Day 2

We woke up on day 2 to some condensation on the inside of our tent from staying in the lower lying area of Lake Morena. The alarm on my watch went off at 6am but we didn’t get up until about 6:45, being tired from the day before. We broke down camp, made some coffee and Chelsea shared some cocoa with Rocket Llama so they could both drink “mochas” and we were on our way by 8am.

Chelsea under the 8 Freeway!

Chelsea under the 8 Freeway!

The hike out followed some hills that surrounded Lake Morena and down into Cottonwood Creek and through some shrubby oak land and we were at Boulder Oaks Campground by mile 5 for a nice shady break before we started our climb out into the Lagunas.

Hiking Day 2

Hiking Day 2

After about an hour of hydrating, snacking and changing socks we departed with some new friends we’ve made in only one day; Rob, Michaela,Chance, and Rocket Llama. The hike out of Boulder Oaks passed under Highway 8 and made a steady climb up through a scrubby area with very little shade. For the rest of the afternoon we flip flopped with our friends while a couple broke off early and went to Yellow Rose Spring to camp. Our intention for the day was to hike to about Mile 36 for a 16 mile day but the elevation gain and heat was too much. We decided to take the 6/10th of a mile side trail at Mile 33 down to Cibbets Flat Campground for the night.

Beautiful succulent

Beautiful succulent

We dropped down into the campground and were greeted by some campers that informed us that there was a creek that ran through which sounded AMAZING after our long sweaty day. Cibbets Flat had some great sites with large oak trees so we set up in one with a water spigot right in the middle. After hanging out and taking our shoes off for about an hour, Rob and Michaela rolled in and decided to share the site with us. Matt hung out at the site while we all rolled down to check out the creek and wash up a bit. After we came back and cooked up our dinner together and were all in bed by 8PM.

Chelsea taking a dip in the river

Chelsea taking a dip in the river

Chas, Chelsea, Rob, Micaela, and Matt

Chas, Chelsea, Rob, Micaela, and Matt

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Santa Cruz Mountains

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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.

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Huge tree

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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.

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Pretty sorrel everywhere

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Chas and Buddy Banana Slug

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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

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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

Caves, Creeks, and Camping

What we’ve been up to lately:

Desert sunrise

Desert sunrise from our tent 🙂

Wilderness First Aid

The last weekend of February we spent all day Saturday and Sunday taking a Wilderness First Aid class hosted by the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute at the Encinitas REI. This was a 16 hour course that got us both certifications in WFA and can hopefully help us out on the trail if anything medically unforeseen may happen. In the class we learned:

  • Patient Assessment System
  • Evacuation Plans and Emergency Procedures
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Shock
  • Head Injuries
  • Wilderness Wound Management
  • Athletic Injuries
  • Fracture Management
  • Dislocations
  • Cold Injuries
  • Heat Illness
  • Altitude Illness
  • Lightning
  • The Medical Patient
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Wilderness First Aid Kits
Taping up a sprained ankle

Taping up a sprained ankle

The class itself was fun and informative. We’d like to take the next level in the future, which certifies you to be a Wilderness First Responder and goes into more detail with each topic.

Agua Caliente Creek

The first weekend out of our apartment felt like the perfect opportunity to go on a hike along the PCT. Agua Caliente Creek is in Warner Springs. It is close enough to where we’re staying, but just far enough to feel like you’re away from it all. It was a really mellow part of the trail that went along a creek. It was a drizzly day, right after a little storm started to clear up. We saw a NOBO (Northbound) hiker today. We also saw a wide variety of PCT signs along this hike, so we thought it would be fun to share them with you!

All color, no black

All color, no black

All black, no color

All black, no color

Super huge sign

Super huge sign

This one's just a sticker

This one’s just a sticker

Super faded sign

Super faded sign

Wooden sign

Wooden sign

Day in the Desert

We love the desert, and try to go there often. Knowing that we’re leaving town, we’ve been trying to do all the things we’ve been wanting to. We accomplished three of those in one trip out to the desert!

Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego

1) Mud caves: We’ve been wanting to check these out for quite some time now. The caves are found along the walls of the wash canyon. The mud caves in our desert are one of the most extensive mud cave systems in the world. There are close to 22 known caves, and 9 slot canyons.

