Trail Angels of the Pacific Coast Trail… I Have My Own

I am ever so lucky to have my wife, Peggy, out on the route supporting me. Most PCT hikers mail their resupply to Post Offices along the way. Peggy will be at trailheads to supply mine plus give me a day’s break from hiking. I suspect that there will be a cold beer in there as well.

 

People who go out of their way to support through-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail are known as Trail Angels. My barber, Ed McBee, is such a person. He has written a book on vehicle access locations on the PCT in Oregon. But, more to the point, he also goes out on the trail to greet through-hikers and provide them with fresh food and cold beer. One of his favorite locations is on the Oregon-California border. Trekkers who reach there have hiked from the Mexican border and are ready to celebrate! Knowing how much a cold brew is appreciated out on the trail, I contributed to Ed’s beer fund last summer.

Ed is now working on a book about people doing the PCT. “I feed them hot dogs,” Ed told me. “They are much more likely to talk to me.” I’ll bet. There is no telling what somebody who has been hiking 20-30 miles a day while living off of backpacking food will do for a hot dog! Now, make that a beer and a hot dog…!

Backpacking food is adequate for getting down the trail. Just barely. I have never seen a fat through-hiker. The food has to be light and compact to carry on your back. And while you try to find high calorie food, it’s hard to pack much more that 2 to 3,000 calories for each day. Now, consider that you are burning 4-6,000 calories, daily. Hot Dog? Bring it on!

Below is what my food for 90 days looks like. I tried to compromise between things I like and things that might be a little healthy. Those Oreos you see in the back certainly don’t meet the second criteria,  but they are a treat. I’ll be eating two per night, along with my 16 ounce cup of tea. (When I was a poor student at UC Berkeley ever so long ago, lunch was always a cup of coffee, a baloney sandwich and four Oreos.) The #10 can you see in the back is chicken teriyaki. It includes 10 dinner’s worth of food. Instructions are: Add one cup of the freeze-dried dinner to 3/4 cup of boiling-hot water. Cover. Wait 4 minutes. Stir. Cover and wait another 8 minutes. Eat. Life is pretty darn simple out on the trail.

Peggy organized my food for me while I was taking care of other miscellaneous chores and then took this photo. It’s what I will be eating on the trail over the next three months.

Here is the resupply packed in the van. Our sofa/bed comes down and actually covers the food.

Most PCT-ers would kill to have the kind of back-up I will have on my thousand-mile trip. I have my own trail angel, Peggy. Once a week or so, she will meet me where the PCT crosses a road and resupply my food, plus have a cold beer ready (grin). Our plan for most resupplies is to work in a layover day where I can shower, wash clothes, pack in some calories (imagine being able to eat whatever you want to eat), and put up a post or two on my previous week’s experience.

Peggy assumes her ‘where is Curt’ pose. She sees her role as backup (when she isn’t hiking with me) as her own adventure since she will be traveling and camping on her own.

Who knows!? Actually I carry an emergency Spot geo-tracker that I can use in an emergency, if needed, and can keep Peggy and family informed of where I am each night.

Anyway, here I am in black and white, ready to hit the trail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I even developed my own ‘business card’ for the trail. (grin) The photo is taken from our front patio. Next week I will be hiking around the mountains you can see in the distance on my way south!

FRIDAY’S POST: I wrap up my MisAdventure series for the summer. Was I actually able to stay out of jail on my graduation day from high school.

SUNDAY’S POST: I am going to reblog a really nice post from my friend and fellow-blogger out of Sedona, Arizona, JoHanna Massey, that she wrote in support of my journey.

 

Oh Dear, Deer… They’re Still here

One of the does that hangs out on our property brought her baby by for a visit yesterday. The small Canon Powershot camera I am taking on my backpack trek makes a small ding noise when it focuses. The deer were trying to figure out what the noise was.

 

The deer know we are taking off on our thousand mile backpack trip. They have been checking in on us regularly here on our property on Oregon’s Applegate River. We’ll be sitting in our living room and a head will pop up in our window. It can be disconcerting until you get used to it. I think they are eager to reclaim their territory. “Haven’t you left yet?” Last time Peggy and I were gone for an extended period of time, we came back and found them living around our house, using it for shade. They had even settled in on our back porch. This year they will be in for a bit of a surprise, my brother Marshall will be house sitting for us. They like Marshall, however. He’s almost as wild as they are. He sits outside and talks to them, buys them apples, and keeps the bird bath full as a deer ‘watering hole.’

We are used to deer peering in our back window, but not our living room window. So, we were a little surprised when this gal started coming by to see whether we were home.

Yesterday, one of the does brought her week old baby by for a visit. I thought you might like some of the photos I took. Enjoy.

Hi there. I am your new neighbor.

Are you talking to me?

I’m all ears.

We both are, in fact.

Low bridge.

I think I’ll go prancing.

You won’t believe what i discovered, Mom. It has two legs.

It’s just the human, dear deer.

How about a bit of motherly love?

 

TUESDAY’S POST: Wrap up on preparation for the thousand mile trek.

FRIDAY’S POST: Wrap up of my MisAdventure series for now. It’s not smart to cuss out the chief of police of a town whose historical name is Hangtown.

Backpacking the Rogue River Trail… Conclusion

Peggy and I weren’t expecting to find beautiful waterfalls along the trail, but there were several. This is Flora Dell Falls. The pool of water really looked inviting. Peggy took off her shoes and soaked her feet.

 

It’s countdown time! My thousand mile backpack trek starts in two weeks. Our guest room is filled with gear. Peggy’s office is buried in food. Maps have taken over the library. Miscellaneous other stuff is found in every other room of our house! I have a to-do list that would send Superman flying off-planet. Theoretically, it is getting shorter. One way or the other, on June 17th, I am out of here…

Needless to say, there isn’t much time for blogging or reading blogs. My apologies. I do want to conclude the Rogue River series and put up one more post in the MisAdventure series. After that, I will try to get up one more post before hitting the trail. Then there will be a break until my first posts from along the route start arriving.

