Under the shadow of the Wall of Spears, Dragon Mountains, or Drakensberg, the alpine grasslands ebb and flow like the bushveld so commonly found there. Wildlife abounds in the big sky country of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and the night sky is one of the most dazzling that can be found on Earth.
Despite Pinchot Pass being named after a man who would have wanted a casino at its summit, it is wild, craggy and untouched. To the northwest, the trail falls away into a tarn filled basin, each gem of azure blue water connected by a swift stream. Pinchot was relatively gentle going up, and just as gentle going down. The blaring reflection of midday sun off of Lake Majorie caused us to shield our eyes as we skirted along its granite shoreline. The trail drops away suddenly and hits the valley of the Kings River, running along the water for several, well graded miles.
Doing two passes in a day is not common. Most hikers will find a natural one pass rhythm, sleeping either low or high, depending on style and preference. There are certainly hikers doing 30 miles per day, but I am not one of those hikers, especially in the Sierra. 15 to 20 miles a day, which most thru hikers consider a ‘hard’ day in the sierra, will get you where you need to go. If you want to camp high, your mornings are spent descending, and your afternoons, ascending. If you want to camp low, well you get the point. Continue reading “Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike: Tales of the Trail – Sierra Edition”
Within Kings Canyon, slumbers an ancient energy. The water is crisp and delicious and the earth, a rich, dark brown. Granite peaks saturated with sunlight shine as if from within, humming with power. The very air is alive. Around every bend another lake waits for discovery, which is akin to finding a diamond the size of a football field. It is impossible not to let that energy permeate your mind and body, and it makes for long, happy summer days within the range of light.
Kearsarge is a great word (and dog name). It’s a fun word, but there is a hardness to it, like the real pass. The climb up the western side is challenging, with some serious ‘east coast’ graded switchbacks. But the view from the top is absolutely staggering. To the west squats Bullfrog Lake, an azure gem reflecting the saw tooth backdrop. To the east, the heat distorted desert screams discomfort. As you make your way down the eastern face, you pass several lakes connected by streams and cascading waterfalls. The eastern face of Kearsarge Pass is the epitome of west coast trail construction. It is at times, obnoxiously switchbacked. Though the climb back up with full packs is super easy.
We hitched with some hipster vampires from LA into Independence. From there an 18 wheeler took us to Bishop, where we stayed at the Hostel California. Opened this season and in a 112 year old Victorian, it is worth the extra hitch into Bishop just to stay there. The owner is a young man who enjoys rock climbing and acting like The Dude. He allows hikers to work for their beds, and thought it was a good idea to have a ‘lamp cache’. Granted, there was a stern note saying, “Take only what you need!” Two hikers left with a large brass lamp, though I never saw it on the trail. Continue reading “Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike: Kearsarge Is a Good Dog Name”
100 million years ago, immeasurable power changed the face of the earth. This cataclysmic event left an immense deposit of light-colored granite, which was in turn carved with the artistic, albeit clumsy hands of shifting glaciers.
Today the glaciers are mostly gone and the earth is no longer erupting, but what remains is no less awesome and immeasurable, no less beautiful. It is a hard and blazing place, wild and untamed, and buzzing with an energy that seems to seep out of the rock and flow in the rivers.
Up and over Cottonwood Pass, sits the first real view of the High Sierra. Chicken Spring Lake is a bit of a misnomer. Despite its slack jaw connotation, it is subtly elegant. Two bald, granite peaks frown into a saddle and loom over the still and clear water.
Within the white glow of the stone, and the reflection of trees in the lake water, was the confirmation that we were doing the right thing, and that everything would be ok. It was a defining moment in the hike.
Seven hundred miles has a nice ring to it. Even spelling it out suggests a lovely sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Gongratulations, you have walked a far way good sir and madam. More at least than a paltry 500 or 600. But at mile 702 festers the stinking ‘zero vortex,’ and wallet sucking monopoly that is the Kennedy Meadows General Store.
Kennedy Meadows is the JFK Airport of the PCT. It’s a hub, and you will see many hikers there. I’m not quite sure if it’s actually a special place or if everyone has just read it’s name a thousand times and thinks it this magical portal out of the desert, but there was certainly a buzz in the air that hadn’t been felt since Campo. We’ve made some noticeable prog ress and us hikers love to give credit where credit is due, so upon arriving, I was greeted with a lovely smattering of applause. Then a very ‘nice’ lady behind the counter helpfully took all my money, most likely to keep it safe while I ate and drank my body weight in overpriced beer and ice cream.
Needless to say, KM is a zoo. No. Actually, it’s more like a bankrupt zoo met an electronic music festival and had a love child- then left that child in a trailer park to be raised by Coyotes. So it’s also needless to say that you will have a good time there, unless you need to use one of the porta-potties, which is akin to walking into a leaky nuclear reactor with only a Tyvek jumpsuit to protect you. Continue reading “Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike: Kennedy Meadows to Lone Pine”
I try to add something extra to my blog posts. Instead of just a slide show of my actions over a period of time, I like to describe the trail, and any experiences that transcend the individual and illustrates what makes walking such an immense distance so worthwhile and beneficial to mind, body, and spirit. However, if Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Charles Dickens decided to have a child together, that baby would fail if asked to write a kind word about the trail betwixt (OK there is one nice word) Tehachapi and Kennedy Meadows. So instead, for the sake of future hikers, I will give a brief account of this section and maybe brag a bit about a special day I spent hiking…for 43 miles.
After leaving Tehachapi, all your guide books will lie to you and tell you that you are in the Sierra Nevada. You are not. You are in a hellish landscape of fire and brimstone, where water does not exist and the earth has decided that the bottoms of your shoes should melt if you stand still long enough.
A “zero” day is a day in which no miles are traveled. Zero days are mainly for resupplying, laundry, showering, and resting. Fortunately for some friends and I, we took care of these chores the day before. Consequently, we had a full zero day in the town of Tehachapi with no trail chores. The day started when I woke up in the backyard of trail angel Tortoise’s house. I cowboy camped next to his trailer because the inside smelled like stale cigarettes and dead animal.
After eating 2 servings of breakfast at a local restaurant, five of us headed to the movie theater for a matinee showing of Neighbors. The movie cost $5, about 75% less than a movie in New York.
By the time the movie was over, we had not eaten in about 3 hours, so Handstand grilled everybody some burgers and hotdogs on Tortoise’s barbecue.
When the food was all gone, a bunch of us packed into the trailer for a couple games of scrabble.
Function is Beauty. The phrase is as simply as the motto. It also encapsulates what we believe here at Trail Lives; Less is More. The Montbell EX Light down jacket is a bare bones insulation layer that uses some of the lightest materials in the market. It is the lightest down jacket we have tested and is competitive in price ($200), but a lack of durability and awkward fit are problematic with this jacket. Continue reading “GEAR REVIEW: Montbell EX Light Down Jacket”