Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fly Fishing in Utah

Anyone who knows me, knows that fishing is not my favorite thing to do. It's kind of a time suck. I could be working, hiking/exercising, writing, reading. Essentially anything else other than fishing. Ever since Cori got into fly fishing last August she's been begging me to try it. Today, I agreed to go on a guided trip through Circle Valley Anglers. Admittedly I was kind of excited.

Our guide Lenny, took us to Mammoth Creek. The creek meandered along the backside of some private homes, down some dusty dirt roads in the middle of nowhere town Utah.The sun was shining, and the river was peaceful. It was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Arches National Park: Delicate Arch

"A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American." --Edward Abbey

Delicate Arch
Miles: 3.2 (Moderate)
Elevation Gain: 670 ft.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bryce Canyon

My eyes popped open at 7:30am. I wanted so badly to sleep, but my internal clock was saying "haha! sucks for you!" I moved in slow motion, in a haze, stuck somewhere between sleep and a daydream. Cori was still asleep. I was full of jealousy. I can't remember the last time I slept through a night. I stumbled out of our musty motel room, and greeted by the cold morning air. It was 31 degrees in the high desert, blindingly bright and breathtakingly beautiful.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Zion National Park

Angel's Landing
Miles: 5.4 (round trip - out and back)

Are we there yet? Breathe. Oh my God don't look down. Breathe. Sweet Jesus it's hot. Just breathe. Kids hike this?!? No Fing way. Just freaking breathe. Move forward; one step at a time. Oh thank God a traffic jam, we can stop for a minute. Breathe. Look at all those happy people coming back down; so relieved that the rock scramble is almost over. We're moving again. Breathe. Are we there yet?...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Death Valley National Park

After leaving Mono Lake we headed toward Death Valley National Park to camp for the night. We were somewhat on a time table that allowed us solely to enjoy the park by car. I was okay with this since (#1) it was getting late and (#2) the temperature outside was somewhere in the 80's and the thermostat got higher and higher the closer we got toward the park.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mono Lake

We left Shasta Trinity National Forest and headed back south. Under the advice of both friends and friendly strangers, we stopped by Mono Lake on our way to Utah. We weren't really sure what to expect but it kept being mentioned so we figured why not stop through.

The lake is located just to the east of Yosemite National Park, and serves as a major stop for migratory birds. Following our trend, we had gotten the there a few weeks before the huge influx of birds but there were still a few lingering out on the dry landscape.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I woke up this morning wanting to rip someone's face off. I needed to exercise. This sitting in a car thing is killing me, and unless I'm hiking 15 miles a day I'm not gonna keep the crazy away. Luckily, the hotel Siena Spa and Casino (Reno, NV) where we stayed last night had a gym, which had a treadmill. I jogged out the demons for about 30 minutes before heading to breakfast. I should be good for a few hours.

We've spent a lot of time focusing on logistics the past two days, but we finally have a new plan in place. We're heading back down South to National Park hop our way through Utah and across southern Colorado. But before we left the evergreen trees of beautiful Northern California we spent the night in Trinity-Shasta National Forest with the hope of getting some better views of Mt. Shasta. I say hope because a storm was rolling in, smothering Mt. Shasta in a swirl of grey and white.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Redding, CA

There is no National Park in Redding, CA, I know. We took a slight detour. We were actually on our way to Lassen Volcanic NP only to realize 1.5 hrs before our arrival that the main road through the park was closed and so were all the campgrounds. We've grown so accustomed to summer weather (by Boone standards) that we didn't really consider that winter, unfortunately, is still upon Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately this means no Crater Lake, Yellowstone, or Grand Tetons which is a little disappointing, however, it just means we need to stick to the southerly route on the way back to North Carolina.

Friday, April 10, 2015


After taking refuge in Madera, CA to wait out a passing snowstorm we headed North to Yosemite National Park. The recent snow event caused some roads closure including Glacier Point where had planned to spend the afternoon so we headed into Yosemite Valley instead.

I'm overwhelmed by the amount of people here in Yosemite Valley. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like in the summer time. Even in early April, traffic is bumper to bumper. Short trails leading to popular attractions are nearly shoulder to shoulder. There are lines for a deli. There is a grocery store. Lodges. I understand these things exist in a National Park, but to experience the reality of it is a bit of a shocker. I feel like I'm in an amusement park.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

After rounding up some packages in the desert Cori and I headed North, but not without stopping in the Mojave one last time to get my picture with a Joshua Tree. I'm not exactly sure what my fascination is with these odd looking trees, but I've always been intrigued by them. To me they look like alien palm trees, but in fact are the largest species in the Yucca family. They exist mostly in the Mojave Desert, the hottest desert in North America, and their pollination is solely reliant on the female pronuba moth that lays her eggs on the yucca seeds which then hatch and provide food for the larvae.

Our drive into Sequoia meandered through the western foothills of the Sierra Mountain range. Here, elevations below 5,000 feet are too dry to support much vegetation beyond grasses and shrubs. I was surprised by this, thinking that we were far enough north to be out of the desert. I guess I'm spoiled by the lush green vegetation of the Southern Appalachians. Still the tall grass rolling hills were a welcomed change of scenery.

