Saturday, March 29, 2014

PCT Gear List

Clothing Worn
*Vasque Mindbender 26.5oz.
*Larry Legend's Custom Inserts 1.5oz.
*Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Socks 2oz.
*Asics Running Shorts 4oz.
*Ex Officio Briefs 2.5oz.
*GoLite Kensing Short Sleeve 6oz.
*OR Visor 1.8oz.
*Sunglasses 1oz.
*Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Pole 4.1oz.
*Photon Freedom Micro Light .25oz.
49.65oz. or 3.10lbs.

Clothing in Backpack
*Darn Tough Men's 1/4 Socks 2oz.
*MontBell Zeo-line Tights 4.4oz.
*MontBell Dynamo Wind Parka 5.5oz.
*MontBell UL Down Jacket 8.5oz.
*Beanie, By Trevor 'Lightning' 1oz.
*Glove Liners 1oz.
22.4oz. or 1.4lbs.

Sleeping System
*YAMA Mountain Gear Terraform 2P Tarp 16oz.
*Marmot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag 24oz.
*Gossamer Gear Thinlite Insulation Pad 3/16, 2/3 length 2.5oz.
*Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth 1.5oz.
*Gossamer Gear Titanium Lite Stakes Long 1.5oz.

*YAMA Mountain Gear Bug Shelter 2.0 14.5oz.* Only carried in buggy areas

45.5oz. or 2.84lbs. (With Bug Shelter: 60oz. or 3.75lbs.)

Food, Hydration, and Backpack System
*Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight, modified 13oz.
*GLAD 2cup Container 1oz.
*Plastic Spoon .25oz
*Smart Water Bottle (2) 3oz.
*2L Platypus Bladder 1.3oz.
*Mini Water Dropper w/ Bleach .5oz.
*YAMA Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks (1L, 1M) .5oz.
19.55oz. or 1.22lbs.

Other Gear in Backpack
*Utility Kit: Leukotape on Wax Paper, Ibuprofen, Small Portion of Body Glide, Mini Lighter, TP, Razorblade 2oz.
*Toothbrush and Tooth Powder in Mini Plastic Baggy .75oz.
*Trash Compactor Bag 1.5oz.
*Galaxy S4 Mini, Plug, USB Cord, YAMA Mountain Gear Stuff Sack (1S), Ipod with Headphones 7.5oz.
*Pen, Mini Notebook, Pages from Databook 1oz.
*GoLite Chrome Dome Umbrella 8oz.
21.25oz. or 1.33lbs.

Gear minus Clothing Worn: 108.7oz. or 6.79lbs.

Gear, including Bug Shelter, minus Clothing Worn: 123.2oz. or 7.7lbs.

Total Gear Clothing: 158.35oz. or 9.89lbs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Over this past Winter, I have tussled over hiking plans for this upcoming summer. I felt an obligation in trying to 'top' the Vagabond Loop, my 3500m tramp around the Four Corners region last summer. I kept planning a hiking itinerary that had close to 5200m, which included the AT, ICT, PNT, GDT, TRT, and SHR. Within those plans the coveted Triple Crown would be attained. I kept telling myself that that plan would be the way to go and it would be a notch up above the VL.

I didn't set any cemented goals within those plans, except for 3 main ones: hike the AT and get the Triple Crown, hike the GDT, and, lastly, have some desert hiking mixed in. I fumbled over commitments but those 3 stuck out. Well, actually, there was one more goal, a more philosophical goal, and that was to spend as much time on trail this upcoming year as possible, to fully live on trail.
During this whole time, I became a mentor in the YAMA Mountain Gear and PCTA program, a program in which would put aspiring thru hikers on the PCT with experienced knowledge of long distance hiking from thru hiking mentors while the mentees would fundraise money for the PCTA. I felt this to be a great way to give back to the trail. I became particularly close to one of the aspiring hikers named April (trail name TBD). I became deeply intrigued with her story and decision to hike the PCT. From this program and my conversations with her I began to look at my own plans as I have looked at my past hiking plans. What plan would challenge me the most and help me evolve/grow the most?

