Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Random Shots

Mugs
I picked up these mugs at Goodwill ($0.49 each) the other day and it feels like they have a story to tell.


Replacements T-shirt
This should go down in the annals as one of the all-time great rock band t-shirts.


Soul of Skiing
Steve Casimiro tells the story of bucking convention and using this amazing photo on the cover of Powder magazine’s Soul of Skiing issue back in the day. Apparently the cover photo wasn’t full of enough beautiful bodies and didn’t sell well at grocery stores. But if this isn't the soul of skiing then I don't know what is.


Mushrooms
My backpacking trip to The Bob a couple weeks ago was with two friends who love foraging and wild mushrooms. We didn’t see any of these, but you can bet I was keeping my eyes peeled.



Hybrid Tree
Also in The Bob I saw this tree and should have taken a video to fully capture it. The bottom 4 feet of bark is dramatically different from the rest of it. On top, it’s a birch tree, but the bottom looks like a cottonwood or maple or something. Anybody know how/why this happens?

Personal Values Exercise

This values worksheet is something that helped me identify my goals and path in life when I was introduced to it several years ago. I’ve shared it with dozens of college students and they found it beneficial as well. I posted my top three values in my cubicle at work where I would constantly be reminded of them. It helped me to make decisions that were in line with my values when oftentimes competing options tried to take control of my life.

What do you value?
When push comes to shove, what is most important to you?

Click on it to download.


When you look at this list, many (most?) of the words will jump out to you as something you value. But the important thing to figure out for yourself is which few are the most important. 

It’s easy for us to say that we value the environment and education and freedom and happiness and loyalty and relationships and faith. But do we really? When faced with a decision between convenience and the environment, which do we choose?

How to Measure
The way we can best measure where we place our values is by looking at how we spend our time and our money. When we say we value happiness most of all, are we actually acting out our life in a way that supports that value? Is our time being spent doing things that make us happy? Or have we gotten caught up in going along with societal norms (what supposedly makes other people happy) at the expense of our own true happiness?



If you’ve never thought about your values before, I encourage you to complete the exercise. It’ll only take a few minutes.


In our society, it is super easy to get caught up in the crowd and to just go along with the flow because everyone else is doing it. That’s why it’s important to step back and examine the path we are on to make sure it’s the path we want to be on. After all, we are each captain of our own ship and it’s up to us to make the life for ourselves that we will cherish.

Simplifying My Life

This past weekend I moved into a 450 sq. ft. studio apartment in Denver historic neighborhood and it feels like I’ve been released from prison. Previously I’d been crashing with a buddy in the southern exurbs of Denver that was rural scrub brush 20 years ago and wholly designed for automobiles not people. Now I’m centrally located and can walk or bike to anywhere I want to go. I’m in a nice old neighborhood with many bars, restaurants, coffee shops, thrift stores and tattoo parlors. I’m also a block off of the Cherry Creek Trail which is a main bicycling thoroughfare in Denver and deserves more national recognition like the Greenway in Minneapolis. 

Before:
artist's rendering - not actual neighborhood

After:
artist's rendering - not actual neighborhood

This is the first time as an adult that I’ve lived in a studio apartment and I’m diggin’ it. 450 sq. ft. feels just right because all I need space for is:
      • a place to sleep
      • a place to prepare food
      • a place to cleanse & relieve myself
      • a place to sit comfortably
      • minimal storage for seasonal and outdoorsy things
Anything more feels like wasted space to me since a whole city’s worth of parks and trails and entertainment is easily accessible via foot or bicycle.

Simple living is something I began taking baby steps toward about a year ago. This understanding of space needs came to me in my prior 1100 sq. ft., 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment when I realized that I always sat in the same chair and walked far more than was necessary to get to the kitchen or toilet or my bed. With thoughtful design and architecture, we can get a terrific feel of comfort and space out of a smaller place. Unfortunately, many Americans have not spent quality time in a thoughtfully designed space because we are all used to living in houses that were built in a manner that maximized profit for the developer.



I also realized I owned all sorts of stuff that I rarely or never used. At first it was hard to get rid of stuff. I started by moving unused things from, say, the kitchen into a closet. Then I gave myself a month to see if I actually needed them from the closet. If not (which was 99% of the time) I took them to Goodwill. There was even stuff packed in boxes that I moved to Bozeman from St. Paul 2 years prior that I had never taken out of the boxes! The guys at the drive-thru Goodwill dropoff became like brothers to me.

