Almost to Kennedy Meadows!

We never originally planned on going into Lake Isabella, but we did. We even took a zero day due to the weather. A storm was rolling in, and we had a hotel room. The whole hotel was full of hikers, and we stood outside together and watched the dark clouds and rain over the mountains. The next day was even worse, but Lingo and I were getting restless. More and more hikers were entering town and rumor was that the “herd” was coming. By the time our package arrived it was close to 5pm. Lingo, Rocket Llama and I went out to the road and stuck out our thumbs. The goal was to get out of town and back on trail, not necessarily make decent miles (after all, it was already 5pm!) We were standing at the entrance to the freeway, wet from the rain, and car after car passed us by. One car in particular was full on “murder mobile.” It looked creepy, with duct tape holding it together, and no door handles. Rocket Llama was doing her Rocket Llama dance, hopping on one foot, thumb out, smiling. Her dance is silly and normally get rides, but we didn’t want THIS ride. “Not this one Rocket!” said Lingo. Too late. The car stopped. “What do we do?” I asked. We took the ride, and guess what? We didn’t die! He only took us half way, but we caught another ride that dropped us of at the trail. (We later found out that if we had hitched out the NEXT morning we would have gotten trail magic from Yogi doing a pancake breakfast at the road!) But we didn’t get trail magic. We instead hiked only 4 miles and camped with our trail friend Topo under some trees to avoid all the rain.

Heading into the storm

Heading into the storm

Lingo in the rain

Lingo in the rain

At night Lingo and I noticed the rain stop and the clouds disperse. We rolled up a door on each side of the tent to avoid condensation inside our tent. Unfortunately our tent still got condensation, which got our down bags and all our things wet. We would have been drier sleeping outside. Topo and all her belonging were soaked too. Lingo was really angry all day about our tent. It was a cold and cloudy morning, but when the sun came out we took an early lunch break and laid out our sleeping bags and tent to dry. The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind that day. Sometimes the sun would peak out, and it would be so pretty. The clouds would move in quickly though, and you would hear thunder overhead. We took an afternoon break to filter water and make coffee. There were bees flying us while we filtered the water. It was cold out and drinking coffee was nice. By the end of the day, Lingo, Rocket and I caught up to Hog. He was sitting with another hiker. We scoped the area and set up our tent. We then all sat in a circle and had dinner together and talked about our day. The sky was getting stormy again. Rocket Llama doesn’t like to use her tent, so she set up her mat and sleeping bag. “Here’s my plan guys! If it rains.. Im getting up.. and Im hiking out of here!” she said to us. Well as if the trail gods heard her, it started to rain. She didn’t get up and hike out. I threw her stuff in our tent until she set up her own tent. I fell asleep to the sound of the rain (and this time our tent worked. We woke up dry!)

It was very windy in this spot.

It was very windy in this spot.

Lingo

Lingo

A beautiful view!

A beautiful view!

The next day we were getting closer to Kennedy Meadows. Kennedy Meadows is a big achievement. It’s the start of the Sierra Mountains! We’d be done with the desert (for now,) and hiking in the beautiful mountains, at high elevation, with plenty of water! I hurt my foot/ankle this day. It was the top of my foot, and it hurt with every step. I don’t even know how it happened. Perhaps it was because I was trying to walk really fast and stepped funny? That day I also was able to see a “Mojave Green” rattlesnake. I thought we were too north to see any, but there one was! Rocket was listening to a podcast about tattoos and set the snake off. She didn’t even notice him! She managed to have passed the snake, leaving the snake rattling in the middle of the trail, with us stuck behind it. “Whoops! Sorry guys!” she chuckled and kept hiking. This snake was very angry. We heard that Mojave Greens can lunge and are more aggressive than other rattlesnakes. We ended up having to hike off the side of the mountain to pass it. By the time we caught up to our friend Hog he had set up his tent near a river. We camped with him again that night. We were very close to Kennedy Meadows, about 3 miles short. Rocket pushed on that night but my foot was aching.

"We're getting closer!" Lingo

“We’re getting closer!” Lingo

We hiked the last few miles the next morning and hit the 700 mile marker! We arrived at Kennedy Meadows around 8am, just in time for some coffee!

Sugarpine feeling proud of 700 miles!

Sugarpine feeling proud of 700 miles!

Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows

Advertisements

Santa Cruz Mountains

IMG_0167

Chelsea at Henry Cowell Redwoods

Hello Glorious Redwoods! It has been too long! I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 years since I stayed at my Dad’s cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.. oh well. Chas and I really wanted to visit my family before we started our trip, so we made it a point to do so. It feels like a vacation within a vacation. Lots of hiking, camping, and family time!