Though the 5200m plan would be a physical challenge, the logistical planning would not be a challenge, as well as the type of 'terrain' mileage, as compared to the VL. I kept coming back to the notion that I didn't want to do a trail just to do a trail. I've conflicted feelings about why hikers do the Triple Crown. I will get there one day, certainly, but I cannot treat the Triple Crown, nor the AT, as a checklist hike. And as much as I want to be a part of an exclusive hiking club I still want to do things my own way, one in which I will grow more as a person, one that will push my comfort levels.

In the meantime, I kept on mentoring. In fact, the more I kept on the more I re-organized my own plans. I became inspired by April. The world opened up to me from her. Her trials and tribulations, her survival and fight through cancer, her corporate world life in the macho-driven oil and gas industry, her love and compassion to others despite everything, her leadership to many people, most importantly her 2 sons, all inspired me. Above all, her fighting spirit enlightened me. I became enamored with her resilience, her tenacious endurance. As much as I may have been giving her insight into a successful thru hike along the PCT she showed me a path of insight into real world problems that I had completely ignored before or failed to take responsibility in. In April, I became smitten.
I know there is an element of mixed stories going on here but the parallels soon became one the instant I met April in person in Aspen, CO. I knew immediately that I would be hiking the PCT with her the moment she opened the door at the hotel room. The connection was that powerful, quite synergetic in fact.

I'll spare all the mushy details of that great weekend, but we made plans together. I felt to be taking a step into another plane in life, into an evolvement where I found someone I wanted to truly spend all my time with. Everything just felt right.

Our plans:
* PCT, from mid-April to mid-September.
* After ALDHA West in late September we are then flying to Spain to hike the high route through the Pyrenees and connect to the Camino de Santiago. During that stretch we will connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, all within October and part of November.
* In mid-December to March of 2015, we will be in New Zealand hiking the Te Aroroa Trail.

So, a year's worth of hiking is in the works. I will be living on various trails with April for a whole year around the world. The suddenness of our decision may be surprising to some people, but I really do not care. Miles are no matter to me; flow is important. Learning, exploring with and of someone is vital to me; a selfish journey is not. To live simply with April is simple, one foot in front of the other simply enjoying being outside with all the wares on our backs in this big giant world.
I will still abide by my ultra-lite hiking methods, which I find interesting to discover more while going at a slower pace. I will find time to have physical challenges along the way, like the Badwater-to-Mt. Whitney backcountry route with Swami in early April, like the Tahoe Rim Trail sometime in July, among others. With April I have found the biggest supporter in me. With her I am free to be who I am and even though I have other goals that I will eventually attain, the decision to hike with her is an easy one; the synergy is all love.
My blog may be different this year as well. I will not be reporting a journal from trail, a day by day account of the scene around me. I won't give you my own personal account of me. I envision me breaking down backpacking into simplified meanings from the effects of an experienced backpacker and someone with a verve for life who has the guts to embark on such a journey. I will share the account of someone else's transformative experience, all within the elemental flow of nature, an account that puts me a part of her incredible story. I get to witness first hand her positive effect and influence on others during this time. What I will be sharing is our life together on trail, a path of the greatest evolvement.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Part II

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness


On Sunday morning, a quiet calm enveloped the Silver Lake area. The streets and stairways were empty, though I could feel the reverberation of the night before, as if the still morning was hungover. My legs ached going up and down more stairways. The day before I scaled close to 50 staircases and attained close to 40 'city' miles and although my muscles felt great I had a new type of soreness in the balls of my feet and my butt. The hills of Echo Park went straight up and harkened a tough day ahead of me. But, I tell you, the hidden stairways held a tranquility that soothed my body and spirit, as if I was staring out at some grand vista in some Southwestern canyon.

