Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Progress Map

 Looks like a straight shot east through Death Valley to Vegas from Mark's last location.  I wonder if that's at all tempting at this point?  Is possible death worth a Vegas-style buffet after a month + on the trail?

View PCT 2010 - Mark & Dan in a larger map

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows

Hi everybody,

Answer Man and I finally made it to Kennedy Meadows. What a week it's been, it's hard to know where to start. We crunched some numbers a few days ago and realized we now must hike an average of 22 miles a day to make our October 5th deadline. We've been hiking with a great group of guys off and on the last couple of weeks. It seems everyone has finally realized we've got to haul ass in order to achieve the goal of Manning Park. It was a great week, although the hottest and driest so far, to stretch our hiking muscles and see what our bodies are capable of. For me, I realized I'm in the greatest hiking shape of my life, Answer Man and I hiking over 20 miles a day the entire week. We've been camping with our friends Indie and Blackgum most frequently, and it's always a blast to share a break with these guys.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a challenging week logistically. Water was extremely scarce during this section. Controversial water caches were placed in various places along the trail which provided much needed hydration, but it's never a good idea to rely on these sources. Often I carried up to 2 gallons, or 16 pounds of water. The trail seemed to tease us this week, sometimes taking us into cool forests, and then dropping us back into exposed, extremely hot desert. Glimpses of the Sierra also whetted my appetite for cooler temperatures and abundant water.

Speaking of the Sierra, it seems we are in for quite a challenge in the upcoming weeks. Our daily hiking average is surely to decline, we are aiming for 15 miles a day if we are lucky. It seems other thru hikers are experiencing the expected treacherous stream crossings, the challenges of navigating trail covered with snow, postholing, and sheer exhaustion from hiking in these conditions. I can't wait! Answer Man, Blackgum, Indie and I will most likely team up to face these challenges. Our friends Stax and Ursa Major are also close by, as well as others who we've seen from time to time. Since we seem to be at the back of the pack, we will not be waiting in Kennedy Meadows for any more snow to melt. We begin our trek tomorrow morning.

Right now, we are spending a zero day near the Kennedy Meadows General Store. A man named Tom has opened his property to thru hikers and has given us an opportunity to rest, hang out, use the computer, and sleep. It's another amazing act of generosity by someone who makes this trip possible in the first place. Thanks Tom!

Next stop is Independence for resupply. We will be attempting to summit Mt. Whitney again this week as well. What a blessing to be able to walk in the Sierra again. I'm not sure when I will be able to post another update, so for now, thanks for reading and hopefully we will have some good stories to share!

Flyboxer and Dan the Answer Man

Robin, I will give you a call when we get to Independence. Unfortunately, I have no way to tell you when we might be arriving in Mammoth. We are planning 7 days to Independence, and then maybe 9 days to Mammoth which would be July 15th?

Michael, thanks for taking care of the pictures!

The Happiest Rock You'll Ever See

10 Questions For Mark When He Next Pops In

1. Tired yet?

2. What works and what doesn't so far?  What is your most indispensible item?  What have you discarded?

3. Is the hiking easier or more difficult than you imagined?

4. On a day to day basis, what do you think about most often?  Burritos?

5. Rate the most danger you have experienced on a scale from 1 to 10...what was it?

6. Favorite part of the trail so far?  Most disappointing?

7. What song is being replayed on your mental playlist as you hike?

8. If you had the choice between a hot shower, clean clothes or a bowl of ice cream, which would it be?

9. Have your goals changed since you started?

10. Best trail angel experience so far?

PCT Scenes #2

Maybe This Hiking Thing Will Pay Off After All

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Supply Drop

Loading up on supplies at a nearby post office.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Room With A View

The Trail is not without its comforts.

A Trove Of Photos

I  received Mark's second disc full of pictures from the trail.  There are so many, I don't know what to do with all of them!  I'll post a random photo or two on occasion, but Mark's reports from the trail are what this blog is about anyway.  Check back soon!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Agua Dulce to Tehachapi

Hi all,

Another week has come and gone and Dan and I find ourselves in Tehachapi. Dan finally earned a trailname: The Answer Man. Ask him a question and you will understand why.