Given my time constraints, I am turning today’s post into a photo essay. Enjoy!

 

The Wild Rogue Wilderness started a few miles after we left the Rogue River Ranch featured in my last post. The trail snaked along the edge of the river providing great views. The narrow canyon here provides some exciting rides for rafters! There is even a whirlpool.

This gives you an idea of what the trail looks like. We hit this section in the afternoon and it was hot. The rocky cliffs sucked in the heat and threw it back at us.

We were looking forward to Inspiration Point, and we weren’t disappointed. Stair Creek Falls was just across the river. More inviting pools!

A close up of the falls.

We called it a day at Blossom Bar. (That’s a river bar, not one where you can find a cold beer. Darn! I really could have used one.) We didn’t find any blossoms but Peggy found this pool above the rocks. When I came over, she had waded in with her clothes on and the water was up to her waist. She was taking her soapless bath and washing her clothes at the same time. Of course, I had to join her. The water was icy!

The next day we hiked by the Brushy Bar Forest Service Station that is now run by volunteers in the summer. James and Cammie, a couple out of Southern California, had done a search for opportunities to volunteer on the Forest Service site and found this. (The PCT runs right by their house but it is in the desert section that I won’t be hiking.)

We took advantage of Cammie to have our photo taken! I’d say we were looking quite chipper. My beard caught the sun!

Tate Creek had another spectacular waterfall. We decided to photograph down it since getting to the base involved scrambling though poison oak!

In case you are wondering what poison oak looks like, Peggy is pointing some out. The three leaves are distinctive. As careful as we were, Peggy brought some home. Adding insult to injury, she spread her poison oak from her hands to some bug bites she was scratching.

The flowers along the trail continued to impress us. This is yet another variety of Iris.

And another. This time a Douglas Iris.

And more of another variety.

Another wild, white rose…

And wild lilacs. While they couldn’t match the roses in the heavenly smell category, the had a subtle, pleasant smell.

Finally. these cheerful members of the sunflower family.

Old mining equipment had been left beside the trail in a number of places to remind hikers of the area’s history.

The Flora Dell camp site, located down stream from the Flora Dell falls featured at the beginning of the post, provided us with another attractive river side location.

I really enjoyed the large rocks beside the river.

The next day had some challenges. (Grin) This is always fun with a loaded pack! My knees were having a discussion with me.

I had little difficulty picturing myself out on the deck of this lodge with a good book and a cold brew… but you had to have reservations. Sigh.

There weren’t a lot of big trees along the trail, so I had to take a photo when we found these.

And use Peggy as a model.

She also volunteered for this shot. No, she isn’t practicing her skiing technique. She is showing a switch back trail. The map showed our last few miles running along the river. Instead it headed up the mountain, not once but twice!

Somehow, at the very end, we managed to get off the trail and hike through a cow pasture that included this rather unusual cattle guard. Normally they are flat and don’t squish down as you walk across them!

The end. I hope you enjoyed our backpack trip down the Rogue River. The next adventure: My thousand mile backpack trek down the PCT. I’ll be posting as I go!

Hiking the Rogue River Trail… Part 2: From Horseshoe Bend to the Rogue River Ranch

A view of the Rogue River from our camp on Quail Creek.

 

Today marks the second of my three-part series on hiking down the Rogue River Trail. It’s a beautiful 40-mile hike, best done in the spring or the fall. Peggy and I made a leisurely six-day backpack trip out of it, both to enjoy the beauty and to condition our bodies for our summer of backpacking where I will be hiking 1000 miles from Mt. Ashland to Mt. Whitney. Peggy will be joining me for parts of it plus doing back-up, a true trail angel!

 

Dark skies were suggesting rain when we rolled out of our tent at six. ‘Rolling out’ is a good description. My sore muscles and creaky joints were complaining about our first two days of hiking down the Rogue River Trail. They refused to cheerfully jump up; they threatened to go on strike. I told them to behave or I would double the number of miles they had to travel and cut off their Ibuprofen. They whimpered— but the Ibuprofen got their attention.

I have yet to tell them that they are going on a thousand-mile backpack trip this summer. And I may not, at least until the first 500 miles are over.

Things began to morph. My down pillow of the night before became my down jacket. My Thermarest air mattress changed into a comfy breakfast chair. Fifty years of backpacking have taught me that anything that can serve multiple purposes is a good thing. Routine is also good. I had packed my sleeping bag, clothes and personal items before leaving the tent. Now they were waiting to be packed into my backpack. Right after I put my chair together, I went to gather our food.

It was dutifully waiting in the middle of the ranger-built, electric fence enclosure. No bears had made a feast of it. Either they hadn’t been by to visit or they truly don’t like being zapped. I suspect that a tender nose coming in contact with a live wire is not a pleasant experience. If I were a bear, I’d skedaddle out of there on all fours and look for a ranger to eat.

Breakfast was next; I’m the camp cook. My job description is to boil up two 32 ounce pots of water per day, one for breakfast and one for dinner. Takes about five minutes each. Peggy arrived from doing her chores about the time the pot began to boil. We sifted through our food bags and pulled out instant oatmeal, breakfast bars, Starbuck’s instant coffee, and dried apricots. The latter are to help keep us digging cat holes. “Meow.” Or maybe I should say, “Purr.’” Being regular out on the trail is important.

The literature had promised an outhouse at Horseshoe Bend, but it had been decommissioned, i.e. filled up. The same is happening with the other ‘bathrooms’ that the trail maps promote along the river. Be prepared. Rafters are expected to carry their own port-a-pots. Backpackers are left with digging cat holes. We are used to it. Watch out for the poison oak. (grin)

With breakfast over, we took down the tent and packed up. A few drops of rain encouraged us to put on our rain jackets and pack covers. It promised to be a cool day, which was welcome after the heat of the first two days.