I reached Sunset Blvd and noticed crowds of spruced-up yupsters, bleary-eyed hipsters, and messy-haired artists, all enjoying their morning coffee or sweet cake at funky and hip diners. Homeless crept along the sidewalks with their shopping carts, and the elderly were out walking their dogs, most of them the small and annoying type, the ones that bark at everything. Suddenly, a pang welled up inside of me. I had to take a piss. I looked frantically for a place to go. I held it in with all my mustered might. Instantly, I realized I wasn't in the wilderness and I just couldn't go any where I wanted. I had to be sly about my public urination, as no gas stations, public restrooms, and cafes were now in the vicinity. I squirmed as I walked as I tried to move faster. Dribbles leaked out, then I saw a full hedge near a closed business. I wiggled my way over quickly and ducked behind the hedge and let it rip. The area reeked of piss and feces and I knew I had found a spot that others have used before. While streaming I thought: 'Have I ever urinated in the city while not under the cover of night or a curtain of drunkenness?'

The situation brought up a notion in my head. Are our needs in the city so convenient that we forget how to attain those needs in the city the natural way? For months on end I find my own water, my own bathroom, my own bed, granted I don't hunt for my own food. I scanned the neighborhood thinking about where I could possibly find any natural water source. None. Unless I considered the concrete L.A. River a source!

I got over this paradox, of sorts and hiked towards Echo Lake. I remember when I lived in L.A., and as far back as I could remember, Echo Lake was a murderous battleground, a violent and troubled area. Moving through the stairways and across major boulevards back up into Echo Park I could see the gentrification of these parts. I once felt unsafe to even drive through the area, however, now I felt completely comfortable walking through it. Art galleries, music clubs, hip restaurants, not-so dank dives, and upstart businesses straddled the major avenues. Houses looked clean and landscaped. Subaru's and VW's jutted out of driveways. Frankly, I saw more white people now residing here. Then, towards Interstate 5 and the L.A. River I entered 'The Hill' territory. Menacingly tagged onto walls and sidewalks, the gang of the area had communicated warning signs for any particular haphazard wayfarer, like a pile of fresh grizzly scat in Glacier National Park leaving its mark on its turf. I hiked quickly while still getting in as many staircases as I could.


From the top of Elysian Park I could see the broad humps of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles Crest. I felt the pull of the mountains, just like I did when I was a young adult. Only now I didn't have any fear associated with my 'calling.'

More neighborhoods: Atwater Village, Angeles Heights, Glassell Park, Washington Park, Highland Park and Eagle Rock. In Glassell Park along Fletcher Dr. I encountered the friendliest neighborhood, though it may have been one of the poorest. Mexicans, Salvadoreans, and other Latinos played soccer in the ball fields, they hooted and hollered at one another, and raspado and helote carts wheeled around with a little 'ting ting.' I waved and smiled at many. I shimmied little dance steps as I hiked. In Highland Park, I trekked through a rough neighborhood. Big cholos posted up on porches, pit bulls barked ferociously, and roosters crowd. I walked quickly hardly getting any notice. I found myself blending into my environment as I do in the mountains or desert. Notorious for being a quiet hiker, I innocuously and inconspicuously hiked through the city blocks. I guess I am sort of a chameleon.

Hours lately, I found myself in Pasadena having tramped close to another 40m and 80 staircases. One of my best friends, someone who I have known the longest, other than family, Sobek, picked me up. We spent the evening together at our buddy Ben's house in Atwater Village. I was happy, drunk, and tired, yet when Ben put on the movie 'End of Watch' I could not help but think: "How in Hell did I just walk across L.A.?!"
The next late morning, 5,000ft and 10m later, I stood atop the flat summit of Mt. Wilson with an aerial antennae farm and an observatory overlooking the entire L.A. Basin. Mt. Wilson is another historic icon, in particular the former toll road leading to its crest. On the way up, I could feel the gasp of the city leaving its heaving breath down in the valleys below. The sky opened up all around me in a pearly blue inviting me upward to its thinner and cleaner air. Once from Mt. Wilson I used a series of canyons and shortcut trails to get to the Pacific Crest Trail some 20m away. I encountered heavily burned areas, the canyons, chaparral, and massive pines, walnuts and oaks ravaged by the inferno of the 2009 Station Fire. It saddened me to think while most of the city of L.A. has cleaned up its act its wildlands lay in devastation in which most of the Angelinos may never see an old growth forest there again. It is all related to each other: over-crowding, drought, lack of drinking water, fire, urban sprawl, dirty and clean air.

