Update and Echo Lake to Donner Pass pics

Tina and Kevin are out now hiking from Donner Pass to Sierra City (about 40 miles).     Sadly, this will be their last stretch hiking together.     Kevin must fly back to Virginia sooner than we'd hoped -- suddenly there are a host of animal problems back there to deal and, most acutely, with Kevin's 22ish year old cat LuLu.  

I've attached a large (for posterous) set of pictures selected from those Tina and Kevin took on their last outing.    In that stretch they experienced their worst weather of the trip yet with temps not exceeding the 40s for a couple days, frequent sleet, rain, and "cloud walking" but all their equipment and clothing performed well, the scenery was great, and they walked down to Donner Pass in fine shape with Kevin having gotten his first taste of 20+ mile hiking days.

The pictures above cover the stretch between Echo Lake and Donner Pass where I picked them up.  At the end are a few labelled pictures that I've taken while running around my Susanville basecamp.   I'm pretty well settled in there now and am finally starting to get traction on a couple major side projects -- I just have to avoid the temptation to look at the satellite tracker every few minutes!


Ramblings about rambling.

Hey all, it's Kevin, Dad figured I oughta write one of these so here I am. I'm not particularly sure what the goal is so I suppose I'll just share some of those little jokes and nuggets of wisdom I could never really appreciate until experiencing them. I think I had some trouble paying advice the proper respect. Remember, I basically went from day hiking every now and then straight to full time backpacking on the PCT.

Mom gave me the first and most important bit of advice I think in saying "Never disrespect the trail." - If you complain about going uphill, it will give you more uphill. If you say "this has got to be the last switch back", it will reveal 6 more around the next bend, and if you call a downed tree 'stupid' for forcing you off the trail, you will probably switchback and be blocked by the same tree later as punishment for mentioning it.

The next I learned in a single night. You simply cannot be too picky about a campsite. I rushed Mom into setting down, mainly just because I was moody about my sore feet and my excitement over the lack of mosquitoes. The combination of cold wind and lumpy terrain landed me a little over an hour of uncomfortable sleep that night. I think I needed that some how, nature isn't particularly forgiving to whiners.

I also finally understand how people go from like 8-12 miles a day (average starting speed for a backpacker) to 20+ suddenly. While an incredibly slow and steady increase in pace will happen with anything you practice, necessity is what brings out those jumps. On our third day we hit the "13.5 miles" mark while we were in near freezing clouds, high wind, and between two steep ridges. Setting up camp and maintaining our planned for non ambitious steady pace wasnt an option. We were stuck in that for maybe 3 hours, starting to get a little worried we weren't going to get off to a decent camp spot before nightfall. It turns out however between awesome scenery, a lack of an option to rest long (due to the cold), or an option to stop, you can find a lot of energy in the lack of effort normally paid out if you dont have your heart in it. After knowing you can do something it gets easier to expect that of yourself. I expect real hiker folk have a series of those experiences that pushes them to the miles I'd seen recorded.

Personally, I've found out I love ridge trails. The wind and clouds are awesome, they pretty much make up the climbing you always have to do to get to them.

As for a few other things I've decided

  1. The numbers lie, there's always more up than down.
  2. The word pass in terms of the PCT means climb in between the highest peaks... then climb the taller of the two.
  3. "Scenic" means ridiculous and out of the way
  4. Hikers might be a little crazy. I'm pretty sure hobo's have better food and warmer nights, I think I'm starting to get it though.

Wind or Bugs but Progress

We've been having quite a bit of wind this last week and as I type this on a picnic table in Susanville I have to hold the screen of my laptop so that it's not blown flat and my iPad tries to fly away when I open its cover!     For Tina and Kevin, the wind has been a savior in that it keeps away the tremendous swarms of mosquitoes that rise out of the many lakes.    However, last night their campsite wound up being too exposed to the wind and they got very little sleep.  :(

The forecast calls for continued winds but with a good chance of rain and freezing conditions for them tonight as they proceed north along the PCT in the mountains just to the west of Lake Tahoe and through the Desolation Wilderness and the Eldorado National Forest at altitudes ranging ~7500 to ~9500.    

As I type the most recent satellite position report has them at PCT mile 1112.4 - about 40 miles north from my last report and 43 miles trail south of Highway 40, where I will fetch them next.   

When I last wrote they were nearing Carson Pass and at the last minute I decided to drive down there to pick them up for an early day off given the condition of Kevin's feet.    They didn't know I was coming and so I knew it was going to a very close thing to meet them.   I found them in the little visitors center cabin at the pass and had the docents there not delayed them by feeding them watermelon they would have left already!   

