The Grand Canyon is truly one of the world’s great natural wonders. It’s celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year and I am quite pleased— and a little proud— that I have been returning there on a regular basis for 50 of those years. I’ve posted on my trips into the Canyon by foot and boat many times. Today, since I am still working on Burning Man photos and don’t have another Pacific Crest Trail post ready yet, I decided to reach back into my WordPress archives and put up some Grand Canyon photos. Happy 100th Grand Canyon!
NEXT POST: Either on Burning Man or the Pacific Crest Trail. Depends on what I get done. (grin)
I remembered Noble Lake from my 2003 trek when I backpacked 360 miles from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney to celebrate my 60th birthday. For some reason, it didn’t seem as ‘noble’ this time. Maybe that’s because of all the other lakes I had passed on my hike down the PCT. But the views looking back toward the Mokelumne Wilderness were spectacular.
NEXT POSTS: Time’s limited since I am preparing for the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. I have one more post on this section of the PCT and then Peggy has two posts on her experiences as ‘trail angel.’ I think I will hold on these three posts until after the conference. In the meantime, I will put up some Burning Man eye candy since Peggy and I are hoping to go this year, assuming we can get tickets.
I left you in the last post about my hike down the PCT with photos of spectacular rocks and impressive trees. I say goodbye to the Mokelumne Wilderness in this post, hike across Highway 4 at Ebbetts Pass, and continue my journey southward. Of course there will be more pretty trees, but roots, snags, flowers, a family from Taiwan and through-hikers are the main subject for photos today.
NEXT POST: Adios, Puerto Vallarta… with a few spectacular sunsets.
Peggy and I had lunch yesterday with Barbara and Carl, the couple that dropped us off at Mt. Ashland for the beginning of our trek south down the PCT. It was the first time I had seen them since the beginning of the adventure. There was a lot to tell.
Naturally, I talked about both the challenges and the rewards of backpacking for 700 miles over difficult terrain at 75. I also discussed how 50 years of backpacking had prepared me for the trip, and threw in a few of my more humorous adventures from those years. They will be in my book.
“Knowing what you know now, would you do the PCT hike again?” Carl asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied. This doesn’t mean I will forget just how hard it was. It’s an important part of the story. But the beauty and the nature of the adventure are what will stick in my mind. I once had a woman who had been on one of my hundred mile treks tell me it was one of the most difficult tasks she had ever undertaken. But in the end, she said, it was an incredible, life-changing experience. The pain faded; the experience remained. “The only thing I can equate it with, Curt,” she had related, “was having my first baby.” Ouch, and then ‘Oh my!’
For the first 25 years or so of my backpacking, I hadn’t carried a camera. Those were the days before you could expect to obtain quality photos from a small camera, and I didn’t want to add the extra weight to the 60 pounds I was already carrying. I was also reluctant to spend the time that good photography required. And often I was leading groups that demanded my full attention.
I am sorry now. “I can’t believe you go to all of these beautiful places and don’t carry a camera,” my father had told me time and time again. He was right. I wish I had those photos now to remind me of where I had been and what I had seen. But there is more. Photography helps you see the world in different ways. It encourages you to focus in on details you might miss, it helps you notice the differences that light and varying perspectives make, and it forces you to stop and look around.
Today’s photos pick up where my last post left off, hiking down the PCT from Carson Pass on Highway 88 to Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4. The first four illustrate the value of stopping and looking around. They are all of the same scene from different perspectives.
NEXT POST: Variety, being the spice of life, it’s back to Mexico.
Since Peggy and I first came to Puerto Vallarta years ago I have been fascinated with Huichol art and the Huichol people. Living in the Sierra Madre Mountains of the Occidental range, they have been able to combine their belief in numerous gods with art that is highly popular among tourists. For example, it’s unlikely that many Huichol have ever seen a moose, but when Peggy and I were going through shops along the Malecon, we came across this beauty featured below.
The design on the right side of the Huichol antler is peyote, which is central to the Huichol religion. Each year, the members of the tribe undertake a 300 mile journey (usually on foot) to their sacred homeland to gather a year’s supply of the potent drug. The gatherer is expected to take a bite of the first plant he or she encounters. Maybe as a result, one of them saw a moose like the one I featured above. (grin)
NEXT POST: I’ll be back to featuring rock sculptures found on the PCT in Mokelumne Wilderness.
I was surprised by the sheer beauty along the PCT south of Carson Pass. I had hiked through the region several times over the years, but my trail had always been slightly to the west. Somehow I had missed the incredible rock sculptures. That, and the junipers. If you have ever wandered the West, you are familiar with this gnarly, photogenic tree. Most of todays photos were taken near Pennsylvania Creek in the Mokelumne Wilderness, maybe 15 miles north of State Highway 4 and Ebbetts Pass. I’ll let the photos speak for the area.
NEXT POST: Back to Puerto Vallarta. P.S. I will be playing with various themes over the next few weeks, so don’t be surprised by the changing looks of my blog. ALSO: For those of you who haven’t read “The Bush Devil Ate Sam,” I will be posting a chapter once a month on the top ‘pages’ to give you a feel for the book and encourage you to buy it. Many thanks! This chapter reflects our first night in our Gbarnga home, appropriately titled: Armies of the Night!
Today, I just want to wish each and everyone of you who follow this blog a very happy and healthy New Year. And I want to thank you for joining Peggy and me on our journey as we wander through time and place. We are privileged to have you along.
