm over the water where 3 rainbows appeared. After camping on the rim, we pushed a 37 mile day towards Mt Thielsen. Hit up some very unexpected trail magic that was from a former hiker and stocked up on real food. Around Diamond Peak and down to Odell Lake we got more family love on the trail from my Dad and Maestro again who brought us a big picnic lunch and drove us up to some hot springs to hang for the day before dropping us back at the trail. Best sandwiches on trail and fruit is always gold, thanks Dad!

Leaving Odell Lake, we were on a mission. We have been averaging 34 miles a day through all of Oregon, easy trail, beautiful mountain views, lakes galore, vulture-sized mosquitoes (worst on the trail was through Oregon by far), and thoughts of getting into Bend and taking a whole whopping 3 days off trail to see the fam, resupply, and replace gear. The wilderness was pretty heading north to Willamette Pass, lots of lakes, chatty day hikers, and even a run-in with trail heart-throb, Billy Goat. When we dropped out of the thick forest with views of South Sister looming in front of us, we finally felt like we have made miles and are so close to home! Totally biased, we both agreed that the Sisters Wilderness part of the trail is one of our favorites. So close to the 3 mountains, meandering through beautiful meadows of flowers, easy trail, volcanic rock fields, and views of the Cascade Mountain Range in the distance. The trail between Willamette Pass and Santiam Pass was the fastest trail Ville and I hiked. Through our hike we maintained, once in shape, about 3 miles an hour up or down, but this section was at about 4.6 miles an hour. We couldn’t wait to see my family and eat some good food. It had also been over 1,150 miles since our last day off! And boy did we need a day off our feet!

Once we hit Santiam, now at 2,007 miles on the PCT, we got some great trail magic from Cat Dog (thanks!) and hitched a ride to Bend. There, my Dad and Maestro had a “welcome home” bar-b-que for us, which my sister and brother made the trip to Bend to be there. Thanks so much you both for all your love and support! The next three days were jam packed with my Mom’s famous crepe fest, REI runs, packing more yucky granola baggies, catching up, trying to relax and drinking of some good Bend beers. We were so sad we had such little time to spend with everyone, but our big PCT 2011 ending party is coming up, so stay tuned cause we plan to see you all there and spend some quality time catching up! Thanks everyone for all the love and support on the trail, you all made it possible to do this hike this year, we just walked. :)

The Yosemite ! Red's Meadow to Sierra City. Total mileage 1198 miles.

After a long schlep through a bunch of snow in the Sierras, we came to Red’s Meadow and after putting down a couple burgers, we caught a bus down to Mammoth. On the bus a little girl got on and said, “Mommy, it smells bad in here.” Couldn’t have been the dirty smelly hiker trash sitting in the back of the bus. Kids say the darnedest things. We met up with a bunch of more smelly hikers staying at the motel 6 and saw a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in months. It was great to see old friends, but tough to keep eyelids open past nine. After rocking the Sierras we figured it would all be easier from here on out, but boy were we so wrong.

After leaving Red’s Meadow, we walked by Devil’s Postpile, over some more snowy passes, and dropped down into Tuolumne Meadows where we wound through a beautiful meadow with the river meandering along the trail. After getting our resupply, and skipping the overwhelming tourist throngs heading down into the valley, we pushed on through 6 miles of our favorite stretch in Yosemite. The trail climbed over smooth rocks along the Tuolumne River and near some big falls and the climb into the meadows was beautiful. We fell asleep listening to a pack of howling wolves and star gazing. The rest of Yosemite I can imagine is very beautiful and relaxing in a normal year at this time, but for us it was only a few steps before climbing over a giant snow dune and repeat, the entire way with some intermittent death defying stream crossings thrown in. Nothing like a 6 am neck high freezing ice melt stream crossing to wake you up. This was the first time on the hike we actually ran out of food and were eyeballing each other’s food we were so hungry. Very long exhausting days that were very slow going. The high for us was knowing how physically and mentally challenging this section was and making it through together, and looking out for each other. When we hitched out to Kennedy Meadows (north) from Senora Pass, we got a ride form the nicest family ever. Here is Ville to tell you more about that:

The Tevlins!

Freakin nicest people ever! That pretty much wraps it up. The Tevlin family's generosity makes Mother Teresa look like selfish and mean. We were hitchhiking down from Sonora Pass to southern Kennedy Meadows campground. We were both extremely hungry after our food ran out and more tired than ever. Then like a shining knight riding a white horse, Mitch Tevlin pulls over and says " Hop in kids!" Then on the way down to the campground the family invites us to pitch our tent on their campsite. Mitch's wife Renee started asking what we would like to eat for dinner etc. At that point Kristen and I are thinking who are these people offering food and shelter for 2 smelly, dirty and homeless looking bums/hikers?? That night they fed us till our stomachs were about to explode. Mitch and Renee have had their share of adventures in their life when Mitch used race professionally rally cars in Baja, Mexico. Those stories were fun to listen by the campfire while enjoying one of my favorite beers. The next day Mitch and Renee supplied us with Mitch's amazing beef jerky, the jerky was spicy so it made us both smile and cry. All this was not enough for them, once they heard that I like cigars Mitch ran into the RV and gave me a really good cigar that I later enjoyed on a mountain top near Lake Tahoe ( picture included). They gave us a ride back to the trail and before their tail lights were gone we had already eaten the beef jerky they gave us!

