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We arrived in Sierra City last night and head for Belden, CA today (est. arrival on 8/2). We were thrilled to be greeted by surprise packages of cookies and dried apricots (thanks Kelsey, Bill and Peter!!), particularly because the small market here is not as good a resupply location as hoped. Can man survive on cookies alone? We’re not sure, but are more than willing to try that experiment!

As Rog suggested in his post, we are starting to feel weary. What’s interesting (and wildly affirming) is that lots of other hikers are experiencing what one person called the doldrums of the hike. Yay! This is normal! Wait…yay? (Insert sound of record scratching here.) When did sleeping under the stars and hiking in fields of wildflowers become doldrums in the making?

One of our trail friends we’ve mentioned before, “Journal,” says that this trek is his pilgrimage to grapple with the ideas of work and play. Although it’s not what we set out to explore — heck, we were just going on an awesome walk-about–it’s become a question we are contemplating, too.

We are trying to bring curiosity to the unanticipated reversals that we are experiencing: 1) the trail sometimes really feels like work and 2) we look forward to getting to a town.

So when does play become work? when does work become play? Why were some days at my last desk job fun? Why has this item on the bucket list become so hard?

Aches and pains are part of that trajectory of play becoming work, of course. Though yesterday, when we hiked with two other folks all day, I hardly noticed my Achilles’ tendon. So, for me, feeling real connection with people (not just socializing and platitudes, but really connecting with folks), makes a difference whether on the trail or as a desk jockey.

More musings to come! We are loading up and heading for Belden, where a box of cookies from Karen and Emma awaits! 🙂

And now for photos! Dirty ol’ Rog. A.k.a. this is what happens when you wear running shoes that are predominantly mesh.

Rog tearing it up at Squaw Valley ski resort (note chairlifts in background).

Dr Scholls’ gel sole inserts somehow doesn’t live up to the rigors of the trail. This is after about 200 miles on the trail.

Looking for a good place to sleep between busy Hwy 80 and Hwy 40 near Donner Lake seemed like a crapshoot, but
beautiful Azalea and Flora Lakes were absolutely lovely. How many times have we sped by them on our way to Truckee?!

We have now hiked 587 miles and are starting to feel our bodies and spirits breaking down. 20-23 mile days day after day can be really hard. We try not to complain, but sometimes we sound a bit, well, geriatric. To be more specific, we have tired, old, battered and beaten feet. Somewhat surprisingly, blisters really aren’t that big a deal. We’ve each had a few, but I don’t think we’ve even popped any yet. With some decent foot care, they just seem to go away or get replaced by callus. Our feet are swollen and aching and our two favorite luxuries are sitting down and sticking our feet in rivers and lakes (distantly followed by beer, ice cream and salad).

There are super-human people out here. Gods of the trail who achieve feats that simultaneously sound categorically insane and awesomely inspiring, and make us (especially Rog) want to run ultra marathons (50 or 100 miles anyone?). How the heck do people do 40-mile days for two months straight? There’s a gal named Anish who is averaging 40 mile days and is going for the PCT unsupported speed record. She started around the time we did (but 652 miles earlier at the Mexican border). We’re in Sierra City, CA at mile 1,198 meanwhile she’s coasting into the home stretch at Timberline Lodge in Oregon at mile 2,107. At least that is where she was yesterday.

All that is to say that we’re not sure what people like Anish are made of. We are fragile mortals with bodies that are telling us “ouch, this is a dumb endeavor” and minds that wonder actively how to motivate ourselves to go, go, go when hanging out with tired feet propped up at a pretty lake seems like a much better idea. Heck, it IS a much better idea.

This brings us to a dilemma: why do we hike? Jen’s going to write a bit about this in another post so be sure to read that, but I’ll say this. We’re thinking more consciously about our egos and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation than we usually do “back in the real world.”

We wanted to walk 2,000 miles to Canada. Bringing some goal into being is more effective if you share it with a community, so we told you all that we were going to do it. Now sometimes when the scenery isn’t that awesome, the wildflowers seem to have petered out and the next manky black cesspool water is 18 miles away. Remember that part about our favorite thing being soaking feet in water? Not possible when there ain’t no water. We’re starting to wonder why we set out to do this silly thing. It can be beautiful vistas and amazing rock formations and the gorgeous stars, but if we need to press on to make miles and we’re staring at our feet and the trail in front of us in order to not trip on the shards of granite scree; sometimes it just isn’t as much fun as it is cracked up to be.