Books were more difficult to get rid of. To me, my bookshelf was a symbol that showed people who I was as a person. It didn’t matter that most of them were read 10 years ago (or never) because I thought it would help people to understand me and what was important to me. 


So I started by just grabbing 5 books that I thought I could do without and took them to Goodwill. That wasn’t so hard.

A couple months later I noticed that I hadn’t missed those books so I unloaded 5 more. This repeated itself a couple more times when I realized that I could by a Kindle and purchase digitally any books that I deemed I simply must own. 

Then I bought a Kindle Paperwhite after thinking through the fact that the Kindle would only be to replace my library and I didn’t need full color or quality web-browsing or anything else out of it.

Sayonara to the rest of my library! And I only ended up buying about 5 books on Kindle that I thought were essential for me to own. Now I read a lot more because it’s super easy to carry my entire library with me wherever I go -- it’s about 1/3 the size of a dime-store paperback.



Now I’ve been living for close to a year without those things and I can’t think of one that I wish I still had. I’m able to save money by living in a smaller place, never have to do Spring cleaning, and appreciate more that which I do have.


Simple living fever: Catch it!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bob Marshall's Chinese Wall

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and I had the absolute pleasure of spending it in the amazing Bob Marshall Wilderness ("The Bob") in western Montana.

The Bob encompasses over 1.5 million acres of pristine mountains, rivers, forests and meadows and all the critters, from pika to grizzly, that call it home. The entire Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex includes the Great Bear Wilderness and Scapegoat Wilderness and sits just south of Glacier National Park in western Montana.


The Bob welcomes Dixie & me...


Who was Bob Marshall? Bob was a legendary outdoorsman and wilderness activist in the 1920s and '30s who died young at age 38 in 1939. An average day of hiking in this wilderness for him was about 35 miles and he was said to have hiked 70 miles in one day. In a word, Bob was a badass.

The goal of this trip was to visit the famed Chinese Wall, a 12-mile long natural stone wall that rises an average of 1000' above the valley floor.

First glimpse of the Chinese Wall...


Sunrise with tent beneath the wall...



My partners for this trip were Andrew and Dixie and they were terrific to hike with. We backpacked an average of about 12 miles per day in our lollipop loop that took us up to the wall, along the wall, up to Larch Pass, and back through the amazing meadows along the Sun River.

This pic is from a picturesque lunch spot at a dramatic inflection point where the wall makes a left turn...


The wall, it just keeps on going and going for 12 miles. We saw many cougar, wolf & bear tracks and scat on the trail through some really dense forest just east of here...


Contemplating the meaning of life, untrammeled wilderness, suburbs, jobs and cubicles...


Here's another view of the wall from it's shoulder on Larch Pass...


But it wasn't all about The Wall. There were gorgeous meadows and prairies, too, full of grouse & deer...


But the highlight of the trip for me was when I scattered my Mom's ashes in a meadow at the base of the wall. I knew this would be an amazing place and decided that 13 years after her death it was time to send this little portion of her back to the earth.

Saturday morning I left camp early and agreed to meet up with Andrew and Dixie later down the trail. I hiked a few miles to the wall and saw it for the first time in all its monolithic glory. A side trail lead to a meadow beneath the wall where I pulled the ashes out of my backpack. As I reached into the pack a nearby raven called out and sent a shiver down my spine. Then I opened the jar and the raven called again as tears welled up in my eyes. I spread the ashes and the raven rang out 5 more times over the next minute before launching itself from the tree eastward towards the rising sun. Now the tears were flowing like the nearby Sun River and I was immensely thankful for this amazingly special moment.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Daily Observations

  • 8/20: Pills? For the rest of my life? Are you fucking kidding me? It turns out that even if I eat a perfect diet rich in leafy greens, plentiful in micronutrients, and devoid of sugar ‘n booze I still wouldn’t be able to lower my blood pressure to a healthy level. This according to a preventive health care cardiologist who works with the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies. I guess the bright side is that I found it now and can relieve my genetic mutation before it does irreparable harm. I'll still be talking to a naturopath, however, for a second opinion.
  • 8/21: I’ve been obsessing over small houses lately. Not tiny houses that are under 200 sq. ft., but small houses that are under 1000 sq. ft. I plan to own one of these on a couple acres with a view some day, hopefully sooner rather than later. For me it could easily be a primary home, for simple living is a beautiful thing. But I also hope to have a second small home (condo?) in an urban setting.