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Informational sign

“The mud caves are formed by fluvial erosion caused during periods of heavy rainfall.  When this infrequent rainfall occurs, it cuts channels into the mud hills that are commonly found in the Pseudokarst topography of this arid region.  The channels cause erosion and form canyons with unstable and undercut walls.  As the channels deepen, the walls cave in.  Because of the cohesive consistency of the mud in this particular area and its ability to swell to several times its original dry volume, it adheres to itself and to the canyon walls, creating natural bridges and, sometimes caves, as it dries,” – desertusa.com

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Chelsea exploring

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Chas exploring

2) Camping in Blair Valley:

After exploring the mud caves the sun began to quickly set over the mountains to the west so we decided we needed to find a spot to set up camp for the night. We came prepared to hike into camp somewhere if we had more time but the sun was setting too fast. We drove back up the road to a place called Blair Valley that has primitive camping that is totally free! We found a spot that was hugged up against a rocky mountain side and behind a large rock for some wind protection and we could also sit on top of it to watch the stars that night. Once we got our tent set up we cooked up some Kraft Mac & Cheese on our Jetboil and substituted olive oil for the dairy. This was a chance for us to try cooking up a meal that will be pretty common while on the PCT. After the sun set the temperature immediately started to drop, so we cooked up some hot cocoa, looked up at the stars and watched all the satellites whizz by overhead. We were in our cozy sleeping bags in our tent by 8pm! Going to bed early meant we were able to get up at 5:30 to make some coffee and watch the sun rise. It was a really cold morning and some moisture had built up on the outside of our tent and we even had some condensation build up on the inside, we had no idea it could get so wet out in the desert! Camp was broken down by 9am and we were on our way to do some more exploring that day.

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Chas making our morning coffee

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Chas with our french press, watching the sunrise

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Mmm coffee!

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Our camp kitchen

3) Pictographs: In Blair Valley there is a trail that leads you to ancient Indian pictographs. We attempted to hike the trail late last summer, but there were bees everywhere! This time the bees weren’t a problem. The trail is only about 1 mile each direction, and is an out-and-back. Over 50 Native American rock art sites have been found in Anza-Borrego. The ones along this trail have little-known meaning, though some people think it represents adolescent rites, solstice rituals, and vision quests. Pretty neat!

Chelsea with the pictographs

Chelsea with the pictographs

So that is what we’ve been up to the last couple weeks! Stay tuned for another update in the next few days.

Valentine’s Camping

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Pioneer Mail Picnic Area

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Chas with the desert behind him

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Chelsea at mile marker 55

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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.

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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!

Passports, Pizza, and Podcasts- Oh My!

This morning Chas and I had an appointment to get our passports. It will be our first ones, so we are pretty excited! Everything at the appointment went great. The normal wait is between 4-6 weeks but she said we might even get ours in just 3 weeks! We won’t be needing our passports for the beginning of the trail because the trail starts on the U.S. side at the Mexican border. We will be able to enter Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail with a permit from the Canadian government. We will however need our passports to reenter the United States.

A few hours later we met with our friends Matt and Sean (these are our two buddies we mentioned in our New Years Day post.) The four of us spent the afternoon hiking up South Fortuna at Mission Trails Regional Park. It was so nice outside, with the temperature being in the mid 70s. The hike is about 4.5 miles, and rated moderately strenuous. Once your at the top you can see the Rock Climber’s Loop directly across where Chas and I have gone both hiking and climbing.

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Chelsea on top of South Fortuna

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Heading back to the trailhead

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Not everyone is familiar with Poison Oak in all it’s stages, especially in winter.

We all were getting hungry by the time we reached the car, so we picked up a delicious half-veggie, half-cheese pizza from Costco! We returned to our apartment where we were able to kick off our shoes and eat. The pizza paired perfectly with our growler of Fathom IPL from Ballast Point Brewing. There is something seriously amazing about pizza and beer after a hike…

Sean and Matt have been starting to do podcasts, and they asked if we could be interviewed. This was their first time interviewing someone for their podcast, and we have never been interviewed before, so it was fun and new for all of us! I was really nervous at first, so Chas answered most of the questions in the beginning. The guys are such naturals though that I started to feel more comfortable, and was able to join the conversation more at ease.

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Podcast Interview

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Matt in action

Some things we talked about during the interview were:

  • What made us want to do this hike?
  • What are we bringing with us?
  • What are some of the things we are concerned about?
  • What is the longest stretch before being able to resupply?
  • What kind of food will we be eating?
  • Will we be meeting with friends and family along the way?
  • What will we be thinking about at the CA/Mexico border right before we leave? What will Matt be thinking about? Because, Matt will be starting our journey with us!! That’s right, Matt will be doing the first week with us, and then meet us at various parts along the way as we head further north.

We look forward to putting a link to Matt and Sean’s podcast, Cabin Fever, so you too can hear the interview! We’ll let you know as soon as it’s available. So until next time, Happy Trails!