Time to catch up !!!

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Hello everyone. It’s been so long since I last wrote that I thought I should write a quick update. It seems that by the time I find a suitable place to camp at the end of each day, I barely have enough energy to cook dinner and make camp. Hiking for eight, ten and often twelve-plus hours a day takes a lot of energy. Add the desert heat and big climbs, even dinner takes a back seat to sleep at times. Having said that, I have been maintaining a daily log in my iNotes which captures the day, start and stop mileages and a brief description of the day including any highlights, of which there have been many. As I find the time, and a decent cel signal, I will upload my notes and photo’s.

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The hike is going very well. I am currently sitting in a laundromat in the small town of Ridgecrest, Ca.   We left the trail at Walker Pass, mileage 652 and came into town last night for our weekly resupply of food. Town visits are usually filled with chores like restocking food, laundry and post office visits to ship or receive parcels. ” Going to Town” also provides an opportunity to have a well deserved and much needed shower, sleep in a real bed and enjoy a good restaraunt meal. I actually don’t mind trail food and have become pretty adept at making creative meals. One of my favourite dishes is ramen noodles combined with a Knorr rice package, tuna or salmon, a big spoonful of peanut butter and sarachi sauce. Try it. It’s nutritious and delicious !!!!!!

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We ( my current trail Family) will be back on the trail later this afternoon and get a few miles in before dark. We are all anxious and excited about getting to Kennedy Meadows (mile 705) which is the official end of the desert section and beginning of the Sierra’s !!!. A major milestone in every nobo thru hikers adventure.

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Thank you for joining me and your continued support.

Best Wishes and Safe travels.

Kirk( aka Capt’n)

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Day 7 – What a difference a day makes !!!!!

Day 7 – April 20th, 2018

Mount Laguna (42.7) to

Oriflamme Canyon (55.9)

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Anticipating and hoping for better weather today, I opened the heavy curtain in the little room cautiously: Yes !! The sun was rising in the east and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  A promising start to the day, time to get back on the trail. But first I had to try on the new shoes again, the ones that despite being one size larger, wouldn’t fit my badly swollen feet when they first arrived. Being a proctastinator, I had to tidy the room, shower and finish packing, intentionally delaying my departure out of fear the shoes wouldn’t fit. If they didn’t, I would be forced to slide my still damaged feet into them and hike to Julian where a larger pair was waiting for me; thank you REI. Hi

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After delaying my departure for as long as possible, it was time to try on the new shoes. They fit !!! And they were comfortable. What a difference a day makes. The weather was perfect and the shoes fit, it was time to go.

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The trail leaving Mount Laguna has a gentle downgrade and provides an excellent overview of the dessert floor below. While walking along the narrow trail,
birds soared effortlessly while catching the warm therminals. In the distance you could see the Saltan Sea, another example of the effect the California drought is having on various inland bodies of water.

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The moisture from yesterday’s rain and snow has rejuvenated the desert blooms, bringing colour to an otherwise harsh environment.

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As the sun began to set in the west, I made camp in a lovely boulder field of perfectly round stones of various sizes, some as small as small cars and some as large as houses.

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The perfect ending to another great day on the PCT.

 

 

 

Day 6 – Weather Warning !!!!

Day 6th – April 19th

Mount Laguna – Another Zero

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When I awoke in the morning, I opened the curtain to check on the weather. Damm, the weatherman was right. The tree tops were blowing violently and the sleet was coming down in sheets, sideways. As much as I disliked what I saw through the window, I knew having to see Tom at the General Store was going to be even more distasteful. There’s just some people in life who you hate having to say ” you were right ” because you know exactly what the response will be. Oh well, maybe another “rest day” in Mount Laguna wouldn’t be the worse thing and in fact, would probably be helpful. If you’re going to have to take a rest day, you’re actually better off doing it in a one horse town where there are few distractions, particularly if it requires walking, and in this case, even the horse left town due to boredom, so rest should come easy. Once I showered and did a little foot care, I hobbled over to the store to reserve the room for another night. It was time to face the music. And I wasn’t disappointed. Seated behind the counter was my new buddy Tom. And he had that big Cheshire Cat grin on his face as soon as he saw me. I said “Good Morning Tom” with all the cheerfulness I could muster and he didn’t even respond. His smile just grew bigger. He knew what was coming.  I said ” you know it hurts me to say this”. He could hardly contain himself. His smile grew so big, his beedy little eyes grew into slits. I said “You were right, I’m gonna need that room for another night”. He let out a yelp and said ” I knew it !!!! I told you so !!!! ” . Exactly the words I didn’t want to hear and exactly what I knew he was going to say. We both laughed. Tom’s actually a great guy and I think we both took pleasure in poking each other. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait much longer as there was a line of hikers waiting on the front porch for rooms as they had camped in the State Park down the road during the onslaught of the storm and weren’t interested in spending another night facing the elements. Once the room was paid for and a few other supplies were purchased, it was time to hobble back down to the Pinehouse Cafe for breakfast. Every other hiker in the area must have had the same idea as it was standing room only.