photos via www.smallhousebliss.com
   

  • 8/22: A pet peeve of mine is going to a bar for a beer and being served a frosted glass. Don’t the idiots running the establishment realize that that the frost on the glass quickly turns to water both inside with the beer and outside where my hands are?
  • 8/23: The other day I was reminded, in a refreshingly humane way, that they still occasionally fuck you at the drive-thru. To err is human, right? Of course I forgave them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daily Observations

  • 8/14: Since I backpacked for 600 miles along the PCT earlier this summer, one would think that I enjoy hiking. Today would seem to counter that argument because I’m at Grand Teton National Park and can’t get myself to gear up and go for a real hike. I’m quite content just to hang out in or near my van and chill, even though I’ve been sitting on my ass driving here for most of the past 2 days. The momentum of stillness can be overwhelming sometimes.
  • 8/15: Today is the day I worked up the courage and talked to Laura K. She’s mesmerized me from the first time I saw her but I always came up with reasons that she wouldn’t want to go out with me. We’ll find out Sunday if the agreed upon meeting takes place. #counteresperanto
  • 8/16: It took me all of 2 minutes being back in Bozeman to bump into a friend. I need to expand my horizons in Denver so I’m meeting cool new people. First up: volunteer next week at the Bike-In Movie event.
  • 8/17: It doesn’t even matter that the mesmerizingly gorgeous Laura K. canceled our date tonight, as I suspected she might. The most important thing is that I overcame my fear of approaching beautiful women and asked her out. Who’s next?
  • 8/18: Podcasts are the greatest thing for road trippin’ since the advent of the mix tape. Nothing like listening to 10 hours of humor, education and mind-expanding experts discuss whatever it is you’re into.
  • 8/19: Relationships are hard. Helping someone else figure out relationships is even harder.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Journey's End

Seven weeks after departure I'm on a train heading back to Denver from Oakland. Actually I'm on the California Zephyr which will continue on to Chicago and I'm listening to Ben Gibvard's song "California Zephyr" on repeat. 

My last week was spent in Carmel, CA visiting my aunt and cousins. Carmel is a great place to have family. It's neighborhoods and ocean bay setting are like out of a fairytale. I am thankful for my living family. 

Highlights from Carmel included (1) spending quality time with my aunt and her wife and (2) riding her pink bike along the scenic 17-mile drive that winds through Pebble Beach golf course, past Lone Cyprus and along the gorgeous coast teeming with rocks and seals and otters. No Clint Eastwood sighting this time, but I did see former Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson at my cousins church Sunday morning. 

Lone Cypress...


This is the culmination of my longest ever journey, almost twice as long as the time I spent in Indonesia a few years ago. Traveling is something I highly prioritize and I'm always thinking about what adventure comes next. Six weeks in and around Paris is sounding pretty damn good next spring. We shall see. I've always wanted to just hang in Paris for awhile and get to know her. 

Trip Summary
It felt empowering to finally get confidently dialed in on my backpacking skillz. Backpacking is something I've dabbled with since trips to the Boundary Waters Camoe Area in my early teens. But it's never been something that I've done seriously. I now have the confidence that would allow me to just take off from virtually anywhere and go hike for a week or two. This is valuable to me because so many of the places I find truly beautiful in our world are off the main road a piece. And now a few nights out camping seems like nothing. Also, the joy that comes from witnessing beauty is heightened for me by being among few people as well as by the journey itself. As Clark Griswold said: getting there is half the fun. 

The most powerful emotional moment of the journey occurred on the day when I truly entered into the heart of the High Sierra. I'd been hiking with friends up over Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet. It was the gateway to Kings Canyon National Park and the amazing mountains and valleys I've written about previously. I put on my headphones and hiked out ahead of my companions for a couple hours. I sat down for a break to enjoy the phenomenal view of mountain peaks and was listening to the Morphine album "Cure for Pain" when the title track came on with the lyrics:

I'm free now
Free to look out the window
Free to live my story
Free to sing along 

It helped me feel excellent about the life choices I've made but made me miss my mother who died 13 years ago because I know how proud she would be of me. I had a really good cry as the confluence of the mountains, those lyrics and memories oft my mother was quite powerful. 