The trail continued its ups and downs, starting with the very steep up we had hiked down the evening before. At times our route dropped almost to the river. The closer we got, the thicker the poison oak and blackberries grew.  Peggy and I stopped and laughed at one point. The blackberries were occupying a third of the trail and the poison oak the other, leaving only a few inches for passage. It was like the plants had an agreement to drive you toward one or the other. We chose the blackberries on the theory that it is much better to suffer a few scratches than be covered in an itchy rash.

We also crossed several recent slide areas where the trail was minimal, about a shoe wide. Careful attention was called for and looking down not recommended. On one slide area, a tree trunk was stretched across the trail, forcing us to balance precariously while climbing over. It was not for the faint-hearted, or for people with a fear of heights.

Beyond that the trail was quite pleasant; passing through woodlands, providing dramatic views of the river, and crossing over brooks and streams on attractive bridges. Once again, cheerful flowers kept us company.

We found that the bridges along the trail were well built and fit in with the environment. This is Meadow Creek Bridge.

Another view of the Meadow Creek bridge.

Peggy on the Kelsey Creek bridge looking down at the water. A rain cover is on her backpack. It never did rain.

Our views of the river ranged from raging rapids…

…to more tranquil scenes.

A number of flowers were found beside the trail, including this wild rose…

This Pretty Face brodiaea…

And a Columbine.

A snack at Ditch Creek provided this view of several small waterfalls tumbling down the hill. Zane Grey’s cabin was a mile or so down the trail.

We missed Zane Grey’s cabin. The trail to it wasn’t marked and we weren’t paying attention to our map. Too bad. I had been an avid fan of his cowboy books during the Western phase of my youth. Such classics as Riders of the Purple Sage had kept me glued to my seat as good triumphed over evil in the Old West of six-gun justice. Grey had used the cabin as a fishing lodge in the 1920s. He even wrote a book about the area, Rogue River Feud.

Our campsite that night on Quail Creek made up for missing the cabin. Located on the edge of the Rogue River, it provided the striking view that is featured in the photo at the beginning of this post. Geese, buzzards, rafters and lizards provided entertainment. The buzzards seemed to be following us. “Maybe they think we are old,” I suggested to Peggy, which elicited a snort. The lizards were just curious, checking out all of our gear and climbing up on convenient rocks to watch us.

Rafters waved at us from the Rogue as they passed our camp on Quail Creek.

And a pair of Canadian Geese kept their offspring in a careful line.

The morning part of our hike the next day took us in to the Rogue River Ranch, which is a gem. Now on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the Bureau of Land Management, the ranch was established in the early 1900s by George and Sarah Billings, becoming a lodge for travelers, the post office, and a social center for a small but growing community. In 1927, Billings sold the house to Stanley Anderson, the builder and owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The Andersons upgraded the property and used it to entertain their friends from Los Angeles and Hollywood up until 1970, when they sold it to the BLM.

An old barn on the Rogue River Ranch. One of the volunteer caretakers, Sally, can be seen raking up grass the old fashioned way. It went with the barn.

A close up of Sally.

Looking toward the river from the ranch.

Sally and Frank, the volunteer caretakers for the ranch, took a break from raking up grass and gave us an overview of its history. Peggy and I then visited the main house that had been turned into a museum. I was amused to find this description of the one room upstairs lodge provided by an early visitor:

When the place was full at night, it was a nightmare. There was almost continuous coughing, snoring, grinding of teeth, urinating in a can or out the window, and other night noises. There always seemed to be someone walking around the room or to the window or stairways, which shook the floor and building. Sound sleep for any length of time was impossible.

Not quite as fancy as the modern lodges that are found along the river today. But then again, three meals and a bed for the night could be had for a dollar, a far cry from the $150 plus per person charged today by the resorts.

A view of the main house at Rogue River Ranch. A single large room upstairs provided lodging for early travelers.

The ‘Tabernacle’ is located behind the house. This building served as a barn for horses and mules on the first floor and a meeting hall, dance floor, and church on the second floor. Today the building houses a number of artifacts.

Such as this old coffin…

A pot bellied stove…

And cooking stoves.

I’ll close today with a view of Mule Creek, which flows beside the Rogue River Ranch. The creek was named after a mule named John who wandered off and became lost. The story has a happy ending. Several years later his owner found him. I assume they lived happily ever after.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: What does a skunk have to do with my first date in high school. The MisAdventure series.

TUESDAY’S POST: I’ll wrap up my Rogue River series.

Hiking the Rogue River Trail: Part 1… Over the Side I Went!

The Rogue River is noted for both its beauty and its rapids. The Rogue River Trail has been cut into the steep sides of the canyon, providing spectacular views of the river as well as an introduction to the interesting plant and animal life of the region.

 

Peggy and I backpacked down the 40-mile Rogue River Trail last week. It has been on her bucket list ever since she rafted down the Rogue a few years ago. I, too, wanted to explore the area but also needed to do a conditioning trip for my thousand mile backpack trip from Mt. Ashland to Mt. Whitney this summer. My new gear and my 75-year-old body needed to be tested. Both worked, more or less. This is the first of 3-4 posts on the trip.

The Rogue River Trail starts from a large paved parking lot named Grave Creek.  (The daughter of a pioneer was buried nearby in 1846, thus the ‘Grave.’) The site is mainly used as a kick off point for people rafting the river. No surprise. This section of the Rogue is world-famous for its rafting. And the majority of people traveling this way prefer to have a raft carry their food and gear as opposed to carrying it on their back. As my friend Tom Lovering the boatman says, “Why wouldn’t they?”

