This thing we're doing

On this particular day, Dan and I happened to be hiking alone, finding ourselves - however briefly - without a crew. We came upon a saddle with one helluva view. As will sometimes happen on the PCT, we felt morally compelled to stop and observe the scene in front of us. It was too magnificent to pass up. 

As Dan and I sat on that saddle observing the wondrous nature that lay before us, I felt a great sense of calm and contentment come over me. 

"I'm not exactly sure what this thing is that we're doing, and I'm definitely not sure what will come next in life," I said, turning to Dan. "What I am sure of, though, is that this, this thing we're doing is the right thing to be doing."

He smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. 

"Yeah man, yeah," Dan responded, giving a bit of a chuckle.

Nowadays, I feel that same sense of calm and happiness pretty often. Whenever I do I turn to Dan with a big stupid grin on my face and say, "Man, this thing we're doing."

Hiking the PCT has been and will continue to be one of the greatest adventures of which I could possibly conceive. I am constantly in awe of how fun it has been to incorporate so many things I love into my everyday life for the last four months.

-Jonathan

Scenes of and thoughts on Oregon

Wow, just wow. Oregon blew me away. Getting through California was such a feat that I felt really fresh as we got going in Oregon. I have heard it referred to as Boregon in reference to a hiker's experience as one travels the PCT. Sure, we all have our own experiences, but for me Oregon was superb, maybe even my favorite section to date. 

There were certainly a considerable number of dense forests, but I never minded these. They helped shade you from the sun. The weather was impeccable anyways, save for one day of storms, and that was actually pretty fun. Sometimes when I would think about this blog post I would laugh because there are no scenes of Oregon. Only forests. I jest, but we really did spend a lot of time walking in the woods. The times we weren't in the woods we found ourselves in quite diverse landscapes. From Crater Lake to lava rock fields to the Sisters Wilderness, Oregon truly has much to offer. 

Even beyond the actual wilderness, the Beaver State's culture sets it apart. While the whole west coast is seen as liberal, Oregon and California do not seem to be the same type of liberal. For starters, there are tons more hippies here. More than any of that though, California seems to talk a good talk, but Oregon really lives it. California likes to seem environmentally friendly, but Oregon truly is. There's no front to it. I have seen solar panels everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Environmental consciousness in Oregon feels natural and engrained into everyday life more than any other place I've experienced in the States. I understand that I have limited experiences in both states and I am no expert. Equally, I'm not trying to trash California nor make Oregon out to be the Holy Land, but Oregon was magical.

But I digress; on to the landscape photos.

Thunderstorm at sunset. 

Thunderstorm at sunset. 

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Crater Lake

Crater Lake

More Crater Lake

More Crater Lake

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South Sister

South Sister

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Jeff Creek

Jeff Creek

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson from the North

Mt. Jefferson from the North

Oregon fog

Oregon fog

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

Burn section over a ridge. 

Burn section over a ridge. 

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Cheers,

Jonathan

The first one didn't count

I guess one double-marathon simply was not enough.

Fence and I had been waiting around for two days. We mostly slept and ate. That is, until we realized how much food we were plowing through.

Fence lounging while we wait for Dan. 

Fence lounging while we wait for Dan. 

Then, finally, Dan showed up with Cheese, Baggins and Choop in tow. I had only hiked 37 miles in three days, which made me itch to do something stupid, something big. Now that I knew Dan was safe and caught up, I somehow had the desire to go and just keep going. We were at mile 1453.

Sunset with the bros before heading off into the night. 

Sunset with the bros before heading off into the night. 

I left camp at 7 p.m. and walked all through the night, which can be a tricky thing when there is no moon and you are in dense forest. Still, I found a rhythm and was able to get by without kicking too many rocks and roots. By 4 A.M. I had reached McCloud River, mile 1476. After putting my pack down I cleaned my feet off, ate a snack and got a bit of rest. By rest I mean I leaned against my pack in the dirt at the end of the bridge for an hour.

Having rested a single hour, I got back up and kept hiking, but this time in a state of delerium. I met a new hiker, Free Refill, shortly after getting back on my feet. What a cool guy. He's a middle aged German engineer with one helluva sense of humor. I would not learn this until a bit later. Free Refill was just warming up for the morning and I needed to get my blood flowing so I didn't pass out on the trail.

Completely random note I saw that afternoon.

