Friday, April 30, 2010

Greetings from the East Coast!

As Mark dots his i's and crosses his t's, and continues his quest to shave a few ounces from his pack, I thought I'd introduce myself as his guest blogger while he's on the trail.  I'm Mark's brother Mike, the one on the far right of the photo below.  I'm an attorney practicing in the state of Delaware...a tiny state whose length Mark will have hiked twice before he ever leaves the L.A. area on the PCT.  Though I live on a flat coastal plain a continent apart, through the magic of the postal system, I'll be receiving and archiving Mark's photos while he's on the hike so you can get the latest news from the high Sierras.  I intend to post a few pics while he's on the trail so you can remain updated on his progress.  Keep checking in over the course of the next five months for updates and photos, and maybe a message or two from Mark! 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

So much to do, so little time...

Just as an once here and an once there eventually leads to a pound here and a pound there, a chore here and a chore there eventually leads to an hour here and an hour there. I'm running out of time!

Talking to Dan today on the phone, we both got a laugh out of how much time it takes to wrap up all of the little things. If any future long distance hiker happens to read this, give yourself a few days to wrap up the little things on the to-do list! I probably shouldn't even take the 15 minutes to post this, but I wanted it to be a reminder to myself if I ever do a trip like this again.

As a side note, I bought a new sleeping bag at REI on Tuesday. I purchased The North Face Cat's Meow (suggested by Dan). It's an affordable 20 degree synthetic bag and in the process, shaved another two pounds off my previous base weight.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Last Hike in Griffith Park?

Went for a hike in Griffith Park after work today. This most likely will be my last hike in the park until I return to the area. Without going into too much detail, I've just been presented with a couple major hurdles to get past before this trip begins. As with most trips, I find the best solution is to try and stay relaxed and problem solve. I think flexibility will be key for a successful hike anyhow...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sierra Snow Pack

Sierra Snow Pack Status. That pink line doesn't seem to want to come down yet...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One Week to Go

Well, one more week to go before I'm out of LA. Everything is moving along according to schedule. Someone has agreed to move into my room beginning May 1st, and thankfully my current roommate is also happy with the choice. I moved half of my belongings into storage today, I think I could have gotten away with a smaller unit. I thought I had more stuff, but I guess not. It was hard to leave my guitars in such a dark, gloomy, strange place. They are like my babies. As you can see, my apartment is filled with resupply boxes. I'm planning on working on them a little more tonight, and at least make some space to move around.

I'm also turning into a gram weenie. I made a post back in July laughing at a guy who was weighing all of his gear on a scale in an attempt to eliminate every superfluous once. Now I've become that guy. Dan sent me his small electronic scale and I've been weighing my gear piece by piece. I found out my pack weighs 6.3 pounds (with nothing in it) and my sleeping bag is 5.2pounds. 11.5 pounds total. Not cool!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Scarlet pimpernel (above)
Large flowered phacelia (above)
I went for a hike in Griffith Park today between work assignments on an unseasonably cool but bright afternoon. Since I haven't been hiking much lately I was not happy about noticing that my legs were unusually tired and shaky. The mustard plants are bursting about, some plants probably 8 to 9 feet tall. Also came across this spectacular peach colored wildflower while hiking down a small trail descending off the ridge.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last night I ordered a bunch of USPS Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes for free online but they did not seem large enough for two hiker's resupply. So this morning I scored a bunch of boxes at the local Ralph's. Time to start distributing the food...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

El Nino

Winter is still here. Check out the video on this page. The San Diego news interviews a PCT hiker on Mt. Laguna...

A Metaphor

I emailed my brother a few days ago and was trying to think of a metaphor to describe what these last couple of weeks before the trail feel like. I probably should have taken a few days off from work before leaving for San Diego, but it seemed like working and making money was probably more important. Anyways, I'm working until April 30th, moving out of my apartment and hopefully heading down to San Diego on the 1st of May, Dan flies in on the 3rd, and we begin this epic journey on the 5th. Anyways here's the metaphor I was thinking of:

When I was 10 or 11, I went camping with my friend Willie, his brother Chris, and their father Mr. Leverenz. We went to this amazing place in Western Maryland called Swallow Falls. Western Maryland is the mountainous section of the state, with beautiful green hills and mountains rolling allong the Appalachian Mountain chain. It is black bear habitat, and can be surprisingly wild in some sections. As a kid, it was a very mysterious land. I remember the drive out their was just as adventurous as the actual camping. Mr. Leverenz drove a brown, Nissan pickup truck with a bed and trailer, Willie and I usually sat in these tiny folded seats crammed between the front seats and the bed of the pickup truck, and Chris sat in the front. Mr. Leverenz always had a way to keep us entertained, whether it was refusing to stop at the new Dumont Oaks traffic light (sometimes Mr Leverenz would slow the car down to a crawl in order not to be stopped by that light), turning up the radio when Chris tried to ask a question, (Mr Leverenz would say "What Chris? I can't hear you. The radio is too loud!") or playing bluegrass on the radio, or explaining why there were runaway truck ramps on the sides of the roads. Anyways on this particular trip, the pickup truck was having a real hard time climbing the mountain roads. The truck started to stutter and shake and practically stall out every time we began a mountain climb. The truck would slow down to about 10 miles an hour while Mr Leverenz would yell "Come on, come on, you can make it!" If I remember correctly, Mr Leverenz named his truck that day. Every time he would call the name as we struggled uphill, the truck would kick into gear and we would successfully drive over the mountain pass.