After leaving the Saufley's in Agua Dulce, Answer Man and I hiked a couple more days to the Anderson's house dubbed "Casa de Luna." Answer Man gave it his own name "Casa de Loco." It's almost an impossible place to describe. Joe and Terry Anderson have opened their house and surrounding property to hiker's who happen to be passing through. When I arrived, there were hikers playing guitar, hikers playing drums on pots and pans, hikers passed out on lawn furniture, hikers staring off into space, hikers playing with dogs, hikers sleeping in the "Magical Manzanita Forest," all the while wearing the mandatory Hawaiian shirt. Answer Man, Indie, and i enjoyed a couple of cold beers and rested our weary hiking bodies. After a dinner of taco salad, provided by Terry, the evening brought more of the same. Morning brought pancakes prepared by Joe Anderson. After breakfast, Answer Man, Indie, Blackgum and I escaped the Vortex and continued our hike out of the fly infested Angeles National Forest.

It was a tough stretch of trail the following couple of days. Not only were the flys unbearable at times, water was constantly on our minds. After only a couple days of hiking, we arrived at a place called Hikertown. Another place almost impossible to describe. It's located on the floor of the Antelope Valley in the Mojave desert. The owner Richard swears he hates hikers and only gives us a place to stay because his wife makes him. I think deep down he loves us. A garage has been set aside for hikers to relax, rehydrate, and escape the oppressive desert sunshine and heat that the area is known for. Richard told us he used to keep a Ferrari and a couple of Rolls Royces in the garage we now found ourselves relaxing in. Later that night, after several trips into town to buy food, Answer Man, Indie, Blackgum, Mountain Tripper, and Hiker X spent the evening watching "Paint Your Wagon" starring Clint Eastwood.

The next morning began the trek across the desert floor. It was a fascinating hike along the California and LA aqueducts. Thankfully, temperatures were not all that hot and a steady breeze kept us cool throughout the day. Before long, the day was over and we had successfully and somewhat painlessly crossed the desert floor, and the dreaded aqueduct section was over. The next day, we hiked into and over the Tehachapi mountains, passed another wind farm, and hitched a ride into the town of Tehachapi. Answer Man has a knack for getting hitches on the first or second extension of his thumb. Yesterday was no different as we received a ride from the first car that drove by. Last night we stayed at the Ranch Motel with Hiker X and Blackgum. Locals refer to it as the "Rank Motel," but it's been an enjoyable stay for us. Tonight we will stay one more night, Indie has arrived this afternoon, and we will head out early tomorrow morning. Next stop, Kennedy Meadows, and the long awaited Sierra Nevada. Thanks for reading...

Flyboxer and Answer Man.

Michael, I just sent the chip today. It should arrive in a few days.

More From The Early Trail

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wrightwood to Aqua Dulce

Hi all,

Dan and I just arrived at Hiker Heaven in Aqua Dulce. It's a house owned by the Saulfley's, a couple who has offered their home to all hikers along the PCT. It's a place to socialize, rest, shower, and resupply. It's an incredible act of generosity by a family who obviously cares about hikers. Anyways, another great week has come and gone along the PCT.

The week began as Dan and I resupplied in Wrightwood and received a ride from a hiker named Wingheart from Baltimore, who is section hiking the PCT this year and who just happened to have his vehicle in town. Dan and I were able to camp in the high country of the Angeles National Forest, with amazing views of Mt. Baldy and Baden Powell. It was quite nostalgic to be camped overlooking the city of LA once again, and to gaze at the peaks that have inspired awe, dread, and happiness for the last two years. The next day, the PCT led Dan and I to Baden Powell, and after an hour of some sketchy snow travel, we achieved the summit and were rewarded with views of Baldy, San Gorgonio, Jacinto, and the snowy peaks of the High Sierra. We also met Jersey Fresh at the summit, who has changed his trail name to Indie. (You can read his trail journal here.) After Baden Powell, we hiked past Throop Peak which I hadn't seen since last summer. After camping at Little Jimmy Campground, Dan and I headed down the South Fork trail towards Devil's Punchbowl. At the end of the day, we met up with hikers Stax and Ursa Major once again. We camped near the visitor's center next to some picnic tables where the ground was covered with ants.

The next day, we were greeted by the much dreaded road walk detour. Due to last summer's Station Fire, a 46 mile section of the PCT has been closed and hikers are required to hike roads around the burn area. It actually was not as bad as we thought it would be. The views were great, the weather was surprisingly cool, and we leapfrogged several of our hiking friends throughout the day, Indie, Stax, Ursa Major, and a new guy Captain Kamikaze. After a 25 mile day, Dan, Indie and I camped alongside the road in a wash area and had a relaxing evening.