Completely random note I saw that afternoon.

At certain points I could feel the proverbial wheels start to come off, but I hung in there. With enough caffeine, food, Ibuprofen and water you can do just about anything. Willpower doesn't hurt either. The miles kept rolling by. I saw a few other hiker friends, but mostly I kept my pace steady and powered on. The goal was Interstate-5 where I could hitch into town. By 2 P.M. or so I had reached mile 1500. WOOHOO! I still like the feeling of passing each hundred mile mark written in stones in the dirt.

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By 4 P.M. I had finally reached my mark, mile 1507. After 21 hours my 54 miles were complete. 54 miles! That included 12,000 feet of climbing and and 18,000 feet of down. I felt accomplished. Also, I felt wrecked. My body had nothing left. Trail magic always makes everything better though.  A couple and their daughter showed up with fresh watermelon, giant muffins and freshly baked cookies that were still warm. It felt like a pretty good reward for my day's trek.

About an hour and a half later Free Refill showed up. I hadn't yet moved from the spot where I stopped walking. He asked about my day and so I told him of my my distance record.

"Yeah, but you didn't do it in one day," he said.

"Maybe not in one calendar day, but I did it in 24 hours," I retorted.

"So, it still wasn't in one day."

God dammit.

This day was not Free Refill-approved.

----

Two weeks later, having passed Ashland, OR (and all of its magic), I was hiking with Ms. Frizzle, a bad-ass with an equally insatiable desire for doing stupid stuff as I do. Now that we were in the flattest section of the trail, we felt like we could do anything. Having told the tale of my first 50+ day, Ms. Frizzle wanted get on the bandwagon. Let's be real here, it's not like I was ever going to turn down another opportunity to do a crazy big day with another cool hiker.

And so on the 107th day of our journey on this Pacific Crest Trail, Frizzle and I awoke at 4:30 to embark on a double marathon. Mostly, the day went off without much incident. Frizzle likes to hike hard, which means that if you manage to hike in step with her the miles start to fly. By mid-afternoon we hit some pretty crazy lava fields, but the actual trail through said lava rock was like a magic carpet, smooth as can be.

Frizzle and lava rock fields. 

Frizzle and lava rock fields. 

Sometime between 4 and 5 P.M. we heard cars. A road! We were 32 miles deep and while I didn't feel bad, it had already been a sizable day.
"Pray for magic, pray for magic, pray for magic," I muttered to Frizzle.

Awaiting us at the other side of the road were a couple of tail angels doling out tons of food to a group of hiker trash. There were grilled cheese sandwiches, beers, orange juice, coffee, ibuprofen, fruit snacks and more.

I can scarcely think of anything that would have made that moment better than the grilled cheese sandwich brought to me upon reaching the other side of that highway. A couple of trail angels had set up a sweet spot with a grill, a few coolers of cold drinks and a mountain of food and supplies. Oh, did I mention chairs. It turns out that chairs are, in fact, a pretty sweet invention.

Glorious trail magic

Glorious trail magic

We spent 45 minutes hanging with our fellow hiker trash and the generous angels doling out magic galore before Frizzle and I nodded to one another that  getting back out on the trail.  We still had 20 miles to go. Things really started getting rough as the sun went down. The batteries in my headlamp had worn down to the point of making the light barely useful. My body was already fairly depleted of all resources and the almost-constant tripping did not help the situation. I doubled-up on lights, adding my iPhone's LED as a secondary. We pushed on in the night. And pushed. And pushed.

The last few of those 52.4 miles felt eerily similar to the last few of the first time I did 26.2 miles. Everything hurt. I conjured what willpower I had and forced myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other until, at 11:10 P.M. Frizzle and I had reached our double-marathon mark.

A few days later Frizzle and I met back up with Free Refill and told him our tale.

"This time I did it in one day," I exclaimed.

"OK, now you can tell people it was approved by a German engineer."

Frizzle waking up the next morning to an early sun. 

Frizzle waking up the next morning to an early sun. 

Cheers, 

Jonathan

What fuels a hiker

We eat a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Like 5000 calories per day, a lot. This means as much of as many different kinds of food as possible. 

For dinner, though, we usually eat hiker slop. It was great in the beginning. Now I can hardly stand the stuff. 