Reviving our souls happens when we come to an amazing swimming hole as we did yesterday on the way in to Sierra City. It also happens when we arrive in town and there’s a surprise package from a friend or family member (Many thanks to Karen, Tom and Emma; Teri; Jeff, Suzy, Wyatt and Hazel; Dad and Laura; Kelsey; and Peter). It’s true, we’re greedy, hungry and just voracious cookie eating machines. We feel somewhat self-centered and ego-maniacal about requesting care packages (“Feed me Seymour!”). Now, however, care packages have come to represent something wonderful and amazing: a reason to continue when feet hurt and we’re blindly stumbling on after 12 hours on the trail. “We can’t quit! So-and-so sent us a package to the next town!” So we get on with it. Besides, pain is temporary…at least until the next throb.

Of course, it is still beautiful. We’ve even got photos to prove it. Here’s the next round.

Above Lake Aloha (one of our all time favorites outside South Lake Tahoe).

Dick’s Lake from Dick’s Pass and the roughly one quarter point in our trek (if we make it all the way). Okay, we hadn’t actually hit 500 miles at this point, but it was a more photogenic spot than in the trees down below, wouldn’t you say?

This fungus reminded Rog of pizza, maybe a bit too much. Maybe would have been good on pizza?

Right before our first hailstorm. The sky was wonderfully blue on one side of the ridge and as ominous as could be on the other. Reveling in the contrasts was fun, but we then quickly raced the clouds at the end of a long day getting pelted as we pulled into camp.

Another lovely ridge north of Highway I-80 and the Peter Grubb Hut.

The long trail. It’s like the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going and going. We hope we can too.

We’re at mile 482 (Okay, it’s only PCT mile 442, but we also have these bonus miles we’re counting). We almost feel like we’ve gotten somewhere. 500 miles will be a milestone, plus then we can more loudly start singing our unofficial themesong: “I’m gonna be (500 miles) For those not familiar, here’s the chorus: I would walk five hundred miles…And I would walk five hundred more…Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles…To fall down at your door”.

So we’re almost there, except that in a day when we actually have walked 500 miles, we’ll still have another ~1,580 miles to go and that just makes for awkward lyrics. If you have any good ideas on this front, let us know.

Meanwhile, it’s time for us to fess up about a few key things:

1) I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud of how much I’m eating. At Kennedy Meadows I had a dozen chocolate chip cookies, two popsicles, plate artery hardening pasta, blueberry cobbler(I wanted two), soup, a big salad Another side salad. A beer and about five glasses of heavily sugared pink lemonade. In about 3.5hours. I almost bought several packages of M&Ms to inhale, but refrained, because it was my turn to take a shower. Cleanliness before food. We haven’t got the “I’m hungry 24/7” state that we hear is coming up when our metabolisms hit warp speed (by some accounts that’s around mile 700), but I’m starting to fantasize about food more often than I care to admit.

2) I (Roger) cry like a baby and use diaper rash cream. You know those sexy chiseled midriff as photos of Michelangelo’s David-esque youthful strength and beauty? I don’t look like that. Note that it isn’t because my tummy isn’t getting flatter and firmer. It is. Thanks to the hike-a-hella-lot-and-involuntary-hunger-strike-diet. I don’t look like that because my hips are ugly. I mean black and blue, sores and chaffing U-G-L-Y. Hip belts have always done mean things to me and with enough time and exposure to their nefarious bruising and abusing ways, I’ve reached newly painful highs and ghoulish lows. I’ve crammed socks and hats and other padding in between my hips and hip belt. I’ve constructed elaborate duct tape and foam creations. I cut the belt loops off my pants and (obviously), removed the belt. I stopped wearing underwear, which leads to other chaffing problems in…um…places. I’ve lathered on the diaper rash cream. All to no avail. So in case you were wondering why I’m not featured on the cover of Men’s Health, I’m just letting you know right now, it’s my unattractive hips.