Henry Cowell Redwoods

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Chas and I took my younger brother to do a fun nature loop at Henry Cowell Redwoods. I’ve done this nature loop in the past, and I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then. It’s such a beautiful park. I love seeing the redwood trees, especially the great big ones! One of the trees is over 270 feet tall, and 17 feet across it’s trunk! Looking for banana slugs within the sorrel ( the clover-looking plant around redwood trees) is always fun too. There is even an albino redwood tree! The albino tree lacks chlorophyl, which plants need to stay alive, but also gives the green-color to plants. This albino tree has attached it to another nearby tree and takes the nearby tree’s chlorophyl, allowing the albino tree to live.

IMG_0160

Huge tree

IMG_0173

Albino redwood

After the nature loop, we went over to Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz for a delicious vegan “milkshake.” I got a chocolate shake, with cookie crumbs mixed in. The boys didn’t order a shake, but looked jealous when mine arrived. So I offered to share 🙂 Yum! Henry Cowell Redwoods has another part of the park, which we hiked a few days later. This was called the Fall Creek Unit, and is at the northern section. We made a loop of about 5 miles. Along the hike we climbed the mountain ridge, explored old lime kilns, and traveled along a river. Hiking here in the redwood forest was a nice change from the San Diego desert climate.

IMG_0247

Pretty sorrel everywhere

IMG_0239

Chas and Buddy Banana Slug

IMG_0228

The old lime kilns

Castle Rock State Park Overnight

Ready for our overnight!

Ready for our overnight!

Can't keep Chas from climbing rocks

Can’t keep Chas from climbing rocks

IMG_0301

Chelsea admiring all the trees

We really wanted to do a backpacking trip in the mountains, but all the backpacker camps in Big Basin were closed for the season. Only one was open, and it was the backpacker camp at Castle Rock State Park. The hike in was only a few miles, but we had the whole camp to ourselves! It was a little scary knowing there were no park rangers or other hikers. It was just Chas and I, along with all the signs warning us about predatory animals. All the sites were deep in the dense trees, and dark by early afternoon. We finally found a spot close to the edge of the mountain, where the trees opened up and the ground was almost sandy. The sun was shining, and gave us warmth even though it was cold and windy out. We knew this spot would be perfect for us! We had found a pile of firewood previous campers left on the other side of the campground, so we returned to gather it. We were stoked we could have a nice warm campfire that night.  We made dinner after setting up our tent. We tested the food we will be eating along the PCT. We made Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and cut up some vegan “jerquee” to add. It had been over 15 years since I ate Kraft Mac & Cheese, and it was better than I remembered.

Mmm mac & cheese with "jerky"

Mmm mac & cheese with “jerquee”

We altered the recipe a little bit to practice for our big trip. This is how we made it:

  • We boiled 1 1/2 cups of water on the Jetboil. (By using less water there is no need to drain or simmer.)
  • Turn off heat.
  • Add pasta, some olive oil, “jerquee”, and cheese packet (no milk or dairy necessary)
  • Turn stove back on. Heat to a boil. Then turn off heat.
  • Stir. Put on lid, and place in pot cozy for 10 minutes. (This saves fuel)
  • Stir it once more.
  • Let sit another 10 minute.
  • Eat it!

After dinner we watched the sunset, and got into our tent. The wind was roaring by now, but our tent held up like a champ! We were scared of moisture buildup inside the tent like it did in the desert, so this time we made sure the tent had ventilation. We laid in our bags, trying to sleep. But the wind was so loud we couldn’t right away. The wind wasn’t the only problem though. We woke up the next morning with sand in our tent, our eyes, and mouth. But hey, there was no condensation this time! Haha. Practice will make perfect.. I hope!

Us with our tent

Us with our tent

Chas making coffee

Chas making coffee

We hiked back out to the car, and indulged in beer and veggie burgers topped with avocado fries at Boulder Creek Brewery. It was a great way to end our little overnight trip- dirty, buzzed, and a full belly!

Yummm

Yummm

We had a great time up in Santa Cruz. Lots of hiking, and I got to hang out with my family almost every day of the week. We made homemade pizzas, barbecued, hung out by the pool, and enjoyed each other’s company. I’m really glad I got to spend time with my family and friends before our trip. I’m looking forward to having them meet us along the way!

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Valentine’s Camping

IMG_84971

Our Tent

Chas and I went camping in Mount Laguna last week. We camped the same night that we met our friends for a full moon hike. We love the Laguna Campground, so it was the perfect place to camp and celebrate Valentines Day. We finally got to test a lot of our gear too!

What kind of gear did we test?