We arrived at 11:00, an hour later than I had hoped, and the sun was beating down mercilessly. Summer had arrived early, it seemed. The day before had been yet another cool spring day. We had been whining that it was never warming up! Go figure. I could see the trail snaking up the side of the canyon without an iota of shade. Peggy and I futzed around: slathering on sun-block, filling our water bottles, putting on our boots, and taking advantage of the out-house (twice). But inevitably, the time arrived, as it always does; we shouldered our packs and headed up the trail.

The beginning of the Rogue River Trail as seen from the Grave Creek parking lot. Up and in the sun.

Face it, backpacking can resemble work. There’s a part of your mind that lets you know this when you load everything you will need to live in the woods for a week on your back and start hoofing it up a mountain in the hot sun. Mine usually has some unprintable comments for me. If it’s the first trip of the year, if you are out of shape, or if you are over 50, the mind might even say a bit more. Well, Peggy and I were in fairly good shape (score one for us), but it was our first trip of the year, and, at 67 for Peggy and 75 for me, we definitely resembled the over-50 crowd.

There are also rewards, of course, otherwise people wouldn’t go backpacking unless they were forced to— or had masochistic tendencies. “Ah yes, pain, bring it on!” They’d stay home in front of their big screen TVs and veg, or write blogs. While our trail shot up the mountain, it also provided us with great views of the Rogue River. And we soon noted an abundance of wild flowers. The trail even seemed to flatten out a bit and trees provided welcome shade.

Peggy at the beginning of the trail with the Grave Creek Rapids behind her. A few years earlier I had waved good-by to her as the rapids grabbed her boat.

The canyon walls were often covered with flowers, especially if springs provided a bit of moisture.

The yellow flowers above are monkey flowers, one of my favorites, as you’ve probably noted from past posts. A friend once told me you can hear them say “eek,eek, eek” if you listen. I’ve never heard them, but I still listen. (grin)

These colorful stonecrop flowers also decorated the cliff sides. Their succulent leaves provide water for dry times.

More shaded spots provided a variety of brightly colored iris flowers. This is a golden iris. We found several other varieties along the way. You will see more!

Shaded trails like this one provided welcome relief from the more exposed sections of the path.

As did the frequent cool streams along the way. We stopped often to refill our water bottles. (Water along the route needs to be filtered.)

Most of the streams have bridges built over them, which eliminates the issue of fording.  I’ll show several in the next posts. Many were quite attractive.

It was a river trail, however, and that means ups and downs. They come with the territory. I was on a down when the accident happened. The path had dropped to maybe 50 feet above the river and the sheer drop-off cliff had switched to a steep embankment. My left foot, i.e. the foot on the river side, slipped on some loose gravel. No biggie. Years of trail hiking have given me an automatic sense of balance and fancy foot-work to deal with such contingencies. This time, however, I was using walking poles and I set the left one to provide the necessary balance.

The next thing I knew, I was toppling over. Peggy, who was behind me, said it was in slow motion, like I had fainted, or suffered a heart attack, or had a stroke. You can imagine how she felt. I didn’t have a clue what had happened. All I knew was that I suddenly found myself stomach down, head first on a crash course for the river. You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes in such circumstances? All that flashed in front of mine was another 40 feet of rocky slope topped off by a cold bath. Not good. I would have loved to have had my pack where I could have used it for a brake. But it was on my back, along for a free ride. Whoopee! Packs are like that. I used my left arm instead, pressing it down. I could feel the rocks ripping off my skin. But it worked. I slid on for a couple of more feet and stopped.

“Are you okay?” Peggy yelled. Apparently, I didn’t answer quickly enough because she threw off her pack and scrambled down. I was busy checking out my arm. It looked a bit like hamburger. To paraphrase an old Tex Ritter cowboy song, there was blood on my pack and blood on the ground, there was blood on my arm and blood all around. But the arm felt fine. At least it wasn’t broken or gushing. Peggy helped me get my pack off and I stood up and carried it back to the trail while she gathered up my walking poles.

We hiked back up to some shade and I took out my water bottle and washed my arm off. Good news. It was mainly a scrape with some 14 small cuts providing the blood. Only one seemed worthy of attention. Another couple came by at that moment. “My husband is a nurse,” the woman announced. He glanced at my arm, pronounced “You aren’t going to bleed to death,” and hurried on. So much for the medical profession, I thought. Peggy smeared on Neosporin and slapped a band-aid on the larger cut. We were good to go.

We hiked down a few feet and I picked up my walking poles. One was considerable shorter than the other. And then it struck me. The left pole had collapsed when I had shoved it into the ground for balance, and I had collapsed with it. There is probably something in bold letters, or at least the fine print that suggests you check them before use. Otherwise, the poles would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was relieved to know that the cause of the fall was the poles and not me!

Eventually we reached our first night’s camp, a lovely tree-shaded site below Whiskey Creek. Booze Creek is the next stream down, which may say something about the early gold miners that populated the area. We got out our flask of Irish cream liquor and toasted them— and ourselves, for surviving day one. Chores that evening included setting up camp, a quick, soap-less rinse of our clothes and selves in the icy river, and dinner. At one point, I had the mother of all cramps, as my leg protested against what it was sure was abuse. Were we having fun, or what? It was early to bed. Peggy crawled in at the sign of the first mosquito. I hung out for another hour or so.

Every bird in the world arrived at our camp at 5 a.m. the next morning and immediately burst into song. It was a virtual cacophony of noise as each bird competed with the next over who could trill the loudest and the longest. I rolled over and pretended to go back to sleep.  We crawled out at six and started our second day.

It was a lot like day one except I managed to stay on the trail. The trail continued its ups and downs, climbing down to cross streams and immediately back up afterwards. Once again it was hot. We were treated to great views of the river.

There were many more views of the river on the second day such as this, which featured rapids that the river runners love so much.