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Hiker slop

1 package Idahoans (doesn't matter what flavor)

1 or 2 packages ramen (doesn't matter what flavor)

Big handful of cheese (generally shredded)

A few tablespoons of olive oil

Packet of tuna

Mix it all in a gallon ziplock bag, add three cups boiling and chow down. 

Hooray for calories!

Cheers, 

Jonathan

The Magic of Ashland

This is the kind of post that might start with something cliché like "Sometimes you find the adventure and sometimes the adventure finds you." Or maybe even "This is why you don't make plans."

The last day of California Jonathan gently convinced Dan to hike a 52 mile challenge into Ashland. While it might have been best to get up and going by 3:30am we got out of "camp" about two hours later than that. We were not exactly fresh - we literally slept on the trail, and we only slept there for about six hours after a night hike which included a 5000ft climb out of Seiad Valley. 

Once we got going we put big miles behind us. We still weren't making outstanding time, but it could be done. After a quick lunch at the Oregon border we trudged back out into what had become a sweltering hot day. By 8:30 p.m. we had hit the 40 mile mark. Jonathan wandered up a ridge to see the sunset. It looked as glorious as ever with {blah blah flowery language about pretty colors}. As Dan followed we heard some voices and saw a fire. "Do you guys want a beer?" they said to us. Of course we do! They were amazing people. There were six of them, a little boy and a dog. They gave us beer and smoked salmon. Dat smoked salmon doe.  On top of being generous, they were extraordinarily cool people to hang out with for an evening. At first we felt bad, since it was sort of a going away gathering for one of the guys, but they insisted that they had all secretly been wanting to magic stuff to PCT hikers but hadn't gotten a chance. Now they had one. At 10pm we were talking about hiking out and sleeping by the highway. A few hours past, and by midnight we knew we weren't hiking any farther. These gregarious people from Ashland truly gave us the best welcome into Oregon that we could have asked for. 

Good company and a campfire are a great start to an evening. Especially when they're unexpected. 

Good company and a campfire are a great start to an evening. Especially when they're unexpected. 

Things were off to a good start. We finished out the last 12 miles early the next morning to make it into Callahan's Lodge. 

While crossing an outer road to I-5 a big white van pulled over to the side of the road. After honking and rolling down the window the driver yelled over to us "Beerman!" Dan turned, his eyes lit up and he shouted "I'm getting in the car with those strangers!" as he raced off to the van. Jonathan could do nothing but sit and stare confused as his hiking partner rushed off to a car of strange people. These "strangers" turned out to be a mentor of Dan's from college and Alpha Phi Omega (community service org) and his wife. The amount of chance involved for this meeting is astounding - we're talking alignment of the planets. They had planned on meeting Dan, but had to return to Ashland, Missouri. They left a note at the trailhead and were on the on-ramp to drive when our paths crossed. The couple (Paul and Charlotte) drove us into Ashland and bought us beers. After Paul and Dan spent some time catching up and marveling at the serendipity of our encounter the couple bid us farewell. They headed back toward Missouri while Dan and Jonathan ventured out into the metropolis of Ashland (pop. 20,000).

One delicious Indian buffet later, we knew that finding lodging needed to be at the top of our priority list. We were in a gear shop checking out a trail register when we came across names and numbers of some trail angels. Dan made a call, while Jonathan looked on with puzzled eyes. It seemed like the call went well, but all Dan said was that the guy was going to call us back. A few minutes later Dan received a call. It drags on a while. Somewhere along the way he looked up, smiled and gave a thumbs up. Now we had a place to stay for the night. 

For the record, this formula is not a foreign experience for us. In college we moved after two years in a piece of shit house to an apartment. That apartment would have never happened without Dan's research and effort. Jonathan put forth enough effort to say thanks that Dan found us a place to live and to sign the lease. 

It turns out that this trail angel is a former thru-hiker and angels for current hikers. He said we could stay at his place. Awesome! But wait, he's not even in town. His son may be around he said. The front door is unlocked, though, because of course it is. He asks that we keep things LNT (leave no trace) and clean up after ourselves, maybe grab some laundry detergent. Not a problem. We wouldn't dream of being anything but the most respectful guests - laundry, air conditioning, a safe place to leave the packs while we walk around town, a base camp. Seriously, when people show you the sort of kindness we have been shown you do everything you can to pay it forward and not take it for granted. 

A good nights sleep, laundry and a shower later we felt like this adventure could not get any better. 