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After breakfast, there wasn’t much else to do so I hobbled back up the road in my flip flops, this time wearing socks because of the cold, to my cozy but warm room. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, reading and massaging my slowly recovering feet. Maybe another day off wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

Day 5 – If the Shoe Fit’s ……

Day 5 – April 18th, 2018
Mount Laguna – Zero

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Two brothers, Tom and Paul, own and operate the Laguna Mountain Lodge and store. Tom has a sharp wit which can come across as being a little abrupt, maybe even bordering on grumpy at first but after exchanging a few good hearted jabs back and forth, it turns out he’s a great guy and it appears we enjoy each other’s company, which is good because it looks like it’s going to be a zero day ( no hiking, no mileage) in Mount Laguna and there’s nowhere else to hang out but the General Store.   The new shoes arrived, Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s , which are the most popular shoe on the trail, with many people boasting “look at me, no blisters” ( hmmmmmm, yeah, that’s great, thanks) but alas, mine don’t fit. I could have cried just trying to put put them on. Couldn’t even get my swollen feet in them. Hello REI, send me another pair please, one size bigger, ASAP .

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Because today will be a zero day, it started with a leisurely breakfast at the Pine House Cafe and Pub, just a short hobble in flip flops down the road. A number of hikers whom we had hiked with the previous day and enjoyed a few cool and refreshing beverages with afterwards, were there for the restaurant’s opening at 09:00. As a bunch of these kids and kindred spirits are so full of life and enjoyable to be around, I decided to treat them to breakfast, all 17 of them, and what a great breakfast it was.

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Following breakfast, it was a short hobble back up the hill to the Lodge; basically a motel with a few  small cabins, to put my feet up and rest for the day treating blisters and hoping the swelling in my feet would go down before heading out on the trail the following morning with shoes that although minimally better than the previous pair, would have to do until Julian where the right size would be waiting.  But sometimes plans change. During one of my afternoon visits to the “store”, wiseguy Tom said ” looks like you’re going to be needing that room for another night, the weather’a changing”. I looked at him and said wryly  ” I don’t think so, I can hardly handle your company now”. He just laughed and said ” Ok, we’ll see”.

 

Day 4 – Mount Laguna

Day 4 – April 17th, 2018
Cibbets Flats (4155′) to
Mount Laguna (5920′)
Mile 32.6 to 42.7

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Last night the campsite was serenaded to sleep by a chorus of spring frogs (spring peepers) singing their little hearts out and this morning it was replaced by the songs of blue birds and blue jays with a woodpecker adding a little percussion in the background. Who needs music when you have these wonderful sounds greeting you first thing in the morning.

It was Extremely windy last night and the temperature dropped quickly. When I first set up the tent, I didn’t think it was necessary to stake it down as I was sure that if I placed all my stuff inside, the weight would be sufficient to anchor it down. It wasn’t. The wind continued to blow and one good gust had it rolling like a tumbleweed in the desert. Once the stakes were secured, the tent stayed put but I was surprised the tent didn’t blow over as the velocity of the wind increased through the night. Come morning there was a fine layer of dust over everything as the wind forced fine dirt through the mosquito netting. Oh well, sometimes you just gotta roll with whatever Mother Nature throws, or blows, your way.

As mentioned previously, Cibbets Flats campground is .56 miles off the PCT and although that may not sound far, it is, particularly when it’s downhill and you know your first chore in the morning is to climb back up that same hill. It also seems further after a long day in the shoes.  All the more so if those shoes aren’t fitting right, even after breaking them in for thee solid months.  A funny thing happens to your feet when walking in the desert with a full backpack. They spread out and miraculously grow larger, in a very short period of time. I’ve read about this phenomenon while researching the PCT but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. But it did and now it’s time to order some new shoes through REI with overnight delivery to Mount Laguna. Let’s hope they fit !!!!!

As the forecast called for the mercury to rise during the day, its important to add electrolytes to your water to replenish minerals the body loses during sustained exercise and activity. It’s always easier to break camp with your water pre-mixed before you hit the trail. It also makes for a colourful picture.

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As I walked up and out of the campsite and climbed higher into the hills, the terrain reminded me of the opening sequence of the old MASH television series when the theme music is playing, the helicopters are coming in for a landing with the injured on board and the staff are rushing towards the landing zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they filmed that sequence somewhere around here.

Another thing that struck me today was the beautiful coloured pieces of quartz and granite found along the trail; pure whites, deep reds and burgundy, different shades of green, purples and blues. I will try to capture some of these beautiful stones as I continue walking .

As you enter Mount Laguna you are greeted with an incredible pine forest and on this sunny day, it seemed like the warmth of the sun had activated a fresh, clean and pure aroma of pine throughout the forest. Mother Natures original air freshener. Often imitated, never duplicated.

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On arriving at the Mount Laguna Lodge and general store there were a number of hikers sitting out front celebrating another successful day on the PCT with a cool and refreshing beverage.