BTW, Jen and I are designing the perfect backpacking pants, which we plan to sell to The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, REI or the highest bidder from the outdoor industry. These pants will have no bulk or uneven seams at the waist area (heck, no seams period!) and be made from space age fabric that is only .000001 nano-microns thick. Our new hip belt designs, meanwhile, will be made from clouds (patent pending).

3) You know how sexy Lance Armstrong and all the other Tour de Francey-type bike riders are? Well, we’re starting to look more like them, at least in the hairless legs, department. No, we’re not shaving! Once again, chafing gets all the credit. Walking a lot will do a surprisingly good job at rubbing hair off your legs and other places. The only problem is that instead of that airbrushed raw muscly look, the hair removal process is a bit more, well, patchy. Jen gets it on the top of her thighs and knees and Rog on the sides of his legs. Rog also has newly svelte nipples thanks to duct tape coverage there to avoid being rubbed raw. One note: duct tape on skin will not solve chafing problems in all locations.

4) We miss you all…really. We’re big strong independent PCT hikers, but we miss our family and community. Hard to call or write and jamming out the blog is often all we have time for. Sometimes even sending that is a stretch.

Now onto the photos…

Sonora Pass from the north. Amazing volcanic landscape.

Wondering how we keep clean after 36 days on the trail? Us too, but we keep experimenting! Here’s Rog demonstrating one creek showering technique.

Here’s Buckwheat next to one version of her namesake, the bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat.

East Bay people, here’s where your water is born, the lovely highlands of the Mokelumne Wilderess.

Our stunning camp at Frog Lake about a mile from Carson Pass.

Was this post astoundingly profound? Not surprisingly boring? Did it make you wish you were on the PCT or thankful you’re not? Leave a comment!

While out “in the world” we understand that things like coups in Egypt, plane crashes and supreme court decisions are big news, that’s not really “new” or “what’s happening” along the trail. We plug along, putting some miles behind us (by the time most of you read this, we’ll have hit 400) and the momentous occasions are either much more mundane or profound depending on your perspective. Here is a random list of What we’ve been noticing on the Pacific Crest Trail:

– Bugs whizzing like sunlit star fighters across the vastness of dappled shade.
– The shift from tall lupine and penstemon to shorter, hairier high alpine varieties and back again as we ascend or descend. Brilliance in our favorite flowers such as bold yellow and red four plumed Scarlett Columbine, luscious violet Larkspur, fiery Shooting Stars, deep purple and shy Monkshood and orange curling Columbia Lilies in creeks, Buckwheat in all it’s colorful varieties (including my favorite: nude Buckwheat…it doesn’t have leaves on the stems) and yellow Stonecrop in high alpine passes.
– The subtle shift in forest friends from Lodgepole to Foxtail to Hemlock to Jeffrey and the lovely transition spaces where trees meet and greet.
– Granite to feldspar and other brightly iron hued rock to slate and shale to ever present and ever wonderful granite.
– Shade to sun and back again. The dappled spaces create the loveliest light. Shade is heaven sent on the uphill slogs. we watch the sun drenched high alpine snowfields create the water we drink.
– Sometimes the water tastes like liquid gold. Other times like a mossy bog. In both cases, I love being present to my water, something that I’m often not in urban environments.

A few new things I’m trying out:
– Trying not to madly slap at every mosquito (we’ve killed countless hundreds) and instead just shaking them off with a wiggle of the shirt sleeve. There’s no winning this war of attrition, so sometimes it just seems best to expend the least energy possible.
– Listening to various birdsongs and singing back badly.

Some photos of the last 76 miles/four days from Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass:

Your favorite home boy and fly girl posing alongside one of the many glorious Tuolumne river waterfalls.

Beautiful and serene Lake Wilmer (or Wilma…depends on the map or ranger you ask). This is when the desperate, feasting hordes of mosquitos from the previous night were still asleep…we still sprinted out in the morning.

This is what the carnage in our tent looked like the night before. Rog and Jen: 42. Mosquitos: 0. Note: that’s how many got in during the 4.2 seconds the doors were open.

Backcountry heaven: sandy beach at stunning Lake Dorothy and a chocolate and peanut butter lunch.