What better way is there than to say it than with flowers. It works for Valentine’s Day, it works for Mother’s Day, and it works for numerous other special occasions, so why not New Years! I’m sure the floral industry would love this, but I am not talking about the flowers you buy from a florist. I am talking about the beautiful, wild, and free flowers you find growing along the trail, or the roadside, or on a vacant city lot, or in a park— the list goes on. Here, I am talking specifically about the flowers I found along the Pacific Crest Trail on my 700 mile backpack trek this last summer. You’ve already seen some of these. I have bunches. I suspect you will see more on Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!
AGAIN— WISHING YOU THE BEST. We look forward to seeing you in 2019. Curtis and Peggy
As a year filled with seemingly insurmountable national and international problems draws to a close, my mind turns to the beauty and the peace of my 700 mile journey down the PCT this past year. The issues of the everyday world fade as you are hiking up a mountain, providing a different perspective on what is important. As the renowned naturalist John Muir noted, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
There were tough days out there— as tough as any I have ever faced— but even the most difficult were countered by the beauty of the areas I hiked through. It was a beauty that ranged from towering mountains down to the cheerful monkey flower above. Today, I will continue to share that beauty in my third post about the Pacific Crest Trail between Carson Pass and Sonora Pass in the central section of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
The 65-year-old Hob McConville was on a mission: finish his second trip over the PCT. (His first trip had been back in 1976 when I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.) He had already hiked the Appalachian Trail twice, and the Continental Divide Trail once. He and his wife had walked across Europe three times. In other words, hiking long distances is pretty much what Hob does. He didn’t know whether he would do the Continental Divide again. Large bears, i.e. grizzlies, worry him.
“I’ve camped under this beautiful sugar pine,” he informed me, “because it is my tent’s last night and I want to give it a good experience.” Obviously he liked his tent. In fact, it was well-loved, like a child’s teddy bear after five years of hard loving. The tent was literally falling apart at the seams and Hob had been repairing it with Post Office packaging tape. “My wife is meeting me at Echo Summit with a new tent,” he sighed, more sad than excited. Hob deeply believes that anything you purchase should be used until it is beyond use, and then a little longer.
I hated to tell him that his beautiful sugar pine was a white pine. I’m not sure why I did, except older mountain men like the two of us enjoy knowing our trees. He wanted to debate until I pointed out the cones. And the tree was a beauty, regardless of the type of cones it produced. I am sure that his tent felt well-honored. I wondered if Hob would take it home and bury it in his Connecticut backyard, like a favorite pet. Hob’s pack was in similar condition, but apparently it had a lot of miles left.
The next morning, our discussion turned to the PCT and Hob’s philosophy on long-distance hiking. “It shouldn’t be a race,” he proclaimed fervently. His feeling was that it was becoming more and more like one. He could foresee the day when companies like Nike might sponsor races to see who could finish the trail in the shortest amount of time. I agreed. Just completing the trail in a season leaves little time to appreciate the beauty of the region. Jumping from the already long 20-25 mile days to 30 or 40-mile days would make such appreciation much more difficult. I see nothing wrong with the pride through-hikers feel in finishing the trail; it is a pride well earned. And Hob was quite proud of his accomplishments. But the ultimate value of the hiking the PCT— beyond personal satisfaction and growth— is in experiencing nature and developing a commitment to protecting wilderness areas. The PCT is not a race track.
While the conversation had been stimulating, Hob had miles to go to meet up with his new tent (and wife), and I had more nature to go appreciate. We parted company with Hob heading north and me heading south. Here are some of the things I saw along the way.
I passed a few more lakes and then the PCT did what the PCT always does.
I met a young woman who was talking on her cell-phone with her brother. “I just saw a bear up the trail,” she told me breathlessly. I didn’t see the bear, but I did see…
The last time I had hiked through this area, we had walked around the lakes. The night before, one of my long time trekkers, Nancy Pape, had choked on pills. My friend Ken Lake had jumped in with the Heimlich Maneuver and saved her life. The time before, we had hiked out from the lakes to the small town of Markleeville, California and happened upon the Clampers holding their sacred initiation rites. Men were walking around with toilet seats over their necks shouting obscenities. They were quite upset that we had women along who witnessed the ceremony. The women were amused.
NEXT POST: A walk down Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon and an exploration of the public art along the way. After that, I will do a post on Huichol art in PV and then another post on the PCT.
I’ve backpacked south from Carson Pass several times over the years, usually leading backpack treks following the old Tahoe Yosemite Trail. Those were the days before the present PCT route was built. I was excited to explore the new trail.
I arrived at the trailhead a few weeks earlier than I had planned. When I came out at Chester after hiking through Lassen National Park, smoke from the massive Carr Fire near Redding was so thick that it was difficult to see a couple of hundred yards into the trees. Having empathy for my 75-year-old lungs, I decided to skip south in hopes of finding clean air to breathe.
The pass was named after the mountain man, explorer, military leader and rancher, Kit Carson. During California’s gold rush era, it had served as one of the main entrance points to California. The trail worked its way down the mountain eventually delivering its gold seeking 49ers to the small town of Diamond Springs where I was raised. The town was established when some miners from Missouri found a 20 pound nugget of gold lying on the ground and decided to stay. Which I get. As a youth wandering far and wide through the woods surrounding Diamond, I’d always dreamed of finding my own large nugget. It wasn’t to be. But I did develop a love for the outdoors, which is worth a lot more.
Peggy dropped me off at the trailhead and waved goodbye. She had seen me off several times by now, and was more confidant that she would see me at the other end. But my lovely friend was always a bit nervous…
NEXT POST: For my next post, however, I will take you back to Puerto Vallarta again and some really neat art!
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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