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Day 3 – Watch Where You Step

Day 3 – April 16th, 2018
Lake Morena (elev. 3074′) to Cibbets Flats (elev. 4155′)
Mile 20.23 to 33.0

One benefit of going to bed by “hiker midnight” ( 8 p.m.) is you tend to wake up early. Today I t was 05:00. Having said that, there is a clear difference between “waking up early” and actually “getting up early”. In my case it always takes a little longer to actually rise before shining but after listening to a number of dogs barking in the distance and a gaggle of wild turkeys having a lively debate behind some bushes near my tent, I decided it was time to get up. The morning air was cool and a puffy jacket was required to keep the chill at bay. Once up, the first order of business is firing up the MSR pocket rocket to brew a cup of Starbucks coffee with a packet of hot chocolate thrown in for good measure. A little hot water is added directly to a packet of Qi’a cereal and voila, breakfast was served. As incredible as the hike has been thus far, this mornings walk leaving Lake Morena was a pleasure. There was a slight but manageable incline leading to a vantage point which overlooked the lake in the distance. Unfortuneatly, the view also illustrates the effect the California drought is having on lakes and water sources.

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The trail remained very gentle as it continued along the meandering Cottonwood Creek.

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It seemed like the miles were passing effortlessly and in no time it was time to stop for lunch at Boulder Oaks( elev. 3183′).

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Lunch consisted of Tortilla wraps with two types of salmon; Spicy Thai and Lemon Pepper. Hunger hiker hasn’t kicked in yet by those tortilla wraps were delicious !!!!!

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While stopped for lunch, some other hikers appeared including
Chunky Monkey from Austria,
Brandon from Jackson Mississippi and Peanut and Cricket from Tennessee, both of whom completed the Appalachian Trail last summer.

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After lunch the trail remained level for a short distance as it passed beneath Interstate 8 then began to climb progressively higher until a number of switchbacks led you up and over the hills where the sound of the highway traffic dissipated into the distance.

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Before long, the trail became a series of exposed ridges which hung to the sides of the undulating hills and long deep valleys. The wind was cool which was refreshing despite being in the direct sunlight.

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As the trail descended into yet another valley, two older couples were setting up camp at Kitchen Creek ( another dry creek). As they were out of water, we left them with three litres of water which would be sufficient to get them safely to the next water stop. They said they were eternally grateful.

A short uphill walk led us to a warning sign.

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It appears that in May 2009 a Marine helicopter crashed near this location and the munitions carried by the helicopter were scattered as a result of the crash. Hikers are warned to stay on the trail because of the safety hazard presented by the possibility of unexploded military ordinances in the area.

A half mile downhill walk off the main trail, on a rough dirt road, led to Cibbets Flats campground. The campsite was deserted save for a handful of PCT hikers. As the sun was setting and the evening was becoming uncomfortably cool, I lit a fire in the designated firepit which became the central meeting point over dinner and where we discussed the days events until it was time to call it a day.

Day 2 – A New Friend …

Day 2 – April 15th 2018
Hauser Creek (2317′) to Morena Lake (3074′)
Mile 15.26 to 20.23

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Despite Hauser Creek being dry, the residual moisture in the ground allows the trees and surrounding bushes to be lush and green, a true oasis which makes for a perfect camping spot. The only drawback is the steep descent to the valley floor following a long day which requires a steep climb back out first thing in the morning. And because of the steep walls surrounding the oasis, it takes time for the sun to reach the bottom which means that by the time you ascend to the top of the trail, you are back in the hot desert sun. The next five miles takes you along rocky ridges through chaparral and the occasional colourful dessert flower.

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Immediately after taking this picture I turned to resume walking when I realized I was sharing the trail with a new friend; a four foot Western Diamondback rattler !!!! After staring each other down for about ten minutes, he decided to amble off ( if that’s what snake do) and exited the trail stage left, allowing me to carry on. It was the first rattle snake I have ever seen and quite honestly, it was beautiful. I was also glad that our introduction occurred the way it did versus being startled by a sudden and loud rattle when you’re a foot away from one hiding in a bush on the side of the trail. I don’t think my heart would react well to that ( and I only have one pair of underwear)

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About an hour later, the trail emerged into Lake Morena and as is customary, most hikers walk directly to the general store for a snack and to replenish supplies. After two Gatorade’s ( it was hot and I was thirsty), a double bacon cheeseburger and root beer ice cream float ( I was also hungry – don’t judge me) it was time to make some decisions: carry on and make a few more miles or call it a day. Well, I decided a few more miles were in order so after a fairly long break in the shade of the general store among new friends, I slipped the pack back on a headed Back to the trail. Little did I know the trail actually parallels the little state park on the edge of town where there were quiet a number of hikers already setting up camp. I thought to myself, well, it is getting late, there’s some awful nice folk here and there are hot showers and picnic tables available, well that was it. Change of plans. I decided to stay. One thing I’ve been told is that when you’re on the PCT, you’ve got to be flexible. Well, I just got flexible !!!!! After setting up the tent, having a hot shower and munching down a Moutain House meal ( it had been a couple of hours since I last ate – don’t judge me ….) it was time to call it a day.

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Sean (New Mexico), Wes (Louisiana), Marc (Switzerland).