A little friend that came to hang out on the porch as we sipped on morning coffee. 

A little friend that came to hang out on the porch as we sipped on morning coffee. 

Not only are beds pretty cool every once in a while, but being in an actual home felt comforting, even if we didn't really know this home's owner. By day three of this story Jonathan found himself lounging on the couch and writing a blog much like this very one. All of a sudden, in walks this late 20 something man that is super fit. Jonathan looks up as the young man says "Um, hi. You must be a hiker from the trail." It's said more like a question than anything. 

"And you must be  the son of (trailname of dude whose house we're in)," Jonathan said, equally as unsure of his own statement. 

"Yeah," says the young man. "I run a fitness apparel company and I'm just here to grab this bag. You guys have a great hike and enjoy Ashland."

As fast as he was in the house he was once again out of it. Not only did he seem a nice fellow, but he seemed totally unphased by walking into his father's house to find hikers and all their gear sprawled across the living room. 

At this point it is unclear if the levels of awesome and strange will continue to escalate at consistent intervals, but it seems possible. As it stands they are at an all time high. We are loving Oregon. 

Needless to say, all you trail angels out there, everything you do for hikers and to maintain the ethos of trail culture is inspiring. Your actions demonstrate a humanity and consideration I want to carry into my own life.

Keep adventuring,

Dan and Jonathan

Scenes of Northern California pt. 2

If a PCT hiker were to say that NorCal is boring, I don't think they would be entirely wrong. Conversely, if they were to say there is nothing cool about NorCal, I would say they are grossly mistaken. This section of the trail introduces far more forests than any heretofore, and they are more dense. On one hand, it means shade from the harsh summer sun. On the other hand it means fewer grand, scenic views. Despite this, the past 600 miles has afforded us some sweet views. Chief among them might be Mt. Shasta, which, even at the Oregon border, is still visible and has been since somewhere around miles 1300. It sits so tall off in the distance, dwarfing absolute everything around it for hundreds of miles. 

This has certainly been the most odd section so far. There was never really a routine, and things were always getting shaken up. Our crew was in constant flux and even Dan and I ended up separated for chunks of the section. This post, however, is about the visuals through the State of Jefferson. The personal stories are yet to come. 

Mile 1425 - Burney Falls

Mile 1425 - Burney Falls

Mile 1361

Mile 1361

Mile 1371 - night hiking on Hat Creek Rim

Mile 1371 - night hiking on Hat Creek Rim

Mile 1496 -  Mt. Shasta

Mile 1496 -  Mt. Shasta

Mile 1580

Mile 1580

Mile 1541 - Mt. Shasta from the north

Mile 1541 - Mt. Shasta from the north

Mile 1635 - Paradise Lake

Mile 1635 - Paradise Lake

Mile 1547

Mile 1547

Mile 1574

Mile 1574

Mile 1523 - Castle Crags

Mile 1523 - Castle Crags

Cheers,

Jonathan

GUEST POST - Ms. Hoge

At a certain point, the thought of turning back becomes impossible, unsavory. As you amble along on feet that don’t exactly feel as if they can hold you, across shallow streams, through deep pine forests, and fields of unknown flowers, the choice that you make each moment becomes as simple as breathing: walk on. 

A newcomer to the world of long-distance hiking, I didn’t truly understand the meaning of sore feet until I chose to join Dan (Soap Box) for a stretch of the PCT, from South Lake Tahoe to Donner Pass. Four days translated into two blackened toenails and several bulbous blisters to be lanced, duct-taped, and patiently ignored. The Pacific Crest Trail is not for the faint of heart…or of foot, for that matter. As I became aware of how well (or not) my body dealt with the mileage, I endured a sample size of challenges posed by the trail: ravenous mosquitos, high winds at altitude, trudging along in the rain with all of your food in what you hope is a waterproofed bag. Alongside the difficulties, there were innumerable moments of absolute joy. Each climb promised the sort of picturesque view that left me stumbling for words and the breath to say them aloud. The fact that I got to share these ridiculous wonderful moments with Dan, well, that itself was pretty amazing.

In the face of such overwhelming beauty and uncertainty that define what it means to live in the woods, you can’t help but find yourself severely humbled. Indeed, the mantras I used in rough patches alternated between “holy fucking shit” and “so cool”. As unthinkingly as these thoughts sprung from my lips, they might still be the best to describe the experience.