That night, I meditated looking up at the stars reflecting on my tramp through L.A., and not of my past. I felt an insane feeling of self-understanding, as if I embraced the feeling of loving L.A. as I would love myself. I also felt an insane 'sense of place' I have never felt before other than being immersed in the wilderness for an extended period of time. I pondered: Can a city instill a wilderness-type feeling or philosophy? I feel 'yes, it sure as hell can,' especially if you are thru-hiking it. There is a flow in this world that doesn't matter where you are at, and that flow is oblivious to its environment and humans, even unexplainable. By simply walking for an extended period of time I attain that flow on such a regular basis I look for it in anything, including the concrete megalopolis of Los Angeles.

Pre-dawn I hit the PCT practically running. I felt like I was released from some hold, some self-restraint. My stride opened up amid craggy stone summits lined with a thin forest of Douglas Fir, White Fir, and Coulter Pines. Manzanita made an appearance with its beautiful smooth and deep dark red bark, twisting and gnarled branches, and stiff, green leaves. Along the Kratka Ridge I could eye the true summit of the Angeles Crest, Mt. Baden Powell. Below me Angeles Forest Highway laid dormant with little usage from vehicular traffic. At Windy Gap, a chilly gust iced through my sweaty clothes. The cold mountain air refreshed my spirit. Finally, at the top of the 9,399ft Baden Powell I could fathom the overcast engulfing the Pacific Ocean coastline, the haze sheathing the valleys like a sheep's thick wool, and the basin mountain ranges poking above it all as if floating islands. I soaked it all in, tying everything together.

Night came on my last full day and along a ridge overlooking the Apple Valley in the High Desert I watched the streamline of vehicle lights meandering their way along yawning curves. I laid on a bed of pine needles and disheveled puzzle-pieced bark from a Jeffrey Pine and slept a well-deserved slumber. In the morning, I ran the 20m to Interstate 15. Another one of my best friends picked me up there, Hando.
Overall, my L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike amassed roughly 175m in about 5 full days. I went either up or down approximately 135 staircases. I adapted to what was in front of me, hiked efficiently, and gauged a sense of self from a city I once called home and the wilderness now affecting my self. I connected a route in the megalopolis of L.A. using alley ways, streets, boulevards, dirt roads, stairways, bike paths, sidewalks, lawns, bridges, and trails through wildlands, city, wilderness, beaches, neighborhoods, and parks. 






L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Part I

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness

Over the intercom the flight attendent vocalized the arrival of the flight to LAX. It was mid-afternoon, and from my nooked window I could see peerless rays of sunshine glistening in the horizon towards the Pacific Ocean. People stood up from their seats and crowded into the aisle. Most reached up to their hand bags stowed in the compartment above. I stood up and slung my Kumo over my back and waited patiently for the line of people to exit the plane. I looked around; things seemed so complicated yet I had all that I needed on my back in my backpack.

Through the terminal I happened to follow an attractive woman from the same flight who wore a MontBell Down Jacket. I followed her insouciant gait that had an L.A. swagger. I could see the contrast of what I was about to embark on already. I was already seeking for the connection between the city and wilderness. The hustle and bustle of the airport moved in agitation with people moving faster than they usually do. Most trundled in hurky-jerky steps towing their roll-on luggage that lumbered clumsily behind. I followed a path of least resistance within the terminal, weaving in and out of the awkward walkers. I eluded bottlenecks of travellers along the escalators and eventually I found myself in an outside world of concrete. I headed the direction opposite of which the incoming cars were coming from. I followed a sidewalk figuring I would have to walk along side of a narrow shoulder of oncoming traffic. But the sidewalk just winded its way around the curve of the massive runway and dumped me down unto a staircase landing on Lincoln Blvd, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1.