Eventually we made it to Swallow Falls, A beautiful section of woods that had a large creek, waterfalls, and giant boulders and cliffs to dive off of, surrounded by evergreens and poplars. Of course, Mr. Leverenz wowed us kids with a one and a half back flip off a cliff edge straight into a back flop on the creek. The main attraction, of course, was the waterfall that gives the area it's name. I don't remember it being all that huge, but it did have a really cool cave behind it that could fit several people.

And now for the metaphor: Mr. Leverenz wanted to show Willie, Chris, and I the cave located behind the waterfall. We climbed the rocks and took the small path that brought us to the cave . It was hard to hear as the water was crashing down right in front of us. I remember watching in amazement as the water was pouring down in a silver wall inches from my face. At that moment, I couldn't resist. Mr. Leverenz was talking to us about something when I decided to stick my foot into the rushing wall of water. In an instant, I was pinned under thousands of gallons of crashing water, swept out of the cave and pinned into a tiny crevasse. What seemed like forever, I could not move and feared this was the end of my life. Just the same way I was instantaneously swept into the crevasse, I was suddenly spit out, rolling down the rock slab, dazed, confused, and free from the grips of the falling water. I was ALIVE! Mr. Leverenz soon appeared and was checking to make sure I was OK. So, in some ways, that's what it feels like right now.

The cave: my current life.
The waterfall, the pressure to get everything done.
Pinned: The transition from current life to new trail life
The first few days on the trail: most likely feeling dazed and confused
ALIVE: The rest of the trail

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Las Flores Motorway

Southern Alligator Lizard (above, below)

With all of this PCT planning, I havn't been hiking lately. Went for a couple hour hike up the Las Flores Motorway in the Verdugos. Ate some Fritos on the top of Mt. Thom and watched some clouds roll in off the Pacific.


I disassembled the PCT guide books this morning into sections and they are now ready to be placed into the appropriate resupply boxes. Thankfully, the books separate very easily. Just pull off the front and back cover and the pages peel off like sticky notes without the stick. I found affordable storage in the North Hollywood area and made reservations to move my belongings on Sunday. This week, I must buy food for the second half, and find boxes to organize resupply for the next five months. I feel pretty good, everything is going according to schedule. 2 Weeks to go before heading down to San Diego...

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I bought food this evening for the first 60 days or so on the trail. I know what your probably thinking, SPAM? Well, I've never had it before, it looked kind of interesting. It's probably going to taste great with my mac and cheese after a few weeks of hiking!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One step closer

I received my permit for entry into Canada yesterday. It came much quicker than I was expecting. I think in this case, procrastination paid off. Sounds like the permit office was swamped last month and it was taking a while for some of the other hikers to receive their permits. Sending it in behind the herd seems to have allowed a speedy return.

Yesterday, I told the last of the families I work with that I was leaving at the end of the month. I work with autistic kids as a behavior therapist, three of the families I have been with for almost two years now. I've been really worried how the families would react. It's been a mixed bag, a couple of the families seemed OK, one family has been quite upset, yesterday's family seemed happy which was a relief! I haven't really felt myself the last month or so, and I think the kids I work with have picked up on it. There's something different about actually vocalizing "I'm leaving" than just thinking about it in my mind. It becomes more real. More permanent. I talked to one of the kids I've been with for about two years who has a pretty good understanding of what's going on around him, and tried to explain to him that I was leaving and what I was going to be doing. It was the first time, this time around, I really felt the sting that comes with a goodbye. Thankfully, he just kind of looked at me and said, "Well, when you leave you can buy me an Ultimate Godzilla 2010 toy as a goodbye gift!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The rainy season is not over yet. Another storm off the Pacific is heading in this evening bringing rain tonight and tomorrow...

PCT Update

Just three weeks to go. I still feel pretty good, planning seems to moving along smoothly. This week I received my permit to hike the trail. (Still waiting for my Canada entry permit.) Two more pairs of shoes arrived in the mail, bringing the total to five. I'm the kind of guy who will wear the same shoes for a year to two years before buying new ones. It feels very strange to have so many new shoes. My registration and sticker for my car's license plate also arrived this week. Taxes are done. I also ordered a new rain jacket and some hiking pants which arrived this week. Also received some Livestrong bracelets (thanks Kathy!) in the mail. These, of course, will be given to those who support Hikestrong 2010! The next two big items on the list are food purchase, and moving my belongings into storage. Thankfully, I don't have all that much to move.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Post Work Hike

Painted lady (above)
Yellow Pincushion (above)

After a stressful day at work, I needed to get out and hike. Looks like the mustards and black sage bushes are at their peaks. Lots of lizards and butterflies darting about. The butterflies are very difficult to photograph because they are so unpredictable. A fantastic evening in Southern California.

Post Work Hike

Chamise (above)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earthquake video

Is this how mountains are formed? (Video from Sunday's quake in Mexi-Cali).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mt. Wilson Trail

Mt. Wilson (above)

Pale swallowtail (above)
I took a hike up the Mt. Wilson trail today since I had the day off from work. I only went about halfway up this time. I didn't want to turn it into an all day affair since there is still a lot to do to get ready for the PCT. Besides, there will plenty of time for all day hikes in a few weeks. It looks like a lot of the early spring wildflowers have reached their peaks, flowers being replaced by pods, seeds, and whatever else replaces the blossoms. I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt a little sad about it. On a brighter note, taxes are done and a rebate is in the mail. Yea baby!!

New specimens: Mt. Wilson trail

Pitch trefoil (above)
Stickleaf? (above)
Pipestems (above)

Showy penstemon?

Mt. Wilson Wildflowers

A collage of wildflowers from today's hike on the Mt. Wilson trail. (Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Strange clouds behind Strawberry Peak look like another mountain range.

Butterfly and beetle.
Lots of butterflys in the Verdugos today. I think they are called Mormon metalmarks?