I'm not sure what this says about me, but  I seem to be in my most heightened positive emotional states when two of these three are present: a beautiful place, music that I love, a couple beers. There's gotta be room in there for a beautiful person too.  

Moment of Stupidity
After surviving six weeks of backpacking with nothing worse than a tear in the seat oft my rain pants from glissading down the snowfield from Mather Pass, I lost my glasses in the ocean in Carmel. My eyes are as bad as anyone I know and so I'm used to thinking that I can do nothing without my glasses. I intentionally didn't bring ong a spare pair because I knew its just be extra dead weight in my pack every day hiking. So I went surfing with my glasses in (including a strap). Even though I was just in the shallow water the strap want tight enough and they were taken from me by a small wave. I spent most of the next day at an eye care chain and am now wearing temporary contact lenses that allow me to see far just fine, but for which reading is extrely difficult. Please excuse any typos. 

The silver lining is that I ponied up to get the latest in bifocal technology called progressive lenses that I think I'll grow to appreciate. I used to think bifocals were for old people but clearly I was mistaken. 

What's Next
One journey's end is another journey's beginning. Back in Denver my goal for the next couple years is to generate an income stream that doesn't involve me having a boss or working for somebody else. The income stream does not need to be substantial for I have few obligations. Most important to me is freedom with my time. It'll likely include ownership of one or more SuperCuts hair salon franchises and maybe some rental real estate too. 

In Conclusion 
We only go around this crazy world once.  I'm trying to thoughtfully align my actions with my values by living fully and treading lightly (see prior tattoo post). I think I've been doing a good job in the physical or intellectual sense of living fully. But I know  I could do better on the emotional side and I look forward to exploring that further. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

On Nationalism

On this Fourth of July, what does it mean to be an American?

One answer: It means you're a patriot who believes in the constitution, freedom of speech, one person one vote, a free market, the pursuit of happiness, apple pie and baseball. 

Another answer: It means you are a part of one small slice of (God's?) humanity who finds yourself living between certain imaginary lines drawn on a map. 

In a recent post I mentioned that you would be the first to know when I solved world peace. Upon further reflection, I think the only thing holding us back from world peace is cultural understanding and the empathy that inevitably results. 

In recent years we've seen the dissolution of nations that were devised by post-world war policies into smaller tribes defined by sameness of culture and beliefs. 

Nations are simply geographical groups of people who have a common government. Tribes are groups of people with a common cultural or ancestral heritage. 

Are nations a crutch used by humans who don't yet have the capacity to understand each other's cultural difference? 

Do nations exacerbate cultural differences through territorialism and war? 

Or are nations meant to be a ladder for humanity to help it reach something higher?

And does nationalism necessarily follow the creation of a nation? Is rooting for the USA in the World Cup (or in WWIII) any different than being a Viking or Packer fan? It's all essentially based on where we were born and that seems a silly reason for allegiance. 

The more I've had the pleasure of traveling the world, the more I feel the idea of nationalism is folly. Our nations are just like groups of NFL fans. We all think our nation is the best and tout its strengths with pride while overlooking its weaknesses. We rally behind a decorated flag and go to battle in support of ideals that are essentially the same as everyone else's. Only when it comes to the pursuit of happiness there are enough Stanley Cups to go around for everyone. 





Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PCT Diaries: Where To Go From Here

The first five weeks of this journey were spent hiking north for 500 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail and concurrently for 210 miles the John Muir Trail (which terminates in Yosemite National Park). 

The sixth week has been spent enjoying the breathtaking splendor of our most popular national park from perspectives and vantage points I'd never experienced before. 

So frankly, after the mind-blowing JMT and the beauty of Yosemite I'm having a hard time thinking that anything better awaits me north of here on the PCT. 

Yosemite has been a nice respite from the rigors of hiking long days without feeling that I had enough time to really stop and smell the flowers. The reality of the PCT is that it is often 100-150 miles between resupply points. The slower you hike the more food you need to carry and hence the slower you hike -- a downward spiral. So it behooves one to try to do about 20 miles a day and that means, for me, hiking about 7am - 6pm with some
short breaks but not enough long breaks. 