I hiked with an adrenaline rush I have never felt in thousands of miles of hiking. The roar of the city bellowed in a stentorian thunder. My heart pounded furiously through my chest. Cars, truck, motorcycles sped on by; buses coasted near curbside that left a pocket of wind to erupt in my face, and huge jumbo jets raced across the sky above the highway perpendicular to the flow of transporters only a few hundred feet above it all. The madness of the city presented itself to me as I now headed towards the city Santa Monica. I hiked tall with my shoulders wide and I felt myself breathing heavily, panting almost, from hiking with so much gusto.

I intended to make my way to Venice and the bike path along the beach, then through Santa Monica I would connect a series of staircases to Pacific Palisades, and hike my way up into the backbone of the Santa Monica Mountains and its wildlands for a stealth camp. And since it was mid to late afternoon I knew I had to make miles swiftly if I intended to camp by a reasonable hour. Lincoln Blvd., or PCH, was swarmed with the masses. Still feeling the rush of the city I mashed my way along the sidewalks, dodging throngs of pedestrians, bikes, and various obstacles such as newspaper stands and light posts. I moved efficiently and swiftly using street instincts to navigate such as jaywalking. I found side streets that were flooded with cars, not unlike the boulevards, but they moved more fluidly. Having been an auto parts driver in L.A. I knew that some of these side streets were other thoroughfares through the city that cut-off unnecessary mileage and 'rounded' my route rather than 'squared' my route. In some congested areas I actually out-hiked the slow moving vehicles.

In Venice, I found alley ways to move through. Ivies and other creeping vines, garlands, and a slew of exotic trees tunneled over the few allies I took. Some residents even took to painting murals on their garage doors. These alley ways were quite peaceful and attractive. Then a bike pedaler came towards me, seemingly out of place. Nearer and nearer, the cholo on a cruiser bike meandered in sweeping 'U's' as he passed me. He reminded me of a shark patrolling a feeding ground. He glanced at me through his 'loc's', as I did the same through my shades. We both flicked up our chin at each other and continued going in the direction we were headed. As I walked on, I increased my senses, especially my hearing, just in case something came up from behind me. One advantage I have over most people, especially from being in the woods for so long, is an heightened acuity in my senses.

A concern of mine in planning this hike was the state of certain neighborhoods I knew Snorkel had hiked through connecting the stairways. I gasped when she told me the non-threatening states of some of the neighborhoods because when I lived there almost a decade ago those exact neighborhoods were not so friendly. I asked Snorkel if she worried about what colors she wore, street taggings rather than murals, and gang presence on the stairways. It seemed L.A. had changed since the last time I resided there. So, I walked on realizing my behavior would matter most. I related that behavior as to walking in different territories: grizzly habitat, hot and dry weather, waterless stretches, night hiking and mountain lion threats. I began to read the city as I would read the mountains.

Along the Venice beach walk tourists, locals, and the seedy dwellers moved along in a current resembling a human river. Occasionally, I would hit some rapids and dudes would be yelling at each other, cursing and throwing down. Other times the water remained placid and serene as some of the street musicians would tantalize the ears with their entranced melodies. The sun shined brightly, and all walks of life were out and about. At the Santa Monica Pier, a mini-carnival of sorts jutting out into the sea, I climbed my first set of stairs. I went up and down between the beach walk and the park settled on top of the bluffs. Within these climbs I noticed the difference in culture and wealth, cleanliness and filth, as well as the fit and unfit.

Soon, I was scaling stairways interspersed through the swanky neighborhoods of Santa Monica. Some of the stairways were used as a workout and social spot where the plastic and chiseled would congregate. Down into Rustic Canyon I went and the sun seem to hide from me in a dimmed embarrassed state. Poison ivy cloaked the stairway, bamboo shoots sprouted up straightly, and the residents' yards juxtaposed the groomed landscape with the wild nature of some of the plants on the hillsides. The air was sea-misted and redolent of blossoms of a white flower I frequently saw.