Lupine, Indian Paintbrushes, Penstemon, snowfields in Kennedy Canyon.

The Sawtooths and a lot of big open sky.

Jen (Buckwheat), Rog (Epic) and trail friend Jim (Journal) high above Sonora Pass.

It’s been 28 days since we started hiking a Walker Pass. We’ve now taken five days off hiking so that I could rest up and get better from this nasty chest cough, but now it’s time to hit the trail again after spending several wonderful days in Yosemite reconnecting with that gorgeous place and our fantastic friends here.

Here’s a photo tour of our last week.

Devils Postpile National Monument with its amazing columnar basalt. Each of those lines is a hexagonal tube of slow cooled liquid rock about a foot in diameter.

Beautiful Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness just shy of Donahue Pass and crossing into Yosemite

“Buckwheat” (Jen changed her trail name in a vain attempt to refocus her sugar obsession in healthier directions) and our Canadian friends Trooper and Journal near Thousand Island Lake

Looking up towards Mt McClure and Mt Lyell from upper Lyell Canyon. Sadly, Lyell Glacier isn’t much of a glacier anymore. Last year Jen went on a snow survey trip with the Yosemite National Park geologist and it doesn’t seem to move much these days (the classic definition of a glacier). Hopefully with a few monster snow years it’ll resume it’s slow mountain eroding ways.

Looking back up towards Donahue Pass from Lyell Canyon in Yosemite. Here, 8 miles from the trailhead we ran into the first of our old Yosemite pals: Tim, Erin and Joy from the Vegetation Branch

Jen and Rog with one of our favorite backcountry ski and road biking buddies: Ranger Matt cracked all his worst dumb interpretive jokes for us on his Valley Tram Tour.

The last word: Half Dome looking perky on a sunny California day.

Many thanks to all of our Yosemite buddies for hosting us, partying with us at Sal’s Taco Night (in Yosemite it is a culinary festival and time for a hoe down whenever the taco truck shows up) and at a lovely potluck at Kara’s. It was great to see all of you, play too many games of Pandemic, overeat, shower, see more of you, eat more, shower again and, well, eat. All of it was delightful because of wonderful people that we were so lucky and happy to see again. Many thanks and sorry to any and all of you that I might have infected with my cold.

The last week has been marked by big mountain passes. After we resupplied in Independence and Bishop, we returned up Kearsarge Pass (11,760 ft) to the Pacific Crest Trail. We then proceeded to climb up and over a big pass every day for the next five days:

Glen Pass (11,980 ft) on a crystal clear day

Jen stretching on Pinchot Pass (12,100 ft)…gotta get limber for the way down

More spectacular weather and scenery on Mather Pass (12,080 ft)

Muir Pass (11,955 ft) looking southward towards some nasty weather that we barely avoided

Seldon (10,870 ft)

The Hoary Marmot of Silver Pass (10,900 ft)

We’ve been averaging about 17 miles/day while on the trail – just enough to keep us moving the whole day yet leave some time for breaks to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Our days now have a fairly well established routine.

  • Solo hiking in the morning for an hour or two gives Jen and me the opportunity to have space for meditative contemplation, really being present to our bodies, our breath and our surroundings.
  • We’re getting good at really monitoring our food and water intake. Unlike our oldschool philosophy of carrying 4 liters around a lot of the time, we now mostly only carry 1-1.5 liters. At 2.2 pounds/liter, that takes as much as 6 pounds off our backs and makes a huge difference in how we feel about schlepping our packs around. We we pull into resupply locations, our packs are down to minimal weight of around 17 pounds (after Yosemite it will only be 15 when we get rid of our 2.5 pound bear cans).
  • We stop at a lot of water sources to soak our feet and wash our socks. Sometimes we’re washing our socks 2-4 times/day. This sounds ridiculous (heck, it is ridiculous), but it makes a world of different in how our feet feel.
  • We usually stop at a lovely lake or a mountain pass for lunch. If we’re doing a bigger day, we often will also stop and cook dinner on the trail and then hike for another few hours before bedding down for the night.
  • Once we settle on a campsite, usually we read out loud to each other for an hour or so before going to sleep. Having a 6 oz Kindle e-Ink along allows us to bring several books on loan from the library at a time and ensure that we never escape the modern techno-gadget inundation of our lives. Great books that we’ve recently finished include: Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, which has Rog inspired to try his hand at an ultramarathon once we’re done with our current adventure. We also really enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, which has helped expand our perspective on the cultural factors, timing and attitudes that create the conditions for individuals to be truly successful in a specific field. We also really enjoyed Novella Carpenter’s Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. While we don’t think we’ll be raising rabbits, chickens or pigs any time in the immediate future, Novella’s candid, funny and well researched piece was a fascinating and fun read and re-inspired us to garden, especially with heirloom varieties when we return to “real life.”
  • After a few days recuperating in Mammoth from a nasty head and chest cold I’m looking forward to ending our overeating binge, getting away from clean sheets and hot showers and heading back to the mountains!