Overlook of thick forests around Lake Tahoe

Overlook of thick forests around Lake Tahoe

Joanna being brave on volcanic rocks 

Joanna being brave on volcanic rocks 

Catching the light in a field of yellow flowers at sunset

Catching the light in a field of yellow flowers at sunset

Climbing down a snowy section, one false move could be dangerous!

Climbing down a snowy section, one false move could be dangerous!

I saw (all of) the sign(s)

It opened up my eyes I saw the sign. 

90s Swedish pop bands aside, there are more signs on the PCT in Northern California than any other place I've seen so far. They're everywhere. One might even go so far as to say there are signs on signs on signs.  This is by no means to say they are good signs, but simply that they exist. In fact, they're some of the most janky signs I've come across. Even their helpfulness is hit and miss. Nonetheless, the amusement they bring is abundant. 

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Really guys? C'mon, we can do better than this. Just build a freaking cairn. 

Really guys? C'mon, we can do better than this. Just build a freaking cairn. 

Cool arrow, dude. 

Cool arrow, dude. 

OMG it's an actual PCT crest, albeit with PCT spray-paint behind it. Notice how the  crest isn't riddled with bullets. This one must be new. 

OMG it's an actual PCT crest, albeit with PCT spray-paint behind it. Notice how the  crest isn't riddled with bullets. This one must be new. 

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This one was my favorite. 

This one was my favorite. 

Cheers,

Jonathan

Scenes of Northern California pt. 1

NorCal is freaking hot. We again resumed the tactic of hiking out early, taking a really long lunch break during the heat of the day, and then hiking late into the evening. In the Sierra you couldn't pay me to get out of my sleeping bag before 7am due to cold. Now the sun comes up so incredibly early and almost immediately gets hot that I have to intentionally sleep in to stay in my bag past 7am. 

One great thing about this section is the mix of moderate to mild terrain, strong legs and long days. Doing 25+ mile days isn't even a big deal anymore, and I love it. 

Watching sunsets (and sunrises) in Northern California is a thing of wonder. I delight in seeing the sun's golden hour glow bathe the forested hills in the first and last light of the day. 

The clouds are magical. They remind me of clouds in Texas. Beautiful puffy looking ones perfectly scattered across the sky. 

Trees here are covered in this neon green mossy stuff that I find incredibly comical. In fact, foliage and plant life in general has increased exponentially. 

Not pictured: bugs. All of the bugs. Flies, Mosquitos, spiders ants and tons of others I can't begin to identify. 

Mile 1210

Mile 1210

Mile 1133

Mile 1133

Mile 1106

Mile 1106

Mile 1129

Mile 1129

Mile 1102

Mile 1102

Mile 1203

Mile 1203

Mile 1312

Mile 1312

Mile 1372

Mile 1372

Mile 1250 - Middle Fork Feather River

Mile 1250 - Middle Fork Feather River

Mile 1259

Mile 1259

Mile 1248

Mile 1248

Mile 1327

Mile 1327

Mile 1165

Mile 1165

 Mile 1178

 Mile 1178

Mile 1174

Mile 1174

Cheers,

Jonathan

Zero days as experienced by Quinoa

 

Our Belgian bro embodies what a zero day should look like. 

Repair our gear

Relax our bodies

Rehab our ailing feet

Repack our bags with more food

 

 

New solar charger rig in Idyllwild. 

New solar charger rig in Idyllwild. 

Quinoa is the master of sleeping in. 

Quinoa is the master of sleeping in. 

Coffee at diners is key. 

Coffee at diners is key. 

Homemade disc golf courses could be a bust, but Tom's in Kennedy Meadows was a surprise and a delight. 

Homemade disc golf courses could be a bust, but Tom's in Kennedy Meadows was a surprise and a delight. 

Really though, Quinoa is the king at relaxing anywhere. 

Really though, Quinoa is the king at relaxing anywhere. 

Cheers,

Jonathan

Scenes of the Sierra pt. 2

Alas, the Sierra have come to an end. I enjoyed the totality of them so very much. The second half of the Sierra was not quite as daunting as the first half, but it still posed it's challenges. More than anything though, I continued to gawk at the beauty of the landscape surrounding us. Less snow, more forest, more meadows and, unfortunately, more bugs. The advent of mosquitos on the trail sucked, but we tried to not let it ruin the beauty that surrounded us. The lush meadows and increase in greenery keeps you grinning all day. It's all quite humbling really. 