Dan and I finished the detour the following day but first met with an elderly couple at Blum Ranch along the road. Elizabeth and Ray have been running the family farm since the 1950's, the homestead has been in the family for over 120 years. They entertained us with stories including the drama surrounding last years fires, Elizabeth's brief stay in the county jail at 68 years old (the police department apologized profusely after an incident involving a power tripping cop), and stories about the family. They gave us fresh fruit for our journey and I bought the most amazing tasting honey that they acquired from their bee farm. After a long day of road walking, Dan and I finally rejoined the PCT and camped in one of my most favorite spots so far, a cave near Vasquez Rocks. It was more of a cliff overhang, similar to one you might see at Mesa Verde National Park. I'm sure many people have sought shelter in this area over the years.

Finally, Dan and I met up with Indie this morning and had a fantastic hike to a Mexican restaurant in Aqua Dulce, watched the World Cup game involving USA and England, and hiking to the Saulfley's at Hiker Heaven. This week, we begin the much anticipated desert section of the PCT, where we begin our trek across the Mojave desert towards our next trail stop in Tehachapi.

Thanks for reading and talk to you all soon...

Flyboxer and Dan

Michael, I will send you another chip tomorrow along with a PO address to send the empty discs. Cool maps by the way!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scenes From The First Leg

A few pictures from the early sections of the hike.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Progress Map

View PCT 2010 - Mark & Dan in a larger map

OK, I think I figured this out just a little bit.  Hope it works.  My plan is to (approximately) plot points on interest on the map based on Mark's dispatches and communications with me.  Since I'm tired of messing with this, for now I have added just four points: start, wind farms, and the location of Mark's first two dispatches.  I hope to keep this working and updated as he hikes.  You can click on the link below the map for a bigger version of the map.  On the left side of the bigger map, you can click on links that will take you directly to the points I plotted.  I hope this works now! 

Happy Trails

My guess is this photo was taken as Mark finally stepped foot on the real PCT the day after the blizzard.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Progress Map

[By popular request, I'm experimenting with a map of Mark & Dan's progress on the trail.  This is my first attempt, so please don't laugh if it's an utter failure.  My plan is to keep this map updated as we receive dispatches from Mark.  I'll try to keep it continuously posted at the top of the blog, so please check for new posts and reports from the trail below.  I have downloaded the GPS coordinates for the entire trail, which you can click through section-by-section.  The progress plot points will always be in the first map, so you won't be able to see them as you click through the trail sections.  Sorry, these are the limits of my computer programming abilities.  If you find this map completely useless, let me know in the comments and I'll pull it down.]

View Mark & Dan PCT 2010 in a larger map

UPDATE: I'm going to pummel whoever invented this program.  I just spent an hour and half adding plot points and photos to the map, none of which saved despite pressing "save" each time I added something.  Mr. Google, I demand satisfaction!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Big Bear to Wrightwood

I'll have to make this quick since I've only got a few minutes of Internet time at the Wrightwood Library. It has been another great week on the PCT. Temperatures have really started to heat up the last few days and I find myself near my old stomping grounds near the Angeles National Forest.

Dan and I left Big Bear after spending some time getting to know fellow hikers Jersey Fresh, Stax, Ursa Major, Mike, Darren and Stevie, Zombie, and Jake. I wish I had more time to describe each hiker because each one is fantastically unique. We spent a couple of amazing days hiking along the Deep Creek River camping with Stax, Ursa Major and Mike, swimming when it got too hot, hiking when we were energized, fed, and somewhat cool. The trail took us past a hot springs (clothing optional.) After spending the night and leaving the nudists later the next morning, we hiked out of the canyon towards the desert floor where we discovered an interesting Echo Chamber. We hiked towards Arrow Head Lake where I forgot my socks (I hiked an additional 8 miles to retrieve them) and on towards Cajon Pass. There we met up with Mike who was suffering from heat exhaustion. We checked into the Best Western to get some rest and rehydration (as well as McDonald's and Subway) and continued on towards Wrightwood. The trail took a detour to avoid a burn area and soon enough Mt. Baldy was back into view. After hiking all day today, Dan, Mike and I find ourselves in Wrightwood.