We have settled into a motel room in Mammoth, and after day two I’m afraid we’ll never leave. Comfy bed, running water, flush toilet, shower, towels and continental breakfast are all within a stone’s throw from the little perch I have made in the en suite kitchenette. There are vast resources of real food nearby, not just RyVita crackers and dehydrated peanut butter!

Rog came down with a chest cold, so we are spending a couple extra days here in Mammoth so he can recuperate. Recuperating includes “reviewing” the local food scene, and lazing around with full bellies.

Friday night, we were taken under the wings of locals, good friends of my longest pal, Ellen. Murat and Nancy invited us to a pool party and a home-cooked dinner (!). Not only were Nancy’s grilled tofu and veggies the bestest ever (note: need recipe), we had the great fortune to get to know them and their wonderful friends, Brian, Laura, Ezzie, Bobby and Rich. It’s rare to land in the middle of someone else’s party, yet feel so at home. Plus, with four doctors in the mix, Roger received free expert medical opinions! In exchange, we are heeding those opinions (stay in town, rest) and bolstering the local economy by parting with vast portions of our travel and food budget.

The stretch of the PCT between Mammoth and Independence was marvelous. At every turn, we delighted in alpine lakes set below domes and peaks of granite.

(Photo: Rog using flip flops to demonstrate scale at Silver Pass Lake?)

Of course, these visual rewards come with a physical price. Stunning scenery is only to be had by climbing up 2500 feet, immediately descending another 2500′, and ending the day with at least another 1500′ climb. Every day. For the last ten or so days. More to come! I think the trail should be renamed the Pacific Pass Trail.

(Photo: Rog taking a siesta after one of many passes.)

(Photo: No, not from an airplane! Top of Glen Pass!)

Other things we have learned along the way:

1. Stretching makes a HUGE difference. If we remember to stretch two or three times each day, our bodies are so much happier. (Note to self, this applies when I’m a desk jockey again.)

(Photo: Rog demonstrating mid-trail half lotus pigeon-ish glute stretch.)

2. Sometimes we are in a place of being able to give, other times we must learn to accept the kindness and generosity of others. Sometimes it feels weird! But as Nancy put it Friday night, “Just receive.” We did with much gratitude.

3. Simple things, like a box of homemade cookies and a clipped-out article (thank you, Teri!!), bring such joy.

4. The Buddha talked about impermanence, the arising and passing of all things. We are noticing this a lot. Feet hurt. Then they don’t. Cookies in box. Cookies all gone. One day deep in the woods, the next day in town. Sunny. Cloudy. Pleasant. Unpleasant. Dirty-clean-dirty again. This trip is a great opportunity to notice the impermanence of everything. I hope these moments of Zen will help when we are back in the real world, in the market for jobs!

Some more photos….I am so grateful that we get to see these amazing places.

Rog revived by siesta and scads of granite.

Marie Lake from near Selden Pass

Atop Muir Pass, near John Muir Hut, erected by Sierra Club in the ’30’s to protect hikers during inclement weather. Uhm, yeah!

South Fork San Joaquin flowing as it should!

May you be well, healthy and happy!

– Jen

Rog and Jen’s travels – some old stuff, some new stuff

This blog has a collection of the travel update emails that Jen and Rog compiled during our 2001-2002 round the world trip. We're off to do a bit more trekking around, and thought it would be nice import those old emails. Enjoy!

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