It's so hard to believe that these grassy hills lead the way to some of the largest organisms in the world. Mind boggling really. This past year I read The Wild Trees_by Richard Preston, a novelistic style non-fiction book about the Redwood and Sequoia's of Northern California. An excellent read for anyone interested in the adventure and science of these trees. My mind kept regressing back to the books passages about the discovery of the groves, their magestic nature, and the thrill of discovering such a magnificent organism! And here I was, wiggling around in my seat like a two year who has to pee. I was just giddy with excitement. "Redwoods! We're going to see Redwoods!" I exclaimed. "No we're not", Cori replied, with a thin lined smirk rising across her face. "We're going to see Sequoias. Not the same thing. " Leave it to the plant physiologist to bring me back down to earth. She's correct though, although easily confused and often described interchangeably, they are in fact different species. One of the most notable differences is where they are found. Sequoia's are found on the western slopes of the Sierras between 4,000 - 8,000 feet. The Redwoods, on the other hand, are located along the Pacific Coast. There are also many other physical/biological differences that distinguish each species. You can read more about their differences on the National Park Service website if you're interested.

It was the end of Easter weekend as we pulled up to the park entrance. I was hoping to get a campsite in the Lodgepole campground to sleep near the trees, but the welcome sign noted that the site was full. Bummer. We quickly snagged a campsite at Buckeye instead which is in the foothills. More desert. Yay!!! (Please note the sarcasm). Honestly though, this worked to our advantage since the night temps would drop below freezing up at Lodgepole and we would be much warmer camping at 2,900 feet than at 6,500 feet. Thank you fate.

After securing a spot to camp we headed North along the Generals Highway, stopping to get a glimpse of Moro Rock and it's neighboring peaks.

The drive up to the Giant Forest was slam-on -the-breaks spectacular. Thank goodness for pull-offs.

Sequoia National Park is the nation's second oldest National Park, and the first National park created to protect a single living organism. So it seemed fitting to make our first hike to see General Sherman, the largest (by volume) and one of the oldest trees on earth. General Sherman stands nearly 275 feet tall and is 106.5 feet across at its widest point. The tree is estimated to be between 2,300 - 2,700 years old.

The tree itself is fenced off for protection which was understandable but still slightly disappointing. Luckily there were plenty of other trees to admire up close and personal.

The second largest tree, General Grant is in Sequoia's neighboring park, Kings Canyon. The Grant Tree is the largest tree within the Grant Tree grove and is currently the second largest tree in the world. It stands 267.4 feet tall and measures 107.6 around its base.

A snow storm is moving into the region so we drove out of the park a day early and took refuge at a Quality Inn (Thank you Christine for the hook up!). Next stop, Yosemite!

Plan B: Western National Park Tour 2015

How do you grieve the death of a vision? I could dwell on what I "should" be doing (literally walking my ass off from Mexico to Canada). I could spend the next several days sobbing and being full of resentment as I make my way back to North Carolina. Or, I can look at my new found situation as an opportunity to see places that are on my bucket list. Why not? We paid to come all the way out here, and we're in no great hurry to go home. Bills are paid for the next five months and the dogs are being well taken care of. There seems to be no better time then the present.

I can't really take credit for this fantastic idea. I was pretty ready to be a sorrowful individual, but Cori came to me with the suggestion that we take this crappy situation of not hiking the PCT and try to take advantage of being out West to see some the world's most beautiful and historic places. It took awhile for the new plan to settle in, but when I could let go of my ego momentarily I had to admit that this new "Plan B" (as we've come to call it) actually sounded pretty awesome.

We came up with a short list of National Parks; Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountains. Cori would rent a car and we would travel to each park spending a day or two in each one, and camp each night. If we wanted to stay somewhere longer or add places to the list we could always extend the rental car reservation. I know this means we just get to dabble in each of these places, but it still gives us the chance to see areas that we've never been to, and we get to experience them together.

Usually I use this blog to talk about my trail adventures, and driving across country doesn't really fit in with this theme. Still, I'd really love to share these places with our friends and family (the four of you that will read this) and I see no other valid reason to share it somewhere other then here.

So, over the next few weeks I'll share our adventures at each National Park as we make our way back East. Our first stop, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Day 2: What's Important in Life?

Lake Morena to Cibbets Campground
13.0 Miles

What's important in life? Is it how much money you make? How successful you become? The things you own? The experiences you have? The relationships you form? This question and all its potential answers have been funneling through my mind over the past two days. I'm sure for most, the answer to this question is some or all of these factors. Or maybe none of these at all.

I'm a very goal oriented person. I make up my mind to do something and I do it; at all expenses and sometimes regardless of the consequences (both positive and negative). I don't like to fail. So when we strolled into camp tonight and my partner looked at me and said she didn't think she could do this I blew her off. It took her breaking down into tears explaining in between sobs that her heart kept skipping beats and she had pain running through her chest for me to start looking beyond my own selfish goals.