In any case, Kevin and Tina were glad to see me and after a day off the next afternoon they hiked from Carson Pass to Highway 50 outside of South Lake Tahoe having set a new combined bests for distance and time for themselves.    Unfortunately, that was because it was *not* windy that day and the mosquitoes were eating them alive and Kevin had re-injured his feet by trying to outrun them a time or two.    When I put them out late yesterday morning again I think things had abated to where it was just one toe that was numb for Kevin.   Good thing he's young.  :)

All the best, David

Foot problems but nearing Carson Pass

I did a "catch & release" of Tina and Kevin at Ebbetts Pass, mile 1050 of the PCT, and now they are back on the trail and are camping tonight near mile 1067 after traveling today through what is both a land of many lakes but also a land of tremendous mosquito swarms.   I gather they had a pretty rough day of it between the bugs, the climbs, and Kevin's foot problems.

Foot problems?  Yep, like his father and grandfather, Kevin has flat feet and came into Ebbetts Pass having suffered with a fair bit of pain in his insteps and pronounced swelling where a normal person has an arch.   We finally managed a podiatrist appointment in Carson City where the diagnosis was tendonitis but without enough time to see to the real cure (2 weeks off and 3 weeks total getting custom orthotics) and so he was sent on his way with some reasonable looking off-the-shelf orthotics and was told to go up to max on Ibuprofen for the remainder of his hike, if needed.    I understand that he was alternating those orthotics in and out of his shoes today trading one kind of pain for another.   Nothing quite like the fun of having every step hurt!  

Despite all this, Kevin and Tina very much enjoyed their first few days on the trail from Sonora Pass to Ebbetts and are very much enjoying the scenery and hiking together.   

Late tomorrow they should transit Carson Pass, which averages 75 feet of snow per year.  Often it is only opening about now but this was a low snow year in California and so no problems are anticipated.   I plan to pick them up at Echo Lake near South Lake Tahoe in another couple days.

 All the snow has done so far for them is cause falls into mud and water and hopefully it stays that way.    Oregon and Washington had higher than average snow on the trail and so that'll be more interesting.

Happy Father's Day, David :)

Hikers Away!

Tina and Kevin are off and away from Sonora Pass!   After some 11th hour hassles renting bear canisters after a local ranger told us they were now required for the section they've entered, they were able to depart mid-afternoon yesterday (Monday, June 11th).   

Watching them on the satellite tracker I was concerned there was something wrong since their pace was extraordinarily slow at first, but messages from camp assured me that they were just busy taking hundreds of pictures and had found a fabulous campsite above a lake -- and so actually things were great.  

Today they continued to take it a bit slowly but now they're about 13 miles in and I'll be able to intercept them late Thursday it seems.    Tina got me word via the new satellite tracker (a Delorme inReach) that they are sore and tired but are nevertheless doing well considering they only had one shakedown hike prior!

Meanwhile, today I did the 500+ mile round trip to Susanville from Mammoth Lakes to scout for a base of operations for myself.   Mission accomplished.    On the way back I met a hiker looking for a hitch into Bridgeport from the 108/395 junction (the Sonora Pass turnoff) -- and he was hiking with a cat!   It seemed perfectly satisfied to be doing it, too.    Amazing.   

I don't think our cat, Bounce, would be nearly so tolerant although we were wondering for a bit whether we'd be making the attempt.    Only in the last minutes did we find a temporary home for her in Ridgecrest, CA where our bike shop friends from last year, Bob and Ardyce, located a local cat sitter who was willing to accept Bounce into her own home.    Thanks again to Bob, Ardyce, and Jeanne!


Wherein David develops a PCT iPhone App

This year when Tina and Kevin hit the trail they'll be using an iPhone app that I've spent the last three months developing in collaboration with Halfmile (aka Lon Cooper) a primary source for PCT maps, GPS data, trail information and news.  

The app is called Halfmile's PCT and it's out now in its second version with a third already submitted to Apple for review.   It's getting rave reviews from hikers and has already proven to be very popular with this year's batch of thru hikers even though it was relatively late getting out to them.  Here are a couple PCT News release blurbs about it.

I was inspired to write the app, which integrates and fuses data from Halfmile, by difficulties Tina and I experienced last year and what we also saw other hikers going through.   

To do that this app took a new approach -- and it's a first, I think.  The app actually understands the trail for what it is and not just a line on a map.   It figures out your exact position on the PCT and on over 80 side trails connecting into it.   That means it can tell you how much walking is required to reach any destination in that network, how exactly to walk there, what you'll pass on the way and, in the version coming out next week, how much climbing and descending you'll do on the way.

If I have time in the future, I plan to extend this approach to other long national and regional trails -- both hiking and biking trails.   In the meanwhile, I've got massive amounts of work ahead just on this edition.   Next up is a (hopefully!) awesome 3D trail exploration mode that kicks in when you turn the phone on its side -- but the requested feature list seems to stretch into infinity.  Fun fun.  :)


We're back!

Yep, we're back from the twilight zone and we're hitting the trail once again.    Tina is rejoining the PCT at Sonora Pass -- mile 1018 of the PCT and where she left things last year.