Night enveloped the metropolis, and the tiny suburb of Pacific Palisades buzzed with activity. I hiked on to the Temescal Canyon trail head and night hiked up the ridge trail. From the ridge I could see the high school football came going on and the blue of the ocean turn to an abyss-black. Down the trail came about 20 Filipinos all carrying hand held flashlights. I let them pass me and continued up the ridge in the dark with the robust full moonlight guiding my way. On the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains I followed a fire road with a warm air blanketing my body. The city seemed so far away, the booming noise of the city now sounded like a quiet belch. I heard some popping noise and saw fireworks bursting from the Santa Monica Pier, many night owls hooted from the telephone wires above me, and the deep silence of the ocean protruded into my being as the deepest sound of all, as if the world was inhaling the miasmic air of the city.

I bedded down under a canopy used mainly by cyclists to escape the heat of the day. I looked down at the twinkling city lights rather than up at the fading stars in the night sky. I found this to be strange since my southwest Vagabond Loop held the glamour of beauty above me at night. My eyes slowly closed but not before noticing the difference in blackness and emptiness between the mountains and the ocean.  

I awoke before dawn and hiked in the cool, morning air. I followed the crest of Mulholland Dr. The road went from dirt to pavement and soon I was amid a cacophony of roaring cars zooming by me. At an overlook of the San Fernando Valley I read a kiosk explaining the corridors of wildlife through established neighborhoods. The kiosk explained the relationship and co-habitation of deer, people and their pets, birds, and coyotes. I pondered these wildlife corridors deeply since I seemed to be following a similar path through the city.

On to Highway 101 and the Hollywood Hills to meet my very good friend Zack. He picked me up at the Hollywood Bowl and we had about a 2 hour lunch together. I probably annoyed him with my excitement from the past day walking through the city. I was still pretty amped up.

After dropping me back off in the spot where my steps would connect, I proceeded up into the Hollywood Hills and found more stairways. The stairs connected old, swanky houses and streets with one another all within eyesight of the Hollywood sign. I flew through the area and soon enough I was in Los Feliz just under the Griffith Observatory. I plotted my route using maps from Snorkel's Google Map files that I printed out. I connected the stairways in the most efficient way possible by trying to find the most fluid and straightforward way though the neighborhoods. Eventually, I moved from street to street and into Franklin Heights. Since it was a Saturday, the neighborhoods were alive with action. Community Fall celebrations and Farmer's markets were underway, taco trucks lined boulevards. 
The hills in this area were surprisingly steep. In Silver Lake the streets and staircases went even steeper up. I hiked up and down stairways as if I was on a workout. In planning for this trip I worried about the condition my feet would be in after all the pounding on the concrete. Here I was, zeroing in on a 40m day, and I was practically running up the stairways. In Silver Lake I could envision the working class of the 1920s and 1930s taking these stairways down to the flatter and broader streets to catch trams and streetcars. The foundation of the proletariat, the working class matrix of the city, still held firm despite the fact the homes now settled on the hills were for the more wealthier. The stairways were trails bridging connections between communities. Secret gardens and canopies gave even a tiny moment to a citizen that Mother Nature was nearby. Walking up and down these old staircases symbolized a tie with the flow of the moving world. The concrete jungle seemed to be irrelevant as the clank of staired planks and the swish of brush and foliage took you away.

Dusk began to settle in on the end of my first full day in the city. I began to pick up the pace in order to meet my buddy Steve who was to pick me up. One of the last staircases I climbed I found a trio of hip-hop heads posting up with L.A. Dodger hats on.
"Whatdya got there? Mickey's or OE?"
"Shit, man, we got mineral water, " one of the dudes chuckled. I chuckled right back. Memories from my early 20s flooded back.
"Damn, y'all got some mota too! Livin' the good life, makin' me jealous," I casually told them. They all smiled, I am sure mostly because they realized I wasn't a Narc. At the top of the stairway I spilled out into a street and the air suddenly smelled of barbeque, a typical warm, sunny day smell in L.A. This was the right place, right now. I met Steve and he treated me out to the Golden Road Brewing Company near Atwater Village. We slugged away a few pale ales and felt the jumping vibe in the alehouse. My eyes almost jumped out of my head with all the excitement, as Steve and I spoke of the natural world, trails, and connections...