Cori does have a heart condition, Wolf Parkinsons White syndome. Basically her heart has a tendency to race and/or have extra beats. She has a regular heart doctor that she sees annually who believed she would be okay out here despite the heat. She is active and healthy. She's ran marathons, played roller derby, and hiked the Appalachian Trail; all with no heart problems. On most accounts she is a healthy person. Still, the condition exists and she's had episodes in the past that caused her to modify her activity levels.

We knew this coming out here so we were careful to train and prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities. While hiking we've been extremely careful to stay hydrated and nourished. So when she first mentioned that she was in pain, that her chest hurt and she could feel her heart skipping beats which was making her uncomfortable I dismissed her. She needed to drink more water. She needed to realize that this was going to hurt. Thru-hiking hurts. We were going to be uncomfortable for a few weeks until we adjusted. She was fine. We hiked on. When we strolled into camp tonight she was in tears before she could even put her pack down. She hurt. Her heart was skipping beats and she was dizzy and nauseous. She couldn't do this. What do I say to that? OK, go home I'll see you in five months? You're being a hypochondriac drama queen. Get your shit together?

Cori and I have been together for almost six years. In that time I have seen her cry three times. Maybe. This was real. So at this point, what's important? The thought of leaving the PCT is devastating. And we just got started. But what are the consequences if I stick to my selfish goals and somehow convince her to stay with me? Daily sobbing episodes? Constant fights? Or something worse? Could she really have a heart attack? Is flirting with the line of dehydration for the next 700 miles really worth it?

No. It is not worth it. This wasn't some leg pain and sore shoulders. Tight calves and sore feet. Blisters. These things are to be expected. We were about to enter the Mojave Desert, the hottest desert in North America. We would have to hike 15-20 mile stretches in blazing heat daily just to replenish our water so we could keep ourselves hydrated.

I've come to believe that the relationships we form and the experiences we have with the ones we love are going to be what we cherish most in life. For that reason (and a few others) I am choosing to leave with Cori. Sending her home alone with no home to go to, and no job, and three dogs to pick up and take care of is not what a good partner does. I wouldn't want it done to me.

We are trying to make the best of a very devastating turn of events. We have rented a car and are making our way North. We plan on visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Tetons while we make our way home over the next two weeks.

The PCT will always be there. I'm sure we'll find our way out west sometime in the future.

P.S. I almost stepped on a rattle snake today and it scared the shit out of me.

Drying our stuff out in a lunch break

Day 1: Trail Angels on the First Day

Campo to Lake Morena
20 Miles

My alarm went off at 5 am this morning but I didn't need it. I was wide awake with anticipation. How was today going to go? Could I handle the heat? Would Cori be OK (she was full of nerves)?

We reached the Mexican border at Campo around 7:15. It was 34 degrees outside but the sun rising overhead made the cool morning bearable in my shorts and sun shirt. A few other hikers were already at the trailhead, excitedly strapping on their packs and preparing to head north.

We walked over to the southern terminus PCT monument whose light grey pillars stood out against the tall rusty panels of the Mexican border. Streched out in front of me was a seemingless endless stretch of shrubby green wilderness crisscrossed by by dusty dirt roads which were occupied by the occasional passing border patrol trucks.

After signing the register and taking a few photos at the border we were off.

I was heavy under the weight of my pack. The first 20 miles of the PCT are waterless, so I was carrying six liters (roughly 13 lbs.) of water to get me to Lake Morena, our intended final destination for the evening.

The trail meandered slowly along the edge of a small neighborhood and the eventually turned slightly west bringing us deeper into desert. Our climbs were gradual which was nice and the weather remained relatively cool until 11:00 when the heat started to become unbearable. Around 11:30 we took refuge in some shade to let our feet air out and to let our bodies cool down. This became our routine for the rest of the afternoon. We would hike for about two hours, find shade, air out our feet, snack and hydrate.

We made to Hauser Creek which is a dried up creek bed at mile 15 around 4:00. The was a small water cache in the creek that some nice soul had left for thirsty hikers. We didn't need to utilize it since we started off prepared to make it to Lake Morena but it gave us an opportunity to stop short and camp if we wanted to. After some discussion we decided to push on.

The climb out of Hauser Creek was long, hot, and exposed. I began to question our decision to push on as my heart pounder in my chest and me feet began to throb beneath me. We took it slow, drank plenty of water, and stumbled into Lake Morena Campground around 7 pm.

As we made our way towards the ranger station to check in and pay for a campsite a woman came running over to us. "Are y'all PCT hikers? Yes ma'am" we replied back. "We have plenty of food. Why don't you two come on over and get something to warm to eat. Save your dehydrated stuff for another night." Her name was Cheryl and she was camping with three of her friends. They all worked in the education system and were there relaxing on Spring Break. I was in heaven and no longer regretted our decision to move forward. As we made our plates they also offered us to the chance to camp at their site for the evening which was already paid for.

It was a perfect ending to a tough day.