At one point, I spotted a snake out of the corner of my eye beside me on the trail. There is something primeval about seeing snakes, especially when they surprise you. Alarms go off deep in your brain while your leg muscles bunch up for a humongous leap. Almost simultaneously, I recognized that this fellow was one of the good guys, a king snake. I thought ‘photo-op.’ It’s difficult to photograph snakes when Peggy is around. She gets nervous. “Don’t get too close, Curt,” she urged. “It might bite you.” Possibly, if I grabbed it by the tail. But king snakes prefer to crush their food, winding around them like a boa constrictor. That’s what they do to rattlesnakes, even rattlesnakes that are bigger than they are. And then they swallow them, whole. I’d like to see that. Apparently, they are impervious to the venom.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a snake making its way along the edge of the trail…

Having noticed me, the snake made his way up the cliff, providing ample opportunity for me to take pictures. The closer I got, the more nervous Peggy became. I don’t know what the snake thought.

Later, Peggy noticed a large slug. At first we thought it was a banana slug, given its size. Banana slugs are well known as the mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz, a fact I love. You really have to like a college that selects a slug as its mascot. But our guy/gal lacked the characteristic yellow color. It seemed fat. “Maybe she’s pregnant,” Peggy mused, which led me to wonder how slugs mated. “Slowly,” Peggy suggested.

This large slug checked out Peggy while I took its photo. The walking pole is Peggy’s. Mine stayed affixed to the back of my pack after the accident for the whole trip.

Our greatest excitement of the day was getting from the trail down to our campsite at Horseshoe Bend. It was a long way down, and apparently, the Bureau of Land Management adheres to the philosophy that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Anything resembling a switchback was totally coincidental. The trail was so steep in places that we had to side step. We eventually arrived in one piece and discovered a new way of protecting our food from bears. It was shocking. BLM had created a small enclosure with an electric fence. I sat up that evening hoping to see a bear try to break in. No such luck.

Peggy provides her commentary on the trail down to Horseshoe Bend.

The electrified enclosure built to keep hungry bears away from rafters’ and backpackers’ food.

Do you think bears can read?

Our new, ultralight Big Agnes tent overlooking the Rogue River at Horseshoe Bend. We love the tent! It is big enough for the two of us (we like each other), and light enough that i can carry it to use as a solo tent.

The view from our campsite…

And finally, for those of you who were concerned about Bone being left behind this summer, here he is, happily ensconced in one of my belt pouches, peering out like a baby kangaroo.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: Smelly chemicals and long dead frogs discourage me from pursuing a career in science in the MisAdventure series.

TUESDAY’S POST: Part 2 of the Rogue River Trail series.

The 2nd 500 Miles on My 1,000 Mile Trek… From Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney

Highway 395 is one of America’s most scenic drives. This view looking up at Mt. Whitney (center top) is one of the reasons why. I’ll be ending my thousand mile trek here. From the top I will hike down several thousand steep feet to Whitney Portal. Peggy plans on being with me for this section of the trail. The hills in the foreground are the Alabama Hills, the backdrop for many of Hollywood’s early Westerns.

 

The first 100-mile backpack trek I ever led was from Squaw Valley to Auburn in 1974. Considering I had 60 people age 11-70 with me and that I had minimal backpacking experience, it was an insane adventure. Our last 50 miles had involved hiking in and out of river canyons with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees F (37.8 C). As steep as the canyons had been, my learning curve was much steeper! I was lucky the participants didn’t kill me. Fortunately, most of them were eager to go again and I went on to lead long distance adventure treks up and down the Sierras and in Alaska for the next 30 years. I limited the participants to a number that was compatible with my sanity and the environment, stayed at higher/cooler elevations, and required that anyone under 16 be accompanied by an adult guardian.

The second half of my thousand mile backpack trip this summer starts at Donner Summit on old Highway 40, some 12 miles away from Squaw Valley. I once had access to a winter cabin in the area and it wasn’t unusual to have 20 or more feet of snow on the ground. The cabin was warm and cozy. The Donner Party of 1847 wasn’t nearly as fortunate. Caught by bad weather, they were forced to camp out for the winter at Donner Lake, seven miles down the road from the summit. By the time they were rescued, half of the group had perished and the remainder had been forced to turn to cannibalism to survive. I’ll make sure that there is plenty of food in my pack.

My journey from here on will all be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I will pass through a number of wilderness areas plus Yosemite National Park. My last 180 miles will be spent in what is known as the High Sierra, following the John Muir Trail. Here are some ‘eye candy’ photos to introduce you to the beauty of the route.

This photo is from the Granite Chief Wilderness. Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the other side of the mountain. The field of yellow flowers is mule ears.

Looking south from Granite Chief, the mountains in the distance are part of Desolation Wilderness, that runs along the west side of Lake Tahoe.

The area is filled with flowers. These are monkey flowers.

And this is a Washington Lily.

Another view of the Desolation Wilderness.

Those who follow my post know I have a weakness for reflection shots. I took this ‘face’ at 4 Q Lakes in the Desolation Wilderness. It’s off the PCT but I may go there for old times’ sake.

I also took this old tree blaze in Desolation Wilderness.

Moving south of Carson Pass, where Kit Carson once ate his dog and his horse, this is part of the Mokelumne Wilderness. The small mountain is known as the Nipple.

One of my favorite hikes on the PCT is between Sonora Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. This is Nancy Pape who may join me for a portion of this year’s journey. As I recall, 1977 was the first year that Nancy trekked with me.

This is a view of Tuolumne River Falls in Yosemite National Park just before Tuolumne Meadows and the beginning of the John Muir Trail.

Some of you have asked if 4.9 ounce Bone will be going on the trek. He was squawking loudly about the possibility of being left behind. I finally conceded, but I told him that it would be a bare-bone journey.

John Muir called the Sierras that he loved to wander through ‘the Range of Light.’

I thought I would add a black and white photo to provide a different perspective on the mountains I will be hiking through. During heavy snow years, which this one isn’t, the passes can be covered with snow and the stream filled with fast flowing water, adding another element of danger to the trip.

This is a view of some of my trekkers making their way over a snow filled pass, carefully. Slipping could have led to a fall of several hundred feet.