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Cheers,

Jonathan

The passes: Forester Pass

Hiking in the high Sierra requires climbing mountain passes - also they are part of the PCT. Passes  offer new challenges - timing our climbs around snow conditions, river crossings and distance to the next pass or campsite from the summit.  

Forester Pass, officially the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail at 13,153 ft, was the first hurdle (although it's way bigger than a hurdle). The day before our band of thru-hikers had climbed and slept at the summit of Mt. Whitney so we approached Forester tired, but primed and ready to gain altitude again.

We camped four miles before Forester so we could gain the pass and descend in the morning, before the accumulated snow could be softened by the early summer sun. If we descended too late we risked postholing - when stepping on soft snow, you sink, a disaster as one leg becomes trapped up to the thigh in melting ice and snow and your body and pack crash off balance.  It may go without saying, we have become well aquatinted with postholing. 

We wake and pack quickly, each knowing the day brought new challenges. The approach to the pass was incredible, ice and snow fields like nothing the PCT had shown us yet. I passed waterfalls, frozen rivers, even caves, and I gazed upon the roughly hewn mountains wondering which our little foot path of a trail would force me to climb.

In the distance I saw Pedi at the base of a snow covered mountainside. I could make out Half and Half part of the way up the snow and talis. Quinoa was no where to be seen. I had finished the short approach, walking dazed and awestruck by the beauty of the Sierra. Now my focus was directed in front of me and upwards. Time to climb.

the ascent wasn't difficult, the snow crunched as I kicked steps for myself. Seconds later I had found steps kicked by other hikers and well compacted. The snow was plenty firm, progress was quick. Pedi and I were moving fast, we knew the Europeans were just ahead and we were excited to catch up. The snow turned to rocky switch backs, shear drop on one side and ice wall on the other, I couldn't imagine a better start to my morning. We gained the last switch back. The final hump to the top was covered in ice and snow, deep foot steps were kicked to make the last steps less risky. 

From the top, our view of where we had come from was breathtaking. All the distance we had walked in the past week we could see from Forester - an odd feeling when those miles earned with sweat, some pain and many hours would soon be out of sight, left there for the next adventurer. With a turn I looked to where we would descend and drank in our future. Snow fields, icy lakes, deep valleys, and mountains that cut into the skyline like wild claws - the Sierras are a beast and Forester was like a gateway into the belly.

We snapped some pics and laughed, as a group we were excited and proud and happy to be facing new landscapes. Then we got ready to descend. 

Going was quick on the hard snow fields. After cutting a few switchbacks we made it to our first glisade. Was it necessary? No. But it was a blast. As an FYI, glisading just means sledding without a sled using something as a break - we improvised with our trek poles. 

The descent took longer than we thought it would and the snow started to get soft. After a short section of post holing we made it to a clear area. We were beat, soaked and ready for lunch.

After the snowy section we hiked into what seemed like the Forbidden Forest from Harry Potter. Giant trees, rushing river, shear granite canyon walls and waterfalls all over the place. We were hiking for Kearsarge Pass so we could resupply in Bishop, CA (not a huge snow covered pass, but still a climb). Getting to town for a meal after the snow was a perfect end to our first pass in the Sierra.

Cheers,

Dan

 

Trail leading to Forester Pass.

Trail leading to Forester Pass.

Scene as we approached the pass.

Scene as we approached the pass.

Looking back at Forester Pass

Looking back at Forester Pass

Hiking down from the top of Forester, 

Hiking down from the top of Forester, 

Pedi, Quinoa and Half and Half descend the snow field.

Pedi, Quinoa and Half and Half descend the snow field.

what a group... Photo by Pedi

what a group... Photo by Pedi

What I really miss

People have not infrequently asked me what I miss about the "real world." When you exclude people from that answer, it gets hard. I obviously miss friends and family, but things not so much. We adapt to our surroundings incredibly well, and I rarely found myself yearning for some material possession. Even food wasn't a big deal. Sure, it would be nice to have a fancy meal, but we cook hot meals and manage to get along just fine with the food we have.  