Five weeks and 500 miles of that was just the right dose for me. I enjoyed it greatly and I'm done going northbound on the PCT. 

But that doesn't mean I'm done. First I'm going to visit family in Carmel, CA and hopefully do some surfing. Then, as is now penciled into my date book, I'm going to head to Lake Tahoe and check out the 165-mile rim trail that circles the lake up in the mountains. Parts of it are supposed to be spectacular. Then I'll likely catch the Amtrak from Reno back to Denver. 

All this is subject to change of course. Don't touch that dial.

Yosemite Falls...


Saturday, June 28, 2014

PCT Diaries: Yosemite Detour

Technically I've been to Yosemite National Park before, but only technically. 

Once as a teen my family drove into Yosemite Valley, was turned off by the hordes of people more than turned on by the majestic beauty, and promptly drove out after spending a couple hours looking around. A couple years ago I made a similar visit and neither of them came close to doing justice to this place. 

This is me standing atop Cloud's Rest with Yosemite Valley behind and beneath me. Famous Half Dome can be seen on the left...

So now that I'm in Yosemite with no schedule to keep I believe it is time for me to do it up right. That means taking a detour from the Pacific Crest Trail hike for a week or more and exploring the place that first sparked the idea for national parks. 

Not bad, eh? Fifty shades of grey, indeed. 

And in how many places do three bucks cross a river right toward you?

 ...or can you see a coyote stalk a prairie dog?

The prairie dog was no fool -- it simply went underground. 

In order to keep hiking here I'll have to get backcountry permits and will need to go see a ranger about that. On the southern end of the park is the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees which was the original impetus for protecting this area. I'd like to see that. And Hetch Hetchy is a famous valley that was sadly dammed up for the damn southern Californians who keep reproducing in a place that doesn't have its own water supply. 

So that's the plan for now. I won't make it as far north on the PCT a originally planned, but this feels like a much better use of my time than just ticking off northbound miles. 

p.s. The most facial hair I've ever worn enjoyed waiting out the first real rain of the past five weeks. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

PCT Diaries: A Day in the Life

Of course every day is slightly different, but this one is pretty typical of a day spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. I'll do five or six of these in a row and then hit up a small town for resupply of food (beer) and a night or two in a hotel to rest up my feet and mind (beer). 

• Awaken around 5:30 to the sound of the birds welcoming the dawn. 
• Depending on how cold it is, get out of the tent around 6:30. If it's super duper cold like that night cowboy camping by the Kern River then I'm already up and on the trail trying to warm my ass up. And no, I'm not using a donkey to carry my gear. 
• Eat a Clif Bar or Pro Meal Bar for breakfast. 
• Hit the trail around 7am. If I'm planning to hike around 20 miles then it'll likely take me 10 hours to accomplish that, including appropriate rest and one good foot soak in a cold lake or stream. 
• Second breakfast around 9 or so. I'll stop for 5-10 minutes, eat something and rest my feet for a bit. 
• Keep on hiking, snacking, occasionally resting and admiring the gorgeous views until mid-afternoon, say 2ish. Food consists of sausage, cheese, Triscuits, nuts, dried fruit. 
• I've probably got a good 15 miles in by 2ish and the dogs are barking. It's time for a nap. Find a lovely spot preferably next to a babbling brook or singing stream and lay down. Shoes come off, socks come off and get hung in a nearby bush to breathe, and I spread eagle it out on my back and feel the fatigue flow out of me. Remain here for 60-90 minutes. 
• Crank out the last five miles with my rejuvenated body and search for a good campsite. Above 10,000 feet I'm more selective because the nights can get cold -- stay away from water and avoid geological depressions. For the past week I've been at low enough altitude that that hasn't been an issue. I'm using a 35-degree sleeping bag while most hikers are using more like a 15-degree bag. That means mine is smaller and lighter but I need to be more thoughtful about where I sleep. So far I've only had two nights that were too cool for comfort (see Kern River above) and the high mountains are behind me. Every night I wear long underwear, my puffy down jacket, rain jacket atop that, and a balaclava on my head. Maybe gloves. 
• Make dinner around 7pm. I'm eating one hot meal per day and that's normally at dinner. Beef Stroganoff is my favorite and the scrambled eggs with bacon are horrible. Note to self: try to trade rapidly accumulating bags of freeze dried scrambled eggs for beer or cheap liquor at next town. 
• 8pm hit the sack and read for a bit. Right now I'm reading "Lonesome Dove" and enjoying it very much. I've struggled to appreciate fiction over the past decade  so I'm happy when I find one I can get into. 
• 8:30 lights out. I'm beat. But twice tonight I will arise to empty my bladder and enjoy the glory of the Milky Way, the stars, and the moon when she is shining.  I think there has only been one cloudy night out of more than 30 so far. 