In this photo, Peggy makes her way across a fast flowing stream. Water is powerful. It is easy to be swept off your feet. Two through-hikers drowned last year in the southern Sierras.

The incredible beauty of the High Sierra makes the journey worthwhile, however. Always.

Alpenglow lights up a peak.

The view coming down from the John Muir Pass and hiking into Le Conte Canyon. I sprained my ankle once following Peggy as she ‘ran’ down the mountain and ended up hiking 80 miles on it.

Eventually my journey this summer will come to an end as I reach Mt. Whitney. Peggy is pointing out where it is.

This is my 16-year-old nephew Jay Dallen on top of Mt. Whitney. Jay joined me for the last portion of a hike I did from Lake Tahoe to Whitney to celebrate my 60th birthday in 2003. Jay is hoping to join me again this year.

I’ll conclude my preview with this photo looking down from Mt. Whitney.

Peggy and I are out this week backpacking the 40 mile Rogue River Trail. It is both an opportunity to check out our gear and continue our conditioning program. It is also a test to see what kind of sense of humor my 75-year-old body has. Wish me luck! (grin) I’ll respond to comments and check in on your blogs when we return.

FRIDAY’S POST: What factors in your youth led you to choose the path you have chosen to follow in your adult life? I explore some of mine as part of my MisAdventure series.

The First 500 Miles on My Thousand Mile Backpack Trek: Mt. Ashland to Lake Tahoe

I should see the striking Mt. Shasta several times as I make my way through the Siskiyou’s, Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps— and quite likely after I cross Interstate 5.  Mt. Shasta is part of the volcanic Cascade Range that stretches up to Canada.

 

It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty planning of my thousand mile trek from Mt. Ashland in Southern Oregon to Mt. Whitney in California. I’ve been poring over maps, thinking about distances and planning out resupply points. I love maps, so this is a fun activity for me. I think I am being realistic, but you never know. Most through hikers (as people who hike the whole PCT are called) can average around 20-25 miles per day. Maybe even more. That’s a marathon per day! But the 75-year-olds out there are few and far between. I am planning on 12-13. If I can do more, great.

Today, I am going to share the first half of my route, approximately 500 miles, beginning at Mt. Ashland and ending north of Lake Tahoe. While I have backpacked in the Marble Mountains, Trinity Alps, and Lassen National Park, it is the area I am least familiar with. Once you hit Interstate 80 southward to Mt. Whitney, the second half of my journey, you are in my ‘old stomping grounds,’ so to speak. I’ve hiked through this country many times over the years. Below is a map of the first half of the trail.

This map of the PCT traces my route from Mt. Ashland to Lake Tahoe. While not as clear as I would like, it provides a good overview. Peggy and I live just north of the trail where it snakes its way along the California/Oregon border. Our property backs up to national forest land.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains provide some of the most beautiful hiking in the world. They are John Muir’s Range of Light. The northern part of my journey lacks the drama of the Sierra’s, but there is still considerable beauty in the Siskiyou’s, Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps. Once I cross Interstate 5, I have Burney Falls and Lassen National Park to look forward to. Here are a few photos I have taken over the years to whet your appetite for what is coming.

Another view of Mt. Shasta.

The PCT works around the edge of the Red Buttes Wilderness where Peggy and I have been backpacking the last few years. This small lake is in the wilderness.

As are a number of giant trees such as this sugar pine Peggy is standing next to.

And this large red cedar.

Last year Peggy and I followed what is known as the Cook and Green Trail up to the PCT. We camped under this canopy of trees.

We found three through hikers on the pass. They were quite excited to be nearing the Oregon Border after their long sojourn from the Mexican Border. Most through hikers travel south to north.

We also found a PCT trail marker. They will serve as my guide on the trek.

The trail is well-marked for the most part. Where it isn’t, I’ll be using other guides, like maps and tree blazes.

The Marble’s and the Trinity Alps have numerous pristine lakes such as this.

And mountains. These are part of the Trinity Alps.

There are cascading waterfalls…

And large and small streams to cross— always a challenge for backpackers…

There are lovely flowers to admire, such as this Tiger Lily.

And possibly bears. This tree has been well-marked by bear claws! Peggy and I were in the Marble Mountains a few years back celebrating her birthday with a small cake I had brought along when a bear decided to drop in. Peggy told it in no uncertain terms that it was not invited to the party! Rather than face such a formidable opponent, it remembered some ants it wanted to eat.

Ponderosa Pine tree and Burney Falls in Northern California.

Once across I-5 , I will travel 83 miles to reach Burney Falls. In this photo, a lone Ponderosa Pine grows between the two channels.

Water comes out from layers of rocks as well as over the top at Burney Falls.

The water shooting out from the rocks provides an almost etherial quality to the falls. Peggy will meet me at the falls with resupply. Basically, she will be catching up with me once a week and I will have a layover day to feast, shower, and hopefully put up a post on my previous 6-8 days.

Burney Falls in Northern California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final view of the falls.

Another week down the trail should bring me to Lassen National Park, one of two parks I will be hiking through. The other is Yosemite. Mt. Lassen looms above the meadow. I’ve climbed to the top of both Lassen and Shasta.

I thought this reflection shot of the mountain was fun.

And this one.

I’ll close today with this view of a stream winding its way through a park meadow.

Next Tuesday, I will take you through the second half of my journey from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney. Peggy and I will be doing our 40 mile conditioning trip down the Rogue River Trail. I should say conditioning plus trial. I’ll be carefully monitoring how my body responds to being back out on the trail with a loaded pack!

FRIDAY’S POST: MisAdventures. It is really hard to be a sports hero when you are as blind as a bat! Especially when it comes to playing hard ball… “Where’d that ball go?” Bonk!