This time she'll be joined by our youngest son, Kevin, who's enjoying his final college summer break and is looking forward to his first taste of long distance hiking. 

I've still got the bum knee and so I won't be joining them on the hike, but I do plan to "cycle circulate" somewhere nearby in more of a support role.   I'm also busy these days on a big software development project and so I'll be continuing to work on that some too while all this is going on.

All this will be picking up in early June with an actual launch tentatively set for June 15.

Hope all are well, David

Our 2010 AT Book now Online

At long last both parts of our 2010 Appalachian Trail book, "A Team Takes The Trail", have been completed and printed!   

You can find more explanation and links to the PDF and web browse-able versions here.

Happy Holidays and thanks again for all your support!

--- David & Tina .. aka Biker & Hiker .. aka White Jeep & Seminole

Wrapping up

A few days turned into a few weeks as we've migrated eastward after having concluded the "official" portion of our adventure.   Only now am I getting to this wrap up post.  

On the way back east we visited again with my brother his family in San Diego,  Tina's family in West Texas, my parents in southwest Texas, friends in Austin, and friends in Springfield, MO -- picking up all manner of vehicles and gear that we'd left behind like giant breadcrumbs when we "migrated" westward back in the spring!

Along the way we also had the pleasure of getting to meet and help out a delightful young Chinese couple, Hongwu and his wife Liping, who were in the process of moving from Oklahoma to Toronto when their car was totaled in an accident between Joplin and Springfield.  They had to abandon the car but still had to get to Toronto and so we were able to help out by giving them a ride to the airport at St Louis.   As further evidence that it's a small world, it turned out that Liping's post-doc advisor in Oklahoma knew my father from regional forage research meetings they both used to attend!   In any case, it was a pleasure for us both getting to know this brave young couple and we wish them all the best in their new life in Toronto.

Getting on to the actual "wrapping up" ..

The actual adventure, in outline: The main comment we get about this blog is that people have enjoyed the pictures but the questions mainly indicate a need for us summarize what the trip actually wound up being.   Here that is:

1. On April 23rd Tina started hiking north along the PCT from the Mexican border.   A bit more than a week later I joined her as I rode the tandem bike and trailer solo in and around her position, meeting her as I could.  
2. On June 30th Tina summited Mount Whitney and exited the Sierras at Whitney Portal on July 1, having hiked some 800 miles while I'd cycled around 1100.    Due to the dangerous water crossings present in the Sierras at that time, we decided to proceed north together on bike.
3. On July 6th we started biking northward together from Ridgecrest, CA.
4. On August 16th, our 31st anniversary, we crossed briefly into Canada at Sumas, WA.
5. That very same day, August 16th, we rode back into the US, loaded the bike into a small U-Haul truck, and started driving back south, retracing our full cycling path and making some side trips that we'd missed on the bike.
6. On August 25th, after having snagged the truck and Tina's hiking equipment back from my brother Carl in San Diego and visiting our son Keith in Monterey, Tina relaunched on the PCT at Horseshoe Meadows near Lone Pine, CA.
7. On the morning of September 18th Tina reached Sonora Pass on the PCT where I picked her up with the truck.   That wrapped the trip with over 1018 miles of of hiking and 2800 miles of cycling.
8. Later on September 18th we blasted our way back down to San Diego, picked up everything left stored there, and started our eastward migration!

And that's it!   :)

Now we're in Winchester, VA tending to administrative items, sorting through storage, and working on what "next" might be.   We'll be here through Thanksgiving but after then .. ?  :)

Thanks for all the support and for following along, David & Tina

Sonora Pass and DONE!!! :)

Yay!   Tina reached Sonora Pass this morning completing the 76-mile stretch from Tuolumne Meadows and this year's "trip"!!  :)

We'd initially hoped that she would be able to night hike all the way out yesterday.  But after 22 miles on the day she hit snow banks too steep to safely negotiate in darkness.  That wound up being a blessing in disguise, tho.   She was trapped between snow banks with no room for her tent and the only level spot was a small saddle up at 10,800 feet elevation.  So she just slept right there on top of her tent (which she used as a groundcloth).   Having just completed two of her best days on the trail with the most beautiful stretch she'd seen to date, to cap it off sleeping under the stars on a moonless and crystal clear cold night was just the best.   

Here are her words in the GeoPro messages that came to me last night.   They explain it better -


It got down to 25 degrees that night and every once in awhile Tina was awakened by ground creatures scratching at her pack or bear canister, but all-in-all it was a wonderful final night.

I'll write a wrap up post or two yet, but in the meantime, thank you all for your support. 

Thanks especially to Kacee who spent so much time packing things up, shipping things to us, receiving and sorting things out that we sent back to her, generally watching over us --- and also for the special surprises she always found time to include in our supply packages!   :)

All the best, David