Tarptent Double Rainbow

IMG_85121

Our tent

(Features from Tarptent.com)

  • Free-standing (with trekking poles) or staked
  • Hybrid bathtub floor — clip / unclip floor walls for splash, space, views, and airflow
  • Dual netting doors for views, airflow, and insect resistance; bug proof when zipped up Dual beaks shield rain, provides gear storage
  • Fast setup — 2 minutes from sack to pitched
  • Small packed size — removable strut for stuffing
  • Taut pitch resists wind, sag, and storms; integrated line tighteners
  • Reflective spectra cord guylines included

Therm-a-rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad

IMG_84911

Sleeping bags, Z Lite pads, and my sleeping pants

Chas has been using his for awhile, but it was my first time. It in no way compares to our super comfy bed, but  it offers a little more cushioning than sleeping on the ground does. Why the Z Lite? It’s ultralight and easy to pack. Some hikers cut 1/4 of it off to save weight (and just use an empty pack for padding under their feet.)

  • Fold up easily like an accordion.
  • Has heat trapping “dimples”
  • ThermaCaptureâ„¢ coating that reflects radiant heat (this is supposed to increase warmth by 20%)
  • Foams are softer on top for extra comfort and denser on the bottom for extra durability.
  • Ultralight
  • Weighs 10 oz.
  • Made in USA

Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag

We’ve already used these bags a few times. We bought these for each other as Christmas presents. I love this bag! We used our clothing “stuff sacks” as pillows.

  • Weighs 1 lb 13 oz
  • 16 oz down fill
  • Rated for temperatures down to 20 degrees
  • Full down collar to help trap heat around your neck

Sleepwear 

For sleeping we each have a set of long underwear, or a base layer. This consists of a top and bottoms. We chose to use Patagonia Capalene 3. They were really comfy, and paired with my sleeping bag I stayed nice and warm! This base layer with be used just for sleeping so they don’t get dirty and smelly. Some details from the website:

  • Stretchy double-knit fabric wicks extremely well
  • Smooth face slides easily beneath layers
  • Fabric brushed for warmth, softness and compressibility
  • Self-fabric crewneck for next-to-skin comfort
  • Thumb loops for secure hand coverage

Jetboil Sol Ti

IMG_84951

Jetboil, coffee, and a h2o bottle

We were originally going to go with an alcohol stove that uses denatured alcohol and weighs almost nothing. But because of how dry it is this year, and the risk of wildfires, many National Forests are considering putting a ban on them because they don’t have an off switch. So we decided to use the Jetboil. We also got a french press attachment piece for morning coffee ( I know, sounds silly but we’re trying to cut weight in so many places that I feel we earned this and we really really love coffee.)

  • Holds .8 L
  • Includes burner, cook pot, pot support, canister tripod
  • Lightest Jetboil cooking system
  • Very fast heating rate (a little over 2 min)
  • Excellent fuel efficiency
  • Excellent cold resistance

We woke up on Valentine’s Day in our tent, a little sore from all the hiking during the week, but nice and warm. Chas made us coffee with the new french press accessory and it didn’t really work. The coffee grounds came up the sides of the filter, but whatever. We just let the ground sink to the bottom and enjoyed some cowboy coffee.

IMG_85141

Chelsea and her coffee

We packed up our tent and gear, and loaded up our backpacks. It didn’t take long to breakdown camp. I’m excited to see how fast we can do it once we get more practice. We went on a little hike along the PCT from Pioneer Mail Picnic Area to the big boulder field around mile 56. On the map it’s listed as a small campsite in boulder field. We ate a bar and relaxed for a bit before turning around and hiking back. It was a really hot day, and I wish I had brought my sunhat. We tried out our new long sleeve button-up shirts. They’re supposed to keep you cool and protect you from the sun. It will take some getting used to. I felt like I should be leading a Girl Scout troop, but Chas said I looked cute.

IMG_85151

Pioneer Mail Picnic Area

IMG_85221

Chas with the desert behind him

IMG_85281

Chelsea at mile marker 55

IMG_14351

Enjoying a snack at the boulders

After our hike we stopped by the Mount Laguna Lodge and got some ice cream. We also went to the Mount Laguna Sport and Supply in hunt for a sun umbrella. A thru-hiker we met up in Tuolumne Meadows last year spoke highly of his sun umbrella he picked up in Mount Laguna for the desert sections. The owner Dave (Super) had one! He was very friendly and helpful. He informed us of some hikes he leads up in the mountains, and also told us he could do a gear shakedown and help us rid ourselves of unnecessary weight.

IMG_14411

Super’s Store

With how busy we have been lately I’m glad our camping trip went so well. It has been almost two weeks since we left our jobs to pursue this dream. Since the full moon hike and our camping trip we have been packing up our apartment and moving stuff into storage which hasn’t left us with much time to go on a long hike and we’re starting to itch a little. This weekend we have a 16 hour Wilderness Medicine course that is all day Saturday and Sunday which is going to be really fun and informative. Then after next week when we’re out of our apartment; it’s long hikes, backpacking and re-supply shopping!