Backpacking Ultralight with 2 Sheets of TP Per Day: Not… The 1,000 Mile Trek

Going ultralight in backpacking is serious business. It always has been. The backpacking towel on the left in the photo was considered the ultimate in a lightweight towel for years. My ultralight towel for this year is on the right.

 

Ultralight backpackers are a serious bunch. I read the other day that you should be able to get by on two sheets of toilet paper per day. Not this kid. I am serious about reducing the weight of my pack, but not that serious. I need a few creature comforts— and I need more than two sheets of TP per day! Also, I refuse to use leaves, even though I know what poison oak looks like. (Fannies etc. are not happy when they come in contact with poison oak or ivy!)

That having been said, I have worked hard to get my pack weight down. I figure with backpacking a thousand miles at age 75, I need every break I can get. And I’ve succeeded. My pack, including eight days of food and fuel, now weighs 28 pounds! Back in the dark ages of backpacking, which was back in the late 60s when I started, my pack for 7-9 days usually weighed between 55 and 65 pounds. Fifty pounds were ultralight for me!

It wasn’t that folks didn’t want to reduce weight in the early years. In fact, one way people had of defining a serious backpacker was whether she had drilled holes in her toothbrush. (I never did.) The primary difference today is that modern equipment weighs so much less. My pack towel featured in the top photo is a good example. But almost every piece of equipment I own has gone through a similar evolution. And it is happening fast. I’ve replaced my light, two-person, 4 1/2 pound North Face Tadpole Tent of the last four years with a 2 1/2 pound, two person Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 for the TMT (thousand mile trek).

REI Medford and I have become quite close over the past three months! And the staff has been tremendous, especially Elise, who always greets me with a large smile and supports my efforts to find bargains where bargains are to be had. The latest, lightest gear is not cheap! But consider this. Trying to go light last year without replacing much gear, my pack weighed in at 40 pounds with eight days worth of food— 12 pounds more than this year’s. Buying light, and weighing everything that goes into my pack has made a significant difference.

Everything that goes into my pack has been weighed on my kitchen scales. Here, my MSR Pocket Rocket stove weighs in at 2.6 ounces.

I thought it might be fun to share what I am carrying on the TMT since most of you will be joining me on my trip, virtually if not literally. Let me start by noting I organize my gear in categories: There is my house, my kitchen, my bathroom, etc. Since I kicked this post off with a discussion on TP, I’ll start with my bathroom, which I am sure you are eager to learn about. (Grin.)

Here’s my bathroom. I put my keys in for a size comparison. The dark blue cloth is my backpack towel. I, quite manfully, carry a pink wash cloth. Other items include biodegradable soap, hand lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, TP, and hair brush— the latter with its broken off handle has been with me for decades. I borrowed the small jar from my medicine cabinet. It houses cotton swabs and floss. The soap does triple duty including baths, dishes and clothes. The disposables are designed to last me eight days on the trail.

Having pulled together my ‘bathroom’ with eight days of supplies, I pack it all together, which is how it goes into my pack. It weighs 9.4 ounces.

These go into my “essentials’ bag. A whistle can be critical if you are injured or lost. The sound carries far. Next to it is a bottle of water purification tablets, then my knife and compass. My maps, also essential are packed elsewhere. My headlamp comes next. The bottom row includes sunblock, insect repellent and rope. Spot is a GPS based gadget that lets my family know where I am each night and also serves as an emergency beacon, informing officials that I have been injured and letting them know where I am. Hit the emergency button and rescuers are on the way. Matches are packed in a water proof bag.

Also essential, but packed separately is my first aid kit. While it is small and light, it is packed full of various bandages, gauze, medicines, ointments, tape, and even a basic first aid guide. It weighs in at 7 ounces.

My kitchen: Everything needed to cook and eat— my stove, dishcloth, bucket, coffee and tea mug, 4-ounce fuel container and its base, bowl and spoon, and an all-purpose titanium cook pot that holds up to 32 ounces of water. I also use the bucket for bathing and washing clothes as well as hauling water to camp.

Water, is critical out on the trail, and micro-organisms such as giardia require that water be filtered or treated. The Katadyne bottle comes with its own filter and is my go-to bottle. I also fill the Platypus bottle on the left when it’s a long ways between water sources. The MSR filter on the right is in case the Katadyne filter decides not to work! Another trick I use is to camel up when in camp! I am constantly drinking liquids.

I carry a back-up bag in the bottom of my pack. It includes extra batteries, TP, matches and fuel. I also have my ‘burner’ cellphone, a repair kit, athletic tape for wrapping a sprained ankle, and a knee brace. Since I am blind as a bat if my glasses break, I always carry an extra pair.

Food for 8 days for one person. I normally carry about one pound per day. I may have to add to this as I use up fat reserves. 🙂

These are my clothes that I will be carrying (as opposed to wearing) depending on weather. On the left is my rain jacket and next to it my down jacket. My red clothes bag includes a T-shirt, underwear, extra socks, rain pants, long pants, a warm beanie hat, and warm gloves. Everything is designed to be worn in layers, more when it’s cold, less when not. I can easily handle most spring, summer and fall weather conditions with theses clothes. Laundry is done each night!

Here’s my house and furniture. It includes my tent, chair, sleeping bag, and sleeping mattress. I switched from a down bag to a down quilt this year. For yeas I have mainly used my bag as a cover anyway. The Therm-a-rest chair works in conjunction with my Therm-a-rest mattress.

This is what all my gear together looks like.

And here is everything packed up. Anymore and I would need a bigger backpack.

Here’s a view of the back. I really like the pockets on the waist belt. One will house the Canon Power Shot G7X camera I will be carrying. The other will accommodate Spot.

And that’s it folks! I am ready to hit the trail. Not shown is a small bag I carry that accommodates my maps, journal, field guide and book, which will likely be my Kindle.

UPCOMING POSTS: As I mentioned earlier, preparing for the trip limits the number of blogs I can post and the amount of time I can spend reading blogs. I am already missing my daily fix! Still, I hope to get up two blogs per week and catch up with your adventures every chance I get.