What Do You Think About?
That's 10-12 hours of hiking every day. Doesn't it get boring?
What do you think about?

The answers are, quite simply...
  it can
      and
  mostly useless crap. 

Allow me to explain...

When faced with hours of contemplative time day after day, I've found that mostly my mind thinks of worthless crap like "how would I describe this experience to someone who might ask me about it in the future" or "would I rather own a ski condo at Bridger Bowl that has no cell service or internet or own a condo at some bullshit Colorado faux resort where the ski terrain is lame?" Actually getting a song stuck in my head is a relatively good thing. Recently I've been reminded of amazing Minneapolis summers courtesy of Semisonic's "Sculpture Garden". 

Perhaps half this hike I've been hiking with other people and that can provide occasional stimulating conversation. When alone, I'll put on headphones about half the time and listen to music or podcasts that are good at energizing my brain. 

What I've found about myself is that left to its own devices, my brain is a long ways from solving world peace. It loves to ramble on and on about worthless crap. Perhaps it is self-indulgent crap. 

So far I have had two lucid thoughts:

1. See the prior post about abortion. Ha! You may not deem it lucid and it's only semi-formed and to be clear I still love abortions, but I think it makes a sound debate point at the very least. 
2. Upon my return I will be a sign spinner for SuperCuts DU. Yaaaay SuperCuts!!

Given what I've learned in my recent practice of mindfulness and meditation, I take this to mean that I have simply not yet reached the point where I'm able to clear my mind of all the noise and clutter that come with being a part of modern American society. It is also my understanding that few actually achieve this but I believe it is something worth striving for. I've read the blogs of other PCT hikers who talk about all the demons they are trying to overcome and I'm thankful that I don't have demons. 

So yeah. That's what I think about. Or don't think about. 
When I solve world peace you'll be the first to hear about it. 


p.s. Nice marmot. 


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pro-Life Stance Doesn't Go Far Enough

In the abortion debate that has thankfully taken a backseat in recent years to far more important national issues, the pro-life stance states that life begins at inception and that a fetus should be protected from being murdered. 

I don't believe that protecting a fetus from murder goes far enough. 

If the fetus is to be considered a citizen with human rights, then I believe we should protect it In other ways too - specifically from pollution (http://psychology.about.com/od/early-child-development/a/environmental-influences-on-prenatal-development.htm)

Millions of babies each year are born at a disadvantage because they were not allowed to develop properly due to all sorts of chemicals being forced upon their developing minds and bodies. There are established pollution laws outside the womb in our society, so why not inside too? If life begins at inception then I believe that life deserves the right to good health, too.

I'm Pro-Health, Pro-Happiness, Pro-Future, Pro-Hope. 

For instance, a pregnant woman who smokes cigarettes would be committing a crime. As would one who ingests too much processed food containing certain chemicals known to be unhealthy to a developing child. 

Obviously this wouldn't be the easiest law to uphold, but what it would do is teach young people over the course of a generation that it is wrong to poison children with toxins of many forms - not just drugs and alcohol, but junk food and soda. It would help us as a society to be more thoughtful about how treat our bodies and especially for those who don't have the ability to make their own healthy choices. 




PCT Diaries - Day 30 Mile 450

Kings Canyon National Park needs a new Marketing Director. Sure, there's a canyon there but its nothing compared to the Grand Canyon so most people aren't aware of it. Did Evel Knievel jump over it in a rocket car? Nope. 

This land is far too awe-inspiring for its national park to be so unknown. 

In Kings Canyon National Park the PCT and John Muir Trail (they're the same for about 200 miles) wind through some of the most spectacular and majestic land I've ever set eyes on. 

The past week was highlighted by four mountain passes over 11,000 feet that linked together five gorgeous valleys, each unique in its beauty. 