We were fortunate to experience some more trail magic this week. A couple in a pickup truck stopped to give us cold soda and and an ice cold towel to wash our faces. A group of Latinos from San Bernandino gave us cold beer as we hiked pass on Lytle Creek road. Several folks have offered rides and food. The trail really seems to bring out all sorts of kindness from strangers, It's really amazing.

Anyway, I've only got a couple of minutes left, but next stop is Aqua Dulce. We have to take another 45 mile detour around the Station Fire Burn Area and then we will find ourselves in the Mojave. Michael, I'll have to send you pictures at the next stop since the Post Office is closed here in Wrightwood. Talk to you all soon...

-Flyboxer and Dan

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It seems strange writing a post about a blizzard after having sweated my way through a weekend of yardwork and home repairs.  But as Mark mentioned in his last dispatch, he and Dan unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of one shortly after beginning their hike from Idyllwild.  You won't see much of the peril faced by our hikers in the photos below.  In fact, the images don't seem all that extraordinary.  They surely don't tell the real story, however.  I know from two weeks kayaking in the Everglades spent fighting high winds and rough seas that rendered my left arm useless from tendinitis for a week, that all my peaceful photos of nesting birds, tranquil campsites, and postcard perfect sunsets had very little to do with the battles I fought on the water each and every day.  When you're preoccupied with fighting the elements, there isn't much time to stop for pictures.  There's probably plenty more to this scene from the PCT that only words could make real.  I am sure these pictures just scratch the surface.

The blizzard pictures and story remind me of something that happened to me several years ago.  On a solo vacation in Southern France, I decided to take a day trip into the French Pyrennes, to a ski town called Cauteret.  Being late October, it was cold, but not too bad.  For the most part, a long sleeve t-shirt was enough, particularly in Lourdes where I was staying.  Lourdes was only in the foothills of the Pyrennes, not ski country.  I thought it might be chillier in the higher elevations of Cauteret, so I purchased a pair of fleece-lined pants and planned to a take a hike when I reached town.  Once there I bought a map, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, some cigars and a Swiss Army knife and headed into the mountains in a long sleeve t-shirt and shorts.  After a couple hours, and as I gained elevation, it started to snow.  So I put on the pants and a thin raincoat.  The higher I went, the colder it go, and the more it snowed.  I was caught completely off guard (thank goodness for the wine purchase).  Once the trail started to disappear, I decided to head back, and luckily was able to make out the trail and get back below the snow line without getting lost.  I survived, but there was a lesson to be learned about being prepared.  The raincoat and fleece lined pants wouldn't have done much good if I had lost my way and had to spend an extended time on the mountain.  Back in town, I shook off the experience, and went in search of some hot chocolate to warm back up.  Unfortunately, I discovered that at 4pm in France, everyone is in the middle of a two hour midday break.  Instead, I headed to my bus stop and sat unsatisfied in the chilly mist cursing this no good cultural tradition.

The Boy Scouts' motto "Be Prepared" is no joke.  Mark and Dan luckily recognized the danger the blizzard posed and remained in communication with a friend below who monitored the weather.  I'm sure there will be other spots on the PCT where Mark and Dan see "red flags" and will need to make decisions that may prevent bodily injury.  Both are experienced enough in the outdoors that they are likely prepared to make the right choices.  Glad they passed the first test and are continuing the journey!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day One

These pictures appear to be from the first day on the trail as Mark and his buddy Dan prepare to walk away from lives typical of 300 million Americans, and full-time into the soon to be well-worn shoes of one of a mere 300 successful PCT thru hikers of an average year.

I've taken the liberty of making some minor edits to these photos (cropping, etc.) using my meager Photoshop skills, but otherwise, they're strait from Mark's camera.

Since posting photos + text couldn't be more difficult on Blogger, here is a list of what appears below:

a. The trailhead into the San Jacinto Wilderness at Idyllwild.  The hike begins here for real this time! 
b. An obstacle looms in the distance.
c. Last minute weight check.  According to another photo, both Mark and Dan came in just under 43 pounds each.
d. Our intrepid hikers: Dan on the left, Mark on the right.  I can't wait to see the "after" photo in five months.  My guess: just a tad woolier.
e. And knowing is half the battle.


Pictures Soon!

Today an envelope arrived from Big Bear City, CA containing a disk with some images from Mark's first couple weeks on the trail.  Time permitting, I hope to post a few over the coming days.  Stop back!

(Mark, I'll take care of the letter as you requested.  Also, make sure to include a forwarding address next time you send  a disk so I can be certain to get them to back to you on time.)