Thank you so much Mitch, Renee and Sierra! We miss you guys.

After getting a ride back to the trail, we headed north through yet more snow and beautiful scenery. We got lost quite a bit and had long stretches of buried trail on north faces, but made it through to Ebbett’s Pass where we were surprised by Doug with trail magic breakfast. Thanks Doug! On we pushed to meet our friend Robin who drove down from Bend, Oregon and met us at Echo Lake. The trail into Echo Lake was more beautiful meadows and amazing wildflowers. Robin was able to hike with us for the next 4 days the Tahoe Rim section of the trail to Truckee. She was such a trooper jumping into all that snow, but we all had a great time and it was so nice to see a friend on the trail from home. In Truckee we polished off some serious amounts of sushi at a buffet and had some excellent margaritas before Robin headed home and we headed back to the trail.

The snowy Sierras ! Kennedy Meadows to Red's Meadow. Total mileage 907 miles

Ooh la laa the Sierras!

Kristen and I are currently in Kristen's parent's place in Bend, Oregon. Today is August 28th and we have been hiking the trail for 4 months now. I know we've done a crappy job with updating our blog but believe me it has been a roller coaster ride since we left southern Kennedy Meadows in late June. Everyone who hiked through the Sierras this year know what we're talking about, experienced hikers are telling us that it was probably the most challenging year to go through the Sierras at the time of the year we did it. We are proud to say we did it and did not skip any part of the trail.

Our resupply package didn't arrive to Kennedy Meadows after 2 days of waiting and so we decided to hike the next 50 miles to the town of Lone Pine. Once we got to the hostel in Lone Pine our resupply package was there waiting for us! The box arrived to Kennedy Meadows a day after we left and a trail angel named Monty drove it all the way to Lone Pine for us. That box was no doubt the most important resupply box, it had all our gear for the High Sierra: Bear canister, ice axes and Yak Trax to keep us from sliding down the mountains. Thank you so much Monty! We decided to zero for the day in Lone Pine because it was my 16th birthday. We met the nicest couple, Roberta and Jim, at Alabama Hills Cafe and just started chatting. After getting all our errands done, we invited them to join us for dinner. We really enjoyed their stories about living off the land in Colorado and had both of us drooling. We really decided to splurge and get steaks, wine, and cheesecake and this amazing couple picked up the bill! Thank you both so very much for the food, the fun talks, and the ride back to trail. You are the reason we made it through the Sierras and didn't waste away! :)

The next day we climbed back to the Sierras and in couple of days got almost to the base of Mt Whitney. Mt Whitney is a 14 505 feet tall mountain 8 miles off the trail. A lot of the hikers summit it for various reasons, one of the reasons is " because after walking almost 800 miles we are fit to do something like that and not die at the top". We started climbing to the top around 7 am and got to the top around 10.30 am. Climbing went well, although I have to say getting closer to the top the air was getting thin and making climbing slower. At the top I enjoyed a cigar and Kristen partied with a Snickers bar. What a feast!

The next day was not any easier, we climbed over Forester Pass which is the tallest point on the PCT, 13 000 something feet. By this point we had started to hit the snow pretty bad, finding the trail started being more and more challenging. My Suunto Vector watch has a altimeter that we used a lot to make make a referrence to the map. That proved out to be an excellent way to make sure that we were on the right spot on the topo map. Route finding in the Sierras was pretty simple after getting to know how that areaa worked, you go over the pass, down to the valley and then repeat that same thing the next day. The scenery in the Sierras were majestic and beautiful but oh boy were the days hard. Drudging through snow day after day got us into the shape we are in now but after each day we were exhausted.

The river crossings were okay except a few one were the water got over our waist and fighting the current started to more and more difficult. But looking back at those crossings, they were nothing like we would hit in the Yosemite. I'll let Kristen tell you more about those, she's got a bigger variety of words meaning bad and dangerous. We were warned about that hiking in the Sierras might turn out to be impossible due to the amount of snow it had dumped there that winter and spring. We were fine the whole way but I would say that some days out there were intense and they proved out to be too much for some of the hikers. A lot of the hikers skipped or flipped the Sierras this year, every time a hiker makes that kind of decision it is due to a personal experience and it is not an easy decision.

One day around 4 pm were getting close to a pass that we decided to try and go over. All of a sudden our Suunto watches started peeping like crazy, the barometers were warning us about a drastic change in the air pressure. We decided to camp and see what was coming and after 45 minutes it started snowing on us and we could see that it was dumping snow heavily on top of the pass were planning to go over. That would have been a bad thing to be over there that time.

The Sierras were definetely one of our favorite parts of the trail and it would be fun to see it some other year when there is less snow and we could actually see the lakes and all the wild flowers. After the Sierras our bodies felt like we just ate steroids, I've played football all my life and trained really hard when younger but I've never been in this kind of shape. It is amazing what a human body can do.

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone

This stellar HD video was shot using a NOKIA N8 cellphone