There was snow and ice and boulder fields and many many switchbacks. Lakes and rivers and streams and waterfalls. 
Cliffs and buttresses and cathedrals of rock at every turn. 

One valley was narrow, above timberline and the still frozen lakes gave an Antarctic vibe. Another was filled with glistening lakes connected by a stream like jewels on the necklace of a Barroness. 

To wit... Some High Sierras porn... 





Cool clouds. 


My finger ready to go for a chilly swim. 

Our gang outside the John Muir hut atop the pass of the same name (l to r: The Original Polar Bear, Wild Card, Beacon, me)

A cold morning hike down from Muir Pass. 


Today I'm in Mammoth, CA taking another well-earned day off and shopping for gear. 450 miles in and my Oboz shoes are still in terrific condition, but they do need new insoles. REI staffer appeared to have been right when she told me they'd last 1000 miles. But my sleeping pad has seen better days. It's five years old and I've patched a couple holes and still need to re-blow it up twice during the middle of each night. And even after submerging it in a motel swimming pool it is super difficult to locate what I now believe to be a number of very tiny holes. So I've bought a new one that will hopefully lead to better sleep at night. 

Next up is Yosemite in two more days of hiking. The trail just skirts through the park and I want to spend a few days there, so I'm going to try to score a home base campsite for a couple nights and get out on some bonus hikes. 

The part of this journey that initially drew me out here is almost done -- the John Muir Trail. I've been out a month and have one month left, a month in which I expect to try to slow it down a bit and enjoy more days off. My goal is not to bust my ass hitting certain mileage, but to maximize the time that I have in this beautiful country. 



Thursday, June 12, 2014

PCT Diaries - Day 22

It's been two weeks since I last had cell service aside from a brief signal at two high places. 

The highest and highlight of those high places was atop Mt. Whitney, the crown of the contiguous USA at 14,505'. 

Some friends (Polar Bear, Beacon and Wild Card) and I decide to summit Whitney for sunrise. There is a trail to the top and we began our 3.5 mile and 4000' ascent from Guitar Lake at 2am. 

This was the view from my tent...


And this is the more famous view from the other side of the mountain (via http://marlimillerphoto.com/Ig-01.html)


A couple other hikers spent the night on the summit, including our crazy Aussie friend who brought along a bottle of rum which tasted pretty good at 6am from the top of the world. 
(L to r: Polar Bear, Solstice, Aussie, Beacon)

The top of Mt. Whitney is the southern terminus of the 210-mile John Muir Trail which is the reason I'm out here. It begins the stunningly gorgeous hike through the Sierra Nevada mountains including Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. These photos will not do it justice. 

Guitar Lake from where our Mt Whitney hike began...


Wild Card hiking among the Kings Canyon cathedrals...


In the photo below see that notched low point? The one with the little slab of snow in it? You might need to zoom in to see the snow. That's Forrester Pass and we are hiking up and over it. The trail carved out of the near vertical face felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. 


Atop 13,200' Forrester Pass that's me (Cut-Out) on the left, then Beacon, Wild Card and Polar Bear...


Today I write from the town of Lone Pine, CA where I'm picking up a resupply box. 
It was fun to hit the bar last night and my feet are appreciating another full rest day. 
Last nights bar where I watched game four of the Stanley Cup with some Kings fans and had latenight beers with Wild Card, Beacon (both sisters from WI) and Polar Bear (from AK). 


Summary
I'm feeling good and getting into the groove. Most days I hike around 20 miles and the next week will be defined by more idyllic mountain scenery and several difficult climbs up and over mountain passes. The passes are tough because the north side of each still has snow. It's important to get to the snow early in the day before it softens up too much. So some logistical planning is required. 

One challenge I'm facing is that my 35-degree sleeping bag isn't really warm enough for the cold mountain nights. Most nights are fine because I'm now sleeping in my tent and wearing many warm layers of clothes to bed. But I've had two nights so far that were a bit too chilly. I'm learning not to camp near water  or in a depression in the land that would collect cold air. Sometimes camp options are simply limited. 

Many hiker faces reflect the ecstatic and exhausted trials of the trail. 
(oldest to newest clockwise from upper left)

That's it for now. Not sure when I'll have communication connection again but it could be another couple weeks.