Then, in one resounding moment of resolution, I had my answer. We had heard tale of a home-cooked meal at the Muir Trail Ranch, a mere 2 miles off trail, but were crushed when we arrived to find a locked gate and a closed sign. By that point we all felt defeated and needed food, regardless of its quality. While sitting around outside the gate eating ramen an adorable dog came through the fence to hang out. That dog lifted my spirits as much or more than any burger could. It nuzzled us and wandered around doing dog stuff. Its curious, friendly nature makes me instantly smile. Animal companionship is such a beautiful thing.

I miss my dogs.

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Cheers,

Jonathan

Yosemite the majestic

Yosemite. Oh Yosemite. You have shown me things I could previously hardly have comprehended to be real.

Walking into Yosemite was nice. An easy meadow lead to a little store with a burger. A juicy, savory burger can brighten any hiker's day. Our crew had decided to finish out the last leg of the John Muir Trail, which consisted of an extra 22 miles down to Yosemite Valley, a place famous for its beauty. On our way down we decided to stop and take another detour to climb Half Dome

Few experiences in my life have compared to the adventure that was climbing Half Dome. For starters, it's hard enough to be a good workout but short enough that, as a thru-hiker, it wasn't exactly exhausting. 

About 200 yards before the peak you encounter these cables at waist height going up the rest of the peak. You have to pull yourself up what I would guess was a 70 degree incline the rest of the way. Not recommended for those with a fear of heights, but I had a blast. 

As we reached the top, my jaw dropped. The splendor we witnessed on that giant granite peak was mind blowing. The high Sierra had been gargantuan and and awesome. Yosemite, however, was majestic. Golden hour is like this whole new thing from up there. To top it off, there were a couple a climbers on the peak's face a mere 50 ft from the top. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

As we descended Half Dome and then further into Yosemite Valley the next morning the awe had not worn off. I hope it never does. 

The meadow entering Yosemite. 

The meadow entering Yosemite. 

Lembert Dome, the first of the granite rock formations viewable upon entering Yosemite. 

Lembert Dome, the first of the granite rock formations viewable upon entering Yosemite. 

The newest member of our bubble, Choop. 

The newest member of our bubble, Choop. 

Ascending Half Dome and realizing how beautiful our surroundings are. 

Ascending Half Dome and realizing how beautiful our surroundings are. 

Our first view of the cables leading to the top if Half Dome. This moment instilled the most fear in me. 

Our first view of the cables leading to the top if Half Dome. This moment instilled the most fear in me. 

Choop is ready to do this. 

Choop is ready to do this. 

Oh. My. God. 

Oh. My. God. 

Climbers nearing the top. 

Climbers nearing the top. 

Looking north from Half Dome.

Looking north from Half Dome.

Our last glimpse of Half Dome descending into the valley. 

Our last glimpse of Half Dome descending into the valley. 

Vernal Falls (I think) a mere mile or two before the valley. 

Vernal Falls (I think) a mere mile or two before the valley. 

Beautiful streams on the way out of Yosemite.

Beautiful streams on the way out of Yosemite.

Cheers,

Jonathan

Photos of us hiking

We hike a lot. All day, every day. 20 miles per day. It's both exhilarating and awfully monotonous. 

The sun sets over the Mojave Desert as we prepare for a night hike. 

The sun sets over the Mojave Desert as we prepare for a night hike. 

Beautiful alpine forests are my favorite!

Beautiful alpine forests are my favorite!

Epic stream crossings in the Sierra. Dan did this one barefoot. 

Epic stream crossings in the Sierra. Dan did this one barefoot. 

Our Belgian got all thugged out for Mt. Whitney. 

Our Belgian got all thugged out for Mt. Whitney. 

Bearing the heat of the desert. 

Bearing the heat of the desert. 

Walking along the L.A. aqueduct. 

Walking along the L.A. aqueduct. 

Vasquez Rocks. Half'n'Half was all smiles walking through this place. 

Vasquez Rocks. Half'n'Half was all smiles walking through this place. 

I love when logs are laid out over stream crossings. 

I love when logs are laid out over stream crossings. 

And then there was this staircase on the PCT. The John Muir Trail section gets fancy. 

And then there was this staircase on the PCT. The John Muir Trail section gets fancy. 

The approach to Forrester Pass. Dan (Soap Box) makes it look epic. It kinda was. 

The approach to Forrester Pass. Dan (Soap Box) makes it look epic. It kinda was. 

Cheers,

Jonathan