FRIDAY’S POST: I have a discussion on power politics with my cocker spaniel Tickle on MisAdventures.

TUESDAY’S POST: Part I of my route preview. The first 500 miles.

Out and About on Kodiak Island… The Last of the Alaska Series

Tony and Cammie took us out fishing on streams like this. The fishing was fun, but it was the beauty of the country that caught me. The family had been camping on this stream.

 

We had gone to Kodiak to visit our son Tony, his wife Cammie, and our three grandsons: Connor, Chris and Cooper. Tony was flying helicopters on rescue missions for the Coast Guard, often in stormy weather over dangerous seas.  Cammie, in addition to overseeing our rambunctious grandsons, had started a jewelry business using sea glass that she collected off of the beaches. Some of the glass was particularly colorful, having ended up in the ocean as a result of a popular bar being destroyed by the 1964 Tsunami.

Cammie and Tony.

The boys and I check out a tide pool. I am pretty sure that’s what grandfathers are supposed to do with their grandkids!

The kids took us around the Island, at least the part that was easily accessible by road. We played tourist, went fishing for salmon, helped Cammie gather sea glass, and ventured out into the bay on a halibut fishing expedition. I’ve already posted on our bear watching trip and a series of closeups. Today’s photos reflect our outings with the kids and bring to an end our visit to Kodiak Island and the Alaska series.

We did a fair amount of salmon fishing. Here’s Peggy working a stream.

Our catch… Of course Peggy caught more than I did. That’s par for the course. Sigh.

She also caught this halibut! Few fish taste as good. The kids have a halibut chowder recipe to die for.

When Tony went to Alaska, he didn’t fish, nor did he have any desire to. But he fell in love with fishing. Salmon and halibut were often on the menu.

Cammie took to salmon fishing as well. Here she receives a high-five for catching one. She’d even grab her pole and head out when Tony was on assignment. Remember, this is Kodiak bear country…

We fished this stream. A Kodiak bear was fishing the same stream a couple of hundred yards away! I found him when I was out wandering around, without my camera, unfortunately.

This attractive cliff was just up from where we were fishing.

Looking out toward the bay.

Another example.

The whole family went searching for sea glass. It’s like going on a treasure hunt!

Cammie turns the sea glass into beautiful jewelry. If you would like to see more of her work, her Facebook site is Coastal Road Designs.

A final photo of the beautiful Kodiak Island.

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I Am Going on a Thousand Mile Hike… At 75

View of Mt. Whitney from the west including Curtis Mekemson.

I’ll be completing my thousand mile journey by climbing Mt. Whitney, the curved mountain in the background and the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. I’ve climbed it many times. Here I was wrapping up a 360 mile backpack trip to celebrate my 60th birthday. Will I be looking as spunky after a thousand miles at 75?

Expect some changes in my blog. I am gearing up for a thousand-mile backpack trip this summer starting on June 17, 58 days from now. I’ll be travelling from Mt. Ashland, a few miles from our home and following the Pacific Crest Trail south to Mt. Whitney through the Siskiyou, Marble, Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. With mountains to climb, rivers to cross, wild animals to confront, swarming insects to avoid, and bad weather to face— not to mention the challenge of backpacking 1,000 miles— there will be plenty of adventures along the way. And there will be lots of photographs. Much of the country I will be backpacking through is drop-dead gorgeous.

My journey will take me through a variety of terrains, including Yosemite National Park.

I estimate the total trip will take about three months, including breaks. It’s my intention to blog about the journey along the way. Peggy will be backpacking part of the trip with me, but mainly she will be doing back-up, meeting me at places where the trail crosses the road. When we have cell phone service, I’ll have Internet. I am excited about sharing the journey with you. Once the adventure gets underway, I’d appreciate your sharing a post or a link with your followers. I figure the more people hiking along with me, the merrier! I’d like a few thousand beside me when I encounter my first bear!

Black bear with cave in Alaska

Yosemite is black bear country. I once woke up with one standing on top of me. At 75, I might have a heart attack! 🙂

Not many people go out for a thousand-mile backpacking trip. And the number of 75-year-olds who do it are far fewer, maybe a handful. But I am no stranger to long distance adventures and this year marks my 50th year of backpacking. I think of the journey as a celebration of doing what I love to do, and a statement that age isn’t necessarily a detriment to having grand adventures.

Having said that, I realize I am 75 (grin). I’ll be seeing my doctor before I go. And Peggy and I are doing a 40-mile conditioning backpack trip along the Rogue River in four weeks. That, along with the first 60-mile section of the trail, will give me a hundred miles. The way I think is that if I can do a hundred miles, I can do a thousand! If not… well there are always other adventures.

There is a ton of preparation that needs to be done in getting ready for the trek, in addition to conditioning. I’ve started by putting my gear together. I’ll be traveling ultra-light, using the modern terminology. Peggy turns white and checks the budget each time I head out to REI. My new tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and mattress weigh seven pounds, which is what my old backpack alone weighed. I am hoping to keep all of my gear to under 15. With food for a week, this should keep my total weight to 30 pounds max.

The route, food considerations, resupply points and permits all need to be planned out and reviewed. There will be less time for my blog over the next couple of months. I will be limited in the number of posts I can put up and the number of posts I can read. My apologies in advance. But I will do what I can! And I will put up a few posts on my preparation efforts, including the backpacking trip along the Rogue River.

The beginning of my journey will take me around the edge of the Red Butte Wilderness, which includes the Red Butte Mountains seen here from our deck. Thunderstorms are often a challenge when hiking through the various mountain ranges of California in the summer.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: I wrap up the Alaska Adventure with more photos from Kodiak.

FRIDAY’S POST: It’s ground zero in MisAdventures with Freshmen PE Dance Class!

MONDAY’S POST: A look at today’s ultralight backpacking equipment.